"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (I Peter 3.7)."
Should women occupy the God-ordained office of a bishop or an elder? We recently read a poll in our local newspaper on that subject. It regarded the ordination of women to the ministry and by a vote of 8 to 1, our good citizens were in favor of doing just that; as soon as possible, too. In their opinion the time had come. The only reason the lone objector could give for his dissent was that he did not like change.
Now, it must be stated that this poll was, no doubt at all, not very scientific as polls go. We will also mention, by way of clarification, that the management of our local paper has a wonderful propensity for liberal causes. This is especially true when matters of religion are the topic. What could be the most disturbing facet of this survey, however, is the survey itself. There is little question in our mind that this is a sure symptom of the wicked time in which we live. Not very many years ago a survey of this kind would have been rare indeed. It would also have been poorly received.
Today, nothing is sacred to the masses, including the clear message of the Bible. We are probably safe in saying that those individuals queried in the survey had no idea what the Bible teaches about women, their role in marriage, in the church, or in public affairs. Those surveyed probably care very little what the Bible teaches, either.
We care, however. We believe, and are reasonably sure, most other of God's little children care as well.
We desire to assert before going further, that unless we are totally deceived, we have the highest respect for womanhood. Furthermore, their place as the Bible reveals it is held by us in high esteem. What we hope to set forth, in clear terms, is the sad and lamentable condition that results when women either attempt to, or do in fact, gain any station not accorded them by God in His Word. There can be little question, especially in the minds of God's elect, that women have a high and lofty position accorded them by God. Any attempt then to shift their position from that which Divine providence has allotted them can only lower them from that grand platform of respect, honor, and admiration. We further hope to show the lofty respect our Saviour showed the weaker vessels.
THE GENERAL SITUATION
Several initial observations are in order. Before setting forth what the Bible does, or does not, reveal about a female clergy, we shall examine the general situation as pertaining to the "blurring" of the sexes. Foremost among those observations is the insidious direction Satan has attempted to lead the masses. We refer to his striving to destroy the respective Bible roles of male and female. No person alive today, possessing common sense, could fail to see the general trend. The so-called women's movement has brought together a coalition of the basest females numbering in the millions. Make no mistake; this movement has as its driving force the aim of destroying every vestige of what the Word of God teaches regarding male and female. This movement has the support of practically all forms of media, industry, government, and a limitless assortment of ignorant citizens. Men are portrayed by them, more often than not, from one extreme to the other, as either woman hating beasts, or sniveling wimps.
Abortion. The high incidence of women having abortions warrants our keen observation. What was once only a procedure to save the life of an endangered mother, abortions aimed at destroying the process of procreation now number in the millions annually. The awful contempt for the command of God to populate the earth is but one of the vicious hatchlings gendered by this callous brood. The life, the real and proper life, of the unborn is to them of no more value than the residue of a charnel house. This too is but another extension of the sable darkness Satan has cast over the minds of those not protected by the Angel of the Lord. See II Corinthians 4.4.
Homosexuality. This anomalous practice also requires our notice. Should it be engaged in by sufficient numbers, it could render the population of the earth to near, or at, zero. It has now almost reached the weird level of fashionable. Amazingly, with the recent spate of hate crime legislation, it can be extremely dangerous to speak out in strong or positive terms against the abomination. "When treason doth prosper, none dare call it treason." So it is with the epidemic increase of homosexuality. Many of us can remember when sodomy was rare indeed, at least to public knowledge. Now it is not uncommon for hundreds of thousands to publicly gather in marches to "celebrate" this deviant practice. Along with these marchers will be seen many religious leaders, prominent entertainment figures and politicians, with an ample number of pure lunatics in accompaniment. More often than not, the general public's assessment of such marches is blissfully positive. This too is another device of Satan.
The marriage union. The vast majority of what is being taught to our youth about marriage is remarkably negative. We well remember when the Lord blessed this poor sinner with a darling wife. Marriage then was regarded as sacred. It was not to be entered into lightly, nor did we. We were at that time without a spiritual hope, yet the prevailing view of the enduring bond of marriage influenced us tremendously. "Living together" outside of the marriage vows was rare in those days. However, for the vast number of "enlightened" folks marriage is of little or no value in this day. "Times have changed." This is the common view. So they have, sadly, but the truth of the Bible has not changed. And, we emphasize again, this truth is exactly why, in his inveterate malice, Satan hurls yet another wicked device against the holy union of man and wife.
Sex education in schools. The use of contraceptives to avoid "teen" pregnancy is not only acceptable, it is now hawked to the nation's youth as absolutely necessary. It is amazing, and almost beyond belief, that in public schools, run by our tax money, the same nurse that previously put bandages on skinned elbows, and warned against running in the halls, now passes out condoms without a word about running into ruin. And "society" loves to have it so. The prevailing view of society is that our youth need to be taught all about sex at a very early age; some even demand it begin at kindergarten. (We would mention here that the current system of kindergarten is another way to remove children from their parents' influence at the earliest age possible.) It is our studied opinion that so-called sex education is nothing more than "sex acceptance indoctrination." This device of Satan is nothing, more or less, than a direct assault on the morals taught in the Word of God; morals designed to preserve mankind for their in-tended population of the planet.
Legal tactics. Sex discrimination and sexual harrasment charges, followed by countless lawsuits, have flooded the courts. There was a time when a single young male that wanted a date with a young lovely of the opposite sex would approach her with a variety of flatteries. Today that tactic could land him in the state penitentiary for 12 to 20 years. We suggest the subtlety of this trend is to drive, by fear, the male to seek companionship with another male. The possible consequences are frightful. A certain evil wedge has been driven between the sexes creating obvious contempt. At least it is obvious to those that see this as another device of Satan.
Miscellaneous. More and more, for a multitude of reasons, women are leaving the home for the workplace. The obvious consequence is the potential breakdown of the family unit. The seeds of temptation also find this a fertile field in which to grow. Parents are subject to severe legal consequences for the corporeal punishment of their children. This is based partly on the assumption that our atheist government knows better how to raise children than the "poor dolts" that bear them. A final item that must be mentioned is the trend of dress and grooming for both male and female. Who is there that has not often found it hard at times to tell the men from the women? Surely, Satan has many devices.
We might go on with an expanded list of those devices which are intended to weaken the respective roles of male and female, but we believe sufficient has been given. What, we ask, do all these things have in common? Is there a mutual thread that ties them all together? There surely is. We believe, we are sure, it is that which we have stressed above; the inveterate hatred Satan has for the Holy Son of God and those to be redeemed by Him from the family of men. Satan never ceases to employ a variety of devices to advance his scheme against the holy will of God.
Some of our brethren may dismiss as trifling or inconsequential the role of Satan in all this sordid business. We do not, however, and for the best of all reasons; the Bible record. "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices (II Corinthians 2.11)."
We reject as grave error the notion that Satan has always existed along with God in eternity. Satan is a created being. He was made by the Word of God's power as were all other creatures that do and have existed (John 1.3). His created role in the universe is that of a waster, and his end is to be destroyed (Isaiah 54.16). The following seems to reveal the onset of Satan's ruin and his attending malice to Christ and His church: "How thou art fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Isaiah 14.12-14)." It should be noted that five times in this quotation Lucifer (Satan) vaunts his narcissistic traits with a pompous "I will." This, taken along with other Scriptures, leads us to believe that Satan would have usurped the very throne and station of Christ. Christ was a witness to this awful rebellion, for He says to His disciples, "I beheld [past tense] Satan as lightning fall from heaven (Luke 10.18)." Thus, with sudden velocity, Satan, as a bolt from the black turbulence boiling above, and charged with white-hot malice, and irreversible hatred, was hurled to the earth; there to carry out God's eternally ordained mission for him. This anointed cherub (Ezekiel 28.14) would henceforth expend his considerable energies attempting to overthrow the purpose of God for His Son and the elect family.
The first known attempt of Satan to ruin the promised seed took place in Eden. Here he adopted the form of a serpent and introduced the first lie, (Genesis 3.1-5). See also Ezekiel 28.13. God, however, with eternal love and mercy, covered our naked parents, thus vividly pointing to the coming atonement (covering). We see the trail of the serpent again when Cain slew Abel. This vile plot also came to naught, for God appointed the seed to follow through Seth. The serpent's trail then virtually covered the earth in coming centuries until the wickedness of man was great in the earth, (Genesis 6.5ff). Surely then Satan must have thought he had approached the accomplishment of his diabolical plot against the promised seed. Mankind appeared to be totally debauched. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6.8)."
On we might go, through the 39 books of the Old Testament, witnessing one great conflict after another between wickedness and Holiness; between the malevolence of Satan and the unerring purpose of God. Every subtlety and cruel instrument that could possibly be hatched in the black pit of Satan's being were employed to debase, corrupt, and damn all humanity in general, and the promised seed in particular. We shall, though, move on to the New Testament. Who could fail to see tracks of the Beast when King Herod murdered the male children? Was it not intended to destroy the Christ child? So then again the hot breath of the Dragon vomited out all manner of base temptations against the Lord in the wilderness. The last, and pertinent, words recorded before this awful visitation are found in the following: "And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3.17)." Surely this glorious pronouncement of God's adoration of His only Son produced a volcano of resentment in Satan, and he must erupt its full fury on the fast-weakened being of our Saviour. Thus we read: "Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4.1ff)."
We are almost made to marvel that most in the religious world ignore the clarity and force of the above text. Jesus was led (driveth, Mark 1.12) into the wilderness by the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The appointed time had come for His encounter with this arch-fiend. Jesus was not led up to this place of stark solitude to be attended to by myriad angels for 40 days, nor to be there nurtured further at the hand of the Father. No! He was led there to be tempted by Satan, the Devil. Satan would vent his full array of strategies against the weakened Jesus, and do it with a?fulminating conviction of destroying the King of Glory, thus rendering the eternal plan of God a failure.
It cannot be thought that Satan perpetrated the assault under duress. What that nefarious creature launched upon the Lord was done willingly, as though he were free to act or not. He failed, and thus skulked away! At least for a season (Luke 4.13).
Countless other measures were subsequently employed by this lying, murdering fiend to obviate the grand redemptive plan, but all was brought to defeat by the superintending power of the Almighty. Time after time the wretched Devil was foiled.
Finally, we see one of his darker schemes unfold against the woman that brought forth the man child: "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood (Revelation 12.15)." We understand, in figurative language, the water from the mouth of the serpent to be all manner of false doctrines, launched upon the woman as flood waters in volume. He would drown her with lies. These were in the form of every sort of heinous doctrine aimed at lessening the sovereignty of our dear Redeemer; specifically, Arminianism, Arianism, conditionalism, evolution, humanism, even Satanism and other dark practices. The introduction of "women clergy" was another false doctrine spewed forth by the Serpent. Such a flood of heresies and error would, without question, sink any but she who was secure in the everlasting arms.
It is clear that the Devil's methods had changed somewhat in his attempts on the woman, and yet were ever the same. He assaulted the woman in the wilderness in a manner similar to that he used in the first sin. When Satan would inject his venom in our first parents he naturally came as the serpent he truly was. Where then did he strike his first blow? At our primogenitor Adam? No; his filthy fangs first pierced the woman, Eve! The woman was the weaker vessel in this first, or typical union. Even so, the weary woman in the wilderness, ordained and chosen to be the bride of Christ, was the weaker vessel in the latter union. So Satan dealt his harshest blows at her without pity.
THE WEAKER VESSEL
Women are not weaklings. Nor should it be thought that as a woman they cannot perform many arduous tasks, both physical and mental. But they are, and always have been, anatomically different than men. None but fools argue otherwise. Their bodies were adapted by God Himself from the time of creation to conceive, carry, give birth to, and nurse children. Both time, observation, the Scriptures, and the billions of incidences of this intended role of the woman prove beyond a shadow of suspicion this is so. This role can be, and often is, carried out without the benefits of the marriage union. It is not the purpose of this article to judge the sad consequences of this departure. It is the role inside the marriage union we at this time concentrate our interest.
Some of the Bible injunctions given the woman were: "...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 2.4,5)." To most, this is rare, or at best, useless language, but be reminded, this is the Word of God! There is not a hint in this text that even remotely suggests that the woman has an ordinate, or leading, role in the marriage union.
"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 saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing (Ephesians 5.22-24)." Submission and subjection are the key words in this text, and from this unerring rule there cannot be any deviation. And too: "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 Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement (I Peter 3.5,6)." Such emphatic and certain language makes us wonder how any can dismiss its thrust, unless so hardened against God that their minds are fully reprobate.
We hear all too often that the Bible is out of date on this subject, and need not be accepted as conclusive. Dear readers, we fully suspect that Satan has whispered this lie about. Who may dare decide that some portions of the Bible are out of date? Such feigned logic as that should lead its proponents to simply toss their Bible in the garbage dump, dust off their hands, and join with the fool, saying, "There is no God."
It is countered by our objectors that whatever all this means, it does not establish that the woman is actually a weaker vessel. Well, we ask these objectors, it does establish something, does it not? Most certainly it does! Those whose hearts are not blighted with presumption or by prejudices derived from Satan's influence will acknowledge the plain message. In a marriage union the woman is to be ruled by the man. "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 (Genesis 3.16)." The woman that truly fears God should not rebel nor reject this blessed enjoinment. Our judicious Father has so ordained it for the good of His little children, men and women alike. Neither should that in any way flatter the man that he may take the advantage of the order, either. Sufficient is also recorded to guide the man in his capacity to the wife.
To be as brief as possible, we see in all this instruction the evolving of the order God established in creation, and why the woman is denominated the weaker vessel. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1.27)." "In the image of God" was also described as "after our likeness... (Genesis 1.26)." If, according to Scriptures, Jesus is the image of God, then man was made in the image of Jesus. "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1.15)." What identity is displayed in man being created in the image of Jesus? Just this: the bride, Eve, was in Adam when God created them in their unfallen state. The church, the bride of Christ, was in Him in eternity. Thus we see the beautiful figure. Adam was first formed, then Eve. Satan struck at what he knew was the weaker vessel when he inquired of Eve, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (I Timothy 2.13,14)." Here then, is the difference! Lucifer, the son of the morning, that great dragon, Devil, Satan, and old serpent launched his artillery at the weakest front, and that was the wife of him who was a figure of Christ. Satan knew more than any Conditionalist ever knew about the eternal union of Christ and His church. Accordingly, he assaulted the fair mother of all those to be heirs of salvation.
What was Adam to do when his help meet had fallen under this infernal spell? Condemn her? Lay a charge against her? Leave her and forsake her? This could never be! Where was Adam when this awful transgression took place? At the side of Eve his darling wife. This was bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh. Having been joined together by God, they were together even then. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3.6)." Notice carefully the words, "her husband with her." There he was, right beside her. Eve had no power to resist the temptation when it entered her thought process. The man and woman were certainly innocent at that time. They were not yet sinners, but they lacked that one thing that could have fortified them in the awful trial; Christ in them! We say fearfully, yet with firm conviction, they were doomed as soon as the temptation came. Without a struggle or the slightest resistance, Eve ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Why? Because she was deceived! Adam, however, ate freely, with the full knowledge of what he was doing, for as we have already shown he was not deceived.
Adam had no power to resist either, but for a much different reason. He joined his wife in this sin because he was her husband. He could not raise her up from this dreadful fall, but he could go down with her. And so he did, thus vividly portraying himself as a figure of Christ, Who came down from the highest heavens to the lowest hell, and all because He loved His wife. Here the anti-type far outshines the type, for while Adam could, and did, go down to be with his fallen bride, he could never raise her up, for he was now as guilty as she. But our blessed Redeemer could descend to the lowest regions, bearing all the sins of His bride; put them away forever, and raise her up to a far greater state than she previously enjoyed. He triumphed over Satan, sin, the grave and hell, coming forth victorious, bringing His sheaves with Him. Satan got none of them; they were all rescued.
Thus, we think we have shown how the woman is the weaker vessel. Not the weak vessel, but the weaker of the two forming the marriage union. The weakness was her subservient character which was subject to being deceived. Satan could, and did, deceive the weaker vessel, but not the stronger.
A thorough search of the Bible regarding how temptations often came through the wife, the weaker vessel, would be fruitful. We suggest several and leave the reader to examine them for themselves. There was Sarai, the wife of Abram, leading him into the regrettable union with Hagar her handmaid, (Genesis 16.1-5); Lot's wife, who forfeited her place with the family in looking back to Sodom, thus leaving Lot and his two daughters open to the sin of incest, (Genesis 19.26-38); Rebekah, who goaded her son Jacob to deceive Isaac his father, (Genesis 27. 1-33ff); Zipporah, the wife of Moses that objected to God's directive for circumcision, (Exodus 4.19-26); Job's wife, who foolishly advised him to curse God and die, (Job 2.9,10).
So then, we are persuaded the Bible gives a full and complete view of how the wife is the weaker vessel of the marriage union. Left to herself outside of the marriage union, the position is frightful indeed. One only needs to look at the many women's protection laws being clamored for to see her precarious station in life.
This leads us then to the question at the beginning: can a woman be, with the sanction of the Bible, ordained to the office of an elder or bishop? We will phrase the question in a different setting to partially answer the preceding question: If an orchestra leader had two fine violin players being considered for first chair, but one of them was subject to occasional flaws performing works of virtuosity, which of the two would the conductor select? Obviously, the one without the weakness. Can we believe then that our Omniscient Lord would orchestrate 'the affairs of His beloved church with less discernment? Put another way, at a great trial, would the prosecutor's office put up an attorney with a weakness for anger or intemperance under stress, or would they send in their stronger counsel to protect the people's rights? The weaker vessel would be passed over in favor of the stronger. Can it be thought our Wonderful Counselor would do otherwise? We might multiply examples, but we feel these will satisfy those without prejudice. God has ordained that the man serve in the offices of the church, and not the woman, she being the weaker vessel.
We offer another consideration. How can the woman meet one of the clear qualifications of that office, which is to be the husband of one wife (I Timothy 3.2; Titus 1.6)?
We must consider too, another Bible imperative for selecting one to the office of elder: "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?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil (I Timothy 3.4-6)." It has been stated with the clearest Bible proof that the man was to rule over the woman, and not the reverse. Thus we see the dilemma confronting those that would subject the church to the weaker vessel's leadership. The elder is to rule his house. This the woman cannot do. See too that five times the occupant of the office is referred to with the masculine, he or his.
Finally, we read Paul's exhortation touching the place of woman as it involves instruction; no small part of the office under consideration: "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 (I Timothy 2.11,12)." It stretches credulity to see a woman as an elder, (or eldress, in this case) and yet in the occupancy of that position not usurping authority over every male member of the assembly.
Christ is the Husband of the church. He is her wise and benevolent Head. The church is the bride or wife of Christ. This is the eternally ordered will of God in the matter. He loves her with an unabated devotion, and will suffer no lasting harm toward her. He is her strength, and she leans on His everlasting arm. In this union the church is surely the weaker vessel until made strong in and by her Head. Until the church has finally been gathered home to glory; when all its members are redeemed, resurrected, and robed, the woman must defer to the man, for thus the Lord has instructed us. When then, we have been transported to that sweet home in heaven, there will be neither male or female, weak or strong; all will be perfectly one in Christ. This is true now spiritually, but not so in our fleshly limitations.
We conclude that it is impossible, given the obvious testimony of the Scriptures on the subject, for a woman to be an elder or bishop. It should not be difficult to see from all this that the proposition of a woman clergy (elder or bishop in God's Word) is simply a device of Satan. In his quiver are many fiery darts or devices, and all of them are exceedingly dangerous to the children of God. But for the shield of faith, we could never quench them (Ephesians 6.16).
J. F. Poole
Volume 8, No. 6