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Authority: Is it okay for men to be placed under the authority of women?

Gary Googe Aug 02

Let us first notice what is meant by the word authority.  Here are several definitions I have found.

  • The authority principle refers to a person’s tendency to comply with people in positions of authority, such as government leaders, law-enforcement representatives, doctors, lawyers, professors, and other perceived experts in different fields.
  • Authority refers to the concept that each member of an ordered social hierarchy is expected to comply with the wishes of those who are ranked above him or her.
  • Authority means the delegated right to rule or lead. It means the power to act, decide, command, and judge; it is the right to set policy, and this means the responsibility to bring about controls in our children’s lives within the limits of the authority given by God. God has absolute and complete authority and the right of complete control because of who He is as the sovereign Creator.

But what does the Bible teach us about authority?  It is there that we can learn of God’s design of the authority structures of life.

In the beginning for mankind, it all starts in the Garden of Eden.  It was God who created the first man and the first woman and placed them in this wonderful place.

Genesis 1:26-28

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. [Emphasis added]

Of course, there are those who claim it didn’t happen this way.  We are told that this first man and woman never existed, but that man and the world systems of authority are all products of an evolutionary process.  Some tell us the names Adam and Eve, if anything, are merely symbolic of the evolution of mankind.  They give no credit to the Genesis account of creation.  But this same account of the creation is also given in other places in the Bible.

Romans 5:12

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: [Emphasis added]

It was God who created the first man and woman, along with the whole authority structure of things.

Colossians 1:14-16

14 In whom [speaking of Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [Emphasis added]

The authority and reliability of Scripture rises or falls on the truthfulness of Genesis 1.  Either what is stated there is true or the whole Bible can’t be trusted.  As we noted, it was Jesus Christ, Who is said to be a member of the Godhead,who created the whole universe.

Mark 13:19

19 For in those days shall be affliction [the author is here speaking prophetically about a future time], such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. [Emphasis added]

There’s no mention of evolution in the Bible, only divine creation! As we’ve already noted, it was in a series of 24-hour days that the world and the things thereof were established [Genesis 1].

Genesis 2:1-3

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. [Emphasis added]

Then we find that after the man and the woman first sinned, God commanded that the woman would always be subject to the man.

Genesis 3:16

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. [Emphasis added]

That doesn’t sound like a 50/50 relationship to me.  Marriage was not set up to be a “partnership.”  Even what the relationship was before the fall is clearly stated.  Because the man was created first, he was placed in authority over the woman.  Then after sin entered, the authority of the man over the woman is made even more plain.  We will look at some Scripture in this study that clearly shows that.

Although it is extremely important for us to understand that God’s policies for His people have changed from time to time, that is not the case with principles of authority.  Some tell us our beliefs about authority in America are outdated and solely based on culture, rather than God’s commands.  Such is by no means the case.  There’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that.  From Genesis to Revelation and over thousands of years, it has been the same.  So far as Paul’s teachings are concerned, probably the best summary of all this is given in his first letter to Timothy.

I Timothy 2:12

12 But I suffer [permit] not a woman to teach [as in teaching men], nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [Emphasis added]

The “silence” mentioned here is simply to do with the absence of resistance to his authority over her.

Next in this passage we see that the order of authority or the “chain of command” principle goes back to the time of the creation.

I Timothy 2:13

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [Emphasis added]

It was then, before the man’s fall into sin, not now or in any other generation, that this order of authority was put in place for all time that would follow.

It is the Apostle Paul who re-enforces these same principles with his teaching for us in this present Dispensation of Grace.

Romans 13:1-2

1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power [authority] but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. [Emphasis added]

One thing this is telling us that one’s resistance to authority is actually an expression of one’s resistance to God.

I Timothy 2:1-3

1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; [Emphasis added]

Titus 3:1-2

1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness [a non-disputing attitude] unto all men. [Emphasis added]

We find that the same kind of order in authority is to be carried out in the home.

Ephesians 5:22-23

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [Emphasis added]

Colossians 3:18

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. [Emphasis added]

The Apostle Peter taught the exact same thing.

I Peter 3:1

1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; [Emphasis added]

Of course, children are to be compelled to obey their parents.  It is in the home first that principles of authority are to be taught to children.

Ephesians 6:1-3

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. [Emphasis added]

Verse three here is telling us that those who learn to respect authority are prone to live longer.  Being a rebellious person who resists authority is a dangerous way to live.

The main point to be made in answer to our topic of discussion is that at no place in Scripture do we see God authorizing authority to be given to women over men.  In every place the relationship is discussed, the man is placed in authority, not the woman.

Now let’s look at some Scripture that some people have tried to use to justify placing women in positions of authority over men.  Although there are others, probably the most popular one is the case of Deborah.

Judges 2:16

16 Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. [Emphasis added]

Deborah was the only female of the twelve judges of that period.  How and why was she the exception? It was clearly because the male leaders of her time were unwilling to be “men,” so to speak.  Because they failed to fulfill their role, women were used of God.  Therefore, this wonderful woman, Deborah, was used of God to deliver God’s people.  But ideally this function should have been conducted totally through a man named Barak of that day.  It was he who insisted that Deborah, because she was a prophetess of God, go along with him in the battle to ensure victory.  By the grace of God Barak is listed in the Hebrews 11 “hall of fame” list, but it was the faith of Deborah that brought on the victory that was achieved by Barak and his army.  That’s why she was given credit for the victory.  Here the point needs to be made that, policies and principles are NOT to be established because of exceptional situations.  Furthermore, it needs to be noted that the end does not justify the means.

Other cases can be cited such as the situation with Esther.  She surely influenced what King Ahasuerus did, but it was the king that gave the orders, not Esther.

There is a list of outstanding women of God who were used in positions of authority over men.  But in every one of them the decadent thinking of men enters the picture.  If the men in each situation had been functioning in obedience to God, these situations where women entered to lead would not have developed.  These instances by no means provide a basis for making a practice of placing women in positions of authority over men or of giving them equal standing in the selection process for choosing someone to be in a position of authority.  There is no place in Scripture where such is sanctioned.

As we’ve already noted, this whole matter is settled by what Scripture tells us.

I Timothy 2:12-13

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach [as in teaching men], nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [Emphasis added]

Also, again, this isn’t about culture.  There are corrupt cultures all over the world where women run a lot of things. When there’s a reversal of roles between men and women, this is clearly an expression of corruption and disobedience to God’s Word and the way He designed things to be.

This reversal of roles in America is a relatively new development.  Tradition alone is never justification for a practice, but many of our traditions in America, including this one, have a biblical basis.  From the creation forward, when people were responsive to God’s leading, we have men who were the authority figures.

In the case of children, it is a different situation.  Mothers are clearly to be in authority over both male and female children.  But when young boys become men, that is to change.

It has always amazed me how people can twist the Scriptures to make them say what they want them to say.  Such has been the case with many things, including principles on authority.

Even in many homes, the woman of the house has final say on matters.  Is that by divine design?  Hardly!

Ephesians 5:22-24

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

It doesn’t get any clearer or stronger than that.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. [Emphasis added]

The Apostle Peter tells us the exact same thing.

I Peter 3:1

1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; [Emphasis added]

I suspect that the same people who would resist these instructions on authority would be just as quick to resist God’s teaching regarding authority in other areas of life.  But no matter what is said about it, the authority of God and His Word stands over the opinions of us all.

One of the most disgraceful situations on this subject is in local church leadership, where women have been placed in positions of authority over men.  This is in no way allowed in the Scriptures.  But that’s a subject for another time and in another article.

In every area of life, you will find situations where there’s abuse of authority.  Whether it’s in the case of women or men, there’s no justification for it.  Certainly, many women and men are guilty of that in every generation.  However, whenever that occurs, it does not eliminate the divine principle of authority we are addressing.  Women are not to be placed in positions of authority over men.  That’s the bottom-line standard we are to live by to enjoy a blessed life.

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