“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
The Gospel of John opens with this statement about Jesus. In these verses, the author sets Jesus forth as the Word of God, which Larry Pierce defines as, “…the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.” (See Here.)
For the author of John, this scene is essential to our understanding of Jesus. Jesus existed with God from the beginning, he is God, and creation was accomplished through him, giving life and light to all men. Jesus existed as the Word before God’s creative work, and within creation Jesus is the embodiment of God’s will and authority. Later in John 1, we’re told:
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”
This passage is often preached during the season of Advent, for obvious reasons. In order for us to understand the significance of Jesus coming to us in human flesh, we must first understand the reality of his eternal glory and deity that he shares with the Father. And for that matter, we must understand this reality if we are to truly see ourselves as created in the image of God.
This picture of Jesus with the Father during the outset of creation is especially poignant for me this year because of some questions I’ve been asking God, a lot of which have concerned his heart toward women. I’ve heard a lot of arguments from various sides describing the role women play in ministry, in marriage, and in the world at large. And while some seem reasonable, and others might be infuriating, I most often come away feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. I’m sure a lot of women can relate. How do we draw near to God when so many voices, even at times from the church, tell us that we’re the lesser of his children?
The main reason John 1’s portrayal of Jesus is sticking out to me so much this year is because of its similarities to Proverbs 8. In the early chapters of Proverbs, a wise father tells his son about two metaphorical women, Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. Proverbs 8 begins with Lady Wisdom calling to the children of man and inviting them to learn from her. Then, in verse 22, she begins this account:
“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth…
When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep…
then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.
And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”
Is it a coincidence that the author of John portrays Jesus in a scene similar to a feminine character from Proverbs? Or do these parallel scenes reveal something about the image of God? What if we were to look at Jesus, who Colossians describes as the image of the invisible God (1:15), and see him through the light of 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.” What if we were to believe that women truly represent the image of God as fully as men do?
Proverbs is typically seen as a sort of commonsense manual for men, teaching them how to make wise decisions and to act with equity. But what if we were to look at what Proverbs has to say about women, and not just what is says in chapter 31? The wise father lays before his son a portrait of two metaphorical women, the woman who fears the LORD and the woman who doesn’t. But it stands to reason that the instructions this father gives to his son concerning these personified concepts should apply to the way the son should treat real women. A few parallel verses make this clear:
Lady Wisdom says of herself, “Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD.” (8:35) Proverbs 18:22 says, “Whoever finds a wife finds a good things and obtains favor from the LORD.”
The father says Lady Wisdom is, “…more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (3:15) And Proverbs 31:10 says, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”
Furthermore, Proverbs repeatedly states that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the woman in Proverbs 31 is described as a woman who fears the LORD. So what if we were to take the wise father’s instructions regarding Lady Wisdom and treat women who fear the LORD accordingly?
“She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.” (3:18)
“Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.” (4:6)
“Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” (4:8)
“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (4:13)
What if we were to prize women highly? What if we were to take their instruction and insight seriously? What if we were to guard them as if our lives benefited from them? What if we were to truly see them as the image of God, not just as something that God created, but as an actual representation of his being?
For one thing, we would be coming into agreement with God. We would be receiving a more full revelation of his character.
What if when we read the instructions for women in 1 Peter 3:4, we also thought of Jesus’s description of himself in Matthew 11:29?
“… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
The word used for “gentle” in these verses only occurs four times in the New Testament. Twice it is used to describe a quality of Jesus. Once it is used as an instruction for women. The other time it describes those who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
We cannot fully know Jesus and belittle or dismiss women because of their womanhood.
We cannot fully inherit the kingdom of heaven while seeing women as lesser children within it.
God loves women.
Jesus died to redeem women.
Jesus lives to intercede for women.
The Spirit indwells women.
Women are made in the image of God.
Women are fellow heirs of eternal life in the kingdom.
What if we truly agreed with these things?