A Companion for Life: The Marriage Relationship
February 11, 2024

A Companion for Life: The Marriage Relationship

Passage: Genesis 2:18-24

Knowing God by His Works

For the past several weeks, we’ve been in the book of Genesis, working through the earliest chapters of the Bible. And it’s in these early pages of the Bible that we pick up on some foundational things about how to understand God, ourselves, and our relationship with him. But I want to point out – we’ve been learning about God not just by paying attention to the things he says about himself, but also by observing what he does.

You’ll notice – nowhere in Genesis 1 or 2 does God make a public announcement about himself – where he says something like, “I am good.” “I am powerful.” “I have your best interest in mind.” God doesn’t come out and say these things. Instead, in Genesis He does something that’s even better. He shows us his goodness. He proves that he’s kind and powerful and all that by demonstrating it for us.

Last week, in particular, we saw God displaying a special kindness to humanity. We gave some attention to three gifts God initially gave to mankind: the breath of life, a place for life, and a covenant for life. And tonight we’ll see that God further displays his kindness by giving a fourth gift. In the last part of Genesis 2, God gives man a companion for life. So if you have your Bibles with you, please turn with me to Genesis 2. I’ll be reading verses 18-24. But before I read our text, let’s pray and ask God to help us understand His Word.


The Gift of Marriage

Here in Genesis 2, we see the first example of a marriage relationship. And there are three features of this relationship I want to point out. First, the problem it solves. Second, the precedent it sets. And third, the perfection we see in that first relationship, before the world became infected by things like selfishness, lust, and pride.

The Problem Solved by This First Relationship

So first, let’s look in the text to see the problem solved by this first relationship.

So far in Chapter 2, we’re given a description of how God made the first human being – a man. He was formed from dust, and God gave him the breath of life. And up until this point, this man is the only human being on earth. There are dogs, cats, elephants, penguins, goldfish – all kinds of animals. But there’s just one man.

And God has something to say about this. Verse 18: “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” Notice – God makes this observation. God, in his goodness, promises that he’ll fix the not-goodness of man being alone: “I will make a helper fit for him.” And God does this on his own initiative. Before Adam feels even a twinge of loneliness, before Adam complains – before Adam even realizes something is missing, God has already identified what Adam needs. And He’s doing something about it. This again proves and displays that God is kind; His ways promote human happiness and flourishing.

But let’s try to better understand the problem that God noticed in verse 18: that “it is not good that the man should be alone.” We could identify many reasons why this isn’t good, but at this point let me just point out two reasons from the text.

Number 1: the man would have no help. Even in paradise, the man here in Genesis 2 needs a helper fit for him. This phrase, a helper fit for him, doesn’t describe someone who is identical to the man, but instead describes someone who, though similar, is different from man in all the right ways – to support him, to sharpen him, and so on.

And, number 2, being alone isn’t good because the man would have no family. And without that first family, there would be no society at all – no earthly relationships in which to show self-sacrificial love, or to share experiences, or to enjoy peace. And there would be no ability to bear children. In Genesis 1:28, God blesses humanity, saying “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” But this blessing from God is only possible if this man has a wife. Adam being alone is not good.

Before God addresses man’s aloneness, though, he first brings all the birds and beasts in front of Adam. Adam sees them all. He names them. Yet Adam clearly recognizes that none of these wild animals are on the same level that he is. Verse 20: “The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.”

Here in verse 20, Adam is given a chance to reach the same conclusion that God did back in verse 18. Adam sees his solitude. And in the storyline of Genesis 2, there’s a rising tension here. Think about this from Adam’s perspective. He sees the problem – there’s no helper fit for him. But he can’t make another person. This is a problem Adam can’t fix!

But in this moment of helplessness, God shows the man – I know what you need. I know you don’t have the solution – but I do. And God demonstrates his kindness by giving Adam a companion. In verse 21, God puts Adam into a deep sleep. And while the man is sleeping, God takes one of Adam’s own ribs and makes it into a woman. We see this in verse 22.

And when Adam wakes up, he understands what has happened. He sees a strange and wonderful creature in front of him, and recognizes that this is God’s solution to his solitude. He now has a helper fit for him. In verse 23, Adam exclaims: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” The man receives the woman as the unique gift that she is.

The Precedent Set by This First Relationship

And as it turns out, this first relationship in Genesis 2 has ongoing relevance for human relationships today. There’s a precedent set by this first relationship – which is my second point. The precedent set by this first relationship is something we see in the first half of verse 24. “Therefore” – verse 24 is pointing back to everything that God has done between the man and the woman up to this point and is saying therefore – because of this precedent – “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

In this first relationship, then, it’s true that the woman is a friend for Adam. God is giving Adam a companion he can see, hear, touch, and enjoy God’s good world with. But God isn’t just establishing the value of friendship here in Genesis 2. God is establishing the nucleus of the family. He’s establishing and formalizing marriage as an ongoing practice for mankind.

And if there’s any doubt about this, other parts of the Bible confirm that this passage is the basis for human marriage. Matthew 19 is a good example. In Matthew 19, a group of Pharisees come to Jesus, asking if it’s okay for a man to divorce his wife for any cause. And when Jesus says No, he points to Genesis 2, and confirms that the principles of Genesis 2 have enduring significance for mankind today. Jesus affirms that it isn’t just the first man and woman who were “one flesh,” but every husband and wife are likewise made one flesh by God.

And this makes marriage something serious, and mysterious. We need to recognize that marriage isn’t merely a human construct. It’s not something we can define or redefine in a federal court. The creation-paradigm for marriage is that one man and one woman would come together to make one family. And when I say one man and one woman here – these are categories God has established at the beginning of the world. Male and female aren’t just social ideas that are changeable or interchangeable. But there are real biological distinctions between the two, and God himself calls male and female to different, complementary, God-honoring roles.

So as we think of marriage, we should realize that this is an institution from God. We shouldn’t enter into marriage lightly. We shouldn’t speak of marriage crudely. But we should do whatever we can to encourage healthy marriages, to preserve them – to safeguard them. When God, in his infinite wisdom, took the first step toward establishing human society, his first step wasn’t to give Adam a pet, or to give Adam a network of friends. Instead, God established marriage. He gave the family. And we know this, almost instinctively: when marriages and families are healthy, society will generally be good. But where marriages are trashed, families are fragmented, and individuals become socially isolated, the Word of God remains true: “It is not good for man to be alone.”

The Perfection Seen in This First Relationship

Yet here in Genesis 2, we don’t see any sign of broken relationships. This is because this first marriage was established in a world without evil or radical self-centeredness. In Genesis 2, we see the perfection of this first relationship – which is my third point – the perfection of this relationship.

The second half of verse 24 tells us that “the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.” The remarkable thing about this verse isn’t that the man and wife had no clothes – that’s not all that surprising. But the unusual thing here we’re supposed to take notice of is that the man and woman felt no shame.

And ultimately the reason why there was no shame is because there was no blemish – no indecency – no sin. The man and woman were free to experience constant joy in God, each other, and the garden without being distracted by social anxiety, regret, or embarrassment. They didn’t fantasize about ways to use their bodies perversely. They didn’t groan about their body weight or idolize a certain body shape, thinking, “if only I looked like that, then I would be happy.” There were no doubts about marital faithfulness. No grudges. No resentment. Their God-given consciences didn’t accuse them or condemn them, because this relationship was lived in the daylight of cleanness and godliness. And this is why the man and woman had no shame. They were free to enjoy God and his good gifts because their lives and their marriage was aligned with his ways.

Now I understand that marriages today aren’t characterized by unwavering, uninterrupted bliss like this. And over the next couple weeks, we’re going to see in more depth how humanity lost this innocence and happiness in our relationships with others – how we lost our relationship with God.

Though we’ve probably heard something before about the love of God for sinners, we know the darkness of our thoughts, our desires, and our imaginations – and we feel shame. And it’s hard to believe that the All-Good, All-Knowing God would be willing to look at us, to care for us, to embrace us. But the sinless Son of God took on flesh and stepped into our fallen world in order to deal with our shame. At the cross, Jesus bore our indecencies and was disgraced in our place. He was despised so we could be accepted before God. And Jesus slept the accursed sleep of death in our place.

But just as a pure, acceptable bride was brought out of Adam while he slept deeply in the garden, a pure, acceptable bride is brought out of Jesus while he slept deeply in the garden tomb, as well. Out of Jesus – out of his imperishable life – God is forming His Church to share in the same things. Those of us who have trusted in Christ should no longer see ourselves according to the shame or estrangement of our past, but we should hear the voice of Christ calling out to His Church, “Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” We are now his, and he is ours. We will stand before him, with our souls exposed, and we will not be ashamed. Because in Christ, we no longer belong to the corruption of this world – it no longer defines us. But He brings us back to the garden paradise, where all is set right again.