The role and nature of women has now been in continual debate for an entire generation. I wrote about the consequent calamity and my personal experience of this crisis in my first post on 1 Timothy 2:9–15. In this post I want to look at who God created us to be as women.
Paul’s commands in 1 Timothy 2:9–15 are based on Genesis 2 and 3. Paul explains his reasoning in verses 13–14.
“For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
1 Timothy 2:13–14
Verse 13 states, “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.”
Have you ever stopped to think about God as Creator and what that truth implies? The Bible resounds with references to God as Creator, ringing with words of awe regarding God as the designer, maker and initiator of all things. In the New Testament the authors of John, Colossians and Hebrews declare Jesus to be the Creator—an affirmation of His deity.
We will not be ready to hear what God says about who we are until we are ready to acknowledge who God is. In True Spirituality a major theme of Francis Schaeffer’s is that of being the creature before the Creator and as such, bowing our hearts and our will before Him.1 Christians who have repented of their rebellious heart and acknowledged Jesus as Lord are to hear and to heed God’s Word—including His design and purpose for us as women.
The first three chapters in Genesis are foundational for understanding who we are as women. In them we find God’s design and purpose for creating woman in the context of the creation of man and of the world. Eve was created by God and made in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). She was given a purpose by God. She was blessed by God and commanded by God (Genesis 1:28–30). Being a woman has value, meaning, and purpose. However, this value, meaning, and purpose all takes place in the context of the creation of man. Who we are and what we are as women is irrevocably interwoven with, yes, you guessed it, men!
In his book, Women and Ministry, Dan Doriani writes:
“Genesis shows that at creation male and female had equal value in status but different roles. Genesis has two complementary narratives of creation, one running from 1:1 to 2:4, the other from 2:5–25. The first accents the equality of man and woman; the second reveals the difference between them.”2
In Genesis 2:1–17 look at what happens and when it happens. God creates Adam before the creation of Eve. God places Adam in Eden and gives him work before the creation of Eve. God commands Adam regarding eating from every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before the creation of Eve. “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.”
Genesis 2:18-25 gives us the why and wherefore of the creation of Eve. After creating Adam, giving him his purpose and commanding him, for the first time God states that something in creation is not good—“for the man to be alone”—and He states that He will make a helper suitable for him. This is the politically incorrect statement of all time. The very rationale of our creation involved not only the relationship between a man and a woman, but a relationship in which Eve will be designed to be Adam’s helper!
This gives us a starting point to understand the very design of woman before sin and rebellion entered. Doriani has this summary:
“Genesis 1 and 2 demonstrate both the equal value of men and women and the leadership role of men. When God creates both man and woman in his image, we see their equality. When God creates man first, we see man’s leadership. When Adam is lonely and needy without Eve, we see male-female partnership. We see that men and women are equal but not identical. Men and women have equal worth but differing roles. Men have leadership without superiority. Like Jesus, women experience subordination without inferiority.”3
I think head and helper were good things built into our creation as man and woman. Our calling is who we are—in other words, role cannot be divorced from nature and this was our nature and role before the Fall. Adam was created first, and then Eve was created from Adam for Adam.
Doriani differentiates between two groups that both hold to the traditional interpretation of 2 Timothy. As you read his definitions, you’ll see I’m in agreement with the second group.
“The archetypal Divine Decree advocate argues that men lead because we need social order, and God willed this, period. Men are no more fit to lead than women. No “masculine” traits—not physical strength, not mental makeup—shed light on God’s decree.
“The alternative to the Divine Decree position is the Congruent Creation approach. It agrees that God summoned men to lead apart from any merit. Yet, it says, God designed men and women to delight in his decision and to prosper within it. He formed men to lead, protect, and serve, and he formed women to receive loving leadership. God etched traces of his sovereign decision into the nature of male and female. In centuries past, when men earned bread and found battles with their hands, it seemed obvious that the physical size and strength of men prepared them to lead. Today we have more interest in mental and relational styles.”4
I believed the work God has given us to do as women is an expression of who we are; I’ll be going back to this, but for now I want to reiterate that in 1 Timothy 2 Paul is basing his command on truths for all time from Genesis, and the first reason he invokes is the order of creation. In writing on 1 Timothy 2:9–15, Thomas Schreiner states:
“…Paul supports the idea that women cannot teach men by invoking the created order…
“God’s order of creation is mirrored in the nature of men and women.”5
That’s before the Fall—before sin entered the world—yes—the order of creation of Adam and Eve is given as a reason why women are not to teach or exercise authority over men.
As Christian women we must put behind us the life of Romans 1:20–21, and learn to honor God as our God and our Creator. This can mean a struggle with depths we little understood when we became Christians. Control and trust will continue to be root issues. Living in a new relationship with God as our God and Father, He will be teaching us to keep on relinquishing control to Him by obeying to Him and to keep on trusting Him as we learn to walk by faith with Him. Our circumstances will be both training ground and battlefield. Paul appeals to us on the basis of God’s great mercy to us to give ourselves to Him, fully assured He is trustworthy:
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Apple tree in full blossom, North Ayrshire, Scotland: Roger Griffith, Public Domain.
1Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, 1971, i.e., pp. 146–147. The theme is found throughout the book.
2, 3, 4Dan Doriani, Women and Ministry, pp. 54, 60, 172.
5Thomas R. Schreiner, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9–15: A Dialogue with Scholarship,” Women in the Church, Andreas J. Köstenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds., pp. 140, 145.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter
4 thoughts on “Creation & Women”
I think what makes so many women choke on the concepts you explain is that “helper” has often been equated with serf, slave, or subservient. There are men who believe that this gives them the right to dominate and control their wives. Clearly, there is a leadership role for men as God-ordained and God-designed within the relationship between men and women. There is also a mutually submissive one as we seek to serve the other with the abilities and strengths that God has given us. The term “helper” denotes a certain aspect of partnership: men leading, yes, but women also contributing to the well-being of the partnership in the accomplishment of the tasks that God has set before them. There is mutual respect for the differences that God has woven into each member of that partnership. We honor God when we honor the roles that He has rightly given to each of us.
Thank you for your insights. It is so easy to be out of balance in this area. As my husband would say: “There’s ditches on both sides of the road.” Seems like you have avoided the ditches and stayed on the road! 🙂
Iwana, I appreciate these posts. There is so much misinformation out there on the subject, both inside and outside of the Lord’s community. A man (Adam) is supposed to submit himself to the Lord Jesus. But even though Paul used the term “bondslave” and the Lord used the term “slave” (instead of “servant” as in most Bible versions), man are not to be “slaves” of the Lord in the common understanding. It is the same way with women and men, of course. Submission is not slavery. The Lord is our Father. Though men submit to Him, it is a Father-son relationship of love and trust. Why should a woman (Eve) submit to a man who has not submitted to God?
“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]
As a man, I know the Lord is very easy to submit to because I know He loves me and I can trust Him. He’s a man’s Man. He raises real men, not sissies or bullies or jerks. Real wives have no problem submitting the same way to real husbands. The Lord raises real women, not (fill in the blank).
I like the way you reiterated “before the fall.” To say sin has messed up the human race’s understanding and application of this issue is a huge understatement. Thank you both for your perspective.
Thank you both for your encouraging words. These are some things I’ve been thinking through and hashing out for a long time.
manoahswife, I like the ditch on both sides! It’s true–they’re there. We’ve veered too hard to one side. Years ago I heard John Stott speak on the Bible and he led off by saying submission is a dirty word: dirty, despised, detested—and he was speaking of the authority of Scripture. How much more do we balk at the idea of submission to a person (even when that is commanded by Scripture)!
In Ephesians Paul tells us to submit to one another in the body of Christ as we relate to one another, and he then immediately goes into his discussion of marriage to tell women to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. There is a theme of humility and love for one another within all of these different relationships of authority and submission that are within the church and within the family. I love Philippians 2—to look out for the interests of others—with Paul’s great example of Christ who is our Lord, yet who died for us in humble obedience.
RJ, you reminded me that I received MacArthur’s book, Slave, the other week. I’ve just started it, and I’m looking forward to reading what he has to say.
I’ll pop in for a moment to say that in my opinion (and in my experience) “helper” in the sense under discussion is “the one without whom I couldn’t get along”.