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Family and Faith


As we have seen throughout this book, the Bible is quite clear that men and women are equally God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:27) and therefore equal before God and in relationship with one another, and also that they are fellow-heirs in the Christian life, equal in their spiritual standing before God (1 Peter 3:7; Galatians 3:28). The Bible is also clear that men and women, who are equal with respect to creation and redemption and therefore share many things in common, are called to different and equally important roles in marriage and the church. It is God Himself (as we shall see later) who has determined distinctive roles for men and women in order that thereby they may fulfill the creation mandate that He has given to mankind (cf. Genesis 1:28; 3:15-19). God has called men to serve as leaders in marriage and the church, and women to submit themselves willingly to that leadership, as they labor together in their distinctive roles (Ephesians 5:23-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:12; 3:1-13). In defining how men and women are to relate to one another in fulfilling their respective roles, God has called men to exercise a headship that is loving, gentle, and considerate (e.g., Ephesians 5:25ff.; 1 Peter 3:7), and He has called women to submit to that headship in a willing, gentle, and respectful way (e.g., Ephesians 5:24, 33; 1 Peter 3:1-2).

The question we all must face is how to carry out our Biblical roles with Biblical attitudes in specific, everyday situations. But before we proceed to the positive outworkings of Biblical manhood and womanhood, we need to be more aware of the forces working against us that must be overcome and the antidotes God’s grace provides.

The Effect of Sin

The fundamental antithetical force is the effect of sin on our relationships. This we see from Genesis 3:16, in which God speaks of sin’s effect on the relationship of men and women: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (NIV; unless otherwise noted, all citations from Scripture in this chapter are from NIV). In these words, God is indicating that as a result of sin, rather than exercising a caring headship and leadership, men will seek to “rule” in an autocratic, unloving way. And He is indicating with reference to women that rather than being submissive helpers, they will “desire” to have mastery over their husbands. (We are understanding the word desire here in the same sense as that of its next occurrence [Genesis 4:7], where sin has the “desire” to master Cain.) By saying this, God was indicating that just as sin, as a result of the fall, will bring pain (Genesis 3:16) to the joy of childbirth (the fulfillment of God’s mandate to be fruitful, Genesis 1:28) and sweat and difficulty to the joy of work (the fulfillment of God’s mandate to subdue the earth and rule over it, (Genesis 1:28), so also it will bring strife into the role relationship God had established between man and woman at creation (Genesis 2:18). Thus, God has forewarned that sin will make the role relationship of man and woman a place beset by struggle that only God’s grace can help us overcome.

We have seen and still see the horrible fulfillment of this curse’s effect in man’s domination of woman in those places and cultures where the effects of the gospel have not been felt. In contrast, in cultures and nations where the gospel has had strong influence, the joint-heir status of men and women has emerged as a wonderful by-product. But now we see in those same cultures and nations where secularization is replacing the effects of the gospel that a by-product of equality remains, while at the same time the society is giving expression to the sinful side of the curse pronouncement-women desiring to remove themselves from any distinctive role in their relationship to men and to be as much leaders in the home and church as men are, while men become increasingly passive or abusive in relation to women. We can see these outworkings of God’s prophetic pronouncement in Genesis 3:16 on the broad scale of history and society, but we must also be aware of the presence of those very tendencies in every human heart, including the hearts of Christian men and women. Since Christians, like others, are affected by the “spirit of the age,” these sinful tendencies within men and women will be compounded by the feminist push of our age as well as by a chauvinistic and macho backlash.

The Correlation of Role and Attitude
I. The Family
A. God’s Delineation of the Distinctive Roles of Husband and Wife in Genesis 3
B. What About the Wife and Mother Working Outside the Home?
C. Decision-making by Husbands and Wives
D. Caring for the Children
E. The Allocation of Other Duties and Responsibilities
II. The Church
A. The Use of Women’s Gifts
B. The Biblical Principle of Male Leadership in the Church
1. Applied to Church Officers
2. The Biblical Principle of Male Leadership in the Church Related to Teaching Activities
3. The Biblical Principle of Male Leadership in the Church Related to Leadership Activities