COMPLEMENTARY ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN
Our Belief Regarding Gender Roles
MACARTHUR BLVD AFFIRMS THE DANVERS STATEMENT ON BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD
- Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood.
(Gen 1:26-27, 2:18).
- Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.
(Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).
- Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin.
(Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).
- The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women.
(Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).
In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.
- The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women.
(Gen 1:26-27, 2:18; Gal 3:28).Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community.
(Gen 2:18; Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Tim 2:11-15).
- Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse. In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands’ leadership.(Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7).In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men.
(Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:11-15).
- In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission (domestic, religious, or civil) ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin.
(Dan 3:10-18; Acts 4:19-20, 5:27-29; 1 Pet 3:1-2).
- In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.
- With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.
(1 Cor 12:7-21).
- We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large.
EXTENDED EXPLANATION OF OUR BELIEF CONCERNING GENDER ROLES
What is complementarianism?
At MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church, we highly value both men and women in the church and the home, and we affirm the vital role both play in the health and success of ministry. God has given both men and women a significant role to play in society, the church, and the home. We want to encourage and empower both men and women to be all that God has called them to be, fully functioning in their God-given roles for the sake of God’s kingdom and glory. Because of this, we hold to the biblical teaching commonly referred to as “complementarianism.”
Complementarianism is the belief that men and women are both created in the image of God, and therefore are equal in value and personhood, but are distinct from one another in role. This belief stands in contrast to “egalitarianism,” which denies that men and women possess different roles within the home and church. It also stands in contrast to “chauvinism,” which is the sinful tendency to demean women, treating them as less valuable than men, and to domineer harshly over women in the name of male headship.
Sin has distorted God’s original design for gender roles, not by creating roles that did not exist previously, but by distorting the roles that had been given. According to Genesis 3:16, men will tend toward a domineering and unkind rule over their wives because of the Fall. This verse also teaches that women will have the sinful tendency to usurp her husband’s authority in the home.
The opposite distortion of God’s design happens when men become passive, refusing to lead in the church and the home according to their role as head. Women too distort God’s design when they become entirely passive and unengaged in the church and home, acting as a mere spectator rather than a joint “heir of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).
Reflecting the Trinity through Gender Distinction
The Bible teaches that both men and women are equally created in the image of God, which sets humans apart from the rest of creation as the focus of God’s creation work. God says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (emphasis added). Mankind existing as male and female is central to their ability to reflect the image of God. We get a hint as to why this is the case in the previous verse: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). This is the first hint in the Bible that there are distinct persons within the Godhead. The LORD exists as one God (a unified essence) and three distinct persons. Taken together, these verses imply that the distinction in gender (male and female) and gender roles (head and helper) reflects the Triune nature of God. Each person of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) are equal in essence and are fully divine. However, the Bible makes it clear that the different persons of the Trinity perform different roles. Salvation, for example, involves the sending of the Son by the Father (John 3:16, 5:19, 6:37-38, 8:28-29), the sacrifice of the Son (and not the Father or Spirit), the indwelling of the Spirit who is sent by the Father through the Son, and the final subjection of the conquering Son to the Father having perfectly accomplished the purpose for which He was sent (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). Within the Trinity, there is authority and submission. The Son is always submissive to the authority of the Father, and the Father is always the head over the Son (John 5:30; 6:38). However, there is equal deity in all three persons (Matt. 28:19; John 1:1-3). Just as the Son’s role of submission to His head (the Father) makes Him no less valuable or divine than the Father, so also, a wife’s role of submission to her head (her own husband) makes her no less valuable or human than her husband. Husband and wife are to reflect this equality of worth and diversity of roles found in the Trinity through their relationship for the sake of the glory of God.
Gender Roles in the Home
In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul instructs wives by saying:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Wives are commanded to “submit” (hypotasso) to their husbands, which means to take a subordinate role in relation to authority. The Greek voice that is used here implies voluntary submission. The command is for a wife to submit herself willingly and joyfully to the authority of her husband, which is a part of her submission to the Lord. The reasons for this command according to Paul are: (1) the husband is the “head” (kephale) of his wife, which refers to a position of authority, and (2) her submission was designed by God to display the proper response of the church to Christ (cf. 5:32). Wives are to submit to their “own husbands,” rather than men in general, “in everything.”
In Ephesians 5:25-30, Paul instructs husbands by saying:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
Husbands should love their wife with the same covenant love Jesus has for His bride, the Church. Also, Paul makes it clear that the husband should give his wife no reason to regret his position of authority. His leadership is to be self-sacrificing, more analogous to the good shepherd of Psalm 23 than to tyranny or apathy.
In their leadership role, husbands have a responsibility to seek their wife’s help, input, and counsel while making decisions for the family. In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” This statement implies that husbands need the help of their wives if they are to lead their homes successfully. When a husband ignores his wife’s counsel or fails to seek her help, he acts as if he knows better than God by rejecting the helper God said he needed.
Paul’s teachings are built upon and consistent with God’s original design before the fall in Eden, where Adam is given the role of leader (Gen. 2:18, 22-23; 3:1, 9; 1 Cor. 11:9) and Eve is given the role of helper (Gen. 2:18). Since the roles of husbands and wives are rooted in creation and are designed to display the Gospel, they transcend culture and apply to all marriages at all times.
Gender Roles in the Church
In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Paul writes:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
The gender roles of the home correlate with gender roles in the local church. One implication of this passage is that the office of pastor/elder is reserved only for men in the church. This is in line with Paul’s instructions regarding qualifications of elders, all of which assume a male subject (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
Further, this passage teaches that women are not to hold an official teaching position over men in the church. Within these boundaries, women are free to serve in a variety of ways in churches. Women with the gift of teaching should steward their gift to teach other women as well as the next generation in the church. These prescriptions apply specifically to the gathered body and not necessarily to life outside the church (1 Tim. 3:15). Men would certainly be wise to learn from women in a vast number of situations (Acts 18:26). The prohibition in this passage is against women teaching men publicly in formal church gatherings.
It is important to note that Paul bases his prohibitions in the creation account rather than the local church in Ephesus, a lack of women’s education in the first century, or the supposed problems of heretical female teachers. Thus, the prohibitions are conveyed as universal commands.
Brief Responses to Common Objections
Objection #1: What about women that the Bible describes as teaching other men or having authority over men (e.g. Deborah in Judges 4-5 and Priscilla in Acts 18)?
Response: There is no way to address briefly all the relevant details of all these types of passages. It should always be remembered that as the inerrant word of God, the Bible never contradicts itself. We believe that careful exegesis that considers the context of each of these passages would demonstrate that they do not contradict the didactic teaching found in the passages mentioned in the above document.
Furthermore, it is best hermeneutically to allow the prescriptive teachings in Paul’s epistles to inform our interpretation and application of the descriptive passages of the Bible involving the actions of individual women in specific situations.
Objection #2: The passages that restrict women’s roles are culturally and historically specific and therefore should not apply to homes and churches today.
Response: The problem with this objection is that Paul bases the assigned roles of men and women in pre-fallen creation (1 Cor. 11:8-9; Eph. 5:31-32, 1Tim. 2:13-14). Furthermore, the roles between men and women exist to display the universal and unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:22-33). Thus, these gender roles can be no more culturally specific than the Gospel itself.
Objection #3: Functional inequality between sexes is a result of the fall that redemption seeks to remedy. Thus, Galatians 3:28 says that there is “no male and female” in Christ.
Response: There is ample evidence that demonstrates distinction in gender roles existed before the fall and therefore could not have been the result of the fall: (1) Adam was created first (1 Tim. 2:13), (2) Eve was created as a helper for Adam (1 Cor. 11:9), (3) Adam named Eve, (4) God named the human race “man” and not “woman,” (5) the serpent came to Eve first (1 Tim. 2:14), (6) God came to Adam first after the fall, and (7) Adam, not Eve, represents the human race (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:15).
Galatians 3:18 teaches that in Christ there are no factions or attitudes of pride or superiority. Being one in Christ does not require everyone to be functionally identical. For example, Romans 12:4-5 says that all parts of the body are one in Christ while serving different roles. No part may look down on another, but must honor one another in their differences. Functional inequality is not something that Jesus feels should be resisted, for he will gladly submit to the Father for eternity (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
Objection #4: Ephesians 5:21 commands mutual submission. Husbands are to submit to their wives as much as wives are to submit to husbands.
Response: Ephesians 5:21 must not be pulled from the rest of the text. The next twenty verses expound upon verse 21. Wives are to be submissive to husbands, children are to obey their parents, and bondservants are to obey their masters. Husbands, parents, and masters are to exercise incredible kindness toward those under their authority because of their equal value in Christ. Ephesians 5:21, therefore, is a call to all Christians to behave properly toward those in authority over them.
Objection #5: Many women are more gifted to teach and lead than many men in the church. Why would God gift them to teach if He did not want them to?
Response: The first part of this objection is pragmatic rather than biblical. The goal must not be just to achieve quality teaching and leadership for the church, but to do so according to the design that God established in creation to reflect His image and bring Him glory. God gifts women to teach because there are many venues in the church within which their teaching is appropriate and needed.
Objection #6: The Bible may very well teach that wives should submit to their husbands, but this instruction is demeaning to women. Women should seek liberation from these outdated commands.
Response: The Bible should never become an add-on to one’s culturally developed feelings. The Christian must consider whether they will mold God’s Word into their own image or let God’s Word sculpt them. We believe that the Bible is not at all demeaning to women. Indeed, we believe it honors them. We believe in a high view of manhood and womanhood that understands the beauty and honor inherent in the God-given distinctions between sexes. We believe that differences between men and women are purposeful and that their differences are a part of the beautiful plan of God. Women are different than men. These differences are things to be honored, not destroyed. Genuine freedom is found by living fully submitted to Christ and his commands, which is the best and most joyful way to live. God created us and knows what is best for us. Therefore, true liberation can only be found by submitting ourselves to the teaching and commands of our Lord, Jesus Christ.