Non-Negotiable: God’s Law Regarding Gender Roles
Every successful organization has a structure. Leadership, rules, and work distribution keep companies running smoothly and provide an ideal environment for productivity. Without a clear structure, there would be confusion and conflict. This truth is readily accepted in Corporate America, government, sports, education, and many other arenas. Of all organizations, two rise to the top: the church and the home. Both of these institutions come from God, and He has told us exactly how He wants them structured. And when it comes to gender, God has been very specific about the roles for both men and women. I’m thankful for that! We don’t have to try to figure it out; we don’t have to bow to the whims of culture or political correctness. God has saved us lots of trouble and trial and error.
I’m Glad About Gender Roles in the Church
The church was in the mind of God from the beginning (Eph. 1:4; 3:10-11). He purchased it by the blood of His Son (Ac. 20:28) and placed it under the headship of His Son (Col. 1:18). Since the church comes from God and belongs to Him, He gets to say who does what. There are a couple of key passages concerning gender roles in the church.
1 Timothy 2: “In Every Place.” 1 Timothy is about how we ought to conduct ourselves in the church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). Through the inspired words of Paul, God lays out the rules for His house and addresses men and women specifically. He says, “I want the men…” (2:8) and “I want the women…” (2:9). The men are to do the praying and to practice holiness and self-control. The women are to focus on good works instead of good looks. The men are to do the teaching, and the women are to learn with a quiet demeanor. And then He spells out that this is to be done “in every place.” This would include retreats, rallies, classes, and devotionals. When men and women are together, women are not to take on the role of teacher or try to be in charge. God gave that role to the men.
1 Corinthians 14: “When You Assemble.” While 1 Timothy 2 covers “every place,” 1 Corinthians 14 just talks about “addressing the assembly” (note the references to it throughout the chapter). The women are to “keep silent in the churches” (v. 34). “Keep silent” is defined in the verse as “not permitted to speak.” Women are not to address the assembly “for it is improper” (v. 35). “Improper” means “disgraceful.” When we assemble, the purpose is to worship God, and God wants men to lead in worship. When a woman addresses the assembly, it is “disgraceful” because she is not subjecting herself (v. 34) to God’s will or to the men He has put in the role of leadership.
Some argue that God’s gender roles in the church prevent women from using the very talents He gave them. I know many women who are great leaders, speakers, and song leaders. God doesn’t say anything about women being inferior to men when it comes to talent or ability. He does say that He chose men for leadership because that’s the way He designed it from the very beginning (1 Tim. 2:13). Women who want to use their talents to serve and glorify God still have all kinds of opportunities! We can teach children’s classes and ladies’ classes. We can lead songs and prayers in ladies’ days and retreats. We can present lessons in ladies’ sessions in lectureships. The only time we can’t do any of these things is when men are present. Sure, women have plenty of talent, and we also have plenty of ways to put those talents to good use. If our feathers get ruffled about not being able to lead when men are present, we may need to do a heart check. Are we wanting to use our talents for God’s glory, or our own?
I’m Glad About Gender Roles in the Home
The church is made up of families. Our nation is made up of families. It would seem, then, that the strength of both is largely dependent upon the strength of the home. God has much to say about the roles of husbands and wives in the home. Why? Because He wants our homes to be havens of love and harmony. He knows the differences between men and women. I’m not going to argue with the only One who knows everything and knows what’s best for my family and me. I’m eager for the guidelines and the how-tos! Here is what the Scriptures testify:
Wives are to be in Submission to Their Husbands. There are at least four passages that teach that wives are to be in subjection to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Pet. 3:1). This is unpopular in our modern culture, and some have a real problem with it. Yet, submission is very biblical, and not just in marriage. Christians are to submit to the elders (Heb. 13:17), to our government (Rom. 13:1-2), and to each other (Eph. 5:21). The young are to submit to the old (1 Pet. 5:5). And we’re all to submit to God (Jas. 4:7). So, while wives are to submit to their husbands, husbands are doing their fair share of submitting, too. Husbands have to be humble enough to submit to their elders, fellow Christians, and their Lord. That kind of humility is going to make them great leaders of their homes. It shouldn’t be a burden to submit to a husband when he is fully submissive to his Lord.
Wives who resist submitting to their husbands, or do it reluctantly or with a bad attitude, are acting in opposition to God’s will. They are sabotaging their own homes! It doesn’t take long to look around and see that many worldly marriages are unhappy, even if the wife has full reign. God’s way is always the best way.
Both Husbands and Wives have God-given Roles. When husbands and wives focus on fulfilling their own roles, the marriage is beautiful and harmonious. It’s a God-blessed relationship that draws others to Christ. Notice what the Bible has to say about the responsibilities of each:
The husband is to:
- Be committed to his marriage (Matt. 5:27-32).
- Find sexual satisfaction with his wife only and show her affection (1 Cor. 7:1-11).
- Be the head of the wife and love his wife with a sacrificial love (Eph. 5:22-33).
- Show love by being forgiving (Col. 3:19).
- Provide for his household (1 Tim. 5:8).
- Be understanding and honor his wife (1 Pet. 3:7).
The wife is to:
- Be committed to her marriage (Mark 10:12).
- Be physically affectionate with her husband (1 Cor. 7:1-11).
- Understand that her husband is head over her (1 Cor. 11:3).
- Submit to and respect her husband (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18).
- Love her husband and take care of her home (Titus 2:4-5).
- Cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:1-6).
As our Creator, God knows what’s best for us and wants what’s best for us. I’m thankful He cared enough to tell us how to have an ideal environment for growth. Those who follow His will can avoid confusion in the church and in the home.