If you have your Bible, I am going to read from Genesis Chapter 2. Verse 18, then Verse 21 to 25. Verse 18 says, "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'"
"So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh.
"Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
"The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called "woman," for she was taken out of man.'
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
"The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."
I am going to talk today about the making of marriage. When God created Adam, he created an individual. When he created Eve, he created something totally different; he created society. And that society was initially built on the relationship of a man and a woman. I want to talk to you about this because marriage is the cornerstone of society and how it is intended to work, its source of stability, its place where love is exchanged, and where children are nurtured.
Now marriage of course is not the only option open to us. Many of us here this morning are single and we may be single because of the death of a spouse, divorce, or we have never married at all. Jesus, as a man, was fully complete as a man but of course he was unmarried.
The apostle Paul, who gave to us so much of the New Testament, was a single man. And in 1 Corinthians 7 he writes about celibacy as a gift from God. Now a lot of folks I talk to see it as a fate, but Paul speaks of it as a gift. He says one has this gift, another has another gift; he speaks of marriage also as a gift. If you read 1 Corinthians 7 he actually speaks of celibacy having decided advantages over marriage.
But I want to talk to you about marriage this morning because it is the exception, not the norm, that people remain single. Most of us are either married or will marry. But there is a lot of confusion about marriage, and marriage is under threat.
I think with the quality of many marriages that people see; children grow up in homes where there is tension and conflict and no wonder they become disillusioned with the whole idea of marriage.
But just recently at the last election that was held in Sweden, one of the minority political parties included in his manifesto a proposal to abolish marriage as a legal institution. It proposed replacing it with what they described as a gender-neutral partnership system that allows for all kinds of variations including multi-partner relationships that would be permitted by law but not monitored by law.
Well, it didn't make much headway—at least that party didn't make much headway—in the election. But those of you who are students of recent history will know that most radical social movements begin in Scandinavia and ten years later they hit North America. It's important to see what is happening in that part of the world and that this actually had some credibility given to it by the fact that it was a political party that advocated this.
In our own society marriage is declining in significance. In the year 1990, 190,600 marriages were recorded in Canada. Ten years later, in the year 2000, that figure had dropped to 157,400. That's a drop of over 15 percent. Now I know that one factor in that is that many more are choosing to live together without any formal or legal arrangement. But even there, there is a very high level of failure.
Apparently 45 percent of marriages in Canada are likely to end in divorce currently. Cuba has the highest divorce rate in the world with 75 percent. Russia has about 65 percent as a median but in Belarus it is 68 percent. The United Kingdom has 53 percent currently ending in divorce. The United States has 49 percent.
We need to understand marriage. There are questions that people are asking that we need to ask with the rest of our society. Is marriage outdated? It is optional or is it fundamental to God's intent for society?
I want to remind you that marriage is not a Christian ordinance. It doesn't come out of the Christian gospel. Marriage is a creation ordinance. It was ordained by God as the first event after the creation of Adam and Eve. And that's the passage we have just read together, where, having created Adam and then created Eve, the first thing he did was join them together in marriage. And he says to them: "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife." There weren't any fathers and mothers when God said that to Adam and Eve. They probably said, "What are you talking about? What's a father? What's a mother?" "Well, just get on with it and you'll find out."
But that indicates that this is not something that has been added; it's a creation ordinance. I want to talk about two things from this passage in Genesis Chapter 2. I want to talk about the order of the creation of male and female, because that must be significant. And then I want to talk about the obligations of male and female to one another in marriage.
The Creation of Male and Female
Let me talk first then about the order of the creation of male and female. God made them separately and in different ways in Genesis Chapter 2. In Verse 7 it says,
"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
And then Adam had 14 verses in which he lived on his own and he did certain things that God gave him to do. And then in Verse 21 it says,
"The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and brought her to the man."
That raises a couple of questions. Why did God not create them both out of the dust at the same time? Is there something important in the fact that he created them separately and differently?
Now let me remind you that we have previously stressed in the Genesis 1 account of the creation of male and female, that they were created completely and totally, unquestionably equal before God. Equal in status, equal in value, equal in significance. Nobody had priority over the other.
I pointed out that when we have the creation in Genesis 1 that the vocabulary about God changes from the singular to the plural when it came to the creating of male and female. Verse 26 of Chapter 1 says, "Let us make man in our image and our likeness."
The plurality of male and female reflect the plurality of the Godhead in whose image men and women were created. And as there is unity and equality within the Godhead, within the Trinity, there is unity and equality within humanity as God created them in Chapter 1. It was only after the Fall that this unity was broken and there became conflict between the sexes, and we'll talk about that in the next couple of weeks.
However, having stated and affirmed the equality of men and women in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is given to us to teach us that there are actually roles and different responsibilities that have been assigned to each. God did not create two men, but a man and a woman. They were not a mirror image of each other; they were different from each other and complimentary to each other.
Genesis 1 teaches the similarities and the equality of men and women. Genesis 2 teaches the differences that there are between men and women.
Now it's interesting that for some time sociology has been telling us that male and female are really the same but we have been nurtured into being different. Obviously the actual sex of the man and the woman is different but in everything else we've been sort of formed and nurtured into that difference. While it is interesting, at the same time science is telling us that male and female are different and the nature/nurture debate is probably declined because actually we are different physiologically but also emotionally in our structure and other ways as well.
Boys do not just act like boys because we give them a bow and arrow and trucks to play with, and girls act like girls because we give them a little doll to push around in a little stroller. That has been the argument. So give the boys the doll and give the girls the bow and arrow and see what happens.
When my kids were younger—I have two daughters and a son—and between the two services this morning, my elder daughter Hannah told me this: that she and Laura one day gave to Matthew one of their little strollers with a doll in it, because Hannah and Laura were going to go for a little walk with their dolls. And they wanted to take Matthew with them. He was little so they gave him a little stroller with a little doll in. And instead of just walking nicely with them, you know, not making too much noise so you don't wake up the dolly, he used his stroller with his doll to batter theirs and used it as a battering ram and go the other way and crash into them. They ended up getting so cross that they sent him back to the house and said, "You're not coming with us." He was using it like a bulldozer. And we didn't nurture him that way; I think it was nature. I'd better be careful there because you will think he got it from me. Maybe …
Now there are some very obvious ways of course in which the sexes are different. It is very different being a mother to being a father. Sexual intercourse is the complimentary act of two opposites who become one flesh by bringing their uniqueness and difference to each other. But there are other ways in which Scripture alludes back to Genesis Chapter 2 to talk about the order of creation as having significance in other ways as well. Let me give you an example. One of Paul's controversial statements comes in 1 Timothy Chapter 2, he says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Then he says this—here's his reason: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."
Now Paul attaches significance to the fact that Adam was formed first, before Eve. And I ask the question then, what is the significance of this first-ness? We cannot say there is no significance when Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says this is a reason for the statements that he has just made. Now it's not an issue of superior value or status because that has already been settled in Chapter 1, Verse 27. And we must always interpret the qualifications that Scripture gives us in the light of the generalizations that it gives us first of all.
But Adam was given responsibility for two things. If you read what happened before the creation of Eve, he was given responsibility for two things. I am going to call them "providing" and "protecting." Let me read them to you. First of all in Verse 15 it says, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." That is, he was given responsibility for the productivity of the garden. What was the reason for that—to have nice flowers to look at? No, to have potatoes to eat at lunchtime, and cabbages and whatever else he might have grown in the garden. In other words, he was given initially the responsibility of providing for his wife as she would be, and his family.
The second responsibility he was given was in Verse 16 when it says,
"The LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
He gave him there the responsibility for the behavior, or if you like, the moral pattern of life in the garden. And therefore he gave him the responsibility of protecting. "There are certain things you can do, Adam, and enjoy them to the full, but there is one thing you cannot do and Adam, you are responsible for this." It was that he might have the role of being provider and protector.
Now we know that men and women are different. If you are married, you will know that women are hard to understand (if you are a man, that is; men are easy to understand). My wife finds me totally predictable. I find her almost totally unpredictable.
I have a book here, which is called Why Men Can Only Do One Thing at a Time and Women Never Stop Talking. And it's a book which talks about the differences between being men and women. It says,
"Women are equipped with far more finely tuned sensory skills than men. As child-bearers and nest-defenders, they needed the ability to sense subtle mood and attitude changes in others that could signal pain, hunger, injury, aggression, or depression. This is commonly called 'women's intuition.'"
My wife can walk into a crowd and pick out who's having problems. They can come and tell me they are having problems and I say, "What is the problem?" Women are much more finely tuned that way.
Then it says that,
"Brain scan tests show that when a man's brain is in a resting state, at least 70 percent of his electrical activity is shut down. Scans of women's brains show a level of 90 percent activity during the same state, confirming that women are constantly receiving and analyzing information from their environment. A woman knows her children's friends, their hopes, dreams, romances, secret fears, what they are thinking, how they are feeling and usually what mischief they are plotting. Men are just vaguely aware that there are some short people who happen to live in the same house."
Because if the focus of the woman is inward within the family, the focus of the man is outward. He is called—he is created with this need and desire to provide and to protect.
Let me talk about the protecting role because we are limited on how much time I can speak about this.
Have you ever noticed that, when in Chapter 3 the devil came to tempt (and we'll talk about this next week), he did not come to Adam but he came to Eve. If you notice too, that when God came to the garden after they had fallen, he did not come to Eve, who had actually initiated the response and the disobedience.
God came to Adam. Why did the devil come to Eve? Was it because he thought she would be easy prey? Is it because women are more gullible than men? Or is it that Satan knows that God had given to Adam responsibility for the moral behavior and to put the protective walls around themselves and he deliberately spurns that order and attacks the woman, luring her into the responsibility of being the moral guardian by asking her to violate it?
You see Adam was with her. When she yielded it says that she gave some to her husband, who was with her and he ate it. But in approaching and tempting Eve and seducing Eve in this way to disobey God, he actually has the effect of undermining the man and makes Adam what God did not make him to be. And excuse the language here, but he became a silent, withdrawn, fearful, passive wimp.
And if you read Genesis 3, every one of those words you can apply to Adam. Adam becomes the man who one moment is passive and follows the woman, and in the next instance, he becomes angry with her and blames her for his problems. We're going to see next week that's a pattern. And this tension between the sexes that we're aware of that is around us began in the Garden of Eden in Genesis Chapter 3.
Now make no mistake, God does hold the woman accountable for her actions. He doesn't let her off the hook because he gave the responsibility to Adam. She is personally accountable, having violated the moral image of God in her life. She was made in his image, as Adam was, and in violating this, she stood guilty before him—and God pronounces her guilty.
But if Satan came first to the woman and tempts her—not to the man whom God gave the responsibility for the moral order of the garden—when God comes to them, he comes not to Eve; he comes to Adam and he says, "Where are you, what have you done?" because he was to protect.
Do you know one of the greatest things—those of us who are married—one of the greatest things your wife needs is to feel she's protected. Man was given the responsibility to lead, is how Paul puts it when he refers to this, and leadership is there to provide for and to protect. It's not a moral law as such, God doesn't chastise Adam for allowing Eve to listen to Satan—Eve chose to listen to Satan. But it's a general principle.
God does call women to lead in different ways and gifts them for it. That is true in a number of instances in Scripture—Miriam, Deborah, Hulda who was a prophetess, Esther, the wife of Isaiah who was also a prophetess, Anna who was a prophet at 84 years of age.
But probably our problem today is we don't understand leadership as God intended it. We think of leadership in terms of hierarchy, in terms of status, in terms of position. We don't think of leadership in terms of service and submission to those we lead, of providing for them and protecting them. To some leadership in the home and leadership at work and leadership in the church is basically, "I tell you what to do and you better make sure you do it." That's not leadership in Scripture—"I rule; you obey, I give you the ideas; you fulfill them."
Jesus talked about this to his disciples one day in Matthew Chapter 20. He said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
It's not about lording it over people, said Jesus; it's about serving people. And if we men are called to lead our wives, this is what it means: it means I will make it my business to provide for her. I will make it my business to protect her. It's a serving role, not a lording role. And husbands, this is our primary responsibility.
There are two problems that come to us as husbands. One of them is to hold back and not provide or protect. The other is to go beyond and to dominate and to abuse.
One of the countries I was in last week has 80 percent of its population in church every Sunday. A week ago today, driving past churches, all of them had large crowds. That was the statistic I was given—80 percent of the people go to church on Sunday in this country.
On Monday morning I picked up a copy of the local national newspaper and one front-page story said 50 percent of men physically abuse their wives in this country. Now I ask the question: how come 80 percent go to church and 50 percent abuse their wives? There is a huge disconnect. Husbands, the safest place in the world for your wife needs to be in your home and in your arms—the safest place. But sometimes that's the scariest place.
Now of course every individual is different; every couple is different; therefore every marriage is different. We need to work it out. Some women are better leaders than their husbands—that's fine. We have different gifts, different abilities. But men need to understand the relationship and that we're called to provide and to protect.
I don't normally talk about my own life in this way, but in our marriage we make choices and decisions together. And we do so equally. And sometimes it takes awhile to come to a common decision. But should we disagree on an important issue and unable to work it through together, we agreed some time ago that if that case should happen, I have the casting vote. That is a big responsibility. Only once in 26 years have I ever exercised that. Only once in 26 years we could not agree on something we both felt strongly about. And Hilary was kind enough to say several years later that she now thought I was right. Otherwise I wouldn't have used this illustration.
It's difficult to generalize, but nature itself tells us that we have different responsibilities. The way that we are wired—a woman has the task of bearing children, of protecting them, of nurturing them, of understanding them, of absorbing, and reading them. Women have communication skills the children need. When a man talks he just says what he needs to say. When a woman talks she says a lot, which may include what she needs to say, but a lot more besides. Her children need that; that's part of being a mother.
The Obligations of Male and Female in Marriage
Well, that's the order of creating male and female. I was tempted to do what I have done the last few weeks and stay on that subject the whole of this message, but we'll never be finished.
Let me talk about the second thing just quickly: the obligations of male and female in marriage, because there are two specifically given here in Verse 24.
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh."
There are two things there: the word "leave" and the word "cleave." That is, that in marriage we leave the old order of the family of which we have been a part. Leaving is as important as cleaving—I have known marriages that failed because they've never left. When we are born of course we grow up in a home; we are provided for, we are protected, we are subject to the authority of our parents. They nurture us; teach us, they love us.
When our first child, Hannah, was born and she and Hilary came home from the hospital, we put her into a little crib to sleep and did what all British people do: we made a cup of tea and we sat down and I said to Hilary, "What are we supposed to do now?"
We weren't altogether sure; you don't get a trial run on these things. One of the things we did do actually was read through the book of Proverbs together over the next days, weeks, and noted everything it said about children and about parents. And what we decided was that our primary role was to enable this little baby to become independent of us. That's our goal.
When a baby is born they are totally dependent. You make every decision for that baby. You push the food in one end and you wipe it off the other. Little by little you give the child responsibility. They begin to make choices—don't give them too much too soon—little by little. You put a boundary fence around them and kids need that boundary fence and they will keep testing it and if it's not there or it keeps breaking down they will be very insecure. They'll go into tantrums and you'll think, oh it's just their nature—it isn't—it's your parenting.
And you let the boundaries go out, but keep the boundaries firm. Within the boundary you can do whatever you like, but you cross the boundary, there are consequences. And you implement the consequences and they won't cross the boundaries very often. And they'll be secure within them.
Until one day the boundaries disappear and the child says to you, "I don't need to stay at home anymore; I'm leaving." That means you have been a good parent—even though it's not nice when they leave. And when of course they enter into marriage—and in many cultures you don't leave until you marry; in our culture of course we mostly leave to go off to college and all that kind of thing before that.
But the day comes when they leave that behind. And leaving is important because the problem in some marriages is that one of the couple is always running back to Mommy or Daddy, or going back for some money, or the parents keep running after and interfering and putting their nose into things which they ought not to put their nose into.
So he says, a man must leave his father and his mother and then cleave to his wife. That is, you establish a new loyalty, a new priority, a new family. And there are three ways we cleave, from these verses: we cleave spiritually, socially and sexually. Let me comment on each of those.
The first thing it tells us about human beings is that we were created as spiritual beings. God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." Our identity comes from our being created in the image of God—that is his moral image, as we have described earlier.
Secondly they were created socially, because in Verse 16, "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." It is not good to be alone. Being self-sufficient is not a strength; it's actually a weakness. We are made to be social beings. We need each other.
And then thirdly, we are sexual beings. "The two will become one flesh," is as it is described in Verse 24. Now when I say that first there is a spiritual cleaving, I mean that it relates to God—that at the very heart and core of our lives is our relationship with God. Marriage itself is God's doing because when Jesus talked about divorce he said,
"Haven't you read" (in Matthew 19) "at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Marriage itself is something ordained by God. Do not break it and violate it. It has its root in God making us in his image where we need to belong.
The Three Elements of God's Plan for Marriage
He made them male and female. That was how he ordained it. Not he made them persons. Marriage has become redefined in this nation and increasingly more nations around the world as the union of two persons, where gender is an irrelevancy. It is not an irrelevancy; he made them male and female. He made us not only equals but opposites—male and female. And what God has joined, don't separate.
And if you are not willing to go into a marriage with a lifetime commitment, don't go into it, because that is what it is according to the New Testament. And Paul teaches why this is so important in Ephesians 5 when he says,
"A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—I am talking about Christ and the church."
Isn't that intriguing? This spiritual dimension has to be the very core. Now if a person doesn't know Christ, this will be an absentee element in their marriage and in their lives. But if you are a Christian, this is the core of it. It is a spiritual union first and foremost.
Secondly it's a social unit. It's for companionship. It's not good to be alone. Now marriage is not the only answer to that. But it is an answer that meets some of the deepest needs where we are known and we know each other, where we are loved and we love. The New Testament speaks of husbands and wives being heirs together of the gift of life. You have been molded into one.
There are two kinds of togetherness in marriage. There is side-by-side togetherness—you're going somewhere together; you're on a journey in life, you share common goals and objectives. But there is also a face-to-face togetherness in marriage. That is private; that is intimate, where you laugh together and you weep together, where you are best friends together, you make time to be together, you make love together. It's face-to-face. And both the side-by-side and the face-to-face are equally important in marriage. There's that social dimension.
And then thirdly, there is the sexual. Have you ever realized the first command that God ever gave human beings was to have babies? In Genesis 1 Verse 27,
"Male and female he created them.
"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number …'"
What's your job description? Go and have some sex, and produce some babies.
But that's not the only reason for the sexual relationship. In Chapter 2—if that's in Chapter 1 ("Be fruitful and increase in number")—he talks about becoming one flesh but there's no mention of children. The sexual relationship is for procreation of course, but it is also for intimacy as an end in itself. It is for communication; it is for closeness; it is for mutual pleasure. It is never for bargaining, rewarding, or abusing. And the key to the sexual relationship of course is seeking the satisfaction of the other person.
Paul talks about the sexual relationship as an obligation. That's the word he uses in 1 Corinthians Chapter 7.
"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife."
Let me pause there. If your body does belong to you, whether you are a husband or a wife, you will not have a satisfying sexual relationship. It's a surrender. That's what a wedding is. What is a wedding? It is a public surrender, "I no longer belong to myself."
And then he says,
"Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
Now he doesn't say, "Demand it of one another;" he says, "give yourself to one another because you belong to each other." And again, there is no mention of children there—that the sexual relationship is an end in itself in terms of the value and the enrichment and the benefit and the blessing that it brings in the marriage.
And by the way, that's why a sexual relationship outside of marriage is wrong, because you do not belong to one another outside of marriage. And therefore, rather than being something which feeds your souls and feeds your lives, it will actually damage them. If you are a Christian and you are in a pre-marital sexual relationship, you need to apologize to one another, repent before God. Sex is God's wedding present. Don't spoil it.
These three elements are the elements of the one flesh. It is spiritual, it is social, and it is sexual. The certainty of the marriage commitment will provide the environment in which the sexual relationship is designed to work. And this is all in Genesis Chapter 2.
I need to finish because I've gone on too long. And that's a shame because it's just getting interesting. What Genesis 2 is teaching us is that the order of creation is significant, because Adam was created in Verse 7 and had 14 verses to get himself organized before Eve arrived on the scene.
Getting himself organized was to work the garden and understand what the boundaries are and become the provider and the protector. So when Eve was then created, she came into an environment of provision and protection where she would be responsive. And God said, "Leave, cleave, become one flesh." It was the most natural thing to do, it was the most beautiful thing to do, and it was the most secure thing to do.
Until in Chapter 3, the devil came knocking on the door. Whatever else sin did, it damaged the relationship of men and women; it brought tension between the sexes. God said, "One of the consequences, Eve, is that your husband will rule over you." That was not the way it was supposed to be. That was the Fall that would bring that about. "You will still work the garden, but in the sweat of your brow. It's not going to be the joy of provision now. It's going to be hard labor." We'll look at that next time.
But it is interesting whenever in the New Testament, either Jesus or Paul talk about marriage; they always go back to Genesis Chapter 2. The way it was before the Fall, the way it should be, the way God in his redemptive work will re-create, if we in humility will come and say, "Lord." In our marriage we need that spiritual oneness and union, that social, taking time just to be friends. And from that is the fruit of that, enjoy the sexual relationship that God gave for our good and for our satisfaction.
Charles Price is the Senior Pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the founder of Living Truth, an international teaching and preaching ministry.