Your gender proclaims God’s glory! In love he made you male or female. So to be faithful to God’s design we must wholeheartedly affirm the glory of both genders, retain the differences between the two, and practice what is specific to each.
In our historic moment, the categories of male and female are no longer assumed. What is a man? What is a woman? Neither is there consensus in the church on gender roles and relations.
But to know yourself and glorify God you must live as a gendered person. Kevin DeYoung is right: Humanity “is, always has been, and will be…comprised of two differentiated and complementary sexes…by God’s good design” (14). We may not diminish the differences between men and women; maleness or femaleness is basic to who you are. But neither does gender distinction suggest value hierarchy: men and women harmonize to show the beauty of being human.
DeYoung’s Men and Women in the Church (MWC) faithfully engages Scripture to provide clear and compassionate answers to critical questions of our day before offering concrete application.
What Is a Man? What Is a Woman?
The Old Testament Introduces the Two Genders
Scripture’s first three chapters are foundational. Its most basic teaching on gender is this: God made men and women in his image, equal in glory, to rule jointly over creation. And yet, while gender is inconsequential for salvation (Gal. 3:28), maleness and femaleness is humanity’s most basic distinction. Man was created first (1 Tim. 2:12–13), and in a different way. Man and woman were created in different realms and given different tasks; the man cultivated the earth, the woman cultivated the family. The man—and not the woman—had to name every creature. The man alone, as the other party in covenant with God, was tasked with maintaining the garden’s holiness.
And gender differences are good! Not in spite of their differences but because of them men and women can experience beautiful harmony and unity. The names “man” [ish] and “woman” [ishah] suggest interdependence. The woman must help the man; he must love, protect, and provide for her. In marriage, the man leaves his family and cleaves to his wife. The two came from one flesh and become one flesh, with the man reckoned as the head and representative of the couple. Tragically, sin disrupted this “very good” world; it activated God’s curse which interrupted the relational wholeness between man and woman, who experienced the curse in different, and telling ways (3:16–19).
The rest of the Old Testament clarifies gender roles and responsibilities. DeYoung identifies five patterns.
- Men lead. “From start to finish, the leaders among God’s Old Testament people were men” (MWC 36). The few exceptions like Deborah, Miriam, Esther, and Athaliah were highly unusual, not always positive, and only prove the rule.
- Women can be heroic. Male leadership doesn’t demand passive women. The Bible gives many examples of “Proverbs 31 women” who were trustworthy, industrious, entrepreneurial, strong, shrewd, determined, generous, brave, dignified, wise, kind, selfless, and respected. Jael’s warrior-like behavior was exceptional, but not her integrity and courage.