Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Dan Franklin

We Need to Talk

Talking about manhood and womanhood can feel daunting in our current culture of outrage. Why tackle this controversial subject when it is certain to bring angst and hurt feelings? Why not instead focus on more central or less explosive topics?

While it is true that the subject of biblical manhood and womanhood is not a central issue of Christian orthodoxy, we need to talk about it. The world is talking incessantly about it, and our culture’s conclusions are leading to confusion and chaos. We are nearing a point when it is politically incorrect to talk about any unique male or female traits. This leaves young men and young women with very little direction when it comes to figuring out where to aim when trying to grow into adult men and adult women.

It may be uncomfortable. It may bring blowback. But we need to talk. If we don’t, then the only remaining voices will be those that lead to chaos and confusion.

We Start with the Bible

As Christians, we start with the Bible. We don’t simply consult the Bible in order to find suggestions or to find support for the views that we’ve already chosen. We start with the Bible by seeking to learn what God’s perfect and sufficient Word says on any given topic. This applies not only when the Scriptural teaching is something that we like (the commands not to judge others), but also when the Scriptural teaching feels jarring and uncomfortable (the prohibitions concerning sex outside of marriage). In other words, in determining our beliefs concerning manhood and womanhood, the Bible is not one of many sources of information. The Bible is the primary—and only authoritative—source of information. Other sources that relate to sociology, psychology, biology, or personal experience all take a backseat to what God has revealed to us.

With that said, Scripture clearly depicts men and women being equal and yet different. Men and women have equality before God because they are all image-bearers (Genesis 1:27) and they all come to salvation by the same path and all receive the same benefits (Galatians 3:28). We are different in not only our anatomy (Genesis 2:20-24), but also in our callings. And Scripture clearly lays out some different commands for men and women in how we relate in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1-7) and the life of the church (1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16).

Music and Dance Steps

In 2021 when we read a verse that says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22) or “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12), we wince. These commands seem to us to be out of step with Scriptural teachings on love and grace and hope and equality. But while we seem strange to people living in the U.S. in 2021, they are fully consistent with the rest of the teaching of Scripture. Eve was created to be a “helper” for Adam (Genesis 2:18). Despite Eve sinning before Adam, Adam is held primarily responsible (Genesis 3:9, Romans 5:17). All the Old Testament priests were men (Exodus 39:41). Every major prophet and minor prophet was a man. All of the apostles were men (Matthew 10:2-4). It seems disingenuous for us to be surprised at commands about headship and submission within marriage, or commands about male leadership in the church, in light of the dominant pattern of male leadership throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

I believe that there is a larger point here. I like to think of it in terms of the music behind the dance steps. The overt passages about how we as men and women behave in marriage and in the church are specific dance steps that God is giving to us. But he is not giving them to us because he is random or sexist. He is giving them to us because they are in keeping with the music that we are all meant to dance to. The commands and the dance steps, but manhood and womanhood are the music. God has beautifully formed us as men and women to work together, bringing our different gifts to the world. When we do so, we participate in a beautiful dance. Women are told to respectfully submit and men are told to lovingly lead because this is how we respond to the music of God-given femininity and masculinity. It is how we become what we were created to be.

Godly Aspirations

The Bible is not a handbook on specific logistics relating to how men and women are to behave in every situation. And we are not given an exhaustive list of masculine and feminine qualities. But we also aren’t given nothing. We are given enough guidance in Scripture to form some ideas about what qualities men and women should each have as aspirational virtues.

So, with this said, what qualities should we encourage women and girls to pursue? I’ll name two:

  1. Nurture. Femininity is beautifully depicted through the care of nurture of children specifically, and then also of people in general. Paul illustrates gentleness by pointing to “a nursing mother cares for her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). And Peter speaks of gentleness as a quality of godly women in how they relate to their husbands (1 Peter 3:4). Women bring a beautiful gift to the world when they bring gentle, kind, nurturing in d dangerous and frightening world.
  2. Wisdom. While we are all called to be wise, it may be noteworthy that in the book of Proverbs wisdom is depicted as a woman (Proverbs 8:1-3). And Scripture gives several examples of women who wisely navigate situations that men can’t seem to figure out (Judges 4, Ruth 3, 1 Samuel 25, Matthew 15:21-28). Many have observed that women seem to have an instinctive wisdom in areas where men have blindspots. The world needs this wisdom, and women do well to cultivate this wisdom through Scripture and prayer and through the courage to offer their insights.

And what about qualities that we should encourage men and boys to pursue? Again, I will name two:

  1. Courage. Men not only were the ones entrusted with going into battle throughout the Old Testament, but the idea of courage is biblically associated with men (1 Corinthians 16:13). Courage is not only about physical protection (men—not women—should be the ones entrusted with investigating suspicious noises in the night), but also about the willingness to speak and lead even when there is risk of loss or failure involved.
  2. Respectability. If wives are told to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), then it makes sense that respectability would be a quality for which men should strive. And this quality is listed as a qualification for elders (1 Timothy 3:2). In short, to be respectable means that a man is taking responsibility instead of remaining in boyhood and hoping for others to take care of things. Respectable men take on adulthood and seek to serve and protect others.  

Working Together

Until Jesus returns, the dance between men and women will always be complicated. Because our relationships are marred by the fall (Genesis 3:16), there will be a constant temptation for women to manipulate and for men to dominate. But the fact that there can be a toxic version of masculinity—and femininity—does not mean that there are not real, important, and beautiful differences that God has built into us. And we will not put this beautiful dance on display by ignoring or downplaying our differences. We will put the dance on display when we embrace and celebrate them. And when we do this in our lives, and especially in our marriages, we help to put the gospel of Jesus on center stage for all to see (Ephesians 5:31-32).

We Start with the Bible

As Christians, we start with the Bible. We don’t simply consult the Bible in order to find suggestions or to find support for the views that we’ve already chosen. We start with the Bible by seeking to learn what God’s perfect and sufficient Word says on any given topic. This applies not only when the Scriptural teaching is something that we like (the commands not to judge others), but also when the Scriptural teaching feels jarring and uncomfortable (the prohibitions concerning sex outside of marriage). In other words, in determining our beliefs concerning manhood and womanhood, the Bible is not one of many sources of information. The Bible is the primary—and only authoritative—source of information. Other sources that relate to sociology, psychology, biology, or personal experience all take a backseat to what God has revealed to us.

With that said, Scripture clearly depicts men and women being equal and yet different. Men and women have equality before God because they are all image-bearers (Genesis 1:27) and they all come to salvation by the same path and all receive the same benefits (Galatians 3:28). We are different in not only our anatomy (Genesis 2:20-24), but also in our callings. And Scripture clearly lays out some different commands for men and woman in how we relate in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1-7) and the life of the church (1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16).

Music and Dance Steps

In 2021 when we read a verse that says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22) or “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12), we wince. These commands seem to us to be out of step with Scriptural teachings on love and grace and hope and equality. But while we seem strange to people living in the U.S. in 2021, they are fully consistent with the rest of the teaching of Scripture. Eve was created to be a “helper” for Adam (Genesis 2:18). Despite Eve sinning before Adam, Adam is held primarily responsible (Genesis 3:9, Romans 5:17). All the Old Testament priests were men (Exodus 39:41). Every major prophet and minor prophet was a man. All of the apostles were men (Matthew 10:2-4). It seems disingenuous for us to be surprised at commands about headship and submission within marriage, or commands about male leadership in the church, in light of the dominant pattern of male leadership throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

I believe that there is a larger point here. I like to think of it in terms of the music behind the dance steps. The overt passages about how we as men and women behave in marriage and in the church are specific dance steps that God is giving to us. But he is not giving them to us because he is random or sexist. He is giving them to us because they are in keeping with the music that we are all meant to dance to. The commands and the dance steps, but manhood and womanhood are the music. God has beautifully formed us as men and women to work together, bringing our different gifts to the world. When we do so, we participate in a beautiful dance. Women are told to respectfully submit and men are told to lovingly lead because this is how we respond to the music of God-given femininity and masculinity. It is how we become what we were created to be.

Godly Aspirations

The Bible is not a handbook on specific logistics relating to how men and women are to behave in every situation. And we are not given an exhaustive list of masculine and feminine qualities. But we also aren’t given nothing. We are given enough guidance in Scripture to form some ideas about what qualities men and women should each have as aspirational virtues.

So, with this said, what qualities should we encourage women and girls to pursue? I’ll name two:

  1. Nurture. Femininity is beautifully depicted through the care of nurture of children specifically, and then also of people in general. Paul illustrates gentleness by pointing to “a nursing mother cares for her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). And Peter speaks of gentleness as a quality of godly women in how they relate to their husbands (1 Peter 3:4). Women bring a beautiful gift to the world when they bring gentle, kind, nurturing in d dangerous and frightening world.
  2. Wisdom. While we are all called to be wise, it may be noteworthy that in the book of Proverbs wisdom is depicted as a woman (Proverbs 8:1-3). And Scripture gives several examples of women who wisely navigate situations that men can’t seem to figure out (Judges 4, Ruth 3, 1 Samuel 25, Matthew 15:21-28). Many have observed that women seem to have an instinctive wisdom in areas where men have blindspots. The world needs this wisdom, and women do well to cultivate this wisdom through Scripture and prayer and through the courage to offer their insights.

And what about qualities that we should encourage men and boys to pursue? Again, I will name two:

  1. Courage. Men not only were the ones entrusted with going into battle throughout the Old Testament, but the idea of courage is biblically associated with men (1 Corinthians 16:13). Courage is not only about physical protection (men—not women—should be the ones entrusted with investigating suspicious noises in the night), but also about the willingness to speak and lead even when there is risk of loss or failure involved.
  2. Respectability. If wives are told to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), then it makes sense that respectability would be a quality for which men should strive. And this quality is listed as a qualification for elders (1 Timothy 3:2). In short, to be respectable means that a man is taking responsibility instead of remaining in boyhood and hoping for others to take care of things. Respectable men take on adulthood and seek to serve and protect others.  

Working Together

Until Jesus returns, the dance between men and women will always be complicated. Because our relationships are marred by the fall (Genesis 3:16), there will be a constant temptation for women to manipulate and for men to dominate. But the fact that there can be a toxic version of masculinity—and femininity—does not mean that there are not real, important, and beautiful differences that God has built into us. And we will not put this beautiful dance on display by ignoring or downplaying our differences. We will put the dance on display when we embrace and celebrate them. And when we do this in our lives, and especially in our marriages, we help to put the gospel of Jesus on center stage for all to see (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Free Download
Pastor Dan has created a list of books and recommended reading that help you get a Biblical perspective on today's issues. Sign-up below to get the free PDF!

More From LBF Church

Back to Blog Home