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Should Women Preach? Part 1 - Looking at Leadership in the Home

When looking at should women preach, teach or pastor a church, it is essential to start by seeing how the Bible outlines the leadership structure in the home. I believe much confusion in the Church over these questions happens because of a misunderstanding of the leadership structure in the home.

What Does the Bible say about Women Preachers

What Does the Bible say about Women Preachers

Part 1 - Looking at Leadership in the Home

So let's begin by reading from one of the most familiar passages on the subject found in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:22-27 Wives, be submissive to your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head and Savior of the Church, which is His body. But as the Church submits to Christ, so also let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Structure and organization are a part of who God is; we can see it in His creation and throughout the framework of scripture. There will be chaos, confusion, and disorder if the structure is removed. In the Bible, we see that God has set up a design for how family units operate.

First and one of the most important things to remember is that this passage talks about the function between a husband and wife, not between men and women. Using this scripture, I have heard men argue that men are the head of women. This statement is incorrect. Paul said, “the husband is the head of the wife.” There is a significant difference between what Paul says here and the general idea that men are the head of women. Practically this would never make sense because it would mean that every woman would have to submit to every man. Most would agree that this is not only foolish but would never work. This passage must be kept in the context of a marriage relationship and not the general relationship between males and females.

In Ephesians, Paul outlines God's structure and directives to both husbands and wives. It is interesting to observe that the wife receives one instruction, and the husband gets three.

In verses 22 and 24, Paul directs a wife to submit to her husband. The meaning of this is straightforward; the wife is to yield and surrender to her husband. An area of misunderstanding comes from two words found in verse 24. It says there, “in everything.” Is Paul saying that a wife must obey her husband at all times, even when doing so is unwise? If it is sinful, does she still have to obey her husband? Is Paul saying that a woman cannot question her husband? Some would suggest that a wife should never question her husband. I have even heard women express this foolish suggestion. What if her husband is asking her to do something that will bring harm to her or her family? Does the wife have to yield? Some would suggest yes. If we remove the context and use those two words outside of the whole of this passage, then it is easy to come to that conclusion, but it would be wrong and foolish.

At the beginning of verses 22 and 24, we have the framework for everything that comes later in the passage. The word “AS” is used as an adverb of comparison. A wife’s first responsibility is to submit to Christ and out of that yielding to Christ comes submission to her husband. If something is unscriptural, she is to obey Christ first. If something is unwise or God speaks differently from what her husband says, she is responsible for addressing it. If something harms her or her family, she should do that which will be helpful and not bring harm.

It is similar to the principle of Christians obeying the laws of the land. In Romans 13, Paul commands us to be subject to “governing authorities” and even goes on to say, “whoever resists the authority resists what God has appointed.” Does that mean we obey laws that violate God and His commands? The obvious answer is no.

The wife is to consider the obedience she has towards her husband as obedience rendered to Christ. Husbands should never forget that the wife's submissiveness to the husband is under the eye of Christ and that he needs to be careful about asking his wife to do anything contrary to God.

But remember, while the wife receives one directive, the husband gets three. First, yes, the husband is the head of the wife. Number two, the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. This love described comes with tremendous responsibility. A husband's love for his wife needs to be the motivation for being the head. Thirdly, out of this Christ-like love, the husband is directed to give himself for his wife.

This natural structure in a home gives us a picture of the spiritual design of the Church. The Church receives one directive, and that is to submit to Christ. We, the Church, submit to Christ as our head. Christ has three activities of responsibility: to be the head of the Church, love the Church, and give Himself for the Church.

Something else to note, Paul is illustrating that from the standpoint of a husband/wife relationship, the natural position, the man is the head of the wife, just as from the spiritual position, Christ is the head of the Church. He is not saying the husband is the wife’s head spiritually. A husband may bring spiritual guidance, direction, leadership, teaching, discipline, and example, but he is not the spiritual head of his wife. He doesn't mediate the relationship between God and his wife. If that were true, the born-again wife of an unsaved man would have no spiritual covering. It would also mean that the wife would also have to go through her husband to go to God. The wife, like the husband, is in the Church, a member of the Body of Christ. Christ is her head. She is accountable for her relationship with God. In the same way, the wife is not the spiritual head of the husband.

The confirmation of this is found in Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This understanding of how the home works and the passage from Ephesians will help us understand when we begin to look at other passages and address some of the controversies that are raised in them.

In the next posts, we will begin to look at the questions.

  • Can a woman have a place of leadership in the Church?

  • Women and Redemption

  • Can a woman teach or preach?

  • Is a woman leading or preaching usurping the leadership and authority of men?


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