We are in Genesis 2 where God is explaining why we are here and why we are different. Adam is placed in the garden alone to show him that this is not a good situation. The animals are brought before Adam so that he can see that there is no animal that is the perfect fit for man. God makes woman different than man so that man and woman would uniquely complement one another, working together as image bearers of God to all creation. But making man and woman different was not the complete answer for the human need for relationship. The account does not end with the man exclaiming that woman is “at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Turn to Genesis 2:24-25 and we will consider the rest of the picture.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24–25 ESV)
God created marriage to be the answer to the problem of humans being alone. As we noted in the last lesson, marriage was not created as a concession for human weakness. Marriage was created for human loneliness. Verse 24 what marriage is supposed to look like. The two leave their parents, forming a new primary loyalty. The point is not that the new couple move to some far away place. In ancient Near Eastern times the family was much more closely connected than today. But the point is that there must be a shift in loyalty. A person’s primary loyalty is no longer his father and mother. Rather, the spouse becomes the most important person on earth. This is very important to the building of this new family. The new husband and wife must protect against parental interference. The two are building a new foundation for a new family and parents need to stay out of that foundation building. Both husband and wife need to protect this marriage by leaving your parents from being your primary loyalty. Men, you now defend and protect your wife from your parents, not side with your parents against your wife. Women, you now defend and protect your husband from your parents, not side with your parents against your husband. You will destroy your marriage if your conversations are about how your parents are telling your spouse through you as to what to do or change.
Further, the two are permanently joined together in marriage. “Holding fast” is the idea of permanently sticking together. It is the same word used in Ruth 1:14 where she tells her mother-in-law that she will stay with her no matter what. It is a picture of an inseparable relationship. We need to realize what is happening in marriage. You are permanently gluing yourself to your spouse. There is no dissolving of this joining together in marriage. In marriage you are making a vow to be joined to your spouse for life. You are going to be faithful to God, faithful to your vow, faithful to your calling, faithful to your spouse, and faithful to the relationship. This means we need to change our perspective about marriage. Too many approach marriage as a contract. In a contract, we agree to provide something so long as we get what we desire in return. For example, we enter into a contract for our mobile devices. We agree to pay a certain amount of money every month and the phone company agrees to give your phone service. But if we do not like the service, we switch services. If we do not like our internet, then we switch services. Unfortunately, people look at marriage in the same way. If we are not having our needs met or receiving the services that we think we should be receiving, we switch spouses. We divorce the person we are with because we did not get out of the marriage what we thought we would receive.
But marriage is not a contract. Do not enter marriage for what you are going to get out of it. Marriage is a covenant relationship. You are entering into marriage with permanence so that you are going to faithful regardless of if you are not getting what you thought you would out of the relationship. This is pictured by God who is in a covenant relationship with us. He is not getting out of the relationship what he expects but he remains faithful to us. So marriage is a covenant, not a contract. It is permanent, joining ourselves together.
Finally, the two are to become one flesh. The two are to function now as one. The two are not warring against each other or pulling against each other. The two are to work together in such a way that they are now one. Included in this picture of oneness is uniting together physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. What is pictured is the complete giving of ourselves to each other without reservation or concern. Nothing is held back. Our bodies are not held back. Our emotions are not held back. We give ourselves completely to the other person. Since we are uniquely designed as complements to one another, then we give to the other what the other person needs.
This is underscored in verse 25. The man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed. There is nothing to hide from each other. So there is nothing to feel shame about. There is no shame because there is no fear of exploitation. The marriage builds a safe space together where nothing hidden, nothing is covered, and nothing is held back because there is no fear of this information being used to one’s exploitation or shame. The complete “you” is on display and there is no shame because we have entered into an openness together. It is important to point out that if this is not the case in marriage, that there is fear or shame physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, then you need to look if you have caused this by exploiting the other. You have told people things about your relationship that you should not have. There is to be protection and safety in marriage so that we can be naked and open before each other without shame. This is the picture that God has for marriage. One man and one woman permanently joined together for life, with loyalties primarily to each other, with an openness with each other that there is no shame or fear.
Scriptural Focus on Trouble Areas
Unfortunately, marriages can really struggle. We should not be surprised by this since both man and woman are human and they are bringing their human weaknesses and sinfulness into a marriage. We are going to sin against each other. We are going to make mistakes with each other. We are going to hurt each other. We will do all that we can to avoid this but it is going to happen. The scriptures understand this and teach us some of the things we need to be carefully focus on in marriage. There are commands given to husbands and wives in the scriptures. I submit to you that the reason why God must give commands for marriage is because these things will not be natural. If we would naturally and easily do what we are supposed to in marriage, then God would not have to tell us to do it. For example, you do not have to tell me to eat dinner. It is natural and it is my desire. So I want to spend our last few minutes in this lesson look at the trouble areas that God identifies that are important for a proper, healthy, and godly marriage. Turn to 1 Peter 3 and we will consider the directions that are given to wives and husbands by God through the apostle Peter.
In 1 Peter 3:1 God instructs the wives to place themselves under the leadership of the husband. As we noted earlier, the two becoming one means the two are not warring with each other or pulling each other in opposite directions. In marriage you are willingly declaring to your husband and to the world that you will place your will under his will. You are trusting him to care for you and lead you in godliness and holiness. I believe God must command this because this is not easy or natural but required for marriage to work. This means, women, that you must pick a man that you can trust to do this. If you are dating someone and you do not think you can trust this person to such a degree that you can yield to him, then you should not marry him. For the two to become one, there are two things that must happen. First, the wife must put themselves under his leadership. I will bring up the second point when I speak to the husbands because there is something they must do also. But we are examining the wives first and for marriage to work, wives must yield to the husbands. Notice that the apostle says that wives will yield even when your husband is not a Christian. You will have respectful and pure conduct. Your beauty will primarily consist of your inner self, the heart, which will be a quiet and gentle spirit. This is what godly women in the past did (3:5-6) and is your calling as well. Wives, you are entrusting your heart, your emotions, your mind, and your life to your husband. So marriage must be a careful choice as you understand what you are doing to make marriage a success.
Husbands are addressed in verse 7. Husbands are to live with their wives in an understanding way. I mentioned that there are two things that must happen for the two to become one. First, the wife must yield her will so that she is not pulling against the husband. Second, husbands must understand that their wives have entrusted their hearts, emotions, minds, and lives to them. So everything you do will be for the good and love of your wife. She is allowing herself to be vulnerable to you. So you must do everything that shows care and understanding toward her. Husbands will not be frightening or intimidating but loving and understanding. The text further declares that the husband will show his wife honor. The husband lives life by elevating his wife. He does what is in her best interests. God commands this because this is not easy or natural. It is easy to think about self first. It is easy to do what is best for ourselves. But our marriages will not be what God wants them to be if the husband is not living with his wife in an understanding way and show his wife honor.
We should not bristle at the words God uses to picture what we are to do in our marriage roles. For the wives, the scriptures repeated say that you are in submission. You are not put in submission. You are voluntarily submitting to him. So pick carefully and choose someone that you can give yourself to in this way. For the men, the scriptures say that you are experiencing crucifixion. That is, you are to love your wife as Christ loved the church. What did Jesus do for the church? He rejected all of his own will and desires and died for the church. So husbands rejected all of their own will and desires and die for their wives. Both are giving to each other. Both are focus on the other.
Marriages are destroyed when someone is thinking about themselves rather than the other person. If you are married for what you will get from the marriage, you will wreck your marriage. You will be the cause for its disaster. If you evaluate your marriage for what you are getting out of your marriage then you will be discontent and unhappy. You made a covenant to be faithful to your spouse, to the relationship, to your word, and to God to love the other person no matter the condition.