Man and Woman—A Dignified Role for Each
JEHOVAH GOD created Adam first, then Eve. Before Eve’s creation, Adam gained experience in living. During this time, Jehovah gave him certain instructions. (Genesis 2:15-20) Serving as God’s spokesman, Adam was to transmit these to his wife. Logically, then, he would take the lead in all matters involving worship.
A corresponding arrangement exists in the Christian congregation, and we can benefit from an examination of it. The apostle Paul wrote: “I do not permit a woman . . . to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” (1 Timothy 2:12, 13) This does not mean that a woman is to be completely silent at a meeting of the Christian congregation. She is to be silent in the sense of not getting into disputes with a man. She is not to belittle his appointed position or endeavor to teach the congregation. Men have been given the assignment of presiding over and teaching the congregation, but women add much to Christian meetings by participating in them in various ways.
Giving us insight into the respective roles of men and women in God’s arrangement, the apostle Paul wrote: “Man is not out of woman, but woman out of man . . . Besides, in connection with the Lord neither is woman without man nor man without woman [neither being independent of the other]. For just as the woman is out of the man, so also the man is through the woman; but all things are out of God.”—1 Corinthians 11:8-12.
Women Enjoy Fine Privileges
Under the Law given by God to Israel, women had many privileges and were free to use their initiative. For instance, Proverbs 31:10-31 speaks of “a capable wife” who purchases fine material and makes excellent garments for her household. Why, “she has made even undergarments and proceeded to sell them”! (Verses 13, 21-24) “Like the ships of a merchant,” this excellent woman finds choice food, even if she must obtain it from distant places. (Verse 14) “She has considered a field and proceeded to obtain it,” and she has “planted a vineyard.” (Verse 16) Since “her trading is good,” her activities are profitable. (Verse 18) In addition to “watching over the goings-on of her household,” this industrious fearer of Jehovah unselfishly helps others. (Verses 20, 27) No wonder she is praised!—Verse 31.
Jehovah’s laws provided through Moses gave women full opportunity to grow spiritually. For example, at Joshua 8:35, we read: “There proved to be not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read aloud in front of all the congregation of Israel, together with the women and the little ones and the alien residents who walked in their midst.” Concerning Ezra the priest, the Bible states: “[He] brought the law before the congregation of men as well as of women and of all intelligent enough to listen, on the first day of the seventh month. And he continued to read aloud from it before the public square that is before the Water Gate, from daybreak till midday, in front of the men and the women and the other intelligent ones; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:2, 3) Women benefited from such reading of the Law. They also observed religious festivals. (Deuteronomy 12:12, 18; 16:11, 14) Most important, women in ancient Israel could have a personal relationship with Jehovah God and could individually pray to him.—1 Samuel 1:10.
In the first century C.E., God-fearing women were privileged to minister to Jesus. (Luke 8:1-3) A woman anointed his head and feet during an evening meal in Bethany. (Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-7) Women were among those to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection. (Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18) After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the group of about 120 that met together included “some women and Mary the mother of Jesus.” (Acts 1:3-15) Many or all of these women were undoubtedly in the upper chamber in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., when the holy spirit was sent and Jesus’ disciples miraculously spoke in a number of different languages.—Acts 2:1-12.
Both men and women were among those who experienced the fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29, as quoted by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost: “I [Jehovah] shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy . . . And even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days.” (Acts 2:13-18) For a time after Pentecost 33 C.E., Christian women were favored with the gifts of the spirit. They spoke in foreign languages and prophesied, not necessarily making predictions but speaking forth Scriptural truths.
In his letter to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul speaks warmly of “Phoebe our sister,” recommending her to them. He also refers to Tryphaena and Tryphosa, calling them “women who are working hard in the Lord.” (Romans 16:1, 2, 12) Although these women did not hold appointed positions in the early Christian congregation, they and many other women had the blessing of being chosen by God to be associated with his Son, Jesus Christ, in the heavenly Kingdom.—Romans 8:16, 17; Galatians 3:28, 29.
What a grand privilege godly women enjoy today! “Jehovah himself gives the saying; the women telling the good news are a large army,” says Psalm 68:11. Such women are to be commended. For instance, their skillful teaching at home Bible studies is leading many to accept true teachings that please God. Married Christian women who help their children to become believers and are supportive of their husbands who have many congregation duties also deserve praise. (Proverbs 31:10-12, 28) Single women too have a dignified place in God’s arrangement, and Christian men are admonished to “entreat . . . older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.”—1 Timothy 5:1, 2.
Man’s Varied Assignments
A Christian man has a divinely assigned role and is expected to fill it. Paul stated: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Man too has a head—the Christ. Indeed, man is accountable to Christ and ultimately to God. And God expects man to exercise his headship lovingly. (Ephesians 5:25) This has been so ever since humans first walked the earth.
The Bible shows that God gave man assignments in line with his position of headship. For example, Jehovah had the man Noah build an ark for the preservation of life during the Flood. (Genesis 6:9–7:24) The man Abraham was promised that by means of his seed, all the families and nations of the earth would bless themselves. The primary part of that seed is Christ Jesus. (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; Galatians 3:8-16) God appointed the man Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:9, 10, 12, 18) It was through Moses that Jehovah gave the code of laws known as the Law covenant, or the Mosaic Law. (Exodus 24:1-18) Without exception, the Bible writers were men.
As Head of the Christian congregation, Jesus “gave gifts in men.” (Ephesians 1:22; 4:7-13) When listing the qualifications for overseers, Paul refers to men. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) So the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are served by male overseers, or elders, and by men appointed as ministerial servants. (Philippians 1:1, 2; 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12) Only men are to serve as shepherds in the Christian congregation. (1 Peter 5:1-4) As already noted, however, women have wonderful God-given privileges.
Happy in Their Roles
Fulfilling their God-given roles brings happiness to both men and women. Happy marriages result when husbands and wives imitate the example of Christ and his congregation. “Husbands,” wrote Paul, “continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it . . . Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-33) Hence, husbands are required to exercise their headship, not in a selfish way, but in a loving way. Christ’s congregation is not made up of perfect humans. Yet, Jesus loves and cares for it. Similarly, a Christian husband should love and care for his wife.
A Christian wife “should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) In this regard, she can look to the congregation as an example. Ephesians 5:21-24 states: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ. Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything.” Although a wife may at times find it challenging or difficult to be in subjection to her husband, this is “becoming [fitting, proper] in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18) Being in subjection to her husband will be easier if she remembers that this is pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Even if her husband is not a fellow believer, a Christian wife is to submit to his headship. The apostle Peter says: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Sarah, who respected her husband, Abraham, was privileged to bear Isaac and become an ancestress of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 11:11, 12; 1 Peter 3:5, 6) Wives who conduct themselves as Sarah did are sure to be rewarded by God.
Peace and harmony prevail when men and women fulfill their God-given roles. This results in their satisfaction and happiness. Moreover, complying with Scriptural requirements clothes each one with the dignity associated with a privileged place in God’s arrangement.
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How They Feel About Their God-Given Role
“My husband exercises his headship in a loving and kind way,” says Susan. “We usually discuss decisions, and when he decides what will or will not be done, I know it is for our benefit. Jehovah’s arrangement for Christian wives really makes me happy and our marriage strong. We are close and work together to achieve spiritual goals.”
A woman named Mindy comments: “The role that Jehovah has assigned to his female servants is an assurance of his love for us. I feel that giving my husband honor and respect as well as supporting him in his congregation duties is my way of showing appreciation to Jehovah for this arrangement.”
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In line with man’s position of headship, God gave Noah, Abraham, and Moses various assignments
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“The women telling the good news are a large army”