Wednesday, September 05, 2007

(IV) Garden of Eden lost

Recap and introduction

Talk (I) Marriage in the Garden of Eden - The gift of the bride, biblical principles of marriage

Talk (II) Outside the Garden of Eden – Thistles and Thorns, The challenges facing marriage

Talk (III) Building a home outside the Garden of Eden -The challenge to make a good marriage better – let’s grow old together, the best is yet to be.

Talk (IV) Garden of Eden lost. (cf Paradise Lost, John Milton) Things fall apart; the center cannot hold - Serious breaches of the marriage covenant.

How is it possible for a couple who have been married 20 years and have four children together finally come to the decision to divorce one another?

They must have loved each other deeply enough to consider and to go through marriage.

What happened? How did they lose ‘paradise’? How is it possible that so much good will, so much promise for good can be frittered away. With nothing remaining but hate, bitterness, anger, finger pointing and the deep desire to be rid of the other? This is the supreme irony for as young lovers will tell you, they can’t wait to be with one another, and all they long for is to be with one another. Now, they can’t wait to live apart and to permanently not to have anything to do with the other.

Will there ever come a time when we the leaders of the church may have to reluctantly, regretfully, agree that a couple is permitted to divorce? When we have to acknowledge that things have tragically fallen apart. The centre simply cannot hold:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction,

while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

The Centre cannot hold

When can we tell that the centre cannot hold and the marriage is over? What is the quintessential essence of marriage – once this is broken, divorce can be considered. What is it that breaks the marriage bond? What constitutes an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage?

(In the discussion that follows, we are assuming that both husbands and wives are committed Christians)

Definition of marriage

“Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God, preceded by a public leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned by the gift of children”. (Cf. Gen 2.23-25) John Stott Issues Facing Christians, 4th Edition, p 361

Permanence of marriage, restoration and reconciliation of broken relationships is the emphasis – nowhere is divorce commanded or indeed encouraged.

Mt 19 3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and 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'6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Three main purposes for marriage reflecting covenantal responsibilities

Listed in the order in which they are mentioned in Gen 1 and 2. Note, priority of order does not necessarily signify priority of importance.

(I) The reciprocal commitment of self-giving love which finds its natural expression in sexual union

Breaches : (adulterer)

Mt 5. 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Mt 19.9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

The one flesh principle is foundational to marriage as divinely ordained and biblically defined, ( p 372) – nothing less than a violation (by sexual infidelity) of this fundamental relationship break the marriage covenant ( p 381)

(II) Commanded to be fruitful. Procreation of children, together with their upbringing within the love and discipline of the family.

Provider, protector, guardian, partner, setting the tone in terms of discipline, commitment to the Lord.

Breaches: Abuser, violator, destroyer, abdicator (violent, drunkard, addict – alcohol, gambling, drugs, computers) Importance of pastoral considerations

(III) Companionship – it is not good for man to be alone

Breaches : (desertion, abandonment) (permission to divorce and remarry in case of non Christian spouse who deserts spouse solely because of his/her conversion to Christianity.

Summary of scriptural teaching

· God created human kind male and female in the beginning, and himself instituted marriage. His intention was and is that human sexuality will find fulfilment in marriage, and that marriage will be an exclusive, loving and lifelong union. This is his purpose. (Gen 2.24)

· Divorce is nowhere commanded, and never even encouraged, in Scripture. On the contrary, even if biblically justified, it remains a sad and sinful declension from the divine norm. (Mt 19.6)

· Divorce and remarriage are permissible (not mandatory) on two grounds. Firstly, an innocent person may divorce his or her partner if the latter has been guilty of serious sexual immorality. (Mt 5.32; 19.9) Secondly, a believer may acquiesce in the desertion of his or her unbelieving partner, if the latter refuses to go on living with him or her. (1 Cor 7.10-16) In both cases, however, the permission is given in negative or reluctant terms. Only if a person divorces his or her partner o the ground of marital unfaithfulness is his or her remarriage not adulterous. Only if the unbeliever insists on leaving is the believer not bound. (p 377)

· We may on occasion feel at liberty to advise the legitimacy of a separation without a divorce, or even a divorce without a remarriage,(eg : violence, abusive, disruptive behaviour affecting the safety of spouse and children) taking 1 Cor 7:11 as our warrant. But we have no liberty to go beyond the permissions of our Lord. He knew his Father’s will and cared for his disciples’ welfare. Wisdom, righteousness and compassion are all found in following him. ( p 385)

Pastoral care and concern

'Divorce is always a painful experience and the church's first task is to speak (by word and action) of God's attitude of grace and mercy for those who go through this trauma.

Stott, “marital breakdown is always a tragedy. It contradicts God’s will, frustrates his purpose, brings to husband and wife the acute pains of alienation, disillusion, recrimination and guilt, and precipitates in any children a crisis of bewilderment, insecurity and often anger” p 360

Mal 2.16 I hate divorce cf. Hos 14.4 I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them

“The primary question is how it may find some arrangement that will give adequate form both to our beliefs about the permanence of marriage and to our belief about the forgiveness of the penitent sinner” Professor Oliver O’Donovan ( p 383)

It could express this ambivalence either by permitting the remarriage in church (emphasising the gospel of redemption), while adding some kind of discipline (recognising God’s marriage norm), or by refusing the remarriage in church (empathising the norm), while adding some expression of acceptance ( recognising the gospel)”

Final personal challenges for us

The Knowing/Doing Gap

There is a gap between our knowledge and our ability or willingness to do it.

Don’t know what to do

Know what to do but do not have the willingness to do it

Know what to do but seemingly we do not have the ability to do it

Why is this so?

Knowing what is right is important – we need to retain the vision of what a marriage under God, ought to be – Adam, “this at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. Our spouse are our soul mates, our best friends, there is no one closer, our spouse are our partners in the business of life, building the home, nurturing children, serving and honouring God. Our steps should quicken, our hearts lighter and glader when it is time for us to head home….in the theme song of the King of Queens, “All my life I will be coming home to you”

The King of Queens-Theme

My eyes are gettin' weary,

My back is gettin' tight,

I'm sittin' here in traffic,

On the Queensborough bridge tonight,

But I don't care cuz all I wanna do,

Is cash my check and drive right home to you,

Cuz baby all my life I will be driving home to you.

But it is not enough


We need honesty to admit we are not satisfied with the status quo, with the present state of our marriage. We do not talk enough, share enough. Not enough courtesy, respect, affection. Too much contempt, irritation. What happened to my vows to love, to cherish, to show unconditional love……..

Status quo

Marriage begins to break up when we accept the status quo, indeed perpetuate the status quo.

We need to say,

“I love my wife/husband. I will not accept what is happening now to my marriage – I will do whatever it takes to fulfil my vows to love, to cherish my spouse – a vow I made before the Lord, in the presence of God’s people and to my spouse”.

Hard work

It needs hard work – dissatisfaction with the status quo must go on to a firm resolve to action : this is what I would do : confess, repent, start anew, if need be, see somebody for counsel – take firm, concrete, definite steps – no more foul words, no more taunting, challenging, ….habits and patterns of behaviour set through many years takes time to unravel. Hard work needs to be made to set new habits and re-established new patterns of behaviour. Research shows it needs at least 90 days or three months!


Daily irritants

Irritation, complaints, injustice and unfairness, disgruntled – often over quite legitimate reasons and grounds. Temptation to react and to respond in the same old familiar, habitual, destructive ways.

We need perseverance on our part to continue to respond with love and affection and patience for our spouse to respond in the same way. Here the husbands need to take the lead.

Waiting upon God

It needs iron discipline to wait upon God – tyranny of the urgent, our laziness, our lack of enthusiasm, a thousand other excuses…..

Stott reminds us of the iron discipline of the Lord’s greatest servant:

Moses sought God, “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face”, David looked to the Lord as his shepherd, his light, and salvation, his rock, the stronghold of his life and in times of distress found “strength in the Lord my God, “ Paul prayed through and was able to say, “ your grace is sufficient for me….Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane….your will not mine…..

Then and only then can we live a life of self denial, self forgetting unconditional love

Without being overwhelmed by our fears and worries over our rights being trampled upon when we practiced unconditional love. Then only can we let go of the need to overemphasise on our rights

Corporate/community level

There is need for the church to organise marriage renewal weekends and if need be marriage counsel


No marriage so good that it cannot be improved.

No marriage so bad that it cannot be renewed

in our first talk, entitled Gift of the bride – we reminded ourselves that marriage is ordained by God. He has not taken his eyes off our marriage. It is God’s will that marriage is permanent, until death do us part. With the Spirit’s enabling and empowerment it is possible for each of us to say to our spouse,

"Let us grow old together. The best is yet to be."

(III) Marriage outside the garden of Eden. Settling down as exiles

Lets make a good marriage better and Let’s grow old together; The best is yet to be.

There is a couple staying in a corner house at the end of our row. They are retired – but they keep themselves busy. The husband spends time gardening, wife religiously walks every afternoon, rain or shine. They are healthy, interact well with one another and are friendly with the neighbours. Picture of a couple in idyllic retirement.

Being the best of friends and enjoying the autumn and winter years of our lives together do not take place automatically or naturally. In fact the opposite is true – couples at best grow distant from one another. In many cases years of hostility boil over and couples in their late 50’s and 60’s end up divorced or with one parent staying with a son and the other in the home of another sibling.

In order to for us to grow old together, with the best as yet to be, couples has to work very hard. Primarily it requires the hard work of :

· Community

· Couple


Good biblical teaching on marriage

The sanctity of marriage

Gen 2 24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

“Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God, preceded by a public leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned by the gift of children”.

John Stott Issues Facing Christians, 4th Edition, p 361


heterosexual, monogamy. It is the exclusive union of one man and one woman

publicly acknowledged – needs the sanction and protection of the law, leaving of parents with its legal implications – ownership or property, children, profession of faith, financial obligations to family….

permanently sealed (cleave to his wife) marriage is a loving, cleaving commitment or covenant

physically consummated (one flesh)

Scriptures envisages no other kind of marriage or sexual intercourse, for God provided no alternative

“ the fact is every kind of sexual relationship and activity which deviates from God’s revealed intention is ipso facto (by that very fact) displeasing to him and under his judgement. This includes polygamy and polyandry, (which infringe the one man, one woman principle) cohabitation and clandestine unions (since these have involved no decisive public leaving of parents with its legal ramifications), casual encounters and temporary liaisons, adultery and many divorces ( which conflict with “cleaving” and with Jesus’ prohibition let man not separate ) and homosexual partnerships (which violates the statement that a man shall be joined to his wife) .” Stott op cit p 458

I hate divorce

Mal 2.13Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, Why? It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 I hate divorce, says the LORD God of Israel, and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment, says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

Mt 19 1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed him there, and he healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’[a] 5 And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’[b] 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?”[c] they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. 9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.

Practical steps as a Community

Good preparation of couples for marriage and good continuing pastoral care of the young

Couples. (Personal and institutional or corporate) Care Group for young couples.

Continual involvement of an older mentoring couple

Marriage renewal weekends and follow ups

Reconciling ministry

Pastoral care and ministry to the divorced

Community and Character building

Good teaching, modelling, mentors and counselling within the community will help couples have the determination to keep the vows we have made to our spouse before God in the presence of his people. The keeping of our vows has the effect of building character in us.

Secondly, as mentioned earlier, the restrains and disciplines of a strong community life will be infinitely be helpful to couples in their marriages – not just one lonely couple struggling to make their marriage work all by themselves.

Finally, belonging to and having a meaningful involvement in a community of faith will help couples form habits of obedience, make and keep commitments to honour, cherish and unconditionally love one another.

Through all this we become the people of God.

This is where the skills come in (place of seminars, conferences, etc) not necessary exclusively of one another but inclusively and at the same time as character building


Equipping couples with skills

The individual – Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator, or other personality and temperament tests

Individuality and influence of family of origins

Communication skills

Language of love - cf Gary Chapman's Five Languages of Love

Conflict resolutions – need of humility, forgiveness and repentance

Bonding time


Anniversaries – red flags – nothing to talk about, or same old, same old (haven’t grown, or grown apart, too self centred, not other orientated enough….)

Holidays (unrestricted, time of attending to and listening to one another)

Blocking out the dates

Weekly (M&Ms the candy that melts in your mouth and not in your hands!) – weekend activities …….

Daily (hot cuppa)

(II) Marriage Outside the Garden of Eden: Thistles and thorns

Consequences of the fall. To recap: The first marriage is set in paradise, before the fall, with Adam and Eve at their newly minted best.

But soon after in chapter three, Adam and Eve fell into sin. Rapidly we see the consequences of the fall on their relationship.

Thistles and thorns

Gardening – finished work is lovely – think of the ideal garden - manicured lawns, nicely trimmed hedges, lovely landscaped greenery from well pruned clumps of bamboo, to the giant rain tree providing shade. The greenery cleverly contrasted with flowers, of every hue and colour and to top it off, luscious fruit trees – providing fruit seasonally throughout the year.

What we do not see are the endless weeding, the battle with bugs, and disease (fungi growth), thistles flourish and grow green fat and healthy without any need of care while roses, daffodils, orchids, Taiwanese carpet grass requires endless care, watering, fertilisers, insecticides…….

After the wedding and the honeymoon, comes the business of building a home and the drudgery of maintaining the home – cleaning, dusting, washing, sweeping. Dirty dishes and greasy woks and sauce pans….. this is when the going gets tough for our married couples.

What happens when Marriage Gets Tough? Two stories.

(I) Marriage Martyr

“I remembered our courtship years and the excitement I felt when I'd get ready for one of our dates. I'd spend hours thinking about it and preparing for it. What should I wear? I'd think. Something he hasn't seen me in before. Where's my good perfume? Does my hair look okay?

I wondered how a relationship once so carefree had turned into a competition dominated by one-upmanship. I was having difficulty transitioning from the fun-exciting-butterflies-in-the-stomach stage of dating to the mundane, everyday frustrations and hectic pace of modern married life. Though I'd been blissfully happy while we were dating, once the honeymoon was over, I felt increasingly dissatisfied. I focused constantly on the things my husband used to do for me but now neglected. I was alert to any discrepancies in our workloads, and determined to maintain equality. I was playing to win, and I was keeping score!

While my lifestyle and responsibilities changed after marriage, my expectations remained the same. As a girlfriend, I could pick and choose the parts of his life I wanted to share. This freed me to come and go when things got bad. I enjoyed low investment and high returns. But as a wife, I found myself committed to endure both the pleasant and unpleasant sides of life with my husband.

Over the years, as my expectations gave way to reality, I compensated with self-pity. This also gave me a great excuse not to work on my marriage. After all, as the mistreated wife, I never had to acknowledge my husband's good points or understand his feelings. I couldn't be expected to praise his moments of better judgment or take responsibility for overcoming the lack of romance in our relationship (one more task for my mammoth to-do list!)”. Marriage Martyr Renata Waldrop, a freelance author, lives in Tennessee.

(II) Married the wrong person?

“Kevin and I met at a Christian singles retreat. By the end of the retreat, I'd made a new friend—but assured myself that was all. We were just too different to be more.

Kevin talked little, but when he did, it was often about the Bible. He was refreshingly genuine.

We began to pray and attend Bible study together. After a few months, he proposed. Despite all the good memories we were making, we were also beginning to disagree often. I assured myself, however, that marriage would make us "one" on issues of childrearing, spending, and the many other annoying differences we faced.

As any married person could have told me, that was an erroneous assumption. Marriage only magnified our differences. We fought regularly, and our life together hurt. Soon I found myself pondering my friend's advice. After all, I reasoned, Christians aren't perfect. What if I married the wrong person? Why stay married if it's all about fighting? Why be unhappy”?

Marital expectations and marital suffering

The experience of marital suffering is linked to marital expectations or desires. Short of objective physical or emotional violence, we suffer in marriage when the experience we are having falls short of our Expectations.

The question then that must be asked is this: what kinds of expectations of marriage are appropriate to the covenant promises actually exchanged? Excessive desires set the spouses up for the perception of suffering, in situations that would not have been perceived this way in earlier eras.

Covenantal nature of marriage

Marriage was designed by God in creation to meet certain fundamental needs of the human being. When those needs are richly met, we flourish. Covenant is the structural principle of marriage, holding weak and fickle human beings to the promises they have made. When the marriage covenant is sturdy, it provides a stable and enduring context for the pursuit of the creational blessings of companionship, sex, and family partnership. Strong skill and virtue development in meeting creation-related needs and fidelity to covenant promises can lead to genuinely joyful marital partnerships. Such relationships reach near the pinnacle of what God created humans to be.

Covenantal vow to keep needs and obligations

The success of any marriage depends on meeting the creation-based needs of the spouse in at least a minimally satisfactory fashion and on maintaining faithfulness to the marriage covenant. These basics of marriage are not merely cultural but "covenantal," that is, suffering comes in marriage when aspects of companionship, sex, or family partnership fall far enough short of expectations as to create the experience of pain.

However due to our fallen and sinful nature, failure to meet valid expectations is inevitable and disappointment, pain or suffering is experienced.

Outside Garden of Eden : Suffering is an inevitable feature of marriage

People need to be taught, as they were in more sober times, that a measure of suffering is an inevitable feature of marriage. Not only does marriage fail to mitigate the struggles of life … it actually deepens them, rendering them even more poignant, because more personal. (David P. Gushee)

Causes of suffering

From without – better for worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health

The traditional wedding vows reflect the awareness that every marriage is threatened by external enemies. Two types of enemies are named in the vows: poverty and illness. When the couple says "for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health," they are promising to remain loyal to their marriage covenant regardless of the trials created by poverty or illness.

Unemployment and financial pressures remain a major source of difficulty in marriage even today. Illness or incapacitation of a spouse or child likewise creates one of the major forms of marital suffering. Most will know of a marriage that did not prove capable of enduring such afflictions.

Numerous other factors extraneous to the marriage itself can create marital suffering. These can include illness or bereavement in the family or extended family. Job stresses that threaten to grind up the human spirit of one of the spouses are a major issue. A move demanded by school or work can be quite stressful. This list could be extended. Suffice it to say that most marriages will face such external sources of suffering at one time or another.

Within –

But improved economic and physical conditions in contemporary society mean that the internal sources of marital suffering are by now more significant. This is not a coincidence. Little irritations in the marital relationship don't matter when the Nazis might land on Long Island any day, or when we're not sure where the next meal is coming from. Lacking such pressures and fears, we have the tragic liberty to turn on each other or self-destruct.

Internal sources of suffering in marriage come in three primary forms. They may have to do with my partner, with me, or with the dynamics of our relationship.

Suffering comes in marriage when aspects of companionship, sex, or family partnership fall far enough short of expectations as to create the experience of pain. Perhaps there is a failure to share adequately in the labour of running a household or meeting its expenses. Maybe there is a lack of time spent together in leisure. Perhaps the sexual relationship lacks passion or mutual satisfaction. The friendship dimension of marriage may have eroded. Or maybe chronic conflicts arise over how the children should be disciplined or educated. Marriage was created to meet very basic human needs in these areas, and such failures will elicit suffering. If spouses work together in the same business, stress and strains of normal everyday running of the business can cause enormous stress and strains on the marriage. The tensions of the work is carried forward into the domestic arena.

Many marriages fail because of the moral, psychological, or spiritual problems of just one of the spouses. It is extraordinarily tragic, but all too common—a promising marriage between two people who love each other deeply is brought down not by any external stress but by the immoral or irresponsible behaviour of one of the partners. Gambling addictions and other kinds of addictions.

Individual response to suffering differs

· Shouting – nothing to husband, but may be a great deal to the spouse

What Shall We Do with Our Suffering?

· First determine realistically and accurately what is the present state of your marriage.

1. Ecstatic Union

2. Intimate Partnership

3. Cordial Friendship

4. Peaceful coexistence

5. Tense silence

6. Active hostility

7. Full-scale belligerence

8. Irreconcilable brokenness

· Take covenantal obligations seriously. We don't keep vows; the vows keep us. (Mike Mason)

· Seek or grant forgiveness

· Attempt to seek root cause of conflict and discord

· Seek counsel

· Be assured of support

Suffering comes in marriage, but if we endure, if we hold true, it does not necessarily stay. Darkness may come with the night, but joy comes in the morning.

David P. Gushee

Series on marriage (I)

(I) Marriage in the Garden of Eden - The gift of the bride, biblical principles of marriage


Marriage is the most intimate relationship that we can have with another human being. It is closer than that between parents and children, between siblings and closer than that between soul mates (Jonathan and David). However it is not the closest, most intimate and meaningful relationship that we can have as a human being. That relationship is the one we have with our God, creator, redeemer, saviour and Lord.

However the marital relationship is the most basic and most important building block of society. When this basic relationship is in widespread decline and difficulty, society veers on the brink of chaos and collapse. The fall of mighty empires is almost always the result of the breakdown of the family due to corruption and immorality.

For us personally, this is true as well. If the marriage is not working, everything else is in trouble, from the home, to the office, to our ministry and fellowship in the church.

Divorce statistics

In the USA

Percentage of first marriages that end in divorce in 1997: 50%

Percentage of remarriages that end in divorce in 1997: 60%

Divorces as percentages of marriages

Belarus : 68%

Russia : 65%

Sweden : 64%

UK 53%

US : 49%

Canada 45%

The fallout from divorce is tremendous. Divorce results in dysfunctional homes, and dysfunctional children. As long ago as 1990 when I was in Canada doing my masters, husbands who abandoned wives and families have reached epidemic proportions. The cost to society in terms of increased potential for criminal activities, the increased number of families in need of welfare, more children dropping out of school, and consequently the loss of productivity to the state is immense. We certainly need to do more to protect the sanctity of marriage.

What has the bible to say and to teach about marriage?

Gen 2.

“The subtle change from ‘the heavens and the earth’ (1.1) to ‘the earth and heavens (2.4b) point to the shift in perspective : from God as sole actor to humanity as reactor”. Waltke, Genesis, p79

The setting: Garden of Eden

The first marriage is set in paradise, before the fall, with Adam and Eve at their newly minted best.

Gen 1.31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

In the midst of a newly minted creation, where everything was every good, we read that there was a discordant note: Gen 2.18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

It is not good

Waltke (ibid, p 88) “ essentially it is bad for Adam to be alone. God intends marriage, which entails intimacy and sexual relationship. Our longing for relationships, for friendship is modelled after God in whose image we are made. God does not exist in isolation but is a tri-unity, three persons revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Augustine invites us to understand the tri-unity of God this way.

He taught : ‘ The Father is the lover, the Son the Beloved, and the Spirit the love that is between them and that unites them. surrounded by a heavenly court.

For love to exist there must be a lover and the beloved. If not, there is only narcissistic (self absorbed love) That God is a plurality is supported by the mention of the Spirit of God in 1:2 and the fact that the image of God itself is a plurality.

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

John Harriot comments ‘ If we are made in the image of God, we are made in the image of the Trinity; and the life of the Trinity must in some sort be reflected in the pattern of our human life’. God in the Trinity is revealed as ‘persons in relationship’. Hence being made in God’s image we too are persons in relationship. Hence it is not good for Adam to be alone.

Preparation of the man for the gift

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

Waltke asked ‘ why does God determine that it is not good for Adam to be alone and then give him animals? In fact, Adam must realise that it is not good to be alone. Rather than squandering his most precious gift on one who is unappreciative, God waits until Adam is prepared to appreciate the gift of woman.

Eve was the missing link that Adam was looking for. This missing link cannot be found in all the other creatures created by God. It is a search for a soul mate. That special someone has to be specially created for Adam. God created Eve to perfectly complement Adam – like the fingers of both hands perfectly fitting in together. Hence the bible teaches us that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing. And obtains favour from the LORD”. Proverbs 18.22 (NASB)


God creates the woman to help Adam, that is, to honour his vocation, to share his enjoyment, and to respect the prohibition. The word help suggests that the man has governmental priority, but both sexes are mutually dependent on each other. The man is created first, with the woman to help the man, not vice versa; however, this does not mean ontological superiority or inferiority. The word helper ….signifies essential contribution, not inadequacy.”

Creation of the woman

Gen 2.21 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.

Matthew Henry, “ the woman is not made out of his head to top him, not our 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.

Marriages are made in heaven!

22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

God gives the man his wife. Every marriage is divinely ordained. Hence the holy and ideal state of marriage.

23 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."

Man names the woman – signifies man’s authority in the home

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.


Because husband and wife are one flesh, the bond of marriage has priority over the parent child bonds. The husband’s obligations to his wife takes precedence over other priorities. This contrasts sharply with Asian and especially Confucian teaching on priority of parents and filial piety of children. (BTW an interesting question to the husband : if your mother and wife are both drowning, and you have only one life buoy, who would you throw the life buoy to?)


This is the language of covenant commitment cf. Hosea supremely speaks of the Lord’s love to unfaithful Israel.

Hos 2.14-23; 14 "Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.

16 "In that day," declares the LORD,
"you will call me 'my husband';
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in [d] righteousness and justice,
in [e] love and compassion.

20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,

23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. [g] '
I will say to those called 'Not my people, [h] ' 'You are my people';
and they will say, 'You are my God.' "

The essence of covenantal love is show in our traditional wedding vows:

I, ________ take you, ________ to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy laws and this is my solemn vow.

One flesh monogamous, exclusive, permanent, no adultery

No shame image of openness and trust

Consequences of the fall. To recap: The first marriage is set in paradise, before the fall, with Adam and Eve at their newly minted best.

But soon after in chapter three, Adam and Eve fell into sin. Rapidly we see the consequences of the fall on their relationship.

Woman : frustrated in her natural relationships in the home: painful labour, insubordination towards her husband. Control has replaced freedom; coercion has replaced persuasion; division has replaced multiplication

Desire is to dominate or rule over her husband but ironically the man will dominate her. The alienation between the sexes can be seen in the power struggle rather than love and cherishing that is to come (Waltke)

Ugliness of marital conflict – we have all seen it, experienced it. We know which buttons to press to get a reaction from our spouses. The things we say, the things we do….

Spiritual lessons

As Waltke puts it ‘ the garden is paradise: if humanity fails in this ideal setting, then there is no hope for humanity to keep faith anywhere else. The failure of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden has profound theological significance. Since Adam was the only human being who could have resisted temptation, his failure implies that humanity cannot keep covenant with God. If Adam before the Fall proved unfaithful in Paradise, how much ….will we fail God outside Paradise and in our fallen sinful state.

Implications for marriage:

We need the humility to acknowledge the possibility that we are not Adam and
Eve at their best before the fall, in paradise. We are sinful, fallen, self absorbed, selfish fallen human beings. With a great proclivity to sin. Therefore we must be humble enough to acknowledge that :

Good intentions may not be good enough

Vows are not binding enough

Sincerity when put to the test will fail

Human love at its best will not be strong enough

Fortunately God did not forsake our first parents. God gave to Adam and Eve a Promise of deliverance and salvation: ‘I will put enmity between your offspring and hers’. Because natural Adam has failed, ultimately the woman’s offspring must be a heavenly Adam and his community

Therefore we need Jesus, we need God to be alive and well and at the centre of our relationship. We cannot make it on our own. We need :

His empowering Spirit to enable us to walk the straight and narrow

To convict us of sins so that we may turn away from temptations

We need to strive, to work hard and uncompromisingly to put Jesus at the centre and at the heart of our relationship, home and life.

The importance of community

When the marriage is new.

Consider for e.g. Newcomers to church come in with a host of habits, attitudes, worldviews and behaviours – gradually learn what it means to be a Christian through teaching, mentoring, discipling, modelling – business and integrity, honesty. Courtesy, respect, gentleness to the opposite sex, to the seniors, to the marginalised….

Similarly, belonging to and meaningful involvement in a community of faith will help couples who are newly married to form habits of obedience, make and keep commitments to honour, cherish and unconditionally love one another.

The restrains and disciplines of a strong community life will be infinitely helpful to couples in their marriages – not just one lonely couple struggling to make their marriage work all by themselves

A final personal challenge. What kind of person am I ?

Young couples concentrate much time and attention on the weddings. What they should major on is to ask themselves, “ what kind of person am I becoming so that my marriage will work. More than that, my marriage will be marked by unconditional love and honouring and glorifying to the Lord?

How do I become this kind of person?

Desire and longing and imploring of the Lord

Personal spiritual disciplines – QT, bible reading/study, prayer

Meaningful and active involvement in the life and ministries of the local community of faith.

Consider :

The real transforming work of marriage is the twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment. This is the crucible that grinds and shapes us into the character of Jesus Christ… Marriage calls us to an entirely new and selfless life… Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value.
—Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage (Zondervan)