This is Part 2 of a series of posts answering a multi-part question asked of me on another blog. Read my introductory post to the series here.
In the last post we saw that men and women were both created as image bearers of God. The sexes share an equality of nature and value. But does that mean that God intended them to have the same responsibilities? Or did God intend for each gender to have a unique set of responsibilities that would in no way devalue either of them?
We saw this equality of being established in Genesis 1:27. If we take another look at the creation story in chapters 1 and 2, we’ll notice something significant. Adam was given a leadership role from the start. In Genesis chapter 2 we read the detailed history of the creation mankind. We’re told that he first created man, Adam, and placed him in the garden with a job to do. Adam’s job was to be a kind of park ranger, or forester. He was to tend to the garden. But the Lord gave Adam specific instructions about one of the trees present in 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. ~ Genesis 2:17
Now the thing is, this command was given before God had created woman. The very next verse, Genesis 2:18, tells of the search for a fitting companion for Adam, and the subsequent creation of Eve.
After the creation of woman, the first marriage takes place and notice the pattern that is set in Genesis 2:24.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
The man is to initiate by leaving the comfort of his own family to start a new one. The woman is not given that same responsibility.
In the very next chapter, Genesis 3, we read the account of the Fall. This is where our first parents disobey the one and only commandment then given. They eat of the tree. When God confronts them about it, he first comes to Adam and asks him about the tree.
…Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? ~ Genesis 3:11
Adam, sadly, passes the buck and doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions. He points the finger at Eve. But the fact remains, God gave that command to Adam, and expected him to relay it on to Eve. When God is announcing the consequences of their sinful actions, he says to Adam
…Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’…
You see, God held Adam responsible. He expected Adam to act as a leader in his family. Adam is at fault because he was listening when he should have been leading, and that is exactly what Satan wanted. Why do you think Satan approached Eve instead of Adam? Because that is exactly the opposite of God’s intended arrangement. Satan drew Eve into the conversation and now she’s leading, not Adam.
Some might argue that the order of creation isn’t important. After all, God created the animals first and then man, so are the animals to lead man? Not at all! God specifically gave mankind the responsibility of dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:28. And throughout the OT we don’t see God’s people giving the birthright to their livestock, but to the firstborn son. Secondly, and more importantly, the Apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, felt that the order of creation was important in 1 Timothy 2:13. That verse will be given more attention in another post.
The difficulty most people have with the idea that God created men to lead, is sin. Manliness has been tainted with sin since the first couple. Womanliness has been tainted with sin since the first couple. Man has abused his role and responsibilities in his pride, and people look at this and say “It is not good for men to be leaders and women to be followers.” It’s easy to see this abuse by men because it manifests itself in violence, abuse, belittling and control. What we often ignore is sinful way in which the role of woman has also been abused.
After the Fall, when God comes and questions Adam and then Eve, He goes on to announce the consequences of their actions in the form of the curse. Look at what he says to Eve in Genesis 3:16.
…Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Now what does God mean by this? Is he talking about physical desire? I don’t think so. If we look at the next chapter, we’ll see a similar statement made that should give us insight into the meaning of this phrase. God is talking to Cain and He tells him
…sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it. ~ Genesis 4:7
Notice the similarity between this verse and Genesis 3:16. What is the nature of sin’s desire for Cain? It desires to rule him, to overpower him and make him a slave. So when God tells Eve that her “desire shall be for your husband,” what He’s saying is that in her sin, she will desire to rule over her husband. To usurp his place as leader. But that in his sin, he will “rule” over her. Ruling was not the role God had given to Adam, leading was. So both sexes twist the nature of the relationship due to sin.
Like I said, it’s easy to see men abusing their leadership role and turning it into ruling, but sometimes we don’t see, or choose to ignore, the ways in which women (in general) can act out the curse of Genesis 3:16. Allow me to quote Pastor John Piper on the subject.
As a rule men have more brute strength than women and so they can rape and abuse and threaten and sit around and snap their finger. It’s fashionable to say those sorts of things today. But it’s just as true that women are sinners. We are in God’s image, male and female; and we are depraved, male and female. Women may not have as much brute strength as men, but she knows ways to subdue him. She can very often run circles around him with her words and where her words fail, she knows the weakness of his lust.
If you have any doubts about the power of sinful woman to control sinful man, just reflect for a moment on the number one marketing force in the world—the female body. She can sell anything because she knows the universal weakness of man and how to control him with it. The exploitation of women by sinful men is conspicuous because it is often harsh and violent. But a moment’s reflection will show you that the exploitation of men by sinful women is just as pervasive in our society. The difference is that our sinful society sanctions the one perversity and not the other. (There are societies that do just the opposite.)
I think that the marketing of female sexuality is exploitative of both sexes. But Piper is right that our society condones the manifestation of the first part of the gender role twisting in Genesis 3:16. Manliness isn’t a word we use much these days in America. It’s actually become a kind of dirty word. We are told to strive for a ‘gender neutral’ society.
Harvard University Professor of Government, Harvey Mansfield had this to say on the subject of gender neutrality.
Because there are no gender-neutral human beings, the gender-neutral society cannot simply let nature take its course: take off the pressure to be your sex, one might think, and both sexes will relax, everyone will become gender-neutral. This will not work; pressure in favor of gender neutrality needs to be applied.
I’ll recommend his book to anyone interested in the subject from a secular viewpoint. But Mansfield’s point remains valid, nature itself tells us there are differences between the sexes.
As Christians, our goal is to understand those differences and determine what God’s intentions for each gender are.
Throughout the Scripture there are examples where men are told to act like men. God tells Job twice (Job 38:3, 40:7), David tells Solomon (1 Kings 2:2), and more to the point, Paul tells us.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. ~ 1 Corinthians 16:13
Paul gives us a blueprint here of what Biblical manliness is all about. Acting like men involves watchfulness, standing firm in the faith, and being strong. Lest anyone mistake me, this has nothing to do with physical strength, and everything to do with spiritual strength. Manliness is not about drinking beer, playing/watching sports, driving a truck, or being able to out arm wrestle your wife.
Being watchful implies that you are awake, alert and attentive. This is speaking to our responsibility as men to protect our families (biological and spiritual). Sometimes that might mean protecting them physically, but more importantly, protecting them spiritually. We are to be on the alert, looking for whatever harm might come their way, and heading it off.
stand firm in the faith
This is the perfect tense of the same word Paul uses repetitively in Ephesians 6 when talking about the armor of God. It’s a military term that means we are not to give up any ground. We are to make a stand and defend our territory. And remember who the enemy is that we are to take this stand against.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12
act like men
This is the only place in the entire NT that this greek word is used. The root it is taken from is most often translated ‘men’ or ‘husband(s)’ and means ‘a man.’ This particular word means exactly what the ESV has translated is as, ‘act like men.’
This could be literally translated as: become strong, or strengthen yourself, or increase in strength. The idea here is for us not to work out our spiritual muscles so as to increase in godliness. The idea is very similar to the instruction Paul give Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6-10, and is summed up in this one phrase.
train yourself for godliness
This is what it means to be a man. This is what biblical manliness looks like. That we are watchful, protecting those under our care; that we are prepared for battle spiritually and not willing to compromise one inch of ground in the faith; and that we are continually training ourselves for godliness.
Much more could be said on this topic using other verses where Paul specifically addresses husbands, fathers, and leaders, but this post is long enough already. I’ll take a look at how the Bible defines the roles men are to play in the family and in the church, in a future post. For now, I want to close with this one last observation.
1 Corinthians 16:13 is followed without pause by verse 14.
Let all that you do be done in love.
Let us keep this in mind. All that we do as men of God should come from a heart motivated by love for God and our fellow image bearers. Without this, we are nothing, certainly not men!