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Why Did God Make Male and Female?

by | Sexuality | 7 comments

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Have you ever wondered why God made male and female? Today more than ever, this is an important question. There is so much cultural pressure to deny or relativize gender distinctions. Wouldn’t you like to have a clear, biblically-based understanding of why God made us as men and women and how it fits in with his eternal purpose? In this short article, I’d like to give you three reasons why God created us male and female.

So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Genesis tells us God made us male and female to be His image-bearers. That means his decision to give us gendered bodies wasn’t arbitrary. Nor was it just for practical reasons like making babies.  It was necessary so that we could have the capacity to bear his image. That’s why Christians can’t join culture in re-defining gender as a social construct. God has given our gendered-existence eternal significance in three very important ways.

Gender differences reflect God’s holiness

When we say that God is holy, we often think of his moral perfection and righteousness. While this is part of it, God’s holiness refers to how utterly unique he is. The word “holy” in the Bible means ‘set apart,’ ‘make sacred,’ or ‘make distinct.’

Israel sang to the Lord in Exodus 15:11: “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness.” What they meant was that God is absolutely unlike any other thing in all of Creation. He existed totally and utterly apart from anything or anyone else. That’s why the second commandment is not to make any idol or image to depict or represent God. (cf. Exodus 20:4) Doing so equates God in some way with his Creation. That would be a direct denial of his holiness. 

So, God is holy because he is ‘set apart,’ ‘sacred’ or ‘utterly distinct’ from his Creation. It’s no surprise then to see in Genesis 1 how this holy God creates by setting things apart. The chart below shows how God created the entire world by making distinctions. (i.e., separating one thing from another)

And the most significant work of “setting apart / making distinct” that God accomplished in his creating work was making humanity.

The male / female gender distinction is far more than a functional necessity for making children. It is a lasting imprint of God’s holiness, which he intended his Creation to reflect. In this respect, gender is sacred because it is a reflection of God’s holiness.

Gender differences reflect God’s nature

Our Western culture trains us to think of bearing God’s image only in individualistic terms. But humanity as a whole was created to reflect God’s image, not just individual people. As such, the male / female gender distinction is one of the most significant ways in which humanity reflects God’s nature as Trinity. The diagrams below help to show why. 

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is ONE in his being, but THREE in his person. (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) In this way, God possesses in his nature both UNITY and DIVERSITY. He is the one God who has existed from all eternity, enjoying eternal and loving fellowship among the three persons of his being. In creating humanity as both male and female, he has likewise given us the capacity for bearing a resemblance to this unity in being and diversity in persons.

Genesis 2:18-25 tells us that God created Eve by taking one of Adam’s ribs. Did you ever wonder why God didn’t just use another clump of dirt the way he did when he made Adam? They still would have been “of the same kind.” But apparently, God was interested in them being something more. Notice what Adam says upon God’s presentation of Eve to him.

The summary statement of vs. 24 reinforces this unity by describing the “one flesh” union of marriage. It’s not that husband and wife become one body. But the closeness created by the sexual union in marriage illustrates the kind of relational love and union existing within the Trinity. Just as God is ONE and THREE, a Man and Woman become ONE and TWO through the marriage union. (When they are also joined together in Christ there is a ‘threeness’ as well, but we’ll leave that for another time.)

Gender reflects God’s love

In Ephesians 5:25-33, the Apostle Paul writes to husbands, teaching them how they are to love their wives. The model he gives them is Christ’s love for the church. Jesus “gave himself up” for his church because it is his beloved bride, united and bound to him as his own body. Likewise, Paul says that a husband’s wife is a part of his own body. “He who loves his own wife loves himself.” (Eph. 5:28) For biblical support, he then quotes Genesis 2:24, “…and the two will become one flesh.”

His message is clear. The “one-flesh” union of marriage between a husband and wife illustrates the kind of love Christ has for his church. In the unique bond of marriage, Man and Woman are bound so tightly together that you cannot reference the life of one without including the other. If you hurt one, you hurt the other. If you do good to one, you do good to the other. This was God’s intention and purpose. And it wasn’t just to make marriages a stable and robust foundation for human society. According to Paul, it was so we could have, in part, an observable and experiential understanding of the depth of love that God has for his people.

Conclusion

There is a simple reason why Christians can’t conform to society’s attempts to blur the boundaries between the genders. It’s not because we’re bigots or phobic. It’s not because we want to deny people their rights or maintain our traditions. It’s because gender is sacred. It isn’t something manufactured by society and culture. It is an eternally significant work of God intended to reflect and represent his own holy, triune, and loving nature throughout his Creation. We dare not mess with that.

Originally published Dec 19, 2019, updated Aug 10, 2021.


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7 Comments

  1. Phil

    I think this is a tremendously important question, Scott. Thanks for raising it and for directly, thoughtfully addressing it.

    Reply
  2. Andrew Beaumont

    Excellent article! Well thought out and biblically sound reasoning in response to the cultural trend of blurring lines of gender distinction and the boundaries God established at Creation. Keep up the good fight of the faith!

    Reply
  3. Kim Harris

    Once again, you have provided some amazing insight into the importance of God’s gender design. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Kim G

    Thank you for this article. It is well written and explained. A great help on the journey in being able to articulate the sacredness of gender as God created it. This will be a great article to keep as a reference for help in teaching our kids and engaging in full-of-grace-and-truth conversations.

    Reply
  5. Liz

    This is well explained and sets up the perfect explanation but then walks away. Notability absent in detail was left off was the Holy Spirit. You described “oneness” example God gives us, and how He made both male AND female in Gods image & likeness. Therefore is God female? How do we define female? Clearly we know that females are not just very different in physically than males but also in lots of characteristics ways. Our soul isn’t material yet it still has specific gender influence. We have God the Father, Jesus the Son,… what is missing in the family, marriage that God himself designed? Wife, Mother. Once I realized the Holy Spirit is the female person of God trinity, it all starting making sense. Think of all the ways the Spirit is described “helper, gentle guide” and what does God call women to be in godly roles “helpers, gentle”. How the Spirit operates is even what godly women aspire to be. I wish the western church would embrace this concept, it would help women understand their role and give us the role model to be like in a feminine way. The Jewish people understand this concept and spirit is a feminine word. Early Syrian churches too understand this too. Thomas’s book that was left out refers clearly to this too. I think it’s time. Think of the opposite, if you say no the spirit is male, you actually are implicitly implying an all-male unity family and not explaining where femininity comes from.

    Reply
    • Scott Stein

      Thank you for your comment and interaction Liz.
      I appreciate the thought you’ve given to this, and feel like a response really deserves an entire article to give it the attention it deserves. I don’t really have time to do that right now, so forgive how terse this reply might seem, but please be assured this is only due to my limitation of time and space. It does not reflect any annoyance or disrespect.
      You are not the first to suggest the Trinity as a family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (mother). That would be neat and tidy. Unfortunately it is a false analogy and has no support from the Bible. You ask “…is God female”. The answer is no. But he isn’t male either. Male and female are created categories reflecting the gender binary of God’s created beings. True, God reveals himself as Father, and Son, both of which are conceptually male categories. But in truth the Spirit is also referred to with male pronouns. Jesus said in John 15:26 – “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” Does this mean, as you suggest, that we are implying an all-male unity family? Again, no, because God isn’t male or female. Yes he has revealed himself to us using male conceptual categories (Father, Son, He), but even this is in a sense analogical. He reveals himself and his nature to us in human categories that we can understand. This gives us understanding by way of analogy to what God is like and the nature of relationships among the three members of his being. Since both men and women reflect God’s image, that means that whatever characteristics we reflect as God’s imager bearers, whether they be male or female characteristics, are a reflection of God’s being.
      Yes, the Spirit is described as “helper”. Not sure where he’s described as “gentle”, although “gentleness” is certainly one of his fruits (Galatians 2:20) so I won’t disagree with that. However, these are all words that can be used of Jesus (the Son) and the Father also. In addition, God himself in the Old Testament describes himself in very feminine terms. I think of the LORD’s words to his people in Isaiah 66:13 – “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Does that mean that God is literally a “mother”? No. But he relates to his people as a mother relates to her child.
      It’s true that the Hebrew word for Spirit (ruach) is feminine. But that does not mean the Spirit is female. In the New Testament the Greek word for Spirit (pneuma) is neuter (i.e. gender neutral). But this does not make the Spirit an ‘it’. The Spirit is clearly a person. Words in Hebrew and Greek (and many other languages) can be grammatically gendered without necessarily implying that what they refer to is specifically male or female. As a good example, the New Testament Greek word for sin or sinner (hamartia) is feminine. But this doesn’t mean that only women are sinners, right.
      The Gospel of Thomas is a very bad example if you are looking to elevate the status of women or the feminine. I won’t get into all the reasoning for why it was excluded from the Bible, but one reason was that it is clearly gnostic in its tone and teaching. Of particular concern for our discussion is the clearly anti-woman sentiments expressed in it purportedly by Jesus and the disciples. Here is saying 114 from the Gospel of Thomas.
      (114)
      (1) Simon Peter said to them: “Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.”
      (2) Jesus said: “Look, I will draw her in so as to make her male, so that she too may become a living male spirit, similar to you.”
      (3) (But I say to you): “Every woman who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
      By way of summary, a biblical view of male and female (man and woman) as differentiated and unique genders is that both men and women reflect the image of God uniquely as male and female. This doesn’t make God male and female, but does mean that within his creation the diversity of God in his being is reflected in the diverse facets of his created work. That’s what makes men and women’s differences both inherently valuable and frankly so interesting. We aren’t the same and our differences are meant to uniquely reflect our Creator, which makes both men and women, along with what makes us different, inherently beautiful and valuable.
      God bless!

      Reply
  6. Jon

    I appreciated this brief and easy-to-read article that concisely dealt with a crucial issue in our culture today. Your emphasis on the purpose and sanctity of gender according to God’s original design is a part often missed in many Christian circles. I’ve seen many fellow believers give into the idea that gender is a “social construct.” That is simply not the case, for God was the One who “constructed” it. God had a design and purpose for gender from the very beginning. But as with many things in this world, His original “very good” design has been tainted ever since the Fall. Thus, I think it’s important to note the pre-Fall context of Genesis 1:26-27, for that will help us understand how all this confusion on gender came about. We live in a “post-Fall” world where humans often take God’s original and perfect designs and twist them to serve their own desires and purposes (we’re all guilty of this!). God did indeed have a purpose for “male and female” as you explained so well, it’s just that humans are sinful. So it’s no wonder that this world has forgotten God’s perfect purpose for gender and has instead added “genders” to fit people’s own feelings and sinful desires. But the fact that humans have sinfully taken God’s perfect design for gender and twisted it does not cancel out God’s original design. It’s still valid and true even today. The presence of “other genders” today just proves that we are living after the Fall. I hope and pray that at least some in our culture will begin to realize that there is indeed a God-given purpose for the two genders that extends from the spiritual realm (as you discussed) to even the practical realm of procreation. Ignoring His purpose even for gender can have serious consequences that I don’t think our culture is prepared for. Thank you for such a clear and simple article!

    Reply

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