Bible Study: Can a woman submit in the home and lead in the church? (1 Corinthians 11:1-16)

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We here at The Essential Church have been examining the passages of Scripture that complementarians have used against women in their belief that women shouldn’t serve in leadership positions in the church (preaching, teaching, pastor, deacon, etc.). On Doctrine Sunday, we examined the thorny passage of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and its words for the church, Timothy, and for women. We discovered that the passage does not forbid women from serving in places of spiritual authority and church leadership, especially when you consider that Paul only mentions teaching in the passage – not preaching or pastoring. If Paul forbade women from leadership positions, why would he use the word “permit” instead of “forbid” (two different words), and why would he then place women in the Office of Deacon in 1 Timothy 3:11?

In this latest Bible Study, we examine 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, a passage that few complementarians discuss because it mentions women praying and prophesying in the public worship assembly. Women doing much of anything in spiritual leadership before the congregations of the early church is a problem for those who believe women are to be so submissive to men that they can’t do anything without a man.

I discuss here that women can serve in any spiritual leadership position to which God calls them, but that Scripture commands women to honor their husbands and submit to them in the home. Scripture is clear about wife submission in a few places, and a woman’s freedom in the church does not excuse her from not submitting to her husband in the home.

While I’m all for women’s rights, and I’m all for women’s giftedness and significant role in the Body of Christ, I can’t advocate women not submitting in the home – for, the work a woman does in the home, her submissiveness, the way she helps raise her children alongside her husband, etc., is what determines her exalted place in the church. A woman who’ll honor her husband and submit to his male headship in the home will submit to Christ when she’s in spiritual leadership in the church. And the Lord knows, we need more spiritual leaders that first submit to God before they can command any local or remote church to submit to their leadership.

The relationship of the husband and wife is to reflect Christ and the church; in the same way the church submits to Christ Jesus in everything, so should the wife submit to her husband. This doesn’t mean that the wife has no say in what happens, that she doesn’t get to have input on the decisions, that she can’t handle things in the marriage such as balancing the checkbook, working a job (and that the man can’t do things like stay home and care for the kids if his wife makes the greater money), and so on. Women have as much capability as men, but wife submission is not about capability – it’s about being faithful to the Word of God.

I think wife submission starts with the wife acknowledging her husband’s place, that there will be moments in which he’ll make decisions with which she’ll disagree (and he will likely get the last word because few women have ever met a man that backs down from a heated discussion!). It means to acknowledge her husband as the head of the marriage. Wives can lead in the church, but God never designed wives to lead in the marriage. Marriage is a ministry, and in church ministries, leaders must submit to Christ. Wives, then, as the help mate for their husbands, are to submit in the home because, as Paul says in Ephesians 5:22, by submitting to their husbands, they are submitting “to the Lord.”

Go ahead and check out our teaching on this passage, then feel free to write us and let us know your thoughts. You can contact us by clicking on “Contact” at the top of the main page, then filling out the required info. Or, you can email us at with your inquiries, prayer requests, or a desire to join our Bible Study.

We love you all, and ask for your prayers. No matter how high the Lord takes us in Him, we can’t make it without the Lord and prayer.

In Him,

Pastor D.M. Richardson

The Essential Church

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