What are we then to make of this passage? I would like to make three observations, which are not exhaustive, but it will bring us closer to understanding Paul’s words in this letter.
First, Paul is making a qualified statement. He is not saying women should be silent at all times, because biblically there are circumstances in which women take a role of discipling in the body. We see an example in Acts, where Apollos, a very eloquent man, began teaching in the synagogue, but when Aquilla and Priscilla heard him, they both took him in their home and discipled him by explaining him the truth of God’s word. And Paul also says in Titus 2 that older women have a responsibility to teach younger women through the Word how to live wisely in and outside the home. So, we can conclude that Paul is not making a universal statement, but a qualified statement.
Second, remember that Paul’s context is the gathered community; it is the worship service. Paul is referring to the teaching, speaking, instructing part of the service. We could say that this is the consecration part of the service when God’s people hear the word of Yahweh explained and taught. It is very possible that some women in Corinth are seeking to usurp the authority that rightly belongs to ordained men. They are continually debating and confronting the leaders of the church. This is what Paul has in mind. Paul is not silencing women who are seeking information by asking questions, for instance in a Sunday school class; he is exhorting women who are attempting to take over the teaching and instructing responsibility in the worship service, which rightly belongs only to men.
Third, Paul concludes that if a woman desires to learn she must ask her husband at home. Now this goes both ways. Paul assumes that husbands have something to offer. Imagine if husbands today were well equipped theologically to teach their wives and to bring them into maturity? This is hardly the case in our culture. In fact, churches throughout the world are populated with women while husbands remain in a state of biblical infancy. Women have become the de facto spiritual leader in the home. This is the opposite of what God intends for the home. Biblically, the woman is the glory of the man. It is the husband’s duty is to equip his wife, so she becomes even more glorious. On the other hand, this also implies that women desire to learn biblical truth. Sisters, God desires that you grow in biblical wisdom. You are called to grow in knowledge. You are co-heir of grace just as your brothers. Do not be satisfied with milk, but pursue the meat of the word. Imagine a home where husbands lead and teach their wives; where there is mutual learning; one edifying the other by teaching and one being edified by learning. This is Paul’s point in this text.