The Bible is clear that God loves men and women equally.
So does it really matter who leads and who submits in a local church, especially in this day and age? We'll hear what the Bible has to say today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg continues our study in 1 Timothy, or in chapter 2. We had begun to notice the fact that Paul's clear instructions in 11 and 12 were not grounded in any cultural or pragmatic concerns that he was espousing, but rather were grounded in the doctrine of creation, in foundational elements that had to do with the way God had set things up from the very beginning of time. And that on account of this, we could be very clear concerning the timelessness of his instruction—in other words, that there was no way that we could sidestep what he was saying by suggesting that somehow or another he was lost in a cultural time warp, and that had he been living today, he would not have written as he did. In verse 14, Paul is referring to the tragic consequences of woman breaking out of the pattern that God had established insofar as she led rather than she followed.
And that's his point of emphasis here. She should have been following, and she took the position of leadership. And consequently, sin entered the world through a reversal of God-given roles. Paul is not absolving Adam from responsibility—far from it. Eve was deceived, but Adam, as we noted, sinned willfully. He sinned with his eyes wide open.
Now there are basic fundamental truths in these first three chapters of Genesis, and they will repay your careful study. Amongst them, we notice this, that although she was created second, the woman sinned first. Although she was intended as a helper for her husband, she instead led him into sin. And besides being responsible for his own disobedience, Adam failed insofar as he failed to take the lead in doing what was right.
He abrogated his responsibilities just as much as Eve superseded hers. And the consequences of this are chronicled for us in Genesis 3. There are implications which immediately came to man—and I use the word generically there, man, men, and women—as a result of the fall of man into sin.
Prior to the fall—and it's important to understand that it was prior to the fall—women's principal task was childbearing and the care of her family. There will be people who will come to you and say, The only reason that it is the way it is is because of sin. But if there hadn't been sin, then it wouldn't have been this way.
Just read your Bible, and you'll be able to respond to that. Prior to the fall, the primary task and responsibility burden given to woman is to bear children and to care for her family. And the primary task given to man prior to the fall is to work, is to be a provider for his wife and in turn his family, and is to nurture and care for them. Now, when the fall takes place, recorded for us in Genesis 3, there are immediate implications. That is why God says to Adam, Now, in light of your sinful rebellion against me, you will still work, but your work is going to be a whole lot more difficult than it would have been. It will be marked by difficulty, it will be marked by drudgery, it will be marked by toil, by thorns, and by thistles, and there will be all these negative elements which accompany your fulfilling of your God-ordained task. In the same way, after the fall, for a woman to bear children will be more difficult than it was before, and there will be pain which attaches itself to the bearing of children.
Also, in place of understanding and in place of intelligent submission to her husband, the wife's submission after the fall is going to be characterized by one of two things or a combination of the two—either by a desire on her part to reverse the roles or by being subjected to a wrongful kind of subjugation on the part of her husband on account of human perversity. That is, I think, the significance of the word desire. It's always intrigued me, that verse. I wonder if you've found the same thing in Genesis 3.16, where God says, Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. If you allow your eyes to scan chapter 4 and verse 7, you will find the verb being used again there—that is, the verb desire—where God speaks to Cain, and he says, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door.
It desires to have you. And the desire of sin for Cain is a desire to master and control him. And I think that is exactly what the inference and the reference is here in Genesis 3.16, that the desire of a woman for her husband is not that she desires him on account of his affection or of her undying devotion, but that it is as a result of the fall she desires to master and control him.
This interpretation of things is certainly not politically correct, but it does have a ring of truth to it. Instead of headship being a matter of love and submission, as God intended, it now becomes a matter of struggle and conflict. Prior to the fall, the relationship enjoyed between man and woman was perfection, and the God-given roles were engaged in with absolute clarity and without any sense of interference or a desire for any other thing. Their same relationship before God was marked by the same purity and clarity.
They talked with God in the cool of the day, they lived in nakedness, and they were without shame. But suddenly, all of that changes. And the God-intended roles are now marked by a stickiness, marked by a difficulty, marked by a spirit of rebellion and contentiousness that runs right through into the family rooms of contemporary America. By taking the initiative in eating the fruit—and this, again, is the reference here in 1 Timothy 2.14—"By taking the initiative in eating the fruit, the woman in effect assumed the leadership role."
And of course, she did so with disastrous results. And that's the point that he's making. It is imperative, he says, that a woman learns that in the context of public worship, her unique calling is not to fulfill the role of a teaching, authoritative position, but rather is to be a learner—a significant learner, but a learner, nonetheless. And the reason for this, he says, is because Adam was formed first and then Eve. In other words, this is God's order of things. It was not by happenstance. It was purposeful. And when Eve took a leadership role in responding to the initiative of the serpent, all chaos and disaster descended.
Now, the emphasis is clear. There is profound significance in the order of creation for determining the proper relationship between the sexes. And that is why men and women today can't do anything with the relationship between the sexes, because they reject the whole notion of creation. You think about it.
Darwinian evolution has had implications far beyond the chemistry lab, far beyond the realm of nuclear physics. Far more significant is the impact of that nonsense in the hearts and lives and homes of men and women ever since. Because they have no doctrine of God, they have no doctrine of creation, they have no doctrine of man, therefore they have no explanation for who they are, what they are, why they exist, or how they relate. And whenever any woman stands to say, Have you ever considered this? They say, Well, away with that nonsense! We're not going to read that silly stuff!
We're not going to believe that crazy business! And still the Hubble telescope goes deeper and deeper and further and further and confounds them. And yet, in the great refusal, they choose to worship things that creep and crawl and fly, rather than the glory of an immortal creator God. Man has the priority, as from creation, not in the sense that he is superior to the woman but because God has ordained man to be the leader and the provider. It sounds anachronistic, does it not?
It sounds old-fashioned, little house on the prairie sort of stuff, the Waltons. Men and women are not to view themselves consequently as rivals but as complementary, as needing one another for completeness. And Paul is arguing from the creative plan of God in order to ensure that things will be done properly within the church so that in the matter of public worship, in the presentation of the truth of God's Word, the general principle would hold true that man is to lead and the woman is to follow. Now, this, loved ones, is the universally normative regulation that prohibits women from ruling and teaching men in the church. And this passage, in the correlative passages in 1 Corinthians, are not illustrations.
They're not cultural anecdotes. They are commands. And they are commands which are not grounded in time-bound, culturally relative circumstances that applied only to Paul's day and age, but they are commands which are grounded in the way in which God created men and women to relate to one another. And consequently, to dismiss the role relationships in the church's ruling function as something that is simply cultural carries with it the dismissal of the analogous role relationship within the structure of the whole. And that is exactly what feminism does. And those who call themselves biblical feminists—for example, Skanzoni and Hardesty and Jewett and Roberta Hestinis and some of the others—all do this and shamefacedly do it. And they would argue clearly that complementariness within the whole means total equality in everything that men and women are identical, when, as we saw this morning, they are equal, but they are different. Now, I hope that this is dawning on you.
I would add maybe just one further thing to it. And that is the argument, if you like, from the history of the church. It is surely not insignificant that Jesus, having made such a dramatic impact on women in his earthly ministry, chose only twelve men to be his disciples and chose only men to be his apostles.
And it is a great disservice to Christ that verges on blasphemy to suggest that Jesus himself, the incarnate God, was trapped in some cultural time warp, knowing as he did what the twentieth century would bring. You would assume that if he had planned for women to reverse the roles as is being done today, he would have given a pattern for that in his own earthly ministry. You would expect that the early church pattern, which was continued through the centuries as they were guided by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, would be marked, then, by this change or shift in paradigm. For me, it's very hard to imagine, as I'm supposed to believe by my friends, that God kept the church in the dark for so long, despite the fact that he intended all along for women to be pastors and teachers and elders and leaders and rulers in the church. That's what my friends asked me to believe—that we've all been locked in a closet somewhere in terms of our theological understanding, and that God has had this wonderful secret, as it were, waiting for us finally to discover the true meaning of Greek syntax, waiting for us finally to open up to a dawning awareness of the truth that for two thousand years the church has missed, and then we'll be ready to put it in to practice.
Now, do you want to believe that, or do you want to believe that there's a direct correlation between the phenomenal pressure of the culture of our day and the expressions of feminism on the hearts and minds and knees of weak-willed characters, who are prepared to capitulate to the spirit of the age and marry it and, trust me, become a widower in the next generation? A loss of confidence in the Scriptures and the pressure of feminism has been the stimulus for change, not on account of a discovery or a rediscovery of God's truth. Now, we're at verse 15.
You'll be pleased to know. But women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety. What are we to do with this most awkward verse? Well, first of all, acknowledge that it is quite an awkward verse, insofar as there is no parallel statement to this anywhere else in the Bible. Now, that in itself should be a warning to us when we seek to interpret it. Because we do know that God tends to enforce and reinforce truth that is of vital significance in relationship to the understanding of his people.
These are probably the best two, if you like. The first interpretation is that in verse 15, when it says, But women … and you will see a footnote which says in the Greek she. But she will be saved through childbearing. Who, then, is the subject? Well, the subject from verses 13 and 14 is Eve.
Okay? So one way of viewing this verse is that what we have here in verse 15 is a specific reference to Eve and then beyond Eve. Now, what could it possibly mean that she will be saved through childbearing?
What was the promise that was given to Eve in Genesis 3? It was the promise that the seed of woman would ultimately bruise the head of the serpent—namely, that there would come one from woman who would be the great liberator from sin and from the dominion of enmity against God. And so the hope of the Old Testament all the way through is for this one who is going to come, who will be born of a woman.
And the prophets look forward to this individual. And Isaiah speaks of a virgin who will be with child and will bring forth a son and will call his name Jesus. And as a result of this, the woman as well as the man will be saved by this unique childbearing event, for the Savior is born through her. And therefore, according to this interpretation, the woman's role in God's plan of salvation has been vital, because she, Eve, as with all males and females who follow, will be saved as a result of the childbearing which comes about in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That, to me, is a hard one.
It's not impossible, but it seems you've got to really reach around for that. But that has been traditionally held for a long, long time. For myself, there is great appeal in the suggestion that the reference to her being saved in verse 15 has to do with women being kept safe from wrongly seizing men's roles by embracing a unique woman's role, so that you will be saved from usurping the authority of man if you embrace wholeheartedly the unique prerogative of woman—namely, to be a childbearer, to be a mother, and to fulfill the God-intended role for you. And that, then, will be accompanied by the evidences of Christian character like faith and love and holiness with propriety. Now, I don't want to say any more about that, and indeed, I've said probably more than enough. But I want to make just one or two correlative statements in conclusion to all of this. At least in my mind, they tie in. I think that part of the problem in this whole discussion, especially for women, is that there is a wrong view of authority and leadership in the church, per se.
And it goes like this. Authority or leadership in the church is about status. But when you read the New Testament, what do you discover? Authority and leadership in the church is about service. And in 1 Corinthians 12, for example, Paul reminds us that the members of the body of Christ don't all have the same task or the same function. Not all men in the local church are called to teach or rule. That in no way implies their inferiority to those who are called to teach and rule.
Agreed? You're gonna have to think about that, you see, because you're smitten with the idea that this is about status. It's not about status.
It's about service. And if you are not called to rule or to teach, you are not therefore inferior within the structure and plan of God's complementary purpose within the body. That's the whole point. That's why the toe can't say to the finger, I don't need you.
Why the nose can't say to the eye, I have no part of you. And you see, when you think that through, then in the same way women are not inferior, because their particular task is not to rule or to teach men. The Bible makes it clear that men and women are equal in value but different in function in God's economy. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. We'll hear the rest of this message tomorrow. We hope the teaching that you hear on Truth for Life challenges you to reflect on God's Word, to press the pause button, if you will, and take a break from everything that's going on in life, to remember God's promises, to rest in his care. This study in the book of 1st Timothy is a great way for you to reassess your beliefs and your circumstances in light of God's perfect truth and his unfolding plan.
I hope you're finding this study very helpful. It's our passion to teach the Bible every day on this program, and we do this knowing that God's Spirit will work through God's Word to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ. By way of God's grace and your faithful partnership, the Gospel message is proclaimed every day of the year through Truth for Life.
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Becoming a Truth Partner is quick, it's easy to do. You can sign up on our mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash truthpartner or call us at 888-588-7884. One of the ways we say thank you to our Truth Partners is by inviting you to request two books that we offer each month. As long as your monthly donation is $20 or more, we think you'll find great encouragement in all of these books. Today we're recommending a book titled How Christianity Changed the World. This book takes an intriguing look at scripture and church history. As you read the book, you'll learn how Christian men and women throughout history influenced our modern day culture and how Jesus' teaching and Christian values have had a positive impact on society throughout the centuries. Request the book when you become a Truth Partner or when you give a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Join us tomorrow to find out why submission doesn't mean inferiority. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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