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Topic: Complementarianism

Manhood and Womanhood: “Going Public” With Holiness

April 4, 2016

Compelling Complementarianism

The first sermon I ever heard John Piper preach was on Biblical manhood. I remember thinking that I’d never heard preaching like it. It was electric. Of course it was also the subject matter that gripped me. No one has spoken more compellingly than Dr. Piper on issues of complementarianism over the past thirty years. Also, no one has spoken more compellingly on the glory of God. Of course, he is only pointing to the Bible:

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isa. 43:6-7).

Piper explains:

“I believe the glory of God is the going public of his infinite worth. I define the holiness of God as the infinite value of God, the infinite intrinsic worth of God. And when that goes public in creation, the heavens are telling the glory of God, and human beings are manifesting his glory, because we’re created in his image, and we’re trusting his promises so that we make him look gloriously trustworthy.” [1]

If the glory of God is the “going public” of his holiness then manhood and womanhood is about publicly displaying beauty of God’s holiness. Man was created in the image of God male and female, equal but different, by divine design (Gen. 1:26-27). This is how we glorify him. With that in view, masculinity and femininity and gender specific roles are compelling.

As we image forth something about God, as men or as women (binary sexes, not one sex or something in between) we reveal the truth about who he is. That is crucial to grasp. Many people think that it is important to recover biblical manhood and womanhood because of the breakdown in families, absent fathers, abuse and sexual immorality. That’s true, but that’s the horizontal effect. It’s primarily about God’s glory. That’s what makes it so important; it’s a vertical issue.

Complementarity is a matter of holiness

Trusting God’s vision for us as men or women, and “going public” in the world displays his glory. But it also makes us holy.

The gospel reverses the fallen nature so that our ultimate identity is in Christ. Jesus has redeemed manhood and womanhood and he has equipped Christians by his Spirit and Word to become the men and women that we were created to be. And we are able to fight fallen sexual impulses that work against this. As a consequence, the physical and functional differences between men and women become beautiful to us not burdensome. They become matters of personal holiness.

Differences between the sexes matter

We live in a culture that is, especially in the arena of sexuality, increasingly based on equality not complementarity. Unassailable individual rights rule and subjective feelings lead people to do what is right in their own eyes. A practical denial of the inerrancy and sufficiency of God’s Word has resulted in God has giving this culture over to itself, so it even approves of what is evil (Romans 1:32). This has blurred the beauty of sex and sexuality and downplayed the necessity of the differences.

We now exist in a world where being born a man or woman does not necessarily have a bearing on the way you act. We see this in an increasingly influential transgender ideology. Horrifyingly in our culture it is now a legitimate option for a seven year old to choose their gender. The foundations of what it means to be human are being eroded. In this alternative reality sex is on a spectrum: changeable and negligible. From this position a culture will inevitably move towards gender neutrality. Instead of going public with holiness, men and women are going public with ungodliness.

But a complementarian view of sex and gender shows that God clearly created binary sexes (Gen. 1:27). And they are connected such that biological sex determines gender role. Adam and Eve were physically different. The beauty of this was displayed in the act of sexual union and the fruit of children. But they were functionally different also: Adam as head, Eve as helper.

When a husband lovingly leads like Christ and his wife gladly submits like the church that is holy because it depicts the gospel. When the roles are reversed or flattened it is unholy because it blurs that picture.

Clarity in the midst of confusion

Al Mohler has predicted that the stance on homosexuality will prove a testing of the true church in coming days. In other words, if a church legitimizes “same sex marriage”, it has already ceased to be a church.

But the true Church will will pass the test. The true Church believes that a Holy God is unqualified in his authority so his Word is inerrant and sufficient. He sent his Son to die for the church. He rules his Church by his Word and Holy Spirit. And he said, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Never has the culture or the church been so confused over these matters. Yet it is far more common for churches to speak out clearly on human trafficking or poverty, than it is to speak clearly into issues of biblical sexuality. So the Church must speak God’s Word on the beauty and necessity of complementarity with clarity and winsome conviction. Which means that in the same moment that the church is under fire from the culture for holding to the truth it can engage the culture with the truth.

This is why CBMW exists and this is the great hope of our upcoming conference at T4G in April. Sexuality is not something to avoid or change it is something to embrace. Because what it is to be a man and not a woman, or what it is to be a woman and not a man is tied to the very glory of God. It’s about going public with holiness.



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