Equality and Subordination
1 Peter 2:18–23
1 Peter Lesson #071
November 10, 2016
“Father, we are thankful that we have You to turn to. We know that history is governed by You, and whether the election had turned out a different way, or the way it has, we know that You are in control. We trust You.
Our trust is in You; we realize that the destiny of this nation and Your plan for this dispensation go on, and that you are in control. Father, we are thankful, because we believe that under this administration there will be less of an assault against biblical truth, less of an assault against the First Amendment, and there will be more freedom for Christians—or less of a threat from the government—to espouse our deeply held convictions of the truth of Scripture.
We pray for the safety of this new president as we have prayed for the safety of previous presidents and politicians. We pray that, as Paul exhorts us in 1 Timothy 2, the government will basically leave us alone and that we may be able to carry out the great commission, to learn the Word of God, to grow, to tell others about Jesus Christ, and that we can have a stronger nation that has a stronger position of blessing for Israel.
Father, as we study Your Word tonight, help us to understand what is going on in Your Word, and to think more accurately, precisely, biblically, about what is taught in the Scripture regarding submission. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter, Chapter 2. We are continuing our study. Actually, this section begins in verse 13 of Chapter 2, and it extends down through at least the end of Chapter 4, and then we get to a conclusion of the Epistle.
It begins by focusing on the issue of submission in many different areas. But everything in this area is couched in terms related to our understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the Cross. Again, we have to learn to think biblically. Whenever we are thinking about conflicts, whether we are talking about arguments over political policy, or whether we are talking about principles governing personal relationships, we always have to go back, ultimately, to understanding Who Jesus Christ is in terms of the hypostatic union. The union of humanity and deity in the Person of Christ, as well as the work of Christ, and, ultimately, the Trinity—it always starts there.
Our focus tonight is going to be on understanding what the Bible teaches about equality and subordination. This is an issue that just isn’t going away in our culture. We have to think a little bit more precisely about it, because you have one political party, and one philosophy, that just seems to focus the spotlight on women’s inequality and continuing to bring that out and make an issue out of it—as if the last hundred years haven’t happened at all.
There is a failure to understand, biblically, that there are distinctions between men and women. You would think it was obvious physically, but obviously, it’s not so obvious. Most people in Western civilization still believe that, and they are trying to act as if that is not true in many, many different areas of life.
There are some things that are true of women that make them better at some tasks than men, and the opposite is true. But it’s important to understand that how you view the role of men and women is directly related to how you view the Trinity, how you view the hypostatic union, and ultimately, how you view creation.
Ultimately, this is where origins come into play, and it’s crucial. There is a foundational difference between pagan views of origins, which includes Darwinian evolution and biblical creationism. All that comes into play. So we will look at that. That’s really the presuppositional background for what both Paul and Peter teach in this area of submission and authority.
We have seen in the flow of the argument here that we are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man, or every created institution of man. The context is talking about authority, so it is often thought of as ordinance; but it’s really more precisely understood as the created institutions within human societies. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him [by the governors] for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” It’s this word HUPOTASSO, which means to submit, or to subordinate yourself, to their authority.
The basic problem, as we’ve seen, is our own sin nature. We are born spiritually dead. We are born with an inherited principle of corruption, a capacity that is ours, inherited from Adam, because of sin. This is important to understand.
We engage others in conversation. Maybe they are untaught Christians on the one hand, or they are not Christians, and they tend to have a view of man that treats him more highly than he ought to be treated; they fail to understand that man is inherently corrupt. If man is not inherently corrupt, and man is basically good, then what flows from that, logically, in terms of the history of ideas, is that man is perfectible if he is basically good.
Man is perfectible. If man is basically good, then a society of human beings is basically good and is perfectible. Therefore, a utopic or perfect environment is possible. This is why you have a lot of the problems today. Because within the framework of progressivism, which had its birth out of 19th century liberalism and it is blended with ideas of socialism and Marxism, all have as their basic idea of the perfectibility of man and the perfectibility of society.
This is an idea that is sort of borrowed—or stolen—from Christianity and Karl Marx, actually. I’ve told you this before, but you’ve probably forgotten it. He was more than likely a believer. John Hintz, who is pastor of Tucson Bible Church, has a paper he can no longer find, in his files, that was written by Karl Marx on justification by faith alone when he was in high school.
When Karl Marx was about 14 years old, his father converted to Christianity. For a period of about four years he was a Christian, and he wrote a high school paper on the doctrine of justification by faith, which was biblical and Lutheran. That means it was correct, because Luther had it right. Then he rejected Christianity and went down the road of so many into apostasy. He had a Christian biblical influence; of course, we will never know until the Judgment Seat as to whether he believed that or not.
He had enough of an influence from the Christian environment of England in the 19th century. In England in the 19th century, the Anglican Church dominated. J. C. Ryle said that well over 50% of Anglican priests in the 19th century were pre-millennial. They were fairly biblical. This is the group out of which British Restorationism for Israel and Christian Zionism derive. They were pretty solid until they got turned, by the late 19th century, by liberalism.
You have these philosophies from Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and others, that perverted a Christian idea. So they took this idea of perfection, or a future kingdom, and they brought it over into their ideology—that man could do it on his own. By the time you get to the late 19th century and early 20th century, in liberalism they have taken the idea of the Kingdom of God and they have perverted it into this utopic reality. They are postmodern; so man in his society through government can bring about this Kingdom of God on the earth, and then Jesus will come. But they sort of do away with the idea of Jesus, and they are just left with this idea that you can bring in this perfection.
Most of that idea got pretty much hemorrhaged out on the fields of Flanders in World War I, but the residual of Marxism stayed with it. But the Bible teaches that as a Christian we look at these things differently. We look at relationships differently. We look at the relationship between human beings differently, the relationships in families differently. We look at the relationships in the workplace differently. We look at the relationships between the governing and the governed, because we understand that both the governing and the governed are corrupt. So, you don’t want to bring power into one person or one group because absolute power corrupts absolutely. And man is inherently corrupt. So we have this basic problem.
The basic orientation, as I’ve said, of the sin nature is that we are self-absorbed. Whenever we are put into an authority situation, everybody has a problem dealing with somebody over them that they disagree with. They may disagree strongly with somebody, but if you’re not the boss, then there’s a problem. We have to understand that, and that’s learning authority orientation.
We are seeing a whole situation now where these young people haven’t been taught respect for authority, haven’t been taught personal respect for property; in fact, they’ve been taught a lie in terms of so many of the divine institutions. Then, when they don’t get their way, as happened in this presidential election, they start throwing all these little temper tantrums, they start whining, and they go through personal meltdowns because there’s nothing to give them stability.
One of the things that has really been a part of my thinking for quite a while—but in the last several months it’s been a little more focused—is asking the question, “How do we, as believers, engage these young people evangelistically?” We will get into this in a minute, but you can’t start at the surface of social issues or political issues, because the underlying issue is more fundamental, and that is their spiritual beliefs and their relationship to God.
But how do we communicate? Because unless the heart is changed—and that can only be done through the Holy Spirit and through the Word of God— then it doesn’t matter who we elect into office, it’s not going to last. The potential for a recovery is there, but the problem in this country is not a political problem, the problem is an ideological problem that grows out of human viewpoint. Until that’s changed, nothing else is going to solve the problem.
But this is the problem. This is why we have problems with rebellions and rebellious teenagers and rebellious wives and rebellious husbands and rebellious employees, because there is a failure to be grace oriented, to understand grace, and to understand authority.
In this first section as we study, Peter applies this to servants; literally, it is “slaves.” We can’t minimize that term; we can’t sanitize it; he is talking about slaves. Slaves were the lowest rung in the culture, in the society; they had absolutely no rights. And neither Paul nor Peter come along and say, “We’ve got to end slavery.” What they talked about was what has to happen to change people from the inside out—knowing that if people came to Christ and got submitted to God and to His Word, that eventually it would change the society and change the culture.
You can’t change it by legislation. This kind of change can’t be legislated. This kind of change doesn’t come from shifting political parties. This kind of change only comes when there is an internal shift that is spiritual. When our verse talks about the fact that we are to submit with fear, that fear must be understood in the framework of Scripture—that it is the fear of the Lord.
We serve our masters because we serve the Lord. We are submitted to whomever we are to submit to because we are submitted to the Lord. It’s not related to that individual. We are to show respect and submit to the governor, even if the governor is a loser, even if the governor is a failure, even if we disagree with him completely.
We are to submit—not because we are submitting to him—but because we are submitting to the Lord. That is a difficult thing to grasp. That’s what genuine humility is all about. It is why
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
You see the same things—I talked about this before—going on. Titus 2:9, “Exhort bondservants [or slaves] to be obedient to their own masters.” Titus 3:1, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities.”
Ephesians 6:5–8 is where Paul develops this even more in the Epistle to the Ephesians. “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.” It always comes back to Christ. Human relationships must ultimately be patterned on Christ and on the relationships within the Trinity. We don’t start with creation—we start with God.
Ephesians 6:9, “And you, masters,” they are to treat the slaves with respect. We will get to why in just a minute.
1 Peter 2:19 goes on to say, “For this is commendable.” I disagree with that translation; I think that is confusing. The word there is CHARIS, which should be translated “grace.” Peter is saying, “This is grace.” Submission to an unjust authority is grace. Grace means that we are kind even when the person isn’t worthy of it, when the person doesn’t deserve it. That’s what grace orientation is.
So you submit to the authority that is unworthy, because that’s grace! That’s being kind—undeserved, unmerited favor towards this idiot, this loser, this failure, this person who doesn’t understand anything because he is a stupid idiot with a block of mud between his ears. You’ve probably said it worse than I did.
“For this is grace, if because of conscience toward God [our norms and standards change as believers] one endures grief, suffering unjustly.” And people say, “I’m not going to be treated in an unjust manner!” Well, that’s arrogance! Does that mean that you don’t take somebody to court? Not necessarily. Does that mean that you don’t call law enforcement to deal with some criminal activity? Certainly you do that. It means that you personally are not going to get your knickers in a knot over somebody’s unjust treatment of you; you can have a relaxed mental attitude.
Friday night when I go to Country Bible Church to be the evening speaker, my Psalm is going to be Psalm 37. Psalm 37 begins, “Do not fret because of evildoers.” That word that’s translated “fret” four times in the text doesn’t mean simply, “don’t worry.” The people demonstrating this are those who voted for Hillary Clinton, who woke up Wednesday morning going through emotional meltdowns. That’s what fretting is. This is an intensive word in the Hebrew, and they are fretting.
People who look at changes in politics and it ruins their life—those people are fretting. People who get up in the morning and their kids make decisions that they don’t like and they fall apart—that’s fretting. It’s anxiety and worry on steroids.
What the Scripture says is, “Don’t fret because of evildoers.” Get the long game into your head that God is going to bring justice and righteousness. Don’t worry if you’re being treated unjustly and innocently. We are going to see that in our study of Psalm 59 on Sunday morning.
So Peter says, “For this is grace, if because of conscience towards God one endures grief [or sorrow], suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently …” Some translations translate “grace” as “favor.” This finds favor with God. I think it’s “grace.” This is grace before God—grace in action in our lives. We are treating people who don’t deserve it better than they ought to be treated—just like God treated us better on Tuesday.
I believe that God graced us out and withheld what I think will eventually come in this nation to give us an opportunity to straighten out spiritually, to get involved in evangelism. The only thing that is going to change is if evangelicals who know the truth of God’s Word get involved personally in evangelism with those who need to know the truth.
The only thing that is going change this country is going to be the gospel and the Word of God. Fortunately, the evangelicals came out. Seventy-nine percent of all evangelicals voted against Hillary; they voted for Donald Trump. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.
If you remember, not too many months ago in my analysis of this, I said evangelicals failed to come out and vote in the 2012 election because they didn’t want to vote for a Mormon. Evangelicals also failed to get out in 2008. But in 2016, the highest number of evangelicals came out and voted on Tuesday (and in the two weeks before in early voting), more than any election prior in this country, at least in the 20th century. In the 19th century almost all Christians were evangelicals.
The evangelical vote came out! And it made a difference. One article I read said that what got Trump over the top was the evangelical vote and the conservative Catholic vote; that’s what won it. So it is those who have a belief in eternity and in absolutes in the Word of God that made a difference. They got out, and they voted.
But what this verse is saying is that if you reap harsh consequences for your own bad decisions, then that’s what you deserve. But if you do good, if you’re innocent like David in Psalm 59, if you’re innocent and you take it patiently, then that’s grace before God.
Then in verse 21 Peter says, “For to this you were called.” This is your calling. Stamp it on your head, tattoo it on the inside of your eyelids: You are called, as a believer in Jesus Christ, to suffer unjustly. That’s part of what we should expect living in the devil’s world.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us.” Not one of us is any better than Jesus. He is perfectly innocent: no taint of sin whatsoever; no personal sin, no inherited sin from Adam, no sin nature. He did not deserve any suffering, whatsoever, and He took our suffering on Himself on the Cross. That is the pattern. To understand everything the New Testament says about this difficult topic of submission, you have to understand the Person of Christ.
Then Peter begins to quote from Isaiah 53:9, “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” This is the called the doctrine of the impeccability of Jesus. It’s a quote from Isaiah 53:9, which in the last part of the verse says, “Because He had done no violence.” Literally, the Hebrew means “no wrong.” “He had done no wrong, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” He was perfectly sinless.
That’s then described in the next three verses. This is where we stopped the last time. “Who [referring to Jesus], when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed …” When He was reviled it was totally unjust. He was not worthy of being reviled. He was not worthy of suffering. He did not threaten.
But He committed Himself to whom? He turned it over to the Supreme Court of Heaven. He put it in the hands of the Lord. Later on in this epistle, Peter is going to say, “Cast your care upon the Lord.” That’s what Jesus did. That’s the pattern. That’s the example. He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself [referring to Jesus] bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” Another quote from Isaiah 53.
“For you were like sheep going astray,” another quote from Isaiah 53. Why does he go to Isaiah 53? Because in Isaiah 53 Jesus is presented as the suffering slave, the suffering servant. Who is he talking to here? He is talking to slaves. “Slaves, obey your masters.” So he’s talking about Jesus as the ultimate slave who is without sin and who suffers for all of us; and He submits Himself.
“For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” We are going to come back to the details of those three verses, but I want to go to another section in Scripture, in the New Testament. I want you to turn with me to Philippians 2.
We always want to focus on exceptions. “Well, what about when …” Then we come up with circumstances and situations when somebody tells us to do something, asks us to do something, wants us to do something that we don’t want to do. “Am I not justified in disobeying them?”
We are going to understand this more fully if we look at Philippians 2. We are going to look at Philippians 2:8, and we are going to think about this a little bit.
Philippians 2:8, talking about Jesus, says, “Being found in appearance as a man.” Now that doesn’t mean that He just looked like a man, but He wasn’t. That was called Docetism—that it was like He put on a cloak, a disguise of manhood. But this doesn’t mean that. He becomes a man is what it says; we will look at the details later.
“He humbled himself.” Now how does He humble himself? How do you exercise humility in Scripture? You humble yourself by being obedient. If you’re disobedient to authority—whether it’s God, whether it’s a husband, whether it’s parents, whether it’s a boss—if you don’t submit, then you’re not humble. By definition you’re arrogant.
We have to think about that. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” Elsewhere in Scripture it says, “Have you suffered to the point of bloodshed?” Most of us haven’t even suffered to the point of thinking about bloodshed. The writer of Hebrews says, “Have you suffered to the point of bloodshed?” Paul says, “Have you become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross?”—one of the most horrific, torturous, horrible deaths conceivable.
Let’s think a little bit about this whole topic of how do you communicate in a very pagan environment that has a very distorted view of what submission to authority is. Let’s think in terms of maybe two or three different pagan environments. One of the most horrid ones is Islam. In Islam, women are just marginally above animals. I mean that’s their theology. Women are not equal to men. That’s one option within the many options in the world around us.
Let’s take Islam and push it back just a little more. Islam has kind of a strange doctrine of creation. You have man created, but it’s not in the image of God like it is in Scripture. So you don’t have an equality of person in Islam.
Let’s think about other forms of paganism. Whether you are talking about ancient paganism or modern paganism, neither have a view of man that elevates him much above primordial slime. Look at the ancient myths. For example, we’ll take a Babylonian myth; the Egyptian myths were pretty much the same. Matter is eternal, and it’s personified in the gods and goddesses of their pantheon. The way the universe gets created is usually along the lines of two gods or goddesses having a battle royal, one of them kills the other, and from their body the universe is created.
So matter is really eternal. It just goes back—the gods and goddesses are part of the creation. From that you find the gods and goddesses creating man, not out of nothing, but they create man from whatever is there. It’s a primitive view that is very, very similar to modern evolution.
In modern evolution, you start off with matter. It’s really interesting. “We don’t know the process. We don’t know when it began. We don’t know how it developed. We don’t know how long ago it happened. And we don’t know what the mechanics were. But we do know it happened that way.” Isn’t that interesting?
You take all these statements, “We don’t know this. We don’t know that. We don’t know this. We don’t know that. But we do know it happened that way.” That doesn’t make sense.
In macroevolution, man is the product of an evolutionary process that took billions of years and lots of infinitesimal changes took place that ultimately brought inorganic life to organic life to intelligent, sentient life.
What is the basic mechanism of Darwinism? Survival of the fittest. But the problem with survival of the fittest is that it doesn’t explain the arrival of fittest. And in the survival of the fittest, the basic mechanic is struggle and fight so that one species is going to destroy and replace another species. One creature is going to destroy and replace another creature. Violence is the modus operandi of evolution. Without violence and without one creature asserting his superiority to destroy another creature, there is no advance. So evolutionary theory is based on creaturely dominance and destruction of lesser creatures. That’s the metaphysic there.
Let’s plug this into an image. Here we are going to use this iceberg image. I have used this before. In an iceberg we only see 10% or so of the iceberg above the surface. What’s below the surface is invisible to the eye; it is not readily apparent. When we talk about ideas, we see ideas at the surface. But ideas are the product of a lot of other assumptions that are below the surface. So there’s a logical sequence that’s going to go from the bottom up. Remember, good ideas produce good consequences; bad ideas produce bad consequences. Any idea is grounded on previous ideas and assumptions and presuppositions.
So it starts from the bottom up. The foundation of all thought is what is called, in philosophy, metaphysics. “Meta” means beyond; “physics” means the natural world, or the physical world. So it starts with something that goes beyond the physical world. In other words, how you view ultimate reality. Metaphysics is your view of what is eternal. Is it God? Is it matter? Is it energy? Is it nothing?
Evolution says that nothing developed something. How can something come out of nothing unless there’s some external force or intelligence base that is putting the information into the system to create that? But they ignore that.
So you have metaphysics and then once you get the idea that there is something, and the basic philosophical question that came from Jean-Paul Sartre, I believe, was the basic question in life is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” That’s the question.
Once you establish that, there is something and what that ultimate reality is then you have to ask the question, “Well, how do you know that?” Is it true? How do you know truth?” That is the area of epistemology: How do you know truth? How do you determine right from wrong, or just from the unjust?
Once you decide these questions as to how you determine the difference between right and wrong and just from the unjust, this is what develops ethics. Ethics is the area of philosophy that talks about what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad. Social structures and organizations, such as politics, which deals with justice and right and wrong, comes out of that, and so this is what you get at the upper level.
At that upper level you have what we talk about—political, national, or individual decisions. Right now we are engaged in this debate about different policies related to foreign policy decisions—the Iran deal, foreign policy decisions related to NAFTA and trade, and all these other things—and we argue at this upper level. But everything that we talk about is dependent upon a presuppositional ethic, which is dependent upon a presuppositional epistemology, which is dependent upon a presuppositional metaphysic. That’s where the discussion needs to take place.
As we get into the pressures of life, we are forced to think about things rather than just at the surface level, and so that drives us down to ultimate reality. It’s only when life gets really tough that we start asking the question, “Why am I here?”
I was talking with someone recently, and they were discussing a situation with an individual who had been brought home by his girlfriend to meet her parents. Her father sat him down, getting to know him, and he said, “Tell me about your relationship with God.” This young man had never even thought about it. He had no concept of what God was, and they ended up spending two or three hours, the afternoon, just having that discussion and taking a long walk. And when the kid, who was a PhD student, came home, he realized that there was a whole dimension to life and thought that he had never, ever considered. So the pressures of life drive us to think about these questions of ultimate reality.
What I have on the slide is that this is the area where we talk and argue, but the real issues are these issues related to ultimate reality and epistemology. When we talk at the level up here, we are asking the question, “How do we submit to authority? Why should we submit to authority? Why should we submit to an unjust ruler? Why should we submit to an unjust husband, or unjust parents?” As I have nuanced this in the past, we are not talking about somebody who is telling us to do something that is prohibited by the Bible. We are talking about somebody who wants us do something we just don’t want to do.
We have to understand in the area of submission to authority, God is what functions at the ultimate level of metaphysics. You can’t talk about authority and submission to authority without talking about God; if you do not talk about God you can understand the concept.
We are going to go to a different slide here, and this is a slide that is going to help us understand the basic nature of God. God is eternal, and God eternally exists as three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the early church they really wrestled with how to express this concept. Are we talking about three gods? Well, that would be what’s called tritheism—tri, meaning three, and theism, meaning gods—that we are worshiping three gods.
Or, are we worshiping a God who just puts on different masks or appears in different modes? That was called modalism. For a while in the Old Testament, God appeared with the mask of the Father. Then He shows up 400 years later and He’s got on the mask of the Son. Then the Son leaves, and He puts on the mask of the Holy Spirit. You’ve got one Person, one essence, He just puts on different costumes. That’s called modalism.
What came out of that, as it was finally defined by the Council of Nicaea in 325, is the doctrine of the Trinity. In the doctrine of the Trinity, what we see is that the Father is God, one in essence, the Holy Spirit is God, one in essence, and the Son is God, one in essence. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each equally divine; They have equal essence. One is not greater than the other. One is not more powerful. One does not have more knowledge. One does not have more wisdom. One is not more righteous. One is not more loving than the other. They are equal in every single area of essence; they are essentially the same.
However, the Son is not the Father; He is distinct in His Person. He is a distinct individual. The Son is not the Father, but He is perfectly, absolutely, eternally equal with the Father. The Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Son. They are distinct Persons, but they have the same essence. And the Father is not the Holy Spirit. They are three distinct Persons with one essence. They are absolutely, totally equal with each other.
Now that’s a big issue today. It’s a big issue in politics. We want to be equal. We want to be egalitarians. Part of the French Revolution is égalité —we want to be equal. Okay? We don’t want to be treated less than anyone else.
Ultimately, in Christianity, the bottom line is that we are patterned after a God Who is three in one. He is equal in essence, so that the Father equals the Son, the Son equals the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit equals the Father. So They are ontologically equal, metaphysically equal; They are equal in their being.
See, if you look at Islam, you just have one god, a singular monotheism. He’s not equal to anyone—just himself. When he creates, he creates only creatures who have a hierarchy but no equality, because there’s no plurality in Allah. He’s a singularity; he is a monadic god. I’m using a lot of big words, but that’s the language of philosophy; it helps you think through these critical issues of equality and subordination.
You see, the Son obeys the Father. A wife obeys her husband, but biblically, in Christianity, she’s equal to him. The Son is equal to the Father. To say that it’s wrong, existentially wrong, to make a woman submit to a man is to make a theologically blasphemous statement because it implies that subordination means inequality. And biblically, subordination does not mean inequality, because eternally in the Trinity, the Son is submitted to the Father and at the same time is totally and absolutely equal to the Father.
The only reason that subordination manifests as inequality is because of a little three-letter word. What’s that word? Sin! But if you live in a culture that rejects the notion of inherent sin and corruption, then you can’t even talk about this anymore, because, as far as you’re concerned, in a perfect world …. Oh, we are not in a perfect world, are we? But they don’t have a basis for talking about that; as far as they’re concerned, when they deny sin, they are denying reality.
The Son not only obeys the Father, but the Son and the Father send the Holy Spirit. So what we see within the Godhead is that there is total equality in terms of essence or being, the fancy word is ontology or metaphysics. There is total oneness, total equality in essence, but they have different roles.
Think about a football team. You have two or three different athletes on a football team. I know you have higher numbers of players, but we are just going to talk about three of them. They may be considered to be virtually equal in their abilities as athletes, but one’s a tight end, one is a defensive tackle, and the other is a quarterback. They are equal in terms of members of the team and in terms of athletic ability, but they have different roles and functions on the team. That doesn’t mean one is a better person than the other, or one is a worse person than the other.
So you have these role distinctions in the Godhead. So let’s summarize this.
- The three Persons of the Trinity are equal in their being, essence, and deity.
There is nothing that would make One superior to the other.
- This is called ontological or metaphysical equality or what we would call equality of essence in terms of Their being.
- Yet each has a distinct role. The Father is the Planner. For example, in creation the Father is the Planner, the Son carries out the plan, and the Spirit reveals the plan. But they’re all involved.
Because They are of metaphysical unity, each is involved in the work of the other One. This is referred to as economic distinctions. So They are—are you ready? Ontologically equal or essentially equal, but they are distinct in role. That’s a pattern that you can apply to the home. Every person in the home is in the image and likeness of God and deserves respect and deserves to be treated as an image bearer, but each was designed by God to play a different role and to have different functions.
The same thing applies to government. You go to government, and government is designed to carry out certain rulership functions, organizational functions, and judicial functions, but it is not to be treated and abused so that one person or one group is treated more equal than another. When you get into elitism, which is where we have come in this country and many other countries—this is what we got away from in the 1600s and 1700s. When you pass a health law that applies to all the citizens, if it doesn’t apply equally to every member of the government then you have an elitist government. And that violates the basic principle of the Constitution.
There are clearly economic or functional distinctions between the members of the government and citizens, but they are to be treated equally. You don’t have a basis for that, metaphysically, in Islam, so you’ll never, ever, be able to export Western democracy which grows out of this Christian idea, this idea of the Trinity.
You’ll never be able to export that to a Muslim country. It will never, ever, ever work! It is ideologically impossible and logically irrational. George Bush, after 9/11, said, “We are going to export democracy to the Middle East.” I knew right away, “This man is a fool, an absolute idiot, and he is going to do nothing but cause more trouble,” because a bad idea has bad consequences. And that’s what we saw with all the wars and all the problems in the first part of the 20th century.
This is what happens, because of sin, in marriage. You have one person who wants to dominate the other person.
- Biblical submission reflects the divine nature of God Himself.
The Son is submitted to the Father. The Holy Spirit is submitted to the Son and the Father.
We look at Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” so that they are equally in the image of God. That means, in essence, every human being is equal to every other human. That came across in the Declaration of Independence. We are endowed by whom? By nature? We are endowed by the government? No. We are endowed by our Creator “with certain unalienable rights.”
If you take away the idea of a Creator who endows rights, then you cannot talk about equality anymore. Because when you look at the pagan mythology, whether it’s ancient Greece or Rome or Babylon or Egypt, or whether you are talking about the modern origin myth of Darwinian evolution, you don’t have a tool to give equality. In evolution you don’t have equality, you have dominance; it comes out of the existential principle of evolution, which is survival of the fittest.
It makes everything a struggle, and whoever can dominate the other wins. We have seen the outworking of Darwinian evolution and ideology with social Darwinism. That gave us those wonderful people in the black uniforms and the death’s head insignia and the death camps. They gave us the death camps in Poland and the murder of 6 million Jews plus the Gypsies and Jehovah’s Witnesses and a number of other political dissenters—Polish and Russians as well. That is social Darwinism.
Since the Holocaust, Western societies rejected social Darwinism, but there’s no logical rational ideological basis for rejecting it. Other than—oops—it produced a bad consequence! Well, that’s because the bad idea of Darwinism is what produced it, not social Darwinism—that’s just the application of it. But what it tells us is that if you take God out of the equation, and you remove the Bible, then you don’t have a basis for talking about equality.
So when you are talking with somebody, you say, “Well, okay. You want to talk about equal rights for women? Okay, let’s just talk about that. Where does that concept of rights come from?” It comes from the Declaration of Independence. Well, where did they get their idea? Well, from the Creator. If you take away the Creator, and you take away the Bible, where do you get the idea of talking about rights?
What’s the foundation for talking about the fact that I have certain rights? Well, then you have to say that they come from the government. Uh-oh, now we have a real problem, because the government can’t be the source of our rights. Because if the government is the source of our rights, then the government can take the rights away from us. Now we have a real problem.
We have to talk about this and help people think through by asking questions. That’s what Jesus did. He asked a lot of questions. Help them think it through. Don’t just tell them what the answers are—bang them over the head with them—but ask them questions, help them go through the process of self-discovery. “Where do you get these ideas? Where does that come from?”
In Christianity you have men and women who are equal in being, essence, personhood, and humanity. But God created them with different roles; He created them different.
The woman was created to be a helper to the man; she has a distinct role. He’s created first; he’s the one who is given the cultural mandate before Eve is created. He’s the one who is told to go out and to take dominion over the creation. So God says, “I’m going to make a helper.” Well, modern feminism comes along and says that is a demeaning role—to be an assistant, to be a helper; she should be the main person.
Now you have another theological problem, because the word “helper” is not ever used of the man, but it used many times of God. For example, Deuteronomy 33:29, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your ETZER” [the shield of your help]. God is the helper. Only the wife and God are given that great title of being an ETZER, a helper.
That term shows up in 1 Samuel 7:12, “EBENEZER.” EBEN is the word for stone, ETZER is the word for help, “the rock of help.” It was a monument. When the Philistines attacked Israel as they were having a meeting at Mizpeh, the Lord defeated them in a mighty, miraculous act; to commemorate that, Samuel erected this stone between Mizpeh and Shen and called it Ebenezer, which means “the stone of God’s help.” It is a reminder that God is the One who helps us.
Psalm 70:5, “But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help [ETZER] and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.”
Psalm 121:2, “My help [ETZER] comes from the Lord.”
Our help, ETZER, again, or some form of that word. These are different forms. Psalm 124:8, “Our help [ETZER] is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 146:5, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help [ETZER], whose hope is in the Lord his God.” So again and again and again we see this principle.
- All human beings (slaves, wives, children) are equal in being and essence, being in the image of God, and they should be treated with respect. Neither is superior in their essence to another.
That’s the basis for respect and good manners. Etiquette didn’t just pop out because it was a good idea. If you read the origin of these things, it was designed for two things. Number one, to give people self-discipline and restraint for the sin nature. Two, to show respect for others who are in the image and likeness of God.
- This is called ontological or metaphysical equality. It basically means equality of essence or being.
- Yet each has distinct roles. Men and women have distinct roles, just like in the Trinity.
- Biblical submission differs from pagan submission in that paganism has different orders of humans and is often predicated on power and might and not predicated on equality.
So if you’re going to take the Bible out of the classroom and out of the university, then you also have to take out of the classroom and out of the courtroom and out of the university everything we get from the Bible—respect for authority, individual civil rights, rights of submission, rights of leadership. All of these things. You can’t even talk about those things. Take everything with it—it’s okay to murder, it’s okay to have multiple wives, it’s okay to gossip and slander, it’s okay to be a false witness—because the only reason you can say that you can’t do those things is because of the Bible.
We have to hold them to be logical. Take out the Bible, take out everything you get from the Bible—from the culture, from the courts, from law, everything else—and we will descend into absolute anarchy.
I thought we’d get there tonight, but we won’t. We will come back and look at this next time, in Philippians 2.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to look at Your Word, to think through these important issues, especially as they relate to our culture and discussions we will have with family and friends and those around us.
Help us to be good, faithful witnesses, not antagonistic witnesses, not becoming embattled or belligerent, but helping people, out of love, to understand what the issues really are so that they can be helped in their thinking and ultimately in terms of giving the gospel. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”