I grew up in an era where I was encouraged to think I could do anything or be anything my heart desired. I had three brothers and was very active. I was a tomboy! I was faster, stronger and “thought”as smart as most boys. That changed upon reaching Academy and College (but more on that later)!
My girlhood heroines were Amelia Earhart, Florence Nightingale and other cutting-edge women. They dared to enter new territories. Gender roles were changing and my own mom worked outside the home. Today, I am a grandmother, and things in my culture have REALLY changed. It’s crazy and confusing—LGBTQ? Gender issues are even affecting the unity of my church. It’s big.
As I’ve thought, prayed and studied to know the truth on this issue, I can only say it has been a long journey. It is a very deep subject, but a fundamental one affecting all areas of life on this earth, and even the life to come. Since it is so important, I feel God wants me to be able to understand it—to the best of my ability. Surely He wants me to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
I believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God for all people for all ages on our earth. It tells us who we are, where we came from, what our purpose is, and what the future will be.
Isaiah 45:18 says: “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain; he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.”
Here is what gives God the authority and power to make the rules. He made everything! Without controversy, His word should be law. This could cause us to tremble, but for the fact that “God is love.” Love controls all His laws and order. When we submit to His laws and order, they will bring us peace and happiness. Indeed, the whole universe hummed along in harmony and joy until someone rebelled.
“Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Christ… But when God said to His Son, “Let us make man in our image,” Satan was jealous of Jesus… He desired to receive the highest honors in heaven next to God. Until this time all heaven had been in order, harmony, and perfect subjection to the government of God. It was the highest sin to rebel against His order and will… Some of the angels sympathized with Satan in his rebellion, and others strongly contended for the honor and wisdom of God in giving authority to His Son. There was contention among the angels. Satan and his sympathizers were striving to reform the government of God” (Early Writings 145).
The Way God Made It
I believe that In heaven all angels had equality, but some had higher, leadership roles. That is just the way God made it. Sin started when the highest angel desired a different and higher role than he had been assigned by God.
We know the sad story. Satan and his angels had to leave Heaven yet they succeeded in tempting Adam and Eve to also rebel on this earth. God had created a perfect world for a perfectly equal couple. He made Adam the head over all the earth and Eve his helper. He placed them in the Garden of Eden (or Pleasure) and gave them every possible thing for their happiness. But the rebellion spread from Satan to our earth.
“Eve was told of the sorrow and pain that must henceforth be her portion. And the Lord said, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.” In the creation God had made her the equal of Adam. Had they remained obedient to God—in harmony with His great law of love—they would ever have been in harmony with each other; but sin had brought discord, and now their union could be maintained and harmony preserved only by submission on the part of the one or the other. Eve had been the first in transgression; and she had fallen into temptation by separating from her companion, contrary to the divine direction. It was by her solicitation that Adam sinned, and she was now placed in subjection to her husband. Had the principles enjoined in the law of God been cherished by the fallen race, this sentence, though growing out of the results of sin, would have proved a blessing to them; but man’s abuse of the supremacy thus given him has too often rendered the lot of woman very bitter and made her life a burden” (Patriarchs and Prophets 58, 59).
“Eve had been perfectly happy by her husband’s side in her Eden home; but, like restless modern Eves, she was flattered with the hope of entering a higher sphere than that which God had assigned her. In attempting to rise above her original position, she fell far below it. A similar result will be reached by all who are unwilling to take up cheerfully their life duties in accordance with God’s plan. In their efforts to reach positions for which He has not fitted them, many are leaving vacant the place where they might be a blessing. In their desire for a higher sphere, many have sacrificed true womanly dignity and nobility of character, and have left undone the very work that Heaven appointed them” (Ibid. 59).
“To Adam the Lord declared: “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return'” (Ibid. 59).
“Under the curse of sin all nature was to witness to man of the character and results of rebellion against God. When God made man He made him ruler over the earth and all living creatures. So long as Adam remained loyal to Heaven, all nature was in subjection to him. But when he rebelled against the divine law, the inferior creatures were in rebellion against his rule. Thus the Lord, in His great mercy, would show men the sacredness of His law, and lead them, by their own experience, to see the danger of setting it aside, even in the slightest degree” (Ibid. 60).
Right after Adam and Eve sinned, we see God defining roles. Male and female roles. Eve was to be the mother, raising children in a submissive role. Adam was to be the provider and maintain the leadership role like he had before sin.
I must admit that as a young woman, I didn’t like these verses and curses! I didn’t exactly know if they would affect MY life, and sadly, was never taught—at home or in all my years of Christian education, what they really meant. So this has been part of my long journey, to understand what God meant here, and how it would affect MY life. Back to the Word of God!
Enter the Israelite Nation
There is great confusion today about a woman’s role. Some say we need to be freed from the bondage of hierarchy and male headship just like the slaves were freed from slavery. Some say that equality and fairness for women means they should be able to do whatever they want and be whatever they want just like men. Whether it is to be on the front lines of the military, join the boy scouts, or even be ordained to the sacred office of the ministry, they want to be just like men. And our present culture is pushing women to the max—all in the name of equality.
I’m certainly for equality and I know God is too. But what about the roles God gave us? I believe there is a difference between equality and roles. Think of a key and lock. Both a key and a lock are of equal value. You can’t get along without one or the other, but they are different and have different roles. I believe God made males and females equal, but with different roles. If we accept these roles we will have the greatest peace and happiness. All His works are based on love and wisdom and our salvation from eternal ruin and death. Isaiah 45:22 says: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else.”
Back to our world. It became a mess after sin. People chose to forget about God and His rules and it got so bad the whole world needed to be cleansed with a flood. After that, God chose a man, Abram, and said He would make a great nation out of Abram’s ancestry that would be a light to the world—a true picture of God’s character and laws.
The nation of Israel was born. As they entered the Promised Land, God spoke:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:1-5).
Some of the rules God gave Israel that went against the surrounding cultures at that time:
1. God’s Priests who lead in the worship services were to be only the sons of Aaron (Leviticus 21:1, 4). Only males. There were no priestesses in the Israelite Nation. The surrounding cultures all had female priestesses in their religions. God chose differently, and I’m sure for a reason.
2. The Priest’s hair and beard styles were to be different and no tattoos were allowed like the surrounding cultures (Leviticus 19:28, 21:5, 6).
3. There were rules about the Priest’s wives and daughters. You can read about all the rules listed for the Priests in Leviticus 21 and 22. God was VERY particular and always ended the conversation by saying:
“Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the Lord. Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord which hallow you. That brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord.”
Here we see that God chose a people to be His witness to all the world and they WERE NOT to follow the cultures of the nations all around them. They were to follow God’s rules, which He carefully spelled out in the smallest details—which were counter culture in their time. This would in no way interfere with their witness or soul winning. They were to be different.
Did God use women in leadership roles? Yes. The Old Testament has many stories of Godly women in ministry. But there is the story of Miriam and how swiftly God dealt with her.
She was a great poet, musician, and prophetess occupying a position of high honor and leadership in Israel. “In the affections of the people and the honor of Heaven she stood second only to Moses and Aaron. But the same evil that first brought discord in heaven sprang up in the heart of this woman of Israel and she did not fail to find a sympathizer in her dissatisfaction. In the appointment of the seventy elders Miriam and Aaron had not been consulted, and their jealousy was excited against Moses… Regarding themselves as equally favored by God, they felt that they were entitled to the same position and authority” (Patriarchs and Prophets 382, 383).
“The anger of the Lord was kindled against them… and Miriam was smitten. She ‘became leprous, white as snow.’ This manifestation of the Lord’s displeasure was designed to be a warning to all Israel, to check the growing spirit of discontent and insubordination” (Ibid. 385).
Enter Jesus Christ
When Christ came to this earth, He treated Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, men and women all as equals. Salvation was for ALL. Galatians 5:28. When He chose His disciples, the founders of His church however, He chose twelve men. Faithful women traveled with Him and ministered to Him, but to lead His church, He chose and ordained men. “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And He ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” Mark 3:13, 14.
We can see here that Jesus is being consistent with all the rest of Scripture.
Enter the New Testament Church
When the Jewish Nation crucified Christ, they were no longer God’s chosen people, the light to the world that He called them to be. Now God called Paul to be His great missionary to the Gentiles and along with His disciples, organize the Christian Church.
In 1 Timothy chapter three, Paul is instructing Timothy on how to organize these early Christian churches.
“A bishop (elder) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach…one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?…Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well…. These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Paul also instructs Titus:
“To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”
Paul gives insight into the gender roles in Ephesians 5:21-33 which he says are to be a representation of the love and unity of Christ and His bride, the church.
“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones…Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Again, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul says: “But 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.”
I believe that God wants husbands and wives to be a living demonstration of the unity and love between Christ and His church. Symbolism is important to God. Moses messed up an important symbol in the wilderness by striking the rock twice and was not allowed to enter the Promised Land! It takes humility to submit and obey authority. I believe this submission is a powerful and beautiful picture of selfless love, which is the foundational principle of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Not only Paul, but Peter adds his voice in 1 Peter 3:1-7.
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives. While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
Being called the “weaker” sex can often be very offensive to a woman. This brings me back to my opening memories of childhood. I know I did not want to be the weaker sex! Not until I was grown did I appreciate the fact that I had someone bigger and stronger than myself to lean on. But how sad that as we grew up, we were in competition-–-boys against the girls. Many husbands and wives are still in competition. But their homes are not happy. Why aren’t we educating our young boys to be loving leaders and strong protectors and our young girls to be respectful and appreciative? We certainly won’t learn it in today’s culture!
Now for 1 Timothy 2:7-15: “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not,) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamedfacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 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.”
I didn’t use to understand these verses and I’m still learning. It seemed to me that being deceived was not as bad as outright disobedience! But then I remembered that God does not look at things like we do but He reads the heart-–-or the motives. It seems from what we’re told that Eve’s motive in taking the forbidden fruit was to rise to a higher sphere, or advance herself. Adam’s motive was love for his wife. He was also wise to discern the devil behind it all.
But it was Adam’s sin that allowed our whole world to fall into the hands of the devil. Adam was the head of the human race, in charge of our world. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Praise the Lord!
Again, Paul refers back to creation-–-where Adam was formed first, being the head, or the one in charge of our world, with Eve his helper.
It seems Paul’s main burden is that women not usurp the God given authority men have been given to be leaders. Especially Spiritual leaders, as this is to be a representation of Jesus and His bride, the church. Without headship or leadership, there would be no unity, but chaos. Unity is big with God, as is shown in Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
In Titus 2:1-5, Paul boldly says that knowing gender roles, is sound doctrine. He tells Titus:
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
When I was a freshman in college, we all had to take an aptitude test to see what career we would be most suited for. I went in to the Psychology teacher’s office to go over my test results with her. All I remember was that she seemed flustered and finally said, “I guess you are just suited to be a housewife.” The way it was said, I felt shame and humiliation. I had graduated from Academy with honors and felt I could be whatever I wanted to be.
Now, as I look back, that might have been a complement! How I wish I could have been educated to be the best wife and mom possible! But maybe a course in How to be an Excellent Mom (or Dad) didn’t fit in with higher education. I don’t want to be critical, I just wish I had been more educated in this area! I ended up taking nursing and worked as an RN until I held our first baby in my arms. I chose to stay home and be “mom” for our three precious children. These were the best years of my life. After our children were grown, I taught Kindergarten in our church schools for seven years. It was my ministry and how I enjoyed it!
So what have I learned from my study? Is the Bible still relevant for us today? Haven’t things changed? Is it so outdated that we need to put it away?
I believe we have a choice. We can either follow the culture of our day, or we can follow the principles God has laid out for us in His Word concerning gender roles and acknowledge His authority. The Bible says that God does not change. He created us and He had a plan for us. If we choose to follow God’s plan, He promises to give us eternal life, peace and joy. His way may be counter-culture. Is it easy to be different from those around us? No. The devil will do everything possible to confuse and derail us, and he seems to have the majority on his side now, but God has promised grace upon grace to help us follow His ways.
We’ve heard it said: “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.” I see evidence of this in Proverbs 31, the chapter which describes the Proverbial Woman—the gold standard for the feminine role. It begins by saying, “The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” This dear mother’s teaching influenced not only a king and his kingdom, but all who have ever read the Word of God. And she acknowledged that she received her words from God. What a powerful incentive for women to prayerfully study Proverbs 31.
“Woman should fill the position which God originally designed for her, as her husband’s equal. The world needs mothers who are mothers not merely in name but in every sense of the word. We may safely say that the distinctive duties of woman are more sacred, more holy, than those of man. Let woman realize the sacredness of her work and in the strength and fear of God take up her life mission. Let her educate her children for usefulness in this world and for a home in the better world” (Adventist Home 231).
“The minister has his line of work, and the mother has hers… The Lord is served as much, yea, more, by faithful home work than by the one who teaches the word… The Christian mother’s sphere of usefulness should not be narrowed by her domestic life. The salutary influence which she exerts in the home circle she may and will make felt in more widespread usefulness in her neighborhood and in the church of God. Home is not a prison to the devoted wife and mother” (Ibid. 236).
“The mother’s work is such that it demands continual advancement in her own life, in order that she may lead her children to higher and still higher attainments. But Satan lays his plans to secure the souls of both parents and children. Mothers are drawn away from the duties of home and the careful training of their little ones, to the service of self and the world” (Child Guidance 71).
I believe the Proverbial Woman of Proverbs 31 had anything but a boring life! Other notable women who did not have the care of children, found ways to minister in the early church. I think of Dorcas. Her ministry was so important that she was brought back to life after she died! I think of Priscilla, a frontier missionary alongside her husband and Paul. Phoebe and Lydia had their gifts of hospitality and prayer ministry. Even in her very old age, Anna “departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Luke 2:37 These women did not step out of the roles God gave them, or desire ordination, but found a way to serve the Lord they loved with all their hearts, never thinking their names would be recorded in the holy Scriptures as examples for women today.
Is this Primitive Godliness? I believe so. I read, “Notwithstanding the widespread declension of faith and piety, there are true followers of Christ in these churches. Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times” (The Great Controversy 46).
I believe we are very close to this time in history, if not already there.
One other thing I’ve learned from this study is how important learning to submit really is. This has been a hard one for me, just ask my children and husband! Submission is not easy or popular as it DOES NOT come naturally to the human heart. But one woman in the Bible had learned it. I think of Mary. She was probably chosen and honored to be the mother of Jesus because she was so humble and submissive. “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Paul echoes in Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
I think of dear Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying out: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
And we are told to have His same submissive spirit!
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man,
he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
I believe this is the spirit of heaven. Each humbly submitting to each other. This is the definition of love—selflessness. And love is the foundation of God’s Kingdom. I have always wanted to be a part of God’s Kingdom, but it has been a long journey for me to understand my role and to accept and desire a submissive heart! But one of my favorite Bible promises is Ezekiel 36:26, 27.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
I believe that rebellion will not be able to rise up again, if all of us have learned to submit to God’s authority as written in His Word. It is a test for all of us. I want to be done with selfishness and rebellion so Jesus can come and we can end this nightmare of sin! Do we have faith that God’s ways are best?
In conclusion, I will say, I’m still on my journey, but I feel privileged to be a woman and I pray that God will help me be a Godly woman! I took the time to search out all these Scriptures and Spirit of Prophecy because I do not want to be deceived in these last days! Today, every wind of doctrine is blowing—in our schools, our churches and around the world. There is confusion!
Thank God for His Word that reveals truth so that I do not have to be deceived. I was not able to choose my gender at birth, but thank God I am able to choose my eternal destiny!