Disciple Hour: Systematic Theology (Man as Male and Female – Chapter 22 – Part 2)

Systematic Theology: The Whole Counsel of God[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 22: Man as Male and Female (pt.2)

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all,
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God

(Acts 20:26-27)

Why did God create two sexes? Can men and women be equal and yet have different roles?


  1. Personal Relationships

God did not create human beings to be isolated persons, but, in making us in his image, he made us in such a way that we can attain interpersonal unity of various sorts in all forms of human society. Interpersonal unity can be especially deep in the human family and also in our spiritual family, the church.


  1. Equality in Personhood and Importance

Just as the members of the Trinity are equal in their importance and in their full existence as distinct persons (see chapter 14, above), so men and women have been created by God to be equal in their importance and personhood. When God created man, he created both “male and female” in his image (Gen. 1:27; 5:1–2). Men and women are made equally in God’s image and both men and women reflect God’s character in their lives.

  1. Differences in Roles


  1. The Relationship Between the Trinity and Male Headship in Marriage. Between the members of the Trinity there has been equality in importance, personhood, and deity throughout all eternity. But there have also been differences in roles between the members of the Trinity. God the Father has always been the Father and has always related to the Son as a Father relates to his Son. Though all three members of the Trinity are equal in power and in all other attributes, the Father has a greater authority. He has a leadership role among all the members of the Trinity that the Son and Holy Spirit do not have.

Creation- In creation, the Father speaks and initiates, but the work of creation is carried out through the Son and sustained by the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1–2; John 1:1–3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2).

Redemption– In redemption, the Father sends the Son into the world, and the Son comes and is obedient to the Father and dies to pay for our sins (Luke 22:42; Phil. 2:6–8).

Pentecost- After the Son has ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit comes to equip and empower the church (John 16:7; Acts 1:8; 2:1–36). The Father did not come to die for our sins, nor did the Holy Spirit. The Father was not poured out on the church at Pentecost in new covenant power, nor was the Son. Each member of the Trinity has distinct roles or functions. Differences in roles and authority between the members of the Trinity are thus completely consistent with equal importance, personhood, and deity.

Since humans are made in God’s image and are to reflect His character, we too biblically defined roles

1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)
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.
In this case, the man’s role is like that of God the Father, and the woman’s role is parallel to that of God the Son. They are equal in importance, but they have different roles. In the context of 1 Corinthians 11:2–16, Paul sees this as a basis for telling the Corinthians to wear the different kinds of clothing appropriate for the men and women of that day, so that the distinctions between men and women might be outwardly evident in the Christian assembly.

  1. Indications of Distinct Roles Before the Fall. But were these distinctions between male and female roles part of God’s original creation, or were they introduced as part of the punishment of the fall? When God told Eve, “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16), was that the time when Eve began to be subject to Adam’s authority?
  2. Adam Was Created First, Then Eve: The fact that God first created Adam, then after a period of time created Eve (Gen. 2:7, 18–23), suggests that God saw Adam as having a leadership role in his family. No such two-stage procedure is mentioned for any of the animals God made, but here it seems to have a special purpose. The creation of Adam first is consistent with the Old Testament pattern of “primogeniture,” the idea that the firstborn in any generation in a human family has leadership in the family for that generation. The right of primogeniture is assumed throughout the Old Testament text, even when at times because of God’s special purposes the birthright is sold or otherwise transferred to a younger person (Gen. 25:27–34; 35:23; 38:27–30; 49:3–4; Deut. 21:15–17; 1 Chron. 5:1–2). The “birthright” belongs to the firstborn son and is his unless special circumstances intervene to change that fact. The fact that we are correct in seeing a purpose of God in creating Adam first, and that this purpose reflects an abiding distinction in the roles God has given to men and women, is supported by 1 Timothy 2:13, where Paul uses the fact that “Adam was formed first, then Eve” as a reason for restricting some distinct governing and teaching roles in the church to men.
  3. Eve Was Created as a Helper for Adam: Scripture specifies that God made Eve for Adam, not Adam for Eve. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). Paul sees this as significant enough to base a requirement for differences between men and women in worship on it. He says, “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:9). This should not be taken to imply lesser importance, but it does indicate that there was a difference in roles from the beginning.
  4. Adam Named Eve: The fact that Adam gave names to all the animals (Gen. 2:19–20) indicated Adam’s authority over the animal kingdom, because in Old Testament thought the right to name someone implied authority over that person (this is seen both when God gives names to people such as Abraham and Sarah, and when parents give names to their children). Since a Hebrew name designated the character or function of someone, Adam was specifying the characteristics or functions of the animals he named. Therefore when Adam named Eve by saying, “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23), it indicated a leadership role on his part as well. This is true before the fall, where Adam names his wife “Woman,” and it is true after the fall as well, when “the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20)
  5. God Named the Human Race “Man,” Not “Woman”: The fact that God named the human race “man,” rather than “woman” or some gender-neutral term was explained in chapter 21. Genesis 5:2 specifies that “in the day when they were created” (NASB) God “named them Man.
  6. The Serpent Came to Eve First: Satan, after he had sinned, was attempting to distort and undermine everything that God had planned and created as good. It is likely that Satan (in the form of a serpent), in approaching Eve first, was attempting to institute a role reversal by tempting Eve to take the leadership in disobeying God (Gen. 3:1). This stands in contrast to the way God approached them, for when God spoke to them, he spoke to Adam first (Gen. 2:15–17; 3:9). Paul seems to have this role reversal in mind when he says, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2:14). This at least suggests that Satan was trying to undermine the pattern of male leadership that God had established in the marriage by going first to the woman.


  1. God Spoke to Adam First After the Fall: Just as God spoke to Adam on his own even before Eve was created (Gen. 2:15–17), so, after the fall, even though Eve had sinned first, God came first to Adam and called him to account for his actions: “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him “Where are you?” ’ (Gen. 3:9). God thought of Adam as the leader of his family, the one to be called to account first for what had happened in the family. It is significant that though this is after sin has occurred, it is before the statement to Eve, “He shall rule over you” in Genesis 3:16, where some writers today claim male headship in the family began.


  1. Adam, Not Eve, Represented the Human Race: Even though Eve sinned first (Gen. 3:6), we are counted sinful because of Adam’s sin, not because of Eve’s sin. The New Testament tells us, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22; cf. v. 49), and, “Many died through one man’s trespass” (Rom. 5:15; cf. vv. 12–21). This indicates that God had given Adam headship or leadership with respect to the human race, a role that was not given to Eve.


  1. The Curse Brought a Distortion of Previous Roles, Not the Introduction of New Roles: In the punishments God gave to Adam and Eve, he did not introduce new roles or functions, but simply introduced pain and distortion into the functions they previously had. Thus, Adam would still have primary responsibility for tilling the ground and raising crops, but the ground would bring forth “thorns and thistles” and in the sweat of his face he would eat bread (Gen. 3:18, 19). Similarly, Eve would still have the responsibility of bearing children, but to do so would become painful: “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). Then God also introduced conflict and pain into the previously harmonious relationship between Adam and Eve. God said to Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Susan Foh has effectively argued that the word translated “desire” (Heb. תְּשׁוּקָה, H9592) means “desire to conquer,” and that it indicates Eve would have a wrongful desire to usurp authority over her husband. If this understanding of the word “desire” is correct, as it seems to be, then it would indicate that God is introducing a conflict into the relationship between Adam and Eve and a desire on Eve’s part to rebel against Adam’s authority.

Concerning Adam, God told Eve, “He shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Here the word “rule” (Heb. מָשַׁל, H5440) is a strong term usually used of monarchical governments, not generally of authority within a family. The word certainly does not imply any “participatory” government by those who are ruled, but rather has nuances of dictatorial or absolute, uncaring use of authority, rather than considerate, thoughtful rule. It suggests harshness rather than kindness. The sense here is that Adam will misuse his authority by ruling harshly over his wife, again introducing pain and conflict into a relationship that was previously harmonious. It is not that Adam had no authority before the fall; it is simply that he will misuse it after the fall.

So in both cases, the curse brought a distortion of Adam’s humble, considerate leadership and Eve’s intelligent, willing submission to that leadership which existed before the fall.


  1. Redemption in Christ Reaffirms the Creation Order: If the previous argument about the distortion of roles introduced at the fall is correct, then what we would expect to find in the New Testament is an undoing of the painful aspects of the relationship that resulted from sin and the curse. We would expect that in Christ, redemption would encourage wives not to rebel against their husbands’ authority and would encourage husbands not to use their authority harshly. In fact, that is indeed what we do find: “Wives, be subject to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:18–19; cf. Eph. 5:22–33; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1–7).


  1. Ephesians 5:21–33 and the Question of Mutual Submission. In Ephesians 5 we read:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22–24)

While on the surface this would seem to confirm what we have argued above about the creation order for marriage, in recent years there has been some debate over the meaning of the verb “be subject to” (Gk. ὑποτάσσω, G5718) in this passage. Some people have understood it to mean “be thoughtful and considerate; act in love [toward one another].” If it is understood in this sense, then the text does not teach that a wife has any unique responsibility to submit to her husband’s authority, because both husband and wife need to be considerate and loving toward one another, and because according to this view submission to an authority is not seen in this passage.

However, this is not a legitimate meaning for the term ὑποτάσσω (G5718) which always implies a relationship of submission to an authority. It is used elsewhere in the New Testament of the submission of Jesus to the authority of his parents (Luke 2:51); of demons being subject to the disciples (Luke 10:17—clearly the meaning “act in love, be considerate” cannot fit here); of citizens being subject to government authorities (Rom. 13:1, 5; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13); of the universe being subject to Christ (1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22); of unseen spiritual powers being subject to Christ (1 Peter 3:22); of Christ being subject to God the Father (1 Cor. 15:28); of church members being subject to church leaders (1 Cor. 16:15–16 [see 1 Clem. 42:4]; 1 Peter 5:5); of wives being subject to their husbands (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:5; cf. Eph. 5:22, 24); of the church being subject to Christ (Eph. 5:24); of servants being subject to their masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18); and of Christians being subject to God (Heb. 12:9; James 4:7). None of these relationships is ever reversed; that is, husbands are never told to be subject (ὑποτάσσω) to wives, nor the government to citizens, nor masters to servants, nor the disciples to demons, etc. In fact, the term is used outside the New Testament to describe the submission and obedience of soldiers in an army to those of superior rank.

The primary argument that has been used in favor of taking “be subject to” in the sense “be considerate of “is the use of ὑποτάσσω (G5718) in Ephesians 5:21. There Paul tells Christians, “Be subject to one another.” Several writers have argued that this means that every Christian should be subject to every other Christian, and wives and husbands especially should be “subject to one another.” The phrase “mutual submission” has often been used to describe this kind of relationship, and it has been understood to imply that there is no unique kind of submission that a wife owes to her husband.

However, the following context defines what Paul means by “be subject to one another” in Ephesians 5:21: he means “Be subject to others in the church who are in positions of authority over you.” This is explained by what follows: wives are to be subject to husbands (Eph. 5:22–24), but husbands are never told to be subject to wives. In fact, Paul tells wives to be subject “to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22), not to everyone in the church or to all husbands! Children are to be subject to their parents (to “obey” them, Eph. 6:1–3), but parents are never told to be subject to or to obey their children. Servants are to be subject to (“obey”) their masters, but not masters to servants. Therefore, the idea of mutual submission (in the sense, “everyone should be subject to everyone”) is not affirmed in Ephesians 5:21. Similarly, in Colossians 3:18–19 Paul says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (see also Titus 2:4–5; 1 Peter 3:1–7).


  1. Note on Application to Marriage

If our analysis is correct, then there are some practical applications, particularly within marriage, and also with regard to relationships between men and women generally.

When husbands begin to act in selfish, harsh, domineering, or even abusive and cruel ways, they should realize that this is a result of sin, a result of the fall, and is destructive and contrary to God’s purposes for them. To act this way will bring great destructiveness in their lives, especially in their marriages. Husbands must rather fulfill the New Testament commands to love their wives, honor them, be considerate of them, and put them first in their interests.

Similarly, when wives feel rebellious, resentful of their husband’s leadership in the family, or when they compete with their husbands for leadership in the family, they should realize that this is a result of sin, a result of the fall. They should not act that way, because to do so will bring destructive consequences to their marriages as well. A wife desiring to act in accordance with God’s pattern should rather be submissive to her husband and agree that he is the leader in their home and rejoice in that.


Question…How does the teaching of this chapter on differences in roles between men and women compare with some of the attitudes expressed in society today? If there are differences between what much of society is teaching and what Scripture teaches, do you think there will be times when it will be difficult to follow Scripture? What could your church do to help you in those situations?





[1] Based on and various Sections from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

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