Monday, September 21, 2015

Genesis 2:18-25 - Man and Woman Before the Fall

Last  week  we considered the nature of the   image of God  in man (Genesis  1:26-31).    We considered firstly the fact that human beings were created by God.   Man  was  created   not as an end in  himself , but  that God’s glory might be displayed through him.  That is the true purpose and meaning of our lives. 

Secondly, we  considered  that man and woman were created in the image of God. None of God’s other creatures  share this privilege. We then considered the effect that  the fall had upon man , as the image of God  in man now appears to be  severely distorted. However, the   new creation  through the new birth, as men and women are renewed  by God’s grace,  once more   reveals the image of God in man  as God is glorified in the lives  of  human beings.

Thirdly, we  considered that God created man and woman after His image. Together, men  and women  reflect  the  image  and  glory of God. Sadly,   again,  we noted that the fall has distorted  and confused  the nature of  the God intended relationship between men and women, and between  men, women and God . This relationship can only be  redeemed in Christ , and if it is  then its best  exhibit may be seen in  the Christian marriage (Eph.  5)  which  reflects  the mystery of the  union between Christ and His church. Ultimately we find our fulfillment not in this  best of   earthly relationships , but in our union with Christ. This is also the reason incidentally why single people  may be completely fulfilled in Christ without a human partner.

Having said this, there  are two more subjects which we need to consider now :
(i)                 The nature  of man and woman before the fall (today)
(ii)               The nature of man and woman after the fall  (next week)

Man and woman before the  fall,  from the perspective of  Genesis 2:18-25.  

This is  a very relevant subject. There  is much debate and  confusion  in our day  concerning the role of men and women. Many are saying  that there is no  difference between men and women. Practically speaking this  sort of thinking has led to an immense  gender war  in which men and women  find themselves  in   continuous and unhelpful  competition. The devil laughs! The biblical  design, as we shall see is  that men and women  are not made to compete, but to complement one another.
How shall  we then  get clarity on this matter?  Clearly we need to go back to the  drawing board , back to the original design  concerning man and woman. What did manhood and womanhood look like before sin distorted them?  
Let us begin by rehearsing the basics: 

In Genesis  1 we learned  that man and woman were created in the image of God as male and female (1:27),and  God blessed them together as a couple. They were created by God  to  enjoy   a fruitful  relationship in which  they  were  to multiply  ( something which only a man and a woman can do , and no homosexual couple)   and together they are to subdue  and rule the earth under God.  Here we find  men and women equal of personhood,  complementing one another , sharing  a  common  work and  purpose in the world. 

In Genesis 2   we find further  important   insights   concerning the original  relationship  between    men and women.  In this regard we wish to make four observations:  

1.  Man was created  before Woman  
Gen 2:7 :  the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Gen. 2:21,22  “21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
In 1 Timothy 2:13 the apostle Paul simply says, “Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

Now why did God create man and woman in this way? Why did He not create them both simultaneously?   The answer is that God did this deliberately.   He wants us to know  that He has created  a first-ness of responsibility that falls to the man. God assigns to  Adam the role and responsibility of leadership in his  home and in  in the church and  in society . It has nothing to do  with  being superior . It  was  a role , an assignment , a  function  which God  had in mind for Adam. This is the reason also why Jesus chose  12 male apostles for  the first leadership of His church.
2. Adam’s call to leadership was to receive, teach and be accountable for the moral pattern of life in the garden of Eden.
Before woman was created , God said He said  to Adam :   “v.16. You may surely  eat of every tree in the garden; 17 but of  the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat , for in the day  that you  eat of it you will surely die.”  Before Adam received His wife from God , he was made morally accountable.  We read of no such repetition after God had  created  the woman.  Adam carries the  responsibility  of  maintaining the  moral rule  of the garden. He  was given  the  responsibility of instructing  Eve,  and  together they  were being  held accountable.  Lest you think that this is a fabricated argument , consider  a third  observation:
3. After the moral rule  had been broken by Eve  in Genesis 3 , God  came  to hold  Adam   accountable.

Genesis 3:9,11 “ But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  And in verse 11 we observe God still interrogating Adam …  “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you (singular)  not to eat from?”
Why would God  hold  Adam accountable  if  in fact Eve  had   trespassed   by the eating of the fruit? The most natural answer is that God  had assigned  to  Adam  the  primary responsibility for upholding  the moral rule  of the garden.  His failure lay in the fact  that  he  was not leading His wife, by strengthening her convictions regarding that moral rule,   at that time when she was being tempted  by Satan. He was not the moral, spiritual and physical defender  of his wife  when she was being tempted.   This does of course  not mean  that God does not hold Eve  accountable for her actions .   But  the final accountability rests with Adam.
And so it is,  that  men  are still so very absent  in  the lives of their wives and their  homes. Men are  called by God to exercise moral , spiritual and physical  leadership in the home.   If   the  family  becomes indebted through unwise spending, or if   the  children are not biblically disciplined, and when  the family   seldom prays and  reads the Bible together,   or seldom  worships  God   on Sunday,  then  God holds the man accountable. Similarly  when  it comes to  leading the church , and when  the fathers of the church are not leading in the prayers for the  church, and when they fail to protect  and guard her gates against  the enemies of the church, then God holds us men  accountable.
God  had  entrusted  the man   with the  duty to uphold the moral rule of the garden. He called  him to account for the first failure of disobedience. Even though man and woman bear equal individual responsibility before God for their own obedience (that’s what it means to be created in His image), nevertheless in relationship to each other the man bears a greater responsibility for leadership than the  woman does.
This  was  God’s  original  design :   
·         a sinless man, full of love,  and possessed  with  strong spiritual and  moral leadership of his  companion, and his equal ,  the woman.  
·          a sinless woman, full of love,  and possessed  with a joyful, responsive , intelligent support for her companion’s  leadership.
The man  does not  belittle  his wife and she  does not undermine or usurp his  God-given authority.  Together they are humble, God- centred, other centred , unselfish   companions  living  in harmony , each exercising their God given roles.
Satan’s  hatred of God and  of these  perfect beings created in  the image of God  becomes  the ultimate catalyst   to the undoing  of  God’s plan and purpose  for  men and women. Hence our fourth point:
4. Satan, the fallen angel  plans an attack  on  the human  pair created in God’s  image. He does this  by approaching  the  woman instead of the man.  
Now why  did Satan not attack the man, the first Adam, since he was the leader?   Why did he approach Eve  in Genesis 3:1? What was his strategy?  The answer is that Satan  knew what he was doing. He   engaged  the woman  as if she  was  the  spokesman and the moral guardian.  In so doing  he  inverted  and subverted  the order that God had established. He  simply ignored  and bypassed  the man, and in so   doing  he made  the  man into exactly what he wanted  him to be: an absent,  silent, passive bystander,  robbed  of  his God given authority. 
The danger with  men  in this position  is that  while they  may be passive  for a  while, they will  eventually   become angry and abusive,  engaging in blame- shifting, blaming  God and Eve  for this mess … “ the woman  whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate …”  (Gen. 3:12).  The fall has indeed made  men  abusive and women subversive (exegesis of  Gen. 3:16) . And to add  insult to  injury ,  a worldly wisdom  now  tells men   to be more passive towards  women, and   a worldly wisdom  tells the abused woman to be more assertive with men. And they will never get to the root of the problem.
But in Genesis 3:17 God goes right to the root of the problem. He says to the man, “Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must  not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you.” In other words, God said  to him,  “Adam, you were listening when you should have been leading.The  ultimate root of the fall is not  Eve’s  sin.  It is Adam’s sin that preceded  Eve’s sin. Adam wasn’t  leading his wife  at a critical juncture.
God is not confused about what Satan did. And  we should not  either . We need to get  back to the original plan.
·         Thank God for the Gospel ! (Genesis 3:15) . The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ truly changes people (Rom. 1:16) 
·     Obey the Gospel ! The Gospel obeyed reverses the effects of the fall and reverses  the damage  progressively.  (Gal. 2:20)
·         For men  this means  that  we need to embrace  the Lord Jesus  and  humble ourselves before God  and confess our  failures. This is not a call to  become domineering. Our women  are   fellow heirs of God’s grace (1 Peter 3:7) and co- destined  with us for  glory.  This is a call  to  exercise godly, humble  Christ like , loving leadership in our homes and in the church. This is a call   to pray  for God’s help in this tremendous responsibility;  this is a call to learn  the logic  of  God’s Word more than we ever done, that we may  know what God expects of us.  This is a call to  be disciplined and ordered in our lives. May we learn to be strong and yet  tenderhearted leaders of our homes, churches and communities.
·         For  women , this  means  that you should  embrace the Lord Jesus  and  humble yourselves  before God  for your failures. This is not a call to take the place of  weak men. This is your  time  for  praying that   the men in your homes , churches and communities  will rise up to become what God has  called them to be . This is a time for you  to  teach by example  what biblical submission looks like – that kind of godly submission  by which Sarah  got the attention of her husband Abraham , and by which godly wives win the  attention of their ungodly husbands (1 Peter 3:1-7). This is a time to stop  aggressive , subversive behaviour , and to demonstrate  to  a watching world how God  powerfully uses  strong  and meek  women yielded to him  to change  the hard hearts  found in  their  homes, churches and societies .
May God continue to teach us and humble us and heal us in all our relationships for His great glory and for our joy.  For this may we look back to the original plan of God  in Genesis  1 &2  and  apply  those primary truths . Amen

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