Only in the creation of mankind does God use a two-stage process, first creating what is by nature incomplete only to complete it in a second and separate act of creation. God structures the creation of mankind as an object lesson for mankind. Adam is created alone. Then, Adam learns that, in himself, he is incomplete. Adam needs another human being outside himself, of his essence but different, in order to do the mission God has given him.
The most significant thing about the difference between men and women is that there is a difference. In the fall, male and female receive different curses. The curse for the male affects his relationship to the world: what was a home designed as his workshop becomes for him a place of frustrated work and death. The curse for the woman affects her relationship with people, her husband and children. Yet both curses will clearly affect male and female as the two are intertwined.
The vast majority of Scripture is about and addressed to people without regard to their sex. While men are the frequent focus of Scripture, these characters are not focused on because they are men but because they are covenant representatives. Concerning our life before God, Scripture addresses men and women in distinct ways only in a relatively small number of places, yet those places are intriguing. Most of what Scripture says concerning male and female addresses their relationship together in the natural family or in the family of God.
Our experience teaches us that our life is greatly influenced by our sex. But what we learn from experience does not always reflect God’s intention in his design. For instance, the average man is stronger than the average woman. In the fallen world, this is the basis for the terrible reality that men can be a threat to women. Yet, from Scripture, we learn that a husband is meant to care for his wife as Christ does the church. By God’s design of the family, a man’s strength is meant for the good of those he serves. What a different world this would be if male strength was synonymous with safety and provision and not with conflict and harm.
Experience teaches us that female beauty gives a woman power to influence men. The world encourages women to use all they have to compete against men. Scripture teaches that a wife incarnates the beauty of God in her care and support for her husband. Outside of marriage men and women are designed to work together as brothers and sisters in peace, complementing one another’s gifts.
The Triune God, one being in three persons, chose to reveal his image as one human race of many individuals each with one of two sexes. Exactly how that revelation maps out, he leaves as something of a mystery. In both special and general revelation, one thing, at least, is clear: unity of male and female is life; disunity of male and female is death.