In some Christian circles there is confusion about the gender of God.This has been accentuated with the feminist movement of the last few decades.What can we learn about God’s gender by looking only at Scripture without adding personal desires?First, we must recognize that the Word of God pictures God as masculine, as feminine, and as gender neutral. We need to come to a reasonable conclusion based entirely on what God’s Word says while understanding the culture at the time the Bible was written.
Male Images of God~When the Scriptures speak of God in gender terms it is most often in a male image.A well known example is the Father image.Perhaps the best known example is the model prayer Jesus gave His disciples (often mislabeled The Lord’s Prayer).“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).Another example is God as a bridegroom.“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5b). “Jesus said to them [speaking of Himself], ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast’” (Matthew 9:15).One of Scripture’s metaphors for the church universal is as Christ’s bride.
Female Images of God~Sometimes the Scriptures speak of God in terms of a female image.For example in Isaiah we find God comparing Himself to a woman giving birth.“I have held My peace a long time,I have been still and restrained Myself.Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once” (Isaiah 42:14).Furthering this image we see God as a nurturing mother.“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.As they called them, so they went from them;they sacrificed to the Baals [false gods], and burned incense to carved images.I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them.I drew them with gentle cords,with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.I stooped and fed them” (Hosea 11:1-4). In these passage we see a tender and loving God raising His children—who incidentally in this passage are referred to in a masculine gender.
While on earth the Messiah uses the feminine gender of a hen with His chicks. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Cultural Factors~Why does Scripture present some images of God to us with gender connotations?The economy of the time was primarily agricultural.The fertility of the soil was paramount in thinking and many false gods arose out of the focus on fertility.The pagan culture of the time created many gods and goddesses.An Old Testament example was Ashtoreth, a goddess of the Canaanites, and is found in many passages (i.e., Judges 10:13; 1 Samuel 7:3-4, 12:10, 31:10).A New Testament example was the goddess Artemis (Acts 19:27).Given the culture of the day we should not be surprised at the use of anthropomorphisms (describing what is not human in human terms) in Scripture.Describing God’s masculinity and His feminine qualities differentiated the one true God from all others.In other words, the key issue involved here is God effectively communicating to mankind.
Gender-Neutral Images of God~Scripture also speaks of God as a Spirit—not just as the Spirit of God being one member of the Trinity. The Messiah said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
Key Factors~First, we know that “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Second, we know that there will not be sexual differentiation in heaven.We read, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of Godin heaven’” (Matthew 22:29-30).Third, it is worth noting that the masculine images of God are quite definite (i.e., Father) whereas the feminine images are less sharp (more like similes: prefaced by words such as “like”).
Conclusion~(1) We should not think of God as either male or female in the same sense that we consider mammals as male or female.Rather God’s characteristics resemble both sexes.(2) In no way does the Word of God imply that men are more like God than women are. (3) The word pictures we have of God are meant to allow us to relate and communicate to Him more effectively.
don’t miss this~Do you marvel in the fact that you were created in God’s image?
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