A doctrine we do not teach

I have written before about the Holy Spirit’s teaching in Scripture about the submission of woman (in the context of the headship of man) as part of God’s good order of creation.

I have also pointed out how even a book widely regarded in conservative Christian circles presents teaching that is in opposition to Scripture on this matter.

Why don’t we teach this doctrine?  Here are the best five reasons I can think of not to teach it:

  1. Perhaps it’s not true
  2. Perhaps it’s not important
  3. Perhaps teaching it is not needed
  4. Perhaps it’s too dangerous
  5. Perhaps it’s not kind

Let’s consider each of these.


1. Perhaps it’s not true
1.1. Do the Scriptures speak to it?
1.2. Is it a disputable matter?
1.3. Is it mooted by the law of love?
1.3.1. Beyond all these things put on love
1.2.2. Ephesians
2. Perhaps it’s not important
2.1. An evil, unbelieving heart
2.2. How much severer
2.3. With most of them God was not well-pleased
2.4. The consequences of rejecting or despising authority
2.5. A positive example: Faith at which Jesus marvels
2.6. It’s important
3. Perhaps teaching it is not needed
4. Perhaps it’s too dangerous
4.1. The danger of misuse by wicked men
4.2. The danger of persecution
4.3. The danger of division
5. Perhaps it’s not kind
5.1. Part of the curse or part of the good order of creation?
5.2. One who quarrels with his Maker
6. Consequences of teaching this doctrine
6.1. God glorified
6.2. Assurance of salvation
6.3. Joy
7. Conclusion

1. Perhaps it’s not true

1.1. Do the Scriptures speak to it?

The first issue to settle is whether the Bible even teaches this doctrine.  If it’s not even biblical doctrine, by all means let’s not teach it! For a brief introduction to how the Scriptures speak to this issue I refer to the earlier essay and will not make those points again here.

But though it be spoken of in Scripture, there are still ways that it might not be a doctrine that we should teach: perhaps it’s a disputable matter, or perhaps it’s been obsoleted by the law of love.

1.2. Is it a disputable matter?

A disputable matter is one where either the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures explicitly teaches that a diversity of practice is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord, or where the Lord has not been pleased to grant clarity to the point where it’s clear what pleases Him.

One salient passage with explicit teaching on the acceptability of diverse practice is in Romans 14:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
– Romans 14:1-6 NASB

“To his own master he stands or falls…Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day…and he who eats…and he who eats not…”

It would be wrong, then, to place a general prohibition on eating meat, though there may certainly be times when the law of love will require that we abstain for the sake of love of a weaker brother (see 1 Cor. 8).

(It is for this same reason that we cannot teach a general prohibition against alcohol — the fruit of the vine is a blessing from God, and we have no Scriptural basis for binding consciences against the enjoyment of it.  Yet in specific situations the law of love may require that one abstain from fermented drink for the sake of a weaker brother, for instance to help him not to fall into sinful drunkenness.)

Is it similar, then, with the doctrine of the submission of woman?  Do we see this language of “…To his own master he stands or falls…Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind” regarding this doctrine?

This is manifestly not what we see in Scripture concerning this doctrine — Scripture speaks with authority about authority — in the home and everywhere else. We’ll see this demonstrated in the following sections.

1.3. Is it mooted by the law of love?

Even if the doctrine of submission is clearly spoken of in Scripture, we must consider whether this doctrine (and many other doctrines) are rendered irrelevant by the superior law, the law of love.

Jesus speaks of this law:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question… “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:35-40


“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love…This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you…You are My friends if you do what I command you…This I command you, that you love one another.
– John 15:10, 12, 14, 17

And speaking through the Holy Spirit, Paul says,

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians 13:13

The Holy Spirit here teaches us in no uncertain terms the supremacy of love of God and love of neighbor among the commandments. Does this not moot the argument about all other doctrinal questions, then?  How can it be right to spend time and energy on other doctrines when the important thing is love of God and love of neighbor?

The thing is, we don’t always recognize love when we see it.

Take the example of childhood discipline, for instance:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
– Hebrews 12:11

A child does not realize until he is older that the loving discipline he received from his parents was a sign that they loved him as a true son rather than despised him as a bastard.  In the same way, we don’t naturally understand what it means to love God and our neighbor, tending rather to believe that anything that makes us comfortable in the immediate moment is love, while anything that discomforts us must not be. So graciously, God does not leave us to our speculations.  He graciously teaches us in Scripture not only that we should love, but also what true love is.

1.3.1. Beyond all these things put on love

We see such teaching in Colossians. The Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle warns us not to be taken captive:

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. … Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. … If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
– Colossians 2:8, 16-17, 20-23

…but to keep seeking the things above:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. … Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
– Colossians 3:1, 5-8

…and beyond all this to put on love:

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
– Colossians 3:14-17

It’s such a glorious note to end on! “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity…Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

So, don’t be taken captive through philosophy and empty deception; keep seeking the things above; and above all put on love.  What else do we need?  In our human wisdom we would stop at verse 17.

But the Holy Spirit does not stop there.  What does He teach in the very next verse?

It’s about how we live in love: Wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, and masters — beginning with:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
– Colossians 3:18-19

The way of love flows right into these practical outworkings for day-to-day life. They are related — the one affects and is affected by the other. If verses 18 and 19 are foreign to our understanding of Colossians 2:8–3:17, shouldn’t this give us pause?

1.2.2. Ephesians

But perhaps I’m overblowing the connection between Colossians 3:18-19 and the verses that go before. Let’s take a look at Ephesians, then, and see if it serves to corroborate or overthrow what I’ve just said on this point.

Starting in chapter 1 with the glory of God, the Holy Spirit moves in chapters 2 and 3 to a soaring description of God’s abundant, amazing, lavish, overflowing goodness to us; and then in chapter 4 to our unity in the body, God’s purpose to build up His body, and the means He provides for that. The second half of chapter 4 and on into chapter 5 speak to numerous details of what walking according to the new self looks like, in sharp contrast to walking according to the old self.

This teaching of old self/new self proceeds right along up to verses 15-21 with, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise…do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

And then verse 22 launches into what this subjection looks like: wives being subject to their husbands; husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church; children obeying their parents; fathers not provoking their children to anger; slaves being obedient to their masters; masters giving up threatening.

Far from being abrogated by the law of love, do we not here see that embracing God’s order is part of the law of love? (A third witness is in 1 Peter, which I’ve already spoken to in the earlier essay.)

2. Perhaps it’s not important

Perhaps we agree that the teaching on submission is truly a Scriptural doctrine and not a disputable matter, but yet is not a matter of sufficient importance to merit our attention now.  There are many things that need to be taught.  Why the fuss about this one?

Because persistent disobedience to the Word is a matter of life and death.

2.1. An evil, unbelieving heart

The Holy Spirit through the author of Hebrews, after demonstrating from Scripture that Christ has a better office than the angels (chapter 1) with more honor than Moses (chapter 3), gives this solemn warning against unbelief:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. … For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. … Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. … Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
– Hebrews 3:12-13, 16-19; 4:1-2, 11

We see clearly that this “example of disobedience”, which flowed from unbelief, had the most serious possible consequences: God swore that “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST” (3:11). Can anyone doubt that God’s meaning goes beyond the temporal consequence of being denied access to Canaan? True, they never saw the earthly Promised Land, but God was also casting them away from His presence forever. This means hell — eternal damnation! When the author of Hebrews warns us not to follow that same example of disobedience, he is warning us not to lose our souls.

2.2. How much severer

This is not a matter of “God was mean in the Old Testament but now He’s kind in the New Testament so we need pay no attention to warnings” — to think this way is a repudiation of the teaching of the Holy Spirit in Hebrews, that to reject something that’s better in so many ways is worthy of severer punishment:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? … It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
– Hebrews 10:26-29, 31


See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven … for our God is a consuming fire.
– Hebrews 12:25, 29

2.3. With most of them God was not well-pleased

What, then, was the nature of this disobedience that was unbelief, that we may take warning?

We see it in 1 Corinthians 10:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
– 1 Corinthians 10:1-11

Four things:

  • Idolatry
  • Sexual immorality
  • Trying the Lord
  • Grumbling

Worshiping idols and sexual immorality — ok, those are big ones. We won’t spend time on why such gross sins drew God’s judgment. But let’s take a closer look at the other two in the list, starting with “trying the Lord”.

This is a reference to Numbers 21:

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
– Numbers 21:4-6

As for the grumbling, the Israelites grumbled a lot — at the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15); at the lack of meat (Exodus 16);  at the lack of water at Massah and Meribah (Exodus 17); at the entrance to the Promised Land (Numbers 14).  But this reference must be to Numbers 16, just after God had destroyed Dathan and Abiram and their followers and the house of Korah:

But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’S people.” … and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ” Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!” … [T]hose who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah.
– Numbers 16:41, 44-46, 49

We know that God is just and right in all His doings. What then was so bad about the grumbling and complaining of the Israelites, such that it was right that thousands be destroyed for their sin? The Holy Spirit teaches us in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians that their chafing at God’s care for them demonstrated their unbelief.

In Numbers 21 they accuse God of evil motives and of a poor job of taking care of them:

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

And in Numbers 16, just after God had mightily made His presence known in the destruction of Dathan and Abiram and Korah, they turned a willfully blind eye to His actions, accusing Moses and Aaron of evil:

“You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’S people.”

We conclude that it is no light matter, but dreadfully wicked, to accuse God of evil motives and poor care of us and to turn a willfully blind eye to His actions. Let us heed the Holy Spirit’s warning through the apostle and not follow their example of disobedience!

But what does any of this have to do with the question of authority?

2.4. The consequences of rejecting or despising authority

Some of the strongest words in the New Testament are in Jude and 2 Peter, warning against false teachers. Let’s look at the epistle of Jude first:

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I desire to remind you…that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
– Jude 1:4-8

In the same way as most of the Israelites manifested unbelief and were destroyed; in the same way that the angels who rebelled are awaiting eternal punishment; in the same way that Sodom and Gomorrah was made an example of for its gross immorality; in the same way, these men:

  • Defile the flesh
  • Reject authority
  • Revile angelic majesties

Were not defiling the flesh and rejecting authority (God’s authority and that of the one (Moses) God had placed in authority over them) a significant part of the Israelites’ sin — if not the two broad categories of sin — that led most of them to destruction? What was the grumbling and the “trying the Lord” but chafing against His good government of them?

There is another stern warning in 2 Peter:

[T]here will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned…and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah…and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
– 2 Peter 2:1-10

There’s both comfort and warning here: comfort that by these examples from the Old Testament we can be confident that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation; warning that by these examples we also can be confident that the Lord knows how to “keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.”

Especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority, huh? There it is again, immorality and despising authority singled out for special warning. And the warnings in Jude and 2 Peter against such men are absolutely scathing.

2.5. A positive example: Faith at which Jesus marvels

We’ve looked at several warnings. Let’s look briefly at a positive example. We find one in the gospel of Luke. Jesus has just finished the Sermon on the Mount and has gone to Capernaum. A centurion sends for Him because his slave is sick to the point of death. Jesus goes, and here’s what happens:

…and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”
– Luke 7:6-9

This Gentile centurion simply exhibits an understanding and a happy embracing of how authority works, and Jesus doesn’t say “You are not far from the kingdom of God” as He does elsewhere. Rather, He marvels, and tells the crowd that this man’s faith is greater than any He has seen in Israel!

We have a hard time connecting with this, don’t we? We see no connection between faith and the embracing of God’s authority structures. But Jesus sees a great connection, marvels —  and exclaims in superlatives. Who sees rightly?

2.6. It’s important

In summary,

  • Some of the most prolonged and stern warnings in the New Testament speak to the seriousness of rejecting and despising authority as evidence of a heart of unbelief leading to destruction (Hebrews 3, 4, 10, 12; 1 Cor. 10; 2 Peter; Jude); but
  • The understanding and embracing of God’s good authority structures is evidence of great faith (Luke 7); and
  • Embracing God’s structures is part of the happy application of embracing His glory and His goodness to us (Ephesians and Colossians)

3. Perhaps teaching it is not needed

Having established that the Holy Spirit’s teaching on the submission of woman is Scriptural doctrine and that persistent disobedience to the Word in this is a matter of the most critical importance, perhaps there are yet reasons that teaching this doctrine need not be a priority. In a word, perhaps we’re already in general agreement with these teachings of Scripture. Why make such a big issue of it, then?  Shouldn’t we move on?

First, we always need repetition of the truths of God — both the deep truths that are difficult to understand and the simple (yet no less profound) truths that are a joy to rehearse even though we’ve heard them since we were little.  Whether it’s how we were dead in our trespasses and sins but God, being rich in mercy, made us alive; or stewardship; or the importance of repentance when we sin; or the importance of forgiving our brother; or the mystery of God’s providence; or God’s purpose in spiritual gifts — we need to hear these truths again and again.  We need repetition even of the truths we know well.

But regarding the submission of woman, we’re not in anything like general agreement, are we?  If we were, then we would embrace the teaching with joy, and it wouldn’t seem so foreign to be talking about this and exploring God’s ways in it.

Surely such a doctrine as this on which the stakes are so high and yet on which so many of the flock are confused, ignorant, fearful, or in outright rebellion against God needs special attention to being taught, does it not?

4. Perhaps it’s too dangerous

Perhaps we agree that the the teaching on submission is truly a Scriptural doctrine and not a disputable matter and that it is an important matter and that it should be taught, all other things being equal. But perhaps the importance of the issue is overwhelmed by the dangers, such that as a matter of wisdom it is still best to avoid this teaching.

What kind of danger could lead us to such a conclusion?

4.1. The danger of misuse by wicked men

One danger is the misuse of this doctrine by a man who wishes to oppress women under the guise of religion.

What can we say about such a man? He must surely be rebuked by his shepherds for his wickedness, for taking the Lord’s name in vain and twisting God’s good provision into sin.  There are cases where such a man’s wickedness may extend to the point where he must be turned over to the civil magistrate.  This doctrine is not given for wickedness, but for peace, security, warmth, protection, love, stability, and glory to God.

But where in Scripture would we get the idea of withholding the teaching of sound doctrine because of the danger of misuse?  What teaching would we put in its place?  Consider another “dangerous” doctrine — the doctrine of salvation by grace.  This must indeed be the most dangerous doctrine ever to reach human ears, because when misused it leads to licentiousness, a road to hell.  It’s much “safer” to preach moralism, but at what cost? At the cost of the gospel — at the cost of souls.

We must not forbear to teach God’s ways because of wicked men.

4.2. The danger of persecution

There is also the danger of persecution for speaking a truth that is repugnant to the spirit of the age:

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
– John 15:20

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, … “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. … But … [w]oe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”
– Luke 6:20, 22-23, 26

In the Galatian church, those teaching circumcision were corrupting the truth to avoid persecution:

Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
– Galatians 6:12

As undershepherds following the example of our Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, we lay down our lives for those in our charge.  We’re not like the hired hand:

“He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”
– John 10:12-13

Let us be willing to be despised and rejected of men like our Savior was, refusing to reject the words of our Father for the sake of personal comfort, living for His glory!

4.3. The danger of division

There will also doubtless be division if this doctrine is taught, because the Sword of the Spirit always divides between the false and the true. Even when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, some believed — and others went to tell the Pharisees. In the same way, some may not countenance this teaching.  Surely we must proceed gently and carefully, with wisdom, compassion and love for the sake of those tender souls who struggle.  But surely we must also not neglect the teaching of this doctrine — to the harm of the faithful — to avoid offending the unrepentant!

5. Perhaps it’s not kind

There’s at least one more reason that we would not teach this doctrine,  even if we’re convinced that this doctrine is true and important and necessary, and even if we have courage to stand in the face of persecution: we might not teach it if we think that it is not kind.

How could it not be kind? We know God is good.

5.1. Part of the curse or part of the good order of creation?

The first issue that must be settled is whether the submission of woman is part of the curse that happened at the Fall or part of God’s original design — His good order of creation.

A full discussion of this question is beyond what I can do here, but the Scriptures are clear that this is part of God’s good order:

  • See how taking our appointed place in God’s good order is an integral part of the teaching in Ephesians and Colossians
  • Note the Holy Spirit’s continued teaching of the difference in teaching responsibility between the sexes:

    A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
    – 1 Timothy 2:11-15

  • See where the Holy Spirit teaches that the responsibility for original sin lies:

    But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
    – Hosea 6:7

    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
    – 1 Cor. 15:22

    Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
    – Romans 5:14

    “Like Adam” (not Eve, nor Adam and Eve).  “In Adam.” “The offense of Adam.”  Adam’s responsibility of headship is evident.

  • 1 Cor. 11:2-16 speaks at length about headship in the context of teaching about head coverings. I am uncertain as to whether the coverings themselves are a continuing ordinance, but surely the principles the apostle gives us by the Holy Spirit have not changed. And he says,

    But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
    – 1 Corinthians 11:3

The submission of woman to man, like work, is not inherently evil nor a result of the Fall. It pre-dates the Fall and was corrupted by the Fall. What Scripture teaches is a restoration, not an abolishing, of the creation order.

5.2. One who quarrels with his Maker

It is understandable that we would not want to teach a doctrine that is bad, that is part of the curse. But it is clear that the submission of woman is not part of the curse, that it is part of God’s good creation order.

This may take some time to sink in for us if we’ve long viewed it as a curse, but let us labor to have a mind — let us pray to be given a mind — that praises the goodness of our Creator in all His ways.  Let us not be like the one who quarrels with his Maker:

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker —
An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!
Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’
Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?”
– Isaiah 45:9

…nor subject to this rebuke:

You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
– Isaiah 29:16

Let us rather say:

But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
– Isaiah 64:8

His ways are good and right, and joy and peace and life and lovingkindness and tender mercies and wisdom and understanding dwell with Him!

6. Consequences of teaching this doctrine

We’ve examined several reasons that might lead us not to teach the doctrine of the submission of woman.  As we draw to a close, let’s consider some consequences if we do teach it.

6.1. God glorified

When we were dead in our sins and trespasses we hated God, fearing His wrath that, deep down, we knew we deserved for our sins. We even hated His goodness, because the more exalted He was in righteousness, the more we understood the depths of our sin.

But then in His great mercy, being under no obligation, He ransomed us, making us alive and rescuing us from the dominion of darkness, washing us and clothing us in His righteousness and adopting us into His family, lavishing His grace on us and promising a place to belong forever.

How deep the Father’s love for us — How vast beyond all measure!

And every woman has an opportunity to do something that is precious in the sight of her Savior:

Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
– 1 Peter 3:3-4

6.2. Assurance of salvation

Willing obedience from the heart tends toward an assurance of one’s salvation:

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. … These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
– 1 John 5:2-3, 13

6.3. Joy

And look at the kind of song that overflows from our heart when we love God’s ways:

How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the LORD.
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
You have ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Your statutes!
Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
– Psalms 119:1-8

7. Conclusion

O brothers and sisters, how can we miss such an opportunity?

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