|Vol. 14 No. 8 August 2012||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
In the Beginning
The relationship of the female role to the male role (i.e., women subject to men) pertains to the origin of each gender and the supportive role of woman at creation. “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9 NKJV). Further, the order of creation affects the respective roles of men and women. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). Additionally, woman, represented by Eve, was the first human to sin. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). (Adam sinned as a result of his devotion to Eve and his failure to lead as God intended. Scripture, naturally, does not excuse Adam in his sin.)
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. “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’” (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.
Throughout Patriarchy & Judaism
Patriarchy is what we typically call that period of time from the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden until the inauguration of Judaism when the Ten Commandments were given by God to the Israelites. The word “patriarchy” is a compound word meaning, “father” and “rule.” God ruled through the fathers of the families. God communicated with some of the fathers who were responsible for communicating His Word to their families and other families, too.
Some of those fathers to whom God communicated in that time are familiar Bible characters: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the course of that communication from God, the husband and father of the family was given the responsibility for governing his family. Of Abraham, God said, “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 KJV). The inspired apostle Peter observed that Sarah was submissive to Abraham. “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Peter 3:5-6 NKJV).
Likewise under Judaism, male leadership in the home continued as it had begun in the Garden of Eden. Consequently, Numbers 1:4 speaks of the “head of the house of his fathers.” Zacharias confirmed Elizabeth’s naming of their son as John, which indicated that as husband and father, Elizabeth was obliged to be submissive to him (Luke 1:59-63). The background of the Old Testament where it lends insight into the workings of the Jewish home shows that male leadership in the home continued through Judaism.
In Christianity, Too.
The reasons given in God’s inspired Word for the respective roles of men and women predate the development of “socio-cultural conditions.” Therefore, social and cultural considerations are irrelevant to the God-ordained roles of men and women. The New Testament plainly assigns differing roles for men and women. Nothing in Scripture or since by any means mitigates, alters or changes in the least what God caused to be inscribed upon the pages of inspiration regarding this topic.
First Corinthians 11 was penned to reestablish among Corinthian Christians the relationship of the roles of men and women to each other under Christianity. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). This truth is valid both in the church of our Lord and in the home. Repeatedly in the New Testament one finds male dominance in the home. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
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, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28).
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.” A woman does not attain salvation by giving birth, but the point of the passage is that she cannot expect to be approved of God while abandoning the role that He has assigned to women.
There is biblical equality between men and women pertaining to redemption as indicated by the following passage. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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” (Galatians 3:26-28). However, the roles between men and women are different.
Male Leadership Concerning One’s Family
The assumption from 1 Timothy 5:8 is that primarily the head of the house has the responsibility of providing for his family – including his extended family in which may be widows according to that context. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” There are two primary ways that male leadership in the family manifests itself: Male Leadership Concerning One’s Wife and Male Leadership Concerning One’s Children.
Male Leadership Concerning One’s Wife
Not only was Sarah submissive and obedient to Abraham under Patriarchy, the apostle Peter used that fact as an example for women to be submissive to their husbands under Christianity (1 Peter 3:5-6). It is not enough that wives are willingly submissive to their husbands, but husbands need to embrace their God-given responsibilities in the home. If husbands and fathers do not accept their duties at home, the void will not persist, but wives and children will assert themselves. Somebody has to take charge of the home and make decisions. If the husband does not take charge, his wife will take charge – if for no other reason because someone has to do it.
Teaching in Scripture that a wife must submit to her own husband places the responsibility for the home on the husband. However, in recent years, largely due to societal changes, contemporary roles for men and women have been modified from what God ordained. Scripture, though, 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.
My wife frankly reviewed as objectively as possible feelings she began to experience while working outside the home. A Christian woman is uniquely qualified to summarize some of the dangers to God’s arrangement for the home when women go to the workplace. At the same time, a Christian woman can contrast those dangers with God’s revealed will respecting the roles of men and women. Bonnie wrote:
The common practice of more women working outside the home in recent years contributes to the confusion of the “role of women.” … The more time women spent in the workplace earning their own incomes equal to or more than their husbands, the more many women enjoyed being away from home and families… Having decision making jobs in the workplace, women began to believe they could make decisions at home and have the final say as well. Earning an income that was solely theirs made it easier to get a divorce than to work out the problems when the God-given role of the head of the house began to crumble. Unfortunately, the children are the ones to suffer, and as time continues the children repeat the failures of their parents. A cycle starts that is hard to break.
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. First Peter 3:7 reads, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” The role of the husband complements the submissive role of his wife as he provides for and praises her. They are the team, and he is supposed to be the team leader.
The American Standard Version of the Bible reads: “workers at home” where the King James Version has “keepers at home” in 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. Male leadership in the home regarding one’s wife includes exhibiting love toward her and appreciating her for all she does to make the home. Leadership involves providing for her and empowering her in the home. Male leadership honors the mother of his children with the backing to manage the home, including their children. Husband and father is half of the team, with his wife and the mother of their children being the other half of the family management team. A Christian wife will submit to the leadership of her Christian husband, but it is easier for her to submit to a godly spouse who takes upon himself the responsibility of leading the home.
When we notice the need for something to be done, we do not consider the overall picture. Then, we step in and do what needs to be done without realizing that we may be overstepping God’s place for us in the home and the church. I believe that if men realized God has a plan and role for them and if they would readily accept and act upon that role, women would not think that they needed to step in and help the men in their roles. … When men fail to accept and practice their responsibilities as fathers and husbands, many women feel “that if it is going to be done, I will have to do it.” (Bonnie Rushmore)
It is a man’s fault when a woman assumes a role that God never gave her in the home. It is his fault because he allows her to abandon her role and seize his role. Often, he is also at fault for leaving undone what he should have done, intentionally or unintentionally leaving it for his wife to do. The home will be better coordinated when each fulfills his or her role.
Male Leadership Concerning One’s Children
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Mothers (and grandmothers, too) play an indispensable role in childrearing (2 Timothy 1:5). 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 than the proper care of her family. Nevertheless, God holds the father ultimately responsible for rearing his children. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
If the father does not exercise himself with the authority invested in him by God through the Scriptures, children will assert themselves. If they have to, children will raise themselves, and it is not a pretty sight. Neither did God intend for mothers to raise their children without the children’s father. Some fathers are physically present, and yet, they are absent spiritually and socially from positive interaction and guidance of their own offspring.
Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 just noted is the New Testament abbreviation of the parental responsibility, especially belonging to fathers, to indoctrinate their children with the Word of God. Notice Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 4-8.
Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life… Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Not under Judaism and not under Christianity either dare a father neglect acquainting his children with God’s Word at all times. Christian fathers should not leave the religious education of their children solely to their wives. It is also shirking a father’s duties to expect the church to take the full responsibility of informing one’s children about Christian doctrine and Christian living. At best, children only experience Bible class and worship a few hours weekly, but parents have their children hours daily. Given the adverse effect of the world on our offspring, parents need to seize every opportunity for positive reinforcement with the Bible.
The roles in religion and in the home that God established from the dawn of man’s earthly pilgrimage are still in force. The inspired apostle Paul clearly taught that these roles God assigned men and women from creation onward were yet effective under Christianity. No passage elsewhere in the New Testament nullifies these God-ordained roles for men and women. No one has the authority to countermand God in this (or any other) matter on which he has legislated in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).
The fact that many males may not rise to the occasion to be the husbands and fathers in the home that they should be is a sad commentary on men, but that human failure does not, for instance, make a wife into a husband or make a mother into a father. The home needs both male and female roles to be the coordinated home that God designed it to be.
Men and women differ physiologically, but they are of equal worth respecting salvation (Galatians 3:27-29). Nevertheless, God gave differing but complementary roles to men and women. Mindful of those differing roles, while the woman is to submit to the man, the man has added responsibilities toward the woman. The God-authored physiological differences between the sexes also correspond to the respective roles that God assigned each sex. The man generally enjoys greater strength while the woman in her supportive role is usually not quite as strong physically.
Women demonstrate equal academic capabilities with men. Emotionally, women typically differ from men. Between the two sexes, their combined emotional characteristics furnish the home. Both sexes have the same capacity to excel morally, though often women outshine many of their male counterparts. There are many women who are spiritual giants and who make the home and the church more of what God wants them to be. However, neither men nor women are spiritual giants when they disdain God’s respective roles for men and women.
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 cannot be denied that the Bible also plainly teaches that women are subject to men (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 11:3). Further, 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 in 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)! Men who fail to or neglect to take upon themselves the role God has bestowed upon them also despise “sound doctrine” and blaspheme the Word of God.
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.
Disagreement is not with me, but with God Himself when someone proposes to change the respective roles of men and women that God initially instituted in the Garden of Eden. Doubtless, we can see the futility of arguing with God. Please defer any displeasure with such messages to the mailer – God.
Rushmore, Bonnie. Gospel Gazette Online. March 2001. 24 May 2012. <https://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/2001/mar/page16.htm>.