Notes of a Lecture delivered at Stamford 16 January 1976.
ADAM WAS FIRST FORMED, THEN EVE.
Notes of a Lecture delivered at Stamford, 16 January 1976.
In 1879 Richard L. Dabney, an American Presbyterian wrote, “A few years ago the public preaching of women was universally condemned among all conservative denominations of Christians and indeed, within their bounds, was totally unknown”. He also comments, “The fantastic suggestion of yesterday, entertained only by a few fanatics, and then only mentioned by the sober to be ridiculed, is today the audacious reform and will be tomorrow the recognised usage”.
A century later these words appear sadly prophetic as some of the major denominations in Britain and elsewhere recognize women as having equal status with men in all positions in the church, including the ministry. Leading Church of England authorities have publicly stated that they “see no scriptural reason to oppose the ordination of women”, and evidently are hindered in their purposes only by traditional opposition in their congregations, and by the strong desire for union with Rome.
The influence of militant women’s equal rights and liberation movements, encouraged by a motley collection of other radical and extremist groups have moved the British parliament to pass the “Sex Discrimination Bill”, with some consequences which would be ridiculous if not so sad. It would now seem that these attitudes have gained general acceptance in the country and bid fair to become the accepted way of life in England.
There can be little doubt that the last great war gave a strong stimulus to the demands for equality for women, as so many of them were compelled to accept positions in factories and other heavy work which had previously been occupied only by the men then called away into the armed forces. This obviously encouraged agitation against any kind of discrimination in employment and wages.
In the churches generally there has been such a rapid decline in membership over the last fifty years that many groups find themselves with few, if any, gifted men but often a predominance of women members, some of whom may be more able and gifted than the remaining men. The dearth of men applying for training in the Church of England ministry has also encouraged that body to consider the ordination of women. Churches which have been historically opposed to the ordination of women to the public ministry waver in their attitudes. A pragmatic spirit of compromise is so often the path taken by declining congregations which cease to be governed entirely by scriptural principles regardless of the consequences.
The arguments of the day are usually governed by the philosophies of the day and this fact should be a constant warning to Christian believers. The “prince of this world” is no idle influence amongst men and in the philosophies of men. If this were simply a debate as to whether women should be paid an equal amount when doing a job exactly equivalent to, and as efficiently as a man, then little difficulty would be felt by persons with Biblical attitudes, “A labourer is worthy of his (or her!) hire”. But such questions are minor and superficial. For the believer, the heart of the
matter lies deep in the very doctrine of Creation and of God’s revealed order for men and women. We must, as believers, question the fundamental theses of the world in their attitudes, practices, and beliefs;
with the certainty that Satan will ever be working to destroy God’s order in God’s world and so deepen the chaos he achieved in the fall of Eve and Adam.
The Word of God is our only infallible guide as we seek to find the God-given pattern for the relationships of men and women in the family, in the world and in the church.
Paul, in writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 2.13-14.) directs us to the original pattern of Eden. ‘ ‘For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” In Genesis 2.20-25 we have God’s own beautiful description of the creation of the man and the woman.
We notice the following points.
1. Adam was God’s original creation.
2. Adam found no suitable helper from amongst the animals.
3. Adam needed a helper and a companion.
4. God created woman out of the man.
5. Eve was a help meet, or exactly suited, to Adam’s needs.
6. There was the closest possible relationship between the man and the
woman in innocency. They were “one flesh”; but there was an order,
Man first – Woman second, out of the Man. Man helped Â— Woman the
Paul lays emphasis upon the fact that in the fall the woman was the first to sin and was immediately involved in transgression. She usurped the man’s position becoming a leader, becoming first not second, making a vital decision affecting both her and her husband without reference to Adam and with fatal consequences both for herself, her husband and the whole human race. In this she demonstrated, for the first time in human history, the sin of pride and ambition in seeking to be wise like God (Gen. 3.1-6). We see also that Eve received God’s command about the tree through Adam as Genesis 2.16-17 records the command before the creation of Eve. Her act of disobedience, then, was against both God and Adam.
The subsequent punishment is wonderfully mingled with mercy (see Gen. 3.15 especially), but punishment it was, and Genesis 3.16 shows that the fallen woman is then in a position which accentuates the original creation order Â— “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”. No man will ever know the pain and sorrow of childbirth and all the arguments for equality will never alter the fundamental differences expressed here. Differences exist between men and women in their physical constitution, in their emotional life, in their mutual relationships and in procreation. These obvious differences should be a constant reminder that God has said, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”, a constant reminder also of the mercy of God even amidst punishment, so that the fallen woman may know the protection of her husband and enjoy human love in an orderly relationship of submission, not in the disorderly usurpation of position like that which caused the fall.
It is important to stress that the divine order in creation is accentuated, not diminished, in the fall. God clearly forseeing that fallen nature will not gladly and completely submit to the divine order as it did in innocence. The sinful man needs to be commanded in his responsibility to lead and the sinful woman in her responsibility to submit.
The blessings of new spiritual life in Christ Jesus, when old things are passed away and all things are become new, in no way obliterates the divine creation pattern. Indeed, the New Testament clearly teaches that in Christian marriage there is to be a renewing of that willing, glad submission to God’s order akin to the relationship of Adam and Eve in innocence.
Ephesians 5.22-33 is the most exalted and blessed description of married happiness, showing the sacredness of that relationship and its similarity to the relationship between Christ and His church. But notice here that amidst the descriptions of such precious love there is now a divine order even more prominently accentuated. Christ is infinitely exalted above all and is the ruling Head and Husband of His bride, the church. The human husband, the God appointed head, is to love his wife even as Christ loved His wife, and the woman is to submit to her husband even as the church submits to her heavenly Husband.
Peter (in 1 Peter 3) most clearly follows the same inspired pattern in his teaching (and he had a wife!) saying, “be in subjection”, “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord”.
God’s intention is that this divine pattern shall also clearly show itself when the church is gathered for worship and in 1 Cor. 11 we have again the divine order. First – God the Father, second – Christ as man (not second in His divine being but in His state of voluntary humiliation as He said, “The Father is greater than I”), thirdly – man, and fourthly -woman. This pattern was even to be demonstrated by the prevailing custom of women appearing veiled or covered in public worship whilst the men were to be uncovered as the head of the woman, uncovered to symbolize his position before Christ and God, the woman to be covered to symbolize her subjection to the man, and through him to Christ and to God. It is not irrelevant to remember that in Paul’s day the woman not only covered her head and hair but also all of her face except her eyes which means that her mouth was covered as well as her hair!
Some have concluded that because customs vary in different countries and because fashions change with time, these requirements cannot be considered as relevant today. But a more humble approach to the chapter is to say that the principle is still a divine principle and then to seek ways, within the cultural norms of any nation, in which to express this divine order in the public meetings of the church. This chapter surely does not fix the exact form of Christian women’s fashions for all nations and for all times, but it does lay down basic principles which every church should seek to practise in the light of its own existing circumstances and customs. It is sad that churches should regularly read and practise the latter third of 1 Corinthians 11 and virtually ignore, or treat as irrelevant, the first two thirds!
A more difficult problem arises in considering verse 5 in this chapter and some have argued, understandably, that it is in order for women to
pray and prophesy in the church so long as she is covered. Certainly at Corinth this practice had developed, and one wonders why Paul makes this comment in .the light of what follows in 1 Cor. 14.33-35. where he clearly instructs women to be silent in the churches. R. L. Dabney comments on this verse,
“The Apostle is about to prepare the way for his categorical exclusion of women from public discourse. He does so by alluding to the intrusion which had probably begun, along with many other disorders in the Corinthian churches and by pointing to its obvious unnaturalness. Thus he who stands up in public as the herald and representative of heaven’s King must stand with uncovered head; the honour of the Sovereign for whom he speaks demands this. But no woman can present herself in public with uncovered head without sinning against nature and her sex. Hence no woman can be a public herald of Christ. Then this passage, instead of implying the admission, really argues the necessary exclusion of women from the pulpit.”
It may have been the original practice of the church at Corinth for all to respond together in their praying as one man was leading. Hence for this, the woman must be veiled.
Prophecy can include praise and so J. Gill explains this as follows: “It designs any woman that joins in public worship with the minister in prayer, and attends on the hearing of the word preached, or sings the praises of God with the congregation… .not that a woman was allowed to pray publicly in the congregation and much less to preach or explain the word for these things were not permitted them 1 Cor. 14.34-35, 1 Tim. 2.12.”
My own feeling is much with Dabney. Paul has two abuses to correct -first, the uncovering of the women in public worship-second, the public speaking of women. He deals with the first in 1 Cor. 11, and the second in 1 Cor. 14.
It is recognized that in many churches where Bible truth is preached the question of the woman’s silence in the church is the source of a good deal of disagreement. But it is well to notice that 1 Corinthians 14.34-35 is very strongly worded: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience”. “Let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
In what connection were these prohibitions made? Evidently in regard to public meetings of believers as described earlier in the chapter when there was prophesying, speaking in tongues, directing the congregation to a psalm, a doctrine, giving a revelation or interpretation! In fact we have a picture of the public meeting of this church of many gifts, directed by the men and not the women.
In 1 Timothy 2.8-15, we have the same pattern of life and behaviour amongst believers. Twice the emphasis falls on the woman’s silence, in v. 11 and then in v. 12 as a demonstration of her subjection to the man who is the leader and teacher – and this as a reflection of the original creation order. Again, some have argued that in the words of v.9. “In like manner” refers to women praying publicly and audibly – in fact leading the congregation in prayer. However we must notice:
1. Although this epistle obviously was intended to guide Timothy in his instruction of the churches, this chapter does not restrict its teaching exclusively to the meetings of the church.
2. He does say in v.8 “I will that the men everywhere” with the particle
appearing in the original Greek when he could have said just “men” generally.
3. The passage is stressing the rightness and seemliness of the men praying and the women appearing in suitable and seemly clothing.
4. The verses have historically been understood by the believing church as forbidding a public place to women in both praying and teaching
audibly in the meetings of the church, though in recent years this has been rapidly changing.
It is interesting to note that John Bunyan had trouble in his day from a Mr K. who advocated the practice of women in the congregation meeting separately from the men for prayer. In the course of his reply, A Case of Conscience Resolved, he makes a number of relevant comments:
“In the third place, I come to show you whose prayers, or by whose mouth prayer in such assemblies, as are above proved lawful, used to be made, or by Paul or others were desired.
1. Whose prayers were used, or who was the mouth? and I find them called the prayers of the church in general, or of the principal men thereof in particular. Ac. 12.5; 13.1-3. 2. Also when Paul, or others, desired that prayers should be made of others for them. They either desired the prayers of the church in general, or of the brethren in particular (but never desireth, or biddeth a woman’s meeting, that prayers might there be made for them.) (1.) He desireth the prayers of the church in general. Col. 4.2. Phi. 1.19; 4.6. 1 Th. 5.17. He. 13.18. (2.) Or if he desireth prayers of certain persons, he only calls upon the men and brethren in particular, but never upon a woman by name nor sex to do it.” 1 Th. 5.25. 2 Th. 3.1. Ro. 15.30. lTi.2.8.”
Later he says:
“If this worship may be managed by the sisterhood of the churches, being congregated together in the absence of their men: of what signification is it that man is made head of the woman as well in worship as in nature? 1 Co. 11.3,7. Yea more, why are the elders of the churches called watchmen, overseers, guides, teachers, rulers, and the like? If this kind of worship may be performed, without their conduct and government? Ac. 20.28. Ep. 4.11. He. 13.17. But, may some say. Our women in this do
not what they do of their own heads, they are allowed to do what they do by the church.
I answer. No church allowance is a foundation sufficient to justify that which is neither commanded nor allowed by the word. Besides, who knows not, that have their eyes in their heads, what already has, and what further may, come into the churches, at such a gap as this. And now to give the reader a cautionary conclusion.
Take heed of letting the name, or good show of a thing, beget in thy heart a religious reverence of that thing; but look to the word for thy foundation for it is the word that authorized!, whatever may be done with
warrant in worship to God; without the word, things are of human invention, of what splendour or beauty soever they may appear to be.” Explaining how women may pray when the church meets he says:
“I doubt not at all of the lawfulness of women’s praying, and that, both in private and public: only when they pray publicly, they should not separate from, but join with the church in that work. They should also not be the mouth of the assembly, but in heart, desires, groans, and tears, they should go along with the men. In their closets they are at liberty to speak unto their God, who can bear with, and pity them with us; and pardon all our weakness for the sake of Jesus Christ.” Speaking of prayer as part of public worship he says:
“This kind of worship, when done in and by a company, is MINISTERIAL to that company, as well as petitionary to God. That is, they that, as the mouth in assemblies pray to God, teach that assembly, as well as beg mercies of him. And I find not that women may assemble to do thus. That such prayer is a kind of ministering in me word to slanders by, consider well 1 Co. 14.15-19. Wherefore let them keep silence in the church, and in the parts thereof, when assembled to worship God.” He continues:
“As teaching by prayer in assemblies, is thus set on foot; so every one also that shall in such meetings be the mouth of the whole, to God, ministereth doctrine to that assembly, as well as presenteth petitions to God. Else how can that assembly say AMEN at their prayer or giving of thanks? For to say AMEN is an effect of conviction, or of edification received of the stander-by, from him that now is so ministering in that assembly before God. 1 Co. 14.15-17. Yea, I believe that they that pray in assemblies, or that shall give thanks for mercies received there, ought to labour to speak, not only with fervency, of words, but with such soundness of doctrine while they mention, urge, or plead the promise with God, that that whole assembly may be enlightened, taught, taken, and carried away in their spirits, on the wing of that prayer, and of faith, to God, whose face they are come to seek, and whose grace they are gathered together to beg. Now this is called praying and praising, to the teaching and edifying of others, as by the scripture afore named is made to appear. 1 Co. 14.14-19. But by what word of God the sisters of the respective churches may set up this way of teaching of one another in their assemblies, I am ignorant of.”
“Suppose your meetings in some cases were lawful, yet since by the brethren they may be managed better, you and your meetings ought to give place. That the church together, and the brethren, as the mouth to God, are capable of managing this solemn worship best: considerÂ—1. The gifts for all such service are most to be found in the elders and leading men in the church: and not in the women thereof. 2. The spirit for conduct and government in that worship, is not in the women, but in the men. 3. The men are admitted in such worship, to stand with open face before God, a token of much admittance to liberty and boldness with God, a thing denied to the women. 1 Co. 11.4,5. 4. For that when meetings for prayers are commanded, the men, to be the mouth to God, are mentioned, but not in ordinary women, in all the Scriptures. Where the women and children, and them that suck the breasts are called, with the bride and
bridegroom, and the whole land, to mourn: yet the ministers, and elders, and chiefest of the brethren, are they, and they only, that are bid to say, ‘Spare thy people, O Lord! and give not thine heritage to reproach.’ Joel 1.13,14; 2.15-17. 5. The word for encouragement to pray believingly in assemblies is given to men. And it is the word that makes, and (that sanctifies an ordinance of God: men, therefore, in all assemblies for worship, should be they that should manage it, and let others join in their places.
Objection. But the woman is included in the man, for the same word signifies both.
Answer. 1. If the woman is included here, let her not exclude the man. But the man is [by them] excluded: The man is excluded by this women’s meeting from worship; from worship, though he be the head in worship over the woman, and by God’s ordinance appointed to manage it, and this is an excluding of the worst complexion. 1 Co. 11.3. 2. Though the woman is included, when the man sometimes is named, yet the man is not excluded, when himself as chief is named. But to cut him off from being the chief in all assemblies for worship, is to exclude him, and that when he for that in chief is named. 3. The woman is included when the man is named, yet but in her place, and if she worships in assemblies, her part is to hold her tongue, to learn in silence; and if she speaks, she must do it, I mean as to worship, in her heart to God. 4. Nor, do I think, that any woman that is holy and humble, will take offence at what I have said; for I have not in anything sought to degrade them, or to take from them what either nature or grace, or an appointment of God hath invested them with:
but have laboured to keep them in their place. And doubtless to abide where God has put us, is that which not only highly concerns us, but that which becomes us best. Sisters, I have said what I have said to set you right, and to prevent your attempting to do things in such sort unto which you are not appointed. Remember what God did to Miriam, and be afraid.
Be as often in your closets as you will; the oftener there the better. This is your duty, this is your privilege: this place is sanctified to you for service by the holy Word of God. Here you may be, and not make ordinances interfere, and not presume upon the power of your superiors, and not thrust out your brethren, nor put them behind your backs in worship.
But also as often as possibly you can, in worship, when the church, or parts thereof, are assembled for that end, according to God’s appointment. And when you are there, join with heart and soul with your brethren in all holy petitions to God. Let the men in prayer be the mouth to God, and the women list after with groans and desires. Let the men stand with open face in this worship, for that they are the image and glory of God, and let the women be clothed in modest apparel, with shame-faced-ness, in token of the remembrance of what has been touched afore.
When women keep their places, and men manage their worshipping of God as they should, we shall have better days for the church of God, in the world.”
In the .records of the Abingdon Baptist Association for 1658 we find a similar statement.
“Query. How far women may speak in the church and how far not?
Answer. We answer: that women in some cases may speak in the church and in some cases again may not.
1. That in some cases they may not speak manifestly appears in 1 Cor. 14.34f. and 1 Tim. 2.1 If. They may not so speak as that their speaking shall shew a not acknowledging of the inferiority of their sex and so be an usurping authority over the man, more particularly,
i. A woman may not publicly teach in the church. This appears to have been much in the apostle’s eye in 1 Cor. 14.
ii. She may not stand up as a ruler in the church and so speak upon that account.
iii. She may not speak in the church by way of passing sentence upon doctrines or cases in the church.
iv. She may not speak in prayer as the mouth of the church. This is very clear in 1 Tim. 2.
2. Yet in the cases that follow and possibly in some other like cases a woman may speak in the church and not be found to offend against the rules of the apostle.
i. If she desire to make confession of her faith and to express her desire of baptism and communion with the church.
ii. If she be a witness concerning the admonition of one that the church is to deal with or must herself tell a matter to the church according to the rule in Mat. 18.17.
iii. If a woman hath sinned and be cast out of the church and God hath given her repentance undoubtedly she may manifest it in the church.”
It is interesting to find that our forbears were very definite in their decisions on this matter and in the Association Records of the Particular Baptists of the West Country and Ireland for 1654 there is the following entry:
“Query 7. Whether a woman may speak in the church at all, and if at all, in what cases?
Answer: a woman is not permitted at all to speak in the church, neither by way of praying, prophesying nor enquiring, 1 Cor. 14.34f, 1 Tim. 2.1 If, but, if any have a gift, we judge they may exercise it in private, observing the rule mentioned, 1 Cor. 11.5.”
Two years later in the records of the South Wales and Midlands churches:-”
Question 10. How far women may speak in the church and how far not.
Answer: we answer that women in some cases may speak in the churches and in some cases again may not. That in some cases they may not speak manifestly appears in 1 Cor. 14.34f. and 1 Tim. 2.1 If. They may not so speak as that their speaking shall not shew a not acknowledging of the inferiority of their sex and so be a usurping of authority over the man and more particularly thus: 1. A woman may not publicly teach in the church. This appears to have been much in the apostle’s eye, 1Cor. 14.2.2. She may not speak in the church by way of passing sentence upon doctrines or cases in the church. 3. She may not stand up as a ruler in the church and so speak upon that account. 4. She may not speak in prayer as the mouth of the church, that is very clear in 1 Tim. 2; yet in the cases that follow and, possibly, in some other cases a woman may speak in the
church and not be found to offend against the rule of the apostle: 1. if she desire to make a profession of her faith to the church to express her desire to baptism and communion with the church. 2. If she be a witness concerning the church admonition of one that the church is to deal with or must herself tell the matter to the church according to the rule in Mt. 18.17. 3. If she be sent from another church as a messenger she may deliver her message. 4. If she have need of the church’s assistance in any things she may impart her just desire and lay open her case to them. 5. If a woman have sinned and [been] cast out of the church and God hath given her repentance, undoubtedly she may manifest it in the church.”
Finally, to avoid the appearance of being too negative let it be said that the Scriptures speak frequently of the place and work of godly women. Those who follow these precepts will not be short of useful and
God-honouring activities, which will be of inestimable value in the life of any church.
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour 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.
Titus 2. vs. 3-5
“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.
1 Peter 3, vs. 1-4
“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.
That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus.”