Monday, August 6, 2012
WOMEN KEEP QUIET
…in the church. OUCH! Bummer. It’s a good thing that I strongly believe that Paul had every right and prompting to say that or I would erase it from my Bible. But having an NIV Study Bible has given me great hope here. Fortunately I have been taught to always consider context and never, ever take a verse out of context and run with it to make a new doctrine. And I have also been told that the culture of the people in the church is also important.
This whole thing started for me when I went back to 1Corinthians 15:1-4 to review a Sunday sermon and decided to read the entire portion in order to get a better look at the context. Paul is admonishing the church to stick to the preaching and teaching of the true Gospel and basically quit messing with it. And he made it very clear what that Gospel was and still is. Excellent reading and well worth remembering.
However, the next verses are never enough for me so… I read back in chapter 14. Near the end of that chapter Paul actually says:
…. 33b As in all congregations of the saints, 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.
1 Corinthians 14:33-35
Fortunately, this passage is found in the middle of an exhortation to have order in the church, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (vs. 33a…)
Apparently it can be considered in three different ways, at least according the NIV Study guide. And in his book, 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch, Tony Campolo goes on to say that “Church was not the place to teach their husbands what husbands should not do.” From both sources there seems to be agreement that order in the church service was the order of business for chapter 14. Earlier, men and women were admonished to keep the confusion down and limit themselves in how many times they spoke in tongues or prophesied (plain teaching) and to do more of the latter to the benefit of new comers in the church. And so it was paramount that women respect the service and the men and women leading the service by not asking publicly every question that came to their minds. It did not suggest that women could not speak in tongues or prophecy because Paul had just admonished them in proper ways to go about that. He was setting a precedent against disorderly and unnecessary speaking of all kinds. And, apparently the disorderly speaking often led to miss management of the truth of the Gospel so he followed up with a clear definition of the Gospel which was to be preached and followed by the church. (Chapter 15) Everyone had a lot to learn and no one could learn anything helpful when everything was presented in noisy disorder.
For us the trick may be to decide what is disorder and what is not. It seems that many can be shocked at the behavior of others as they worship, perhaps for something as simple as saying “Amen” out loud in the midst of a sermon being preached. Others are worshipping regularly under the leadership of a preacher who constantly encourages such positive reaction to the truth. Some preachers even sing and dance their sermons to the delight and joy of the congregations, while others never move from the pulpit the entire time of their sermons. Is one wrong and one right? Apparently the only truly wrong thing is to preach a false gospel. Keeping a straight face or dancing with joy is definitely a personal congregational choice.
I will never forget the delightful experience of being led in worship by a group of young men from Rwanda who drummed and danced and shouted for joy with each and every song. We couldn’t always understand their words but we definitely understood their joy for the Lord. It was contagious. One song actually repeated many times that we should “move our bodies,” But many Baptist feet and bodies just couldn’t do it. :) As for me, I couldn’t stand still. I am a bouncy, hand-raising praise singer and love it when there is a lot of hand clapping going on. (I am not able to clap along because I am an old fashioned 1-3 beat person who cannot sing and clap with a 2-4 beat). So I just bounce a lot and sing too loud and enjoy the offering of praise and thanksgiving to our God. :)
I guess where I am going is that it is our job to participate in worship with all our heart and mind and to keep our eyes and ears open for the truth being taught. No matter what the service is like, if the truth is not taught and the fruit of the Spirit is not being lived out, it is not the place to be. And it is a responsibility for women as well as men to know the truth so that they can discern it and they can teach it and share it however God leads them to do that.
May we all keep singing ‘til the songs run out… fat chance of that, right?