Marriage was ordained for a remedy and to increase the world and for the man to help the woman and the woman the man, with all love and kindness. ~William Tyndale“Marriage won’t meet all your needs.”“Marriage won’t give you all the answers.”“Marriage won’t fill the emptiness.”“You can only find fulfillment in God.”Every one of these statements is true. But they’re missing something: they’re missing the context of Adam’s problem.If it’s true that God is all we need for fulfillment, then no one was in a better position to be fully satisfied than Adam. Until Jesus came into the world, no other human had close and more intimate fellowship with God than Adam. He was in a prime position to find all the answers, to fill all the emptiness, and to have all his needs met in unbroken relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Still God looked down on Adam and said something out of sync with everything else He had said about His creation. At the end of each day of creation, “God saw that it was good.” But about Adam, God said, “It is not good.” What wasn’t good? Genesis 2:18a tells us, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’”
What did God mean by “not good”? Del Tackett, president of the Focus on the Family Institute, explains it wasn’t a qualitative statement – as if God created a three-legged dog and said, “This is not good.” He says it was an ethical statement of badness, as in “man should not be alone.” Why was it not good for man to be alone? Because Adam was created in God’s image. He was made to reflect God in every aspect of his existence. From all eternity God was in perfect relationships within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Adam to accurately reflect being made in the image of God, he could not remain alone; he had to be in relationship. Adam alone contradicted God’s nature.
And so God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” The story continues. “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. Then the Lord God made a singles group, and He brought it to the man to alleviate his loneliness.”
Of course that’s not what the text says. Why is it then that I so often hear this Scripture used to explain our need for just about every kind of relationship structure except marriage? While it’s true that God goes on to create other social structures to meet certain human needs (such as civil government and the church), He started with marriage. His specific and immediate solution for Adam’s problem was a wife. Genesis says.
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 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.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:22-25)
One of the best explanations I’ve seen on this passage comes from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary:
The inspired author indirectly reveals man’s natural loneliness and lack of full satisfaction. Though much had been done for him, yet he was conscious of a lack. The Creator had not finished. He had plans for providing a companion who would satisfy the unfulfilled yearnings of man’s heart. Created for fellowship and companionship, man could enter into the full life only as he might share love, trust, and devotion in the intimate circle of the family relationships. Jehovah made it possible for man to have “an help meet for him.” Literally, a help answering to him, or, one who answers. She was to be one who could share man’s responsibilities, respond to his nature with understanding and love, and wholeheartedly cooperate with him in working out the plan of God.
The Ongoing Creation Mandate
Only after God created male and female does Genesis say, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” And to Adam and Eve jointly, God gives the marching orders for mankind: “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (v. 28 NASB).
It wasn’t just for companionship that Adam needed Eve. God had work for them to do. And for this work, Adam needed a helpmate. In a marriage that made them “one flesh,” Eve complemented Adam’s abilities and made it possible for the two of them to be fruitful, to subdue the earth, and to take dominion. Theologians call this the “creation mandate.” Dr. Hubert Morken [a professor of mine in graduate school] explained that within the command for fruitfulness and dominion is the framework for everything we are called to do in our work and families. When challenged that this was only God’s way of “jump-starting” the world, Dr. Morken answered boldly, “The creation mandate has never been rescinded. Never in Scripture did God say, ‘OK, I have enough people now. You can stop getting married and having babies.’”
God continues to call His people to this work in order to accomplish His purposes. In Isaiah 45, the prophet reinforces the creation mandate, writing,
Woe to him who says to his father, “What have you begotten?” or to his mother, “What have you brought to birth?” This is what the Lord says—the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. For this is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—He says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:10-12, 18)
“But didn’t Jesus change everything?” some ask. The redemptive work of Christ did change our perspective on much of the Old Testament, but it didn’t negate the first thirty-nine books of the Bible. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
“Christ’s atoning work at Calvary was not, and was not intended to be, God’s provision for the needs that marriage meets,” writes Ellen Varughese in The Freedom to Marry. “Whether in a state of sin or in a state of righteousness, whether under law or under grace, man still needs marriage.”