Male and Female He Created Them

January 28, 2024 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Humanity: Made in the Image of God

Scripture: Genesis 2:18–25

18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“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.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

In this series of sermons, we are discussing the meaning and significance of the creation of human beings in the image of God. To be made in the image of God is as great a privilege as a creature can be given. We are “crowned with glory and honor,” Psalm 8:5 says, designed to reflect God’s own glory and honor into the rest of his creation. The problem of sin, which has caused us all to fall short of this glorious design, has been decisively dealt with by the True Human, our Lord Jesus. To say that he has saved us from our sins, secured for us the forgiveness of sins, means that in Jesus this glory has been restored. In Christ, through faith in Christ, we who are forgiven, we who are “saved,” find our true human identity.

How can we be shaped by the true humanity that is found in Jesus? Well, we need his body, don’t we? And here we note the significance of the fact that the New Testament speak of the church as the body of Christ (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18, 24). We are meant to be shaped into the pattern of Christ through our communion with Christ’s body, his church. Ephesians 4 says that explicitly. God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints, to build up the body of Christ, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Eph 4:13, CSB).

The church, the Christian community, is absolutely essential to what the Bible is actually getting at when it speaks about our salvation. We need the church in all its diversity to become the full human beings that Christ gave his life to make us. Not all churches will have the same kind of ethnic or even socioeconomic diversity; some will be more diverse in these ways than others. But in every church there will certainly be one kind of diversity that is critical to our pursuit of glory in Jesus. There will be men and women, males and females. No true church can be “men only” churches or “women only” churches. This is a diversity we will have and a diversity we must have.

‌Why? Because the salvation from sin that Jesus achieved for humanity restores the peaceful partnership between men and women that reflects the self-giving love of God himself. So, this is essential to our gospel witness. It is essential to the kingdom of God. Let’s look at this together as we see the ideal for humanity, the conflict within humanity, and the restoration of humanity.

The Ideal for Humanity

So, first, the ideal for humanity. If we want to know what the Bible’s vision is for humanity, we should start at the beginning. We should look at the original blueprint. Genesis 2 gives us the blueprint. It shows us what humanity is meant to look like.

Not Good to Be Alone

‌You know the story. In verse 7, we read that God first made the male human being, and put him in the garden of Eden to, as verse 15 says, “work it and keep it.” Now, at the end of chapter 1, when God looked at everything he had made, he saw that “it was very good.” But here in chapter 2, in verse 18, God sees something that he says is not good. It is not good that the man is alone.‌ The ideal for humanity is that, as God’s image bearers, we are in a loving relationship with another, in the same way that God himself is. The Triune God is the ideal for humanity. The solitary human needs a partner.

What does he need a partner for? I know plenty of jokes are primed at this point to make fun of how stupid men can be, how much men “need” women for this or that. But here the important point seems to be that the human being will not be able to “work” and “keep” the garden without a partner. It’s not just that he won’t do a very good job of it by himself, or that he will only be able to get by. It’s that, by himself, this will be “not good” for the garden itself.

This is not, as Pastor Jad might say, a sub-optimal situation. For the human being to be alone is a positively bad situation. No surprise then that the US Surgeon General back in May released an advisory calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection, and said that this increases “the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.”[1]

The Mirror Image

‌God addresses the problem here in verses 21-22, creating a woman out of one of the man’s ribs. Now, notice what that implies.

It implies that the woman is made of the same “stuff” as the man. Back in chapter one, we were already told that the man and the woman are both made in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image,” verse 27 says. But the word “man” there means “human beings.” The gender-specific terms come later, “male and female he created them.” The point is that the male human is made in the image of God, but so is the female human. Both genders are full image bearers on their own. Are they the same or are they different? Yes! Again, this is meant to reflect the Triune God. Each person is fully God, but there are distinctions within the Trinity, too. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.

Twice in our passage in Genesis 2 (vv. 18, 20) we are told that the woman was made to be “a helper fit for” the man. The Hebrew word translated in the ESV “fit for” means “like his opposite.”[2] Different? For sure. But not altogether different. She is his opposite in the way that you see yourself when you look into a mirror. The woman is the man’s mirror opposite, his mirror image.

At Last!

And when he sees her, we get the first time in Scripture that the words of a human being are recorded.[3] “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). The man had just got done looking at all the animal creatures and giving them names, but none of them will satisfy the problem of loneliness. A dog (and, for some, apparently, a cat) might go a long way, but what we really need is someone much, much more like us.

This is the ideal for humanity. Since we are made in God’s image, God knows what we need. We need another who is not our superior not our inferior but our opposite equal.[4] That’s what God has given us by making us all in his image but making us male and female.

The Fracturing of Humanity

I hope by now we understand that this whole story is central to the message of the gospel and of salvation. The creation of humanity as male and female, as equal opposites, is designed by God to be the perfect reflection of who he himself is. If there is going to be conflict in this story, no surprise that the conflict will come precisely here. The fracturing of humanity, made male and female in the image of God, is perhaps the principal illustration of the brokenness of sin.

Family Ties

When Jesus was asked about his views on divorce, he cited from our passage in Genesis 2 and concluded this way: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). There can be no doubt, then, that Genesis 2 tells us something about marriage. But it is not primarily a marriage story. It teaches us something about marriage, but only derivatively.

Here's what I mean. If you were hearing this story for the very first time, you wouldn’t conclude that what God set out to make for the man was a wife. It’s not until we get to verse 24 that we find how the story relates to marriage. Why does the story relate to marriage?

It’s because when the man saw the woman he said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” When the man speaks this way about the woman, he is basically saying, “Finally, here is someone just like me. This is someone who is very closely related to me. This is family!” We can speak of Adam and Eve as husband and wife, but you get the sense that they are much more like a brother and sister. They share DNA. They are family. “Bone of bone.” “Flesh of flesh.”

Now, my wife was not created from my rib. She does not share my DNA. But it is for this reason, the Bible says, that marriage is when a man leaves his father and mother and holds fast to his wife. What reason? To become one flesh. To start a new family.

This passage has implications for marriage, of course. But it first of all has implications for all humanity. What we need above all is to belong to a family. And a family, right from the start, consists of male and female. More essential than having a husband or a wife is having a brother-sister relationship with another human being, because marriage is patterned after that relationship.

Sin Separates

When we get to the next chapter, Genesis 3, we learn quite quickly that sin evidences itself in the fracturing of the family. When God questions the man about his sin, he blames it all on his wife: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, it’s all her fault!” (Gen 3:12). Because of our sin, blame became the game in our relationship with each other as male and female.

Now, instead of seeing one another as partners, we often see each other as competitors. In a competition, we are trying to exert our power and our authority over another. That’s fine for a sporting contest; it is devastating when men and women relate to one another in this way, trying to prove who’s the boss and who gets to decide everything.

Because of sin, instead of seeing one another as a help, we often see each other as a danger. But God made the woman for the man to be his “helper.” This certainly does not mean that the woman’s entire existence is for the man, that she exists to be a man’s assistant, helping him to help him reach his goals. Of the nineteen times the word appears in the Old Testament, sixteen of them are used to describe God. To be a help means you are strong enough to deliver, rescue, and save, and many commentators argue that the meaning of “helper” in Genesis 2:18, 20 is best translated “ally.” Elyse Fitzpatrick writes,

When God created the woman, he created her to be strong help to her brother. She is a warrior who stands with him and is like him. She's his valiant sister in the battler, who is in an alliance with him to rule and subdue the earth.[5]

Don’t Settle for Less

‌But yet, because of sin, we sometimes even begin to view one another as an enemy. If we can’t subdue the other, then perhaps we’ll just stay as far away as possible.

Jesus’s views on divorce are what we today would call conservative. But what he said was actually quite radical in his day. Jewish law did not permit a woman to divorce her husband and marry another, so by insisting that a man needed to stay married to his wife, he was leveling the playing field.[6] That’s why Jesus’s own disciples gasped at his teaching, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt 19:10). Let’s just stay out of the marriage business altogether. But that is to play right into the hands of sin which wants to keep men and women separated and to suspect each other to be an enemy.

As every married couple knows, marriage is incredibly hard work. There are all kinds of forces that seem to be threatening to break up our marriages in a thousand different ways. I want to say that although the Christian ethic is to fight for marriage to last, divorce is at times permitted and even necessary. This is not the time to discuss those particularities.

What I’m trying to do instead is to say that the same kind of hard work that it takes to find unity in a marriage is what it takes to find unity as men and women in the Christian community. And it is a good work, a necessary work. We have to fight for it and never settle for less.

The Restoration of Humanity

You see, the gospel of the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus tells us that this is about as important to our Christian life and witness as anything else. Jesus gave his life to restore the glory to human beings as God’s image bearers, male and female. It is critical, then, that Jesus’s church makes it a priority to live in the reality of what Jesus has given to us. How can we do that? How do we begin to live in the reality of the restored humanity that we have been given in Jesus?

Marriage Is Temporary

‌‌First of all, a word about marriage in the Christian community. Marriage is a good gift, a grace of God. Marriage is meant to be wonderful. But marriage must never be idolized in the church. It is a reflection of the ideal, but it is not the ideal itself.

That’s why Jesus taught that marriage is a temporary arrangement. In Matthew 22:30, he states rather straightforwardly that “in the resurrection” there is no such thing as marriage because there will be no need for it. Because, you see, in the resurrection, all the purposes for which it was created will be met in far more satisfying and fulfilling ways. Someone right now is wondering, “Does that include sex?” Yes, and if you can’t imagine how that can be “heaven,” then consider what C. S. Lewis suggests that perhaps we are now in a position like that of a little boy

who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in [the resurrection] will leave no room for it.[7]

‌Time to Start Imagining

‌Obviously, we have not yet arrived at “the resurrection,” and we still live in bodies that do marry and are given in marriage.‌

At the same time, it cannot be emphasized enough that the Christian claim is that something of that future day has already broken in on the present age. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and in Christ we see a glimpse of that new creation. This is what explains, then, Paul’s words in Galatians 3, where he says that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female. Paul is not denying that such realities exist, but he is emphasizing that these realities are giving way to the greater reality of the new creation. “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:25-27). For those who profess faith in Christ, we are to live together by this greater reality.

‌That’s what the first Christians believed and what invigorated their testimony and their witness. The historical reality of Jesus meant it is time to start imagining a new world and, indeed, living in its reality. Figuring out what that means and how to do it is what living the Christian life really ought to mean.‌

The New Testament is, of course, our main guide. So, no, this does not mean that Christians should not marry. Ephesians 5 instead gives direction into how Christian marriage is supposed to function, and Paul cites there from Genesis 2:25, showing that the marriage arrangement is still in force. At the same time, he follows up that citation by telling us that marriage remains in force in order to point the way forward a bit more clearly to what is to come. Just as marriage is based on the new family picture we are given in the creation of Adam and Eve, so also marriage is meant to itself picture the new covenant reality of Christ and his church.‌

Brothers and Sisters Again

So, allow me to close today by suggesting a few things for us here at Crosstown.‌

First, if the ideal for humanity is more like a brother/sister relationship than a husband/wife relationship, then in Christ this is how we must learn to relate to one another once more. We are family! We are brothers and sisters, and this is how Paul identifies the believers in the churches to whom he writes. Many English translations now reflect that, though the ESV, regrettably, only does so by way of a footnote.

Let me suggest we start doing the same. “Hey bro” might be common language for men today to refer to each other, but “brother” and “sister” mean something much, much deeper—we really believe that’s who we are!‌

Second, sexual immorality within the church must be dealt with severely for this reason: it destroys the unity of the family. But guarding against that temptation is not to be done in a way that keeps us separate from each other. We need each other. Brothers, your sisters need you to minister to them. Sisters, we brothers need you to minister to us.

Yes, we have our TEAMS groups, and there is a place for same-gendered discipleship. In fact, husband and wives, one of the ways you can serve each other is by encouraging your spouse to go to TEAMS. But we also must have coed discipleship. We need our Missional Family gatherings and dinners—and don’t always be separating into men and women when you meet together. We need to interact with each other and learn to trust each other as brothers and sisters.

Third, Crosstown is “complementarian” in that we believe the Bible instructs that qualified men are to serve as pastors (or, elders) in the church. This is not the place for us to discuss that conviction, but it must not begin by wondering who is in charge or who gets to be the boss. Christians are cross-shaped people or they are nothing, and bold, Christian leadership in the home or in the church means self-giving love, the kind of love that initiates and seeks to lift up the other and see them flourish.

Husbands, this is what it means to love your wife like Christ loved the church. Brothers, I guarantee you our sisters here will not resist you leading like that, and for some of us it’s time we stop letting our sisters do all the work in the church, especially in preschool and children’s ministry or in hospitality services. Be an initiator in your Missional Family and find a way to serve others instead of waiting to be served. By the way, brothers, this is what it means to “aspire” to the office of elder, and it is also how elders ought to be known and characterized within the church. Would that every man in this church would aspire to this noble calling.

At the same time, we must not prevent women from exercising their gifts or act in ways that show there is something about maleness that qualifies a non-elder man to serve instead of a woman. This morning, we wish to express our repentance as a church for any way in which we have been sending such a message. What would our church be like without you, sisters, and without your service and your gifts? You set the example for us in so many ways. And we thank God for you.

Now, let us press on as brothers and sisters in Christ, remembering that God made us male and female for the mutual benefit of us all.


[1] “New Surgeon General Advisory Raises Alarm about the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States,” May 3, 2023, available online at

[2] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. M. E. J. Richardson, (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994), 666.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 179.

[4] Ibid., 175.

[5] Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Eri Schumacher, Jesus and Gender: Living as Sisters and Brothers in Christ (Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2022), 91.

[6] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2002), 387.

[7] C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 260-61.

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