First Corinthians 14
14:30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.
14:31-33 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
14:34 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.
14:35 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.
14:36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?
14:37,38 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, but if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.
14:39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
14:40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
(chapter 15 goes on to define the gospel: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…how He appeared to five hundred at one time..some of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this)
Context is important. I was dismayed to see 14:34 pulled out by itself recently on the internet. It is a verse that angry Christian men and women like to throw back up in our faces. It is one even the non-believers bother to memorize for the same purpose. It is a hard verse. Yet, I have to believe, I have to trust that God the Holy Spirit allowed it for a reason. Preachers like to hop, skip and jump over it, and since it is couched in a chapter about spiritual gifts that most think have “ceased”, it is rare to find a preacher to wade into these shark infested verses. (sharks being the women’s “liberation” movement and hypersensitivity of our own arrogance as women. Even God warned Eve: your desire will be to rule over your husband.)
So, remember that the whole chapter deals with keeping order and peace in our church assemblies. Paul wanted Christians to remember that we are to be a draw, pleasing, always alert to the needs of the unsaved who are invited or who venture into our midst. We are not to be stumbling blocks. We are not to use our freedom to trip another believer or unbeliever. We are not to be a distraction from the Gospel: Jesus Christ came as He promised in God’s perfect time and plan, and died for our sins on the cross, and was buried, but rose again three days later just like He promised He would. Jesus appeared to the women first, then His disciples, and then over 500 people at one time for forty days…before He ascended into heaven. Jesus gave us clear, concise directions and purpose. He wants us to spread this Gospel, this Good News, to ever corner of the world. Even to the Jews and the Greeks, and the Gentiles…That God loved them so much that He sent His uniquely born Son, born of a virgin for this very purpose: to die on the cross in our place. But, He did not stay dead. He is alive now, seated at the right Hand of God the Father, praying for us, and waiting for the day God the Father has planned for Him to come back, rule and reign, just as He promised. Angels repeated this as He ascended. God preserved His Word, His Book, the Bible, down through the ages in order to offer each one this free gift of eternal salvation. We believe what He promised. Those in the Old Testament looked for the Promised One, and those of us this side of the cross look back and see God’s perfect plan, the fulfilled promises, and more promises yet to be fulfilled. God does not force Himself on us. Jesus did all the work of salvation so that we can believe and put our trust in His work. We cannot save ourselves. It is the work of God the Father who planned it, God the Son who created the world and was willing to come down and live among us for 33 years and go to the cross, and the Holy Spirit who empowers Jesus while on earth as our example, and now endwells us so that we can do His work to spread this Gospel, this good news.
Today, I’d like to ponder the hard words Paul writes in first Corinthians 14:34. That is the purpose of this blog post. For myself, selfishly, and to order my thoughts in preparation for the instructions of verse 35, to ask my husband at home. Thankful, I have a husband to ask, and that God empowers him. My prayer is for the women who do not have a Godly husband to ask. Please do not be bitter. God will provide. Whenever I have a question, God answers in a sermon within just weeks or months. I tremble when I then hear it, as I know God is answering me. God cares about our questions, and knows our prickly frame…how we are easily insulted, and beset with pride. I will never forget studying a passage, even writing a little song, about the woman with the alabaster jar of expensive perfume oil who anointed Jesus’ feet—how bold, how amazingly brave she was. I studied it from every angle, and then God sent a preacher from England to our little church and he preached on it. I about jumped out of my seat.
Many of the most awesome sermons, like the one Jesus gave on the road to Emaus, are not recorded. In my opinion, this is because God wants us to dig it out ourselves. Last week in John, my husband who is also our Sunday School teacher taught the passage where Jesus stands up and preaches in the Temple in Jerusalem. John dwells on how the Temple religious crowd plot to kill Jesus. Jesus’ brothers and the disciples are more amazed that Jesus came to this feast of Tabernacles, because He had told them to go ahead. And Jesus slips in an out of the crowd in a miraculous way. But, did not one take notes? What did Jesus preach? God the Son is standing in the Temple in Jerusalem preaching---and no one thought to record it? Was Jesus quoting Scriptures they already knew and thus, did not seem strange to their ears?? People often say, if only God would audibly speak aloud---then, I would listen?! Ha. Jesus Himself spoke from the Temple in Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles (a picture of His future kingdom) and no one recorded what He said!
Back to First Corinthians---Remember, Paul is writing to a church in Corinth. They have been doing it wrong. The folks in Corinth have been doing church wrong. Paul is correcting their behavior, and instructing them in how to worship. Assembling together as a family, as an assembly is commanded, but it does not come naturally, and we are all at different stages of maturity, from baby believers, and literal babies to the old gray haired sages and feeble, and then there is the sin problem. Some of us women do not like to hear “shut up”. “Sit down and be quiet”. Our pride gets in the way. Why go? Work in the nursery, help out with the children’s ministry, visit the sick, feed the hungry, but don’t use your brain?! Is that what Paul is saying? And what is this “JUST AS THE LAW ALSO SAYS”. Whoa. Paul is indicating that the behavior of women in the church, in the Body of Christ, in the new Church Age is still under THE LAW that Jesus gave Moses.
This is an opportunity to go back---go back to the Old Testament, given for our instruction, and look again at any passage dealing with women. God invented man and God invented women. God created man first, from the dust of the ground, God fashioned a body for that first man. Look again at Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Remember, we are on a quest for what God says about women and women’s roles and God’s purpose for women. We are on a quest to see without the baggage of our pride, our pre-conceived ideas, the lies spoken even there in the Garden by the enemy using the voice of a snake…
Genesis 1:1- In the beginning God
I believe God existed and planned His creation, and was doing just fine without us. God does not need us. We need Him. God created the most marvelous universe and set it in motion. God created angels first, and recorded their story---the part we need to know, later in the Bible. But, first, there was God. God the Father, the planner, and God the Son, the Creator, and God the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, One God sharing attributes and character in perfect harmony and happiness and we call it The Trinity. God invented time. God is eternal, outside, before, and beyond time. God speaks the universe into existence. Maybe it was the big bang. And in a tantalizingly, fun way, God recorded all the clues we needed in words---again, God’s creation, how it happened. Billions of years ago. God created the heavens and the earth.
I believe there is a huge gap between verses one and two. Look at 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.
Chapter 2 goes into more detail, telescoping down on a restoration of the earth in seven days. Why did the earth need restored? Go back to Genesis 1: 1 and 2:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the (frozen) waters.
Did God create the earth formless and void and locked in ice? I don’t think so. The earth is a little blue marble set in the universe just so…in perfect position, unique among the planets. The rocks tell us of upheavels, layers, shifts, and continents and oceans moved about. Even in the genealogies here in Genesis, (Gen 10:25) mentions a time when the earth was divided. Earthquakes? Continent shifts? Peleg lives after the tower of Babel. (Gen. 11:18)
The sun and moon are not positioned until Day 4, yet the Holy Spirit moves, warms, unlocks the earth and prepares it for man. Restoration in 6 days just makes more sense. Human history, going back to Adam is only 6,000 years. (5773 to be exact) but the earth and universe proclaim themselves to be much older, or to be made to look old. Take your pick. It makes sense to me, that God created the heavens and earth, angels---and that those angels had their history. They saw an earth of dinosaurs, a swampy earth created and packed down for billions of years to make that rich oil and gas that we now mine beneath the surface. Angels saw a rebellion. Satan convinced a third of them to follow him. God judged Satan, cast him out of heaven. Maybe cast him out and onto the earth. There was a trial, and Satan appealed with “how can a loving God cast His own creatures into Hell?” So, God locked the earth in ice. Restored it in six days, and we are the answer to that appeal. We demonstrate how a loving God can create, save, and then make it possible for the puny humans without wings to rule over angels someday. God sets in motion from the dust of the ground, puny creatures---fragile in angel’s eyes, yet those first men lived a thousand years on the restored earth. Not until after the flood, not until Noah did the age of man start to decrease to the eighty or so years people live today. Before the flood, diet was different. Vegetarian. Climate and maybe ultraviolet did not age them so quickly. God created His best in man. Adam lived over a thousand years. The first ten generations to Noah, did not father children until they were hundreds of years old. And we have recorded in the Bible, every possible type of government, farm, travel, as history is played out. Wickedness started early, but God had a plan. And even though satan would seek to defeat each generation, kill the promised one, thwart and deceive mankind, God’s theme, God’s promise---from Adam and Even in the Garden, to Noah, to Abraham to Moses---God kept His promises. God was at work to seek and save those who desired to know their Creator. Whenever a spark of wonder was found, God revealed Himself to that person no matter what no matter where---rich or poor, on an island or in a city…God has been faithfully working, protecting, revealing His perfect plan in the war that is the angelic conflict. Maybe we, the believers…from Adam and Eve to now, maybe we replace those third satan pulled to his side. And in the future, satan and his third will be thrown in the lake of fire for final judgment. The Bible says it is a day coming.
So, in the beginning, God. God created the heavens and the earth. (the angels were created, lived their history, and satan and one-third rebelled. God sentenced them to the Lake of fire.) The earth was formless and void. Locked in ice for a time. The dinosaurs died. Oil and gas reserved were formed for our future use. Between creation, the swampy time of the dinosaurs, it could have been millions of years. How long does it take for swamps to make oil? How long does it take for gas pockets to form beneath the rocks? Did satan and the fallen angels play and party here for a time? Not much evidence of theirs is left if they did. We don’t know. They battle even today between heaven and earth. Unseen to us, unless silly folks play with the Halloween variety. And demon possession was problem back in Jesus’ days on the earth. Jesus threw out demons. Jesus freed people enslaved by demons who had taken over their bodies. The demons gave them strength, but they also did stupid stuff like cut themselves---even as the demon possessed do in our time. Every time you turn on the tv or look at movies in the theaters, there is no escaping the nightmares that are demon possession. Everything evil and mean and base and scary and terrible is from the dark side of satan and his demons.
God created the heavens and the earth, and restored our planet to sustain human life. With just the right mix of oxygen, with marvelously exsquisit cells, blood, eyes, OH, we are so SO blessed with marvelous bodies. A little lower than the angels indeed! We do not have wings to fly. Yes, we are fragile, we break, we get sick. But, God created out of the elements here---out of the dust of the ground, Adam, and breathed into him life. Physical life, spiritual, mental, emotional---it is so amazing how that first perfect man was made.
Genesis 1: 26-31 “God said: Let us (three members of the trinity. Plural) Let us make man in Our Image, according to Our likeness, and let them---mankind, rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. …then God said: Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the earth and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you….”
We are there, ladies! Female. God thought of us, planned us, created us when He created that first man. Yes, Adam was first. Because God desired to show Adam his need for us. Man is not to take the woman for granted. God created and instituted something so special---free will, and the ability to choose, and learn, and hear, observe and see—God created that first man with a full vocabulary, brain, mind, spirit, the ability to see and hear and talk with God! God created man. Gave him breath and lungs to breath the air here. Food. A beautiful planet, but we telescope down now to a special Garden. A special stage where God will reveal to the man the animals---creeping things and birds, but how they are different. They do not have a soul. They are given instincts to reproduce, eat, etc., but they are different from man. This parade of zoo animals is brought to Adam to name. We don’t know if they took days, weeks, months, even years. God lets Adam figure it out: Genesis 2:19-20 “…..but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
A HELPER SUITABLE
Go back to Genesis 2:18 (after the commandment to cultivate and keep the Garden, vs 15, and after the commandment in verse 16 and 17 to eat freely EXCEPT from the one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the warning---“the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” After these verses, verse 18 says: Then the Lord God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
God says He is going to make someone very special for Adam. A helper suitable. But, first , God forms out of the ground, animals and parades them before Adam for him to observe and name. God says He is going to make something special for Adam, but first does something else. Don’t you just love God’s sense of humor? That same theme---creating the heaven and the earth, and letting angelic history take its course, all the while, He had us in mind! All the while, He knew ahead of time that satan would be created the most beautiful, but fall. And take a third with Him. This is not a surprise to God. God was not caught off guard. The same theme…God sees, and proclaims, not good for man to be alone. Adam, man, like our husband---created with a need for us to complete and help and complement. And when God puts Adam to sleep---Genesis 2:21 and took one of Adam’s ribs and fashioned into a woman the rib…from Adam’s side. Forever Adam is missing a part…and in the marvelously complex parts we don’t even know yet---how a woman, that first woman, was formed from a rib sharing the same blood type? Yet made so beautiful, so exquisite, the Adam proclaims loudly: (when he first sees her) Genesis 2:23 “Bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.
Verse 24 continues with the curious: For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Before there were fathers and mothers, before families---God is declaring the sacred, God’s invention, of free will, the individual, then the couple---of ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN leaving and joining together to make something so powerful, so sacred, Marriage. Leave and cleave. Oh, this is rich, as I am an old grannie now, and see how important it is to leave and cleave. Choose wisely. Two of my sons have picked their mates, gotten married, started their own families…an this verse warns the mother-in-law in me to back off. Respect them. My sons will always be my babies…but they are one with their wives now. One man and one woman. Marriage is under attack today. Because the enemy seeks to undo God’s perfect design. Marriage came BEFORE the fall. Before sin. God instituted marriage, families, nations…to keep civilization going despite the unseen forces that would seek to destroy us because the enemy has heard God make promises…promises that God cannot fulfill if there are no humans to come back to. Satan went after the promised one throughout the Old Testament. What makes you think he has changed? Satan and his enemy forces seek to destroy mankind from within or without. We are at war. We are in a war whether we like it or not. We have entered the stage that is history in the final acts of this play. Best to find out what went on in Acts one and two…so God graciously preserved them in the Bible for us to read and know. If each dispensation is an act in the play of history, I believe we are in the Church Age. Jesus comes back and after the tribulation period of seven years establishes His Kingdom in a millinial reign of one thousand years. After that, the Bible says one more rebellion, then new heavens and new earth. We will live with God forever and ever. This time, these acts in the play of history are but a drop in the bucket of eternity.
So, as women, we need to understand our place in history. Our place in God’s design. Our role as helper suitable, and mother to sons who grow up to be husbands and fathers themselves someday.
One flesh. Helper suitable. What do they mean? Created, invented before the fall---and we must understand the fall and how it changed everything. Yet, God preserved His design, of marriage and family and then nation respecting other nations, so that civilization could continue. When nations or people groups set aside God’s design and ignore God’s plan, the consequences are sin, death, evil, slavery, and there is no excuse. God established laws and had Moses write them down, and gave them to a stubborn and stiff necked people, and showed us down through the ages what happens when His laws are obeyed, and when His laws are ignored. We have no excuse. As women, we are responsible to know the Bible. Know what happened. Know the Laws that protected nations. And know that each of us as individuals are responsible for teaching our children. Each generation stands on its own, and each individual will give an account to God for what we were given. God gives us a family to be born into, and God keeps us alive to hear the Gospel, and make a decision. If we reject Him, it is often a hard life. Full of sorrow and sin and fear and violence. If we trust Him, sin is still a daily problem that we need Him to help us battle within ourselves, and within our children, and within our cities and nation. But, He has promised to be with us, to help us, to guide and He gives us a purpose a mission…
Remember---you were created in God’s image! You are not an accident nor are you descended from monkeys. Evolution and abortion are attacks on the individual and marriage institutions. See them as they are. Understand the fall. God loves you and wants the best for you.