Over the last couple of weeks I’ve dedicated this blog space to a few of the doctrinal questions of our day. The questions have arisen not from some new evidence that someone has discovered calling into question long-settled Biblical doctrines, but because of 1) social pressures to “relax” God’s commands, and 2) an alarming lack of Bible knowledge among both young and old. Today, let’s talk about the roles of men and women, especially in the church
God made men and women different. Men and women both certainly bear the image of God. In that sense there is no difference. But in many other ways they are very different starting from their genes (XX or XY) onward. There are a differences in physique (we look different), in physical abilities (strength), in brain structures, in natural motor skills, and in what our bodies can do (have babies or not). God Himself created these differences and assigned men and women roles appropriately fitted to these differences in the family and in the spiritual community of the church.
However, despite the obvious and natural differences between men and women, there seems to be in secular society an ongoing competition between the sexes. Fueled by feminist philosophy there is a pervasive gender battle captured in the phrase “Anything you can do, I can do better”.
This gender battle has unfortunately found its way into the Lord’s church. Specifically, some want to bring women into the church’s assembly as leaders. But as our first article in this series pointed out, the first question the church must always ask is what God through the Bible says about it.
One matter that should be easy to settle Biblically is that women may lead other women, when men are not available to do so. Biblical examples of prophesying among women, praying among women, serving among women, and teaching among women can be easily found in the New Testament with apostolic approval and authority (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 1 Tim. 5:9,10; Titus 2:4)
However, the New Testament teaching is clearly different, when men are part of the assembly.
(1 Timothy 2:11, 12) A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
(1 Corinthians 14:34, 35) The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
The common response is that these are old fashioned rules that were determined more by culture and male-centered custom than the Lord Himself. However, these responses ignore both the context of these verses and the actual customs of the 1st century. Paul ties his teachings to the original eternal principles set down in Eden, in which the roles of men and women are clearly set down by God Himself, (Genesis 3:16) “To the woman He [God] said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.’” We should also notice that, culturally speaking, the pagan world was full of priestesses; if ever there was a time for a change in leadership roles, the first century would have been that time. Instead, the eternal principle of roles for men and women, given by God, was preached and practiced.
Others will argue that one passage of the New Testament proclaims equality of roles between the sexes, (Galatians 3:28) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Once again, however, the problem with this argument is that the next verse is left out: (Galatians 3:29) “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Paul’s teaching was not about gender role equality but rather about inheritance equality — that both men and women will considered “sons” in great inheritance of Heaven (sons were the only ones who received inheritances in that culture).
The teaching of Scripture may not be popular or cool in the modern age, but it is right nevertheless. Men and women are both made in the image of God, but there are differences. Among the differences are roles that God has assigned. Let us acknowledge the differences and obey the Lord, who always knows best.