Sermon preached on Genesis 1:24-2:25 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 7/28/2013 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
“Male and Female He Created Them”
This morning we will be reflecting on issues of both gender and marriage. This sermon will serve two timely purposes for us. One, it will serve as a sort of introduction to a sermon mini-series we will be starting next week. Next week we’ll begin a few month mini-series on women in the Bible. Basically, we’ll reflect one the lives of some of the key women we see in Scripture and see how they form part of the story of God’s plan of redemption. So as we think today a little about biblical manhood and womanhood, that will help set the stage for our further zooming in on the lives of certain key women in the Bible.
A second timely purpose of this sermon is maybe more obvious. It seems there is great confusion on matters of gender and marriage in our culture today. The temptation ever before us is to be influenced with the culture’s thinking on these matters. But as we saw in Romans 12:2, that we are to not be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed, and that by the renewing of our minds. Well, part of that mind renewal means we fill our minds with the truth of Scripture on matters where the world speaks otherwise. That certainly is the case when it comes to the matters of gender and marriage, both which are dealt with in this passage. This sermon will help us to be refreshed in God’s design and perspective on matters of gender and marriage.
So, first then, let’s begin today’s message by observing the creation of gender. Look with me first in chapter 1. This is day sixth in the creation week. These are the final acts of creation before God rests from his work. Here we see God first creating the various land animals. Then we see a pause and he consider the creation of humans. In chapter 1, verse 26, he decides to make mankind special and distinct from all the creation. He decides to make mankind in his own image. We humans are different than these land animals. We have been created in the image of God. Verse 27 records this. And notice what else is told to us there in verse 27. Not only does it mention the creation of humans in the image of God, it specifically spells out that he created both male and female in this way. The reference to male and female there is of course a reference to gender. God didn’t make humans in some androgynous way, some genderless way. No, from the start, he made humans consisting of two types — male and female. This is his creation, his making. By the way, as a side note, the male and female aspect of the land animals is not specifically mentioned here, but it is when you get to Genesis 6:19. There Noah is told to bring two of each animal on the ark, male and female. And so there is gender even with the animals. And so the idea of gender, is something God created. He came up with the idea that male and female would be two different complementary parts that are necessary for survival for these various creatures, humans included.
Well, as Genesis 1 goes on to describe, these humans, made up of male and female, would then have some important tasks on this earth. They were to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, per verse 28. Obviously the idea of multiplying and filling the earth cannot happen as the way God designed things apart from his creation of gender. You need a male and a female to have children. You just don’t have it any other way. That is the way God designed it. Now, in chapter 2, we’ll see how God envisions this propagation of the species to happen via marriage. Surely that’s implied here, but for now the more basic point is that God created male and female humans, in part, so that they could make more humans. Add to this the importance for them to subdue the earth. As part of the fact that they possess the image of God, they were to exercise dominion of the world, per verse 26. And so this all works together. And the idea of gender, God created male and female, is a necessary component to God’s design and purpose.
And look how God assessed this. At the end of the sixth day God saw everything that he had made, and said it was very good. Clearly that includes humans made in his own image, and surely that includes the fact that he created them male and female. This was part of what God saw as very good. That he created humans including the diversity of male and female genders in humans. Creatures that are the same but also different. Well, in case we didn’t realize how much the notion of gender was part of what God saw was good, we see this spelled out for us then in the next chapter. Let’s turn now to see what we learn about God’s creation of gender in chapter 2. Look at verse 18 of chapter 2. At this point we are at the point of day six from chapter 1, because in chapter 1 we saw that both male and female were created on day sixth. But at chapter 2, verse 18, only the male human is created so far. And so what does God say at that point? Verse 18, “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'” So put that together. At the end of day sixth God looks and says everything is very good. But at some point before that on day six, God first finds something that is not good. God could not have looked at his creation at the end of day sixth and say that it was very good unless he first resolved something that was not good. What was that not good thing? Well, simply put, God had only made a male human so far. He had not yet made a female human. Thus, this aspect of his creation was not good yet. He had to address that. And he did!
What a wonderful way then God made the woman. God could have just created the woman right then and there. He could have just spoke her into existence, or formed her out of the dust of the ground like he had done for Adam. But, that’s not what he does. First, he has the animals parade up to Adam for him to review and name them. In Adam’s review though, verse 20 tells us that there was not found a helper comparable to him. None of the animals was a worthy complement. So, then God has Adam fall into a sleep, and God forms Eve by using his own rib. The result is a deep connection between man and woman. They were not formed separate from each other. They have a sameness; an equality. And yet they are at the same time distinct and different. Together they wonderfully complement each other. As it describes twice in both verse 18 and 20 — this woman was to be a helper comparable to man. The idea is that she was specially made to be what he needed. And of course we know that he is what she would need too. They are fit for each other.
Adam realizes this. Look at his exclamation in verse 23. Remember he had seen all the animals and nothing caught his attention. But with her he exclaims that she’s the right fit! She’s bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He knows that God brought her forth from him. She’s different but the same. A wonderful and perfect complement! A match made in heaven, but for life on the earth! Interestingly, we note that the first thing he does is he names her. This is already showing man’s headship and leadership he would bring in relation to women. We see that spelled out in 1 Corinthians 11 that such headship of man was based on the fact that God created woman for man, and not the other way around. Similarly we find in 1 Timothy 2:13 that man’s headship is based in part on that Adam was created first, then Eve. And yet that passage goes on to point out how now man only can exist in this world through being born from a woman. That passage show then the wonderful interdependence man and woman have with each other. It shows even that we can celebrate these differences, that include things such as a man’s leadership in marriage or in the church without discounting the absolute necessity and vital roles of both men and women in society. We’ll have a chance to especially highlight some women and their involvement in redemptive history in this new sermon mini-series we are starting next week. And so men and women have many similarities, but also a number of differences. Both should be appreciated and celebrated and valued. They are part of God’s design. It allowed God to change his assessment of day six from finding something not good, to exclaiming that it was all very good.
I hope you can begin to see some ways in which this speaks to our culture today here in the United States. Several applications come to me here. First, this challenges the person who wants to select their own gender identity. That someone would identify themselves as a gender contrary to their actual biological reality. Now, I’m not addressing the extremely rare circumstance where due to some rare biological condition or mutation there is some clinical ambiguity with someone’s gender. I’m talking about when someone decides that they identify themselves as a gender other than what they actually are. The growing notion in our culture that you can just decide to be a different gender is really frankly strange from a truth perspective. Look, life is so much about embracing and accepting your circumstances. If someone is generally confused about how they think about their gender, they need loving help in learning to appreciate and celebrate whom and how God made them. Because the reality is that no amount of surgeries or hormone treatments will really be able to change that. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting we be harsh with someone struggling with this; love and grace and the gospel should guide our discussions with them. These can be real struggles for people, for some they may be lifelong struggles. But the point is that God made gender. God makes people either male or female and whichever one God made you, God says that is a very good thing.
A related but different application then to this, is to speak against the opposite schools of radical feminism and male chauvinism. Instead we should study and embrace masculinity and femininity. We should oppose those who would elevate one as inherently superior. But we should also oppose those who want to get rid of the differences between a man and a woman. We have many differences. Yes, we have many similarities too. But study what the Bible presents as important qualities of manhood and womanhood. Rejoice in how God made humanity complete by providing both. We need the unique gifts and strengths of both. Let boys grow up into men. Let girls grow up into women. This is a beautiful thing.
So then, that’s my first and longest point for today. My other two remaining points will be shorter, but yet hopefully build off this foundation we’ve just laid here on biblical manhood and womanhood. Our second point then is to see God’s institution of marriage. Surely, it is implied at least in chapter 1 with the creation of male and female and the call to multiply and fill the earth. But it’s more clearly explained and instituted in chapter 2. This institution is stated in chapter 2, verse 24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
The word “therefore” connects this institution in what just happened in the passage. God had created a woman out of man to be a helper fit for him. The creation of this necessary complement for man is why then God institutes marriage. And look at how that institution is described in this verse. Several things stand out. First, it’s between a man and a woman. It’s these complementary humans that are able to be joined in oneness in the way described here. Ordinarily, this will result in the procreation mentioned as well in chapter 1, but obviously the procreation aspect is not essential to marriage since sometimes marriages don’t result in offspring, despite the efforts of the couple. But the point here is that man and woman are uniquely made in complementary ways by God so as to be the reason for this marriage institution. That word “therefore” here in verse 24 especially brings that out, as well as the ability of becoming one flesh as it goes on to say.
A second observation about this institution is that it results in the formation of a new social unit. It describes the man leaving his father and mother. The same clearly happens for the wife, by the way. You see, before, you are born into your family to your Dad and Mom. You and your siblings with your parents are a family. We call them today our immediate family. But when you grow up and go off and get married, there needs to be some kind of a break there. Your allegiances will change in some sense. Now the husband and wife are starting their own new immediate family. This doesn’t mean that they have no more connection at all with their parents and siblings. Of course it doesn’t mean that. Scripture doesn’t show that. But there is a sense of a break from that former relationship in forming this new social unity as a married couple and going off to start their own family.
A third observation about marriage from this verse is the cleaving idea. Here in the New King James version it’s put in the language of the man being joined to his wife. In the King James it’s the language of cleaving. Cleaving here is a general word of becoming joined and united. But since it’s put distinct from the idea of becoming one flesh, then it would seem appropriate to understand it from the broad sense. That it’s about how the husband and wife are becoming joined together in a general way. Their lives from that point on are joined together in a holistic way. There’s a oneness to marriage that is far more than just physically.
A fourth observation is the one flesh idea. God made us with this capacity and drive for physical oneness. This is a beautiful thing. But God would have us to exercise it in the way he designed it. That is abundantly clear throughout the Bible. The Song of Solomon, for example, expresses the power and enjoyment of this physical oneness. Thus Hebrews 13:4 says that marriage is honorable among all and that the marriage bed is to be kept pure, but it speaks against sexual immorality.
A fifth observation of this marriage institution is that it is meant to be lifelong. If that doesn’t jump out at you, I’ll make the simple case by appealing to Jesus in Matthew 19. There Jesus condemns divorce except in the case of sexual immorality, and he appeals back to this verse. He says that this shows that from the beginning marriage was to be a permanent joining of the man and the woman. Malachi 2 reflecting on this oneness of marriage called it a marriage covenant, and again emphasized how divorce is a treacherous violation of this covenant. As Jesus said, man should not separate what God has joined together. This is a tremendous problem in our society today and where we need God’s teaching on the matter.
So we see here that God has instituted marriage and that institution is a good thing. Now, as a side note, our discussion today isn’t meant to speak against singleness. You might find yourself single for different reasons, and the Bible says you can use your singleness in a God-honoring way. For that matter, as it pertains to our discussion on gender earlier, it’s not like you start being a man or a woman only once you are married. No, biblical manhood or womanhood, depending on what you are, is something to grow in all your life, single or married. So then, in this second point, we’ve briefly seen God’s design for marriage. He instituted it from the beginning. It was intimately connected with his design of gender — male and female he created them, therefore a man shall leave his father, and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
In our final point for today, I want to apply this teaching to our relationship with God. In other words, I want us to see how God has sometimes used in the Bible the institution of marriage as an illustration of our relationship with him. This reminds us of the importance of marriage — that God would use it as such an analogy. But it also helps our discussion today, as stimulating as it is on its own, to serve to drive home again today the gospel. So, let’s develop this a little. Several places in the Bible uses marriage as analogy to speak of our relationship with God. Let’s start in the Old Testament. In the book of Hosea, God had the prophet Hosea marry a harlot as an example of how God has radically loved his people Israel despite their spiritual unfaithfulness to him. The New Testament sees this idea find its greater fulfillment in Christ and what he has done to bring us into a relationship with God. And in Jeremiah 2 and 3, God also makes marriage analogy references to his relationship to Israel, his people. There he says he will take back his faithless adulterous spouse. Again, in Ezekiel 16 has an extended marriage analogy where God speaks of his love and marriage to Israel. The passage paints how God loved Israel when no one else did, but in repayment she went astray from God and after other lovers. Nonetheless God would still ultimately restore her and establish an everlasting covenant with her — a clear reference to the new covenant made with Christ. See a pattern here? God’s love and commitment is what a marriage should be. In our sin, God’s people have shown what should not be the case in a marriage. This is true for human marriages after the fall — that God’s exclamation of how very good his creation of it was, that after the fall that goodness is marred with sin. It’s not as good as it would be if there were no sin. If that is true for human marriages, it certainly is the case with our relationship with God. How then can this marriage ever work between God and his people? That’s the tension we find in the Old Testament that uses this analogy.
Well, that brings us to the promise of the new covenant. It’s what’s prophesied in these Old Testament passages about marriage and the unfaithfulness of God’s people. God promised in those a restoration of his faithless bride. In the New Testament we see that language further developed in Christ. Ephesians 5 speaks of the church as betrothed to Christ. The language from Genesis 2 here about the institution of marriage is quoted in Ephesians 5. At one moment Paul seems like he is talking about human marriages in Ephesians 5 when he quotes that. But then he brings it back to Christ and the church. That there is this great mystery of the love of Christ for his church. But what’s especially wonderful is that in the description of Ephesians 5:25-27, it says that Christ gave himself for her — a reference to the cross. Why? It says that he might sanctify her and cleanse her with the washing of the word. That he could ultimately present her to himself glorious, without spot or wrinkle, but rather holy! This imagery is then furthered in Revelation 19 when the end is seen in visionary form as the final wedding day, when there is a great wedding supper of the lamb. In that vision of the end, the bride of Christ is again the church, and she is described as dressed with fine linen, bright, and pure. And that this fine linen represents the righteous deeds of the saints.
The point is simple here, brothers and sisters. Marriage in the Bible is a serious covenant of oneness presented in the Bible. God uses that as an analogy to express his special relationship with his people. The problem is that God is always faithful and true and loving. And us his people are not. So, in Christ, God sheds his own blood to forgive us our unfaithfulness. To forgive us of all our sins. And Christ is then at work to make us as a bride what we should be. Holy, faithful, pure, and righteous. You see this is what the gospel is all about. It’s about God wanting to be in this most deep and wonderful relationship with us — likened to the best of what marriage should be. But we keep screwing it up. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God steps in through Jesus Christ and restores things. And so we are called to repent and turn and follow after Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If you have put such faith in Christ, then you can be encouraged that you are restored in this relationship with God in Christ. You are betrothed into an eternal marriage covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ! As you follow after him in this life as his disciple, he is then preparing you for the greatest of marriage bliss upon the consummation when he returns.
Maybe another way to put all this is this: We saw here Eve was created as a helper fit for Adam. That made her the suitable wife for him. She was to help him, and he was to help her. They are fit for each other. A perfect complement. Just what each other needed. Well, the Bible in many places uses that same word for “helper” in the Hebrew to refer to how God is our helper. Now I don’t mean to overly press this point based on that word alone, but nonetheless I hope the point is clear and true in general from the Word: that what every human needs to truly be full, is a relationship with the Lord. St. Augustine said, “We were made for You, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We need this personal, intimate, covenantal, relationship with God. This relationship where we know and experience the fullness of God’s love, and grace, and kindness, and covenant faithfulness. This is what we have, in and through Jesus Christ. And it is the best thing! The best of a human marriage is but a faint expression of how wonderful it is to be in this everlasting relationship with God. To know him and be known by him, forever.
So then, may today’s message remind you to think biblically when the world around you thinks as it sees best. May you look to fill your mind with truth and the God’s way of thinking. May it embrace God’s vision and plan for gender and marriage because he made them and instituted them. He had a plan and purpose for them, from the start. These concepts are obviously of importance as he uses them as an analogy in describing our relationship with him. Let us then rejoice greatly in God’s creation of men and women and marriage. To see these things as very good, just as God has seen them. But also to recognize the reality of the fall of man. That these good institutions have been affected by man’s depravity. We live in a fallen world, and the perversions of these things and the temptation to not see these good things for what they are, is a ramification of living in a fallen world. We live in a world cursed by God because of sin. But there is hope. It’s the gospel hope of forgiveness and grace and growth and renewal in and through Jesus Christ. It’s the gospel hope of being restored in a covenant relationship with our maker. And it’s in and through that renewed relationship that we can begin to look at how God created humans, male, and female, and how God instituted marriage, and exclaim that it is all very good. Amen.
Copyright © 2013 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.