Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 5Page 15May 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

   By Louis Rushmore


The Role of Women

Bev Weddle writes in response to an article of mine appearing on the internet:
I read your comments about the role of women.  I’ve been reading the same thing for years and you have a right to your interpretation of the scripture.  I would like for you to understand though that your words are wrong in my case when you say those that have a problem with women’s submission have “diminished respect for the authority of God and his holy word.”  I have the highest regard for God and his Word and believe it and will live by it.  But, I believe in the mutual submission of all people men and women alike.  Christ is the head of my home and has the last word in all that is done.  I lived under the heavy hand of male oppression for years and have found freedom in Christ.  I’m not using it as license to do as I please but I’m am no longer willing to be under the bondage the church and it’s leaders have tried to put on me for years.  There are some like me out here who do have the highest regard for God and his word yet do disagree with you.  Chaplain Bev Weddle


First, I respectfully submit that the reason that you have heard for years about the submission of women in the home and in religion is because Scripture teaches that doctrine.  In recent years, largely due to societal changes, contemporary modifications have affected the divinely given roles for men and women.  Scripture, however, has not changed nor has there been any new revelation for nearly 2,000 years.  As far as God and the children of God are concerned, the respective but distinctive God-given roles for men and women are unaffected by contemporary practice.  Efforts to apply political correctness to biblical roles are misguided.  Consider the following passages respecting the relationship between the roles of men and women in the home and Christianity.

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;  But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.  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.  Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

“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. . . . Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 9).

“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.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Ephesians 5:22-24).

“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; . . . 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” (1 Peter 3:1, 5-6).


Second, your assertion that “you have a right to your interpretation of the scripture” is biblically inaccurate.  Instead, Scripture reads:

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The biblical principle contained in the above quotation speaks to the divine origin of Scripture and that mortals are obliged to infer what God precisely states or implies in Scripture.  Therefore, none of us “have a right to your interpretation of the scripture.”  Personal opinions or preferences do not set aside anything that God has specified in Scripture.

Third, it is a noble goal as you state:  “I have the highest regard for God and his Word and believe it and will live by it.”  It is impossible, though, to exhibit “the highest regard for God and his Word” while living in open rebellion to it.  For instance, your statement “But, I believe in the mutual submission of all people men and women alike” conflicts with the passages above regarding the submissive role of women to men in the home and Christianity.

Fourth, the biblically submissive role of women to men in the home and the church does not grant men the right to abuse their wives.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29).
The “heavy hand of male oppression” that you cite does not justify negation of directives from God regarding the respective but differing roles of men and women.

Fifth, the “freedom in Christ” that you claim for yourself must correspond to the same granted by God respecting the roles of men and women.  Biblically, the equality between men and women pertains to redemption as indicated by the following passage.

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).
Otherwise, the differing roles of men and women remain constant.  Despite political correctness in modern society, perhaps nothing better illustrates the unchanging roles for men and women as God designed them than the immutable fact that the female of our species still must birth our offspring.  The apostle Paul alluded to this role in 1 Timothy 2:15, “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”  The “bondage” you decry is not the workings of feeble humanity but the device of Almighty God.

Sixth, your signature (i.e., “Chaplain Bev Weddle”) indicates the extent to which you advocate movement from roles assigned by God to women in the church to roles designated by God for men in the church.  Except in cases where women address women and children or in instances in which (such as a Bible study) where women participate with men but do not subordinate the class to them, the New Testament prohibits women from being preachers.  “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12).

“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” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
You write:  “There are some like me out here who do have the highest regard for God and his word yet do disagree with you.”  From the biblical evidence submitted above, I propose that your disagreement is not with me, but with God himself.  Doubtless we can see the futility of arguing with God.  Please do not disparage any mailman who faithfully delivers a message from God in heaven.  Please defer any displeasure with such messages to the mailer -- God.
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).

“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).


Are Women Scripturally
Prohibited From Uttering
A Word in Bible Classes?

This could develop into a very serious issue here if not resolved successfully. . . . We have a brother in a congregation planning to write a book advancing the proposition that women are to remain absolutely silent in the worship service.  He believes the Scriptures forbid a woman from making comments or answering questions in a Bible class even when under the authority of a man teaching that class. . . . There are some others with a similar stance.  These brethren want to see some hard core evidence that they are wrong before they will change. ~ Richmond, VA
Presumably the brethren whose proposition is represented above do not prohibit women from singing in the worship assembly.  If I understand correctly, the doctrine being advanced is that since women are biblically required to be silent in the worship assembly (except for singing), the same restriction regarding silence applies equally to women in the Bible classes typically conducted in our church buildings.

First, as I indicated in the preceding paragraph, the question at hand involves a doctrine (teaching) which brethren desire to enjoin on other Christians.  The task at hand is to ascertain whether this is a biblical doctrine.  I submit, and propose to demonstrate below, that it is not!

Second, the doctrine being advanced in the question above results from a fundamental misunderstanding of the distinction between a worship assembly and studying the Bible outside the worship assembly.  Once it is clearly established that the Bible class and the worship assembly are not the same, it can be easily seen that 1 Corinthians 14:34 does not apply to a Bible study.

First Corinthians 14:35 gives a sister the authority to speak regarding religious matters outside the worship assembly; it does not address a particular place or location (e.g., church building).  The fact that often the church assembled for worship in a home (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 2) clearly shows the distinction in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 between the event (worship assembly) versus the place.  The whole church does not come together ordinarily for Bible study; we have separate classes.  There are a number of other circumstances, too, for which the membership of a congregation might come together without it being a worship assembly (e.g., fellowship meal, wedding, funeral, ball game, etc.).  Therefore, a Bible study or class is not identical to a worship assembly and the 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 restrictions do not apply to a Bible study.

Additional information provided with the question above also indicates a mishandling of relevant passages, including 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and Acts 18:24-26.  Please note some legitimate observations regarding these verses.

In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, God by inspiration caused the apostle Paul to write concerning the role of women in the church and in the home.  The role of females is distinguished from the males by references to their subjection to males and the prohibition of females teaching over males with the inherent authority with which men teach (verses 8-12).  The subordination of males to females in teaching religious matters is prohibited.  Circumstances under which women may teach are not addressed in this passage.  We must turn elsewhere to learn under what circumstances women may teach.

In 1 Corinthians 14:34, women in the assembly of the church are forbidden to speak in tongues (languages), pray aloud, lead the congregation in singing and publicly teach. The same context prohibits more than one male to speak aloud at the same time (vss. 27, 31). If the message of a male was not intelligible to the assembly (because they did not know the language of the speaker), he too was to be silent (vs. 28). Additionally, not every male member is a public speaker (evident from observation).

“Silence” is qualified by various passages respecting the circumstances of the occasion.  For men, when one speaker ceased, he who was required to be silent before was then permitted to speak (vs. 31).  The silence enjoined on women in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 pertains to the worship assemblies, which is what the word for “churches” in that context means.  The silence enjoined on women (and men) in Romans 14 pertained to the teaching, etc. by a single male Christian, to whom all other persons in the audience were to be subordinate for the duration of his message.  “Singing” is an exception to “silence” in 1 Corinthians 14 as it applies to assemblies that includes not only women but men who otherwise  were to be silent.  The participation of women in our Bible classes wherein they ask questions, make comments or read Scripture is not governed by Romans 14:34-35 which applies to worship assemblies.  The participation of women in our Bible classes is governed by 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and Acts 18:26.

Acts 18:26 shows that women can speak in a Bible study in which men are present. Then, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 would apply, in part, to the same type of study, prohibiting the woman from assuming a role to which other participants were to be subordinate (like a teacher in one of our Bible classes).  Aquila and Priscilla both taught Apollos. The further question, however, is in what capacity did they (and especially Priscilla) teach Apollos, and what was the relationship of Apollos during that teaching to Aquila and Priscilla?  The teaching restrictions imposed by 1 Corinthians 14:34 on women do not apply in Acts 18:26 because Acts 18:26 is not an assembly.  However, 1 Timothy 2:11-12 does apply, but evidently was not violated in Acts 18:26 because neither Aquila nor Apollos were subordinate to Priscilla.  Priscilla did not assume a posture of authority over either her husband or the preacher.

First Timothy 2:8-15 can be violated by a woman at home, at work, in a restaurant, in a classroom at the church building on Sunday, in a college classroom or anywhere else that a woman teaches religious matters under circumstances where the male participants are subordinate to her.  Likewise, a woman teaching at home, at work, in a restaurant, in a classroom at the church building on Sunday, in a college classroom or anywhere else can and does occur often without violation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 when the male participants ARE NOT subordinate to her.  Women in our Bible classes in which men are present teach (under circumstances in which males are not subordinate to them) when they ask questions, make comments or read Scripture.  Those women and men who comprise such a class are subordinate to the male teacher of the class.

Aside from the presence of a class teacher, the relationship that women in one of our typical Bible classes sustain to other male classmates (and female classmates) is similar to the relationship that Priscilla in Acts 18:26 sustained to her husband and Apollos.  In one of our typical Sunday morning or Wednesday evening Bible classes, all class members are subordinate to the class teacher.  However, the class members are not subordinate to each other regarding the topic of teaching.  Neither the women nor the men are subordinated to the other in that teaching environment, excepting the class teacher to whom both male and female class members are subordinate.

It is an overstatement and an assumption of facts not in evidence, as proponents of this doctrine argue, to presume that Apollos was not a Christian.  If Apollos submitted to the baptism of John prior to the replacement of that baptism with the baptism of the Great Commission, his spiritual condition differed not at all from that of the apostles in Acts Two, the 120 disciples, the 500 disciples of 1 Corinthians 15 or the church to which the 3,000 in Acts Two were added (Acts 2:47).  There is neither textual evidence nor biblical principle whereby it could be successfully argued that the apostles, for instance, were required to be baptized anew in the baptism of the Great Commission in Acts Two.  There would have been no more requirement for the disciples baptized under John’s baptism (prior to the cross and Pentecost) to be re-baptized in the Great Commission baptism than for anyone who lived under Patriarchy or Judaism (God-authored religions) to be re-baptized to validate their compliance with the laws of God under which they lived.  As surely as the blood of the cross extended backward to the faithful under Patriarchy and Judaism (Hebrews 9:14-15; 10:14), the blood of Jesus covered disciples who submitted to John’s baptism prior to the cross.
 

Occasions When Women Teach

There are several different circumstances under which according to the New Testament that a female Christian may and even must teach.  (1) Christian women may teach other women (Titus 2:3-4).  (2) Christian women may teach children (2 Timothy 1:5).  (3) Christian women may teach men under circumstances in which male Christians are not subordinate to them (Acts 18:26; 2 Timothy 2:11-12).  (4) Christian women teach men and women through the singing of religious songs in the worship assembly (Colossians 3:16).  (5) Women teach when they make their good confession of Christ preceding baptism (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10).  In each of these instances, a Christian woman teaches but is not in conflict with either Romans 14:34 or 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

Conclusion

Women teach men without violating Scripture when they teach through singing (Col. 3:16) and under circumstances where men are not subordinate to them (outside the worship assembly), such as ‘around the kitchen table’(or any informal setting) or in classes (with or without a class teacher) where men are present and sisters read Scripture, ask questions or make comments.  The brother who denies that a sister can teach a Christian presumes too much!


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