The Big Issue: “Male and Female?” (John MacDiarmid)

Notes on :”The Big Issue: Male and female?” Tuesday 16 November 2010In the beginning God created man…and he created us male and female. All sorts of questions emerge from that single statement:


Why did God create two sexes?

What about equality of the sexes?

What about the battle of the sexes?

What about marriage and singleness?

How are we different?

Do we have different roles, in society, in the family, in the church?

We will try to consider all these questions – and more during this session.

There are three key concepts that we need to consider:

1.       Equality

2.        Diversity

3.       Order

1. Equality

The Bible makes it very clear that men and woman are created by God, and are of equal standing and value before Him

Created Equal

Genesis 1 says

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

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

 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In the Image of God – this means that when we look at a human being, no matter how sinful, we are looking at something that is more like God than any other created being.

To Represent God – together male and female we represent the image of God on the earth

To Rule and Reign – and we were created equally to reign and to be his authority on the earth.

Therefore we totally reject any concept of superiority or inferiority. God created men and woman equally.

As far as equal rights are concerned though – rights are not something that God majors on. Our only rights are the right to be God’s slaves and bow to his will. So “rights” are not something that have their place in Christian conversation.. And when it comes to equal opportunities – yes – “All have sinned and need God’s grace”. However, if equal rights and equal opportunities mean the right of men to be women and for women to be men – that’s not something that God has created us for.


2. Diversity

When we come to the Genesis 2  account of creation,  the Holy Spirit gives us more detail about the process of creation

 7 Then the LORD God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. …

But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 23 The man said,

   “This is now bone of my bones
   and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
   for she was taken out of man.”


Created Differently – we see that Adam was created from the dust of the earth, and Eve was created from Adam’s side. This starts to give us an idea of different types of role before God.

Created Different – it is obvious to the most casual observer that males and female are different. Generalisations are never infallible, but physically we are different, psychologically we are different. We have different strengths and we represent the image of God in different , and complementary ways. We are dependent on each other and we need each other.

Created to do different jobs – it is not surprising if God has create us different and differently, that we are likely to excel in different roles. There are roles that men are more likely to succeed in than women – and vice versa. I would not be a good Mother and my wife would not be a good Father!

Created for marriage

It is obvious from the creation account that the first man and first women were created to enjoy each others’ company and to be companions to one another, with Eve being described as a helper suitable for Adam.

…but subject to the effects of the Fall….

If we move onto Genesis chapter three we have the terrible story of the fall of man, and its outworking. Sin, death and suffering all had their origin in the fall. That means that singleness due to divorce, and to bereavement all have their origins in sin.

And singleness generally? Whilst it is not possible to be dogmatic, the impression one has from Scripture is that without the fall there would be no single adults. Man was made for the companionship of marriage, and one of the consequences of living in a fallen world is that there are some who experience singleness throughout their lives. What can we say to single people who embrace singleness , although they would not have chosen it for their lives? We have to say that God will reward, in this life and especially in eternity.

What are the other consequences of the fall? Genesis 3 shows that the battle of the sexes has its origin in the fall.

 “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
   with painful labour you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
   and he will rule over you.”

What God is saying here is that a consequence of sin, is that the loving relationship between husband and wife would be horribly distorted. Instead of the loving covering that husbands would provide for their wives, sin would distort it by turning it into tyrannical bullying. And instead of the joyful submission to a loving husband, wives would try to manipulate and control their husbands. What a horrible distortion of God’s plan for the human race!

3.     Order

Our third concept in our consideration of this subject is “order”,

Order in the  Godhead

To understand this properly we have to understand  that there is order in the Godhead. Father Son and Holy Spirit are total equals. But they carry out different roles and they do so with a sense of order. Jesus submitted himself to the Father, without ever ceasing to be God. The Holy Spirit submits himself to the Father and Son in order to bring them glory. But He is still equally God. This is what makes the concept of order to critical. When we dispute God’s order in human relationships we are in fact arguing about the nature of God himself.

Order in the Family

So the order in the godhead is reflected in family relationship. Scripture clearly teaches what is described as “male headship” – where headship refers to loving care, responsibility and  sacrificial love.

And submission means not behaving like a doormat, but joyful intelligent submission to the person who God has placed in authority,

Order in the church

And in the church, the Scriptures  also teach male headship, in the sense that authoritative governmental leadership in the church is always male

Some objections:

The challenges of culture

Much of what we have said here runs totally in the face of culture. How are we to respond to the charge that our Christianity is counter-cultural? There are of course some elements of culture that are morally neutral. The language we use, the clothes we wear, the songs that we sing are largely to do with our culture and have no moral significance in themselves.

But God’s plan for human relationships is not dependent on culture. God’s plan for marriage  is right in all culture. Male headship is biblical truth for all time. The Victorian culture ran opposed to Biblical Christianity  – the man was a dictator. For 21st century people Christianity  is again opposed to culture – the egalitarian movement says that  it is wrong for biblical leadership and submission to be in place. But we stick to biblical Christianity because it is based on truth. And where we have to challenge our culture – we do so!

“Galatians 3 v.28 abolishes role distinctions”

A look at  this verse gives us an insight into the thinking of the egalitarian movement. When you start with a conclusion, based on prejudice, you will look desperately for scriptures to support your pre-judged conclusion. Use of this verse to support “no headship”  is an example of that. In fact this verse means that in terms of their access to God, to his promises, his protection and his Spirit. It says nothing about the relative roles of male and female. It is an outrageous misuse of Scripture to claim that it does.

“Mutual submission in Ephesians 5 v.21 nullifies male headship”

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The Scripture that says “submit to one another”  -taken in isolation – could, if there was nothing else in the Bible about it, easily lead one to the belief that submission is mutual. However, even a brief look at the surrounding verses show us that  male headship exists because of a theological reason, not a cultural one The wife will cease to be responsible to submit to her husband, when the church no longer had a responsibility to  submit to Christ!

“Head  =  source”

A final objection is in the meaning of the word translated “head” in Ephesians 5. It is said that the word “ can equally mean source, and not head. In fact this is quite right, the word can mean both head and source. So which does it mean here?

Wayne Grudem writes:

“In 1985 I looked up 2,336 examples of the word  “Kephale” in ancient Greek literature”, using texts from Homer in the eighth century up to some church fathers in the fourth century AD. I found…that it was never applied to a person without governing authority…the fact remains that no one has yet produced one text on ancient Greek literature where a person is called “kephale” and that person is not in authority…. The alleged meaning “Source without authority£ now 17 years after the publication of my 1985 study,.. has not been supported with any citation of any text in ancient Greek literature…”


One other, but related point. What are we to make of Paul’s instruction that “ I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man?” (I Timothy) Clearly it was Paul’s view that a woman could prophesy, pray aloud and share God’s word. What is he prohibiting? The answer seems to be that where public ministry of the word implies or includes authority in that church or ministry situation, then it is inappropriate. That leave whole areas of ministry open to women in the church and we need to seek fresh ways of harnessing all the  gifts that are available within the body of Christ.

So we finish with a summary of our three points:

Equality – God created Man and woman equal in status and importance before Him

Diversity – God made men and women differently and different in physical ,  and spiritual makeup and to carry out different roles.

Order  In the church and in the home, God has made man for  loving sacrificial leadership and the woman for intelligent  joyful submission.


John MacDiarmid

November 2010

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