House Church Talk - Re: hc, women JL

Bruce Woodford bwood4d at
Sat May 8 06:13:39 EDT 2004

Hi Jonathan,

I appreciated your post and your perspective on the issue of the silence of 
women in a I Cor.14 meeting. I'm glad you are open to be persuaded to the 
view I've presented but I  understand you have an objection. So let me try 
to answer that objection and make a few other comments.

You wrote:"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?

Actually, brother, there were THREE KINDS OF CHURCHES at Corinth!

(1) The saints at Corinth were all members in the church which is his 
(Christ's) body. Eph.1:22,23 and Col.1:24.   (There is just one such church 
in the universe so this is the largest kind of church.)

(2) All the saints at Corinth comprised the church of God in that city. I 
Cor.1:2  (There was just one such church in the city of Corinth, and only 
one such church in any other city where there are believers so this is the 
largest kind of church which can meet together in any community. There is 
only one church of God in any city, but plural churches of God in larger 
territories such as Judea  I Thess. 2:14)

(3) There were, no doubt, a number and possibly many churches in houses in 
that city. (This kind of church is the smallest  of the three, but is not 
the kind of church which is generally in view in Paul's first epistle to the 

We should note that the church which is Christ's body will only be gathered 
together as the Lord Jesus is returning to the earth and we are caught up to 
meet Him in the air when He is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels 
in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not 
the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Thess.1 and 2 esp. 2:1)

We should also note that, while whole church gatherings of the church of God 
in particular cities were common events in the first century, most of us 
have never experienced such a gathering in our own communities!  
Denominationalism and sectarianism are the chief opponents which stand in 
the way of such gatherings in our day and one reason why it is evident that 
neither are of God..

But what many believers fail to realize is that whenever 2or 3 or 20 or 30 
believers are together in one of their homes and are relating one to another 
as believers obedient to their Lord, they are a functioning house church!

Now, regarding Paul's statement in 14:34, you wrote:"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?"

This is an excellent question and I believe scripture has the answer to it. 
In I Cor.1:2 Paul DID address the church of God at Corinth (singular).  But 
he did not address them exclusively.  He also addressed the churches at 
Jerusalem, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica etc as well as the churches today 
at New York, London, Tokyo, Toronto, as well as at Podunk Junction, Parson's 
Pond etc. He wrote "to the church of God at Corinth...with ALL THAT IN EVERY 
PLACE call upon the name iof Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." 
(Thus he was addressing a plurality of churches of God and it is to brethren 
in these churches to which the instruction of 14:34 is addressed.)

Now, a house church IS mentioned in I Cor.16:19, and the church which is 
Christ's body is mentioned in I Cor.3:16 as the temple of God and in 
12:12-28 as the body.  However, in I Cor.14 it is NOT a house church or a 
gathering in a believer's home which is in view, nor is it the gathering of 
the church which is Christ's Body!  It is the gathering of the kind of 
churches to which Paul addressed his epistle. It is the coming together of 
the whole church in the city of Corinth (and gatherings of the whole church 
in every other place) which is spoken of in 14:23.

Are not these very principles (of I Cor.14) seen in operation in actual 
recorded whole church gatherings of Acts 6 and 15?

Are not very different principles (one anothering of interactive exhorting 
and provoking to love and good works, female participation in speaking in 
tongues, prophecying, teaching, expounding etc in the presence of male 
believers) seen in operation in many other actual recorded gatherings of 
saints in homes?

Brother Jonathan, does this seem to you to be an answer which is honest, 
consistent with the near context of the first Corinthian epistle and with 
all of the rest of scripture?

I also appreciate your desire to be consistent, honest, and obedient to what 
you currently understand from scripture on this particular subject. But I 
must be honest with you that the view and practice which you have kindly 
described for us in your post seems to be one which introduces a principle 
that, as far as I can tell,  seems to be foreign to scripture.

Your understanding of "church" or "in church" as in 14:33,34 and 35 does not 
seem to be a kind of "church" which is delineated in scripture!   14:23 does 
NOT say, "If you come to a time in your house church gathering when everyone 
intuitively knows it is time for only one person to speak at a time..."!!

If that really was the case, the instructions of verses 27,30 and 31 would 
be redundant!

It would also mean that in whole, city wide,  church gatherings, all of the 
regulations of 14:23-40 could be violated until "everyone intuitively knew 
that it was time for one person to speak at a time"!!!

It seems to me that your view presents no scriptural basis by which any or 
all believers may know by an objective standard when they may speak or when 
they must be silent.  But if one understands that one-at-a-time speaking for 
the edification of all is one hallmark of an entire whole city-wide church 
gathering, I Cor.14 provides an objective standard to regulate behaviour and 
participation in such a gathering.

I think the subjective nature of your perspective (i.e. the basis for 
knowing when the "one-at-a-time portion of the meeting" has started or 
stopped) was amply illustrated by your wife's and daughter's felt need to 
seek confirmation from you regarding their participation. It did NOT seem to 
be "intuitively known" by them.  Furthermore, they felt compelled to ask you 
a question DURING the meeting! If it really was a I Cor 14 meeting, they 
would be required to be silent and to ask you (NOT during the meeting,  or 
after a certain segment of the meeting, not even in the same place,but) AT 

How would you respond to one who objects to your view as being entirely 
subjective, not illustrated by actual examples in scripture, nor even stated 
in words of scripture?

You also asked a number of other excellent questions which I will answer 
from my understanding of scripture:
Q. "So when are the sisters to be silent?"
A. When the whole church in a city is gathered together, as in Acts 2:46a; 
6:1-7 and 15.

Q."When we gather together there is lots of interaction. Initially saints 
are greeting one another. Can the sisters speak then?"
A.Neither the interaction of saints together nor sisters speaking are ever 
limitted or prohibitted in house church gatherings. Rather, "one anothering" 
(exhorting and provoking unto love and good works) is commanded!  
(Heb.10:24,25) Such could not be part of a I Cor.14 meeting!

Q.We have a love feast together, and there are lots of conversations taking 
place concurrently. Can the sisters speak during the meal?
A. Eating of meals, conversations, and sisters speaking are all very right 
and proper in house church gatherings (Acts 1 and 2, 12,18 etc) but none are 
appropriate during whole church gatherings. Everything that is spoken in 
such gatherings must edify ALL, and sisters are to be silent and not to 
speak. (I Cor.14)

Q. "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? "
A.There is no scripture that would teach otherwise in house church 
gatherings, in fact all of these activities are recorded in house church 
gatherings in scripture.(Acts 1:14; 4:24;  Ephesians 5:19; Col.3:16) 
However, just as congregational praying, congregational tongues speaking, 
congregational prophesying are not to be part of whole church gatherings, 
neither is there any provision for congegational singing in such gatherings. 
  Singing is speaking (LALEO) Eph.5:19.    All speaking (LALEO) in a I 
Cor.14 meeting, whether it is a doctrine, a tongue, an interpretation, a 
revelation or a psalm,  is to be one at a time. (I Cor.14:26-31)

So, brother Jonathan,  can you see that the perspective which I've been 
attempting to present is actually consistent with scripture and that such 
questions may be answered in a scriptural manner? Does this help to 
understand this perspective better, or do other objections present 
themselves to your mind which seem to indicate that what I'm suggesting is 
actually contrary to scripture?

I look forward to hearing from you again and trust our discussions may be 
for mutual profit, clearer understanding of the Word of God and a desire and 
purpose of heart to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit would reveal to us 
from His Word.

The "willingness principle" of John 7:17 and Mark 11:27-33 is a real test 
for all of our hearts!  i.e. IF I found out that that the position which I 
presently hold was actually wrong, AM I WILLING to acknowledge that, change 
my practice and teaching to exemplify and explain to others how I was wrong 
and what I understand now is actually the truth of scripture??

This is a test that I continually seek to apply to whatever I believe and 
teach to others. IF I am NOT willing to change when I find that I have been 
wrong (I have discovered I was wrong many many times in the past, and so 
will most likely make many more such discoveries!), I cannot expect the Lord 
to teach me anything more!

Your brother in Christ,

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