A Bit on Gender Roles – 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

by Roger McCay
25 October 2020
Sermon Passage: 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
Link to Audio Version

There are some passages of Scripture you will not hear preached very often, if ever, depending on your church. This passage is one of them. I asked one of our elders, who has been part of this church for 70 years or so (Gee, who could that be?), and he couldn’t remember this one ever being preached, even here. Not that it hasn’t; that’s a lot of sermons to remember, after all. Maybe Henry Lewis Smith preached on it in the late 1950’s or early 60’s. But, as Robin clarified, the intent of this passage is generally not one that is in debate or disagreed upon at MPC these days. The denomination is clear on its stance concerning the roles of men and women when it comes to ordained, authoritative functions in the church, and we are PCA all the way.

But there are many things in churches that are just generally agreed upon (beliefs and practices), things that fall under the category of “That’s just the way we do it.” Yet, an understanding from God’s Word, as to why we believe or practice certain things or why we don’t believe or practice certain things, is very important. Everything, really, should be questioned as to whether it is consistent with God’s Word or not. Everything.

Considering the culture, the topic of gender roles in church ministry and leadership needs to be settled in our minds. We need to know why.

Relevant to the life of the church, considering we have just gone through officer nominations, maybe you’ve wondered, if maybe not “Why don’t we …” but “Why should we not nominate women for elder in the church?” We’re running short on elders, after all. No-one new has been nominated in years. Maybe the women can fill in the shortage. We have plenty of talented and gifted ladies, surely out of them there are some who would be fabulous elders. After all, denominations all around us have women elders or pastors. It seems a logical progression of the church. Why are we so old-fashioned?

Well, we don’t ordain women as elders, either ruling or teaching elder (pastors), because we still hold to the integrity of Scripture—the Bible. We hold that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is God’s Word, inspired by God’s Spirit, to the very letter (Matt. 5:18, 24:35; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:16). The Bible does not simply contain God’s Word; it is God’s Word. Do you get the difference? … “contain” vs. “is”? “Contain” allows for picking and choosing. “Is” is whole and inviolable. The Bible is God’s Word.

However, not every denomination has such a high view of Scripture. They play around with it, tweaking it to support their own preferences. It may be that they just ignore the teaching they don’t like. Or they cunningly twist its meaning. Or they might make or point to clever scholarly arguments to invalidate it, or downplay it (arguments posited and debated across a plethora of scholarly commentaries and journals, which, by the way, for the sake of intellectual honesty, should not just be ignored). Or they simply say the particular passage in view they don’t like, along with others, is not relevant today for whatever reason, because they don’t want it to be. Basically, abusing the tools of Biblical study.

And this latter, too, provides a particular challenge. Why, for example, should we hold to 1 Cor. 14:33-35 as a continual ordinance in the church and not the head coverings for women mentioned in 11:2-16?

But today we’re looking at 1 Cor. 14:33-35. It’s a passage that is really hated in our country’s woke society. Hated. It’s so much easier to conform. Why get cancelled by the cancel culture over something like this? There are some serious scholarly arguments out there that provide easy outs. Why hold to such a thing? Did God actually say …?

Well, the reason we hold to this teaching is because, as disciples of Christ, we follow Jesus in submission to him. He is Lord. Resisting God’s design, as revealed in the Lord’s Word, no matter what anyone else is doing, is willful disobedience. It is abandoning God’s whole counsel for our own and the world’s counsel. And this passage, when the dust settles from the various arguments attempting to invalidate it, stands strong where it has always stood—Scripture to the end.

The apostle Paul wrote the first epistle to the Corinthians sometimes towards the end of his three years of ministry in Ephesus (something we recently studied in our journey through Acts). He wrote it addressing various issues and divisions that had come up over in the Corinthian church he had planted. A particular issue that came up is God’s design when it comes to orderly worship (which Paul addresses in ch. 11 through ch. 14). God’s design includes positions of authority in God’s church.