What does Genesis 3:16 mean – her desire is “for” her husband? What does 1 Timothy 2 intend, saying women must remain silent? How does this play out in marriage?
This is the subject of this week’s episode of Verity podcast! Marriage is a woman’s issue as much as a man’s, and the Bible has some interesting takes on it. How do we understand verses on submission in marriage? What does that mean for a woman today?
In this episode I mention resources for deeper study, which is essential to broad understanding of this topic. Here are some resources to help:
- Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James
- Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian by Michelle Lee-Barnwell
- Paul and Gender by Cynthia Long Westfall
- Worthy by Fitzpatrick and Schumacher
- Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd
- Women saved through childbearing
- “Stealth translation” of Genesis 3:16b
- Alternate view on Genesis 3:16b
- Messianic commentary on 1 Tim 2
- After Class podcast series on women
Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.
Okay, guys, hold on to your hats, because this is the episode, where I cover most of the topics that I get questions about on the regular. Questions about complementarianism or egalitarianism, submission, authority, whether women can speak in church, all of these are related to the passages we’re talking about today. Now, some of these topics will be covered in the episode on the church in our Women’s Issues series. But do keep in mind the principles that we discuss in this episode, because many of them carry over to our discussion of church, and leadership in the church, men and women in the church. So, that episode will be closely connected to what we discuss in this Marriage episode. As we get started here, I want to lay a groundwork for the terms we’re going to discuss. If you are new to this conversation, words like complementarianism might sound like a nasty spelling bee challenge and not just a reflection of a theological stance. So, what are these terms, what do they mean? Let’s start there.
There are two primary camps, two primary viewpoints in the Christian theological world, regarding the roles of men and women in marriage, home, and church. The first is complementarianism, the second is called egalitarianism. Now, complementarianism can best be described as a view that holds that men and women are equal in value, but different in role. They have equal personhood before Christ, equal in salvation, equal in their inherent worth, but they fulfill different complimentary roles in marriage, home, and church. What this means is, typically, is that, the wife is the helper. This is rooted in Genesis 1-3, the helper. Often, you’ll hear terms like the husband is the leader, the head of the home. Leader is not in Scripture, by the way, but head is. And so, that’s an important distinction. We infer leadership from the use of head, but the term leader or spiritual leader of the home is not actually used in Scripture. Husband is the head, father, husband is the head, wife is helper and complementarity role to his leadership in the home. The egalitarian stance is that, you are equal, men and women are equal in value and interchangeable enrolled. This means that everything a man can do, a woman can do in God’s eyes and vice versa. While there are biological distinctions, men and women are not interchangeable. Biologically, their sexuality is different. The things that they can do in the home and in the church are completely interchangeable.
Now, a complementarian church would be one, where women do not hold pastoral roles. This definitely varies. You’ll see some churches, where women can hold any position except that of head pastor, that would still be considered a complementarian church, though, probably more of a soft complementarian. You’ll see some churches, where women cannot teach anything. They can’t even teach the children and that would be more of a hard complementarian stance. In egalitarian churches, you will see women in leadership, just as in egalitarian marriages, there isn’t really a discussion of who is the head of the home either isn’t really a laid out set role that the husband or wife are in, they’re partners and they work together. When you’re looking at these two camps, I want to first just say this. If you’re like, “I don’t really fit in either of those camps,” you’re not alone. I think we’ll see as we look at what Scripture has to say that these viewpoints that we’ve pulled out of Scripture, these hard lines that we’ve drawn aren’t always completely in line with Scripture itself. We have to remember the context of what was being written both the historical context and also the literary context that these are letters that Paul wrote. I think sometimes when we look at these verses, we are so concentrated on this single verse in the letter that we miss the forest for the trees. We were looking at 1 Timothy 2:9 and we’re missing the rest of 1 Timothy 2 or the rest of 1 Timothy, and all of Paul’s work on marriage in men and women, and looking at the full context of what’s being said. So, I want to start there. What complementarianism is, what egalitarianism is, and the big picture of Scripture on men and women?
Now, there is absolutely no way I can do justice to this enormous topic, which has tons of books written about it. I will put some of those in the show notes. I will not do justice to it in one episode that I am trying to keep under an hour. [laughs] What I will recommend is check out the show notes after you’ve listened to this, I will have tons of resources in there as well as podcasts to listen to, books to read, articles you can research. You can do a little more of your own research on this topic. We’re going to talk about complementarianism and its proofs for a little bit here and some of its problems, and then, we’re going to talk about egalitarianism and some of its proofs and problems. Before we move on to the big picture view of marriage, what we can take away for women. What should marriage be like as a Christian woman? That’s a hard question to answer. Every marriage is so individual. Really what we need to do first and perhaps, I should have done this first is look at the design for marriage, which was set in place in the beginning. Here we have God putting Adam in the garden, giving him this purpose to tend the garden and saying, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” It’s not good for him to spend his entire life alone. He needs a helper fit for him. Now, when you hear helper, you might imagine making sandwiches in the kitchen. But that’s not what was intended by the use of this word. The use of this word is incredibly powerful. This word in Hebrew is ezer. It is used for God Himself throughout the rest of Scripture to describe Him as a military aid or a rescue, a help who comes in at the time of need. When God said, “This man needs a helper,” He wasn’t saying, this man needs a servant. He was saying, “This man needs a partner, this man needs a powerful aid to do the mission I have given him.”
A little bit more about that is in Carolyn Custis James book, Half the Church, which dives really deep into what it means to be a helper, and an ezer, and what that looks like today. But if you’ve never heard that principle before, I hope that’s encouraging to you that the very word that God used for a woman and the very reason that He created her was an echo of His own strength, and help, that should be an encouragement. That’s the beginning. Marriage was created to look like that. Now, the fall comes in and at the fall, actually, let’s go back over to Genesis 3. We talked about Genesis 3 a lot in the Pregnancy and Birth episode. But what we see happen at the fall is an introduction of controversy and introduction of this dissension between man and wife. And the verse that talks about this is in Genesis 3:16. This is the consequence that the woman wants to experience as a result of her sin. God says, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Now, I’m reading in the ESV. That word “contrary to” can also be translated toward, your desire shall be toward your husband, and he shall rule over you. The ESV chose to translate this verse negatively, so, contrary to. Because the same word is used later on in reference to Cain, when God says, “Since desire is for you, and you must rule over it.” So, they took that context and applied it to this particular verse, and therefore, it was translated with a more negative connotation.
Now, I share that because there are other translations and other translation committees that saw this verse as simply saying, “Your desire shall be toward your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This is important, because you will hear some people mainly in complementarian circles arguing that a woman will always want to be contrary to her husband, that part of her curse. Remember, what did we say in the Pregnancy and Birth episode? Man and woman were not cursed. The serpent and the ground were cursed. Man and woman were shown, “Because of your sin, this is the ensuing consequence.” There’s a difference between a direct curse that separates someone for the purpose of destruction, separates them from God completely. The serpent is never going to be at peace with God and God’s saying, “Here, here’s the consequence of what you’ve chosen. This is what sin will not do to you.” There is a distinction there. When God says, “This is what’s going to happen. Your desire shall be toward your husband, he shall rule over you.” The fact that the ESV translates this as contrary to your husband does play into how we talk about marriage in the church today, especially, in complementarian circles. In some of these circles, you will hear people say, “Well, it’s just the nature of woman. She wants to be contrary to her husband.” It’s just the nature of woman to try to subvert, and steal his authority, and things like that.
I personally, is my personal view, I find this a very unhealthy way to look at women, especially, Christian women, who are in Christ and have the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. I also think that this completely ignores that men can also be manipulative, and subversive, and destroy the partnership in the walking arm in arm to fulfill God’s mission that God intended. We have to be very careful not to create a construct here out of this verse, when there are multiple translations of that particular phrase. Now, perhaps, you do land in the contrary to camp, that’s perfectly fine. It’s obviously been translated that way in the ESV but I would encourage you to also read it in other versions and do a little research into that verse. As we look at everything else that’s said in Scripture on men and women, and especially, if we look back at Genesis 1 and 2 at the ezer concept that God saw a woman as an equal partner to man and that she was to help him fulfill his mission. I think we do have to be very careful and not creating a servant king kind of construct out of this one verse in Genesis 3. These are some of the problems and proofs in complementarianism. Genesis 3:16 is often used as a proof of the difference in role in marriage. It also creates a problem as you’ve just seen with how we understand the ezer role of a wife.
Now, I want to move on to another tough passage. This one is way further into your Bible than Genesis 3. We’re actually going to look at 1 Timothy 2 and I get a lot of questions about this verse. One of the things as I pull it up here, I want to encourage you is, when you come to Scripture, understand that the goodness of God is our foundation, when we’re looking at the Bible. The goodness of God, who gave everything to bring His son and redeem of people to be His own, I don’t think that a God, who went to those links would intentionally create a marriage construct that would not be for the goodness of His people. We have to remember that when we’re reading these tough passages. We read it through the lens of God’s goodness, and God’s intentions in creating a society, a family, a church that is both honoring to Him and enjoys one another. That’s the heart of God. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul is talking about prayer. He’s talking about praying for leaders, he’s talking about praying as a church and the reasons for it. Then, he goes into talking about men praying saying, “I desire that in every place, the men should pray lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. Likewise, also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty, and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women, who profess godliness with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, rather she has to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
There is a lot here and again, I recommend visiting the show notes for resources, because we aren’t going to get a ton into the woman being deceived aspect here. But we see a couple things. We see him saying that, women should not adorn themselves with braided hair, gold, pearls, costly attire, then, that they should learn quietly with all submissiveness. Oh, what is going on here? Well, regarding the braided hair, gold and pearls, Peter talks about this, too. What this is is economic immodesty. That’s what was going on. Women parading their wealth in front of less wealthy members of the congregation. If you know a little bit about Greek culture, which is what he was mostly addressing here, this elaborate expensive braided hair and all of these jewels was a way of showing how successful you were. Not much different today, right? In Him talking about this, He’s teaching them the heart of God for the community. He’s not saying, having these things is bad or that you can never wear makeup or jewelry. What he’s saying is, don’t flash your wealth in front of other members of the community. You will see this same concept repeated throughout Scripture. It was a recurring problem in the early church, because you were integrating the wealthy, and the poor, and different ethnicities, Jew and gentile into one family and it was causing a lot of conflict. So, that’s something I want you to have in mind as we move into what he’s saying next.
He’s saying, “This kind of humility is necessary for women who profess godliness, and you should be adorning yourself with your good works not showing off your wealth.” Then, he goes into, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” We’re looking at one contextual problem here. The contextual problem here is these women are parading their wealth. Then, he moves into women learn quietly with all submissiveness. Most likely, this was also a problem in the church that Timothy was pastoring. Women were not learning quietly in submissiveness. He then goes on to say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, rather she has to remain quiet.” I want to talk a little bit about the word for authority here. Now, we’re still talking in terms of complementarianism. Complementarians will use this first as a proof for the difference in gender roles. When we look at this word for authority, what it means in this context. This is the one-time Paul used this Greek word, okay? This is the one time he uses this and what it means is to dominate, to absolutely master, it would can also mean a murderer, to have full power, to be forced against one’s will, or dishonor the subject. This kind of authority to exercise this kind of authority would not be permitted even for a man much less a woman.
While we are looking at this in the complementarian context, I think it’s important to remember that even in a complementarian marriage, so, even in a very strict complementarian marriage, you can have a wife, who is acting in these ways or acting in a manipulative way even while the husband is supposedly the leader. Have you ever heard that phrase, “The husband is the head, but the wife is the neck?” I think I first heard it in My Big Fat Greek Wedding if we’re being honest. But this is something that people honestly will say, “The wife is a neck, she turns the head.” Well, really what we’re saying then is that, while the headship is there in theory, it’s not actually headship, because the wife is dominating. She’s the one actually in power. Marriage begins to be portrayed as this power struggle between husband and wife. When we turn to Ephesians 5, we will see that this is exactly what Christ does not want for a Christian marriage.
One of my primary missions with the Verity Podcast is to supply theology in an approachable and understandable way for the new believer or the longtime disciple of Christ. I know that theology can be overwhelming and sometimes, it feels you don’t know what book to pick up or where to even start. And that is why I wrote Theology Basics. Theology Basics is not a systematic theology. It’s not a book that is going to weigh as much as a dictionary. It’s just a simple eBook that introduces the concepts and basic fundamental principles of theology on the nature of God, the nature of man, authority of Scripture, and salvation. If you’re starting out and you don’t know where to begin, this would be a great resource for you. Theology Basics is only $10 on my website in our shop and it’s available all the time. So, if you head to phyliciamasonheimer.com, you can click on shop and you’ll find Theology Basics, as well as my other eBooks all available right there. I hope that Theology Basics opens a door to your excitement and curiosity about what it means to be a Christian and how to truly understand what it is that we believe.
Let’s go look at Ephesians 5. This is the one passage that you will hear a lot about. It’s the foundation for the famous marriage book, Love & Respect and it says in verse 22, “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 wife should submit in everything to their husbands. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water of the Word, so he might present the church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Then, he goes on to say, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” A lot of times what I’ll hear when this passage is shared is a very cut and dried approach to love and respect. The idea as one DM told me once is that, wives only respect. They’re responsible to respect their husbands and husbands are responsible to love their wives. But husbands don’t have to respect their wives.
One of the things that comes out of this viewpoint is the inability in a Christian marriage to have an open conversation about your needs as a wife, especially, about division of labor in the home. If you follow me on Instagram, I have an entire highlight on the biblical mandate for husbands to respect their wives. We don’t talk about this, because we in our Western minds only associate respect with authority, which is not how Scripture presents respect. Respect and honor our due to all image bearers. Now, certainly, there’s a different kind of respect due to authority figures and we see that talked about when Paul talks about praying for authority figures. But there is an innate respect that’s due and is a part of loving another person. When you love someone, you respect them. In this command that he gives to love, husband love your wife, wife respect your husband, it’s not as if he’s saying, wife should never love her husband. No one would ever argue that. He is also saying that a husband is to respect his wife. We see this also in Peter, when he writes about a husband honoring his wife, it’s the exact same word that’s used for honoring authority figures, honoring people, who have accomplished great things. The husband is to respect his wife, a wife is to respect her husband. They are to love and respect one another.
With this context, we can then go back and look at these commands about submission. Because this is where the wheels fall off the conversation, and people start to get emotional, and they say, “I don’t like it. I don’t want to hear about submission, and this is uncomfortable.” But the truth of the matter is this. If you are a Christian person, submission is your lifestyle. Submission to the authority of God, submission to Christ, submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, submission to your church and accountability there. The only time we don’t submit is to sin, and when we are being abused, and when we are being pressured to sin, and abuse is sin, so, it falls under the same category. When we look at passages like this, and we start to get prickly, and we start to get uncomfortable, remember, what is the mission of a disciple to be in submission, to be humble, to be a servant. If you go backwards in Ephesians 5, you will see that, he says repeatedly that we are to submit and to be imitators of God. He wants us to be like Christ. That’s the point. As we continue into Ephesians 6, we see that also this children you need to defer, submit, obey your parents. Bondservants, submit to your masters. What he’s giving a picture here is, you are to love one another, you are to be at peace with one another, to defer to one another, because this is a character trait of all believers. If we go back up to Ephesians 5:21, it actually says, before he ever gets specific with wives, husbands, children, servants, he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
When an egalitarian reads this, the egalitarian says, “Look, this particular verse is the foundation for everything else. Everybody submits to everybody.” That means there are no role distinctions in marriage or in church, because he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Let’s look a little bit at this one another phrase, where else does Paul use it? He uses it in Galatians 5:30 saying to love one another. In Ephesians 4:32, he says, “Through love, serve one another.” And Romans 12:10, he says, “Be kind to one another” and in Philippians 2:3, he says, “Give preference to one another.” In every one of these contexts, one another is used toward both men and women. The egalitarian would argue, well, since this is the context, he’s always used it. This is the context here. He’s saying, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” and then, he goes, specifically to talk to wives, because of an [unintelligible [00:26:32] situation. There was a problem in the church at Ephesus and that is why he specifically talked to them about submitting more explicitly, and then, he says to husbands, love your wives, which was completely countercultural, by the way. Remember, when you’re reading the Bible, that we shouldn’t be reading this through 20/20 eyes. We shouldn’t be reading this through our postmodern culture and saying, “Well, of course, he loves his wife. What kind of command is that? He got off easy.” Back then, it was pretty much a given that a wife was to submit to her husband in most cultures, but it was not a given that husbands were to love their wives.
One thing I think that may give a little context here, too, I’ve done a lot of research into the Greek culture, and the nature of marriage, and what was going on in the early church, especially in Ephesus with the influence of the pagan temples and Greek culture. There’s a chance that when these women became Christians came into the church, they felt like it was a free pass to exercise a new kind of freedom and their freedom in Christ, if you will to be actually disrespectful and domineering with their husbands. That is why Paul addressed this specifically. Do we have proof of that? No, we don’t. But it’s something to perhaps consider and that would be the egalitarian approach. The egalitarian approach would say, because this all began with verse 21 saying, “Submit to one another” that this verse 22, submitting to your own husbands is not exclusive to wives, but would apply to both husbands and wives. What do you do when you have a complementarian view and an egalitarian view that are pretty much at odds on two really big passages, 1 Timothy 2 and Ephesians 5? I think we need to take a step back and really look at what God’s heart is. What is God’s heart for marriage? Is He after just submission? Is that what He wants just because you’re a woman, therefore, you need to submit? Is He after a woman being subjugated or bossed around her whole life? Does He think we’re brainless, does He think we don’t have gifts? Absolutely, not.
Look at the Proverbs 31 woman. This woman is incredible. In fact, let’s just go there. While we are here, the Proverbs 31 woman was celebrated by her husband and she was actively in business on her own, by the way. Her husband was in the gates, which is a position of great leadership and influence and she was extremely busy creating and working as an entrepreneur. She’s seeking to do or she seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, brings her food from afar. She considers a field and buys it. And with the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard. All of these things she’s doing while married and this is not a threat to her husband. This is one of the reasons he praises her. Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. He blesses her in front of his children and it’s just phenomenal to me to read this passage and then, look at and then, remember Genesis 1 and 2. She has his ezer, she has his military aid and that is what’s happening here. That’s exactly what the Proverbs 31 woman is. She is this military help, this strong woman to her husband and he praises her.
Then, when we go forward into Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2. It’s not as if God has forgotten these things, when He’s inspiring these texts to Paul. He’s going to remember His design, when he inspires Paul and Paul would have known all of that. He was so well versed in Torah, He was so well versed in the Scriptures, He would know these things. And in fact, if we go back to 1 Timothy, he actually cites Genesis when he’s talking about the framework of marriage. He says, “For Adam was formed first, and then Eve,” but then he goes into the fall and says, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was, became a transgressor.” He uses this as an example for why a woman cannot exercise unhealthy authority over her husband. There’re a couple important principles here. Paul is using the Genesis model of marriage as his foundation for his teaching on marriage. So, clearly, he’s not ignorant of how God set things up. He’s not ignorant of the woman’s helper strength. I think we need to keep that in mind when we’re looking at this verse.
Now, I know I said, I wasn’t going to talk about the woman being deceived thing, but actually, I am. Because whenever I run into things like this, my first thought is, “Okay, Paul was a Jew and he was a very well-educated Jew.” The best way to understand what he’s saying here is to go back to his framework, his understanding. I like to look at Messianic Jewish commentaries and perspectives that helped me get more of the context of what Paul is saying here. I also read just regular, different denominations in different commentaries from those perspectives, too, but those will often be looking at word definitions, where as a Messianic Jewish commentary will take into account the culture and the commentaries, the Mishnah, that would have been at play in Paul’s understanding. I want to read to you a little commentary here that is talking about the reason he talks about the deceit and the woman being deceived. Because it can be easy to think, “Oh, so, is it the woman’s fault that the world came into sin?” Actually, no. And this commentator brings up a good point. He says, “The two reasons given for women not being disciples of men are Adam’s chronological priority and ease propensity for being deceived. Saul does not say that Eve sinned, but that she became involved in the transgression, literally, has become in transgression, which I take to mean that she became mixed up in Adam’s transgression. At Romans 5, Saul, this is Paul, that’s the Hebrew word for his name, teaches that “It was Adam, who sinned through directly disobeying God’s command to him,” Genesis 2:17 and 3:1-7 And therefore, he bears the primary responsibility for the fall, the introduction of sin into human life. Eve was not the sinner, Adam was since it was he, who disregarded God’s command. Eve rather was deceived. When the serpent duped her, she became involved in Adam’s transgression.
I just want to read that, because I think it’s important to understand that it’s not Paul is saying here that Adam had no part in this. Because in the Genesis account, Eve eats the fruit and gives some to her husband, who was with her and he willfully sinned. She was deceived, but he willfully sinned. This particular passage is now saying that women are lesser, or they’re stupid, or they’re more easily deceived as a general rule, because then, we’d have to say, are all men generally more willful than women, because we know that’s not true. What it’s saying he’s doing here is, he’s referring back to that pattern as a foundation for what he’s teaching on women’s roles in the church and what they are permitted to do. This is, I guess, would be something we would discuss in context of the Church episode, but I think it really applies here to the Marriage episode, because this verse is often used to apply to the relationship between husbands and wives.
Now, this is a lot of information and I can definitely see how you’re like, “I’m clear as mud. [laughs] I have even more information and now I’m having a really hard time navigating all of it.” But to recap here, there are the two main camps on Christian marriage. Complementarians and egalitarians. Complementarians believe that men and women are equal in value, but different in role. Egalitarians believe that we are equal in value, but interchangeable in role. And so, they come to these different texts on submission, and on leadership, and authority from two very different perspectives. A lot of times, we can actually bring cultural assumptions into these passages. When we do that, then say, “Well, this is what marriage needs to look like based on culture instead of based on freedom in Christ and submission to one another.”
Again, remember, submission to one another is a command in Ephesians 5 and what that means, I think we can all agree on is to serve one another. We are to serve one another just as Christ laid Himself down for us. We are to love and respect one another. We are to exalt one another and humble ourselves and serve just as Christ set that example. That’s His heart for the entire church of husbands, and wives, and the church family as a whole. So, that is the big picture we have to bring to these passages that are talking about submission. This is not a submission that means you never speak up in your marriage. This is not a submission that you never advice, and counsel, and give input, and even lead. You lead in your marriage. Wives lead in their marriage as much as some complementarian circles might argue otherwise, wives lead in their marriages. They lead their kids, they even lead their husband. A wife, who isn’t an unequally yoked marriage, her example is a form of leadership, the way she disciples. Then, even in an equally yoked marriage, our choices are a form of leadership, a way that we disciple both our children and our spouses. This is not an active discipleship.
One of the things the Jewish commentary said is that, when it says that a woman must learn quietly and cannot exercise authority, this is not talking about just learning information. It’s related to discipling. The practice of discipling and being discipled, which existed in Judaism and was exemplified by Jesus. This was not just random teaching. This was a very specific kind of discipleship. And that is what Paul is saying was not being permitted for women to do. Keeping that in mind, then, there are ways to lead and disciple in a marriage as a wife that are not just permitted, but essential. We help our husbands grow in their faith. We help their spiritual maturity, we help their view of God, and we do that all for our children as well. Many women do this without even knowing or without a label, but we have this responsibility to walk in good character and to help our husbands become even better men than they already are. And Proverbs 31 is a great example of this that, “Her husband is in the gates and she is bringing honor to him in the gates.” She may be even part of the reason that he is in the gates in the first place.
When we’re looking at these again as we get wrap up this episode, I just want to encourage you not to necessarily pick aside, any side and [laughs] get in an argument on Facebook comments about this whole thing. But I do want to bring some clarity to the marriage conversation. This is what I would leave you with. As a wife in a Christian marriage, submission is servanthood and every Christian is called to that. As a wife in a Christian marriage, you can advise, counsel, give input, use your gifts, and you should, because you are your husband’s military help. You are his aid. And all of your gifts complement his gifts. Another thing I would say is, it is a great privilege to be in partnership with your husband to be his aid, to be the person who he can bounce ideas off of the person, who counsels and helps lead him toward the Lord through your example, and through your conversations, and through your life together. That’s an incredible privilege and honor and God honors that. We see these women all throughout Scripture, who give us examples of what that looks like. That kind of strength is something that God sees as good, not as something that we should be ashamed of or hiding from.
Lastly, love and respect are both due to both spouses. Because love and respect are due to all members of the body of Christ. Now, you might be wondering, “What camp does Phylicia fall in?” I’ll be honest, I’m in between the both. Josh and I operate in what we call a complementarian without hierarchy marriage. We are partners, we work together, I do affirm headship in the sense that Scripture presents it. I think that we see it in the Genesis narrative and we see it throughout the Old Testament into the New, but here’s what I always say. “A complementarian marriage should look very egalitarian,” because that is what healthy complementarianism is. I see a lot of proofs on both sides, I think that there’s a lot of great arguments for both sides, but ultimately, at the end of the day, what we have to ask ourselves is, “Am I walking closely with the Lord, and willing to obey Him, and what He calls me to do in my marriage? Am I willing to lay myself down and be a servant, because that’s what I’m called to do in general as a Christ follower?”
It’s a big conversation and obviously, I didn’t do it justice, but I hope it gave you a few things to think about. If you want to do some more research, I will have a bunch of books linked in the show notes, as well as a few podcast episodes and some other resources for you to help you navigate this yourself. My encouragement would be that, as a woman, navigating the issue of marriage, we always keep it rooted and the most important thing, the gospel, making sure that Christ is central to us, Christ is central in our homes, Christ is central in our attitudes and our assumptions about the Word and about how we should live it out.