There is a question rising up in our society. It’s a difficult one and EVERYONE seems to have an answer. Different brands of Christianity have approached the subject and handled it in different ways, but as for me, I’d like to share how I view the challenge of what it means to live out, “Biblical Womanhood.” I can’t promise I have the right answer, but I’ve done my research, and this is what I have learned.
Firstly, I focused my research on two passages from the Bible about conduct for women, and then researched the passage further. The first of which, was 1 Corinthians 14:24-35 which comments on women speaking in church. In my research, I came across an article by Andrew Spurgeon (not the infamous Charles Spurgeon). With his understanding of Greek, he explored the passage within its context. I am a huge fan of looking at the historical context of Bible passages. Now, this may have something to do with the fact that I love history, but when we study the Bible, its important to distinguish what is History, what is Law, and what is Prophecy. Sometimes, there is a mixture. But in his study, Spurgeon suggest that Paul, in his writing, is using what is called, “Permissive Imperative,” to address the women of Corinth. This means, in essence, that he allowed a behavior to continue.
“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
For the Corinthian women, it was embarrassing for them to speak aloud, interrupt or assert themselves. In this case, Paul MAY HAVE BEEN saying that if they felt that way, and it seemed respectful to them, then they ought to continue to listen, learn, and save their questions for later. (I will include a works cited list should anyone wish to read up on Spurgeon’s possible understanding of the passage).
Now, on the subject of submission, what on earth does that mean? Well, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines, “Submission,” as: the state of being obedient/ the act of accepting the authority or control of someone else. Sounds a lot like something you might have heard in the Bible. But you probably never finished reading.
Something I find interesting is that God is a god of order and not of chaos. And to everything in His creation, He has attributed a structure… and all of it, He considered good. So take Genesis 2:20-24, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
This is what God created. In the image of Himself, He created them. Male and Female, He created them. And so, because we shouldn’t profane what God made good. Let’s proceed on the premise that God loves both men and women equally because they are His creation. But since God also created order, He has also paved the way for relationships.
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God… man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-12
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life… 1 Peter 3:7
“The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” 1 Corinthians 7:4These three verses offer some interesting insight into what God created the relationship between women and men to be like. In Israeli culture, there is the rule of the firstborn. This is very much like the way Adam was created first, and in this, is the firstborn. As the firstborn, Adam inherits many privileges, but also many responsibilities. True, he is “in charge,” but he is also responsible to care for what he has been placed in charge of (1 Peter 3:7). And I love the way 1 Corinthians 11 not only describes men and women, but traces both back to God. Man is not sovereign. In fact, he answers to God. Then there is this beautiful reminder of men and women functioning together in 1 Corinthians 7. One might assume that the Bible makes man’s word over his wife law, but this passage suggests that they are making decisions together and not one without the other’s participation. Partners.
Now, realize that even partners must let one’s idea prevail over the other. But without one another, nothing can be accomplished. Take Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 for example, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Let me explain myself very quickly, I’m not very passionate about feminism or women’s rights. However, I am disappointed in the way men have been trampled on in the process… “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider, Girls go to Mars to get more candy bars?” What is with this awful mantra? This said. I am in awe of the symbiosis of men and women functioning together in their fullest capacity, using their gifts and talents, and not tearing one another down. Neither outweighs the other.
The other passage I would like to take a look at is 1 Peter 3:3-5 which reads,
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”
I mentioned earlier that different “brands” of Christianity have taken this verse to mean different things. Some, read it quite literally and choose to not wear any kind of jewelry, fancy clothing, and put their hair up in a very demure, uninteresting style. But when I read this verse, I am reminded of Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
You see, in ancient Greece, it was the habit of the people to dress fashionably and decoratively in order to draw attention to their social status. With the case of Jewelry and fine clothing, this would mean the wealthy and the temple prostitutes. And so, by not dressing like them, the women were choosing not to associate themselves with the vanity of the rich and the immorality of the prostitutes, or in other words, “not conforming to the pattern of this world.”
And then of course, there is Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So why on earth try please men? As Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Now, it does say in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Modesty can also refer to the word, “clean.” After living in their “work clothes” all week, it was appropriate for the people to change into clean clothes before going to worship.
So, this does NOT MEAN that women ought to avoid nice clothing altogether, but that they shouldn’t seek to gain the approval of men by what they wear, but rather, dress cleanly, and place value on how God thinks of you, not people.
So how was that for a short cruise through womanhood? And if all else fails, go to Proverbs 31. I love that passage. Here is a woman who is loved by her husband, respected by her children, wise, creative, hardworking and an ENTREPRENEUR of all things! She’s a businesswoman.
Personally, I think that God will use you in how he has gifted you. Not all of us are cutout to be entrepreneurs. I’m not. But I would really love to be a wife and a mother someday. Writing is my passion… I believe God has a use for that.
So don’t be the lazy, wicked servant in Matthew 25. Put what you have been entrusted with to work for God’s glory. If you submit yourself to God’s will, He will use you and bless you.
But also remember what Paul wrote in Romans 14, “whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” So if your sister in Christ feels that she is sinning by venturing beyond her conservative lifestyle, then do not pressure her to exchange her dress for a pair of pants. By this, you are causing her to stumble. Let her read and learn for herself so that she may live her life in faith, trusting that what she does is pleasing to God.
Spurgeon, Andrew B. "Pauline Commands And Women In 1 Corinthians 14." Bibliotheca Sacra 168.671 (2011): 317-333. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 31 July 2014.