Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Beginning of Marriage

Part 5 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

Text: Genesis 2:18-25

You can listen to this sermon here.



Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (v. 18). 


Happily Ever After?

It could be said that Genesis 2:18-25 describes the first wedding ceremony (“[God] brought [the woman] to the man,” v. 22).

One of the mistakes that some couples make is that they spend so much time planning their wed-ding and not enough time planning their marriage. (In 2013, the average cost of a wedding in Canada was over $30,000.) 

There may be such a thing as a perfect wedding, but there are no perfect marriages. Only in fairy tales do the bride and groom “live happily ever after.” Marriage is not easy.

In confusion, people ask, “What is marriage is supposed to be?” (Marriage is being redefined.) In frustration, people ask, “How is it possible to have a successful marriage?” (Those of us who are married know how difficult marriage can be.)

Because God created marriage, we must understand and follow his design for marriage. 


God's Image in Our Marriages 

What is marriage supposed to be? The Trinity helps us understand what marriage is supposed to be. (In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us [the Trinity?] make man in our image, after our likeness.” Marriage allows us to resemble our triune God.) How?

First, like the Father, Son, and Spirit, husbands and wives are relational beings. “It [was] not good that the man should be alone” (2:18; cf. 1:31). When God brought the woman to the man, Adam was filled with joy: “This at least is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (2:23).

Second, like the Father, Son, and Spirit, husbands and wives are equals. Both “male and female” were created in God’s image (1:27). That God made the woman by using a rib from Adam’s side, not a part from his foot (inferiority) or head (superiority), might also suggest equality.

Third, like the Father, Son, and Spirit, husbands and wives are one. In marriage, the two become one. Marriage is (1) a preeminent union (“A man shall leave his father and his mother,” 2:24); (2) a lifelong union (“and hold fast to his wife,” 2:24; cf. Matt. 19:6); (3) an intimate union (“and they shall become one flesh,” 2:24); (4) a sacred union (2:22; cf. Pr. 2:16-17).

Fourth, like the Father, Son, and Spirit, husbands and wives have different roles. The woman was made to be “a helper fit for [the man]” (2:18, 20). The Hebrew world for “helper” is often used to describe God. It is also used to describe military help (e.g., reinforcements, without which a battle would be lost). For a wife to “help” her husband is to make up for what is lacking in him. Kathy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage says that a wife is to be a strong helper and a husband is to be a servant leader.


The Gospel in Our Marriages 

How is it possible to have a successful marriage? (Because of the Fall, there is conflict in marriages.) The gospel helps us follow God’s design for marriage. How?

First, the gospel changes the hearts of husbands and wives. In Ephesians 5, before the apostle Paul writes about the God-given roles for husbands and wives (vv. 22-33), he says, “Be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18). “The ramifications of being filled with the Spirit literally reverse the effects that the curse has on the relationship” (Jeff VanVonderen, Families Where Grace Is in Place, 91). We are living in the time that God foretold in Jeremiah 31:33: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” Those who have been saved by God’s grace have the Holy Spirit living within them. He gives us the desire to obey God. We obey because we want to, not because we have to.

Second, the gospel provides a model for husbands and wives. Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus is a servant leader (a model for husbands). “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Jesus is a strong helper (a model for wives). Kathy Keller writes, “In this passage we see taught both the essential equality of the First and Second Persons of the Godhead, and yet the voluntary submission of the Son to the Father to secure our salvation. Let me emphasize that Jesus’s willing acceptance of this role was wholly voluntary, a gift to his Father. I discov-ered here that my submission in marriage was a gift I offered, not a duty coerced from me. As I personally struggled with understanding gender equality within gender roles, it was this passage that entirely took the sting out of the subordinate role assigned to the female sex” (The Meaning of Marriage, 175).


Acting Like Jesus in Our Marriages 

“Have this mind [the attitude of Jesus] among yourselves” (Phil. 2:5). What does this attitude look like in our lives? “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

This week, let Jesus be your model for how you interact with your spouse. (We can apply this to all of our relationships.)