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    Jan 31, 2019

    Class 1: Introduction & Biblical Theology of Gender

    Series: Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

    Category: Core Seminars


    Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Week 1,  March 11, 2018

    Introduction and Biblical Theology of Gender[1]



    What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? On one level, these might seem like simple questions, the sorts of questions you learned the answers to in high school biology class. But on another level, these are loaded questions. We live in a day when many people dispute that your physical sex has any necessary connection to what they might call your gender identity – your sense of how masculine or feminine you are. Consequently, the sign saying “boys” or “girls” on the school bathroom has become the symbol of one of our era’s great controversies.

    Even beyond the question of our physical bodies, we’ve also got to wrestle with the lightning-rod debate on whether men and women are, in some way, wired differently. At least in the past, there were different expectations embedded in the cultural fabric for how men and women behave: how they dress, what jobs they work. Now? We live in something of a transitional age, I think. Today, feminist gurus tell women to “Lean In,” break the glass ceiling and sit at the head of the board room, all while raising perfectly balanced, Harvard-bound kids on a diet of organic macaroni and cheese AND kale. Men are told to get in touch with their feminine side. Popular TV shows such as Orange is the New Black and Trans-parent suggest that gender can be fluid and traditional gender roles can be abandoned… BUT the ads in between the shows still depend on and perpetuate traditional gender stereotypes: the pickup trucks are driven by men and the Febreeze is sprayed by women!

    My point in citing these traditional stereotypes and current changes to them isn’t to endorse any particular evaluation of those stereotypes. I’m merely suggesting that in our culture, it’s not easy to answer my two opening questions (What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman?), and many protest that those questions themselves are hopelessly outdated, even offensive. Our world is rightly outraged at ongoing harassment, abuse, and violence committed between the genders, especially by men against women. From Hollywood studios to gymnastics medical offices, people are asking if men can even be trusted any more. Is there a vision of gender that is actually good for human flourishing?

    That’s what we will find as we look to God’s Word in these next 13 weeks, to understand his good design and his will for us. So, let’s turn to some preliminaries as we begin this class…


    First, let me explain how I’m using that word “gender.” As I’ve mentioned, some today differentiate between “sex,” and “gender,” arguing that sex is only biological while gender refers to cultural, psychological and behavioral aspects of masculinity and femininity. I understand that distinction, and that is how many employ these terms now, but what I want to argue in this class is that gender is a more comprehensive category. It includes the sex of our bodies and also extends to the dispositions that God has designed us to have as men and women. So I’m using gender to refer to both sexual differentiation and the dispositions and roles God has given us. Yes, some expressions of gender are merely cultural, not in the Bible, not part of God’s design – for example, dressing baby boys in blue and girls in pink. But there are some facets of gender that are innate to how God has made us, and we’ll be exploring that idea in the coming weeks.

    How? What’s our methodology? In this class, we will rely on the sufficiency of scripture. This doctrine teaches that not only is the Bible authoritative and completely true – it also contains all that we need to guide and instruct us in a life that honors God. Paul told Timothy that scripture equips the man of God for “every good work.”

    So, the plan in this class is to be clear where scripture is clear, to be more guarded where scripture isn’t clear, and to engage charitably at all times. What we’ll see on the topic of gender is that sometimes the Bible is prescriptive – it prescribes particular roles and stewardships for men and women in certain relationships and contexts. Where scripture is prescriptive, our duty is to obey. Other times, the Bible is mainly descriptive – it describes, depicts, and portrays men and women and how God created us, but there may not exactly be a command to obey or a prohibition to follow. Still, even in these passages, Scripture is a sufficient guide for us – we just need to use wisdom in figuring out how we can best live in light of the patterns and principles that we see, integrating them with the whole of scripture.

    Let me say too that because God’s gives the gift of gender to every person he’s created, the truths we’re discussing are relevant for any conceivable life stage. You can look at the course outline on the back of the handout to see the various topics we’ll address. But each week, whether you’re young or old, single or married, an employee or a boss, a church member, deacon, deaconess, or elder, what we’re talking about in all these class should have implications for you, though those implications will look different depending on the relationships and stewardships God has given you.


    What we want to do today is set up the rest of the course by outlining a biblical theology of gender. We’ll walk through the major chapters of the Bible’s overall story line – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration – and survey what it means to be created male and female. Consider this the view from Mt. Everest before we climb down in the upcoming weeks to take a closer look at the details along the trail.

    So let’s begin our brief biblical overview, starting at

    A. Creation.

    We’ll spend most of our time here because God’s created design is so foundational to the whole topic of gender. Please turn with me in your Bible to Genesis 1. God creates the heavens and the earth, and we learn in v. 2 the earth was “without form and void.”  The first three days are days of forming: God makes and separates light from darkness, water from sky, and land from water. The next three days are days of filling: God fills the heavens with lights, the waters and seas with fish and birds, and the land with creatures. Then the text climaxes in verses 26-28:

    26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

    27 So God created man in his own image,
        in the image of God he created him;
        male and female he created them.

    And God blessed them. And God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

    Verse 31 says, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Gender – that is, maleness and femaleness – is God’s idea, and he is infinitely wise. Gender is part of the beauty of his immaculate design.

    Notice verse 26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” The Bible doesn’t start with the differences between men and women but with our equality. This is the foundational truth about all humankind, all men and women: we are created in the image of God.

    What does this mean? We can’t fully exhaust the glories of it. But here are three things we can say: the image of God defines the essence of who we are. We are beings in the likeness of God. In other words, unlike the animals, we have personhood. We have a soul. Second, the image of God defines our function: what we’re called to do. “Have dominion.” “Fill the earth and subdue it.” We’re not only like God – we stand as God’s representatives, ruling his world as royal vice-regents, as stewards of his creation. And, third, the image of God marks us as relational beings. Verse 27: “Male AND female he created them.” God is a relational God – one God existing as three persons in perfect love and harmony. So it makes sense that God expresses his image in a race that is differentiated: humanity has a male “kind” and a female “kind.” As we’ll see in chapter 2, these two kinds relate to each other. 

    In the ancient Near East, it was understood that the king of a tribe was the “image” of the god that tribe worshiped. That’s what makes Genesis 1 so radical: every man AND every woman – not just the king – are made in the image of the one true God.

    Nowhere does the Bible say that men are more in God’s image than women. From its very first page, the Bible opposes the errors of sinful male dominance and subjugation that we see in many cultures historically and today. If God defines us as equal in value, that forever settles the question of personal worth.

    Now we come to Genesis 2. If Genesis 1 shows us the Google Earth overview, Genesis 2 zooms into the Google Street view. We dive into that 6th day of creation and see how the events unfolded. Listen to verses 15 and then 18-24:

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it…. [Verse 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. 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. 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. 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. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 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.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

    Later when Jesus and Paul talk about things like marriage and men’s and women’s roles in the church, they cite Genesis 2.[2] They show that this passage expresses universal, timeless truths about men and women. With that in mind, let’s notice several differences between the man and the woman in this text: 

    1. God created the man first and put him in the garden before Eve was created.
    2. God gave the man the authority to name the animals.
    3. God created the women after the man and literally from the man’s rib.
    4. The man names the woman.
    5. God charged the man to “work” and “keep” the garden. His name, Adam, refers to the ground from which he was formed – in Hebrew, “Adamah.”
    6. God made the woman as a “helper fit” for the man. Her name, “woman,” refers to the “man” from which she was made.
    7. The man and the woman correspond to one another, such that in marriage they form a unity, “one flesh.” 

    We’ll explore this more in coming weeks, but for now, remember the charge God gave to the man and woman in Gen 1. That charge had two related parts: exercise dominion over the earth, and be fruitful and multiply. What we see here in Gen 2 is that while the man and woman need each other and jointly fulfill God’s mandate, they seem to be created with distinct strengths with regard to that mandate. In verse 15, the man works the ground and “keeps” or guards God’s dwelling place – this leans toward exercising dominion. But he can’t fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply alone. He needs the woman as his helper – it’s no wonder he names her Eve or “Life,” in chapter 3, because she plays a special role in bringing about life.

    It’s subtle, but Adam’s disposition seems to correspond to God’s work of forming in days 1-3 of creation – he names the animals and rules over them just as God named the lights and heaven and land. Eve’s disposition corresponds more closely to God’s work of filling in days 4-6 – it is primarily through her that the couple will be fruitful and fill the earth.

    In other words, at risk of stating the obvious, Gen 1-2 depict men and women as equal bearers of the image of God, with distinct strengths in fulfilling God’s creation mandate. There is a leadership role for Adam in the marriage – he names his wife, and implicitly, he is responsible for conveying God’s law to her. God gives him the law before the woman is made. In the next chapter, God will hold Adam accountable for their sin even though Eve sinned first. And yet the woman is the relational center of gravity for their family – we learn that a man will leave his parents and form a new family unit by clinging to her. She’s the anchor. She is the man’s helper -- but this is a lofty calling indeed. He needs her. God is often called the helper of his people in the OT.[3] We need him the same way Adam needed Eve. And we should notice too that God’s orderly created design is consistent with these dispositions. The physical differences between men and women, speaking on the macro-level of broad generalities, reinforce these distinct inclinations. Men’s bodies, with statistically higher levels of strength, tend to be more ordered toward creation-tending, while women’s bodies are ordered toward family-building.

    And what we see here is that difference in disposition or role in marriage doesn’t equate to difference in value, worth, or dignity. God sometimes “helps” his people, but that surely doesn’t mean that he is lesser than his people.

    Any questions?

    B. Fall

    Let’s turn to what happened next, at the Fall. Tragically, Adam and Eve disobey God, and in turn God issues a curse upon creation. Adam, who was called to work the garden, will now find thorns and thistles challenging his efforts to exercise dominion over the earth according to 3:17-18. He who came from the ground will still relate to the ground and draw food from it, but his relationship with the ground will be frustrated, and he will ultimately return to [‘el] the ground in death, as we see in verse 19.

    Similarly, the woman, who was to help the couple be fruitful and multiply, will now find this calling challenged: Verse 16: “To the woman he [God] said, “I will surely multiply [same word as chapter 1] your pain in child-bearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” In the next phrase, we see that she who came from the man will still relate to the man and draw forth children together, but her relationship with the man will be frustrated: Your desire shall be contrary to [OR for] [‘el]  your husband, and he shall rule over you. This is a difficult phrase to interpret. The word translated “contrary to” in the pew Bible could also be translated “toward” or “for.” At a minimum, we see here that the woman’s desires and the man’s rule will both fall short of what God originally intended. Their marriage was to display loving authority on the part of the man and trusting submission on the part of the woman, but those postures will no longer feel instinctive for fallen humankind. After all, why does Paul have to tell husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5? At one level, he is reiterating God’s good intentions for marriage, intentions which the curse has made it difficult to fulfill. [4]

    Both woman and man need to be redeemed. And the hope of this passage in 3:15 is that from the woman will come an offspring who will conquer the serpent. She will know pain in childbearing, and death has entered the world, but a child is coming who will deal death a fatal blow.

    Some have argued that in chapter three, we see new gender roles in marriage that aren’t how God intended things to be originally. To the contrary, consistent with what we just saw in Gen 2, we will teach in this class that the fall in Genesis 3 presents the distortion of previous roles, not the introduction of new roles.

    As Christians, we should never be surprised by the brokenness and confusion in our world, especially regarding gender and sexuality. Domination, disorder, dis-orientation, deceitful desires, dysphoria – these are the painful consequences of original sin. We have all experienced the effects of the fall. That means that as Christians we can respond to all these tragic realities with compassion and mercy, as those who have likewise been marred by the curse. And for all those who taste the bitterness of the fall, we have good news. Because, praise God, the fall isn’t the end of the story.

    C. Redemption in Christ

    We move next to our redemption in Christ. The eternal Son of God took on our human nature – as a man. He was born of a woman – he is the promised offspring of Eve. Scripture presents Christ as the second Adam, the perfect man. As Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of God” in the deepest, fullest sense. He offered his life as a sacrifice, rose from the grave, and calls men and women alike to repent and believe in him. Those who trust him are made a new creation and united to him. So, now that Christ has redeemed us from the curse, what does the New Testament teach us about living as men and women?

    Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, neither sex is more spiritually worthy; both men and women are heirs of redemption, part of the body of Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. In the church, men and women serve each other. Some have taken this and said that there is therefore is no legitimate distinction, in God's kingdom, between male and female. But just because our sex has no role to play in our salvation doesn’t mean that we somehow become genderless beings, even as Paul will continue to address Jews and Gentiles as such even though our ethnic and religious background contributes nothing to our salvation.  

    No, what we see in the New Testament is that Christ’s work doesn’t obliterate role distinctions, it redeems them. Yes, male and female are one in Christ Jesus. But in Eph 5, under the new covenant, God calls wives to submit to their husbands and calls husbands to love sacrificially. In 1 Tim 2, we see that only men are authorized to exercise authority in the church and teach the gathered congregation. In the redeemed community, then, redeemed male leadership doesn’t oppress, but bless, as men and women endeavor to express their common humanity according to God's original complementary design.

    D. Restoration

    What about when we come to the very end of the story – when Christ returns and believers dwell with God in the new heavens and new earth? The Bible describes that day as a day of new creation – Romans 8:21, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

    Jesus teaches that human marriage will be no more in the new creation; we will all be married to Christ. But gender was God’s good gift in the original creation, and we can infer that in the new creation we will live as glorified, gendered people. Why? Paul teaches in 1 Cor 15 that we will all receive renewed bodies, but we still be ourselves – there is continuity of identity. After all, Jesus was still Jesus – a man – in his resurrected body. And on that day we will perfectly bear God’s image. It will no longer be distorted (1 Cor 15:49). He created us in his image as male and female; we will bear his image perfectly in the new creation; therefore it seems that it seems that the beautiful gift of gender will continue eternally. What a glorious day that will be for us as gendered people: the curse will be totally undone and there will no longer be any conflict between men and women, nor any internal tension about the gender God has given us. And yet on day the focus will not be on us, or our manhood or womanhood, but on the perfect God-man, our great bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

    IV. Conclusion

    So, that’s an overview of a lot of biblical material, much of which we’ll cover in more depth in the coming weeks. As we look ahead, let me summarize our class this way. There are some Christians who have argued that men and women shouldn’t play any different roles in marriage or in the church. This position is called egalitarianism. The vast majority of Christians throughout history, however, have affirmed that male and female were created by God as equal in value, essence, and dignity, but also distinct in dispositions and in roles. This position is sometimes called “complementarianism” today. That’s the view the elders of this church hold. That’s what we’ve seen already in our brief overview: descriptively speaking, God created men and women with distinct and complementary traits, inclinations, and dispositions, which should be embraced by all men and women everywhere, with wisdom & sensitivity to one’s culture, sphere or setting. And more prescriptively, men and women have distinct roles to play in the family and the church, and again these roles are designed to complement one another.

    We’re teaching this class not just because we think the Bible is true on these matters, but because it’s good. Of course, like all good things scripture’s teaching can be misunderstood and misapplied. But it’s what God has ordained and therefore it brings life, health and joy. I can attest to that in my own life, and I want you to be able to attest to that too. Ultimately, I’m not so concerned with the labels we use, but rather to align our understanding with scripture. The important thing is to be hearing God’s Word and submitting to it. Let me ask you: when was the last time you changed your view on something because of what you learned from studying scripture? For all of us, whether you already think you agree with what you’ve heard or not, let the Bible stand over you and challenge you.

    So, brothers and sisters, let me go back to what we were just considering with the new creation, and encourage you to keep the end in sight as we go through this class. God, in his wisdom, has made you a man or a woman. But we can never earn our way into the new creation by being perfect men or women. When it comes to “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” we’ve all already failed that test! We all must trust the perfect man who by his death makes a way for us to be adopted into God’s heavenly family. On that final day, we will live out our manhood and womanhood perfectly as God intends – only because of his mercy. 


    [1] Introduction for Assembly: What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? Do men and women play different roles in their relationships? Some might say those are the wrong questions, that we live in a new era where who you are is determined by you alone. Thankfully, the Bible speaks to these issues. And we want to listen to what scripture says in these upcoming 13 weeks in our core seminar on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. We’ll begin this morning by looking at God’s wonderful gift of gender in creation, at the fall, redemption in Christ, and on into eternity. I’m ______ and we’ll be meeting in __________.

    [2] E.g., Matt 19:1-9, 1 Tim 2:8-15.

    [3] E.g., Deut 33:7, Ps 70:5, 146:5, Hos 13:9.

    [4] OLD VERSION, STOPPED USING IN 2017: What does this mean? One suggestion is that the woman will have an inordinate desire for her husband – she will look to him for satisfaction rather than to God. Another, probably more likely way of reading the verse is to take a hint from 4:7, where the same expression “desire for” refers to how sin seeks mastery over Cain. The wife will resent her husband’s leadership and desire freedom from his authority. But God says, “he shall rule over you” – which either is a positive statement of man’s good leadership role, or perhaps a tragic warning that the man will overstretch his leadership and rule in sinfully harsh ways.