The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
Women’s Role in the Church (2): “Are Women Forbidden to Speak in the Church Forever?”
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NIV)
“Women should remain silent [sigaō] in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 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.”
1 Timothy 2:11a (ESV)
“I do not permit a woman to teach . . . over a man.”
The only time I ever apologized to my instructor occurred at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1990. That day, I waited until everyone left the classroom to apologize to the teaching assistant, a middle-aged Caucasian woman who had served in Korea as a missionary. During the class discussion, I showed “attitude” towards her when she was lecturing about a country (Korea) that I thought I knew better—and perhaps the fact that a woman taught the Bible added to my irritation. In truth, my inacceptable behavior had more to do with my immaturity than how I understood 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, in which Paul tells women not to speak in the church.
So why not just leave it at that? It’s because “all of the relevant material on a given subject [must] be collected together so that that the pattern of divine revelation concerning that subject would be apparent” (Ramm 1970:56). This means that while 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 certainly needs to be heeded, other relevant Scriptures that address the same matter must be considered as well. We shouldn’t, therefore, ignore the fact that women indeed spoke in the church of Corinth. Paul, while addressing the need for women to wear head coverings in the church, begins 1 Corinthians 11:5 (NIV) with, “But every woman who prays or prophesies . . ..” Evidently, the sharing of prophetic words was part of the worship service at Corinth, for Paul says, “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation . . . Two or three prophets should speak . . . (1 Cor. 14:26a, 29a). This means that the prohibition stipulated in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 should be interpreted in the context of women being allowed to speak in one situation, but disallowed in another in the Corinthian church.
First, note that the Greek for “keep silent” in 1 Corinthians 14:34 is not phimoō (as in muzzling the mouth) but is sigaō, which, in Luke 20:26, is translated “hold peace” (KJ). Does that seem like women should never open their mouth in the church? No, it’s more like when a mom, needing some respite from her screaming kids, would say, “hush” or “keep quiet.” And since women did pray and prophesy in Corinth, Paul was likely addressing a particular situation in which the way many women were talking in the church benefitted no one; therefore, the apostle prohibited that type of talking.
Second, according to 1 Corinthians 14:35, Paul apparently had issues with the way some wives were “inquir[ing] about something” from their husbands in the church. At that time, women— most of whom were illiterate and uneducated—and men were likely seated in separate sections. So, whenever the wives had questions about the sermon, they would’ve raised their voices to ask their husbands sitting across from them—multiple occurrences of this then began to distract the service.
This disturbing practice likely raised another concern for Paul. The city of Corinth was the center of Dionysian (the Greek god of wine) worship as late as the 2nd century BC. Having begun as a predominately woman’s movement, one feature of this worship was frequent shouting (“ecstasy of joy”) by women during their decadent services in which much wine was consumed as part of Dionysian rituals. What often occurred in the Corinthian church—including some people becoming intoxicated at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-21)—therefore, began to resemble typical Dionysian services. To distinguish the Christians from the Dionysian followers for the public perception, Paul likely told the Corinthian women to stop disrupting worship services by asking their questions at home. That’s how I would explain 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. (1 Timothy 2:11-12 will be discussed tomorrow.)
Suffice it to say, we should heed whatever words the Lord places on the lips of His people, whether men or women—a lesson I learned a long time ago. Let’s not reject the message from God just because we don’t like the messenger, for whatever reasons. Since Barak a warrior, Josiah a king, and Apollos an erudite—men living in a patriarchal society—offered no resistance in accepting the words of the Lord from women, how much more should the men of 21st century be willing to learn from women who are equipped with God’s Word and filled with the Spirit.
Prayer: Father, thank You that we get to worship You in a free and safe country. But how often we show up on Sundays with so many distractions being allowed to cloud our minds. Remind us to properly prepare ourselves so that we may render unto You a worship You so deserve. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 26
Tomorrow’s Blog: Women’s Role in the Church (3): “Male Headship in the Church—Are You Serious?”
Lunch Break Study
Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-15: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God . . .”
Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit . . .”
Romans 2:23-24: “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Questions to Consider
- What is the gist of what the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15?
- The consumption of a large amount of wine was central to a Dionysian worship service. The participants drank believing that the god was in the wine, and they felt divinized by doing this. Do you detect any subtext in Paul’s command to the Ephesians who, no doubt, were familiar with Dionysian worship?
- Ultimately, what is at stake when the conducts of believers are indistinguishable from those of unbelievers?
- The believing community cannot behave in such a manner that it is hardly distinguishable from the world. While we certainly need to be in the world to serve as God’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), we shouldn’t be identical to the world in how we conduct ourselves.
- Yes, the undertone of the Dionysian cult is certainly felt in Ephesians 5:18. Paul makes a contrast between the power source that drives the Dionysian (alcohol with its temporary effect) and Christ followers (the Spirit with its permanent effect), respectively, and their ensuing outcomes (out of control vs. under control).
- It discredits our witnesses for Christ—meaning, no one will be interested in what we have to say about the gospel and its power to change us. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord”—meaning, holiness is of utmost important in a believer’s life.
I began the morning part of today’s devotion with a personally embarrassing story. So what kind of day did you have? How did you treat the people whom you met at work or school? What about those workers whom you met in passing at a gas station or grocery store? Would you feel embarrassed if they knew that you are a Christian? Oh Lord, have mercy on us all! Pray for a better day of living for Christ tomorrow. Resolve to be nicer and kinder to people. Smile. And, one of these days, tell them about Jesus.