For the Mutual Help

In an earlier post, I quoted the second paragraph of the Westminster Confession of Faith’s chapter on marriage and divorce. This was an attempt to shed some light on the complementarian/egalitarian debate. Here, I would like to expand the Confession’s take on marriage in paragraph 2, from the chapter on Of Marriage and Divorce:

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

The first line simply states that God ordained marriage for the mutual help of the husband and wife, but there are two things that need to be understood about this. First, God ordained this for marriage. This is His will for marriage made known to mankind. God, in His full right as Creator, declared what He wanted marriage to be. It is a union between one man and one woman. Secondly, we see in Scripture that the LORD ordained respective roles for the husband and wife.

We see this declaration in Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” The idea is that the woman corresponds to man. Some have interpreted this verse (NKJV) to read I will make him a helper comparable to him. The complimentarian view of this verse is that she was to provide what he lacked, and vice versa. If this view is taken, which I do lean towards, it must not overshadow the reality that woman was made for man.

Paul expands upon this truth in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul is addressing the issue of those women who were prophesying in church, of men praying while covered, and women being uncovered. He sets up the order of things by stating:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Here we see God’s ordained authority in marriage. Wait! Did I use that word “authority?” OK, not to be flippant, but this is the reality of headship, is it not? If not then it means nothing. Headship does mean that husbands are given authority over their wives, not authority to become despots, but to lead, cherish, care for and provide for their wives.

I will quote Matthew Henry for support:

…as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of the whole human kind, so the man is the head of the two sexes: not indeed with such dominion as Christ has over the kind or God has over the man Christ Jesus; but a superiority and headship he has, and the woman should be in subjection and not assume or usurp the man’s place. This is the situation in which God has placed her; and for that reason she should have a mind suited to her rank, and not do any thing that looks like an affectation of changing places.

I like using Matthew Henry because he was not infected with the plague of feminism. We know that theologians have been wrong throughout history, but when scripture supports those views taken in history, then we need to heed those who held those views. Henry understood, as we should, that while we are equal, Scripture has given us God ordained boundaries that should not be crossed, for our own good.

This is why I think many are ignoring what the Bible says about our relationships in marriage. In our current Christian culture we really don’t like the words “superiority”, “headship”, and “subjection.” We like to argue about what “complimentarian” means, but never look at the words that Scripture uses to describe the relationships in marriage. I wonder if the entire debate over complimentarianism is a red herring, so that we never come to the knowledge of the truth of what the bible says.

Let me reiterate Henry’s main point concerning our roles in marriage: but a superiority and headship he has, and the woman should be in subjection and not assume or usurp the man’s place. While men and women are equal in value, our roles are not the same. We see this in Paul’s instructions to the church about elders (pastors) and deacons, along with a prohibition against women teaching in the church. I bring this up to show that God has ordained roles for men and women in the church, as well as in marriage. We would not expect anything else from a God who is a God of order.

Paul writes: If a man desires the position of a bishop… There are no secret clauses that allow for women to become bishops (elders/pastors), but men alone. He stresses the point when he writes that these bishops are to be the husband of one wife, referring back to the created order for marriage. In other words, the man who is following God’s decree in marriage by keeping God’s decree for marriage, is qualified for the position of an elder (if he meets all the other qualifications as well).

Paul also shows that deacons are to be men as well, when he gives the same qualification for this role: Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. A woman cannot qualify for such a position. The qualifications for such a position rule her out based on her God-ordained sex.

Prior to giving the qualifications for elders and deacons, Paul had already given instructions for women, eliminating them from the possibility of fulfilling those roles:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Paul shows us the reason behind the prohibitions against female leadership in the church: the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. In the garden of Eden, Eve was not acting in accordance with her created role, as helpmate to Adam. She was speaking to the serpent, when she should have turned to Adam and let him handle it. Why did she not do so? She was deceived. Women are more easily deceived when it comes to spiritual truths. We see this all the time from those who are involved with women’s ministries. Instead of deferring to their husbands (1 Corinthians 14:35), these women are saying that they must learn from other women (many of whom are clearly deceived in their thinking, e.g. Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, Jen Hatmaker, and Joyce Meyers).

The point is that just as there are defined roles in the church, so too are there defined roles in marriage. God is not keeping these truths secret. The problem arises because our sinful fallen nature wants nothing to do with defined roles. Yet, we truly bring glory to God when we submit to the roles we have been given. This is to be one of the Christian’s greatest joys, submitting to the Father’s will as decreed in Scripture, just as His Son did.