Genesis: The Book of God’s Kingdom – 07 (“The Ordinance of Marriage – 01”)
Last week’s topic of teaching was the first part of “The Covenant of Creation,” namely “The Ordinance of the Sabbath.” We saw that we as New Testament believers cannot just negate or abolish the significance of the Sabbath, because, when doing that, we breach and deny the very important role the Sabbath played in the creation, history and eschatology. We as new covenant Christians should rejoice in the privileges associated with God’s perfect Sabbath-ordinance. BUT, our appreciation and joy must not be focussed and applied on and in the maintaining of Sabbatical traditions, etc., but rather in the realisation of a new goal. As rest always remained ahead of the Israelites, eternal rest awaits all of us under the new covenant. Under the old covenant, as with creation, redemption was always the final outcome. The “forward-looking character” of a seventh-day Sabbath anticipated the day of redemption’s consummate restoration (Afrikaans: “uiteindelike volmaakte en volkome herstel”).
It is very important to realise that “Sabbath-observance” not only relates to creation (six day creation – seventh day rest), but also to redemption. Creation originates a people of God, whilst redemption recreates a people of God. In each case the Sabbath plays a very important role.
Today we will be looking at the second ordinance, namely “The Ordinance of Marriage.”
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Gen.2:18-25 (ESV) ~ “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 Now out of the ground the LORD God had 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.”
3. THE CREATIONAL ORDER OF MARRIAGE:
A second creation ordinance of God that has affected the total life of man is marriage. In the ordering of creation, God Himself indicated ~ “…it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen.2:18). So God created a helper to correspond appropriately to the man.
The creational origin of the marriage relationship has far reaching implications. By tracing this ordinance to the sovereign creative act of God Himself, Scripture removes all doubt with respect to the sanctity of marriage. The Lord-Creator ordained marriage from the time of man’s creation.
We can come to several conclusions concerning marriage:
- Iterpersonal Fusion: First, the wonder of interpersonal fusion (Afrikaans: “eenwording”): The oneness in marriage relates to the intimate process by which the woman came into being when God created the woman from the man, therefore a man must leave his parents and cleave to his wife, thus constituting these two people as one (Gen.2:22-24).
The “being one flesh” described in Scripture does not refer simply to the various moments of marital intimacy. Instead, this oneness describes the permanence of the union achieved in marriage.
This interpersonal fusion as ordered in creation implies that two and only two may enter into such a relationship. That is why Gen.2:24 says that a man shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. In Matt.19:6 Jesus explains that the man and the woman are no longer two, but one flesh.
- A Help-mate for Man: Secondly, it was not good for a man to be alone and therefore God declared that He shall make “a helper corresponding to Him” (Gen.2:18), that is why Paul says in 1 Cor.2:18 ~ “Man was not created for the woman, but woman was created for man.” This statement by Paul does not give the “green light” to man to misuse or trample on his wife. Therefore, the woman is equal in personhood to the man, but called to be his helper (or help-mate).
Further revelation in Scripture (and this is important) seems to indicate that the woman is helper to the man specifically for the purpose of bringing all creation to its consummation-goal (Afrikaans: “volvoering”). She joins with the man in his task of forming a culture glorifying God the Creator.
- Creation of Order: Third, because an order has been established for the relation of men and women by creation, this order cannot be ignored.
Polygamy (Afrikaans: “veelwywery”), for instance, contradicts the creation of order of marriage. The creation of a single woman from the original man emphasises the exclusiveness of the union achieved in the marriage relationship. A third party never can be introduced without destroying the union which already exists between a married couple. From the beginning, God indicated that the two, and only two, should be one flesh.
Divorce contradicts the creational order of marriage. The Creator yokes men and women together. No one may break asunder (Afrikaans: “uitmekaar- of stukkend ruk”) or separate what God has joined. Only in cases of unchastity (Afrikaans: “huweliksontrou”), in which the marriage union has been broken (Matt.5:32), may divorce be allowed (Westminster Confession of Faith, XXIV,6; cf. 1 Cor.7:15).
Homosexuality contradicts the creation of the order of marriage. According to the ordinances of creation, a man is to leave father and mother that he may cleave to his wife. Cleaving to someone of the same sex is nowhere found in the creational structure. Only as one man joins to one woman has God’s ordering been observed. The apostle Paul says that God condemns and abandon people in same-sex relations ~ “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom.1:26-27).
Union between a man and a woman in marriage therefore, may be regarded as the most significant dimension in God’s creational ordering (Afrikaans: “skeppingsorde”).
The divine plan for marriage, then, is one man and one woman becoming one flesh and living together in their integrity.
4. THE DIVINE PLAN FOR MARRIAGE:
The final verse (vs.25) informs us that the two were naked and had no shame. They were at ease with one another, not even thinking of the possibility of sin, due to their nakedness.
The main point of the fusion of man and woman, is that they have the spiritual capacity to serve, obey and enjoy God’s creation.
Even more important for us as believers, is the fact that God designed marriage to be a visual representation of Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church, We find a beautiful description of this relationship in Eph.5:22-33, where we see that wives should submit to their husbands in the same way as they submit to Christ. And husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the Church.
In His design, God created man to lead and love his wife and woman to be the husband’s help-mate. From the moment Adam and Eve chose to follow their own desires rather than obey God, sin entered the world. Ever since then we have been seeking after our own way. Like all things, sin has marred God’s plan for marriage. Instead of seeking the good of one another, we can demand our own way, seek after our own desires, and expect our spouse to give to us without us having to give anything in return.
Rather than acknowledging sin’s impact on marriage, many look at failed examples of marriage and decide that God’s plan was a mistake. Many in our world have decided that God’s description of marriage doesn’t fit with reality so they instead design their own.
Yet God’s Word is not dependent on our behaviour. When it comes to failures in marriage, they fail because of sin, not because God’s plan is wrong.
Jesus came to redeem all things, including marriage. He came to redeem and restore all that sin has damaged and marred. He is the complete and perfect fulfilment of God’s design and of what our marriages fail to do, namely to love and submit. We are given the Holy Spirit who enables us to grow in grace and learn to love as Christ has loved us.
Not only does the Gospel free us from our sin, it also redeems our memories and experiences from other’s sin. We also look forward to the day when sin will be no more and we will join Christ at the great wedding feast. There the redeemed will shine in radiance, as a beautiful bride, ready to spend eternity with our Bridegroom.
5. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
In conclusion I would like us to look at some of the more important points (and verses) about marriage:
- God Instituted Marriage: We have already seen that God performed the very first wedding at the end of Creation week and blessed the new couple (Gen.1:27, 28). Marriage is something that God Himself instituted and blessed. This is important, because it tells us that marriage is a good thing. It is one of the blessings that God has given us from the very beginning.
Marriage mirrors God’s relationship with His people ~ “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Is.62:5). Marriage is the closest, most intimate relationship we can experience here on earth, and God uses it to illustrate the intimate relationship He wants to have with you and me!
- Desire for Companionship: God said in Gen.2:18 ~ “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper comparable to him.” After each of the six days of Creation week, God reviewed what He had made and saw that it was “good.” But there was one thing in Eden that very first week that was not good! All the animals God had created, came in pairs – a male and a female. But there was no female for Adam! That is when God created Eve and performed the very first marriage (Gen.2:21-24). God made men and women to complement each other – physically, mentally, and socially. He built into our being a desire for the companionship of a husband or wife. That’s why the Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord” (Prov.18:22).
- Becoming One Flesh: “He (i.e. God) brought her (i.e. Eve) to the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen.2:23-24). Man and woman in matrimony become one flesh – they become “one” in marriage bond ~ “Therefore 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).
Marriage is a blending of two lives into “one flesh.” This doesn’t mean that husbands and wives must think and feel exactly alike in everything. Marriage doesn’t extinguish individuality. But if there is a broad divide in religious beliefs or other important issues, it will be much more difficult to achieve the oneness that God envisions for an ideal marriage. Forging a strong marriage is not easy at best, and becomes even more challenging when couples must try to bridge major differences ~ “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor.6:14).
- Commitment for Life: Marriage, as God intended it, is a commitment for life – during good times and bad. “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Eccl.9:9).
- Mutual Love and Respect: Paul says in Eph.5:28, 33 ~ “Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. . . . Let each one of you . . . so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Without mutual love and respect on the part of husbands and wives, a marriage cannot last.
- Sexual Faithfulness: Husbands and wives are to be sexually faithful to each other in the marriage relationship ~ “You … shall not covet your neighbour’s wife” (Ex.20:7).
In Matt.5:32, Jesus said ~ “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” This statement comes out of the principle stated Ex.20:7, namely ~ “You … shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.”
Beloved, the marriage must at all times be a holy reflection of Christ’s relationship to the Church.
Lord willing, we will look further at this topic in a week or two, specifically to divorce, re-marriage, etc.