Women’s rules and legalism

Straight Talk

The Question:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 says that women must keep silent in church and if they want to learn anything they should ask their own husband at home. We have in our church what they call “open sharing” where anyone in the congregation is open to sharing something that God is doing in their life. Of course, women have the floor too. I feel very funny about this. My spirit is somewhat disturbed by this because of the above noted scripture.

I have heard it explained away, even by men who are afraid of offending women and saying that is not what God means. Somehow I just don’t think God really has to explain himself all that much in this scripture. It is pretty plain to me. Women are not allowed to speak in church. What do you think?

– APN from Kentucky

The Answer
Part 1: Taking God’s Word Literally
Part 2: Legalism Exposed

Taking God’s Word Literally (Part 1)

I’m going to answer your question differently than you think and I’ll get around to explaining why a little later. First, let’s look at a couple of scriptures and tell me if you take them literally like you do 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

Matthew 5: 29 says; “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” So, do you still have both of your eyes or have you gouged one of them out? I’ll bet there is some time in your life when you sinned through your eye-gates.

Matthew 23:9 says; “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” Have you ever referred to your earthly father by that title? If so, do you feel disturbed about disobeying God’s command as you do with the one in 1 Corinthians?

Here’s one more. Have you ever cut your hair? 1 Corinthians 11:6 says you better not. “For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.”

Note: The previous verse to this one says that it is a disgrace for a woman to have her head uncovered while praying or prophesying. Is Paul contradicting himself by telling a woman to be silent in church and yet allowing her to prophesy (which would mean speaking in church) – though of course with a covered head?

Okay, that’s enough of a sampling. You see, all scripture is true and is inspired by God. Yet, our understanding of scripture needs the help of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we might go and mutilate our body in the name of God’s Word. In fact, I’m certain somewhere at some time, someone has done so.

Legalism Exposed (Part 2)

I realize you are asking about women speaking in church but I don’t think that is the real issue. I believe the real issue is legalism. Legalism is what happens when we grab hold of a scripture passage in such a way that it produces guilt and bondage instead of freedom in Christ. That doesn’t mean we manipulate scripture to tickle our own ears or justify sin. But in studying God’s Word, we need to constantly and honestly seek the heart of God and the spirit of his Word. As we do so we should feel greater and greater joy and freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:6 tells us “God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Are you interpreting scripture in a way that kills or brings life?

You say that you feel “disturbed” by your church’s “open sharing” time. Be careful about the root of those feelings. I’m not sure they are from God. There is a difference between guilt and conviction. Satan is a master at making us feel guilty and robbing us of the full life God intended for us. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit brings conviction which points out sin so we will repent of it and get right back to that full life as soon as possible.

If you want to go overboard on a scripture, how about doing so with the LOVE chapter in 1 Corinthians 13? Does it bother you as badly when you aren’t patient and kind as it does when you see women speak in church? Which is the higher priority?

There are scripture verses in the Bible which are confusing at first glance or seem to contradict other scriptures. Some passages have been disputed down through the centuries and have caused scholars headaches as to their true intended meaning. We need to be careful and prayerful when we pick an interpretation on these disputed items which can result in further division of the body of Christ. When we each see things differently, we need to agree to disagree and keep on loving.

I hope we can agree on this: “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)