(Tim) This is a transcription of a sermon given March 19, 1999, to the Lancaster Conference of the Mennonite Church. At the time, in addition to my call as pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd here in Bloomington, Indiana, I also was serving as Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). The occasion was a debate held to consider whether or not to begin to credential women for pastoral positions in Lancaster Conference churches. The other side of the debate was represented by the late Dr. David Scholer, Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary.
This is posted today, the day before Mothers Day, as an encouragement to all the godly mothers among us, daughters of Sarah who have cultivated a gentle and quiet, a submissive, spirit.
We love you and give thanks to our Heavenly Father for your faith and obedience.
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PATRIARCHY: THE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE
Lancaster Mennonite Conference
March 19, 1999
Rev. Tim Bayly
A Personal Note:
It is good to be with you. Let me please begin with a personal note...
It’s ironic when I come here to argue there is a proper purpose for authority and that we should submit to authority that I then immediately take a position opposite the man who was a professor (and authority) at the seminary I attended, Dr. David Scholer. This has, I think, a little bit of humor in it. I remember Dr. Scholer from when I was studying at Gordon-Conwell, and it is good to renew his acquaintance and to be able to have this time together with you also to discuss this crucial subject.
One other personal note as I begin. If I were to tell you that I love hoagies, that I love Scrabble, that I love hot pretzels with lots of mustard, and that every birthday, I ask my wife to make me shoofly pie for my birthday cake, you might begin to think that I grew up near here—and you’d be right. For the first ten years of my life my family lived in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and in fact, most of our ancestors are buried in a cemetery in Gettysburg. So it’s sweet for me to be back here on this important occasion. I do appreciate your kind invitation to come to Lancaster. It is a privilege to be invited to speak to you about the teaching of God’s Word on manhood and womanhood, particularly at this crucial time as you prepare to vote this coming fall on whether the Lancaster Conference should grant congregations the freedom to call women into credentialed ministerial roles. We have prayed, but one more time, let us turn and ask God to feed us from His Word:
Our Father we thank You this morning that You have promised that where Your Word goes out, it will never return void, but will accomplish the purposes for which You send it. We thank You Father that You have given us the statement in 1 John that we know we love You because we obey Your commandments. And so as we approach this Word, we pray that You will give us reverent hearts, that we will submit to it, that we will love it, and that we will trust that even in this day, obedience to it will produce a harvest of righteousness in our lives, the lives of our children, our children’s children, and in the life of Your Church. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of every one of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, You Who are our strength and our Redeemer. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
From every side today we hear pleas and demands for women to be placed in positions of leadership and for an end to the Church’s historic prohibition of women exercising authority over men; whereas, the Bible says in 1 Tim. 2:12, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” Hearing this, many have responded to me in the years I have been speaking and writing and preaching on this subject, saying, “What?!? Women can’t be in authority over men? Women can’t teach men? Women must be silent? Where did this come from?”
Their thinking often goes something like this:
The Apostle Paul wasn’t comfortable with women—he must have been a very insecure man. But Jesus, on the other hand, was different. Jesus didn’t look down on women. Isn’t it too bad that Jesus and Paul weren’t more alike. Don’t you wish that Paul had demonstrated the broadmindedness and inclusivity that Jesus demonstrated.
As I said, I’ve heard this many times. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which is not a very conservative place. Not only that, but I have spent a lot of years in institutions that ordain women to all of the offices. I am right now a pastor in a university community. In fact, Indiana University is right across the street. So I understand these thoughts and these sentiments that come from our culture. I understand that many today turn away in disgust when they hear words from Scripture dealing with the authority God has assigned to men in the home, in the church, and in society. Many today spurn the very Word of God that has been given to us by our Lord and Master for our happiness, for our contentment, and for our peace.
Across Denominational and Ecclesiastical Lines:
Not even the Roman Catholic Church is immune to this pressure. When the Pope arrives in the U.S. for a visit, he can count on getting lectured by editorial writers and newscasters, telling him how backward his church is and how much it would help his church’s public relations if they would just make two minor changes: allow priests to marry and ordain women to the priesthood. I wonder what the Pope thinks when he reads and hears this.
In fact, pressure to conform to culture on this issue rages across denominational lines, across international boundaries, “far as the curse is found.” For example, recently I received a couple of letters. Here is one from a Seventh Day Adventist pastor:
I am a subscriber to the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and I support your ministry and your message. As you are probably aware, my denomination has been wrestling with the issue of the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry. Many of our pastors and administrators are moving in this direction—which concerns me greatly.
Again, within the last couple of months, here is a letter from a man in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He says this:
Greetings in the Lord.
Dear friends in Christ,
This is my first letter to you. I received your address from a brother who is living in the U.S.A. I talked to him about our church’s problem on the issues of women’s ministry. He then gave me your address that I may ask your help. I am a full-time minister in our church. I am involved in teaching and preaching ministries. Our church is now in turmoil on the issue of women’s role in the church. No one of us has a clear understanding of the issue and each is unable to express his ideas clearly. The leaders asked me to teach on the issue but I don’t have a clear understanding to teach to the ministers and the members, so I am confused and frustrated.
I want to help my church that it may not be divided, for we are really on the point of division. I have no material written on this topic. I am also unable to pay for books for outside of Ethiopia. I am living with $30/U.S. per month. Would you please understand my problem and be willing to send some books on the role of women in the church and in the home? I pray that God may provide you that you may help those who are unable to buy books.
Yours in Christ...
A New Reformation?
What has caused this sea change in the Christian Church today, this change that has spread from the Western world, the whole way to Addis Ababa, to Hong Kong, to Taiwan, to Indonesia? Is it that we are in the midst of another Reformation? Have we come to understand God’s Word in a way that all previous generations of Christians were blind to? Have we arrived at new ways of interpreting Scripture’s teaching on manhood and womanhood that recover what God intended for us from the beginning?
Or, are we defying God and His Word?
To answer these questions, we must turn to the Bible and open its pages and read. But before we read from Scripture, I would like to remind us of one of the doctrines of the Reformation which must be at the front of our minds as we listen to what Scripture says concerning manhood and womanhood. I am referring to the doctrine of the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture. This doctrine teaches that although there are things in Scripture that are hard to understand and which require careful study, in the main, the Bible is a plain and simple book. It can be interpreted and understood by the people of God. Thus, we have an obligation to search the Scriptures ourselves, not simply receiving from others their interpretations of this book, but testing their interpretations by our own understanding of God’s Holy Word.
The Bible directly addresses this matter of teaching against the will of God. In Deut. 13, verses 1–3 we read,
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Do you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul? What is love for God? Love for God is to obey His commandments. This is how we test our love for God. In Acts 17:10–11 we see a beautiful demonstration of the conscience of a church at work as they approach Scripture. The Bereans listened to the Word of God as it was preached. It says,
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
Clearly from this text we see that the interpretation of Scripture is not a special province of Rome, of the Pope, or of the Vatican. This may be clear to us, but remember that neither is the interpretation of Scripture the special privilege of denominational leaders, college and seminary professors or pastors. As Charles Hodge, an eminent American theologian from this area puts it, “In all things necessary to salvation, the Scriptures are sufficiently plain to be understood even by the unlearned.”
You remember in Acts the Scripture says that they took note that they had been with Jesus but they were unschooled and ordinary men. This is the description of the Apostles that God used to build the Church….
Now, here’s my question. If you were convinced from your study of Scripture that the Bible prohibits women from being credentialed as ministers within the Lancaster Conference and within the Church, would you obey it? If you were convinced …by the Word of God, would you obey it?
Two Crucial Questions:
I think we have to approach this asking ourselves two crucial questions, as a matter of integrity. The first question is this: Are we truly coming to Scripture willing to be taught, or have we already determined our position, and are we going to ask Scripture simply to buttress it, to support it? It seems good, then, for all of us to carefully examine the interpretations of Scripture which will be presented today, keeping in mind that Scripture teaches those things necessary for us to live godly lives, and that it teaches them with great clarity.
A second key question to ask is whether a particular interpretation of a text of Scripture that you hear today leads to greater clarity or to greater confusion. Does the interpretation seem to be faithful to the plain meaning of the text? Or, are you more confused after you’ve heard it?
Begin at the Beginning:
With this in mind, let us turn to God’s Word and read there what it says concerning men, women, and leadership. Turn with me please to the book of Genesis, the first chapter. As they say in a little ditty, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” When you read, you begin with A-B-C; in the Bible you begin with Gen. chapter 1. Look at verses 26 and 27, please. This is the Word of God, and it is eternally true.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1 teaches us that men and women both bear the image of God. They are equally made in His image. And yet, sharing equally in God’s image does not prove that it is inappropriate for Adam to lead and for Eve to follow. Nor does it prove that today God calls women to teach and exercise authority over men, serving in all the offices of the church. We will return to this text again in a few minutes, but right at the beginning, let’s be clear on this: At no time in the history of the people of God has the Church believed that since Adam and Eve were both made in the image of God that it would be wrong for fathers to lead their children, for husbands to lead their wives, for kings to lead their nations, or for men to exercise authority over women in the church.
It is the issue of leadership within the church that today we are directing our attention toward, and Scripture clearly and unequivocally prohibits women from holding authority over men in the church. This would include the credentialed ministerial roles under discussion today, because those holding such positions do exercise authority over men, and this is explicitly forbidden by God in 1 Tim. 2. There, in verse 11 we read, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” Looking farther then with me down to verse 12, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
“For”—and here we’re kicked back to Genesis, to the beginning, to the first two chapters of the Bible—
For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
Is this an isolated discussion in the letter to Timothy, or is this an integral part of Paul’s argument? To answer this question, please skip to chapter 3, verse 14 and look at the context within which Paul has given this command from the Lord. In 1 Tim. 3:14, Paul is talking to the young pastor, exhorting him about what it means to live a life of love for Jesus Christ. He has commanded that women be in submission to men, namely, that they not exercise authority and teach men in the church. Here, in 3:14–15, summing up this whole section, Paul’s says,
I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long: but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
Reading this, one thing ought to be absolutely clear to us: The world must be able to look to Christians to live in submission to God, even when that means being counter-cultural. If the world cannot look to the Christian church and see lives that are different, homes where women are not held up as warriors, but are held up, as God has created them to be, helpers to their husbands and keepers at home (Titus 2), submissive and godly, then we have lost our calling to be the pillar and foundation of the Truth.
We Should Not Be Anarchists:
With clarity and with simplicity, 1 Tim. 2 states that women are not to teach or to have authority over men. Then 1 Tim. 3 continues with an immediate application of this teaching for the offices of the church. Paul’s teaching, at the beginning, in 1 Tim. 2, is clearly grounded in creation. He then states at the end of this section in 1 Tim. 3 that his instructions are to guide not just the church in Ephesus, but God’s Household; that is, the Church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the Truth. That is the context of this command.
Again, Scripture clearly and unequivocally prohibits women from holding authority over men in the church. Now, is this just one isolated Scripture text, or is it Scripture’s theme when it comes to the relationship of men and women? In other words, when we see in various places in the New Testament that God has commanded women to defer to men in the church and not to exercise authority over them, do we see these commands coming out of the theme of Scripture demonstrated in book after book, chapter after chapter, and verse after verse, or are these verses in Timothy an anomaly? Are they verses that occur in one place, only one place, having popped up out of nowhere, and “who knows what that means, anyhow?”
Far from being one isolated text, God’s Holy Spirit teaches us all through the Bible that God has ordained authority and it is good. Authority is not the product of the Fall. Authority is good; it is sweet to be under authority. We are not to be anarchists. We are to demonstrate godly lives, in large part, by demonstrating an ability to submit to all authorities that are over us. Within the church, too, we are to submit to one another; we are to submit to those authorities that God has ordained within the Household of Faith.
We Should Not Be Matriarchal:
Here is another principle: Not only are we not to be anarchists, but we are not also to be matriarchal in our approach to authority. In other words, we are not to follow mother-rule. Rather, Scripture clearly presents from cover to cover the principle that authority is to be patriarchal. Proper authority ought to be father-rule. This is true in the home, it is true in marriage, it is true in society, and it is true in the church.
Why? Because God, as Eph. 3 says, is the Father, the pater, from Whom all fatherhood in Heaven and earth gets its name. God is the architect. God is the One Who made us. God is the Father to Whom we pray. Jesus said, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, Who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.” Even in the first chapters of Genesis, right at the beginning, we see this principle established: prior to sin, prior to the Fall, given by God and reinforced all through Scripture that God has ordained that fathers carry the responsibility for those under their authority.
In Gen. 2:7, we read that the Lord God formed the man from dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and that the man became a living being. Then later in chapter 2 of Genesis we read in verses 18 and 19 that the LORD God said,
It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to , all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air.
Notice then it says,
But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman [ishah] because she was taken out of Man [ish].”
Maybe another way of saying it is this: Adam was man, and he named woman “manish.” You can hear it in the Hebrew. She shall be called ishah because she was taken from ish.
Then the passage ends in verse 24, saying,
For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
A beautiful picture in the Garden. It is undeniably clear. At the beginning, prior to the entry of sin, prior to the Fall, God saw that it wasn’t good for the man to be alone. So God made a helper for him. The helper was called ishah, because she was taken from ish. The principle of patriarchy is at the very foundation of human existence. This is exactly what Paul says in 1 Tim. 2, showing us that Gen. 2 teaches male leadership in the original created state, before the Fall. Not only is it clear that Adam was created first and then Eve; it is also clear that God created both Adam and Eve in His own image, thereby revealing their essential equality in bearing His image. Both patriarchy and equality are true.
It is this second part of the truth that is the basis of the Apostle Paul’s statement concerning the community of saints. Paul writes in Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The meaning of this verse is no mystery. This verse reiterates what again is taught at the very beginning of the Bible: Both the man and the woman bear the image of God; God has given them both this wonderful treasure in their existence; and they are, in God, created for equality.
That’s why it is fair to say that Christianity has always through history elevated those who have been downtrodden, those who have been oppressed in various situations. It is in the Christian homes that we are most likely to see a sweet unity, a sweet mutuality, a sweet and tender relationship between a husband and wife. Why? Because only in these homes does the wife submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ. Only in these homes does the husband love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.
Seven Truths from the Creation Account:
But there are other truths that must be brought forward in this debate taken from the creation account, and they are as follows. First, I have already made reference to the fact that God created Eve after Adam. This is why in 1 Tim. 2:13, Paul says, emphasizing the importance of women not holding authority over men in the universal Church, “For,” or in other words, “Because it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” But second, God created Eve for Adam. This was the purpose of her creation. Third, God created Eve from Adam. In 1 Cor. 11, again, in a discussion of the relationship of men and women In verse 8 God says, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man.” Fourth, Adam named Eve just as he named the animals. In Gen. 2:19 we read,
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
But then we read in verses 22 and 23 of chapter 2, that,
The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman [ishah] because she was taken out of Man [ish].”
Clearly, in this chapter of Scripture, Adam has authority over those beings that he names. He names the animals. He also names the helper that God made for him.
God created Eve after Adam. God created Eve for Adam. God created Eve from Adam’s body. Adam named Eve. Fifth, in Adam all died, not in Eve. Scripture lays the blame for the Fall not at Eve’s door, but at Adam’s. In 1 Cor. 15: 21,22 we read, “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
God, walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, inquires of Adam, “Where are you?” When Adam responds by explaining that he and Eve found themselves naked, and so they hid, it is notable that God directs His follow-up question again not to Eve, but to Adam, asking him in Gen. 3:11, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” It was Adam—not Eve—who was required to explain the tragic alienation from God they both had suffered. And this, despite Eve’s having been the one who was deceived, being the first one to sin and the one who enticed her husband to follow her into that sin.
This is neither a small nor unimportant aspect of the Genesis account. Despite Adam’s having been the second sinner in the Garden, it was Adam whom God held responsible for the Fall. It is because of the sin of Adam, not Eve, that the race of Adam remains under the curse of judgment and death down to this present day. In Rom. 5:12, for example, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin . . .” notice the phrase “one man.” This is no accident of the cultural milieu of Paul’s day.
He goes on:
And so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
My father (whom some of you may have known) wrote The Gospel Blimp, a wonderful spoof about trying to witness to neighbors by buying a blimp and raining down tracts on the gutters and grass of your neighbors instead of simply going next door and loving and witnessing to them. My father was very helpful when I was growing up, because he taught me how to think. Well, Dad, some years back, noted that despite efforts to neuter the language of our faith, he had yet to hear anyone propose that the Church become a ‘he’ or that Satan become a ‘she.’
Similarly, doesn’t it seem ironic that feminists don’t object to the essential inequality between the sexes revealed by this portion of the biblical account of the Fall? After all, shouldn’t Eve be recognized as the leader of sin in the Garden? Shouldn’t Eve have been penalized more severely since it was she who took the lead in the rebellion in the Garden? Aren’t we being patronizing when we attribute the cosmic penalties of the Fall to Adam’s account?
Perhaps feminists fail to argue this issue because this particular point happens to be one where they rather like the clear meaning of God’s Word! There is no question that the Bible is quite specific on this issue of responsibility for the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The New England Primer, one of the most widely used textbooks in the early history of the United States, succinctly puts it: “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”
Well, God’s Word makes clear that because God made Eve for Adam and placed her under his authority, it was Adam whom God called to account for the Fall. Adam was the patriarch of his home and his race. This is not to say that Eve escaped personal accountability. In Genesis 3, we read that God also placed Eve under a curse, the punishment that even today brings suffering to all women in childbearing.
Not only Eve, but also the serpent and his descendants suffered under God’s judgment. Yet it is through Adam alone that death comes to all men. It is because of Adam’s sin that all creation groans, awaiting its release from the corruption of sin (Rom. 8:22– 23). It is in Adam that all die. Again, 1 Cur. 15:21–22: “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
Sixth, all of us, both male and female, bear the name Adam as a function of our membership in the race of Adam. Now think about this: God has named the human race Adam, that is, ‘adam. When you go to the Old Testament and you see the word man or the word human, that word again and again and again in the Hebrew text is ‘adam. This is the same word that Adam is given as his unique name. So it would be proper for me today speaking to all of us in this room to call us all Adam. We’re not called Adam-Eve. We’re not called Eve-Adam. So here in this one word we see reiterated the teaching of Scripture that in Adam all die.
When God names us as human beings, He names us Adam. Why? God does this because Adam is the Father of our race. He is our federal head. When we read the Genesis account and move into the New Testament Epistles, we see that the Apostle Paul prohibits the exercise of authority over men by women saying in 1 Timothy 2:12–13: “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man… For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” So, the New Testament demonstrates the principles outlined for us in these first three chapters of the Bible, thus indicating that these are timeless boundaries for all mankind.
We are dealing here then with nothing short of an order of creation issue that is timeless in its principles and in its application. Paul in 1 Tim. 2 explicitly affirms what is implicit throughout God’s Word: The order of creation establishes father-rule as God’s pattern for leadership in human relationships. Addressing the matter of propriety in prayer, for instance, the Apostle Paul again emphasizes this order. In 1 Cor. 11:8–9, he writes, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
So now to reiterate what we have learned from the book of Genesis, these first few verses of God’s Word. First, God created Eve after Adam. Second, God created Eve for Adam. Third, God created Eve from Adam. Fourth, in Adam all died, not in Eve. The Fall is laid at the door of Adam, not Eve. Sixth, all of us—male and female—bear the name Adam as a function of our membership in the race of Adam.
Finally, seventh, the eyes of Adam and the eyes of Eve are opened only after Adam took of the fruit and ate. Eve’s eyes were still closed after she ate! Look at Gen. 3:6–7.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
At this point, let’s ask ourselves a question. Are there other texts in Scripture that emphasize the same things, these same seven principles, that we see here in the first chapters of Genesis and that we see reiterated in the New Testament? Yes, there are. Turn to Num. 30:1—a very interesting text but rarely cited in this debate.
Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the word which the LORD has commanded. If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
Having established the importance of making and keeping vows, notice what Moses says beginning with verse 3,
Also if a young woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by an obligation in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and her obligation by which she has bound herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every obligation by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her because her father had forbidden her.
However, if she should marry while under her vows or the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day he hears it, then her vows shall stand, and her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand.
Again, note the emphasis on the headship of the husband:
But if on the day her husband hears of it, he forbids her, then he shall annul her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her. But the vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, everything by which she has bound herself shall stand against her.
That means that if my mother takes a vow, she doesn’t have the protection of my dad, because he is gone to be with the LORD. Moses finishes this command by saying,
However, if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound herself by an obligation with an oath, and her husband heard it, but said nothing to her and did not forbid her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she bound herself shall stand.
What is the principle here? The principle is that God has placed daughters under their fathers and wives under their husbands. The principle is that God has made the father the head of his home, and this means he has authority over his wife and children. He is the shepherd of his little flock. It doesn’t mean that the wife and children go to God through the husband or father as a mediator. No, he is not their mediator, but he is to shepherd their souls. Some of the spiritual vows and commitments they have made may be good and wise, but others may be unwise and harmful. The father must decide. He must judge, and he has the power to release them from their vows and commitments. This is a very interesting text of Scripture. What this text shows is that just incidentally in Scripture, you have popping up what was the complete understanding of all people of God all through history.
Another text like this is Isa. 3:8. This is a text where we see the judgment of God falling on a people. And just incidentally popping up in this, what do we see?
For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the LORD, To rebel against His glorious presence. The expression of their faces bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom. They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.
And what does this disaster look like? Read on:
Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their actions. Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him. For what he deserves will be done to him. O my people! Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them.
You think about places around the world where twelve and thirteen year olds have Uzis and AK 47s and they are walking around their towns and villages oppressing their people. What is it about this that goes against every fiber of our beings? It is that youths oppress their people. Notice then that the parallel construction statement is that women will rule over them. Isaiah ends by saying, “Oh my people, your guides lead you astray, they turn you from the path.” So when women rule over society, that society is under God’s judgment. Men have abdicated their place, and that is a sign of spiritual decline. England wake up. America beware.
Matt. 10: 1-4 is another text not often cited in this debate. But, again, it indicates that it is God’s constant method to put men into positions of leadership, not women. What do we see in it? It says,
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.
Here in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is calling His twelve disciples. Jesus has prayed all night the night before He names them—this was not a light thing He did—and they are all men.
A man who had a Ph.D. and was head of a seminary said to me that Jesus chose 12 men to be His apostles because He could not take a stand against the patriarchalism of the culture that He lived in. I looked at him and said, “When was Jesus ever a wimp? When did Jesus find Himself incapable of standing up against systemic oppression and injustice? Where else can you see Jesus sort of bowing the knee to Baal? Where else can you see Jesus lacking the moral character and fiber to turn over the tables in the temple?”
Here in Matt. chapter 10 we see that He called His 12 disciples to Him, giving them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. And then Matthew lists the names of the twelve Apostles, and they are all men. An accident of history? Remember that this is just an incidental text, yet it has profound implications for the issue at hand.
Next turn to Luke 8:1–3. In this text we have a beautiful description of the community that surrounded Christ as He ministered those three years: the community that was led by the Head of the Church, our LORD and Master, Jesus, and by His 12 disciples. What do we see in that community? The Scripture says,
Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
Here, Jesus is traveling about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. We see from this passage that Jesus had women friends whom He could have put into places of leadership, yet He did not do that. Here, we see here a tender picture of how Jesus accorded full dignity to women and valued their service, while clearly having the ministry of these women carried out within the context of male leadership and authority—both of Christ and His apostles.
1 Corinthians 11:
Next, turn to 1 Cor. 11 as we now get into more familiar territory. In verse 3 we read:
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. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man.
Now is this difficult to understand? No, it is not. Paul continues in verse 8,
For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed, man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.
Neither is this difficult to understand! But please listen as the passage ends:
Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the LORD, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her long hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.
Notice this ending statement, how it communicates that Paul is speaking in terms of timeless, creation-account principles. Paul says, “We have no other practice.” Paul makes a universal statement.
1 Corinthians 14:
In this same context, Paul makes another, similar universal statement in 1 Cor. 14:33, when he writes, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” Did you hear that? Paul says, “…as in all the churches of the saints.” He continues,
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves just as the Law also says. 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. Was it from you that the Word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the LORD’s commandment.
Then, notice, Paul ends this section with another universal, and, to our modern ears, somewhat-harsh statement, “But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” Scripture is replete with examples of how God, at Creation, established an order for His Church, an order which is not set aside with the passing of time, but that abides throughout all time.
That this is true we learn very clearly from Eph. 5, beginning with verse 21. Let me remind you of what we’ve already established about God’s commands from Deuteronomy. What is to characterize the lives of the people of God? We are to be characterized by our love for God; that means we are to submit to His authority and obey His commands.
In Ephesians, Paul instructs the people of God in this matter of submission in the various spheres of their lives. As Christians, we are to be characterized by submitting to governmental authority—to all the proper authorities. Particularly in the church, we are to be characterized by submitting to one another, each to the other in the proper relationship: first, wives to husbands; second, children to parents; third, slaves to masters. God has clearly ordained that it is for our good that we are constantly under authority.
Let me illustrate this. When I was a child, I was the black sheep of the family. I was the one who didn’t get straight A’s. Every year, it was a challenge to think of what we would give my dad for his birthday or Christmas. I’d go to Dad, and I would say, “What do you want for Christmas this year?” The whole time I was growing up, this was my father’s response to me. My father would look me in the eyes, and he’d say, “Tim, what I want is an obedient son.” God, even more than my dad, loves obedient sons.
We are to submit to one another. We are not to live lives of rebellion. We are to demonstrate that, as we submit to God, we submit to one another. Listen how Paul makes this clear in the first relationship, marriage, from Eph. 5:21. The Scripture says,
And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the LORD. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Then skip to Eph. 6:1. Notice how the command to submit is now expressed in terms of a second universal relationship: parents and children. All of us have had the privilege of submitting to our parents. We all are children. Thus, when the text says, “submit to one another” it applies to all of us, in all of these various relationships. Eph. 6:1 says,
Children, obey your parents in the LORD, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the LORD.
Third, all of us have work, and we are under authority in our work. Here, Paul addresses this type of relationship . In verse 5 he says, “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”
So from Ephesians we see this beautiful picture of how God has set up man’s societies with structures of authority and government: in the work place, in the home, and in the church. He has set up society such that the fathers, specifically here, are called to lead the home, and that husbands are called to lead their wives. And that wives are to demonstrate their godliness by submitting to their husbands.
1 Peter 3:
Finally, turn to 1 Pet. 3:1–7. There we read, again, the same theme, the old theme, the familiar theme, the patriarchal theme. Peter says this:
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
And then skipping down to verse 5.
For in this the way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
Remarkable. Look at how Sarah addressed Abraham. Peter says that she called him “lord.” This is not hard to understand. This is clear. This is familiar. This is patriarchal. This is obedience. This is Scripture.
All the biblical evidence we have just reviewed shows that the Church historically has believed that the Scripture plainly opposes women in office of leadership over men. Not only that, this is what the Church has always believed. John C. Wenger, a well-known Mennonite Bible scholar and a member of the committee that produced the New International Version of Scripture, says this:
Somewhat in contrast with certain unnatural and unbalanced schools of thought of the 20th century, the New Testament recognizes the headship of men both in the home and in the church. Certainly not in the sense of a dictatorship but of a natural leadership. The New Testament specifically forbids women to participate in the administrative or the authoritative leadership of the church.
For more than 1900 years the Catholic and Protestant Churches have read the Scriptures in the same way, expressing this simple and clear agreement in the Christian church down through the centuries. How is it that we have only recently become so confused?
A Godly Couple:
Please allow me to end with some personal history. When I got married, I was an egalitarian, and my wife was an egalitarian. She started the women’s center at Westmont College on the West Coast in Santa Barbara. When I graduated from seminary, we went to serve within the Presbyterian Church (USA), a large mainline denomination. (I was a pastor of a yoked parish outside of Madison, Wisconsin.)
Shortly after we got there, (my wife and I were) invited (for lunch) out to the home of the best farmer in my country church, (Don Jerred, and his wife, Evelyn).
We sat down and had a wonderful (lunch)—beef, potatoes, everything. Then, at the end of the meal, Don’s wife (Evelyn) turned and looked at her husband (he was a quiet man), and she said, “Honey, did you have a question you wanted to ask the pastor?”
He cleared his throat, and he looked at me, and he said, “Yes. I would like to know whether you believe that women should be elders in the church.”
Let me put this in context. (Evelyn), the woman sitting across the table from my wife and me, was an elder in my church! She was one of the church’s three elders. Here her husband was, a man who didn’t come to church all the time, and had never been willing to take positions of leadership in the church, asking me whether his wife ought to be an elder. Not only that, his wife had prompted him to ask the question!
So, answering, I looked at him, and I cleared my throat, and I said, “You know, of all the questions you could ask me, this is the one that I wish you wouldn’t ask .” Then I said, “You know, I think Scripture teaches that men should be head of the home, but maybe it’s not so clear about the church.”
He began to push me on that. So, I said, “Well, actually the truth is, yes, I guess Scripture is clear about the church, but you know, your wife is a wonderful elder, and since our denomination requires—constitutionally requires—that fifty percent of our elders be women, your wife is the best (elder) I’ll get!”
That was the end of the meal. Three months later they invited us back. And when they invited us back, after the meal was over and the table had been cleared, Evelyn again turned to her husband and said, “Don, did you have a question you wanted to ask the pastor?” And he said, “Yes. We have studied the Scripture on this issue, and we want to know what you would think of Evelyn resigning as an elder of this church?”
Now, that couple is the spiritual capital upon which a godly and Bible-believing church is now been built in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. I said, “No, don’t let her resign!” And I gave all my reasons. But a few elders’ meetings later, out of nowhere, she said at the end of the meeting, “I am resigning, effective tonight.”
What is amazing is that after this, as a result, Don, the best farmer in the area, after years of not being to willing to serve as an elder of that church, for the first time, said, “I am willing to serve.” Up to that time, that church had been filled up with people on the membership rolls who had no commitment to Jesus Christ. But quietly and faithfully, Don began to prune them by going after them and exhorting them about their souls. Then, years later, Don led that church out of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and into a biblical denomination called the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
What happened to Evelyn? That godly woman stayed home and nursed her mother in her living room for the last two to three years of her mother’s life. As a result, ironically, Evelyn couldn’t go to church anymore, but Don was there. Do you think Evelyn minded her husband being an elder now? Not on your life.
Do you know what happened then? All the other women, who for decades had been women elders in that church, began to say that they would no longer serve because their husbands were coming alive spiritually. This is what happens when the Word of God is taken seriously.
My theory about the evangelical church today is that it will be the mainline church that will lead us back to the Word of God—because it is my experience that only in the evangelical church do we have people who have become inoculated to the authority of Scripture. We have all these reasons why we believe that the Bible doesn’t say what it, in fact, plainly says. In mainline churches we have people who for decades have been living lives that are not in conformity with Scripture. So when they discover the authority of the Word of God, then their lives and the lives of their children, and their lives of their communities are reformed. Let us pray.
Our Father, we confess that all of us are sinners. We confess that the sin of pride is a heinous sin. We confess that the sin of dishonesty, the sin of lust, the sins of greed and of anger: these are things You hate. Father, we pray that You would give us humble hearts that we will not look down on those with whom we disagree, but that we will be filled with a holy boldness to submit to the plain teaching of your Word. We pray this in Jesus; Name and for His sake. Amen.