The Woman Of God

        There is a question raised very often about the place of women in the church today. This is an important question and must be studied carefully. Let us begin by looking at the beginning.

        God created man and woman (Adam & Eve) to begin the human race. (Genesis 1-3). Man was first created, then woman. The New Testament speaks about this creation in 1 Corinthians 11.7-9. In that passage, Paul said that the woman was created for the man and is to be in submission to man. Paul said the same in 1 Timothy 2.13. Woman was created in the image of God just as was man (Genesis 1.26-27), but the position of woman is a place of subjection to man. In Genesis 3.16 God decreed the position of woman by saying to the woman, “Your desire will be to your husband and he shall rule over you.” So we can see, the creation order, that is God's plan from the beginning, is that woman be in submission to man.

        When we take a closer look at this topic, we see the home. In Ephesians 5.22-25, Paul tells us that wives are to be in submission to their husbands because the husband is the head of the wife. The husband is to love his wife even the way Christ loved the church. Jesus loved the church by sacrificing for the church. Husbands must love their wives by sacrificing for them. Husbands will consider the needs of their wives and children before their own needs. Wives must love their husbands and care for them and the children while being in submission to the husband (Titus 2:4-5). So, we can see that also in the home women are to be in submission to the men. Polygamy, adultery and other sins are ways that men corrupt God's plan for the home, but we must all strive to put everything in a godly order.

        When we look at the woman's place in the church, we see that the New Testament tells us of many women who were active in the work of the church. Read these passages: Acts 12.12; 16.13-15; 18.26; 21.8-9; Romans 16.1-2; Philippians 4.2-3. Truly, God has a very important place for women in the church. However, there are limitations. The basic passage of scripture that helps us know what limitations God has set for the women in the church is 1 Timothy 2.8-15. If you read this passage, you will see that the Apostle Paul is talking about the place of men and women. He first tells the women to dress in a moderate way, a proper dress that glorifies their spirit of humility and the position that God has given them. The most important, Paul says, is that the woman's life be of good service and a godly faith. Then, Paul said women are not to teach or have authority over men. Now, this is simple for us to see. In creation, the home, and the church, God's order is for women to be subject to men. So, in the church, Paul is saying that women cannot have a position that places them in authority over the men. We know he is telling us about life in the church because of 1 Timothy 5.14-15; the context--the setting of the passage--is about life in the church.

        Now when we think on these things, we see that Paul continues in 1 Timothy 2.13-15 to tell us that this is God's order from creation and God has a place for women. They are glorified in the position of motherhood that God blessed women with in Genesis 3. Therefore, women are not to teach or preach to men in the church. Neither can women have any position that puts them over men in the church.

        There are two more passages that are to be considered in this question: 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 and 14.33-36. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul is speaking about a problem in the church at Corinth. The problem was about the women not wearing a head covering to show submission to the men as was their custom. In verse 5, he mentions women who prayed and prophesied. God had given some women the gift of prophecy which tells us that God never forgot His daughters (Acts 2.16-18). However, Paul said it was a shame for the woman to worship God without a head covering. This was the custom of the day - the Greek people caused their women to wear head coverings (it covered the face also). If any woman did not cover her head, she was considered an evil, adulterous woman. Paul said how can you women pray or prophesy without the symbol of authority on your head. You must show submission to the men. Now, my brethren, this is all that Paul considers in the passage. Let us not try to take more water from the bucket than we have put in the bucket. The point is that women must be in submission to the men in the church.

        In 1 Corinthians 14.33-36, Paul has been discussing the speaking in tongues, prophesying and other gifts that were then in the church (chap. 13-14). As he speaks of brethren prophesying, he turns his attention to the women and says that women are not allowed to speak at such times in the church. The women are to be silent as even the law of Moses says (Creation Order). The women are to seek explanation in private and not speak in public worship. There are many questions about this passage, but remember: Paul is discussing prophesying and the exercise of miraculous gifts that do not exist any longer (1 Corinthians 13.8-12; Ephesians 4.8-16). When Paul said the women are “to be silent,” he used a strong word that means “don't speak at all.” But we know women must also sing (Ephesians 5.19; Colossians 3.16) and women are to teach other women (Titus 2.3-4). Therefore, we must consider these scriptures carefully.

        I believe when we look carefully, we will see that these two passages from 1 Corinthians (11.2-16; 14.33-36) were directed to that special time, and need to be seen as they applied to those brethren. For a Greek woman in Paul's day, by custom she could not prophesy or pray while wearing the head covering, but if she took it off, she would not be showing proper respect to the men. Therefore, the apostle is telling us that women were not to lead in public assemblies because they would not be in subjection to men (11.2-16). As the whole church was assembled, the women were not permitted to speak because they would bring confusion into the prophesying (14.33-36). Therefore, these passages related to those days and that specific time. It is not our custom today that women must wear a head covering to show submission to men, so chapter 11 only teaches us the general principle of women's submission to men.

        It is 1 Timothy 2.8-15 that teaches us very plainly that women are not to have any teaching position over men in the church. But there are so many works for the women in the church as we have seen how God used women in the New Testament--evangelism, teaching women and children in the church, caring for the needy, preparation of items for worship, and other services to the church--so many places for the sisters. We should not neglect our sisters in church decisions. We should hear their voice and then the men make decisions. If a husband asks his wife's advice or wants to know his wife's thinking on a topic, does this mean she is no longer in submission to him? No. A husband can seek his wife's thinking on a topic, consider it, discuss it with her, and still be the head of the wife. So in the church, we must not neglect our sisters, but encourage them in the work of the Lord.

        We read of women in the Bible who exercised political and economic authority (Deborah, Judges 4.4; Esther, Esther 9.29-32; Lydia, Acts 16.14; the virtuous woman, Proverbs 31.24), but we have seen in the home and the church, God plans that women be in submission. Let us study these verses carefully and prayerfully and be diligent in God's service. This short discussion cannot answer every question, but we know that in Christ "there is neither male nor female." (Galatians 3.28). We are all equal in God's sight, but we have different positions placed upon us according to God's created system. May God bless us all.