Marriage and Human Sexuality

A Christian discussion of human sexuality has to begin with the opening pages of the Bible. When Jesus was asked about these issues he pointed to God’s created intention (Matthew 19.4-6) and the apostle Paul did the same (Ephesians 5.31-32). In terms of doctrine, if we start right we stay right. The passage we’ll look at is Genesis 2.18-25. There’s so much to be said from these verses. But a couple of things will suffice.

First, the Lord’s Perfect Provision. Verses 21-23. 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 woman from the rib He had taken out of 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.”

Adam recognises the woman to be an exact match for his need. She is made by God out of the rib of Adam, and is brought by God to Adam to be united to him. Adam looks at the woman; and he simply gasps with delight—This is now bone of my bones.

This unique match is expressed in a couple of ways. First, in the way she is made. She was not made from the dust of the ground like man was made. Instead she was made by the Lord from man. v.22: The Lord God made a woman from the rib. From the man’s rib, that is. God’s perfect design goes in two directions. On the one hand man should find his completeness in woman. That is where his missing rib went to. That is where the man must go to find his completeness. Equally however, God’s perfect design is also that woman, to find her completeness, must come home to man. To where she belongs. That's where she came from and what she was created from. From the rib of Adam. So to find her completeness, she must return to him and to no other. That may all sound rather complicated, but the point is that neither man nor woman is independent of each other. Instead they are comparable and suitable for each other. An exact match!

This is so contrary to the prevailing trend in our society. We could be forgiven for thinking as we look at the world today that man and woman were created to compete with each other and to fight this battle in the home and in the workplace, and yes, even in the church. The bible however, says the very opposite. Man and woman compliment each other and they do so because of God’s perfect design. They are suitable and comparable towards one another. Not competitors.

The second way this unique match between the man and woman is expressed is in the name the woman was given. We see from v.23 that Adam was the one who named the woman. Adam says: She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. Adam names the woman. Yet in doing so he was not taking upon himself that same authority by which he named the animals. He does indeed have authority and headship over the woman in so far as he was the first of the two to be created. Also it was from him that the woman was made. Man is the head of the woman. Nevertheless, in naming the woman, Adam was not subordinating her to his rule and dominion. This was certainly not Adam pushing her under his thumb. That is not a Christian concept. Instead he is recognising and acknowledging what she is in herself. She is the one who is taken out of man. The English expresses this very well. Man and Wo-Man. In God’s design they are related and dependent upon each other. In fact, so much so that they are soon to be brought together to become one unit. One flesh. This then is the Lord’s perfect design. The exact match. The helper that God provided for man in his need.

Now the problem is that the fall of man, mankind's rebellion to God and His word, has twisted and warped this perfect design. So what has been one of God’s best gifts to mankind has become one of pain, hurt, trauma and breakdown. So there are some people who would love to be married who are not. There are also some people who are married who wish they weren’t. We live in a fallen, broken world. We must not allow however, our falleness and sinfulness to distort or change our understanding and recognition of God’s original purpose. The woman provided as a helper for man in the marriage relationship is a perfect provision of God. The reason for so much confusion around the gender issue is that this has not been understood. Male and female are not opposites, like opposing teams. They are together, on the same team. And ideally to help each other to grow into the likeness of Christ.

So first, a perfect provision. Second, a lasting principle. Verses 24 and 25. 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. Due to the Lord’s provision of a woman to help the man in his isolation, the two become one flesh. That is how perfect and complete this design of God is. One plus one equals one! When a man leaves his father and mother to be joined to his wife they become together a new unit (physically, socially, emotionally). So when you go to a wedding and you see the brides mother in tears, then rejoice. The mother is recognising that the old relationship of parent to child is being left behind and a new relationship of husband and wife is beginning. In that sense the man shall leave his father and mother and in doing so he shall be joined to his wife (in a contractual, covenantal way). Or literally, he shall be stuck to his wife (in a positive sense!). He shall be glued to his wife. Indeed this join is so strong, so positive, so perfect, that it is a permanent condition. It is a life long state. Till death us do part, we say in the marriage service. Notice also in v.24 that the man is united and joined to his wife, not his wives. So not only is this union a permanent one. It is also an exclusive union as well between one man and one woman.

Now this is why of course, in the purpose of God, casual sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is out. That is to say, sexual intercourse with more than one person is a complete breakdown of any kind of commitment or cleaving whatsoever. So is fornication (sex before marriage) and adultery (sex within marriage with someone who is not your spouse). Such behaviour is sin and grieves God. Yes. Sex is a good gift of God. Yet when it used wrongly, it strikes at the very heart of God’s purposes for the deepest of all human relationships. The sexual act of intercourse is a physical expression of a permanent and exclusive union between husband and wife. That is its purpose. So when there is a leaving and cleaving and a uniting to become one flesh between the husband and wife, there is instead an openness and an innocence that is untainted by shame and disappointment; v.25: The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

This then is the nature of human sexuality in general and marriage in particular. It is a wonderful gift from God, and a gift that is as old as creation itself. It is not a social institution that will pass away with time as some would like us to believe. Nor is it merely a private arrangement between two people no matter what their gender. Neither can the definition of marriage be changed to include a same sex union. Marriage is a permanent part of God’ created order. An exclusive, physical union between one man and one woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27th Jan 2012
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