I received the following question:

So it’s told us in the Old Testament that women can’t be part of the Qahal.  This means that women can’t be part of the ekklesia.  This has always been quite unusual to me being that I don’t understand why but I just gave God His Words.  Then however on thinking more about the whole idea if our friend Otis was right in Philippians 4 where the two women are quarreling about the loss of THEIR GIFTS then that would mean that they had gifts from God and were among the out-positioned.  Therefore, these women were part of the ekklesia.  There may be other situations in which we could speculate that women were members of the out-positioned ekklesia (I know that’s a redundant, kind of like covenant-agreement). So there must be more in this whole ordeal than once thought.  

I Corinthians 14:34-35 speaks of women in the church.

34. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

I am always intrigued when people think it is their prerogative, particularly when they have no dispensational understanding, to ignore this passage. The reason I find this particularly inexcusable is because of the words Paul is inspired to speak in the next three verses.

36. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37. If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

It seems as if the Lord was anticipating that some would not want to accept Paul’s words, and so He recorded these strong words regarding the commandments that Paul was giving. Yet both the commandment and the strong words afterwards are ignored by many today who simply don’t want to consider this being true. “It was a cultural thing,” they like to say. Well, apparently being spiritual was a cultural thing too…

That said, of course, we understand more about this passage with the knowledge we have, both of dispensations and of the word ekklesia. What this appears to be talking about is what we might call an official gathering of the ekklesia. This has nothing to do with what we call “church services” today, of course. It was a gathering of God-given leaders, those who held a position out of God, and who had the authority from God to make and bind decisions upon people. An example would be the so-called “Jerusalem council” in Acts 15:6. “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.” In such a meeting, the Lord indicates that the women who are “among the churches” are to keep silent.

This is interesting for two reasons. First of all is that the women are there “among the churches.” Why would they even be in attendance, unless they were ekklesia also themselves? It seems these women did have a position out of God, and thus were among the ekklesia when they were meeting. They were not allowed to speak in these meetings, however.

This brings us to our second issue. I have said in the past that I thought “to speak” indicated the same thing as “speaking in Congress,” that is, it does not refer to actually talking in a building or a meeting, but having a position or a place. I could go into the Congress building and talk, even talk before the politicians who are meeting there, yet I would still not be “speaking” in Congress. Yet when I consider this passage, I notice that “not permitted to speak” is also defined by “keep silent,” as well as “be submissive.” It might be that the women who are there are ekklesia, and that they do have a position out of God and therefore a right to be “among the ekklesia.” Yet they are not permitted to speak and offer their judgment upon things in a meeting of the ekklesia, but are to keep silent and be submissive. In other words, this is not necessarily saying they cannot have a position there, just that they cannot officially speak in a meeting, for it is not their place. This seems to be born out by the fact that “not permitted to speak” is defined as “keep silent,” which is a lot harder to make out to be figurative, and also by the fact that they are there “in/among the ekklesia.”

As far as women having gifts, though, remember Acts 2:17-18, quoting Joel,

17. ‘ And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18. And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy. (Emphasis mine)

So the Spirit would be poured out on men and women in the last days, according to Joel. Then, there is the statement in Acts 21:9 about Philip’s (Philip of the seven, not the twelve) daughters, “Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” Clearly, these girls had the gift of prophecy. And this makes sense in light of Mark 16:17a, “And these signs will follow those who believe.” Since women believed, the signs would follow them.

Don’t get mixed up here between signs and gifts, the body of Christ, and the ekklesia. Just because you had a gift did not mean you also had a position out of God. For example, I might be given the gift of a tongue, a language I had never learned. From then on, I could speak that language perfectly. I could say I was “body of Christ” then, since I had partaken of His substance as the great language-giver. Yet did this give me any kind of a position out of God? Could I now claim to be a part of the ekklesia of the Acts period? Certainly not. This gift gave me no position above other believers. I had a gift, not a position. Not every gift resulted in making one an ekklesia member. Certainly a gift like “governments” would automatically do that.

Finally, passing from Acts to the present dispensation, we have the instructions to Timothy and Titus for setting up their own ekklesia members in their initial attempt to maintain the order God had established, which attempt later broke down, as we see in the book of II Timothy. But it is instructive there that in Titus 2:3, God speaks of “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.” In Greek, “older women” is actually the feminine form of the word we usually have translated “elders.” So these “older women” held the position of “female elders,” a position that certainly would have been an ekklesia position in the Acts period. What the sphere of their authority was to be is made clear by the following verses. “That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” So their authority was over the other women, but not over men. That it could not extend over the men is made clear in I Timothy 2:12. “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” So the authority of the “female elders” was over the women. If they were permitted in the ekklesia during the Acts period, then, I would expect that their authority then would have been the same: over the believing women.