The Woman Whom Thou Gavest to be With Me (5)

Continued from November, 1995.

D. Silence, 1 Cor 14:34-35

The teaching of this passage has been greatly maligned by many in our generation. It is mainly due to an unwillingness to accept the truth which the Scriptures have been proclaiming since the Garden of Eden as the result of the Fall. The reasons for the prohibition of sisters speaking in an assembly are in agreement with the unity and cohesiveness of the Word of God.

The act of speaking in the church, whether doctrine or revelation or prayer, immediately places the participant in the position of leading the gathered company into the presence of God. Because of her place of dependence, such action suggesting a leadership role is unbecoming to the woman. She is, therefore, required to maintain silence in the church; but some may ask, “Can she then not contribute to the singing?” Certainly, for in singing she is partaker and not a leader. As a member of the company, she shares in all the activities of the church, but she manifests no leadership. That is the crux of the matter as the apostle writes to correct the problems in Corinth.

This place of silence is no reflection on a sister’s spiritual abilities or effectiveness, nor is it a suppression of the female. It is simply concurrence with a divine order which God has declared down through the ages. Note the phrase, “as also saith the law”, which indicates the continuity of God’s purposes for the woman from the OT order. Therefore, because the woman represents the glory of man in the church, she must be in silence and subjection in that sphere.

E. Submission, Eph 5:22-14, 33.

The particular emphasis in this passage is the word “submit”, or “standing under”. It is a military term and is in the middle voice, which has a reflexive sense, that is, it is done by the individual in question with her own personal interest in view, or voluntarily.

The wife is therefore to willingly take her place in submission to the man, governed by the basic principle which is applicable to all saints, “in the fear of God” (v 21). But she is also to do it “as to the Lord”. She is to submit to her husband just as willingly as she submits to the Lord. This submission is expressed three times: v. 22, as to the Lord, v. 23, as Christ is the head of the church, v. 24, as the church is subject unto Christ. This is the reason for the position that she takes; thus she is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church, which He has redeemed and which He is preserving for Himself as His body.

The directives given to the man in this context (vs 25 to 29) lay a tremendous responsibility upon him to imitate Christ in a way that the woman is not called upon to do. In the whole context of this passage, Christ has done more for the church (note the five verbs in v 25 to 27, loved, gave, sanctify cleanse, and present) than she could do by submitting to His Headship; therefore, the husband should set a higher standard than the wife, because he is a direct imitator of the Christ. I would challenge my brethren, as I challenge myself, that if we love our wives to the standard that is here set before us, our wives will have no difficulty in showing the proper submission that the Scriptures require.

F. Suitability – Colossians 3:18

This passage is similar to the one we have already considered in Ephesians, with this added criterion, “as it is fit in the Lord.” The word implies a legal obligation in a private matter, and its being in the imperfect tense indicates that it is something that begins when a woman understands her true relationship with the Lord, and it will carry on throughout her Christian experience. If it is fitting (right, proper, suitable) that a woman submit to the Lord, then it is just as appropriate that she place herself under her husband. What a way to apply a lesson!

G. Society, 1 Tim 2:9-15

The emphasis here is on the outward impression that a woman makes by what she wears and how she “presents” herself in society. The objective of a godly woman is to present godly character and deportment rather than a stylish appearance. Let us consider the words which the apostle uses so that we might get the sense of the instruction that he is giving by the Spirit. “In like manner” takes us back to the fact that “the males” are directed to perform their function of prayer with pious hands and without an angry or quarrelsome manner. Similarly, the function of the woman is to be performed in keeping with that same attitude.

The two words “adorn” and modest” come from the same Greek word “kosmos”, which refers to the well-ordered, well arranged universe which God has instituted. It suggests that style of attire should be in keeping with an orderly manner of life as God would have us live it. It therefore indicates a life that is balanced, as God Himself keeps everything in the universe in balance and in harmonious operation.

The next word, “apparel” comes from “down” and “clothing”, a letdown garment, suggesting modesty and humility.

“Shamefacedness” expresses a moral attitude which shrinks from overpassing the limits of womanly reserve and modesty, with its attendant dishonour. “Sobriety” is literally, “the preserving of the mind”, and tells of that habitual inner self-control, which becomes “women professing godliness”.

The four decorative terms, “broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,” are all words that draw attention to the body rather than to the character of the mind. The godly sister is encouraged to focus her values on the spiritual and mental priorities, and thus simplify her life-style so that it will enhance her profession and her place of subjection and silence.

The word “profess” conveys the thought of announcing, proclaiming, or laying claim to. The woman, therefore, who professes godliness is to manifest godliness by her appearance (v 9) and by means of her godly acts. Such a profession cannot be argued, for the evidence is before the eyes of all.

Another expression which needs to be elaborated on here is “to usurp authority over”. It is used nowhere else in the NT and is made up of two words which convey the idea of “self” and “acting”. Thus its basic sense is “to act on one’s own authority.” It means to have or exercise authority, and seeing it is sandwiched between the negative “not to teach” and the positive command “to be in silence”, it clearly forbids such activity.

This passage then gives as the reason for this arrangement: the two facts of being second in creation and yet first in transgression. What God has allowed in His sovereign purpose is to be followed by human order, and the woman can enhance this by her deportment and attire. She thus shows her concurrence with the ways of God. The privilege that is accorded her is therefore to confirm a divine and historical order in her everyday way of life.

1 Timothy 2:15 presents some additional considerations for us, which will be subject to different interpretations. I give my humble suggestions. An amplified rendering might read as follows: “But she shall be preserved or safeguarded by means of the childbearing and the resultant nurture and care, when they continue (remain) in faith and love and sanctification (separation of life) accompanied by self-control (a preserving niind).” The impression that is left by such a rendering is that the greatest benefit to the woman is to fulfill her home making role (Titus 2:5), raise God-fearing children and maintain a spirit of Christian grace and self-control.

To be continued.