Women’s Role in Ministry and Marriage Part 2
Wives’ Role in Marriage and Family
In terms of women’s place within the marriage framework, however, an egalitarian view errs in interpreting everything in Scriptures as culturally conditioned. Galatians 3:28 does not apply to a marriage because, in God’s definition, a proper marriage consists of exactly a male and a female. It is still true that men and women are equal in their spiritual standing and functions in the ministry, but their roles in the family are different. They have different soul qualities and inherent spiritual masculinity and femininity (1 Pet 3:7). In both First Corinthians 11 and First Timothy 2, Paul’s appeal to the order of creation, namely Adam was created first, and then Eve was created from Adam subsequently as a comparable helper and companion, is not a cultural phenomenon (Gen 18:25). For this reason, the “husband is head of the wife” (Eph 5:23). It is imperative to note that Adam and Eve are of a marriage relationship, thus, the headship can only be practiced within a family context, not in the ministry or in the world. In the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, where everything was ideal and perfect, untainted by sin or any human civilization after the Fall, this is the order that God has set. The fact that Eve was created after Adam and also as “a helper” suggests that the husband is indeed the head in the matrimony, for God could have created both of them at the same time or not have called Eve a helper to Adam. However, both of them were given the same responsibility of tending the garden and having dominion over all things, implying that both men and women’s service qualifications are equal (Gen 1:28-31).
There have been strong debates on what being the “head,” kephale, of the wife actually means. Greek lexicons, such as Thayer’s, simply states that it means the “chief, prominent; of persons, master Lord: of a husband in relation to his wife.” Strong’s explains kephale as “the head, literally or figuratively.” Piper and Grudem rightly define it as follows:[i]
“In the home, Biblical headship is the husband’s divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision. Headship does not prescribe the details of who does precisely what activity. After the Fall, God called Adam to account first (Gen 3:9). This was not because the woman bore no responsibility for sin, but because the man bore primary responsibility for life in the garden—including sin.”[ii]
The husband should be the leader of his family. Certainly this in no way denotes an autocratic leadership style, because the husband’s leadership role is limited within the confines of the Scriptures. Just as the command for children to obey their parents in the Lord, meaning not just to blindly follow even beyond biblical standards (Eph 6:1). In a similar way, wives need not adhere to anything from their husbands that is unambiguously outside of the Word of God, although a proper respect should still be demonstrated. It also does not mean whenever a wife disagrees with her husband, she should raise her voice and put down her husband angrily while quoting Scriptures. The Lord’s love and wisdom are necessary in every Christian marriage relationships; sometimes a compromise is better than outright objections. After all, neither the husband nor the wife is infallible; thus, each case has to be considered on its own merits. This is why Paul also commands through the Spirit before admonishing the wife’s role that all Christians should “[submit] to one another in the fear of God” (Eph 5:21). This mutual submission is a sense of respect for everyone regardless of gender. The leadership role of the husband does not signify that the wife should listen every time, on the contrary, husbands may gain greatly if they would heed their wives in a mutually loving atmosphere and humility. As explained by Piper and Grudem, this leadership role means to “take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision.” Furthermore, the instruction for husbands is that they should love their wives as “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her… [and as] their own bodies, [to] nourish and cherish [them], just as the Lord does the church” (Eph 5:25-29). This is no less a command than that which is for the wife, perhaps even a much harder task. In real-life practices, the ideal situation of a husband being the Christlike head might not be possible in some cases. An unbelieving husband or a less spiritually developed husband will not be able to be function in the full capacity in the spiritual leadership role to the wife and/or their children. These scenarios are not synonymous with unhappy marriages, for they can still be fulfilling and rewarding; however, may require more efforts, and likely conflicts, on both the husband and wife. The goal is to help the husband to grow into spiritual maturity to assume the headship responsibility in Christ.[iii] In this imperfect setting, the wife will have to take on the role of the spiritual leader in the home, although she still needs to honor the natural authority vested to the husband. For even in non-Christian marriages, where both parties are not believers, husbands are still the natural head according to the divine order that God has set.
Since the husband is supposed to be the head of the family, and families are the basic fabrics of society, therefore, it seems that male leadership is and should be more common, though women are still qualified for all ministry and secular roles as I have argued before. Consequently, there needs to be a general respect extended towards all men from women, just as it is necessary for men to be extra understanding and caring for all women (1 Pet 3:1-7). This is largely due to the inherent masculine and feminine qualities of spirit, soul, and body that God has fashioned for each sex. Although our imperfect world has exploited this divine make-up of both men and women, as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20), it is a Christian mandate to uphold what is biblical and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Men and women were created with equal spiritual standing before God and each other—God’s attribute of justness can demand no other affirmation. Qualitative and functional-wise, one cannot really compare men and women, as one cannot compare apples with oranges, or the color blue with pink, insofar as they are naturally different. In terms of ministry in Christ, women are qualified for all positions of service in the church, as there are neither male nor female in Christ. Concerning women’s role as wives in the marriage relationship, they are to recognize the husband’s servant leadership responsibility in the Lord. Husbands are to love and honor their wives just as the Lord does the church. Appropriation methodologies vary from case to case, all the principles of the Bible and the leading of the Spirit are both necessary for intelligent and sensible applications.
People with dissimilar views on women’s role in ministry and family can still fellowship by respecting one another. The maxim that one can “disagree without being disagreeable” is true. After all, Christians have much more in common with each other than the other relatively minor issues of interpretation and semantics. Both complementarians and egalitarians are of the same mind regarding women’s necessity and invaluableness in the ministry and home. No matter how one approaches these important subjects, the greatest commandment is to exercise pure agape love towards God and all people. One can have all the correct theology and understand “all mysteries and all knowledge,” but have not love, he/she is absolutely nothing in God’s judgment (1 Cor 13:2). When followers of Jesus truly live out the Christlike beauties of love, humility, compassion, kindness, holiness, forgiveness, self-control, and wisdom in sincere communion with one another, they shall become the fulfillment of our Lord’s prayers in John 17—the unity and oneness of His church with Him and the Father beyond all temporary differences and passing imperfections on this planet earth (Matt 18:4; Mark 12:30-31; John 17; 1 Cor 13; Gal 5:22-23; Eph 4).
[i] Although Piper and Grudem also extend this meaning of headship to church ministries, it does not seem biblical to do so as argued before.
[ii] Piper, John, and Grudem, Wayne. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991, pp.61 and 64.
[iii] In some marriages where the husband or wife is a heavy persecutor of the believing spouse, some other necessary measures may be taken as the Lord leads. I am neither supporting that divorce is the only solution in every case nor encouraging the partnership of a believer with a non-believer, but the principles of the entire Bible and the specific counsel of the Holy Spirit, and those mature in the Lord, need to be sought after for each unique circumstance in the grace and wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.
3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.
6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man.
9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.
12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?
15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.
35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
1 Timothy 2:9-15
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,
10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Bibliography / Reading Report:
Books and Commentaries:
Beck, James R., Blomberg, Craig L., and Gundry, Stanley N. (ed.) Two Views on Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001, 383 pages.
Clouse, Bonnidell, and Clouse, Robert G. Women in Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989, 250 pages.
Grenz, Stanley J. and Kjesbo, Denise Muir. Women in the Church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995, 284 pages.
Keener, Craig S. Paul, Women and Wives. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1992, 350 pages.
Mounce, William D. Word Biblical Commentary 46—Pastoral Epistles. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2000, 641 pages.
Piper, John, and Grudem, Wayne. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991, 566 pages.
Tang, Thomas. New Bible Commentary (21st Century Edition) Volume II. Kowloon, Hong Kong: Christian Communications Limited, 1999.
Hayford, Jack W. et al. (ed.) New Spirit-Filled Life® Bible (New King James Version). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002.
Yu, Timothy et al. (ed.) The Chinese Study Bible (Popular Edition—Chinese Union Version). Hong Kong: The Rock House Publishers, Ltd., 1998.
Stamps, Donald C. et al. (ed.) NIV Life in the Spirit Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.
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