Two Become One
Continuing from the last post, I am going to take a look at how the Covenant of marriage relates to God’s Covenant with His people, and why there seems to be such a close connection in the Scriptures.
To start, look again at Ephesians 5: 31-32 which says “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.”
First, what is the mystery to which Paul is referring? Is it a mystery that a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife? Probably not. That is what usually happens in marriage, and is a visible action. The mystery Paul is referencing is most likely “the two shall become one flesh.” What does this mean?
This mystery was much older than the apostle Paul himself, going back to the beginnings of creation. To figure it out, it might help to go all the way back to the origin of the phrase as found in Genesis 2: 23-24. “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.”
This one flesh idea that Paul is linking to Christ and the Church goes all the way back to before the fall. Adam had finally gotten the companion he was longing for, because “there was not found a helper for for him” among all of the beasts. The flesh of his flesh was not just another human being, but his wife perfectly made for him. God created Eve to be a perfect, sinless, Monogamous helper and companion for Adam.
In a perfect, sinless, relationship, the idea of one flesh most likely meant many things. First is the physical union. Without going into detail, there is no way to get physically closer to a person than through sexual union. So at the very least, being one flesh with another person means physical sexual union.
However, as we’ve read from 1 Corinthians 6: 16, “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” Here again with the Genesis reference, except now it is being used as a rebuke to members of the Corinthian Church for sleeping with temple prostitutes. Here we see that no matter who we are joined to in sexual union, we are becoming one flesh with them. This was for ill for the Corinthians, but for good for Adam and Eve, within the bounds of marriage.
There is, however, more to it than just physicality, which is why, in the rest of 1 Corinthians 6, Paul puts such an emphasis on the spiritual aspect of oneness with God vs oneness with a forbidden woman (see previous posts beginning here).
If we are to make sense of the idea of “one flesh”, we must look at all of the angles we are given in the Scriptures. In order to properly understand marriage, we must look at God’s relationship with His people, for there is no better example of Covenant faithfulness.
Hosea 2:14-23 talks about God’s mercy on Israel. Verses 19-20 specifically talk about the “marriage” between God and His people. “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” Earlier, in verse 16, God says that Israel will call Him “My Husband”. The marriage analogy is very strong here.
So there is a spiritual aspect to marriage as well as physical, if we are to take this analogy seriously. The main idea represented in Hosea above is that of exclusivity, love, and closeness. Israel will “know” God intimately. They will love Him, and only Him (or at least they should). The idea of marriage here doesn’t involve physicality as we would think in a human marriage, but it does involve love, commitment, and intimacy. The marriage Covenant is an objective one, because it exists apart from Israel, and is a very real thing that can either be kept or broken. God is faithful, we often are not.
Going back to the marriage covenant of Adam and Eve, we can see God’s example of marriage to His people as a model for human marriage. Adam and Eve were married in love, exclusivity, and closeness. Initially, there wasn’t anyone else! How’s that for exclusive? Yes there was a physical aspect, but there was much more than just the physical. Those of us who are married can attest to that.
But what about marriage being objective? What does it look like? Is there a physical aspect to God’s relationship with the Church? Stay tuned for more in the next post.