God Invented Sex Roles
Sex is the only distinction between human beings that Jesus created. This fact sets gender apart from any other difference we find between people, whether in history or in contemporary times. The Bible doesn’t say, “slave and free created He them.” Neither does it say, “black and white created He them,” or “patrician, plutocrat, plebeian, and peasant created He them.” These are human constructs, products of the age of sin. Gender, by contrast, is a divine construct: “Male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:27; Matt 19:4). God created only two sexes, and He does not want them confused. Scripture calls it is an abomination for men or women to confuse the genders by wearing garments appropriate only to the opposite sex (Deut. 22:5).
Adam was formed first, from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). Eve was formed later, from a rib in Adam's side (verses 21-22). It is to Adam that God gave instruction regarding the care of the Garden and the significance of the two trees in its midst, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (verses 15-17). It is Adam who names the animals (verses 19-20), all before Eve is even created. Eve was created as Adam’s “helpmeet,” meaning as a capable helper suitable to him. Adam was not created as Eve’s helpmeet. And it is Adam who names Eve, once before the Fall and once after the Fall (verse 23; Gen. 3:20).
Adam and Eve did not lose their robes of light and become naked until Adam sinned (Gen. 3:7; PP 57). When, after the Fall, the two of them fled from the presence of the Lord, it was Adam—not Eve—to whom the Lord called (Gen. 3:9). Adam was the vice-ruler, under God, of the human race. Hence, even though Eve was the first to disobey by eating the fruit, Scripture identifies Adam as the one through whom sin and death entered the world (Rom. 5:12-19). Hence also Jesus Christ, who is the Second Person of the Godhead, came to earth as the “second Adam,” not the “second Eve.” “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
Adam and Eve were both equally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and men and women are equal in value and worth (1 Cor. 11:12; Gal. 3:28). But Adam and Eve were different in form and function. They were not created equal in height and strength; Adam was taller, stronger, and more muscular. “Eve was somewhat less in stature” (PP 45). Adam had less fat under the skin; his wife was softer. They were different physically just as they were created with different but complementary roles. From the beginning, before sin, Eve was Adam’s helper and Adam was Eve’s loving protector.
Before the fall, Adam was the perfect husband. He didn’t need to be told, “Husbands, … dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Adam did this naturally. And Eve didn’t have to be told to be submissive; this was as natural as breathing.
Adam and Eve had different experiences and expectations. Eve was the mother, the mom. She carried the baby for nine months. She alone had breasts to feed the baby until it was weaned. Adam had no oxytocin surge during childbirth to create a chemically-initiated life-long bond with the child. If Adam, as representative of the human race, was fulfilling his responsibilities at a heavenly counsel (Job 1:6; 2:1), Eve, as his assistant would have had the equally important, if not more important, task of overseeing, training, and directing the children in their responsibilities to beautify the garden and home. Adam and Eve worked together like a smoothly functioning team, with a CEO and COO. Despite the complications of sin, all happy families still function this way today, with husband and wife carrying out different but complementary roles, both of which are essential.
To Adam was committed not only the vital instructions regarding the two trees in Eden, he was, Ellen White tells us, instructed regarding the Sabbath. "The Sabbath was committed to Adam, the father and representative of the whole human family” (PP 48). God would hold Adam responsible for the Sabbath being communicated to his posterity.
God had designed that Adam would be the vice-regent, or ruler of the earth under the authority of Christ. Through sin, he betrayed his sovereignty into Satan’s hands: “Satan's dominion was that wrested from Adam, but Adam was the vicegerent of the Creator. His was not an independent rule. The earth is God’s, and He has committed all things to His Son. Adam was to reign subject to Christ. When Adam betrayed his sovereignty into Satan's hands, Christ still remained the rightful King” (DA 129).
Under biblical patriarchy, “the father was the proper ruler of his own family as long as he lived. His authority was not to cease, even after his children were grown up and had families of their own” (PP 293). This is how it was to be, and how it will be in heaven and on earth when the earth is restored to its Edenic beauty. Adam will govern with authority that we will respect, honor, and obey. Ellen White has given us an amazing preview of the joyous day on which Christ will restore Adam's vice-regency :
The two Adams are about to meet. The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our race—the being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviour's form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying: "Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" Tenderly the Saviour lifts him up and bids him look once more upon the Eden home from which he has so long been exiled. . . . The Son of God redeemed man's failure and fall; and now, through the work of the atonement, Adam is reinstated in his first dominion. Transported with joy, he beholds the trees that were once his delight--the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. (GC 647-8).
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What kind of leader was Adam to be?
A gentle, loving, self-sacrificing, Christlike leader. Paul described it well, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). Unfortunately, “but few fathers realize their responsibility” (AH 211). Ellen White advised, “Let every husband who claims to love God carefully study the requirements of God in his position. Christ’s authority is exercised in wisdom, in all kindness and gentleness; so let the husband exercise his power and imitate the great Head of the church” (AH 215).
2. Does Song of Solomon 7:10 reverse the male leadership God called for in Gen 3:16?
In this text Solomon’s wife exclaims, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” Does this reverse Genesis 3:16, where Eve is told, “thy desire shall be toward thy husband and he shall rule over thee”?
No. We all know what Song of Solomon is describing: a husband's sexual desire for his wife. This is domestic love not domestic leadership. The wife has given herself to her husband and is expressing joy at her husband's physical attraction to her.
It is also a spiritual illustration of the joy that comes when we give ourselves totally to Christ and are thrilled to discover that Jesus personally loves us. Finally, it can illustrate the church belonging to Christ and saying, “I am my beloved’s and His desire is toward me.” But the fact that Jesus loves and wants us does not make us His leader, nor does Christ’s love for his bride, the church, make the church the head of Christ. To the contrary, Christ remains head of the church, just as the husband remains head of the wife despite his strong desire for her: “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Eph. 5:23
3. Does the New Testament continue to use family imagery to illustrate the relationship between a leader of the church and his congregation?
Yes. Paul describes himself as a spiritual father to his converts (1 Cor 4:15), but they are also God’s children, and members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). The apostle John also refers to the believers to whom he writes as his children (1 John 2:1), and he is equally clear they are God’s children as well (1 John 3:1).