God’s Original Design for Men and Women (Genesis 1-2)

Adam and Eve

Big Idea: Men and women have dignity and differences that are designed for our good and our joy.

Living in Liberty Village is very interesting. We see a lot of new condos being built. What I’ve noticed is that the initial stages of building a condo go slowly. They dig and they dig. They start by laying foundation piles, which are long, slender columns of steel or concrete that transfer the building's load to a deeper, more stable layer of soil or rock. And only then do they begin to build up. Laying a foundation takes a long time, but once you’ve got that foundation, the rest can go pretty quickly.

Lay a good foundation, and you can build a tall structure very well on top of it. And that’s what we’re going to try to do in this series.

We’re beginning a short series today on God’s design for men and women. Today, I want to take some time to examine the biblical foundation for understanding ourselves as gendered humans. In Genesis 1 to 11, Scripture gives us a foundational worldview that helps us understand him, the world, ourselves, and what’s wrong with the world.

Genesis lays the groundwork for everything that follows: who we are, where we came from, where things went wrong, and what God is doing about it. If you want to understand who you are, and how God designed us, you need to begin in Genesis 1 and 2.

Why We’re Looking at This Subject

First, let me tell you why we’re looking at this subject. Two reasons:

First, understanding our humanity and our gender is one of the most important issues of our day. We face a lot of questions about what it means to be human, what it means to be male and female, and what sex means. These questions are all around us. Beneath many of the issues around sex and gender is a much deeper issue: anthropology. What does it mean to be human — not just human but a gendered human? The Bible has a lot to say about this. We must establish a strong base to discuss questions about sex, gender, and other current issues.

Second, this is not only an important theological issue, but it’s a practical issue we face every single day. We don’t just need theology; we need practical theology. What does it mean to be a Christian man or woman? What does this mean for our marriages, our work, and the life of the church?

We are going to get very practical about some of these questions over the next few weeks.

Three Foundational Principles

To get us going today, what I want to do is, again, to lay some foundational principles. These principles are going to be so important for addressing some critical issues later.

Here are three foundational principles:

One: Humans have dignity.

We could spend months unpacking just a few short verses:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
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 subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

I want to highlight three things here.

Humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation.

God created everything. But Genesis especially highlights the creation of humans. Three times in verse 27, it speaks of God creating us. As Francis Schaeffer writes, “It is as though God put exclamation points here to indicate that there is something special about the creation of man.”

Everything God had made up to this point—the unique glory of each galaxy; the countless stars, whose names and number are known only by him; the beauty of this world in its original state of pre-curse purity; the creative diversity of every living creature in the sky, on land and in the sea—all of it was a warm-up for the creation of the first two human bodies. (Adam Ramsey)

“Humanity was God’s creative grand finale,” Ramsey says. When God created each part of creation, he pronounced it as good. It was only after God created humans that he declared that is very good. You have great value to God.

But that’s not all.

You were made in God’s image.

The text declares and repeats that God made us in his image. What does this mean? In the ancient world, kings would place images or statues of themselves around the empire to represent their rule. An image is a representation of the king. And so God has made us to represent him in the world. He is the King, but we are little kings and queens who’ve been charged with representing him in the world. “God created us in his image so that we would display or reflect or communicate who he is, how great he is, and what he is like” (John Piper).

One more thing I want to notice:

You’ve been given work to do.

God told the first humans to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it, having dominion over everything. This is called the creation mandate. It’s to, as Andy Crouch says, make something of the world. It’s to take the raw materials God has given us and creatively cultivate it so that the world and humanity flourishes, and God is glorified. Develop culture, build societies, and harness the world's resources in a way that honors God and benefits humanity.

That’s the first principle we see today: humans have dignity. As Daniel Darling says, “Every human being — no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter what they have done or have had done to them — possesses dignity, because every human being is created in the image of God.” As C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Every person you meet deserves respect, kindness, and dignity.

Here’s the second foundational principle:

Two: Your gender is an essential part of being human.

Genesis 1:27 says:

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

Right on page 1 of Scripture we learn that God created us as the pinnacle of creation. And part of that is our gender. In other words, to represent God well in the world requires both men and women. As Herman Bavinck says:

She is his equal and reflects God’s image just as much as he does … The uniqueness and richness of feminine qualities no less than those of the masculine capacities find their origin and example in the divine Being.

Right from page 1 of Scripture, God endues both with great dignity and value. From the very beginning, God speaks to the dignity of both men and women. It takes both to image him in the world. “Sexuality is not an accident of nature, nor is it simply a biological phenomenon. Instead it is a gift of God.” (Victor Hamilton). It’s essential to bearing his image in the world. It takes both men and women to represent God properly in the world.

If our sexuality and gender is central to what it means to be human, no wonder Satan loves to attack us in this area! If God gave us dignity as men and women, and gave us a job to do together, it makes sense that Satan would try to sabotage this area so that we didn’t live out our identity so we couldn’t work together to image him.

Herman Bavinck puts it this way:

God is the Creator of the human being, and simultaneously also the Inaugurator of sex and of sexual difference. This difference did not result from sin; it existed from the very beginning, it has its basis in creation, it is a revelation of God’s will and sovereignty, and is therefore wise and holy and good. Therefore, no one may misconstrue or despise this sexual difference, either within one’s own identity or in that of another person. It has been willed by God and grounded in nature. It was then, and still is, willed by God; he is the sovereign Designer of sex; man and woman have God to thank not only for their human nature, but also for their different sexes and natures. Both are good, even as they both come forth from God’s hand. Together in mutual fellowship they bear the divine image. God himself is the Creator of duality-in-unity.

In a couple of weeks, we’re going to return to this area. We were made as the pinnacle of God’s creation, endued with great worth, and our gender is part of that, but Satan loves to attack this. He wants to take one of God’s great gifts and turn it against us.

Humans have dignity, and your gender is an essential part of what it means for you to be human. There’s one more foundational principle I want to look at this morning:

Three: The differences between the genders are designed to help and bring joy.

Genesis 1 gives us one view of the creation of the first humans. Genesis 2 gives us another. God had pronounced everything as good, but for the first time, God identifies something that is not good in creation. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Notice who says that it’s not good. God says it. God identifies that male without female is incomplete. There’s something lacking in one gender without the other. He can’t complete the job God has given to humanity on his own.

God doesn’t just identify the problem; he rectifies it. He decides to make a companion corresponding to him — neither identical or completely different. The words mean like and corresponding, equal and adequate. There’s no implication of inferiority here. The idea is of an indispensable companion, someone who’s like him and yet different so that she can supply what he’s missing. They correspond to each other. She’s not “a superior nor an inferior, but an equal,” writes Victor Hamilton. “The creation of this helper will form one-half of a polarity, and will be to man as the south pole is to the north pole.”

And so God created woman. She was made from his side — the same bone, the same flesh, the same DNA. Because she was made from Adam, she also bears the image of God. As the Puritan Matthew Henry said, she was “not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

And when he saw her for the first time, we have the first human words recorded in the Bible, and also the first poem: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).

In other words, Adam was happy. He delighted in the differences between them. He was no longer alone. God had created exactly what he needed.

Putting it Together

There you have it:

  • Humans have dignity
  • Your gender is an essential part of being human
  • The differences between the genders are designed to help and bring joy

Why are we starting here?

Because, as we’ll see in two weeks, the world has become a mess. Humanity has fallen. We still possess our God-given dignity, but it’s been soiled. Through Jesus, God is restoring us to what we should be. As Dan Darling says:

Imagine, for a moment, if God’s people began to lead a new, quiet revolution whose foundation was a simple premise: every human being—no matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter what they have done or have had done to them—possesses dignity, because every human being is created in the image of God. By God’s grace, our churches would change, and our communities would change.

But in this mess, Scripture teaches us that gender is a gift, that you — as a man or as a woman — bear the image of God. Gender is God’s idea, and it’s a gift. He’s made us different, but the differences are designed to help us because men and women need each other. The differences are meant to bring us joy.

That’s just the start. That’s the foundation; now we need to build on that foundation. Men and women have dignity and differences that are designed for our good and our joy.

That’s God’s original design for us. And, when you think about it, none of this has been changed by the Fall, but all of this has been affected by the Fall. On one hand, nothing’s changed. Both men and women are still made in God’s image. Both still have dignity. And the differences are still designed for our good and for our joy.

But the relationships between men and women have been affected by the Fall. Our ability to live out to God’s design has been affected. This is why we need Jesus to help us to live out his design in our marriages, relationships, and in the church. It’s one reason why we need the gospel. We need God’s help to transform us to live into who he created us to be.

This is our foundation. This is God’s original design. We’re going to build on this, but let’s ask for God’s help in treating each other with the dignity God has given us, enjoying our gender as a gift from God, and giving thanks for the differences God has given us as men and women in this world.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada