Monday, January 11, 2016
In 1952 brethren Roy Deaver and Lester Hathaway discussed the scriptural place for Bible classes. Our tradition is for a man to teach a mixed adult class where women could (1) ask a question, (2) answer a question, (3) make a comment, or (4) read a scripture. We believed those four actions did not violate 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Brother Hathaway did. During the discussion, brother Deaver asked,
“Can there be meetings, can there be religious gatherings, other than the whole church come together? Certainly there can be, for you have one in Acts 5. You have a meeting of the church or a part of it, you have a gathering in which a woman spoke and an apostle asked her to do so. Is that the whole church? If so, you have authority for a woman speaking in the whole church. If not, you have authority for a gathering other than the whole church, and to which I Cor.14 couldn’t possibly be applied.” [Roy Deaver and Lester Hathaway, Debate on the Bible Class Question, Abilene: Chronicle Publishing Company, Inc., 1952, pp.152-153.] (Emphasis mine, RH).
There are two views on what kind of meeting or assembly the Acts 5 gathering was. As pointed out by brother Deaver, if it was the public assembly, then you have a woman being asked a question by the preacher, and she is expected to answer. Others believe this was a kind of meeting or assembly equal to our Bible classes. That was brother Deaver’s view.
I’m not sure why some reject this as a public assembly. Some believe 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 forbids it, therefore it must not be a 1 Corinthians 14 meeting that Sapphira spoke in. Why do we not see a parallel between Sapphira speaking and a woman today doing the same thing when she is asked, “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God”? Is it because the number of words employed by Sapphira are more than those used by a woman’s confession? If so, what passage delineates between the acceptable amount and the specific word where Sapphira crossed the line and entered the unauthorized? If the “slippery slope” argument is introduced as an objection, shouldn’t book, chapter, and verse be presented to support that dissent?
Isn’t a contribution being taken up in this assembly? Isn’t an apostle presiding? Aren’t members active in laying their offering at Peter’s feet (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2)? The question under consideration involves the giving of Ananias and his wife. Don’t we quote 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 as our authority for taking up a contribution? Isn’t “giving” taught as one of the five acts of worship performed when the whole church comes together on the first day of the week? Because of the 1 Corinthian 16 statement, isn’t giving restricted to the public assembly required specifically on the first day of the week? If giving is not restricted to the public assembly on Sunday by that passage, why would Acts 20:7 be? If Acts 5 allows giving on other days of the week in spite of the expression, “the first day of the week,” why wouldn’t communion also mirror that interpretation? If giving is not restricted to the public assembly, why should the Lord’s supper be?
Is there really a problem with Sapphira being asked a question in the public assembly, and responding to it? If so, why should the modern day Sapphira be allowed to make the good confession there? Isn’t it the same principle?
If the Acts 5 passage is equal to a Bible class, then we may give our 1 Corinthians 16 contribution in our classes rather than in the following public assembly. When a person makes their contribution, they may be questioned concerning that offering. Women, as well as men, may be questioned and both may reply. Since the contributor walked up to the one presiding, a woman would be standing when she was asked a question, and in that position when she answered. Her reply would not be seen as a violation of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12. Since it would be parallel with a woman making the good confession in the public assembly, her actions also would not be viewed as a violation of 1 Corinthians 14.
It is also interesting that members, both men and women, in the act of giving, walked to the one in charge and laid their offering at his feet (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2). There is no evidence of men passing a collection plate. That practice came centuries later, perhaps introduced by Protestantism rather than scripture.
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11 (KJV).