This is the third week in our ‘Christians are wrong about…’ series – see the rest of the series here.

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These are the sermon notes for  ‘Christians are wrong about… Traditional Gender Roles’

We’re starting with a few assumptions, firstly, that God is real, Jesus is God, and the Bible is His word.. big assumptions, but none of these were challenged in our poll… so we’re going to go with it.

So, where do these objections to a Christian view come from?

1. A wrong understanding from the start (traditional vs biblical)

– we’re not conservative, we’re Biblical.

– we’re not progressive, we’re Biblical

we’re not about traditional values, we’re about kingdom values.

– like previous weeks, don’t find yourself defined by anything but scripture.. when you lock yourself into ‘progressive’ or ‘feminist’ or ‘conservative’ ‘Traditional’ or ‘anything else’, then you’ll necessarily come against scripture at some stage, because the bible is none of those things entirely.

– this isn’t a ‘men can do this and can’t do this, and women can do this and can’t do this’ talk… what we want to do (again) is to ask ‘What does God want for us?’… if we know God to be good (which we do), then we can have FULL ASSURANCE that His plan is the best plan


Courtney Reissig says in her book “the accidental feminist” In the mind of the culture, men and women are interchangeable in their functions on this earth. But are they?”

Are they? If you listen only to Western culture, you’ll certainly think so. There’s a wholesale redefinition of what gender means, and it boils down to there being no difference between men and women.. It’s a classic ’emperors new clothes’ situation. Just take making babies for example…

That said, we still have this tension where we don’t quite know how to define Masculinity and femininity..

Modern examples of cultured gender are things like: – men are less emotional than girls; guys like sports more than girls, girls like to sit and talk – guys like to get out and do something.

     – this might be representative of the majority of either gender, but what about the guy who’s emotional and likes to talk? What about the bloke who likes to do dishes and cook dinner? What about the woman who loves sport? what about a wife who isn’t that emotional?

          – people are different, and we need to have broad cultural categories of what it means to be a man and a woman, while maintaining a solid Biblical understanding of what it means too… otherwise we end up with the situation where a guy who IS more emotional, ISN’T into sport, DOESN’T like to see how loud he can fart, IS into fashion, etc thinks he must be gay, because there’s no other category for him.

               – we must be about a Biblical view of gender, not merely reflect society that changes what that means as it wills.

2. Women should submit to men

– This is a major objection to Christianity… and I agree – all women should absolutely NOT submit to all men… But the Bible DOES say wives should submit to their own husbands…

– men are givers, boys are takers

– men are creators, boys are consumers

– men don’t have to be the primary bread-winner, but they must not be lazy.

[[[- there have been some high profile ‘gender reassignment’ surgeries of late.. top article on yesterday was about married men who’d become women, and what that put their families through.

     – There are some trying to blur the lines of gender so much that we now have the term ‘gender fluid’ – referring to someone who switches not just between male and female, but along a created spectrum.

           – we will talk about these things in a few weeks, but the scope of today’s topic is already huge!]]]

Kathy Keller puts this well in The Meaning of Marriage: “the basic roles—of leader and helper—are binding, but every couple must work out how that will be expressed within their marriage.”

In a recent interview about their helpful book on the topic, Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger put it like this: “Scripture doesn’t give a lot of detail as to how God’s design for man and woman is to be worked out, so a traditional division of labor (women in the kitchen, changing nappies; men at work letting women do all household chores) doesn’t square with the biblical design.”

We want to know what God thinks, so we’re going to start with reading from the Bible…


– Eph 5

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:22-33

    – on the one side, don’t lose the distinctives, and in the other side, reject any of the abuses (egalitarian v patriarchal)

   – equal in value, different in function

   – Eph 5, in light of the gospel, undoes the curse in Gen 3

        – woman shall want to control her husband, instead now submits

        – man to rule over wife, in the new covenant it becomes servant headship.

   – “be subject to one another”? It’s a subheading! Eluding to what comes next

Now, we don’t like this word submit… We think it means women are inferior, and Christians have certainly been accused of being misogynistic and anti-women.

Alvin Schmidt gives us some insight into how women were treated in Jesus’ time in his book How Christianity Changed the World’ (source) “In ancient Greece, a respectable woman was not allowed to leave the house unless she was accompanied by a trustworthy male escort. A wife was not permitted to eat or interact with male guests in her husband’s home; she had to retire to her woman’s quarters. Men kept their wives under lock and key, and women had the social status of a slave. Girls were not allowed to go to school, and when they grew up they were not allowed to speak in public. Women were considered inferior to men. The Greek poets equated women with evil. Remember Pandora and her box? Woman was responsible for unleashing evil on the world.

The status of Roman women was also very low. Roman law placed a wife under the absolute control of her husband, who had ownership of her and all her possessions. He could divorce her if she went out in public without a veil. A husband had the power of life and death over his wife, just as he did his children. As with the Greeks, women were not allowed to speak in public.

Jewish women, as well, were barred from public speaking. The oral law prohibited women from reading the Torah out loud. Synagogue worship was segregated, with women never allowed to be heard.”

We see Christianity bestowing incredible honour to women

(Source) Jesus gave women status and respect equal to men. Not only did he break with the anti-female culture of his era, but he set a standard for Christ-followers. Peter and Paul both follow this example when they wrote in the New Testament.

In a society that looked to a woman’s external beauty and feminine influence (Sound familiar.), Peter encouraged women to see themselves as valuable because God saw them as valuable. His call to aspire to the inner beauty of a trusting spirit is staggeringly counter-cultural. He writes, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”

Equally staggering is his call to men to elevate their wives with respect and understanding: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Consideration, respect, fellow heirs; these concepts sound good to us, but they were unheard of in the first century!

– Paul calls women the weaker sex.. But you need to read this in context – he isn’t putting women down! He’s being restorative, he’s promoting equality, worth, and – because he’s telling the men to treat her not like the world.. In this day, women were regarded like property, they had few rights, they certainly couldn’t vote, they sometimes couldn’t own property, they weren’t well considered in an inheritance, they were certainly at home, weren’t to worship with the men in the temple, let alone speak there – but here we have Paul radically advocating for something altogether different – when he says look after the weaker sex, he’s saying this because they needed and still need advocating for!

The apostle Paul is often accused of being a misogynist, one who hates and fears women. But Paul’s teachings on women reflect the creation order and high value God places on women as creatures made in his image. Paul’s commands for husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 provided a completely new way to look at marriage: as an earthbound illustration of the spiritual mystery of the union of Christ and His bride, the church. He calls wives to not only submit to their husbands as to the Lord, but he calls husbands to submit to Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). He calls men to love their wives in the self-sacrificing way Christ loves the church. In a culture where a wife was property, and a disrespected piece of property at that, Paul elevates women to a position of honour previously unknown in the world.

What does submission and service look Like? Luke 22 – no one doubted who the head was, but it was Jesus washing feet!!

1 Peter 3 “likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very preciousFor this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you1 of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

3. What role do women have in the church?

– Position in the church is not at all to do with competency!!

    – consider the trinity – ontologically equal, functionally/operationally different – ie. The Father sends the son.

     – our submission is Christlike.

     – Jesus says ‘I come to do the will of the father’ – complete and perfect submission although equal

       – If you struggle with submission, know that our submission reflects God.

     – this doesn’t mean that husbands are like God to their wives.. Nothing of the sort… i’m simply showing you that even God submits to Himself.

We struggle to accept these things when we have an incorrect view of biblical leadership – we think of it the way the world thinks of leadership. This is not how it works in the Kingdom.. The greatest leader IS the greatest servant – the one who prays the most, who sacrifices the most, who bears responsibility for the outcome, like Jesus did. We don’t graduate in the kingdom from servant TO leader, but rather become a better leader BY becoming a better servant. The most humble IS the greatest, and the most servant IS the best leader.

[one thing we need see here, is that in the Kingdom, it’s not about your skill.. it’s about your character, and standing before God. We like to think we live in a meritocracy – the most talented get the prize/job/etc – but as Christians we live in a Kingdom, with a King, and He’s an entirely loving King at that – and He has what is best for us… this might be an unsatisfying answer for some.. but consider our first assumption.]

What about in the church?


– 1 Cor 14 must be read in light of 1 Cor 12 – she can prophesy if her head is covered.. She can pray when her head is covered!! (Can’t just claim 14 she must remain silent)

     – what does it mean to be covered? What does it mean to prophesy? “Communicate someone else’s message with your words”

– Gen 3 – the woman was made to be a helper for the man.

    – it can NOT mean inferior, because it’s MOST used in the bible in reference to God

    – it’s also translated ‘strength’

    – it denotes weakness in the one you’re helping!!

         – “can you help me with this”, means I can’t do it by myself!

  – what does it mean when Paul says ‘not permitted to teach or have authority over a man’?

1 Tim 2 “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

      – he then immediately goes on to talk about qualifications for Elders

     – the elders would sit and say ‘amen’ to sound teaching, this is the role Paul is saying God made for men

       – this is why it was so outrageous that Jesus would ‘amen’ Himself!!

– this is mainly a men’s issue.. NOT a women’s issue! (Although it’s usually framed that way)

   – if men did what they were supposed to do, the way they’re supposed to do it, I firmly believe women would flourish.

– we don’t promote due to skill, but character and call.

    – so, is a woman a gifted speaker? Then let her speak where God wants her to speak! Same for a man… It’s the same.

– however the woman still needs to bring her gifts (Phil 2), and boldly at that! It’s by no means about being a doormat, just like headship is nothing to do with perks, privilege, getting your own way, or controlling the remote.

– conplimentarianism is certainly on a spectrum.. That will be biblically faithfully lived out in different ways in different cultures – because the bible allows for this.

   – it is NOT the traditional patriarchal male dominance of women.


– in the workplace (nope)

– government (nope)

– social (nope)

– in the home (yes)

– in the church (yes)

All women submit to all men? No way!! It’s only about headship!!

Acts 2:17 “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants’ in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

Acts 21:7 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.

So what does this mean for us?

– do we bow to scripture only when it’s convenient?

1. we look to the example of Jesus:

        – Dorothy Sayers, a friend of C.S. Lewis, wrote: “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious.”

2. We demonstrate relationships in the church and home that are complementary, God honouring, and the fruit of which is mutual flourishing

3. Advocate for this who can’t advocate for themselves

4. We need to uphold the value of being a mum – “Just as feminism has told women that anything a man can do women can do just the same, it has encouraged women to clamour only for what men do, and to belittle “traditional” women’s activities.” (source)

5. We need to apply the Gospel, and repent of where we have performed poorly in this area – ie. Men ‘lording’ over women, women trying to compete in masculinity, developing our skill beyond our character, and 

Bonus Stuff

(Source The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design)

  • “Part of my rebellion against things that I deemed too domestic or feminine was rooted in my misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian woman.” p.15
  • “Recovering from feminism and embracing God’s idea of womanhood is far more than a throwback to a 1950s television show.” p.16
  • What I failed to understand was that true freedom cannot be found in independence from authority at all. True freedom is found in understanding our Creator and how he wants us to live.” p.17
  • “What feminism did was slowly erase the differences between men and women. Equality now means sameness.” p.18
  • “Our understanding of who God created us to be as women has everything to do with our display of him to a watching world.” p.23
  • “One of the lasting impacts of feminist thought over the last one hundred years is the idea that womanhood is culturally learned, not something inherent to us as created beings. The fact that little girls want to grow up to be mothers, homemakers, or anything domestic owes only to cultural pressure, not God-given desire.” p.28
  • In the mind of the culture, men and women are interchangeable in their functions on this earth. But are they?” p.28
  • “This shatters the feminist notion that to emphasize the gender distinctions for women automatically makes us inferior. It can’t. The biblical understanding of gender is that both genders were created in the image of God.” p.32
  • “Eve imaged God in two distinct ways: as helper and as lifegiver. She was uniquely able to complete Adam as a helper in the divine calling of ruling God’s creation.” p.33
  • “For all the talk about women advancing, defining themselves, and being on the same playing field as men, for the most part women still expect something from the men in their lives. That expectation is rooted in our differences as male and female.” p.46
  • “So what does this mean for you? It means that motherhood is a good and wise thing. The very fact that you were created as female means that you were designed to be a mother.” p.54
  • “Submission is a willing decision to bridle your strength out of respect for your husband, but ultimately out of obedience to God and reverence for his Word…. Submission is also an act of trusting in God and his work in our lives.” p.73
  • “Biblical submission does not require women to submit to all men all the time.” p.76
  • “God has a purpose for the local church. And we don’t get to change that purpose.” p.132
  • Just as feminism has told women that anything a man can do women can do just the same, it has encouraged women to clamour only for what men do, and to belittle “traditional” women’s activities.” p.136
  • “The Bible show us that men and women are different because together they showcase God’s image.” p.154
  • When we get womanhood wrong, we tell a wrong story about Christ’s relationship with his bride. We tell a wrong story about God.” p.155
  • “The ultimate mark of womanhood is hoping in God alone.” p.158


On Submissive Wives

1 Corinthians 11:3

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 14:34

34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.

Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Colossians 3:18

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

1 Timothy 2:11-12

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Titus 2:5

to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

1 Peter 3:1

Wives and Husbands

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,

1 Peter 3:5-6

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.


Why does Paul refer back to genesis/created order with regard to male headship??

     – he clearly states that eve sinned first.. isn’t that an odd thing to bring up?

     – perhaps, but look at God’s response.. (Despite Adam’s blame shifting) God goes to Adam to ask what had happened, and holds HIM responsible! (then, throughout the Bible, Adam is blamed for sin).



About The Author


is Don is good...

3 Responses

  1. Doug & Joanne Coates

    Hi Don, We both thought this was good! Just a few thoughts: Men were told to love their wife as Christ loves the Church, just no greater sacrifice or love can be given to any wife! Wives voluntarily are to submit to this loving, headship, which was always to give, protect & enable her to reach her full potential in God. Love & respect, you can’t have one without the other!
    It is still sad to see how little women are exercising their God given gifts in so many churches though.
    When there were women in the old testament in Judges 4 : 4 – 6, such as Deborah who was a Prophetess God used for the nation of Israel. She “held court” under the Palm of Deborah,” which was a public place that people could come to. Also gave instruction to the Leader of Israel’s army.

    In the New Testament Phoebe was a woman deacon.
    Priscilla & Aquila, Husband & Wife team & wonderful helpers in Christ Jesus.

    We felt that these two articles were really worth reading!

    “Likewise the Women”

    While some scholars believe Paul restricted the office of deacon to men, others dispute that assertion. For example, when describing the qualities that the office holders called “deacons” must possess, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:11 that the gunaikas (Greek for “women”) hosautos (Greek for “likewise”), translated “likewise the women”. They, likewise, are to be “worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” The “likewise” indicated that the women deacons were to have similar qualifications to the men deacons (see also the Apostle Paul’s use of the term “likewise” in Romans 1:27, 1 Cor. 7:3,4,22, and Titus 2:3,6).

    Bible translation gender issues

    She may even have been a “minister”, according to Denis Fortin who maintains that the KJV, NKJV, NASB and ESV consistently translate diakonos as “minister” when the word is used in connection to a male person, but not so when it comes to Phoebe. He asks if modern negative attitudes toward women in ministry might have been shaped by biased translators of the Bible. In contrast, however, William Tyndale’s New Testament (published in 1534) consistently referred to Phoebe and all of Paul’s co-workers as “ministers” with no distinction between them. The same is true of the Geneva Bible (1560). Fortin suggests that if these translations had been followed for this verse when the King James Version was produced in 1611, perhaps today there would be less resistance toward women in ministry.

    Doug & I believe a fully functioning Biblically based, Holy Spirit filled & Holy Spirit lead Church with both men & women reflecting Christ & His Bride in all of His Glory, will be a wonderful thing to see!!!
    We still believe that the head leader of a Church would be best to be male, but under his leadership & protective care men & women can serve in leadership & in every spectrum of God’s given gifts to the Church, for God’s Glory!!!
    God Bless You & Yours Mightily!!!

  2. Doug & Joanne Coates

    Hello Don, continuing on from gender issues:
    There is a big problem that has crept into the Church & nobody seems to be batting an eyelid and that is the lack of purity & modesty amongst Christian women in their dress, when they are inside or outside of the church. Most probably through lack of proper teaching & women wanting to be relevant to the world, so choosing immodest & suggestive clothing! Our son went to a Christian wedding & the plunging neck-lines & tight clothing which left nothing to the imagination were worn by the majority of the Christian women & the bride herself. You could not tell the difference between the Christian women & non-Christian women in their attire, which is pretty sad!
    Let us remember the many Bible verses warning the Church on impurity!!!
    Galatians 5 : 19
    Ephesians 5 : 3
    Colossians 3 : 5
    James 1 : 21
    1 Corinthians 12 : 23
    God Bless You!!!

  3. Doug & Joanne Coates

    Hi Don,
    Both of us have been blessed by a book written by John Stott, called – Issues Facing Christians Today (4th Edition).
    There is a section called Women, Men and God, which is excellent & really worth reading!
    God Bless !!


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