Women's Place in Creation

By Denise Baum

What is women's place in the world? Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Or equal in authority with men, including in marriage and the church?

It is ultimately dangerous to trust in personal inclination about these pivotal life issues. It is equally dangerous to force the Scriptures to agree with modern social thought and opinion, although there is nothing modern about role and gender conflict. Acknowledging the authority of the Scriptures and with hearts willing to surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ, let's perform a brief survey of Scripture on this subject. We will discover that the impact of the role of women in God's design is not about what confines her, but the freedom she has to be valuable, and experience the challenge of the amazing breadth of her position and responsibility.

When God created man, he said that it was not good for him to be alone. "I will make a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18b). The Hebrew word for helper, ezer, comes from the primary root azar which means to surround, that is protect or aid. Eve was created to help Adam. Paul, in his letter to Timothy recalls the order: "for Adam was formed first, then Eve" (1 Timothy 2:13). Too often, however, readers apply definition before order. The real question is not qualification, because Eve was obviously created with superior skills. The original design was for her to help Adam, not as a servant, but as a companion to that lonely first man. And yet Eve was the first to sin. The Garden of Eden was so perfect, and there was only the forbidden fruit in a single location. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were the only limitations. [In a way, with the fullness of life surrounding most women on earth today, it seems typical for her to resent the restrictions (i.e. no preaching and teaching men) rather than enjoy the opportunities within her position.] Ever since that black day, sin has warped man's every perspective.

As we journey through the early history of Genesis, we see women as wives and daughters in the original sense of the words. They enjoyed their husbands (Genesis 26:8), bore children (Genesis 4:1), were sounding boards for their husband's grievances (Genesis 4:23-24), companions and passengers (Genesis 7:7), clever professionals (Exodus 1:15-21), leaders in musical worship (Exodus 15:20-21) — amazing helpers.

Then we come to the book of Judges, the starting point for many equality arguments. We are introduced to Deborah, Jael, Delilah, and the Levite's concubine. From sublime to sordid. Many have pointed to Deborah as a God-appointed leader for God's people and therefore role-model for women in the church today. But consider the story of Naomi and Ruth. All these women share a period of history which is defined by this commentary. "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). It is foolish to update God's role for woman on the authority of this piece of history.

As we advance through Old Testament history, we encounter a stellar cast: Hannah, Peninnah, Merab, Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, Jezebel, Athaliah, Vashti, and Esther, to name a few. Their influence is indisputable. However, throughout the testimony of Scripture, the common theme of Creation is reiterated over and over again. No new order is established. Man is still the responsible head.

The mother of Jesus was just that, his mother. But first, she was a virgin who was engaged to a carpenter. She encountered the angel of the Lord with fear. Upon hearing his announcement of her conception by the Holy Spirit, though, her surrender was unquestioning and complete. "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). She had faith, therefore insight and understanding. Her focus was not on her own elevated position with its bill of rights, but on the great Savior. As the prophecies were fulfilled, "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Anna, the elderly prophetess, spent her days in the temple "worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day" (Luke 1:37). No sermon is recorded, but she was privileged to recognize the infant Jesus for who he was.

The New Testament, like the Old, certainly emphasizes the accomplishments of men. Women, like Mary, Martha, Dorcas, Rhoda, Sapphira, Candace, Priscilla, and Phoebe are the splashes of color on the masculine landscape, and, again, it is indisputable that women are gifted and capable. Typically, physically and emotionally the more fragile sex, nonetheless they have always been successful in home, school, government, and church. But we must never forget that the old curse of Genesis 3 is perpetual. Women grasp for dominance and men tyrannize. When men and women function within the Creation order, so much more can be achieved for the glory and honor of God.

Because the church is the light and salt of the earth, the representation of order and peace in a chaotic and corrupted world, it has a great responsibility to consistently maintain the creation model. This is why writers of all Scripture constantly remind the reader that God is Creator. Back to Paul writing to Timothy; his purpose was to address church issues. Paul testifies that he himself was appointed a preacher and an apostle for the Lord Jesus. He intertwines church policy with the original intent of Creation in this masterly premise:
"I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness — with good works. 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. Yet she will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." 1 Timothy 2:8-15
With the unified reaction, in the last century, to male dominance escalating to militant feminism and perversion, we have seen an often-terrifying revolt in American society against the order established in Creation. It is labeled liberation. It is a flimsy cover for a masterly deception of Satan. True liberation is experienced only in surrendering to the lordship of Jesus Christ and his pre-ordained order for creation. In revolting against oppression from godless men, women and men have lost track of what is truly important.

Paul said that a woman is to learn quietly. We might ask, if she is not permitted to teach men in the church, what is the motivation for learning and sharpening the mind? Paul has the answer again, this time in Titus 2. "But as for you (Titus), teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves of much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Paul also addresses those who remain unmarried. "And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:33b-35).

When men and women acknowledge the wisdom of God in his original design, the competition can rest. Men must stand up and accept responsibility to lead and teach, because that is what God says. Women must also stand up and assume the dignity of her role, not aspiring to teach men in church, but listening and learning to exercise her influence in other ways, because that is what God says. It may be cliché, but it is still true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Children who grow up in a church composed of creation-order families, may not even realize that they are enjoying the fruits of disciplined Christian living (Hebrews 12:11).

As a woman, I myself value the order of creation. My mouth is not muzzled in any way as you have read. By remaining in the role for which I was created, I do not feel that I am robbing God of any praise or glory that is due to him. The rocks never need to cry out on my behalf, and I'm no Balaam who needed an ass to get his attention. In addition, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. My husband teaches adults in our church and I am thrilled to share with women and teach the children. This may be traditional, but it is certainly not manmade. Please study the theme of creation that resonates in so many books throughout the Bible. If sin has corrupted our world, wouldn't it have corrupted our roles and relationships as well? The stumbling block is not the woman in the pulpit, it is our rebellious hearts. The Bible says that the real stumbling block is Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1 says that he is the radiance of God himself. The world, the flesh, and the devil cannot tolerate this radiance, authority, and power. There is a battle which is still raging against holy living. As a woman with ministry gifts, I have chosen to obey the creation order. It is not easy because I am cursed as Eve was with a rebellious heart. But I am redeemed. I am liberated from feminism and I look forward to bowing in God's presence someday with a heart and spirit cleansed of this world's curse. I pray that you can experience this same joy and freedom within the purposes of God for order in his church today.

Published 12-12-16