Dear Brother W.
In referring again to the subject of your letter, the ministry of women, there are one or two points which I feel ought to be clarified before we close this discussion.
Brother McClurkin, in his letter published in the April issue, gave us three reasons why our sisters are to remain silent when men are present; namely, the order of creation, the transgression of Eve (1 Tim. 2:11-15), and the nature of the whole economy of God in both the New and the Old Testaments where no prominence ever is assigned to the woman in the presence of the man. May I suggest a fourth reason; namely, the command of the Word of God, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor. 14:34).
Frequently we have been told that the verb “to speak” used in this passage means “to chatter” or “to babble,” and that at Corinth the women had been acting improperly, sitting in the assembly whispering or chattering the one to the other, and that Paul was merely rebuking their irreverence without making any reference whatever to oral ministry. Definitely such is not the case. The verb “to speak” is the common word used in the New Testament signifying “to utter aloud.”
Is it not as unseemly for men to whisper or gossip in the assembly of the saints as for women? Surely such a breach of etiquette should be rebuked not only among the women, but also among the men.
Let us examine in the light of the context the clause, “Let your women keep silence.” This clause in one form or another occurs three times in this passage. First, “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two or at most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter let him keep silence in the church” (1 Cor. 14:28). Surely this statement does not mean that the man, who in the early Church was possessed of the gift of tongues, was to stop chattering, but rather that he was not to exercise his gift where and when he could not be understood.
In the second place, we read, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace (let him be silent)” (1 Cor. 14: 29-30). The meaning here is so obvious that no explanation is needed.
As the man endowed with the gift of tongues was to remain silent when no interpreter was available, and as the brother endowed with the gift of prophecy was to remain silent until an appropriate time, so the woman is ever to be silent in the churches.
It would seem that the Apostle uses “the law” here to refer to the books of Moses, the Pentateuch, and that he has God’s charge to Eve in mind, “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16).
That God has so commanded silence upon our sisters ought to be sufficient for every spiritual person in the churches of the saints, for such an authoritative word demands obedience.
Sincerely in Christ,