Question: "Are men and women equal in God's eyes?"
Answer: Yes, men and women are equal in God’s eyes in that both men and women are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). Men and women are also equally sinners in need of grace and salvation. Redeemed men and women are equally forgiven, equally indwelt by the Holy Spirit, equally invited before the throne of grace, and equally heirs of God (Galatians 3:28).
In Genesis 2:18 the Lord says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” After God creates the woman from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21–22), Adam proclaims, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). We then read the first description of marriage: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Everything about this passage points to the fact that men and women are equal in God’s eyes. The woman was “suitable” for (not inferior to) the man, she was created from him, and she becomes “one flesh” with him in marriage.
Nowhere does Scripture imply that women are unequal to men in God’s eyes or that they should have less significance than men. Men and women have different roles in the home and in the church, but different roles do not indicate differing worth. A screwdriver has a different role in the carpenter’s shop than a hammer, but that doesn’t mean one tool is more valuable than the other. The roles of men and women are divinely designed to be complementary.
People who believe men and women are not equal in God’s eyes often have a misunderstanding of God’s Word. First Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands . . . be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Some readers latch on to the word weaker and get offended. But what does it mean that the wife is the “weaker partner”? It has nothing to do with her mental or spiritual capabilities. It simply refers to the fact that a woman has a different physical makeup from a man. Men are naturally stronger, and, from the beginning of time, men have been the primary providers and protectors of their families. We find an allusion to this in God’s curse on Adam: “Through painful toil you will eat food from [the ground] all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). God’s curse on Eve explains the age-old battle of the sexes: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (verse 16), or, as the NLT has it, “You will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” The harmonious relationship between the man and woman was broken by sin, and God predicted a new dynamic would emerge. But, even in Eve’s curse, there is no hint of her inferiority or inequality.
People who take umbrage with Peter’s mention of a woman’s physical weakness completely miss the rest of 1 Peter 3:7, which clearly says that the husband and wife are spiritually equal. They are “heirs” of the “gift of life” together. A wife should be treated with “respect,” and a husband who fails to honor his wife will find that his prayers are “hindered.” The Amplified Bible renders the verse this way: “You husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way [with great gentleness and tact, and with an intelligent regard for the marriage relationship], as with someone physically weaker, since she is a woman. Show her honor and respect as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered or ineffective.”
Another passage that some people can get confused about is 1 Timothy 2:11–15, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:34). In the church, women are not to exercise spiritual authority over men; that much is clear. The reasons for God’s directive for the church are also clear: the order of creation and the deception of Eve. Men, not women, are to be pastors; this difference in role, however, has no bearing on a woman’s intrinsic worth before God. A quarterback may call the plays on a football field, but that doesn’t make him any more valuable as a person than a tight end.
Those who focus on what women cannot do in 1 Timothy 2 often overlook what men cannot do in the same passage. Men will never experience the blessing of a life forming inside of them. Women are the only ones who can bear children (verse 15). The fact is, men and women have different, God-given roles, and those roles should be celebrated and assumed with thanksgiving.
Just because God has given men the spiritual leadership roles in the church doesn’t mean men are superior or that they have a special standing with God. It does mean that men bear a greater responsibility for the condition of the church and the family. Concerning the marriage relationship, 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Men will answer to God for how they lead their families and the church.
Are women and men equal? In some ways, yes, and, in some ways, no. Spiritually, men and women are absolutely equal. Physically, they are obviously not equal. God has chosen distinct roles for both men and women that they may complement each other in a way that most glorifies Himself. Women may be fragile in some regards, but so are many things that are most precious to us. Men and women should work together, each fulfilling their respective, distinct roles, for the common goal of glorifying God.