Genesis 2 - Marriage

Genesis 2:18–25 is really the foundational text on marriage.   

Up until this point in the book of Genesis, the Lord’s evaluation of His work has been positive, with each successive act of creation being declared good (1:1–2:3). However, after Adam had been placed in the garden of Eden, we get the first declaration that things are not good. In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Adam is alone, which means that he cannot fulfil the Creator’s mandate for humanity to “be fruitful and multiply.” Adam is without a helper to aid him in exercising “dominion” over the earth (1:28). And Adam cannot properly reflect the Godhead (in which is the Father, Son and Spirit) because he has no peer with whom he can relate. So even though Adam was created as a personal being, he cannot image God by himself. He needs a partner to love; who is equal to him, yet different. And the Lord solves these issues by creating a “helper.”

The word helper is a word that points to one who is equal to Adam intellectually and spiritually, and able to work with him to fulfil their common calling to rule over the earth for the glory of God. The woman is equal, yet different. Adam will later call this woman Eve, because she was the first woman and mother of all the living (2:18–25; 3:20). And God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage. So let’s think about the gift of marriage, and consider three things in particular.

Let’s think about these three things:

  • The ordinance of marriage

  • Complementarianism

  • Being one flesh

The ordinance of marriage

In the beginning God made mankind binary. As the Lord Jesus says, in the beginning “God made them male and female.” He created them equal yet different, and he created them this way so that they could be joined together in the covenant of marriage. In Genesis 2:18 we read that it was not good for man to be alone, so God gave mankind the gift of marriage.

And because God is God, and because he created marriage, only he can decide who should get married, and only he can explain why marriage exists. And in the Bible God reveals that:

  1. Marriage was given so that a husband and wife might always enjoy each other’s companionship, help and support. We see this in Genesis 2:18.

  2. Marriage was also given for the proper and healthy expression of human sexuality. This is suggested in Genesis 2:24.

  3. Marriage was given so that family life might continue and that children might be brought up in the love and security of a stable and happy home. Malachi 2 says that God brings people together in marriage to produce “Godly offspring.”

  4. Marriage was given so that human society might be healthy and have a firm foundation. In Genesis 2 we see that marriage is the basic relationship on which society is built.

  5. And lastly, marriage was given as a picture of the relationship that Christ has with his church. So marriage is meant to be a living drama of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people.

And on the flip side, we can say that any marriage that is not between one man and one woman is a deviation from God’s plan for marriage. We can say that any sexual activity between people outside of the covenant of marriage is a sin. We can say that it is best for children to grow up in a home with one dad and one mum who love each other. We can say that God designed marriage to be the foundational building block of society. And we can say that marriage is not an end in itself, it is supposed to put the gospel on display.

And with all of these things in mind, we can see that marriage is a good gift from God. However, in a broken world no one will enjoy marriage to its full potential. Because of the fall life is hard. And things don’t always go the way we wish.

Many people desire to get married, but not all do. Some people will have a miserable time in their marriage. And some people will even experience the pain of marriage breakdown. And even those who do marry happily will one day lose their spouse to death. While others will experience same sex attraction, rather than desiring the opposite sex.

To those in a difficult place at the moment, let me point you to the love of God. Because as Charles Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” In the gospel you can know for sure that God does love you, and you can find contentment and hope in the fact that God really does have your best interests at heart. He loves you more than you love yourself, and he has shown that in the death of his Son. At the cross God showed “his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But it is also helpful to remember that God doesn’t owe us anything.

As those who have rebelled against God, the only thing we deserve is punishment. Yet in his grace, God so often gives us good things to enjoy. And one of those things is the gift of marriage. So if you are happily married give thanks to God for a good gift that you don’t deserve. And if you’re not happily married, then don’t be foolish enough to get angry at God, because he owes you nothing. Yet he gives you so much.

And to those who may be experiencing same sex attraction I would encourage you to be defined by your new status in Christ rather than by your same sex attraction. You may never marry, because your desires may not change. But don’t be defined by your desires, be defined according to who you are in Christ. Many people try to define themselves by their sexuality, but that’s not what the Bible teaches.

According to the Bible, every person is valuable because they have been created in God’s image, and everyone who trusts in the Lord Jesus has been adopted into God’s family. Let yourself be defined by those incredible truths. Now some people will say that your feelings are determined by your relationship with your father, while others will say that it’s genetic. But the Bible says that we’re all broken, and that none of us are the way that we should be.

So just like the rest of us, if you believe in the Lord Jesus, then you are a work in progress. And that work will only ever be complete when you die, or when Jesus returns. And what matters most is not whether you’re same sex attracted, but whether or not you have surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus. So if you’re same sex attracted, you’re very welcome at Chalmers, although as with everyone else, we will call you to submit your entire life to Christ. Because he is King.

So to wrap up our first section; we can say that God gave marriage as a gift to mankind for companionship, sex, family, the wellbeing of society, and to point us to the gospel. Although not everyone will marry. And let’s not forget that the Lord Jesus never married, and he is the only perfect and complete human to have ever walked the planet.

But let’s move on and consider what the Bible says about the complementarian nature of marriage. Let’s consider God’s good design for husbands and wives.

Complementarianism

And we get our first glimpse of complementarianism in Genesis 2:18. Where “the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” The term helper (noun) is not derogatory in any way. In Psalm 54:4 David refers to God as the one who helps him (participle). Although the help that God provides is quite different to the help that Eve offers Adam. However, it is quite clear that the term “helper” is not at all negative. Because Eve is absolutely equal with Adam.

However, that said, men and women are not exactly the same. There are important differences between men and women. In the beginning God created Adam first, and then he created Eve from Adam’s rib. Therefore, “man was not made from woman, but woman from man.”  And “neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1Cor 11:7-8)

And this order is reflected in the different roles that God has given to husbands and wives, where wives are to submit to their husband’s authority (1Cor 11:9). So from the beginning we can see that God created men to lead. Which means that every man in every marriage is the leader. The question isn’t “is he the leader?” but rather “how well is he leading?”

And men aren’t just called to lead, they are also wired to lead. And if you spend enough time with married couples you can see it. Although it’s not always positive. Sometimes it’s abusive and domineering. But more commonly it is awkward and embarrassing.

When it’s abusive and domineering it may be well hidden. But it should be exposed and stopped. And if it’s criminal it should be punished. However, when it’s awkward and embarrassing it is more easily identifiable. And it is also more common. With this second form of negative leadership the man knows deep down he is the leader, but for some reason he’s not leading. And only he bursts in from time to time when his frustration bubbles over.

And for wives, the temptation is different again. For women the temptation is to either take over, to become a doormat, or to manipulate their husbands. However, the biblical picture of leadership and submission is radically different.

In the beginning God created mankind in his image. Both male and female. And he made mankind binary so that they could reflect the trinity. So men and women, as equals that are different, were created to reflect the equality and distinction found within the Godhead between the Father, Son and Spirit. The first couple, and all of mankind after them, were to reflect God on earth by loving and honouring one another as they fulfilled their distinctive roles. So men and women were created differently for different roles.

Which means that the fall did not create headship and submission, it corrupted them. And if we look back to the beginning we can see God’s good design. Where both men and women were created to live in harmony together as equals that are different and distinct. And we can see this in our passage. In Genesis 2:18 God said he would “make a helper fit for him.”

And the phrase “fit for him” really means something like “corresponding to, but opposite.” The idea is something like a mirror image where it is the same but opposite. And God did this so that one man and one woman might be joined together in marriage, and become one flesh.

Being one flesh

So let’s now contemplate the wonder of men and women being joined together in the covenant of marriage, and becoming one flesh. And the first thing to notice is that it’s an exciting time. When Adam saw Eve for the first time he sang a song. He sang,

“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.”

And because God made Eve for Adam, and brought them together in marriage, Moses (who penned Genesis) then tells us in verse 24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” So the logic runs like this: In the beginning God made them male and female. And he made them male and female so that they would get married. And part of getting married requires that men leave their parents, and hold fast to their wives. Because when a couple gets married a new family has begun. Which means that while married couples should honour their parents, they don’t have to obey them. In fact, it is imperative that they leave their parents and cleave to their spouse.

Now it is possible to live at home until you get married, and then move out. Although, I would say for men that it is far better to move out before you get married. For the sake of your wife, whoever she might be, you should move out and grow up before you are joined to your wife and start to lead your own family. Once you’re married you have to leave your parents and cleave to your wife, although it is probably wise to move out before you become one flesh with your wife. Because as soon as you are joined together you are the head of your new family. And you will have many important responsibilities.

However, there are wonderful privileges as well. Because when a man and woman are joined together in the exclusive bond of marriage they become one flesh and can enjoy everything that comes with that commitment. And one of those things is sex.

The phrase “they shall become one flesh” certainly involves sex (although it doesn’t only mean sex). And the Bible encourages husbands and wives to have lots of sex. It is a gift to married couples from a very generous God. And it is a great gift. However, because it is so good it is also dangerous. So the Bible also says that marriage is the only state of life provided by God for the proper and healthy expression of human sexuality. God gave marriage and sex at the same time, so that sex would only be enjoyed within the safety of marriage. So while husbands and wives should enjoy lots of sex together, unmarried people must abstain.

Nevertheless, when a husband and wife are joined together and become one flesh that doesn’t only involve sex. To become one flesh involves two people coming together to form a new family. And it involves two people sharing life together in a very unique way. Married couples share a house, a bed, and a bank account. They raise kids together, they holiday together, and they have no one in the world that is closer to them. They have forsaken all others to be united to their spouse in the closest of all human relationships.

As we grow up our parents and siblings are close to us, but once we get married our spouse takes the premier position. Under God, our spouse is our first priority. Marriage is the closest and most intimate of all relationships here on earth. So if my house is burning down, and I can only save my wife) or one of my daughter. I should save my wife. It’s kind of shocking, but that is the teaching of Genesis 2. After God, my wife is my first priority.

And prioritising my wife and loving her deeply is the second best thing I can do for my daughters. Their biggest need from me is to love and worship God, but the second thing they need from me is for me to love my wife. Because if I worship God and love my wife my daughters will have the best possible chance to grow up in a stable and loving home.

But that said, marriage isn’t easy. And it’s actually really hard to hold fast to our spouse. 1/3 of marriages in Australia end in divorce. And this statistic testifies to how hard it is to stay together as a married couple.

So how can married couples (who have become one flesh) stay together? Well, the first thing is to realise that everyone who gets married enters into a covenant. In Malachi 2 we read that when two people get married they enter into a covenant (Malachi 2:14). And according to the Bible, staying married isn’t mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping a covenant. So the way to stay together is by keeping our wedding vows.

And for those thinking of getting married I would strongly recommend you to use the old wedding vows rather than writing your own. The old vows have stood the test of time, and it would be incredibly arrogant to think that you have a better idea of what marriage is about and will demand. So don’t write your own vows, but use the traditional ones, and make a promise “to live together as God has commanded in the holy state of marriage, forsaking all others, being faithful to your spouse, as long as you both shall live.”

Husbands and wives should take their spouse,  

“To have and to hold,

From this day forward,

For better for worse,

For richer for poorer,

In sickness and in health,

To love and to cherish,

Until they are parted by death, or until Jesus returns.”

And to this they should pledge their word.

When you’re having a hard time in marriage you should remember these vows, and keep the covenant that you have made. You should commit yourself to your spouse as you have promised, and more often than not you will find that the feelings of love will return. And even if you find yourself wondering if you married the right person, be faithful and keep your marriage covenant, and you will probably find that positive feelings will follow.

In the Bible “covenants” create a situation where love can flourish, and it’s similar with regard to marriage. The marriage covenant is designed to provide a safe place where love can thrive. So when things are hard, stay committed to your marriage and wait for the positive feelings to return.  

And as you think about marriage don’t be unrealistic. We live in a broken world, and things will never be perfect. So make sure you don’t expect perfection from your spouse. One of the best ways to ruin your marriage is to expect perfection. Each and every one of us is sinful. And we will all sin and hurt one another. So we need to be realistic. And we need stop expecting perfection from our spouse. Instead we need to be gracious, and rejoice as we see God at work in them. Our goal for a spouse shouldn’t be that they live up to our expectations, but that they become more and more like Christ.

Nick ArundellDavid Assender