In the last two posts we talked a bit about Western thought and Hebrew thought, and in doing so we also had a little discussion about Paul’s writing and the dichotomies he used to illustrate the differences in lifestyles between our old condition, and as citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. What I didn’t mention yesterday, and will come as no news to anyone, is that Paul in these discussions usually gives little lists of things that we used to do and things we should be doing now. In the course of writing this blog, I have already commented at length on each list he wrote so rather than comment on them again, I’ll just make an observation:
The list of “old” behaviors vary, for they are written more or less in the sense of a list of things that includes, but is not limited to, the following, thus they are not identical. Yet, and this is the observation, there is one thing that is always present, and that is “sexual immorality”; have you noticed that too? Have you ever wondered why Paul, as well as the other New Testament authors, make such a big deal about it? (Hold that thought)
Genesis 2 tells us a more detailed account of Adam and Eve, the story goes along smoothly as we have already seen, until the end, where there are two comments that seem to come from left field. Here’s the first one:
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.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Verse 23 is Adam’s comment in quotes; what a nice little ending to that part of the story: Next section…
And then verse 24 drops out of nowhere, the narrator is speaking suddenly in a way that doesn’t actually fit the rest of the chapter; if Moses was the author of Genesis, then why did Moses add that verse?
I took the liberty of a little research, and I discovered that this word string “one flesh” appears 5 times in Scripture, one is our text, four of which are in the New Testament, and in two of those, Jesus was quoting Genesis 2:24. Hmm… interesting.
The first one of these is found in Matthew 19:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)
We covered this passage not long ago, and no doubt you recall that some Pharisees were trying to cause Jesus to say the wrong thing so they could accuse Him of something, anything, and they approached Him on the subject of divorce. Notice that in His answer, Jesus goes all the way back to Genesis 2:24 and highlights God’s intention that the male and the female shall come together and become “one flesh” in telling them that God is not so keen on divorce. For our purposes in exploring the image of God and its implications, knowing that male and female are bearers of the image of God, and that they are intended to become one flesh, it is hard to miss the presence of great significance in this statement. Mark also quotes Jesus using this verse in Mark 10:8 in answer to this same question.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:12 ff. was discussing sexual immorality in a larger discussion of freedom in Christ. He makes the point that the human is intended for the Lord, and that each is one of the members of Christ and then asks, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” (6:15b). He goes on to say, “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (6:16-17). There is a clear connection being made between bearing God’s image, becoming one flesh with a spouse and being united with God in His purpose. One more text:
Paul gives instruction for marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33; everything he wrote in these verses is about marriage, husbands and wives… until the surprise ending:
After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Once again, the text moves along very smoothly and with no surprises, and Paul drops a bombshell: He isn’t really talking about marriage at all; he’s talking about our relationship with God, as pictured by the relationship of Christ and the Church. Even more amazing than that, the aspect of marriage that is the clincher in all of this is the husband and wife being “one flesh”. Put another way, when husband and wife unite sexually, we have a picture of Mankind uniting with Christ. Can you think of any other word that would mean the same thing as “picture”?
Two come to mind right away: One is “image” and the other is “likeness”.
I think this is a really good place for us to stop and reflect, so I’ll end for now.
Oh wait! I almost forgot the other odd statement, Genesis 2:25:
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
You know what? After reading these verses all together, this isn’t such an odd addition to Genesis 2 after all; why would they feel any shame; they were an expression of God’s glory!