Summary: The Bible sees no contradiction between the equality of men and women before God, and the distinction in roles in marriage.
Last Sunday, I spoke on the issue of male headship in the home. I mentioned that this was a difficult topic to preach on, because this is an area where our society is so far out of synch with God’s plan. I said that today, those who uphold the Biblical pattern for the home are ridiculed and attacked, while those who oppose God’s plan are held up as examples of enlightened virtue; as courageous reformers battling oppressive male dominance.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Because Jesus predicted it two thousand years ago.
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." - John 15:18-19 (NIV)
"Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." - Luke 6:26 (NIV)
It should not surprise us when people are hostile toward the Word of God, when they express scorn for those who teach it and live by it. When we should be concerned is when everyone is praising us, when we find ourselves in complete agreement with the world around us. But the contempt, and even the active opposition of the world shouldn’t surprise us, nor should it intimidate us. Because God doesn’t call us to fit in. God calls us to be faithful. And my goal this morning is to help you do that. To help you live wisely and faithfully as husbands and wives, and as disciples of Jesus Christ.
This week, someone in the church showed a copy of last week’s sermon to a man he worked with, and the reaction was one of utter disbelief. "Who is this guy preaching to?" he asked. Well, here’s the answer. I hope and believe that I’m preaching to people who care more about pleasing God than they do about pleasing the world; people who are committed to honoring God’s Word in their lives, no matter the cost. So let’s begin by reading those texts which the world finds so offensive.
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." - Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. . . For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear." - 1 Peter 3:1-2, 5-7 (NIV)
Before we look at what it means to submit, what it looks like, how it’s lived out - we need to deal with an objection. We have to clear away the underbrush so that we can see the path. And here it is: Doesn’t submission imply inferiority? If God calls a woman to submit to her husband, doesn’t that mean God views her as somehow "less than" her husband? Less capable, less intelligent, less valuable - less of a person? That’s what many assume. But it’s not true. A difference in roles does not suggest a difference in worth or importance.
There are two primary evidences of this. First, the Scriptures explicitly state that men and women are equal before God.
"Then God said, ’Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’" - Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
Men and women both are made in the image of God. And so both are equal before God. They are equal in dignity, equal in value, and equal in the likeness of God that they bear. On the one hand, the Bible tells us that Eve was created after Adam; that she was created from him, and for him. Genesis 2:18 says that she was created to be a "helper suitable for him." On the other hand, the Bible tells us here that Eve, just as much as Adam, was created to be a picture of God. She possesses in herself no less of the divine image than he. And here’s the critical point: the Scripture sees no contradiction whatsoever between these two facts. Why? Because dignity and worth don’t come from our position in a human hierarchy, whether it’s the home hierarchy, or the church hierarchy, or some other social, or political, or economic hierarchy. Our dignity and worth come from our identity as created beings made in the image of God. And we all share that equally, both men and women, husbands and wives.