Editor's Note: The following sermon was preached by Ligon Duncan at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi on June 21, 1998.
I would invite you to turn with me to Genesis, chapter 2. We have, for the last few weeks, been looking at the creation ordinances as they are recorded in chapters 1 and 2. We have outlined those ordinances in four parts. We have said that there are many legitimate ways to number the creation ordinances. Sometimes you hear three names. John Murray finds seven in his great book, Principles of Conduct. We have numbered them for the sake of convenience here, one through four. First of all, in Gen 1:28 the ordinance of procreation. Then again, in Gen 1:28, the ordinance of labor. Then in Gen 2:3, we see the ordinance of the Sabbath. Finally, in Gen 2:24 especially, but throughout this passage, we see the ordinance of marriage.
Last week we looked at the original relationship between God and Adam and Eve in paradise and said that that relationship, which our Confession refers to as both a Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Life, was filled with both privileges and obligations. Those privileges are apparent as you scan Gen 2:4-14. You look at the description in the first verses of that section of the original state of the creation, and then you look at the perfection of the world in which man was placed, and the blessings which God heaped upon man, and you see the privileges with which God endowed man in that original relationship.
Then in the second half of that passage, especially in verses 15 through 17, you see some of the obligations set forth that God gave to Adam. In paradise, God entered into a special relationship with Adam. He spells out the nature of that relationship. There are certain things that Adam is required to do and certain positive obligations entailed in his being in this relationship with God, and there are certain things which he is to refrain from doing; in particular, the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We talked a little about the importance of that Covenant of Creation or that Covenant of Life, or that Covenant of Works.
I want to turn our attention now to the fourth, and last of the creation ordinances, that is, marriage.
As we have done in the last few weeks, I just want to concentrate on one thing in the passage, and that is the ordinance of marriage, which is like the other creation ordinances, a tremendous blessing and a tremendous responsibility. As you look at chapter 2, you see God heaping blessings upon Adam. The culminating blessing, which He gives to Adam in paradise, is Eve. It is marriage; it is that relationship which He grants to Adam in the creation and the provision of Eve. Let me remind you of a few of the things that God has done in Genesis 2 to show His special love, His special goodness, His special provision for Adam in the garden.
First of all, look at verse 9. In that verse we are told that God made all kinds of trees, which were pleasing to the eye or pleasing to the sight. In that passage we are reminded that God shares with Adam His divine capacity of appreciation. He made trees that were not only functional, they not only provided necessary things for man in the way of fruit, but he made trees that were aesthetically pleasing. He not only made things that worked well, but they were beautiful at the same time. They were pleasing to the sight. He conveys to man the ability to appreciate those things which are aesthetically pleasing in his creation. By the way, you see there the divine origin of all human aesthetics. There is a whole philosophy of beauty that has been developed over the years and it has its origins in what God has provided in the garden. As God has the ability to appreciate beauty, now he has conveyed upon man the privilege of entering into that appreciation of beauty.
Look again at verse 15. There we see that God gave man significant labor and responsibility as He placed him in the garden to work it and to care for it. Adam was not to lounge around in paradise and eat grapes. Adam was to labor. He was to labor without toil. He was to labor without being foiled in his labor by thorns and thistles and by predators attacking his garden, but he was to have meaningful work. All of us, especially those of us who love the work that we do, know how blessed meaningful labor is. One of the most frustrating experiences in most of our lives is to desire to serve and to work and not to be able to find the right place in which to serve and to work. It robs us of a sense that we are contributing significantly to our family and to the community and to the congregation. So to have meaningful labor is a blessing which God gives to Adam.
Then again, look at verse 19. God provides, thirdly, an opportunity for Adam to exercise his responsibility of dominion in such a way that he is able to bring to bear his impressive intellectual abilities in the naming of the animals. You see, it is not just that God brings the animals to Adam and shows thereby Adam's dominion over those animals. It is not just that Adam's naming of the animals shows his dominion over them, though both of those things are true. It is that Adam assigns appropriate names to all the animals that God brings to him. This is an intellectual feat of epic proportions. We must remember that we cannot even conceive how powerful was the intellect of Adam. Man's intellect did not increase by the fall, it decreased, and that is why the early Christians used to say that Aristotle was but the rubbish of fallen Adam. Adam's intellectual powers were impressive beyond imagination. To each of these animals he applies the perfect and suitable name for them as God brings them to him for the act of naming. God gives to Adam the opportunity not only to express his dominion over the created order, but also to use his powerful intellect in the doing of it. Again, another blessing of God to Adam.
But the final and crowning blessing we find in verse 18 and in verses 21 through 23. There, God knowing man's need for intimacy and for companionship with a peer, creates woman. Marriage is viewed as the crowning blessing of God's goodness to man in the original creation. Let me say in passing before we look at the passage in more detail, that it is not surprising, is it, that since this is the crowning blessing of God's creation to Adam that that is precisely the arena that Satan attacks when he comes to tempt Eve and Adam in the fall. It should not surprise us today that that is still Satan's first base of attack against those who are in the estate of marriage; to attack them at precisely the point of God's greatest blessing in order to bring them down. So let us look tonight at what God says about the ordinance of marriage in verses 18 through 25.
The first thing we see in this passage is that God Himself, in His good providence, recognized the social needs of man even in paradise. Even in paradise perfect Adam had need for companionship. Look at verse 18. We learn this principle there: "Then the Lord God said it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him."
You see, everything in the world was good. But even with everything in the world pronounced good by God, God announces that it is not good for man to be alone. The very good which was pronounced in Genesis 1 did not occur until the creation of woman. God, having created everything perfectly, looks at man without companion and He says this is not good. This must be remedied. So solitary fellowship with God, even in paradise, is not God's plan for mankind. That ignores the basic human need for companionship. God senses the need that man has for companionship and He sets out to provide for that need.
Now let me remind you of a few things that we learn even from this. The New Testament, and our Lord Jesus Himself, draws its teaching on marriage and on appropriate relations between men and women from this passage. When the Pharisees argue over what the Law of Moses says about male and female relations, and about relations between husbands and wives and about divorce and remarriage, the Lord Jesus always takes them right back to Genesis 2 because the foundations for marriage are found in this passage. It is very interesting that in our own culture today, both the issue of appropriate male-female role relations and the issue of the relationship between husbands and wives in marriage, and the issue of divorce and remarriage are hot issues even in the church. Let me suggest to you there is some wonderful literature out on the market on this. But if you are wrestling with personal issues in this area, family issues or desiring to help others, I would commend to you a book which has recently been prepared. It is called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical Feminism, by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Our own Jim Hurley sits on the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. We have a number of other folks associated with our congregation who have had a significant part in this project. It is a wonderful volume which treats a whole range of issues with regard to marriage and male-female role relations giving a Christian and compassionate response to some of the fluff that is out there on the market, even in the Christian community.
Now I want you to note here, that God in the second half of verse 18 says that He is going to provide a helper suitable for him; that God will provide a helper suitable for him. Watch that phrase, because that phrase is going to occur again in verse 20: "A helper suitable." That phrase beautifully captures woman's role and dignity simultaneously. She is a helper, but she is a helper suitable. She is perfectly correspondent and so the phrase stresses both her role and her dignity. I want to add here that helper does not just mean junior assistant flunky. The word helper is the same word which is used of the Lord God over and over in the Old Testament when it says things like, the Lord is my help. When we sing "O God, our help in ages past", we are singing the same term which is used of woman here. She is a picture of God coming to the aid and rescue of man. Remember that, dear ladies, when you are having to work with very intractable husbands, with very little appreciation for your labor, that you are a picture to your husband of God's divine aide to him. What an awesome position of responsibility and authority that is.
This passage clearly focuses, by the way, on companionship as the basic need which woman will fulfill in the life of man. Not procreation, though that is important, but companionship is the fundamental motive for marriage in the divine order as it is revealed here in Genesis, chapter 2. This is such a radically different view from the Roman Catholic view of marriage. The Roman Catholic view of marriage is that marriage is primarily for procreation, not primarily for companionship. By the way, that is reflected in the ideas and the teachings of some of the greatest of the Catholic fathers, Catholic fathers that we admire and esteem greatly, like Jerome and Augustine. Calvin usually quotes Jerome and Augustine very, very favorably. But boy, he gives them a rough ride in his commentary on this passage. You remember, Augustine is the one who said that, ‘If God had created marriage for companionship, He would have made it between two men, not between a man and a woman.' It was his view that men and women really could not have good mutual companionship, and so he said if God had intended companionship, that marriage is the vehicle for companionship, he would have created two men. That was his view of the way the sexes are related, and the way that women were unable to provide that appropriate and needful companionship for men. Calvin and the Reformers and the Puritans after them, were vigorously opposed to the idea that marriage was somehow second best, that celibacy was the best model, that it was higher, that it was more holy, that marriage was second best and that the ultimate purpose of marriage was procreation. No, the Puritans following Genesis 2, make it clear that companionship is the basic, the fundamental motive for marriage.
Notice again in verses 19 and 20, we learn a second thing about this ordinance. There we learn that God simultaneously made Adam aware of his need for companionship and allowed Adam to express his dominion in the naming of the animals. In verses 19 and 20, God has brought all the animals to Adam for the purpose of naming. The naming of the animals demonstrates that man is the monarch of all that he surveys under God. Naming and Adam's dominion are connected. As he gives names, it shows that he has headship and authority and dominion over those in the animal world.
We use naming in the same way. Those who win wars get to name the battles. Napoleon did not get to name Waterloo. Wellington got to name Waterloo. In fact ,Wellington's allies did not even get to name Waterloo. Otto Von Blucher, the Prince of Bismarck who was the German leader of the Prussian army who helped Wellington greatly, who arguably won the battle for him, suggested that they name that battle La Belle Alliance, the good alliance. Wellington said, "No, we are going to call it Waterloo because the English will not like that French name." And so they named the battle Waterloo, even though it was actually fought several miles from Waterloo and there were some towns that were much closer. But when you win the war, you get to name the battles. You know there was recently a group of people from another part of the states who engaged in conflict with the peace-loving people of the south and they got to name the battles after the war. You know we had a battle that we thought was called Manassas and they call it Bull Run. When you win the war, you get to name the battles. Well, that act of naming is an act of sovereignty. Think of New Amsterdam, that city which is now New York. When the English took over, it was renamed. The Dutch had controlled that area before, and the English renamed it when they took over. We even see this in the Bible. When God shows His closeness of relationship to Jacob and the change in Jacob's nature, He renames him Israel, showing not only God's lordship over Jacob but His blessing upon him. So naming functions like this often in the Bible. It shows dominion and authority.
Now this action of naming male and female paired animals over and over reminds Adam that he himself is without a suitable counterpart. There is no one out there in all creation who is suitable for him. In fact, that very action of having to name the animals is almost like a divine nudge to say, "Look, Adam, there is nobody out there like you. You need companionship." That is, by the way, a hint that men sometimes still need today. At any rate, in this passage the phrase ‘a helper suitable' indicates a perfect fit. There was not found a helper suitable. There was not found a perfect fit, a support, an honored mutual companion for Adam. So God set out to provide one. As I said before, even today men sometimes need to be reminded of their need for companionship. It is a trend in our culture to see young folks, both men and women, marrying later and later in life. They are often times setting out to establish themselves in a career, especially if they are in a professional career like law or medicine. The schooling and the demands of debt and the burdens of work sometimes push those marriages later and later in life. Many times people get into a pattern of living where they sort of obtain a form of anesthetized self-sufficiency and they stop thinking about marriage and they wake up at about forty-five and they say, "Gee, I really want to get married and have a family, but it is kind of crunch time now." They need to be nudged, they need to be reminded of the importance of family and of companionship lest they allow a career to provide them temporary, artificial satisfaction, and then suddenly they wake up one day and they realize that it is not really fulfilling the deepest needs of their lives. A pastor friend of mine in another city, who had a large congregation and who had lots of young folks who were in law and medicine and other professions that were very demanding in the early days of their career, used to constantly remind the young men that they needed to be thinking about getting married. If he passed them in the hallway, he would stop and put his hand around them and he would say, "You know what rhymes with life?" And the guy would say, "No." "Wife, get one." Sometimes he would do that in the middle of a sermon. He would be in a series on Jeremiah, and suddenly he would say, "You know what rhymes with life?" And they would be trying to figure out, "How does that fit with what Jeremiah is saying here?" "Wife, get one." He would really press those young men on to take the initiative and find a wife. The young ladies of that congregation appreciated it, I guess.
The third thing we see in this passage is in verses 21 through 23. God himself makes provision for this need. God does not say, "Adam, you need a companion. Go out and find one." God himself makes provision for this need and man gratefully acknowledges the perfection of God's gift.
Notice in this passage several things. First of all, man is first formed from the ground. Then Eve is formed from him. Paul stresses that this is very significant for the relationships between man and woman, and especially between husbands and wives when he points this out in 1 Tim 2:13. It is also pointed out not only in Genesis 2, but also in 1 Cor 11:8-9, that woman was made for man, for a help to him, to be a suitable helper to him.
Notice also that it is stressed in 1 Cor 11:7, that Eve is the crown and glory of Adam. She is the glory of Adam, and man stands in need of her. In 1 Cor 11:11-12 we find this out.
Notice also that Adam sleeps while woman is made so he can never take credit for her creation. There are no suggestions, "Lord, make her like this." No, he is asleep while God brings woman into being and of course, Adam names her woman showing again the authority that the Lord has given to him. But also showing the mutuality, because the name that he gives her indicates that she is just like he is. He is ish, she is isha: man and woman. There is a compatibility. There is a mutuality about them. So at the same time, this shows the structure of authority that God has worked into the world order. It also shows her equality and compatibility with him.
Now there's a beautiful Christological application of woman being created while man slept. Andrew Bonar, in his commentary on Genesis points this out. The early church fathers often times pointed to Adam's sleep and woman's creation during Adam's sleep and compared it to the death of Christ and the creation of the Church. Listen to what Bonar says: "There must be sleep in the first Adam before God can take out of him the ordained spouse. And there must be death in the second Adam before God can take out of Him the chosen bride." I am not sure about the exegesis, but the theology of it is wonderful, so I share that with you tonight. There is also a beautiful quote of Matthew Henry regarding woman being created from man's side. He says this: "The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam, not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him; under his arm to be protected and near his heart to be beloved." Derek Kidner says of this passage: "The woman is presented wholly as man's partner and counterpart. Nothing yet is said of her child bearing. She is valued for herself alone." That is very important today when families face infertility, because fertility does not make a woman valuable to her husband in and of itself. She, in and of herself, is valuable to her husband regardless of whatever procreative blessings the Lord showers on that family. We pray for many, for all, and yet it is not the qualification that makes her valuable.
Look at verses 23 and 24. We see a fourth thing about this marriage ordinance. There in these verses we see that God, in this special creative and providential act establishes the foundation of marriage. For this reason, we read, "A man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh." This provision of Eve to Adam, according to both Moses and Christ, is the foundation of all marriage. You can look at Mark, chapter 10, verses 6-9, for instance. This is precisely where Jesus goes to explain the foundations of marriage. For what reason? Because God made woman for man, out of man and, therefore, it is to be the closest of all relations. It is the greatest of the creational blessings and the parameters which God placed around marriage are to be the foundation for this relationship in all of life, both before and after the fall. We have to understand what marriage is and how blessed it is before we can begin to reassert it today. Marriage is in trouble in our society. There are all sorts of pressures. A lot of the pressure comes from expectations and selfishness. When a young couple gets together and the young woman sees in the man the answer to all her needs, and the man sees in the woman the answer to all his needs, and they go into the marriage thinking that the other one is going to fulfill all their needs, rather than going into the marriage self-sacrificially in a spirit of self-denial, determining to serve the other, the very expectations in marriage often times cause a marriage to collapse.
There are, of course, other pressures in our society on marriage. The laws that protected marriage which we had, even up to thirty and forty years ago, have disappeared in our society. Virtually the only thing that keeps marriages going today when they are in trouble is the sheer will of the two people, or maybe one of the two people, involved. Whereas, a hundred years ago even if you had wanted to get away from the creep, you could not have gotten away from him. The law would not let you. So our society, by its very legal structure, has enabled marriage to crumble.
And then, of course, we have this unbelievably bizarre spectacle today being forced upon us of "same sex marriages" which according to the Scripture is an unreality, a contradiction in terms. Marriage is grounded in the creational ordinance, and as far as God is concerned, there is no such thing as same sex marriage. Why should the Christian be concerned about that type of legislation? Because every assault on the ordinance of marriage as it is originally created, every variation on that ordinance as it was originally established by God, is an attack on the uniqueness of marriage. Look, men especially are not instinctively committed to marriage. There have to be pressures at force in order to help men be connected and committed to that marriage. When our society takes away all those forces and expects marriage to perpetuate, it is being incredibly unrealistic and naive. In every assault, every variation on traditional forms of marriage is, in fact, an assault on the traditional form of marriage. Those ideas of things like "same sex marriages" or "open marriages" or "living together" cannot be sanctioned by the society and see marriage prosper at the same time. That is a cultural fact. So we see here, in verses 23 and 24, God establishing the foundations of marriage.
Finally, in verse 25, Moses reminds us that there was no sin in the relationship between Adam and Eve and, therefore, there was no shame in this stage of human experience. The man and his wife were both naked and they were not ashamed; no sin, no shame, no barriers of relationship with one another, no barriers of relationship with God. The need for covering is a result of the fall. That covering is symbolic of the mediation that we need between us and God, and it is also a practical and moral sign of the need for modesty, eventuated because of the fall. Man will look across the marriage bounds and outside the marriage bounds to experience some of the pleasures and blessings of the marital relationship which are only to be experienced within the bounds of the relationship, and therefore covering becomes necessary in order to keep man from being so quick to do that. That is why the beach is a very dangerous place for a man to be today, because there is not much covering going on out there. So we see in this passage the link between sinlessness and shameless. There is no shame before the fall, because there is no sin before the fall.
Now let me review very briefly what we have seen here as we close. First of all, we have seen man created prior to woman and thus establishing the headship, or authority of man in the marital relationship according to God's creation ordinances.
Secondly, we have seen that the sexes are complementary. The woman is the perfect match for man, and so the term ‘biblical complementarians' which is given to express the evangelical view of how man and woman ought to relate in marriage is a good term, because man and woman are made perfect as complements to one another. By the way, it is proper to say that the sexes are complementary, not that the genders are complementary. I hope that some of you English teachers out there are as ticked off as I am by this constant improper use of gender. People talk about gender relations, when they mean relations between men and women. When I hear gender relations I am thinking that there are problems between masculine and feminine pronouns. Gender is a linguistic term. It is not a sexual, personal term, and let us keep it that way. But at any rate, that is my pet peeve for the day.
Third, we see here that the union of two in marriage in an exclusive, permanent, God-sealed, bond between man and woman is the order of marriage which God has established. This exclusive, permanent, God-sealed bond is between one man and one woman. Therefore, it is against polygamy and it is against all forms of "same sex marriages." By the way, there is a beautiful statement by von Rad, speaking about God bringing Eve to Adam. Listen to this. von Rad says: "God Himself, like a Father of a bride, leads the woman to man." Now every dad in here has to have sort of a lump in his throat when he thinks about his daughter and that statement. It is a beautiful statement. "God Himself, like a Father of a bride, leads the woman to man," and gives her to Adam as the perfect gift.
Finally, we see a pattern of perfect ease between them. They are naked, and they are not ashamed. This is the beautiful relationship which God had established prior to the fall, and by the time we get seven verses into Genesis 3, we are going to see this relationship ruptured because of sin. It is not surprising that this relationship would be the first casualty of Adam and Eve's sin.
One last thing I would say. Even as Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed because there was no sin, and even as God provided them with coverings in the garden after their sin, so also the One who undertook to provide our covering because of our sin bore the shame on our behalf.