Marriage and Mission
The Flow and Purpose of Marriage 04
We have been discussing the flow of marriage obsevered in Genesis 2 and seeing how the themes there are repeated not only in the later stories of the Bible but also in our relationship to Jesus Christ. Dying for the life of the other, being drawn together by the Spirit through a process of rejoicing and separation, leading to a committed union and communion.
The last place I would like to look at is the purpose of Marriage. In Adam and Eve’s story Genesis 1 introduces us to their mission. They are to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Gen 1:28). Yet surprisingly when we get into Genesis 2 we find Adam alone. In this place the mission we read about in the previous verse is unable to be fulfilled. By himself Adam cannot fulfill the call of God for mankind in the world. Adam needs a help mate1 (2:18). Marriage becomes the way that God’s purpose is realised in the world. Marriage has a purpose.
I often ask couples in marriage counselling ‘what is the purpose of your marriage?’ What is it that God has called you together to do that you cannot do by yourselves? Without Eve’s strength coming to aid Adam God’s purpose for mankind would not be fulfilled. Take note, it is in their union and more specifically their communion with each other where God’s purpose begins to flow out of them into the world.
When we look at some of the later stories of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz …etc it was in their union that we see God’s plan of redemption move forward. Life flowed out of their relationship giving birth to sons through whom Jesus would eventually be born. In the union of man and woman God’s purpose of salvation flowed forth.
This is helpful when we think about the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ is the husband and the Church is His bride.2 We have a ceremony of union (baptism) and an act of communion (lord’s supper). Just like Adam and Eve we also have a mission in the world. “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt 28:18-20). We have been given ‘water’ and ‘the word’ and are called to be a source of life to the world through discipling the nations. This mission is fulfilled in the New Jerusalem out of which flows a river of life bringing healing to the nations (Rev 22:1-3).
The question becomes, how is the bride of Christ presently able to walk in her mission to the world? Looking back the answer we would expect would be through close communion with her husband, or to put in another way, her mission will flow out of her worship. If this is true then our Sunday worship is not irrelevant but at the very heart of God’s plan for the world. Gathering together with other believer’s to draw near to Christ is where the Church’s mission begins and from there it will flow. Did not the disciples receive the Holy Spirit making them bold witnesses of Christ’s resurrection as they were gathered together in the upper room? Did not Paul receive his call through the ministry of the church in Antioch? Was it not his custom to first attend the synagogue service and from there preach the gospel? As the church gathers together to draw near to her husband the life of her mission will flow out into the world. If we want to be mission minded let us first become church minded.
Peter Leithart has noted that this word ‘help’ is never used in the Bible for helping around the house rather it is used in political and military contexts. To summarise a helper puts himself at the service of the helped, but ‘ezer doesn’t necessarily imply subordination or inferiority in general. Some helpers are subordinates (David’s mighty men), some are superiors (Yahweh as Helper). ‘Ezer doesn’t imply weakness. On the contrary, a helper must be strong in order to help, and the weakness is on the side of those who are helped. An ‘ezer furnishes what’s lacking. To ‘azer is to rescue and save. See https://theopolisinstitute.com/leithart_post/adams-helper/
A Christian marriage is called to display this relationship and it is the basis of the Bible’s commands for husbands to love sacrificially and wives to respectfully submit.