Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 5 Page 5 May 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

The Role of Women in the Church

By Louis Rushmore

Discussion of “The Role of Women in the Church” treats the topic of subjection, though only a single facet of that God-appointed chain of authority; excepting God the Father, everyone is subordinate to someone else (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Hebrews 2:8). “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” (1 Corinthians 11:3). “It is just as wrong for a woman to take man's place as it is for man to take Christ's place” (Lottie Novak). 

The church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 1:22; 5:24); all men are subject to “the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3; James 4:7); everyone is subject to governments (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13); and, children are subject to parents (Luke 2:51; Hebrews 12:9). Further, it cannot be denied that the Bible also plainly teaches that women are subject to men (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 11:3). And, Scripture abundantly denotes that wives are required to be subordinate to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22-25; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:5-6), even if their husbands are not Christians (1 Peter 3:1). 

The “Role of Women in the Church” or the home is only controversial to those who exhibit diminished respect for the authority of God and his Holy Word! Christians who reject the subordinate role of women despise “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1, 4-5) and blaspheme the Word of God (Titus 2:5)! 

The subjection of women to men is a divinely given principle that predates both Christianity and Judaism; God instituted the respective roles of men and women in the Garden of Eden, at the dawning of Patriarchy. “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). Therefore, the subordinate role of women to men does not pertain to custom or culture, but predates both. Also, the Gospel has not altered or removed the subordinate role of women any more than it has affected (1) painful childbirth, (2) sweat and labor, and (3) physical death (Genesis 3:16-19), all of which will remain until the end of time. 

The inspired Word of God gives several reasons for the subordination of women: (1) “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13); (2) woman, not man, was deceived by Satan (1 Timothy 2:14); (3) woman was created from man (1 Corinthians 11:8); and, (4) woman was created for man (1 Corinthians 11:9). Yet, a woman's salvation and worth are not tied to a man (Galatians 3:28); still, the Gospel does not dissolve physical distinctions between races, political or economic status, or sexes. 

This passage [Galatians 3:28] deals with the worth of Christians in God’s sight, not the abolition of roles. The death of Christ certainly did not do away with roles. There are still the roles of husbands and wives, parents and children, governments and citizens, elders and congregations, in addition to others. While we have different roles to play, all Christians have the same worth in God’s sight (Jane McWhorter). 
However, in consequence of the subordination of women, God assigned women a unique role and placed some restrictions upon them as well. “All commands are to all Christians unless God has made an exception, and He made some exceptions concerning women” (Lottie Novak). 

In the home, a wife and mother has chiefly domestic duties (1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:1-5). This area of godly service especially includes for a mother the care for and guidance of young children; a mother has no more important duty before God and in service to the church than the proper care of her family. “When woman vacates her place, she has vacated a place that no one else can fill” (Lottie Novak). 

The American Standard Version of the Bible reads: “workers at home” where the King James Version has “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5). Truly, God has given to women work to do: (1) which they must accept to please him, (2) which mission should be joyfully received, and (3) for which women deserve ample appreciation for their godly labors. 

. . . the simplicity of the phrase “keepers at home” demands our understanding of it. Just as a zookeeper runs or works in a zoo, so a ‘home keeper’ runs or works in the home (Cindy Colley). 
As a wife, woman is more than a mate. She is a partner with her husband in their mutual quest for earthly and heavenly goals, through separate roles. A subordinate and dutiful wife deserves love and kind treatment from her husband (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7). Aquila and Priscilla are a noble Bible example of a husband-wife team worthy of contemporary emulation. 

In the church, leadership roles are assigned to men and supportive roles are delegated to women; yet, not even every man can be an elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7), or deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13), or preacher, or teacher (1 Corinthians 12:18). But, men as a group are charged by God with the responsibility to guide and publicly teach the church; God has forbidden women these same duties. 

"I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 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" (1 Timothy 2:8-12). 
The context of 1 Timothy 2:8-12 pertains to worship and notes the respective roles of men and women regarding its public aspect. The apostle Paul used a Greek word (a derivative of aner) denoting men in contrast to women in verses eight and 12 to identify: (1) who was to offer public prayer, and (2) whom women are prohibited to teach by exercising authority. Earlier in 1 Timothy 2, Paul repeatedly used a different Greek word (a derivative of anthropos) when referring to mankind, which includes women (verses 1, 4, 5).  
Woman . . . has never been given the right to teach over him in an authoritarian way. The broad principle applies to the situation anywhere that Christians have assembled for spiritual matters, whether it be at a church building, a home, a convention hall, or a lectureship at a Christian college. No man, not even an elder, can give the woman permission to violate God’s law (Jane McWhorter). 
Though women are forbidden to do a certain type of teaching, yet they are commanded to teach (Titus 2:3-5), and women taught — not publicly, not exercising dominion over men — in New Testament times, teaching men privately (Acts 18:24-26), other women (Acts 21:9; Titus 2:3-5), children (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15) and their husbands (1 Peter 3:1). 

Women also speak and teach when they participate in singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Women are not commanded to be absolutely quiet in the assembly, as “silence” (KJV) or “quietness” (ASV) in 2 Timothy 2:12 means “silent attention.” 

Instead of bemoaning God’s chain of authority and dwelling on what women cannot do, all should realize that there is more that women can do than what God does not permit them to do in the church. Women today are in the ministry — they are servants — if they serve the church (Romans 16:1) and do good works (1 Timothy 5:10); the same is equally true of men who, though are not themselves elders, deacons or preachers, also work for the church. 

Some of the works which women may do include: write Bible class material, visit the sick — shut-ins — weak members — newcomers, see that recreation through the home is provided for the church's youth, prepare the communion, assist women at baptism (and wash baptismal towels & garments), grade Bible correspondence courses, teach women's and children's classes, office work (bulletins, etc.), clean the church building, help evangelize, baby-sit for other church workers and arrange bulletin boards. Only one’s imagination limits the work which women may do in the church, yet within the bounds set forth by God in his Word. 

Even much of what the church overall or a family does is done by the industry of women; hospitality depends on wives; benevolence is often the direct result of women seeing to the needs, carrying the items to the needy, or buying the canned goods for a church pantry. Women are indispensable, but in the role God ordained for them! So is it with men also — as God ordained. 

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Louis Rushmore, Editor
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