Editor's Note: Every Sunday, DrydenWire.com publishes a submitted article in a weekly series from Pastor Brian Cole. If you would have a question for Brian or would like to learn more about him, visit his website or his official Facebook page.
Now God goes on to say something more about the relationship between man and woman. And what He says is that when it comes to their differing responsibilities, there is a “firstness” of responsibility that falls to the man. This is not an issue of superior value. That issue has been settled in Genesis 1:27. It’s an issue of a sinless man, in childlike dependence on God, being given a special role or responsibility. God makes him the initial half of the pair to say something about his responsibility in initiating. God makes him lead the way into being to say something about his responsibility of leadership.
The apostle Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit in his handling of the Scripture did see significance in the man being created first (1 Timothy 2:13). And we cannot say there is no meaning in something where an inspired apostle finds significant meaning.
So, the first thing we see is very significant: man was created first, then the woman. And this points to a leadership responsibility for the man, especially in view of the other Scriptures we will be covering.
One of the responsibilities that came with being there first was the primary responsibility (not the only, but the primary responsibility) to receive and teach and be accountable for the moral pattern of life in the garden of Eden. Before woman was created, God came to man in verse 16 and said, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 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 shall die.” After the woman was created, there is no record that this pattern of moral life for the garden was repeated by God to the woman.
After the moral pattern had been broken by both Adam and Eve, God came to call them to account in chapter 3. And even though the woman had eaten the forbidden fruit first, God came to Adam first, not Eve, to hold him accountable for the failure to live by the pattern He had given.
Verse 9: “But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Adam, where are you? Verse 11 (still interrogating Adam first): “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Why would God come to the man first, and call him to give and account instead of going to the woman first, especially since she ate the fruit first?
The most natural answer is that God gave the man a primary responsibility for the moral life of the garden and therefore man has a primary accountability for the failure to live by it. Make no mistake: God does hold the woman accountable for her actions. She is a personal, morally accountable being in the very image of God. And what man does or fails to do relieves her of no personal, individual responsibility to know and to obey God.
But in their relationship to each other God looks to the man and says, “Have you been the moral and spiritual leader you ought to have been?”
James Dobson (of “Focus on the Family”) has seen the importance of this truth very clearly and the terrible effects when a husband and father shirks his responsibility. Here is what he said:
"A Christian man is obligated to lead his family to the best of his ability . . . If his family has purchased too many items on credit, then the financial crunch is ultimately his fault. If the family never reads the Bible or seldom goes to church on Sunday, God holds the man to blame. If the children are disrespectful and disobedient, the primary responsibility lies with the father . . . not his wife . . . In my view [says Dobson], America’s greatest need is for husbands to begin guiding their families, rather than pouring every physical and emotional resource into the mere acquisition of money." (Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives, Word Books, 1980, pp. 64f.)
I agree with Dobson because I think that is what is being taught in these chapters. God brought man onto the scene first as the leader. He entrusted him first with the moral pattern of the garden. And he called him to account first for the failure of disobedience. Therefore, 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 man bears a greater responsibility for leadership than woman does.
This is the way God meant it to be before there was any sin in the world: sinless man, full of love, in his tender, strong, moral leadership in relation to woman; and sinless woman, full of love, in her joyful, responsive support for man’s leadership. No belittling from the man, no groveling from the woman, but two intelligent, humble, God-entranced beings living out, in beautiful harmony, their unique and different responsibilities.
And Satan knows that this is a beautiful arrangement. He knows that God’s pattern of life is designed for man’s good. But Satan hates God and he hates man. He is a liar and a killer from the beginning. And so what does he do? This is the fourth observation. Satan assaults God’s pattern by attacking the woman instead of the man. If God means for man to bear the special responsibility for leadership in the garden, then Satan will do what he can to destroy that pattern.
Why did he approach the woman in Genesis 3:1? Why did he talk to her first and make her the spokesman for the couple? Why did he lure her into being the moral guardian of the garden? Was it because she was easier prey? Is woman more gullible than man? Or could the answer be: Satan drew the woman in first, and made her the spokesman and the moral guardian, because that is exactly what should not have been done?
In other words, Satan spurns the order that God has established and simply ignores the man and takes up his subtle battle with the woman. And in doing that, he makes man into exactly what he wants him to be: a silent, withdrawn, weak, fearful, passive wimp. And a masculine wimp is a very dangerous person. One moment he’s passive and follows his woman; and the next moment he’s angry and blames her for all of his problems. And Satan laughs to himself and says, “Now I have created such a confusion of roles they will never sort this out. They will look at the abusive man and tell him to be more passive with women. And they will look at the abused woman and tell her 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 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 because of you.” In other words, “Adam, you were listening when you should have been leading.” God is not confused about what Satan did.
And he doesn’t want us to be confused either. He created man first; he gave him the moral pattern of the garden first; he held him accountable for failure first; and he punished him for falling right in line with God’s archenemy when Satan lured man and woman into a great role reversal at the fall.
So, what should we do? Well, men, we should humble ourselves before God for our failures. All of us. This is not a call to exalt yourself over any woman. This is not a call to domineer, or belittle, or to put woman in her place. She is, after all, a fellow heir of God and destined for a glory that will blind us some day. This is a call to stoop down and to take the responsibility to be a leader — a servant leader in the various ways that are appropriate to every different relationship to women.
Next week we will continue our third part on relationships by looking at how God created man and woman as a reflection of the Trinity and we will see the beauty of both our equality and our differences.