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Series: Wresting with the Bible
Sermon: Women in the Bible
Text: 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
Rev. Laura Brewster
We Treasure the Bible. The Bible nurtures our faith and guides us in life. We love, rely on it and trust it.
Some Parts of the Bible Trouble Some of Us. Some of us are confused or troubled by some stories in the Bible. For example, you may be troubled when you read about the time that God used Samuel to say: “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
Don’t Ignore Troubling Passages. There is a temptation is to ignore troubling passages. But we are better served by trying to interpret them and seeking their message for us today. We’ll do that in coming weeks. We’ll use five tools to do our work of biblical interpretation: 1) Identify literary style. 2) Look at the larger context. 3) Consider the historical situation. 4) Look at other relevant passages in the Bible. 5) Use our reason.
Read First Corinthians 14:33-35. This passage clearly states that women should be silent in the church. Let’s not ignore that. Instead, let’s wrestle with it using the tools I referred to earlier.
Literary Genre. This is a letter. Because it is in the Bible, it is for us. However, it was not specifically written to us. Rather, it was sent to specific people at a specific place for a specific reason.
Context. When we read what precedes 1st Corinthians 14:33, we see that Paul thought that the worship services in Corinth had become chaotic. Somehow, the women he wanted to silence were adding to the chaos. Paul gives guidance to different groups to bring order to worship, even though that curtailed personal freedom.
Historical Setting. Paul wrote these words in 53 or 54 A.D. a time when Christians had begun to realize that the end of the world was not coming immediately, and that they needed to learn how to live within the Greco-Roman world in which they found themselves. That culture was very hostile to Christians. As a result, early Christians tried hard not to draw too much attention to themselves. And that likely meant adopting traditional cultural views on appropriate behavior for women.
Other Passages in the Bible. There are other passages, such as First Timothy 2:11, which prohibit women from speaking or teaching or exercising any kind of authority. However, in Galatians 3:26, Paul argues for equality among believers. Additionally, other passages make it clear that Paul did allow women to exercise leadership in other churches. See Romans 16:1, Romans 16:3, and Romans 16:7. Additionally, in the gospels we see that Jesus allowed Mary to sit at his feet and learn like a disciple (Luke 10:38-42). And after his death and resurrection, Jesus sends women to tell others about his resurrection.
Reason / Common Sense. Reason tells us that Paul had to navigate between a belief that women were capable of serving as leaders and a culture that believed that women needed to be quiet and subservient. So, Paul would silence women if he thought that their voices might keep the church from sharing the gospel with culture. However, Paul encouraged women to work in ministry in other settings. Thus, Paul’s words against women in ministry were not binding on all women then, and they don’t need to be binding on all women now.
Modern Application. Jesus accepted people of different genders, different ethnic groups, and different social spheres. Today Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, continues to call all types of people to follow him and to use their voices to speak out on his behalf. The Lord has given you a voice to share his love and his message, are you using it?