Gender: Diversity, Equality, and Marriage

In the last post we looked at how men and women can uniquely reflect the image and glory of God. Men and women are equally image bearers of God. Man is not a better image bearer than woman. Woman is not a better image bearer than man. And yet there are unique ways that a man and woman can reflect God’s image in a richer, more vivid way when they come together in marriage.

There are ways that men and women who are not married can work, minister and serve together in church and family and reflect the fullness of God more clearly. But this unique reflection of God’s image in man and woman together is best seen in marriage. Looking at a man and woman together both made in God’s image tell us that God is both tough and tender. He is courageous and compassionate. He is a leader and yet a servant. Part of God’s glory is best seen when two of His attributes that can almost seem to contradict each other at times, are placed together side by side. Marriage is one of the best pictures of this.

Wives tell us something of Christ.

John 5:17-19, 30; 10:30, and I Corinthians 11:3 show us there is diversity and equality in the Trinity. God the Father and God the Son are equal in power and glory. They are of the same substance. Christians have confessed these truths for hundreds of years. The Nicene Creed states “We believe in one God the Father…and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.”

The Bible also teaches that Christ voluntarily took a role of service to the Father though. This is the clearest in the incarnation. Paul goes as far in 1 Corinthians 11:3 to say that God the Father is the head of God the Son. So what are the implications of this for dating and marriage?

There is a sense in which when man and woman marry they are reflecting an aspect of the Trinity. Genesis 1:26 does not give us the full blown clear doctrine of the Trinity by any stretch of the imagination. But at a minimum it certainly points to the possibility of this doctrine. If you believe (as Christians do) that there is only one person, but He actually exists in three unique persons, how would you illustrate or explain that?

Maybe the best living parable would be to create a world that was very dependent on the notion of one man and one woman becoming one flesh to spread the image of God around the globe. There is a sense that when a man and a woman marry a husband is reflecting something about the Father in his headship role and the woman is reflecting something about the Son in her submissive role.

Husbands tell us something of Christ.

There is another way to think about how a married couple reflects something unique about God. In Ephesians 5 when Paul does explain marriage in light of the gospel. He paints the picture of the husband playing the role of Christ and the woman playing the role of the church.

There are many ways that either of these this passage can be abused or ignored. Many husbands in their sin would rather be passive then have to bear the heavy burden of leadership. Other sinful men like to use their leadership role for their own self-centered gratification and abuse the role God’s given them. Many men may first hear Ephesians 5 and start pumping their fist and saying “Yes! This means I get to always hold the remote control and choose where we eat on date night.” If that is your first response, let me say in love, you have woefully missed the point God is trying to make for many reasons.

Notice that in Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul rarely if at all focused on Christ as Lord (though of course Christ is Lord of the church.) Rather he primarily focuses on Christ as Savior, as a sacrificing servant for His beloved bride. Men, does that describe your heart towards your wife or wife to be?

Objections.

Some women may have some objections to the Biblical portrayal of gender roles in marriage. These are certainly understandable as many men, even in the church have taken advantage of the Biblical teaching in ways that has resulted in terrible abuse. But we must be careful to not throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because someone, or a billion someone's misapplied a passage repeatedly does not give us warrant to discount, misconstrue or ignore God’s clear commands.

Many might understandably say that women are given a heavier burden than men are but I would disagree. Husbands are called to sacrificially lay down their lives for their wives as Christ did for His people. Correctly understood this is at least as heavy of a burden as having to submit to a husband.

Secondly, many might object, “Why do wives have to submit to husbands? Why can’t it be the other way around?” At the end of the day, we don’t know for sure. God has not told us. This is a place for great faith and humility to let God’s word preside over us and not attempt to preside over it with a contemptuous attitude.

Lastly, maybe the greatest objection is that many woman might say, “Well Jesus had to submit to Father God who is sinless and perfect. I have to submit to my husband who is a big sinner (‘and a moron’ some might be tempted to think).” I understand your point. You are right that Jesus submitted to His sinless Father and your husband is not near as trustworthy leader.

Regardless of what you may be going through, the Lord Jesus Christ had the hardest and heaviest submission to bear of all time. I don’t know who all may read this and what terrible pain, trauma or abuse you may be going through. If there is real abuse authorities such as the church and the police should be brought in.

But the greater reality is that Christ fully submitting to the Father meant a literal hell on earth for Him that none of us can ever fully understand. Christ willing submitted to go to the cross and bear the sins and wrath for all of those that would ever trust in Him. An infinite amount of wrath was poured out on Him so that we could be forgiven and cleansed by His life, death and resurrection. Because He was humble and faithful to do this He has now been hyper-exalted and given the “name above every name.” (Philippians 2:5-11) What sort of proper exaltation awaits godly wives who faithfully submit to their husbands?

Conclusion

1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether you eat, drink, date or get married, do it all for the glory of God. Ultimately your dating and marriage isn’t about you nor your mate, but ultimately about Christ and His glory. The husband has the high honor and privilege of glorifying Christ as being the sacrificial servant to His wife. The wife has the high honor and privilege of glorifying Christ by being the submissive servant to her husband.

If man and wife are both primarily focused on glorifying Christ in the ways God has called them to, they will have a happy, and Biblically successful marriage in the long run. In your dating life man, are you excited about laying down your life for your wife for the glory of Christ one day? Women, are you prepared to submit to and serve your husband for the glory of Christ as God may call you to one day?