Men First: But For The Right Reasons
Some years ago, I was asked to co-sign a statement on biblical manhood and womanhood that had been prepared and signed by several dozen evangelical scholars and leaders. The document’s constitution-like set of scriptural affirmations and denials aimed to answer the modern need for clarification of the roles of each gender in a society where the distinct place of each has become blurred.
I almost signed. In light of the clear, contemporary call of the Holy Spirit to awaken Christian men to their role as men, I so much wanted to add my name to such a needed statement!
But I ended up writing the brother who had invited my endorsement, “Sorry, I can’t do it.” As good as the work was, I believer it was only almost right.
The central weakness of the document, in my view, was a proposition stating that the Bible’s placement of men as first, in terms of providing leadership, is based on a supposedly God-ordered preferential appointment of male over female at the time of Creation. In other words, the paper’s position was not simply that man has been assigned a leadership role in God’s order, but that he was created with it. When I read this, my mental brakes locked, and I screeched to a stop.
My concern was more than academic. With the welcomed and widespread rise of attention coming to men’s ministries throughout the Body of Christ today, I rejoice in any call to biblical manhood. I say, “Amen!” Let’s retool every man for it, with all the implications true biblical manhood holds for husbands and fathers in assuming their responsible role—and for every believing man in responding to the Master’s call to devotion, discipleship, and dutiful evangelism.
And let’s assert that men are to lead—to step forth first—not as substitutes for women, but as servants who lead the way so that others realize God’s fullest potential for them. Men are ordained to lead. But the fact that the Word of God calls men “first” should not be founded on a worn-out ecclesiastical dogma persisting today. This “firstness” and its way of service must be established on Divine revelation—on the facts of Scripture, not on the chauvinistic disposition of church tradition.
Let me put it plainly: There is no way that male authority or leadership over women can be properly deduced from the Bible as being the original intent of God. The Bible does show man as being assigned a distinct initiating responsibility with reference to the woman, but he is not assigned a higher authority. The combined records of the Creation in Genesis 1-2 establish two facts about the first pair:
They were given equal authority. (See Genesis 1:27-28.)
The man was assigned distinct responsibility. He was the one responsible to relay, share, and beget this mutuality of partnership with the woman, who, solely by reason of creative sequence, arrived later. (See Genesis 2:7-25.)
In short, before the Fall of man, the Divine order for rule, for dominion, for leadership was entirely equal between the first man and woman. Theirs was untainted joint-rule over all the Earth and the affairs assigned to them by the Creator. At Creation there was no submission of the woman to the man enjoined—only the submission of both to their Maker and to His Divine order for the fulfilling of their destiny. (Egalitarian is the term often used by those who hold that men and women have equal roles, and this original order was exactly that. But please note: I am not arguing for the egalitarianism being demanded by evangelical feminists, as the following paragraphs will attest.)
A New Order
In contrast to the male/female partnership in dominion before the Fall of man, a new order was decreed by Father God after the Fall—an order that both assigns the man’s role to lead and, at the same time, asserts that the woman will like chafe under the new order. Genesis 3:16 not only introduces the woman to the fact that childbirth with travail will now be hers (something her pre-Fall condition might have averted), but another pre-Fall condition is altered by the words, “…your desire shall be for your husband.”
This phrase has been subjected to many interpretations, but too seldom the correct one. The Hebrew verb teshuquah essentially asserts a quest for dominance: “You will want to overcome or overrule your husband—to lead him.” It’s an obvious reference to the fact that because she had held an equal role, God’s new post-Fall edict would be a tough pill for her to swallow. And understandably so, given that an inner sense of equality in dominion was created in both the male and female of the human species (not to mention the fact that both have been given equal creative potential and skills for leading to this day).
But God was establishing a new order, intended for the redemptive process. He was setting it in place—in contrast to the originally arranged creative order that had been violated and rendered dysfunctional. In other words, the man’s leading role was not by virtue of Creation, but rather was instituted as a provisional part of the redemptive process God set forth.
If one holds that the male is to lead because he is preferred by sovereign choice, the obvious question is: “What is the desired, ultimate objective in this structure of things—benevolent mastery?” Truthfully answered, that can be the only possible conclusion if the original order puts the man over the woman. And such a proposition carries with it a whole trainload of problems, not only where the concept is misapplied, but also in the limits it reaches when it finally arrives at its “best case” goal: half the race is kept at a slightly inferior place.
In contrast, if God assigned the male’s leadership role after the Fall as a means of setting forth a redemptive policy, a much higher goal is plainly in view. The target of God’s post-Fall assignment of the man’s responsibility to lead (not with privileged power or authority, but in the likeness of Christ, who came not to master but to serve) is clearly the recovery of the original order—of both male and female being restored to equal dominion.
Elsewhere I have expanded on this concept, which I believe is not only fully scriptural but ends in accomplishing what we would expect God’s redemptive operations to always achieve—the fullest dignity and nobility for every human being who opens to this program of full salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God is at work mightily, targeting the cultivation of a generation of men who keep their commitments, who serve their purpose under Christ and who see their leadership role as servants and not as masters.
I am of the conviction that this “men’s awakening” (for it is in motion!) is one of the most pivotal things happening in the Holy Spirit as the new century has been entered.
Fellow leader, go for it! rise to take your leading role, and as we each do that, expect the end result to be the fullest realization of both men’s and women’s purposes under God. That’s a different agenda than the submersion of one sex at the expense of the other, as though God had ordained one as secondary. Instead, let’s lead toward the emergence of men and women as partners unto God’s highest destiny for all of us in Christ.
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