Gender is important because God created male and female (Gen. 1:27). Yet throughout the centuries Satan has attacked God’s design of manhood and womanhood. Furthermore, because of sin, there will be struggles in terms of the roles in marriage (cf. Gen. 3:16). Some men have either become domineering or passive, whereas some women have become usurping and bought into the lie of a false sense of liberation. The truth is, only the Word of God provides a right understanding of gender. Such an understanding will provide true liberation as men and women function as God designed.
The Equality of Male and Female
When God created male and female – He created them with equal value and dignity. Both were created in His image (Gen. 1:27) and therefore both reflect the handiwork of their Maker. In addition to being equal in value and dignity, both male and female share equality in the following: (1) Equally Sinners. After Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator, male and female share an equal plight, namely sin (Rom. 3:23). Both are equally deserving of judgment and both are equally in need of forgiveness. (2) Equally Saved. When it comes to salvation, male and female are again on equal standing. Salvation is not limited to a single gender. In God’s grace and design He saves both male and female and they have an equal status in their spiritual standing (Gal. 3:28). (3) Equally Servants. Both male and female have equal opportunity to serve the Lord in a life of obedience. The call to be holy is equally binding upon male and female. God grants both male and female spiritual giftedness (1 Pet. 4:10) and usefulness in His service.
The Difference of Male and Female
Though male and female are both of equal value and dignity, the Scriptures make it clear that there are differences between the two of them. The most obvious of these differences is that Adam was a male and Eve was a female. When Adam saw Eve for the first time he was captivated by her appearance. Unlike the animals, he noted the similarity and connection she had to him as he stated that she is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23a). However, there was a clear distinction in her person. Adam says, “she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23b) She is similar but different – Eve was a woman. In creating Eve, the Lord made her “a helper fit for” Adam (Gen. 2:18; cf. 1 Cor. 11:9). Though equal in value and dignity, Eve’s role was to be a helper for her husband Adam. Wayne Grudem notes, “She was created as one who differed from him, but who differed from him in ways that would exactly complement who Adam was.”
It is clear that the differences between male and female go beyond physiology. There are also differences in their functions. This difference in design does not for a moment indicate superiority and inferiority for the male or female. God’s design of different roles goes beyond what could be classed as a cultural custom. The reason is because it is a description based on God’s created order (Gen. 2:18; 1 Tim. 2:13-14). To ignore this is to go against God’s design and desire. Recognising that God makes male and female different, what defines manhood and womanhood?
Going beyond stereotypes, Biblical manhood is defined by the following characteristics: man is created to lovingly lead (Gen. 2:15; Eph. 5:22-33), provide (Eph. 5:29; 1 Tim. 5:8), and protect (1 Cor. 16:13). The form of these characteristics will vary depending on the relationship or context he is in. There will be times a male is under the leadership of a woman in the appropriate context, however this must not negate his true masculinity and design. A godly man is marked by his courage and conviction to fulfill God’s word according to his masculinity. John Piper notes, “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”
Womanhood has also undergone many stereotypes and at times has been defined by a reaction to various harsh practices throughout the years. Nonetheless, biblical womanhood is defined by the following characteristics: woman is created to help (Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8-9), nurture (Titus 2:3-5) and be managers of the home (Prov. 14:1; Titus 2:5). A godly woman is marked by virtuous qualities (Prov. 31:10-31; 1 Pet. 3:3-5) that display her femininity. Again, Piper notes, “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”
It is important to note the place and importance of singleness in the kingdom of God and how it can be used for influence (cf. 1 Cor. 7). Though singles will not fulfill their roles to the same extent as a married individual, they are by design to display the characteristics of their manhood or womanhood within the given context.
Male and female – this is the way that God has designed it. By means of Satan’s strategies many movements in history have distorted and redefined gender. Nonetheless, the word of God remains clear, and as the people of God it is our duty and delight to affirm and obey our Lord. Enjoy the blessing of biblical manhood and womanhood.