The role of women in society is often the subject of much debate. In this series of articles, we will examine that topic from a biblical perspective, including:
- What the Scriptures say about Godly authority
- Deborah as an example for women
- The beauty of the woman's role & purpose
- The root of resistance to God's ordained roles (coming)
- Answers to common questions
What Saith Scripture About Godly Authority?
God's Authority is Patriarchal
"For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." Genesis 18:19
God chose Abraham because He knew that Abraham would command his children and his household. Just think about that for a minute. If many women were to hear a "command" from their husbands, the house would likely be turned on its head. We are not suggesting that husbands go around barking commands. The point is that God indicates that the proper role for the man is as a head who commands his household in the ways of God.
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" I Timothy 3:2-5
Here we have two very important points. A bishop must be a "husband". Not "can be". Not "should be". "Must be". A bishop is an overseer, an elder, a superintendent. The role of the pastor has two major areas of responsibility: that of a bishop (to oversee) and that of a shepherd (to lead, protect, and nourish).
Why must a bishop be a husband? Because he must first be exercised in how to rule/command his own family before He can do so in the family of God. Because the man then is the head of the home, he is eligible to be the head of the church.
This means that there are no such things as female "pastors" or "co-pastors". No woman is the husband of one wife and neither is she charged with being the head of the home so that she can prove herself eligible for that position.
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;" Titus 1:5-7
Here we have the word "elders" and "bishop" used synonymously; "ordain elders...for a bishop must be". Again, the elders and bishops must be a "husband".
Further, we see a similar criteria for eligibility based upon the household being in order (the children being faithful). Remember God's comments about Abraham reviewed above. The man is to rule and command His household in the ways of God. If he cannot do this, then he is not fit to be a pastor. Again, this discounts women as being eligible for this role.
God's Holy City is Established Upon Patriarchal Authority
"And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Revelations 21:12-14
The foundations upon which God's holy city is built, as well as the only way to enter into the city, is through patriarchal authority.
Elders and Five-fold Ministry Gifts Support the Patriarchal Order
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." Titus 1:5-6
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach" I Timothy 3:2
Elders are simply those mature enough in the faith to serve as leaders for the church body. The requirements for being a bishop or an elder is that one is the "husband of one wife". Further, the Scriptures use the words "elder", "bishop", and "pastor" interchangeably to refer to the same people.
In Acts Chapter 20:17, we see that the "elders" are being called together. This is the Greek word presbyteros. In verse 28, Paul calls these same men "overseers". It is the Greek word episkopos which is often translated in the NT as "bishop". So we see that elders are the same as bishops. In verse 28, Paul says these elders/overseers are responsible for "feeding" the church. The word here is "poimaino" which means to shepherd. It is from the word which is translated as "pastor" in Ephesians 4:11.
According to God, these elders were also overseers (bishops) charged with feeding (shepherding) the church.
Consider also 1 Peter:1-5 where God speaks of "elders" who again are charged with "feeding" the flock (shepherd, pastor), by taking "oversight" (bishop) for the people.
The role of bishop is for correction (evidenced in the symbology of the rod) and the role of shepherd is to feed, guide/protect (evidenced in the staff). Both the rod & the staff are used by the elders as a reflection of how Jesus guides the church.
"...thy rod AND thy staff they comfort me." Psalm 23:4b
"For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd AND Bishop of your souls." I Peter 2:25
The qualifications for being an elder, pastor, bishop is that one "must be" the husband of one wife.
Women are NOT to Have Authority Over Men
"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Genesis 3:16
The woman's desire will be to serve her husband and the husband will be the head of the woman. The woman's primary driver, the purpose of her being, is to support and serve her husband.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." Ephesians 5:22-23
Not only is the husband the head/ruler/commander of the wife, but the wife is to submit unto the husband. Whew, I just don't know if some are going to make it to the end of this series as I can hear the teeth gritting from here. :-)
Yet, consider this. Are these not the words of God? Do you consider yourself a servant of the Most High? Then why would there be any resistance whatsoever to these commands from God? If there is anything inside of you that tenses at these Scriptures, is that not an indication that you may not understand and at worse be resisting the role that God has ordained for you?
Another mystery is introduced here. The relationship of the husband and the wife is compared to that of Christ and the Church. There is some connection between the human marital relationship and that of Jesus with His Bride. Understanding the importance of this connection is critical to appreciating the treasure which is a woman.
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." I Corinthians 11:3-9
Again, we see the same parallel continued. The order of the human family is consistent with, and a reflection of, the order of the God-head. As such, the head of the woman is again confirmed to be the man.
In turn, the woman also is the glory of the man. This is a remarkable statement. As one preacher once said, "I know what kind of man I am dealing with once I see his wife." Everything that is righteous and Godly about the man (or perverse and ungodly) is seen in his wife. Nothing speaks to the character of a man like his wife. How many women have ever considered what her appearance, her demeanor, her words, and her activities say about her husband? Or do most women dress and live primarily for what pleases themselves? Yet, the text says that the woman is created "of" and "for" the man; not vice versa.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." I Corinthians 14:34-35
If any verse is seen to cause contention, it is this one. Is God really imposing a muzzle on women in church? Is a woman forbidden from making a sound in church? A careful reading of the verse indicates that this is not so.
Examine also I Corinthians 14:28 as God discusses speaking in tongues, "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God." The same terminology of "keeping silent in the church" is used. However, that doesn't mean the one speaking in tongues should not speak at all. He may do so to himself or God, but not by means of proclamation to, or addressing of, the church assembly without an interpreter.
Looking back on verses 34-35, we can see the qualification for women speaking in church. The admonition to be silent and not speak is specifically referenced in relation to obedience. There is a context of speaking in church that puts a women out of order and in disobedience.
"But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." Matthew 23:8-9
"Rabbi" is Jewish name for teacher. Rabbis were also called "masters" or "fathers". Is this an instruction that these words should never be used? No.
This text is not addressing the title or even the act of teaching itself. It is addressing an attitude of reverence and misplaced authority. We must not elevate people to positions of authority and honor where they then supplant the one who should be our true head.
Can a woman speak with men and expound the Gospel? Of course! Both Aquila and Priscilla did the same when teaching Apollos more perfectly about the way (Acts 18:26). Women are not to be elevated to positions of authority OVER men as "masters" or "teachers" because Christ is to be the man's head. This is the context by which women are limited in the teaching realm.
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 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." I Timothy 2:11-14
As with I Corinthians 14:34-35, we see again the admonishment for women to be in subjection (obedience) and silence when it comes to usurping authority over the man. No amount of learning, revelation, or wisdom overrides the roles that God has ordained. No woman becomes so "enlightened" and "anointed" that God has called her to be in a role He has expressly forbidden. Such would make God the author of confusion.
This verse also begins to shed light on why this is the case. First, Adam was formed before Eve as the patriarchal head. Secondly, Eve was the one who was deceived. So, is this a result of Eve's sin? Yes, in part. We saw that earlier in Genesis 3:15. However, it also has to do with the purpose for which woman was made (which we will review later).
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement." I Peter 3:1-6
Again, the woman is to be in submission to her husband, even to the point of acknowledging that Sara called her husband "lord."
Women Should Only Hold Teaching Authority Over Other Women and Children
"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may 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." Titus 2:3-5
Women in the faith have a responsibility to teach younger women in the ways of godliness, which includes properly supporting the husband in rearing the children.
Matriarchal Headship is a Curse
"Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:11-12
Notice that the rulership of women is something experienced by the "wicked" and is considered a curse by God. In fact these type of leaders (the women rulers) cause the people to go into error.
Some have claimed that this text does not proclaim matriarchal headship a curse, but if you examine the text, you will see why this is the case.
1. The whole chapter starts with God saying He is removing Godly leadership from Israel (verses 1-3).
2. He then goes on to give insight into what will happen as a result of Him removing Godly leadership:
3. Why is God doing this? Because His people have fallen and their ways are against the Lord. This is their reward for evil (verse 8-9).
- The people will be oppressed (verse 5).
- Children will be out of order and unruly (verse 5)
- There will be no restrictions on base behavior (verse 5)
- They will search for a patriarch and find NONE (verses 6-7)
4. It will be well for the righteous but ill for the wicked (verses 10-11)
5. God further explains this wicked by giving additional description of what is happening. Children are unruly and women are their rulers. Those which lead them are causing them to go into error (verse 12).
The next verses begin to discuss God's judgment as a result of the wickedness outlined in the above verses.
POINT 1. God sets forth the rulership of women as being one of the evidences of the wickedness in Israel.
POINT 2. The text indicates that the order of God has been disrupted as they search for male headship and cannot find it. Without a proper, God-ordained head, the order of society is disrupted resulting in unruly children and women rulers.
Notice that the implications of this disruption is not just limited to am impact on the family or home, but on society at large. That is because God's order is not limited to the home.
POINT 3. The text does not point to a specific "woman" whose rulership is in error. God is not referencing the character of a particular woman. He says part of what is leading them astray is that "women rule over them".
POINT 4. Lastly, the most basic evidence is that God had removed the Godly leadership in verses 1-3, so by inference the rulership that remains is unGodly (and clearly He defines the current rulership of being that of women).
In the absence of Godly leadership, there is women rulership and children out of order. This was evidence of God's judgment against Israel for their wickedness.
In reviewing the Scriptures, it is clear that God's authority for His people is patriarchal. Women are called to submit to that authority.
Many times, women will point to Deborah as an example of how God uses women and ordains them for service. In the next post, we will examine the judge and prophetess Deborah and the Godly example she sets for women in this regard.