A SISTER'S PLACE IN THE FAMILY OF GOD
The Scriptures are clear that although male and female “… are all one in Christ Jesus” in relation to their position as “heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28, 29) they are nevertheless to act out different roles, demonstrating different principles in their lives and in their worship. The Apostle Paul, under Holy Spirit guidance, describes the relationship between men and women, Christ and God in terms of a hierarchy thus: “I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). It is important therefore, to recognise one’s own place within the hierarchy, as being different members of the family of God.
The following passage is relevant to the subject at hand:
“ … let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (1 Tim. 2:11-15).
From this passage then, it is quite plain that whatever roles sisters may have within the ecclesia, those roles must involve “learning in silence”. In other words, they ought not have a role which involves teaching, but rather learning. Those who deny this teaching sometimes make the claim that:
“Note, ‘quietness’ and ‘silent’ are the same Greek word hesuchia. This does not mean ‘keep your mouth shut’ but something like ‘do not chatter’ or ‘do not gossip’. In 2 Thessalonians 3:12 it is translated ‘settle down’. This instruction by Paul does not forbid a woman to pray or preach (prophesy) in church, but is a reminder of good behaviour and manners”.
Here is the claim then: that when the Apostle was ‘moved’ by the Holy Spirit to write that women must “be in silence” in the ecclesia, he actually meant that women are allowed to speak, in the form of prayers and preaching. For the Greek word does not mean “silence” at all, but merely “something like … do not gossip,” and is merely a reminder to show “good behaviour and manners”.
How accurate is this definition, when compared to the Spirit’s usage of the word elsewhere? The same word is used in Acts 22:
“ … Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Men, brethren and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) …” (Acts 21:40-22:2).
Notice here, there was a “great silence” made first. This would be something like not chattering, or gossiping, for everyone quietened down to listen to what the Apostle had to say. Yet the word used here is not the word that the Spirit through Paul used in 1 Tim 2. Then, when they all heard that Paul was speaking in Hebrew, “they kept the more silence” – and this is the same word as in 1 Tim 2. This shows the meaning of the word – not merely to quieten down, but to be “the more silent”, that is, absolutely quiet. The Apostle is quite plain then; sisters ought to be absolutely silent in the ecclesia – which is not at all in harmony with them speaking in terms of offering prayers, and preaching.
Another passage which appears relevant is 1 Corinthians 14:
“let your women keep silence in the ecclesias: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the Law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the ecclesia” (1 Cor. 14:34).
Here, our adversaries attempt to dismiss the passage by stating that it was merely following local custom:
“The reference to ‘the law’ here can hardly mean the Law of Moses, but more likely means local custom”
But when the Apostle writes as also saith the “law,” he is referring to a “law”, not a mere custom. He cites “the law” as his authority for his teaching. What “law” is he referring to?
1 Timothy 2 furnishes us with the answer, for here we learn of Paul’s reason why sisters are “to be in silence”: “for Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” So then, sisters are enacting particular principles to do with the beginning of the human race. At the beginning, Adam had a teaching role; he was to teach his wife to obey the Law of Elohim in Eden. Yet as events turned out, Eve taught him instead, as she taught him to disobey the commandment. So, rather than being a help meet for Adam, the woman became a stumbling block to him, causing him to fall from grace. Even so, by submitting themselves to the man, the woman is memorialising what took place, and reflecting what ought to have been the correct arrangement. This arrangement is, in fact, according to the Law – not the law of Moses, but Edenic Law:
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16).
Here is the matter established from the beginning; the man was to “rule” over the woman. This was Edenic Law issued after the fall, and which both the man and the woman were expected to observe. Whatever roles women may have outside in the world, within the ecclesia that is the order to be observed; men and women working together, yet with different roles, for the good of the whole ecclesia. This is a vital point to recognise; the issue is not one of whether or not women are inferior to men, rather it is one of fulfilling Divinely-appointed roles. The title of this article is from a booklet of that title which was recently brought to our attention, written by Sisters Dorrie Dillingham & Lois Riley (date unknown). An extract from this booklet demonstrates the Bible position, and we reproduce it for the benefit of our readers:
A SISTER’S PLACE IN THE FAMILY OF GOD
“Perhaps it’s best to begin with 1 Cor. 11. In verse 3 we note as previously stated, the proper order of relationship. GOD—Christ—Man—Woman.
Verse 4: Covered here means “to have on the head” (Gk. Katakephalasechon). We must remember that the “head” referred to here is the same “head” mentioned in the preceding verse which is Christ, the Head of man. (If we consider the head covering here to be the hair, then man should be shorn). Covering a man’s head scripturally signifies mourning and humiliation: See 2 Sam. 15:30, Esther 6:12, and Jer. 14:3-4. Verse 4 obviously tells us how wrong it is for a man to cover his head.
Verse 5: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven”. This verse tells us how wrong it is for a woman not to cover her head. If she doesn’t cover her head she might as well be shaven. The issue here is not whether the sisters should exercise their gifts in the assembly of believer. Paul deals with that problem later in this letter (1 Cor. 14:34-35) and also in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
There are Biblical examples of prophetesses who were usually prominent when the males did not provide leadership:
Miriam: Exodus 15:20
Deborah: Judges 4:4
Huldah: 2 Kings 22:14
Anna: Luke 2:36
Joel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be given to women (Acts 2:16-18); as for example, the four daughters of Philip testify (Acts 21:9).
The question now to be resolved was this: Did such a privilege of being a prophetess nullify the requirement of a veil to cover the head as a sign of subordination to the males? Let’s examine Paul’s answer:
“With her head uncovered” – “uncovered” in the Greek is Akatakaluptos, e.g. uncovered, unveiled. Youngs: unveiled, also RSV, RV, Nestle.
“Dishonoureth her head” – i.e. her husband (man) verse 3. To appear in the assembly with an unveiled head was to disregard the divine hierarchy and the subordinate role of the woman in relation to the man. This was a serious offence as the oft repeated instruction that a wife ought to be subject to her husband in everything would indicate. See Eph. 5:22,24; 1 Tim. 2:11; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1,5).
“For that is even all one as if she were shaven” – To abandon the head covering on the grounds of privilege was to remove the sign of her subordinate position and to be regarded as shamefully as if shaven or shorn.
Verse 6: A definite distinction can be noticed here between hair and a covering. For Paul states: “if a woman be not covered, let her also be shorn.” If a woman didn’t cover her hair she might as well shave it off and be shamed.
Verse 7: Again we are reminded that man must not cover his head as he is in the image and glory of God, but woman must cover her head as she is the glory of the man.
Verse 15: A totally different word for covering is used here. Here the word for covering is perivolaion, e.g. something cast around. The long hair of a woman is her natural veil or mantle. And what is appropriate naturally ought to have a spiritual parallel: That woman’s head should be veiled.
An interesting article written by a sister follows:
When people as why Christadelphian women wear hats or scarves to meeting, do we know how to explain our reasons? If all we can say is “Paul says to in 1 Cor. 11”, they answer that Paul was advocating compliance with a local custom and that his argument “must be applied today against the background of the different sociological situation. Otherwise we must revert to the clothes, and slavery of those times.”
Too many of us, also, explain Paul’s argument as primarily advocating male supremacy as illustrated by the figure of the church as the Bride of Christ; which is putting it backwards, besides instantly, and unnecessarily, shutting some minds against us. Surely what Paul is arguing for is public demonstration in symbol of the glorification of the risen Christ and the church’s betrothal to him, illustrated by a wife’s relationship to her husband.
Let us look at Paul’s argument verse by verse.
Verse 2: “the ordinances” (“traditions” in the AV and RSV margins) e.g. not local traditions but the oral teaching of Paul and the other apostles. What we have in the New Testament is only the spirit-inspired writings God chose to preserve for us. There was a great deal more spoken than was written. Consider for instance 1 Cor. 15:6-7 and 2 Thes. 2:15. If Paul had been advising a diplomatic compliance with local tradition, he would have disposed of the matter as briefly as vs 16 and Acs 15:20-21.
Verse 3: “the Head of every man is Christ, and the Head of the woman is man and the Head of Christ is God.” Christ had ended the law of Moses and Christian women rejoiced that now they could worship beside men, not left behind in the court of the women. Apparently they, or some of them also thought that “in Christ there is neither male nor female” meant that they were also released from submission to their husbands. They had to learn that, like Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isa. 20:2,3 an Eze. 4:1-2) Christians are living symbols. The new system has it’s own symbols: baptism as the symbol of death and burial and resurrection to a new life: bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s sacrificial life and death; and the uncovered heads of the brethren as the symbol of Christ’s present glory with the Father.
Verse 4: “every man praying or prophesying having his head covered dishonoureth his Head.” Covering on a man’s head, scripturally, signifies mourning and humiliation (2 Sam. 15:30, Est. 6:12, Jer. 14:3,4). In meeting, man represents Christ who passed beyond the mourning and humiliation of earthly life. For man to wear a head covering in meeting is to deny the glorification of Christ, to dishonour him by implying he is still sinful flesh.
Verse 5: “every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her Head … as if she were shaven.” Shaven here is xurao from xuron a razor, the same word used in Acts 21:24. “Shorn” in verse 6 is “keiro” most commonly used of sheep left naked by the total removal of their wool, so it’s not just bobbed hair Paul is talking about, but the public humiliation of a shaved head.
Verse 6: “if the women be not covered”; there may be a double significance to “covered” here. For a man to cover a woman with his own clothing meant he accepted her as his betrothed wife. Ruth 3:9, Ezek. 16:8. The veil on a woman’s head was the sign that she was married and accepted her husband’s authority (as in verse 10). If, in symbol, the Bride of Christ symbolised by the sisters rejects the head-covering she is in symbol rejecteing the bridegroom, and following in the steps of natural Israel, who became an adulterous woman. So, “if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn”. Either the Bride of Christ accepts his authority or she is an adulterous wife spiritually.
Verse 7: “Man … is the image and glory of God but the woman is the glory of the man” in the sense of “this is my body … this is my blood” as in verses 24 and 25. That is, in meeting, man represents the image and glory of God in Christ (Jno. 1:14 and 14:9) and woman represents the glory of mankind. All the glory of mankind is not enough to make them acceptable to God. The only way the Bride can approach God is as a part of Christ, in oneness with Christ.
Verse 10: “Because of the angels”. When we are at meeting surely our angels are there also (Psa. 34:7). Since there was one particular angel (besides the angles of the true believers) with “the ecclesia in the wildernesss” which was Israel, one angel who especially represented the presence of God (Isa. 63:9) may there not be likewise at our meetings one angel, besides our individual angels, who represents the presence of Christ? These Angels of the Presence would surely be especially offended by the presence of bare-headed sisters and grieved by their lack of understanding.
Verse 13: “is it proper for a woman to pray uncovered”. In verse 4, the word “prophecy” is, in Greek “propheteus” defined as “to tell forth” the Divine counsel; to publicly expound”, so it is a fair inference that the prayer referred to is public prayer. Certainly it is public worship, the conduct of the meetings that Paul is considering here. So this should not be taken to mean that sisters must not pray in private with uncovered heads, any more than a brother at work in a cap (or safety hat, for instance) and with both hand busy should not offer a prayer because his head is covered.
Verse 15: “her hair is given her for a covering …”. Some are disposed to argue from this that a sister with long hair is thereby sufficiently covered. By that argument, a borther with ‘any’ hair is too much covered. And isn’t Paul saying that a woman’s long hair is (represents?) a human glory? No natural endowment can make us acceptable in the sight of God. No matter how magnificently endowed by nature we still cannot approach God without the sin-covering provided by Christ.
The head covering on sisters at meeting symbolized the ecclesia’s humble submission to God and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Godly sisters will act out of an appreciation for the principles espoused. Their demeanour will surely evidence a desire to extend the application, not to seek a minimum which will satisfy themselves. In the true spirit of Christ we ask this to be given thoughtful consideration that we may fulfil to the best of our ability all the commands of our Heavenly Father. May our sisters see this as a contribution to ecclesial life necessary for an acceptable approach unto the Lord. We suggest that it would be a good thing, if all brothers and sisters would take the time to become familiar with these principles to the end that we may be strengthened in the one faith”.
And with that suggestion, we would concur.