Finding A Wife for The Man
It is commonplace to hear the book of Genesis quoted with reference to marriage. Whether it be at a wedding or in a sermon, the early portions of Genesis are often applied to the institution of marriage with marginal Christological context. Sure, some finer points are tied to the Incarnate Second Adam in these practical speeches, but they ignore the rather eschatological bent of creation. In spite of Paul's demand in Ephesians 5 to look through the lens of Jesus and the church, this Christological emphasis is oft ignored. In the battle for heterosexuality and the biological family, it is sometimes forgotten that the paradigmatic relationship of Adam and Eve speaks to the eschatological wedding of the Second Adam and His bride.
That this Christological perspective should be adopted is hinted at the beginning of all male-female interaction. This is important because the telos of all male-female interaction is neither sexual (the secular perspective) nor marriage (the conservative perspective) but Christological. That male and female must first and finally relate through Christ is often lost. Yet, it is clear when the Scripture rightfully says, "it is not right for the man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). It is common place to jokingly pontificate that this is true of the modern single man — it is dangerous for him to live alone. But when the Scripture speaks this way it does not speak paradigmatically about all men. At least it does not speak of this way concerning the marriage of all men. The definite article in the Hebrew insinuates that the emphasis is upon the federal headship of man. It is not right for the covenant head to be alone. Here God speaks about the First and Second Adam — the men. This should invoke deeper thoughts as it seems unnatural to view the First or Second Adam as deficient or lacking.
That the original Adam should not be alone is not particularly surprising (though we have long since come to value marriage such that we presume its necessity). Though created "(very) good," the First Adam was incapable of fulfilling his God-given mandate to be fruitful and multiply. Sexual relations and offspring are not the sole purposes. Adam and Eve must subdue the earth and fill it (Gen 1:28). That this language of multiplying, filling, and subduing the earth are passed on to the church and its spiritual offspring should not be surprising. While Adam and Eve's original means might have been carnal, their telos was never union and sex. Their instructions are clarified by later relation — "work and keep" the garden (Gen 2:15). These verbs in their joined usage point to the images of priests in God's creation (Num 3:25; 4:26-33). This is the true telos of man. And this command to be priests of God is given to male and female. The same charge is given to each individually but also together — they must act as priests of God. Therefore, what is true of the church is found true of Adam and Eve from the beginning — they are to multiply priests for God. This task becomes even more difficult after the fall since mere reproduction was always insufficient to raise priests of God (evidenced by the unique qualifier of Genesis 4:26). The First Adam's loneliness was not a moral deficiency. Neither was it a deficiency that points paradigmatically to marriage for each individual man or woman.
Nestled in this is a reliance upon God through His chosen community. Inherent to the opening passages of Genesis, individualism is incapable of following God's mandate. Or as Christ says in the New Testament "Where two or three have gathered together in My name" (Matt 18:20) — thus we have the first church in the garden, the first holy community of God. Man was not merely deficient in his loneliness. The reality is that creation was not fulfilled without the church. Said another way, God made man without that He might provide by grace. He required the God-ordained "helper" that had also been given the dominion mandate. It should not surprise that outside of this passage, the term "helper/helpmate" is only used for God and His deliverance. This "helper" cannot be subsidiary to the First Man. The First Woman was not deficient in her nature any more than Adam. There was an interdependence. This is qualified when the Lord says Eve "corresponds to him" (Gen 2:18). Quite ironically the word implies one who can "stand before" — ironic because God presents her before Adam (Gen 2:22). Eve is capable of standing before Adam because there is no ontological distinction to their roles before God. Thus, what the First Adam "lacked" was not an adornment, but one who could stand before him in equality before God as a recipient of his mandate and image — he lacked a priestess. What Adam "lacked" so did Eve. Each lacked without the other the help and grace of God.
Understanding this First Adam to be a precursor and image for the Second Adam, we must affirm that it is not right for the Second Adam to be alone either. We say with Karl Barth, "where Christ is, there is his Church." True, the eternal God had no need for creation. It is also true that the eternal logos had no need for creation. But in becoming the Second Adam, the Incarnate logos was in need of a bride. God chose eternally in election to be God-for-us as well as God-with-us. The electing God chose to become the elected man with an elected bride. Once again, this elected bride was needed to "stand before him." Rather parodically like the original bride, this bride could not stand on her own. Like the original bride, she had to come from the side of The Man. But in history, this preparation of the bride would take many different forms. She would need to be cleansed by water before becoming a priest (Exo 30:19; Lev 8:6; Eph 5:27; 1 Pet 2:9). A sizable effort was required to make this bride presentable (Col 1:22). The one who left His Father and clung to His bride was, in fact, our Christ (Eph 5:31-32). He was put "to sleep" and the bride was taken from His side (John 19:34). Through His sacrifice, He has purchased a bride to be presented (Rev 19:7-9; 21:9). It is the church that becomes one flesh with Jesus Christ through partaking of His flesh (John 6:54-56). Or as the Heidelberg Catechism says when discussing the Lord's Supper,
"although he is in heaven and we are on earth,
we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone." (Q&A 76)
The catechism rightly noting that the paradigmatic nature of Genesis 2 must first be applied to Christ and the church. Christ is in heaven and His bride is on earth. With this in mind, the early church fathers correctly presumed the virtuous bride of Proverbs 31:10-31 and the Song of Solomon to be speaking first about the earthly church catholic. This Christological focus is contained in Paul's Greek in Ephesians 5:33. Genesis speaks in principal about Christ and the church, "nevertheless/however" the application can be made to those who are married. The principal truth of the passage being that God has once again provided a bride for the man whom can "stand before" God. This church is resplendent.
Marriage then is merely a type of the eschatological marriage to come. It is a pointer and should never be mistaken for the substance. The single individual who is found in Christ has gained the world. Their telos is at its end in the new creation found in the reconciliation wrought in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17-19). That "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matt 22:30) is only true because "the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready" (Rev 19:6). The eschatological feast is the joyous celebration of God-become-man taking a bride unto Himself. All earthly marriages will be dissolved as mere signposts. The telos is union with Christ's flesh. Through union with His flesh, He has redeemed mankind from the sin it had sunk into.
Part of this paradigm comes into view in Ephesians 5. But there is a precursor in Ephesians 4:13. In his contribution to The Anchor Bible Commentary Series, Markus Barth elucidates this point which is often hidden by the English translations. Barth's translation of Ephesians 4:13 reads,
"Until we all come to meet the unifying faith and knowledge of the son of God, the perfect man, the perfection of the Messiah who is the standard of manhood."
The image set forth by Paul is one of community. The entire church is in a pilgrimage together. But not a pilgrimage of standard importance. We are the bride walking towards our husband. The visible church catholic is given gifts "until we all" are ready to meet our Bridegroom. Not yet perfected, the church is walking down the aisle of history towards her Bridegroom. In the midst of this procession, Jesus Christ meets with us at His table to join us progressively to His flesh. The church's presentation is pronounced, it is enacted, but not yet consummated. The glorious destiny of humanity is found in the church's marriage to its Savior,
"All of these facts suggest that the (male!) 'Perfect Man' is none other than Jesus Christ himself. The moment of the meeting is the day of his parousia, according to the undisputed Pauline letters...The church is a procession of pilgrims…In anticipation of the moment when she meets her loving and beloved triumphant Lord and will be transformed by his glory" (496)
Marriage, as well as the Lord's Supper, points to this final historical event — the presentation of the bride before the eternal rest (Gen 2:2; Heb 4:1-11). The eternal Son will have His bride. It truly "is not right for the man to be alone." Thankfully, because of the Second Adam, none of us is every truly alone. We are never without God our helper. We lack nothing when we have Christ. This is true of both male and female,
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." - Galatians 3:28
This "one" is the body of Christ. The one flesh who is truly the bride. This is how Paul can say of every member of the church that "it is good for them to remain single" (1 Cor 7:8). The teleological marriage is Jesus and the church. Through union with Christ, we are prepared to fulfill the Great Commission as the bride — a member of the church. We are left with the true telos — the Son and His bride; the Second Adam and His Eve.