Written by Stephen Gola on November 23, 2011
When I first realized how clear the Bible is concerning women in ministry, I was awe struck. I thought, “How in the world could we have missed this?” I started to understand how simple it is to miss.
When we are taught to accept a “non-truth” as being God’s truth, we will then become blinded to the truth.
Let’s start with the classic bondage Scripture, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which will soon become your liberating Scripture. It reads, “Let your women keep silent in the churches: For it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husband at home: For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.”
We will come back to these Scriptures in a moment. But first we need to understand how the letter of 1 Corinthians is laid out. This is essential to understanding women in ministry. In chapters 1 through 4 the Apostle Paul is mainly writing about his ministry, reproof, his visit, explanations, and Timothy. In chapters 5 through 6 he writes concerning things he heard were going on in the church at Corinth. But in chapters 7 through 14, Paul was responding to questions and statements that the Corinthians wrote to him. Let’s take a look:
1 Corinthians 7:1 “Now concerning things whereof YOU WROTE UNTO ME…”
1 Corinthians 8:1 “Now concerning things offered unto idols…”
1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts…”
Paul steps through the concerns, statements, and questions that they have written to him. In 1 Corinthians 12:1 Paul finally gets to the questions and matters about spiritual gifts and says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…” and states that the “manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man (every person male and female)” (verse 7). He mentions different types of manifestations including the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, tongues and the interpretation of tongues, etc. Pay particular attention to the words “every man, each man, all members” etc. In these cases, the Greek word for “men or man” means people, humans–not only males, but both genders. The word “all” in the Greek means ALL, not half, not a certain few, not just males, but ALL!
Before we go any further, certain truths must be established:
First, the church is not a building, but God’s people as individuals, two or more meeting together creating “church.” It’s an assembly of believers, collectively the Temple of God (see Colossians 1:24 and 2 Corinthians 6:16).
Secondly, that “there is neither male nor female (in the church): for you are all one (type of being born of God) in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
The ironic thing is that the Apostle Paul, who wrote these truths stated above, seems to contradict 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 just a few sentences later. Here is the reason for the contradiction: Those statements (Scriptures) in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 never ORIGINATED with Paul. Paul only REITERATED them as a rebuke to the Corinthian church in the letter we now read as Scripture. The Corinthians originally wrote them TO Paul. Paul told them how absurd it was for them to say that the Law commands women to be silent in the church – THEY ARE THE CHURCH. Paul said that they WERE NOT commands from the Lord but “ignorance” of what they were teaching God’s people. (We will explore this in a moment).
We have been taught that 1 Corinthians 11 has to do with women and men having their heads covered or uncovered, but it’s not just that. I believe Paul was setting up the Corinthian church leadership to show them just how foolish they were in saying that God wants “the women to keep silent in the church.” Let’s examine this and follow this thought through to its proper end.
In 1 Corinthians 11:4 notice that Paul jumps right in about the “head covering” and says, “Every man (this case literally means male in the Greek) praying or prophesying having his head covered, dishonors his head.” But in verse 5 he says, “But EVERY WOMAN (FEMALE) that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” NOTICE THAT THE WOMEN ARE PRAYING AND PROPHESYING! The whole section of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 is to establish that ladies (in their culture) when they prayed or prophesied in church needed to have their heads covered, NOT that they couldn’t pray or prophesy at all!
Paul then talks about the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Notice that “the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, speaking in tongues and the interpretation” all require SPEAKING speaking in the church, and the speaking is done by ALL, both men and women. “And the Spirit dividing to every man (person, male and female) severally as He will” (v11). Here is my brief translation of 1 Corinthians 12:15-27:
“For the ‘male’ member that teaches, speaks in tongues, that gives words of wisdom and knowledge cannot say to the ‘female’ member, ‘I have no need of you doing the same thing I’m doing.’”
As soon as Paul finished establishing that the body of Christ is “one” (meaning, nobody is excluded no male or female excluded from the gifts, callings and offices of God) he then said that, “God set some” some who? Some males? No! Some of the members of the body of Christ because there is no “male or female” when it comes to being an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, moving in the gifts of the spirit, miracles, healings, speaking in tongues or anything in Christ (See 1 Corinthians 12:28-31.)
Then in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul shows the “more excellent way” to move in the anointing of the office and the gifts that God has given us.
When Paul reaches 1 Corinthians 14, he focuses on “speaking in tongues” and “speaking in unknown tongues” (they are different). In verse 4 he says that, “He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies EDIFIES THE CHURCH.” Paul wants the whole church to edify the WHOLE church. He then says in verse 23, “If therefore the WHOLE CHURCH (EVERY MALE AND EVERY FEMALE) come together into one place, AND ALL (ALL MALES AND ALL FEMALES) SPEAK WITH TONGUES…” and continues in verse 24-26, “If ALL (MALES AND FEMALES) PROPHESY… let all things be done unto edifying.”
In 1 Corinthians 14:27-31 Paul sets the ground rules for “speaking in the church:”
IF ANY MAN (any person, male or female) SPEAK:
Unless there is NO INTERPRETER (male or female)…
Let the (male or female) PROPHETS SPEAK…
If anything be revealed to ANOTHER THAT SITS BY (whether male or female)…
For you may ALL (male and female) PROPHESY ONE BY ONE, THAT ALL (male and female) MAY LEARN AND ALL (male and female) may be exhorted.
Are you getting the picture that it really doesn’t matter if you are a male or female to operate in the things of God? Do you recall that I pointed out earlier that Paul was responding to the things that the Corinthian church wrote to him? Paul actually used their words in his letter when he addressed some of their concerns and said they were foolish and they weren’t of God. We have come to the place of turning the classic bondage Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 into a liberating Scripture for you.
While Paul wrote his response (1 Corinthians) BACK to the Corinthian church, he previously read their letter that they sent to him – 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Now concerning things whereof YOU WROTE UNTO ME….” In fact, he wrote down parts of their letter back to them and rebuked them for their foolish teachings.
Paul established through his entire letter and particularly in chapters 11 thru 14 that there is no difference between a male and female being appointed and/or receiving the gifts, callings and offices of Christ. Before he wrote down their “foolish scripture” that they wrote to him, he wrote this preface: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Then in verses 34-35 he repeated what they first wrote to him: “Let your women keep silent in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the Law. And if they will learn any thing let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
Immediately after Paul wrote this, the next word he wrote was, “WHAT?” (v36). In the Greek, the word “what” is a negative disclaimer. We would say, “What, are you nuts?” Paul said, “What? Came the word of God out from you? Or did it come unto you only?” (v36). Meaning, that the previous statement that he wrote from the letter he received from them referring that women are to keep silent in the church was not from God at all. In fact, it was pure silliness. He just finished writing in a few paragraphs before this what we now know as 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, establishing that when women prophesy, teach or speak in the church they are to have their heads covered. “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered….” needs to put on her head covering and then it would be acceptable (1 Corinthians 11:5).
Paul goes on to say, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that THE THINGS THAT I WRITE UNTO YOU ARE THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD, (NOT THE THINGS THAT YOU WRITE)” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Paul was saying that he was appointed to write the Scriptures and the Commands of God, not the Corinthian church.
Paul continues with: “If any man be ignorant (meaning the person who wrote this stupidity) let him be ignorant (if he does not acknowledge that what he wrote is not from the Lord”) (v38).
Paul then closes the subject and firmly establishes about males and females being in ministry and speaking in the church: “Wherefore, brethren (brethren does not mean male, it means ‘born out of the womb of God, born again’ — males and females), COVET TO PROPHESY AND FORBID NOT TO SPEAK WITH TONGUES” (v39).
What I have just shared with you ought to have you shouting the praises to God. However, there is one more stronghold of bondage I must bring down before there is TOTAL liberation.
Why has it been a mandate within the church (community) in general to strictly forbid or set great limitations against and even ostracize women from being appointed to and or being accepted as called by God as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher or another aspect of ministry? The answer is simple: not only have they not understood the Scriptures we just went over, but even more importantly, that THE LORD ALWAYS LAYS A NEW FOUNDATION WITH SPECIFIC MALES FIRST:
The beginning of the human race, with the first person, a male.
The foundation of the nation of Israel, the twelve sons of Jacob.
The foundation of the Church, the twelve (male) apostles.
The first marriage, Adam (God created a female mate for him)
The Lord Jesus as Head (Bridegroom) of the church.
God ALWAYS uses specific males first when He establishes a new foundation, THEN the females and their children are added as God calls:
God added to the human race after the first man, a woman, then their children.
To the twelve sons of Jacob, their wives and then their children both males and females.
Upon the foundation of the twelve apostles, the beginning of the Church as the Lord adds daily both male and females.
Given in the first marriage to Adam, He created a female mate for him.
And the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, His Father is presenting Him with a beautiful Bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish – us! (See 1 Corinthians 11:8-12.)
Therefore, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, THERE IS NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE: for you are ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS” (Galatians 3:28).
Before we end this subject, we need to cover one last Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:11-15.
We know that 1 Timothy cannot contradict 1 Corinthians chapters 11 and 14. The words in 1 Timothy 2:11-3:2 for “man” or “men” mean “husband.” In fact, the word “husband” in 1 Timothy 3:2 is the same Greek word (aner) which is also translated, “men” and “man” in 2:11-15. The subject is NOT regarding men and women, but rather, husbands and wives. Therefore, 1 Corinthians chapters 11 & 14 still fits.
In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “I do not allow a woman (wife) to teach…Nor to usurp authority over the man (husband).” There are two very important things to take notice of in that Scripture.
First, it is Paul’s desire and NOT a command of the Lord. Paul always says when it is of him and not the Lord. This is how the Lord was able to trust him in writing the Scriptures—He differentiated between his will and the Lord’s will.
Secondly, to usurp authority one must go against the will of another. When the husband recognizes the anointing on his wife to teach, all he has to do is allow her to do so. Then, there is no authority usurped, it is granted.
Any Christian woman, married or unmarried can teach or take part in ministry.