Propriety in the Assembly of the Saints
This writing is for both men and women who want to be found worthy at the Bridegroom's coming for His Bride.
I had petitioned the Lord for years about why the relationships between men and women were so messed up even and especially in the church, and He has been faithful to bless me with significant insight. I had long overlooked the obvious.
The subject of women speaking in the church is largely taboo - and having become so it is all the more necessary to address. Consider the following passage.
34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
I Corinthians 14:34-35
With few exceptions among today's assemblies, women speak in church. Why? Has modern biblical scholarship ascertained that the above passage is not really in the Bible, or, that there is a mistranslation that negates what appears to be so simply stated? Not at all. It stands, and the above rendering from the New American Standard Bible is reliable. Even what we know from history validates that the practice of the early churches was such that women did not speak in church. What then has changed so that the accepted practice in today's assemblies is contrary to the revealed word of the Lord? This you must know in your spirit because your carnal mind will not accept the truth of it. The church has rebelled against the authority of God and chosen rather to embrace what seems right to the carnal mind.
The passage from I Corinthians 14 above continues with the next two verses, emphasizing the authority of the commands the Lord knew would fall into utter disregard.
36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
I Corinthians 14:36-38
Sadly, I had long been so presumptuous as to think I was spiritual while not yet recognizing that the matter of women not speaking in the church was indeed the Lord's commandment. What I learn from this, on reflection, is that the Lord's mercy has been extended to me in no small measure. The time did come when the Lord expected me to mature and submit to His direction and the holy spirit began to deal with me on the subject.
So, what does the Lord expect you and I to do about it once we come to know that it is improper for women to speak in church? Simply, obey because we want to obey, because we love Him.
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.
Your obedience will be noted, and you will be tested. When it really counts, will you hang your head in shame at hearing the following words?
Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?
I pray not. Other similar warnings are meant to keep us from deception and dissuade you and I from the way of rebellion, (e.g. Luke 12: 4-5, 47-48) and there are, in contrast, many promises of reward for obedience; some for the present and others for eternity! One of my favorite rewards for the present is from the abovementioned John 14:21, that the Lord Y'shua will disclose Himself to the one who has His commandments and keeps them. Could there be a better reward than such a revelation? Let us encourage each other in the Lord to take hold of this: Not my will but Yours be done.
So, what does it mean for a woman not to speak in church? What is the practical application? Does this include the public assembly that is the Internet? If a woman does not have a husband at home she can ask, what is her recourse? I'm shortly going to address these and other such questions, but let me preface that by introducing another key passage.
The following verses establish the context of some very relevant scriptures.
14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
I Timothy 3:14-15
So, let's read some of what is written about proper conduct in the household of God, a context that includes behavior both within and without the assembly.
11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
I Timothy 2:11-12
I realize that the consideration of such a text is immediately offensive to many men and women, and so I'd like to take a moment to address this typical response.
The attempts to justify one's disregard for I Corinthians 14:34-35 and i Timothy 2:11-12 are often based upon rationalizations such as there being "good fruit" from women teaching men or addressing mixed gender assemblies. "Let us do evil that good may come," comes to mind. (Romans 3:8) Consider which response to any of the Lord's commandments is truly faith - to obey or to disobey? Obviously, faith is exhibited in obedience. Granted, there are so very many women who have knowledge, wisdom, understanding and godly character surpassing that of so many men. Is the Lord ignorant of this? Of course not!To disallow women teaching men and even to bar them from speaking in church is something you may feel is akin to a fighter fighting with one arm tied behind his back. Speaking to that, I say the Lord is able to win with one arm tied behind his back! Whether His right arm or His left! The Lord can and will accomplish His work without our "good intentioned" interference. He will win with a people submitted to Him that appear of themselves to be utterly weak. He will conquer with men and women submitted to His way, a way that seems as foolishness to the carnal mind. And then, His righteousness and justice will be more fully manifested in the earth! His goodness will be known and He will be praised!
The surrounding context of the above verses adds further insight.
9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
I Timothy 2:9-15
As with the subject of head-covering, this distinction in the genders is a matter of Yahweh's authority. The matter of a woman not being allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man rests upon the order of creation and upon the unchanged nature of the genders. There is no exclusion for the saints, for, in fact, this is written to the church of the living God concerning conduct. Neither is there any exclusion for a particular culture or season of the church age.
It begs to be asked whether women have truly made great strides in the last century through the suffrage movement? From what has the woman been liberated? From the law of sin and death? No, that comes in resurrection. Perhaps she has been freed from her assigned position in God's order, or freed from accountability for her behavior? I think not. If she has now become the first created, and Adam deceived instead of Eve, then man is now her helpmate and she is freed from his dominion. If she has become head of man, then she is freed from her subordinate position. But she has not been so elevated. In truth, no one has been freed through any rebellion against God's authority and the order He ordained - in even the smallest degree! The movement known as women's liberation has rather brought both men and women into great bondage through the sin of rebellion. Oh, the tyranny of this overspreading delusion! Only the Son, who is The Truth, is able to make one free from that which truly binds: Sin. Men and women, your loving obedience to His commands is the only option to the tyrrany of rule by doctrines of demons! When you get hold of this with your heart - you're on the road to true freedom!
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
I'm going to address propriety in the assembly and relationship issues in the church that relate to gender. I don't expect that my laying out a code of conduct will immediately cause a dramatic shift in the church. I do expect that this will confirm what the holy spirit has been speaking to many of you. Furthermore, I expect that this will stir some of you who have not previously considered the matter of proper gender behavior to seek Him the more diligently.
To establish the context within which a woman is not to speak, we must know what an assembly is. I believe a valid description is that such an assembly is a gathering for the purpose of fellowship where praying, audible speaking with tongues and interpretation of tongues, prophecy or teaching might be brought forth where at least one man is present. Since woman may instruct other women and also children, and she must speak to do so, there are kinds of assemblies of the saints where women are permitted to speak. The prohibition applies when an adult male is present. An assembly may be a local physical gathering or it may some other forum such as a conference call, online forum or chat group or a news group. There are even implications forstatic Web sites. The same principles apply to these modern virtual communities as to a local assembly. Where there is a man present, it is improper for a woman to speak, or, in an inaudible medium, to present her view in the assembly as though she were addressing the assembly. Such speaking is an exercise of authority granted to men according to the will of the One who has all authority in heaven and earth.
Immediately, it is apparent that this modern western culture presents a difficulty, but not one that is difficult to overcome. At what point is a boy considered a man? There is in this Gentile culture no rite of passage into manhood, no bar mitzveh ceremony to mark this important transition. You may want to have one for your son, since this is a transition of some significance. Generally, it is apparent that manhood is marked by puberty, evidenced by the appearance of manly characteristics such as a deeper voice, body hair and suddenly increased stature at around the age of thirteen. It is at that stage where a woman may no longer teach him - he joins the fellowship of men. A mother still has a son, but the season of verbal instruction (and written) in spiritual matters has passed.
Women, if in the fear of God you desire to conform to the Lord's will in this matter, you will not speak publically in the assembly. If you desire to learn, and so you should, you may ask your own husband at home, which is in private. You may not post questions to a newsgroup, chat or forum of any kind on the Internet that is known to be frequented by men. An acceptable forum for women is one where there is an appropriate cautionary notice for men at every entrance point to the forum. Such a notice should declare that the forum is strictly for women and children only and give the scriptural reference and an email contact for a responsible male.Men who disregard such by participating in the forum should be corrected by the men responsible in authority over the elder women of the forum and not by the participating women and children themselves. A woman may have a teaching Web site, but such a notice as I just described must be prominently displayed at the top of each entrance point to the site, bearing in mind that unless there is a login authentication procedure, direct access may be to any and every page.
A woman may be a silent participant in any of the public assemblies, but this is not the case for a man. Since a woman is not permitted to teach a man, a man is therefore by implication not to be taught of a woman. This means, for you men who in the fear of God desire to conform to His will, you will not participate in any forum designated as for women, and neither will you seek to receive biblical or spiritual teaching from women in any other context. If it is not permitted for a woman to teach a man, it is most certainly not proper for a man to willfully submit himself to a woman's teaching.
My friends, we have reached a time where the Lord expects more of His people. He is going to be treating us more and more like mature people and not little children. Even Americans. Even you and I. The time is near when we will be exposed for what we really are, and there will be no hiding or faking. What decisions we make now matter more than ever because the time remaining is known to be short. His commandments are not burdensome. If you want life and peace, set your mind on the things of the spirit. Be willing to conform to His will and He will work with you.
I write this to build you up and encourage you in the truth. May you find perfect peace in His presence. B'shem Y'shua.