Unmarried Women Speaking in Church

Question

1 Corinthians 14 says that it is shame for a woman to speak in the church and that she is to wait and ask her husband at home. I became a believer after I was married, and my husband is not a believer and does not want to go to church. Am I forbidden to ask questions in church? How can I learn what I need to learn in order to teach my children?

Answer

When Paul says that women should remain silent in church and learn from their husbands at home (1 Cor. 14:34-35), I believe he is speaking with regards to the prophecies their husbands speak in church (1 Cor. 14:29-33). He does not mean that "women" should never speak in church, but that "wives" should not question or challenge their husbands in church (the same Greek word means both "women" and "wives"). In fact, he assumes that women/wives will both pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:5).

His point seems to be that when a prophet speaks in church, the other prophets are to judge what that prophet says (1 Cor. 14:29). In Corinth there were apparently lots of prophets (1 Cor. 14:26). In the case of married couples in which both partners were prophets, the wife was not to judge her husband's prophecy. This was not because women were supposed to be silent in church - they were not supposed to be silent. Rather, a wife was to refrain from questioning her husband in order to show honor to him by not challenging him publicly (1 Cor. 11:2-16 is also about wives honoring their husbands in public worship). If she did have questions regarding her husband's prophecies, she was to ask him in the privacy of their own home.

So, Paul's teaching that wives are not to challenge their husband's prophecies in church does not apply to your case. Your husband is not a Christian and does not go to church, so challenging his prophecies in public worship is simply not an issue. You may speak in church, and ask questions. You may also teach your children. Are you aware that Timothy (the disciple of Paul, the pastor whose ministry Paul greatly supported, and the recipient of both 1 & 2 Timothy) was apparently brought to faith and taught by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5)? Women have played many important and strong roles throughout the history of the faith, and the teaching and spiritual care of their children has always been part of their job.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.