The Place of the Christian Woman in the Church and Home
” The Christian wife and mother who thus gives diligent heed to strive after the virtues with which the Scriptures characterize her, is truly like the ‘wise woman who buildeth her house.’ Proverbs 14:1″
THE PLACE OF THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN
IN THE CHURCH AND HOME
Women have always been considered inferior to men by the heathenish religions. The early Babylonians required every woman to submit to their idol, Ishtar, for immoral purposes. And among the early Greeks and Romans women were practically placed in the same class with the slaves. The Hindus do not allow women to read the Vedas, the sacred writings of the Hindus, nor are they permitted to eat at the same table with their husbands. The Mohammedans have always restricted the education of the women, and it has been only in recent years that these restrictions have been somewhat lessened. In a similar manner the Buddhists teach that a wise man should avoid married life as if it were a pit of burning coals. It also teaches that there are eighteen special hells for its Buddhist women. Confucianism considers women as a necessary evil and, at one time, even allowed the mothers to kill their baby girls. While the heathenish religions degrade the women, it is the Christian religion which gives the women their rightful place in the Church and in the world. In this present essay we shall devote some time to a study of –
THE PLACE OF THE CHRISTIAN WOMEN IN THE CHURCH AND HOME
The blessings of Christ’s glorious work of redemption extended over women as well as men. Even as all men and women lay under the curse of the law, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23, so also God has freely forgiven the sins of all men and women through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 As far as salvation is concerned, there is no difference in the sight of God between the male and the female. Christian women , as well as Christian men, enjoy as their very own possessions, the forgiveness of all their sins, peace of heart and conscience, the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, and the hope of an everlasting life with Jesus their Savior. For thus writes the Holy Spirit by the pen of the Apostle Paul, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28 And the Apostle Peter speaks of Christian husbands and wives as “being heirs together of the grace of life.” 1 Peter 3:7
While the Scriptures very plainly teach that men and women are equals as far as their salvation is concerned, nevertheless, they, at the same time, teach that women must respect a relationship which God Himself has established, namely, that the women are not to exercise dominion over the men. Let us look at the passages in Holy Writ which speak of this relationship. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” I Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a women to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12 From these passages it is clearly evident that women must be excluded from the Office of the Public Ministry, not because they are inferior in knowledge and understanding (which they are not), but because of the relationship which God Himself has established. According to these passages women must also be excluded from participating in the ruling of the congregation. Therefore, it is on the basis of Scripture that our congregations permit only the men of the congregation to speak and to vote in congregational meetings and in the conventions of our Conference.
There are, of course, many who object to this relationship which God has established. Some maintain that Paul’s words are no longer binding on us, because times have changed. They say that Paul was merely taking into consideration the social conditions which prevailed at that time. While there is no Scriptural proof to justify such objections, we find such opinions are widespread and that they have even infested the majority of churches. It is a common thing to find husband and wife as the pastors, especially in the Pentecostal churches. Some time ago the Methodist Church granted full clerical rights to women. They may now apply as candidates for the “traveling ministry” in that denomination, which means that they may become full “journey-men” preachers. Prior to this decision of the Methodist Church women have been limited to the role of lay supply pastor. Right in line with this, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in its general assembly has finally voted its approval to ordain women as ministers. There are even so-called Lutheran Churches which reveal their utter disregard for this portion of the Word of God by allowing their women to take part in ruling the congregation.
While the Word of God forbids women to teach in the public assemblies of the congregation, by no means does it thereby excuse women from serving the Lord in His Church. On the contrary, when the Apostle Peter states “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,.” 1 Peter 2:2,9 women are also included. Not only are they to be conscientious in studying the Scriptures at home, but they should also take an active interest in their Church, using the talents which God has entrusted to them in His marvelous service. And let no Christian declare: “There is nothing I can do.” What about calling upon the unchurched and inviting them to the Church services? What about lending a helping hand to the sick in the congregation? What about visiting some of the old people who so often feel as if they have been forgotten? What about assisting in cleaning the Church so that the job does not always fall upon the pastor’s wife or a few faithful ladies? And what about teaching the little ones in the Sunday School or in the Christian Day School? Yes, there is ample opportunity for Christian women to serve their Savior and His Church.
The services which Christian women have given in the Church are frequently mentioned in the Bible. In chapter 16 of Romans the Apostle Paul mentions of Christian women who were working for their Savior. In the beginning of the chapter Paul writes, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” verses 1-4 Greetings to Christian women are extended by the Apostle throughout the chapter. It was this Priscilla and her husband who took the gifted Apollos aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. Acts 18:26 Turning to the 16th chapter of Acts we are told concerning Lydia, “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” verses 14-15 And what about Dorcas? The Scriptures tell us that “this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” And when the Apostle Peter was led to the upper chamber to the dead women, “all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas had made, while she was with them.” Acts 9:36-39 We also note how Christian women served the Savior during His sojourn here in the flesh. The Evangelist Luke says, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto Him of their substance.” (8:2-3) And, of course, there is the well-known example of Mary and Martha in whose home the Savior was often a guest. (Luke 10:38-42) It was this Mary of Bethany who showed her love for Jesus by anointing His head and feet with a pound of costly spikenard. Jesus was so well pleased with her service of love that He declared, “Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Mark 14:3-9 From the Gospels we see that women were the last persons at the Savior’s crucifixion (Matthew 27:55- 56) and finally, it was a women, a poor widow, who cast into the treasury all the living that she had. Luke 21:1-4
While there are many other notable examples of believing women ministering unto the Lord, we shall let the above examples suffice to substantiate the truth that there is much work which can be done by Christian women in the Lord’s kingdom. Let us now turn our attention to the second part of our essay.
We shall, first of all, consider the place of the Christian woman in the home as a wife. The creation of the woman and her relationship to man goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After God had formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, “God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him . . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; and shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2 The Christian wife is to be a companion and helper to her husband. In this connection Dr. Zorn writes, “And here God does not mean a help such as an office boy is, but one that gives her heart and her hand to her husband.” (Questions on Christian Topics, pg. 159,160) The wife is to relieve her husband’s loneliness by intelligent companionship, by encouraging him in his chosen occupation, and by comforting him in his sorrows. Of course, only where the wife is of one heart and mind in all spiritual matters with her husband can she join with him in his worship of God.
The sexual relationship which the wife is to render the husband is spoken of in such passages as Genesis 2:24, “They shall be one flesh.” And again in 1Corinthians 7:3-5 “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” At the same time, such physical relationship will also help keep the wife, and not only the husband, from gross immorality. For note the words of the Apostle immediately preceding the words which I have quoted from 1Corinthians 7:2 “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”
The wife is also to be subject unto her own husband. This the Bible teaches very clearly. In Colossians 3:18 we are told, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” And in Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” That is God’s order of creation. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” 1Timothy 2:13 “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:9 This order of Creation remained in effect even after man had fallen into sin. For the Lord said to Eve, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Genesis 3:16 That this order of Creation is still binding is also evident from such passages as Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22-24 which have already been quoted. Doctor Stoeckhardt in his Commentary of Ephesians very aptly points out that even as Christ leads and rules His Church, so also in holy wedlock the husband governs and has the chief responsibility. Therefore it is the duty of the wife to submit to her husband. In view of these passages, no Christian pastor dare eliminate the word “obey” from the marriage ceremony.
This command is also binding upon the Christian wife whose husband is a rank unbeliever. She should cheerfully walk in the ways of the Lord and pray earnestly for her husband’s conversion. In 1 Corinthians 7:13-14, the Apostle Paul refers to this very thing saying, “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” And the Apostle Peter writes,“ Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (manner of life) of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” 1 Peter 3:1-2 When the husband demands that the wife do something which is contrary to the Word of God, then, of course, she must declare with the Apostle Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
We now turn our attention to the place of the Christian woman in the home as a mother. It is God’s will that a Christian wife should become the mother of children. The procreation of children is also one of the purposes of marriage. The Lord says in Genesis, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Genesis 1:27-28 Furthermore, we see from the Scriptures that children are gracious gifts of God. By the pen of the Psalmist the Holy Spirit writes, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward . . . Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” Psalm 127:3-4 And in Psalm 128, “Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways . . . Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.” Jacob recognized this truth. Remember the tender reunion between Jacob and Esau? When Esau saw the women and Jacob’s children, he asked, “Who are these with thee? And Jacob said, `The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.'” Genesis 33:5
Among the Israelitish women it was considered a grievous affliction to be without children. The examples of Sarah in Genesis 16, Rachel in Genesis 30, and Hannah in 1 Samual 1, amply testify to this fact. An old Jewish proverb says, “The childless are but as the lifeless.” How times have changed! Dr. Zorn writes, “Married people nowadays rejoice when they find themselves blessed with few children or with none at all. A large family is not looked upon as a blessing, but rather as – as what? As a curse?” (Questions on Christian Topics, page 180) This charge is generally true. Many so-called mothers seemingly devoid of natural motherly instincts will even seek to rid themselves of unwanted children already in the early stages of pregnancy through abortions. And nine of every ten abortions in this country today are performed on married women, especially between the ages of 25 and 35, with three or more children. It has been estimated that there are about one thousand criminal abortions performed every day in the United States! One medical authority estimated the total Chicago abortion traffic “conservatively” at about 200 a day. A large number of mid- wives and other untrained people in the slum areas perform abortions for as little as $10. The abortion physician’s price, however, ranges from $250 to $400. And a few years ago, Portland, Oregon, was exposed as the abortion capital of the Pacific Coast. (Cf. Woman’s Home Companion, Oct. 1955) The clear Commandment of God – “Thou shalt not kill” Exodus 20:13 – is thus set aside by such murderers!
What shall we then say about the mother who practices some kind of birth control? It is interesting to note how some of the other denominations answer this question. The Roman Catholic Church forbids her members to practice artificial birth control, but advocates the so-called “Rhythm Method.” In their recent family-life convention in Buffalo, New York, Rev. Burke, the bishop of Buffalo, referred to those who advocate such practices, as “followers of the devil.” And again, “These erotic human beings live to learn a lesson – that it is better to have a cradle in the house than a coffin, better to have six children that one cancer, better to have 12 children than for a young mother to become psychotic or neurotic and have to spend the rest of her days in an asylum for the insane.” The vast majority of Protestant denominations have supported the birth control movement as a method of keeping family size in line with ability to provide. Dr. William Lipphard, Editor of Missions Magazine, the official Baptist publication writes, “No parish Baptist church and no ecclesiastical convention of Baptists has ever by resolution expressed approval or disapproval of birth control or planned parenthood. Even if it had, such resolution would not be binding on any Baptist. Most Baptists would resent and repudiate any such resolution as an unwarranted intrusion into the private life of husband and wife.” The Methodists answer in a similar way, “The general conference of the Methodist church has never made an official pronouncement on birth control . . . the spacing of children, the health of parents and adequate economic support are factors to be considered.” (Dr. Ralph W. Sockman) The Presbyterian Church answers, “The Presbyterian church does not legislate for its people on personal moral issues. Nothing in the church’s teaching, however, can be constructed as forbidding an intelligent, conservative and unselfish employment of birth control. The commandment of God to our first parents, “Be fruitful and multiple,” was given at a time when the world was underpopulated. Presbyterians do not believe this precept is relevant today when overpopulation in many areas produces hunger and famine.” (Dr. John S. Bonnell) Dr. Norman Pittenger, professor at General Theological Seminary, speaking in behalf of the Episcopalian Church, says, “The Angelican communion has spoken, through its conference of bishops at Lambeth, on birth control, saying that when practiced without selfish motives it is permissible. There has been much discussion of the `moral theology’ of contraception, but no more clearly defined position has yet been taken.” And, finally, to quote one more, the American Lutheran Conference recently stated through its Commission on Social Relations, “The means which a married pair uses to determine the number and the spacing of the births of their children are a matter for them to decide with their own consciences, on the basis of competent medical authority and in the sense of accountability to God. No moral merit or demerit can be attached to any of the medically approved methods for controlling the number of spacing of children. Whether the means used are those labeled `natural’ or `artificial’ is of far less importance than the spirit in which these means are used. Continence in the marriage relationship, when its sole purpose is the selfish avoidance of pregnancy, is equally as wrong as in the use of contraception toward this same selfish goal. An over abundant production of children without regard to the responsibilities involved may be as sinful and selfish as is the complete avoidance of parenthood.”
It is not what the church may legislate which should govern the Christian mother’s attitude as far as birth control is concerned, but for her the question of paramount importance must always be: What saith the Lord in His Word? In the Scriptures we note the following principles basic to the subject: 1.) Children are the gracious gifts of God, Psalm 127:3-6, Psalm 128; 2.) Children are not to be despised, Matthew 18:10; 3.) God not only grants children but He also withholds them, Job 1:21, Genesis 20:18, Genesis 25:21, Genesis 30:2. Keeping these Scriptural principles in mind the Christian mother will realize that one of the purposes of her marriage is the procreation of children and therefore she will also rejoice with every child that the Lord grants her whether it be few or many. She will not make the advice and counsel of worldly-minded people her guide, but will continually look to the Word of God which is “a lamp unto her feet and a light unto her path”. Psalm 119:105 She will not heed the talk of those who claim that if no birth control is practiced, the world is doomed to disaster. Such is the talk of Julian Huxley, who writes in his introduction to Robert Cook’s book, “Human Fertility: The Modern Dilemma,” “We need a positive population policy for the world as a whole and for each of the nations in stressing the wickedness of allowing future generations to be born to increasing misery and permitting the entire human race to suffer genetic degeneration. It will regard population health as a part of general health, and family planning and birth control as indispensable.” The Christian mother will realize since it is the Lord who grants her children, it is the Lord who will take care of them by providing them with everything they need to support this body and life. Here, too, the words of Solomon apply, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 Due thankfulness to the Lord for the children which the Lord has granted her will also prompt the Christian mother to follow the example of Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy, who in his early years was trained and nurtured by them in the Word of God, that the Apostle Paul later could write to him of this and say, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15 Yes, she will assist her husband in bringing the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by bringing them to Jesus in Holy Baptism and by constantly impressing upon their hearts that they are only strangers and pilgrims here and that they should always fix their gaze on the eternal blessedness which awaits them in heaven with Jesus their Savior.
The true Christian wife and mother will also give due heed to those warnings in the Holy Scriptures which tell her how NOT to be. She listens when her dear Lord tells her not to be contentious, jealous, and quick to become angry. The writer declares by inspiration, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry women.” Proverbs 21:19 She will be careful not to be given over to gossip, like the younger widows concerning whom the Apostle Paul wrote, “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” I Timothy 5:13 She will heed the admonition of the Apostle not to be excessively concerned about dress, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
The attributes of a good wife and mother are very fittingly described in the last chapter of Proverbs, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships: she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates; when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised . Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates” Proverbs 31:10-31 And lest anyone ever think that the New Testament is at variance with the Old Testament on this point, let us note what the Apostle Paul writes to Titus, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine . . . that they may teach the young woman to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Titus 2:1-5 The Christian wife and mother who thus gives diligent heed to strive after the virtues with which the Scriptures characterize her, is truly like the “wise woman who buildeth her house.” Proverbs 14:1
We must very sadly acknowledge the deplorable fact that the tendency in our day is to take the wife and mother out of the rightful sphere into which God Himself had placed her. On the basis of the passages already quoted it is certainly not in harmony with the Word of God if a wife and mother, by having employment, neglects her Scriptural duties in the home. “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” 1 Timothy 5:14
The Bible gives us many examples of such pious wives and mothers. Think of Abigail who was faithful to her husband unto the end, 1 Samuel 25; of Ruth, the Moabitess, and her tender characteristics; of the Virgin Mary and her humble submission to the Word of God. Luke 1:38 Such Christian wives and mothers are really a great prize and treasure in our day of gross materialism and sensuality. And those husbands and children whom the Lord has granted such faithful and pious wives and mothers can thank and praise God sufficiently for His wonderful grace!