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The Greatest Gifts in Corinth (5) 1 Corinthians 12-14

This is part 5 of 6, covering 1 Corinthians 12-14

Why is 1 Corinthians such a mixed bag of instructions that seem to contradict each other?

Are women to speak and prophesy publicly or be silent?

What is Paul's advice to reduce the divisions in the congregations?

Does Paul discuss mutual dependence and equality?

Let's examine the most common contradictions and controversies.

I divide my discussion of 1 Corinthians into 6 sections.

This is part 5 of 6, covering 1 Corinthians 12-14 and discussing spiritual gifts and their use in public worship and Christian living. Do you know the most important gift?

Temple of Athena
The Temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, in Athens. The stone pillars are carved women, representing the maidens who carried sacred objects at festivals. (Photo Elaine Kelly and her husband 1990)

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Gifts of the Spirit

Paul turns his attention to their apparent question about the gifts of the Spirit for the men and women of the congregation. False teachers say "Jesus be cursed". Under the Jewish Torah, a guilty person crucified on a tree or pole is under God's curse (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Paul says that all of us are guilty because the law says anyone who does not do everything under the law is cursed (Deut. 27:26). Paul says it is by the Holy Spirit that a teacher can say, "Jesus is Lord". Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law and brought the blessings of Abraham and Sarah to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:10-14). Paul affirms that Jesus was truly a human, who died on the cross and is truly God, who rose from the dead.

Paul acknowledges there are different kinds of gifts, but clarifies they all come from the one Holy Spirit. Different kinds of service all come from the one Lord Jesus. Different kinds of work but all from the same Father. This one, triune God, is the source of all the different gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes the various gifts to the individuals according to the Spirit's own determination.

There is only one purpose for all these different gifts: the common good for the body of believers. The gifts are not given for the purpose of personal enrichment or honour or showing off. Paul gives a partial list of gifts as examples:

  • wisdom

  • knowledge

  • faith

  • healing

  • miracle powers

  • prophecy

  • discernment

  • speaking in tongues

  • interpreting tongues

Paul gives another partial list of gifts (Romans 12:6-8):

  • prophecy

  • service

  • instruction

  • encouragement

  • generosity

  • leadership

  • mercy

Peter also tells believers to use their gifts as stewards to serve others (1 Peter 4:10-11):

  • speaking

  • serving

Egalitarian Reflections

In none of these passages does the Bible ever say that certain gifts are for men and other gifts for women. The Spirit gives these gifts as the Spirit determines, unrelated to our gender. We cannot ask for specific gifts. Sometimes we may be surprised by who receives what gift, but we cannot deny the evidence of the Spirit working in a person. The gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit to men and women, according to God's discretion, including gifts of interpreting God's word, speaking, teaching, and leading.

card 13
Excerpt from The Sword a Fun Way to Engage
Excerpt from The Sword a Fun Way to Engage

In my book, The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says about a Woman's Role, the Egalitarian sword 12 thrusts the view that God gifts and equips individuals, regardless of gender. The Complementarian defence is that God gives the gifts to use in roles limited by gender. The Egalitarian sword 13 thrusts the argument that God assigns the gifts and the gifts determine the roles. Women are accountable to God to exercise their gifts for the common good. The Complementarian defence is that women's less authoritative roles are equally valued.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 Unity in Diversity

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

Paul points out that we are all united by One Spirit, to form one body of believers, whether Jew/Gentile, slave/free. The Spirit determines our gifts. Paul reiterates in his other letters that in Christ, our individual characteristics are not relevant. Whether man or woman has no impact on your value within the body (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3;11, Romans 10:12). Paul says that Jesus broke the dividing walls between us (Ephesians 2:14). Paul uses the body to illustrate unity and interdependence, not to illustrate a hierarchy of power (I look at the body as an illustration of unity here(1). Christ is called the head of the body not as the leader/authority but as the central nervous system holding the body together, unifying it.

The Corinthians seem to be jockeying for the most powerful or honoured role. The Corinthians gave higher honour to public gifts such as speaking in tongues, and they are using that gift to disrupt public worship. They use their new-found freedom for self-satisfaction, thinking of themselves, putting down others, showing off their gifts, and creating divisions and chaos.  Paul tells them the purpose of the gifts is to build up the body, not break it down. Paul points out that all parts of a body are important, all people in the body of Christ are important and all the gifts of the Spirit are vital. Paul says that the parts of the body depend on one another and none can function alone. When one suffers, we all suffer. All parts are interdependent and the church should have no divisions but be concerned for each person equally. No believer is inferior, and no gift is inferior. Each is an important part of the body.

card 14
Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage

The Egalitarian sword thrusts the argument that the union of a husband and wife illustrates the union of Christ and the church. The Complementarian defence is that the hierarchy of the Greco-Roman marriage illustrates a hierarchy as Christ is in charge of the church.

Egalitarian Reflections

The church today is often like the Corinthian church: megachurches pastors boast about their popularity, and male pastors insist males must hold all the positions which have greater influence and power. They may see their sisters in Christ suffering but consider it less important than upholding their own reputation as gifted leaders. They may use this passage to tell women that less important roles are actually vital, yet they ignore the part about giving special honour to the parts that lack it. They may give lip service to honouring the female workers, but at the same time, they limit the women to roles that have less honour.

If a Complementarian church may recognize the determination of the Holy Spirit to gift some women as Bible interpreters, speakers, teachers, preachers and writers. However, they may limit her from fully using her gifts. They may tell the woman she cannot rely on her feeling or experience of being called. They may deny God's decision to call some women to public ministry. These reactions are based on their understanding of the Bible. However, since it is men who assume they have a right to limit women in leadership and authority, it seems self-centred to insist that women do not have that right.

Complementarians start with Bible passages that seem to limit women in public ministry and interpret Bible passages such as the distribution of gifts in their restrictive interpretations. Egalitarians start with the examples of Jesus, the Old Testament female leaders, and Paul's female co-workers and interpret the passages that seem to limit women in public ministry through the overarching biblical message that God shows no favouritism and does not judge by outward appearance. In Christ, there is no more male or female.

Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage
Excerpt from The Sword a Fun Way to Engage

In my book, The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says about a Woman's Role, the Egalitarian sword thrusts the view that all believers must teach and admonish one another. The Complementarian defence is that women must use their gifts in roles restricted for women while men may use their gifts without restrictions. A Disengage Flashcard is a Joker. It shows an argument that always loses. It avoids addressing the opposing view. Often today, established church leaders use the Disengage card, calling those with opposing views 'unChristian' instead of being open to discussion.

1 Corinthians 12: 28-31: God Values All Believers and the Spirit distributes the Gifts

Paul says the Spirit determines who receives what gifts. There is no need for rivalry, jealousy, or desiring other gifts because the body of Christ needs all its parts. He tells them to regulate their freedoms by love. Think of others and what they may need. Promote God's glory and the well-being of others. The love of Christ will unify the body of believers.

The Corinthians (likely a group of outspoken men) are creating divisions by insisting on their own way, interrupting and speaking louder than others, and controlling who may speak. They seem to value the spectacular gifts of speaking in tongues and working miracles, which show off personal honour, but Paul tells them that it is better to honour others by showing love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 Love is the Greatest Gift

Paul delivers a beautiful poem or hymn outlining the importance of love, a gift all believers can share. Love is so important that all other gifts should be limited or shaped according to love. No gift is comparable to the power of love.

As Paul describes love, he shows how love can resolve the divisions of the previous chapters (2). He started his letter by saying they did not lack any spiritual gift (1:7). His description of love addresses all of the earlier divisions outlined in the letter. Love eliminates the rivalry (1:11). Christ's love unifies them (3:21-23). Love does not delight in wrongdoing (5:1). Love would not take a lawsuit against a brother or sister (6:1-11). Love does what is beneficial to others (9:27). Love is mutually considerate, treating others as yourself (7:1-7). Love does not build up oneself but builds up others (8:1). Love does not insist on its rights (9:1-18). Love does not insist on other women obeying men or insist on what a woman should wear while publicly praying and prophesying. Love does not dispute what others decide to wear, since the church has no policy on it (11:16). Love would let a woman have authority over her own body and clothing since everything comes from God (11:3-16). Love would reconcile with a brother or sister and honour Jesus at the last supper (11:17-34).

Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage

Love beats gifts of (13:1-4):

  • speaking in tongues

  • prophecy, wisdom, and knowledge

  • faith

  • generosity

  • boasting of self-sacrifice

  • patience

  • kindness

Love is not (13:4-6):

  • envious

  • boastful

  • proud

  • slandering others

  • self-seeking

  • easily angered

  • tracking wrongdoing of others

Excerpt from The Sword a Fun Way to Engage

Love does (13:6-8):

  • rejoice with the truth

  • protect

  • trust

  • hope

  • persevere

  • succeed

  • remain

A Touche Flashcard is a Wildcard in my book, The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says about a Woman's Role. It shows an argument that always wins. It provides agreement between opposing views.

Love is Supreme

1 Corinthians 13 shows love is supreme over other gifts and all our actions should be regulated by our love for one another. All decisions as a Christian should be filtered by love. He says to ask yourself what is the most loving thing to do. Love goes hand in hand with putting others above yourself. Love one another is a call to serve one another and to defer to one another in peace.

Evangelical or fundamentalist Christians may say that the most loving thing is to tell a brother or sister where they have gone wrong, to correct them for the sake of the kingdom. If they still don't comply, expel them from the church. This so-called wrongdoer may be anyone who disagrees with the evangelical or fundamentalist reading of God's Word: it could be a divorced woman, an LGBTQ person, or simply a woman who is a gifted leader and speaker. Telling a person to repent and change is not part of Paul's description of love.

Egalitarian Christians may say the most loving thing is to accept a person, leaving the judgement to God. The loving thing may be to watch where the Holy Spirit is moving and who the Spirit has gifted. The loving thing may be to defer to a gifted speaker or insightful biblical interpreter, whether it's a woman or a man. The loving thing may be to listen to the vulnerable and empathize and help them. The loving thing may be to imitate Christ, reaching out to uplift the weak and to welcome the stranger. Paul says we can follow different traditions, as long as we avoid divisions, rivalry, boasting, or discounting the value of a brother or sister (Corinthians 3:21-23).

Which of These Gifts Endure (13:8-13)

  • prophecies will cease

  • speaking in tongues will be stilled

  • knowledge will pass away

But all those gifts will come to an end—even the gift of prophecy, the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages, and the gift of knowledge. These will all end because this knowledge and the prophecies we have are not complete. But when perfection comes, the things that are not complete will end. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 ERV

Gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge show us part of God's vision but not the whole of God's vision. Paul says prophecies, speaking in tongues, and knowledge will pass away when perfection comes (when perfect, completeness and wholeness come). Has perfection come today? No. Has Jesus returned a second time yet? No. Do we continue to have partial knowledge? Yes. Do we continue to see God working through people who speak God's word (prophets) and speak in tongues of the Spirit? Yes.

The Roman Catholic Church has historically stated that the Holy Spirit continues to give these gifts to some individuals. The Catholic church recorded God performing miracles through some believers and declared them to be saints.

However, Protestant Reformers asserted that all believers are saints (Romans 1:7, 1 Peter 2:9), and denied the Catholic church's practice of naming certain individuals as saints. The Cessationist doctrine states that the gifts of prophecy and tongues passed away after the Apostolic Age (but the Spirit continues to provide knowledge). The Holy Spirit no longer chooses to reveal God's messages through prophecy, speaking in tongues, or miracle workers. The Spirit gave these gifts on a temporary basis to apostles to establish the church (and to the many male and female prophets in the history of Israel in the Old Testament). Cessationists generally believe that the partial knowledge of the gifts of tongues and miracles passed away when Paul and the other original apostles passed away. Calvinists affirm the Bible as God's complete and final revelation. God now reveals himself only in the Bible and through Jesus, God's Word. Churches of the Calvinist tradition (such as Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregationalist), are generally cessationist.

Other Protestants, while denying the Catholic practice of naming saints and affirming all believers as saints, believe that all the gifts of the Spirit endure today. The Continuationist doctrine is that the Spirit has not stopped speaking to and through people and all believers have the potential to receive any of the gifts of the Spirit. The partial knowledge, incomplete prophecies, and speaking in tongues will pass away in the future when Christ returns and all is completed. Churches of the charismatic and holiness movements (such as Pentecostal and Alliance) believe the Holy Spirit continues to allow some to speak in tongues and some to receive prophetic messages, insights into the Bible or instruction on what to say or do.

Egalitarian Reflections

Since there is biblical evidence of women speaking in tongues, working miracles, prophesying, teaching and leading in congregations, it is convenient for Cessationists that the Holy Spirit no longer bestows these gifts on humans. It means the evidence of women in leadership in the past can be ignored as a precedent for women in leadership today. Dr David Fitch explains that in the mission movements, the Holy Spirit is the source of authority and church office and authority follows after the gifts. Since the Spirit gifts men and women, it makes no sense to exclude women from the offices of the church (3). Charismatic traditions have a stronger history of both male and female leaders and teachers.

But then, in the future, we will see him right before our eyes. Now I know only a part, but at that time I will know fully, as God has known me. So these three things continue: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 ERV

In the future, we will have God's full knowledge, and we wholly understand God's love. I speak more about the future, when God fulfills everything, in my post about 1 Corinthians 15-16 (4).

1 Corinthians 14:1-19 Prophecy Edifies the Congregation

Paul says that while we exercise the gift of love, our ambition and earnest desire should be the gift of prophecy:

Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts), especially that you may prophesy (interpret the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching). 1 Corinthians 14:1 AMPC (Amplified Bible Classic Edition)

The Corinthians have put a high value on speaking in tongues, but Paul says that is for personal edification. Speaking in tongues is only valuable to the body of believers if there is someone there to interpret so that the church can be built up. If a person is speaking in tongues, no one knows what is being said unless there is an interpreter. It is comparable to a band playing music without a conductor, with the various harmonies indistinguishable. Paul says speaking in an unintelligible tongue will not allow others to grasp your meaning.

if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 1 Corinthian 14:6

Paul tells them it would be wonderful to have them all gifted with the gift of prophecy so that the congregation can be edified/instructed/coached/enlightened.

"I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy" 1 Corinthians 14:5

Paul does not envision a congregation where only one person speaks at each gathering, and is the same speaker at each gathering. Paul says the thing that increases the value of prophecy is that it strengthens, encourages, and comforts the congregation..

Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church 1 Corinthians 14:12

Paul points out that speaking in tongues without an interpreter may be a wonderful experience for the speaker, but it does not edify the body of believers. Various translations say that such speaking does not edify, educate, instruct, build up, help others grow, strengthen others, or benefit anyone but yourself. In particular, it does not help a visitor or unbeliever who is inquiring into the faith.

Paul does not devalue the gift of speaking in tongues because he doesn't have the gift - he does! Paul speaks in the tongues of angels more than any of them (v.18). But Paul says that when in the gathering of believers, he would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in an unintelligible tongue (v.19).

Egalitarian Reflections

The plain and simple understanding of 1 Corinthians 11-14 is that Paul approved of women prophesying and instructing in public worship settings. Paul shows that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to all believers and asks male and female believers to use them to edify the church.

Paul commends women as co-workers, patrons, deacons, apostles, and prophets. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, women prophesy. Those who believe women should not preach or teach men have come up with several explanations to counter the biblical evidence of female prophets:

  • claim that prophecy is different from teaching. Paul himself equates prophecy with instruction (v.6). Various translations of v. 1 describe prophecy as proclaiming the truth (MSG), interpreting God's will (AMPC), announcing or proclaiming God's message (GNT) speaking God's Word (NLV), preaching and teaching.

  • claim that prophecy is not an enduring gift of the Spirit. Even though cessationists believe the Holy Spirit no longer gives the gift of prophecy, they believe the Spirit gives knowledge and gifts some to men to proclaim the truth, interpret, announce God's message, speak, preach, and teach.

  • claim that prophecy is less important than teaching or preaching since a prophet merely transmits God's word while a preacher or teacher interprets and applies God's word. However, Paul listed prophesying before teaching in his list of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28, 14:26, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11, Colossians 3:16)

  • ignore certain passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:5 about women publicly prophesying or Galatians 3:28 about there being no more differences in privileges for men or women for those who are in Christ.

  • deny that the biblical example of female prophets applies today; it was only for that time

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 Eliminating Chaos

In this section, Paul addresses their childish behaviour and says before they exercise their gifts, to think about who they are helping. It's hard to understand because Paul says one thing in verses 22-23 and the complete opposite in vs. 24-25. In her book, Women and Worship in Corinth, Lucy Peppiatt says this passage makes the most sense when seen as Paul using the quote-refute device (5).

Paul acknowledges the Corinthians are quoting from Isaiah 28:11,12 which says that God speaks in tongues and they do not listen to him. Paul then quotes their false logic that tongues are a sign that will amaze unbelievers; the purpose of speaking in tongues is not for believers. Prophecy is a sign for believers, not unbelievers (v.20-23).

Paul refutes the Corinthian logic. Paul says if everyone comes together and speaks in tongues, an unbeliever visiting your congregation will think you're out of your mind. Paul says that if an unbeliever or visitor comes to worship to inquire about the faith and sees everyone prophesying, they may be convicted to repent, worship God, and believe that God is among them (v.24-25).

1 Corinthians 14:26-40 Be Orderly

In the rest of the chapter, Paul uses a chiastic structure to build his arguments. He starts with "Let all things be done to edify others" (v. 26) and concludes with "let all things be done in an orderly way" (v. 40). His main point in the centre is "God is not the author of confusion but of peace (v. 33).

Lucy Peppiatt explains that Paul repeats his instruction that all should be allowed to bring a hymn, revelation, or word of instruction: men and women, elders and new believers, rich and poor. Paul tells the overbearing vocal group of Corinthian men not to control the process of who should be allowed to speak and when. If anyone has a word, they should be allowed to speak and not be silenced.

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy 1 Corinthians 14:5
"What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation" 1 Corinthians 14:26
Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role, by Elaine Kelly

There will not be chaos if everyone is considerate of each other. Paul tells the believers to take turns, just as he told them concerning taking Holy Communion. He says to think of others before themselves and regulate their behaviour by love. Prophets will take turns speaking and will take turns listening and weighing the prophecies of others. Prophets can control the spirit that moves them to speak, for God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace (v. 32-33).

Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role, by Elaine Kelly

My book, The Sword, a Fun Way to Engage sums up opposing views on these verses. In flashcard 17, Complementarian Christians thrust the argument that women should remain silent in churches. Women prophesied in Paul's day but the gift of prophecy ceased. Egalitarians say that it was Corinthians who were telling women to remain silent and that is not Paul's message. In flashcard 19, Complementarians thrust the argument that Paul says it is shameful for women to speak in church. shows the egalitarian defence that it is shameful to be disruptive.

Let Women Keep Silent

Let's look at three ways of viewing this passage that has been used to silence women.

"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 also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

A) Traditional View: Paul's Words

Theologians who take these to be Paul's words believe that while Paul is talking about the value of prophesying and speaking in tongues, he digresses to discuss how women are interrupting the teaching period of the assembly. They may explain this digression by saying that it was customary in that culture for an audience to ask questions of a speaker, but that women of the day were not educated and were asking disruptive, dumb questions. The traditional view is that Paul is criticizing women for interrupting lectures (6). Those who view all of these words as Paul's words believe Paul insists that women be silent in the assembly (v.34), ask questions at home (v. 35), and that it is shameful for a woman to speak in the congregation (v. 35).

Egalitarians believe that taking a high view of Scripture does not mean obeying verses 34-35 about silencing women and ignoring Paul's criticism of silencing women in verses 36-37. Paul harshly criticizes them for thinking they have God's word and no one else can prophesy. He tells them it is the Lord's command to listen to each one who has a prophecy or word from God (verses 36-37). We must understand verses 34-35 in a way that does not conflict with other passages of Scripture. Paul also approves of women prophesying and speaking in the assembly in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

B) Interpolation of a Scribe

Verses 34-35 about silencing women are a digression from Paul's line of thought; they do not flow as part of the logical sequence. They contradict what Paul said in v. 1, 5 and 26. Some explain this as an interpolation, where a later scribe either moved or added these two verses. Historic manuscripts place these two verses variously in their current location or after verse 40. Philip Payne argues that these two verses are not authentic and at some point a scribe inserted these verses. As evidence, he states that early Apostolic Fathers quote 1 Corinthians 14 without quoting those two verses.

Egalitarian Kirk MacGregor (7) explains that it is quite likely the 2nd century Clement of Alexandria and the Apostolic Fathers before he knew that vs. 34-35 did not represent Paul's position. Verses 34-35 are a quote of the Corinthians' position, which Paul refutes in verses 36-37.

C) Quote and Refute Since Paul sharply disagrees with the ideas of verses 34-35 in verses 36-37, and Paul is quotes Corinthian practices and refutes them in earlier parts of this letter, it is very possible verses 34-35 are not Paul's thoughts. According to Lucy Peppiatt, Paul quotes the incorrect thinking of the Corinthians. Rather than criticizing women for interrupting lectures, Paul is criticizing men for silencing women. Rather than telling men to keep women silent, he is telling men and women to take turns speaking God's word. Paul tells the outspoken men to stop silencing women and others from speaking:

God’s teaching did not come from you, and you are not the only ones who have received it. If you think you are a prophet or that you have a spiritual gift, you should understand that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 1 Corinthians 14:36-37 ERV

Beth Allison Barr endorses the quote-refute approach for this passage. In her work The Making of Biblical Womanhood, (6) she points out that the verses about women keeping silent in the churches is quotes from the Corinthians, with Paul boldly criticizing the idea:

"What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:36-37 KJV

The idea that women must be silent in church or submit to men is in contradiction with Paul's actions and example. Paul respected women, developed deep friendships with both women and men and commended both as co-workers, ministers, apostles and deacons. Women were a huge part of Paul's ministry, (7) and there is no report of him limiting their ministry.

Marg Mowczko lists the ten women Paul commends by name in Romans 16 (8) as co-workers for Christ. Phoebe is a deacon and a supporter of many including Paul (v. 1-2), Priscilla is a teacher who risked her life for Paul (v. 3-5), Mary, a hard worker (v.6), Junia, an outstanding apostle who has been imprisoned for her faith (v.7), Tryphaena and Tryphosa, women who ministered in the Lord (v.12), and others.

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) International points out that Paul's actions are compatible with his words commending women in leadership. (9) CBE International suggests that Paul did not refer to men or women when he told believers to use God's gifts to build up the body of believers.  The church suffers (10) when it discourages and disqualifies half of its members. Maybe we don't have to hold in tension the conflicting ideas that women and men have equal value but unequal roles. Maybe those restricting women could release the bonds and treat women as equals. Maybe women can be freed from gender-based restrictions and feel loved and empowered to use their gifts in whatever way God individually calls them.

Excerpt from The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

Paul concludes by repeating everyone should earnestly desire and cultivate the gift of prophecy (teaching) and not prevent anyone from using the gift of speaking in tongues. Everyone should have a turn to share God's word, but everything should be done in an orderly way so it builds up the congregation.

In Flashcard 29, the Egalitarian sword thrusts the argument that Paul commends many female co-workers. The Complementarian defence is that the women were subordinate helpers. I discuss women as an 'ezer' helper in my post on 1 Corinthians 11.


Paul indicates that the Holy Spirit gifts both women and men with the full range of spiritual gifts. Paul encourages both men and women to fully and freely use the gifts God gives them to build up the body of believers (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:23, Ephesians 4:11).

  1. Introduction to 1 Corinthians and discussion on chapters 1-4 on divisions

  2. Post 2 of 6 on 1 Corinthians 5-7 discusses sex and morality in Corinth

  3. Post 3 on 1 Corinthians 8-10 discusses Christian freedom in Corinth.

  4. Post 4 on 1 Corinthians 11 discusses public worship in Corinth.

  5. This is post 5 on 1 Corinthians 12-14 discusses Spiritual Gifts in Corinth.

  6. 1 Corinthians 15-16 discusses Christ's Resurrection, the Cornerstone of our Faith


2. Lowery, David K. “1 Corinthians.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, New Testament Edition, edited by John  F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, SP Publications, 1983, pp. 505–549.

5. Dr. Lucy Peppiatt, Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul's Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians, James Clarke & Co, 2017

6. Keener, Craig S. “14:34-35 Interruptions at Lectures" The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, InterVarsity Press, Illinois, 2014.

7. Kirk MacGregor 1 Corinthians 14:33b-38 as a Pauline Quotation-Refutation Device" CBE International, January 31, 2018

6. BethAllison Barr, The making of Biblical womanhood: how the subjugation of women became gospel truth, Brazos Press, 2021 


Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

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