The Christian Woman – scriptural thoughts on various passages & subjects
1 Timothy 5:14 …therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house…
Titus 2:4-5 …teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
The primary domain and place of authority for a woman, particulary the married woman & mother, is the home. The greatness of this sphere should not be underestimated, where hospitality and nurturing take place. Here her God-given qualities and gifts find their fullest and happiest gratification (Lenski). Her husband remains her head, and has the ultimate responsibility and headship, yet in her subjection to him, she has freedom and talent to run the affairs, in a way he cannot (see Proverbs 31). One has said “the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.” And while that might be a bit of hyperbole, there is much to be said about the “keeper of the home”, her influence thereby, and the need to maintain her proper honor and dignity in such a sphere. It is essential. The strength or weakness of the church in many ways can be traced to this issue.
1 Timothy 2:15 …notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
This challenging passage has been variously interpreted, but in context, it is really not that difficult. Rather than abandoning her God-given role(s) by demanding teaching and other authority positions in the local church, she will find fulfillment through bearing children, rearing them in a godly environment, ultimately leading them to faith in Christ. Her “salvation” here does not refer to spiritual salvation from sins, but in the context of having been deceived at the time of the fall in Eden, her status and purpose in Christ is not lost. It is high and the highest work she has as a wife and mother is her home and children. This of course does not denigrate the unmarried or barren woman, but in the general context of a woman’s role, among her highest service is the home and the children. In a sense, if she ventures unnecessarily into the man’s sphere, she loses much- as do her children and her home. Her higher calling in the home is “saved” as one that will surely have reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
The Local Church/Assembly
1 Timothy 2:12-13 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a overseer (seeks to exercise oversight)
1 Corinthians 11:10 Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her head, on account of the angels.
Titus 2:3-5 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 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.
The New Testament is filled with examples of godly women fulfilling their roles and excelling in varied service. One notices Joanna and Susanna ministering to Christ from their substance (Luke 8:3), as well as the example of Phoebe, the commended servant of Romans 16:1. In the home and especially the local church, we learn several important principles for her: 1. Subjection 2. Not to usurp the man’s authority & roles (which he will often acquiesce-thus she is warned not to usurp) 3. She is covered & silent in assembly gatherings. 4. When younger she is to learn from the older woman, and when older she is to guide the young wife & mother & help her accordingly. When it says the older woman is to be reverent in behavior, there is an underlying thought that her character will lend significant weight to her words.
There is no authority whatsoever for a woman preacher, pastor (in such systems where the one-man pastorate is in place), worship leading, or oversight (eldership). There is a denial of scriptural authority when a professed personal “calling” of a woman to preach overrides the clear injunction/prohibition of scripture. God does not contradict His word.
It is regrettable that attention must be paid to negative issues, but in a day of declension and disregard of scripture, it is hoped that corrective teaching (a major thrust of the New Testament) will help steer us to the right pathways where blessings lie. The ‘positive confession’ teaching in vogue today, rarely approaches a sphere of “correction”. It leaves weakness and error in place instead of helping move us forward in the revealed will of God.
Hard Verses to harmonize-seemingly
Acts 2:18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
If a woman is not to lead or usurp male authority, how do we understand maidservants who prophesy? There is a twofold meaning to prophecy in the New Testament. 1. Is the revelation of new truth (which has ceased with the passing of the apostles) 2. The gifted proclamation of already-revealed truth. It is not inconsistent with the NT guidance and prohibitions for women, to recognize she can be gifted in proclamation of truth to unsaved people in certain situations (with children, other women, friends, neighbors, on the street corner in evangelism). And in reality Acts 2 is a pre-filling of a yet future full-filling of Joel’s prophecy in a coming day when the church has been raptured, and God is dealing with Israel and the nations. In other words, Joel 2 is fulfilled in the future apart from the presence of the Church.
Note also that Miriam, Huldah, and Deborah also ministered in Israel similarly as did Anna in Luke 2. Hers is a good example of the work of an historical prophetess in Israel; notice her work: she “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” and then she “spoke of Him (the newborn Savior) to all those who looked for redemption in Israel.” This was prophesying in the secondary sense indeed. Nothing like the emphasis of today.
1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head
Similarly here, a woman may have spoken forth the truth of God as a messenger in various situations, yet when compared with other scriptures, she was to maintain silence in the local assembly gatherings. The context of 1 Corinthians 11 is not prophesying, but headship and glory, and thus the injunction for her to maintain an acknowledgement of the Lord’s headship by covering her personal glory, her long hair-is general, not specific to praying and prophesying alone, these are given as context for the Corinthians situation.
The context of the passage can and does extend outside the local assembly gatherings, and should be guidance for her that in any situation outside the assembly where she finds herself in a place of spiritual prominence, to consider the need to cover herself (example: singing at a funeral, giving testimony to a group of sisters publicly, teaching women at a gathering /conference, etc.). This covering is not a negative or legalism position, but one of honoring her head, which is a high and noble purpose. Whether a New Testament woman was a prophetess in the primary sense of proclaiming New Truth before the completion of the NT Canon, is inconsistent with the other clear admonitions. So as good Bereans we should take that which is clear and stated and unambiguous (ie..the stated things related to the woman’s role and position) and interpret the difficult passages from the clear light of the clear statements. To reverse that order, and interpret the difficult passage apart from the clear light of other passages, is to move from exegesis to a free-for-all that is common among all errant systems in Christendom. The common theme in such groups is self-will.
Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles,
The word for “apostle” in the Greek New Testament has a twofold usage. 1. The specific and called followers of Christ, ie…were the 12 apostles. 2. The word has a general usage of “one who is sent forth”. It is the latter usage here, Andronicus and Junia are of note among those sent forth and identified with Christ as his disciples. There is great beauty throughout Romans 16, by the way, showing forth Paul’s affections to his co-laboring brothers and sisters in Christ. Common words include: servant, assist, helper, workers, prisoners, fellow workers, laborers. The whole context is Christian service-ie…those sent forth…apostles in that secondary sense. Junia was an apostle-a sent one- in that sense, as can be the reader and writer of this article. There is nothing here about the official position of an apostle. Too much today trends towards a love of titles, position, and power, and those claiming "apostleship" invariably are prideful.
The Man and Woman – Equal yet different
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The last three words are key. The position of men and women IN CHRIST JESUS is equal. The standing is the same, and this is positional truth. "IN CHRIST" Positional truth though, must be understood as just that, positional. In other words, there is still a practical role for men, and for women, and they do not cease being their gender upon conversion. The context of Galatians the man and woman are equal heirs in Christ, and this is a tremendous thing indeed. To take this passage and use it to break down scriptural admonitions such as "I suffer not a woman to usurp"....is to miss the beauty of the passage and remove it from its context.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
Romans 7:1-3 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man..
Men and women are equally obligated to the marriage ordinance, with equal standing and responsibility.
Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
1 Corinthians 11:11-12 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
1 Corinthians 7:32-33 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife.
Inspiration clearly stresses the mutual dependence of the man and the woman, particularly in marriage. Neither is complete without the other. The trends towards acceptance of lesbianism and male homosexuality utterly disregard God’s design, and undermine the underpinnings of human life and civilization-to our own detriment (see Romans 1). Yet in a biblical sense, there is great harmony and beauty in His purpose, should we follow it.
Lest we miss an important emphasis of the New Testament, let us consider the unmarried person (especially one so enabled to live thus). He/she should not be considered abnormal. In actuality, Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that this is a desirable and even superior position with regard to service & devotion unto Christ. Yet even here there is a mutual dependence and harmony fitting to glorify God in the highest.
The plight of ancient and even modern women examined
We live in a day where history is rewritten from a humanist perspective, where the injunction that “there is neither male nor female” is ripped from its context and made to support gender merging, role abandonment, and a host of errors.
Where the gospel has gone in the world-throughout 2 millennia, the woman has been lifted from a status of abuse, property, slavery, and inferiority, to one of dignity and biblical equality. The ancient Greeks thought women to be inferior to men, the Jew prayed (not scripturally) “I thank Thee Lord that I was not born a woman”. In Rome women had greater practical freedom but the licentiousness of the culture led to rampant disregard for modesty and chastity (interestingly and sadly – western culture is trending this direction while claiming to be giving women “freedom” is actually turn her towards bondage). The African woman too, throughout history, was a beast of burden, and a thing of property lacking the dignity that God gives her.
The history of mankind gives evidence that the male- being physically stronger- dominated the woman. Modern technology, conveniences, and opportunities, give the woman more freedom (sic) that she found in the ancient world. But only Christianity in real practice, gave her a God given dignity, merely because it was right in His sight, long before the modern era. But it did so by also maintaining her roles. It freed her but guided her. Today we witness in western culture an apparent free woman, but a woman heading back into bondage as vestiges of Christian influence wane.
In the Old Testament the woman did have a legal inferiority to men, but mothers and wives were honored. To disrespect or rebel against father OR mother (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) was a serious, even capital offense. Deuteronomy 27:16 says ‘Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’ If it be objected that men had an easier route to divorce and that they sometimes practiced polygamy, it should be noticed that these were done in the context of allowances for the “hardness of the heart” of man. The New Testament has introduced “better things” indeed. The New Testament lifts things immeasurably:
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Notice the elevation. To love her as Christ loved the church is a high calling indeed, and to dwell with her in understanding is not necessarily natural for men to do.
Giving her honor, recognizing her as a co-heir, these things are unknown in the pagan ancient world. To those who suggest Christianity oppresses women, is to ignore the facts that proclaim the opposite. But she does have a “role” - just as the man does, and for that we are unapologetic in proclaiming it.
In summary, the high regard for womanhood in the New Testament includes her position as a wife, mother, and keeper of the home. It is not limited to this sphere, but is a primary emphasis.
Proverbs 31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her
In the ancient world, a pagan named Libanius exclaimed: What women these Christians have!