Prototype of an Ideal Husband
God’s Word begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth. The very word Genesis comes from the Greek word for beginning. This is where it all started. God speaks, and whatever he says is. It is not that it shortly will be, or the angels will rush out and accomplish it straightway, but it is. He created everything that you and I have ever known out of nothing, ex nihilo. The most important elements are very clear in this controversial first chapter of Genesis: that God is the source of all creation, and he is omnipotent. God is sovereign, all-powerful, beyond comprehension.
I draw attention to this because the starting point of theology must always be God in his transcendent glory. To meet the lady working behind the counter at the local fast food restaurant inspires little awe, but to meet the Queen of England would be an astounding event. We cannot appreciate God’s immanence (his closeness through Christ) without transcendence (how far beyond comprehension he is as enthroned creator). God becoming man in Christ must be understood in light of him first being God, or his being man does not matter.
So God creates man on the sixth day, along with pigs and earthworms. God makes him out of dirt, and breathes life into him. Notice how the first chapter of Genesis declares the majesty and sovereignty of God, while describing us as originating as dirt clods. Perspective is important.
Now, Adam is alone as far as intelligent, image-bearing creatures go. God declares in chapter 2 that it is not good for man to be alone, to which many bachelors’ apartments testify. So God takes Adam’s rib and makes a wife for him. God establishes the first marriage in creation through Adam and Eve.
Before dealing directly with the creation narrative for Eve (this will be dealt with in the next article), it serves to deal with the concept of man needing a helpmate. There are entire devotional books written for women on the subject of being a helpmate/helper/help-meet. There are specific aspects that should be acknowledged here, though, given the metaphor of Bride of Christ. Namely, there is something to be learned about earthly marriage by Christ’s example.
Christ accomplishes salvation, provides all means, and yet calls upon his church to labor in a portion of the redemptive work for her sake. He assumes the responsibility, and in what little he calls upon the church to do, he equips her at every stage. She is the helper of Christ in this sense.
How does this apply to earthly husbands? It is all the husbands work, obligation, and responsibility. The husband’s job is not just to go to work and then come home to his wife. It is not immediately the wife’s job to raise the children, tend the home, cook the meals, wash dishes, etc. It is the husband’s job directly to care for the family in all aspects, but it is the wife’s job to help/ obey her husband in whatever capacity is needed. This is why it is the husband’s responsibility to tend and maintain the marriage, lead his household, and raise all members of the family up in prayer and the Word of God (i.e. loving her as Christ loved the church). Practically, this may not change a great deal of how the home functions, but it should drastically affect the husband’s attitude toward his wife and family.
On the flipside, the wife should own those endeavors of help-meet-ness and treat them with sober mindedness. Likewise, the church must treat their delegated responsibilities with the utmost diligence. The husband-wife ratio of labor is not 50/50, or we become consumed with whether the other is really giving 50%. Each should be striving to fill the 100%.
God declared that it was not good for man to be alone. This was not because Adam lacked the creativity to name all of the animals on his own. Humorous comments aside, it was not because Adam could not cook or clean. This declaration of God struck at the fundamental principle of this series. Humanity could best understand the unfolding redemptive history through metaphor. Eve would provide Adam a living means of comprehending the nature of God’s love for humanity and Adam would serve the same for Eve.
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth (chapter 11) is one of the more controversial passages of scripture. My concern is not to unravel the validity or invalidity of head-coverings, but to get at the heart and underlying doctrine of the passage. In verse seven, Paul declares that man “is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” There is a very real sense in which man is meant to learn about his relationship to God by examining the relationship man has to woman. It is a two-way street of sorts, because man learns about heavenly marriage from earthly marriage and about earthly marriage from heavenly marriage.
Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:22-33 work in this way. The wife is to submit to her husband, the head of the family, as the church is to submit to Christ, the head of the church. This troubles many people, but it is not even the more demanding of the two charges. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. The perfect example of love in sacrifice, care, and preservation is the standard for husbands. Men are to love their wives this way; this is God’s command through his servant Paul. The closer a husband is to loving his wife as Christ loved the church, the easier it will be for the wife to submit to her husband.
Thus the stage is set for the creation of Eve, the production of types and shadows, and the progressive revelation of the mystery of the Gospel. As John Owen says, the reason it is called mystery is because it requires God to reveal it to us, or we could never find it out.
Chris J. Marley is the Senior Pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona. He holds an M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California (2009).