Women should be silent in the church?


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Women should be silent in the church?

5 March 2013 Hits:11200

Why are women allowed to speak in the church when the Bible says they should be quiet?  There are two passages of Scripture that teach this very clearly: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

The word “silent” refers to “The quietness of the disciple who receives instruction.”   “To have authority over,” means, “to domineer or usurp/seize authority”.

On closer inspection of the context and culture of these verses, it becomes clear exactly what the apostle Paul was addressing.  The Corinthian church was out of control.  They were gripped with carnality, lawsuits, immorality and false teaching.  People were getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper and their church meetings were a mess with everyone competing for a chance to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  It’s with this in mind that the verses in 1 Corinthians are to be understood: “If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home.”  It seems that the women of the church were asking their husbands questions during the teaching of the Word and, this too, was disrupting the worship service.

The first letter of Paul to Timothy was written to prevent the spread of heresy in the church.  It appears that women were the main culprits of spreading the false teaching and so Paul temporarily prohibits them from teaching until they had been instructed in the Word thus correcting the error that was being taught.  Professor David Sholer puts it this way, “These injunctions are directed against women involved in false teaching, who have sought to abuse proper exercise of authority in the church, not denied by Paul elsewhere to women, by usurping and dominating the male leaders and teachers in the church at Ephesus”.

One of my lecturers in Bible College in the 80s, Spencer Gear, said, “1 Timothy 2:11-12 is not a command to prevent all women from teaching in the church at all times.  Paul’s intention was not to place a permanent limitation on women in the ministry. Rather, these verses were addressed to a problem situation in Ephesus where women were teaching heresy”.

The culture in which a church finds itself also has a large bearing on the matter.  Tony Campolo in his book “20 hot potatoes” says, “If the existence of women preachers created a barrier to non-Christians coming into faith, then it was right for women to refrain from being preachers.  In today’s world … keeping women out of pulpits is having a negative effect upon the propagation of the gospel throughout the outside world, and therefore the policy on the matter which was in place in the past should be set aside” (Pg.39).

If we were to take these passages literally today we would disqualify all women from any vocal ministry in the church.  That would include Sunday school teaching, youth leadership, speaking at women’s meetings, missionaries, singing in the church in any way, praying in prayer meetings and so on.  This would also contradict what Paul wrote a few chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:5, “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head-it is just as though her head were shaved.”  So, women ARE allowed to speak in the church then!  The “church” being wherever believers are gathered together.

If we were to take these passages literally for all situations we would also contradict the rest of the New Testament, which clearly permits women to minister.  Women ministers include: Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:36), Dorcas (Acts 9:26), the woman of Samaria (John 4:7), the four daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:9), Priscilla (Acts 18:24-26), the older women (Titus 2:3-4), Phoebe (Rom 16:1, 2), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2,3), Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom 16:12).

In general, the gifts of the Spirit, many of which are vocal gifts used in the church, are available to all believers regardless of gender (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10; Eph. 4:11; Col. 3:16).  Acts 2 also makes it clear that God supports women in ministry: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

John Stott says, “If God endows women with spiritual gifts (which He does), and thereby calls them to exercise their gifts for the common good (which He does), then the church must recognise God’s gifts and calling, must make appropriate spheres of service available to women, and should ordain (that is, commission and authorise) them to exercise their God-given ministry …”

Finally, if we were to take these passages in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy literally today we would nullify Christ’s work on the cross.  The Old Testament Temple was divided into three sections: The Holy of Holies where the High priest entered once a year.  The Holy Place – reserved for Jewish men only, and the outer court – for Jewish women and gentiles.  This all changed at the crucifixion when the veil that separated the Jewish men from the Jewish women and gentiles was torn from top to bottom (Luke 23:45).  The New Testament allows open fellowship of ALL people who come to God through Christ, whether male or female: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28)

I am so grateful to God for the incredible women that He has called into leadership at Bayside Church – not least my amazing wife, Christie.  The church community would be so much the poorer if we commanded them to remain silent ~ and I don’t like the chances of that happening anyway.


Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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16 replies on “Women should be silent in the church?”


Thank you Rob,
as a woman, and a mother of wonderful daughters I am so thankful that you have addressed this issue so clearly. Without understanding the Word can be used to hurt, to bind up and control, rather than to heal, instruct and set free.


Hi guys,
I think we need to be careful how we want to interpret things in a modern day. God is a God of order and balance agreed . He has established order within the family and the church which is all found in the Bible. Its important to understand anything it in its true context. There are 2 contexts here, one should women be quiet and two should women preach(over men as that is the biblical verse).1 Timothy 2 etc is not about silencing women in all aspect. But in regard to the latter this is doctrine and we need to be careful dissolving the 2 together and make an argument. In verses 12-13 Paul states “but I do not allow a women to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain silent. 13 for it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. The same order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22-33). This is about created order, it is this order that Paul mentions in 1 Tim 2:11-14 when speaking of authority. Being a pastor is a place of authority therefore within the church for a women to be a pastor (over men) would contradict what Paul says. This isn’t about political correctness, discrimination, sexism, or social, aspects or denies the value or importance of women it is just the way God ordained it and his plan and gifted it. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit but it is important we biblically interpret these things correctly.

David Perrysays:

This was a topic for lively discussion over our Connect weekend just passed – context and interpretation, now and then, versus a literal interpretation. An educated piece of reasoning, drawing on all the evidence, not just passages in isolation.


[b]Thank you Ps Rob! [/b]

I was having this very discussion with a non christian friend of mine today… I shall link it to him now!

Craig Weirsays:

Hi Rob

Knowing you both makes the last 3 lines of your blog magnificent, with these changes in interpretation of the bible, does this not leave other thoughts open?


Rob Buckinghamsays:

Hi Craig. Thanks for your question. I believe the Bible needs to be understood in its historical context first and foremost. The Bible is not open to private interpretation. We need to study to find out what message the author intended to communicate and then bring that principle / understanding into the present day.

James Crownsays:

Thanks so much for this. I’ve been wondering why Paul said that in the first place. Can you also tell me why Paul said “slaves obey your masters?”. Did Paul condone slavery? Thank you


It’s false to say that the bible was written for a specific culture. The bible was written before the world began. This article was written by someone who does not believe that Gods word can simply be read and understood by any believer.
The bible is clear to say that any man who desires the office of a bishop (pastor) must be the husband of one wife. Not the wife of one husband.

Steve Rowesays:

In fact, the Word could be specifically directed at a certain group of people, for instance, the Mosaic Law was addressed primarily to Israel and the Gentiles were excluded until the New Covenant. This is surely cultural and for a distinct set of people, although we can learn by their example. The New Testament is mostly directed to believers, not to unbelievers, except for the gospel that saves them and brings them into the New Covenant.

Secondly, the Word was revealed over time, so whilst God would have seen ahead – the end from the beginning – His people did not know what was coming until it was spoken to them.

On your other point, Paul also recommends that ministers do not marry so that they are free to travel as God leads, so making a law out of marital recommendations for office is contextually inaccurate.

Paul also tells the Corinthians that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. We need to understand what God is saying to us through the Spirit and the Word, and not make law out of grace, which defeats the purpose of the New Covenant.

Ps Rob has given a helpful overview of a difficult set of passages. Forbid not to prophesy.


The bible was written by men, and that’s the fact. It was not written before the world began. The bible is a collection of books from letters, songs, poets, historical reports after the world began.


Wow. At first I read people comments and I realize I needed to read the article myself. This is so powerful and as a second Year Bible student I wouldn’t want to finish studying and sit without spreading the Gospel. Thanks Rob

Derek McKenziesays:

Rob I thought the veil of the temple was between us and the holy of holies. Not between the men and the women


Thank you very much for addressing this issue very clearly. God continue to empower and use us for His glory in Jesus name. Amen


Hi Ps Rob, thank you, you explained the interpretation of that verse very well. I’ve been wondering why Paul said that in the first place. Can you also elaborate one of clobber passages which are often used to condemn gay people please, maybe on your next article? Romans 1:26-27


As much as I respect yourself and Christy, you are choosing to interpret the Word to suit your needs.

We cannot see the Bible as God’s actual spoken living Word for our own lives if we aren’t prepared to obey those Words. we cannot choose to consider Scripture we disagree with as being for “another culture”. That’s a very dangerous approach.

The simple fact is that regardless of some Christians claiming that “equality” is a problem… God’s already covered that, and equality has zero to do with God’s ordained roles in the Church and community.

Woman was not created to teach and instruct and exercise authority over men. It’s explicitly mandated in the Word. Woman wasn’t created to be the head of the family and instruct their husbands either. And we are also told that the Church is the bride and Jesus as the bridegroom has authority over the church – the bride.

This is not to say that women cannot be in positions of power, teach children, be a mentor for women etc.

But please don’t teach contrary to the Word regarding God’s ordained roles for men and women.

Katy mcEwensays:

A few years ago I was studying my Bible and came up with a specific question regarding the way and order in which Jesus first called His disciples to Him. It appeared to me that there were contradictions between the Gospels…. I prayed about this and asked God to explain it to me as I wanted to know that I could trust the Bible and everything in it. The very next Sunday I attended church as usual to find that the sermon was to be preached by a lay preacher who was a woman. Her sermon was specifically answering my question!!! I did not know this woman personally and had never heard her speak before. I sat there stunned that God chose to answer my question so specifically and quickly and by a woman! I was also taught that women should not be pastors or preach in the church and was not sure I agreed with the woman preaching.

My question is; Why would God use this woman to speak through if He didn’t ordain her speaking in the church?
And I have no doubt that God spoke to me directly, answering my question and rewarding me for diligently studying my Bible the way He wants us to! I feel so privileged that God answered my prayer in this way and I want to share this with others for encouragement.

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