Is the New Testament gender-neutral in its delegation of spiritual gifts and roles within the church? Is it gender-neutral in its consignment of certain moral principles? This question may seem obvious to some, but due to a hand full of challenging passages can be quite tricky for many. Within the New Testament, there are a few scattered scriptures that seem to delegate certain behaviors with gender-specific language such as a passage in 1 Corinthians that says, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as the law also says." (1 Corinthians 14:34). Statements like these can seem strikingly discriminatory at first glance.
However, if we take a closer look, we observe that earlier in this same passage Paul is telling the men not to speak as well. It's easy to forget that these letters had a historical context and that Paul in 1 Corinthians was dealing with a disorderly church. Believers who had received the gift of the Holy Spirit were not using their gifts to edify the church in an understanding way. They were often speaking in various languages out of turn or all at once, which caused much confusion especially for those who were unfamiliar with the gospel. The church's disorderly conduct was a poor witness among the community. Paul's main charge in chapter 14 is summed up in his concise conclusion, which says, "Let all things be done decently and in order." (1 Corinthians 14:40).
In churches where there is debate over which genders are allowed to serve in leadership, the main thrust of these passages is often overlooked. Was Paul speaking in discriminatory terms towards women? Or was he concerned with the church having a credible witness in their community by conducting services in an orderly fashion?
On this episode of Advent Next, we continue our discussion with Dr. Martin Hanna discussion the topic of "Men and Women in Church Order" where we explore the question, Is the New Testament Gender-Neutral in its commands?
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