It was deemed timely to have as Our Heritage article the following words from “Elpis Israel” under the chapter, “The Foundation of the World”. Much has happened since these words were penned over 150 years ago in the quest for equality between men and women. Women today have been ordained as priests, play leading rôles in politics, sit on boards etc. What rôle should women take in the ecclesia? What does the Bible, our guide, if not the world’s, have to say about this matter which has become an issue today in view of the considerable change of women in the church and the world? The true position of sisters in Christ and the ecclesia is not the repression and servitude practised in some societies, but one that is beautifully balanced, in which their special qualities are recognized and encouraged, while giving to brethren the rôle of leadership and guidance. The following words written by our esteemed Brother John Thomas, who was used by the Father to fully bring to light His Truth in these last days, reveal a remarkable balance and insight in this matter.
We hear much in some parts of the world of the political rights and equality of women with men; and of their preaching and teaching in public assemblies. We need wonder at nothing which emanates from the unenlightened thinking of sinful flesh. There is no absurdity too monstrous to be sanctified by unspiritualized animal intellect. Men do not think according to God’s thinking, and therefore it is they run into the most unscriptural conceits; among which may be enumerated the political and social equality of women. Trained to usefulness, of cultivated intellect and with moral sentiments purified and ennobled by the nurture and admonition of the Lord’s truth, women are “helps meet” for the Elohim; and much too good for men of ordinary stamp. The sex is susceptible of this exaltation; though I despair of witnessing it in many instances till “the Age to come”. But, even women of this excellency of mind and disposition, were it possible for such to do so, would be guilty of indiscretion, presumption, and rebellion against God’s law, in assuming equality of rank, equality of rights, and authority over man, which is implied in teaching and preaching. It is the old ambition of the sex to be equal to the gods; but in taking steps to attain it, they involved themselves in subjection to men. Preaching, and lecturing, women are but species of actresses, who exhibit upon the boards for the amusement of sinful and foolish men. They aim at an equality for which they are not physically constituted; they degrade themselves by the exhibition, and in proportion as they rise in assurance, they sink in all that really adorns a woman.
The law, which forms a part of the foundation of the world, says to the woman, “He shall reign over thee”. The nature of this subjection is well exhibited in the Mosaic law (Num 30:3–15). A daughter being yet in her youth in her father’s house, could only make a vow subject to his will. If he held his peace, and said nothing for or against, she was bound by her word; but if when he heard it, he disallowed it, she was not bound to perform; and the Lord forgave the failure of the vow. The same law applied to a wife. A widow, or divorced woman, were both bound to fulfil; unless their husbands had made them void before separation. If not, being subject to God, they had no release.
This throws light upon the apostle’s instructions concerning women. “They are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” And “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over man, but to be in silence.” The reason he gives for imposing silence and subjection, is remarkable. He adduces the priority of Adam’s formation; and the unhappy consequences of Eve’s talkativeness and leadership in transgression; as it is written, “Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim 2:11–14) first. And then, as to their public ministrations, he says, “Let women keep silence in the congregations; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but to be under obedience, as saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the congregation” (1 Cor 14:34,35). It is true, that in another place the apostle says, “Let the aged women be teachers of good things”; but then this teaching is not to be in the congregation, or in the brazen attitude of a public oratrix. They are to exercise their gift of teaching privately among their own sex, “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 [which they profess], be not blasphemed” (Tit 2:4,5).
Christian women should not copy after the god-aspiring Eve, but after Sarah, the faithful mother of Israel, who submitted herself in all things to Abraham, “calling him lord” (Gen 18:12). Nor should their obedience be restricted to Christian husbands only. They should also obey them “without the word”; that is, those who have not submitted to it, in order that they may be won over to the faith when they behold the chaste and respectful behaviour of their wives, produced by a belief of the truth (1 Pet 3:1–6).
Such are the statutory provisions enacted in the world’s constitution at the beginning, with respect to the position of women in the body social and political. Any attempt to alter the arrangement is rebellion against God, and usurpation of the rights of men to whom God has subjected them. Their wisdom is to be quiet, and to make their influence felt by their excellent qualities. They will then rule in the hearts of their rulers, and so ameliorate their own subjection as to convert it into a desirable and sovereign obedience.
A man should never permit the words of a woman to intervene between him and the laws of God. This is a rock upon which myriads have made shipwreck of the faith. Adam sinned in consequence of listening to Eve’s silvery discourse. No temptation has proved more irresistible to the flesh than the enticing words of woman’s lips. “They drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; and her steps take hold on hell” (Prov 5:3–5). Adam was a striking illustration of this truth, as appears from the sentence pronounced upon him. “Because”, said the Lord God, “thou hast hearkened to 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.” Thus, having passed sentence upon the serpent, the woman, and the man, the Lord appointed them a new law, and expelled them from the garden He had made.