Today, we swim in a sea of arguments around gender identity, expression, roles, and even biological gender that challenge us to be those who think-as-God-thinks on this topic. After all, God made the universe and assigned the meaning and purpose to each “part.” So, on Monday, we continued our series by looking at the first 3 chapters in Genesis with this question in mind: What is gender as male and female?
Objection: What’s the point of this study? I thought that Jesus did away with the Old Testament gender division?
Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It’s true, Galatians 3:28 says what it says but almost any text when taken out of context can seem to mean something other than what the author intended it to mean. For example, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Does “all things” mean any and everything, completely unqualified? If you read “all things” in context, the meaning becomes clear:
Philippians 4:12-13 – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul has learned his “secret of contentment” in every circumstance. The meaning of this, and any passage must be understood within the meaning of the immediate context as well as the larger context of the entire Bible. The same is true for Galatians 3:28. As we shall see, the Bible has much to say how our gender goes to the core of our deepest being, purpose, role, and identity as humans.
In the beginning, God created everything and assigned a purpose and role to each part of his physical universe. For example, in Gen 1:14-15 God makes the sun, moon, and stars as lights to mark the seasons, days and years for the people he is going to create on day 6. They weren’t created with the purpose of drawing pictures of big dippers in the sky. Each member of his universe is infused with his meaning and purpose.
In Gen 1:26-30 we find the climax of God’s creation, Man – as male and female. The only creation made in the image and likeness of God with dominion over the entire earth.
Image of God
- In Man, God created the type of being that the Glory of God could dwell in and take the nature of – without losing anything divine. Jesus did this in the incarnation (see John 1).
- Part of what God’s doing in 1:26-27 is showing that his image in man is in the binary Male & Female.
- It doesn’t mean you can’t have the gift of singleness while bearing the full image of God (see 1 Cor 7 or Matt 19). Jesus as a single man is the full image of the invisible God.
- Gen 5:1-4 – This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
- Because we’re made in the image of God, God requires our life (literally, our lifeblood) for murdering another whom God created in his own image (Gen 9:5-6). It’s also a reason why we talk nice to each other (James 3:8-9).
- Those to whom God gave his image are given the mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion (rule) over the entire earth.
From the dust of the earth, God forms the frame of Adam but he wasn’t a living being yet. Then, breathes the breath of God into Adam and his eyes open. Adam now has a living soul, receives from God the blessing to eat from any tree except the tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil but there’s something missing. He needs a helper.
Roles & Authority
Our gender roles have been created by God but corrupted by the fall. The Bible doesn’t know unlimited and unqualified authority since true authority is for the benefit of others without regard for oneself. Our problem is that we have been utterly corrupted by sin and many individuals who have had absolute authority have served themselves rather than God and the benefit of others. Authority didn’t come from the fall, tyranny did.
Here are some observations about our roles as male and female.
- Created to work, keep the garden, as well as to keep the command of God to not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam doesn’t yet know (before Eve was created) that he lacked anything. God purposefully waits to create woman by parading the animals in front of him to instruct Adam and show Adam God’s purposes for him.
- There’s a certain way to act “like a man” that even the New Testament understands (see 1 Cor 16:13).
- Created as a helper (fit for him)
- She brings a companionship on his level. Before Eve, he could try to hang out with Mr. or Mrs. Hippo but it was on the level of a hippo – rolling around in the mud and eating grass. With woman, it’s perfectly on Adam’s level!
- WOOO-Man! – Adam names her and describes why, for she was taken out of man (his side). There’s obvious excitement from Adam because he now has a spiritual equal (bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh) and names her woman.
- There’s a here regarding the person of Eve, the first woman. She is his equal, yet his helper. She’s made from the man (her equality) and for the man (her inequality). This created order of male first, female second, can’t be reversed into man from woman and man for woman and has meaning in the order of creation (see headship and submission below).
- Eve is Adam’s spiritual equal because she’s:
- Unlike the animals in her soul (personality)
- Made out of Adam’s side (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh)
- Had the same kind of spirit God gave Adam
Gen 2:24 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This single verse points us to the meaning and purpose of marriage. Marriage is the institution, relationship, and re-union of the creation (what was once one flesh) by becoming one flesh again. In Eph 5:28-9, we read: In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…“
It’s important to understand that the union between a husband and his wife is becoming one flesh (not spirit). It’s not the inner person that was two, becoming “one heart” or “one mind”. Rather, marriage is the reuniting of the original separation in creation through the physical consummation of marriage. What you unite your physical body with sexually, you make yourself one body with them.
1 Cor 6:15-17 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”
Headship and Submission
The Christian Life is a life of submission. Scripture is full of verses to submit to masters (bosses), parents, husbands, wives, each other, government, elders/pastors/teachers, and ultimately – God. For wives, submit to your husbands is just one example of an entire life submitted to God.
Also, don’t let the sin of male domination and abuse cause you to react to what’s taught in scripture. Typically, there are 4 sins from male “leaders” that cause an adverse reaction against headship & submission: selfishness, irresponsibility, passivity, and abuse.
Some say that subordination = denigration and equality = indistinguishability. Yet, there is so much great and godly leadership and authority that exists without making everything into oppressive slavery or some non-specific role that’s based on mere aptitude or a cultural norm. We must look to God as our model for headship and submission. Here’s a great passage out of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (p.92-93):
Within the Holy Trinity the Father leads, the Son submits to Him, and the Spirit submits to both (the Economic Trinity). But it is also true that the three Persons are fully equal in divinity, power, and glory (the Ontological Trinity). The Son submits, but not because He is God, Jr., an inferior deity. The ranking within the Godhead is a part of the sublime beauty and logic of true deity. And if our Creator exists in this manner, should we be surprised and offended if His creaturely analog on earth exists in paradoxical form?
Here are a few things to note regarding headship and submission as it relates to God as Trinity.
- The Trinity acts with headship and submission.
- In creation, we bear that image and likeness.
- Headship is based in the nature of God:
- 1 Cor 11:3 – But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
- Headship was given to Adam by God to bear the role of “head” within his marriage.
- 1 Cor 11:8-9 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
Although we can’t exhaust the topic of headship and submission in this study, know that not all men don’t have unqualified authority as heads over women. This is within the limits of marriage between as man and a woman. See 1 Peter 3 for more.
This passage is critical to understanding why our relationships are so horrible and the harmonious and complementary design between man and woman aren’t as we read in Genesis 1 and 2.
In Genesis 3, Eve didn’t know there was a problem (because there wasn’t!) with creation, her role, and her status of perfect-human in the image and likeness of God until the serpent asks her a question in order to contradict God and deceive her into sin. Before the serpent’s question, the Tree of Life was in the center of her reality. After, the forbidden tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is the only thing she sees and the Tree of Life isn’t even mentioned. This is conjecture but it may be telling.
We don’t have the layout of the garden because it isn’t given to us. Yet, we do know the nature of God and his goodness. Most likely, Adam and Eve didn’t have to swat the branches of forbidden fruit away like overgrown vines on your house, as they walked out their front door every day. It was probably tucked away, maybe even smaller compared to the tree of life, and not something they had to trip over as they lived their life out in the garden. But, as the serpent asks this question, Eve’s focus on the forbidden tree makes the tree seem larger and more prominent than it really is.
Eve’s loyalty turned from God and Adam and turns to herself and the serpent. Here are some of the sins to note and a few observations:
- Eve’s obedience turns to the creation rather than the creator
- Eve’s rebellion against God’s command
- Eve’s usurping headship by leading Adam into sin
- Adam, who was WITH HER, stands by PASSIVELY – allowing her to be deceived without correcting her, rebuking satan, and intervening.
- Adam forsook his responsibility – a gender role reversal
- In Romans 5:12-21, Adam is to blame for the sin of humanity, not Eve, because he is the “federal head” of humanity.
- Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
- Responsibility is demanded of Adam with this question. (p.37)
- Adam’s asked first because he is the one to give an account for the moral life of the family in submission to God’s command of obedience.
- Both are relational and correspond to her role in creation to Adam & God.
- Pain in childbearing & delivery
- New desire for her husband [to rule over]
- But he will rule over you
- There is a very striking parallel passage in Genesis 4:7 that uses the same word to mean “dominate” or to “master.”
- Curse is related to his purpose of working (work is not punishment or from the curse, the frustration in work is through thorns, thistles and sweat.)
- Because you listened to your wife and ate…
- Adam abandoned his headship
- This moral failure was part of his ruin
- Cursed is the ground because of you
- Eat only though painful toil all the days of your life (without relief)
- It will produce thorns and thistles (frustration)
- Eat plants of field (not trees of garden that God had originally provided for food)
- Sweat to eat *until* you return to the ground, from which you were taken. (death enters humanity)