Biblical Womanhood [Part 1]

Date: February 16, 2014
Study: In His Image: Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Relationships
Teacher: Panel Discussion

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” –Matthew Henry

We will see two things about biblical womanhood over the next two weeks:

  1. Biblical femininity is most clearly understood in the way a woman responds to the pattern God has established in biblical masculinity. As we’ll see, God seemingly weaves the roles of man and woman together to play off each other.
  2. Biblical femininity is often spoken of in the context of a marriage relationship. This is because when the Scriptures were written, marriage was the most familiar context in which the virtues of femininity could be illustrated. This doesn’t mean that a woman has to be married to be a woman. Biblical femininity is not at all dependent on circumstances, I think we’ll see that clearly over the next two weeks.

In Ephesians 5, we see that wives are called to submit to and respect their husbands. Now, to some, these sound like archaic ideas that inherently undermine the dignity of a woman. Some think this is a call to endure slavery or to have military-like compliance to a man regardless of what he says. As we’ll see, that’s not at all what the Bible intends. 

What submission isn’t:

  1. Being a “go-fer”, servant, or personal chef
  2. Undermining to the dignity of women
  3. Remaining silent all the time and having no input

The word “submit” simply means to “place oneself under another’s authority.” In the context of the Ephesians there’s a call for mutual submission that all believers have to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, then there’s a specific submission that is seen in 3 types of relationships: (5:22) submission of wives to husbands, (6:1) children to parents and (6:4) slaves to masters (similar to how we’d think of employees relating to employers). In all these relationships, there’s one person who places themselves under the authority of another’s leadership.

What submission is:

  1. Submitting to the Lord by submitting to male leadership (specifically her husband) as an act of faith in God’s sovereignty
    1. In marriage, this means that a wife is called to recognize that God has created the man and has placed him over her as her spiritual head. She is called to follow the direction of her husband whom God has commanded to lead, guide, protect and provide for her. She’s called to trust him and follow him and submit to his leadership. She’s called to do this, verse 22, “as to the Lord.” What does it mean to submit to him as to the Lord?
      Ultimately, this means that when a wife submits to her husband, she’s submitting to the Lord. When she follows her husband’s leadership, she’s following Jesus. That means that as a wife, one of your regular acts of worship is to submit to God by submitting to the husband He has placed over you. This is an act of faith that honors God and shows that you trust Him to be sovereign, even over the fallen man who is leading you.
  2. Following and facilitating the leadership of men (specifically husbands)
    1. The woman is called by God to depend upon Him in such a way that she influences and spurs the man on toward faith and obedience to God. The framework for this whole thing is the woman’s posture of submissiveness. It is a way of relating to men in which the woman affirms and nurtures and facilitates man’s leadership by refusing to rebel against it. Bottom line, submissiveness seems to be an attitude of acknowledging, affirming, facilitating man’s leadership by not just allowing man to lead, but acting in such a way as to subtly call him to lead.
  3. Serving as a helper who complements, strengthens, and encourages men as you carry out the commands and commission of Christ side by side (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-24)
    1. In Genesis 1-3 we see that the bible teaches that women are made in God’s image and are created with the specific role of being a helper. She is to be supporter, a nurturer, one who helps the man fulfill what God has entrusted and commanded.
      The 1 Peter passage talks about the wife winning her husband over “without words.” What that doesn’t mean is that she never says anything. It doesn’t mean that she never shares her heart or challenges him. What it does mean is that her attempts to influence him are not mainly through words, but through actions.

That means that nagging and complaining and calling him out in front of your family or his family or his buddies is not the answer. These verses highlight the posture of the female heart: one of humility and inner beauty that trusts God and knows that He is in control, even in the midst of the mess.

  1. Biblical submission: the posture of a woman’s heart that affirms, nurtures, and facilitates a man’s leadership by refusing to rebel against it. It’s an attitude that doesn’t just allow a man to lead, but it’s acting in such a way that subtly calls him to lead.

At the most basic level, it means that all women should act toward men in a way that seeks to affirm and build them up rather than belittle them or tear them down. We’re all aware that our culture today seems to delight in emasculating and dominating men. Whether it be  commercials, TV shows, pornography…the woman’s desire to usurp and control man’s authority is seen everywhere. That’s why it’s important for women who want to honor God to consider ways to respect, affirm and rely on male leadership as obedience to God’s good design.

While there are various applications, it’s important to point out that all women aren’t called to submit to and respect all men in the same ways that a wife is uniquely called to submit to and respect her husband. But, just as men have a responsibility to lead, love and serve all women in a certain way, there is a certain kind of attitude that all women should have toward all men.

Submission in contexts outside of marriage:

  1. Unmarried/Single:
    1. Respect and trust your father and look to him for guidance, provision, and protection.
      1. You should show respect to him, and depending on the dynamics of the relationship, should trust him to lead, guide, provide and protect for you. Example: if living in the home, abide by the family’s rules…if off at college, speak truth to him about your life…if dating, seek his advice.
    2. Respect and encourage men in the church, especially single men, by building them in God’s Word and allowing them to be biblical men.
      1. Show trust and respect for men of our church. This could be done by allowing them to open the door for you, walk you to your car, or a variety of other things. Also if men seek to lead and serve you as a sister in Christ, understand that that doesn’t automatically equate to them wanting to be your boyfriend (if you are both single). Ladies can show the men respect by dressing in a way that displays Christ-honoring modesty. You can respect them by speaking honorably about them when they aren’t around or seek to build them up with encouragement from God’s Word when they are around.
        Also, you can trust and a desire to follow the guidance of the church’s pastors whether that is looking to them for care spiritually or asking advice about making life decisions.
  2. Workplace:
    1. Honor and respect to men around you through the way you speak to them or lead them (if you are a manager or CEO).
      1. These principles of submission and respect also apply outside the context of family and church. So if you have a job, the Lord calls you to show honor and respect to the men around you…regardless of whether you’re a CEO or you’re an intern in the copy room. You can show honor and respect through the way you speak to the men around you or the way you lead them if you have that type of position at your job.

Wherever you are, Christian women have an opportunity to model for the world what God designed a woman to be. Show them how to expect and encourage men to lead. And the important thing to remember in all these relationships is that women ultimately relate to fallen male leadership the way they do not because they trust men to always be good leaders or always make the best decisions, but because they trust that God’s design is best and that He’s sovereign enough to clean up any mess that us men might make.

A Godly Character (Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:9-10)

  1. Self-controlled (especially in slander, gossip, nagging)
    1. Self-control is part of the Spirit’s fruit for all believers. (Galatians 5:23; 6:1)  A gentle, self-controlled spirit is one that doesn’t always push your own ideas or demand to have things go your own way. Again, this doesn’t mean you never talk, but it means you control your tongue by avoiding overcritical, mocking, rude, and emasculating comments to men in private or in public. Guard your tongues from slander and gossip. Don’t talk about people in ways you wouldn’t to their face. Use your words to edify and give grace.
  2. Focused on developing inner beauty in self and other women
    1. We see both 1 Peter and 1 Timothy defining the beauty that really matters. These verses aren’t teaching that you can’t wear make-up or do your hair; they are showing us that true beauty and true loveliness doesn’t come from external adornment, but from a gentle, quiet spirit. As women, we should be cultivating this type of attitude in our own lives through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
      Also, notice that women are to be involved in discipleship relationships. This is especially important at your age: find an older woman to disciple you and guide you as you navigate singleness and the transition to adulthood, but also find a younger lady you can pour into as well.
  3. Motivation for biblical womanhood: “so that no one will malign the word of God”
    1. God’s reputation is either upheld or torn down through the way that wives treat their husbands and even in the way that women treat men in general.

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.
Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood. Edited by Wayne Grudem.
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Lesson 4. Capital Hill Core Seminars.

**Lesson adapted from Lesson 4 of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” Core Seminar**


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