Last week, I said that we, as believers, have a calling to live like citizens of heaven – as subjects of Almighty God. I also noted that Peter, in the second part of chapter two of his first letter, is explaining to his readers that they are “exiles” (foreigners) in this world and that they need to possess a radically distinct lifestyle, one that causes unbelievers to sit up and take notice of them as citizens of heaven. He begins this new perspective by drawing their attention to the different areas where believers might find themselves, e.g., in the world in general, in the workplace, at home, and in a church environment. We then specifically focused our attention on our submission to the authorities, as well as to our “masters.”
When we look at 1 Pet.3:1-7, we see that Peter now discusses submission in the home.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
1 Pet.3:1-7 (ESV) ~ “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure behaviour. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
To address this topic, I would like us to look at the following points:
- Point of Departure
- Six Truths
- The Fall
- OUR POINT OF DEPARTURE:
If we want to understand the role of men and women correctly, we have to look at Gen.1-3 because if we don’t understand these fundamental truths, our point of departure for discussing this topic would be wrong.
We read in Gen.1:27-28 how Adam (man) and Eve (woman) were individually created ~ “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 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.” Two things in these verses stand out, and we must take note of it:
- God created both man and woman according to His image. Therefore, both man and woman dispose of intellect, personality, emotions, a will that governs their thoughts, decisions, feelings, etc. It is important to note that man was not godly, or a god; he was not holy and almighty and complete or perfect like God. In other words, the man was not without sin like God.
- God blessed both man and woman. Both man and woman, therefore, were co-rulers over the creation
Gen.2 describes the creation of man. Many people see this chapter as the battlefield or warzone for gender differences. But, to understand the rest of the Bible’s teaching on gender, we must have a proper understanding of this chapter. This is the chapter that Christ and His disciples had in mind when they taught marriage and gender differences.
Let us read Gen.2:7 ~ “…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Gen.2:18-23 expands on this and supplies us with even more detail ~ “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ 19 Now out of the ground, the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, ‘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.’” So-called “believing feminists” (also called egalitarians) believe that Gen.2 was Godly inspired, but that this part only promotes equality. They reject the position that this verse forms the basis for the role of the man as head in marriage and the servant role of the wife.
- SIX TRUTHS:
In light of what I’ve just said, it is therefore essential that we must place this part under the magnifying glass, and we will find six truths that Moses emphasised in this paragraph:
- God created Adam as the central figure:
- In the beginning, everything concerning humanity centred around Adam, the man, and the rest (including the woman) were in a supportive role.
- The man received his name from God but not the woman – Gen.5:2 ~ “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.”
- The woman was created from man and not the man from the woman (Gen.2:22).
- The man was the one that gave names to the animals and the woman (Gen.2:19-20).
- The woman was made for the man and brought to him and not the other way round (Gen.2:18, 22).
- It is the man who uttered a theological comment about the woman and her creation and not the other way round (Gen.2:23).
It is crystal clear from this that man was the central figure in the Genesis narrative.
- God created Adam first:
- Even before Eve was created, God placed Adam in the Garden and gave him instructions on how to tend to the Garden (2:15).
- Even before Eve was created, God brought the animals to Adam to give them names (2:19).
- Adam was the one that received the prohibition (not allowed) to not eat from the tree of knowledge and not Eve (2:16-17).
- Adam was the sole representative of all humanity.
The absolute best and complete commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament. Listen to the New Testament comments on Gen.2 ~ “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” (1 Tim.2:12-13). This verse is critical, and you must remember it because I’m going to refer to it more than once in future.
Therefore, it is apparent throughout the New Testament that men are the primary leaders and teachers of the church. This is a primary fact that has also been exhibited historically in the church of Jesus Christ.
Rulers of civilisation throughout the ages were always men. It is only since the beginning of the 20th century that feminism forced governments to appoint women in leadership roles.
In one of his books, Alexander Strauch says: “In the beginning, the Creator shaped the human clay in ‘patriarchal form,’ not in matriarchal or egalitarian form. Adam was the first patriarch.”
- God created the woman from, or out of Adam: God created man and woman wonderfully different. God created… ~ “man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen.2:7). The woman’s creation, on the other hand, originated from the man or was taken out of man (Gen.2:21-23).
Therefore, this event (the woman’s creation) epitomises very clearly the difference in roles given to the man and the woman. The New Testament echoes this fact clearly in 1 Cor.11:8 when Paul quotes from Gen.2:22 when he says ~ “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” The point that Paul makes here is that man is created after God’s image, and he represents God’s glory, while the woman represents the man’s glory. 1 Cor.11:3 also clearly says that the man is the head of the woman ~ “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.”
The doctrine on headship and submission, which we will still get to, is based on Gen.2, while Paul’s doctrine on men and women’s roles is also based on Gen.2.
- God created the woman for Adam: If the first three points have upset the modern woman and the feminists or “egalitarians,” this fourth point will exceed those points in creating fury. Gen.2:18 reads as follows ~ “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (emphasis added). (For our Afrikaans speakers – look how subtle did the translators of the 1983 and 2020 Bible translation translated this verse in such a way that it won’t offend the feminists ~ “Ek sal vir hom iemand maak wat hom kan help, sy gelyke” – do you see the subtle differences?).
God declared that it was not good for man to be alone and therefore made a helper for him that would fit him. Eve was not another man; she was not a clone of Adam, and she was also not a twin of Adam. She was similar, but also different. She had her own biological and emotional features or attributes. She was created to help and assist the man in his calling to fill and rule over the earth – she had to become one with him as a loving friend and helper.
Gen.2:18 is the Bible’s first statement connected to the woman’s role – in short, she had to be a helper for the man. However, this is also the first statement in connection with the role of the man’s headship.
The Hebrew word for “helper” must not necessarily be seen as unfavourable because, in Ps.121, the Psalmist refers to God as Helper of His people ~ “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
As believers, we must never become rebellious about the purpose of our creation because we as men and women must always remember that we must submit to the Lord, and we must do and accept this calling with an attitude of thankfulness and excitement. Through an attitude of submission to our calling and with the right attitude, we glorify Him, and if we do not submit to this creation ordination, we are rebellious and in sin.
The Hebrew word for “fit for him” implies that the woman must be a friend (some translations translate it with “a helpmate”) of the man, or she must be “like him.” These expressions emphasise the beautiful equality of the man and the woman – equal in nature and position in God’s eyes, but different in function and role.
- God permitted Adam to name the woman: Before the Fall, Adam gave his helper her name, namely “Woman.” This was a generic name and not a personal name. It was only after the Fall that Adam called her Eve (Gen.3:20).
It is important to note that the person who gives names to people or things has received the authority and power to do so (Gen.1:5, 8, 10; 2:19, 20). Parents have the authority and capacity to name their children. The child bears that name because he submits to his parents’ authority (a child who changes his name later in life rejects his parents’ authority knowingly and willingly).
The fact that Adam named his wife, emphasises his authoritative role in the couple’s relationship.
- God created man and woman equal in nature and essence: God created a woman from one of Adam’s ribs, indicating equality or likeness regarding their nature and position. That is why Adam said in Gen.2:23 ~ “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” the woman is therefore not a lesser creation like the animals that Adam was busy giving names (2:19, 20). She was taken from his side and thus carried the same image as the man, mainly the image of God.
- THE FALL:
We see in Gen.3 that the man and woman sinned against God. They ignored God’s instruction not to eat of the tree in the middle of the Garden. That led to the Fall. Some of the consequences of the Fall on man were that all humanity would be born in sin and that man will sweat, labour, work, and toil (Gen.3:19). There will be constant conflict between humanity, and all people will eventually die. The Fall also resulted in a deterioration in the relationship between man and woman.
It was not by chance that Satan spoke to the woman and lied to her because he knew that the woman would more readily listen to his lies and deception. That is why Eve acknowledges in Gen.3:13 that Satan deceived her. We also find here the description of man’s rebellion against God during the Fall and the denial of God’s creation ordinances in regards to the roles and function of man and woman.
The first part of the punishment of Eve’s sin started with her role as a mother ~ “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen.3:16a).
Secondly, her punishment applied to the marriage relationship ~ “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Gen3:16b). More specifically, this boils down to the relationship between man and woman and the fact that it has been damaged. As a result of this, women would be utterly frustrated in the marriage relationship. Women, therefore, cannot justify rebellion and women rights, instead they must fulfil their Biblical calling. The calling of God is to be the helper of the husband and acknowledge him as her head. Unmarried women also have the responsibility to submit to leaders in gladness and acknowledge them.
At the same time, however, the man must remember that his role has also been drastically affected by the Fall. The judgment on Adam’s sin is also applicable to his work and function as a provider of his wife and family.
Why does men suffer because of Eve’s sin? Because Adam cooperated with Eve – he stood right next to her when she sinned, and he did not correct her. After all he was the head of the family and eventually head of humanity ~ “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom.5:12).
In summary, we can say that Gen.1 & 2 indicate to us that the man and woman are equal in being and nature, but different in role.
The rest of the Old Testament indicates that all the prominent Old Testament leaders were men: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Saul, Samuel, David, etc. All the priests of Israel were men. All the kings were men except for Athaliah, who took the throne sinfully and violently (see 2 Kings and 2 Chron.). Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and wife of Jeham, king of Judah. After the death of Ahaziah, her son, Athaliah, usurped (or forcefully took) the throne and reigned for seven years. She massacred all members of Judah’s royal house (2 Kings 11:1–3), except Joash. After four years of sinful reign, someone organised a successful revolution favouring Joash, and Athaliah was killed.
Women had and will always play an important role in life. We see in the Word that women prayed directly to God, with remarkable results. Women brought and still bring sacrifices to God and have intimate relationships with Him. In God’s covenant with Abraham, his wife Sarah played a prominent role as well as Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Ruth, and others. Yes, there were sinful situations, as in the case of Tahlia, for instance, but the woman’s primary role has always been and will always be to be a wife for her husband and a mother for her children.
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
After listening, some men might feel superior and that some women got a blow on the chin today. After all, they think that woman, in general, are in sin when it comes to submission to men. But brothers, you must be careful that you are not the one that is in sin. These chapters in Gen.1-3 do not only speak to women, but men are also severely and directly addressed. It addresses the headship of the man. It speaks of his leadership role in marriage and the family. The husband and father must take the lead and not the woman. The man must set the example and take the lead on all spheres of marriage and family life.
Men must lead their families spiritually. The question is, do we as men sett examples to our wives and children when it comes to sacrificial love ? Do we love them sacrificially, especially our wives – “till death do us part”?
Jesus gave His life to us and we as men should follow in His footsteps. Are we willing to suffer for our wife’s and families as Christ suffered for us? Do you pray with your wife? Jesus gave us the example when it comes to praying. We see in John 17 how Jesus interceded for His future bride, the church – us and He is still doing so. He is our High Priest who intercedes with the Father for us. R. Kent Hughes asks in his book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man”: “Men, do you pray for your wives with something more than, ‘Bless old Margaret in all she does. Amen’? If not, you are sinning against
(listen carefully) her and against God.”
Brothers, do you realise that you are responsible for your wife’s sanctification? Part of Gen.1-3 is all about how we as men will one day have to answer to God for our wives’ sanctification.
Gen.1-3 and 1 Pet.3:1-7 are therefore not only about the woman who “must know her place,” but also about men who have a tremendous responsibility.