In Assembly (2)


In part one of this enquiry we have considered mainly what is laid down by Paul as to the place of women when in an assembly of persons as distinct from being at home. The Scriptures distinguish these spheres and we will get into confusion if we do not do so. One would refer to the following passages to substantiate this: "Have ye not then houses for eating and drinking? or do ye despise the assembly of God" (1 Corinthians 11:22). An assembly is a public sphere, so that simple persons or unbelievers may be present (1 Corinthians 14:23). A house is usually a place where there is privacy so that Paul makes a distinction between what is public and what takes place in a house (Acts 20:20). The distinction is also found in the Gospels for we have what was said "in the house" distinguished from what was said to the crowds (Mark 10:1-12). It is clear that Martha and Mary spoke in the house and otherwise personally to Christ (Luke 10:38-42 and John 11). However you never get them addressing crowds or anything like that. This does not mean that a house may not be used as a place of assembly, but when this is so it really doesn't then have the character of a home, but of a meeting place - see Philemon 2.

Scripture usually, if not always, gives us practical examples of what it teaches so that when we have read scriptural injunctions and think we understand them, we can confirm that our understanding is correct by considering the practice aswell. Taking the New Testament first; an example of an assembly is found in Acts 15. There we find Peter speaking, also Barnabas and Paul and then James, but no women. In verse 22 we have the apostles and elders spoken of. However, we never get apostlesses or elderesses mentioned in Scripture. It is the apostles and elders who would have spoken in the assembly. Christ appointed apostles and they were all men. He sent them out and when they returned they told Christ what they had done and what they had taught (Mark 6:7-13 and 30). The teaching was clearly by men. This is in accord with what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12 as to women not teaching.

In Revelation we have great crowds speaking rather than individuals (e.g. chapter 19:6) and they may well have included women, though where souls are spoken of as in chapter 6:9 we are speaking of persons who had been slain, and we know that in the resurrection there are no sexual differences (Matthew 22:30). This being so it can reasonably be concluded that souls are not sexually differentiated, at any rate there is no Scripture that makes such a difference. In the resurrection all are sons of God (Luke 20:36); the masculine idea. The feminine idea is connected with the saints corporately as the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9). One must distinguish here the masculine and feminine idea from the idea of male and female, for in Christ Jesus the latter distinctions do not apply (Galatians 3:28/29). God is always designated 'He' though clearly he is not a sexual being, at least, not as we think of it. One may also note that while we are on earth we may speak of sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:17/18), but the privilege of all Christians is to be God's sons (Galatians 3:26). This shows that we must understand that there is a difference between what we are spiritually and what we are as persons living here in flesh (Galatians 2:20). This is important as otherwise persons may point to our spiritual privileges to negate God's ordering that applies to us while still living here in flesh.

If we turn to the Old Testament we find the same practice as in the New. In fact it may be noted that Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34 specifically says: "As the law also says", which shows that what he taught is not a new thought. It may also be noted that all the books of the Bible so far as we can tell were written by men. There is one book specifically addressed to a woman, that is, 2 John and two books mainly about women, that is, Ruth and Esther. However, it is quite clear that the law was given by Moses and God used his Son to declare himself (John 1:17/18). You never get a woman teaching in the Old Testament any more than you do in the New. In Nehemiah 8:1-8 it is clear that the reading and explanation of the law was