House Church Talk - Re: hc, women JL et.al
Jonathan Phillip Lindvall
lindvall at boldchristianliving.com
Fri May 7 11:39:56 EDT 2004
"Bruce Woodford" <bwood4d at hotmail.com> wrote:
> (2)I think I already listed many actual examples of church gatherings in
> new testament where women participated vocally in house church gatherings.
> The text is clear in some instances that these women were moved to speak
> BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, HIMSELF!
Hi Bruce. I have greatly enjoyed your posts. I must respectfully disagree
here, though. You have not shown a single instance in the New Testament
where sisters "participated vocally in house church gatherings" during the
time when everyone recognizes only one person shoud speak at a time. The
instances you have referred to were either not 1 Corinthians 14 meetings, or
were not when one person speaks at a time.
> So the context deals with a CHURCH
> GATHERING, and the context of I Cor.14:23-40 is a specific KIND of church
> gathering, namely when the "whole church is come together into one place".
> Now to read "house church" INTO THIS CONTEXT seems to me at least, without
> any warrant whatsoever!
I find your thoughts on this stimulating. I think I am open to being
persuaded of this view. But let me raise an objection. There was only one
church in Corinth. There were likely many gatherings, but they comprise one
church. (I think you and I would see this the same way.) The same could be
said of the church in Colosse, Ephesus, Rome, and any other city where the
church had been planted.
Yet Paul also referred to "the church that is in ____ house" on several
occasions (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phile. 1:2). Arguably in this
sense there were multiple churches in a city. Certainly, though, in the case
of Corinth, He told the brothers there (1 Cor. 14:34) to "Let your women
keep silent in the CHURCHES" (ekklesiais is plural here).
It seems to me he must be referring here to the multiple house churches that
comprise the one church in the city of Corinth. How would you see this?
> (5)Brother Glenn, you told us that you are not a newcomer to gathering in
> simplicity in homes. Therefore, I am assuming that your view of the
> of sisters is likely practiced in the house gatherings in which you
> participate. Could you describe those gatherings for us relative to the
> vocal participation of sisters from the time they arrive at the door until
> the time they leave to go home? How do you define or explain (scripture
> please) what your understanding of a church gathering is and thus when
> sisters must be silent and when they may speak? Any that I have had
> with who share your view hold a very artificial view of what constitutes a
> church gatherings! It is defined (a)by time (i.e. church goes from 10:30
> noon on Sunday morning) and women may chat or converse before 10:30 or
> noon because "church" is only during that time period! Or (b) it is
> by specific purposes or activities (i.e. the church gathering is when the
> saints gather for "public or corporate worship, praise, teaching" etc)
> when they eat a meal and remember the Lord, this is no longer regarded as
> "church" and so the women are not required to be silent at such meals!
I will look forward to any response Glenn is led to offer regarding this,
but I thought I would take up the challenge and answer as though the
question had been addressed to me.
The scripture is clear that the ministry of women is valuable and needed in
the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit used women under both the old and new
covenants. Definitely the Spirit-led ministry of women in the New Testament
church is unmistakable.
On the day of Pentecost women were clearly among the "they" (antecedent is
those discussed in Acts 1:13-15) who spoke in other tongues and prophesied,
drawing the attention of the multitude. That day Peter claimed fulfillment
of Joel's prophecy noting that "daughters" as well as "sons" would prophesy,
and the Spirit of God would be poured out on "hand-maidens" as well as
In Acts 18:26 Priscilla is included with her husband Aquila in the "they"
who ministered privately to Apollos when "they took him aside and explained
to him the way of God more accurately." Furthermore, Philip the evangelist
"had four daughters who prophesied" (Acts 21:8-9). And Paul explicitly
allowed women to pray and prophesy with their heads covered (1 Cor. 11:5-6).
Such evidence as this and the several times when Paul mentions the ministry
of women in his epistles seems, to many, to conflict with Paul's inclusion
in "commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37) that the church in Corinth
should "Let your women keep silence in the churches" (plural: ekklesiais; 1
To make emphasize and clarify this "command of the Lord," Paul pressed on,
"for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the
law also says." Despite the fact that no Old Testament law explicitly
forbids women speaking in church (although they were not permitted to enter
the temple), Paul apparently saw in the Old Testament law's protective
jurisdiction of fathers and husbands over their daughters and wives (Num.
30:3-8) a New Covenant application in the church.
Some have applied this only to authoritative teaching, based on Paul's
statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, "Let a woman learn in silence with all
submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a
man, but to be in silence." But in the "commands of the Lord" passage he
applies this to something as simple as asking a question. He continues (1
Cor. 14:35), "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."
At first glance these "commands of the Lord" seem to conflict with Paul's
statement (Gal. 3:28) that in Christ "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." However with further pondering it is clear Paul was
not claiming that after Christ maleness and femaleness ceased to exist.
Husbands are still male, and are commanded to love their wife as Christ
loves the church. Wives are still female, and are commanded to submit to and
respect their husbands (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
It seems to me the problem is caused by our culture's historical frame of
reference. Our notion is very institutional, but God seems to be freeing
some within the church from this paradigm. For most of us, every reference
to the church is interpreted as either a physical building, a religious
organization, or a public meeting. In recent years the Lord has been freeing
many of us, incrementally, from the bondage of such thinking.
The church is not a physical building. It is people relating to one another
around the Lord. The church isn't an organization. It is the people of God
themselves. Although churches meet (a friend of mine says, "Birds fly, fish
swim, churches meet"), the church must not be confused with the meeting. Yet
this latter confusion gets rather subtle. Paul tells the one who speaks in
tongues to "keep silent in church" (1 Cor. 14:28) if no interpreter is
present. What is this "in church" Paul speaks of?
Church life is not an event. We ARE the church. Yet, although I am purging
my vocabulary and thoughts of the notion of "going to church," there is
something about "in church" that is not always present. I am always part of
the church, but in some sense I am not always "in church."
Does "in church" apply every time I am with another believer? Whenever two
or more of gather in Jesus' name (listening for His voice), He is present
among us. But if this were Paul's meaning, sisters could only prophesy to
non-believers, and would have to be silent any time their Christian husband
was present. Clearly this is not the intent of scripture.
Some might say the "silence" called for in the "commands of Christ" only
applies when "the whole church comes together in one place" (1 Cor. 14:23).
But Paul articulated to the local church of Corinth (one church, with likely
multiple gatherings) that women were to "keep silent in the churches"
(plural). At least this command apparently applied to the various sub-sets
of the church, gathered in multiple times and places, as well as when the
"whole church" gathered in one place.
Is there another approach that can resolve this? I believe we need to expand
our perception of life in the body of Christ. God never intended for
church-life to only be expressed in meetings. In fact, while meetings are
important, they are probably not the most important locus of the expression
of mutual life in the Spirit. But from our culture's historical background,
we often over-rate the role of the meetings in the life of the church. For
some, that's virtually all they know of the church.
The sisters among the saints I'm walking with are often used of the Holy
Spirit to pray, prophesy, exhort, and even teach. All the saints here (both
the brothers and the sisters) are growing in our understanding and
experience of "exhort[ing] one another daily, while it is called 'Today'"
(Heb. 13:3) to avoid being "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Many
of us literally see one another every day, in one way or another. We look
for various opportunities to be together and connect our hearts, even
briefly, around the Lord. We don't schedule lots of "meetings." We just
meet. We can meet without meetings.
My wife and daughter have daily opportunities to exhort, teach, pray, and
prophesy in fellowship with other saints. Families or individuals will drop
by our home, for example, and in the process of greeting one another and
even brief fellowship, the Lord will bring some issue to the surface and
will give a word to one of us (as often my wife or daughter, as me or my
sons), and we will offer that to the one(s) for whom it was given.
I picture the scene when Paul visited "Philip the evangelist" and met his
four daughters. Quite likely during the course of the "many days" (Acts
21:8-15) that he stayed there, these "daughters who prophesied" shared
edifying words from the Lord with one another, and even with Paul. They
weren't having "meetings," but they were constantly meeting with one another
around the Lord.
One day a prophet named Agabus unexpectedly showed up. There is no evidence
that there was a meeting, but he promptly prophesied regarding Paul's
impending imprisonment. Most prophecy, in my estimation, should take place
in the course of our ongoing life together in the Spirit, rather than being
restricted to times and places when we are having a "meeting." Most likely
Philip's daughters were included among "those from that place" who joined
Paul's traveling companions in "plead[ing] with him not to go up to
There is no reason, given in the passage, to suppose all this happened in
the context of a "meeting." It is we who might impose that supposition on
the account, from our framework assumptions. Thankfully, the Lord is freeing
many of us from such institutional mindsets.
Is it appropriate for Spirit-filled women to prophesy? Of course! Is it
appropriate for them to prophesy in any and all settings? No. In fact both
men and women are to refrain from prophesying at certain points. Notice that
in a meeting of the church ("Whenever you come together" 1 Cor. 14:26) if
someone is prophesying and "anything is revealed to another who sits by,"
Paul writes ("the commands of the Lord," verse 37), "let the first keep
silent" (verse 30).
If I am prophesying in a meeting and the Lord gives a revelation to another,
I am to be silent. What if I'm not done with my prophecy and still "feel the
anointing?" That's irrelevant. Paul demands, "If anyone thinks himself to be
a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to
you are the commandments of the Lord."
So when are the sisters to be silent? When we gather together there is lots
of interaction. Initially saints are greeting one another. Can the sisters
speak then? We have a love feast together, and there are lots of
conversations taking place concurrently. Can the sisters speak during the
meal? As our time together progresses, there are many points at which we all
lift our voices together in song or in prayer. Can the sisters join their
voices to the brothers at those points?
Interestingly, there are times during our gathering when we all intuitively
know that only one person should be speaking at a time. Paul confirms this
when he says to the "brothers" (1 Cor. 14:26), that during the time in
question "you can all prophesy ONE BY ONE, that all may learn and all may be
encouraged." It is apparently during the "one by one" portions of the
meeting that there are three specific parties who are told to be "silent."
One who speaks in tongues is told, "if there is no interpreter, LET HIM KEEP
SILENT IN CHURCH, and let him speak to himself and to God" (verse 28). As
noted above, one who is prophesying is told, "if anything is revealed to
another who sits by, let the first KEEP SILENT" (verse 30). If the prophet
thinks he can't control himself, Paul argues, "the spirits of the prophets
are subject to the prophets" (verse 31). These silence commands are there to
"Let all things be done for edification" (verse 26). All of this is included
in what Paul insists are "the commandments of the Lord" (verse 37).
But one of the most powerful ministries the sisters bring to the meeting is
a pressure on the brothers to lead out. The brothers are told (1 Cor.
14:34-35), "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. 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."
The women's silence during this specific "one by one" time is not passive or
apathetic. It is a dynamic silence drawing leadership out of the men. In our
congregation we have some passive men whose wives long for them to step up
to the plate and lead out. As the sisters joyfully embrace their active
silence, their expectant countenances invite the brothers to lead out. As
even some of the more vocal brothers restrain ourselves, we join the sisters
in gently pressuring the less assertive ones to risk verbalizing what God is
working in them, in the warmth of this specific setting.
Before and after this time, when everyone recognizes that multiple
concurrent conversations are appropriate, the sisters are every bit as vocal
and active in ministering the gifts God has imparted to them, for the
benefit of the body. Notice that in the New Testament references to women's
vocal ministry referenced earlier (Day of Pentecost, Aquila and Priscilla's
private ministry to Apollos, Philips four daughters who prophesied, and the
1 Cor. 11 discussion of head coverings), there is no scriptural reason to
insist the context is the "one by one" portion of a church meeting. There
have been several times when my wife or daughter have asked me for
confirmation (although this is not required), when we moved to a season of
multiple conversations, regarding a word from the Lord that they had for
brothers. During that time, such is clearly appropriate and needed.
It is only our cultural handicap that persuades us that the silence of women
in the "one by one" portion of a meeting somehow "silences half the
priesthood." Such is a very limited view of church-life.
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God bless you.
Jonathan Lindvall Lindvall at BoldChristianLiving.com
Bold Christian Living http://www.BoldChristianLiving.com
PO Box 820 Voice 559-539-0500
Springville CA 93265 Fax 559-539-0804
...He who has begun a good work in you will complete it... Phil. 1:6
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