Last month, we looked at the false views concerning the place of women in the Church, and saw that the basic assertion is that it is not, nor ever was, God’s will that woman be in submission. We now continue by looking at the Reformed position.
The true Reformed position holds the headship of the man and submission of the woman, in marriage as well as the institutional life of the Church, as being the revealed will of God.
The woman’s subordination to the man, was set forth by God as His will already in the beginning. Before there was sin in the world, in the woman’s highest state, she was created to be a help to the man. I Corinthians 11 helps us to understand this truth. Here, the apostle Paul explains why the woman is to have “power” on her head (sign of submission) by speaking of the original creation of the women by God. “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (vs. 8, 9). By creating her from the man and out of the man, God shows His will that the woman is to be subordinate to the man. Man “is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man” (vs. 7). I Timothy 2 also gives insight into the woman’s subordination as being from the beginning. Here Paul is showing why the woman is to have no authority in the congregation gathered for worship, and in verse 13 he bases his instruction, in part, on the order of creation; “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.”
A second evidence of God’s will to have woman in subjection is His declaration after the fall of man. After the Fall, though the woman had usurped authority over the man in the Garden, God in Genesis 3:16 reestablishes her subordination and pronounces a sentence on her. Part of that sentence upon her was that even her own will and desires would now be subject to her husband; “…and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Thirdly, we can better understand God’s will, concerning the woman’s place in marriage and the Church, when we see that the headship-submission relationship is not exclusive to the man-woman relationship, but is a common principle. Besides the woman being subject to the man, scripture also tells us that the man is subject to Christ, and Christ to God. I Corinthians 11:3 reads, “…the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” There are many other examples of this common principle; children in submission to parents, younger to elder, common people to their rulers, all saints to one another. Connected to this, the true Reformed view holds that this universal law of headship-submission is not done away with at the coming of Christ, as some would suggest. This was seen earlier with the appeal to Gal. 3:28 (May issue, p. 21); the parent-child, man-woman, and all other such relationships remain to the end of time.
There is significance to this issue. There is significance for the woman, for the Church, and God Himself. This is serious business; it is not just a matter of Christian liberty, but something that will have an effect on all areas of life.
First of all, it is significant for the woman, in that the false view of non-submission is detrimental to her. The advocates of women-in-office are no friends of women, as concerns their eternal well-being. The true Church of Christ on the other hand, concerned for her beloved daughters, teaches, in faith, the submission of the woman. God purposed this with the welfare of the woman in mind. This reality is stated in the book “Far Above Rubies” page 157, 158. When speaking of misrepresentation by the women-in-office advocates, of the Churches position, as being one that is “against” women, it reads,
“…But this is not a position against women, but a position “for” women, really the only position “for” the woman. The Bible is “for” women, that is, the Bible has the woman’s own best interests in view and prescribes what is best for the woman herself. Exactly because the Church is motivated by the good of the women themselves, the Church must be committed to adhere to the Bibles’ teaching on the question of women in office.”
God always wills what is best for His people, God determines how He will sanctify His people, He has sovereignly determined that His elect daughters be sanctified in the way of submission to the man in marriage and in the Church, and ordinarily with a life of childbearing and rearing (I Timothy 2:15);
“Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
In the way of submission she remains humble; in the way of bearing and raising she sees the need to go to Christ, to depend on her Lord. This is God’s determined way.
The unbelieving woman of this world wants none of this. To this command of God she says, NO! The way of submission? No! The way of childbearing? No! She will serve God and enter heaven on her own terms. Says this woman, I will serve God in the way of ruling in the Church, I will be saved in the way of preaching the Gospel. Childbearing? A few, as long as they’re not a nuisance, or make my way hard; as long as they do not hinder my “career”; a working mom is much more productive, I will be “saved” my own way. And the unfaithful, apostate church agrees and encourages the woman in her path of folly, declaring the women-in-office issue not a matter of salvation, and proclaiming that the Bible is unclear on the matter. By the grace of God, Christ’s Church protects her daughters from this evil, and they are sanctified.
There is significance for the church as well. The Church is blessed in her obedience to God’s will. In the Church, the covenant seed are reared by faithful parents, and a mother who, in faith recognizes her calling as given to her by God; a calling too, for which God has blessed her with gifts suited for that purpose. In the way of the woman’s faithful submission, in the church and in the home, the covenant children see and are instructed in their own submission to each other, to parents, and to God. The covenant home is the foundation for the Churches preservation. God is pleased to use the faithfulness of godly mothers, obedient to God’s will, to preserve His people in their generations (Psalm 103:17,18).
It is also true that churches who are disobedient to the will of God fall under His condemnation. Those churches that allow, and encourage the usurping of authority by the woman, cannot be blessed. Instead, they will experience the effects of their disobedience in beings, cut off from God’s fellowship in their generations. While this is true, we as young people, should also see that this issue is a consequence of earlier departure.
In the case of the Christian Reformed Churches, the false doctrine of God’s giving a common grace to all men, has had its effect. Because of this heresy, the separation between the Church and the world is no longer there, but instead, the church takes what the world says about the suppression of the woman, and gives it more credence than God’s revealed Word. Where would we be if God had not seen fit, before we were even born, to preserve us from such false doctrine? We are grateful for God’s mercy.
Thirdly, there is significance in this issue in that the true reformed position of the woman’s submission, in the home and in the church, glorifies God. Those who deny the submission of the woman attempt to exalt themselves above God and His will. God’s will for the woman is clear, and He is only glorified in the way of His people willingly obeying His command. This is the great joy of the Church; that God’s name might be exalted and glorified. Also as seen in a faithful marriage relationship, the headship of Christ and the devotion and submission of His bride, the Church, is pictured in its beauty. Never does the Church usurp authority over Christ, or even stand as an equal partner with Him, but is in loving submission, and it is of this truth that we are a picture. In the submitting, covenant family, the submission of Christ to His Father, and the loving unity of the Triune God is displayed. In all these, God is seen in His glory.
Christ’s Church faithfully heeds God’s will. The believing woman submits to God, though the way is difficult, thankless, and despised by the world. It is, for her, the way to glory. It is, for God, the way He is given the glory due His name.
“The statutes of the Lord are right…in keeping of them there is great reward.” —Psalm 19:8, 11 ❖
Jeff is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.