Biblical Womanhood: A Complementarian View
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.
The role of women in the Church is an increasingly controversial topic, especially due to the rise of feminism in America. As the distinctions between men and women blur within our society, we must ask ourselves, how the Church can stand firm on the teaching of Scripture. As Christians, it is important to approach this conversation with grace and truth as we hope to display God’s unique order and design to the world. Furthermore, we hope to use God’s order of creation to further submit to Him. Therefore, it is essential to approach all Scripture with submissive hearts towards God and His will.
In the discussion of biblical femininity, we must be careful of the culture’s impact on the Church. Far too often, the culture surrounding the Church has often influenced the scriptural beliefs in an inappropriate way. However, we must avoid this, and rather let Scripture determine the Church’s view of the culture. We are reminded by Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
As Christians, Scripture must be our highest authority in both theological and social issues. Therefore, we must approach Scripture with the expectation of conforming to its demands rather than it conforming to ours. With that said, we will take a look at the creation of biblical womanhood in order to understand the role of women in the Church.
Role of Women
In order to see the ways in which women were uniquely created and to understand their role both in the Church and in the home, we can look to the passage Titus 2:3-5. Here Paul describes a woman’s role:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
In this text, we can see the encouragement and importance of female discipleship. Women are essential to the body of Christ in their support, encouragement, submission, and nurturing of male leadership. If God had created both genders as spiritual leaders, who would follow along in support and submission? Likewise, if God had not created man to be the leader, who would be given the responsibility to guide the church? In the Complementarian view, we can understand and see how both roles are needed and valued.
The order of creation displays God’s intended structure. We see this in Genesis 2:18, which says:
This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.
In this passage, we see the order of creation and it is particularly important to note the order’s impact on gender roles. God created man first as the leader of the family, and woman next as the “helper” to encourage, nurture, and submit to her husband’s leadership. She is not to be above his leadership, at the head, nor below, at his feet. Instead, she was formed out of man’s rib cage, signifying the importance of her standing beside him as he leads and protects her.
Results of the Fall
Due to the fall of Adam, the roles between man and woman have often become twisted and corrupted. Genesis 3:16 describes a consequence of the fall, which states:
And the desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.
This short sentence shines light on the ongoing struggle between man and woman. The man was not meant to rule over a woman, but to lead her. However, due to the fall, men desire to, sinfully, rule over women. In addition, as a result of the fall, women have the sinful desire to take leadership over their husbands. Both of these distortions are present in the world today yet they are both unbiblical and twist the design of God’s original perfect creation.
God created the union of marriage for the furtherance of His kingdom and to display His glory. We see this when Jesus’ relation to the Church is described similarly to that of a wife and husband. Ephesians 5:22-23 highlights this truth as it states:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
In the context of marriage, Scripture commands wives to submit to godly leadership in a godly way. Christ is the example for husbands as he displays perfect leadership in love and a willingness to die for His bride, the Church. This type of sacrificial love is what husbands are called to in their leadership. Wives are called to respond to this Godly leadership in humility and support, submitting to the leadership and authority of their husbands.
To be clear, biblical leadership does not mean superiority. In the Trinitarian context, Christ submitted to his Father’s will (Phil 2, Mark 14:32-36) and yet Scripture is clear that Christ is not subordinate to the Father. In a similar way, a woman submits to her husband’s leadership, but this act of submission does not and cannot diminish her value.
Responsibilities & Role in the Church
With the role of women clearly outlined in Scripture, the Church must stand firm on the biblical teaching that a woman is not to teach or exercise the authority of Scripture over men in a pastoral setting. This is clearly outlined in the Pauline epistles (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11-12).
While this position may seem outdated, or even unnecessary, it is important to realize that this truth is both freeing and beneficial for both Christian men and women as well as the Church as a whole. Through Scripture, we see the Complementarian view of men and women clearly outlined. With God’s purposeful design of creation, the strengths of both men and women coincide and strengthen each other.
This does not mean, however, that women are not needed in ministry. Women are essential to the ministry and spread of the gospel, and we see this clearly in Scripture. The Bible speaks of many women such as Phoebe who were used in a mighty way to carry out the work of ministry. In fact, Paul speaks of Phoebe of highest regards in Romans 16:1-2 by stating,
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
Throughout Scripture, it is clear that God has uniquely formed both genders to build and encourage one another. Godly submission is shown in the Trinity — an example of perfect, harmonious, community, but it is also shown in marriage. Submission in marriage does not determine one gender of inferiority. We can see this in the Trinitarian expression of submission, where the Father is not greater than the Son, but both are equally and fully God. Similarly, the husband is not greater than his wife. The husband is to be the leader, yet his wife, though equal to the husband, is to submit to the God-given responsibilities of nurturing, caring, and supporting her husband.