I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;  likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,  but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.  Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve;  and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. [1 Timothy 2:8-15]About a year ago, Gordon led us in a series on Manhood and Womanhood centered on the illustration of the marriage covenant. We learned that Manhood and Womanhood—maleness and femaleness—are designed by God. Manhood and Womanhood are designed to be complementary—that is, together, men and women illustrate something about the character of God and the design of the universe that humanity would not illustrate if we were only one gender, or if there were no gender distinctions.
Men and women are the same and yet different, and that is a beautiful reality. According to the APA, “Studies show that one's sex has little or no bearing on personality, cognition and leadership.” What they mean is that your biological sex or your gender identity does not predispose you either to be good at leadership or bad at leadership, or to be good or bad a math, or to be strong willed or stubborn or emotional or any particular personality trait. In that sense people are people. The Bible will bear this up too. When it comes to personhood, God has created men and women as male and female both with full and equal human dignity.
The Bible has a very high view of women. Mary is highlighted in Scripture as a particular example of a faithful disciple. Paul refers to numerous women who were of central importance to the life of the churches in their respective regions. Together, wife and husband Priscilla and Aquila helped to disciple and train Apollos, an influential preacher in the early church (Acts 18:24-28). Phoebe is commended as a faithful servant of the church in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1). Paul sends greetings to a woman named Nympha, who hosted a congregation in her home (Col. 4:15). Luke tells us about women including Mary Magdalene who contributed to the support of Jesus and the Twelve (Luke 8:1-3). Against the grain of the culture of the time, the Gospels credit women as the first witnesses of the resurrection (Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20). In addition to these references, Paul teaches in Galatians 3 that among those who are in Christ, there is no distinction between among race or ethnicity, employment or socioeconomic status, or sex. All the way back to the story of creation, after studying and naming all the animals, Adam proclaims a poem about Eve saying she is “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Men and women are full equals before God.
At the same time, Men and women are different in a few key ways. First of all, men and women are biologically different. An example of this is that men and women are both necessary to bear children. Children cannot be born without the involvement of a man and a woman. Another way men and women differ often is perspective. Men and women will often approach a solution to any given problem in different ways. The third way men and women differ is what we will look at with some detail today—men and women differ in some of the roles and responsibilities God assigns in his word. These differences are complementary. That means they work together and play off each other. Together, they give us a more complete picture of who God is, and they contribute to a more just and equal world.
When we downplay natural God-given distinctions, we don’t create a fairer world, but a world with more inequality. When we downplay gender differences, women tend to be on the losing side. In an article I read at SB Nation, the International Olympic Committee is considering a change to its rules that will allow pre-operation trans-women to compete in women’s Olympic competitions. Without addressing the subject of gender identity, the result of that rule change will be people who are biologically men competing in women’s sports. That places the women in that competition at a disadvantage. Another example is in the business world. In 2016 in corporate America, women still tend to earn less than men in similar roles. We rightly celebrate companies with fair hiring practices, but is it really fair when companies like Apple and Facebook ask women to put motherhood on hold until later for the sake of the company?
The Bible establishes guidelines for men and women that are ultimately and finally founded on God’s relationship to humanity through Adam, and again through Jesus. These guidelines are not to diminish the equality of men and women, but to help men and women live up to our common callings as we each demonstrate God’s relationship with humanity and his own identity revealed in his creation.
Coming up in this Series:
- Men are called to lead in the church
- Submission and Authority
- Saved through Childbearing?