HANDLING HOT POTATOES!
Lord, give me a deeper understanding of how Your church should operate.
Read 1 CORINTHIANS 14:26–40
Good Order in Worship
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
34 Women should remain silent 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.
36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
New International Version (NIV)
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What would be a spiritually mature understanding of this passage as opposed to an immature one?
We commented earlier that there are statements in these chapters which have been used to justify the subjugation of women. This passage includes one such text, which presents considerable problems of interpretation. We refer, of course, to the statement that women should “remain silent in the churches” and are “not allowed to speak” (34,35).
The most obvious difficulty arises from the conflict between this apparent prohibition on women’s participation in the worship service and the liberty granted to both sexes which Paul stresses elsewhere: men and women, for example, possessing the same freedom to pray and prophesy. More than that, the entire thrust of these chapters relates to the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit given to every member of the body of Christ. Paul’s vision is of a countercultural community opposed to the dominant social structure in which women and slaves were considered inferior. This vision of the church is rooted in the example of Jesus and the promise of Pentecost: that the Spirit would be poured out on men and women without distinction and that both would prophesy as a result.
Regardless of how we consider these verses (it is impossible to discuss the many interpretative proposals here), they must be understood in relation to the liberating dynamic of the Gospel and not the other way around. It may be that there are keys, yet to be discovered, that will unlock the puzzle of these words within the specific cultural context of yesterday’s Corinth. Meanwhile, as discussed by Elsa Tamez, we must acknowledge the limitations of today’s level of understanding and unambiguously affirm the equality of men and women in Christ.
What needs to change if Christians are to respect and honor each other when they read Scripture differently?
Lord, since You are clearly not the author of confusion, help clear up our confusion over the passage at hand.