In his 1693 Baptist catechism, Benjamin Keach, a Reformed Baptist pastor and theologian, asks the following second question: “What is the chief end of man?” That is, why does mankind exist? Why did God create people? Answer: “Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” That is absolutely true and correct and there are copious places in scripture one can go to substantiate that. In Isaiah 43:6-7, scripture tells us that God created and formed all people for his own glory. In the book of Romans, we are told that all things were created “from [God] and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (11:36). And in the book of Revelation, we see the heavenly beings singing worship to God, day and night saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4:11). God is worthy of worship and praise because he is the Creator and we are the creature. He is the one who has “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God” (Acts 17:26-27).
But what does it mean to glorify God? The words glory and glorify come from the Greek words doxa and doxazo, from which we get our English word doxology, a liturgical expression of praise to God. Thus, to glorify God means to say something or do something which praises God, which exalts the goodness and greatness of God. We glorify God by living in obedience to his word, for to do so says to God that his words matter, that every word matters. To take God’s word flippantly or lightly, to want to push the boundaries of God’s word, to want to see how close we can dance to the edge and still make it into heaven, is to say to God that his words are moderately important, at best. However, those who desire to glorify God to the greatest extent will strive to take God’s words at face value, will humbly bow before the authority of God’s word, and embrace what God commands.
But why should we? Why should we want to live for God’s glory to the greatest extent possible? If you’re a believer, if you have been redeemed, justified, forgiven, and sanctified (made holy) by means of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, which you have received by faith alone in Christ alone, know that Christ was not required to do any of this for you. Christ was not obligated to step out of the glory of heaven and take on human form and then live the perfect life of obedience to the Law on your behalf and then die a horrible death on a Roman cross as a substitute in your place. He did all of that for you because he wanted to. He did all of that for you because he chose to. He did all of that for you simply because he loved you. That kind of love, mercy, and grace deserves an extreme level of devotion and obedience to God.
Thus, all people glorify God by striving to live their lives in obedience to God’s word, namely, repenting of their sins and believing in the gospel (Mk. 1:15). Christians bring the most glory to God by striving to imitate Christ and by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ (Mtt. 28:19-20; 1 Pet. 2:21). Children bring the highest glory to God by striving to honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-2). And men and women bring the greatest glory to God by believing, embracing, and living out the respective roles and responsibilities which God has given them (see How Women Bring the Most Glory to God).
However, before discussing the biblical role and responsibilities of men, it is important to note that men are not more valuable, more important, more significant, or better than women in any sense. God created both men and women in his image and likeness. We read in the book of Genesis that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27). Thus, when God later says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18), this was not a discovery God made. This was not an afterthought. God was not afraid that man would not be able to survive on his own. God had always intended to create a “helper fit for him.” This is indicated by the fact that before God created either one of them, we are allowed to listen in on the conversation taking place among the members of the Trinity when God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea…” (1:26, emphasis added). That God refers to “them” shows that he always intended to create two beings. When God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” he means that he is not done yet. God needs to complete the second half of his original plan--the creation of woman. Thus, a world without women, or a world without men, is a world that does not possess the fullest picture of God’s image.
That men and women are equal in image and likeness, however, does not mean they are equal in roles and responsibilities. This does not mean their roles and responsibilities can be exchanged or shared. Though one may help the other fulfill their responsibilities, they may not legitimately choose to share or swap their roles and responsibilities. To do so or think so is the very definition of egalitarianism, over and against the biblical concept of complementarianism. Egalitarianism is the idea that men and women are equal to one another in nature (image/likeness), roles (leader/helper), and relationships (how they relate to each other, the family, and the church).[i] Those who lean toward this view believe the roles and responsibilities of men and women are interchangeable; they can be swapped or shared.
On the other hand, the biblical concept of complementarianism rightly argues that while men and women are equal in nature (both made equally in God’s image), they are not equal in role and relationships. Their respective roles of leader/helper and, thus, how they are to relate to one another, to the family, and to the church are not interchangeable, cannot be swapped or shared. So, for example, a husband and wife may not mutually agree to equally share the responsibility of being the spiritual leader for the family. That role is the man’s alone. She may help him with that role and responsibility, but the role and responsibility are his alone. The husband and wife may not delegate their role and responsibilities, or a portion of their role and responsibilities, to the other.
In large part, this is due to the fact that the relationship between the man and the woman (Adam and Eve) was and is designed to reflect the relationship between the persons of the Godhead. The three persons of the Godhead are co-equally God, yet they each have distinct roles and responsibilities within the Godhead and within redemptive history. The Father lays out the plan of redemption; the Son carries out the plan of redemption, and the Holy Spirit applies the plan of redemption. The Son and the Holy Spirit cannot exchange or share their distinct roles and responsibilities. Though the Holy Spirit does help the Son carry out his role and responsibility (the Holy Spirit ministered to and strengthened the Son throughout his ministry), the Holy Spirit cannot swap roles with the Son, nor can the Son delegate his role or responsibility to the Holy Spirit, nor can they mutually agree to share roles and responsibilities. The Son and the Holy Spirit cannot mutually agree to both die on the cross for sin.
So then, what is the role and responsibility of men? To begin with, man was created in the leadership role. This is seen in four ways. First, Adam was created before Eve. This is the point Paul makes in 1 Timothy 2:13 when he argues that women are not permitted to teach or have authority over men because “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Man possesses the senior position. Second, Adam was given the charge to work and keep (abad and shamar) the garden (2:15). These responsibilities (which will be discussed later) are not given to the woman as she is not created until later. The woman is created as a helpmate for Adam do what God has given him to do. Third, the man is given the instruction from God not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and, therefore, is given the task of teaching/conveying accurately God’s word to the woman (Gen. 2:16-17). And fourth, the man names all the creatures God has created and also names the woman (vv.19, 23). The right to name implies the right to govern. This is one of the reasons God is fond of renaming people in the Bible: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. That man was created in the role of leadership is further established in 1 Corinthians 11:3 where scripture tells us that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” God places the husband in the position of leadership within the home, and men in the position of leadership within the church.
With great authority, however, comes great responsibility. The man is given the responsibility to work and to keep the garden and everything contained within the garden. The Hebrew words for work and keep are abad and shamar and carry the meaning of to work, attend or nurture, and shamar can mean to keep, guard or protect. Thus, the man is given the charge to attend, nurture, guard and protect everything within the garden. This would include the woman, once she is created. He is to do all he can to ensure she blossoms and flourishes, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. He is also to do all he can to protect her in these three areas. This begins with accurately conveying what God has said and protecting her from the lies of the serpent. Something he failed to do on both counts. Something many men continue to fail at today.
When Eve is asked by the serpent, “Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" Eve responds by saying, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” God never said, “neither shall you touch it.” Apparently, Adam failed to accurately convey to the woman what God actually said. Second, why was Eve the one debating with the serpent? Where was her husband? Adam should have been protecting her from his lies. He failed, and we are all suffering the consequences.
Nevertheless, the responsibility of nurturing and protecting the woman is something established in creation pre-fall. This continues to be the role and responsibility of the man, of husbands and fathers. They are to nurture and protect the women under their care (wives and daughters) emotionally, spiritually, and physically. For this reason, we read in Ephesians 5 that husbands are commanded to “love your wives, [just] as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v.25). Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved and continues to love the church—sacrificially, always striving to be a servant to her, ever striving to be patient, kind, gentle, merciful, forgiving, so on and so forth. We see Peter echoing the same sentiments when he says, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7). Toward the end of Ephesians 5, Paul ends with these words: “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” God commands men to love their wives and cherish them and treat them as they deserve to be treated.
Spiritually, scripture commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church so “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (v.26). Husbands are to be washing their wives with God’s word so that she might become more sanctified, so she might progress in holiness and godliness. This entails ensuring they attend church regularly, yes, but more than that. It also entails praying with them, reading and studying God’s word with them, teaching them God’s word and, if you have children, engaging in daily family worship time. Essentially, husbands are called to shepherd their wives using God’s word. This would apply to daughters as well, as we are told in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up [sons and daughters] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Fathers are commanded to be the spiritual leaders of their family. This is their role and responsibility.
This is a weighty responsibility, particularly as it pertains to wives, as scripture goes on to say that husbands are to wash their wives with the word of God “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Recall that the apostle Paul is using the relationship between Christ and the church as a visual illustration of how and why husbands are to love and shepherd their wives in the same way. Christ washes the church with his word in order to sanctify her so that someday he might present the church (his bride) to himself without spot or wrinkle--holy. In the same way, husbands are to wash their wives with God’s word in order to sanctify her so that someday he might present her to Christ without spot or wrinkle. Husbands are responsible for the spiritual progression of their wives. Husbands are responsible for shepherding them well, teaching them God’s word, protecting them from false doctrine, and setting an example of Christ-like character before them. For these reasons, men need to study their Bibles and learn to read books on theology.
It is worth noting that throughout the Bible men are given the primary responsibility of teaching God’s word to the church and to women and children. Within the church, the teaching role of elder is clearly limited to men (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). In Ephesians 5, husbands are commanded to wash their wives with God’s word so that he might “sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” And Ephesians 6:4, fathers are command to “not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” All these commands to teach God’s word are given to men. This is their responsibility. Men are to be the primary teachers of God’s word within the church and within the family.
Physically, men are required to provide for and protect the women under their charge (wives and daughters). In the first letter Paul writes to Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus, he provides him with instructions on how to care for widows. He first says that children and grandchildren have a duty to provide for their mother or grandmother who is a widow (5:4). In biblical times there was no social security. Paul then goes on to say, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Contextually, Paul is discussing widows, however, we must not overlook the singular masculine pronouns he uses--his and he. Men have a responsibility to provide for “his relatives” and for “members of his household.” That is, whatever members are living in “his household.” This is not to say that wives cannot work outside the home. It is to say that it is not their role and responsibility to provide for the household. Certainly, they can help if they desire to (with their husband’s approval) or if the husband needs them to help (i.e., a man is unemployed or injured). Afterall, she was created to be his helper. But the role and responsibility of providing for the household lies with the man alone. This was established in creation pre-fall and, thus, this role and responsibility cannot be delegated to the woman, nor can a man and wife mutually agree to swap roles.
This responsibility was so ingrained in Jewish culture that we see Jesus in the final moments of his life seeking to provide for his mother after he is gone. Most scholars believe the reason Joseph is not mentioned in the gospels after Jesus is twelve years old is because he likely had died during Jesus’ teenage years (Lk. 2:42). Thus, when Jesus is hanging on the cross and he sees the disciple John standing next to his mother, he has concern for her. How will she live? Who will provide for his mother who is a widow? “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn. 19:26-27). Jesus understood he had a biblical obligation to provide for her (1 Tim. 5:4).
Far too many men abdicate their God-given role and responsibilities, thinking to themselves that so long as the wife is studying the Bible and the children can go to her for answers, that’s good enough. So long as the family is attending church and learning from the pastor, that’s good enough. But pastors and Sunday school teachers are not the primary shepherds of the family--husbands and fathers are. Too many men encourage their wives to work, even when they don’t want to, not because the men need help paying the bills, but because they need help buying that new bass boat or RV or paying for satellite TV. Too many men want their wives to work so they can satisfy their own covetous desires. Too many men allow their wives to fill the role of spiritual shepherd to the family, to pay half or most of the bills, and then wonder why their wives don’t respect them.
We need to remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).
[i] Gregg R. Allison, The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016)
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