It is not Good for man to be alone
One section of Scripture often quoted at weddings is Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” However, is the true significance of this passage reflected in its frequent use at weddings? Is there greater significance in the statement God makes in this verse beyond what is assumed in relation to marriage? I would submit that Genesis 2:18 points us to a greater reality beyond just marriage. We will take a look at the passage in Genesis 2, see how the New Testament develops the significance of marriage, and assess the implications the New Testament’s teachings on marriage have on Genesis 2.
First and foremost, we must look at Genesis 2 in greater detail:
Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’…So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:18, 21-25
Within these verses we see God’s proclamation of the deficiency of man’s alone status and His subsequent creation of Eve who He then brings to Adam. We then hear Adam’s statement regarding their similarity and the often-heard description of a man and woman becoming one flesh. These verses are one of the first, if not the first, key references to the institution of marriage in the Bible. Consequently, it is quite appropriate that these verses are often quoted at weddings. However, I would submit that in pointing to marriage, these verses really point us beyond marriage to Christians’ relationship with God Himself.
How then does the Bible develop the significance of the marriage relationship in the New Testament? Ephesians 5 is a key passage which describes the relationships in marriage:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. – Ephesians 5:22-27
Herein these verses we see that the way wives and husbands are to relate to each other is dictated by the way the Church relates to Christ. A wife submits to her husband as the Church submits to Christ. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. In both cases, the relationship between Christ and His Church guides the relationship between husband and wife. However, the significance of these verses isn’t in merely showing how husbands and wives should relate. Rather, it is in showing how marriage points to God’s relationship with the Church. Wives submit because the Church submits to Christ; husbands love because Christ loved the Church. The significance of the marriage relationship lies in how it reflects God’s relationship with His people. God’s relationship with the Church doesn’t point to marriage; marriage points to God’s relationship with the Church. Marriage is the shadow that points us to the substance, God’s relationship with His people. Paul continues a few verses later, himself relating the concept of marriage to the Church.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31-32
Because the significance of marriage is in reflecting God’s relationship with the Church, it should come as no surprise that in the new creation marriage no longer exist because the reality to which it pointed has fully come.
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” – Matthew 22:30
How then does the Bible’s subsequent development of the idea of marriage impact those often-quoted verses in Genesis 2? Seeing how the Bible develops the idea of marriage, we come to realize that the institution is inherently prefiguratory. It serves to point us to God’s relationship with the Church and with all Christians who compose her. Consequently, when we read Genesis 2 we must keep the Redemptive-historical trajectory of marriage in mind. In Genesis 2, God states it is not good for man to be alone and then creates the institution of marriage. However, in light of the New Testament, we know that this institution is designed to drive us to God’s relationship with His people. Therefore, when God institutes marriage as the solution to Adam’s alone status, He institutes something that ultimately drives us to Him as the true and final bridegroom for His bride, the Church. Stated another way, in response to Adam’s alone status, God institutes the marriage relationship which ultimately prefigures and points us to God’s relationship with His people. Marriage isn’t the true answer to man’s alone status; rather, it is God’s relationship with His people which is the true answer.
When we read Genesis 2:18 or hear that verse quoted in a wedding, we must never fail to remember the true end to which it points. As Scripture teaches, marriage serves to drive us to God’s relationship with the Church and the Christians who compose her. Consequently, when God institutes marriage in response to Adam’s alone status in Genesis 2, He doesn’t institute the final answer to the problem. Rather, He institutes a relationship which points us to the true answer to man’s alone status, God’s relationship with His people. God himself is the true and ultimate answer to humanity’s alone status; a relationship only made possible through Christ’s death on the cross for the redemption of His people.