Question & Answer Forum

Do women violate the teaching of a woman’s silence when they sing in the assembly?

When Paul enjoins the sisters to be silent in the assembly (1Co 14:34), he supports this from the Law. “Under obedience” denotes submission or subjection to the role God has ordained. The Lord Jesus is the introduction to this in the New Testament, being subject to His parents (Luk 2:41, 51). The ordaining of differing roles for women and men goes back to Genesis 1 and 2, which is part of the Law, a literary division of the Old Testament (compare Luke 16:16 with 24:44). As in First Timothy (2:11-15), Paul teaches that the silence of the sisters is a leadership issue. Because of male headship, sisters do not lead in the use of gifts (1Co 14:4, 5), prayer (v 15), worship (v 16), or teaching (v 3; 1Ti 2:12). In these four activities an individual is the visible leader in the activity.

In singing (1Co 14:15), although one person leads (therefore a male) in starting the singing, the congregation joins together. It is not a leadership issue, therefore the women sing. The same principle applies to saying “Amen” after a brother’s prayers.

D. Oliver

Is it just believers in the free world who seem to be spared from the persecution?

Apart from the availability of international news, believers in the “free world” would likely assume that persecution for Christ is an ancient concept. Mass murders, economic oppression, social isolation, and immoral harassment consistently face many believers. The persecution is systematic, violent, and persistent. Our Christian brothers and sisters in some countries know by experience that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Some who come from foreign shores to the “free world” hear and receive the gospel message. As a result, they face strong opposition from their family. Sometimes, returning to their native country involves the threat of death. “Remember… them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Heb 13:3).

The Scriptures also remind us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2Ti 3:12). In subtle ways, believers living in the “free world” face coercion to conform to ungodly thinking and practices. Their beliefs draw scorn, belittlement, dismissal, and isolation in the classroom and workplace. When they make every attempt to be considerate, reasonable, consistent, and faithful, their testimony, although blessed by God, may often meet the stone wall of condescending sneers. Our God still places highest value on faithfulness (1Co 4:2).

D. Oliver

Are Christians now like the church of Laodicea?

Sitting in judgment on others is relatively easy. The characteristics of professed testimony for God mark the seven assemblies in Asia (Rev 1-3). The characteristics in Laodicea (3:14-20) are searching: activity without effective power, self-promotion without contrition, apparent success without spiritual character, Christian involvement without personal communion. These characteristics will mark professed Christian testimony before the coming of Christ and they are apparent around us today. The Lord’s specific concern in writing to those seven assemblies, however, is that these golden candlesticks to whom He has entrusted true testimony sadly reflect the characteristics of those who profess to bear testimony for Him. In writing to the last four assemblies, the Lord indicates that His testimony is only a remnant, a part of the whole.

Our peaceful coexistence with the world is strong evidence that Laodicean characteristics mark us.

D. Oliver

How do we understand the meaning of “only begotten” Son?

The word translated “only begotten” appears nine times in our New Testament. Luke uses it three times in his gospel to describe either an only daughter (8:42) or only son (7:12; 9:38). The term also describes Isaac (Heb 11:17), which is instructive, because Isaac was not the only son born to Abraham. He was the father of Ishmael and six other sons (Gen 25:2). Isaac, however, was uniquely precious (22:2), because God promised to fulfil His covenant with Abraham through Isaac.

The remaining references to “only begotten” are from John’s pen and all refer to the Lord Jesus. The first mention in John is significant. Although the other four references (1:18; 3:16, 18; 1Jo 4:9) have an article (“the”) with “only begotten,” the first reference does not. “We beheld His glory, glory as of an only begotten of a Father” (John 1:14, YLT). The absence of an article does not mean He was like an only begotten son. He was and is “the only begotten Son.” As Mr. Newberry points out, the missing article indicates character. John saw in Christ every evidence that He was the Son uniquely precious to His Father and every reason why He should be thus treasured by His Father.

Although John never refers to believers as “sons of God,” he does tell us that we are begotten (a related word) by God (1Jo 5:1, 18). Since many are begotten by God, the term “only begotten” cannot refer to the act of “begetting.” It cannot therefore imply a beginning of the Son’s existence, or His becoming the Son of God, or His birth into humanity. “Only begotten” expresses the uniqueness of the Son in the essential value He has to the Father and in the central place He has in all that the Father has purposed.

For those who find the expression “only begotten” rather archaic, the words “only Son” convey much the same truth, although “unique Son” may express the truth more completely.

D. Oliver