Twelve Extraordinary Women, Week 1

Twelve Extraordinary Women  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:04:37
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Scripture often seems to go out of the way to pay homage to women, to ennoble their roles in society and family, to acknowledge the importance of their influence, and to exalt the virtues of women who were particularly godly examples. Women play prominent roles in many key biblical narratives. At Sinai, God commanded children to honor both father and mother. That was a revolutionary concept in an era when most pagan cultures were dominated by men who ruled their households with an iron fist while women were usually regarded as lesser creatures—mere servants to men. Of course, the Bible recognizes divinely ordained role distinctions between men and women—many of which are perfectly evident from the circumstances of creation alone. For example, women have a unique and vital role in childbearing and nurturing little ones. Women themselves also have a particular need for support and protection, because physically, they are “weaker vessels”. Scripture establishes the proper order in the family and in the church accordingly, assigning the duties of headship and protection in the home to husbands and appointing men in the church to the teaching and leadership roles.
Yet women are by no means marginalized or relegated to any second-class status. On the contrary, Scripture seems to set women apart for special honor. Husbands are commanded to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ loves the church—even, if necessary, at the cost of their own lives. The Bible acknowledges and celebrates the priceless value of a virtuous woman. In other words, from cover to cover, the Bible portrays women as extraordinary.


Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 3:20 ESV
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
When we see Eve enter the records of scripture, she would be the last of God’s creative work before He declared all “very good” and rested for the Sabbath. She was the pinnacle of creation! The first female of Adam’s race was the last living thing to be called into existence—actually fashioned directly by the Creator’s own hand in a way that showed particular care and attention to detail. Remember, Eve wasn’t made out of dust like Adam, but carefully designed from living flesh and bone. Adam was refined dirt; Eve was a glorious refinement of humanity itself. She was a special gift to Adam. She was the necessary partner who finally made his existence complete—and whose own existence finally signaled the completion of all creation.
Eve, the only being ever directly created by God from the living tissue of another creature, was indeed a singular marvel. God had composed a vast universe of wonders out of nothing. Then He made Adam from a handful of dust. But nothing in the whole expanse of the universe was more wonderful than this woman made from a handful of Adam. If the man represented the supreme species (a race of creatures made in the image of God), Eve was the living embodiment of humanity’s glory (1 Cor. 11:7).
1 Corinthians 11:7 ESV
7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
God had truly saved the best for last! Nothing else would have sufficed quite so perfectly to be the finishing touch and the very zenith of all creation.
In her original state, undefiled by any evil, unblemished by any disease or defect, unspoiled by any imperfection at all, Eve was the flawless archetype of feminine excellence. She was magnificent in every way. Since no other woman has ever come unfallen into a curse-free world, no other woman could possibly surpass Eve’s grace, charm, virtue, ingenuity, intelligence, wit, and pure innocence. Physically, too, she must have personified all the best traits of both strength and beauty. There is no doubt that she was a living picture of sheer radiance.
Scripture, however, gives us no physical description of Eve. Her beauty—splendid as it must have been—is never mentioned or even alluded to. The focus of the biblical account is on Eve’s duty to her Creator and her role alongside her husband. That is a significant fact, reminding us that the chief distinguishing traits of true feminine excellence are nothing superficial. Women who are obsessed with image, cosmetics, body shapes, and other external matters have a distorted view of femininity. Indeed, Western culture as a whole (including a large segment of the visible church) seems hopelessly confused about these very issues. We need to go back to Scripture to see what God’s ideal for a woman really is. And the biblical account of Eve is an excellent reminder of what a woman’s true priorities ought to be.
As “the mother of all living,” Eve is obviously a major character in the story of humanity’s fall and redemption. Yet in all of Scripture, her name is used only four times—twice in the Old Testament (Gen. 3:20; 4:1),
Genesis 3:20 ESV
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
Genesis 4:1 ESV
1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
and twice in the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13).
2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
1 Timothy 2:13 ESV
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
Not only is no physical description of her given; we don’t even know such details as how many children she had, how long she lived, or where and how she died.
The way Scripture tells her story, almost in abbreviated fashion, helps us focus more clearly on the aspects of her life that have the most significance.
Although Scripture is silent about many things we might like to know about Eve, we are given detailed accounts of her creation, her temptation and fall, the curse that was placed on her, and the subsequent hope that she clung to. Naturally, that’s where we’ll focus our study of this truly extraordinary woman.

Her Creation

Genesis 2:18–23 (ESV)
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
So, God performed a surgical procedure on Adam. Scripture describes the operation with a surprising measure of detail. Adam was anesthetized—not by any artificial means, but God simply caused him to fall into a deep sleep. In such a slumber (especially in a world that was still a perfect paradise), Adam would feel no pain, of course. But, more significantly, the pure, passive restfulness of Adam’s sleep makes an ideal illustration of how God’s grace is always received. Grace is never set in motion by any effort or activity or volunteerism on our part, but it always flows freely from the sovereign will of God. Notice there’s nothing to indicate that Adam asked God for a wife. Adam certainly wasn’t given any conditions to fulfill as a prerequisite to receiving God’s kindness. God Himself instigated this whole event and single-handedly brought it to pass—as an expression of sheer grace and benevolence to Adam. Adam was instrumental only in that he contributed a rib, but even that was done while he was asleep. The work was wholly and completely God’s.
Adam’s side was opened, a rib was carefully removed, and the incision was closed again. With such an infinitely skilled surgeon, and in the paradise of Eden prior to the curse, there was no danger of infection, none of the discomfort of postoperative pain, and (in all likelihood) not even a scar. God took a redundant bone that Adam would never miss and made for him the one thing he lacked: a soul mate. Adam lost a rib, but he gained a loving companion, created especially for him by the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
The Hebrew expression describing how God “made [the rib] into a woman” denotes careful construction and design. Literally, it means God built a woman. He carefully assembled a whole new creature with just the right set of attributes to make her the ideal mate for Adam.
Specially created by God for Adam from his own flesh and bone, Eve suited Adam perfectly in every way. She is a wonderful illustration of the goodness of God’s grace and the perfect wisdom of His will. Again, God made her while Adam was asleep, without any tips or suggestions from him. Yet she perfectly met every need Adam had, satisfied every longing he may ever have felt, and delighted every faculty of his senses. She answered his need for companionship; she was a source of joy and gladness to him; and she made possible the procreation of the human race. She complemented Adam perfectly, and she enhanced everything about his existence. Eden was now truly a paradise.
When Adam awoke and found Eve, he must have been overjoyed! The moment he saw her, he loved her. His first words upon meeting her express a profound sense of wonder, genuine delight, and abiding satisfaction: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Clearly, he already felt a deep, personal attachment to Eve. She was a priceless treasure to be cherished, a worthy partner to encourage him, and a pleasing spouse who would love him in return. Instantly, he adored her and embraced her as his own.
The unique method of Eve’s creation is deliberately emphasized, I think, in order to remind us of several crucial truths about womanhood in general.
First, it speaks of Eve’s fundamental equality with Adam. The woman was “taken out of man.” They shared the same essential nature. She was not a different kind of creature; she was of exactly the same essence as Adam. She was in no way an inferior character made merely to serve him, but she was his spiritual counterpart, his intellectual coequal, and in every sense his perfect mate and companion.
Second, the way Eve was created reminds us of the essential unity that is the ideal in every marriage relationship. Jesus referred to Eve’s creation in Matthew 19:4–6 to prove that God’s plan for marriage was established at the very beginning of human history and was based on the principles of monogamy, solidarity, and inviolability.
Matthew 19:4–6 ESV
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (NKJV). So the one-flesh principle is perfectly illustrated in the method of Eve’s creation. As a matter of fact, this is where that principle finds its true origin.
Third, the circumstances of Eve’s creation illustrate how deep and meaningful the marriage of husband and wife is designed to be. It is not merely a physical union, but a union of heart and soul as well. Eve was Adam’s complement in every sense, designed by God to be the ideal soul-companion for him. And the intimacy of her relationship with her husband derives from her being literally taken from his side. In his classic commentary on the Bible, Puritan author Matthew Henry wrote these familiar words, which have been adapted and quoted in many marriage ceremonies: “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
The symbolism Matthew Henry saw in Adam’s rib accords well with what Scripture teaches about the proper relationship between husbands and wives. It reminds us, again, of how Scripture exalts women.
Fourth, Eve’s creation contains some important biblical lessons about the divinely-designed role of women. Although Eve was spiritually and intellectually Adam’s peer; although they were both of one essence and therefore equals in their standing before God and in their rank above the other creatures; there was nonetheless a clear distinction in their earthly roles. And this was by God’s own deliberate creative design. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man”. Adam was created first; then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence. Adam was the head; Eve was his helper. Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader. Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper.
That God has ordained these different functions for men and women is clearly evident from nature alone. Men and women do not possess equal physical strength. They are bodily and hormonally different (in a number of rather obvious ways). A mountain of empirical and clinical evidence strongly suggests that men and women are also dissimilar in several other important ways—including socially, emotionally, and psychologically.
To acknowledge that there are such fundamental differences between the genders, and that men and women were designed for different roles, may not correspond with modern feminist sensibilities, but this is, after all, what God’s own Word says. God created men and women differently with a purpose, and His plan for them reflects their differences. Scripture is clear in teaching that wives should be subject to the authority of their husbands in marriage (Eph. 5:22–24; Col. 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1–6) and that women are to be under the authority and instruction of men in the church (1 Cor. 11:3–7; 14:34–35).
First Timothy 2:11–15 is a key passage on this issue, because that is where the apostle Paul defends the principle of male headship in the church.
1 Timothy 2:11–15 ESV
11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
This is not a popular stance in today’s climate, but it is not surprising.
Genesis 3:16 ESV
16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
However, scripture cannot be ignored. The first reason Paul gives for this arrangement stems from creation, not from the fall: “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13 NKJV). So the principle of male headship was designed into creation. It was not (as some have suggested) a consequence of Adam’s sin and therefore something to be regarded as a fruit of evil. And when Scripture assigns men the role of headship in the church and in marriage, it reflects God’s blueprint as Creator. I’m convinced that if people today would simply embrace God’s purpose and seek to fulfill the roles God has designed for our respective genders, both men and women would be happier, the church would be healthier, and marriages would be stronger.
Adam was the representative head and archetype for the whole human race. But remember, although Eve was given a subordinate role, she remained Adam’s spiritual and intellectual equal. She was his “helper,” neither his supervisor nor his slave. By calling her Adam’s “helper,” Scripture stresses the mutuality and the complementary nature of the partnership. Eve was in no way inferior to her husband, but she was nonetheless given a role that was subordinate to his leadership.
Subordinate, yet equal? Yes. The relationships within the Trinity illustrate perfectly how headship and submission can function within a relationship of absolute equals. Christ is in no sense inferior to the Father. “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9 NKJV). He has eternally existed “in the form of God … [and] equal with God” (Phil. 2:6 NKJV). “I and My Father are one,” He testified (John 10:30 NKJV). The apostle John made it as clear as possible: From eternity past, Jesus was with God and was Himself God (John 1:1–2). Three divine Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) constitute the one true God of Scripture. All three are fully God and are fully equal. Yet the Son is subordinate to the Father. Jesus said, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30 NKJV). “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29 NKJV).
The apostle Paul drew a clear parallel between Jesus’ willing submission to his Father and a wife’s willing submission to her husband: “I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3 NKJV). So if you wonder how two persons who are truly equal can have a relationship where one is head and the other submits, you need look no further than the doctrine of the Trinity. God Himself is the pattern for such a relationship.
Eve’s creation establishes a similar paradigm for the human race. Here is the sum of it: Men and women, though equal in essence, were designed for different roles. Women are in no sense intellectually or spiritually inferior to men, but they were quite clearly created for a distinctive purpose. In the economy of church and family, the Bible says women should be subordinate to the authority of men. Yet Scripture also recognizes that in a completely different sense, women are exalted above men—because they are the living and breathing manifestation of the glory of a race made in God’s image (1 Cor. 11:7).
That was precisely Eve’s position after creation and before the fall. She was under her husband’s headship, yet she was in many ways an even more glorious creature than he, treasured and extolled by him. They were partners and companions, fellow laborers in the garden. God dealt with Adam as head of the human race, and Eve was accountable to her husband. Far from consigning Eve to menial servitude or a state of domestic enslavement, this arrangement utterly liberated her.
This was true paradise, and Adam and Eve constituted a perfect microcosm of the human race as God designed it to be.
But then it was all ruined by sin. Tragically, Eve was the unwitting portal through which the tempter gained access to assault Adam.
John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2005), xi–9.
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