I have written a series of articles on a problem I perceive in women’s ministries that I am working to figure out for myself. Most of the articles are listed under the side bar of “Posts That Struck a Nerve.” And they did strike a nerve. I consistently get the most comments of any post when I deal with the disconnect between grace-based, Sola Scriptura, theologically sound groups and what plays out in the women’s ministries associated with them (and the books they write).
I’m currently rereading one of the favorite books on women’s roles in the church and home in conservative, reformed circles. I think I have figured out the foundational problem. I just wanted to read this famous author’s words one more time to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And sure enough, it was clear as day. It’s basic. It’s elementary. And it’s the massive, gaping hole in every women’s book I’ve read. It’s the gospel.
(Disclaimer – I haven’t read EVERY women’s book. And I don’t pretend to be the only woman to whom this has occurred. So if you know a women’s book that DOES center on the gospel, feel free to share it in the comments.)
The book I’m rereading now was the women’s “manual” at a mega church I attended. And it is oppressive to read. The author gives a number of good suggestions and helpful principles. But the problem is that I. Can’t. Do. Them. And she gives me no instruction except, “Do them.” She doesn’t equip me to bridge the gulf between what I am by nature (deserving of God’s wrath – Ephesians 2:1-10) and the ideal she sets up. Perhaps you might say, “But she’s writing to believers. You’re equipped now to obey.” But I ask you, HOW am I equipped to obey? Do you really think that all it takes is telling a Christian, “Do this,” and they therefore can and will do it? That is naïve! That ignores how Scripture says we change. Scripture is clear – we do not change by being told rules or trying to conform to rules (Galatians 3). Nobody changes that way. But HOW do we change? HOW do we obey?
In the midst of pondering all this, I realized that my journaling Bible has no notes in the book of Romans. Apparently, I haven’t read through Romans in a very long time. So I read Romans 1 yesterday and today. And it was clear.
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith (or beginning and ending in faith), as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The ESV has an interesting note on the last phrase. It could also be translated, “The one who by faith is righteous shall live.” I like meditating on both the traditional and alternate wording of it. Any hope we have of understanding God’s righteousness begins and ends in faith. And faith is the key to living in righteousness.
I have often thought of the phrase, “The righteous shall live by faith,” in the context of trial or suffering. I am only just learning to think of it in term of daily struggle with sin. But Romans 1:17 says it’s how we LIVE. It’s every moment of every day. It’s the good times, it’s the struggles. It’s when we sin, and it’s when we are sinned against. We live it by faith — our confident expectation of all this gospel promises to us. It is the POWER by which we LIVE.
And it’s the power by which I live as a woman. In light of the curse that clearly outlines suffering and abuse of women in our depraved world. With all the seemingly oppressive things Scripture says to women. When I’m trying to help, submit to, or respect a fallen man. When I’m trying to submit to fallen church leadership. When I’m faced with raising fallen children in a fallen world. Because I’m a fallen single, widow, wife, mom, divorcee, cancer survivor, abuse victim, unemployed sole provider, or what have you. Every day begins and ends in faith. Don’t embrace rules and lists. Preach the gospel to yourself! By faith and faith alone, you will be righteous. By faith and faith alone, I can embrace and obey God’s instructions particular to women. It’s the only way for the righteous to LIVE.