Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Mary's Example, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Who are you submitting to? Here's Dr. Russell Moore.

Dr. Russell Moore: Most of the women in our churches have a problem not first and foremost with a refusal to submit, but that they are submitting indescriminately.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, December 29, 2015.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Years ago as a young woman starting into ministry, I became convinced, through my study of the Word of God, that as a woman I was called to speak primarily to women and that God calls men to the roles of pastors and elders in the church.

Now, in those early years, while I believed that, there were moments when I was tempted to feel resentful about that. As that twenty-something-year-old woman, I think that there was a little sense inside of me that if I had been born a man, maybe God could use my life in a more significant way for His kingdom.

Well, that’s been a lot of years ago, and since then the Lord has helped me to discover and embrace and delight in His calling in my life, which involves teaching His Word to women. I’ve been challenged over these years to think through a lot of practical issues, such as:

  • How can women serve most effectively in the church?
  • When we embrace our God-given role as women in the body of Christ, what does that look like?
  • What does that mean? 

Well, Dr. Russell Moore addressed some of these questions in a message on Mary of Nazareth. Yesterday, we listened to part one of this practical message. Today as we continue listening, Dr. Moore is going to show us real-life, practical applications of Mary’s story.

Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He’s also an author and a blogger. Now, let’s listen to part two of his message.

Dr. Moore: The problem with most of the women in our churches is not that our women are not submissive enough. The problem is, most of the women in our churches are too submissive. Scripture calls on every Christian to submit in certain areas of life.

Children are to submit to parents, citizens submit to rulers, church members submit to pastors and leaders in the congregation, wives submit to husbands, husbands submit to God and to other leadership God has put around them. Most of the women in our churches have a problem first and foremost with not with submitting, but with submitting indiscriminately.

The Bible, nowhere, calls on women to submit to men generally. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord.” In order for Mary to submit to the Word of God, “Let it be according to your word,” she must refuse to submit to all other sorts of authorities.

Herod says to her, “Deliver over to me your child that I may put him to death.” Mary refuses to submit to Herod. She refuses to submit to Satan. Again, that’s very different from our mother Eve. When an angel of a different sort comes to our mother Eve and starts telling her how she can play a role in the new story that’s being written, she doesn’t ask questions except in terms of her own self-protection.

“God said if we eat that we are going to die.”

“Oh, you won’t really die.”

She doesn’t question that. She submits to an alien power. That is precisely what is going on with the new-believing women we see coming to Christ. Young women and girls are being raised up in our congregations. So many have lived in a pattern in which they assume what it means to be a woman is to be the prey of predatory men.

If you do not teach a biblical understanding of submission, you are not going to see women who are going to be ruling and steamrolling over men (that’s the reason Peter speaks of the women as the weaker vessel)—you are going to see women who are going to be the prey of predatory men.

That’s the reason why the apostle Paul warns about the pattern that takes place within the church of men who will use spiritual authority in order to take captive women who are laid down with lusts—weak-willed women. If you don’t have a woman who has learned and has been rooted in the kind of honor that God has given to her as a women—what it means to refuse to submit to men generally—in order to submit to one’s own husband and to other legitimate authorities—then you are going to have that kind of man, who is going to be able to do this.

This happens all the time. You have a man who will take on certain spiritual sorts of characteristics, precisely because he knows a woman will see that as leadership, and she will follow after that leadership. Then he uses that sort of power in order to use her sexually or in some other sort of way.

Now, the problem is, if you don’t have the sort of congregation who is willing to stand up to that sort of man, then this is going to happen more and more and more. When you have pastors who will simply marry those couples to one another, you’re going to have families and children destroyed.

When you’ve got churches who are not willing to identify this and discipline it, you are going to have women sifted like wheat. But you also have to be working with women themselves, to show them what it means to submit to a husband and not men.

That means, when you are raising up girls—in Sunday school or cell groups or whatever ministries you have to young girls—part of what you’re doing is teaching them to submit to a husband (if God grants them a husband in the future). This means, all along the way they are refusing to submit to other men.

You refuse to submit to other men sexually, you refuse to submit to other men in terms of emotional attachment, you refuse to submit to other men in terms of your value and your worth—in terms of how men view you. You are, instead, looking forward to a different sort of submission. That has to be constantly reinforced within the church, or you will end up with a generally submissive sort of woman. And this what is happening all around.

Why is it that you have a situation where almost every parent of pre-teen boys will say to me (those who allow their kids to have cell phones; I don’t; some people do), “This teenaged boy is constantly being texted by girls.”

I have a friend who says, “I have a thirteen-year-old boy who is playing football. There are girls who will come and gather around him. The sorts of things that they will say to him and the sorts of things that they will offer him and the sorts of things they will send him on Facebook and other social media is absolutely inexplicable.”

Do you know why that happens? It happens not because you have an increasing libido among the female population, it happens because you have girls who see a value and a worth coming from a recognition by males, and they are willing then to do whatever it takes to get that kind of recognition and that kind of worth.

We, instead, have to be teaching and demonstrating, not only the right kind of spiritual submission by wives who are submitting to their husbands, and by church members submitting to their leaders, but also a sort of refusal of any other kind of submission.

That then brings into reality what genuine submission looks like. Again, most of us don’t have a category for that, because we live in the kind of culture in which submission looks like either tyranny, or it looks like arguing, arguing, arguing or fighting and fighting and fighting, until someone finally wins.

“I submit to him,” as though it’s a contract here. “Whenever he loves me as Christ loves me, as Christ loves the church, then I’m going to submit to him.” This is not a contract. Paul is speaking by the Holy Spirit to women saying not, “Submit in the things you agree to.” That’s called agreement.

It means to submit in the things you disagree with. Now, there’s a limit there to that kind of authority—just as there’s a limit to the authority of rulers within a state. So, we have to come in and to help women not to be submissive to husbands who are going to harm them or abuse them or lead them into sin and violating a conscience. 

But we cultivate, typically, a sense of submission and honor to a husband because he is unique among all of the other men that are there. That kind of genuine, heartfelt submission is in contrast to everything else that is around.

When you come to the issue of modesty in the church, typically we present the issue of modesty in terms of lust—and that certainly is part of it. But we see it simply in terms of some kind of moral naughtiness, and you ought to be modest. Well, the problem with that is, that’s not all it is.

When a woman is modest in her apparel and in the way that she relates to men, she is signaling to the rest of the congregation what it means to give herself only to her husband or to her future husband or to the Lord (if she’s single). Also, she sees the kind of spiritual leadership that she has, and she is not going to use the sexual power that God has given to her in her femininity as a weapon to be wielded against the men in the congregation (in terms of stumbling blocks and sin) or against the women in the congregation (in terms of stumbling blocks to envy and division).

Modesty is a right sort of submission to authority, and a refusal to submit to other authorities in and of itself.

And then notice, finally, what you see here is power. When Mary says, “Let it be according to your word . . .” Go on down to Luke 4, and Mary sings a song. It’s not the sort of song that you would expect coming from the stereotype we have of sweet little Mary, wrapped up in her little towel over her head. This is a war-like song.

She starts singing about God’s promises. She starts singing about the defeat of the enemy. She clearly sees the kind of power that God has given to her, because it is through a woman that God is bringing about His promises. What it means to raise up a new generation of women in the church is to understand and to teach and communicate that sense of godly, feminine power.

Typically, what we want to talk about when we talk about women in the church is what women can’t do in the church. That’s an important thing to talk about. Scripture is very clear about that (1 Timothy 2 and other places), but that’s not the whole story. That’s not even the main story.

The issue is, God who has created a humanity both male and the female and God who says in Genesis that the male alone is not good, male and female He created them. So within the household you don’t just have parents. You don’t just have two parents because you need twice the effort. You’ve got both mother and father.

Scripture uses the same language of the church as the household of God. You need both mothers and fathers, you need both brothers and sisters for the church to carry out the mission of Christ.

There is a power that God has invested in women that is unique and that is necessary and that is essential to the thriving and the flourishing of the church. Now, if we don’t teach what that looks like and how that uniquely can be feminine, then what we wind up with is a group of women who are primarily seeking to protect themselves.

They’ll seek to protect themselves in a couple of ways. They’ll protect themselves either with a kind of moving out of the picture to where they’re simply the background for whatever’s going on with the men. Or they’ll protect themselves with a harsh sarcasm and toughness.

You see it all over our culture right now, and it doesn’t matter where—in the cultural spectrum or on the political spectrum. There’s a picture of a woman in our culture who achieves power with a cutting sarcasm and wit through a harsh and brittle sort of public persona.

Why is that case? That’s the case because you have women who are protecting themselves from something. In order to achieve it, they take on those very characteristics God warns about in men of quarrelsomeness, of raising up hands against one another. If you don’t cultivate a right sense of power in a congregation, the women in your congregation are going to take up another form of power that can have devastating consequences . . . upon them, spiritually, and upon the rest of the body of Christ.

Instead, there is something unique here about women that is a power that is rooted, fundamentally, in a freedom from fear. Mary is in a very difficult situation. She is, the Scripture says, a virgin. She is an impoverished first-century Middle Eastern woman in a context where the natural response is for her to abandoned.

And what happens if you are abandoned by the man to whom you are betrothed, in that context? You don’t go back to school and get job training. You are absolutely impoverished, with no hope and no future whatsoever. And that’s exactly what happens when Mary goes to Joseph and she says to him, “I’m pregnant.” His response is, “Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” (laughter)

His response is the same response any man would have in a similar situation. "This means you’re an adulteress," and he cuts off the relationship with her. But Mary knowing all of this (she’s no idiot) says, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

There is reason why when Peter says to women in 1 Peter 3, “Be daughters of Sarah and do not fear that which is frightening.” One of the unique ways that Satan can attack women is through that issue of fear.  Because a woman is created to be a nurturer of new life, she has all sorts of ways in which she is vulnerable. 

Married women, single women, all sorts of women have all sorts of fears that can be present within a congregation: “I’m not married and I’m getting older,” or “I’m grappling with infertility and I’m afraid I’m going to die with no children,” or “How do I know that my husband is not going to do what my dad did to my mom, and walk out?” or “How am I going to manage being a single mom with these kids and I’m working two and three jobs and I don’t have health insurance?”

There are all sorts of fears that are present all over. Part of what it means to minister to one another is reinforcing among women a sense of the sovereign protection of God, a sense of the way that God knows you. He recognizes you. He is following you. Goodness and mercy are chasing you through the gospel so that you are freed from the kind of fear in which you believe that you are out on your own with only a man or a group of men to protect you.

Martha, Jesus’ friend, has this reaction when she encounters Him out in the road after Lazarus has died. She has a fear, and she says, “If you would have been here, he wouldn’t have died.”

Jesus says, “Do you think that he’s going to stay dead?”

And she says, “No, I know that in the day of resurrection, he will rise again.” She’s saying, “In my immediate context, all I have is catastrophe. I know in the way, way, way long run everything’s going to be all right.”

And what does Jesus say? “I am the resurrection.” Now, it’s easy to say, “Well, that would be easy to understand if I was standing there talking to Jesus Christ. That would banish fear in my life.”

Every single week, the women of this congregation gather together with the body of Christ. Jesus says, “Where two or three of you are gathered together, I am in your midst.” Every single week, through the Scriptures, Jesus is speaking to the women of the congregation (and to the men). Every single week Jesus feeds with bread and with wine the women and the men of the congregation, saying, “This is my body that was broken for you; this is my blood that was poured out for you.”

That ought to give a sense of power that keeps us from resorting to the kinds of Satanic power plays that we want to fall into. It’s not stereotypical, I don’t think, to say that men and women because of the different gifts that God’s given them typically fall into different "normal" patterns of sin.

One of the reasons why God is consistently warning men, “Don’t fight and brawl . . .” Sometimes you have women fight and brawl. I’ve been to a funeral before where the mother of the deceased and the ex-wife of the deceased got into a fight right there on the floor of the funeral home. The police had to be called, and there were restraining orders and everything else.

Most of the time that isn’t what happens. God typically warns us in the Scriptures to warn women, particularly, about being busybodies and gossips. Do you have men who are busybodies and gossips? You see that all the time. But there is something about that kind of nurturing relationality within women that when it’s twisted and perverted, can give itself over to gossip and envy and to speaking with words in ways that tear down.

What’s that about? It’s about power! “I am gaining a sense of power because I know something that is going on in the congregation or in the community that you don’t know, so I’m able to speak those things to you in ways that might even sound very, very spiritual.”

“You didn’t hear this from me, and the only reason I’m telling you this is so that you can be praying . . . but you know Tina? What I heard . . .” That’s a power move. It’s a power move from a kind of women who is threatened because she doesn’t see the kind of power God has given her in the gospel, where He is raising her up to be a queen of the universe.

If you give and you teach and you disciple women in the congregation—single women, married women, aged women, young women—in feminine power, then you’re going fight against the kind of Satanic power that comes in. There’s a reason why young girls are often attracted to Wicca, a made-up neo-pagan religion. Wicca gives them a feeling of power.

There’s a reason why so many girls in our culture and girls in our churches are in bondage to anorexia and bulimia—because it gives them a sense of power. “I may not be able to control anything else, but I can control my waist size.” That’s a Satanic form of power.

There’s a reason why so many girls in our culture and our community are exercising this kind of sexual promiscuity over the men around them—it’s because it gives them a sense of power. “I might not be able to do anything else, but I can make you crazy, sexually.” That’s a Satanic form of power.

When we’re evangelizing women and when we’re discipling women and when we’re putting women into places of authority and leadership, we are doing so with a sense of godly feminine power. Sometimes people will think that people like me—who believe that there are certain aspects of the church’s mission that belong only to men—that somehow that means you are misogynistic . . . that you don’t like women or you don’t think women are competent. 

I was speaking one time, and there was a woman pastor in the room, and she didn’t like my views. She got up and during the Q and A time and said, “There are some people in this room who hate women and who are trying to put women down.” She went on with what she was saying. Then she came up to me after and she said, “I was talking about you.”

I said, “I got that, but I don’t hate women at all.”

And she said, “But you don’t think women can be in ministry.”

I said, “Oh, yes I do!”

She said, “Well, you think that all we can do is teach women or children.”

I said, “Okay, let’s diagram that sentence. "All you can do is teach women," that’s less than teaching men. If you teach men, then you’re doing something that’s better than teaching women. There’s a woman-hater in here, but it’s not me.” (laughter) That temptation’s always present because of the kind of situation we’re in.

The same woman pastor said to me, “If I came to you as a teenage girl and said that God was calling me into ministry, you would have told me that I was mistaken.”

I said, “No, I wouldn’t. If you would come to me and tell me God was calling you to be a pastor of a congregation, I would say you’re mistaken based on 1 Timothy chapter 3. But if a young man comes to me and says, 'I believe God’s calling me to work one-on-one in women’s discipleship,' I’m going to tell him from Titus 2, 'You are mistaken about God’s call on your life. You are not qualified to do Titus 2 discipleship of women.'"

There are missions within the church and within the world that only women can do. Only women can do that Titus 2 cultivating and discipleship of the next generation of women. If you don’t have that going on in your church, you are not carrying out the mission that Jesus has given to the church.

Only women can go behind enemy lines in Muslim countries and evangelize Islamic women, who are not even able to talk with men. There are all sorts of things that not only women can do, but that only women can do in the church and within the world. He has given a sense of power as He is cultivating and raising up women to be the queens of the universe.

So when you’re thinking through what it means to have a ministry to women in the church and what it means to evangelize and to disciple women, there’s no cookie cutter. You have to decide: what sorts of women has God put in our church? What sorts of needs do we have? What sorts of gifts do women in our congregation have? But you also have to realize, “Let’s not simply fall back on the stereotypes, and let’s not simply fall on the cultural actions and reactions that are around us.”

Let’s find the kind of picture that our Lord commends and honors in that teenage girl, in an impoverished Middle Eastern place, that God says, “Through you, I will bring the One who will redeem the entire world.”

And when He says this, this blessed, honorable, powerful, submissive woman starts singing war songs.

Nancy: Well, that’s Dr. Russell Moore, talking about a subject that is near and dear to my heart—the importance of women discipling other women. I’m praying that the Lord will raise up many, many women in our day who will have a heart to invest in generations to come. Those who will invest their lives wherever the Lord places them in what really matters.

Before we’re done today, I want to take a moment to talk with you about another kind of investment in the things that really matter. Many of our listeners have responded to Revive Our Hearts’ significant needs. Listeners said, “I see God at work through Revive Our Hearts and I want to invest in what I believe in.” We’re asking the Lord to speak to many more listeners here at the end of 2015. We’re facing a big need and a huge opportunity in these final few days of the month. Some friends of the ministry have offered a challenge—to match each gift given in December up to $820,000. Some have generously given to help meet that match, and I want to say a huge "thank you" for your help. We don’t want to leave any of this match on the table.

In order to enter 2016 in a healthy position, to continue ministry outreaches, and to move forward where we see the Lord working, we’re asking for Him to help us meet that challenge and then surpass it. In these final days of the month, would you ask the Lord how He would want you to get involved? Thanks so much for helping this ministry "for such a time as this!" 

Leslie: To help meet and exceed this matching challenge, call 1–800–569–5959, or visit

I have a question for you, "Why is your family so important? It is! Dannah Gresh will tell you why, tomorrow, here on Revive Our Hearts.

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


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About the Teacher

Russell Moore

Russell Moore

Dr. Moore is a frequent cultural commentator, an ethicist, and theologian. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.