Prof. Cory Griess, professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and member of First PRC, Grand Rapids, MI

Previous article in this series: October 15, 2022, p. 45.

“Male and female created he them”

So much of our learning is distinguishing things from other things. As children, we learn what things are in part by learning what they are not. My first grader had a hard time reading the word “where,” but it became easier for her when she learned to distinguish it from “wear.” Who knew that there were three types of fire trucks? But when a fireman distinguishes a fire engine from a fire truck, and both of those from a fire rescue vehicle, you understand what each one is and its role in the work of the firemen. Seeing proper distinctions helps us understand and remember truth.

Three foundational distinctions

This is why when God teaches us in Scripture, He too makes distinctions that help us understand the reality He created. In the book of Genesis, the Holy Spirit teaches us three key distinctions that are foundational for all true understanding. The first is the distinction between God and the creation. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” If God created it, then He is not part of it. He is to be distinguished from what He created. And even though God goes on to make beings who are a reflection of Himself, they are not God but are always creatures. He is the Maker; they are the made. They are to submit to Him and not to assume His place.

The second foundational distinction in the early part of Genesis is between human beings and all the rest of God’s handiwork. The way God creates humans and then interacts with them indicates human beings are rational and moral creations. Unlike the animals, humans are capable of more than impulse. They can reflect, reason, and examine their own existence. Even the way they interact with God’s rule over them is unique. All creatures are under God’s rule over His creation. Human beings, however, are alone able consciously to live under that law of God, aware of what they are doing. A fish is under the law of God for fish: it must live in water. If a fish is outside the law of God for fish, it dies. But the fish is not staying in the water because it is consciously aware of this. Human beings alone are able consciously to put themselves in line with God’s law.

The third fundamental distinction in the early parts of Genesis is between two kinds of the special rational, moral beings God created: male ones and female ones.

And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Gen. 1:26-27).

God created maleness and femaleness. And God created maleness and femaleness to be a fundamental attribute of the human beings He made. That is, all human beings are sexed beings. God did not create androgynous human beings and then later stamp maleness or femaleness on them. Rather, we read, “male and female created he them.” God made two kinds of human beings and their maleness or femaleness cannot be separated from their humanness. You cannot dissect a human being and cut out the sex and be left with a functioning human being. Rather, if you reduce human personhood down to its most essential level, what you have is still a male human being or a female human being. As we will see, this is true even if the sex organs are removed. Sex (maleness or femaleness) is an essential part of what it is to be human.

Though the Fall affects everything, God’s created order is upheld by His providence even after the Fall. The Lord Jesus confirms what we have said about sex in the New Testament when teaching about marriage:

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:4-6).

This text has always been one of the ‘go-to’ texts to understand the Lord’s teaching about marriage. The Lord teaches that God’s creation of marriage remains in force after the Fall. But the times in which we live force us to go back to this text and recognize more is here. The Lord also tells us that the fundamental law of marriage is tied inseparably to God’s creation of males and females. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother….” For what cause? Because He created them “male and female.” Thus, not only is it the case that the reality of marriage between a man and a woman for life remains true after the Fall, but the fundamental reality that undergirds that truth, namely, that God created male humans and female humans remains true after the Fall. The one is dependent on the other.

For this reason, even after Elijah was taken to heaven, he remained male. When he appeared on the mount of transfiguration, he appeared to Peter as a recognizably male being. And when we get to heaven, we too will remain male or female. When our bodies rise from the dead and we are ushered into the new heavens and new earth, we will not be sexless, but we will retain our maleness or femaleness. It is true that marriage will no longer exist, and procreation and intercourse will likewise cease (Matt. 22:30), but we will somehow remain who we are as creations of God. Grace does not annihilate creation. Instead, glorification will exalt creation to its highest potential, filling its cup to the brim with the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Exactly what that looks like for sexed beings in the new heavens and new earth, no one on earth knows. Will we have external or internal genitalia? If so, for what purpose? If not, what will we look like? But not knowing the answers to those questions does not change the fact that we will be male beings or female beings for all eternity.

The testimony of our cells

When biologists dig down into the building-blocks of human beings as deeply as they are able, they still discover maleness or femaleness. In biology the definition of “sex” is based on the organization of the being for reproductive function. The male gives genetic material for reproduction, and his biology is organized for him to be able to do so. The female receives genetic material and gestates new beings, and the female’s biology is organized for her to be able to do so.1 Yet, what allows for this difference is the genetic makeup ofthe cells of males and females. As a 2001 study by the National Academy of Sciences puts it, “every cell has a sex.”2 The objective cellular basis for male or female is the presence or absence of the Y chromosome—or, more particularly, a gene on the Y chromosome called the SRY gene. 3 This gene is found 99.998 percent of the time on the Y chromosome.4 If that SRY gene is present there in the cells of a being, the being is male. If that gene is not there, the being is female. There is a host of developments that the presence or absence of that SRY gene sets into motion, of course, and there are things that can go wrong at times in those developments. Nonetheless, every being who has the SRY gene is male, and every being who does not is female. And every single cell in a male has an SRY gene. Conversely, every single cell in a female does not have an SRY gene.

The presence or absence of the SRY gene is determined at (and by) fertilization.

An X-carrying sperm produces a female (XX) embryo, and a Y-carrying sperm on which is found the SRY gene produces a male (XY) embryo. Hence the chromosomal sex of the embryo is determined at fertilization. As soon as there is a new human being, that being is of a definite sex.5

Every single one of the SRY genes in the 30 million cells of a man cries out in judgment and even mockery of his attempt to change his maleness to femaleness. Given voice, the cells would declare, “Dressing a certain way will not change your sex! Puberty blockers will not change your sex. Even a sex-change operation will not change your sex. The change cannot be made! It is impossible! If the feat is genuinely attempted, you die, for maleness is in every single one of your cells!”

Similarly, every SRY gene in the cells of the 4 billion males on earth cries out in judgment and even mockery of the female’s attempt to change her femaleness to maleness. Changing her look, changing her pronouns, mutilating her God-given breasts and genitalia will not do it, they remind her. Every SRY gene cries out, “But I am not there in you! It cannot be done. You are female in every single one of your cells!”

The failure of liberalism

The voice of those genes is merely an echo of the witness of the Word of God to this age. Every moment of every day the Scriptures cry out in Genesis 1:27, “Male and female created he them!” That means preachers, teachers, churches, and denominations who are abandoning the most obvious of general revelations and the most simple of special revelations to embrace the redefinition of sex and gender are denying the unified, clear, and persistent revelation of God. Predictably, those who do so have already abandoned the truth that every Word of Scripture is the full, complete revelation of God. These have doubted the reliability of the first chapters of Genesis long before their conclusions about sex and gender. Kissing the feet of the culture is their first priority. Instead of heeding the call of Scripture “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:14), these embrace every wind of doctrine passing through, no matter how contrary to God’s Word and even to common sense it is. They have paved the way for the creature to declare himself the creator, setting himself above God to determine his own gender. They have proclaimed human beings as nothing more than animals and told humanity to submit to their base impulses and to celebrate them. They have lied, calling men, women and women, men; defying God’s unalterable good and distinguishing work. Far from heeding the call to shine the light of truth into the midst of darkness, they snuff out the light and plunge people into darkness.

This is not love. Some of God’s sheep follow behind, including some who struggle with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. In II Kings 6 Elisha and the sons of the prophets build a house, as every officebearer in Christ’s church is called to do. This house, built by the prophets, is the church as the dwelling place of God’s people. This requires cutting down the trees of man’s wisdom with the axe head of the Word of God. When the axe head falls off and sinks to the bottom of the pond, the church has abandoned the Word. How can the church fell the trees of secularism with a handle and no head! May these leaders, churches, and followers together cry out “Alas, master!” and may the Spirit of Christ recover the axe head again—a return to a firm trust in the reliability of the Scriptures. Scripture and creation together cry, “Turn ye, turn ye, for ‘male and female created he them!’”

1 See, for example, Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of “sex”: “The sum of features by which members of species can be divided into two groups—male and female—that complement each other reproductively.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online, accessed 7/28/2022.

2 Theresa M. Wizemann and Mary-Lou Pardue, “Every Cell Has a Sex,” Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter? 2001 ( NBK222291).

3 “It is the overriding presence of a gene on the Y chromosome [SRY] that results in development of the male gonadal phenotype [physical display of maleness].” Wizemann and Pardue, “Every Cell Has a Sex.”

4 The .002 percent of the time the SRY gene is not on the Y chromosome will be discussed briefly in another article.

5 T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, quoted in Anderson, When Harry Became Sally, 78.