“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” – 1 Timothy 2:11-12
I won’t ever preach to a group where men are present – not on a Sunday, or any other day of the week. Why do you ask? It’s because Christ has all power and authority over me, and His Word commands me to not teach a man or to have authority over him (2 Tim. 2:11-12).
Some people argue that the command was culturally specific and doesn’t apply to women today. But God gives the reason why He commands the woman not to exercise authority over a man: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). It was part of God’s plan from the beginning and not just for that culture and time.
And 1 Cor. 14:34 is even more plain and clear: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.”
But what about singing, you may ask? Colossians 3:16 says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
When we sing in worship to God, we are teaching and admonishing one another. The command, however is given to everyone when it says one another. And the teaching is reciprocal; it is not one person exercising authority over or teaching over another person or group of people, like what is done during one person preaching. 1 Timothy 2 makes it clear to what the silence is referring.
The Scripture does not contradict itself. We have to view each passage in light of the others so that they harmonize.
Some argue that women prophesied and prayed so then women can preach before men today in worship assemblies. Notice 1 Corinthians 11:5, which is referenced for that argument: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.”
So, yes, women did pray and prophesy. But they did not do so in public worship according to 1 Tim. 2:10-11 and 1 Cor. 14:34. In light of those verses, the women had to be praying and prophesying (or teaching) outside of public worship assemblies and doing so to women. That verse in 1 Cor. 11 is likely referring to women covering their heads in public as was the custom of the day for all women to show submission.
Notice some very early recorded writings:
“Among these is the convention regarding feminine attire, a convention which prescribes that women should be so arrayed and should so deport themselves when in the street that nobody could see any part of them, neither of the face nor of the rest of the body, and that they themselves might not see anything off the road . . . . while they have their faces covered as they walk.” (Dio Chrysostom…contemporary of Paul…writing about Tarsus)
There are some things in Scripture that were cultural in regards to women, like the covering of their heads and faces; we can see that from history and recorded writings. However, not preaching in mixed-sex worship assemblies was not one of those cultural things. It was not permitted then, and it’s not permitted now.
You can read more about the veil that was custom for women to wear in public and everywhere here: https://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-the and https://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-the-cover-story-part-2.
You may say, what about women who are talented in the art of speaking or who have a gift for teaching? I submit to you that just because someone has a talent or is good at doing something doesn’t make it acceptable for worship. If someone is good at painting, it doesn’t give them the license to take out their easel and paint brushes during worship. God’s Word has to be the guiding line for what we do in worship. Remember, the Lord has all authority, and we have no authority to do whatever we want to do.
There is a debate about the same topic of women preaching within the Baptist denomination among Southern Baptists: https://www.al.com/life/2019/06/two-baptist-men-debate-should-women-preach-on-sunday.html.
It’s not about silencing women or oppressing them. It’s about doing what the Lord says. Plus, maybe it’s just me, but there’s just something about a man taking control and handling things. I think God set it up that way for a reason.
Women did not serve in an official capacity in the church that we read about in the New Testament. And women are not to exercise authority over men today or teach over men today. In that regard, women are to remain silent. Women can preach to other women and to children. However, women cannot serve as preachers in a congregation where men are present.
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