In Sunday school our children learned the two-chapter gospel: Our problem is that we are separated from God because of our sin (chapter 1), the solution is that Christ has come into the world to die for our sins and reunite us to God through his work on the cross (chapter 2). While personal sin and individual salvation are core parts of the gospel, they are not the complete gospel story. The gospel story begins in Genesis 1 with creation and ends at the close of Revelation with restoration. This is the full meta narrative of Scripture.
The gospel, then, is not two chapters but four: 1) God speaks forth his glorious creation. 2) Creation (including man) is marred by Adam’s fall into sin. 3) Regenerate man and creation have been redeemed by Christ. 4) Creation is being restored to its original and even greater glory. There is an important practical reason to read the Bible as this single narrative that includes all four chapters; it enables us, as God’s people, to better see our role in the narrative. Our identity as God’s people comes in our missional role in God’s story of redeeming and restoring creation.
So, what is our missional role as Christ-followers in a culture that has abandoned God’s design of sexuality, gender identities, and gender roles? To answer, we must examine this topic through the proper, four-chapter gospel lens.
Creation: Regarding gender differences, the narrative of God’s good creation teaches us that man and woman were both created in God’s image, making them of equal worth and dignity. However, they are not created to fulfill the same roles. Eve is made to be a “suitable helper” to Adam. Adam was not created to be a “suitable helper” to Eve. Their roles are not interchangeable. Paul tells us that the man is to be the head of the woman, assigned the leadership role and authority. Eve is created to assist Adam as his perfect complement. God’s design of sexuality, like the rest of creation, speaks volumes to us about the wonder of our Maker. The humble response of the worshipper is praise to God for the glory of His creation, including His design of male and female.
Fall. The rebellion of Adam and Eve brought the corrupting power of sin into every sphere of their lives. Galatians 5 tells us that sin corrupts our sexuality, our worship, our interpersonal relationships, and the way we socialize (19-21). Specifically, sin and gender role reversal are inextricably bound together. Adam does not protect Eve from Satan’s temptation in the garden. Instead, he abdicates his leadership role and follows Eve in eating the fruit. When God brings judgement on Adam it is not just for eating the fruit: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground…” (Gen. 3:17). Eve’s punishment is the further corrosion of the gender roles God had created Adam and Eve to experience in perfect harmony: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).
The impact of the fall on mankind is immeasurable. Regarding gender, men have used their positions and power to abuse women in every culture that has existed. Others have been passive, weakly causing their women to bear the weight of leading. In Western culture, the idea of a wife being submissive to her husband is laughable among most women, so severe has been the impact of feminism. Other women, often citing a misunderstanding of biblical submission, stay enslaved in codependent relationships with abusive husbands. Meanwhile, the deconstruction of distinctions between male and female is marching towards absurdity with the rise of transgenderism.
Redemption: To redeem means “to purchase out of slavery.” Christ, our redeemer, has purchased his followers out of slavery to sin at the precious cost of his own blood. Of special significance in our redemption is our sexuality. A Christian’s sexuality is chosen by God to represent one of the deepest of mysteries: the relationship between Christ and the Church. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph. 5:23).
Elisabeth Elliot observes: There are two “theaters” in which the mystery is played out: the Christian home, and the local church. This is the reason, I believe, why such clear and unequivocal instructions are issued regarding how men and women are to conduct themselves in those two places. They are actors in a play in which tremendous heavenly mysteries are being enacted on stage (The Mark of a Man, pa 75).
The casting of the characters in this drama was done by God, Himself. Men, He decided, were to lead and hold positions of authority. The man is “the image of God” (1 Cor 11:7) representing the very person of God. They are to give themselves sacrificially to love their wives as Christ loves his church. Wives, in this divine drama, are assigned the subordinate role: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:22-23). When it comes to the living out of this drama in the local church Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (2 Tim 2:12). The analogy in this divine drama is God’s idea. We are not free to rearrange the parts. The order stands for something.
Restoration. A look through the lens of the four-chapter gospel helps us see that as redeemed believers we are to act out the divine play that portrays Christ’s love for his church and the church’s submission to him through our husband-wife roles in marriage. We are also privileged to show the world how male and female were originally designed to relate to each other. We are given the high calling of showing the world masculinity and femininity the way God originally designed it to function in Genesis 1 and 2.
Our personal story is to be a part of the meta story of the gospel—how God has created us, redeemed us from slavery to sin, and called us to show the world that Christ came to fix everything that sin has broken—including masculinity and femininity. Our commitment to the gender identity and role God has assigned to us is not a mere obligation. It is a high privilege and calling. We delight in the way God is redeeming our own masculinity or femininity to bring him honor and show the world the glory of the way he created his image-bearers to be male and female. Let's challenge the rising generation to enlist wholeheartedly in this cause!