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John 3:16

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Sermon Preached by Rev P Westwood - June 2024.       1 Corinthians Chapters 12 & 14


Its fairly well understood that any complications around the should and the should nots between men and women in church, mostly arise with women. It could be said that women get a raw deal! Usually women should not - be leaders in church/ be heard/ should not adorn themselves/ dress this way or that way/ be submissive etc etc.


These subject matters are matters of doctrine but not matters of salvation so we should have no fear in whatever outcome reached, either as men or women.


Over the next couple of weeks I want to give you my interpretation of what scripture has to say on the matter.  In fact, what scripture tells us is all that counts.  Our opinions are allowed but our pursuit must be scripture.  We must see scripture as inerrant or ‘without mistakes’ and so we need to be really careful where we enhance or distance ourself from the truths of scripture because we think that cultures have changed.  Let me be clear; God’s intentions for us through His word are to be systematically applied and culture is only one small systematic at play.  Scripture was, is and always will be inerrant; it is up to us whether we can live with God’s instructions where we may allow other influences to adjust our acceptance.  In other words, our political or personal persuasions do not trump god’s word……


Secondly let me say this, to allow a masculine or feminist viewpoint to distort our view of scripture is exceptionally dangerous; why? Because world position, culture and trends have ebbed and flowed or thousands of years on these trends.  For instance there remains today in parts of China, India and the Philippines highly esteemed matriarchal societies.  In modern day Iceland and Sweden women have held political office in the same numbers as men for nearly 30 years etc. in all of these swings and roundabouts - the truth and accuracy of Gods word stands.


Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:6 ‘ I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another.

So, over the next couple of weeks we will be looking at


  1. Women should be silent in church [1 Corinthians 14:34]

  2. Women are not permitted to teach, be Pastors or have authority over men [1 Tim 2:12] 


During the next couple of weeks we will find common ground within these subjects and so cross over from time to time and even visit some same verses etc.  We will also be incidentally looking at head coverings, adornments etc, However, scripture and only scripture will determine our outcomes; if not we are in danger of making God’s word an adaptable text only for our own ends and satisfaction.  


  • A brief word is necessary on the broadly based position of how the relationship between men and women is viewed.


a] Egalitarianism - the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

b] Complementarianism.  - that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, and religious leadership.

Note : The word “complementarian” is derived from the word “complement” (not the word “compliment”). The dictionary defines “complement” as follows: Something that completes or makes perfect; either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole;  Complementarians believe that God created male and female as complementary expressions of the image of God—-male and female are counterparts in reflecting his glory. Having two sexes expands the view. Though both sexes bear God’s image fully on their own, each does so in a unique and distinct way. Male and female in relationship reflects truths about Jesus that aren’t reflected by male alone or female alone.


So lets begin here with 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35


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 [or improper] for a woman to speak in the church.


Maybe we should begin with relevant questions….

  • Is this subject open to interpretation?

  • Is this scripture ever weaponised? 

  • Are women to be silent; if so what does this mean?

  • Is there a sense of less worth if you are a woman? Young officer/long serving NCO - who has most value?  The order of things does not ever reflect the value of things with God….


If women should be silent is literal to the whole worship service then why does Paul say in 

1 Corinthians 11:4-5 ’4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.


Clearly Paul is allowing women to prophesy here; not be silent - same church, different instruction?  Or not?  Paul doesn’t rebuke their praying and prophesying in church. On the contrary, he gives them instructions on how to do it in the right way—in a way that allows them to speak but that at the same time honours male headship.


Women prophesying in the assembly was in keeping with what the apostle Peter said was characteristic of the New Covenant gift of the Spirit predicted in Joel 2, “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…’” (Acts 2:17). Who’s going to prophesy? Sons and daughters.



So on one hand Paul is clearly encouraging women to speak and open the other he appears to be telling them to shut up!


Clearly, both of Paul’s statements must be correct


As always, context is everything.  What do we know about the passage that led up to Paul’s forest statement that women should remain silent?  lets do the context then we’ll do the exegesis……

  1. Paul is speaking to the church about several matters which all have a bearing on his words in our primary scripture.

  2. Division among the saints

  3. Quarrelling about matters of worship

  4. Wisdom of God and the abandonment of worldly ways

  5. The sacrifice of ministry

  6. Sexual immorality

  7. Legal wrangling in the church

  8. Marriage

  9. Idolatry

  10. Holy Communion


At this point we arrive at the subject of spiritual gifts and orderly worship and it is within this context that we find the words of Paul about women remaining silent….


He begins in Chapter 12 by telling the church that within the realm of spiritual gifts, we all, both men and women have our part to play.  1 Corinthians 12 :7 ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.


So he establishes the importance of everyone within the body concerning gifts. And Paul goes on to embellish this with the one body, many parts verses….


In verse 12:31 Paul says ‘look I will show you a more excellent way’


In other words Paul is saying stop with all the arguing, everyone is equally important but God created us that we would play our part within the body for the well being of the whole body…..!!!!



Paul now pre-empts his next problem by preaching first the subject of love!  It is on this instruction that he goes about tackling the problem.  He is saying , ‘Look if we could all just love each other, then we would want the best for each other, and so want the best for the body, and so stop squabbling and get on with what’s important.  Leave your prejudices at the door and accept that Gods order of things is actually right for us…… 

Romans 8 ‘If God is for us who can be against us,  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

He goes on to address the subjects of tongues and of prophecy.  He says that tongues are really for the benefit of unbelievers.  In other words their amazement at these foreign tongues being used by non natives of those tongues will speak of the wonders of God and His reality.


Whereas Prophecy is for the benefit of believers, but must be both shared and interpreted, because it is for the building up of the church.  


Finally in our pursuit of context look at the preceding verses…1 Corinthians 14: 29-33

‘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 be silent. 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.

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