Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Fulfilling Biblical Roles

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says the relationship between men and women is about a lot more than just . . . well, men and women.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Those differences between man and woman, between husband and wife, between masculine and feminine that were intended to complement each other are supposed to give us a picture of what God is like. They’re supposed to give us a picture of redemption, of the love of Christ the Savior for His Church.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Monday, January 28.

Is there any difference between men and women? Did God create us unique, or are we basically the same?

Nancy began to address this important issue last week in a series called A Vision for Biblical Womanhood. As we’ll hear today, it’s an important topic that points out what you believe about God.

Nancy: We received an interesting email at Revive Our Hearts the other day. Let me share it with you. This writer said,

You might have noticed by my name that I’m a man, and yeah, I feel a little weird surrounded by all the pink colors on the website! [Well, the website was designed for women.] However, I want to say that I’ve been listening to your program [and we do allow men to eavesdrop, even though we’re specifically addressing women on this program], and as I hear more and more, I ask myself (and the Lord) the Proverbs 31:10 question: Who can find a woman like this?!

He’s speaking of when I was teaching on Proverbs chapter 31, and he was speaking of the woman in Proverbs 31. Who can find a woman like that? He said,

Throughout all of the 19 years that I have of living, I have been surrounded by strong women who take the leadership, and I say to myself, “Maybe it sounds sexist or something, but I don’t want a wife like that!” My youth leader is a woman who tells me that women in the home were for the past. She tells me to forget about wanting a wife like that because what if she wants her own ministry?

So as I heard your teachings, I was thinking that maybe a lot of women were going to turn off their radios when your show came to the air [and perhaps some do], but I’m amazed at the comments I hear from other women about your messages. It startled me to know that there are women out there who want to be this Proverbs 31 woman in this day and age!

Personally, I want a woman that can make me feel like a man, that can understand my leadership and respect me. Not many out there have this ideal. I’m sharing about your ministry to the young woman that I like. I’d like her to be this godly woman, whether we marry one day in the future or not.

Now, let me ask you this: Is this young 19-year-old man being sexist by saying, “I want a woman who can make me feel like a man, who can understand my leadership and respect me”?

  • Are we being sexist in this ministry to suggest that men and women should have different functions and roles within the body of Christ and within marriage?
  • What are the implications of the biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood?
  • How is that actually to be lived out?
  • What does that look like in the home, in the church, and in other spheres and relationships in life?

In the past few decades, theologians have adopted two terms to characterize two primary positions relating to the functions and roles of women and men in the home and in the church. There are shades, variations of positions within these, but there are two essential, basic positions. The two terms that theologians use are complementarian and egalitarian.

In this session and the next couple of sessions, I want to give you a very basic overview of those two positions, and I’ll tell you at the outset that I believe the complementarian position is the more biblical position. I’m going to explain to you in these sessions why I believe that to be the case.

It’s important to have our thinking grounded in the Word of God, because if your thinking on this topic—and every other topic—is not grounded in God’s Word, then the world is going to do your thinking for you. You’re going to think the world’s way, and you’re going to reap the consequences of not thinking God’s way.

It’s not only important that we think biblically for ourselves but that we be able to articulate to others. You need to be able to go to the Word of God and say, “This is what I believe, and this is why,” about the functions and roles of men and women in the home and in the church.

So I want to lay a foundation. This is just going to be a broad overview; and as I said in an earlier session, there’s no way I’m going to answer all the questions or dig deeply into all the passages of Scripture that we’re going to look at.

I’m just going to touch on some of those passages. I will probably raise more questions than I answer, but I’m grateful that there are some wonderful resources available today to help us in this study.

I know some of you will want to dig deeper. Some of you are going to be saying, “I don’t know if I can buy this. I don’t know if I can go there.”

Well, before you throw out what I’m saying, would you take the time to get into the Word yourself and to examine some of these resources that will help you understand in a deeper way what I’m going to be teaching in an overview?

There are a number of theologians and pastors and others today who have done a terrific job of providing a biblical and a theological framework to help us understand this issue. I will tell you that I have drawn heavily on some of their teaching.

I’ve been very helped by the writings of people like Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. John Piper, Bruce Ware, and others who have been mentors and teachers to me in this area. I’m trying to take some of what they’ve written that’s a little heavier—some of the big, thick books—and boil it down to some simple teaching to help us understand.

If you’ll go to, we’ll provide for you there a list of some of these resources that you can use for further study, and we’ll tell you on that list what you can find in these resources and how they can be helpful to you.

Let’s talk first about the complementarian position. Complementarian is related to the word complementary. I looked in the dictionary to see what that word means.

The American Heritage Dictionary says that complementary means:

  1. forming or serving as a complement; completing
  2. supplying mutual needs or offsetting mutual lacks

We have needs and lacks, and as men and women, we complement one another. We complete one another.

Another dictionary (WordNet) had this to say about the word complementarity, a related word:

The interrelation of reciprocity [give and take, going back and forth] whereby one thing supplements or depends on the other; “the complementarity of the sexes”1

The complementarian position regarding roles and functions of men and women in the home, and in the church in particular, is summarized in a document called The Danvers Statement, which was prepared by several evangelical leaders in Danvers, Massachusetts, in mid-1987.

The Danvers Statement was published in its final form by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood the following year. (If you go to our website, you can download a copy of The Danvers Statement.) I want to encourage you to get a hold of this document, to read it, to study it. It’s not long. It’s not complex, but it’s a great point-by-point overview of the complementarian position.

Complementarians affirm the things we’ve been talking about over the past couple of sessions:

  • that both men and women are created in the image of God—that they have equal worth, value, and dignity as persons before God
  • that there are God-created differences between men and women

Those who take the complementarian position believe that God has ordained distinctions, differences in masculine and feminine functions, or roles, in the home and in the church—that there are some functions in the home and in the church that are reserved for men, and there are some that are more the realm and the responsibility of women.

Those differences in the home and in the church between the masculine and feminine function enable us as men and women to complement one another, to complete one another.

As we fulfill our unique roles as men and women, we reflect some very important things about God:

We reflect God’s design—the way He created things and the way He ordained them to function; we reflect God’s created order.

The world, by the way, is in an utter state of disorder today. I think about that verse in Psalms that says the earth is out of course [see Psalm 82:5 KJV]. It’s out of order. People today are disoriented. They’re dysfunctional. Why? Because they have not embraced—received and accepted—God’s order. So they are out of order.

When we function in the way God intended us to as men and as women, we reflect the order and the roles that exist within the Trinity. We reflect something powerful about how God functions in relationship with Himself. We’ll come to that a little bit later, the roles within the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

When we fulfill our roles as women, and when men fulfill their roles as men, we also reflect something incredibly beautiful about God’s great redemptive plan, about God’s relationship with His Church and the relationship Christ has with His bride.

Now, we’ve said that complementarians believe there are unique, distinct roles men and women are to have in the home and in the church. Let me say, I know that as soon as I get into this territory, we have a lot of listeners who are saying, “Whoa. You lost me there. I can’t go with you there.”

Let me just ask you to hang on. Let me ask you to hear me out; and then, you take it to the Lord, and you say, “Lord, You show me from Your Word. If that woman on the radio has got it wrong, You straighten her out.”

Ask God to show you His Word. I’m just going to show you what I understand to be the case. At the heart of those distinctions in roles and functions between men and women is the belief in the complementarian position, the belief that God has given to men (masculine, males) the primary responsibility to lead and to feed the flock of God.

I’m going to give a whole lot more of an explanation for this. I’m going to give some caveat, some disclaimers. But that is a starting place. God has given to men the primary responsibility to lead and to feed the flock of God.

That means that men are held responsible by God to provide direction, oversight, leadership, provision, and protection for their families and for the family of God.

Now, some theologians would say that the leadership or the headship role of men in the home and in the church was introduced after the Fall, that it was part of the punishment of the man and the woman. They would say that Christ came to reverse or to undo the effects of the fall. Therefore, since Christ has come, we no longer have these distinctions to be made.

However, if you look at God’s Word carefully, you’ll see evidence of different roles between Adam and Eve before they ever sinned. The different roles between men and women in Scripture are never traced back to the Fall. They’re always traced back to the way things were in Eden before sin corrupted our relationships.

The differences between men and women cannot be explained simply by tradition, by nurture, or by culture. They are rooted in creation. It’s the way God made things.

By the way, I think this is one of the reasons so many people are intent on disproving the whole concept of creation, because if there is a Creator, and He’s God, then He has the right to say the way things should be. People don’t want to bow to what God says is the way things should be.

Let me give you an illustration from the New Testament of how the differences between men and women are traced back to creation. Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 on the importance of preserving distinctions, different roles between men and women in the context of marriage and the local church.

And then he tells why, and in his explanation he goes back to the original created order. He says, "For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man" (verses 8-9).

Again, I’m not going to explain what all that means at the moment; I just want to point out, when Paul is saying, “Why are there differences?” he takes it back to creation.

"The woman was made as a helper suitable for the man," Genesis 2 tells us. It doesn’t mean that she’s any less important than the man, but it does say she has a different role.

You see the same concept in 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says, speaking about the context of the local church, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.”

In the next verse he says why: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Again, can you see that he takes the reasoning, the rationale, back to creation? This is the way God designed things.

God created Adam first. That suggests that Adam was intended to have a leadership role for his family. The idea of distinct roles and even authority in relationships existed even prior to creation.

Where was that? In eternity past, in the relationships that God has within the Trinity, in the character of God Himself. You know that the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—are co-equal. They are all equal with each other. They are co-equal in all their attributes; yet there are essential differences between the three persons of the Trinity.

One is not more important than the others. One is not less important than the others, but they have different roles. They’re equal in their value and in their worth, but they have different functions.

So the fact that there are distinctions between male and female roles and responsibilities in the home and in the church is a noble concept. It’s a beautiful concept. It’s something that’s good.

You see, our thinking is so twisted. The world’s perspective is that to have authority is good but to be under authority is bad. That’s not God’s way of thinking.

To be sure, there are abuses, but the essential concept of authority and submission is something that is godly. Those relationships exist within the Trinity, and that’s something to be embraced.

This is the point at which egalitarians, theologically speaking, differ from complementarians, and let me give a caveat here: I’m giving some broad-brush generalizations.

There are differences that exist within these two positions, and there are some who hold to the egalitarian position as it relates to manhood and womanhood who do love God and who sincerely believe they are interpreting the Scripture correctly. So I want you to know that as I point this out.

Egalitarians do not agree that there are God-created distinctions between masculine and feminine roles in the home or the church.

They would say that you can’t have equality and authority, that you have to choose between them.

The egalitarians would believe that the headship of Adam over Eve, or of husbands over wives, was not a part of the original design, the original created order. They would say it resulted from the Fall.

I’ve tried to show you that I do not agree with that statement. I think that if you look through the Old and New Testaments, you’ll see a lot of evidence that God had these distinctions in place from the very outset of creation.

Now, in doing away with these distinctions—in doing away with the concept of authority and submission within the home and within the church—here’s what happens: We do away with what was intended to be an incredible picture of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, and we do away with what was intended to be a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church.

Those differences between man and woman, between husband and wife, between masculine and feminine that were intended to complement each other are supposed to give us a picture of what God is like. They’re supposed to give us a picture of redemption, of the love of Christ the Savior for His Church.

That’s what you read in Ephesians 5:23. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.” If we do away with headship in the home and in the church, we do away with the picture of Christ being the head of His Church.

“Christ is the head of the church,” and the verse goes on to say, “his body, and is himself its Savior.” This is what redemption is about.

The next verse goes on to say, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Now, this is not a series on submission, and there’s a lot we could say about that and a lot of Scriptures we could bring to bear here. I just want you to see this concept, that the headship of Christ over His Church is intended to be pictured in men taking biblical, godly headship in their homes and in the local church.

The picture of the Church submitting to Christ her Savior was supposed to be pictured by wives who submit in joyful and intelligent ways to the headship of their husbands. Do you see that picture?

Paul is not just talking about marriage here. He’s saying, “I’m talking about the church. I’m talking about redemption. I’m talking about the great mystery of the relationship of the Savior with His Church.”

So we see that Scripture affirms and upholds the concepts of equality, differences, and unity. It’s a mystery, but all of those can go together. They work within the Trinity—there are equality, differences, and unity—and between men and women there is equality, there are differences, and there is unity. And that, as we’ll see in the next sessions, has implications for every area of life.

Let me just say as we close here that the enemy, Satan, always tries to separate things that God unites—for example, God has united husband and wife in marriage. “Let not man put asunder” [see Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9]. Satan tries to separate it through divorce.

Satan also tries to unite things that should be separated. He tries to do away with God-created differences and distinctions. He tries to make everything the same in the name of equality; and ultimately, that way of thinking is destructive of marriage, of men, of women, of children, and of our culture.

When you choose to embrace and to go God’s way—even though I’ll be the first to say it is way counter-cultural, it goes against the grain of our culture—you find that God’s way protects against the dehumanization of women and the emasculation of men.

God’s way does not abuse women. It does not suppress them. It offers to us as women a context in which we can experience true freedom and maximum fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been casting a vision for the joy and freedom God intended men and women to experience. She’ll be right back to pray.

As you heard today, getting a biblical understanding of roles is crucial. It affects your view of God and the picture you present of God to the world.

That’s why I hope you’ll learn more about this topic and listen to a CD from Nancy called Embracing the Gift of Womanhood.

It’s an overview of our current radio series. We’ll send you a copy when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, and we’ll include a booklet from John Piper called What’s the Difference?

John Piper is a wise scholar and engaging writer, but most importantly, he has a heart for the gospel and the glory of God. This booklet will give you a clear, biblical picture of roles for women and men.

When you donate by phone, ask for What’s the Difference? and Embracing the Gift of Womanhood. The number is 800-569-5959. Or you can order online at

I hope you’re making plans to hear John Piper, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and many other speakers at the True Woman ’08: National Women’s Conference. We want to know what would happen if women returned to God’s purpose for their lives and expressed the beauty and wonder of true womanhood.

What if you were a vital part of advancing that movement in our world? Come and discover God’s grand design for your life at the True Woman ’08: National Women’s Conference. For more details, visit our website.

Agressiveness. Passivity. These both bring danger to a home. Hear how biblical roles get played out in a marriage, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Now, let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Father, I’ve tried in a short time here to simplify something that is complex, and there are many Scriptures that could be brought to bear here, and hours and hours we could spend diving into those Scriptures.

But I pray that by Your Holy Spirit You would open the eyes of our understanding, and more than that, that You would open our hearts to receive what You’re saying here.

Thank You, Lord, that You have ordained for there to be differences, distinctions in the functions of men and women in the home and in the church. Help us to understand what those are, to embrace them, to surrender ourselves to them, and to experience Your blessing as a result in our lives, in our homes, in our relationships, in our churches. As a result, may we be a blessing to our culture, and may we reflect to our world the beauty and the wonder of who You are and of Your great redemptive plan. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.