THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN
THE ORIGIN OF WOMAN
Where did she come from? Before we can understand the purpose, function in society, relationship to man, or destiny of woman, we must know her origin. There are but two possibilities: Either woman is the product of an evolutionary process that after billions of years by chance and happenstance developed a living cell from inorganic matter and then woman from that initial amoeba on some primeval sea OR woman was created by God. The first is evolutionary mythology—man's great effort to escape from the reality of God as witnessed in nature and in his own conscience. The second is truth, as revealed by God in His inspired Word.
The Bible introduces God working as Creator. The creation of man and womanis distinguished from the creation of all other living things by five factors: 1) the inter-Trinitarian counsel that pre- ceded their creation, 2) their being created "in the image of God," 3) the personal method of their creation, 4) their receiving the "breath of life" directly from God, and 5) their position of dominion over all of creation.
Here are the pertinent words:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Gen. 1:26-27.
It is of utmost importance to mark well the order of creation. God did not create male and female simultaneously. Neither did He create woman first, and then man. No, He created man first, and then woman. Thus the unity of the race was assured and the relationship of woman to man established.
[The writer believes the Bible to be the verbally inspired Word of God, also that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. We are not dealing with “two creation accounts,” but with the account that the Spirit of God moves Moses to record. Thus chapter one gives the general account of the creation of man and woman, and chapter two supplements with details and thus forms a transition to chapter three. We reject the multiple authorship theory which makes chapter one the creation account of "p" and chapter two a variant account of "J"—both supposedly incorporated into the Torah by an unknown editor.]
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (fit or suitable) for him. Gen. 2:18.
First God created a conscious realization in man that he was without a mate. God did this by bringing all living creatures to Adam "to call them." Created with an intelligence that was a reflection of His Creator, Adam possessed insight into the nature and being of every creature which he expressed by giving each a name that described the character of the creature But not a creature in all creation fitted Adam. And so –
. . . the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. Gen. 2: 21-23.
It is to be carefully observed that God took neither from the head nor from the foot of man, but a rib from his side. It was the divine was one of leadership, authority, and responsibility. The position of woman relative to man was one of subordination, auxiliary in design and function. Woman was to be a "help–meet, " that is, fit or suitable for man.
Before sin destroyed this God-created and God-ordained relationship of man to woman and woman to man, there was no question as to superiority and inferiority, equality or inequality, man's rights or woman's rights. After the Lord God had inspected His creation, He found it all to be "very good." All of creation fitted together with no friction whatever between any of the parts. Thus Adam stood as the foremost of God's creatures, and Eve stood proudly at his side–as the helper specially created for him.
Basic to any understanding of the relationship of man and woman. in marriage, the proper role of woman in society, and the position of woman in the church is this understanding of the order of creation. We can see evidence of this order in the social structures of all societies. The New Testament has not abrogated it. The supposedly learned insight of modern man and the historical-critical method of modern Bible interpretation cannot disannul it. It stands–never to be revoked.
THE ROLE OF WOMAN IN THE FALL
God gave the command not to eat of the forbidden fruit to Adam. Adam transmitted it to Eve. Satan, who had previously attempted to cast off the yoke of subordination to God by rebelling (Isaiah 14:12-15), approached not Adam, but Eve, who had received the command second-hand and who had been created in a position subordinate to man.
By suggestion, by insinuation, by falsehood Satan succeeded in causing Eve to doubt the goodness and good will of her Creator. The fact that her Creator had imposed restraints upon her by limiting her freedom to eat whatever fruit she desired began to gall on her and laid the seed of rebellion. Satan suggested a way to redress her grievances. His suggestion seemed so reasonable, so simple, and so sure of success. The thought gave birth to the deed. Possibly without consciously realizing it, Eve usurped the leadership of the family. She was no longer content to be at his side, a help "meet" or fit for him. She made a decision affecting the welfare of the family and the whole human race, as though she had been created the responsible head of the family. She was confident that through her decision their eyes would be "opened" and they would be ''as gods." St. Paul says that she was "thoroughly deceived," as the Greek verb indicates, I Timothy 2:14.
God has a way of meting out punishment that reflects the nature of the sin committed. So it was with Eve. Instead of the anticipated joy she received sorrow, instead of independence dependence, and instead of leadership subordination. Here is the judgment of God:
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. Gen. 3:16.
Eve looked forward to joy and blessing from eating the forbidden fruit. It was so appealing to the eye and taste buds. What intellectual thrills and what an emotional experience it would be to know from actual experience both good and evil and so to be as gods: The immediate consequence was shame, fear, and the first family quarrel. The long range judgment was sorrow and pain in the very sphere of woman's inmost being and purpose in life. Child bearing and child rearing would bring sorrow and pain. So it is and ever shall be!
Eve acted independently. She failed to consult with Adam. She grasped the initiative. She is the mother of all women's "liberation" movements. But woman was not created to exist independently of man. What Eve failed to perceive from God's creation and to live by of her own free will now became an innate part of her very being. "Thy desire shall be to thy husband." The Revised Standard Version translates, "Thy desire shall be for your husband." A more literal translation of the Hebrew would be "unto thy husband thou shalt be attracted." The mother instinct, displayed so early in girls playing with dolls and caring for younger brothers and sisters, the bride-playing by girls and the natural desire for emotional fulfillment through marriage is to be traced back to this Word of the Lord. Because of sin this desire sometimes becomes morbid–the nymphomaniacs. In other cases it may lead to frustration–the radical women's liberationists groups. So it is–unchangeable!
Eve usurped leadership in the family. She was not content to stand at Adam's side. She wanted to be the head of the family. And so the punishment came in the form of the direct opposite of what she desired: “and he shall rule over thee." Because of this judgment and wherever the Gospel has not curbed the sinful nature of man, women have been exploited, degraded, and enslaved. It is not man's wisdom in the form of insights from psychiatry or psychology or sociology, not is it the efforts of women's liberation groups that have eased woman's position in society, but rather the power of the Gospel working in the hearts of men and so creating changes in society. But the Gospel does not overthrow the order of creation, nor does it revoke the judgment of God upon woman after the fall. Woman's basic position of subordination to man remains.
HUSBAND AND WIFE
The most intimate of all human interrelationships is that of man and woman in marriage. In giving exhortations to both husbands and wives the Spirit of God neither disannuls nor makes void the order of creation or the judgment after the fall, but instructs within that framework. Consider the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. Eph. 5:22-29.
More briefly St. Paul wrote to the Colossians:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Col. 3:18-19.
St. Peter wrote as follows:
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (behavior) of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do. well, and are not afraid with any amazement (and let nothing terrify you). Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. I Peter 3: 1- 7.
The Spirit of God always deals in a very practical manner with the problem of sin in man. So in His exhortations to husbands and wives. Scripture no where urges the man to assert his headship over the woman. That would have the effect of encouraging the natural tendency of man's flesh to abuse that headship—as has been done down through the ages. Husbands are to love their wives with a self-sacrificing love, as Christ loved the Church. Blessed is the woman who is so loved! Christian husbands are exhorted to check all "bitterness" against their wives, to remember at all times that they are the "weaker vessel," to honor them, but above all to expend themselves in a self-sacrificing manner for the welfare of their wives. So the Christian husband is to curb his flesh and stimulate his new man.
Christian wives are to be affectionate towards their husbands (Titus 2: 4), but above all are to exercise themselves in self-submitting love. Without even using the word "love," St. Paul indicates the direction such "love" is to take—that of self-submission and obedience towards their husbands. But observe that this "submitting" and "obeying" is to be an exercise of self- discipline, and so a genuine faith, for the wife is to "submit" herself ''as unto the Lord." Obviously such self-submission to her husband dare never violate the wife's submission to her Lord. In living contentedly in her God-ordained role of helper to her husband, the Christian woman is manifesting her faith. St. Peter assures Christian wives that such behavior may well be instrumental in winning an unbelieving husband and that it is, in fact, the real beauty of a woman. Both husband, as head of the family, and wife, in her supporting role, are to exercise self-discipline and so are to show forth the fruits of their common faith in the Savior.
EQUALITY UNDER GRACE
Neither the order of creation nor the judgment of God woman after the fall affect the relative position of man and woman beneath the cross. In I Corinthians 11 St. Paul discusses how the order of creation may be manifested by the custom of a woman's covering her head, but there is one instance where any evidence of subordination would be completely out of place. That is "in the Lord":
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. I Cor. 11:11-12.
There is no such thing as subordinate or lesser grace. Rather there is perfect equality beneath the cross. When the Gospel is preached, the Good News of the Father's love for sinners is proclaimed to all and is meant for all equally—men, women, and children. Men and women pray the Lord's prayer and receive the same forgiveness. Women and men eat and drink at the Lord's Table, and both receive the same Body and Blood of the Lord as a seal for the forgiveness of sins. In the hour of death women are received into Abraham's bosom by grace through faith in Christ Jesus—the same as men and also children. For "in the Lord" there is complete and perfect equality. Even this was already indicated by the Lord in the arrangement made for the continuance of the human race, for after the special creation of Adam and Eve, all men just like all women are "born of women" (Matt. 11: 11), including also the Savior of all mankind. In proclaiming the universality of grace in his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28.
RULING IN THE CHURCH
How is ruling done in the church? If "one is your Master, even Christ" (Matt. 23:10), then Christ is to rule in His Church through His Word. The Church is the spiritual Body of Christ. He rules through His Word, which—He has shown by example and direct command—is to be proclaimed in the public assembly alone by men. In giving instructions to Timothy, his representative in Ephesus, Paul wrote:
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. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. I Tit. 2: 11-15.
Since ruling in the church is done through the Word, women are not to teach or preach in the public assembly, for that would constitute usurping authority over man. Thereby the aggressive act of Eve in the garden would be permanently perpetuated in the very House of God. Women are to be learners, not teachers in the public meetings of the church. In that way their proper relationship to men is to be preserved. St. Paul cites two reasons: the order of creation and the role of woman in the fall, together with the subsequent judgment of the Lord.
These factors forever deny to woman the position of leadership in the church, but they in no way jeopardize woman's personal salvation. “Saved she shall be!" The verb is the first word in the sentence, emphatically stating equality under grace. "Through childbearing!" Obviously, childbearing is not a means of grace. Such a thought would conflict with the analogy of Scripture and the immediate context, "if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." But rather, childbearing and childrearing are to be the special sphere of woman's activity. There is a God-given and God-willed dignity, importance, and worth for the church and society in this activity, which is seemingly so despised by many feminists. In the church ruling through the Word is the sphere of the man; bearing and rearing the future generation of church members are the sphere of the woman. Both men and women are to assume the responsibility that God has laid upon them and be content therewith.
RULING IN THE CHURCH "LET YOUR WOMEN KEEP SILENCE. . ."
Are Paul's words written to the Corinthians (I, 14:34-35) an escalation of restrictions upon the activity of women in the public meetings of the church or are his words parallel to his instruction given to his representative, young Timothy (I Tim. 2:11-15)?
A study of the immediate context will help us arrive at the answer. Going back to the eleventh chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, we find him discussing how the God-ordained relationship of woman to man is manifested by the custom of a woman's covering her head when praying or prophesying—the latter, of course, in private. Then in the seventeenth verse of that chapter Paul begins discussing a series of abuses that had crept into the public worship and life of the congregation. He speaks of their "coming together," that is, for public worship. This section continues until the end of chapter fourteen.
The first abuse was in connection with the celebrating of the Lord's Supper and the Agape, or common meal that preceded the eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table. Chapter twelve begins a discussion of “spiritual gifts” and their proper use among Christians. Chapter thirteen presents the "more excellent way"—the way of love, which is to be the guiding principle in all interacting among Christians and in all ruling in the church in matters not settled by the Word of God. In chapter fourteen Paul discusses the misuse of a gift that had been given to the Corinthians in such rich measure—the gift of speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, as it is called today. As amazing as this gift is, it is always overshadowed by the gift of prophesying, which corresponds to our preaching. He who prophesies in the church proclaims, interprets, and applies the Word of the Lord. There is no higher gift.
It was in connection with prophesying, that is, public preaching and teaching in the church that St. Paul adds a few remarks that were guilty of misusing their Christian liberty and so were forgetting basic truths and principles that their Jewish sisters had learned from earliest childhood. Paul wrote:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. I Cor. 14: 34-35.
The "speaking" that is prohibited is "prophesying" or preaching and teaching in the public assembly. When some of the women broke that silence by participating in the public preaching and teaching, they were, as Paul wrote to Timothy, "usurping authority over the man." Here Paul says they are "to be under obedience," according to the order of creation and the judgment after the fall. Remembering the informality of those apostolic worship services as compared to our formal liturgical services, women were forbidden even to ask questions, for it is and ever remains "a shame for women to speak in the church. "
What about the proper application of these injunctions to our way of doing things today? Let us remember that we have no detailed description of how public worship was conducted in apostolic times. In places where the Jewish element was strong, no doubt the order of the synagogue would be followed with portions of the Scripture read and expounded by duly appointed men. But Corinth was a predominantly Greek congregation. Public worship seemed to have been much more informal. It was this very informality that led to abuses. The misuse of the gift of tongues and the misuse of Christian liberty on the part of some of the women had jeopardized the edifying of all, had caused disorder, and had led some of the women to violate the established order of God in His House—that the congregation of believers be ruled through His Word, as proclaimed and taught by duly called men. In correcting these abuses St. Paul applied to the situation the principle that he had laid down in his more general instruction to Timothy.
This term means the right of women to vote, which also includes the right to speak in public assemblies. The right to vote = the right to rule under any system of government that honors the vote as an expression of individual political power. This right was granted to women when the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, sometimes known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was adopted by the thirty-sixth state, Tennessee, on August 26, 1920. The question is whether the same principles of rule apply in the church as in the state.
We have already observed that the Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church. He rules His Church through the Gospel, as publicly proclaimed and taught by men. This, in itself, makes the terms pastor and woman contradictory. But what of the so-called business matters of the congregation—budgetary and property matters, governing principles and policies? May women serve on the governing boards of the church body or on church councils in local congregations? May they serve as delegates to conventions and as voters in the business meetings of the congregations? Do they have the right to speak in public meetings of the congregations and the church body? The answer to these questions does not lie in the area of relative intellectual abilities, superiority or inferiority, inequality or equality, but in God's established order. Do such activities involve woman in usurping authority over the man? Since they obviously do, they violate the "headship" of the man that is not binding in the political sphere, but that the Lord wants observed in the church.
Matters of Doctrine - Confession
Men are to exercise the rule in the House of God, but if men violate the Word of God with their rule, then women, and even children, must challenge, protest, and disobey such rule. The basic principle is crystal clear: "We ought to obey God rather than men"—whether they be government officials or false prophets. (Acts 5: 29) The modern church has become accustomed to settling matters of doctrine by majority vote at conventions instead of by the Word of God. Many women and also children have protested such votes that enthrone error in the confession of the church by withdrawing from the erring body and following a preacher who proclaims the whole of God's truth. Thus women "vote" in these most important matters by their choice of their spiritual leader, by the support they give to the preaching of the pure Word of God, and. by their prayers. The priceless treasure of the Church is the Gospel, which is not subject to vote, but which is to be confessed by men, women, and children.
As to the earthly affairs of a congregation or church body—such as the election of leaders, fiscal matters, governing principles and policies—the principle of love is to govern all. Even majorities dare not violate that principle. In the verse immediately preceding his, exhortation to wives to submit themselves to their own husbands Paul wrote, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." Eph. 5:21. The exhortation to the wife to submit herself to her husband does not give the husband license to exercise arbitrary authority over his wife. If he does, he violates the law of love, and thus is guilty of sinning against his wife. For men in the church to exercise their rule in an arbitrary, loveless manner—that is, without consideration for the well-being, feelings, and concerns of the women is a misuse of the "headship" entrusted to them. To avoid this congregational and synodic affairs should be handled publicly, not behind locked doors—except in the preliminary stages of church discipline. The agendas for meetings should be published so that they can be discussed in every household. Any woman or child has a right to express an opinion through a husband, brother, councilman, or pastor. All subsequent decisions are also to be published.
Thus "headship" principle, that is, the principle of the man's responsibility for leadership, is preserved inviolate in the church, decency and good order are maintained, and constant care is observed that the law of love is not violated. Men rule well in their own households and in the church when they "submit themselves one to another in the fear of God." Eph. 5:2.1.
PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE
Briefly stated the principle is this: God rules His people individually and collectively through His Word. In the public assembly of the congregation that Word is to be proclaimed and taught only by called men—not by women.
During the patriarchal times we read of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob building altars, sacrificing, and calling upon the Name of the Lord. When the Levitic priesthood was instituted in Israel at Mt. Sinai, the male members of the . tribe were entrusted with all the duties of public worship. In later years a when God raised up prophets, He communicated His Word through men whom He called immediately. When the Lord Jesus chose the Twelve, He called twelve men. When the Holy Supper was instituted, Peter and John were instructed to make the preparations, and no women were even present at that first Supper. When the Spirit of God prepared the written Word by which the Lord was to rule in and among His people to the end of time, He moved men to write. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." II Peter 1:21. The Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." Eph. 2:20. In contrast—a distinctive feature of heathenism is the prominence of high priestesses and their bevies of priestesses.
PROPHETESSES - Miriam
Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. She is called a "prophetess" (Ex. 15: 20) . After God had delivered His people from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, Miriam led the women of Israel in a worship of thanksgiving for this so great deliverance. Notice that she led the women, not the men. Later, in a moment of spiritual pride, Miriam—supported by Aaron—challenged the spiritual leadership of Moses in Israel. As punishment for her rebellion against the Lord's rule of Israel through Moses, Miriam was stricken with leprosy and was compelled to dwell in shame outside of the camp for seven days after Moses had interceded for her and the Lord had healed her (Numbers 12).
The period of the Judges was a time of apostasy and anarchy, judgment and punishment at the hands of Israel's enemies, and then repentance and deliverance when the Lord raised up a judge. During this time when the men of Israel again and again failed to carry out their God-given responsibilities, the Lord on one occasion raised up a woman—Deborah, a prophetess. Barak was the Lord's man at that time, but Barak was weak and needed the spiritual and moral support of Deborah. Because of Barak's weakness, the Lord delivered Sisera, captain of the enemy host, into the hands of a second woman, Jael (Judges 4). Thus it was that the Lord delivered His people through the hands of two women—heroes of faith in the midst of fainthearted men.
God has entrusted men with the responsibility of leading His people in the light and by the power of His Word. This is God's regular order, but when men fail to respond to their God-given responsibilities, there results a leadership vacuum which the Lord, at times, fills with women. So it was that Deborah, the prophetess, judged Israel, and Jael smote Sisera, and so it has been time and again in the history of God's people.
Another such instance occurred during the reign of one of the later kings of Judah —Josiah. The high priests and priests had become so careless and indifferent that the very book of the Law had been lost. During the reformation, instituted by Josiah, the book of the Law was again found and taken to the King. King Josiah instructed Hilkiah, the high priest, to inquire of the Lord. That he did by going to see Huldah, the prophetess, who brought the King the Word of the Lord (II Kings 22). Again, it was during a period of national apostasy that the Lord chose to communicate His Word to His people through a woman.
The wife of Isaiah is called "a prophetess" (Is. 8:3)—no doubt because she was his wife. Noadiah is named as a false prophetess in Nehemiah 6:14. In the New Testament the four daughters of Philip possessed the gift of prophecy, but are not called "prophetesses" (Acts 21:9). The church at Thyatira was troubled by a false prophetess (Rev. 2:20). The Lord followed His own principle—except in cases of extreme necessity.
PRINCIPLE AND CUSTOM
The rule is: Principles remain constant; customs vary. Christian liberty demands that customs remain flexible; absolute truth that changes not demands that principles remain inflexible.
I COR. 11:1-16
Popularly considered, this section deals with the wearing of hats by women in church. What principle is involved? It is the relationship that God established between man and woman in creation. God created man as the “head” of the woman and woman as the "help," meet or fit for man. St. Paul refers to the facts of creation:
For the man is not of the woman; but the woman is of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man (vv. 8-9).
Feminists of all ages have rebelled against this arrangement; effeminate men of all ages have yielded the principle. Sin has enslaved man without curbing his passion for independence: the woman from the man (and so from God) and the man from God. In brief, natural man and woman are in a state of constant rebellion against the order that God has established for society. The Christian should know and behave better. Paul wrote:
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. (v. 3)
How is this principle of "headship"—the woman to the man, and the man to Christ-—to be manifested? In part by nature and in part by the customs of societies. Among the Greeks the covering of the head was a badge of servitude, the uncovered head a symbol of freedom. Among the Romans the custom was the reverse. Yet the Romans and the Jews and also the Germans were accustomed to pray with head covered. Notice that customs vary: And so when discussing the appropriateness of some custom for modern usage on the basis of Paul's inspired words, it is necessary to keep clearly in mind just whom Paul was addressing. To fail to do this is to violate the principle of Christian liberty.
The Corinthian congregation was predominantly Greek. Among the Greeks covering the head was a sign of slavery, the uncovered head a sign of freedom. So for the Greek woman a covered head, while praying or prophesying, was a symbol of her recognizing and accepting—not reluctantly or with resignation, but obediently—the order that God had established in creation, that order being not one of slavery but of subordination to man. This custom is a reflection of nature, for God bestowed hair upon woman as a natural, but distinctive, covering for her head. In characteristic thoroughness Paul shows the logical end of the "independence" movement on the part of some of the women of the congregation. If they no longer wanted to wear a covering on their heads, they should go all the way and shave their heads.
If, however, a Greek man covered his head while praying—and remember that as a Jew Paul was accustomed to men covering their heads while praying—he would publicly be assuming the stance of the proverbial "henpecked" husband, that is, one who abdicated his God-given "headship" and the responsibility connected therewith, and acknowledge that not only Christ but also his wife as his "head."
We are living some nineteen centuries later. Some customs have persisted, some have been lost, and some have changed. The women of our choir still wear a simple black beanie—although the significance of it has been forgotten in many circles. Customs frequently persist long after their meaning has been lost. But the wearing of hats by women in church has become optional—entirely a matter of personal taste, even as our men no longer wear a skullcap when praying, as the Jews did and still do.
In this connection questions have been raised as to that which Peter and Paul have to say about a woman's grooming (I Peter 3:3; II Tim. 2:9). Here the principle is that a woman's beauty does not consist in hair styles or the use of cosmetics and jewelry, but in her inner, spiritual personality. In this area and other areas the apostles consistently warn against both curtailing and abusing Christian liberty. The basic truth to keep ever in mind is simple: Principles remain constant; customs vary.
THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN - Prophesying
In Old Testament times when the nation became apostate—chiefly because the responsible heads of the nation, both spiritual and civil, and the heads of the households failed to defend, confess, and teach the Name of the Lord—the Lord would, on occasion, raise up a woman to show the way back to the Lord. We think of Deborah during the period of the Judges and of a Huldah during the latter days of the monarchy. The Lord God is never at a loss to have His Word proclaimed. If the men whom He has charged with the responsibility of ruling by His Word fail, He can and He does raise up a woman or even children, as on Palm Sunday.
The New Testament times were to see an enlargement or a broadening of the exercise of the gift of prophecy among women. The Prophet Joel foretold, 2:28-29:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.
So it was that Elisabeth "was filled with the Holy Ghost" and praised the Lord when Mary came to visit her (Luke 1:41-45). And Mary responded with an outburst of lofty praise that we know as "The Magnificat." By moving St. Luke to include this prophetic utterance in his account of the Gospel, the Spirit of God has made Mary a teacher of the Church till the end of time. In Acts Luke reports that the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist possessed the gift of prophecy. The Church cannot impose guidelines nor restraints upon the Spirit of God. He moves to prophesy whom He will and whenever He so wills.
But God always remains a God of order. The Holy Spirit does not overthrow the order of creation or the judgment after the fall which has for all time established the relative position of man to woman. The Spirit remains consistent by forbidding women to rule in the public assembly of the congregation by preaching. But this does not deny to woman the right, duty, privilege, and responsibility of teaching according to divine order. An instructive example is that of a remarkable woman who played such a key role in the missionary work of St. Paul. She was Priscilla, the wife of a tentmaker named Aquila. Paul met this couple in Athens, lived and worked with them, and took them along to Ephesus. We can but imagine the hours of private instruction and of holy insight that this couple received from St. Paul. What they learned, they taught when the opportunity presented itself. Apollos had come from Alexandria to Ephesus. He was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, but his knowledge was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla spotted this lack immediately. They didn't embarrass Apollos publicly but took him to their home "and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (Act 18). It appears as though Priscilla may have been, by natural disposition and spiritual endowment, better equipped to teach Apollos than her husband. On occasion, when mentioning both of them, St. Luke names Priscilla first. In sending his greetings to friends in Rome St. Paul wrote, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 16:3). So it was that the Spirit of God used Priscilla to round out the instruction of Apollos who, in turn, may well have been the author of the letter to the Hebrews and so a teacher of the entire Church.
So it is that a woman prophesies most naturally and most effectively in the privacy of a home, in a small group, or in a one to one situation. Fathers are admonished to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), but fathers generally delegate the religious instruction of their children to their wives because they are endowed by God with special gifts for training the young. Many women are better theologians than their husbands, and many a man has profited from the instruction and guidance of a woman of the Lord. There are many women, sitting on church pews on Sunday mornings, who are more learned in the Scriptures than renowned preachers of the day. They function quietly, but efficiently and effectually, as agents of the Spirit in the sphere where the Lord has placed them.
Ordination of Women
The matter of ordaining women for the public ministry has become one of the burning issues in the churches of today. It is the ecclesiastical issue of the modern feminist movement. In 1956 both the Methodist Church and the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Northern) gave full ordination to women. In 1970, both the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church voted to ordain women. The issue has come up in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. By many these changes are heralded as long overdue triumphs for the Gospel, whereas they are but further manifestations of the general apostasy which characterizes our times and which is causing the widespread loss of the Gospel. The continuing approval given by major church bodies to the ordination of women is nothing less than rebellion against the "headship" structure that God has established for society in general, but specifically for the church. St. Paul expressed it briefly in his first letter to the Corinthians:
But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of woman is the man. an the head of Christ is God. 11:3.
By ordaining women churches publicly give them the right "to usurp authority over the man" (I Tim. 2:12), thus violating the "headship" structure. God does not contradict Himself in His Word!
Priesthood of Believers
Women and children, as well as men, are priests unto the Lord and as such should exercise their spiritual priesthood as the occasion offers opportunity. Such witnessing may and should be done within the family circle, among friends, within the social circle, and among fellow employees or business associates. In times of spiritual crisis women are frequently more ready to let their lights shine, while men are content to put theirs under a bushel.
St. Luke reports that while Jesus "went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God, . . . the twelve were with him, And certain women. . . which ministered unto him of their substance" Luke 8:1-3. There are many services that women by natural endowment and training are more fit to do than men. Godly women have always seized upon these opportunities to serve. The first convert in Europe was Lydia, a business woman of Thyatira, whom Paul met in Philippi. After the Lord had opened her heart, she "constrained" Paul and his companions to accept the hospitality of her home. So the congregation at Philippi found its church home in the home of Lydia. Phoebe was a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea. She appears to have been entrusted with the responsibility of carrying Paul's letter to Rome. What a courageous and spirited woman she must have been, for traveling was more hazardous for a woman in those days than it is now. In Romans 16 St. Paul greets twenty-eight individuals personally, nine of them being women. This certainly testifies to the value that the Spirit of God placed upon the efforts and works of these women of God.
Christian women of today certainly have no lack of opportunity for service. In times of sickness and death women care for the physical needs of the families involved, supplying along with that spiritual comfort and strength. The home is still the basic unit of society. It is the Christian wife and mother who is chiefly responsible for creating a genuinely Christian atmosphere in the home. To carry on the work of testifying there are so many tedious and unglamorous jobs that have to be done—by both men and women. "Let none hear you idly saying, 'There is nothing I can do.'" Faith begets love, and love begets service. And such service is done unto the Lord.
Let each Christian man faithfully discharge the responsibilities of leadership that the Lord has placed upon him. And let each Christian woman support and assist her husband or brother in the Lord in the work the Lord has given His Church to do.
– From Hard Sayings, by Pastor Paul F. Nolting