Lesson 48

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

As in all the assemblies of the saints, 14:34 let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. 14:35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly. 14:36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 14:37 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 14:38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 14:39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don't forbid speaking with other languages. 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Today's Lesson 

For several lessons we have known that one of the significant problems in the Corinthian church was the disruption of the gatherings by many persons speaking with the gift of tongues. These people would raise such a cacophony within the gatherings that everyone was agitated and bothered. To rectify this problem Paul has already admonished the Corinthians to set all things in order at their meetings. There should only be one person speaking at a time and no one should speak in tongues unless there is also someone there to interpret what they are to say. In Today's Scripture, we also learn that the persons that were causing the disruptions in the Corinthian church were women.


Up until this point in the discussion Paul has not identified in any way the people that were causing the disruptions. In this passage he makes a specific point of telling the men in Corinth that their wives should be silent in their assemblies. He tells them that such is the practice in all the churches. The only possible purpose for this statement in this place is if the wives were the persons that were causing the disruptions.


It is remarkable how little we know about the worship of the early church. All that we have comes to us from tradition and writings that came much later in the process. Even those writings are only vague summaries of the worship of the first century church. The book of Corinthians tells more about their gatherings than any other book in the Bible and even here we are left with inferences. Was it the way that the women were acting in church that was disruptive or was it just that they were taking a more active role than some men found comfortable? Were the problems associated with the women speaking in tongues the only problems that were stirred up when the women spoke in the assemblies or were there other problems as well? The answer to these and a great many other questions that arise here come from inferences that we are forced to make because of the way that Paul deals with this problem. These inferences, of course, say as much or more about us than they do about the situation in Corinth.


Paul tells the Corinthians that women are to keep silent in the assemblies. He writes that all the other assemblies do the same. He bases his instructions upon the precedent of "the law" that women are to be in subjection to men. Certainly in this situation Paul is clearly telling the men of Corinth that they should be taking the most active role in their worship services. In other portions of his writings Paul tells believers that men and women are to be in subjection to one another. The church has, over long periods of its history struggled with the appropriate role of women in the worship of the church. Most recently the struggle of the established churches is that fewer and fewer men are committing themselves to service. In some churches, if women did not step forward and fill key roles, there would be no one to fill such positions.


Paul writes to a Corinthian church that was being disrupted by people creating chaos in the assemblies through constant disruptions. He relies on his own cultural history to establish order. Whether such a proscription restricts the current church must be prayerfully considered. But, the overall principle that Paul is trying to establish must not be lost in the debate. Everything in the house of God should be done in decency and order. That which is disruptive and distracts worshipers from their encounter with God should be eliminated.


What does your church do to make God accessable in their assemblies? Have you ever been in a worship service where you were too distracted by the process of worship to focus on the true purpose of gathering with other Christians?


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