Foundations of Marriage IX

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This week we will be addressing masculinity, and how men are different from women. Next week, the topic will be femininity, and how women are different from men. The central concern here is not biology (male and female), but the broader question of masculinity and femininity.

The Text:

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).


This is a text we have already considered, but we need to consider the ramifications of it further. We have seen that the passage is talking about a covenantal hierarchy—the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and the man is the head of the woman. But we should also note that headship entails authority (in the biblical sense). This authority which takes responsibility sacrificially is the heart of masculinity.

Masculine and Feminine:

In the human race, these categories of masculinity and femininity are incarnate in male and female, but this is not the only place they are incarnate. Consider how this language of masculinity and femininity applies in various settings. This is not a dualistic principle (some yin and yang), but rather a hierarchical, layered and Trinitarian reality. Someone can be masculine in one relationship and feminine in another. This is because masculinity is authority, sacrifice, responsibility, and initiative, and femininity is submission, obedience, gratitude, and responsiveness. To the extent that someone is legitimately in authority, sacrifices, takes responsibility and initiative, to that extent such a person is being “masculine.” To the extent that someone submits, obeys, expresses gratitude, and responds to initiative, to that extend such a person is being “feminine.”

We are not to look deep inside to try to find masculine and feminine “essences,” but rather we are to accept our created natures as a given, and then learn to see them obediently in various relations.

So let’s see how this plays out. God the Father is masculine with regard to God the Son. Remember that we are taught to call Him Father. And God the Son is described as being masculine toward us, His bride, the Church. He is the Bridegroom, and we are the Bride. And remember here that a good half of the Bride is made up of males. In marriage, the man is the head of the woman, and so in this relation, he is masculine, and she is feminine. But take this one step further—imagine a godly Christian mother facing down a defiant, two-year-old son. She is female, he is male, but is that the end of the story? Not at all.

God the Father is not Male:

God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. This alone should show us that masculinity is not to be defined as “being male.” And yet, God the Father is ultimately masculine—His Fatherhood is the fatherhood from which all earthly fatherhood derives its reality (Eph. 3:14-15). We do not call Him Father because we have projected our notions of fatherhood up into the heavens. Rather, a dim reflection of His masculinity has been projected,

among other places, onto human maleness. So, according to the design of God, when a man marries a woman, he is commanded to enact the role of masculinity, and he is equipped by God to do so. This enactment is in line with how God made him. To the extent that he has difficulty doing this, it should be understood as a function of sin, and not a function of creaturely limits.

Men Are Different From Women:

The following characteristics are not how men are to be in every relationship they may find themselves in. In fact, in some settings, where they are called to be submissive, obedient, grateful, and responsive, they may learn to enact a “feminine” role in such a way as to make them sympathetic to their wives, seeing as their wives are called to the same thing with regard to them. For example, when a man lives dutifully as an employee, a suborinate in the military, a church member, or as a son, this can all be used to make men understanding as they live with their wives (1 Pet. 3:7). It can also be used to show wives that their husbands are not the kind of men who simply utter decrees from on high. They are in authority, but also visibly under authority, and they know what it is like.

We said earlier that masculinity was authority, sacrifice, responsibility, and initiative. Let us consider these in turn, and remember that we are talking about men in relation to their wives.


being masculine involves authority and rule, and the right to make decisions that affect others. But in rule, and in making decisions, it is paramount that husbands remember what authority is for. “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction . . .” (2 Cor. 10:8). And we see the same kind of thing with regard to civil authority. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2). That is the necessary combination—righteousness, authority, and consequent rejoicing. And when this is abused, women are tempted to usurp authority, which of course is not becoming (1 Tim. 2:12).


the masculinity of Christ is clearly set forth in His willingness to lay down His life. Not only did He do this at the climax of His life when He suffered on the cross, but He also did this throughout the course of His perfect sacrificial life (Eph. 5: 25). It is impossible to die well without living well. And in that “incident” over the checkbook, or the garbage, or the misplaced tool, a man is “telegraphing” his willingness or unwillingness to die for his wife.


Christ did not just die instead of His bride, He died on account of His bride. Now of course sinful husbands cannot reenact a substitutionary death, but nevertheless all husbands are commanded to imitate a substitutionary death (Eph. 5:27-28). This is the single most difficult thing for selfish husbands to learn. Until the Holy Spirit touches a man’s heart, this is not just an insurmountable height to climb (with “climbing” well understood), it is an indecipherable mass of unintelligible symbols.


and in a wedding ceremony, the bridegroom does not wait for the bride to come to him—he goes and gets her. He takes the initiative. Again, this is what Jesus did for us. This is what masculinity looks like—it grasps the initiative. Unless it is resting (from the work that follows initiative), sitting around squandering time is a functional denial of masculinity.

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