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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:The First Wedding
Text:Genesis 2:18-25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Singing: Ps. 108:1,2; Hy. 7:9; Ps. 45:1,4,5; Ps. 128; Ps. 124

Reading: Genesis 2:4-17

Text: Genesis 2:18-25

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

The institution of marriage is under assault. Driven by the forces of relativism, marital and sexual fidelity is attacked on numerous fronts. Selfishness, materialism, secularism, adultery, divorce, serial polygamy, pornography -- these are some of the "isms" and sins that are assaulting marriage. Let us not be so foolish as to think that we are immune to today's "isms" and sins.

As we stand on one side of the antithesis God established in the world -- a line not drawn in the sand but set in stone -- we need to remain biblically clear-headed about marriage. To help us remain clear-headed and not get lost in the fog mankind is willfully lost in, it is good to turn to the Book of Genesis. Genesis, the book of beginnings. "Genesis" means something like "birth" or "beginning." In Hebrew the book is called BERESHITH which means: "In the beginning." The book tells us about the beginning of many things. In the beginning of this new year, decade, century, and millennium, let us go back to the beginning and learn about some of the foundational things of life, culture, and the service and worship of our God.

Today we take a look at marriage, the first divine institution made by God.

I preach to you about the first wedding:


1. Adam's deficiency recognized; 2. God's creation completed; 3. The first marriage solemnized.

1. Adam's deficiency recognized.

The careful reader may be a little shocked by verse 18. The LORD God declared that there was something not good in his creation. Up to this point, everything was good. Day by day God had created things -- land, trees, birds, fish, beasts. And every time God saw what he had created and it was good. Time after time in ch. 1 you read: "And God saw that it was good."

Now, for the first time, you read, "It is not good...." There was something not good. The not-good-thing was that the man was alone. He was incomplete. There was something missing. A deficiency in the life of the man.

To remove the deficiency, this alone-ness of the man, God made a helper suitable for him. A counterpart to fill the void in his life. The words "suitable for him" express the idea that this helper will be like him, will be agreeable to him, will be exactly what he needs to fill the gap in his life.

It is not that God made an error in his work of creation -- an error He now had to fix. No; God created man with the void in his life. When God formed man from the dust of the ground, he made him with a remaining incompleteness, with the need for a helper. That was part of God's good, perfect, and beautiful creation. That was part of God's design.

And so from this we can already draw some practical applications for today. And that is that it is good to marry. It is nothing but sound practical wisdom to encourage people to marry.

God does not give a husband or wife to everyone. Some he calls to remain unmarried. He leads their lives in such a way that they do not find a partner. And God will give those whom he calls to remain single the grace to remain single. Some prefer to remain single. Some choose the single life to be able to devote more energy to the work of the kingdom of God.

And yet, the scripture says that the married state is a good one. In 1 Cor. 7 Paul says that it is good if a man has a wife and if a woman has a husband.. In his first letter to Timothy, ch. 5, he says that he would have younger widows marry. In ch. 4 he rebukes those who forbid marriage. He reminds Timothy that marriage is good because it is part of God's good creation.

But we have gotten ahead of ourselves. Let us go back to Eden, back to the man who was alone and, therefore, incomplete.

God knew that the man was alone, but the man did not yet know it. He did not realize there was something or someone missing. To make the man realize this, God brought the beasts of the field and the birds of the air to the man. Adam had to learn that in all the created order, with all its variety, there was still at this time no creature suited to be his companion. God made the animals pass before Adam. As they passed by -- from the aardvark to the zebra -- Adam was to study them and name them. He was the first zoologist.

As he studied and categorized them, he realized that there was not one that could be his helper, his companion. Among the animals, there was no counterpart for him. None to fill the gap in his life.

Why not? Because none of the animals had been created in God's image like Adam had been. They had bodies like he. They had a life-force like he. But they did not have the task, the mandate to rule over and develop creation like God had given to him.

They say that a dog is man's best friend. A man and his dog can have great fellowship. They can spend hours together. They can play games. A man and his dog can show and share affection. But the fellowship must always be on the dog's level, because the dog can only communicate at the level of a dog.

No doubt, Adam saw this in the parade of animals. He realized that if he were to have a companion, the companion would have to be specially created by God and in the image of God, as he was.

And so a longing developed for a companion, for someone to fill the empty spot in his life. He longed for someone who was his equal, who would be his counterpart. God prepared him for the wonderful gift He was going to give to the man.

2. After God had prepared Adam for Eve, he prepared Eve for Adam.

The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. As he was sleeping, God took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. From that one rib, God made a woman. Man's perfect counterpart. Like man and yet different. And, as the French like to say, "Vive la difference!"

God took special care -- literally it says that he built the woman from the man's rib -- special care to make one who would perfectly fill the empty spot in man's life.

And so we see here the glory of the woman. She was the crowning touch to God's creative activity. Without her, all of creation was incomplete. Something was missing. With her, it was good. It was perfect, complete.

God established the true dignity of woman by making her from one of the man's ribs. It's significant that God did not take part of the man's head or foot, but rather that he took a rib from his side. Before God, man and woman stand side by side.

The Puritan commentator Matthew Henry put it rather nicely: She was 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. Perhaps Matthew Henry read a little too much into the rib, yet he expressed well the biblical ideal of marriage. Written 300 years ago, and yet worthy of being heard today! There have been times when a husband did not think much differently about his wife as he did about his cattle. She was part of his chattel. There are still places in the world where women are trodden upon. Even in the church, the idea has often prevailed that the wife is a lowly creature, and that because the husband is the head of their relationship, he can do with her and to her whatever he wants. If he wants to abuse her, that's his business.

The place of the woman in creation cuts off any such sinful notion. And any man who thinks that way about his wife is foolish. God waited for a special moment to create her. She has a lofty and a glorious position in creation week.

There is equality, and yet at the same time, God created her for a certain purpose, namely, to be a helper for the man. She is to help the man fulfil the mandate God gave the man -- to be lord over creation. And God made her with this purpose in view.

She would make up what was lacking in the man.

She was the female counterpart of man. The Hebrew expresses this very nicely.. In Hebrew, one of the words for man is 'Ish'. The word for woman is 'Ishshah'. 'Ishshah' is nothing but the Hebrew word for man with a feminine ending.. We could translate it into English as 'She - man'. She is a feminine man. She is the same as man, yet different. She is wo-man. She is the other half of man. She is what makes man complete.

To speak of the wife as the husband's helper greatly incenses the radical feminists. Such talk can also be the cause of anxiety among sisters in the church. Many think that to speak of headship within the marriage relationship reeks of prejudice, inequality, and injustice. These old fashioned and obnoxious ideas must be thrown off. The wife must be autonomous of her husband. She must lead her own life independent of him.

This calls for clear-headed thinking, beloved. Are men and woman equal? Of course. They are equal like red and blue are equal in that they are both colours. They are equal like hot and cold are equal in that they are both temperatures. Equal while different.

Man and woman are equal in that they are both created in God's image. That's exactly why the man could not find a companion from among the animals. God did not make the animals in his image. The woman he did. Equality!

And then they were equally subjects of God's wrath when they sinned. Together they were driven out of the Garden after they'd eaten the forbidden fruit.

Finally, they are equally redeemed by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul said in Gal. 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Peter, in 1 Pet. 3:7, teaches that the wife is a joint heir of the gift of life with her husband.

Equality, and yet difference. Different roles and tasks. The clear testimony of both the OT and the NT is that the husband is the head of the marriage relationship. The principle of submission is not part of the curse, as the "biblical feminists" would have it. It is part of the creation order.

No woman is obliged to accept a proposal of marriage. But if she does, she must know that the pattern for her relationship to the man to whom she said "Yes" is found in Genesis 2 where God said that He would make a "helper suitable for" Adam. If she cannot be a helper to her man or does not want to be (I say this in all seriousness), then she should not marry him.

It is not a shame for a woman to be under the headship of her husband. In 1 Cor. 11:3, Paul said: Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. If it were a shame for the woman to be under the headship of her husband, like feminist thinking says it is, then by the same token, it would be a shame for man to be under the headship of Christ and for Christ to be under the headship of God. That would be an absurd notion.

3. God solemnized the first marriage.

After God had made the woman, he brought her to the man. Like a father brings his daughter to her bride-groom and gives her to him, so God brought the woman to the man.

And notice the man's reaction. He breaks out into a wedding song. He sings: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."

When God had brought the animals to him, the need and desire for a companion had arisen in his heart. When God brought the woman to him, he immediately recognized that she was exactly what he was lacking. She could fill that emptiness in him which the animals could not.

And he named her appropriately. Earlier he had named the animals. Now he named the woman. And the name he gave her showed clearly that she was his other half -- Ishah! Woman! She was what he had been missing.

God took the initiative. Marriage was God's idea. God prepared it all and arranged it all while the man was in a deep sleep. Marriage: an ordinance created by God at the beginning of history!

The basic reason for the corruption and the breakdown of marriage that we see around us is that man regards marriage not as a divine, but as a human institution. Contemporary thought says: Once upon a time man thought up the idea of marriage. He thought that it might serve as a useful institution for raising a family and safeguarding his property. And because he did not want anyone to disturb his family life and jeopardize his property, he made up some rules which said that adultery is wrong.

If that is true -- if marriage is an institution devised by man -- then man can do with it whatever he pleases. Then if he gets tired of his wife, he can divorce her. Or he can have a mistress on the side. Marital and sexual fidelity no longer matter. Or he can even abolish marriage. He can live common-law. After all, it is a lot easier that way. You can just walk away from each other when you get tired of each other.

But we know from this and other passages of scripture that marriage is not a human idea. It is part of God's creation.

Verse 24 of our text is the divine charter for marriage: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Once the Lord Jesus quoted this passage of scripture when he was asked about marriage. To this divine charter he added, "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). When a man leaves his home and is joined to his wife, then those two become one because it is God who puts them together.

When we lose sight of that -- that marriage is a divine institution -- then our marriages are in danger of crashing on the rocks of our sinfulness and selfishness.

Let's make sure we understand that marriage is not merely a human contract but an institution of the Lord God in which he calls a man and woman to live together for his glory and for the good of each other, of the church, and of the world. Let's also make sure we have our eyes open to the things that threaten marriage. What are the threats?

There is the rampant selfishness of our age. We're taught that we're to be concerned only with ourselves -- our needs, wants and feelings (that unholy trinity). Self-denial is out. Self-indulgence, self-fulfilment, self-esteem, self-(you fill in the blank) is in. Service is out, except for self-service. That mentality is destructive for marriage.

Then there is the widespread acceptance of adultery. It's not just accepted by our culture but it's assumed. Some will even say that a bit of adultery is good for a lackluster marriage and may well revive it. It's the devil's lie, beloved, and it destroys marriages.

The third source of attack on marriage is the ease of divorce. The rejection of what the Lord Jesus Christ said, that man may not put asunder what God has joined together.

Let us not adopt the culture of self. Let us rather adopt the biblical style of service. Service of one another in our marriages. If we are focussed on serving the other, then selfishness falls away.

In Eph. 5:21, Paul says that as Christians we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. And then he goes on to say what that means for the Christian marriage. The wife will acknowledge her husband as the head of the marriage. She will submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.. And the husband will submit himself by selflessly loving, caring for, and protecting his wife, as Christ loves, cares for, and protects the church. When he marries, he leaves his father and his mother and is united to his wife.. That means that he puts his wife's interests above all others, even his parents.

If we live in that way -- in marriages redeemed by Christ -- then our marriages will be good. They will flourish.

Verse 25 says: The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. They became one flesh, they were naked, and felt no shame.

If we read ahead into ch. 3, then we read that after they fell into sin, they were ashamed of their nakedness. When God came into the Garden, they hid among the trees. Sin, shame, and hiding from God are intimately connected.

For example, if you commit an obvious, blatant sin against God, you will hide from God. Because you are ashamed. Let me use an example relevant to our text and topic. If a young man and woman engage in pre-marital sex or adultery, they will not be able to pray together (unless it is a heartfelt prayer of repentance, and that they had better do!). They will not be able to open the Bible and read it together. It'll be impossible -- unless they are hypocrites. Why? Because of shame. Thank God for shame! It keeps us somewhat in line.

But -- and here is one of the great wonders of a Christian marriage -- in a marriage redeemed by Jesus Christ, there is no shame. There is no reason for it. For God intended the sexual relationship for marriage. In a marriage founded upon the blood and word of Christ and given life by the Spirit of Christ, a man and woman can allow themselves to be known by each other. They accept each other, body and soul, in spite of their sins and imperfections. A Christian marriage reflects better than anything else what life was like before sin. It's a bit of Paradise.

Beloved, let us take care of our marriages. Deflect the devil's darts by which he seeks to wear down and even destroy our marriages. If the devil can destroy our marriages, he destroys the foundation of all human society and even of the church. Yes, let us take care of our marriages.

Not everyone has been given a Christian marriage. Some have not been given a husband, a wife. Others, who have come to faith later in life, are not united in the Christian faith with their husband or wife. They have an extra heavy burden to bear. And we need to pray for them, that God would give them a special measure of his grace and strength to be a faithful husband or wife to their spouse who does not want to serve the Lord.

Let us be aware of the times in which we live -- the times and culture that attack our marriages. Follow the pattern God set at the first wedding. Make Christ the centre of your married life. Let us all together look forward to the last wedding -- the marriage festival of the Lamb when Christ will sing his wedding song to us, his church his bride. We, the church, are his bride. His bride to whom he has united himself in an everlasting, indissoluble bond. We, his bride, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2000, Rev. George van Popta

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