Gender Roles

Here are some snippets that have helped me see the value and state of gender roles and created differences between men and women. 



The state of men in many places:

In Seattle, the young men are, generally, pathetic. They are unlikely to go to church, get married, have children, or do much of anything else that smacks of being responsible. But they are known to be highly skilled at smoking pot, masturbating, playing video games, playing air guitar, free-loading, and having sex with their significant others… If there is any hope for a kingdom culture to be built in Seattle, getting the young men to undergo a complete cranial-rectal extraction is priority number one.[1]


P.T. Forsyth says that hierarchy- the placing of one above another-not was meant not for privilege, prerogative, favoritism, or dominion, but for leadership.  And leadership means service, sacrifice, help, uplifting, redemption, and a cross.  Leadership is not meant to exploit, but to lift; not to exterminate, but to rescue; not to rend, but redeem; not to devour, but to carry; not for primacy, but for priority.  It means, in the last analysis, obedience, service, even death, for the sake of others.[2]


 Can women still influence men for Christ in areas of deep passion and conviction?

It is obvious that we cannot and should not prohibit women from influencing men.  For example, prayer is certainly a God-appointed means women should use to get men to where God wants them to be.  Praying women exert far more power in this world than all political leaders put together.  This kind of powerful influence is compounded immensely when one considers the degree to which the world is shaped and guided by the effects of how men and women are formed by their mothers.  This influence is perhaps more effective than all the leadership of men put together[3]


Women, then, have engaged in significant ministries, even if those ministries were unofficial.  One thinks of Abigail in I Samuel 25.  Abigail was not a prophetess and had no other official ministry that we know of.  Nevertheless, her humble and gentle advice to David persuaded him not to kill Nabal.  How many unrecorded events there must be of women persuading men, humbly and gently, to pursue a more righteous course!  What a good model this story is for traditionalists who think being a leader means they must always know the truth and that their opinion is always right.  David was certainly the leader in this account, but his humility is evident in that he listened to Abigail and was persuaded.  For women, Abigail is a model of gentle and humble persuasion.  There was no stridency or imperiousness about her manner.  She was winsome, yet bold.

            The unofficial ministries of women, therefore, are of great importance, and some men, by desiring leadership for its status and power as the Gentiles do (Mark 10:42ff.), have contributed to the idea that these ministries are insignificant.  Such a secular concept of ministry has done great damage in Christ’s church.[4]

– pg 210


There are so many ministries today in which a woman can advance the cause of Christ and righteousness!  I will list a few here so that one can get some idea of the wide scope available: engaging in personal witnessing and joining campus organizations committed to spreading the gospel, ministering to the sick and elderly, fighting against abortion, fighting against pornography, helping with literacy, writing to government leaders to support the cause of righteousness, helping with disabled, aiding the poor, ministering in prisons, counseling and praying with the troubled and confused, supporting missionaries and the church financially, visiting newcomers to the church, extending hospitality to the lonely, using artistic gifts by ministering in music, the visual arts, drama, and theater, helping in youth ministry, etc.[5]

[1] Mark Driscoll, Radical Reformission

[2] Elisabeth Elliot.  The Mark of a Man.  pg 134.

[3] Pg 61, John Piper.  What is the Difference?  Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible

[4] Thomas Schreiner.  Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  Pg 210

[5] Thomas Schreiner.  Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  Pg 223


Where we left off last… Do complementarians hate women?  Are they just modern mysogynysts?

Find out now! 


The Egalitarian view seeks the inclusion of women in all areas of ministry based on the following observations from Scripture:

1) Calling roles or distinctions into question based on gender is wrong and like doing so based on ethnicity (Jew or Greek) or social status (slave or free)

  • Galatians 3:28- No distinctions in Christ between men and women

2) A woman apostle is acknowledged by Paul

  • Rom 16:7- Junia, the latino disciple

3) Women play a prophetic role in the Old Testament (ex: Deborah, Miriam, etc.), and are foretold to prophesy after the Ascension (Acts 2:17-18).

4) Women are referred to as “fellow-workers” with Paul, the same way Timothy, Titus, and other male disciples.

5) Women serve in the office of deacon in the New Testament (Rom 16:1)

The complementaria argument views men and women as being designed to fit together not only biologically in marriage, but also emotionally and in various roles.:

Humans are created male and female as nature is night and day, sea and land. 

Both are:

  • Equally valuable
  • Equally fallen
  • Equally needing of a savior

Men are designed to initiate and lead

Women are designed to nurture, receive, and affirm

  Questions for Discussion:

  • Is the egalitarian interpretation of Galatians 3:28 the best one?
  • What else is suggested by the immediate context of Galatians 3:28?
  • How do these observations relate to Paul’s instruction for church governance?

On the other side:

  • Do complementarians realize we are in the 21st century?
  • Doesn’t the complementarian view just continue to exploit, demean, and repress women?

Brief Response to points 1-5 of Egalitarian position

1) Context in Gal 3 is not addressing / defining what it means to be a man or woman.  This does not, for example, mean that no distinction should be made between men and women, say in marriage (ie: “No longer male no female” does not apply to marriage covenant and does not throw out Paul’s advice to husbands and wives in Eph 5, it does not mean since there is no longer male nor female, that marriage can now apply to a man and a man or a woman and a woman).

Elsewhere (Titus 2, I Timothy 2, etc.) Paul lays out clear distinctions for structure of church. 

Gal 3:28 in context is referring to equal fallenness, need of savior, and value in God’s eyes of Jews, Gentiles, slaves, masters, men and women.

This does not support egalitarian position.

2) Woman apostle can have several different translations.  Jesus had no woman apostle.  Was his failure to due to cultural / traditional structure and pressure?  If so, why did he heal on a Sabbath, not have his disciples observe washing before eating, feed “crumbs” to a Gentile, etc.?  Was having a woman disciple too controversial for him? 
One phrase that is obscure, is not enough to base the egalitarian position on.

3) Women did play role of prophet and will continue to prophesy.  However, they never were priests or elders in the Old Testament and are forbidden from teaching / usurping power from men in I Timothy 2:12.  It’s unlikely that Paul’s argument against women teaching over men in I Tim 2:12 is only cultural, because he follows it up by appealing to the order in Creation (I Timothy 2:13-14).

4) Women are fellow workers and should be treated as such.  This does not mean each worker has the same role.

5) Women may have been deacons, and were definitely instructed to teach each other and younger women in the faith (Titus 2)

Spiritual gifts: Spiritual gifts are given generously throughout the church (I Cor 12-14), but they are still regulated.  Women are still endowed with spiritual gift of teaching, but that should come in proper context, just as speaking in tongues has a certain context where, when it’s not obeyed, is not building up Christ’s body (I Cor 14:6-25).

Many of the above points were researched and clarified, much more exhaustively by Tom Schreiner in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.


Two different schools of thought on how men and women should relate to each other and what their responsibilities are in the church. 

1) Egalitarian- There should be no gender distinction in roles of men and women in the function or leadership of the church, to include ordination of women, or in society in general; in marriage the wife and husband not only are created equal as female and male, but there is no biblically-prescribed hierarchy giving the husband any authority over the wife.

2) Complementarian- God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church.”  Men are expected to take spiritual responsibility, often called “headship,” for leadership in the home and in the church. Women are restricted from holding the teaching office of the church and from spiritual leadership in the home and in marriage.


I am a complementarian.  I believe that is what the Bible teaches.  I am ok with people disagreeing with me.  I don’t see its teaching as a salvation issue, but I do see it as an issue of healthy doctrine and I would divide from a church with a woman pastor.


Egalitarian Approach

Men and women are each created with authority over nature, Men and women are created inherently equal in their capacities to serve and lead, and negating an office of authority based on gender parallels the horrors of owning slaves and the horrors of racism.

Here are some points and Scriptures egalitarians frame their theology on:


1) Calling roles or distinctions into question based on gender is wrong and like doing so based on ethnicity (Jew or Greek) or social status (slave or free)

  • Galatians 3:28- No distinctions in Christ between men and women

 2) A woman is acknowledged by Paul as an apostle

  • Rom 16:27- Apostleship given to a woman

 3) Women play a prophetic role throughout the Bible

  • Exod 15:20-21- Miriam is a prophetess and led the assembly of women in song
  • II Kings 22:14-20- Huldah is a prophetess and is consulted by messengers of Josiah
  • Judges 4:4-5- Deborah was a prophetess and a judge over men
  • Luke 2:36-38- Anna served as a prophetess and spoke to the people of the savior who would redeem Jerusalem
  • Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-32- God’s spirit would cause both men and women to prophesy, both men and women to dream dreams

 4) Women are referred to as “fellow-workers” with Paul

  • Romans 16:3- Priscilla referred to a fellow worker in Christ.  The same term is used for Timothy (Romans 16:21), Apollos (I Corinthians 2:9), Titus (II Corinthians 8:23), etc.

 5) Women serve in the office of deacon in the New Testament

  • I Timothy 3:11
  • Romans 16:1- Phoebe is referred to as a deacon


To summarize the egalitarian position, positions of authority are now obliterated based on gender as are racial and social positions (Galatians 3:28) in Christ.  Women serve throughout Scripture as prophetesses, are referred to as fellow-workers, serve as deacons in the church, and one was also noted as an apostle. 


  • Is the egalitarian interpretation Galatians 3:28 the best one?
  • What else is suggested by the immediate context of Galatians 3:28?
  • How do these observations relate to Paul’s instruction for church governance?

Complementarian Approach

Complementarian view starts by looking at created structures in the beginning of Genesis and how they fit together or complement each other:

  • Night and day (Gen 1:5)
  • Sea and sky (Gen 1:6)
  • Dry land and sea (Gen 1:10)
  • Sun and stars (Gen 1:16)
  • Day 6- Men and women (Gen 1:27)

 Other ideas of complements are:

  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Hot fudge brownie and ice cream
  • Bert and Ernie

 Gen 2- God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

Gen 2:20- There was not a suitable helper fit for Adam.

Gen 2:18- God said he would make a helper fit for Adam

  • Woman comes from man. 
  • Woman fits man
  • Man is given responsibility in naming woman
  • Question: Is the way woman fits man only biological?
  • Question: What, if anything, does Adam’s naming of Eve represent?

 Though both sinned, Adam is called out by God and is identified later in Scripture as the one in whom all sinned (he bears a special responsibility)

  • Gen 3:9
  • Rom 5:12-15

 Gen 3- Complementary curses

Curses attack strengths of each character

  • Gen 3:16- curse on woman- pain in childbearing, desire for husband’s rule power (manipulation), he shall rule over her, woman will desire to rule over her husband
  • Gen 3:17- curse of man- Will work ground in pain, in sweat of face fighting weeds, thorns, etc.

 Isaiah 3 Woman

Women in positions of authority over men is spoken of as being chaotic and an inversion of order

  • Isaiah 3:12- Women ruling paralleled to infants in charge of the people

 Authority and vows

Men bear responsibility for their vows before God while women’s vows can be negated by their husbands or fathers

  • Numbers 30

 Other issues to look at: Instructions for church governance (qualifications for elders / overseers, headship in marriage- Eph 5) FOR NEXT POST:

  • Do complementarians hate women? (No, next question)
  • What are the implications of this view / How does this play out in everyday life?
  • Is complementarianism really just modern misogyny?

How are the roles, outlined in the egalitarian view for women of prophetess, apostle, deacon assimilated into the complementarian view?

Much of the analysis of this is taken from Tom Schriener in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  Thanks for the great work and analysis by the men and women in that book.