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3. Male and Female

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When God created humans, he made them in his image; however, one significant aspect of the Divine image is the fact that God made humans, male and female. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” The fact that God’s image is represented through two genders, male and female, suggests significant things about human relationships.

What does the fact that God created male and female in his image suggest about human relationships?

1. The creation of male and female in God’s image reflects our need for intimate, harmonious relationships.

It must be noted that in Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…” This represents inter-trinitarian communication. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were communicating with each other about making humanity. Some have tried to suggest God is speaking to the angels, but Scripture never says that humans are made in the image of angels. They are, however, made in the image of God. Therefore, we as humans need intimate, loving relationships within a family, friends, church, and community.

Also, it is clear that most people will get married and that is God’s call for their lives. In marriage, they will love and serve each other and build God’s kingdom together (Gen 1:26-28, 2:24). With that said, not all will get married for various reasons. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul describes how some have the gift of celibacy, and the benefit of that gift is being able to devote more time and energy to serving the kingdom of God (1 Cor 7:7, 25-40). But, in general, most will get married and reflect and serve God through their marriages.

The creation of male and female in God’s image reflects equality between the genders.

God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all equal in personhood and divinity. God the Father is fully God and so are the Son and the Spirit. Colossians 2:9 says this about Christ, “For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form.” Likewise, males and females are fully equal. This should remove any feelings of superiority or inferiority between the genders. Males should not be prideful and therefore look down on females. Also, females should not be prideful and look down on males. In societies, they should have equal rights, opportunities, and pay. This doesn’t suggest that the genders are exactly the same. Nor does it suggest they should have the same roles, as we shall study shortly. They are different, and in general, God has different plans for the genders. But, differing roles does not mean inequality. Two people working at a company can have different yet complementary roles and still be equal. Galatians 3:27-28 says,

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, different nationalities, genders, and statuses in society are equal. Therefore, this should be true of how the church views and treats others, including people of different genders. Wayne Grudem said it this way:

In practical terms, we must never think that there are any second-class citizens in the church. Whether someone is a man or woman, employer or employee, Jew or Gentile, black or white, rich or poor, healthy or ill, strong or weak, attractive or unattractive, extremely intelligent or slow to learn, all are equally valuable to God and should be equally valuable to one another as well. This equality is an amazing and wonderful element of the Christian faith and sets Christianity apart from almost all religions and societies and cultures. The true dignity of godly manhood and womanhood can be fully realized only in obedience to God’s redeeming wisdom as found in Scripture.1

This equality between males and females should not only be manifest in treating the genders equally, it should also be manifested by giving honor to them. In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter said this to husbands: “Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as the weaker partners and show them honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life. In this way nothing will hinder your prayers.” When Peter calls the wife the weaker partner or “vessel” (ESV), he is at least referring to the woman being weaker physically. Essentially, he is recognizing the differences between the male and female. Instead of dishonoring one another because of differences, husbands should honor their wife’s uniqueness. Likewise, the wife should honor the husband for his uniqueness as well. God made the sexes equal but different, and those differences should be respected and honored.

3. The creation of male and female in the image of God reflects differing roles.

In the Trinity, there are different roles in the Godhead. Though equal in personhood, they differ in authority and role. God the Father is the ultimate authority; the Son and the Spirit submit to him, and the Spirit submits to the Son. God sent the Son into the world to die for sins (John 3:16). God and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower believers. In John 14:16, Christ said, “Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” Also, in John 16:7, Christ said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.” The Godhead is equal in personhood but not the same in authority and roles.

Likewise, since male and female are made in the image of God, we would expect them to have different roles and authority, as they reflect the Godhead. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul said this in referring to the husband and wife: “But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” In marriage, the husband reflects God the Father and the wife reflects Christ the Son. The woman submits to her husband in the same way that Christ submits to God. These differing roles are also seen in God’s command for males to serve in the pastoral roles in the church. In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul said, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.” Then, in 1 Timothy 3, Paul clarifies this by saying only males can serve in the office of an overseer or elder. First Timothy 3:2-4 says,

The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity.

Male Leadership as God’s Original Design

Some disagree with the fact that God has called for males to lead in both the home and the church. However, there is ample evidence of this being God’s design both in the Old and New Testament. It is especially evident within the creation narrative. For example:

1. Evidence for male leadership is represented in the fact that Adam was created first before Eve.

When Paul teaches that women should not teach men or be in authority over them in the church, he doesn’t appeal to the culture in Ephesus or something specific within that church, he appeals to creation. In 1 Timothy 2:13, he says, “For Adam was formed first and then Eve.” When God created humanity, he first created Adam, and then, after a while, he created Eve (Gen 2). The order of creation is significant, as there was no two-stage process with the animals. God created Adam first because he was called to lead. In fact, this became normative in the ancient culture, as the firstborn received the greatest inheritance and became the chief of the family after the father passed away.

2. Evidence for male leadership is demonstrated by the fact that Eve was made to be Adam’s helper.

In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Being created to be Adam’s helper demonstrates Eve’s role in coming beside him and serving him. Some have argued that since the word “helper” is sometimes used of a superior helping another, including God helping believers (cf. Psalm 54:4), it does not represent her subordinate role. However, even when a superior becomes a “helper” of another, that person is taking a subordinate role in that task.2 This is exactly what Christ did when washing the feet of the disciples; he took the role of a servant, which is why his disciples found it offensive (John 13). However, God made the woman to portray that role permanently in her relationship with her husband.

3. Evidence for male leadership is demonstrated by the fact that Adam named his wife.

In Genesis 2:23, Adam calls his wife a “woman” shortly after he named the animals, which he was also in authority over. Then in Genesis 3:20, he named her “Eve,” again representing his authority. In the ancient world, naming someone demonstrated their authority over them. Parents named their children, and kings commonly gave new names to their servants. It is the same in modern-day culture. Naming someone represents authority over them.

4. Evidence for male leadership is the fact that Satan initially approached Eve instead of Adam to reverse their roles.

In 1 Timothy 2:12-14, Paul referred to this as evidence for why women should not be in leadership in the church. He said,

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.

Paul doesn’t seem to be saying that women are more gullible or prone to temptation. Apparently, he is saying Satan’s original plan was to create a rebellion towards God’s designed authority; therefore, he approached Eve instead of Adam. When Paul says Eve was deceived but not Adam, he is simply saying Adam followed her, even though he knew it was wrong. In the fall, Satan attacked Adam’s leadership role by encouraging the wife to lead, and because of this, the marriage roles remain corrupted today, as we will soon consider (Gen 3:16).

5. Evidence for male leadership is the fact that God approached Adam first after the fall, instead of Eve.

In Genesis 3, God confronted Adam about the sin first because he was the authority, not Eve. Genesis 3:9-13 says this:

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” And the Lord God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” So the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman replied, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

6. Evidence for male leadership is the fact that Adam’s sin led to judgment on the human race and not Eve’s sin.

First Corinthians 15:22 says, “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Also, Romans 5:12 and 15 say this:

So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned … But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many!

When God made Adam, he was not only Eve’s head, but also, the head of the human race. Since he represented the human race, his sin led to consequences for every human, including death. Likewise, since Christ is now seen as the head of the human race, his righteousness leads to life for those who receive him as Lord and Savior.

7. Evidence for male leadership is the fact that God named humanity man or mankind.

Genesis 5:1-2 (ESV) says this:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.

“Man” is a form of the word “Adam.” God named humankind after Adam, not the woman, which represented his leadership. This is similar to how in many cultures the wife takes the husband’s last name, which represents his leadership over the family. 3

Corruption of Gender Roles in the Fall

With all that said, some would argue that male leadership is a result of the fall and not God’s original intention in creation. They would point to the curse that God pronounced upon the woman after the fall. In Genesis 3:16 (NIV), God said this to Eve: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” However, the word “desire” is best understood in the sense that Eve would desire to control her husband, not serve him. In Genesis 4:7, God used the same word to describe sin’s desire to control Cain. He said, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Likewise, the consequence of sin was that Eve would no longer desire to submit to her husband. Instead, she would desire to control him. She might do this through sexual manipulation or through nagging. Proverbs 27:15 (NIV) says, “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm.” Not to be outdone, sin also affected the husband. When it says, “he will rule over you,” it refers to an oppressive and harsh rule. The word “rule” was usually used of monarchial governments and not families.4 Therefore, the wife’s sinful tendency will be to try to control her husband, and the husband will seek to rule her harshly. Sometimes this sinful tendency shows up in the opposite way, in that the wife becomes a doormat with no say in the home, or the husband becomes a doormat. Neither was God’s original design.

Consequently, in redemption, Christ comes to restore what was broken by the devil and sin. First John 3:8b says, “For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil.” Christ came to restore creation to God’s original plan—humans benevolently ruling a blessed earth. Thus, Scripture commands this of wives and husbands:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

Colossians 3:18-19

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church—he himself being the savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.

Ephesians 5:22-27

As God’s image bearers, when Christian husbands and wives practice biblical love, authority, and submission, they represent the Trinity. And, they also represent how the church should submit to Christ, and how Christ loved the church and died for her. It is a beautiful gospel picture.

Application

Practically, in understanding how sin perverted male and female roles in marriage, (1) husbands must recognize their sinful tendency of being harsh with their wife. When they do so, they must repent and seek forgiveness from both God and their wife. Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” (2) Also, wives must recognize their sinful tendency of trying to control their husband. When they do so, especially through negative words, they likewise must repent and seek forgiveness from God and their husband. (3) Finally, in understanding God’s specific roles, males and females must not fight against them or be upset at them, but rejoice in them and commit to them as a way of honoring God. This is what Paul referred to in Ephesians 5:22 when he said, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Instead of treating their husband as God, it seems Paul is saying that wives should submit to their husbands as their Christian duty. Likewise, husbands must lead and serve their wives as their duty to the Lord. God’s plan is perfect, even if we don’t fully understand or agree. We must submit to God because he knows best.

Wayne Grudem emphasizes our need to rejoice in and submit to our God-ordained roles when he said this:

…as we grow in maturity in Christ, we will grow to delight in and rejoice in the God-ordained and wisely created differences in roles within the human family. When we understand this biblical teaching, both men and women should be able to say in their hearts, “This is what God has planned, and it is beautiful and right, and I rejoice in the way he has made me and the distinct role he has given me.”5

The LGBTQ Movement

Finally, in considering how God created man and woman, we must briefly consider the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement. Scripture says that God created two separate genders in the image of God—male and female (Gen 1:26). Therefore, males and females represent God individually and, in a special way, within marriage (Gen 2:24, Matt 19:4-6, 1 Cor 11:3). The husband represents God the Father as the authority over the home and the wife represents God the Son as she submits to her husband (1 Cor 11:3). In the marriage, there should be perfect love, authority, and submission, as man and woman represent the Godhead. Therefore, God did not create males to marry males, nor females to marry females. He also didn’t intend for males and females to change their genders, as in transgenderism. As seen with Satan approaching Eve to usurp God’s original design for Adam to lead the home (Gen 3:1-6, 1 Tim 2:14), Satan seeks to corrupt everything that happened in Genesis 1 and 2 today. He seeks to remove God as the Creator, in light of some random processes in evolution, which remove the concept of an intentional creation with a God-given purpose. In evolution, everything is a random accident and, therefore, has no real purpose. Satan seeks to remove separate roles for the genders. He seeks to remove the marriage between a man and a woman, and even the reality of genders themselves. In Romans 1, Paul said these types of contrary views and practices come from denying the Creator and his rule over us. They are not the result of biological processes, as though God created people to live this way. Romans 1:21-28 says this,

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.

When people deny the Creator, either by idolatry (v. 23)—making up a God whose person and ways contradict Scripture—or denying that there is a Creator altogether, people naturally will turn away from God’s ways. They will worship the creature instead of the Creator (v. 25), practice sexual immorality (v. 24), homosexuality (v. 26-27), and abandon all decency (v. 28-32). Denying the true God leads to futile thinking (v. 21), darkened hearts (v. 21), dishonorable passions (v. 26), and a depraved mind (v. 28).

Though Paul was speaking of the Gentile world in Romans 1:21-28, it is very clear that even in the early church, some were professing that perverse sex, including homosexuality, was acceptable to God. Therefore, in response, Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The fact that he calls them to “not be deceived” means that some were teaching liberal views about sexuality. Paul warns that those who practice such unrepentant behavior are not part of God’s kingdom (1 Cor 6:10, 1 John 3:6-10). In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5, when a man was having sex with his father’s wife (his stepmom), some in the church were proud (v. 2) and boasting about it (v. 6)—no doubt declaring how they were a “welcoming” and “affirming” congregation. Paul challenged them to remove that person from the church because sin spreads (v. 1-8). Unfortunately, this welcoming of perverse sexuality still happens in churches today, as some believers make arguments that twist God’s original design for men and women. They declare perverted sexuality as normal, natural, genetic, and even righteous.

With all that said, though practicing a perverse sexuality is not what God originally designed for humans (Matt 19:4-5), it is “natural” or “normal” in the sense of our sinful nature, which is in rebellion towards God (Rom 8:7). Galatians 5:19 says, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity.” Because of humanity’s sinful disposition, it is normal for people to desire to practice sexual immorality, which includes fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and other forms of perversion. Since the fall, people struggle with intense desires to sin sexually, and apart from God’s means of grace, they will do so. God’s means of grace includes the conscience which affirms right deeds and condemns wrong ones (Rom 2:14-16), the family which trains children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6, Eph 6:4), the government which rewards the righteous and punishes the wrongdoer (Rom 13:1-7), the church who is the foundation of truth in society (1 Tim 3:15), and the Holy Spirit who gives us a new nature at salvation (Gal 5:16-17, 22-23)—a nature that desires to obey God. In societies where people’s consciences have been hardened by the practice of sin and continual exposure to it, the family is commonly broken, the government enforces ungodliness through its laws, the church no longer preaches the Word but instead embraces the sinful views and practices of the culture, and the Holy Spirit is continually resisted, the works of the flesh will become increasingly dominant, including the acceptance and practice of perverted sexuality.

To combat these perverted sexual desires, God offers forgiveness to those who repent of their sins, by faith accept Jesus’ death on the cross for sins and his resurrection, and follow him as Lord and Savior (cf. Acts 3:19, 1 John 1:9, Rom 10:9-10). When a person truly accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, Scripture says he becomes a new creation as the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). In addition, God gives believers his Holy Spirit to enable them to conquer their sinful desires. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” True believers still have a flesh that desires to sin, which may include same-sex attraction; however, as they abide in the Spirit through studying God’s Word, obedience to it, worship, Christian fellowship, prayer, etc., they will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. In fact, with the Corinthians that Paul wrote, it is clear that some previously practiced homosexuality before converting and becoming followers of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:11, after saying those who practice unrepentant sin, including homosexuality, would not enter God’s kingdom (v. 9-10), Paul said, “Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” By God’s grace, those who were previously dominated by the flesh, including their sexual desires, repented and were living for God.

Therefore, a person’s past or continual struggle with sin should not hinder him from coming to Christ. For those who repent and follow Christ, God promises forgiveness and grace to fight sin and grow in holiness. Romans 6:6-7 and11-14 says,

We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) … So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

In summary, when God created humanity in his image, as male and female, they were to marry, have children, and rule the earth righteously according to God’s laws (Gen 1:26-28). It was never God’s original plan for homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, or other types of perverted sexuality to ever be practiced. They are part of Satan’s continual plan to corrupt God’s people and his purposes for them, which he began in the garden with the first temptation (Gen 3:1-6). To those who are willing to repent of their sins and follow Christ, God offers forgiveness, salvation, and grace to grow in holiness.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What does the fact that God created male and female in his image suggest about human relationships?
  3. What is the biblical evidence for God’s original design of male leadership, especially in the home and church?
  4. What are supports for egalitarianism, which teaches there are no designated roles for males and females in the home and church?
  5. How did the fall negatively affect male and female relationships, especially in marriage?
  6. What does God’s original design of there being two separate genders (male and female) and that they would marry and procreate suggest about the LGBTQ movement? Why is the movement growing in popularity among both nonbelievers and believers?
  7. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown

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1 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 459). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

2 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (pp. 461–462). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

3 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 463). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

4 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 464). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

5 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 465). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

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