The Covenant Way
by Susan Hunt
“Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation” (Ps. 71:18).
One of the things I feel an urgency to proclaim to our covenant sons and daughters is that “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them… . And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion’” (Gen. 1:27–28).
Male and female — created equally in God’s image but assigned different, equally valuable functions in His kingdom. This glorious difference points to our glorious triune God.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in substance and power, but each assumes a different function in the accomplishment of our redemption. The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, the Son redeemed us through His blood, and the Holy Spirit applies this redemption to our hearts (Eph. 1:3–14). These functions are not blurred but are so perfectly complementary that they harmonize to accomplish the grand work of redemption that praises His glorious grace (vv. 6, 12, 14).
To even think about which person of the Trinity or which Trinitarian function is most important is ridiculous. But this exquisite equality does not negate the functional authority within the Godhead. “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).
The Creator stamped the profound unity and diversity of His nature upon His image bearers. The world has highjacked gender distinctiveness by proclaiming that equality means sameness and that submission is demeaning to women. Worse than diminishing the value of our male and female design and function, this absurdity obscures our reflection of God’s glory.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18).
God created the man first, indicating headship. Man’s aloneness was not good, so God created a helper. This rich word (Heb., ezer) is often used to refer to God as our helper. Reflecting on how God ministers to us as our helper unfolds the beauty of our female calling. God helps by seeing and caring for the suffering (Ps. 10:14), supporting (20:2), protecting (33:20), delivering from distress (70:5), rescuing the needy and afflicted (72:12–14), and comforting (86:17). These are strong, relational, nurturing, compassionate words. They are covenant words. They characterize our relationship with God and with one another.
Man and woman are to be fruitful and take dominion by fulfilling their distinctive callings. Satan made his move to torpedo the structure of God’s kingdom by inverting the creation order and going to the woman. When the man and woman sinned, they lost their ability to be and do what God had created and commissioned them to be and do. But God, being rich in mercy, promised the Redeemer who would restore the relationship they lost.
The man and woman heard the first proclamation of the gospel (Gen. 3:15). The promise would be kept through the offspring of the woman. Adam’s response to this good news was to name his wife, an indicator that he was restored to headship. He named her Eve “because she was the mother of all living” (v. 20). This leaves me breathless. Eve means life-giver. The life-taker was restored to her pre-fall ability to be a life-giving helper because of the gospel.
Woman’s redemptive calling to be a life-giver is not just biological. The redeemed woman is called to be a life-giver in every season, relationship, and situation. And get this — only redeemed women have the ability to display God’s creation design and redemptive calling. This, too, leaves me breathless.
Multiplying and taking dominion is still the church’s compelling commission. Headship and submission are still the church’s compelling relational framework for men and women to live out our covenantal privileges and responsibilities. When Paul told Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12), he referred to judicial or governing authority. And he quickly gave the reason: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (v. 13). The governance of the church is to reflect the creation order, thus reflecting the character of God, thus reflecting the gospel.
Headship and submission are God’s ordained order to achieve oneness in marriage and unity in the church. Whenever a woman inverts this order, she becomes a life-taker. Instead of nurturing a sense of place and family in her home and church, she sucks the life out of that relationship/situation. Biblical submission liberates us to make the kingdom reality of God’s female design and calling visible to our families, friends, and neighbors, and to the next generation.
Why would we rebel against such a high and holy calling? The same reason Mother Eve did — pride. We are vain women and we live in Vanity Fair. We need the gospel, and we need the church and other women to help us know how to orient our lives to the gospel — it’s the covenant way