House Church Formation – Part 8 – Seven Guidelines for House Church Meetings – B.
Guideline Six – Men And Woman Can Both Freely And Equally Contribute
1 Corinthians 14:33b-38, NIV – (33) … As in all the congregations of the saints, (34) women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. (35) If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (36) Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? (37) If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. (38) If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
How does this passage fit into the context of the other verses? Pau has just said that House Church meetings should be highly participative and that everyone is encouraged to share. Is Paul really now saying that all should be allowed to contribute … as long as they are not women?
Please note the following points.
First, Paul refers to “the congregations of the saints”. This is a very specific phrase that is used nowhere else in scripture. Many scholars think that Paul was using this phrase in a derogatory way, referring to those congregations filled with Jewish-Christian legalists who thought that they were better than the Gentile-Christians. So the congregations of the “saints” refers to the congregations of the “holy ones”, or as we would say, the “holier than thou” Christians.
Second, Paul writes “as the Law says”. However, nowhere in the law (the first five books of the Bible) does it say that women are not to speak. It does, however, teach that in the Talmud, which was an oral law developed by Jewish legalists.
Third, in verse 36, Paul used a very special Greek symbol “eta” (η). Often, when Paul disagreed with someone and needed to correct them, he would first quote what they said that he disagreed with (sometimes sarcastically), then he would give them a strong correction. To indicate that he was in disagreement with them, and was correcting them, he would use the little symbol, “eta”, that had three general meanings
a. The statement was a question of disagreement.
b. The statement was a quotation of a statement that Paul did not agree with.
c. The statement was a question whose answer is obviously NO.
So Paul would quote a statement that he disagreed with, and then, using the symbol “eta”, he would indicate, “What! Nonsense! No Way! Bunk! Of Course Not!”
Example One … 1 Corinthians 1:13
1 Corinthians 1:13, NIV — “(13) Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
1 Corinthians 1:13, GNT – (13) μεμερισται ο χριστος; μη παυλος εσταυρωθη υπερ υμων, η εις το ονομα παυλου εβαπτισθητε;
So literally, this verse should read: “Is Christ divided? (Nonsense!) Was Paul crucified for you? (Or course not!) Were you baptized in the name of Paul (Are you kidding?)”
Example Two … 1 Corinthians 9:6
1 Corinthians 9:6, NIV – “Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?”
Paul wrote that all of the other apostles received income from their Christian ministry. So why did their critics expect Paul and Barnabas to get a second job for income? If the other apostles had the right to expect financial support from their ministry, so did they. So Paul is using a sarcastic negative here.
1 Corinthians 9:6, GNT – (6) η μονος εγω και βαρναβας ουκ εχομεν εξουσιαν μη εργαζεσθαι ;
So literally, this verse should read: “Only Barnabas and I do not have the right to not work? (Well, of course not!)”. So again, Paul is making a statement, and then negating it.
Example Three – 1 Corinthians 14:33b-38
1 Corinthians 14:33b-38, NIV – (33) …. As in all the congregations of the saints, (34) women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. (35) If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (36) Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? (37) If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. (38) If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
1 Corinthians 14:33b-38, GNT – (33) … ως εν πασαις ταις εκκλησιαις των αγιων (34) αι γυναικες εν ταις εκκλησιαις σιγατωσαν ου γαρ επιτρεπεται αυταις λαλειν αλλα υποτασσεσθωσαν καθως και ο νομος λεγει (35) ει δε τι μανθανειν μαθειν θελουσιν εν οικω τους ιδιους ανδρας επερωτατωσαν αισχρον γαρ εστιν γυναικι λαλειν εν εκκλησια (36) η αφ υμων ο λογος του θεου εξηλθεν η εις υμας μονους κατηντησεν.
Notice two uses of the letter “eta” in verse 36. So the best way to interpret this passage, is to see Paul in verse 33b, calling the Jewish-Christian legalists the “congregations of the saints”, then in verses 34 to 35, quoting their words that he did not disagree with, and then in verses 36 to 38, correcting them.
Literally this verse should read: (33b) As in all the churches of the saints [the Jewish-Christian legalistic churches], (34) “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but to be under obedience as the law says. (35) If they wish to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, it is shameful for women to speak in the church.” (36) (What nonsense!) Did the word of God originate from you? (Of course not!) Are you the only people to whom it came? (Are you kidding?)”. (37) If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write to you [that everyone should be allowed to contribute in the church] are the commandments of the Lord. (38) But if any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant.
So what is the guideline? Everyone, male and female, are allowed, and encouraged, to contribute in the meetings. There are to be no barriers to participation in the House Church.
Guideline Seven – You Must Balance Order And Spontaneity
1 Corinthians 14:39-40, NIV – (39) Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. (40) But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
This passage tells us that all manifestations of the Spirit are encouraged, and so spontaneity is encouraged, but it is no excuse for disorder! Letting “everything” be done is no excuse for disorder. However, doing things in a “fitting and orderly way” is no excuse for hindering the move of the Holy Spirit. “Orderly” spontaneity is to be the goal. It is not to be so orderly that the Holy Spirit is hindered, but it is also not to be so free that there is disorder. Order can be maintained, even when tongues, interpretation and prophecy are being ministered. Everything should be done … but it must be done in a fitting and orderly way.
So here is the only passage in the New Testament that tells us how to meet as the church. What does it tell us?
Everyone should be encouraged to contribute. The goal, however, is that all contributions must strengthen the church. Spiritual manifestations are encouraged, as long as they benefit the group. Everything that is shared or taught in the group should be tested for theological correctness, no matter who shares it. Spontaneous spiritual manifestations must be ministered in an orderly way. There is no limitation on who can contribute, for all are now one in Christ. Orderly spontaneity is the order of the meeting.