A Woman’s Place

JP: Good read by Dr Bauder.

A Woman’s Place


Scripture places limits upon the leadership of women in two spheres. The first is the local church. The apostle Paul commands women to “keep silence” in the churches and to learn from their husbands at home (1 Cor. 14:34-35). He further states that he does not permit women to teach or to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence (1 Tim. 2:11). Both of these texts have to do with church activity, and neither defines the role of women in commerce, society, or politics. Even in the context of church activity, they must be understood rightly.

Scripture also places limitations upon women’s leadership in the home. The text of the New Testament is clear that women are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:6-7). Young women are to be taught the virtues and skills necessary to maternity and domesticity (1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 2:4-5). Yet, Paul’s language implies that women do exercise a unique sphere of authority, even within the home. For example, Paul’s use of oikodespotein in 1 Tim. 5:14 implies that a woman is to be something of a household despot. Certainly the woman who is lauded in Proverbs 31 is no stay-at-home mom, at least as that position is sometimes narrowly imagined. She is a strong person who exercises initiative, engages in commerce, and even purchases property.

Outside of the home and church, Scripture closes no sphere of human activity or leadership to women.

The world of commerce is certainly open. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is commended for her commercial activity. To all appearances, Lydia continued as a prosperous businesswoman after her conversion. Given her occupation and influence, she almost certainly had males in her employ, and she may even have owned male slaves.

For a man to work in the employ of a woman is no reversal of biblical roles. A male employee owes the same loyalty and duties to a female boss that he would owe to a male one. These duties include the submission of an employee to his employer.

The professions are also open to women. The Scriptures do prevent women from being pastor-elders, but no similar restriction blocks them from becoming physicians, attorneys, or scholars.

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