As taught by Timothy O'Day.
In this lesson, we see that...
Men and women are both created in the image of God
Men and women are similar but different from each other
Marriage is instituted and defined by God
There is an order to the home and the church concerning the roles of men and women.
Created Male and Female:
The Role of Men and Women in the Home and the Church
#3 in a series on the Doctrine of Man, Sin, and the Person of Christ
We live in a time of great confusion in regard to the issues of manhood and womanhood. As we try to sort out these issues, it is good for us to begin with the basics that we do know from Scripture. We could summarize it as this: God created us male and female not so that we could be interchangeable but so that we would be interdependent.
Let’s walk through some pertinent teaching on this issue.
Men and women are both created in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26-27 makes this perfectly clear, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
What we need to note immediately on this is how the Bible corrects an error that was outstanding among most people, namely that women were inferior to men. What we see clearly in Genesis 1 is that the women are just as much created in the image of God as men are.
We should not fall into the error, then, that sees women (or men for that matter) as being lesser than the other. You cannot argue that men are better or that women are better in an overall sense. Men are made in the image of God and so are women. In the sense of human nature, then, each is equal with the other and fully a person. Each has a body and soul.
Second, men and women are similar but are different from each other
Genesis 1 is important in showing us the equality of men and women as they are both made in the image of God, but we begin to see differences between men and women as we look at Genesis 2. That humanity is the unique crown and aim of creation is clear in several ways, one of which is that Genesis 2 zooms in on what is stated in Genesis 1:26-27. Genesis 1 states that humanity was created and Genesis 2 takes a closer look at how humanity was created. What do we see in this chapter?
Adam is made first and from the dust of the ground (2:7). After he is placed in the Garden, he is given authority to name the animals. Often we can read this and think that Adam is given a fun game to play, but naming the animals was an exercise of the dominion given to him by God. It is telling that this happens before Eve is created. Adam is given and exercises dominion over creation before the creation of Eve. And even names Eve twice. When he first sees her he says she will be called woman (2:23) and, after the Fall and receiving the promise that one will come from the women who will crush the serpent, he names her Eve (3:20). Adam’s naming of her is not to say that she isn’t an image bearer. It is saying that he uniquely holds a place of authority over her.
Eve was made from Adam’s side (2:21-22). This happens after Adam names all of the animals and does not find one among them that is a suitable helper for him. This is to say that in seeing all of the animals, Adam realizes that there is not a match for him. For the male tiger there is the female tiger; for the male elephant there is the female elephant, but for Adam there is no one like him and for him (2:20). So God put Adam into a deep sleep and took from his side what he used to form the woman for him. Eve was not taken from Adam’s head because she was not to rule over him; nor was she taken from his feet so that she would be crushed by him. She was taken from his side so that she may stand by him as his helper.
Adam’s reaction of seeing Eve is recorded in Genesis 2:23, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” His reaction says it all: she is the same as him, yet she is also different. She is a complement to him.
Remember the task given to humanity in Genesis 1:28? “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Humanity is given the charge of filling the earth and subduing it. Adam, in looking at all of the animals, becomes keenly aware that he cannot fill the earth and subdue it all on his own. There is no helper fit for him. When he sees the women, he knows that she is different in a way that fits with him.
Additionally, Genesis 2:15-17 says “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Notice that Adam is given the task of protecting the garden. This is why, after Adam and Eve sinned, God questions Adam about what he had done (3:8-13). That Adam holds this place of authority is made particularly clear in Romans 5 where we are told that sin entered the world, and death through sin, by Adam and not by Eve. Eve, as she was created from Adam, was an extension of him and act on his behalf and under his authority and headship.
From this we can clearly see that men and women are different and this difference is good, just as God declared it to be in Genesis 1:31. And this difference is necessary in order to do what God has told us to do.
The concept that men and women are different in a way that is good and complementary is despised by many in our day and age. There is prevalent thinking that in order for women to be free and to have value, then they must be identical with men. With this thinking radical contraception and abortion are seen as necessary.
But the message of the Bible is not that the differences between men and women are to be erased. Rather, they are to be embraced.
What are these differences? They are not just biological differences. Yet, it is not easy to make a list of the differences between men and women. There are things, however, that are generally true. John Piper has a good statement on how to think about the differences between men and women. He writes,
“When someone asks if women are weaker than men, or smarter than men, or more easily frightened than men, or something like that, perhaps the best way to answer is this: women are weaker in some ways and men are weaker in some ways; women are smarter in some ways and men are smarter in some ways; women are more easily frightened in some circumstances and men are more easily frightened in others. It is dangerous to put negative values on the so-called weaknesses that each of us has. God intends for all the “weaknesses” that characteristically belong to man to call forth and highlight woman’s strengths. And God intends for all the “weaknesses” that characteristically belong to woman to call forth and highlight man’s strengths….Boasting in either sex as superior to the other is folly. Men and women, as God created us, are different in hundreds of ways. Being created equally in the image of God means at least this: that when the so-called weakness and strength columns for manhood and for womanhood are added up, the value at the bottom is going to be the same for each. And when you take those two columns and put them on top of each other, God intends them to be the perfect complement to each other.”
Third, marriage is created and defined by God
Marriage is not invented by men but created by God as he creates Adam and Eve. As such, we see that marriage is between one man and one woman. One man and one woman (Genesis 2). Jesus affirms this in Matthew 19 when, in being questioned about divorce, he stresses that marriage consists of two people becoming one flesh, quoting what we see in Genesis 2:24 (Matthew 19:6).
Marriage is also only between a man and a woman because marriage is the rejoining of a complementary pair. That is to say, the two become one flesh because they came from one flesh. When Adam saw Eve and took her as his wife, it was in a way a reunion. He was rendered complete by taking her to himself.
Now, just a brief comment on this statement of Adam being complete. One does not need to be married in order to be complete. It isn’t as if Adam or Eve were not in the image of God without the other. We are fully human without marriage. Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, never had an earthly marriage. What we see in Genesis 2 is that marriage is the joining together of complements. Adam and Eve are both complete persons and in that sense do not lack. But in order to join together you must be paired with one that is different from you and complements you where you lack. In creation we see that this means joining in marriage is not merely restricted to a man and a woman but is actually only possible between a man and a woman.
Fourth, there is an order to the home and the church concerning the roles of men and women.
God gives particular roles to men in the church and in the home and he gives particular roles to women in the church and in the home. And these roles are not arbitrary. Kevin DeYoung gives the helpful illustration in this regard. He says that most people think of roles as something arbitrarily assigned. It would be like someone having two basketballs. One is reserved fro playing basketball on an indoor court and the other is used for playing on outdoor courts. But at the end of the day the balls are just the same. The difference is how they are assigned to be used. But this is not what the Bible teaches about roles in the church and in marriage. “But,” he writes, “supposed you have a basketball and an American football. They are similar things, used toward similar ends. You could even attempt to use the two balls interchangeably. But the attempt would prove awkward, and in the long run the game would change if you kept shooting free throws with a football or kept trying to execute a run-pass option with a basketball. The rules for each ball are not arbitrary. They are rooted in the different structure, shape, and purpose of each ball. It’s not the nature of a basketball to be used in football. In other words, the rules are rooted in nature.”
And this nature has a point: the glory of God. When we spoke about the image of God, we noted that we are the image of God and as such have the role of reflecting the glory of God into creation. While we each can do that individually, God also created marriage to reflect his glory by being a display of Christ and the church.
In Ephesians 5 we see that this is the ultimate point of marriage (there are other goals accomplished as well) and that it is accomplished by husbands and wives playing particular roles within the marriage. Let’s read Ephesians 5:22-33
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”
What do we see in this passage?
Marriage is not an afterthought or a random occurrence: it is meant to display the beauty of Christ and the church. God carefully crafted the institution of marriage from the very beginning in order to display the beauty of the gospel by giving us an ever present visual of how Christ relates to his church.
Men and women have specific roles because the marriage relationship is supposed to paint a specific picture. Husbands are to display who Christ is in the way that they lead, love, sacrifice, care for, and spiritually labor over their wives. Wives play the part of displaying how the church responds to the love of Christ by obeying and honoring her husband.
If you are married, I cannot stress to you how important this passage is for comprehending the sacredness of your marriage. Husbands, your primary motivation to love your wive is not whether or not she is lovely. Your primary motivation should flow from your love and desire to honor your Lord. When someone says, “How does Christ love his church?” people should be able to point to us husbands and say, “The way he loves his wife.”
Wives, your primary motivation to submit and honor your husbands is not whether ornate he is particularly wise or honorable. Your primary motivation should flow from your love and desire to honor your Lord. When someone says, “how should the church honor and obey her Lord?” People should be able to point to you and say, “the way she honors and obeys her husband.”
But that this is a difficult idea is made clear by how some people want to interpret this text. Some look at this passage and point to verse 21, which reads “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and say that this entire passage is about mutual submission. Mutual submission is the idea that marriage consists of the husband submitting to the wife just as much as the wife submitting to the husband. Verse 22 is just giving an idea of what this could look like.
Is there merit to this reading? No, there isn’t. And that there isn’t merit to this reading becomes clear from the context of the passage. Verse 21 is the overarching statement in that we are to submit to one another. But what starts in verse 22 is an explanation of what this submission looks like. That it isn’t mutual is made clear by the other relationships mentioned. As we keep reading Ephesians we get to 6:1, which says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Then, in 6:5, we read, “bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ.” The idea is not that parents and children should practice mutual submission or that slaves and masters are to practice mutual submission. The flow of the argument works like this: in verse 21, there is a call to submit to one another. The logical question to ask is, “what does that look like?” The answer to that question is what you see in 5:22-6:5. Wives, submit to husbands; children, submit to parents; slaves, submit to masters.” The flow of the argument does not fit the idea of mutual submission but rather three arenas of submission.
Additionally, we can add that Paul links specific roles to husbands and wives because they will specific model Christ and the church through these roles. That is to say, Paul isn’t saying that marriage should somehow display Christ and the church but it doesn’t matter who does what. He is specific in tying one role to the husband and the other to the wife.
The Roles of Men and Women in the Church
But there this isn’t limited to just the home. Scripture teaches us that men and women have roles in the church as well.
We see this particularly clearly in 1 Timothy 2:11-15
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”
These verses tell us that there is a certain role in the church that men are to have and women are not to have, namely the role of teaching and exercising authority. This is why the office of pastor, which is outlined in the next chapter of 1 Timothy, is only open to men who meet the qualifications for it. Women, however, are not to hold positions of authority—which is what is meant by “learning quietly,” not meaning that they must be completely silent (cf. 1 Corinthians 11).
As we read this, we could ask, “Why?” First off, we can rule out the idea that the office of pastor is only open to men because women are inferior to men. Likewise, it is not because men are more competent than women. Some look at verse 14 and say that Eve was deceived because women are more gullible than men. This reasoning would not make sense because, as we know from Genesis 3, Adam was deceived. The only way we can that he wasn’t deceived is if he ate the fruit knowing full well that the serpent wasn’t lying.
So what does Paul mean? Earlier I was pointing to the significant that Adam was created before Eve. One reason I pointed this out is because Paul stresses this reality as well. Paul roots the reason that the pastoral office is for men only in the fact that Adam was formed first (see verse 13). Understanding that Paul sees that there is an order in creation is important for understanding verse 14. Verse 14 is not saying that Eve was deceive whereas Adam was not. Rather, it is stressing the fact that the serpent approached Eve. The goal of the serpent in the garden was to overthrow God’s creational order. Adam was to rule, subdue, fill, and take dominion of the earth. Eve was given to him so that he may complete this task of ruling over creation. In approaching Eve, the serpent sought (successfully) to overturn the creational order. Have you ever noticed what God said to Adam before he pronounced the curse that was coming on him for his sin? Genesis 3:17, “And to Adam he said, “because you have listened to the voice of your wife…” He was not directly deceived by the voice of his serpent, but he disobeyed by failing to lead and protect his wife.
So the picture is this: The serpent approaches Eve. Adam, the leader and protect of God’s creation, stands by and does nothing. He allows God’s word to be questioned and thrown aside. The serpent approached Eve not because she was more gullible. He approached her because he wanted to overturn God’s created order and so dishonor and destroy God’s creation. The creature, which is under the dominion of Adam and Eve, goes to Eve, who is under the authority of Adam, and gets her to lead her husbands and gets her husband to follow her.
And it is this line of thinking that also helps us make sense of what is meant in verse 15. This is not saying that all women must have children. Rather, Paul is picking out one task that is specifically unique to women. Men do not and cannot get pregnant. Men do not and cannot carry a child and deliver it. Paul is saying in verse 15, then, that the way forward for women of faith is to not seek after roles that are not theirs. Rather they are to submit to the creational order and walk in the role designated by God for them. It isn’t a lesser role even if the world, caught in the power of the prince of the air, is screaming at you that it is. Instead of throwing off this role, you should embrace it.