The Conduct of Women in The Church

1 Timothy 2:9-15 (NKJV)

in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

 

I didn’t write the Bible. God didn’t even consult me in the process. I just try to convey to you what it says. But sometimes people get upset because they don’t like what is said. That’s probably going to be the case when I tell you what the Bible says about the conduct of women in the church. I confess, if I could write the script myself, I would not write it as Paul did. But being a Christian means obeying apostolic doctrine, not changing the message to be more compatible with our times. So my task today is to tell you what God’s Word says about this sensitive but significant topic.

I have read the arguments of the “evangelical feminists.” I wish I could be convinced, because their views are not as culturally offensive as the traditional view. Besides, I like women, I’m not threatened by women, and I don’t have a problem with the idea of women in church leadership–except that I can’t escape what to me is the plain teaching of Scripture that prohibits women from exercising authority over men.

Paul was correcting a problem in the Ephesian church. Presumably, the false teachers whom Timothy was to confront had led astray a number of women in the church, both in doctrine and morals (1 Timothy 1:19).

 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (NKJV)

Fight the Good Fight

18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Ephesus was a sensual city, with temple prostitution devoted to the worship of the goddess Diana (or, Artemis), whose idol had multiple breasts. It was also a center of commerce, with many wealthy people. Apparently some church women were dressing in a sensual and extravagant manner, so Paul corrects this by telling Timothy how godly women should adorn themselves (1 Timothy 2:9-10; compare 1 Timothy 5:11-15).

1 Timothy 2:8-10 (NKJV)

Men and Women in the Church

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

1 Timothy 5:11-15 (NKJV)

11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith.13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. 14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan.

In 2 Timothy 3:6-7, Paul mentions false teachers who enter “households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Thus the false teachers were appealing to women under a load of guilt who were living by their feelings instead of by God’s truth. Of course, Second Timothy was written later than First Timothy. But probably the situation confronted there had already begun when Paul wrote First Timothy. So he corrects this by commanding that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the church; rather, their normal sphere of ministry should be in the home (1 Timothy 2:11-15; see Titus 2:3-5). Thus, The conduct of women in the church should be marked by godliness and submission to male leadership.

 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NKJV)

11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Titus 2:1-5 (NKJV)

Qualities of a Sound Church

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 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.

In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, he deals with the proper attire of women which is godliness; in  1 Timothy 2:11-15, he deals with the proper attitude of women, which is submission to male leadership.

1. The proper attire of Christian women: not focused on outward appearance, but on godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

1 Timothy 2:9-10 (NKJV)

in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

Our grooming and clothing says a lot about our values and the way we think. If a woman dresses in a sensuous manner or if by inordinate attention to grooming she emphasizes external beauty, it reveals that her emphasis is on the superficial and worldly rather than on that which is significant from God’s perspective. Paul’s directive in verse 9 means that Christian women should not dress in a seductive manner nor in a luxurious, fashion-conscious manner that would arouse jealousy on the part of poorer women. Rather, she should put her emphasis on good deeds.

Obviously he is talking about a woman’s appearance not only when she attends church, but at all times. He is not prohibiting a woman from looking attractive, as long as she is not seductive or showy. Nor is he putting an absolute ban on a woman’s braiding her hair or wearing modest jewelry. He’s talking about emphasis. He was correcting women who went to great expense and effort to braid jewels and expensive ornaments into their hair. Their clothing was showy and expensive. Their appearance did not reflect a value system with God at the center nor did it draw you to their godly character. It focused on the external. It was worldly. It was the wrong emphasis. Christian women should be marked by good works.

I would encourage my sisters in Christ to take to heart Paul’s command here to dress modestly and discreetly. “Modestly” (in the original) means to be free from shame; “discreetly” means to have control over one’s passions. Many modern fashions are shameful and seductive. They are designed to attract attention to the body and to arouse lust. Men are aroused by sight (that’s why pornography attracts men). You may think that your Christian brothers should be free from lustful thoughts. Yes, they should! But you should not put a stumbling block in their way by dressing seductively! “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30). So Paul’s first instruction is that Christian women must dress properly and put their emphasis on godliness.

2.  The proper attitude of Christian women: not assertive, but submissive to male church leadership (2:11-15).

1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NKJV)

11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Keep in mind here that I’m just your friendly reporter. I didn’t make up the script; I just report and explain it. Like it or not, the Bible is not politically correct, in tune with our modern sensibilities. Also, there are many truths in the Bible that are seemingly contradictory or paradoxical. You have to hold both sides in tension, not going off the deep end either way.

God is sovereign in saving whom He chooses, but He commands us to pray for the salvation of all.

When it comes to the roles of men and women, the Bible is clear that both male and female reflect the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Men are not superior over women nor women over men. In Christ, men and women are equal (Galatians 3:28), but at the same time, they are to fulfill different roles. Often in Scripture, the male/female relationship is a picture of the divine/human relationship.

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Galatians 3:28 (NKJV)

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.

Thus (in Eph. 5:21-25), after instructing all Christians to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ, Paul stipulates that in marriage, wives must be subject to their husbands because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church. And husbands must love their wives just as Christ sacrificially loved the church. In this way we reflect the image of God, in which the Son is equal to the Father and yet voluntarily submits to Him; and the Father loves the Son. We also reflect the relationship of Christ to His church, in which He accepts us as His brothers and sisters, and yet we submit to Him.

Ephesians 5:21-29 (NKJV)

21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. [a]

Marriage—Christ and the Church

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

       Footnotes:    

a. Ephesians 5:21 NU-Text reads

Paul teaches (in 1 Cor. 11:3-16) that there is also to be a gender-based hierarchy in the context of equality in the local church. While it would be wrong to emphasize the hierarchy and neglect equality, it is equally wrong to emphasize equality and throw out any form of hierarchy. While “evangelical feminists” try to explain the hierarchy as a cultural thing (thus not binding for today), every time Paul mentions the subject, he appeals to the Old Testament, not to some cultural factor, for support. So it is a serious error, in my judgment, to take a verse like Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female” in Christ) and make it the governing verse by radically reinterpreting the plain sense of other texts, such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15. We need to affirm both aspects of the truth.

Galatians 3:28 (NKJV)

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.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NKJV)

11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

In our text, Paul spells out the realm (2:11-12); the reasons (2:13-14); and the reward for submission (2:15).

1 Timothy 2:11-12 (NKJV)     (Realm)

11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

1 Timothy 2:13-14 (NKJV)     (Reasons)

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

1 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)     (Reward)

15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

A. The realm of submission involves activities where a woman would exercise authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:11-12).

1 Timothy 2:11-12 (NKJV)

11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

Paul is speaking here about the church, not the home (although, as mentioned, women are to be subject to their husbands in the home). It is significant that Paul directs the women to learn. In the Jewish culture, they were not able to go to school to learn the Torah. But Paul wants women to learn as long as their attitude is marked by two qualities: “quietness” and “submissiveness.”

The word translated “quietly” doesn’t mean absolute silence, but rather to have inner tranquility or peace (see 1 Timothy 2:2). Women are not to be agitated, assertive rebel-rousers in the church. “Submissiveness” is a military word, meaning under in rank. A lieutenant and a sergeant are equal in personhood, but different in rank. Even so, women are to put themselves in rank under men in church leadership. Paul adds the words, “in entire” (submissiveness) (NASB) (“with all” [NKJV]) to show that it is more than mere outward obedience; the attitude of respect is included. The implied object of their submission is church leaders (elders) who teach sound doctrine.

1 Timothy 2:2 (NKJV)

for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

The word translated “exercise authority” is used only here in the New Testament and has the nuance of usurping authority or being domineering. Apparently some of the Ephesian women had taken a seminar on assertiveness training and were applying it by teaching even the men in the worship assembly. Paul is prohibiting this since, as he shows (1 Timothy 2:13-14), it violates God’s pattern of authority and submission as pictured in creation and the fall.

1 Timothy 2:13-14 (NKJV)

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

I realize that Paul opens a host of questions which he leaves unanswered. Can women teach men in a home Bible study (remember, the early church met in homes)? What about Sunday School classes (or “Precept”)? What about the role of women in “para-church” ministries? Can they be in leadership positions over men? What about a woman teaching as long as she is in submission to male elders? What about a woman teaching through writing books or teaching a man individually (as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos [Acts 18:26])? What about all the noteworthy exceptions in Scripture (Deborah, Huldah, Junia, etc.)? What about the many godly and effective women missionaries down through church history?

Acts 18:26 (NKJV)

26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

I can’t begin to answer all those questions! But I can give several principles that apply to the church. First, the office of elder is limited to men (1 Tim. 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-9 assume male elders, and in every New Testament instance elders are men; also, Jesus chose men as apostles with authority over the church). This means that the office of teaching elders (1 Tim. 5:17) is restricted to men.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

Qualifications of Overseers

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, [a] he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,[b] but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Footnotes:    

a. 1 Timothy 3:1 Literally overseer    

b. 1 Timothy 3:3 NU-Text omits not greedy for money.

Titus 1:5-9 (NKJV)

Qualified Elders

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop [a] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradic

Footnotes:    

a. Titus 1:7 Literally overseer

1 Timothy 5:17 (NKJV)

Honor the Elders

17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.

The Greek word for “teach” is used almost 100 times in the New Testament, and in only three instances does it refer to teaching individuals (Roy Zuck, cited by Ann L. Bowman, “Monograph” from the International School of Theology, “Women in Ministry: An Exegetical Study of 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” p. 4, footnote 21). So Paul probably had in mind situations where women taught the entire church. Is Paul giving one prohibition (a woman should not teach men in a domineering way) or two (a woman should not teach men nor should she do anything else to exercise authority over men)? The Greek grammar indicates that Paul intends two distinct and yet closely related commands (Bowman, p. 5, footnote 31): A woman should not teach men, nor should she do anything else to exercise authority over men.

So does Paul mean that a godly woman can never teach men? Then how do we explain God’s manifest blessing on women missionaries who have evangelized, planted the church, and taught whole cultures of men and women? We need to be careful not to put God in our doctrinal boxes. He is notorious for doing as He pleases. The many noteworthy exceptional women in Scripture tell us to be careful here.

But the exceptions as well as the plain teaching of passages such as our text show us that the exceptions are just that. The norm should be men in leadership and teaching positions in the church. If God raises up a gifted woman, we ought to recognize her ministry. But even so, she will have an attitude of submission to male leadership. And, she will focus on teaching women. I think Elisabeth Elliot is a modern example of such a gifted woman.

B. The reasons for submission are the order of creation and the order of the fall (1 Timothy 2:13-14).

1 Timothy 2:13-14 (NKJV)

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

It is compelling that every time Paul cites reasons for gender-based distinctions in the church, he goes to the Old Testament. This means that we can’t dismiss this as a cultural matter that doesn’t apply to our day. God could have created Adam and Eve simultaneously, but He did not. He first created Adam and later created Eve to be a helper for Adam, not vice versa. Paul explains (1 Corinthians 11:9): “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” Thus while being equal with Adam as an image-bearer of God, Eve was yet to be subject to Adam so that their relationship reflected the image of God and His relationship to His creation. So Paul is saying (1 Tim. 2:13) that the order in creation should be reflected in the church.

Then he adds the order of the fall (1 Timothy 2:14).

1 Timothy 2:14 (NKJV)

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) 

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

So Paul is saying here that this role reversal that brought such awful consequences on the human race should not be repeated in the church. The responsibility for teaching and leadership in the church falls on qualified men (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

Qualifications of Overseers 

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop (overseer), he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

How then can women serve in the church? If they can’t assume leadership and teaching roles over men, what can they do? Paul goes on to show that a woman’s normal sphere of ministry is in the home. If she serves in her God-appointed sphere, she will receive her reward.

C. The reward for submission is salvation from the curse (1 Timothy 2:15).

1 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) 

15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Many commentators call verse 15 one of the most difficult verses in the New Testament to interpret. As can be expected, many different interpretations have been suggested, each hinging on different lexical and grammatical variables. I can’t go into great detail, but here are a few:

(1) Women will be kept safe (physically; the Greek word for “preserved” is “saved”) through childbirth in spite of the curse of the fall. The problem with this view is that it isn’t true: many godly women have died in childbirth.

(2) Women will be saved (spiritually) through the Childbirth, namely, the birth of Christ, the seed of the woman, who brought salvation to the human race. The problem with this view is, if this were Paul’s meaning, “he could hardly have chosen a more obscure or ambiguous way of saying it” (Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles Eerdmans, p. 78).

(3) Women will be preserved from insignificance and find fulfillment by bearing children. This imposes an unusual meaning on the word “saved.”

(4) Women will be saved from the corruption of this sinful world by assuming their proper role at home. This is closer to the truth, but it doesn’t grant the normal meaning to the word “saved.”

(5) Women will be saved spiritually (with an emphasis on the future aspect of salvation) if their lives show the fruit of saving faith, namely, submission to God’s order as evidenced by taking their proper role as godly mothers. This is the best view, since the word “saved” in the Pastoral Epistles always refers to spiritual salvation.

This doesn’t mean that a woman earns salvation by bearing children. Rather, it looks at the future aspect of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. But genuine saving faith always results in a life of good works and in the development of godly character. The hope of future salvation should motivate us to a life of good deeds now, in spite of the hardships. Paul mentions child bearing to tie in the earlier reference to the fall. In spite of Eve’s sin and the curse (increased pain in childbirth), women who hope in God and His salvation will submit to their role in the home. An evidence of their salvation is their continuance in faith, love, sanctity (holiness), and self-restraint (the same word as “discreetly” in 1 Timothy 2:9, meaning control over one’s passions). Thus Paul comes full circle to say that the conduct of women in the church should be marked by godliness and submission.

1 Timothy 2:9 (NKJV)

 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,

I’ve spent most of the blog explaining a difficult text—difficult exegetically, but also difficult culturally, because it runs against the grain of our modern world. I want to conclude by applying these verses to three areas:

(1) Check your attitude toward Scripture: Defiant or compliant? Because of our rebellion against God, we all have a tendency to shrug off the parts of His Word that we don’t like. If you only submit to the parts of the Bible you like, then you’re just using the Bible to reinforce your sinful desires. Even Satan quoted the Bible with Jesus to support his temptation! The test of whether you are under the lordship of Jesus Christ is when the Bible confronts your preferences. Yes, we need to determine what the Bible means before we apply it. But it’s easy to shrug off difficult truth by saying, “I don’t agree with that interpretation,” when really we don’t want to submit to God. Be careful!

(2) Check your attitude toward the opposite sex: Competitive or cooperative? There should be no war between the sexes in the church. Men should esteem and affirm godly women for their ministries. Women should respect and submit to godly elders in their leadership. Elders are not to lord it over the flock, but to be examples of godliness. The times when elders need to use their authority are rare. If we all submit to God and serve in our God-given roles, there will be cooperation. And, as our text shows, Christian men and women should relate to one another in purity, not in sensuality.

(3) Check your attitude toward the home: A burden or a blessing? Children should never be viewed by Christian women as a hindrance to their fulfillment through a career. Children are one of God’s greatest blessings. The responsibility of shaping their character through godly example in the home is more important than any career, male or female, because the whole fabric of society depends on it. If we seek self-fulfillment, even if through a teaching or leadership ministry, we will come up empty. If we deny self and serve in the roles God’s Word ordains, He will bless us beyond measure.

Things to Ponder:

 1. Does submission imply weakness or inferiority? Why/why not?

2. Some say that the submission of women was related to the cultural situation of that     time. What are your thoughts?

3. Many evangelicals argue that Gal. 3:28 erases all distinctions in the church on the           basis of gender. Yes or No | Why/why not?

4. Is it wrong for a Christian couple to be purposefully childless in order to pursue a           career or ministry? Yes or No | Why/why not?

3 thoughts on “The Conduct of Women in The Church

  1. Grace and Peace,

    Thank you for your gracious and thoughtful response!

    While I hear where you are coming from in your blog, I graciously disagree with many of your conclusions. In my reading of Scripture, the framework through which complementarians talk about gender roles leads to a reading of Scripture that is in itself racist and misogynist.

    Below, I will attempt to treat the text mentioned in your blog post:

    Genesis

    Like Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma where listeners are thrust into majesty by means of his heavenly crescendo in the last note of the song; the readers of the creation narrative find themselves in awe of the majestic triune God of the universe who creates and sustains all creation by the power of his word. At the end of the creation accounts we find beauty, intimacy, completeness and the Heavenly Majesty looking upon all and He says it is “very good” (v.31). I think that it is worthwhile to note that each creation account ends with remarkable statements that define God’s perspective before the fall. Creation was “very good” not because it had something inherent within it to make it good, nor because creation somehow did something for God. Creation was “very good” because all things existed in relationship to him the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The second creation account (Genesis 2) records in relation to woman and man, the following: “the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (v.25). However, though we are presented with beauty, intimacy, and completeness in both creation accounts the reader quickly wanders: “What happened?” No longer are we dwelling in the world of Genesis 1 or 2 but we are wanderers in the world of Genesis 3 which is a world were harmony and goodness of Genesis 1 and 2 has been tainted. Critical to any understanding of God’s mission in feminism is creation. At least, in my journey the creation narratives provide for me with a framework of how it was before the tree incident and the narrative also describes how it is after the tree incident.

    The creation narrative reaches its apex in the creation of human beings in the Divine Image. But what does it mean in relation to female and male relationships? To be created in the Image of God means that human beings have been created to be in loving communion with God and with all of his creation through our representation of Godself on earth. [12] Being created in the image of God does not imply subordination, rather it suggests mutuality. That is to say that female and male share together in the Divine Image by being created in relationship with God and to the creation vv. 26-30.

    “In the Genesis 1 account of God’s creation, neither maleness nor femaleness connote a disparity in the rank or function. Both man and woman bear the image of God; thus the gender differentiation “images” the essential nature of the Godhead as community. As a result, they both share equally the God-assigned task of stewarding the natural environment without any intimation of role distinctions.”[13]
    It is interesting to note that in Genesis 2:15-18 God comments: “that it is not good for man to be alone”, so God makes a helper suitable for man. However, before we go any further we must identify what the word helper means. “The Hebrew phrase includes two words. The first of these, translated ‘helper’, implies someone who assists and encourages. ‘Help’ provides support for what is lacking in the one who needs help. It is a word that is used several times in the Old Testament for the help which comes from God…So perhaps ‘helper fit for him’ means ‘a helper matching his eminence’ or perhaps ‘his distinctiveness’. It certainly points to one who is fit to stand before the man, opposite him, as his counter-part, companion and complement. There is no sense of inferiority, subordination or servitude implied here – rather it is one who is ‘like him’, but ‘like opposite him’, (to give a literal rendering). Advocates of male superiority and authority will have to find support somewhere other than Genesis 2.”[14]

    Because of the delay between vv.15-18 and vv. 21-25 some commentators supporting the separate but equal perspective (complementarian perspective) point out that “Adam was given the mandate to care for the Garden before Eve was created (Gen. 2:15). Eve was to share in this mandate (Gen. 1:28), but she was to do so as a complementary helper to Adam (Gen. 2:18). Adam alone was directly commanded by God to rule the earth. Hence, Adam bore primary responsibility for carrying out the mandate.”[15] However, this reading of the second creation account is incoherent with the first creation account. Rather, both man and woman in Genesis 1:28 were equally given the mandate to rule creation.
    The fact that God put man in the garden first (Gen. 2:15) does not mean that man has a superior responsibility over the woman nor does it imply subordination, rather the delay between vv. 15-18 and vv. 21-25 serve to highlight man’s loneliness in the garden and the point that human beings have been created for relationship. “A close scrutiny of Genesis invalidates such a theory. As soon as primal origination becomes a norm conferring dominance to the first line, both Adam and Eve fall under the rulership of animals. According to Genesis 1, animals were created before humans. Therefore, they should rule over humans. The absurdity of such a theory is evident. Chronological supremacy of itself does not confer superior rank.”[16]

    Despite God’s identification of man’s need, there is a delay in his provision: contrast to the instantaneous fulfillment of the divine word in chap.1 this hold-up creates suspense. It allows us to feel man’s loneliness. All the animals passing by in pairs and man commenting: “Everything has its partner but I have no partner.”[17] From the perspective of creation, relationship between female and male was one of equality. “The teachings of the second chapter of Genesis confirm and expand on those of chapter 1. The delay provides a rationale for the essential oneness of male and female. Additionally, it also shows that in God’s creation’s ideal, woman and man were expected to enjoy a relationship of mutuality and equality. Nothing in Genesis 1 and 2 even hints at a disparity of essence or rank between woman and man.”[18]

    Woman and Man both shared together in the Divine Image as God’s representatives over all creation. It was not until the fall of human beings that the relationship between female and male went from equality to inequality. It is interesting to note in v. 16 part of the judgment is female subordination. “The fall led to catastrophic consequences for the relationship between God and humans. Woman and Man became alienated from God, and each of them assumed primal dependency on his or her original element. Adam’s life became subject to the ground from which he had been taken, and Eve’s to the man from whom she had been taken. The ruler-subject relationship between Adam and Eve began after the tree-incident. It was for Eve the application of the same death principle that made Adam a slave to the soil. Because it resulted from the tree-incident, the rule of Adam over Eve is evil in origin, no less than is death itself. The tree incident displaced God from a position of exclusive sovereignty over Adam and Eve. Their lives became subject to the forces of death unleashed on the environment.”[19] Therefore, in the chapters preceding Genesis 3, Woman and Man were to rule mutually over creation (1:26-30), now in light of Genesis 3 man dominates the woman.

    Ephesians

    Ephesians presents a picture of mutual submission. Verse 21 sets up the framework for the flow of the rest of the text: “Wives, therefore, are to submit to their husbands in the same all believers are to submit to one another. This text is not advocating a unilateral female submission to male authority. Rather, it is presenting the submission of wives as one application of the basic principle of mutual submission that is to be applied by all believers within the context of the body of Christ. The admonition to husband to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands is balanced out by the command for all believers to submit to one another.”[22] The description of the husband’s role in Ephesians 5:25-31 indicates that the wife’s submission “is not a one-sided submission, but a reciprocal relationship…to give oneself up to death for the beloved is a more extreme expression of devotion than the wife is called on to make. Culturally, the husband ruled the wife. But spiritually, he was to respect her as an equal, care for her as he cares for his own body, and nurture her as Christ does the church- all in context of a loving relationship of mutual submission. What Paul describes in Ephesians 5:21-33 is not a role relationship of two functionaries performing their respective job descriptions within a hierarchal authority structure. Rather, it is a relationship that flexes and flows with mutual, submissive love that follows always and only from husband and wife being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18-21).”[23] Christian submission is “rooted deeply within the verses preceding verse 21 and the verses that come after verse 21. Mutual submission is associated with the filling of the Spirit in verse 18. The command ‘be filled’ (v.18) is followed by a series of participles in the Greek: speaking (v.19), singing (v.19), making music (v.19), giving thanks (v.20), and submitting (v.21).”[24]

    Another assumption that we must define is biblical headship. What did Paul mean when he said: “That the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior?” (v.23) Does this imply that the husband is in authority over the wife or could Paul’s perspective be different? Complementarians give credence to the former, that is, the husband does have authority over his wife; however I do not believe that this interpretation is in line with the heart of Jesus.

    “It is particularly significant that there is no mention here of either the authority of a husband over his wife (which he had through civil law at the time of Paul’s writing) or the authority of Christ over the church (which he has always had in full measure). In order to conclude that Christ serves as a model for the husband’s leadership of the wife, it is necessary to presume that “head” has no possible meaning other than authority, or that the reference to the wife’s submission necessarily entails her unilateral obedience to her husband’s God-ordained authority over her. But neither of these assumptions are warranted by the text itself; they must be brought to the text from previously established assumptions. [25]”

    To understand the biblical headship we must understand the nature of the head-body metaphor. Rather than placing a ton of weight upon the chain of command model, “the biblical emphasis should be placed upon an understanding of our unity and interdependence as one body, whether in marriage or in the larger family of God.”[26] The term head does not imply an authoritarian rule, but it is being used by Paul to describe the deep relationship that exists between the head and the body. “This passage depicts marriage not as a hierarchal organization, but as a living, unified (head + body) organism.”[27] It is interesting to note that in v.23 the husband is paralleled to Christ the Savior of the Church. In that the husband’s headship is rooted in giving life. In laying down his life – his own needs, rights, and desires – out of love for his wife (whom he regards as his own body), a man becomes the source of life to his wife. The wife is similar to the church in that she must submit to the ministry of her “savior” if she is to benefit from his life-giving, nurturing love. The wife’s submission, however, is not unilateral; for the husband also practices submission as he gives himself up for her sake.”[28]

    Therefore, just as we live and are nurtured by Christ’s love so the wife is nurtured by her husband’s love. “The biblical difference between the roles of husband and wife is not described in terms of levels of authority, but there is a subtle difference nonetheless. Though they are equal in authority and mutual in submission, it seems the husband is in some sense a life-giver or “savior” to the wife in a way that the wife is not to him. There are two reasons for this: creation and fall.”[29] In the creation narratives the woman received life from the man. “This has significance beyond that of indicating their complete equality and unity in having been made of exactly the same “stuff.” It evidently serves somehow as a parable of the life-giving love that the Lord has for his people, and that God from the beginning intended a husband to have for his wife… the biblical headship of the husband described in Ephesians 5 is redemptive (analogous to Christ’s redemption of the church), in that it mitigates the effect of the fall which places the woman under male rule, and it helps to reinstate woman in her creational place of cultural responsibility alongside man.”[30]

    Timothy

    Most modern women who read 1 Timothy 2:11-15 are stunned to hear Paul’s comments to women in this part of scripture. Even I (a male) am dumbfounded when Paul says: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.” This statement seems contrary to the heart of Jesus and the whole flow of our discussion on the prominence of women. But could there be more to Paul’s prohibition than meets the eye or should his prohibition be understood as a universal principle that is binding upon all generations and cultures? “The fundamental question that needs to be answered with regard to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is whether this prohibition was advanced as a temporary corrective to a specific problem situation, or as a universal theological principle whereby upper echelon spiritual authority must be reserved for men and denied to women. Which of these two alternatives is more plausible, when judged in light of the whole Bible and the specific context of the passage?”[33]

    The context of the text seems to suggest that Paul’s prohibitions in 1 Timothy are cultural rather than universal principles that are binding for every generation. “If, as it seems most reasonable to believe, Paul’s proposed measures were designed to remediate a specific and immediate problem, then the proper understanding of their import would be in the context of their applicability to the particular situation in the Ephesian church. It is inconsistent to regard dress code in 1 Timothy 2:9 as culturally relative and, therefore, temporary, but the restriction on women’s ministry in 2:12 as universal and permanent.

    All these instruction are part of the same paragraph, the same flow of thought, and are elements of an epistle that was written, not as a general “church manual” applicable to all churches everywhere, but specifically for Timothy with respect to his assigned task of dealing with the false teaching in the Ephesian church at the time.”[34]

    Apparently, at the church in Ephesus there was a major problem with false teachers and these false teachers had a great influence upon the women. “It seems certain from 2:9-15, 5:11-15, and 2 Timothy 3:6-7 that these straying elders have considerable influence among some women, especially some younger widows, who according to 2 Timothy 3:6-7 have opened their homes to theses teachings, and according to 1 Timothy 5:13 have themselves become propagators of the new teachings. In 1 Timothy 5:13, these women are described as busybodies going about from house to house, “talking foolishness and speaking of things they should not.” As a result some have already “turned away to follow Satan” (5:15), [35]

    Some of my traditionalist friends assert that Paul’s prohibition of women is rooted deeply within the creation narratives. However, this interpretation fails to understand the context of Paul’s teaching.“On the surface, this instruction is puzzling. What difference does it make that Adam came before Eve? Wouldn’t this same logic require that the animals have authority over humans, since they were created before us? And wasn’t Adam deceived as much as the woman?

    Indeed, doesn’t Paul elsewhere place the onus of responsibility for the deception on Adam (Rom. 5:12, 17-19)? The puzzle is removed when Paul’s instruction is seen in the light of a common rabbinic understanding of what happened in the Garden. According to this tradition, Adam was at fault for not properly instructing Eve about the dangers and consequences of eating from the forbidden tree. Adam had been created first and had received instruction directly from God. Eve had been created second and was dependent on Adam for this information. This is why she was more vulnerable and also why Adam bore the brunt of responsibility for the tree incident. Timothy begins to make sense. Paul is appealing to this rabbinic understanding as a rationale for telling Timothy not to allow women in his church to teach. They are in the same position as Eve was and are therefore vulnerable (cf. 1 Tim. 5:11-15, where Paul expands on this vulnerability). This warning would have no application in cultural contexts in which women are afforded as much opportunity to learn as men are and in which there are no negative religious connotations associated with women in leadership.”[36]

    Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as a restriction on women requires that Genesis 2 be interpreted as affirming female subordination. [37] However, as we established earlier in the discussion Genesis 2 should be properly interpreted in light of Genesis 1. When Genesis 2 is interpreted in light of Genesis 1 we find no hint of female subordination within the text by female and male mutuality. Only after Genesis 2 does the reader experience a break from the original model in creation. In Genesis 3 the “woman’s desire will be for her husband, and he will rule over her.”[38] Lastly, the interpretations vary as to what is actually meant by v.15 but whatever Paul may mean it is a positive close to a negative beginning in vv. 11-14. I like Mark Roberts’s interpretation:

    “He asserts that verse 15 gives a promise that the women’s subordination is not permanent. The woman is redeemed from the very situation that keeps her silent vv. 11-12. Firstly, her redemption happens through bearing the Messiah where the woman’s deception and transgression is avenged and also where her reputation is restored. Second the childbearing action serves to counterbalance the order of creation in which the first man “bore” the first woman from his own body. Thus Paul is qualifying his reference to Adam’s temporal priority in creation as much as he qualified it in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12. In other words, whatever significance one may wish to derive from the fact that the first woman came from the first man, it needs to be balanced by the fact that ever since, man has come from woman. The restorative effects of woman’s bearing of the Messiah and women’s childbearing capacity in general, however, are insufficient. Individual women must also “continue in faith, love and holiness, with propriety.”[39]

    In a final word, whatever the interpretation may be Paul is encouraging the women of Ephesus to take heart in God’s promise of salvation, restoration, and deliverance.[40]

    In the New Testament, It clearly portrays, however, the fact that the early Church had a varied and faithful ministry arising from the fact that all of God’s people were “gifted” by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up one another (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 12:4-31, 14:1–19; Romans 12:3–8; Ephesians 4:7–16; 1 Peter 4:8–11). Any person could exercise ministry (which means, remember, service) who was called and gifted by God and affirmed by the body of Christ, the Church. Some were set apart in leadership positions and some were assigned specific tasks to accomplish, but the differences among ministries were not distinction of kind. Modern debates over the ordination of women often miss the crucial and basic issues of the holistic concept of the ministry of the Church reflected in the New Testament. Of course, no person should be ordained or given any responsibilities of ministry within the Church because of gender or for the sake of a “point.” On the other hand, we have affirmed in the Church that no person, called and gifted by God, should be denied any role of ministry or leadership in the church because of one’s gender. [42]

    In reading letters in the Pauline corpus interpreters need to be aware that the correspondences of Paul (or Pseudo Paul) were not written not primarily written to women and men in the 21st century. Rather, such letter were written to a particular group of people, to address a particular situation, in a particular context, at a particular time. Thus, to posit that Paul´s writing is binding universally on all women and men – an assumption the complementarians make – stretches the overall meaning of the text´s in question.

    For a wider conversation read ´women in ministry´ on my blog page

    Grace and peace,
    Rev. Jay How

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you get into the Hebrew roots for the word “submission” you ultimately end up at “under God’s arrangement”. You can dig into Greek and Latin and see that this word does not mean what the Western church would have us believing. We absolutely must submit ourselves to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to light up the way to walking that out. I do not need the eyes of man to approve me, because I want my heart for the Lord to be what adorns me. I want the Holy Spirit to clothe me in all I say and do.

    I also feel that the church has gotten too sensual in various ways and I do not say this lightly. Sexual addiction is on the rise everywhere and you can stand in line at any store in the country and be face to face with what could rightfully be considered soft core pornography. It is not just women in various stages of undress, because we have undressed men on these magazine covers, too. Our children are absorbing this! This disturbs me greatly and I am worn out from trying to protect the eyes of my preschool daughter and infant son from images they truly, truly do not need to see.

    Okay, I will put my soapbox away now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Submission to God is absolute. Once you know and apply the Word to your life, it will provide you with promises that enrich every aspect of your being, encouragement in the darkest night, and truths that can set the prisoner free.” —Pastor John Hagee

      As for getting off your soapbox, please stay on it. That’s how I learn from those who look at God and God’s word differently than I do. To me, to really understand God and how he operates, I need to hear it from others like you; testimonies to what God has done in your life. Secondly, I believe in looking back a Jewish history and the Old Testament from a Jewish point of view to see how they lived, what they thought, and how the approached God in all His glory. How they dealt with tribulations, what God did to help them get through their tribulations, the disciplines God gave them when they disobeyed and the victory they experienced when they came out the other end. The Hebrew and Greek words that permeated the Old Testament can at times become quite confusing simply because of how one fits it into the reality of what is being read and how to interpret exactly what is being said. As I’m sure you are well aware, there are so many interpretations of the Bible floating around that have distorted, embellished or simply gotten the picture all wrong. Going back to the original version of the Bible – the Tanakh and learning about Judaism’s scriptures, to me, can better help me understand HOW God’s truths work in our lives. This thing about reading the Bible in a year doesn’t really allow the reader to get into and study God’s word. So when it comes to understanding “submission” and how it relates to both men and women in the church and God’s calling to ministry, I agree the I need to further study the TRUE meaning behind that word and how it is applied. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 it talks about whether it is right for a man to pray covered and a woman to pray uncovered. But to really understand those passages of scripture, I believe I need to first understand exactly what the true meaning is behind “covered” and “uncovered” and how it applies to what Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians in these passages. At least that is my thinking. Because if you read Rev. Jay How’s reply to what I wrote, it gives you a different picture. Anyway, that’s my thought for the day. Thanks for your patience in listening (reading) to my ramblings on and may God continue to Bless you and your lovely family.

      Like

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