By Pastor Wu & Pastor Gary
16 Oct 2011 Sunday
Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:18-25
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord 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 the 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.” 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.
Brothers and sisters, yesterday right here, I married three couples. The Saturday before last week, I married another three couples. So how many couples I have married? I don’t remember. There are just too many, as a pastor of this beautiful church. But sometimes I wonder: what is the significance? How much do the newlyweb husband and wife understand the significance of marriage? How much do they understand the responsibility that they should have as a husband and a wife? Before the wedding, we give a little bit of counseling over the marriage and the responsibility of being a husband and a wife to the man and the lady who are getting married. But that is not enough.
So over the years I have been wanting to have special guests who are specialized in marriage and parenting counseling to come here to bless our young people so that they can be full ready to enter marriage as Christians. That has been my desire and today we are so blessed that we have a special speaker who is also a pastor, Gary., He has been a pastor of a church in southern California, which has two thousand members and it is a very beautiful church. He is together with his wife Elizabeth and also his team. Both of them have been pastors of that church and they have been so committed and devoted to the spiritual growth of the congregation. So let’s welcome Pastor Gary to focus next thirty minutes on being a good husband and a good wife.
Sermon by Pastor Gary:
Well , what a special privilege it is to be here with you this morning and I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in Trinity Church in the Redlands, California and we delight to be with you. Our brothers and sisters are just sharing what it means to be part of something bigger, something eternal and something significant--- to be part of the family of God together. So, we are delighted to be here and to be in Haidian Church and to sense this very strategic place that God has given you, not only with this magnificent building and not only the strategic location, but to recognize that the Lord has called you as Christ’s followers to serve and to be involved in building His Kingdom.
Here is the one of the most strategic places of the world. I don’t need to tell you that Beijing is one of those places that is not only burgeoning in terms of growth, but also in terms of influence and importance around the world.
This is my first visit to China and you come with all kinds of things. I must confess that I see the strength, vibrancy, and the beauty of the city; see not only the heritage as we were in the Forbidden City yesterday, but the newness and freshness. It reminds us that you live in a city, and you live in a culture, a nation that has probably experienced more rapid changes that any other nation and any other country if you think back in the past decades, of this city.
What it means for you as Christ’s followers, not only to see God using you and your own nation and the influence I believe that God is going to give you around the world. It is difficult to be at the front edge of the way and to recognize we are moving into a new world! Are you going to do it effectively? If God is going to use you what He would have to use, it needs to be things that are constant, unchanging, things that are stable., And in the midst of a very changing society that is anchored deep, and nothing is more important to Christ’s followers than the very first institution that God established, marriage and the family.
Forthose who are and to be married, what you are doing in your relationship with your husband or your wife., God says it’s nothing less than the picture of Christ and church, a kind of object lesson that He allows you to show others what it means to be Christ’s followers. God gives you the blessing of children, then what the great responsibility it is to raise those children and display the instruction of the Lord to pass the torch to the next generation, to the glory of God.
Many of you are looking toward marriage or at least wondering what the Lord has that on your screen, on the horizon of your life. Some of you were struggling in marriage, because although nothing is closer to heaven on earth and the wonders as well, nothing is more like the other side of the dimension, more like hell on the earth. Well, it isn’t God’s iintention to be. So this is normal that we need to go back and ask what God intended the marriage to be?
We can look around the cultures and get the models; I suspect it is largely true in your society as well. The cultural models fail and the place we need to go back is to the word of God and to what God has said and communicated in this word and in this truth. So, this morning, I want to spend most of our time looking at the marriage as God intended it to be. The basic foundational things that are graven in our nature as man and woman and God’s intention as man and woman to come together., That is why we looking at Genesis2., Let me read a few verses again, just to get those words in your mind.
Genesis 2:18 It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
Then this paragraph ends with the statement that God brought the man to the woman He had made and the man said at last: “Bone of my bones and flesh and my flesh, she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and holdfast with his wife and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked but they felt no shame.”
When we get to read the Bible here, we are at the entry point of the Bible—Genesis 1, Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 --- the whole Christian worldview. It doesn’t make sense apart of how we understand these verses. And I don’t need to go back and tell you the story in Genesis 1 that God’s calling creation to being by His power. And then in Genesis 2, He goes back over the same subject. Let me just make a parallel for you.
Three years ago, eyes of world were fixed on Beijing because the Olympics were being held. And we celebrated with you and what a great Olympics and Beijing invited the world and celebrated with the world! There’s always a number of storylines and what the storyline at the Olympic Games was the American swimmer Michael Phelps.,
He was going for 8 gold medals., No athlete had ever won 8 gold medals before and he had already established in the 2004 Olympics a brilliant track record and so he began to swim his races. And there were one gold medal and another gold medal, and the breathtaking almost lost in the relay when somebody else came through. Finally, he won 6 gold medals and the 7th one was going to tie the record. Maybe you still remember and I think it was at the 100m Butterfly Stroke. As he came to the last lap, he was behind., He was not trailed in any other races up until that time and it looked like he was hopelessly behind a Serbian swimmer who was alongside him. But just to see it coming to the end, the Serbian swimmer was gaming with him, and they came to the last stroke., As I watched the TV and the announcers watched the TV: Michael Phelps lost! Came so close but lost and then, the electronic screen came up and he won!
I was in defence about what I saw in my eyes but he won by 1/100 of second. What is 1/100 of second? But he won by that, but it wasn’t what it seemed. It was protested by the Serbian team and they began to review as you remember as they looking at slides 1/10000 of second apart and they determined in fact that Michael Phelps had won. But it never was a possible mergence and why I tell this story? Because there was a sort of normal sense of reading a story or seeing a story unfold, but it required to close up to make a clue what it really happened. So when we read Genesis 1 as we are taking through day one and day two and we hear God saying “it is good”, “it is good”, and “it is good”. We come to the climax of the chapter when God made the man and woman, the statement now that God makes man and woman in His own image and gave them the commission to go out into the world, it is good, and God said “it is very good”!
He said something about the dignity about humanity and the dignity of man and woman, and the responsibility of man and woman., If we only had chapter 1 that we would re-read that story, we would think that God made man and woman at the same time. Now in chapter 2, we have the slow motion, and we have the unfolding of how those events came about. As Genesis 2 makes it clear, it turns out that God didn't make them at the same time. For every other part of the creation as far as we can tell, He spoke and it happened. But God intentionally made man before He made the woman, and as we read Genesis2, we recognized that God created the man and He put him in the perfect environment to enjoy everything that could be enjoyed. God gave him the total permission for eating every tree in this garden, but the tree in the center of the garden. Adam was full of permission, full of provision and in fellowship with God. That’s why it’s odd if you are listening to the way that the Bible speaks in Genesis 2:18. We hear God said “It is not good”. It is not good. Everything else’s been good; it is not good that man should be alone. So in verse 18, it condenses into a little statement. we have the statement or the recognition that marriage is the divine provision for our good., It is not good what is God going to do if it is not good that man’s alone?
“It is not good that the man is alone” tells us and there are three things I want you to know through this verse. First of all, the creation of the woman, bringing about the marriage; it is for companionship. It is not good for the man to be alone. Then think about that. The man had a perfect environment, and a perfect fellowship with God, but God said no. I made you for more than that, I made you for companionship, for the sharing of life, for the joining in your life with another, but the loneliness is not my intention.
I don’t misunderstand. If we had time we will dwell on one of the great Biblical truth that Jesus lived as a single person, and a single person is a whole person. And God by his grace comes into the lives of those he called singleness and they don’t live handicapped, paralyzed through life. But God’s normal intention for these human beings is to bringing them into companionship, sharing the essence of the marriage. Then God declared something else. If companionship is stated first, he says, “I will make a helper”. Now that is a remarkable thing, because God is saying “I made man, he is in my image, he is my creature, but by my purpose, he isn’t adequate as he is. I didn’t make him fully self-sufficient; I didn’t make him completely adequate. He is dependent on another. I will make a helper.
As to this point, we can make a huge mistake, we can say, “Well, OK! Then God made woman and woman is man’s helper, kind of his servant, his supporter who is there to help make man what man should be.” Part of me likes that idea. But is it what the Bible teaches us? This word “helper” is a word that the Bible uses to refer to God himself:
Psalms 121:1-2, “I lift my eyes to the hills— Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord…”
That’s the same word “help”., “Helper”, is here. Helper is someone who brings strength to the task that you lack. It is used for the military force that comes in behind to back-trace your weakness, so you can know victory when it looks like that you would be defeated.
So what’s this passage saying? That the woman was created and the marriage was created, so the two people who come with gifts and talents in themselves are not enough by themsleves alone for all God’s intended partnership between the man and woman.. A helper that comes from the partnership that God intends for the other, companionship, and help. Then there is something else said, because he said, “I will make a helper corresponding to him. (I will make one like himself as a help to him)” It is a hard word in Hebrew to translate, but it has about the idea of corresponding to him. Literally, it is opposite to him. But being opposite is in the sense that they correspond to each other. I mean we understand that men and women correspond physically. The way that God has designed physically is that we fit and we correspond to one another. But this is saying in a deeper level. God intended men and women, made men and women in such a way that the differences we have in genders, the differences we have in our own personal make up for each other. Are the very things that we allow them to work for us rather than against us make us stronger? There is no such thing as a couple, who are ideally suited for one another.
One of the great blessings of marriage is to recognize that God makes us different because we need the differences and allow them to work together to make us stronger. So God Himself just said the words given in the text., The divine provision for marriage for our good is related to our need for companionship, our need for help, our need for corresponding and building into our lives. So that’s said, I would expect the story unraveling something like this, God brought a woman to the man.
You remember the story that is a kind of unusual story that God didn’t do it at all, instead he created animals to Adam, and Adam was given the responsibility of naming them and recognizing them. And why was God doing this, well the text gave us a clue. It says, in all of these, there is not a helper corresponding to him. Adam saw all of the creation and he recognized that’s outside of him. That’s different from him. And then God put him to sleep. Still alone, still without a helper, still without someone who corresponds (who is like himself) to him. And then you remember this, God performed, a strange and mysterious operation on Adam, and woke Adam up. And then the first thing was God brought the woman to his eyes. And the Hebrew text doesn’t quite say that. But the response was “Wow”. Everything else had been out there.
At last, there is immediately a recognition that she corresponds to him ; she resonates with him ; bone of his bones; flesh of his flesh. And there is a recognition that shares a common divine image. She shall be called woman for she was taken from man., Listen to it in the Hebrew. You can hear the connection that she shall be called “ishshah” (meaning “from man”) for she was taken from “ish” . Name the animals he gave them their names, he gave the woman his name, in the sense of closeness, intimacy and oneness of that.
Notice in verse 24, the second thing, that marriage has a divine pattern for our good. Here is what God intended. In Matthew 19:14-15, Jesus quoted this verse. The Jewish religious leaders at the time, the Pharisees, were talking about the divorce. Jesus looked at the Jewish leaders,and said, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made the male and female, and said, for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and shall holdfast, cling to his wife, and two shall become into one flesh”. So it is God who’s speaking in the verse 24. All of the Scriptures are God’s Words, but these are God’s words in the sense that He’s spoken. This is His pronouncement to the essence of marriage., You notice that it is built through three verbs: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave (hold fast) unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh.”, translated in all that ways “to his wife, two shall become one flesh”. Leaving, holding fast, and becoming. These verbs tell us three important things.
The first is that marriage creates new loyalty. Man shall leave his father and his mother. Now remember this is God’s word and God’s word commands us, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). There is nothing in the Bible minimizing the place, respect and support of the parents. But there is a powerful Biblical statement that says when I take on a wife; I have a new priority in my life; I have a new central loyalty in my life; I have a higher claim in my life. And that is my wife. She now is more significant to me than any other relationships that I have. That is true even when I have children. My highest responsibility is to love my wife and I deeply love my children and my grandchildren. But I didn’t commit when I got them as children to cling to them for the rest of my life. They might be a resource of happiness but when time is right, you need to let them go. But I said to Elizabeth, I will love you, and be a loyal husband to you until death does us apart. So when you get into a marriage relationship, you are into a commitment, to your husband and to your wife that transcends any other loyalty you have in your life except your loyalty to God Himself.
The second statement is that a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall holdfast or cling unto his wife. To hold fast or cling unto” is an interesting word in the Hebrew language to express sticking like a glue. It is a word of covenant, It is a word of commitment; It is a word for a story that you heard in the story about Ruth who was returning back to Israel land. Her mother-in-law, Naomi said, “Go back, go back.” (Ruth 1:8) Orpah went back but Ruth clung to her, stuck to her: “My people will be your people; my God will be your God” (Ruth 1:16).
Marriage is not a contract. What I mean by that is this contract is based on exchanging services. In my life, I have contracts with different kinds of people; I pay you a certain amount of money so that you delivery newspaper to me in a particular time, and as long as you do your job and I pay my money following our contract. But a contract can be broken; it’s based on exchanging services. When I married Elizabethan I did not say to her I take you as my laundress, as my cook, as my sex partner. I did not have a contract with her. It stood with words with our human tradition but it is biblically true. I Gary take you Elizabeth. I give myself to her and it’s a covenant and a commitment. And so the traditional statement says what God has put forth what Jesus himself said about marriage (Matthew 19:14-15) is true, that marriage is a covenant and commitment.
The core of my being is that I not only declare a new loyalty but I made a new commitment to my wife and we become one flesh. The Bible uses that language to describe sexual relations and so the husband and the wife become one flesh and you notice that the picture in the Bible and it goes on in the next verse that two were naked before one another unashamed. There is nothing embarrassed in the Bible about sexuality, it is a good gift from God to be enjoyed and to be delighted and becoming one flesh is a physical intimacy and God intended the sexual relationship to take place within the commitment and covenant of marriage, not before it but within it. The marriage is a way of building those bounds that result from leaving and clinging. But becoming one flesh physically is just part of the process of becoming one in a deep level--intimacy. God’s goal of marriage is that we share our life and share our hearts and we share things that matter most so we build a commitment and connection to one another.
So we notice the divine provision for marriage is for companionship and for help and for complimenting one another, not saying nice things but joining each other together. Notice that God’s pattern for marriage is a new royalty that transcends one another; it is a covenant commitment that sticks like a glue. It is becoming a sharing, a giving-away of life, symbolizing that expresses physically and enter into a large ring of our life. Marriage is what God intended and that beautiful picture of how God intended our life to be, naked and unashamed before one another.
Does the marriage only end there? It doesn’t. Before we finish the Genesis 3, everything had changed. Man and woman were angry and blaming one another and having God’s judgment upon them walking out of the garden, dressed in clothes because God’s grace is stripped away, and it’s a pretense when they walked before one another. If we have time we will have to see how Genesis 3 says, but it is critical to see what happened in Genesis 3: the man and woman turned their back on God and they defied the one command that God had given. They tracked all the way what had happened but there’s essence in it and the very moment they broke their relationship with God, the Bilbe says they saw themselves being naked. Were we naked before? Shame and guilt and then they are covered. Who was the covering from? Covering from one another, they began to blame one another. The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I took it.” (Genesis 3:12) Woman, you gave me. She made me eat it. Then they blamed God. As God appeared, they hid from him. The story of marriage is that of sinners’ marriage and sins’ marriage--the very things that wants us to come together.
I am from Canada and I tell you a story of Canada about pork pies from the widows of winter. The windows get cold and come together for warmth. When they come together for warmth, they can stick to each other so they spare apart. It is a great picture of marriage between two sinners, in that we need each other and yet we stick to each other all the time, and we also pull each other apart.
So here is the third thing for marriage. Marriage is not only a divine provision for our good, it needs a divine partner for our good. In the midst of that story. human beings were turning away from God. Thus, marriage is a promise that God is going to redeem, rebuild and restore. It is a line that runs through the Bible until Jesus the Son of God came to human flesh and live on earth. It is the God’s Son who goes to the Cross and dies on the Cross taking our sin and our guilt. So when our shame came, it could be turned into forgiveness from God Himself. So the guilt that makes me blame my partner can be washed away and I can begin to accept my own sinfulness and realize that God loves me even in the midst of this. And He forgives me and then God in His grace through the death of Christ on the Cross rises from the death and comes to live in those who put his faith and trust in Him by the power of Holy Spirit so that I can begin to live out what God calls me to do.
So when God speaks to the husbands and wives in the New Testament, He doesn’t turn back and doesn’t ask us to remember what Adam was like. He doesn’t say to remember what Eve was like? He points to husbands and says “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church”(Ephesians 5:25) . He says to wives in 1 Peter 1:21, “Christ died for you leaving you an example and you should follow in His steps”, and in that way, He says in 1 Peter 3:1, “Relate to your husband”.
You see that marriage in the sinful broken world needs a divine person at the center and that person is the Lord Jesus and it is not enough that we say yes I am Christ’s follower. What is required is that it is very hard for our relation with our marriage partner. It is planted the Cross of Lord Jesus Christ. Realizing that God deals this by grace, we need to live with our marriage partner by grace for His glory. You need the Cross and I need the Cross, not only for salvation but also in living out our marriage in the way that pleases and honors our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are married this morning, the strength and healing come from this Cross. If you are not married this morning let me tell you one of the reasons that the Bible commands Christ’s followers not to marry those who are not Christ’s followers is because you cannot put the Cross as the center of your marriage and you are like the central thing that keeps you from moving forward. As you move towards marriage and you look for someone to whom you want to give your life and we show the central thing is that do we know the gospel? Are we living the gospel in our relationship to one another for the glory of God? Maybe God will never call you to marry, but your need is the same and that is, to live the Cross and to find the power that God gives us to live our life in ways to honor and please Him and to fulfill us.
So as we close in prayer, let et me invite you to the Cross and to the Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. Maybe you never trusted Christ. As I pray, you can pray, opening your heart to what you know of him.
“So Father thank you ,thank you that you loved us and you made marriage for our good and you gave us your words to teach us about the essence of marriage. But in our brokenness and falling, we need more of your instruction and we need your salvation and we need your enablement and we need your help so whatever our relationship is before you this morning, help us to see at the Cross your love for us, to trust you, to receive your love so that out of our inner most being, we flow rivers of living waters to others for your glory ,especially to our partners .We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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