Women: Man’s View or God’s View?

The following article is an edited transcription of our June 2002 Tape / CD of the Month, “Women: Man’s View or God’s View?” by Sue Carlson.

I feel very blessed and excited to present this sequel to the first teaching that I gave on woman and the Church. The title of that teaching was very simply, “The Role of Women in the Church.”

I would like to title this one, “Women: Man’s View or God’s View?”

Does everyone have a handout?

I want to briefly give a recap of the teaching “The Role of Women in the Church.” I am incredibly humbled by the response to that teaching. It is humbling to know how blessed and delivered people were. My prayer is that this one has an equally delivering message.

I’ll begin my brief overview of that teaching with explaining that a list was given of some of the great women in the Bible. I focused on a particular woman who was not even named in the Bible. That record is in 2 Samuel 20. This woman was a valiant woman who actually saved an entire city by beheading one criminal that was seeking refuge there. She had his head thrown over the city wall. She faced Joab who was one of the generals of David’s army and asked him to please stop besieging her city, and she would get this thing taken care of, and she did!

I went from there to a point of the absence of gender specific roles in the Church. This is really important. If you skim through the Church Epistles, you will see that God is not very specific when it comes to gender and ways of serving. We looked at Romans 16—that beautiful closing of the book of Romans where Paul named woman after woman after woman, by name, who stood with him and served with him, who were deacons and apostles and ardent laborers in the Church at Rome.

I went from there to discuss where the idea came from that women should not teach or preach or that women should be confined in their ways of service. I made three particular points. First I covered the difficult scriptures—1 Timothy 2:11-15. This is the wonderful and memorable section about “suffer not a woman to teach.” I clarified this scripture by going through it word by word. We recognized that verse 11 is an invitation to learn in a culture where women were excluded from education. The verse, “I suffer not a woman to teach or claim authority over man” is really a reference to a wrong doctrine, a Gnostic [a religious sect of the day] myth that had been creeping into the Church. The heart of that myth was that Eve was formed before Adam, and some versions of the myth had that Eve formed Adam. Eve was the fount of all wisdom. The real translation of that section of Scripture is as follows: “Do not allow the women to teach or claim authorship of man for Adam was first formed then Eve.”

Lots more detail was in the teaching. I just wanted to give you a recap for those of you who have not heard it. It is a tragically misunderstood section of Scripture. Once you do see the beauty of it, it is such a welcoming invitation to women to rise up and to be whole. I went from there to looking at some of the watered down translations. Something that has occurred over time, due to wrong doctrines infiltrating Church scholars and teachers, is that translations have been modified just a little bit, particularly in the context of women. Perhaps the most memorable example of that is the word “virtuous” in Proverbs 31 and in the book of Ruth. The word “virtuous” is used two times in reference to women. It is used hundreds of times in reference to men. Every time the word is used in reference to men it is translated something like strong, valiant, courageous—lots of military uses of that word; however, the two times that it refers to woman it is translated as “virtuous.” The verse, “who can find a virtuous woman” is really “who can find a powerful, capable woman.”

The last place that I went was the issue that over the years in Church history a real confusion has occurred between the role of wife to husband and the role or relationship of woman to man. In Genesis chapter three, it has been understood and taught to be the standard for all of womankind. We need to be clear about the fact that Genesis chapter three was not God’s will. I am referring to what God spoke to Adam and Eve after the Fall. It was not God’s will; it was a result of sin. It was a curse, and God’s heart was broken; thus, He said to Eve, “this is how it is going to be from now on. It is not how I willed it; it is just that this is the outcome.” What has happened over time is that it has become a standard for how men and women relate to each other. First of all, it was not meant to be addressed to all of mankind and womankind nor was it God’s primary will for a marriage. It is important to understand those things.

That is a short recap of that first teaching. I want to clarify one point about that. This idea of inequality of men and women and this idea of women being oppressed and deprecated and therefore, excluded from ministry did not arise from difficult scriptures. It arose from the Devil. It was never God’s plan for marriages to be broken, for single people to be so devastated by broken marriages that they themselves are afraid to commit. It was never God’s plan for women to be oppressed. It was never God’s plan for men all across the globe to be either molded into bullies or wimps. None of that was God’s ideal. The Devil has besieged marriage and family, men and women for centuries. It is an old tactic, and it is very effective, divide and conquer. Let’s get everybody fighting between themselves.

In this teaching, I want to go back to some of the difficult scriptures. Two more sections in the Bible need to be clarified. The first is 1 Corinthians 11, and the second is 1 Corinthians 14. We will then close with looking at one particular woman in the Bible—I will keep this as a surprise until then. I came across a couple of points as I was putting together all the research for this. This blessed me from a perspective of biblical study and biblical research. One of them was the realization that how we look at the Word of God is colored by cultural glasses. All the ideas or the philosophies that are floating around in our culture, some of them very obvious and some of them very subtle, influence the way we think, and what we think, when we read something.

I wanted to mention a couple of biblical research principles that became very precious to me when I was doing this work. One of them was inspired by the author of the book, Paul, Women, and Wives by Craig S. Keener. This is an extremely laborious and scholarly work. If you are looking for light reading, do not go here. He has four pages of footnotes to his introduction, but God bless him because he had the honesty to say something about research that just inspired me. He said that whenever we go to the Bible, we have to be honest to understand it from a cultural interpretation first. We have to understand the culture to whom it was written, then, and only then, can we accurately apply the principles to our culture today. Craig S. Keener is a pastor as well as a Ph.D. theologian. What he saw was that time after time people would preach about 1 Corinthians 11, which we are going to go to, and talk about the hair and coverings of the head. There is no question that this is a cultural issue, and we do not have to worry about that. However, the very same people would turn to 1 Timothy 2 and say, “women cannot teach.” They would ignore and reject any kind of cultural interpretation of that section of Scripture. Keener wrote, “That is the most curious form of reasoning.” If you are going to say that it is cultural in one place, then honestly you have to say it is cultural in another too. Once you understand that, then you can pull the correct truth off the pages.

Another wonderful book that I stumbled into in doing this research is What Paul Really Said about Women by John Temple Bristow. This one is light reading. He wrote it in the most simple and understandable language, and it is really short. He took an approach to Scripture that I thought was incredibly brilliant. He is a very competent Greek scholar, so he has a command of the Greek language. He decided that if what we commonly taught about Ephesians 5:22 and 23 “women submit to husbands as unto Christ…and husbands love your wives…” was correct, then he could write it out in English expressing a pretty standard interpretation; translate that into Greek, then open a Greek text, and if we have our understanding correct, the language should mesh. Is that not brilliant? Well, guess what? It did not! It was not even similar. He said, “Whoa, we have some studying to do here; we have some exploration.” He set out to get the true heart behind that section in Ephesians 5.

I am going to be using a fair number of Greek words in my teaching. I want to explain why. No English translation of the Bible exists that is completely accurate. We have many, many versions. Some of them are strong in one area and weak in another. Some offer one benefit but have a detriment to offset it. If you really want to understand God’s Word, some how you have to get beneath the English and get into the languages of Greek and Hebrew through reading other authors [This is one of the reasons we are working on the Revised English Version® of the Bible]. Not that we all have to become scholars in those languages by any means, but it does definitely help. The way that we go about that is usually by a “one word at a time approach.” In teachings just like this one, you will hear, “this such and such phrase is the Greek word “blah,” and it means “___”.” If that is your exposure to the Greek language, that is kind of like looking at a huge garden through the keyhole of a door. Imagine crouching down and looking at the keyhole and you kind of scan the room and happen on a tree trunk and it blocks everything else around it, or you look up and you cannot see the angles because you have to look straight through the keyhole; thus, you do not get the perspective that you would get if you opened a pair of French doors and went “wow” and saw the whole picture and the whole context. The way that this plays out in language is like this. We have a lot of words for store in English that sell clothing. We have boutique, shop, discount store, department store, Nordstrom— Right? Lots of words that mean store. If I say to you that I am going to go to the discount store and buy clothing, that means something very different, does it not, than if I say that I am going to my favorite boutique or Nordstrom to buy clothing. Very, very different images will come up in your mind. The reason that the images can be different are that you know the words Nordstrom, boutique, and department store. When you learn the Greek language one word at a time, you do not have the spectrum of the language. That is the beauty of being able to read from scholars who do, or to be able to get into the tools of research and study, like concordances and lexicons, to broaden your exposure to the language. One of the great approaches of Bristrow was what word is not used, not just what word is used. I encourage you in your personal study to get a little beyond the English. Also, to focus not only on what is said but what is not said.

We are going to delve into 1 Corinthians 11. I am going to read it right through and then go back through it point-by-point.

1 Corinthians 11:1-16
(1) Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
(2) I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
(3) Now 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.
(4) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.
(5) And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.
(6) If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.
(7) A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
(8) For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;
(9) neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
(10) For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.
(11) In the Lord, however, 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.
(13) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
(14) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,
(15) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
(16) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

You are looking at me saying, “I do not have a problem with hats. I do not have a problem with hair. This is really a convoluted circular section of scriptures, so could we please move on to something more exciting.” I want to tell you that I have put a couple of these scriptures on my wedding invitations. Not the one about hair, but the one about the headship issue and the one about the man being the glory of God and the woman being the glory of man. I wanted so desperately to be in the center of God’s will that I put it on my wedding invitation.

Now, let me clarify some things. First of all, verse 2 where Paul says about the teachings, hold to the teachings. That word is a word that everywhere else is translated tradition. What it is not is doctrine. We are not talking about doctrine here. We are talking about tradition. Corinthians is a book of one practical problem after another in the Church. On the very last page of your handout I wrote a little summation for you of the chapters of Corinthians and what the practical problems were that they addressed. Just glancing at the list, you can get the idea—it is one practical cultural issue after another. Finally, we get down to number eleven where we talk about headship and proper worship, after that the manifestations in the Church. Most of Corinthians from 11 or 10 onward is really talking about the gatherings of the fellowship—the Church gatherings, the actual time when they were together, their services.

We are talking about a practical issue here. The key to understanding the whole section is in 1 Corinthians 10:32 where it says, in the King James Version, “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.” The NIV reads, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the Church of God – even as I try to please everybody in everyway.” That is the overriding message of what Paul was saying. Let us not offend each other. The city of Corinth was a cultural blend of Greeks, Romans, and to a lesser extent Hebrews or Jews. All three of those cultures were represented among the saints, among the Church. All three of those cultures brought different traditions with respect to head covering and how they should pray and how they should prophesy and who should be covered and should the hair be up or down and so forth. Paul felt that this problem had to be solved because it was causing division and disruption in the Church, and people were not standing together. To get some specifics here, we will go verse by verse.

1 Corinthians 11:3
Now 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.

The Greek words for man and woman are interchangeably translated with husband and wife. You have to be very careful when you are reading Scripture and you see the words for husband or wife or man or woman. What it is really talking about in the context is what determines the use. In this particular verse, it is husband and wife. Man is not the head of every women; a husband is the head of his wife. Two very important realizations when you approach the Word of God.

Now let us talk about headship; this is a great word. This word head is the Greek word kephale. When we talk about a head in English, we talk about someone who is in charge. We talk about the decision maker, the director, the coordinator, the ultimate one who is responsible, the one in authority. I want you to be very clear about the fact that the Greek word kephale did not have any shred of that connotation. They would never have used the word kephale like that. A lot of other Greek words are there that would have been used like that, but never kephale.

What did it mean? Kephale meant “the foremost,” “the prominent part.” It is used two ways. Basically, your literal head, which is pretty prominent and foremost—your face, what people look for when they want to see you. They look to your face, your head. It is also used of as headship in a more figurative sense to still mean “foremost,” but it does not mean director, coordinator, order giver. It has a military use also. The military use for this word refers to the warriors or soldiers who were first on the battlefield; the guys who ran first into danger to clear the way for the troops to follow, the risk takers, the brave ones; that is kephale. You know and I know even though we have never been soldiers that the people who are commanding the battle do not run in first.

We have to get out of our minds this idea that head means “director” or “coordinator.” It just was not used in that manner in the Greek language. It does not indicate hierarchy. This little verse in 1 Corinthians is not a ladder with women at the bottom. It is talking about the beautiful order of God’s creation that the prominent thing of Christ is God the Father Himself. The prominent foremost part of a man is his Lord and Savior, Christ. The foremost part of a woman is the man; think about it in very gentle terms. If you are married and you walk together as a couple, how does it usually go? The man is taller. He is physically stronger. That is pretty much across the board. An essence is there of the man being the provider and protector that is different from what a woman brings into a room. That is what this verse is meaning to say to us. In verse four, we launch into this thing about covered and uncovered and all this. Paul addresses the men first.

1 Corinthians 11:4
Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

He says, “Look guys, you do not need to have your head covered.” Well, the Greeks and the Romans would have never covered their head in worship, but the Jews wore the yamikahs. The yamikah was a traditional symbol that had to do with the shikinah glory. When Moses went up to the mountain, he covered his face with a veil because the glory of God was too great, and he was too unworthy. That was the origin and concept behind the yamikah, according to several authors that I read. What Paul was saying is, “Take it off men. You have Christ in you. Your head is Christ. You are the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 11:5
And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.

The Greek, Roman, and Jewish women all wore their hair up. For the Jewish women particularly, to wear the hair up was a symbol of marriage comparable to our wedding ring. For a married woman to take her hair down in public was an incredible statement such as, “I do not want to be married to you anymore.” A Jewish woman would never go out into public without wearing a shawl over her head with the hair up underneath. A Greek woman would wear the hair up and would wear a covering over her head in public but not at home. The Roman women were much looser and freer in their culture. The women were a little bit more liberated. It was still not well thought of for a Roman woman to go out in public with her hair down. In all three cultures, long flowing hair was a symbol of real sensuality. This was something that only a husband would see of his woman, or occasionally, a prostitute would wear her hair down and flowing. All three cultures agreed that the long and flowing hair was not a real loving thing in a church service. One of the authors that I read compared a woman going into a service in Corinth with her hair down to a woman stepping into a service in a bikini. She might be really comfortable, but the guys would not be real blessed by that—kind of a distraction there.

The idea behind this whole section here was to give offense, to conduct yourself in a manner that is unifying and considerate of others. That is really the underlying message that is going on here.

1 Corinthians 11:6
If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

Two places in the culture in Corinth existed where you would see hair being shorn. This occurred among some prostitutes and among some of the pagan temple worship. What Paul was doing here was a figure of speech. He was using the most extreme example to make a point. We do this in our language all the time. We overstate or exaggerate into the ridiculous to make a point, and that was the figure of speech that Paul was using here. He was not saying that if you are not willing to cover your head then shave it! That would be the absolute extreme. That was not the heart. He was almost being a little bit humorous.

1 Corinthians 11:7
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

When I read this as I was putting it on my wedding invitation, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to glorify God. What I felt that God was saying was that women just glorify men; “you just go over there (step aside) and glorify men, but men are going to glorify Me.” I was with an organization of people who happen to love that line of thinking and jumped on that one with both feet. It was heartbreaking! I want to clear something up about that. Think about it this way. When in Genesis God created Adam, He put together His utter best; His own image and likeness, and He said, “Here he is. He is man to fellowship with me; and then he watched Adam, and He realized that Adam was lonely; thus He made woman. He took from Adam’s rib and capped His creation with the most beautiful, sensitive, and perfect complement to Adam.

I am going to read something from the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. It is a must read for every woman and every man. It is really a book to men about how God wired men, but it also has some statements about how God wired women.

“And yes, God has a beauty to unveil. There is a reason that man is captivated by woman. Eve is the crown of creation. If you follow the Genesis narrative carefully, you will see that each new stage of creation is better than the one before. First, it is all formless, empty, and dark; then, God begins to fashion raw materials like an artist working with a rough sketch or a lump of clay. Light and dark, land and sea, or earth and sky, it is beginning to take shape. With a word, the whole floral kingdom adorns the earth. The sun, moon, and stars fill the sky. Surely and certainly, His work expresses greater detail and definition. Next come fish, fowl, porpoises and red tail hawks. The wild animals are next, and all of those amazing creatures. A trout is a wonderful creature, but a horse is truly magnificent. Can you hear the crescendo starting to swell like a great symphony building and surging higher and higher? Then comes Adam, the triumph of God’s handiwork, you are my very image the icon of my likeness. Adam bares the likeness of God in his fierce wild passionate heart; and yet, one more finishing touch is there. Eve is there. Creation comes to its high point, its climax with her. She is God’s finishing touch, and all Adam can say is “Wow!”

Now when you read, “since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man,” it should carry a different weight for you.

1 Corinthians 11:8-10
(8) For man did not come from woman, but woman from man;
(9) neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
(10) For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

Now, a moment always comes in studying the Bible where you have to go, “What?” I could not find anyone who understood this one. Not one of the scholars I read got this angel thing at all. A time is there when you have to step back and say, “Well, I will ask Paul after the gathering.” This one, we just are not sure about with the exception of the second part of that verse—a women ought to have a sign of authority on her head. The word is exusia and the phrase “sign of” you can just scratch out because it is not in the Greek text. It is a woman ought to have authority on her head. Again, it is not clear at all what that means. It is textually sound when you do the research.

Something is here that was meant to be communicated about a woman having a power and authority that is legitimate. That is the Greek word that is used. It is not a power that is wrangled from someone else. It is a power that she was given. The only thing that I could think about this was maybe that this was referring to that part of Adam that looked at Eve and went, “Wow!” All the stories that we hear about things like Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships, man wants a beauty to rescue. That is something that gives her a certain leverage, a certain power. It is upon our shoulders to use it wisely and lovingly.

1 Corinthians 11:11
In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

This is a beautiful leveling and showing the interdependence of man and woman, in the Lord however. The woman is not independent of man nor is man independent of woman. Neither one of them can say, “I do not need you.”

1 Corinthians 11:12-15
(12) For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
(13) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
(14) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,
(15) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

That phrase, the nature of things, is like the traditions, the long standing customs and it can be used to mean “just very nature itself.” Think about the cultures around the globe. Is it not typical that in most of them a woman wears her hair longer? This is just the nature of things. There is a lot to hair with women. Where do we get the whole thing about “bad hair day”? Well, it is because hair is important. The truth is here; a woman’s hair is her glory and her crown. It is an easing up of all of this stuff about “shawls and hats and up and down.” It is just look, “Your hair is beautiful. It is not meant for a source of contention.” That is why he wraps the whole section with verse 16.

1 Corinthians 11:16
If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

The idea is that in a Church service you are to be loving, think about your appearance, and give none offense. Make it flow together. I hope that helps to clarify some things about hierarchy and ladders and why a woman is the glory of man.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 14. This scripture is really fun, too. This is not quite as challenging a section of Scripture to get to.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35
(33) For God is not the God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,
(34) women should remain silent in 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 husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

We just read in 1 Corinthians 11 that Paul said that when “a woman prays or prophesies,” speaking of the church service; and now we turn around in 1 Corinthians 14 and we say, “she should keep silent in the church.” We definitely believe, and I hope that you do too, that the Bible cannot contradict itself. Also, any apparent contradiction is either in translation or in our understanding. This one is in our understanding, and it is in the words that are used here.

1 Corinthians 14:34
women should remain silent in churches…

Look at the word silent. A lot of Greek words exist for silent. This Greek word is one that means to listen. Culturally the women of Corinth were not educated. They were not accustomed to school, lectures, speeches, and teachings. They were not accustomed to sitting and listening to speakers, and they also were not educated enough to really fully understand what was going on there. What would happen is that the women would sit in the back of the congregation or sit off to the side, and they would become bored from not understanding. Thus, they would begin to just do a little chit-chat here and there. The word speak has lots and lots of Greek words, in fact 30 Greek words that can be translated speak. This particular one is the Greek word laleo, and it is the only word that is translated speak that just simply means “to talk” or “to chat.” Nothing is implied in its definition about the content, validity, or the lack of validity or anything. It just means “to talk.” What Paul is saying here was the women should listen in the church. They should not be allowed to just chatter in the back because it is distracting and an unloving thing to do. That is the essence of this.

1 Corinthians 14:34
women should remain silent in churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.

Submission is another one of those golden words when it comes to relationships and marriage and so forth. We talked about headship, now we are getting introduced to submission. This is a very gentle Greek word. It is the word hupotassomia. It does not mean obey. A lot of Greek words mean obey. For those of you who are grammar buffs, it is the middle voice, which is “I do it to myself,” and it is the imperative mood which is “a command or an entreating.” What Paul was saying is, “Choose to respect the needs of others.” That is submission; hupotassomias which is to cooperate, to give in, to respect the needs of others, and to respond to the needs of others. It is a very gentle word. When you are addressing women in a culture where they are heavily oppressed, to say to them, “Choose to submit yourself,” is an elevation not a weight.

Primarily in the Greek culture the women were not allowed out of the home, somewhat so in the Roman culture, and definitely in the Jewish culture but really primarily in the Greek. Greek women were extremely oppressed. A Greek philosopher that is on that page said something to the effect, “The Greek men have courtesans for their pleasure, female slaves for their daily sexual use, and wives to bear legitimate children and keep the household in order.” The Greek women were incredibly confined and oppressed. When Paul used a word like hupotassomia to entreat them, he was elevating their status.

Why did Paul say this? Paul said this because the husband was educated. That is just the way it was. The husband had the benefit of the educational resources of the culture. If your husband happened to be a prophet, which is the context here, he would have especially been insightful enough spiritually to teach the women. In a way, it is a response to a tragic situation. Paul wanted the women to pray and prophesy. He was inviting them in to participate and worship which was unheard of. Paul just said, “Look, when you come into church, you cannot check out and start talking just because you do not understand, so raise your level of understanding by asking your husband.”

In Ephesians chapter five is a very familiar section of Scripture, especially to anyone who is married.

Ephesians 5:22-33
(22) Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
(23) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
(24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
(26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
(27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
(28) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—
(30) for we are members of his body.
(31) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
(32) This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
(33) However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

If you go back to verse 22 and look at the word submit. Guess what? It is the Greek word hupotassomi. Choose of your own free will, not because you are oppressed and culturally have no choice, but choose of your own free will to give in to your husband to respect him, to be responsive to his needs; but husbands have the far more weighty and difficult and extensive responsibility, in my opinion, to love a wife like Christ loved the church. That means to the end of giving your very life and to love his wife as his own body. Now, when your body screams out in hunger what do you do? You feed it. A husband is supposed to be that attentive to his wife. The great mistake that people make in understanding this section is to understand it in terms of authority. This is not a section on authority. It is a section about responsibility.

Wives, your responsibility is to choose to be responsive to the needs of your husbands. A husband’s responsibility is to love and serve his wife in the same manner and to the extent that Christ served the church. This does not sound to me like hierarchy. The word kephala, headship, is also used in verse 22 about the husband is the head of the wife. This is where I really think the use of kephala is the guy who goes first into danger. Your husband is hardwired to be your protector and your provider. That is what he is made and designed by God to do. If that is not happening, then some horrible wound or some great distortion of wrong doctrine is there that has culturally emasculated the man. A woman is hardwired to want to honor her husband. I am going to go back to the Eldridge book (Wild At Heart) and read you something else. This is incredible.

“Every woman can tell you about her wound, some came with violence others came with neglect. Just as every little boy is asking one question, every little girl is as well, but her question is not so much about her strength. No, the deep cry of a little girls heart is “Am I Lovely?” Every woman needs to know that she is exquisite, exotic, and chosen. This is the core of her identity; the way she bears the image of God. Will you pursue me? Do you delight in me? Will you fight for me?”

Think of that in terms of Ephesians chapter five. Man is hardwired to want to fight for his wife and protect her, and she is hardwired to want to be lovely, to be chosen, and to be protected. That is what is in God’s heart in this section of Scripture. It is not about hierarchy. It is not about being the final decision maker, the chief tiebreaker, the caller of all order and standard, and everything else. It is about a husband and wife living together and serving each other in perfect complement. That is compared to the beauty of the Body of Christ and how we perfectly serve and complement each other. That is Ephesians chapter five.

Other places in Scripture are there where Paul wrote about marriage and so forth. I have a sheet in your handout that is a comparison of Paul in Biblical teachings with the teachings of Aristotle. I will let you read this on your own, but I wanted to point it out. Our conclusion in looking at 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and in looking at 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 is that when it comes to service in the ministry, absolutely nothing is there that a woman can not do. She can be called. She can be ordained. She can be pressed upon by God to serve in the way that God has stirred in her heart to do so. If you are married, then you will carry out that service within a special context of marriage, but not as an oppressed woman, not as a woman who has been robbed of something that God put inside of her. I hope you enjoy looking at the handout and looking at how the truth of God’s Word is really to elevate women.

Esther is a beautiful example of a woman who used every bit of her womanhood to save a nation. She served in only a way that a woman could. She was beautiful, alluring, mysterious, captivating, wise, disciplined, patient, courageous, and full of faith. I will give you a little bit of background and the time frame of the book of Esther. We are talking about approximately 700 B.C. The name of the kingdom was Persia. Israel had been in captivity for many years. The nation of Israel was carried away originally to Babylon and then the kingdom that Babylon was a part of, was captured by Persia. It was taken over militarily. The Jews that were ripped away from the homeland and hauled off as slaves to go live in Babylon continued their captivity in the kingdom of Persia. This is where the situation was when you look at the book of Esther.

The king of Persia was surrounded by exceptional opulence and wealth. It was a very male-oriented egotistical culture. The Jews were slaves in that culture. In Esther chapter 1, as the story begins, the king of Persia gives this huge banquet. It lasts 180 days. It was a party of all parties. The description in here is beautiful; all the wine goblets were uniquely made. A command was issued that the people could drink however they wanted. This was significant scripturally because usually at a banquet a steward was there that sort of doled out the alcohol. They did not want anyone to ever be drunker than the king, so they would govern the dispensing of this. This was one heck of a party. After many days the king was very drunk. He did something that brought him a great deal of distress. We can pick that up here:

Esther 1:10-12
(10) On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas—
(11) to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.
(12) But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.

Let me tell you that Vashti was in an absolutely no-win situation here. Basically, she was gorgeous, and he wanted to parade her in front of all the men at the banquet. Banquets were separate in that the men had their banquet and the women had their banquet. You can imagine what kind of entertainment the men might have had at their banquet. If she had come and done what the king requested, she would have disgraced herself and would have disgraced him when he sobered up and realized what he had done. The no-win situation of it was that the queen in Persia was regarded as a slave, and she really had no choice to refuse. Vashti took the hard road, and she refused the king thinking that she would have protected him from embarrassment and so forth, but it really made him angry.

Right there at the banquet, the king got his advisors together and let them know how angry he was at Vashti and her impudence. He asked what he should do about this because she had disobeyed the king’s command. We have these advisors of the king really whipping up the situations here. They are making these outlandish statements about all the women in the whole empire are going to rise up, and oh, this is going to be horrible. To say that this was unlikely is like the understatement of the year. We are talking about a culture where women had very few rights, little access to resources, and no education. This is where I think that this is a great example of the demonic inspiration that is behind this kind of thinking.

Esther 2:1
Later when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her.

I think that there is a very poignant truth that is sitting in this verse. The king remembered, depending on the depths of his soul, he may have had embarrassment, regret, or conflict. Do not be deceived about the fact that there was no great love relationship between the king and the queen. She was just sort of the head concubine more or less and had certain privileges of state and access to resources. No shred of any marriage was there. Vashti was beautiful pure and simple, and the king may have had deep regret about what he had done.

The king again calls in the advisors and asks what to do. The solution that they came up with was let us search the entire kingdom and let us gather in all the beautiful young girls of the kingdom and bring them into the harem and let them be trained by and be responsible to the head eunuch, Hegai. We will put them through a bunch of beauty treatments and diet changes, and you can pick the one who pleases you to be the queen instead of Vashti. Part of the whole command over Vashti was that she would never after come into the king’s presence, so he needed a new queen.

Esther 2:5-7
(5) Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,
(6) who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah.
(7) Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.

Esther got gathered up with all the young girls in the kingdom and was brought to the palace to be among the king’s choices for a new queen. She went off to the palace, and she pleased Hegai the head eunuch. Hegai immediately provided her with beauty treatments and special foods and assigned her maidens. Make no mistake about this, she did not want to be there. She did not want to be in Persia. She did not want to be away from her family. She did not want to be in the king’s palace, and she did not want to be in his bed. He was a Gentile, and she loved God. She was a young teenager.

What happens is the girl’s go through a year of beauty treatments, special diets, and all kinds of training and protocols. God only knows the great mysteries of all the cleansing and everything else through which they went. We have lost that. They must have had wonderful information about herbs and all this kind of stuff. Esther by her courage and her reserve and her grace won great acclaim among the women and the eunuchs. The idea behind what was going to happen with these women was that the king would call one each night. One by one they would go in and spend the night with the king. In the morning, they would go off to another area of the palace. That I think is significant because she did not come back and talk to the rest of the harem about it. You can only imagine the apprehension, the fear, the mystery, and the scariness. Esther was a young teenager.

One of the beautiful things about this is verse eleven. Her cousin Mordecai came every day and hung around the outskirts of the palace area to get word about her, to send her messages, to see her if he could, and to pray for her and give her support. It came Esther’s time when the king summoned her and in all of the wisdom that she had she went to the head eunuch, Hegai, and said, “What do I take with me?” Now, use your imagination here ladies. We could have clothing, flowers, candles, oils, perfumes, food, and “do-dads.” Whatever Hegai said she took. What would Hegai know? Well, he was the king’s head eunuch, and I think that men by nature are freer to talk, especially in a culture like this, about their sexual exploits and desires then women are. Imagine yourself in Esther’s shoes and imagine what she has to do here. The man is a Gentile, a dog, in the eyes of the Israelites. She is so young, and she is so lonely and isolated, but she took whatever Hegai said and went into the king and knocked his socks off because she was the one that the king said, “She is it; she is the most captivating, the most alluring.” She is the one that set him on fire like no other women with whom he had been. He crowned her queen.

Esther 2:17 and 18
(17) Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
(18) And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality.

Great celebration, the king has found a new queen. A series of scandals and plots and intrigue happened in the kingdom of Persia that involved Mordecai and also involved a man named Haman who was the king’s right hand man, his chief advisor, his top dog. Haman had tremendous jealousy for Mordecai. Mordecai would not pay homage to Haman, and it really got under Haman’s skin. Haman went out on a vendetta to get Mordecai. The “lovely” solution that Haman came up with to get this done was to kill all the Jews in Persia. Mordecai went to Esther and as her maidens would see him, they would give messages back and forth. Esther learned from Mordecai about this great doom of the Israelites living in Persia. She sent back to Mordecai and said, “Well, I have not seen the king for a month. He has not sent for me for 30 days. He has been with all these other women, and I have not had any access to the king. Furthermore, it was in the law of the Persians that a woman was not allowed to approach the king without being summoned. If she dared to do that and he refused to hold out his scepter to her, she would be executed.

Mordecai’s request of Esther was to go and see the king, and she sent him back that she could be killed. Mordecai sent her back a message.

Esther 4:12-16
(12) When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai,
(13) he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.
(14) For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, [What great faith!] but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
(15) Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:
(16) “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

What courage, what faith. In those three days of prayer and fasting, I believe that God revealed to Esther the wisdom of how to get this done. She approached the king’s presence, risking her life, he extended the golden scepter, which meant she lived, and she came forward and made a request. Now the king knows that she risked her life to make this request. She has his attention. What does she want? She invited him to a banquet.

Lots of other protocols are there to get invited to the banquet of the queen. She did not need to risk her life for that. She would not tell him. She invited Haman, the evil man, and the king to come to the banquet, and they sat. She had everything laid out beautifully. She was all dressed up for him and was very quiet and demure and alluring. The king was just itching, just coming out of his skin. What is it Esther? What do you have? Anything you request up to half of my kingdom it is going to be yours. She said, “I would like you to come to another banquet.”

She risked her life, and now she is stringing him along. He thinks that she is the most gorgeous thing anyway. He is probably getting worked up about the whole thing. He is probably awake at night reading through the chronicles to think, “What does she know that I do not know.” The next day they get to the second banquet, and Haman is with them. He is asking Esther, “Well, what is it? Unto half of the kingdom it will be given unto you.”

Esther 7:3 and 4
(3) The Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request.
(4) For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”

I would not have bothered you if it was just a matter of slavery, but we are talking about my people. Imagine what this did to the king. He is thinking who is getting into my palace. Who is getting close enough to me that the queen’s life is in danger? He is really fired up here. He says, “Who is it? Where is the man who would do such a thing?” She points to the other man at the banquet because he was the one who cooked up that whole scheme. Of course the king just gets irate and commands that Haman be dragged out and executed. Haman in a minute of panic jumps onto Esther’s couch where she was reclining and the king just goes, “What? You would force my wife right in front of me.” He had him drug out to the gallows that Haman had in fact designed for Mordecai.

There is a lot more wonderful detail in this record, but as it turns out, the queen found favor and was greatly rewarded. Mordecai was given everything that Haman had and invited to be his right hand man. Tremendous elevation out of slavery and imprisonment occurred for all of the Jews across the kingdom. Esther got the king to agree that the Israelites could defend themselves against attack by killing any aggressor and plundering their stock. The Israelites gained wealth and status where they had never had it in the culture before.

Esther 8:17
In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, [That was the edict that the Jews could be protected and could protect themselves and that they were not to be annihilated.] there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

The Jews were so elevated in status and formidableness that they just earned this wonderful respect and gain all across the nation. Esther’s wisdom and her patience in using all of her womanhood to appeal to this Gentile king extended so far beyond Ester’s own reach and her influence. It extended out to the whole kingdom of Persia, and it brought huge deliverance for God’s people that lasted for generations and generations.

My encouragement, whether your avenue of service looks like Esther or whether it looks like the firebrand woman who protects the city from an enemy. What you have to bring to ministry is uniquely woman and it is uniquely you.

God bless you!

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1 comment

  1. I really needed to read this.I had been struggling with whether God hates women for months with emphasis on Paul messages that you tackled.
    I appreciate you taking your time to do the research and sharing the work.
    It really empowered and made me feel Honoured and Loved by God as a woman.
    Staying awake ,reading this at 2 am after crying to God about all the injustices women have suffered since forever to me was an answered prayer.
    Thank you again and again and again,God bless you.

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