" />

Thinking and Living Biblically in a Gender-nuteral Society - Made in His Image

Series: Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Sermon by Derek Thomas on Jul 9, 2003

Download Audio

Thinking and Living Biblically in a Gender-neutral Society
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood series
First Presbyterian Church
Jackson, MS
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan

Genesis 1 and 2
Made in His Image: Male and Female
Dr. Derek Thomas

Turn with me quickly to Genesis 1, and I will read the account from verses 24 to the end of the chapter. Genesis 1:24: This is the word of God.

“Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind’; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Now drop down to verse 20 of chapter 2 for the second Creation account in verse 20.

“The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Thus far God's holy and inerrant Word. Now let's pray together.

Father, as we turn again to the Scriptures, we pray now for concentration. We pray for an ability to concentrate on your word in the middle of the afternoon. Thank you for this subject, for this topic and its importance. And we pray that we might be guided by your word, by the principles that emerge from the Scriptures. And we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Now we need to do some groundwork. And we need to go back if we are to understand the role relationships of male and female. We need to return to the primary Scriptures that speak of that in Genesis 1 and 2 because it is only as we understand what it is that God is saying to us in the very opening pages of the Bible, and that in itself is significant: that you open the Bible and the first thing that you are taught is the role relationship of male and female; and how that in itself is reflective of the image of God. And if we are to find the answers to questions, “What does a Biblical man look like?” and “What does a Biblical woman look like?” then it is here in these opening pages of Scripture and in these two creation accounts that we’ll find the answers to those questions.

Now this book has already been referred to: Dr. John Gray's best selling paperback, Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus. You’ll find it, if you haven't read it, on the self-help sections of the bookstores. What the book is saying, essentially, is that a man behaves in a certain way because he is a man; and a woman behaves in a certain way because she is a woman. Well, that's not rocket science, but the book is a best-seller, and I'm sure has made Dr. John Gray a very wealthy man. I'm trying to write the same kind of book. There are so many books of this kind, reflective of the fact that we are in need of help. And I don't just mean the world here. I mean the Christian church finds itself at sea in this very area, revealing the fact that we still need some significant teaching and education.

Since the Enlightenment, I suppose, the foundations of human relationships have, more or less, been destroyed. And all of the capital of Judeo-Christian teaching that had emerged particularly in Europe since the Reformation, has all but by now been spent. And we need to go back and ask again, “Teach me. Lord, teach me again what it means to be a biblical man and a biblical woman.” And it's as though God is saying this to us. And, mark this! Mark this! Why did God make men and women? Could He not have in some way created a race of androgynous beings? We find in our own time movements towards a more unisex philosophy of life. And the answer to that question seems to me to be absolutely fundamental: that God creates in this way for very distinctive and instructional purposes because in some form or fashion it actually reflects something of the very being and character of God.

I. Adam and Eve were created as co-regents.
Now I want to try in the limited time that I have to unfold that just a little and along three lines of principle. The first I want to call “co-regency.” And by “co-regency” I mean that Adam and Eve were created to be rulers or vicegerents over the creation. They were created to be rulers or vicegerents over the creation. Genesis 1:26 and 27: these two verses are two of the most important verses in the Scriptures. Now every preacher says that about almost every text that he preaches on, so I understand if you don't believe me on that. But I do, actually, mean what I say on this particular occasion. But Genesis 1:26 and 27 actually provide for us significant signposts to the rest of what the Bible has to say about the restoration of male and female, of mankind in Christ back to the image that was defaced as a consequence of the Fall. These two verses establish for us what kind of creature man is.

Now when I say “man” there in that sentence, I mean man in the generic. I mean man as opposed to animal and bird. In the creation account, as we have it in the first account in Genesis 1, it is man as male and female and in contrast and to some extent in contra-distinction to animals and birds and fishes. I mean man as the text says it: considered as male and female. And what it says is that “man, that is to say men and women, that man is created in the image of God. Man is made in God's image. “In Our image after Our likeness,” the text says.

And for the one and only time in the creation process, we're given a glimpse into the divine mind in what immediately follows: “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea 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.” Now whatever is meant by the expressions “image” and “likeness,” and there's a whole scab and slew of discussion as to what is meant by “image and likeness,” but the bottom line is that at least a part of what “image” and “likeness” mean is that it has reference to exercising dominion over the creatures and over the world in which man, male and female, lives. Man is to be king over creation. He is to exercise lordship and dominion. Now after the Fall, man is to exercise that dominion in the face of significant opposition. It involves work and labor and thorns and thistle and something called painful toil in chapter 3:17. He's to bring the world to his feet, exercising authority over it by mastering its behavior, understanding the laws that govern its existence, halting the spread of evil and disease in as much as that is possible to him. But even here in Genesis 1 before the Fall, man is to exercise authority over the creation. Man as male and female is to bring the world in tribute to God.

God put Adam in a garden which God had already prepared. It was not a wilderness. It was a garden that was full of beauty and order, and he was saying, “Turn the world into a garden.” Now that, of course, is a destiny that Christ will fulfill at the end of time when he brings back a restored earth to His Father. And as the second man and as the last Adam, he will present that restored earth to His Father and say to Him, “Father, I have turned it into a garden for You.” We don't have time, but it would be hugely significant to trace that motif, that idea, of a garden as it actually works itself out through the pages of Scripture and into the book of Revelation itself.

Now we also need to understand that in ancient times the only ones, the only ones who ever had images of them built were kings. An image was invariably set up as an image of a king. Not only so, the only ones described as bearing the image of god were the kings. And in saying that man is to bear the image and likeness of God, God is really saying, “My image belongs, not to royalty, but to all of My children.” In other words, God is saying, “My image belongs to you because you are royalty, because you are kings, male and female. Man, male and female, created in the image and likeness of God. My image belongs to you because you are royalty.” We are kings. We are kings and that by virtue of our original creation. When that is restored to us, don't we sing, “I'm the Child of a King. With Jesus my savior, I'm the child of a King”? That's what it means to bear the image of God.

Now that has been seriously hampered, of course, by the Fall. That image has all but been destroyed. It hasn't been eradicated, but it has been severely damaged. And there's a very important point here: that men and women bear the image of God. This is an issue of absolute equality. There is no distinction here between male and female, not on this point. Male and female and, in one sense, it is male plus female. It is not male in opposition to female, but it is male and female together and collectively that bear this image of God. And there is an absolute sense of equality on that point. Men and women equally, equally bear the image of God and equally bear in the responsibility of dominion and co-regency over the world, subduing it and bringing it in tribute to God. In other words, and it's absolutely fundamental, of course, to understand this in order to understand the way in which man relates to woman and woman relates to man. Men and woman are identical in being, in being. As to the question of ontology they are equal in being. Whatever the differences may be functionally, whatever the differences in role and responsibility may be, they are equal in being. And that's important. That's fundamentally important. In all the debates over equality, it is all too possible, of course, to overreact; and it's deeply important as a principle that has to be applied in all of human relationships.

In the race issue just as much as in the gender issue, God made that one in His image and after His likeness. You cannot talk about a person because they are different as though they were deserving of less respect. It is Christianity that has emphasized this far more than modern humanism. The movements to abolish slavery, the movements to bring women onto a different level societally, were Christian in origin. This is absolutely vital. I cannot treat a man or a woman with anything less than honor and respect because every man, every woman bears in himself, in herself the divine image of God. We must learn to treat our spouse as royalty. Now I know you Republican Americans find that difficult to swallow. We are taught in Britain to curtsy to the Queen from the moment of self-consciousness. But I guarantee you, I guarantee you that applying that principle alone will do so much good in a marriage relationship. When you treat your spouse irrespective of how you are treated, you treat your spouse as royalty. It's a failure, I think, to understand that principle, and it's a failure to operate according to the standard of that principle, but all difficulties emerge, I think.

II. God created Eve for companionship.
But secondly, the principle of companionship. The principle of companionship. Do you remember that wonderful account in Genesis 2? And I read that account in Genesis 2. What's it all about? You know the account beginning at verse 20 of chapter 2 and the naming of all of the animals and so on? And it was also referred to in Genesis 1 by implication down at verse 28 or so: “and to have dominion over the birds and the fish and the heavens” and so on. And then in chapter 2, it's the man that gave names (verse 20) to all livestock and all the birds in the heavens and to every beast of the field. And so it's all reminiscent of a Dr. Doolittle, isn't it? It's a continuation of the co-regency theme in naming the animals: he is exercising authority over the animals. Man is actually being set apart from the animal kingdom of the world. It's telling us something about man in distinction from the animal kingdom. Man is to rule and exercise dominion over the rest of creation. Man has dominion over the creatures. And part of the confusion, isn't it, that's been introduced by Darwinism is the very confusion of man's uniqueness. Man is created on the same day as the wild animals and so on, so it shouldn't surprise us to find that genetically man is not that different from the ape or the chimpanzee. But this passage is not only telling us about man's kinship; man is also a prophet.

Now here, in Genesis 2, I'm using the word “man” in a different way. I mean man now in distinction from woman because that's the point of Genesis 2. In Genesis 1 it's man as male and female, but in Genesis 2 it's man in distinction from woman. Eve isn't in the story yet; it's just Adam. And Adam goes through this little ritual naming all of the animals. I don't know what it looked like: you know, this big, bumbling, hairy, creature and bear. And then this two-legged thing would walk by, and he’d say, “chicken.” You know he wasn't speaking English, of course, but it's amusing. But what's theologically significant about it is the repetition of the phrase, and it's repeated over and over and over in Genesis 1: that everything that God made was good. Verse 4: “God saw that the light was good.” Verse 10: “God called the dry land ‘earth’ and waters that were gathered together He called ‘seas,’ and God saw that it was good.” Verse 12: “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed each according its kind, and God saw that it was good.” Again in verse 18, again in verse 21, again in verse 25.

And then you come to that climactic verse 31 of chapter 1: “And God saw everything that He had made and behold it was,” not just good, it was “very good.” And then something extraordinary happens in chapter 2 in verse 20: “The man gave names to all the 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.” There was not found a helper fit. It is not good for man to be alone. There is this repetition of good, good, good, good. And then, all of a sudden, it pops out of the page: it was not good for man to be alone. This is the issue: the issue is companionship. The issue is companionship. It is not good for man to be alone.

That loneliness is a terrible thing. I remember an elder in the church in Belfast. He was a man in his mid-seventies, maybe late seventies. He’d worked on the Northern Ireland Railways for all of his life. He was a self-taught man, a man of prodigious reading and intellect though he had left school, I imagine, when he was 16. Never been to college, university, anything like it. He had the most eloquent prayers that I think I had ever heard. And his wife died, and it was six months later he was at the prayer meeting. Prayer meeting was over. We were having some fellowship, some conversation at the door. And he's standing there, and I'm talking to him. And people are moving away, and it's just him and me. And I say to him, I say to him, “Are you going home?” And he said, “Oh, it's not my home anymore; it's just the place where I live.” I can't repeat those words. I can't think of those words without some level of emotion stirring up within me because it is not good for man to be alone.

And the point of this text is that after this process was complete, there was still something missing. After he’d named all of these animals, there was still something missing. And I think that we are meant to draw from this that it's part of the created image within us to have companionship. And at least a part of that companionship can very well be with the created order. It's okay to love your dog. When you come home after a busy day and you open the door, and the dog is always there, and he's always pleased to see you, and his tail is always shaking, and he's ready to go for a walk even though you’re exhausted, and it's okay to love that dog. That's part of what companionship means. But there's something, and it's a part of the distortion of this world when we can say, and there are members of my own family who will say, that they love their dogs more than they love their family. Now I love my dog. Woe be to anyone who messes with my dog! But there's something, there's something of the distortion of creation when we cannot tell the difference between the words “I love my dog more than I love my family.” And here's the pathos: that even after, even after he had named all the animals, there was still something missing.

Now look at what God does in verses 21 through 23. And I won't read the passage, but He takes this rib and then closes it up with flesh. And then the man says as a result of the creation of Eve, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, and she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.” This is the essence of true companionship. And I understand why it is certain people love their dogs or their cats more than they love human beings, and I have folk in my family who are on that page. And it's partly because they've been hurt and partly because of the psychological damage that has come from the abuse of those whom they love. I understand that. And it's part of what Christ does in the Gospel to break that down. But Adam is saying here that “true companionship, true companionship can only come from someone like me, from someone like me, from bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She was like him, bone of his bone, and yet she wasn't him. She wasn't him. She was something different. She's called woman because she's taken out of man.

And the word that is used in verse 20 is “helper.” For Adam there was not found a “helper” fit for him. What does “helper” mean? Some will say, “You see this proves that women exist to help men.” And feminists will retort, “No, it proves that men need help.” And the word “helper,” as you know, is used of God. God is a helper. He is our helper. And one must be strong in order to help, and if you are going to help your children with their math homework you have to know it better than they do. And two extremes need to be avoided. And to correct one we need to say that “women are able to help because they are strong.” And to correct the other we need to say, “Women must be willing to help.” And in God's world, the Almighty is a helper. And the Lord is also a servant, and subordination does not mean inferiority. And in the gender wars, so much would be gained if we remember that. And while the notions of authority and subordination are undoubtedly present, it's not the chief thing. Eve is Adam's helper in the sense that she enables Adam to enjoy a relationship together.

Together they will enjoy intimacy and deep companionship. And it's more than sex. And I think as visitor, as someone who comes in from the outside to modern 21st century Christian America, we're far more influenced by the pop-psychologies than we readily give credence to. It's more than sex; it's friendship. So that my wife, my wife is my best friend, first and foremost. She's the one that I want to call on the cell phone when I hear some news, and I want to share it with her. She's the one who, when you open the door that immediately you want to relate to because she is your friend. She's a lot of other things, but she is your friend. Companionship. Companionship.

III. Adam and Eve were designed to complement each other.
There's a third thing I want us to see and that's complementarity. Co-regency. Companionship. And now complementarity. The woman was created in order to complement the man.

In 1st Corinthians 11:3, Paul says a remarkable thing with this passage. “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God,” and drop down to verse 8, “For man was not made from woman but woman from man,” and then in verse 11, “Nevertheless, in the Lord, woman is not independent of man nor man of the woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman, and all things are from God.” Now Paul is saying a whole lot of things there. There's the context of a woman's head covering, and we can almost ignore that context for a second. And what is the bottom line of what Paul is saying? It is that the woman was made in order to complement man, in order to provide something in addition to the man. Is he saying that the woman that the man is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man? Is he saying that the woman is not the image of God? Well no, of course not. But he is saying that there is something about the relationship between the man or the woman there, at least as far as their function is concerned, that the woman is the glory of man. The woman is the glory of man. What does that mean? What does that mean?

You meet a beautiful woman. And she is warm and gracious and intelligent and she cares about people, and she wears a wedding ring. Now what do you think? I tell you what I think. I think her husband must be quite a man to have won the hand of such a woman. What if you discovered that he was a total headbanger? You would be shocked. And you are shocked because we recognize the truth of what Paul is saying here, that the woman inevitably will reflect something of what the man is and he, or let me put it the other way around, he basks, he basks in her reflected glory. And one of the things Paul has in mind, in that context, is that the woman actually adds to a man's glory. Can I put it like this: that a woman makes a man appear better than he otherwise would be? She is his glory. She is his glory.

Don't we sometimes joke about it? And I think that's what Paul is saying in 1st Corinthians 11. Despite all of the complication of the context, if you get right down to the bottom line, what is Paul saying? Husbands, she is your better half. Now we joke about that: “Have you met my better half?” We joke about that, but actually there's a profound truth in that because it's in my companionship with her, and it's in my union with her, that she actually makes me reflect glory in a way that otherwise I would never do. And that, I want to put to you, that is what marriage ultimately is all about: enabling us in Jesus Christ to reflect better the glory of God.

Our Father in Heaven, we thank You from the bottom of our hearts for Your words. Thank You for the story of creation: how it reminds us of our dominion, the way in which You've created us to be kings, kings over creation, and that in the new creation we shall reign, reign along with You in what splendor and glory eye hath not seen nor ear heard and neither has it entered into the heart of man what You have prepared for them that love Him, love You. We thank You for the companionship of marriage, that You took, as one Puritan put it, taken out of, not out of the head in order that he might exercise tyranny and not from beneath his feet that he might trample over her but from his side but near to his heart that he might love her and hold her close to his side. And we thank You for the way in which as husbands and wives we are enabled in Christ to compliment each other and to fulfill those roles which you have established for us in Your kingdom to exercise. Now bless us, we pray, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the web page. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any error to be with the transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permissions information, please visit the FPC Website, Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.

© First Presbyterian Church.

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.