Women, in love, in Christ

The following is a consideration of scriptures which pertain to the role of women in Christ, in the congregation, and in love.

There is neither male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Letter to the Ephesians

Paul’s focus is on walking in love, just as Christ loves us. He makes one command: that we subject ourselves to one another, in respect or reverence of Christ. Paul concludes that by husbands loving their wives, using Christ’s love for the congregation as a model, wives may feel the same respect or reverence for her husband as she does Christ.

Walk in love.

Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God… (Eph 5:1)

Be filled with the Spirit…

Subject yourselves to one another.

Be subjecting yourselves to one another in respect of Christ:

Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord; for husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the congregation, he himself savior of the body. But even as the congregation is subjected to Christ, so also wives to your husbands in everything. (Eph 5:21-24)

Love your wives.

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the congregation and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water by the word, so that he might present to himself the congregation in glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any of the such things, but that it would be holy and blameless. (Eph 5:25-27)

So that he might present her to him in glory — holy.

So also husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. The one loving his wife loves himself. For no one at any time hated his flesh. But he nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ also does the congregation. For we are members of his body.

“Because of this, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will be into one flesh.”

This mystery is great; but I speak as to Christ and as to the congregation. 

…that she may respect her husband.

However, you also, every individual, let each so love his wife as himself; and the wife, that she may respect the husband. (Eph 5:28-33)

Letter to the Corinthians

Some Christians teach that women should not speak, nor teach, in the congregation. However, Paul gives instruction for proper and orderly worship with the primary concern that all should listen: that questions should wait, being silent in the congregation, not talking so that all may learn as men and women prophesy.

Keeping the teachings as I delivered…

Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ. Now I commend you that you have remembered me in all things, and you are keeping the teachings as I delivered to you.

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:1-3)

Every woman praying or prophesying

Every man praying or prophesying having anything on his head dishonors his head. And every woman praying or prophesying with the head uncovered dishonors her head; for it is one and the same with having been shaven. For if a woman does not cover her head, also let her be shorn. And if it is disgraceful to a woman to be shorn or to be shaven, let her cover her head. (1 Cor 11:4-6)

The woman ought to have authority on the head

For truly a man ought not to cover the head, being the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man is not of woman, but woman of man. For truly man was not created on account of the woman, but woman on account of the man. Because of this, the woman ought to have authority on the head through the angels*.

However, neither is woman separate from man, nor man separate from woman in the Lord. For just as the woman is of the man, so also the man is by the woman. And all things are of God.

Judge for yourselves: Is it becoming for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is to her glory? For the long hair instead of a covering is given to her. Now if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the congregations of God. (1 Cor 11:7-16)


Earnestly pursue love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, and especially that you might prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)

“They will not listen to me.”

*In the Law it has been written:

“By other tongues,
and by other lips,
I will speak to this people,
and even then, they will not listen to me,

says the Lord.” (1 Cor 14:20,21)

When you may come together, each has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Cor 14:26)

Be silent.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two, or at most three, should speak in turn, and someone must interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him be silent in the congregation.

So that all may learn.

And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others discern. But if a revelation should be made to another sitting by let the first be silent. For you are all able to prophesy one by one, so that all may learn, and all may be exhorted. And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For he is not the God of disorder, but of peace.

Be silent, not talking.

As in all the congregations of the saints, let the wives be silent in the congregations. For it is not allowed to them to talk, but to be in submission, as the Law also says*. But if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home — for it is shameful for a woman to talk in the congregation.

All should be silent and listen when men and women prophesy. Paul reminds us that these instructions are the commands of the Lord, as Christ is the head of the congregation.

Did God’s word originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone considers himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things I write to you are the commands of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignored.

So, my adelphoi, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

But let all things be done properly and with order. (1 Cor 14:26-40)

Instructions for Timothy

Paul’s personal letter to Timothy is one of instructions for his ministering to the Ephesian congregation with a specific injunction for certain people in the congregation to stop teaching. Paul addresses anger, arguing, and asserting false doctrines, in the congregation.

In Ephesus…

As I urged you… stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrines, nor to give heed to myths… speculations…

Some translations render this verse to certain men in the congregation, however the command is given to men and women, as Paul later addresses a woman who must learn, and not teach, being in submission to the teachings of Christ as the head of the congregation.

Now, the goal of our injunction… Some, having missed the mark, have turned aside to meaningless discourse, desiring to be teachersunderstanding neither what they are saying nor that about which they confidently assert. (1 Tim 1:2-7)

…without anger or debate…

A woman must learn: in quietness, in full subjection—to teach, however, I am not permitting a woman, nor overrule a man, but to be quiet. (1 Tim 2:8,11,12)

The injunction Paul places upon a woman in Ephesus is not applied to all women in all congregations. The scriptures show that every use of epitrepō is related to a specific and limited set of circumstances, such as of these teachers of other doctrines, and those desiring to be teachers but not understanding what they assert, in Ephesus.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, having been deceived, has come into transgression. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they abide in faith and love and holiness, with self-restraint. (1 Tim 2:13-15)

But the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, in the hypocrisy of liars… (1 Tim 4:1,2)

Refuse profane and silly fables

If anyone teaches another doctrine and does not draw near, being sound in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching according to godliness, he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but unhealthy about controversies and disputes about words, out of which come envy, strife, slander, evil suspicions, and constant frictions among men corrupted in mind and destitute of the truth, holding godliness to be a means of gain. (1 Tim 6:3-5)

If anyone teaches another doctrine

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid irreverent, empty chatter and the opposing arguments of so-called “knowledge,” which some have professed and thus swerved away from the faith. (1 Tim 6:20,21)

Remind the believers of these things

Remind the believers of these things, charging them before God to avoid quarreling over words, which is in no way profitable and leads its listeners to ruin. (2 Tim 2:14)

Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

But avoid irreverent, empty chatter, which will only lead to more ungodliness, and the talk of such men will spread like gangrene. (2 Tim 2:16,17)

But reject foolish and ignorant speculation, for you know that it breeds quarreling. And a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing. He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 2:23-25)

For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim 4:3,4)

A Letter from Peter

Peter tells Christian husbands, and wives, to subject themselves, for the Lord’s sake.

Subject yourselves for the Lord’s sake…

Likewise wives, be subject to your husbands so that, even if any are disobedient to the word, they will be won over without word by the conduct of the wives, having witnessed your respectful, pure conduct, whose adorning let not be the external, of braiding of hair and putting around of gold, or putting on of garments, but the hidden man of the heart, in the imperishable of the gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth before God. For in this way formerly, the holy women also hoping in God used to adorn themselves, being subject to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, of whom you have become children, doing good and not fearing any consternation. (1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 2:1-6)

Husbands, do likewise…

Husbands do likewise, dwelling with them according to knowledge, as with a weaker vessel, with the female, rendering honor as joint-heirs also of the grace of life, so as for your prayers not to be hindered. (1 Peter 2:7)

…for your prayers not to be hindered.

Letter to the Colossians

Wives, subject yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh toward them.

Colossians 3:18,19

authority on the head, on account of the angels

There is no authority except that which is from God. Paul tells women prophesying that she ought to have authority on her head through the angels as they are the messengers:

Are they not all ministering spirits, being sent forth for service for the sake of those being about to inherit salvation? Because of this, it behooves us to give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest ever we should drift away. For if the word having been spoken by angels was unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape, having neglected such a great salvation, which, having received a commencement declared by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those having heard, God bearing witness with them both by signs and wonders, and by various miracles and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will.

Hebrews 1:14,2:1-4

5293 hypotássō (from 5259 /hypó, “under” and 5021 /tássō, “arrange”) — subjection

5401 phóbosfear, reverence, respect — for authority, rank, dignity

80 adelphoi: the congregation of believers, adelphois and adelphais. (Gal 3:28)

2776 kephalé: the head, literally. A metaphor of unity, as in the head of a body.

In pre-biblical Greek (archaic, classical, early Hellenistic), the word kephalē is hardly used as a personal metaphor at all, and does not mean “source” or “ruler” or “authority over.” Furthermore, any claim that these are “common” meanings or implications for kephalē during these periods is empirically wrong. Also, the argument that kephalē later took on its connotation of authority from the noun kephalaion (“sum, total, chief ”) is false.

On the Significance of Kephalē (“Head”): A Study of the Abuse of One Greek Word, Richard S. Cervin

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much Angela for breaking down the biblical understanding to such an important and necessary topic in our society and culture today. What an honor it is to be a woman and to be obedient to my calling and God’s word as a woman. Thank you for this great article!

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