The Great Secret
There have been cultures in the past with female goddesses, and the thought of creation coming from a womb is not new. But we know of no voice that vindicates the culture nourished under those beliefs or calls for a return to such a culture. Apparently those cultures offered nothing that appealed to the current movement.
God is Spirit. He is neither male nor female. Yet He has chosen in the majority of biblical revelation to reveal himself through male images. It is best that we understand the significance of this mode of revelation rather than declaring that God is male or rejecting Him completely for a new female image for Deity. The differences between males and females are part of a revelation the Creator has given us to aid our understanding. We can gain much understanding by studying the figures of speech used in the scriptures and the types and symbols imprinted in our bodies of flesh.
The Building Of Woman
Some feminists say the Genesis account blames woman for the entrance of sin and alienation from God, though Paul says that "through one man sin entered into the world" (Rom. 5:12). God's method of creating humanity was different from that used to bring the animal kingdoms into being. The details of these workings are designed to teach us much deep truth. There have been many novel interpretations of these passages, but seldom is light given which penetrates deeply into the reasons for God's methods. Andrew Jukes, in The Names Of God, has shown much about the significance of the names of God and their use in the opening chapters of the Bible. Elohim, God in covenant relation to His creation, is the name for God used exclusively in Genesis 1:1—2:3. There it is stated that humanity was created male and female, and in God's image, and that all came to be very good. The faithfulness of Elohim in His responsibility to His creation is the basis for everything, and the outcome will be very good.
The second chapter presents God not as Elohim only, but also as Yahweh Elohim. The name Yahweh is a compound form of the verb be—it has been rendered as "will-be-ing-was" and shows God relative to His purpose in time. ["Lord God Almighty, Who wast and Who art and Who art coming!" (Rev. 4:8) illustrates the sense of this name.] Yahweh is the holy One Who requires His people to be holy too. As Yahweh Elohim, God is especially intimate with humanity, forming the human from the dust of the earth. Then Yahweh Elohim introduces specific order, planting a watered garden with special trees in particular places. And the human is given responsibility and law—eat of these and do not eat of this. In chapter 2 the order of events seems different from chapter 1. If we say, "Oh, here are two different legends," we have missed the point. But if we compare this second chapter, in which many details of humanity's creation are revealed, with the first chapter, we may learn many things about the God Who is both Elohim and Yahweh, and His purpose for humanity.
The human was created with the problem of loneliness, and this problem is emphasized by the human realizing that no creature of the entire earthly realm was suitable to relieve that loneliness. So Yahweh Elohim caused the human to fall into a deep sleep, during which He removed one of the human's parts, consisting of flesh and bone, and from that part He made the woman. Then Yahweh Elohim presented the woman to the man, and the man recognized the woman as originating from himself. The phrase flesh and bone became an expression for recognition of relationship (compare Gen. 29:14; Jud. 9:2; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:13). Christ called for the disciples to recognize Him as flesh and bone after His resurrection. The key is for humanity to recognize Christ as Man, both in His incarnation and resurrection, and to be related to Him in both.
At this point the scriptures supply commentary that one man and one woman joined together are the primary unit of the family and society. And it says, "they shall become one flesh." It was together that the man and woman were in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and it was together that they were to multiply and fill the earth and hold sway over the animal kingdom (Gen. 1:28). Paul tells us there is more meaning in the union of husband and wife than meets the eye. "For this, 'a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.' This secret is great: yet I am saying this as to Christ and as to the ecclesia" (Eph. 5:31, 32). A husband and wife may be one in many ways, but they never literally become one flesh, except in their children. Only in a child, a new life made of one half from each of them, are they truly one flesh. Only in a new life produced in us by union with Christ can we be one with Him. In Him we are a new creation. This new life of oneness with Christ is the great secret of "the two shall be one flesh."
Christ was in the bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:18), but He left that intimate association to be joined with us and to live in us (Gal. 2:20) and to be one with us (Jn. 17:22, 23). As humanity was to hold sway over the birds above and the animals below, so Christ will hold sway over the spiritual realm above and the earthly realm below. But the subjection of the universe is not something that He accomplishes alone. Christ employs the ecclesia, which is His body, in the celestial realm and an Israel born anew on the earth in the heading up of all in Him. It is those who are in Christ, and who were chosen in Him before the disruption (Eph. 1:4), who are the complement of the One completing the all in all (Eph. 1:23).
No philosophical scheme of society or form of government that the world has ever yet seen will be what obtains when the kingdom of God comes in the full measure to which Christ will bring it. Then the primary unit of society will not be a husband and wife. Then the primary unit of society will be one person joined and one with Christ. Each and every individual will first be one with Christ. Then, when all the units of society are each perfected, then the Son will give a perfected kingdom back to the Father, and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
Colossians 1:16 & 17 tell us that all was created in and through Christ, and that all has its cohesion in Him. The word translated cohesion means to stand together. In English we have an interesting contrast between the words adhesion and cohesion. Both words mean to hold together, but the forces causing them to hold together may be different. When I was a child we made bandages from cloth and adhesive tape. They were not the "ouch-less" kind. The adhesive tape caused things that were different: skin, cloth, medicine, sweat, and dirt, to all hold together. Cohesion is what holds things that are alike together. If you fill a glass of water slowly and carefully, you can overfill it without spilling. The water will mound up over the top edge of the glass. Cohesion holds the water together. When each individual becomes one with Christ, the power of that cohering bond will hold all together in peace.
From What Was Eve Made?
If God had wanted us to know exactly what organs or tissues He took from the human to make the woman, He could have told us and He would have told us. But instead of telling us, He gave us a word the translators struggle with. Many versions render that word rib. It is a word used many times to name portions of the tabernacle, which so thoroughly represented Christ. And it is a word used many times to describe portions of the temple, which represents those who are the temple of God. And that temple was the place in which God came to dwell, as He has come to dwell in us. In Ephesians 4 the last Adam made a gift of His members through which a body is built. The members given are those called apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These members function "for the building of the body of Christ, unto the end that we should all attain to the unity of the faith and of the realization of the son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ," (Eph. 4:12, 13).
Please notice that the complement of Christ, the second Man, is not pictured here as female, but as male. The goal is for us to attain to the realization of the son of God—to a mature man—to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ. The complement of the last Adam is much different from the complement of the first Adam. Why does Paul not speak here of believers as a bride or wife or body of Christ? Why does he speak here of believers as a son of God—indeed—as the son of God—as if they were truly one with Christ? For a long time the use of the definite article here bothered me. I could imagine that, by the grace of God, I would be a son of His. But even now I struggle with the thought that I will attain to the realization of the son of God. Do we realize what God intends to make of us? Do we realize how great the secret is that is represented in the lives and relationships we live out daily in the bodies of sin's flesh?
Perhaps these words are the greatest evidence of how far-reaching the revelations given in the book of Ephesians are. If it looks forward to the condition of full sonship, it must reach beyond the coming of the bride, the new Jerusalem. It must be beyond the reach of His slaves or servants serving Him and seeing His face (Rev. 22:3, 4). These revelations are rooted in Genesis 1 where God, in covenant relation with a ruined creation, continued working through various stages of development until all was very good. But He wanted us to see and understand more. So He showed us loneliness in One through Whom we came to be—a loneliness that shadowed forth a darker and deeper loneliness than we can fathom—a loneliness of God-forsakenness that must be endured before His body could be built. He showed us the wounding of Another was required for us to be built together into the image for which we were intended. He showed us law, and broken law, and alienation, and One entering into our sins with us, to bring us out into freedom. All these things are being accomplished through different administrations and time periods in which some new aspect of Yahweh is being made known.
The Womb And The Tomb
The Bible consistently uses the womb as a typical representation of the tomb, or death, as the following passages will show. God has chosen to do this so that the very bodies in which we live can be part of a revelation of His multifarious wisdom and power. The daily experience of our existence is endowed with the means to teach us great lessons of truth.
"Naked I came forth from the belly of my mother, and naked I shall return there" (Job 1:21). The word there, emphasized in this quotation is part of the original Hebrew wording. What is the significance of this word in Job's sentence? Clearly Job did not expect death to be the end of his existence, but expected a rebirth or regeneration that later revelation shows to be a resurrection to immortality. It is clear that Job was not thinking of reincarnation, because later he clarified his statement, saying that his Redeemer was living and that he would see Him in his flesh (Job 19:25-27). The point to be made here is that the tomb, or death, is typified by the womb. The womb is not seen as the great original matrix from which all came, but the womb represents the ruin from which redemption must be made.
The same sense is presented in Proverbs 30:15, 16. "The leech has two daughters, crying: Grant to us, grant to us! They are three that are never satisfied, four that never say, enough wealth! The unseen and the restrained womb, the earth when it is not satisfied with water, and fire that never says: Enough wealth!" Here are four insatiable things. Sheol and the womb restrained from bearing are compared with the land in time of draught and the ruin of fire. These four are introduced to us by the thought of leeches, which suck the lifeblood from their victims.
Christ answers to all of these with victory and life. Christ is the Firstborn from among the dead (Col. 1:18)). Notice the words of scripture there, "Firstborn from among the dead." He is the only One to return from death, robed in immortality. He alone cannot be grasped again by the clutches of hades. God raised Him up, "loosing the pangs of death, forasmuch as it was not possible for Him to be held by it" (Acts 2:24). When Peter spoke those words he used the word odin for pain or pangs. This word is used to describe the pains of childbirth. As Peter spoke of the One Who is Firstborn from among the dead, he spoke of his resurrection from death with terms one would use to describe birth.
Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Samson's mother, Elizabeth—all these show us the restrained womb, representing the long awaited resurrection of Christ, or the rebirth of Israel. Even creation itself is travailing in expectation of the birthing of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19-23). Remember that the deliverance of Israel from Egypt began with the birth of a son, and then the deliverance of that son from a watery grave in the Nile—a grave considered the womb of Egypt. In the Romans passage notice how the same thoughts are tied together: 1. The slavery of corruption—corruption leads to death. 2. Travailing in birth pangs. 3. The unveiling of the sons of God—the firstfruits of Christ's coming forth is what creation is longing for. The vision of the pregnant woman clothed with the sun (Rev. 12) speaks of the same thing—the coming of God's anointed. Whether that anointed be the Son of God, or Israel regenerated, or the body of Christ glorified. Satan resists, the world yearns and God fulfills His purpose.
Have you ever noticed how we always stop at the end of the last verse of Isaiah 53 when reading that chapter? Have you ever noticed the two thoughts that are joined together if you just keep reading? "Insomuch that He gives up His soul unto death, and with transgressors was counted; and He bore the sin of many, and for transgressors is making intercession. Jubilate, O barren, who has not borne! Crash into jubilation, and make a noise, who has not travailed! For more are the sons of the desolate than the sons of the one with a possessor [husband] says Yahweh. Widen the place of your tent…"(Isa. 53:12-54:1-2). God, speaking of His Anointed can move from death right into birth and life! David was speaking to Yahweh in Psalm 139 and said, "For You Yourself achieved the making of my innermost being; You overshadowed me in my mother's belly…My skeleton was not suppressed from You, When I was made in concealment; I was woven together as in the nether parts of the earth" (vv. 13, 15).
"The earth when it is not satisfied with water," also finds its fulfillment in Christ. "He is coming up as a layer-plant before Him, and as a root sprout from earth that is arid" (Isa. 53:2). Like Aaron's rod in the dry desert, laid out before Yahweh, not even stuck in the ground, He sprouts life and blossoms and fruit from the grave (Num. 17). "For I will pour water on the thirsty, and floods on the dry land. I will pour My spirit on your seed, and My blessings on your offspring. And they will sprout as grass between water, as oleanders by runnels of water" (Isa. 44:3, 4).
Three messengers came to Job, telling him all his herds and herdsmen had been swept away by raiders, leaving only the bearer of bad news to escape alive. Then the fourth messenger came, telling him of the catastrophic death of all his children. There are 3 things that never say enough! Yea, there are 4 things that are never satisfied, and the fourth thing is fire. The fire on the altar was to burn continually. The priests were to maintain it all day and all through the night and ensure that it never went out (Lev. 6:9-13). The fire was to be continually burning the sacrifices and thank offerings to maintain the peoples' relationship to God. As long as the fire kept burning, there were still sacrifices to be made.
As long as the fire kept burning God was not satisfied. But Jesus Christ came and offered a sacrifice once for all time. Finally the fire could be extinguished. Finally God was satisfied and there was no further need to send Him sacrifices and offerings through the ascending flames. In respect to all of humanity's sin, finally there was a sacrifice of which God could say, "This is wealth! This is more than enough! Let the fire burn out!"
The tomb and womb are set before us in the experience of Christ. He was born from a virgin womb (Matt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-36), and He was laid in a virgin tomb (Jn. 19:41, 42). "Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one has been placed as yet. There, then, because of the preparation of the Jews, seeing that the tomb was near, they place Jesus." And Jesus opened both of these, and came forth from both—apart from sin, being the Firstborn of both (Lk. 2:7; Col. 1:18), and was dedicated to God as the Firstborn One.
Christ's death and resurrection are set before us as the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matt. 12:39-41). Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the great fish. It is recorded in Jonah 2:2 poetically with these words: "from the belly of sheol I implore!" The word for belly is also frequently translated womb as required by context. The verse could also be translated: "out of the womb of sheol I implore!"
These same examples describe the history of earth itself. In Genesis 1 the earth was enveloped in water. All was chaos and vacant. But the Spirit of God hovered over the waters and brought forth light and order and life. God spoke to Job saying, "Where were you when I founded the earth?…Who shut in the sea with double doors when it rushed forth, when it came forth from the womb, when I made the cloud its clothing and murkiness its swaddling band, when I impressed My statute upon it and set bar and double doors, when I said, Unto here shall you come but shall not proceed farther, and here a limit is set to your swelling billows?" (Job 38:4-11). Here the earth is born out of ruin, and the waters which ruined it are limited. We may have references here to both Genesis 1 and Genesis 6-9. Christ used the same kind of figure when speaking to Nicodemus, "'Verily, verily, I am saying to you, if anyone should not be begotten anew, he can not perceive the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus is saying to Him, 'How can a man, being a veteran, be begotten? He can not be entering into the womb of his mother a second time and be begotten!'" (Jn. 3:3-4). Here the figure is extended from life, death and resurrection to include spiritual renewal as typical of resurrection life also.
The Womb And Mortality
"For the soul of the flesh, it is in the blood, and I Myself have assigned it to you to make a propitiatory shelter over your souls on the altar; for the blood, in the soul it makes a propitiatory shelter…for the soul of all flesh is its blood; as its soul is it" (Lev. 17:11, 14). These verses are given with prohibitions against eating blood. Many translations render the thought, "the life of the flesh is in the blood." The thoughts are similar. Because life is related to and dependent upon the function of the blood, the flowing away of blood represents death. This is the basis for understanding the significance of the womb, and why God should not be thought of as the great womb of creation. The flowing away of blood represents the mortal, or dying condition, in which we live. When a woman becomes pregnant, the blood loss stops. A new life is formed within her, and the symbol of death ceases.
Typically, we are all female. Whether we are male or female, we are mortal, and so the female with the loss of blood represents our condition. To say it another way, if we are mortal, we have a womb. Having a womb is typically synonymous with needing life. In the middle ages this thought was expressed in the statement, "all souls are female." The thought expressed was that all needed to receive a new life within from the Man, Christ. Our marriage to Him and knowing Him is what creates new life within us. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For I betroth you to one Man, to present a chaste virgin to Christ. Yet I fear lest somehow, as the serpent deludes Eve by its craftiness, your apprehensions should be corrupted from the singleness and pureness which is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2,3).
Mortality As Uncleanness
"Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, When a woman conceives seed and bears a male then she will be unclean seven days; as the days of her menstrual period shall she be unclean. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall dwell thirty-three days more in her cleansing bloodflows. She shall not touch anything holy, and she shall not come to the sanctuary until the days of her cleansing be full. And if she should bear a female, then she will be unclean two weeks, as during her period, and she shall dwell sixty-six days more in her cleansing bloodflows.
When the days of her cleansing are full, for a son or for a daughter she shall bring a year-old he-lamb as an ascent offering and a dove squab or a turtledove as a sin offering to the priest at the opening of the tent of appointment. He will bring it near before Yahweh and make a propitiatory shelter over her, and she will be clean from the fountain of her bloodflows. This is the law for the one giving birth to a male or to a female." (Lev. 12:1-7).
There is an old saying, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." It is not found in the Bible. It may have originated from passages such as this one and others in the law which speak of cleanliness. Yet if we think of cleanliness in terms of being soiled, we have missed the Bible's point and emphasis regarding clean and unclean things. The cleanliness spoken of here was ceremonial cleanliness. It was cleanliness necessary to approach God. Does soil on your hands make you unacceptable to God? If it does, then I have probably been unacceptable for 18 of the past 20 years, because I worked in conditions where soot and grime were embedded in my hands.
Many of the laws regarding cleanliness have the effect of preventing the spread of germs and disease. But others do not. For instance, the man who led the scapegoat out to the wilderness to release it had to wash before re-entering the camp. The uncleanness that needed to be removed was contamination from contact with the goat and the sins that were confessed on its head. Also, any dead body, human or animal was unclean. If a parent or grandparent died, though the body be washed and prepared for burial, it was considered unclean. And all those coming near it were unclean. If a nazirite accidentally touched someone at the moment of death, the nazirite vow was broken and came to an end, even though the unclean body had been considered clean the previous moment. These laws help us see that we are meant to understand uncleanness as much more than the expression "cleanliness is next to godliness" suggests. One further thought on this topic: If cleanliness had to do with germs or something of that nature, then what is an unclean spirit? What is it that would make a spirit either clean or unclean?
The birth of a child represents the life that issues from us, based on our beliefs and convictions. If the child born was a female, the length of time for cleansing was twice as long as that for a male. If the child born was a female, then the woman was bringing forth another life like the one prior to birth. It would be another life with a womb—another life typical of mortality instead of a life that was clean from the continual flowing away of life in the loss of blood. The birth of a son was typical of the life of the Son of God being formed within us.
Humanity's Typical Womb
In both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures there is more than one word used for womb. Each language has a more technical term for womb that is only used with reference to women and childbirth. The second word in each language is frequently used with the sense of womb in contexts that refer to women. But the second word is also used with reference to men with the meaning of belly or the seat of emotions and conviction.
Of John the baptist it was said, "and with holy spirit shall he be filled while still of his mother's womb" (Lk. 1:15). The word here translated womb is koilia. It is not the technical term for a female womb (mEtra). The same word is used in Matthew 12:40 where it says, "Jonah was in the bowel [koilia] of the sea monster three days and three nights." 12 times this Greek word is used with reference to the female womb as the place of growth for an embryo. 10 times it is used with reference to the abdomen or belly. Paul used this word when he said that some were causing dissension and were teaching things contrary to the evangel. He said they were serving their own bowels rather than serving God (Rom. 16:18; Phil. 3:19). The Lord Jesus also used this word in John 7:38, where it says "He who is believing in Me, according as the scripture said, out of his bowel [koilia] shall gush rivers of living water."
Within every person is a place where their beliefs and values and motivations come together to form the essence of what their life will be like. This is the womb that is present in everyone, whether they are male or female. If the spirit of God overshadows us and creates a new life within us, the life developing in our womb will be in the image of Christ. If the life within us is the result of embracing the things the flesh loves and worships, that life will not be in Christ's image—it will not be a son of God.
Paul expressed similar thoughts through the example of marriage in the seventh chapter of Romans. If a person is under law, that condition is like being bound in marriage to the principles of law. It is a lifelong and life controlling relationship. But death nullifies it. "So that, my brethren, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, for you to become Another's, Who is roused from among the dead, that we should be bearing fruit to God. For, when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were through the law, operated in our members to be bearing fruit to Death. Yet now we were exempted from the law, dying in that in which we were retained, so that it is for us to be slaving in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter" (Rom. 7:4-6). The fruit borne to God that Paul spoke of is the character of the life that develops within us in the symbolic womb, when freed from law and married to grace. In a similar line of thought Paul said to the Galatians: "Little children mine, with whom I am travailing again until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4:19).
"Now, being roused from sleep, Joseph does as the messenger of the Lord bids him. And he accepted his wife, and he knew her not till she brought forth a Son, and he calls His name Jesus" (Matt. 1:24-25; cf. Lk. 1:34). Joseph knowing his wife is a figurative expression for the consummation of marriage. In marriage two become one. They should come to experience a more intimate knowledge of their mate than any other person. This relationship becomes the ideal representation of the relationship of a believer to Christ. When Paul spoke of no longer living himself, but that Christ was living in him (Gal. 2:20), and when he said, "to me, to be living is Christ" (Phil. 1:21), he was speaking of his oneness with Christ, and the intimacy of his knowledge of Christ.
The word rendered know in these passages is ginosko, and refers to knowledge gained through actual experience. A tree is known to be of a certain kind by one seeing and sampling its fruit (Matt. 12:33). Legal actions are based on verifiable evidence: "No law of ours is judging a man, if ever it should not first be hearing from him and know what he is doing" (Jn. 7:51).
This word is also used to describe the condition of having life through our relationship to Christ. "Now it is eonian life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou dost commission, Jesus Christ" (Jn. 17:3). In contrast with this, the world did not know Him (Jn. 1:10), even though He came into the world and the world had come into being through Him. Christ knows those who are His, just as Adam could look at Eve and know that she had come from him and been made for him. But the world does not possess such knowledge. We know God through knowing Christ. This happens as we become one with Him, because then we enter into Christ's relationship to God. He disclosed this in the opening of His prayer: "…and lifting His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, come has the hour. Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son should be glorifying Thee, according as Thou givest Him authority over all flesh, that everything which Thou hast given to Him, He should be giving it to them, even life eonian'" (Jn. 17:1-2).
When Paul wrote to the Galatians he spoke of the intimate relationship of the believer to God, saying that they were "sons of God" (Gal. 3:26), and had the spirit of His Son in their hearts (Gal. 4:6). It is interesting to see how he referred back to this in 4:9. "Yet now, knowing God, yet rather being known by God…." While it is true that we know God and thereby have life, yet it is vital to remember that He initiated this knowledge. We did not acquire knowledge of Him through our powers of observation or reasoning. We were the passive recipients of a gift from Him.
The word know is used figuratively to represent the intimate relationship of marriage through which new life is conceived. And it is used to represent our relationship to God in salvation, in which His life is conceived in us. Salvation then may be symbolically presented as the believer's marriage to Christ. And simultaneously the figure is there also that the life of Christ is conceived in us. We are one with Him, and He lives in us. These figures of language may mix the images and symbols together, but these images are helpful in grasping the truth of our relationship to God. Similarly, we may see ourselves as the virgin Mary, overshadowed by the Spirit of God, and the new life conceived in us is that of Christ (Lk. 1:30, 31).
In 1 Peter 1:17-25 there is a parallel between ransom and regenerate. The ransoming is not by corruptible things such as silver and gold, and the regenerating is not by corruptible seed. The regenerating is by incorruptible seed and the ransoming is by the precious blood of Christ. This incorruptible seed is "through the word of God, living and permanent," (1 Pet. 1:24).
This passage suggests the thoughts that incorruptible seed from the word of God becomes implanted in the heart, or symbolic womb, of humans. There it grows, becoming the new life spoken of as regeneration. The incorruptible seed that generates the new life in the individual is identified through the parallelism with the precious blood of Christ. The precious blood of Christ stands figuratively for all the sufferings associated with the cross. Those sufferings are the expression of God's love for humanity. That incorruptible seed, then, which conceives new life in the believer, is the realization of God's love that the Spirit of God plants in our hearts. Or, as Paul puts it, when God opens the eyes of our heart (Eph. 1:18).A. You were ransomed
And, "…to know the love of Christ as well which transcends knowledge—that you may be completed for the entire complement of God" (Eph. 3:19). Notice the correspondence between "knowing the love of Christ," and becoming the "complement."
The figurative representation of a believer's relationship to Christ, or of the chosen to God, as a marital union, is set in contrast with the figure of false worship as prostitution. "Then Yahweh raised up judges who saved them from the hand of their robbers. Yet even to their judges they did not hearken, for they prostituted after other elohim and bowed down to them. They withdrew quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked who had hearkened to the instructions of Yahweh" (Jud. 2:16, 17). "It came to be, as soon as Gideon had died, that the sons of Israel backslid and prostituted themselves after the Baalim, and they set up Baal-berith as their elohim" (Jud. 8:33). Examples are abundant and there is no need to multiply them here. The point is that believing false gods to be divine, or offering acts of veneration and worship to them is contrasted with realization of the true God by comparing faithfulness and infidelity in a marital relationship.
The Figure of All People Viewed Symbolically As Males
The figure of believer's viewed as males in a marriage relationship is much more limited, because it views the believer apart from Christ, Who is always the Man. Paul presents this picture of a similar nature in the letter to the Galatians. There he said that Sarah and Hagar allegorically represented two covenants. Two different kinds of life were generated. Under the law the symbolic womb generates a life of slavery. Under grace the symbolic womb generates a life of freedom and joy. The instruction of this allegory extends beyond the simple representation of the two covenants. Embracing Hagar, Abram quickly produces a different kind of life. A life is brought forth, but it is one of strife, contention and frustration. It seems to be a life destined to die of thirst—thirsting for a satisfaction it cannot find or see. If we try to serve God by meeting legal requirements, we soon find ourselves unhappy and dissatisfied.
On the other hand, embracing Sarai, it seems that life may never begin. Times of famine and hardship arise. Not only does it seem there will be no new life, but the present life seems threatened as well. Abram has been criticized for claiming Sarai was his sister when they were strangers in Egypt. It is easy to criticize something as concrete as the breaking of marriage vows, but, if Sarai is representative of grace, perhaps Abram's willingness to give her up should be viewed as his wavering dependence on God. It was a weakness of faith for Abram to leave the land to which God had called him. This shortcoming led to the compromise of the principle upon which God's promise of new life was based. In honest appraisal we would all turn back to serve God in the flesh rather than in faith. We have all given up Sarai in Egypt.
But God exercises and strengthens our faith. And as the years pass we sorrow over, and even come to detest relying on anything but Him. The flesh can touch nothing without making it unclean. So let the flesh die—finally rely on God's covenant only. Cut off the flesh, proclaiming and believing that it can generate nothing good. Embrace the beautiful faithfulness and grace of God. Depend on nothing else. Then one day, at God's appointed time, a new life comes forth. And the name of that life is Laughter (Isaac).
From the viewpoint of all being symbolic males, it is seen that the character of life brought forth is in keeping with the principles embraced. The beliefs or values cherished in our hearts are the seeds of a life that issues from that womb.
One of the most significant features of the exodus from Egypt is the firstborn. "My son, My firstborn, is Israel. And I am saying to you; Dismiss My son that he may serve Me, yet should you refuse to dismiss him, behold, I shall be killing your son, your firstborn" (Ex. 4:22-23). The death of the firstborn was an indispensable part of Israel's deliverance from Egypt. The scriptures highlight the firstborn as being of great importance: "It came to be on this very day when Yahweh brought forth the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt with their hosts, that Yahweh spoke to Moses saying: Hallow to me every firstborn male, opening up every womb, among the sons of Israel, among human and among beast. It is Mine…It will come to be when Yahweh your Elohim shall bring you into the land of the Canaanite just as He swore to you and to your fathers, that He will give it to you, then you will set apart for Yahweh every male opening up the womb. Every male opening up the womb, the yeanling of a beast which you shall come to have, the males shall be for Yahweh. Yet every male opening up a donkey shall you ransom with a flockling, and should you not ransom it then you will break its neck. Yet every firstborn of a human among your sons shall you ransom. When it comes to be that your son is asking you tomorrow, saying: What does this mean? Then you will say to him, With steadfastness of hand Yahweh brought us forth from Egypt, from the house of servants. When it came to be that Pharaoh was obstinate to dismiss us, then Yahweh killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of human unto the firstborn of beast. Therefore I am sacrificing to Yahweh all the males opening up the womb; yet I am ransoming every firstborn of my sons" (Ex. 12:51-13:2; 13:11-15).
The day that Israel left Egypt, we can be sure that Moses had plenty of distractions and more than enough to do. On that very day God gave him commandment for the institution of the ceremonies regarding the firstborn. Why?
The exodus was the birth of Israel as a nation. The opener of the womb is the deliverer, representing the Opener of the womb of death, the One Who is Firstborn from among the dead. Egypt was "the house of servants" (Ex. 13:14). The doorways of the houses were marked with blood, showing that a sacrifice was made for those within, and showing the firstborn had died for their sake. As the nation of Israel left those bloodstained homes, they were leaving the house of bondage, and they were leaving a typical or symbolic womb. The doors of the womb burst forth, and like rushing water, Israel flowed out of the land. That is why the scriptures lay so much emphasis on the firstborn. The exodus is also a typical representation of the deliverance of creation from the bondage of corruption (cf. Rom. 8:19-23). Every aspect of our deliverance and the deliverance of the entire creation is accomplished by Him Who is the Firstborn from the long-restrained womb of death. With eagerness we await the rupture of the womb of this mortal world. Those who are believers are even now alive in the womb, awaiting their unveiling, awaiting the day of their glorification.
In verse 13, pressed together with the mandatory instruction to redeem their children with a sacrifice, the instruction is given regarding the firstborn of a donkey—the symbol of stubbornness. Israel would be stubborn to Yahweh and continually rebel (Deut. 9:27), but He had ransomed them, just as His law required them to ransom their children and He will ransom them again (Isa. 43:3-7). In these figures and ceremonies and events the significance of the firstborn is seen, and the firstborn is identified as male and as the opener of the womb.
Opening The Womb
Humanity's symbolic womb is that place within where ideas and values and principles are melded or synthesized in the forming of a life. What would the opening of this womb be, if not the receiving and realization of the truth? The reception of a great truth is the seed that begins a new life. The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, and they knew the truth—that they were naked and unrighteous. Christ opened the eyes of the man born blind, and he realized more than the teachers of Israel. Are the receiving of truth and salvation not the thoughts we intuitively gather from the Lord's miracles of giving sight to the blind? And does the receiving of sight not typify the receiving of knowledge? When we receive the truth of the evangel of the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, a new life is formed within us in the image of Christ. "By intention, He teems forth us by the word of truth, for us to be some firstfruit of His own creatures" (James 1:18). The Greek word for teems forth is apokueo. It is a compound of from and to be pregnant. The idea of the word is to give birth to. He gives birth to us by the word of truth.
The Significance Of The Male
"Now I am saying, for as much time as the enjoyer of an allotment is a minor, in nothing is he of more consequence than a slave, being master of all, but is under guardians and administrators until the time purposed by the father. Thus we also, when we were minors, were enslaved under the elements of the world. Now when the full time came, God delegates His Son, come of a woman, come under law, that He should be reclaiming those under law, that we may be getting the place of a son. Now, seeing that you are sons, God delegates the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba! Father!' So that you are no longer a slave, but a son. Now if a son, an enjoyer also of an allotment from God, through Christ" (Gal. 4:1-7).
It is not insignificant here that the contrasts drawn are between a son and a slave. There are no contrasts drawn between a son and a daughter. Previously it was noted that both male and female shared the dignity of being created in the image of God. That is something that female and male share in virtue of being humans. It was also noted in comments on Ephesians 4 that maturity brings one to the fullness of the stature of the son of God—not to the stature of the bride, wife, or body of Christ.
Paul could not illustrate the beautiful and varied thoughts of this truth as well as he does, if he had contrasted a daughter with a slave. There are cultural differences in the status and responsibilities of males and females. These also have come ultimately from God and are beneficial for the purpose of illustrating the position we are blessed with in Christ.
Before Paul enters into his discussion here of sonship, he speaks of faith. Abraham had believed the promise of God. But the faith of Abraham was not sufficient to be the wellspring of blessing to all humanity. There was yet another faith to be revealed, the faith of Jesus Christ. Christ's faith was so far superior to Abraham's that Paul speaks of Christ's coming and work as "the coming of faith" (Gal. 3:23, 25). The law had been a temporary escort until we could begin entering into sonship. Now Paul could say, "You are all sons of God through the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26).
Son is a term that carries the thought of like character to the father. James and John, exhibiting their fiery disposition were called the "sons of thunder" (Mk. 3:17). Belial is a Hebrew word meaning worthlessness or wickedness. The phrase son, or, sons of Belial is applied frequently in the Hebrew scriptures to people doing wicked or foolish things. Christ called the Pharisees and their disciples sons of Gehenna (Matt. 23:15). The revelation of Jesus Christ to the world as the Son of God is also the revelation of God to the world as Father. And that revelation teaches us that we will truly become of like character with God. "By many portions and many modes, of old, God, speaking to the fathers in the prophets, in the last of these days speaks to us in a Son… Who, being the Effulgence of His glory and Emblem of His assumption… is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heights," (Heb. 1:1-3). The Son of God is the brightest revelation of the Father's glory. He is the most clear and explicit Emblem of God. He is the fullest revelation of God's character.
So Paul tells us that the faith of Christ brings us beyond the temporary measure of law into a fullness of the blessings of the promise (2 Tim. 1:1; Gal. 3:22). The figure of sonship is used to emphasize the intimacy and privilege of that position. The son would not only inherit property from the father, but could also act in the father's behalf in the management and disposition of property that belonged to the father. The culture contemporary in Paul's day illustrated these things. More importantly, the words quoted from Galatians 4 and Hebrews 1 verify the same thing. The Son of God comes in the character of the Father and is the highest and most intimate revelation of the Father. And the Father has honored the Son placing Him in the position of authority over all that is the Father's. Paul says that believer's enter into the intimacy and privilege of these blessings with Christ.
In such a context, where privilege, intimacy with God, and glory are so significant, it is critical that a singular term is used indiscriminately to define the position of believers. If Paul had said we were sons and daughters of God, we might expect that there was more than one position of blessedness for believers. Cultural differences between male and female would ascend in our thoughts as differences in these blessings. The use of the word son raises the position of a believer above a minor, above a servant, above any difference in the position a daughter might receive as opposed to a son, and even above any position that the most revered individuals of humanity might achieve. Not only will all believers be brought to the full stature of sons, but all will be brought to the "realization of the son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
In Christ, And In The Lord
Many in the feminist movement have concluded that the biblical writings usually attributed to Paul come from at least two sources of authorship. In Galatians 3:27-28 Paul said, in Christ, "there is no Jew nor yet Greek, there is no slave nor yet free, there is no male and female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus." Many of the feminist movement do not believe this could have been said by the same Paul, who also said, "Let women in the ecclesias hush, for it is not permitted to them to speak…," "Let the wives be subject to their own husbands,…" and, "I am not permitting a woman to be teaching nor yet to be domineering over a man…" (1 Cor. 14:34; Eph. 5:22; 1 Tim. 2:12). Was Paul inconsistent?
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 he said, "…if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation." It is obviously apparent and readily agreed that those who are believers do not yet enjoy all the blessedness of which this verse speaks. The same holds true for Galatians 3:27, 28. In the mundane affairs of life there is considerable difference between a Jew and a Greek. There are many differences between being slave and free, just as there are also between male and female. Was it Paul's intention, in writing these words, that believers should work to abolish all the differences that prevent equality between male and female, slave and free, and national or racial differences? As in 2 Corinthians 5:17, these differences and inequalities will ultimately be removed, but, until we are resurrected in immortality, we will not reach the fullness of all that we will become in Christ.
Paul makes distinctions that have frequently been thought to be contradictions. He speaks of our position and blessings as they will ultimately be in Christ. He also speaks of our conduct and responsibilities, as they are now, with the phrase, in the Lord. In Christ there is neither slave nor free (Gal. 3:28). But, in the Lord, "slaves, obey in all things your masters…" and, "master, tender that which is just and equitable to your slaves…" (Col. 3:22; 4:1). In Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28), but "wives, be subject to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord" (Col. 3:18). We expect that ultimately there will be no difference between any nationalities or races, but we also expect that the nation of Israel has a special place of prominence in the coming ages. If careful attention is given to the context, it will be found that Paul speaks of our conduct in this present life as in the Lord, but he speaks of the fullness of blessing we will enjoy after becoming immortal as in Christ.
Maturity And The Time Of Our Humiliation
"For being free of all, I enslave myself to all, that I should be gaining the more. And I became to the Jews as a Jew, that I should be gaining Jews; to those under law as under law (not being myself under law), that I should be gaining those under law; to those without law as without law (not being without God's law, but legally Christ's), that I should be gaining those without law. I became as weak to the weak, that I should be gaining the weak. To all have I become all, that I should undoubtedly be saving some. Now all am I doing because of the evangel, that I may be becoming a joint participant of it." (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
Paul gave the churches much instruction on maturity. He told the Corinthians that it should not be their primary concern to change their situation in this world. "Each as God has called him, thus let him be walking…Were you called being a slave? Let it not be causing you care. But if you are able to become free also, use it rather. For, in the Lord he who is being called a slave, is the Lord's freeman. Likewise, he who is being called, being free, is a slave of Christ" (1 Cor. 7:17, 21-22). Our primary concern should be the changing of ourselves, not the changing of the world. God will change the world. He may use the believer's faithfulness in doing so, and those He has called to faith will participate with Him in bringing about those changes. But the end result will come in Yahweh's time. Christ came into the world, a world that had come into being through Him. And yet, in that world made through Him, He took the place of a humble servant. He was obedient to parents who did not understand Him. He took the place of sinners, being baptized as they, even though He was righteous. He paid taxes to an imperialistic nation and obeyed its laws, even though the kingdom of God that will rule the world was bound up in Him. Shall we do any less? Shall we demand that the world change to conform to what we believe the future holds?
Paul was mature enough to eat meat that had been offered as a sacrifice to an idol, and after doing so would not feel condemned or unclean in his conscience. But he would refuse any such food if someone were present who might think that eating it was unacceptable. Maturity voluntarily limits itself for the sake of the immature. Maturity does not demand that the immature grow up.
But are we not to enter into the things that are ours? Is it not part of maturity to live by faith in those things that are yet future? Are we to back away from enjoyment of our position in Christ? Should a woman with knowledge or words of encouragement refrain from speaking? Does our position in Christ clash with our conduct in the Lord? A hinge is made of two leaves—similar, but different. Neither leaf turns the door by itself. If our conduct in the Lord is one leaf, and our position in Christ is the other, then they pivot in relation to each other on the pin of maturity.
Paul And The Corinthians
There were many problems addressed in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Some of these carried over into his second letter, where he even responded to challenges against his authority as an apostle of Christ. An element of the Corinthian ecclesia was brash and void of the reverence that characterized the Jewish ecclesias. In chapter 11 Paul addressed the issue of head coverings (vv. 2-16), and women praying and prophesying publicly. Paul appealed to the scriptures on the topic of headship and submission. But with respect to coverings and speaking, he appealed to the Corinthian's sense of what was socially decent and acceptable. This subject requires special consideration because Paul's argument does not call for the same conclusion in American culture today that it did 2,000 years ago in Greece. He appealed to the standard of acceptability in their culture. For them, it was a shame for a woman to be without a veil in a public gathering, and especially shameful to be vocal there. The reputation of the ecclesia there would be tarnished if their standards of conduct were considered inferior or libertine in comparison with normal standards.
He addressed the issue further when he said, "Let the women in the ecclesias hush, for it is not permitted to them to speak, but let them be subject, according as the law is also saying. Now, if they want to learn anything, let them be inquiring of their own husbands at home, for it is a shame for a woman to be speaking in the ecclesia" (1 Cor. 14:34-35).
Where are the women in the ecclesias to hush? Where is it not permitted to them to speak? In the temple in Jerusalem, when Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus there, Hannah, a prophetess, spoke of Him in the temple to all who were anticipating redemption in Jerusalem (Lk. 2:36-38). Philip the evangelist lived in Caesarea, and his four daughters prophesied. On the resurrection morning Mary was the first to carry the glad message to the disciples in Jerusalem. But in Corinth there was a temple for the worship of Aphrodite. A thousand temple prostitutes plied their trade there, unveiled, soliciting the men to come in and worship. Corinthian society looked upon any women who did not show strong reserve in public as being akin to the debauchery of the pagan temples.
When Christian freedom is likely to be misunderstood and to bring shame on the name of Christ, Christian maturity demands that the freedom voluntarily restrain itself. Where are the women not permitted to speak in the ecclesia? Nearly two millennia later in the United States of America women hold public offices in local, state and national politics. Women teach classes in universities, are lawyers, judges, doctors, CEO's of large companies, international diplomats, and ordained ministers in many denominations. And as women hold these positions in our society they are respected as honorable and upright citizens of the community. Paul's appeal to social standards in Corinth cannot be made today in America.
But while some of Paul's restrictions for the Corinthians may be disputed, part of his restriction stands fast, being based on scripture. He said of the women, "let them be subject, according as the law also is saying." This Paul gave as instruction in Ephesians 5 also, and not as a matter of judgment based on what was socially acceptable.
"I am intending, then, that men pray in every place, lifting up benign hands, apart from anger and reasoning. Similarly, women also are to be adorning themselves in raiment, decorously, with modesty and sanity, not with braids and gold, or pearls or costly vesture, but (what is becoming to women professing a reverence for God) with good works. Let a woman be learning in quietness with all subjection. Now I am not permitting a woman to be teaching nor yet to be domineering over a man, but to be in quietness (for Adam was first molded, thereafter Eve, and Adam was not seduced, yet the woman, being deluded, has come to be in the transgression). Yet she shall be saved through the child bearing, if ever they should be remaining in faith and love and holiness with sanity" (1 Tim. 2:8-15).
There are many opinions on the interpretation of these verses. As at Corinth, and other places, Paul worked to establish traditions which would guide the ecclesias in godly behavior (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). While it is true that spiritual gifts were given for the guidance and edification of the ecclesia, there was not a Bible on every coffee table and an ordained minister or apostle in every ecclesia. The pastoral epistles highlight some faithful sayings—pithy statements used to help establish good traditions. It is disputed whether the faithful saying mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:1 refers to Paul's statement here regarding women, or whether it should be applied to those seeking the office of supervision in the ecclesia. One commentator has expressed them both in a catchy expression as follows: A child from woman's seed to spring, shall saving to all women bring. And, He who would play a leader's part, on noble task has set his heart. In those early days oral traditions were very important.
There are three restrictions placed on women in this passage: 1. Subjection to the husband, 2. teaching, and, 3. domineering over a man, or it could also be translated as domineering over a husband. It should be pointed out that this statement does not give men free rein to be domineering either. Christ said, "You are shouting to Me 'Teacher!' and 'Lord!' and you are saying ideally, for I am. If, then, I, the Lord and the Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to be washing one another's feet. For an example have I given you, that. According as I do to you, you also may be doing" (Jn.13:13-15). If Christ Himself was not domineering, but patient, how much more should we be humble and patient! In 3 John 9 warning is given about Diotrephes, who loved being the foremost one of the assembly. He was rejecting the apostle John and was casting others out of the ecclesia. John said he would confront him with the truth if he were able to visit them. There is no place in a body for one to be domineering, whether they are male or female.
There is more than one way to understand the position of a teacher. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul wrote: "the aged women, similarly, in demeanor as becomes the sacred,…teachers of the ideal, that they may bring the young wives to a sense of their duty to be fond of their husbands, fond of their children, sane, chaste, domestic, good, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." Here Paul encourages the women to be teaching.
There were great teachers, who had followings of students or disciples. These disciples often acted as servants to the teacher as a means of paying for their instruction. This was much the same as a mentor/apprentice relationship. These teachers were recognized experts and were esteemed for their knowledge and experience. This is much like the relationship of Jesus to his disciples. Paul also speaks of himself in a similar way in this context, "…I was appointed a herald and an apostle,…a teacher of the nations in knowledge and truth" (1 Tim. 2:7).
But anyone who teaches anything is also a teacher. Do the verse in Titus and the verse in 1 Timothy constitute a contradiction in Paul's writings? Not at all. But, as Christ was the Teacher and Mentor of His disciples, the local ecclesias have need of a teacher and pastor for the group. It is interesting that the gifts of pastors and teachers, as given in Ephesians 4:11, share the same definite article. Some scholarship believes this grammatical form expresses the thought that the pastor and the teacher are the same person. This is not an office of instruction only, but it is also an office of leadership for the nurture and discipline of the group. The office for the overall teaching of a whole group should be committed to a man, so the assembly may exhibit the structure or form that illustrates Christ as Head. Male headship is not an expression of female inability. It is an expression of obedience to the designated standard, and it portrays truth according to the typical precedent. For the ecclesia to have a male authority is a typical way for it to show its subjection to the rule of Christ.
The question will be asked, "But, what if a group of believers wishes to meet, and there is no male among them with sufficient concern or maturity or understanding to take the place of leadership?" In that case, if there is a female of sufficient understanding and maturity to lead the group, by all means, let her teach. And, "what if that group, led by a female comes to a point of growth that there are males in the group sufficiently mature to carry the role of leadership?" In that case, let the female be mature enough to submit the leadership to qualified males. Though teaching and speaking by women may not violate acceptable social standards, scriptural instruction calls for male leadership. We suggest therefore that females do not seek a career as a pastor-teacher for a group of believers. Yet we do not discourage the female from being actively involved, even in teaching, as long as she does not displace a qualified male from that position. This is a matter of everyone's obedience to Christ in humility during the time before our change.
Our Typical Pattern
Paul introduces the experience of humanity's parents as the guiding standard of relationship in the ecclesia. The principle of seniority was employed in Eden. Humanity lost the care of the garden and what it represented. What the garden represented was committed to the spiritual beings, who had been created before humanity, and especially to Christ. Humanity was subject to the spiritual beings, as is especially evident in the ministry of angels, or spirits, to Israel. Similarly, the wife was to be subject to the husband, because of what their order of creation represented. Adam represented Christ, and Eve represented the ecclesia and humanity, chosen in and created through Christ.
Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Yahweh (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). Under the pronouncement of Yahweh Elohim, known also as the curse of Eden, Adam was to toil for food. By the sweat of his face, and in grief, would he eat food. The trees of Eden, in addition to being trees, represented truths. This is clear from the names given them: knowledge of good and evil, and life. Perhaps the tree in which they hid would have been called conscience. In Eden the humans could easily pluck and eat the fruit that God had planted. In Eden, they could feed on God's truth, God's word, without toil. But the entrance of sin and death changed that. Since then humanity has struggled long and hard to find the truth—the truth about God and the truth in all areas of life.
But things changed again with the coming of Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God by Whom we may live. He is the Bread of life that we must eat to live. He provided the bread of life for us by the toil and sweat of His sacrifice. Of His own food Christ said, "I have food to eat of which you are not aware…My food is that I should be doing the will of Him Who sends Me, and should be perfecting His work" (Jn. 4:32-33). Adam was typically given this position of laboring for the word of God in the curse of Eden. In faith, and in reverence to God's revelations, we follow this pattern. Man takes the position of provider of food, or provider of the word of God, and toils in that labor. That places him in the position of leadership in the ecclesia, but only as he is fully submitted to Christ. If he will hold that position of authority, he must also show the other characteristics of Christ that are represented there by Adam.
"Multiplying, yea, multiplying am I your grief and the groaning of your pregnancy. In grief shall you bear sons. Yet by your husband is your restoration, and he shall rule over you" (Gen. 3:16). The woman was given pain and grief in childbirth. This may also include the pain and grief associated with the cycle of the female organs, since that illustrates our mortality. The pain and grief in delivering a child is very real, but it is also representative of the struggle of birthing the new life of Christ in us. "A woman, whenever she may be bringing forth, is having sorrow, seeing that her hour came; yet whenever she should be bearing the little child, no longer is she remembering the affliction, because of the joy that a human being was born into the world" (Jn. 16:21). In this verse the Lord said, her hour came. This should be compared with the many times in the book of John that Christ spoke of His hour coming. Christ spoke these words as explanation after saying, "A little, and no longer are you beholding Me; and again, a little, and you shall be seeing Me" (Jn. 16:16). He was speaking of becoming the Firstborn from among the dead. Our Creator has so designed us that every birth of a child, any child, is a living parable of Christ rising from the tomb, and of the deliverance of creation from the bondage of corruption.
Notice three words in the statement to the woman: sons, restoration, and rule. All of these speak of our position in Christ. We have seen the significance of sons as representing the life of Christ in us. Restoration is preferable to desire which occurs in most versions (compare Gen. 4:7 —restoration should replace desire there also). And the rule of Christ is what we yearn for. In our relationship of submission to Him is our salvation. We struggle and stumble along the way to maturity. Growth is painful. Realizing the truth is painful. Probably there are many experiences we wish had never happened—many things we wish we had never done. But all these are needful in bringing forth the new life within us.
We were deluded and in sin, while Christ was pure, before He came and took our sin upon Himself. He was before us. We were created through Him. Without question, the believer should live in submission to Christ. For the wife to be in submission to the husband, and for the woman to take a quieter submissive role in the ecclesia, is to live out a representation of the believer's submission to Christ.
In 1 Timothy 2:9, notice that the word for woman or wife is plural. In verse 11, Paul changes to the singular form of the word, and he changes his thought from women in the ecclesia to woman generically, or, woman as represented by Eve. In the last half of verse 15 Paul returns to the plural for women and to the thought of women in the ecclesia. I believe that this focus on women as woman supports the interpretation given here. The childbearing speaks first of Christ. He is the victorious Seed that was promised before the pain of our birthing was made known. The believer, male or female, daily lives out the process of the life of Christ growing in them and changing them. A woman, bearing children and nurturing them, is a picture of the life of Christ coming to us, saving us, and maturing us in the faith. May we find in these types and symbols a fresh realization of the glory of our Creator and of our Lord, Jesus Christ.J. Philip Scranton