“Two Become One”
When you get to v18 in chapter 2, something should strike you as unusual, surprising, not fitting into the rest of the story so far. Because, if you remember in Genesis 1 – not poetry but still poetic – has rhythm & repeated refrains; and one of those repeated refrains was the repetition of God’s evaluations of all his work of creation – it was good; it was good; it was good; and then finally, after the climax of creation – the creation of humanity in both male and female, then, it was very good.
Genesis 2, however, introduces a break in that pattern – here, you see God speak again, but this time, instead of his evaluation being good, for the first time you hear his evaluation “it is not good”.
Here you see something that was left out in chapter 1 – remember, chapter 1 is a “zoomed-out” broad-lens look; while Genesis 2 is a “zoomed-in” look at some of the aspects of creation from Chapter 1, and here is a “zooming-in” on the sixth day, before God was finished with his work on that day – while it was still in process – and so in that unfinished state , he announces that incompleteness by his evaluation “it is not good”. And of course, God intended from the beginning to complete his creation to the state of “good”, but this pause in the process isn’t because God realized he made a mistake, but because he wants to teach us something essential about ourselves and how he created us:
Because the thing that was not good, was “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Humanity was designed to live in fellowship with other humans; yet at that point, there was only 1 human, Adam. And that was not good.
If you remember from last week, the garden of Eden was the place of perfect and unhindered fellowship with God – but surprisingly, shockingly: that apparently wasn’t enough.
Certainly, humans need fellowship with God more than they need fellowship with other humans. But nevertheless, they still need fellowship with other humans; fellowship with God isn’t all that they need, and something is still lacking such that even when in fellowship with God, they still need other people – they still need friends, companions, community.
This need for community is part of the image of God:
If you remember back to ch 1, before God creates humanity he says, “let us make humanity in our image”, and then it goes on to say that he made male and female in the image of God.
“Our image”, Christians believe, is a glimpse into the inner life of the triune God – that our God is 1 God (not 3 gods, but 1 God), in 3 persons, and all 3 distinct persons are the one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
There is a plurality in God – God, for all eternity, lived in community and fellowship and relationship with himself.
And humanity images God by being created as a relational being – created for community.
This need for community is part of the image of God;
This need for community was present before the fall into sin:
It is part of our person-hood. It is not an added-on aspect of humanity only after sin entered the picture.
Sin increases our need for community, but it didn’t create our need for community.
So, if we at our creation needed friendship and fellowship and relationships and community, then how much more do we need those things in our sinfulness.
And to deny your need for those things is to deny not only your sinfulness but your humanity and the inherent weakness and finitude of it; and the loneliness which results from sin having fractured the fellowship God intended to exist among humanity.
Henri Nouwen writes that “Loneliness is without doubt one of the most widespread diseases of our time.”
And, the church ought to be a place; and christian homes ought to be a place; and christians ought to be a people; who provide community to those who are experiencing the painful alienation and loneliness of our sinful world.
Humanity needs community, and something interesting happens next: God says he will make a suitable helper for him; but first he brings all the other animals he had made before Adam, and Adam inspects them all, names them all, and though those animals were part of God’s very good evaluation of his creation, among them (v20) no suitable helper was found for Adam.
Animals, are a good part of God’s creation. People love animals. I love animals, our kids love animals, humans need animals and they are God’s creation and so should treat them with care and kindness. And, animals can provide a degree of companionship. But, animals aren’t people and can’t replace human friendship.
Among them no suitable helper was found – not because God thought maybe there would be, but in order for God to demonstrate to Adam that it was not good for him to be alone, and to prepare Adam to receive this precious gift with thankfulness and appreciation for it.
So, God creates for man, woman. And, when he meets his bride, something very rare in the history of men happens – he bursts out into poetry – so this parade of animals apparently worked – it created the realization in him of his longing for a suitable helper which was only found in woman, such that when he saw woman he was … pleased – pleased enough to write poetry.
Now, you might think, and people have often thought, that this idea of woman being a helper is derogatory; but in fact this presentation of woman is very dignified.
In fact, the introduction of the animals into the story is not to lower the dignity of animals but to exalt the dignity of woman – that nothing in all of God’s creation compares to her; and in fact, if you remember that creation of humanity in ch 1 was the climax of God’s creation, here in chapter two, woman is the climax of the climax of God’s creation.
And this term “helper” to us might sound derogatory, but is anything but. In fact, in the bible God is called the helper of his people – and it is a reference to his supplying strength and help to his people in the context of their lack and need.
And, so, I don’t mean to say that woman is superior to man or that man is superior to woman – they are equally created in God’s image; but this idea of helper implies not inferiority but mutual interdependence.
Helper, means that strength and help is supplied in the context of another’s lack. And that is the design of humanity – that each of us on our own have lack and need, and that need and lack is met in another’s strength. And our strength supplies the what another lacks and needs.
This is no one-sided thing either way; but rather something that binds us to one another by virtue of our need to find what we lack by ourselves supplied in one another.
And, the establishment of marriage results from God’s acknowledgment of humanity’s need for companionship.
Marriage is our last creation ordinance we’ll be looking at. Marriage is something God intended from creation; it establishes the family as the basic social unit necessary for human flourishing and the breakdown of which is at least in part the cause of endless social ills; and it is the primary, but not exclusive, place where humanity meets it’s need for companionship.
Humanity needs marriage – of course, without the creation of woman and the establishment of marriage the human race would not have been able to multiply and be fruitful and spread out through the earth; without it, the first man would have been alone and that was not good.
Humanity needs marriage; but not every human needs to be married.
Marriage isn’t necessary for all and it isn’t the exclusive place where humanity finds met it’s need for companionship – as if an unmarriage person is only half a person: It’s important to remember that the biblical text doesn’t say 1/2 and 1/2 become 1 flesh; but 2 become 1 flesh; which means that while marriage brings about a deep intimacy and unity, before marriage is nevertheless 1 full person, not half a person.
Jesus as a single man was the perfect human, and single people are fully human, not incomplete, not second-class citizens in the body of Christ, not un-grown-ups.
The church often overlooks, or marginalizes, or looks down upon, single people – rather than seeking to bring them fully into the body of Christ. Maybe not purposefully; maybe not with malicious motivations; but the church ought to be the place where single people can find community in a world where loneliness is epidemic – through the deep friendships and radical hospitality that ought to exist in the church.
The church ought to value family but not idolize it in such a way such that those who don’t belong to the picture perfect idea of what family is can still find family in the body of Christ.
So, not each person needs to be married or to pursue marriage; but, marriage is presented here as the highpoint of human companionship:
Matthew Henry, on woman formed out of rib: “Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
You see this in the odd math of marriage: that in marriage, unlike any other relationship, 1 + 1 makes 1. v24 – a man (1) leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife (+1), and they become 1 flesh. In the words of Jesus, the two become 1.
(Future week, look at the issue of marriage being between 1 male and 1 female), but for now, I just want to point out the exclusivity of this:
1 + 1 = 1
That’s only true in marriage – in friendship, the more the merrier; exclusivity in friendship is called a clique – it’s not a virtue; but in marriage it is a virtue, because God’s institution of marriage something unique happens where 1 + 1 = 1; there is an exclusivity such that the 1 man + the 1 woman create a new entity in which there is room for no other – no other can enter into that same bond without destroying the bond.
This is why there is no room for polygamy or adultery in marriage. Because 1 + 1 = 1 and no other can enter into the odd math of marriage.
That is why in the marriage vows, you promise to take this person, and forsake all others – that no one else is allowed to enter in to threaten the exclusivity of this relationship – your attitude towards others looks like “forsaking” compared to you commitment to the 1 you are bound to.
And of course that doesn’t mean that married people have no other people in their lives, but they have no others that have the same access to the benefits and privileges and intimacy of the marriage relationship – it is exclusive, because it is characterized by unparalleled intimacy.
The intimacy that marriage brings, in God’s moral order, is reserved for marriage alone; 2 become 1 flesh means a joining together in the most intimate of ways; and, v25 – Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame – signifies the openness that characterized the relationship before sin entered in and spoiled it.
Intimacy is best defined (not my own definition) as total openness, and total acceptance. Someone who knows you – the real you – everything about you – even the not so presentable parts of you – someone knows you all the way, and accepts you still – accepts you no matter what.
This is why in the marriage vows – you promise, for better or for worse to accept and remain faithful – and see, this commitment to faithfulness is what enables the opening up of intimacy in such a deep way – because if there is security – if there is confidence that I will be accepted and that the other will remain faithful to me for better or worse, then I can open myself up – make myself vulnerable – in such a deep way. That is the design of God.
And that is the intimacy of marriage – and this intimacy – this one-flesh-ness with no shame – is not just physical intimacy; it is physical – and in fact this then becomes the foundation for God’s law that this physical intimacy between man and woman only occur in marriage, never outside of it; because only in marriage is there the context of acceptance and faithfulness that can open the way to true intimacy and openness.
it is physical, but not just physical – it is emotional and spiritual – a total joining together in every sense – not that each person ceases to be their own person with their own thoughts and wills and preferences, but that they cease to only consider only their thoughts and wills and preferences without regard to the other – that’s what intimacy involves – dying to self and ceasing to live only for self, in recognition that you don’t belong to yourself but to the other. And you an entrust yourself & open yourself up to the other rather than guard yourself and close yourself off from the other, because there is the context of faithfulness and acceptance.
Actually, I should say, permanence-ish. Or, provisional permanence – which seems like a contradiction in terms but let me explain:
Marriage is not permanent. It is an odd mixture of temporary and permanent.
In its ideal state, it is permanent until death – v24 “and sticks to his wife” ; and in it’s unideal state, it is permanent until or unless the bond is broken.
permanent in this life only: That’s why widows can remarry if they wish and that isn’t wrong or sinful – and that’s why in the vows you say, “till death do us part”.
The only way out of marriage that doesn’t involve a sinful action, is death (death is the result of sin, but it’s not sinful to die).
And once one of the parties of a marriage dies, the marriage is over. And, I don’t know how else to understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:30 than that there will be no marriage in the new heavens and earth. That doesn’t mean that those who were married won’t know or remember that; but it means that the things for which marriage was established – companionship in the midst of loneliness, help in the midst of lack, procreation of humanity and filling the earth – those things will no longer be needed, and so marriage will no longer be needed.
Marriage is ordinarily permanent but only from the perspective of this life – from the perspective of the next life, it’s temporary.
So, don’t idolize it: maybe you have an unideal marriage – everyone does. or maybe you want to be married and aren’t – and maybe in those situations you will face struggles in this life different from some around you but remember that from the perspective of eternity you don’t miss out on anything.
Don’t idolize it; but also, don’t fail to appreciate it. If you’re married, you have this short life to appreciate and cherish your spouse – don’t miss the opportunity.
Don’t idolize it; don’t fail to appreciate it; but also: choose wisely: the only way out is death (and not suicide or murder) or, in certain situations, divorce.
In our culture, divorce is acceptable for any and every reason – and that’s even the attitude that many Christians and churches have towards marriage – that as soon as it becomes difficult (which it inevitably will); or as soon as you feel incompatible or fall out of love or have regret about your choice (which you very well may).
When those things happen, people think that those things are justifications to end the marriage – even Christians think that – and that is shameful.
That instead of choosing love and commitment and faithfulness, they think, I must have married the wrong person and seek the easy way out believing the lie that if things aren’t easy then you didn’t marry the right person. That’s a lie from the devil!
“How do you know if you’re married to the right person? Check the name on the marriage certificate.”
Divorce for any and every reason is wrong – not a Christian attitude towards God’s gift of marriage; but just as wrong, is to say divorce is never a legitimate option.
Because sin has entered the picture, there are, in a sinful world, biblical allowances for divorce. Divorce is always the result of sin, but it’s not always sinful – sometimes it is the right path.
NT gives 2 situations in which divorce is not required, but permissible:
- If adultery has occurred, the offended spouse has the right to a divorce and subsequent remarriage; They can choose to forgive and reconcile, or they can forgive and not reconcile. Christians always are called to forgive; but since the marriage bond – the “1 flesh” union – has been broken by the adultery, they are under no obligation to reconcile.
- In the case of abandonment. If a spouse simply refuses to fulfill marriage vows such that the marriage can’t be continued in any meaningful way, and that can’t be remedied by the help of the law or the church, then the spouse who has been abandoned can pursue divorce. And desertion isn’t only when 1 person leaves but also is when 1 person forces the other to leave because of violent dangerous threatening behavior – abuse.
The judgment of the church should be involved before seeking divorce for reasons like this, but: it is not your Christian duty to live in danger or terror if you are being abused or terrorized by your spouse. That is a denial of the marriage vow and bond. Too often, women have gone to church leaders for help in situations like these and have been failed by the church – not believed, or blamed, or simply told to endure and submit.
That is not your Christian duty. You need to seek help and protection – perhaps help from the law, certainly help from the church.
An order to marriage is seen here in Genesis 2 and affirmed in the rest of the bible.
Now, I feel that I won’t be able to deal with this adequately and perhaps you’ll have questions which you’re always free to ask.
But in previous weeks – we saw that both male and female are equally and fully the image of God. Both equal in standing before God and dignity as his creatures, and a couple weeks ago I stated that any view that considers one sex inferior to the other is unchristian. There is no difference in standing or worth or value between male and female; but that doesn’t mean there is no difference.
And in fact, we see that male and female are different, they are not interchangeable but they are different and complementary.
The bible affirms that the husband has the role of being in authority in the family. In Genesis, that is seen in the husband being created first, the woman being his helper (not inferiority but ordering of roles).
That’s affirmed in the NT – and always rooted back to Genesis 1 & 2 before sin entered the world – when things were still as God had created, unaffected by sin.
Most famously: Ephesians 5:21-33
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
To many today, this is shocking – to suggest that a woman should submit to her husband. But, in Paul’s day, the shocking thing wouldn’t be what he said to the wives but to the husbands – that the husband ought to lay down his life in humble service for the wife.
See, the husband is the head of the wife. But the way he exercises his authority isn’t by being “the king of his castle” but by like his savior washing feet – taking the low humble road of loving service not insisting upon his way but seeing to die to himself for the good of those around him.
Often this idea is understood in terms of decision-making, that the husband gets to “put his foot down” or “have the final word”; or it’s understood in terms of door-mat submission where the wife doesn’t get to have an opinion. But those are both wrong because those both are absent of love.
But Paul gives us a better way to understand this idea of how to exercise authority: love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.
The husband is the head of the wife. But he lives out that role by dying to himself to seek the good of his wife and family.
And the wife is called to submit – to die to herself, in order to love and respect her husband.
There’s much more that I could say about that; but, I must say that Paul there says marriage is a picture of the gospel.
And it’s only when the gospel is gripping your heart that you will have the strength to live out how God calls you to live in marriage:
There is no perfect marriage. Sin introduced conflict not just between us and God but between us and us – us and one another – even into the closest most intimate and sacred of relationships.
Genesis 3:16, after sin enters the picture, part of the curse of sin now affects the husband/wife relationship: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Difficult verse; but generally: where there was once harmony, now there is hostility; where there was once peace, now there is struggle resulting from sin against one another.
If you’re married, you are married to a sinner. I don’t need to know anything about your marriage or you to be able to say with confidence, you are married to a sinner. But you know what the bigger problem is? You are a sinner!
And if you want your marriage to last; you need to be able to admit that; and confess and repent; and you need to be able to forgive when your spouse does the same.
And you can only do that when you know the forgiveness of Jesus who died for you – that you are a sinner before God, and he has given you his forgiveness so how could you now not forgive?
And, you have the righteousness of Christ who died for you, so why can’t you admit that you are a sinner? See, the gospel frees us from bitterness and unforgiveness and the need to seek revenge or make someone pay; and the gospel frees us from the childish game of needing to always be right and never admit your wrong. And if you can do those things; confess, repent, and forgive because Christ forgave you; and if you can remember how Christ gave himself for you, and so you know can give of yourself in service and love; then you can have a healthy marriage.