David Schrock | Pastor of Preaching and Theology
Occoquan Bible Church
Throughout the Bible there is great discussion about “blessing.” In Genesis 1 God made man and woman in his image. He called them to have dominion over creation and he “blessed them” (Gen 1:26–28). After death reigned on the earth (Gen 5) and God brought waters of judgment on all the earth (Gen 6–8), God promised to bless Abraham and all the nations through him (Gen 12:1–3). Ultimately, through this patriarch and his “seed” the whole world would be blessed. The rest of the Bible tells the story of this blessing, how from Abraham’s descendants came an offspring who died and rose again to secure blessing for all who call upon his name.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Gal 3:13–14)
In short, it is impossible to understand the storyline of the Bible and what God is doing in the world without a biblical understanding of “blessing.” Therefore, as we consider what it means to seek God and what is his blessing, we should not only define our terms by the saving work of Jesus Christ (instead of the sham promises of the prosperity gospel), but we should be aware of how blessing throughout the Bible is at times gender-specific.
Larger books have detailed the biblical truth of biblical complementarity. These books ground gender roles in God’s good creation; they identify the way the curse afflicted men and women in ways unique to men and women; and they show how redemption restores gender roles through Christ’s death and resurrection. What follows depends largely on these larger works, but aims to read redemptive history with an eye towards the unique way God designs to bless men and women—hence, a gender-specific biblical theology of blessing.
In the beginning God created mankind in his image, male and female he created them (Gen 1:27). Like the one God in three persons, whose members are each wholly God and also in ontological union with one another, Adam and Eve were each image-bearers in and of themselves (cf. James 3:9) and together they reflected the glory of God in a way that they could not alone. This was God’s good plan in the beginning. By it he meant to bless all his children (Gen 1:28).
In this original setting, Genesis reveals distinctive gender roles in numerous ways. For instance, the order of creation (Adam then Eve), God’s address of Adam not Eve in Genesis 3:9, Adam’s authority to name Eve (2:23), and the name of the human race as “man” not woman (5:2) are just some of the ways Genesis reveals gender differences in creation. Made equally in the image of God, men and women are designed to reflect his glory in different ways.
Thus, it should not surprise us when God blesses his children, he often does so in ways that comport to their gender. For instance, when Psalm 128 praises God for the blessings he bestows upon faithful families in Israel, these blessings relate to the man’s calling to bring fruit from the ground (vv. 1–2) and the woman’s calling to bring children into the home (v. 3). Unlike our culture which eviscerates gender normativity, God makes his people to reflect his glory in uniquely masculine and feminine ways. He is not indifferent to the way he blesses us; rather he blesses us according to his created designs.
Next, gender roles continue under the curse, only now because of sin they are distorted and endangered. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, Yahweh punished them with a curse that remains to this day. To the woman he promised pain in bringing fruit from the womb (Gen 3:16); to the man he forewarned of pain in bringing fruit from the ground (Gen 3:17). In other words, God’s curse does not generally afflict men and women; it targets areas of vocation unique to each of them. For the man, the field (variously defined) becomes a place of burden; for the woman, the home (variously defined) is filled with pain and difficulty. This is true for married couples (Gen 2:24), but it spills over to singles, divorced, and widowed as well.
As Wayne Grudem has said, “the curse brought a distortion to previous roles, not the introduction of new roles.” In debates between complementarians and egalitarians, the origin of men’s and women’s roles stands at the center. The former assign gender roles to creation; the latter to the fall. Creation is determinative for gender roles, not the fall. The curse creates competition between the genders; it does not create different roles. Through God’s judgment, which curses men and women according to their roles, we find a tacit confirmation of the original design. Men who were created to bring fruit from the ground will suffer in that labor, and women who were created to bring forth fruit from the womb will experience pain in the process.
Therefore, like creation, the fall is gender-specific. And because it is, it makes logical sense that God’s blessing would be tailored to meet the needs of men and women. Indeed, since blessing ought to be defined (in one sense) as the removal of God’s curse, the gender-specificity of the curse puts us on high alert for how God will restore blessing to those whom he has cursed according to their various vocations.
Redemption does not erase gender roles, it restores them. In the New Testament when the Spirit comes, he empowers men and women to fulfill their callings as godly men or godly women. Titus 2:1–8 recalls the unique way in which men and women relate to one another and the world in which they live. For instance, verse 5 encourages women to be “working at home.” No such domestic admonition is given to men; yet, Ephesians 6:4 addresses men and not women: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Likewise in Titus 1:5–9 and 1 Timothy 3:1–7, men are given the unique responsibility to lead and teach in God’s family of faith, i.e., the “household of God” (1 Tim 3:15).
From these kind of verses (and many others), we learn there are no androgynous disciples of Christ. Godly masculinity and femininity are equally pleasing to God, and must be pursued by men and women, respectively. Coming to our aid, the gospel of God restores men and women to reflect grace and glory in gender-specific ways. “Christian redemption does not redefine creation; it restores creation, so that wives learn godly submission and husbands learn godly headship.” Thus, in the church, as a community of the new creation, God commands us men and women to learn how to treat one another as men and women (1 Tim 5:1–2), thus preparing his children for the kingdom of God.
In the new heavens and the new earth, therefore, we have no reason to believe gender distinctions will cease. While the nature and function of marriage will be different (Matt 22:30), gender will not be neutered. The same “sons and daughters” who receive the Spirit of God (Acts 2:17–18) will exist forever as sons and daughters in his kingdom. Therefore, while in one sense all God’s children will be firstborn sons as it relates to inheritance (Gal 3:26; 1 Pet 3:7), every son or daughter of God will retain and express the gender God designed for them. Only, in glory there will be no gender dysphoria or egalitarian confusion. What the curse imposes today will be undone by the blessed work of Jesus Christ.
God’s Blessings are Gender Specific
In sum, a biblical theology of gender roles affirms God’s good design in creating men and women to be “equal, yet different.” Both are co-heirs with Christ but with different roles in God’s oikonomia. Both contribute mightily to God’s work in the world but with different relational imperatives. In Christ men find blessing in God’s work by bearing fruit as they orient themselves towards the field (variously defined) so as to produce fruit through their Spirit-empowered calling to cultivate and keep (Gen 2:17). Likewise, in Christ women find blessing in God’s work by bearing fruit as they orient themselves towards the home (variously defined) so as to produce fruit through their Spirit-empowered calling to be a helper (Gen 2:18).
These particular orientations give shape to biblical masculinity and femininity, but without denying the alternative. As men go into the field to cultivate and keep, they must also play a leading role in the home (Eph 6:4). In marriage, men may not give as many hours at home, but as the spiritual head they must not be derelict of duty.
At the same time, women like Ruth, Priscilla, and the Proverbs 31 woman model the kind of work outside the home that comports with an orientation towards to home. Marriage supplies the context where a woman’s role as “helper” makes the most sense, as she orients herself toward her husband and children (cf. Ps 128:3). But even single women can orient themselves towards home (in a sense) by developing character and competence that manifests godly femininity and that will prepare them to be a helper in marriage—either marriage on earth (the shadow of marriage) or in the age to come (the substance of marriage). Of course, how this all looks will depend largely on whether a man or woman is single or married, has children or not, lives in the modern West or the rural East, etc.
Nevertheless, because Scripture is binding for all people in all places and ages, the blessings it describes are also universally gender-specific. Yes, many blessings (e.g., the gift of the Spirit, access to God’s throne of grace, the promise of eternal life, etc.) are universal gifts. But as we have seen, many blessings are uniquely tailored for men and women.
The Lord does not eradicate gender distinctions in his work of redemption; he empowers men and women to live as God intended. Therefore, as we read the Bible we should be aware of the gender-consciousness that parallels the contours of redemptive history. At the same time, as we join in the Lord’s work we should submit our personal narratives to his macro-narrative; our private desires should be conformed to his design. With regards to complementarity this includes pursuing God’s blessing in ways that fit our unique calling as men and women. While the rest of the world (and many Christians) may find this odd, this is the way of our Creator. And as he said of the day when he made mankind male and female: “It is very good.”
 To be clear, “blessing” has different connotations as it is used in various parts of the Bible. In the Old Testament, blessing often relates to land and offspring, as introduced in Genesis 12:1–3. In the New Testament, blessing comes to mean the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:14; Eph 1:3). In this essay, blessing relates to the divine favor that we can pursue and experience as God bears spiritual fruit in our lives.
 The standard work is Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006). One of the most helpful biblical-theological treatments on the subject of men’s and women’s roles is Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger’s God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).
 Wayne Grudem has listed ten ways gender roles can be observed in creation. See his Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 30–42.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 463. “The curse brought a distortion of Adam’s humble, considerate leadership and Eve’s intelligent, willing submission to that leadership which existed before the fall” (ibid., 464).
 E.g., Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 58: “The ruler/ subject relationship between Adam and Eve began after the fall. It was for Eve the application of the same death principle that made Adam slave to the soil. Because it resulted from the fall, the rule of Adam over her is viewed as Satanic in origin, no less than death itself.” For a defense of gender roles rooted in creation, see Raymond Ortlund, “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1–3,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 95–112.
 Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, 39–40: “The curse brought a distortion of previous roles, not the introduction of new roles. . . . Eve would now rebel against her husband’s authority and Adam would misuse that authority to rule forcefully and even harshly over Eve.”
 Ortlund, “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship,” 109.
 For a helpful discussion of the history of work in America and the tension women face in “working in the home” (Titus 2:5) and in the modern world, see Nancy Pearcey, “How Women Started the Culture War,” in Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 325–48.
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