Affirming the Goodness of Manhood and Womanhood in all of Life By John Piper
Affirming the Goodness of Manhood and Womanhood in all of Life
By John Piper
Listen to the sermon mp3 here: Affirming the Goodness of Manhood and Womanhood in all of Life – John Piper
Turn with me in your Bibles to Galatians 3:23-29 and follow along as I read that for you.
23Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. 24So that, the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
I promised you last week that I would pick up at 1 Timothy 2:13-14 and I will. I thought that the message would have developed into Galatians 3 and it didn’t therefore I am not going to say anything about what John just read. Except this: Galatians 3:28, “there is neither male nor female” does not mean there are no role distinctions in marriage and in the church, and I think in one sentence the easiest way to demonstrate that would be to say that if you deny it you will end up affirming homosexuality. I have watched my friends from seminary, I have watched evangelical leaders move in exactly that direction. If you take that verse there is neither male nor female to its logical conclusion along those lines you will affirm lesbianism and you will affirm homosexuality in the end which the Bible clearly indites as sin. What it means when it says, “there is neither male nor female” is not that you can marry a man if you are a man because there is no difference between a man and a woman, or that you can marry a woman if you are a woman because there is no difference between a man and a woman. It means that before God you stand on level ground. You are equally saved, equally heirs, equally clothed with Christ, equally baptized into Christ, equal heirs of the kingdom, equal full of joy, and many other ways that I have tried to lay open in the past. That is the end of my sermon on Galatians 3:28.
I think you are really more interested in how I handle 1 Timothy 2:13-14 of 1 Timothy 2 I invite you to turn there with me. I will just remind you of what we said last week with regard to the proceeding couple of three verses. It might be good to read 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
1 Timothy 2:11-14 (ESV – English Standard Version)
11Let a woman learn in quietness with all submissiveness. 12I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; but to be in quietness.
Now what I have been trying to show and this is the last message in the series though of course it is not the last word on the topic. What I have been trying to show in these messages is that Paul, Jesus, Moses in Genesis do not arbitrarily assign roles to men and women, nor do they assign them merely on the basis of passing cultural expectations, nor are the roles as God intends them owing to sin in the world. Rather the roles that God has laid out for men and women are owing to the way he set things up at the beginning in creation and the way he shaped and formed us in our manhood and womanhood and I believe that manhood and womanhood mesh best most effectively in ministry that we in our manhood and womanhood are better preserved and better nurtured and more fulfilled and more fruitful on God’s order of things in the home and in the church than on any other order than anybody can think of.
Now that brings us to 1 Timothy 2:13-14 because these verses are given as some kind of underpinning or explanation or rational for the proceeding statement that men ought to be primarily responsible for leadership and teaching in the church and we need to try to understand these two reasons given in these two verses.
1 Timothy 2:13-14
The verses say, “13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (So that is the first reason) 14 (Second) Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and became a transgressor. (That is the second reason that he gives)
Now let’s take those one at a time and see whether or not we can understand them and bring our hearts and minds into a happy agreement with these two statements. The first one is Adam was formed first then Eve. Now we have already dealt with this in some detail about 5 weeks ago, and I am not going to raise again the objection against this argument that I raised there. I am just going to repeat the simple straightforward argument as Paul sees it and as I see it from Genesis 2. Namely that when God contemplating how to create men and women in his image equally decided to make man first, put him in the garden instruct him concerning his responsibility for the garden and impart to him the moral vision for the garden and then, and then secondly to make woman from his side as his personal equal and his assistant to carry that responsibility for the garden into action. He meant to teach something by doing it that way. That is what Paul is saying, and what he meant to teach was that men ought to bear primary responsibility in relation to women. For a pattern of initiation for leadership – for protection, for provision and I have tried to stress what that idea primary responsibility involves rather than total responsibility.
And so I think Paul’s first argument is a simple straightforward one that when he contemplated God’s design in creation. He saw a teaching about how men and women ought to relate to each other with men taking a special initiative and responsibility in relation to women. And so it is not based on culture, it is not based on any particular problem there atEphesus. It is based on the way God set things up at creation. Something is woven into the fabric of manhood and womanhood that makes this kind of church order the most fruitful, the most fulfilling, the most effective, the most satisfying when the two half’s of the church male and female are humbling themselves in mutual respect, love toward each other.
The second thing is a little more difficult to understand I think.
1 Timothy 2:14
Says, 14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and became a transgressor.
Now most commentators historically have simply said what this means is women are more vulnerable to temptation or deception and therefore should not assume the primary responsibility for teaching and for leadership in the church.
Now let’s just think about that for a moment before we decide whether that is right or wrong. I am going to give another suggestion interpretation to this verse. But let’s just assume for a moment that is the right interpretation. Can we handle that for a minute? It might be you know. If that were the right interpretation what would that say about the value of men and women in relationship to each other? As I have read researched about men and women and as I have watched the interaction of men and women over my life. I would say this women are more likely to be deceived in some kinds of situations and men are more likely to be deceived in other kinds of situations. In other words when anybody asks me a general question like do you think women are weaker than men? Or do you think women are smarter than men? Or do you think women are more easily frightened than men? Just any number of questions like you could ask me. I always answer the same I say, “I think women are weaker than men in some ways, and men are weaker than women in some ways. And I think women are smarter than men in some ways, and I think men are smarter than women in some ways, and I think in some situations women give in to fear more quickly, and in some kinds of situations I think men give in to fear more quickly.” And that never satisfies anybody. But that is true I believe. Now what that says is whenever you talk about superiority or inferiority you better be real careful how you talk. Women are superior in singing soprano. Does that make men inferior? Yes in singing soprano. And you could list a hundred things like that probably.
Therefore even if this text does mean that there are some kinds of situations in which women are more vulnerable to deceit than men that says nothing about the total value of men and women. Let me use this picture for you. If you got two columns here if you got a male double column and here is a female double column and one column is called Weaknesses and the other column is called Strengths. Female Weaknesses, female strengths, male weaknesses, male strengths, and you start putting pluses and minuses here and you get the bottom and you draw a line and you come up with a value quotion here of male weaknesses and strengths add it all together and a quotion here for female weaknesses and strengths add it all together. My understanding of being created in the image of God is that those two values at the bottom are the same, and if you take these two parallel columns with their holes and their checks and pluses and so on and you lay them on top of each other they perfectly complement each other. So that is real dangerous to call these so called weaknesses – weaknesses because while they might look like weaknesses by themselves considered. When you consider humanity or manhood and womanhood in community – the way God intended us to live – complementing each others lives. What might look like a weakness might turn out to be the very thing which calls forth and heightens another strength, so that all in all it is more beautiful, more strong, more whole, more great because there are these differences in strengths and weaknesses.
In other words any time you might feel like as a man you have been deprived of something valuable. Childbearing for example, how do you women feel if men just went on a raging crusade against God that we were denied that privilege? Which would be real easy to do. Or women that they can’t sing base so well or something like that. You could just make this list any time you are inclined to think that you have been disadvantaged. I think you need to ask all things considered does it not come out with equal value at the bottom? It is so tricky and so misguided to say that if in fact there is a disposition in men toward one weakness that men are by virtue of that inferior. Or a weakness in women that is characteristic of women that by virtue of that they are inferior or of less value. It is just not true. I don’t think I need to protect the equal value of manhood and womanhood by imposing upon these two columns an Egalitarian unisex mentality that protects at all costs that we must have exactly the same weaknesses and exactly the same strengths on both sides of the ledger. That is utterly naïve and yet that is what people feel so nervous to protect today. Lest they be accused of some kind of prejudice or bias.
So all of that is a kind of parenthesis to say should you agree with that traditional interpretation? All you would have to do is back off and say in some senses women are more vulnerable to temptation or more vulnerable to deceit than others and in Paul’s judgement that particular weakness implies that they should not be given the primary responsibility of leadership and teaching in the church. It does not say that there are not corresponding weaknesses and so on in manhood.
Now all of that is kind of parenthesis here because I am going to offer another interpretation for this verse that I think has a lot to say for it and I invite you to turn with me back to Genesis 3 so that I can commend this interpretation to you. Genesis 3 we have to ask now what does Paul mean when he says, “Adam was not deceived but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” What is the point of that sentence? What is he getting at when he says that and what does that have to do whether woman should assume primary responsibility in the church for teaching and governing? Several observations from Genesis 3.
The first observation from Genesis 3:1 is that Satan in the form of the serpent approaches the women and not the man.
It says, “now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made and he said to the woman.
Now Paul saw that and he thought it was significant. Something is going on here. Why did Satan do that? Why didn’t he come to the man?
Second observation. Adam is evidently with Eve at this moment. I don’t know if you have ever thought about this before but as you read the rest of the verses Genesis 3:6 especially. Now the RSV gets a phrase, just drops a phrase completely here for some reason but if you have got an NIV or an NASV or a New King James Version you can see this real clearly I will read the New American Standard.
Genesis 3:6 (New American Standard Version)
6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her (mark that phrase), and he ate. (The NIV says who was with her).
Now nowhere up to this point does it say she went and got him. Nowhere does it say he arrived. It just says there is an unbroken flow of interaction here. Satan talks she thinks, she reaches, she eats, she hands some to Adam he eats there is no arrival, there is no departure – he is there saying nothing just listening and falling.
Third observation Genesis 3:17. God expresses his disapproval not only of the eating of the tree but that transaction of Adam and Eve.
He says, “17Because (talking to Adam now) because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree which I commanded, ‘you shall not eat of it’; cursed is the ground because of you;
Now those words because you listened to the voice of your wife. Where did he listen to her? There is not one word in Genesis 3 to the affect that she spoke to Adam not a word. Now you could read in that she they had a little conversation and she talked him into eating the tree but that is not there. What is there is he was with her Genesis 3:6, and if he was with her he was hearing this dialogue with Satan and God says, “because of that – just standing there listening cursed is the ground because of you.” We argued 4 or 5 weeks ago that Adam had been created to be the moral guardian of the home and take some initiative in being the leader and he didn’t do it. He forsook his responsibility as the moral guardian of the garden and Satan’s subtlety knew that God’s created order was good. He knew that God had appointed man to have a special responsibility in leadership and guardianship, to care for his wife, and he assaulted that order by just ignoring Adam as he stood there looked straight at the woman and he began to deal with her and take her to transgression. And Adam let her go she was put in the position of being the spokesmen, the leader, the defender of the garden and both of them at that point slipped from their innocence and with that exchange of roles became very vulnerable to transgression. I think that is what Paul means.
Now let me paraphrase 1 Timothy 2:14 giving it that meaning and see if you think it will work.
1 Timothy 2:14
Says, “Adam was not deceived. I take that to mean Adam was not approached by the deceiver and was not dealing directly with the deceiver. You see you want to say in a sense he was deceived I think I would agree with you in a sense. So you can speak of different senses in which people are deceived. He was not dealing directly with the deceiver but it says, “the woman was deceived.” Satan took up his conversation with the woman drew her into the spokesmen role and led her directly first towards the actual transgression of the eating of the tree and Adam falling right into mine all the way. Now if that is right, if we are on the right track the point of this text is not mainly that a woman is more deceivable or that man is undeceivable. The point is this when God’s order is repudiated it results in ruin. When God’s order is repudiated and forsaken it brings damage and ruin into the world and it is today bringing damage and ruin into homes, churches, and society in general. Men and women are both more vulnerable when the order of God is forsaken. Adam was a patsy, had nothing to brag about for Adam at that moment. Both are more vulnerable when they forsake the roles that God has given them and that is why the church is so imperilled by forsaking of the biblical model of 1 Timothy 2:11-14.
So what Paul is saying in summary then in these verses 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is that men spiritual Christ-like servant leader men ought to bear the primary responsibility for leading and teaching in the church. That is they should be the elders because
1) In creating man first God taught that men should have a special responsibility in leadership in relation to women
2) Because in the fall of Adam and Eve. In the dynamic of the fall there was a role reversal that taught that when that happens damage and ruin comes upon relationships and the church.
Now I also promised last week that I would step back at this time and try to spread the message outside the church and outside marriage. I want to talk about some single people, I want to talk about the market place in the minutes we have left. And books could be written on this and so I know that I am taking a great risk of selectivity here and will with some willingness listen to any of your criticisms that I didn’t say what you felt needed to be said here. But I have got just a few minutes to talk about this massive issue of does what I have been saying have an impact on the way men and women relate to each other, who are not married to each other and the way men and women relate to each other in the market place, in the workplace?
I just want to say two things. One first a word to single men in personal relationship with single women. This is very selective and I say it because of things I have watched over the years here and because I think it is real practical and you know it is not where a lot of you are.
First of all single men. Let’s not pity ourselves too much that we didn’t have the right kinds of dads okay. I get real tired of having parents dumped on. We are all sick okay, we are all weak, we all have insecurities. There are male weaknesses and male insecurities. Let’s not blame dad okay. He bears some responsibility but we are grown up now. Here we are all together with our weaknesses and our insecurities. We may not have had the model we needed of a loving, humble, caring dad who showed us how to treat a woman. Alright but here we are we are grown up. We are responsible now, we can change, we can learn. We can do what we ought to do. If we trust God he can show us how to relate to women in a mature and humble and responsible way even if we never saw it done at home the way we would like to have seen it done. That is the first thing I want to say to single men.
The second thing is and this maybe the most significant. I believe the implication of all that I have said in the past six weeks is that single men bear the primary responsibility for a pattern of initiative in relation to single women. Bear a responsibility for a pattern of initiative in relation to women. And the reason I say pattern of initiative is because it does not call into question a man’s sense of responsibility for that. If now then a group of women take the initiative to get a group of guys together with them. That doesn’t call into question the principle. But I think I can say with a great deal of certainty for those women and I think I can say with even greater certainty for God that those women – the single women in this church don’t want that to be the pattern.
It ought not to be the pattern as God has set things up – the pattern ought to be men taking responsibility to make things happen in relation to women, not vice versa. I think a lot of guys don’t take that kind of initiative either individually or in groups because they are afraid of rejection. I know that was the case for me in college and not to mention high school.
And things haven’t changed much as I watch. I think the only reason I am married is because something happened accidently one afternoon and the basement official hall in a fine arts room where I happened to be sitting there and Noel happened to be sitting there with a bunch of common friends and we just accidently talked for 2 hours because I sure would never had the nerve probably to set that up. We men are real chicken hearted and it is because I can just tell you for me the thought of getting on the phone and suggesting to Noel out of the blue that we do something and hearing her say, “no” was just almost too much to handle.
So you women just have to realise we are a pretty insecure bunch of people right? And I know that is the case. I think it is a faith issue. But I think as I have watched here now for 9 years, today is the end of my ninth year atBethlehem. And I have watched for 9 years the single scene and I don’t think it has changed much. There are a lot of intelligent attractive spiritual single women around here. They are not church hopping trying to find husbands. They are content trust enough in God to be happy in order to be single the rest of their lives.
But I can say without any doubt that for 99% of them they would not be upset if a group of guys took the initiative to get together with a group of them and have pizza and rent chariots of fire or watch a video or to go to a twins game or to go as a group and visit some people in a old folks home, or take some inner city kids to the zoo. I just know I am speaking for the vast majority of normal and intelligent satisfied contented single women when I say they are not going to get upset if you guys take some initiative to get together. Now the reason I stress the group action is because I think the emotional stakes are far less high in terms of rejection when you do things as groups, and I think it is far more natural. Both in high school and in college and after college right up into 40s, 50s, 60s to do things as groups and let individual relationships just naturally grow out of groups. That is the way it is going to happen and shouldn’t be all uptight about anything, we should just be all open that some people are going to get married and some aren’t and we just ought to have a lot of get together’s in groups. And single men you are primarily responsible to make those things happen. That is the teaching implied in where we have been so far. And please don’t let your fears and inadequacies hinder you.
The first time I took a real live date with Noel and I was going to put my arm on the seat behind Noel I poked her right in the eye with my elbows. That is no joke. And look at this we have been married 20 years and I can’t wait for her to get back and go out of my way.
Now one last thing here about the workplace. Does what I have said imply anything about the kinds of jobs you women should take which might involve you in supervising men? A real practical issue okay. Now I am going to give an answer that I am sure will be unsatisfactory because it is broad general principal rather than specific and outlining women’s work and men’s work in the world.
So here goes I believe that there are different kinds of leadership, some are appropriate and some are inappropriate for women. And to try to scope out what is appropriate and what is inappropriate there are two scales or two continuums on which leadership can be measured.
One is a personal impersonal scale. So leadership falls on here and one is a directive and non-directive scale. Let me give you an illustration so you will know what I mean. A woman who designs a traffic pattern of a city – a civil engineer or whatever they call them I don’t know. Who sits down and figures out which street should be one way and which should have right turn only and different things like that. A woman who does that is basically guiding men all day long. It is totally controlling the traffic pattern, the city, exerting incredible leadership in one sense right. But it is totally and utterly impersonal because as the men go down the one way streets and take their turns there is no personal woman sitting beside him saying, “turn right, turn left, go straight one way.” It is total impersonal although the leadership is there in a sense. That would be an example of very impersonal.
Of course the most personal kind of relationship would be a husband and wife situation. The non-directive and directive continuum would be illustrated like this: a drill sergeant would probably epitomise the directive leadership. Right, left, right, left about, face, holt. Just very directive and the non-directive kind of leadership would proceed by entreaty and suggestion and the best example I could think of that was Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:23. If you want to read a beautiful illustration of how a woman led a king out of one behaviour into another behaviour precisely where she wanted him to be and where he didn’t want to be at first and did it in the most incredibly non-directive way you read those verses 1 Samuel 25:23-25. She was totally successful in guiding David’s behaviour just like by the way 1 Peter 3:1 says a Christian woman should try to be towards her unbelieving husband without a word get him to be a Christian, find a way to guide him toward Christ.
Now here is my principle. To the degree that a woman’s leadership of man is personal it needs to be non-directive, and to the degree that it is directive it needs to be impersonal. To the degree that a woman consistently offers directive personal leadership toward a man to that degree will his God given manhood, his sense of responsibility in the relationship will be compromised, because what is at stake? Every time a man and woman face each other is not merely competence. That is utterly naïve. It is utterly naïve to think that the only thing that is at stake when a man and woman in the workplace face each other is competence in their jobs. That is crazy. What is at stake is also whether the God given manhood and womanhood of reach are affirmed in the dynamics of the relationship. Well that is my answer and that is as far as I am going to take it and I will trust the women and men led by the Holy Spirit to ask for yourselves which things in society are appropriate for me to do and which aren’t.
Now I close with just this paragraph. I feel like what I have done in the last seven weeks is simply show you that there is a beautiful bally to learn and there is a exciting drama to be apart of. It is more beautiful and more exciting because we are so different as male and female. And my challenge to you is that you take up the script of God’s Word and that you ask him to help you learn your unique part, your personal part in the drama. Because the world is in desperate need of seeing how true manhood and true womanhood relate to each other. And knowing that there is so much more to say I am going to recommend 2 books as I close. I have never done this before but I am going to do it. I mean at the end of a sermon.
Weldon M. Hardenbrook – Missing From Action – Vanishing Manhood in America for the men. I have only read 70 pages of this so I am risking recommending it not having read the rest but it is so good and it is so helpful that I am going to go ahead and risk it. I recommend this highly for the rediscovery of manhood. The Death of Masculinity – Four False Icons When Manhood Came to America. From Patriarch to Patriarch the Vanishing breed. Confessions of a Fish out of Water, It is a Crime to be Male, A Model for Manhood, Father is not a Four Letter Word, Marks of Manly love, Returning to Manhood.
And for the women Rhonda D. Chervin – Feminine Free and Faithful. She is a Catholic teacher of philosophy and this book moved me very deeply. Ignatius press. There is so much more to say. Let’s keep learning and growing together.
The Closing Prayer
Let’s stand for prayer. Oh God we in heaven we commend ourselves into your merciful care now. Many loose ends are left and that is I think Lord as it should be. Because the Holy Spirit reigns and we must not tighten the reigns too tightly on particular roles, grant I pray that men and women would become all that you want us to be and may the drama be beautiful for the world to see in Jesus name amen.
- Posted in: Biblical Manhood and Womanhood