We live in a culture that tells us there should be “sameness” in every area of life. Most recently, this argument has been made in redefining marriage to be the same for homosexuals and heterosexuals. “Sameness” is a trump card of our age. No one wants to be on the losing side and seen as a bigot, chauvinist, or jerk. But what happens if a fight for “sameness” is actually a fight against the Creator? That is exactly the battle we have in our culture when it comes to manhood and womanhood. The Bible says that men and women are equal in worth and value, but we aren’t the same.
Roles in the Home and Church
One of the shared values of Sovereign Grace churches is “complementarian leadership in the home and church.” The Bible affirms the equality and value of the two genders but also lays out a wonderful plan of having different roles (Genesis 1–2). These roles are not for the purpose of elevating men or squashing women, but actually help men to be “humble, servant leaders” and women to be “intelligent, joyful helpers” in the home and in the church.
In the home, men are to follow Christ who laid down his life for his bride (Ephesians 5:25) and thus lay their lives down for their bride. Women are to follow Christ by following the husband God has given them.
In the church, men are to lead as under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd and be a “one-woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6).
You may have heard the teaching on complementarianism before, and you may even be convinced that it is taught in the Bible. (Sovereign Grace affirms the Danvers Statement of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.)
But how does this value function, and why is it so important in the local church and in our family of churches? Here are two reasons:
Biblical manhood and womanhood points us clearly to the gospel (Ephesians 5:22–33) in a world that is baffled by spouses treating each other with grace. I’ve interacted with many people who disagree with complementarianism, but after we dialogue, they usually say, “The idea of a servant-hearted husband loving his wife and laying down his life for her does not sound hard to submit to.” They then object with, “…but I don’t know any men who live this way.” I always say, “I actually have a church full of people who display this.” Manhood and womanhood is like a violin. When you see it skillfully (biblically) done, it is beautiful and inspiring, but when one resists the biblical roles, there is much screeching and wincing in the home and church.
The Authority of Scripture
Complementarianism also points us to the fact that Scripture, not our culture, is our authority. Just recently, I met with a couple who was new to our church. In our meeting, the wife asked, “Why are there no female pastors at this church?” I opened my Bible and showed her the passages that talk about women not exercising authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12) and men being elders (1 Tim. 3:1–7). She said, “I’ve always wondered about those passages, and we always glossed over them at my previous church.” Our authority as a family of churches is God’s Word, and that is why we take complementary roles seriously.
A Story of Complementarianism Lived Out
This beautiful duet of manhood and womanhood is harmonized each week in our homes and as our church, Sovereign Grace Church of the Lowcountry, gathers. In homes like John and April Moffatt’s, a growing desire for complementarian roles is blooming. (This story is shared with John and April’s permission.) John is learning to initiate toward his bride like Christ did the church. April is learning to trust John’s leadership, much like our church grows in trusting Christ each step of the way. The Moffatts were not believers when they married 17 years ago, and they have said, “the odds were stacked against us.” When discussing how the biblical roles revolutionized their marriage in a recent testimony, John and April said, “John’s default is to not lead and April defaults to taking over. We will probably struggle with this to some degree our whole marriage. The important thing is that we understand our tendencies and catch ourselves when it starts to happen…God has taught us that when we realign our lives and roles with his plan, our marriage will bless us and will glorify God.”
Biblical manhood and womanhood is ultimately about that: glorifying God. It is a display of the gospel to a watching world. This is why it is one of the seven shared values of Sovereign Grace churches.
Mike is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of the Lowcountry outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Prior to planting this church, Mike served as a pastor at CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a graduate of our Pastors College and of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.