Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head... Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
-1 Cor 11
As an aside, is it not "abundantly clear and plain" from this passage that women should never pray without a head covering? That is another study for another day, but if we apply MacArthur's reasoning in regard to chapter 14, we should apply it here. The key to both is understanding the dispensational setting. We looked at that last time, so I will move on to what the women are doing in this passage.
The women in Corinth were praying and prophesying (speaking by direct revelation of God). Was this only with other women? The reason for the head-covering, in part, is to hide her glory. It is a symbol of her submission to her husband and to God.
If we want to argue this is only with other women, we have to explain the head-covering. The text does not limit the praying or prophesying to women only. We would also have to conclude, using MacArthur's reasoning, that Christian women do not constitute the "church" (or assembly). Now, this might be a legitimate point if we hold the "ekklesia" to be only the leadership, but the final verse in the passage states that this is the practice of the "churches of God" (plural, Acts Age).
How do we, then , balance chapter 11 with chapter 14? Allen suggests, since both are true, is in the direct revelation of God. A woman, if giving a direct message from God, should deliver it humbly and modestly. If not delivering a direct message from God (or praying directly to God), she should remain silent.
Also, in 1 Cor 14, we have an extended and immediate context addressing the use of tongues and prophesying in the churches. Paul is addressing both men and women. So, again, we have women speaking in tongues (languages) and prophesying in the assembly of believers. They could hardly do this and be "silent." But, in the Acts Age, these were direct gifts and revelations from God. Women could and did practice these gifts in the churches.
This was how the churches functioned in the Acts Age. Post-Acts we do not have these revelations. And I should note, that even in that context, ALL supposed messages from God were to be "tested" (1 John 4).
If we try to apply 1 Cor 14 in this age, we will have problems. Further, if we filter the instruction through the traditions of men (services, pulpits, buildings), we will not find the truth. Remove these man-made traditions and MacArthur's message has most of its context lost. He has a point when it comes to leadership, and he is right to point out the folly of women claiming "Jesus called me, not Paul." But even Paul must be understood dispensationally.
This still leaves us with the post-Acts epistle of 1 Timothy and its prohibition. We looked at that in our last study. Suffice it to say, women are to be in submission to their husbands and to any local church leadership. They are not to take a leading role as teacher. However, this has nothing to do with a "church service."