Genesis 1:26-28; Romans 1:18-25; Galatians 3:28

Today we continue our series, “Did God Really Say,” looking at God’s design for human flourishing, the confusion that exists in areas of authority, sanctity of life, race, gender, sexuality, personal responsibility, justice, and salvation, and then God’s path for restoration that we might flourish again.

In the Disney film Mulan, we find an amazing young woman bound by cultural restrictions. As men are drafted into an army, she takes her dad’s armor, fakes being male, and eventually reveals her true identity while saving the empire. When she returns a hero, her dad says, “You were always there. Yet I see you for the first time.” The film raises big questions: What is gender? Is it biology? Is it good or a limitation?

There was a time when biblical teaching on gender wasn’t provocative. A boy was a boy; a girl was a girl, and both the Bible and culture agreed. With advancements of elective medicine and the authorization of self-discovery, those days have passed. Let’s not scoff at this. We are talking about people. The distress some experience when they feel a gap between their biological and psychological gender identity is real. It has been described as the ‘inability to feel warm’ no matter how many layers you wear. Some suffer silently; others transition. If this is you, I am glad you are here. We don’t want you to leave. You matter.

In other respects, biblical teaching on gender has long been provocative. This is true because of our general resistance to all God’s instructions and because the historical diminishment of a woman’s status and contribution in the society has often been reinforced by misinterpreting His instructions.

Whether your story is as a man or a woman, comfortable or confused, respected or diminished, let me remind you that while ‘lived experience’ is real and formative, it doesn’t constitute the authority for how we are to think or respond. We live in God’s world and He is the authority. Today I want to trace the story of the Bible related to ‘gender’ so we can see God’s plan, how things broke, and how to flourish again.


The story of the Bible does not begin with us, but with God. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). He is the eternal One, the Almighty One, and the only One. We cook with food, paint with colors, and build with wood available to us. God created out of nothing.  He is the Creator of all things and has creator rights over all things. Therefore, answers to life that don’t begin with God are distorted at best. On His initiative, God began creating a world fit for human habitation. On the 6th day:

“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…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 have dominion…” (Gen. 1:26-28).


In Hebrew, breaks in repetition signal meaning. The repetition of God creating things “according to their kind” (Gen. 1:12, 21, 25) is broken when God created man in his own image,” or according to His kind. When a king ruled his image would be put on coins and buildings to show what he is like. Similarly, God created two image bearers, “male and female,” distinguished by their biology to complement one another in showing what He is like. After designing each with half the needed ingredients to reproduce, God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God has creator rights. “All things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). Answers to gender begin with God’s will to create us male and female ‘for Himself.’

In Gen. 2, God zooms in on day six where we learn He created Adam first. “The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground…” (Gen. 2:7). Then God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). This is the first denouncement in the Bible, a break in the repetition of God pronouncing “goodness” over everything. This proves the woman was not an addition to a complete picture. She was essential to God’s purposes. Why not make both simultaneously? God wanted us to see our need. Until now each time God said, “Let there be __,” it was created. Had God followed this pattern, Eve would have appeared when God said, “I will make a helper.” Instead God had Adam name the animals and as he did, God opened his eyes to the fact that each animal had a partner “but for Adam there was not found a helper” (Gen. 2:20). Once Adam saw his need, God created Eve.

God’s designs for male and female were fortified when after creating Eve, God brought her to Adam and said, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage was created for companionship, procreation, and something bigger. In Eph. 5:31-32, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 and then says, “This is a profound mystery, and I say it refers to Christ and the church.” Before we needed a rescue, God made marriage to display the rescue! This is significant because it shows that the participants in marriage, are no more interchangeable than Christ or His church.

Peace was destroyed in Gen. 3 when Satan came to dishonor God and destroy those created in His image. With the words, “Did God really say,” Satan questioned God’s goodness, truthfulness, and justice. The man and woman sinned against God and brokenness ensued. They died spiritually. They felt guilt. They began hiding. Their sin nature was passed to their kids. They began to fight.


Adam is quoted three times. “This is bone of my bones” (Gen. 2:23). Affirmation! “I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). Isolation! “The woman you gave to me” (Gen. 3:12). Accusation! God promised more strife. “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Clarity is found a chapter later when God warned Cain not to kill. “Sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). Essentially, when sin is ruling, we use our strength to exploit and dominate the other. Their hearts that once said, “My life for your good,” now said, “Your life for my good.” In Romans 1, we see the exponential devastation of sin without a fundamental change in heart.

“Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom. 1:21-31).

Into the pain, God promised a Rescuer! A special ‘son’ would be born. Satan would strike His heel, but He would crush Satan’s head. The rest of the Old Testament traces this ‘son’ through men and women whom God used to bring temporary relief. There is Moses and Miriam, Boaz and Ruth, Gideon and Deborah, Ezra and Esther. At the right time, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. Jesus lived without sin, died in our place, and rose again! His disciples were men, but it women ministered to his needs, anointed him with oil, stood at His cross, saw his burial, and first proclaimed, “He is alive!”


We all have a sin problem. Jesus alone is able to rescue us from this problem. He had no sin yet died to cover our sin. His resurrection was validation that His blood was sufficient. Everyone is invited! “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28). This doesn’t mean gender is eliminated. It means that old identities become secondary to our new identity in Christ. Yet Christ tells us to be considerate of our secondary identities. “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2). As we trust Christ, the Holy Spirit enters our heart and empowers us to love in ways that bring restoration. Let me give an example in marriage. Paul wrote, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church…Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:21-25). Before misuse leads us to dismiss this, remember that God made marriage to display a rescue! Jesus submitted to enact the gospel. We submit to display the gospel. Men are to submit by loving their wife like Jesus loved the church. Women are to submit by respecting their husband like the church respects Jesus. Submission has biblical limits of truth, purity, personal safety, but notice that serving for the sake of the other is restorative. Our reverence for His love and worthiness provides the fuel to give the kind of goodness that brings goodness.


After rising from the dead, Jesus echoed His love for all people saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). We are called and gifted to participate together. Men and women are to be visible partners, using every gift to accomplish this mission.

Beliefs & Actions

There are no beliefs that don’t have corresponding actions. How then are we to respond to these truths?

First, let’s yield to God’s Word as our authority. Our ‘lived experience’ is real and formative, but it does not constitute final authority. Ever since the Fall we’ve had a king problem. “In those days there was no king…Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). From this throne, we strain under the weight of sovereignty. This God’s world. He made us male and female to point to Him. So let’s urge our boys to become men and our girls to become women. Let’s not lose sight of masculinity or femininity, for if we do, we will lose part of our lens to see God. We won’t flourish unless we yield to our Creator King!

Second, let’s protect gender but not worship it. God created us male and female. Critics of this narrow gender spectrum bring up ‘intersex,’ where a child is born with atypical sexual features. If that is you or your child, you and your child are valuable. Many families, including mine, whose child was born with a challenge (Down Syndrome, heart issues, etc.) have found comfort in Jn. 9 where Jesus says that God has purposes for His permissions. However, to say that babies with atypical features disprove two genders misses the fact that only because of the narrow spectrum are these babies’ atypical features recognized.

For those struggling with gender dysphoria (1/10K), I want to simultaneously sympathize with your pain and urge you not to elevate gender as a functional savior. “They worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). When we have a functional savior, we lose. “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (Jonah 2:8). Idols can’t deliver. Gender can’t deliver. Only Christ can deliver. Our culture encourages those dealing with distress to seek peace by transitioning through hormone treatments, cross dressing, and sex reassignment surgeries.[1] If you chafe in a body that feels wrong, please be patient. The Fall of man causes brokenness to touch all of us uniquely. Some experience distress in their body, some in their mind, and some in their gender. God doesn’t guarantee total relief in this life, but He gives hope in what lies ahead. “We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for…the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). Until then, we are called to yield to Him, make no provision for sin, and give energy to His mission. One of my fears is that you choose to suffer alone. We want to show compassion. One resource which has helped many is a small group called Cross Current.

Third, let’s share truth and love. They aren’t incompatible. As cracks appear on structures that rest on the faultlines of our understanding and relationship with God, remember that fixing symptoms without fixing the source leads to more pain. Man’s greatest problem is guilt before God, so we must share the gospel. As we do, we can extol the goodness of His plan regarding gender and reinforce that by our love. We can welcome those struggling with dysphoria. We can and must protect them from any act of ridicule. We can show compassion and mercy. Only those humble enough to see their own struggles will be capable of walking with people through struggles that seem very different from our own. As people trying to follow Jesus, we should be safe to all people, especially to those seeking Him.

Fourth, let’s see men and woman as mission critical. As image bearers of God, neither gender is entitled to greater dignity. Every spiritual gift should be used for the mission in the church. Alongside men like Paul and Peter we find women like the servant Phoebe, Euodia and Syntyche who labored with Paul, and Priscilla who refined Apollos. Each contribution was essential. As we serve, we yield to instructions like this one: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” (1 Tim. 2:12-13). What do we do with this?

  • First, notice that this instruction is anchored to creation, which means that it applies to all churches at all times and not just the one in Ephesus.
  • Second, we find women instructing in the Bible. Miriam instructed by song (Ex. 15). Deborah imparted wisdom to Israel (Jdg. 4). Women appear to be prophesying at Pentecost (Acts 2). Paul told believers to admonish and teach one another, and these commands were given without gender distinction (Col. 3:16). Therefore, we believe Paul must be restricting a certain kind of teaching.
  • Third, Paul’s combination of ‘teaching’ and ‘exercising authority’ point to the kind of teaching that bears the authority of the church in proclaiming doctrine and accountability. The next section in Paul’s letter clarifies that this authoritative teaching is to be done by Elders/Pastors.
  • Fourth, Paul used ‘quiet’ in 1 Tim. 2:2 to describe a contentment, so it appears that when Paul urges women to ‘remain quiet’ in 1 Tim. 2:12, he is urging contentment with God’s decision regarding the office of Elder. It is not insignificant that each disciple chosen by Jesus was a man who became elders in the early church. Neither is it insignificant elder qualifications are written to men (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). As such we reserve the office of Elder/Pastor here to men.

Christians disagree on this, so charity and patience with one another must prevail. However, God gives spiritual gifts like teaching, leadership, exhortation, and administration to men and women, and every gift given to us needs a place in the church where it can be appreciated and deployed for the mission.

Finally, let me invite you to put your faith in Jesus. He did the work to break down the walls of hostility by dying in our place and rising from the dead. Those who put their faith in Jesus are forgiven, justified, and empowered to flourish. I invite you to admit your need, believe in Christ, and confess Him Lord!