To understand the position of a woman in the church one must consider the story of creation, fall, and recreation. This is the direction God gives in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Hence this article shows that in salvation Christ saves also the womanhood of a woman, placing her in a submissive position and not in leadership.

Source: Clarion, 2014. 5 pages.

Biblical Womanhood: The Place of the Woman in Creation and Recreation

I consider it a great honour and privilege that I, a man, can speak to a gathering of women about "biblical womanhood." I realize that the only way in which I can do so effectively and fruitfully (and safely, I should add!) will be by speaking to you as sisters in the Lord. We have our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in common, and we share the conviction that our view and understanding of "the woman" and "womanhood" can be determined only on the basis of the authoritative Word of God. Hence, it's stand­ing on this solid and common foundation that I, as a man, have the courage to address you on the topic of biblical womanhood. Of course, I am aware of the magnitude of the matter, so that I can only present to you a profile based on God's Word.

The Woman in Creation🔗

We should begin our treatise of this topic in the begin­ning, at the moment of God's creation of man: "So God cre­ated man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Man was special in the way God created him, and he was unique in the gifts God bestowed on him: his form, his thinking, his abilities, and his spiritual life. Hence man received a unique pos­ition in which to show himself the image of God, his rep­resentative and steward on earth, who received from the spirit of God for this unique and high function. Therefore, when we see a man, we see God's image and likeness. God created him with special care and competence.

Of course, he's still only a man and not God himself; yet, in his existence, his being, his body, his beauty, and his abilities of heart and mind we see some of the glory and majesty of God our Creator. We see this in both man and woman, for both were created in God's image: in man and his being, in man's work and strength, we see some of the majesty and kingship of God; in woman and her care, her ability to bear children, we see some of God's creative energies and of God's cherishing loving arms! That's how man is God's image, showing each in their own gifts and potential some of the greatness and wisdom and powers of creation of the triune God!

When God created man male and female he did so upon his own observation, "It is not good that the man should be alone." Man was not complete unto himself, and he had come to realize this. Man is incomplete and in need of the help, inspiration, warmth, and balance imparted by the woman, as his wife. God created woman to share with man his life, his plans, his hopes and dreams. Woman was created specifically to help the man. God created them, male and female, in complementary harmony! Hence, when the Bible teaches that men and women fulfil differ­ent roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, it bases this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation. Differentiated roles were created by God.

The Woman in Recreation: Restored in her place by the LORD🔗

The Bible as the book containing the history of salva­tion evidently does not contain much information about this work of creation but rather reveals to us God's work of recreation after the fall of man into sin. We also do not read much of what has changed through man's fall into sin; yet, it is remarkable to hear the LORD pronounce judgment on the woman. In Genesis 3:16 we hear the LORD mention specifically two areas of the woman's life: child­bearing and her relationship to her husband. It is the latter that's important to the consideration of the place of the woman in God's work of recreation. Immediately following the fall into sin, in which we see the woman take the lead and deceive her husband to share in her sin, the LORD says, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (NIV). At this time it's impossible to share with you all the interpretations and explanations pertaining to these words.

A special study of these words, also and especially in comparison with a similar expression in Genesis 4:7b, justifies a better translation by saying, "Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you." In Genesis 4:7b, in the story about Cain and Abel, the LORD addresses Cain, using an expression similar to the one in 3:16, saying, "Sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." The Hebrew conjunction waw, which is sometimes translated as "and," can also be translated as "but," depending on the context. The same structure and expression is found in 3:16, where the LORD says to the woman, "Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you." In other words, as a primary concern the LORD alerts man and woman to the changed dynamic in their sinful nature, namely that it will be her desire to contend with him for leadership in their rela­tionship! The LORD, however, by his Word of recreation, corrects the sinful and distorted desire and inclination for woman's leadership by restoring immediately the creation ordinance of the man's rule and headship over the woman! Hence, the LORD restores the sound and solid basis of cre­ation in their relationship by pointing the woman to her continued position of submission as a helper meet and the man's continued calling to be her head and rule over her.

The LORD God maintains his mandate but its execution will be much more difficult: sin will corrupt man's life! The woman will experience trouble in her motherhood; in her relationship to her husband, too, there will be ten­sion. She will want to take his place, as she did when she seduced him; she will want to rule the roost, but he will rule over her! The man also will encounter trouble in his life, in his work. It's in the midst of this troubled situation that the LORD gave the mother promise, the promise of the Saviour of life! It's to that reality that Adam responds and makes confession of his faith in life: Adam gives his wife a new name; he changes her name drastically. In the sight of pain and trouble, enmity and death according to God's judgment over them, and in response to the LORD'S mother promise, Adam doesn't call her Woman again; neither does he call her "this woman" (as he as sinful husband was in­clined to speak of her, "This woman that you gave me..."), but he calls her "Eve," Mother! Adam himself steps back; he doesn't name her after himself any longer; no longer does he consider her from a human point of view, but he humbles himself before God and says, "Mother, mother of all living!"

The Mother Promise: the Word of Life and Hope🔗

In the seed born of her there will be life, hope, and salvation! From her the life-giver will come, who will be the second Adam! With this confession Adam shows his leadership again; he shows his leadership as head of his wife and confesses, "The woman will be saved in child bearing!" (1 Tim 2:15) The LORD maintained his mandate in the way Adam will explore and develop the earth; he also repeats the blessing "be fruitful and multiply," which he reiterates to Noah after the flood as well, to Abraham after the Babylonian confusion again, for in the genera­tions they and all nations will be blessed. Hence, it is in Psalms like 128 that we see the fulfilment of the promise and the evidence of the LORD'S blessing in the way of child bearing. Indeed, central in the blessed life in the LORD is the building of a family.

The Place of the Woman in the Covenant of the LORD🔗

This way of life under the blessing of the LORD has been important ever since the people of the LORD came to Canaan. Just before they entered the land, Moses reiterat­ed this significance, where he stated in the book of Deu­teronomy: Israel will be blessed when living in the fear of the LORD, when going in the ways of the LORD, blessed in the city, in the field, in the fruit of the womb, in the de­fence of life against the enemy. Eventually, this blessing became focused on Jerusalem, on Zion, from where the life of salvation, reconciliation, and restoration would fol­low God's people to their towns and villages, yes to their family homes! Indeed, that's what we see illustrated in Psalm 128: 2, 3, in the life of the man who fears the LORD: in his work, with a wife, by a family. In the OT the per­spective of family life was in the promised Messiah; in order to guarantee the true life with the LORD for evermore to all generations, there had to be a people from whom the Messiah would be born. A family with children would be present at his coming; and in the children the parents greeted him from afar!

Also in the NT dispensation it is in this particular way that the LORD blesses the God fearing family. As the primary way of church building is in the covenant way of family building, the blessing of the LORD still may be seen in the children he gives. The Apostle Paul says of the woman,

Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she con­tinues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.1 Tim 2:15

That means that for the women in the church God's work of salvation will be manifest in their life by the gift of children to them! Let this be an encouragement and rea­son for joy to the mothers among us. Becoming a mother is hard and heavy; giving birth to children is a work of trouble and pain. Yet, the richness is that also today child bearing is church building! It has to be. This is the blessing of the LORD: the work helps to bring the innumerable crowd around God's throne to completion!

The Place of the Woman: the Single and Childless🔗

Allow me to pause here for one moment, and state ex­plicitly that as we develop a biblical view of womanhood we are aware of the fact that there are sisters among us who are single, not married, as well as those who have no children. As you will have understood by now, in a scrip­tural sense we may say that such situations are the excep­tion and their circumstances abnormal. The Lord said that it was not good for man to be alone, while His blessing to man shows in him being fruitful and multiplying. Yet, this should not lead us to consider the single incomplete or half people or the childless no family. Although from a creational point of view we could speak of a creation dis­order, the work of the Holy Spirit certainly is restorative or corrective or compensatory enough to make people very fulfilled and complete in their single state.

The Bible knows many fruitful unmarried people, such as Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Anna, Dorcas, and the Apostle Paul as well. As Isaiah prophesied in chapter 56:3, the single among the people of God are not a fruitless tree. With the Psalmist of Psalm 113 we may confess as well that the LORD "settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of chil­dren." Ultimately, the goal of our life as man and woman, as married or single, is not to be married or not but to live for God in our life which He directs. In the light of the NT charismata we may place as well the peculiar calling, opportunities, and gifts of the unmarried and childless, which makes them equal and adequate for the church of God! No, then we do not try to idealize the state of the unmarried, as we do not romanticize marriage either, but we seek the full employment of our talents and life under the providence of God the Father with the help of God the Spirit for the church and kingdom of the Son!

The Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31🔗

So the question "what is a biblical woman like?" can be recognized in the one asked in Proverbs 31 as well, "A wife of noble character who can find?" This chapter is at the end of a book in which the Wisdom has looked at all of life, consid­ering the wisdom for life, inviting to wisdom in life. In view of the entire complexity of life, the final question again must be, "A good wife who can find?" Then we must be aware of the fact, of course, that here the question is asked in a situa­tion of brokenness, in a world fallen in sin, fallen away from the Creator. In that world, the Wisdom, which is the Word, the Son of God before his incarnation, wants to work on the recreation of life, the restoration of brokenness. In this book the Word of Wisdom has revealed himself as the answer to such restoration; so hence, the question returns. When the Wisdom has recreated all of life, who can find a good wife for such a life in wisdom, in order? For indeed, where does the life of recreation and restoration begin? In the family! In the household of the restored people of God! There the life with the Re-creator in wisdom is lived; it's the basic workshop of the Holy Spirit! That's where it all started in creation too, and to that basis recreation must return! Thus, the request for the revelation is the request for the complete life in singleness of heart to the Creator!

This passage, then, is a beautiful poem, an acrostic (alphabetic poem), in which we see such a woman, such a wife, who gives herself with heart and soul to her work! It's true, the circumstances described in it are unique. The woman's situation is peculiar, not just by today's stan­dards, but also for the women at the time of writing. Her household is a royal estate of such proportions that it exceeds the property and household of most people. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the author however, did have a special purpose for using this situation to convey his message of wisdom. This woman is involved all the way in work that's typical for a woman!

The situation of most house wives may differ, and so may their talents, their means, yet central in the de­scription is: she lives for her husband from beginning to end; her husband's honour and business is her foremost concern. In that place of submission we see her come to glory! In that position she also receives glory! Even if we may envy her somewhat, let's not underestimate her responsibilities, her position: it's more difficult as well to stay humble, to remain a submissive wife, and to live for her husband. Yes, greatest of all, therefore, is the testi­mony: she fears the LORD! She knows him, the LORD, as the God who gives to each his or her place, and who gives his blessing in that place.

The song depicts the woman's life, this here and that there. It's moving back and forth; it's not a catalogue, cat­egorizing her life neatly, but it's moving back and forth and back to the previous point again. This way it shows in the complete and unified beauty of its structure a realistic picture of daily life. This is what a household is like. This is what life in general is like, but a household more than anything else! In offices and shops we try to streamline things efficiently by order, by routine, and in a household this should be aimed for as well. Still, in the actual daily practice it's going here and then there: the program of the washer, feeding times of the baby, the telephone, the visits, the groceries, and the chores keep the mothers hopping. She has to handle it all, stay in control, be competent in all aspects, and still be organized, orderly in all the hustle and bustle of a household from A to Z! That's how it is described!

The Result of Recreation and Restoration in the Life of the Virtuous Woman🔗

"She is worth far more than rubies!" Then we see that the same words that are applied to Wisdom and Wisdom personified in chapter 3 and 8, are here applied to the good wife. This woman is the example of wisdom, a walking and working example of wisdom! It means the good wife we are speaking about is the woman who is redeemed by the Wisdom; the recreated wife! A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised, it says as a conclusion to the song. Wis­dom and a good wife and a woman who fears the LORD are all worth more than rubies! That's a word for all, for the married and the unmarried, for the women with or with­out children, for those who have a large estate and those who have humble means! The matter is not whether Sr. A or sr. B meets the standards of this virtuous woman; the message is not "teaching the sisters in the church a lesson about the abilities of the ideal woman." No, the Scripture shows us first of all the coming of God in the Word, the recreation of God by the Wisdom of the Spirit! That's the message with its evidence in the everyday busyness of a family household! This passage shows us the grace of the Son of God in whose wisdom creation is restored. For where, I ask you, in all of society and civilization does life come together, showing a complete picture of what life is all about, but in the picture of a family, a household? In that setting we find all the joys and sorrows, the prosper­ity and adversity, the ups and downs, the troubles and ten­sions of life concentrated. The Wisdom from God restores that completeness of life!

The Glory of the LORD in the Life of the Recreated Woman🔗

What's described in Proverbs 31 is not a series of virtues, which you either have or don't have; it's not a description first and foremost of a specially gifted house­wife with whom the occasional man is blessed. On the contrary, in this song we see a woman who acts the way she does because she has found the Wisdom! She knows her Bible, her Catechism so to speak, and in the light of the Word she knows her task. This Wisdom makes the gifts needed for the task, wherever the LORD has placed you, for the task that agrees with the recreation of your calling. True wisdom teaches this place; true wisdom shows this task; the Wisdom confers the talents to her who thus shows the fear of the LORD! That's what we see: she runs her household in the fear of the LORD, with the wisdom of God. It teaches her the priorities, the order, the discipline; that's what makes her wise, frugal, prudent in all her tasks. The whole household is founded on that wisdom: the man uses it for his work of judgment, trade, and commerce in the gates, for his calling in the renewed kingdom of God. It's the restored creation portrayed:

  1. the reformed man in his original position of leadership;
  2. the renewed woman in her place, role, and creation­al activities; and
  3. the children sharing in the blessed peace of God's wisdom!

Let's never get used to the crux of the gospel. Let's be aware of the fact that this value of preciousness is ascribed to the woman, i.e., to her who of all mankind fell first, to her who deceived her husband! She, who first deceived, is changed by the wisdom so much that her value exceeds the price of rubies! At the time of the fall, she did not consider the Word of the Wisdom greater than all the gifts on earth. At that time she appreciated more the appearance of things; she went for looks, for outward attraction to things: she placed the fruit of the tree above her joy in the Wisdom. Now, however, she has received the LORD'S wisdom in faith as more precious. That's regeneration; thus her life is reconciled to God. It means that in her daily life she shows that everything is good between God and her; she lives for Him!

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