Genesis 2:18-25 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
If you’re just joining us, welcome. To bring you up to speed (and to refresh those who have been here), I’ve been preaching through Genesis for a little while and we’ve come to the end of chapter 2. This is my third sermon on this passage. In the first, I drew your attention to a few things things—like the incompleteness of man without woman, the creation of the woman, and the special union created by God for this man and woman (marriage). In particular, I made ten observations about the first ever marriage, which is described in this passage. In the second sermon I began to look more closely at each of the ten observations. We got through the first four last week. We’ll get through the rest (and two more) this week.
The goal here is not simply to fill our minds with facts about the first marriage. And it’s not to simply give us a few tips to make our own marriages happier. The goal here is to see marriage in all its God-infused glory, in order that we might enter into and live out our marriages in such a way as to reveal all of their God-infused glory. In short, the goal is to help us approach marriage in such a way as to bring glory to God—to help us marry and be married in such a way as to help our spouse, our kids, our church, and the world around us see the wisdom, love, power, mercy, grace, goodness, and majesty of God. Have you ever thought of your marriage as designed to accomplish all of that? I hope to help you with that again today.
From the outset, however, I want to make three things crystal clear: 1) First, none of us have done this perfectly. All of us—even if you’ve never been married—have already fallen short of the glory of God in marriage in our thoughts, attitudes, expectations, and execution. In looking at Genesis (and all of the bible’s teaching on marriage) we are seeing the ideal marriage, but none of us have attained it. In that way, we’re all in the same boat.
And that leads me to the second thing I want to make clear from the beginning: 2) There is forgiveness, healing, and strength offered to everyone in the gospel. Jesus died to bring us forgiveness for every way we’ve strayed from God’s perfect marriage path; every stray thought, word, attitude, affection, and action. Jesus died on the cross to bring healing for every marital wound and scar; inflicted by and upon us. And Jesus rose from the dead to be our strength for obedience; to enable us to approach marriage as God intends. All of this together means that for those who trust in Jesus, whatever your marital past or present, you can have a fresh start today. It is not too late. It’s never too late in this life.
And third: 3) Your primary identity and help do not come from being married; they come from God. Marriage is not the ultimate path to godliness, significance, fulfillment, fruitfulness, or fellowship. Union with Christ and his Church are the ultimate path to those things. Although marriage is the ordinary track that God has for his people, it is not the only one or even the best one for everyone. Jesus was not married. The apostle Paul was not married. In fact, the apostle Paul even said that there’s a certain sense in which not being married is better for, “those who marry will have worldly troubles” (1 Corinthians 7:28). In other words, the point of Genesis and the rest of the bible’s teaching on marriage is not that those who are single are without access to certain aspects of a godly life. Rather, the point of the bible’s teaching on marriage is to describe God’s purpose and plan for marriage and give instructions on it for those who enter into it; it is to tell us the meaning of marriage, not that our meaning comes from marriage.
With all of that ringing in our ears, let’s pray and then look at a few more aspects of godly marriage in Genesis.
LESSONS FROM THE FIRST MARRIAGE
As I mentioned just a minute ago, we looked at the first four observations on marriage from Genesis 2:18-25 last week. Very briefly, here they are again:
- Marriage was designed and instituted by God. It was not the idea of the man or woman and it was not defined by the man or woman. It was God’s idea and God alone defined it.
- Marriage is covenantal. It involves a promise between two individuals, before God, to remain together whatever might come; and here’s the key: not because either spouse is worthy, but as an expression of God’s unrelenting commitment to his sinful people.
- Marriage is heterosexual. It is between a man and a woman.
- Marriage is human. The man could find no suitable wife from among the animals.
With that, let’s continue on to a few more awesome aspects of marriage as God designed it, defined it, and delivered it to us.
Marriage Is Exclusive
Marriage is between one woman and one man and is to be elevated above all other earthly relationships.
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife…
Prior to marriage, for most people, their relationship with their parents is primary. Even that relationship though, as important as it is, must take a back seat to your husband/wife in marriage. For those who are married, your spouse, above your parents, friends, and even your kids, must be your first relationship after God. God designed marriage to be exclusive.
In Titus 2 older women are to train younger women to be “husband-lovers”. Of this term, in their book Love that Lasts, Betsy Ricucci writes “The term [Paul] uses speaks of warm and tender affection…Other than Jesus Christ, there should be no one I love more than [my husband], and of course my husband should be the only person I love with the passion, closeness, and intimacy of marriage” (LtL, 48). That is the essence of leaving your parents and holding fast to your husband.
Men, to hold fast to our wives is to reserve all romantic intimacy for our wives alone—in our minds, hearts, and actions. It is to be jealous for our wives as God is jealous for his people (Exodus 34:14). It is to cherish her, to know her, and to prioritize her above all others. Under God, no person, hobby, job, ministry, or relationship should be above her and she should continually be reminded of and feel that.
In other words, once again, the fact that marriage is exclusive, as is taught in Genesis 2:24 (and more), means that no earthly person or thing may be allowed to rise above our spouse in our affection or allegiance. This takes conviction, commitment, work, and most of all, the power of God. Without these things we are certain to let our eyes and hearts and minds wander and other things creep in. With these things though, we are able to honor God in the exclusivity of our marriages. Are there any ways you need God’s help to make your marriage more exclusive? If so, know that he will give it and be glorified by it.
Marriage Is Permanent
The next thing to see is that marriage, by God’s design, is permanent. Genesis 2:24 describes the marriage union as becoming one flesh.
24 … a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Becoming one flesh describes a physical and spiritual melding that cannot be undone in life. You simply cannot rip joined flesh apart without doing irreparable harm.
In the Bible, the word flesh is used to describe what a person is at the core of his or her being. Hence when two people become one flesh, they unite at the deepest level. They become, as it were, ontologically one … It is a fusion of souls, an organic commingling of two individual lives (Savage, No Ordinary Marriage, 92).
But there’s more to be said of the meaning of “one flesh”. Again, No Ordinary Marriage helps us to see this in beautiful language.
[Jesus said]: “‘ A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. [What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”] (Matt. 19: 5– 6). The second sentence points to a dynamic reorganization within marriage. Husbands and wives are no longer two apart but one together. Like the fusion of a sperm and an egg, they become a new organism. The fusion does not dissolve their original personalities but redirects those personalities toward each other in such a way that the best traits of each spill out into the other (Savage, No Ordinary Marriage, 93).
God alone, as we read in Jesus’ words, can do this. God alone can perform this joining miracle. But that should be of no surprise since God alone made marriage. What’s more, God’s design for this one flesh union is such that the two, having become one, are more than they were apart. How’s that for math? By God’s design, in marriage math one plus one equals one and one is more than two!
But what does that look like in real life? How does this kind of commitment to the permanence of marriage and the one flesh union play out in reality? One more time I want to defer to No Ordinary Marriage for the answer.
When a husband redirects the river of his passions— a river which normally would flow in the direction of his own ambitions and projects— into the interests of his wife, when he takes up her life and begins to live it as though it were his own, when he cancels a trip or an appointment or a sporting engagement in order to commit more time to fulfilling her needs, when he sits down after a busy day and initiates a conversation that truly taps into her heart, when he responds to her criticisms by gathering her tenderly into his arms— how can this not but draw in a wife!
And when a wife pours herself into the things that interest her husband, serving him at the point of his needs, redirecting the flow of her life to insure that he is receiving maximum refreshment, asking not whether he is ministering to her but only whether she is emptying her resources fully into him— how can this love not but draw in a husband (Savage, No Ordinary Marriage, 95)!
What a remarkable picture of marriage as God means us to experience it. Remember, none of us have done this perfectly, but with God’s Word we can know what we’re after, with God’s Son we can be forgiven of our failings, and with God’s Spirit we can begin afresh today in the power of God. How might you better communicate to your spouse that you understand marriage to be permanent?
Marriage Is Complementary
Next, God designed marriage to be a complementary relationship between the man and woman. That is, marriage is one way in which God supplies what each of the participants lacked individually.
While equal in value, worth, and image bearing, God designed men and women distinct in role. There are countless examples of this in the world around us. A nut and a bolt are equal in value, but distinct and complementary in role. Likewise, a lock is not better than a key and a key is not better than a lock—they are equally necessary and good—but they perfectly complement one another. Again, God made man and woman in marriage like that as well; in certain physical, emotional, and spiritual ways. We see the beginning of this in our passage for this morning.
Man needed a helper and God made woman to complement him as a helper (2:18).
Man needed a companion and God made woman to complement him in companionship (2:18).
God intended the marriage union to be a living image of the relationship between Jesus and the Church (more on that in a bit), and so he made man to represent Christ and woman to complement him as representative of the Church (2:23).
And there is much more that the bible will later say about the complementary nature of men and women in marriage (God made man for physical strength and women to complement him in emotional depth; man to desire respect and woman to complement him in desiring love; man to be strong in discipline and woman to complement him by being strong in tenderness, etc.).
Within this larger story of God’s created order, isn’t this a beautiful picture of marriage? Don’t you long for a marriage like this? Don’t you wish your marriage looked like this one? Let’s make sure to believe the right story around our marriages and tell the right story with our marriages. To that are some ways you could better celebrate God’s complementary design in your husband or wife?
Marriage Is Honorable and Holy
Marriage is exclusive, permanent, complementary, and by God’s design it is honorable and holy.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The fact that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed is another way to say that their marriage was honorable and holy. We know this because their first response after the fall (which was shameful and unholy, and which we’ll consider in just a minute) was to clothe themselves and hide. Marriage as God intends it is pure and righteous.
Practically this means filling our marriages with things that draw us closer to God. Practically it means reading and discussing the bible together, doing ministry together, raising kids in a home saturated with the gospel, encouraging one another to live in ways that are pleasing to God, investing in one another’s godliness, speaking well to and of your husband/wife, focusing on one another’s strengths, being quick to apologize and forgive, and constantly reminding one another of the gospel.
Let me mention one more thing this means on a practical level. It also means praying for and with one another. Both pastorally and personally I’ve found that this is one of the best indicators or relational intimacy and true marital health. It’s hard to pray together with any depth if there isn’t a mutual commitment to holiness and mutual trust in one another.
God made marriage and he made it exclusive, permanent, complementary, honorable and holy. What is one way that someone observing your marriage would notice its honorability and holiness? And what’s one way in which you’d like to trust God to grow your marriage in this way?
LESSONS ON MARRIAGE FROM THE FALL
Rightly read and understood, that’s a staggeringly beautiful picture of marriage. For those who love God it’s easy to see the wisdom and goodness and grace of God in marriage as He designed it. To truly grasp these aspects of marriage is to long for them in all marriages today. Imagine how much more beautiful and healthy and safe and fruitful the world would be if all marriages were like this. Imagine how much more fulfilling, joyful, and productive your marriage would be if it were like this.
And yet, as we all know all too well, not all marriages are like this, including our own. But why is that and what does that mean? Genesis answers both of those questions (or at least it begins to answer both). We’re not going to go too deeply into either of the answers since we’ll come to them shortly in Genesis, but they are necessary for a fuller picture of marriage so I at least want to mention them here.
Marriage Is Hard
Why are our marriages not like the ideal presented in Genesis 2:18-25? Why would we choose anything but this remarkable plan of God for our marriages? Why can marriage be so hard? Why can there be so much pain in marriage? All of this is because, as we find in the very next verses in Genesis, the very first man and woman rejected God’s design for them. What’s more, insodoing they brought utter chaos into the world and into every subsequent marriage. God gave them everything they needed to please him, live fully satisfied lives, and have a God-glorifying marriage. And yet, Adam and Eve chose instead to trust a crafty, lying, wicked snake (Genesis 3:1-7). They ate of the tree God commanded them not to eat of and suffered the consequences God promised as a result. The man and the woman forsook fellowship with God and one another and the consequences couldn’t have been steeper—for them and their offspring (Genesis 3:14-19).
Why is marriage so hard sometimes? Why is there so much pain in it sometimes? Marriage can be messy and frustrating and hard because Adam and Eve brought the curse of God upon themselves and us.
Marriage Is Redemptive
But is that it? Is that where marriage ends; in chaos, curse, and death? Or is there more? Praise be to God, that’s not where this story ends; that’s not where marriage ends. In between the fall and the curse of man and woman is the beginning of the greatest story of rescue and redemption ever told. In God’s words to—in his curse of—the serpent, we find this glimmer of hope…
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, … 15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Of course Adam and Eve did not and could not have fully understood this at the time, but we can because of Jesus. The curse is not the end of marriage because Jesus became a curse for marriage.
Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Marriage is exclusive, permanent, complementary, honorable and holy, hard, and … redemptive. That is, marriage is, as I have mentioned more than once, a picture and reminder of all that Jesus accomplished on the cross for his people. This is mysterious, but it is also glorious. Mine this mystery, Grace. Mine it for its God-given glory. Mine it for its marriage guidance and help. Mine it for its faith-strengthening, worship-fueling, and brokenness-restoring glory.
And as you do, remember that marriage belongs to God. Your marriage belongs to God. We will enter into it according to God’s design and for his purposes or we will know a kind of frustration and futility that few other relationships can produce. That is, we will enter into it as covenantal, heterosexual, human, exclusive, permanent, complementary, honorable and holy, and redemptive, or we will enter into it with pain and hardship.
But remember this, your great hope in marriage and life is not found in you or in your spouse. It is found in Christ alone. No Christian marriage is beyond help because Jesus defeated death and sin. And on the other end, no Christian marriage has ever exhausted all of its blessing because Jesus is infinitely glorious. Amen.