Please discuss the role of women - in the church and out

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Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
This discussion brings up another question that I have. What does a woman do in the case that she has no spiritual head? How does she learn and whom does she go to for counsel if she cannot be taught spiritual things by other women, or cannot ask questions at church?
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
This discussion brings up another question that I have. What does a woman do in the case that she has no spiritual head? How does she learn and whom does she go to for counsel if she cannot be taught spiritual things by other women, or cannot ask questions at church?

... or supposing she is married, but she is converted and her husband isn't?
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
When single, I was very blessed to have some elders see me as a bit more directly under their care -- they and their wives were very free with their counsel, encouragement, instruction and so forth. Much of what made me appealing to my husband can be attributed to what they taught me!
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This discussion brings up another question that I have. What does a woman do in the case that she has no spiritual head? How does she learn and whom does she go to for counsel if she cannot be taught spiritual things by other women, or cannot ask questions at church?

I haven't responded so far in this thread, because honestly, I just didn't want to get into the topic again, and I've said a lot in the past, but this question immediately sets off red flags in my mind.

Christ is our head. There is no mediator between God and man except Christ. Men are not the mediators between God and women. There is a teaching that has gone around the church for many years, (I've seen leanings toward this on this board) that somehow because God made man the spiritual head of his wife, that men are the spiritual head of the church and that women married or single are always to be under the physical leadership of man. That is NOT what Ephesians 5 says. It says, that man is head of his wife, and Christ is the head of His church.

Ephesians teaches a comparison between men and their wives and Christ and His church. It does not set up a headship of men over the church. Now before everyone goes nuts on me, let me continue by saying that I in no way advocate women leadership in the church. It is clear from Scripture that men are to be elders and pastors. However, if we forget that Christ is the head of His church, then sometimes we let men think they are the head. They are not the head, they are the appointed leadership until Christ comes back.

Going on to the issue of submission. That means that women are to respect that leadership role that Christ has given to the men and listen and pay attention and learn when they speak. That does NOT mean that everything that the leadership says is right, nor does it mean that women are to blindly obey everything that is said. Women are just as responsible before God to search out the Scriptures as the men are. The only difference is that men are the ones Christ put in charge. It is a natural order.

In my mind it is pure nonsense to think that women who are not married, who have no father and who are forced to be out on their own can't think for themselves or make wise decisions. Scripturally speaking, those women should look to Christ as their head, and find a good church where they can taught the Scriptures under the leadership of godly men.

I deeply respect and follow the leadership of my pastor and elders, and I have no desire to fill their shoes, and they know that. I also see from them a deep respect for me as an individual, and in no way do they treat me as their inferior. In many cases over the years, I have been treated more with disdain than respect because I'm a woman.

What does a woman do when her husband is not a believer, or her husband does not follow the Lord? Christ is still her spiritual head, and to the best of her ability, she should submit to the leadership of her husband. If the husband openly disobeys the Lord and asks her to do the same, then she will have to follow the Lord first.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in my mind with women going to both men and women for counseling depending on the situation. My husband is not a godly man, so when it comes to spiritual advice, it's pretty much useless. However, my sister is a godly woman, and she is married to a godly man. I go to them both for advice all the time. My father is no longer alive, and so I often go to my mother for godly counsel. She is wealth of wisdom. There are also other godly women in my church I go to. I've sought advice from men on this board, from my pastor, from my elders.

I know this is a long post, but let me add just one more point. Women who buck God's authority and try to lord it over the men miss out on a lot. The same is true for the men. Men who lord it over the women in their lives, and lord it over the churches where they lead, are also missing out on a lot. In both cases, they are destroying the beautiful picture of how Christ and the church works, they are damaging the testimony of the Gospel to the world, and worse, they are damaging one another.

-----Added 8/18/2009 at 09:56:18 EST-----

NOTE: On my comments about single women. In US society, women are still pretty much free to support themselves more than in other societies. One of the roles of fathers and husbands is to protect their daughters and wives, and keeping them at home may be a way to do this. However, unless someone can show me, I don't see anywhere in Scripture that commands fathers to keep their daughters at home until they are married.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Rachel, yes we are agreed :).

Yvonne and Jenny, those scenarios are one reason why I agree with Joy that a strict association of theology with headship isn't biblical or practical (we have the example of Timothy's mother who was knowledgeable in the Scriptures without being able to learn via her husband); and why it seems important not to apply teaching about the sphere of the church as if it were teaching about all other spheres. It's clear that a woman married to an unbeliever is under the headship of her husband as regards submitting to his will and pleasing him; but as I understand from other discussions on the board, she is at least in some respect considered a 'spiritual' head of her household in the church? (because her children are considered 'clean' on her account?) It seems from the example of Timothy that such a woman is right to take up the responsibility of educating her children in God's word. I think that a single woman in more of Lydia's circumstance is the legitimate head of her own household (whether you're a paedo or a credo baptist, the way 'and her household' is used seems to indicate that she and her household didn't have to come under male household headship to come into the church?).

However all of us are under male headship in the realm of the church as Joy lays out. I think life can be especially hard for single ladies, widows, and those married to unbelieving husbands; and it's important to have good encouragement and counsel from godly men in the church.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
However all of us are under male headship in the realm of the church as Joy lays out. I think life can be especially hard for single ladies, widows, and those married to unbelieving husbands; and it's important to have good encouragement and counsel from godly men in the church.

So, practically speaking, couldn't we still apply the principle of headship here? The Scriptures give a clear command that the Church should care for the widows and the orphans for this very reason. So could we say that in the case of a woman without a head that the session of the church now becomes her head?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Yvonne, I don't think they become her head in the same way that a husband is the head of his wife -- that is a different relationship involving a different covenant, and a different picture. I don't think they can, in that case, be responsible for the decisions of her household (she is still the head of her own household). But I do think they are commanded to take special care of these ladies who are without male protection from all the cares of the world, as God takes special care of those who are defenseless.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I Timothy 5

3Honour widows that are widows indeed.

4But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

5Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

6But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

7And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.

8But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

9Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.

10Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

11But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;

12Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.

13And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

14I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

15For some are already turned aside after Satan.

16If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

Great discussion- edifying and helpful, reflects spiritual maturity.


I Timothy 5 specifically details how dependent widows were taken on as a support charge of the church.

They have to be destitute financially- that is without visible means of support, especially from family, including of course a husband.

At least 60 years old, vow to remain unmarried (vow to the church), without responsibility for children.

They must have the exemplary life qualities mentioned.

(Incidentally, this is the only place where the concept of 'deaconess' came from historically in the church- not at all the same thing as the authoritative office of Deacon and Elder in I Timothy 3, as modern proponents now assert).

I'm not exactly sure how this fits into the discussion about headship, but it does show how the church is to care for one destitute class of persons as part of its witness.

It's interesting to note that if one of these "servant widows" were to marry, the implication is they would come under the support charge of their husband, and would no longer be qualified as a "widow indeed" for the church to assume the support charge for.

It also seems clear that if a widow were able to support herself financially or was otherwise provided for, she would not be qualified as a "widow indeed."
 

A2JC4life

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't typically hear headship supported primarily from Ephesians 5, but from 1 Corinthians 11. This says that "the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." How does one derive an exception from that?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Rachel I don't think anyone is trying to derive exceptions from 1 Corinthians 11, which addresses the created order in the context of the church? Is that what you are asking?

Scott thank you for posting that explanation: I was wondering how that would play into the discussion.
 

A2JC4life

Puritan Board Freshman
I was wondering how the teaching referenced here:

There is a teaching that has gone around the church for many years, ... that women married or single are always to be under the physical leadership of man. That is NOT what Ephesians 5 says.

...is not in keeping with Scripture. Ephesians five does not make the claim that all women are to be under the headship of man, but 1 Corinthians 11 seems to do so. How does one who believes that this teaching is erroneous understand these passages?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Rachel, I think the answer lies in the context -- 1 Corinthians is addressing the created order as it functions in the church. No one is disputing the created order, and no is disputing the way it functions in the church -- what we do not wish to do is to apply teaching specific to one sphere (the church) across the board and come up with something Scripture never teaches or even assumes (ie, that every single woman must be under a male household authority, whether her own husband or somebody else's)?
 

A2JC4life

Puritan Board Freshman
Gotcha! I was missing the distinction that was being made between the church and the home. Thank you for clarifying. :)
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
I was wondering how the teaching referenced here:

There is a teaching that has gone around the church for many years, ... that women married or single are always to be under the physical leadership of man. That is NOT what Ephesians 5 says.

...is not in keeping with Scripture. Ephesians five does not make the claim that all women are to be under the headship of man, but 1 Corinthians 11 seems to do so. How does one who believes that this teaching is erroneous understand these passages?

I'm not sure why the quote above is referenced to me, but I did not actually make that statement. I just wanted to clarify that. :)
 

A2JC4life

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm not sure what happened with that quote. I just used the quote button at the bottom of the one post, and it seems to have nested them. Sorry for the confusion.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Calvin's Commentaries
I Corinthians 11:3-12

3. But I would have you know. It is an old proverb: "Evil manners beget good laws."10 As the rite here treated of had not been previously called in question, Paul had given no enactment respecting it.11 The error of the Corinthians was the occasion of his showing, what part it was becoming to act in this matter. With the view of proving, that it is an unseemly thing for women to appear in a public assembly with their heads uncovered, and, on the other hand, for men to pray or prophesy with their heads covered, he sets out with noticing the arrangements that are divinely established.

He says, that as Christ is subject to God as his head, so is the man subject to Christ, and the woman to the man. We shall afterwards see, how he comes to infer from this, that women ought to have their heads covered. Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.

There is somewhat more of difficulty in what follows. Here the man is placed in an intermediate position between Christ and the woman, so that Christ is not the head of the woman. Yet the same Apostle teaches us elsewhere, (Galatians 3:28,) that in Christ there is neither male nor female. Why then does he make a distinction here, which in that passage he does away with? I answer, that the solution of this depends on the connection in which the passages occur. When he says that there is no difference between the man and the woman, he is treating of Christ's spiritual kingdom, in which individual distinctions12 are not regarded, or made any account of; for it has nothing to do with the body, and has nothing to do with the outward relationships of mankind, but has to do solely with the mind -- on which account he declares that there is no difference, even between bond and free. In the meantime, however, he does not disturb civil order or honorary distinctions, which cannot be dispensed with in ordinary life. Here, on the other hand, he reasons respecting outward propriety and decorum -- which is a part of ecclesiastical polity. Hence, as regards spiritual connection in the sight of God, and inwardly in the conscience, Christ is the head of the man and of the woman without any distinction, because, as to that, there is no regard paid to male or female; but as regards external arrangement and political decorum, the man follows Christ and the woman the man, so that they are not upon the same footing, but, on the contrary, this inequality exists. Should any one ask, what connection marriage has with Christ, I answer, that Paul speaks here of that sacred union of pious persons, of which Christ is the officiating priest,13 and He in whose name it is consecrated.

4. Every man praying. Here there are two propositions. The first relates to the man, the other to the woman. He says that the man commits an offense against Christ his head, if he prays or prophesies with his head covered. Why so? Because he is subject to Christ, with this understanding, that he is to hold the first place in the government of the house -- for the father of the family is like a king in his own house. Hence the glory of God shines forth in him, in consequence of the authority with which he is invested. If he covers his head, he lets himself down from that preeminence which God had assigned to him, so as to be in subjection. Thus the honor of Christ is infringed upon. For example,14 If the person whom the prince has appointed as his lieutenant, does not. know how to maintain his proper station,15 and instead of this, exposes his dignity to contempt on the part of persons in the lowest station, does he not bring dishonor upon his prince? In like manner, if the man does not keep his own station -- if he is not subject to Christ in such a way as to preside over his own family with authority, he obscures, to that extent, the glory of Christ, which shines forth in the well regulated order of marriage. The covering, as we shall see ere long, is all emblem of authority intermediate and interposed.

Prophesying I take here to mean -- declaring the mysteries of God for the edification of the hearers, (as afterwards in 1 Corinthians 14.) as praying means preparing a form of prayer, and taking the lead, as it were, of all the people -- which is the part of the public teacher,16 for Paul is not arguing here as to every kind of prayer, but as to solemn prayer in public. Let us, however, bear in mind, that in this matter the error is merely in so far as decorum is violated, and the distinction of rank which God has established, is broken in upon. For we must not be so scrupulous as to look upon it as a criminal thing for a teacher to have a cap on his head, when addressing the people from the pulpit. Paul means nothing more than this -- that it should appear that the man has authority, and that the woman is under subjection, and this is secured when the man uncovers his head in the view of the Church, though he should afterwards put on his cap again from fear of catching cold. In fine, the one rule to be observed here is to pre>pon -- decorum. If that is secured, Paul requires nothing farther.

5. Every woman praying or prophesying. Here we have the second proposition -- that women ought to have their heads covered when they pray or prophesy; otherwise they dishonor their head. For as the man honors his head by showing his liberty, so the woman, by showing her subjection. Hence, on the other hand, if the woman uncovers her head, she shakes off subjection -- involving contempt of her husband. It may seem, however, to be superfluous for Paul to forbid the woman to prophesy with her head uncovered, while elsewhere he wholly

prohibits women from speaking in the Church.
(1 Timothy 2:12.)

It would not, therefore, be allowable for them to prophesy even with a covering upon their head, and hence it follows that it is to no purpose that he argues here as to a covering. It may be replied, that the Apostle, by here condemning the one, does not commend the other. For when he reproves them for prophesying with their head uncovered, he at the same time does not give them permission to prophesy in some other way, but rather delays his condemnation of that vice to another passage, namely in 1 Corinthians 14. In this reply there is nothing amiss, though at the same time it might suit sufficiently well to say, that the Apostle requires women to show their modesty -- not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses.

For it is all one as if she were shaven. He now maintains from other considerations, that it is unseemly for women to have their heads bare. Nature itself, says he, abhors it. To see a woman shaven is a spectacle that is disgusting and monstrous. Hence we infer that the woman has her hair given her for a covering. Should any one now object, that her hair is enough, as being a natural covering, Paul says that it is not, for it is such a covering as requires another thing to be made use of for covering it. And hence a conjecture is drawn, with some appearance of probability -- that women who had beautiful hair were accustomed to uncover their heads for the purpose of showing off their beauty. It is not, therefore, without good reason that Paul, as a remedy for this vice, sets before them the opposite idea -- that they be regarded as remarkable for unseemliness, rather than for what is an incentive to lust.17

7. The man ought not to cover his head, because he is the image. The same question may now be proposed respecting the image, as formerly respecting the head. For both sexes were created in the image of God, and Paul exhorts women no less than men to be formed anew, according to that image. The image, however, of which he is now speaking, relates to the order of marriage, and hence it belongs to the present life, and is not connected with conscience. The simple solution is this -- that he does not treat here of innocence and holiness, which are equally becoming in men and women, but of the distinction, which God has conferred upon the man, so as to have superiority over the woman. In this superior order of dignity the glory of God is seen, as it shines forth in every kind of superiority.

The woman is the glory of the man. There is no doubt that the woman is a distinguished ornament of the man; for it is a great honor that God has appointed her to the man as the partner of his life, and a helper to him,18 and has made her subject to him as the body is to the head. For what Solomon affirms as to a careful wife -- that she is a crown to her husband, (Proverbs 12:4,) is true of the whole sex, if we look to the appointment of God, which Paul here commends, showing that the woman was created for this purpose -- that she might be a distinguished ornament of the man.

8. For the man is not from the woman. He establishes by two arguments the pre-eminence, which he had assigned to men above women. The first is, that as the woman derives her origin from the man, she is therefore inferior in rank. The second is, that as the woman was created for the sake of the man, she is therefore subject to him, as the work ultimately produced is to its cause.19 That the man is the beginning of the woman and the end for which she was made, is evident from the law. (Genesis 2:18.)

It is not good for a man to be alone. Let us make for him, etc.

Farther,

God took one of Adam's ribs and formed Eve.
(Genesis 2:21, 22.)

10. For this cause ought the woman to have power.20 From that authority he draws an argument21 in favor of outward decorum. "She is subject," says he, "let her then wear a token of subjection." In the term power, there is an instance of metonymy,22 for he means a token by which she declares herself to be under the power of her husband; and it is a covering, whether it be a robe, or a veil,23 or any other kind of covering.24

It is asked, whether he speaks of married women exclusively, for there are some that restrict to them what Paul here teaches, on the ground that it does not belong to virgins to be under the authority of a husband. It is however a mistake, for Paul looks beyond this -- to God's eternal law, which has made the female sex subject to the authority of men. On this account all women are born, that they may acknowledge themselves inferior in consequence of the superiority of the male sex. Otherwise it were an inconclusive argument that Paul has drawn from nature, in saying that it were not one whit more seemly for a woman to have her head uncovered than to be shaven -- this being applicable to virgins also.

Because of the angels. This passage is explained in various ways. As the Prophet Malachi 2:7 calls priests angels of God, some are of opinion that Paul speaks of them; but the ministers of the word have nowhere that term applied to them by itself -- that is, without something being added; and the meaning would be too forced. I understand it, therefore, in its proper signification. But it is asked, why it is that he would have women have their heads covered because of the angels -- for what has this to do with them? Some answer: "Because they are present on occasion of the prayers of believers, and on this account are spectators of unseemliness, should there be any on such occasions." But what need is there for philosophizing with such refinement? We know that angels are in attendance, also, upon Christ as their head, and minister to him.25 When, therefore, women venture upon such liberties, as to usurp for themselves the token of authority, they make their baseness manifest to the angels. This, therefore, was said by way of amplifying, as if he had said, "If women uncover their heads, not only Christ, but all the angels too, will be witnesses of the outrage." And this interpretation suits well with the Apostle's design. He is treating here of different ranks. Now he says that, when women assume a higher place than becomes them, they gain this by it -- that they discover their impudence in the view of the angels of heaven.

11. But neither is the man without the woman. This is added partly as a check upon men, that they may not insult over women;26 and partly as a consolation to women, that they may not feel dissatisfied with being under subjection. "The male sex (says he) has a distinction over the female sex, with this understanding, that they ought to be connected together by mutual benevolence, for the one cannot do without the other. If they be separated, they are like the mutilated members of a mangled body. Let them, therefore, be connected with each other by the bond of mutual duty."27

When he says, in the Lord, he by this expression calls the attention of believers to the appointment of the Lord, while the wicked look to nothing beyond pressing necessity.28 For profane men, if they can conveniently live unmarried, despise the whole sex, and do not consider that they are under obligations to it by the appointment and decree of God. The pious, on the other hand, acknowledge that the male sex is but the half of the human race. They ponder the meaning of that statement -- God created man: male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27, and Genesis 5:2.) Thus they, of their own accord, acknowledge themselves to be debtors to the weaker sex. Pious women, in like manner, reflect upon their obligation.29 Thus the man has no standing without the woman, for that would be the head severed from the body; nor has the woman without the man, for that were a body without a head. "Let, therefore, the man perform to the woman the office of the head in respect of ruling her, and let the woman perform to the man the office of the body in respect of assisting him, and that not merely in the married state, but also in celibacy; for I do not speak of cohabitation merely, but also of civil offices, for which there is occasion even in the unmarried state." If you are inclined rather to refer this to the whole sex in general, I do not object to this, though, as Paul directs his discourse to individuals, he appears to point out the particular duty of each.

12. As the woman is of the man. If this is one of the reasons, why the man has superiority -- that the woman was taken out of him, there will be, in like manner, this motive to friendly connection -- that the male sex cannot maintain and preserve itself without the aid of women. For this remains a settled point -- that it is not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18.) This statement of Paul may, it is true, be viewed as referring to propagation, because human beings are propagated not by men alone, but by men and women; but I understand it as meaning this also -- that the woman is a needful help to the man, inasmuch as a solitary life is not expedient for man. This decree of God exhorts us to cultivate mutual intercourse.

But all things of God. God is the Source of both sexes, and hence both of them ought with humility to accept and maintain the condition which the Lord has assigned to them. Let the man exercise his authority with moderation, and not insult over the woman who has been given him as his partner. Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection, and not take it amiss that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex. Otherwise they will both of them throw off the yoke of God, who has not without good reason appointed this distinction of ranks. Farther, when it is said that the man and the woman, when they are wanting in their duty to each other, are rebels against the authority of God, the statement is a more serious one than if Paul had said, that they do injury to one another.
.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
Scott,

Thanks for posting that excerpt for us, I look forward to reading it tomorrow when I have more time!
 
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