Question & Answer Forum: Women & the Assembly

Why would an assembly sister think her concerns don’t matter?

Perhaps any believer could, at times, feel disenfranchised in an assembly. Several factors could cause sisters especially to think this way. For instance, if a brother who usually takes part is silent for a few weeks, the other believers, and particularly the shepherds, show concern. But, as long as she attends the meetings, how would the others know if a sister is having spiritual difficulties?

Part of the difference God made between Adam and Eve was a different emotional sensitivity suited to the role He had in mind for her (Gen 2:18-22). The Lord made Adam to lead in responsibilities for the world around him. God gave him the responsibility of naming the animals. Eve’s role was to be an indispensable help to Adam. She was taken from him (vv 22, 23), so that he would never be complete without her. Her role required a greater emotional sensitivity. These differences still characterize males and females.

In practical terms, that means that some issues involving emotional questions may seem less important to men than to women. In fact, to the rational, analytical, fact-focused male, emotional issues may be threatening and uncomfortable. Consequently, concerns of a sister, as important and proper as they are, may not receive the response and concern that they deserve.

Another possible reason for a sister to wonder if she is a second-rate sheep, is the proper concern of males not to give any wrong signals when they show concern for a sister’s problems.

Of course, the Lord has no “second-rate sheep.” Every one of us cost Him His precious blood (1Cor 8:11). Each one receives His personal care (Psa 23:1-6). Among the disciples at the last Passover, no one perceived that Judas was the betrayer, the traitor (Mark 14:19). Among the twelve, Judas was not a second-rate disciple. Neither should any assembly believer feel he (or she) is less than an integral part of the assembly (1Cor 12:21, 25).

To remedy these concerns, elders could encourage a godly sister to communicate to them her concerns about the spiritual state of some of the sisters. An elder, with his wife present, could speak with sisters and express his concern for their problems. On occasion, the elders could ask a sister to give another sister spiritual guidance on behalf of the elders.

An elder will give account for each believer (Heb 13:17), whether male or female. We will all give account to the Lord (Rom 14:4, 12, 13, 18, 19) as to whether we have stumbled another believer (male or female). How good if all of us found ways to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24).

D. Oliver

How can a sister resolve an interpersonal problem with a brother in the assembly?

Resolving this problem is important. The Lord forbade worship from a believer who knew that another had something against him (or her) (Mat 5:23, 24). In an assembly with an ideal spiritual climate (which should be in every assembly), she could go to the brother and speak to him reasonably and kindly and gain the brother (Mat 18:15). If she has a believing husband, he should help her, but he must act with Christian grace and not make the problem worse. He is responsible to consider the welfare of the assembly and the offending brother, as well as his wife.

If the sister is single or has an unbelieving husband and feels intimidated by this brother (was approaching Christ intimidating? Luke 15:1), she could take with her someone who is fair and respected both by herself and by the brother. Surely the matter could be resolved in this way!

But there is another possibility. Wouldn’t it be considerate if an elder or respected sister or brother noted the problem and enlisted help to resolve the matter as quickly as possible and without polarizing the believers. Such preemptive action would convince the sister that others in the assembly care about her. It would also preserve the assembly from difficulties that have destroyed the testimony of some assemblies in the past. Paul called on others to “help those women” resolve an interpersonal problem (Phi 4:3).

Whether the problem is between two sisters or between two men, like Paul and Barnabas who had a sharp difference between them (Acts 15:39), outside, impartial help is invaluable. Resolving a problem between a bother and a sister may require more compassion and wisdom than either of those two problems did.

D. Oliver

Should a woman preach or teach the Scriptures?

The Scriptures plainly teach the silence of the sisters in assembly gatherings (1Cor 14:34). In fact,”It is a shame for women to speak in the church” (v 35). In addition, Paul forbids women to teach, but encourages them to learn in silence (1Tim 2:11, 12). The setting of these verses is in the gatherings of the assembly. “In every place”(v 8 ESV), the males were to pray. Here, by specifying the males, Paul evidently envisions public prayer, which is part of the pattern of assembly practice (Acts 2:42). In public gatherings, women are to learn in silence, to be in subjection. Both passages (1Cor 14 and Titus 2) teach the necessity of this subjection.

At the beginning, God gave Adam His commandment for behavior in the garden (Gen 2:16). Eve was not yet formed when God gave this command to Adam. His role was to teach her. Her role was to be in subjection. By using the introductory word “for” (1Tim 2:13), Paul bases his statements in the previous verses about the silence and subjection of the sisters on this order in creation. This does not suggest that sisters do not know their Bibles. Nor does this teach that sisters are inferior to their spiritual brothers. The prohibition of public teaching by sisters is because of the differing roles God has assigned to the male and to the female.

There can be no contradiction in the Scriptures, and certainly not between what Paul writes to Timothy and then later to Titus. Paul tells Titus he must speak sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). That teaching will produce a character in older women that would make them teachers of good things (v 3). This character would enable them to train (v 4 ESV) younger women in Christian affection and behavior. This would not take place in assembly meetings, but in a private sphere.

Preaching and public teaching are outside the responsibility of sisters.

D. Oliver