Thoughts to Ponder

Gender Roles

I know that many people will disagree with what I am going to say in this article, but what is biblical and therefore what is right in God's eyes has nothing to do with what we like or what we want to be true, what matters is what God has said. So in this article as in all my articles I will lean on God's word and try to explain my understanding of that word. If you think I am taking things out of context then I urge you to look up the passages and read them in their entirety for yourself.

It is very popular today to claim that there is no difference between men and women and that there should be no difference in the role of the two genders in church or families. People will even quote the Bible to try to make this point. They often use this passage to do just that:

Galatians 3:26-29 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. [27] For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. [28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [29] And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise. [NASB-U]

The problem is that they use this passage to claim that there is no gender difference on this earth, but that is not what the passage is speaking about. Nor is the passage speaking about there no longer being Jews or Gentiles. What Paul is saying is that spiritually there is no difference between a Jew and a Gentile if they both believe in Jesus Christ. There is no spiritual difference between a free man and a slave if they both believe in Jesus Christ. There is no difference spiritually between a man and a woman if they both believe in Jesus Christ. Looking from eternity's perspective there is no difference. But you don't have to look very far to know that Paul did maintain that there were still differences between Jews and Gentiles for example:

Romans 3:1-2 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? [2] Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. [NIV]

So if Paul meant that on this earth there were no longer any Jews or Gentiles, but we were all the same, he would not have written this passage. This is the problem people run into when they try to use one or two passages as proof texts without looking at the whole of what God's word says.

I wanted to address that right up front, because I was sure I would be sent that passage as proof that my view is wrong. So now, let's get into the meat of this issue. Is there a difference between men and women when it comes to God's view of us in this life?

Nothing I say in this article should be construed to mean that God looks on men and women and places different values on them, that is not what I am trying to show. What I am trying to show is that God made men and women differently for different roles.

There can be a debate as to whether God created men and women for different positions or whether those positions came about because of the fall, but it does not take long to see the different roles and positions if you are willing to look.

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." [NASB-U]

Adam (man) was created first and Eve (woman) was created second as a helper for Adam. This does not mean that Eve was created as a second class citizen, in fact this is what God had to say about men and women:

Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. [NASB-U]

The man and woman who marry become one flesh, they are two parts that make one complete unit, but that does not mean that there are not positions even in marriage as we will soon see. As I said there is some discussion as to whether the positions given to men and to women were created when they were created or if they were assigned when the fall took place. Either way, we see the positions first talked about when God pronounces the curse on Adam and Eve and on all of creation:

Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." [NASB-U]

You can hate that passage, you can try to ignore the clear meaning of that passage, but no matter what you do God's word says what it says. Now if that is where it ended, we might be able to say that God was speaking only to Eve and not her daughters, but that is not where it ends.

Ephes. 5:22-24 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. [24] But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. [NASB-U]

Women were nothing more than cattle or possessions during much of history up until Jesus' time on earth. Jesus did much for the women of His time, He spoke to them, He gave them standing as human beings, but as we see from Paul's writing Jesus didn't do away with the positions that God has ordained for the sexes.

Paul goes on to explain some things about the differences in the sexes.

1 Tim. 2:11-14 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. [12] But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. [13] For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. [14] And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. [NASB-U]

Paul says that Eve was the one deceived, not Adam. Adam was created first and then Eve, and it was Eve who was deceived. This is important to our discussion. Eve was deceived but Adam wasn't, yet Adam sinned. So before the men get too puffed up they need to remember that this means that Adam sinned of his own free will knowing what he was doing. Both were cursed and in fact Adam is said to be the reason we all have sinful natures when we are born:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- [NIV]

I don't want to go into the subject of whether a woman should be a teacher/preacher or not, this is not the real subject of this article, however, it is important to note that a woman should never have spiritual authority over a man. What does spiritual authority mean? It means guidance or decision making. This is not just some sexist view, it is the biblical view.

1 Cor. 11:2-10 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. [3] But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. [4] Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. [5] But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. [6] For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. [7] For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. [8] For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; [9] for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. [10] Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. [NASB-U]

Many people will try to claim that this was just a cultural thing and that it does not apply to us. I think there is some merit to that, but it misses the point. The head covering was cultural, but what it marked is what is important, and that was that it was a sign of submission to authority. That is not cultural as I have already shown.

I know some churches get caught up in this and make their women wear head coverings, but I don't think that is really what Paul is saying. He mentions head coverings, which were a symbol of authority on the women in his day, but it was the submission to authority that was important, not the head covering.

Again I want to state that this is not a yardstick of what a man and a woman are worth to God as the following verse shows:

1 Cor. 11:11-12 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. [12] For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. [NASB-U]

Yet this is the way God set up the gender roles on this earth and we must pay attention to His word.

Why is the world would gender roles be important to God? I think there are several reasons, and all of them have to do with us, more than they do with God. We are a rebellious bunch of beings. We are born in rebellion against God. Children are rebellious and have to be taught to respect authority. It does not come naturally to us.

Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. [NASB-U]

We see from this passage that while on this earth Jesus was subjected to authority and took a place lower than that of the angels. Don't miss the importance of this; the Creator was willing to submit to being lower than the angels so that He could redeem us. He and the Father are one, yet He was willing to be in subjection to the Father.

The angels saw this and I am sure they marveled that God would do this for us. They also saw what He required of us for our salvation, faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. With that faith comes submission, yet we as a race (the human race) are rebellious.

Let me repeat a portion of a passage I quoted earlier:

1 Cor. 11:2-3 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you. [3] Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. [NIV]

For our sakes Christ, being co-equal to God the Father, took on a submissive role in our salvation.

Philip. 2:5-8 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
[6] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. [8] And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! [NIV]

So when we rebel against the authority structure that God has set up on this earth, we are rebelling against God Himself and the example that Jesus gave for us to follow. I believe that is what all of this is about. I believe that woman being in submission to man is an object lesson for both men and women. Women have to swallow their pride in order to be submissive to a man, even a man who might not be as smart as they are, or as capable in many areas as they are. And men have to understand the responsibility that comes from being the spiritual head. It is the man who will answer to God for the spiritual condition of his family, up to the point that he had control. In other words, if a man does not teach his family to follow God, their blood will be on his hands. The sin is each individual's and they will pay for that sin, but the responsibility to guide them falls on the man.

Why does God require women to submit and men to be responsible? I believe it is because original sin was rebellion, both the devil's original sin and mankind's original sin. Both wanted to be like God. The devil wanted to be worshiped and exalted. Adam and Eve wanted to have knowledge and be like God. Our salvation requires that we admit that we are sinners who owe God a debt that we can't pay and that we are helpless without Him and I think our on going submission to authority is a constant reminder of what our salvation truly is.

The world (which is under the control of Satan) tries to bend the gender roles. We see it in society all around us. We are constantly being told that there is no difference between men and women and that there should be no difference is roles. We are told that families without both a father and mother are just as good as families with a father and mother, yet statistics show this isn't true.

We see it in our culture today too. Men are looking more like women every day. It has become popular for a man to get in touch with his feminine side. Am I the only one who has ever been behind a car with a person with beautiful long blond hair only to notice that he had a beard when you got close enough to see? Or am I the only one who has noticed that men have more diamond earrings these days then the women they are with? Or that many woman are more masculine than the men in their lives? None of this is by accident, I believe it is part of Satan's plan to subvert the authority of God, because if he can get us to rebel against earthly authority which was set up by God, then we are actually rebelling against God.

Even Christians tend to rebel against these lines of authority that God has set up, usually in churches, but also sometimes in the family. Some do so out of ignorance and some do so out of arrogance and pride. They demand equality for women in the ministry and in authority in our churches, but what they are really doing is rebelling against that which God has ordained and set up for us to follow.

Again, it doesn't matter whether we like the roles we have been given, but it does matter whether we are willing to follow those roles and thereby follow Christ and His example. Surely if Christ, being God, was willing to be submissive to buy our salvation, we should be able to be submissive in this life to honor Him and to obtain that salvation that He paid for, don't you think?

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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March 2006