By Mathew Sims
If we want to understand how Scripture informs our identity as men and women in Christ, we must answer this question, “How does the gospel story transform our stories especially in our homes?”
Men and women were created as image bearers of God (Genesis 1:26-27). No distinction in equality, dignity, or worth. They were created as sons and daughters of God the Creator. That’s why harming another person is such a big deal. Failure to love another person is a failure to love God. You cannot honor God yet dishonor the magnum opus of His creative work.
We also were commanded to have dominion. That dominion entails being fruitful and working. Our original parents tended the Garden and had they exercised dominion faithfully would have raised their family within its perfect boundaries. It’s crucial to understand this command to multiply and have dominion as applying to both men and women. Work is not just a man thing. Women work within God’s original creation mandate (Prov. 31; 1 Tim. 5:3-16). Remove the responsibility to work and you remove a part of the image of God (2 Thess. 3:6-12), part of God’s good command.
That work will look different for men and women. Scripture assigns men the primary role of leader (1 Tim. 2:13), provider (1 Tim. 5:8), and defender-servant (Eph. 5:25-33). It assigns women the primary role of nurturer (1 Tim. 2:14), entrepreneur (Prov. 31:10-31), and helper/collaborator (Gen. 3:18).
One word of caution: Don’t bind yourself unnecessarily to our cultural expression of gender roles. Embrace the foundational creation and gospel principles while enjoying your freedom in Christ to express those roles diversely where Scripture doesn’t speak.
The fall mars the image of God in us and now what’s meant to be a mutually complementing relationship turns into a mixed bag. Shortly after Adam and Eve choose sin over God, Cain kills Abel—a startling turn showing us the threat of sin divides even families.
Perversion and abuse slither into our homes. We often don’t self-sacrifice, love, honor, and respect our spouses. Recognizing this, God regulates our relationships through the Law (“Love your neighbor” and its necessary consequences). He establishes these guidelines for our protection. After the Fall, men can be tyrants instead of leaders; lazy instead of providers; and predators instead of defenders and servants. Women are neglectful instead of nurturers; trophy “housewives” instead of entrepreneurs; and antagonists instead of helpers and collaborators.
We have taken something meant to be beautiful, namely mutuality in marriage, and distorted it. We look into the mirror but, instead of seeing ourselves as sons and daughters of God, we see the image of Dorian Gray.
God doesn’t immediately reveal the mystery of the gospel in marriage. Humanity lives in the shadows until Jesus breaks into the story (Gal. 3:28). I love how the angels proclaim his arrival, ““Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Lk. 2:14). That singular announcement is pregnant with hope. “The Hero is here!” He lives, dies, rises, and ascends. He declares covenantal terms of peace from God through justification by faith (Eph. 2:13-16, Col. 1:19-20, Rom. 5:1-2).
The kingdom of God breaks into the now but not fully. Enter Paul. As he emphasizes our responsibilities within our homes (Eph. 5), he reveals a mystery. Marriage has always been about the gospel. Tim Keller reminds us, “The Bible begins and ends with a marriage.” Marriage has never been ultimate. Jesus reminds the Sadducees of that when rebukes them for their unbelief concerning the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33). This revelation reminds me of watching The Sixth Sense. You are watching. The kid sees dead people. Distractions. Until the reveal: “Bruce Willis is dead!? Oh my goodness, he’s dead.” Now the bare command to “Love your neighbor” intensifies in our homes. It’s pulsating with new life. The perversion and abuse of the image of God looks even more monstrous. How dare we pervert and twist the beauty of the gospel? It’s revolting.
Whatever your hang up may be with complementarianism, it doesn’t leave room for abusers and perverts. Jesus Christ, as head of the Church and the focal point of gender roles in the gospel story, chops the head off that dragon. He anchors every thing we do and say concerning gender roles. There’s more than a handful of excellent exegetical, practical, and polemic resources for the complementarian position, but let’s nail it down where it hurts—in our homes. Let’s throw our weight behind gospeling our homes (Deut. 6:4-9). James reminds us talk is cheap (James 2:14-17). Spirit-born faith creates Spirit-born love that acts. Let’s rid ourselves of dead theology and mirror deep and wide gospel piety within our homes. Our mission starts there.
The story doesn’t end with the cross. Jesus returns for his Bride and fully restores the image of God in her. He has been preparing her for the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-18, 1 Cor. 13:12).
He returns to feast with her (Rev. 19:6-10). In one sense, he fully consummates the marriage on that day. Until then let’s allow the beauty and joy of our sexuality remind us the story is coming to an end. More specifically, every time a man and a woman covenant together in marriage and unite as one flesh, they shadow the final consummation of all things. For singles, when you submit your sexuality to Jesus, you shadow a faithful bride waiting for her bridegroom. Together we shadow the full reality of our union with Christ in the not yet. It’s a beautiful inclusion as we echo the “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:22) in the Garden and point to the hope of our final consummation. G. K. Beale in The Temple and the Church’s Mission describes Eden as the “first archetypal temple.” In Revelation 21, we have the final eschatological temple as the Bride of Christ.
A story beautifully crafted and told, not “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The gospel molds our identities as men and women while pointing forward to our final hope in Jesus Christ. It restores the original image in mankind. We are now new creatures in Christ but we are not now what we will fully be in the end.
Mathew Sims is a husband and father of three residing in Simpsonville, South Carolina. He attends Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, South Carolina. You can follow Mathew Sims on Twitter @Graceforsinners or visit his blog Grace For Sinners.
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