Question: "What is biblical womanhood?"
Answer: Biblical womanhood is the distinguishing character of a woman as defined by the Bible. When God created two genders (Genesis 1:27; 5:2; Matthew 19:4), He also instituted different roles for each gender. He designed the bodies and brains of men and women to work differently and to fulfill complementary roles. A man does not need to act like a woman because he can never be a woman. He can never process information like a woman, because his brain, his DNA, and his entire being are male. The same is true for women trying to be men.
The quest for biblical womanhood begins in the same place that biblical manhood begins. Galatians 3:28 states that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, we have equal value and equal responsibility to obey and serve the Lord. All scriptural commands about surrender (Romans 12:1–2), service (Romans 12:1), and dedication (1 Corinthians 7:33–35) apply equally to men and women.
So the Bible’s instruction for any woman who strives for biblical womanhood begins with her being born again (John 3:3). She must have become a “new creature” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and take seriously Jesus’ words about the need to abide in Him (John 15:1–5). The Word of God must be her final authority in life because, if its authority is not clear to her, then she will become a judge of Scripture rather than letting Scripture judge her. This leads to compromise and eventual moral collapse (see Romans 1:22–25).
One common error in discussing biblical womanhood is to mix cultural stereotypes with scriptural truth. This mistake has kept millions of women from pursuing their dreams and developing their gifts. Many pursuits or careers were considered “for men only,” and women were expected to stay home and keep house. However, biblical womanhood does not mean that every woman must conform to a societal standard of femininity. For some women, embracing their femininity will mean they pursue careers in medicine, construction, or law enforcement because God has gifted them to serve in those areas. For others, raising children and making a home is a fulfillment of their God-given desires.
First Peter 3:3–4 sheds some light on God’s goals for His daughters. Although Peter is speaking specifically to wives, this instruction applies to all women who seek biblical womanhood: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” The Bible does not give similar instructions to men, which reveals God’s understanding of the women He created. He knows that women generally focus more on their outward appearance than most men do. He also knows that the physical beauty of a woman is often exploited, cheapened, and used for selfish ends. So He lets her know that her real beauty is not found there, on the outside. He wants His daughters to dig more deeply to find the reflection of Himself that He placed inside them.
The passage in 1 Peter is not a condemnation of outward beauty but a redirection of focus. A Cover Girl face with a coarse, mean spirit does not draw people for the right reasons (Proverbs 31:30). An attractive appearance quickly loses its appeal to those closest to a woman of poor character. But a woman who walks with God radiates the glory of God to everyone she meets. A woman who models biblical womanhood has a gentle and quiet spirit, but she can also lead a corporation, head a maintenance crew, or discover medical cures. In fact, as she allows the Holy Spirit to control her, God blesses her natural gifting to accomplish even more than she could if she tried to succeed in her own way. When a woman turns her attention to the beauty of her soul, her attractiveness becomes a cause of her exaltation rather than her exploitation. As she focuses on developing kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22), she becomes more like Jesus, whose attractiveness was not outward; yet the world has never produced such beauty (Isaiah 53:2).
Since most women will be wives at some point in their lives, biblical womanhood affects the husband/wife relationship. According to Scripture, the wife’s role is different from the husband’s role, but not inferior. Ephesians 5:22–23 is the passage most often quoted in regard to the wife’s role: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” However, we err when we treat this passage as a stand-alone commandment for women. It is sandwiched between even stronger commands to the church at large. Verse 18 begins this section with, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The rest of the section instructs husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (verse 25). The command for wives is merely a reflection of the attitude that every believer should adopt (Philippians 2:3). When a godly husband loves His wife the way Christ loves the church, a godly wife has little difficulty in submitting to his leadership.
Biblical womanhood is more than a career path or the ability to reproduce and nurture. Because every human being carries a unique facet of God’s own nature (Genesis 1:27), we glorify Him by reflecting that nature to the world. Women can reveal God’s glory in ways unique to their gender, as can men. In this confusing day when gender identity has become a matter of preference, it is vital that those who know and love God and His Word remain grounded in His truth. God designed men to reflect His glory through biblical manhood. He designed women to reflect other aspects of His glory through biblical womanhood. When we all seek to honor Him in every part of our lives, we will live harmoniously, fulfilling complementary roles as we carry out the mission Jesus gave to all of us (Matthew 28:19).