What Is A Woman? Biblical Womanhood Examined

The following is taken from St. Paul's Monthly Newsletter.  
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What is a woman? This question has been most controversial as of late, and it is a question surrounded by much animosity, politics, and agendas. And so, instead of trying to navigate the political landscape - trying to avoid the many landmines of controversy, it is good, right, and salutary to consult what the Word of God says about women and femininity.  

First, it must be established that the Bible does not necessarily paint a picture of a woman wearing little-house-on-the-prairie or Amish dresses. Sure, the Bible speaks against women having elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, and expensive clothes. However, it is essential to remember that Paul is speaking against the fact that many women dressed this way in the first century for sexual promiscuity and excessive vanity. In other words, Paul is speaking to Christian wives not to dress like loose women of the night or to dress like self-indulged materialistic women who are consumed with the material things of the world. And so the point is; a woman is not necessarily defined by the clothing she chooses to wear. As a member of St. Paul's once said, Amish women wear dresses, but Lutheran women often wear pants and occasionally drink a beer.  

Secondly, it is beneficial to distinguish between sex and characteristics. Male and female are terms that are ascribed to the sex of people. And sex is based on the physiology of a person (i.e., sexual reproductive body parts). However, masculine and feminine characteristics are generally characterized by traits. Some feminine traits are nurturing, affection, sharing, tenderness, patience, yielding, etc. Some masculine traits are defending, forceful, competitive, confidence, provider, sacrificial, etc. And so the point is that generally speaking, masculine traits are ascribed to males, and feminine traits are ascribed to females. However, we must carefully note that males and females can and do possess both traits to different degrees.  

So, what is a woman then? Obviously, a woman can be defined by her physiology; however, this does not describe womanhood.  

One of the best descriptions of womanhood comes to us from a Reformed author named Abigail Dodds. She said that one of the most unique influences of a godly woman is her vocation to 'transform things.' In other words, a woman is to be compared to a crown on the head of her husband in Proverbs 12:4, not because she's a decoration to the husband but instead because she is the thing that makes her good man great. Think about it for a moment; consider what happens when a woman submits herself to another human being.  When a woman places herself at the service of another person in a way to serve, bless, and love them. (Please note that we are not talking about a woman becoming a doormat or a slave to another person but being of loving service to another.)  Yes, consider all the times when you have seen a floundering bachelor transformed into a purposeful man through marriage to a Godly woman. What happened to that young man is that his Godly wife brought the best out of him. You see, the glory of femininity is that women have a way of transforming those around them - those whom they serve. Consider also children - children young and old. In loving service, a woman gives everything for a child in the womb to literally grow a new human being. And consider older children who venture out to attack life. This is only possible because their mother nurtured them throughout their upbringing. Again, as women submit in loving service to those around them, God uses women to take what is useless on its own and shape it into glory. Indeed, Biblical womanhood is not the glory of a woman adorned with gaudy clothing and vain style but rather God using women 'for' glory as they spend their lives investing in their children, husband, neighbors, and co-workers.  

Abigail Dodds uses the illustration of a prism, saying that womanhood is God using women to take light and turn it into an array of tremendous and fuller glory. That is to say, as a small beam of light contains all the colors of a rainbow, as it is put through a prism, the prism radiates all the colors of light so all can see what was already contained in the small beam of light. So it goes with Biblical womanhood. As women in loving service submit to those around them, God uses Biblical womanhood to bring out the vibrant hues in her children, husband, and neighbors for the world to see.  

So when the Bible calls Christians to feed, nourish, train, and love others, Biblical womanhood does not see these as menial tasks that are to be done by a begrudged servant. But instead, Biblical womanhood sees these as great opportunities that God has set out in advance to bring out the glory of those she loves; after all, the woman knows that her Lord Jesus Christ has already set out to love, redeem, and give her His glory. 

What is a woman? A woman is one who receives all good things from Christ and one who submits herself to everyone around herself - not as a doormat - but as a loving servant.   And what is womanhood?  Womanhood is bringing out the glory of others, as the woman willingly and graciously submits to all in need. 

Newsletter Article by: Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard 

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