Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Tim. 2:11-15)
Having just warned of the need for proper preparation for public prayer and the need for women to exercise godly moderation and modesty, Paul now warns women to "learn in silence with all subjection." The silence refers principally to duty in worship, but subjection includes a constant awareness of her proper role in all areas, as Paul's reference to the created order (v. 13) makes clear.
It is all too easy for both men and women to see the subjection here in the limited relationship of man and woman. But if women bemoan the arbitrariness of their subjection to, admittedly, sometimes less capable men, and men chauvinistically sit back in pride at "being the boss," they both miss the point Paul makes in going back to the creation of Adam and Eve. We must see all things in terms of subjection to God and his Law-Word. All authority is derivative and all responsibility is measured in terms of where God places us. If male or female steps out of each's rightful place, the result morally is rebellion and abandoned responsibility.
The need for subjection and obedience is obvious in the military. Authority and chain of command must be clearly identifiable to all. The military, obviously, is concerned about the clarity of command in life-and-death situations where the stakes are of immense proportions. A general must be obeyed by lesser officers who must in turn be obeyed by those under them. This is not to say that any of the officers is great or even competent at his job. It only means that his authority cannot be questioned by subordinates. To allow such would be to encourage rebellion, confusion and uncertainty. The same could be said to be true in a school, business, court or government.
It is an evident fact that women are often superior in intellect and abilities. It is no accident that most executive secretaries are women. They keep many men and organizations functioning.
But abilities and inclinations are really beside the point. God created man for a purpose and he created woman for a purpose. Both find themselves in terms of that purpose. One of the healthiest trends in popular psychology in recent years is the emphasis on the differences between the sexes. Whether we compare their temperaments (and say that men are from Mars and women from Venus!) or compare their behavior (men like to control the TV and use the remote like a gun to destroy what they dislike, while women like to agree on a program and stick with it), we are saying that men and women are different. They think, act and emote differently. Many comedians have based their careers on giving obvious examples of these differences.
Men and women are different because God made them different in that he made them each for a purpose. We know too that mothers cannot fully fill the void of an absent father and that fathers cannot be what a mother can be. Still, we often second-guess God. The sticking point seems to be this issue of subjection. It becomes easier if we accept God's sovereignty and then ourselves as God made us. Once we recognize that there is a sovereign God and that we are not he, it is easier to accept his order and our role in it.
The failure of most relationships, including those of the family, is the failure to acknowledge and accept the limitations they impose. Just as Adam and Eve chose to be as gods, employees choose to be in charge, students choose to challenge teachers, judges choose to make laws as they go along, and husbands, wives and children choose to deny their responsibilities. All such denial of place is a denial of responsibility as defined by God. Some seek to climb the ladder and play god. Others seek to deny their responsibility and refuse their rightful role. All such reactions reflect the sin of Adam and its consequent — chaos and disorder.
Because of sin, man has lost his bearings as to his rightful duties in life. He therefore needs to have his life given direction and purpose by means of external directives. This God has given to us in His Word. The rebel, once redeemed by Jesus Christ, can find understanding and wisdom about the things of God and about his own personal responsibilities. Sometimes the Word points to the responsibilities of men, women, children, judges, ministers, teachers and others. In this particular passage women are exhorted to remember their place. It behooves us all to remember our place. If any of us are dissatisfied with our place, we must not destroy our home, church, business, or society so that we can second-guess God in putting us there. To have contempt for God's order is to have contempt for God. That, however, is the part of the unregenerate, who Scripture calls the fool.
We find ourselves in God's order and in our calling. The problem with subjection is not one of roles or the sexes; it is with our own sin nature. Once we recognize ourselves as a sinner in need of subjection before the throne of God, we are better able to find and accept our role in His kingdom.