By Elizabeth Prata
the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. (1 Corinthians 14:34)
If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:35)
A woman must learn in quietness and full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
Obviously being silent in the churches doesn’t mean that women are never to utter a word in church. In other epistles, Paul writes that women pray in church. Women fellowship before and after. Women sing. So being silent does not mean total silence from entering the church doors to exiting.
Both those sections of scripture occur in the context of Paul writing about how to behave in church during a service. Both passages of scripture are crystal clear: women are not allowed to preach nor to teach men in the church.
I attended a church where the Sunday School class I was in also had as a member a husband a wife. We’ll call the wife Olive. She and her husband would come in and they’d settle into the chairs side-by-side. Olive was always put together, dressed for church in an understatedly elegant way. (Not ostentatious, 1 Timothy 2:9). The lesson would progress, and she was always attentive to the teacher. She’d occasionally write a note in her workbook. When her husband offered a comment during discussion, she would look at him and listen just as attentively, offering him her silent support.
Each Sunday was the same. Years have passed, but I still see her there in my mind, sitting pert, put together, and attentive, silent. Her demeanor matches exactly the passage in 1 Peter 3:3-4,
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. [emphasis mine]
As a young babe in Christ watching the older ones to see how to behave, her demeanor was precious to me. Her gentleness and silence made an impression, because it was in stark contrast to the din of women outside the church (and these days inside the church) clamoring ever more loudly for a voice, a position, power. Her witness was beautiful. It was a glory to see a devoted wife, silent week after week, being joyfully obedient.
Women, being silent in the churches doesn’t mean you’re invisible. Our obedience to the scriptures speaks loudly and in fact, makes us even more visible than we would be if we were talkatively obnoxious because of the contrast it makes to the culture.
Don’t be afraid to be quiet in church, to wait and ask questions of your husband at home, to be a silent witness to the glory of God. Not only is your witness obedience to the word of God, but your quiet and gentle spirit is precious to God. Your beauty of obedience and quietude is imperishable.
I listened to John MacArthur’s sermon “Does the Bible allow a woman to preach?“. It was beautiful and encouraging, as the scriptures always are. Ladies, if you are wilting under the cultural pressure that your witness is only good if you are leading or preaching, please take a listen. Or watch.
Remember, silence speaks volumes.