1 Timothy 2:11 "A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness."
Today we turn our attention to an equally important subject that has garnered much controversy in and outside the church - the role of godly women. The passages we will consider today are among the most difficult to interpret in God's Word. With that said, we aim to bring other scriptures into conversation with 1 Timothy 2:11-15. When it comes to properly understanding the role of the godly woman in marriage, family, the church and culture, a two-fold emphasis must be kept in mind: equality of value and distinction in role or what I call "distinct equality".
The distinct role that the woman of God has in relationships and God's Kingdom work
To begin, we need to recognize that whether biologically or spiritually speaking, women are distinct and different from men. In regards to the roles they fulfill in God's kingdom, families and marriage, the roles are distinct, while the value of men and women before God is equal. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is all about laying out the role the woman of God has in comparison to the man of God. Some have really wrestled with this text over the years, demonstrating it to be among the most difficult to interpret texts in scripture. However whenever we recognize the distinct roles God has assigned to men and women, the difficulties tend to not be as severe.
Distinction of gender roles began from creation through the Old Testament
Genesis 1:26-28 is where we begin to understand the differences of gender assigned to men and women from creation, in that God created them both "male and female". Such distinctions are not assigned as a result of sin or something inherently wrong with men or women. To the contrary, the differences of gender were given by God from the beginning when he made the man and his wife. When God made the man and woman in his image and likeness, He did so to express the distinctiveness and sameness that is true about Himself as the Trinity.
We see this twin theme of "distinct yet equal" in Genesis 2:23-25 "The man said, “This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." The phrase of "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh" indicates the "oneness" or "equality" of the husband and wife, whereas the next phrase "She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of the man" refers to the distinction of the woman being under the authority of her husband.
Distinction of gender roles carries on into the New Testament
This is echoed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
In terms of the natural order, women are under the authority, protection and covering of their husbands. Such priority of role assigned to the husband over his wife is also reflected in the spiritual realm in how women and men function in the church. 1 Corinthians 11:3 states - "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." In the created and redemptive ordering of men and women, the men serve their wives by offering a proctective covering, just as Jesus provides protective covering for his bride, the church. (Ephesians 5:22-25)
This distinction of role is why we see Paul express what he states in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. What women are being precluded from are two main areas in the church: namely the pastoral office or some type of public office of authority over the entire church and second, private, one on one discipleship over the men. This conclusion is drawn from another text, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, butare to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." Again, women in both passages are not being told to never speak or have any responsibility whatsoever in speaking forth God's Word in a home Bible study or Sunday school class. The only restrictions lie chiefly in a situation where a woman would attempt to assume the role of a pastor or where a woman would provide discipleship headship over a man.
The scripture's marking of boundaries is not meant to restrict women to the point of non-involvement. If anything, the significant roles women have in the scripture in terms of God's Kingdom work and natural order far outweighs the couple of areas from which they are precluded. Tomorrow's post will cover the second truth about Biblical womanhood that functions alongside their distinctiveness of role from men, namely their equality of value to men in God's creative and redemptive activity.