The regulative principle

Should Women Keep Silent?

At a recent missions conference at my local PCA church, the question was posed to me in regards to my wife praying in a corporate setting; “Why doesn’t your wife pray, is she not permitted?” My response, ‘She is praying, what do you mean?’ “Well, she is not praying out loud-why doesn’t she pray out loud?” I thought to myself, she is doing exactly what you are doing when I am praying audibly; when we are in groups, the person praying aloud is essentially doing the same thing that the hearers are doing, praying.

Well, this opened a can of worms; I thought to myself, ‘should I pursue explaining this to this gentleman-I love this guy!’ This statement shows a misconception of sorts in that prayer is only audible. If one thinks about it, the majority of time prayer is silent. It is between the person praying and God-it is only audible in group settings. One setting is not better than the other. In fact, Christ shows us the preferable prayer posture:

Matt. 6:5   “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matt. 6:7   “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

10      Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11      Give us this day our daily bread,

12      and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13      And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Whatever the case, however you petition God is not between you and the creator; in other words, it is not random. There is an absolute rule in that regard. God has prescribed how we are to approach him in worship. As far as praying aloud goes, it is not because God hears our prayers better when we speak, that would just be silly. God knows even our thoughts. Praying aloud brings about a few things; it is exhortive, encouraging, educational, revealing. It helps the fellow Christian to know how to pray. It gives an insight into the mind and heart of our fellow brethren. It’s primary reason should be to give our great God glory and offer up worship. It teaches doctrine, it lets your sister or brother in the faith hear your petitions and how they should as well pray for you; it shows repentance. All believers are called to confess our sins to God and one to another. Praying out loud gives opportunity for this.

Should woman pray out loud? Well, that depends. If I am praying with my wife, she prays out loud. If she prays with our daughter, she prays out loud. It is important to note, why is it important for my wife to pray aloud with my daughter? If you answer, ‘because it teaches your daughter important things about the faith’, you are on the right track. Many things are conveyed when praying. My friend Fred Greco said: ‘Prayers are authoritative and teaching by its very nature’.  You get that? They possess authority and they have the potential to educate. So when a woman prays aloud, she is, in essence, teaching. For example: When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, what does it teach us? Is it not teaching us? So, when a woman prays openly, it is conveying information with the capacity to teach. That can be problematic. Should a woman speak in a corporate setting at all?

Having said all of that, it is fine, biblically speaking for a woman to pray aloud in the situations I mentioned outside of the corporate setting; In corporate settings, praying out loud is entirely different. It is this portion of speaking and praying that we will address further.

It is important to note that prayer falls under what is called as a ‘means of grace’. James Fisher writes:

“Q. 12. What is the special usefulness of prayer for the above purpose?

A. The prayer of faith fetches home to the soul all the good that is wrapped up both in the word and in the sacraments, Mark 11:24 — “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Q. 13. Why are the word, sacraments, and prayer, called means, by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?

A. Because he is pleased to begin and carry on the work of grace in the soul, by and under these ordinances, Acts 2:41, 42.”

The Westminster Larger Catechism states: “Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.”

I cite the preceding documents to just emphasize what prayer is. It is important to note that my prayer at home is not the same as corporate prayer. In the corporate setting, God is in our midst:

Matt. 18:18   “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19   “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Now, this is not to say God is not in the midst of my wife and I when we pray at home with Zoe; He is. God is omnipresent! However, in the corporate setting, it is amplified ; He is amidst His bride. My wife and I at home do not represent the local church. The sacraments are not distributed there. There is no Preaching.

Having clarified what prayer is and it’s direct capacity to educate, lets move forward:

Judg. 5:3 “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!
I, even I, will sing to the LORD;
I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.

2Sam. 22:50 Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.

2Chr. 20:21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:
“Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.”

What about singing? You might say, “Scott, woman sing aloud in the congregation during our worship time. What about that?”

Good question: This is considered ‘corporate worship’. No one is singing singularly. God sees the congregation worshipping, not any one individual. The Regulative Principle warrants that what we sing is imperative. For instance, it would be an absolute break in the RPW if we sang an Elton John song in worship, no? The words we sing are to our God. They must be fit for worship; it doesn’t really matter how we feel about the words or our sincerity. Our words rise up to a ‘thrice Holy’ God. The seat of perfection is in Heaven. If there be any doubt about whether or not what we sing is appropriate, we should not proceed until that doubt has resolved. Example: in light of this paper, would it be prudent to sing human made lyrics since we know that the heart is deceitful above all things? You may say, “Scott, there are some beautiful hymns out there that have been written by stalwart men of the faith over the ages-they can be acceptable.” Can we be 100% sure about that? What about Hymns that were written by woman? Should we be singing those?

When we sing to the Lord, a few things are occurring: we are giving God the praise He commands and deserves and in the process of singing, we are meditating on the words we sing and binding them up in our hearts. The act of singing helps us to remember the actual words we have just sung. It is highly instructive. The actual melodies assist in recall. You’ll notice that most assemblies sing a particular song for a month of Lord’s days at a time to assimilate the Psalm/information/lyrics.

For those of us who sing Hymns: Do they instruct as well? Educate? If the Hymn is written by a female, is it not a woman then teaching you and is that not a break in the RPW?

In 1 Cor, the apostle clearly says that woman should NOT speak in church; praying aloud would fall into this category:

1Cor. 14:34   Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

You’ve heard this argument before. Was it a cultural thing Paul was speaking of or is it for our age as well? Lets look into it and see what the Holy Spirit will show us.

I want to begin by clarifying that the woman is not the lesser creature; that’s not at all where Paul was heading. However, scripture does define the woman as the weaker vessel:

1Pet. 3:7   Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

Matthew Henry says on the matter:

“Because she is the weaker vessel by nature and constitution, and so ought to be defended: but then the wife is, in other and higher respects, equal to her husband; they are heirs together of the grace of life, of all the blessings of this life and another, and therefore should live peaceably and quietly one with another, and, if they do not, their prayers one with another and one for another will be hindered, so that often “you will not pray at all, or, if you do, you will pray with a discomposed ruffled mind, and so without success.” Learn, (1.) The weakness of the female sex is no just reason either for separation or contempt, but on the contrary it is a reason for honour and respect: Giving honour to the wife as unto the weaker vessel. (2.) There is an honour due to all who are heirs of the grace of life. (3.) All married people should take care to behave themselves so lovingly and peaceably one to another that they may not by their broils hinder the success of their prayers.”

God’s word clearly delineates the fact that we are all one;

Gal. 3:28 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.

Both are in Christ. Both genders have specific ministerial attributes. The church benefits from both and couldn’t function outside of this. However, one needs to look at the creationary hierarchical mandate to understand this fully:

Having cleared that misconception up, let’s move forward.

It is important to note that the woman was created for man, not man for the woman:

1Cor. 11:9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

Gen. 2:18   And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Gen. 2:20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam* there was not found a helper fit for him.

God considered the situation and saw that the man needed help with things. Among all the animals that Adam just named, there was not a sufficient helper available.

The point of the above passage is to show that the woman was made as a helpmate to the man; she is a compliment to the man in creation, again, not the lesser of the creatures, but a creature with a specific purpose. This fact cannot be avoided and shouldn’t be.  There is a distinction that comes specifically from scripture and we need to understand this. In this age of feminism, we are lambasted with the present day thinking where the woman is degraded by this biblical idea. We need to unwind that fallacy in light of God’s word and adopt the proper perspective.

The other issue to bring to light is the fact that since the fall, the woman has the innate desire to continue to rule over the man; just like her independency in the decision to eat, she remains with this illicit root even to this day. Look at the curse:

Gen. 3:16   To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;

In pain you shall bring forth children;

Your desire shall be for your husband,

And he shall rule over you.”

The statement, ‘your desire’ is intended to mean that the woman’s continued desire will be for her to continue to rule over her man, just like the error of Eve. Notice God’s decree: ‘He shall rule over you’.  Essentially, ‘you will naturally want to do this, but I say, you will submit for you own good to your husband’.

Tertullian writes:

“”Do you not know that you are Eve. The sentence of God lives and is effectual against this kind; and in this world, of necessity it is, that the punishment also live. You are the port and gate of the devil. You are the first transgressor of God’s law. You did persuade and easily deceive him whom the devil durst not assault. For your merit (that is, for your death), it behooved the Son of God to suffer the death; and does it yet abide in your mind to deck you above your skin coats?”

The great John Knox writes:

“Against God can nothing be more manifest than that a woman shall be exalted to reign above man; for the contrary sentence he has pronounced in these words: “Thy will shall be subject to thy husband, and he shall bear dominion over thee” (Gen. 3:16). As [though] God should say, “Forasmuch as you have abused your former condition, and because your free will has brought yourself and mankind into the bondage of Satan, I therefore will bring you in bondage to man. For where before your obedience should have been voluntary, now it shall be by constraint and by necessity; and that because you have deceived your man, you shall therefore be no longer mistress over your own appetites, over your own will or desires. For in you there is neither reason nor discretion which are able to moderate your affections, and therefore they shall be subject to the desire of your man. He shall be lord and governor, not only over your body, but even over your appetites and will.” This sentence, I say, did God pronounce against Eve and her daughters, as the rest of the scriptures do evidently witness. So that no woman can ever presume to reign above man, but the same she must needs do in despite of God, and in contempt of his punishment and malediction.”

This brings us to federal headship; the woman submitting to the man as God intended.

1Cor. 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

I want to take a moment to address how the man of God honors his wife in light of this federal headship; many believers believe that to press this fact is chauvinistic. This can be farther from the truth. I taught this recently in my Sunday School class. Think of it this way: The woman submits to man and the man submits to Christ. Let’s look at scripture and see the depth of this honor that the man shows to his bride:

Eph. 5:25   Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her….

Husbands are called to love their wives like Christ loves the church and what? Gave himself for her??? Yes! Think about the depth of this charge to all husbands. What woman would not gladly submit to the man that loves her in this way? Not a one would argue with this. It is as well important to note that the woman of God, one who serves Christ Jesus, submits to this degree even when her husband is a reprobate as her King commands it and hence, she obliges happily. I only used the previous scriptural reference to heighten the emphasis of my point.

This brings us back to the concern over women praying aloud corporately. When a woman prays aloud, she goes against the hierarchical standard that God has put in place in creation.

Let’s look at the passage again in 1 Cor:

1Cor. 14:33-35 As in all the churches of the saints, Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

“as in all the other churches of the saints.“

Calvin writes in regard to this statement:

“As in all the Churches. The comparison does not refer merely to what was said immediately before, but to the whole of the foregoing representation. “I have hitherto enjoined upon you nothing that is not observed in all the Churches, and, in this manner, they are maintained in peace. Let it be your care, therefore, to borrow, what other Churches have found by experience to be salutary, and most profitable for maintaining peace.”

James Scott writes:

“The word “as” in “as in all the churches of the saints” indicates that something is the same as the general practice of Christians. It makes good sense for that something to be the practice that Paul prescribes for the Corinthian church in verse 34. He declares, in effect, “I want the women in Corinth to do what the women do in all the other churches.”

This was typical of all the local churches; they understood the idea thoroughly and held to it’s principle.

“Let your woman keep silent in the churches”,

This clearly shows that a woman is not to speak in the corporate setting. This understanding is universal in the church of Christ. It is not new to them. How could one misinterpret this statement? The apostle goes on to even call it ‘shameful’. You might ask ,”Scott, how is my speaking in church shameful?”

Albert Barnes writes:

“For it is a shame. It is disreputable and shameful; it is a breach of propriety. Their station in life demands modesty, humility, and they should be free from the ostentation of appearing so much in public as to take part in the public services of teaching and praying. It does not become their rank in life; it is not fulfilling the object which God evidently intended them to fill. He has appointed men to rule; to hold offices; to instruct and govern the church; and it is improper that women should assume that office upon themselves. This evidently and obviously refers to the church assembled for public worship, in the ordinary and regular acts of devotion. There the assembly is made up of males and females, of old and young, and there it is improper for them to take part in conducting the exercises. But this cannot be interpreted as meaning that it is improper for females to speak or to pray in meetings of their own sex, assembled for prayer or for benevolence; nor that it is improper for a female to speak or to pray in a Sabbath-school. Neither of these come under the apostle s idea of a church. And in such meetings, no rule of propriety or of the Scriptures is violated in their speaking for the edification of each other, or in leading in social prayer. It may be added here, that on this subject the Jews were very strenuous, and their laws were very strict. The Rabbins taught that a woman should know nothing but the use of the distaff; and they were specially prohibited from asking questions in the synagogue, or even from reading.—See Lightfoot. The same rule is still observed by the Jews in the synagogues.”
This is not to say that the woman cannot speak outside the call to worship, she may. This does not mean that the woman may not encourage or chasten their children if the need arises during the call, she may. This has to do with the woman speaking about spiritual things. In fact, if you look closely, you will as well see at the end of this passage that the if the woman even has questions that are of a spiritual nature she is to inquire of her federal head at home. Why would the apostle have to say such things? It is an important doctrine, that’s why. Notice next that in this passage the reference is made to: “as the law also says”.

The woman is to submit to her husband, as the law says;

‘As the law says’ is a reference to gen 3:16:

Your desire shall be for your husband,

And he shall rule over you.”
Having said all I have at this point, and since having proven that prayer is authoritative as well as educational, should a woman pray aloud in the corporate setting? You may say, “Scott, a woman praying is not teaching”. Did we not establish that speaking and praying is a form of teaching as it imparts information? For instance: Say we are in a group and the wife of the pastor is in the setting; she may be more theologically sound than many of the men present; she elaborates on a doctrine that a young man present misunderstands. Her prayer is educating him; hence, she is teaching.

1Tim. 2:12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

Rev. 2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach…….

It’s clear; no teaching, no speaking, but ‘to be in silence’.

B. B. Warfield writes:

“The word is in its right place in 1 Corinthians 14:33ff, therefore, and necessarily bears there its simple and natural meaning. If we needed anything to fix its meaning, however, it would be supplied by its frequent use in the preceding part of the chapter, where it refers not only to speaking with tongues (which was divine manifestation and unintelligible only because of the limitations of the hearers), but also to the prophetic speech, which is directly declared to be to edification and exhortation and comforting (verses 3-6). It would be supplied more pungently, however, by its contrasting term here — “let them be silent” (verse 34). Here we have laleo directly defined for us: “Let the women keep silent, for it is not permitted to them to speak.” Keep silent — speak: these are the two opposites; and the one defines the other.

It is important to observe, now, that the pivot on which the injunction of these verses turns is not the prohibition of speaking so much as the command of silence. That is the main injunction. The prohibition of speech is introduced only to explain the meaning more fully. What Paul says is in brief: “Let the women keep silent in the churches.” That surely is direct and specific enough for all needs. He then adds explanatorily: “For it is not permitted to them to speak.” “It is not permitted” is an appeal to a general law, valid apart from Paul’s personal command, and looks back to the opening phrase — “as in all the churches of the saints.” He is only requiring the Corinthian women to conform to the general law of the churches. And that is the meaning of the almost bitter words that he adds in verse 36, in which — reproaching them for the innovation of permitting women to speak in the churches — he reminds them that they are not the authors of the Gospel, nor are they its sole possessors: let them keep to the law that binds the whole body of churches and not be seeking some newfangled way of their own.

The intermediate verses only make it plain that precisely what the apostle is doing is forbidding women to speak at all in the church. His injunction of silence he pushes so far that he forbids them even to ask questions; and adds with special reference to that, but through that to the general matter, the crisp declaration that “it is indecent” — for that is the meaning of the word — “for a woman to speak in church.”

It would be impossible for the apostle to speak more directly or more emphatically than he has done here. He requires women to be silent at the church meetings; for that is what “in the churches” means, there were no church buildings then. And he has not left us in doubt as to the nature of these church meetings. He had just described them in verses 26ff. They were of the general character of our prayer meetings. Note the words “let him be silent in the church” in verse 30, and compare them with “let them be silent in the churches” in verse 34. The prohibition of women speaking covers thus all public church meetings — it is the publicity, not the formality of it, which is the point. And he tells us repeatedly that this is the universal law of the church. He does more than that. He tells us that it is the commandment of the Lord, and emphasizes the word “Lord” (verse 37).”

Calvin writes in his sermon on women and the church:

“That (saith Saint Paul) is the true sovereignty wherewith women ought to content themselves. He meaneth not to feed their fond high stomachedness and foolish desire of vaunting themselves: but it is all one as if he should say, behold, ye desire to have fame and reputation: but all such geer must be beaten down. Nevertheless, if the Lord have given you the grace to know more then the younger sort, by reason of the time that you have lived: employ yourselves in showing the way of salvation to such as be not yet so well trained as you be, and let them learn by your example. And he saith expressly, To the end that they may draw the younger sort to stayedness. It is not to make them babblers, or praters, nor to make them wily and subtle, nor to teach them to set their countenances I wot not how, or to dally, or to scoff at one and to give another quip. For the common lessons that are taught young women nowadays, is to be cunning in answering all commers, and to be of as bold behavior as if a spear were to be put in their hand, and they to be sent into the lists. That is the behavior of the world nowadays. But contrariwise Saint Paul will have young women to learn modesty. Behold (saith he) all the wisdom that you should learn is this: namely, to keep silence, to beware that there be no colouring to disguise yourselves one way or other, and that ye be not subtle or skillful to hold talk: but that ye walk simply, and behave yourselves in such wise, as men may perceive that ye have not been at a school of craft and naughtiness. [p 1157.a.1] And here we see what the wisdom of the faithful wives and their daughters is. It is not to be courtierlike and crafty, so as men may wonder to see them so ready to argue and prattle, to have their speech filed, and to be fine and minionly, and I wot not what else: but to have skill to live soberly, to govern their household quietly, to bring up their children (orderly,) and to be subject to their husbands obediently. Those are the women that shall be counted wise before God, the Holy Ghost hath pronounced the sentence, afore them that covet to be had in admiration of the world, so as it may be said of them, yondersame is a very wise woman, & yet in the mean while there shall be nothing in her but a fair show, there shall be nothing in her but vanity: let such (I say) go seek their reward elsewhere: for the Holy Ghost condemneth them, in telling us that no doctrine is meet for women, but such as traineth them to soberness, silence, and quietness, that the world may not speak of them for any naughtiness.”

Judges 17:5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.  6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

I can’t but believe that the present day church is going the route of Micah. Our liberalism shows in so many ways. You often hear it said, ‘We’re fine-God is not upset over these little things’. If this is true, why am I so grieved over some of even the smaller items? Well, you might say, ‘Scott, you’re a bit over the top about God and theology and all-most people are not like that-you need to calm down-you’ll find your balance’.

I recall years ago that a person once told me that about the same vigor I had after I just got saved. It incensed me. I hated it and it angered me that someone would attempt to quell the fire God had placed in me. But you know what, that’s just what the world wants you to do; get onboard with their heresies and errors. Jesus said it best, ‘The path is narrow and few are they that find it’. Have you sold everything and bought the field?

God’ has commanded a prescription in how He is to be worshipped in the Regulative principle of Worship. There are not two ways to worship, just one. It should be the desire of every believer to pursue truth in this regard-your life may depend on it. The pastors have been given a special privilege and calling and it is their responsibility to make sure we are not offering up strange fire to the Lord. I already hear your heart: “Scott, this issue on the regulative principle is a bit silent; no one really knows, down to the jot and tittle, how to worship God rightly! Jesus perfects our flawed worship!” This is true to a degree, however, God knows the hearts of men, and especially His leadership; ignorance is not above the law. There is only one law; it is not like Washington D.C. and our legal system here in America-it is not a wax nose that one can molded into anything one wants and to think otherwise is heretical and dangerous.

The man of God is not called and sent to deliver any message that is not of God. The man of God is not called and sent to speak in their own behalf-ever! Doing what is right in our own eyes is wrong; ask Nadab and Abihu.

Lev. 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.  2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.  3 And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying:

‘By those who come near Me

I must be regarded as holy;

And before all the people

I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace.

Aaron held his peace! God will not be mocked!

Having said all of the above, it is important to make the needed distinction in regards to corporate worship. When the church officially gathers, it is always under the auspice that they are to keep the regulative principle that God prescribes, knowing that God is in our midst and to disregard that principle can be dealt with in the same fashion as described in the example of the son’s of Levi.

On a more accurate treatment, please read Calvin “Men and Women in the Church” and Knox “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women”.

Calvin writes:

“It appears that the Church of the Corinthians was infected with this fault too, that the talkativeness of women was allowed a place in the sacred assembly, or rather that the fullest liberty was given to it. Hence he forbids them to speak in public, either for the purpose of teaching or of prophesying. This, however, we must understand as referring to ordinary service, or where there is a Church in a regularly constituted state; for a necessity may occur of such a nature as to require that a woman should speak in public; but Paul has merely in view what is becoming in a duly regulated assembly.

34. Let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. What connection has the object that he has in view with the subjection under which the law places women? “For what is there,” some one will say, “to hinder their being in subjection, and yet at the same time teaching?” I answer, that the office of teaching is a superiority in the Church, and is, consequently, inconsistent with subjection. For how unseemly a thing it were, that one who is under subjection to one of the members, should preside over the entire body! It is therefore an argument from things inconsistent — If the woman is under subjection, she is, consequently, prohibited from authority to teach in public. And unquestionably, wherever even natural propriety has been maintained, women have in all ages been excluded from the public management of affairs. It is the dictate of common sense, that female government is improper and unseemly. Nay more, while originally they had permission given to them at Rome to plead before a court, the effrontery of Caia Afrania led to their being interdicted, even from this. Paul’s reasoning, however, is simple — that authority to teach is not suitable to the station that a woman occupies, because, if she teaches, she presides over all the men, while it becomes her to be under subjection.”
Obviously, the difficulty will come from ascertaining what the words ‘silence’ and ‘speak’. In the Greek, they are rendered:

4601. σιγάω sigao, see-gah´-o; from 4602; to keep silent (transitively or intransitively): — keep close (secret, silence), hold peace.

2980. λαλέω laleo, lal-eh´-o; a prolonged form of an otherwise obsolete verb; to talk, i.e. utter words: — preach, say, speak (after), talk, tell, utter.

3004. λέγω lego, leg´-o; a primary verb; properly, to “lay” forth, i.e. (figuratively) relate (in words (usually of systematic or set discourse; whereas 2036 and 5346 generally refer to an individual expression or speech respectively; while 4483 is properly to break silence merely, and 2980 means an extended or random harangue)); by implication, to mean: — ask, bid, boast, call, describe, give out, name, put forth, say(-ing, on), shew, speak, tell, utter.

In regards to the lexicology of the word used here in these passages, Benjamin Warfield writes:

“I have recently received a letter from a valued friend asking me to send him a “discussion of the Greek words laleo and lego in such passages as I Cor. 14:33-39, with special reference to the question: Does the thirty-fourth verse forbid all women everywhere to speak or preach publicly in Christian churches?” The matter is of universal interest, and I take the liberty of communicating my reply to the readers of The Presbyterian.

It requires to be said at once that there is no problem with reference to the relations of laleo and lego. Apart from niceties of merely philological interest, these words stand related to one another just as the English words speak and say do; that is to say, laleo expresses the act of talking, while lego refers to what is said. Wherever then the fact of speaking, without reference to the content of what is said, is to be indicated,

laleo is used, and must be used. There is nothing disparaging in the intimation of the word, any more than there is in our word talk; although, of course, it can on occasion be used disparagingly as our word talk can also-as when some of the newspapers intimate that the Senate is given over to mere talk. This disparaging application of laleo, however, never occurs in the New Testament, although the word is used very frequently. The word is in its right place in I Cor. 14:33ff, therefore, and necessarily bears

there its simple and natural meaning. If we needed anything to fix its meaning, however, it would be supplied by its frequent use in the preceding part of the chapter, where it refers not only to speaking with tongues (which was a divine manifestation and unintelligible only because of the limitations of the hearers), but also to the prophetic speech, which is directly declared to be to edification and exhortation and comforting (verses 3—6). It would be supplied more pungently, however, by its contrasting term here-“let them be silent” (verse 34). Here we have laleo directly defined for us: “Let the women keep silent, for it is not permitted to them to speak.” Keep silent-speak: these are the two opposites; and the one defines the other. It is important to observe, now, that the pivot on which the injunction of these verses turns, is not the prohibition of speaking so much as the command of silence. That is the main injunction. The prohibition of speech is introduced only to explain the meaning more fully. What Paul says is in brief: “Let the women keep silent in the churches.” That surely is direct and specific enough for all needs. He then adds explanatorily: “For it is not permitted to them to speak.” “It is not permitted” is an appeal to a general law, valid apart from Paul’s personal command, and looks back to the opening phrase-“as in all the churches of the saints.” He is only requiring the Corinthian women to conform to the general law of the churches. And that is the meaning of the almost bitter words which he adds in verse 36, in which, reproaching them for the innovation of permitting women to speak in the churches, he reminds them that they are not the authors of the gospel, nor are they its sole possessors-let them keep to the law that binds the whole body of churches and not be seeking some new-fangled way of their own. The intermediate verses only make it plain that precisely what the apostle is doing is forbidding women to speak at all in the church.”

“What then must be noted, in conclusion, is: (1) That the prohibition of speaking in the church to women is precise, absolute, and all-inclusive. They are to keep silent in the churches—and that means in all the public meetings for worship; they are not even to ask

questions; (2) that this prohibition is given especial point precisely for the two matters of teaching and ruling covering specifically the functions of preaching and ruling elders; (3) that the grounds on which the prohibition is put are universal, and turn on the difference in sex, and particularly on the relative places given to the sexes in creation and in the fundamental history of the race (the fall).”

Charles Hodge writes:

“Thus, in chap. 11, 5, when treating of women speaking in the church unveiled, he expresses no disapprobation of their speaking in public, although he afterwards condemned it . “

John Gill writes:

“1Co 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches,…. This is a restriction of, and an exception to one of the above rules, that all might prophesy; in which he would be understood of men only, and not of women; and is directed against a practice which seems to have prevailed in this church at Corinth, allowing women to preach and teach in it; and this being a disorderly practice, and what was not used in other churches, the apostle forbids and condemns, and not without reason: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; that is, in public assemblies, in the church of God, they might not speak with tongues, nor prophesy, or preach, or teach the word. All speaking is not prohibited; they might speak their experiences to the church, or give an account of the work of God upon their souls; they might speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or speak as an evidence in any case at a church meeting; but not in such sort, as carried in it direction, instruction, government, and authority. It was not allowed by God that they should speak in any authoritative manner in the church; nor was it suffered in the churches of Christ; nor was it admitted of in the Jewish synagogue; there, we are told (b), the men came to teach, and the women לשמוע, “to hear”: and one of their canons runs thus (c);

“a woman may not read (that is, in the law), בצבור, “in the congregation”, or church, because of the honour of the congregation;” for they thought it a dishonourable thing to a public assembly for a woman to read, though they even allowed a child to do it that was capable of it.

But they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. In Gen_3:16, “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”. By this the apostle would signify, that the reason why women are not to speak in the church, or to preach and teach publicly, or be concerned in the ministerial function, is, because this is an act of power, and authority; of rule and government, and so contrary to that subjection which God in his law requires of women unto men. The extraordinary instances of Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, must not be drawn into a rule or example in such cases. “

The point here is that woman should not be in a position of authority over men, ever. It goes against nature.

Knox writes:

“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature; contumely [an insult] to God, a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance; and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”

I came across a webpage on the subject and the writer stated:

“If we take this literally, it would mean that women are not allowed to sing in church nor respond when the pastor asks for comments or questions from the audience.”
This statement is a theological disaster. I will address each point.

“it would mean that women are not allowed to sing in church”

When we are in a corporate setting, the worship is under the pastors office; He is essentially the worship leader, locally. The woman are not singing individually and they are not teaching when they sing. When we sing, it is corporately. If a woman was to sing, singularly, that’s problematic.

The writer then goes on to say:

“respond when the pastor asks for comments or questions from the audience”

Since when does a pastor take questions when he is preaching? That is a clear break in the regulative principle. If this were a description of a Sunday school class, that would be entirely different, but what I get from this statement is that this is after the official call to worship and during the preaching.

James Scott of the OPC writes:

As we have already indicated, the speaking that is forbidden to women is public speaking, or speaking out, in the church assemblies. Speaking in general seems to be prohibited.

Praying (that is, leading in prayer) must be included in this speaking. Indeed, 1 Timothy 2:8 specifically states that “men” (in Greek, “males,” not “people”) are to “pray in every place [of worship], lifting up holy hands [that is, leading in prayer].”

Since singing is a form of “speaking” (Ephesians 5:19) and “teaching” (Colossians 3:16), it would also come within the scope of activity prohibited to women. This would rule out “special music” sung by women.

However, it is important to distinguish between an individual addressing the congregation and the congregation as a whole worshiping God audibly in the recitation of a prayer or the singing of a hymn. One aspect of such congregational speech is that the members of the congregation speak to one another (Ephesians 5:19), but in this case no individual teaching or leading is involved.

Would it be right for a minister to read a sermon or congregational prayer written out for him by a woman? Clearly not. Consider, then, whether it is right for him to lead the congregation in singing a song written out by a woman. As much as we may like the sentiments expressed by, say, Fanny Crosby, her words should not be given authority in the worship of the church. To sing her hymns in public worship is to make her a teacher, a worship leader, and a prayer leader in the church assembly.”

At this point, I want to take the time in this paper to address some of the other random things that would fall under women talking in a corporate setting. Some are more narrow that the others, but all biblical.

Evangelism? Is evangelism for everyone? Is Evangelism an attribute of an official office? See my paper on that subject at:

How about a woman’s bible study, led by women?

1) At church? I would see this as an aside to a corporate setting as there are no men present-without both genders present, I don’t believe we can call it ‘the church’ meeting together. Women are free to lead the study under the oversight of the elders. The elders must approve the material used and the woman must follow the curriculum.

2) A home gathering? Same as above. This should not substitute for typical catechizing that should take place by the federal head. In other words, neither of these should not be the primary means for the women.

Serve as a missionary?

Lets define the terms:


mis·sion·ar·y  (msh-nr)

n. pl. mis·sion·ar·ies

1. One who is sent on a mission, especially one sent to do religious or charitable work in a territory or foreign country.

2. One who attempts to persuade or convert others to a particular program, doctrine, or set of principles; a propagandist.


1. Of or relating to missions or missionaries.

2. Engaged in the activities of a mission or missionary.

3. Tending to propagandize or use insistent persuasion: missionary fervor.

French, from Old French, from Latin missi, missin-, from missus, past participle of mittereto send off.

The term is an offshoot of what, The Great Commission? Yes. Can a woman fulfill the great commission? Yes, in a supportive roll; the commission is to the church officers alone. I address this in my paper, “The Great Omission”.

The Great Omission

Kevin Deyoung states:

“If mission is everything then what does it really mean to do mission or be on mission? Obviously, we must obey the two great commandments to love God and love neighbor. But do these commandments constitute the mission of the church? Or is the church’s mission something narrower, something shared by no other institution on earth, something we see modeled in the missionary work of Paul? At the very least, I would argue that the mission of the church is most clearly explained in the Great Commission…...”

A PCA organization called “Mission to the World” requires no ordination for their missionary’s. I find this to be an error. A good example:

“For people seeking to serve with MTW for one month and longer, MTW examines an applicant’s spiritual life, relationship with their church, their personal relationship with Christ, their personal traits and characteristics, ministry experience, conviction that God is calling them into missionary service, knowledge of the Bible, and their understanding of the Reformed faith. ”

When I went to some of the prayer cards on this site, some of the woman have the responsibility in teaching adults, even in the corporate setting. This is problematic and surely a sign of the ever-growing liberalism in the PCA. On one hand, the Book of Church order and the confession says that ordained men are to teach only and then on the other, we have this. This causes confusion in the ranks-we are not being consistent and definitely not biblical.

The word missionary is defined as one who is sent out by the church specific for the gospel ministry. They are ordained and sent. Can a woman be ordained? If scripture teaches implicitly and explicitly that woman are not to rule over the man in the church, if a woman is called a missionary and responsible to give out those attributes that are part and parcel with a biblical mission, how can she do this without teaching? Well, you might say, “Scott, what if she was a nurse, single and went to Africa to assist a doctor-would that be ok?” Yes, that would be fine; however, I wouldn’t call her a missionary per se; Missionaries are men as they are called of God and sent by the local church. They literally have marching orders. The optimal setting would be if this woman were married and she was the helpmate of the man sent; she supports his efforts, based on the church’s call. She would be considered a missionary associate and her kid’s missionary dependents. Would it be right to call her kids missionary’s? No, that doesn’t make sense.

The other issue we need to deal with in regards to woman missionaries is when they are in the field, and the idea to plant a church is evident, what role do they play in this church? That becomes a bit problematic. The indigenous folk will look to her as leadership due to their level, after all, most of them are either new converts or very young in the faith. It will eventually cause confusion. The nurse spoken above is a church member, serving in a distant country, as a medical professional, i.e. a nurse; that’s it. She is a Christian nurse assisting the ministry with her gift of nursing.  The distinction between volunteering for a mission and being the actual missionary needs to be considered. To be consistent, we need to make this distinction.  It is surely a slippery slope; the next thing you will see is woman elders and pastors. This is unavoidable.  The most important detail you must gleen from this paper is that any office holder is authoritative; a woman should not have authority over men, period. Having said that, whether or not the deacon is an actual person that teaches is beside the fact, the office is, again, authoritative and in that, it carries with it (t)eaching. I have seen argumentation in regards to commissioning versus ordaining or recognizing.  Well, you might say, “Scott, what about our Women in the Church organization that the PCA has?” I reply, that’s problematic and inconsistent and we really need to think through that. I know we call it an “office”. Please show me in scripture where a woman is given an official office? Just one passage will suffice.

Pastor Brian Schwertly writes in regards to female deacons:

“The contention that ordaining women to the diaconate was more a product of the sprit of the times rather than an outgrowth of careful exegetical considerations is supported by an eyewitness and participant at the R.P. Synod of 1888, the Rev. D. S. Faris. In an article entitled “The Female Deacon and the Sentimental Overflow of Synod” Faris documents that what occurred at the Synod of 1888 was a rush to judgment based on sentimentality and an “overflow of enthusiasm.”

…I wish to state those facts which, to my mind, prove that Synod reached its conclusions, not by means of deliberate and sober examination of the whole subject in all its bearings, but by “sentimental overflow.” This word “overflow” was used by Dr. Kennedy himself to designate Synod’s method of dealing with the subject. The Synod was borne along by the wave of popular sentiment, and did not act like a deliberative and judicial body. The only scholarly and effective argument in the case was that of Dr. Stevenson. The argument consisted, first, of a construction of certain passages of the New Testament, and second, of an argument based on allusions to the matter in the early fathers. No one was prepared to answer the patristic argument, on the spur of the moment; yet as Dr. Kennedy admitted, this line of argument is worthless, unless a foundation can be found for it in the word of God. The Doctor went about establishing the Scriptural foundation, evidently not with the deliberation and research of a scholar and a theologian, but as one borne along by the tide of sentimentalism. His first statement was that the direct Scriptural proof was wanting; but there are important things that are and must be taken for granted. He said that there is no direct proof that women were baptized or admitted to the Lord’s table. This has always been taken for granted, and women’s rights to these privileges have never been questioned. So, he said, women have been found doing work belonging to the deacon’s office, and therefore we ought to presume that they were ordained. The Doctor in the rush of the overwhelming tide forgot the account of the baptism of Lydia and her household, recorded in Act 16:15. He would not have made such a mistake, if he had been following the matter in a cool, deliberate desire to obtain the truth. He knew better as soon as he had time to think, but he made his argument under the influence of what he himself called an “overflow,” and not as a person searching and expounding the word of God deliberately….

Prof. Willson gave us no argument, but intimated, that from a thorough examination of the matter as a theologian, he had views that corresponded to the sentiment of Synod. He was surprised at the unanimous report of the committee, and equally surprised at the mind of the large part of Synod. The Professor should have given us the benefit of his theological researches, but contented himself by saying that he had heard no argument on the other side. Thus he brushed away what had been brought from the word of God, which seemed to demand some answer; and under the influence of the overflow, the Synod was willing to take for granted that the Professor was right, without hearing his reasons or exercising their own private judgment in the case. A few of us were not ready to vote for a measure which, to Presbyterians generally, will seem to be an innovation, at least without time to make up our minds prayerfully and carefully.

Another evidence of the overflow of enthusiasm, was the form in which the committee presented the matter at first, substantially as follows: “That we find nothing in nature nor in the word of God, to prevent a woman from holding the deacon’s office.” The second member of the committee was Dr. Kennedy, a well-known scholar and theologian, and would have known better than to have agreed to such a report, if at all sober and in his right mind. But being carried away by the enthusiasm in the committee, he agreed to it, and after the prelatical form of it had been objected to by myself, tardily found objections to the negative form of the report of his own committee. The Synod then changed it into the positive form, substantially as follows: “That we find it is agreeable to nature and the word of God that a woman should be ordained to the office of deacon.”

Another fact showing the undeliberative character of the proceeding, was the statement by some of the advocates of the measure, in reply to the ground taken by Dr. George, that no authority is conferred in ordination to the office of deacon, but there would be in ordination to that of elder or preacher, and that authority on the part of woman is usurpation, that they were willing for woman to have her equal place with man in all offices, both in church and state. Thus no provision was made against the pressing of the matter further, in future, and the tide rushed onward overflowing the more cautious ground occupied by a few. Doubtless this flood-tide, if it be not checked, will carry women into all places of authority in church and state. Again, I would mention an argument of some one on the majority side, that it was necessary for us to take this step now, so as to continue to lead the churches in reform as heretofore. Reflection ought to convince such enthusiasts that leadership is not desirable unless in a Scriptural progress, and this ought to be first determined in a deliberate and constitutional manner. [86]

Faris’s comments reveal a number of troubling things regarding the debate at Synod to ordain women as deacons. Faris reveals that there were members of Synod that wanted to open all church offices to women. This indicates that the feminist rhetoric of the preceding thirty years was having an effect on some members of Synod. (We can reach no other conclusion, considering the overwhelming and very clear scriptural evidence against women being pastors or elders in the church.) Other members of Synod argued that women should be ordained as deacons so the R.P. Church could lead other churches in the cause of reform. This supports the view that the popularity of putting women into the ordained diaconate was not based on a new, clearer, more objective understanding of Scripture, but was a direct result of the nineteenth century reform movements, especially the new Christian feminism. The fact that the R.P. committee which recommended women deacons to Synod originally rejected the regulative principle in favor of a “prelatical” argument further indicates that the motivating factor for ordaining women as deacons was not in the first place Scripture but was the cultural environment. These men had good intentions and believed they were doing a good thing for society and the church but in reality they were just following the latest “evangelical” [87] fad.

Faris’s warning that “this floodtide, if not checked, will carry women into all places of authority in church and state” has to a large extent already taken place. The sentiments of R.P. pastors such as Thomas Wylie who wanted to open all church offices to women apparently was held by a number of R.P. pastors. Even as late as 1938-39 there was a concerted effort to ordain women as ruling elders.

The Synod of 1938 appointed a Committee on Ordination of Women Elders, which reported to Synod the following year. The committee report recommended the ordination of women to the ruling eldership. Philip W. Martin and Johannes G. Vos responded with a paper entitled “Are Women Elders Scriptural?” etc. [88]

J. G. Vos, who was an excellent scholar and highly respected within the denomination, was largely responsible for stopping the effort to ordain women to the eldership at that time. The present movement within the RPCNA to open all church offices to women is led by Faith Martin. This movement is a product of the feminism of the nineteen sixties and seventies.”

James Moir Porteous wrote,

“No question as to the regulation of the Church of Christ has received a clearer or more decided reply in the Divine Word. This practice of female ministrations had been introduced along with other gross irregularities into the Church of Corinth. It spread into others. To arrest this as unseemly and wrong,the most authoritative command was issued. For a woman publicly to minister in the Church was wrong on every ground. It was destitute of apostolical, ecclesiastical, scriptural, and rational sanction. On no account was it permitted. In these four aspects the law was distinctly laid down.

1. By Apostolical Authority

women are forbidden publicly to minister: ‘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. xiv. 33-40). This passage shows that the public exercise even of the gift of prophecy by women was expressly forbidden. This was in the Church of Corinth, where all the prophets might prophesy one by one. The widest and most comprehensive of all terms is employed when silence is here enjoined.To speak (XaXiu) in any way in the churches, by preaching, teaching, or conversing, is not permitted. Thus the objection is of no force that * bawling or babbling only is forbidden, and that seemly discourse might be allowed them.* Of the two hundred and ninety -two times, besides this passage, in which the word is used, only once can it be rendered to babble, without any violence. Even there this translation is doubtful.

The phrase ‘in the churches’ takes in every assembly of Christians for worship, fellowship, and order, reaching even to ordinary prayer or conference meetings. When I was a child, I spake (or babbled ?) as a child.’ The command to keep silence covers all kinds of speech, seemly and unseemly, even to the putting of questions.

That this was not a local or temporary command is evident from the directions given through Timothy regarding pastoral work in general. This explicit deliverance is re-asserted, with the addition of the reason for the command by the Apostle Paul :

* I suffer not a woman to teach, but to be in silence ‘ (1 Tim. ii. 8-14).

The contrast between what is allowed to men, and what is forbidden to women, is very striking in this passage. Having spoken of his apostolic authority under the Mediator,Paul says,*

* I will, therefore, that the men {rovgavdoag) pray everywhere.* This word is ever used for men to the exclusion of women ; and this direction occurs in an exhortation to pray ‘ for all men ‘ by the use of a term (av^jwcrwv), that includes both men and women. Having made this distinction between those who are to be prayed for, and those who are to pray, the apostle counsels that, in like manner, ‘ women adorn themselves ‘ suitably to their profession ; the term employed for women (yuvatxag), as expressly excluding men. Still, keeping the distinction in view, the apostle proceeded to give another injunction : ‘ Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection : but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.* Woman here,(ymri) means every woman, “without exception. Men are, according to their calling, to take part in the prayers and instructions of the public assemblies of Christians ; women are to be prayed for as well as men ; but the proper position of women in the house of God is to join in the worship silently, with modesty of dress and behaviour.” -James Moir Porteous, The Government of the Kingdom of Christ, An Inquiry as to the scriptural, invincible and historical position of Presbytery, 1872

I want to add, since I am Presbyterian and highly reformed, it comes out in my treatment here. The reason you don’t see a high number of female missionaries historically documented is because there weren’t any to speak of in contrast to this day. This is important to note. Our age has been subject to the culture of this day-we don’t want to offend anyone. I am sure that there may be a memoir or two out there of a female from years past, but I bet you she had a husband overseeing her and she herself was not the missionary.-nothing like our day-you can blame feminism and egalitarianism for that.

In this age, most people who call themselves Christian do not understand these doctrines; they reject them openly by the way they live out of ignorance; this cast much of the responsibility upon their weak leadership.  As I have mentioned many times in the past, there are not two ways of worshipping God, just one. Doing anything that is not prescribed by the Lord is idol worship and rightly condemned.

The mass of leaders in this country are uneducated and most likely should not be in the pulpit to begin with; however, for some reason, in God’s great providence, beyond all of our Earthly understanding, God saw fit to allow such things to occur, apparently to bring about His greater plan. Now, I am not saying that there are not believers out there or elect in the ranks who don’t understand these things mentioned; there surely are and eventually God’s truth will be revealed unto them. Truth sets one free. The masses of these people are either antinomian and intentionally blinded by God or really young uneducated believers. The reprobates will never get this stuff onboard, the uneducated believers need to move from milk to meat.

Heb. 5:12   For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Heb. 6:1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  3 And this we will do if God permits.

Many are drawn to people like Osteen and Meyers to have their ears tickled-like a moth to a flame. They reject many of these hard line doctrines so that they are not made uncomfortable. They want all sugar and no spice. It would do us all well to heed the exhortation in Matt 7:21:

Matt. 7:21   “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In finality, this doctrine is rare to most; it is dealt with here in a biblical fashion based on study over the years. We are all growing in grace. In our pursuit of reformation, we pursue truth. May it never be said that God’s people compromise truth for comfort. We are called to carry our crosses. The writer of 1 John said it best:

1John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.