Guest blog: The first message

Our guest blogger today is our associate pastor at Dry Creek, Charlie Bailey.  This is a strong message on marriage entitled,  “The First Marriage.”  It is the second in a marriage and family series he has started.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

The First Marriage: Genesis 2:18-25

Let’s begin by briefly reviewing a few key statements from last week’s blog. We said that Marriage exists to bring glory to God by displaying the covenant love between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). That is it’s meaning and purpose. We also said that marriage is a covenant horizontally between a husband and wife and vertically between a couple and God and that covenant love is ultimately about my faithfulness to my spouse and to God. We looked at what I called “the last marriage” in Revelation 21:1-4 and learned from it that marriage should be a place where we display covenant love, pursue one another’s holiness, treasure God, and depend upon Christ for grace to accomplish all of this.

The Backdrop of the First Marriage (Genesis 1:26-28): Here is where we’re going: we are going to combine the first marriage with last marriage to arrive at the ideal marriage with the understanding that the first marriage points to the last; it being ultimate. The first marriage in the Bible takes place in Genesis 2:18-25, which is an expansion of Genesis 1:26-31. What this means is that the first marriage takes place in the context of God creating man and woman in His image to be His representative rulers and stewards of creation. They are to represent God to all of creation, to rule the earth on God’s behalf (as stewards), and are to reproduce image bearers of God to fill up the earth (procreation) with the glory of God. We are going to learn four things from this first marriage:

1) The First Marriage is Meant to be a Pattern for All Earthly Marriages

Genesis 2:24 is a PATTERN STATEMENT for all marriages. It is God’s commentary on what has just taken place. That is the significance of the word, “Therefore.” God is saying that since He established the first marriage in this way, this is way all marriages should be. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul, when they teach about marriage, interpret Genesis 2:24 in this way (Mark 10:2-9, Ephesians 5:22-33). It is the Bible’s pattern for marriage: a man leaving his father and mother and holding fast to his wife in a new “one flesh” union where they can be “naked and…not ashamed.” From what we read in Genesis 2:18-25, we can at a minimum say the following about God’s pattern for all marriage:

i) Monogamy

When God creates marriage, He creates it to be a monogamous relationship. This is the pattern. To meet Adam’s need for a companion, God created a woman to be his wife (22), not ten women to be his wives. He could have and this would have certainly filled up the earth faster, but He didn’t. This simply means that God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman for one lifetime.

ii) Heterosexuality

God also creates this marriage to be a heterosexual relationship. He doesn’t create another man to be Adam’s wife and companion. He creates a woman. I’m sure you’ve heard the joke: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”

Homosexuality simply flies in the face of God’s good created order. One of the functions of marriage is procreation (having children) according to Genesis 1:28, and that is an impossibility in a homosexual relationship. Neither two males, nor two females can reproduce on their own. It is not God’s design. God’s good design for marriage is a monogamous, heterosexual relationship.

iii) Sexual Intimacy

Here we see that in God’s design, marriage is to be consummated by sexual intercourse and that sex is to be enjoyed in the context of a husband and wife relationship. This is one thing that is meant by their becoming “one flesh” and their being “naked and…not ashamed.” This is how Paul interprets this phrase in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16, where he is warning against sex outside of marriage, whether it is with a prostitute or anyone else. He says that when we commit sexual immorality with someone else, we are becoming “one flesh” with him or her. He doesn’t mean that if we sleep with someone, that we are automatically married in God’s eyes. He means that we are forming a bond that is deeply physical, emotional, and spiritual, that is to be formed between only a husband and a wife.

John Piper calls sexual immorality “an exploitation of marriage prerogatives.” He says, “The shell of oneness is there, but not the covenant meaning.”[1] Mark Driscoll often comments that our culture tries to separate three things that the Bible makes inseparable: marriage, sex, and children. What both of these guys are saying is simply that many people want the pleasures of marriage without the covenant commitment of marriage. The pattern established by God at the first marriage is that when someone gives himself or herself away physically, there are supposed to be covenant strings attached. See is this example makes sense: my son loves icing, but not cake. So every time he eats a piece of cake, he ruins it by licking the icing off and leaving the cake. This is analogous to what happens when sexual activity takes place before or outside the context of marriage: it licks the icing off the cake, ruining it.

We’ll talk more about this subject in a later sermon, but for now we just need to see that God’s pattern, negatively, is that sex is not to be practiced outside of the marriage union and that, positively, it is to be enjoyed inside the marriage union. It is a good and beautiful thing that is not to be neglected (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). That is God’s design.

iv) Covenant Love

The other thing that is meant by their becoming “one flesh” and their being “naked and…not ashamed” is the reality of covenant love. “One flesh” is covenant language. This is to be a union that is inseparable; a union that is permanent. That is how Jesus interprets this phrase in Matthew 19:3-6. He says that God created us male and female to become “one flesh” in marriage. Since two people who are married are “no longer two but one flesh,” no man should separate what God has joined together. The implication is that “one flesh” implies permanence of the marriage union. They are becoming something that should not be separated again. That’s covenant.

Covenant love is also seen in their being “naked and…not ashamed.” This does mean sex, but it also means so much more. Their nakedness is a symbol for the absence of shame. There is complete transparency between them. There is no guilt. There is no pride to move them to hide anything. There is nothing to hide. There is no mistrust. It says, “I am completely comfortable being vulnerable before you.” That is what happens when someone is committed to loving you in covenant. Piper is so helpful here. He says the reason there is no shame is not because they had perfect bodies, but because of the presence of covenant love. “The first way to be shame-free is to be perfect; the second way to be shame free is based on the gracious nature of covenant love. In the first case, there is no shame because we’re flawless. In the second case, there is no shame because covenant love covers a multitude of flaws (1 Peter 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13:6).” He goes on to say, “Marriage was designed from the beginning to display the new covenant between Christ and the church.” “The very essence of this covenant is that Christ passes over the sins of His bride. His bride is free from shame not because she is perfect, but because she has no fear that her lover will condemn her or shame her because of her sin.[2] True, there are no flaws or sins to look past or worry about here in Genesis 2:18-24, but “the eventual exercise of that covenant love was God’s design.” So the pattern again is covenant love, for one spouse to say to the other, “You can be completely transparent before me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. You don’t have to hide anything or be ashamed of anything, no matter how ugly, or silly, or sinful. You can trust me to love you in and through all of it.”

v) Companionship

Have you ever noticed in reading Genesis 1-2 that there is only one thing that God says is “not good” in paradise? He says, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (18). God then creates the woman to remedy this one deficiency in paradise. Now God’s saying this does not mean that it is not good for anyone to be single. That would contradict the teaching and the ministry of both Jesus and Paul. But this does mean that it is not good for anyone of us to go at life alone. We need God, who is a friend that sticks closer than a brother and we need the companionship of others, whether that be in marriage or in the friendships and relationships that we cultivate in the body of Christ.

When it comes to marriage, God’s design is for it to be a most intimate and romantic companionship. We see several things that companionship in marriage is in this passage. First, it is fulfilling. I think one of the reasons that God parades these animals before Adam after telling Him that He would make a “helper fit for him” was to show Adam that there was not a helper fit for him in all creation. He was alone. In one sense, God wanted Adam to feel lonely so He could fill that loneliness up with a wife that he would now appreciate more than he would have had he not been lonely. It is tragic when someone who is married feels lonely after many years. We are not meant to feel lonely in marriage. Secondly, it is transparent. Again, this is part of what is symbolized in being “naked and…not ashamed.” Thirdly, it is compassionate and caring. She will be “bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh” (23). When she hurts, he will hurt because to hurt her is to hurt him. Her pain is his pain and her joy is his joy.

Finally, it is romantic. To use a word from Bambi, Adam is “twitterpated.” Remember, God has paraded all these animals before Adam to show him that he is alone. Then God puts Adam to sleep, performs a surgical operation on him, takes out one his ribs, from which he will make Adam’s bride. When Adam wakes up, God brings this beautiful, naked woman to him. Adam says, “Whoa…Man!” and that is how woman gets her name! Just kidding, but he does sing her a poem on the spot. Husbands, when was the last time you wrote your wife a letter or a poem or a song? We think that is just silly stuff we do when we are dating, but here we see it being an essential part of God’s design. What I mean is that we are to cultivate romance.

vi) Priority of the Marriage Union over the Parent/Child Union

We see also here that God’s pattern for marriage is for a man to “leave his father and mother” and to “hold fast to his wife” (24). This means that the marriage union of a husband and wife is to take priority over any parent/child union. There are two places this is to be applied. The first one is between a couple and their parents. Their relationship with one another takes priority now over their relationship with their parents. The second place this is to be applied is between a couple and their children. Their relationship is also to take priority over their relationship with their children. This is important to remember in a normal family and especially in a mixed family.

So at a bare minimum, we have the pattern established that marriage is a monogamous, heterosexual covenant union entered into before God and consummated by sexual intercourse, in which the covenant partners experience intimate companionship as a new union set apart from their parental bonds. Again, this all fits into the backdrop of man and woman’s creation in God’s image to steward and fill the earth by procreation.

2) The Pattern of the First Marriage Establishes a Complementary View of Manhood and Womanhood

Complementarianism means that men and women both bear the image of God and are therefore equal in their personhood and worth, but differ in their distinct roles, which complement each other. It celebrates both equality between men and women and the beneficial differences between men and women. I want to be clear here: regardless of what our culture says, the Bible does not teach unqualified equality between men and women. We are equal in some ways, but we are not in other ways. Anatomy would be an obvious example, but it runs deeper than that.

If we were to sum up these differences between men and women established here at creation, the word that would sum up men and husbands would be headship and the phrase that would sum up women and wives would be the helpful submission. Genesis 1-2 clearly establish male headship. The man is created first, not the woman (18). The woman came from the man (22). The man names the woman (23). Part of the woman’s purpose in being created was to meet a need for the man (18). She is his equal, but she is also his helper. This is the way that Paul interprets these events in 1 Corinthians 11:3,8-12 and 1 Timothy 2:13 (see Eph. 5:22-33 also). So male headship is at the heart of Biblical manhood and the essence of Biblical womanhood is helpful submission. Let me give you some definitions: “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.” Helpful submission is“the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”[3]

This complementary view of men and women does not demean women in any way. She equally bears the image of God (1:27). The stewardship man and woman have over the earth is a joint stewardship (1:28). The point of this animal parade was to show Adam that he had no equal in creation! When God creates woman, we are to learn from this that she is his equal in a way that nothing else in creation is (23). She is NOT seen here as a lowly, degraded, slave-like creature meant to be a man’s property. On the contrary, God is seen here as a loving Father walking this beautiful bride “down the aisle” to her husband (22). Adam is smitten with her (23). She is taken from his side, a place close to his heart to walk beside him and rule the earth along side him as his helper (21-22). If you were to study this Hebrew word for “helper” here, you make a very moving observation: it is used for God sixteen of the nineteen times that it appears in the Old Testament[4] (Ex. 18:4, Ps. 20:2, 33:20, 70:5, 115:9-11, 121:1-2, 146:5). God is called the “helper” of His people. This means that a woman’s role is anything but demeaning; it is glorious.

3) The Pattern of the First Marriage is Rooted in Creation, not in the Curse or in a Culture

This is a very simple, yet very important point. God’s design for marriage is rooted in God’s creative order, before the fall. This first means simply that marriage is God’s idea (and as God’s idea a good idea) and secondly means that this design for marriage is God’s design for marriage in every age. It is to be followed in every culture and at every point in history.

I’ll give one example. If someone flew past me on a highway in Germany and I angrily caught up with them, forced them to pull over, and proceeded to tell them that they were breaking the speed limit because they were driving faster than 55 miles per hour, what would be the problem with that? The problem is that the speed limit is different in Germany. As a matter of fact, the speed limit varies from state to state and from town to town. For many people, that is their understanding of marriage. They dismiss the Biblical design because they think it is the product of ancient culture and since we live in a different one today, we can redefine marriage. Even among Christians, some aspects of manhood and womanhood are thought to be the product of God’s curse in Genesis 3 that need to be redeemed. They think things like headship and submission are products of the fall and that we need to get back to the unqualified equality of the original creation. But what we have seen is that unqualified equality was not part of God’s original creation. These things are rooted in God’s good creative design. And marriage doesn’t find its definition in a given culture. It’s not like the speed limit. Marriage finds its definition in God’s creation order seen here in Genesis 1-2, and that means that it is to be followed in every culture in every age.

4) The First Marriage is Meant to be a Picture of the Last Marriage Between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the church

Remember that we said that when God created the first marriage, He had the last one in mind. That is the point of Ephesians 5:32. We see this in two powerful ways in Genesis 2:18-25. In the husband, we see the first Adam put to sleep and his side opened up and from what comes from his side, God fashions a bride for him. Jesus Christ is called the Last Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:45. This Last Adam would leave His Father and be put to sleep in death on the cross. A Roman soldier would open up His side and God would take what flowed from His side and with it purchase a bride for Him. But unlike the first Adam, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, has never and will never fail His bride. He is the Last Adam and He is the greater Adam.

With the woman, remember that I told you that this word “helper” is used mostly for God in the Old Testament. Just as her subordination to her husband didn’t affect her equality with him, we see God, our “helper,” in the New Testament subordinate Himself to human flesh without sacrificing any of His deity to supremely “help” His people on the cross by dying in their place and for their sins. So we have two analogies that teach us the gospel in this first marriage, because that is what the gospel will accomplish: the securing of a bride for God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

[1] John Piper, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence,” pg. 31

[2] John Piper, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence,” pg. 33-34

[3] John Piper, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence,” pg. 80

[4] Waltke, Bruce K., “Genesis,” pg. 88

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