Genesis 2:4-25 Can you really believe what the Bible says about... marriage? Part 2

Sun, 10/02/2013 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

We come today to the second part of our look at the question: Can you really believe what the Bible says about marriage?

I planned to spend these weeks looking at the early chapters of Genesis long before the government announced the timing for the debate that has made this topic so contemporary. Rather than change tack, it seems to me all the more worthwhile to revisit that question. Can you really believe what the Bible says about marriage.

If you were here two weeks ago, we starting looking at Genesis chapter 2. What we said then is very important, and what we’re going to say will build on that material. If you weren’t here, let me point you to the church website, where you can listen to it online. The nub of what we said is worth saying again, however.

We discovered that the task of taking care of God’s world was not something that would be good for the man to do on his own. He needed a partner, so that they could work as a team.

How about the animals? Might one of them make a good partner? A dog to sit at his feet? An ox to pull a plough? But good though all the animals were, none of them were suitable for Adam.

So God set about and made the perfect partner for Adam. She wasn’t taken from the ground, but from Adam’s side. She was made to be just like him, and yet contrasting, different to him. His other half, his exact match, his perfect partner. Designed by God for this role.

And the wedding was wonderful. Adam was overjoyed at his bride. And the person telling the story of Genesis 2 then stood back, and commented that this is why men and women today get married. This is where the custom comes from. It’s God’s design. And Jesus quoted this verse and agreed.

But we finished last time by saying that this is not easy teaching for us to hear, and yet it’s very relevant for us, so it’s very important that we hear it. That’s what I want to explore this morning – the difficulties of hearing this, and yet how crucial it is.


Please understand that what I’ve said so far is nothing other than mainstream Christian teaching. It’s the consistent message of the Bible, and the consistent witness of the church down two thousand years of history. But there are two reasons why this teaching can be hard for us to hear.

The first is that it clashes hard with our culture. It’s not fashionable teaching today.

Actually, there haven’t been many cultures in the history of our world where this has been fashionable. The details vary depending on where you look and when, but each civilisation has had a go at relationships that look a bit like God’s plan for marriage, but aren’t quite it. They’re fakes. Like the fake Rolex watch. Look from a distance, they look like they might be the real thing. Look close up, the details give it away.

Some cultures have gone for polygamy. Each man can take as many wives as he wants. Our culture has gone for living together. Pair off – strictly one on one – but never actually take the public step of committing to one another for life. Often, this has turned into what people have termed “serial polygamy”, where men and women have many partners throughout the course of life, but only one at a time.

These are fakes. The latest challenge comes from the government’s wish to redefine marriage so that it’s something that two men can enter into, or that two women can enter into. The bill had its second reading on Tuesday, and MPs voted to send it through to the committee stage. The issues here are many and they are complex, and I have no wish to over-simplify everything this morning.

But whatever else we say, a relationship between two men, or between two women, is not marriage. It’s another fake. It looks a bit like it in quite a few ways. But a marriage is when God takes a man and a woman, designed by him to be the perfect fit for one another, and joins them together to make a new household. The government can pass legislation that says marriage is something else if it wants. But it’s not down to them – God defined marriage. It can pass legislation that says water will now flow uphill if it likes.

Now, I have Christian friends, men, who would say that they are mainly physical attracted to other men. They would also say that they understand that it would be wrong for them to enter into a marriage-type relationship with another man. So they’re still single.

These are hard battles to live with, and if they’re battles you face then I’d want to say that you’re very welcome here, and we want to support you in them. Every Christian has particular struggles. They’re different for each of us, and we welcome one another in Christ, and share life’s pressures together.

There’s lots more that could be said on that, but this morning is not the time. Like I said last time, if you want to talk…


That’s one reason why the teaching of this chapter can be hard for us to hear. The other reason is that it describes the way that God made things from the beginning. It describes the ideal. But we don’t live in the ideal. We live the other side of the fall.

We read about lifelong marriage, but some of us know first-hand how painful divorce can be. We read about marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman, but some of us have experienced it more as a competition. We’ve read about men and women being perfectly designed for one another, but some of us haven’t found anyone to enjoy that with. We read about marriage as the creation of a new family unit, but some of us have painfully discovered that not all marriages seem to lead to children.

Which makes it hard to hear how things were at the beginning, because it rubs salt in our wounds.

Let me say that I still think it’s valuable to hear of God’s design. It allows us to uphold God’s plan in society at large. It stops us from thinking that our struggles are because God always wanted things to be broken.

And it is an answering cry. When we find ourselves crying out in pain, “Surely it wasn’t meant to be like this”, Genesis 2 echoes back our sense of outrage. It says to us: No, it wasn’t always meant to be this way.

Fulfilled in Christ

Realising how things are so often broken drives us to look beyond this one passage to see what happens to this teaching in the rest of the Bible. This passage is talking about marriage between man and woman. But the rest of the Bible would say that the marriage between one man and one woman is only a shadow, a copy, of the real marriage. The real thing is the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church, his people.

Come with me, if you will, to Ephesians chapter 5. It’s on page 635.

Paul is coming to the end of a section where he’s talked about how Christian husbands and wives should relate to one another. Let’s pick it up at verse 28.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. That verse again. But look at what he says next: This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Paul says that Genesis 2 is actually talking about the relationship between Christ and his church.

We’ve said that all of our experiences of human marriage will be defective in one way or another. Some of us have had more painful experiences than others, but none of us have ever experienced what God designed from the beginning. But the real thing, unspoilt, still exists. It’s the relationship between Jesus Christ the bridegroom, and the church his bride.

A Christian is someone who has decided to live by trust in Jesus, and that’s freely offered to everyone. If you’ve never started following Jesus for yourself, I’d happily tell you how to begin. And everyone who follows Jesus is part of his church, part of his bride. Which means that we can be in the relationship that marriage was always meant to be. And when we experience painful moments in our human marriages, that will awaken in us a longing for the perfect marriage.

And that’s something that we can all be part of, whether we’re happily married in this life, finding married life a struggle, or whether we’ve never got married for one reason or another. Nobody needs to lose out, because this mystery is profound, but it refers to Christ and the church.

Living This Out

There are so many practical ways that this all works out in daily life, and before we close I want to point us to a few of them.

The first thing to say is that I hope Genesis chapter 2 has helped to recover our confidence in marriage. Marriage is a good gift, created by God at the beginning. It’s his way for human beings to pair up in intimate partnership. It’s God’s way for us not to be alone as we live out our task of managing and caring for God’s world.

Which means that as marriage thrives in a society, that society will be better placed to live as God intended. The opposite is also true. Marriage is being undermined in our society, and if marriage was given by God so that society can function well, then that is never going to be good news. Undermining marriage is bad for our society, and bad for our planet. Our confidence in marriage needs a boost, and I hope that Genesis 2 does that for us.

The second thing to say is that I hope Genesis 2 has given those of us who are married a renewed sense of how important marriage is. Marriage is not just one institution amongst many. It’s not just one relationship amongst many. It lies right at the heart of how God wants us human beings to care for his world and to live out our lives. It’s my prayer that this chapter will inspire those of us who are married to cherish our husband or wife, to invest in that marriage, to treat it with the honour it deserves.

The third thing to say is the need to look outwards in marriage. It’s so easy to be narcissistic in a marriage. The focus becomes entirely on each other. This becomes the benchmark of whether a particular person is the right one to marry. It becomes the touchstone of whether a relationship is going well.

Now, it’s good to love and cherish each other, but we need to remember why God created marriage in the first place. As the man was placed in Eden to tend it and take care of it, it was not good that he should do this alone. God has put us on this planet to serve him, to serve other people, and to serve the environment we live in. The purpose of marriage is that we might do all of that together, not on our own.

And the fourth thing to say is a warning not idolise marriage.

Those of us who are married can do this easily – our marriage become the most important thing to us. Don’t get me wrong. It’s very important, but it’s not most important. Those who are not married can do this easily too – finding someone to marry becomes the focus of life, the way we’ll find true happiness and fulfilment.

Marriage is at the heart of God’s plan for this world. But the marriage we’re talking about is the one between Christ and his church. Whether you’re married to another human being or not, you can play a full part in that marriage. The relationship between Christ and his church is the real one that will see God’s world, with its people, served.


Today, marriage is under attack. That’s how we started two weeks ago.

Which is a shame, because marriage is one of God’s good gifts to us.

Please pray for your married friends. Please do all you can to support and uphold marriage. If you’re married, please invest in it, and use it to serve. And above all, please don’t miss out on the greatest marriage there is, the chance to be part of the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Website Section: 
Sermon Series: 
Additional Terms