“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
“Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:34-40.
There is so much in here that needs to be talked about, and it will be a struggle to be concise, so bear with me.
This passage has been used as a cudgel against women preachers for a long time. It’s not hard to understand why, because the language seems pretty plain, but there are things in it I have never heard explained. For instance, Paul says they, “should be in submission, as the Law also says.” But can’t a woman be in submission and also be sanctioned to speak by those to whom she is submission? Under the law, a woman’s vow was not sanctioned until her husband was aware of it and approved. (Numbers 30:6-8). Then, it was as binding as if any man had made it.
There are examples in the Bible of women who were sanctioned to speak, like Deborah. She had been sanctioned by the people if Israel to be their judge. And when the word of the Lord came to her to rise up against the Canaanites that oppressed Israel, she summoned Barak, the man who the Lord spoke to first but wouldn’t go, and got him to obey. She could not raise an army. She needed Barak to sanction that, and he did.
Esther also had to get the king’s sanction to speak. If she spoke without that, she would have been executed. He allowed it, and she was able to save her nation.
The new testament mentions women who prophesied. They brought the word of the Lord. Was it for women only? Even Paul said that a woman who prayed or prophesies with her head covered was in order. It was a sign of her authority because she was in submission.
I have spoken in a fair number of churches. I was sanctioned to do so by whoever was in charge. I could not just mount the stage because I was a man. Even in my own church, I ask to be sanctioned to speak. I have seen men just take the authority to do so, and turn it into a stemwinder that we all wanted to escape from. That was disorderly. A woman can be sanctioned to speak and bring the word of the Lord. It has precedents.