For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
We have been looking at God’s creation of the man and the woman, His design and His intent, as He created them and joined them into one flesh. We will continue to discuss this amazing truth today. It may seem that we are jumping ahead to the New Testament and leaving the Creation account found in Genesis, but that is not the case at all.
Before we begin, please take the time to prayerfully read Ephesians 5:15-33.
The Apostle Paul writes a beautiful exposition on walking in wisdom and being filled with the Spirit, and then applies these truths to the Christian husband and wife. As he concludes his spiritual instruction for the husband and wife, he quotes our passage from Genesis about the husband and wife becoming one flesh. Then he declares that this is a great mystery, but he is speaking concerning Christ and the church.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently used the word mystery as he refers to the church. (You can use a concordance to search out those scriptures if you like.) A mystery was a secret, hidden truth, which remained hidden until God revealed that truth. The Old Testament saints did not understand the church as God revealed it in the New Testament. We discover so many truths in a much deeper way as Jesus revealed them, and as the Apostles also expounded them. Truths that were hidden were a mystery, but at God’s appointed time, they were revealed by Him. This is the type mystery to which the Apostle Paul is referring.
Specifically, He is referring to the one flesh relationship, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” – one flesh. We know that this quote comes from Adam’s declaration about the woman as the Lord gave her to him, and we know that they were joined as one flesh.
But in the passage that we are considering, the Apostle Paul is explaining the proper relationship between the husband and the wife. He uses, as his example and explanation, the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church (His bride). And in this explanation, he refers to one flesh, bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh, members of his body. Truly, it is a great mystery! What exactly is the Apostle Paul saying? Is he referring to Adam and Eve? Is he referring to a husband a wife? Or is he referring to Christ and the church? Let’s take a look at all three!
Adam and Eve: In a very literal sense, Eve was flesh of Adam’s flesh, and bone of his bones. God had literally formed her from his flesh and bone. Therefore, she was named Woman. Remember? There they were joined as one flesh. This passage is true of them – literally.
Husband and Wife: In Ephesians 5, we find the Apostle Paul using these truths, now applied to the husband and wife. Now, in this case, centuries after Adam and Eve, the wife was not literally taken out of the husband’s side and formed from his rib. But as we saw when Jesus addressed the truth of marriage in Matthew 19, using the same Genesis passage, He declares that God has joined the husband and wife into one flesh, and that they are no longer two, but one flesh. It was not literal flesh and bone, as with Adam and Eve, but nevertheless, as God views a husband and wife, He very much views them as one flesh because He joined them as such, bone of the husband’s bones and flesh of his flesh. I know huge questions arise as we try to understand. Our problem is that we must by faith accept what the Word of God declares to be true. (Think of examples like: we died in Christ, and are raised in Him, that God placed our sin on Jesus. Think of truths like: we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ. There are so many examples that we accept by faith.) These are deep spiritual truths. But how can I know that the Lord really wants a husband and wife to be one flesh, viewing themselves truly as bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh? Listen to the commands that Word of God is giving to the husband in our Ephesians passage:
… So, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies
… He who loves his wife loves himself
… For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it
Can you see how the husband is to view his wife as his own body, “flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones,” and love and care for her as such? And the wife, too, must learn to view herself as a part of her husband. For the Word of God says he is the head. She is a part of him. They are one flesh!
So, it is now a symbolic truth, first literally seen in the creation of Adam and Eve, but now one which shows a husband and wife how to live to the glory of God, and one which produces very real results in any marriage where the husband and/or wife is willing to believe and trust the Lord so as to walk in truth! And one further note, when we humble ourselves and walk in this truth, we reflect Christ and the church, others will see the reflection (especially our children), and we bring much glory to the Lord.
Christ and the Church: The relationship between Christ and the church is given as the example to the wife for the rightful headship and a proper response to her husband as head. The husband looks to the example of Christ to understand the wife as a member of his body and how to properly love and care for her. Wow! Amazing, high and holy truth. So, does one flesh, ”bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” also apply to Christ and the church? Absolutely, yes. For He is now the Head of the church, and we are members of His body! And one day, He will return to this Earth to get His bride, and the fulness of this mystery will be complete. Deep spiritual truth that our mind struggles to comprehend, but absolute truth of the Word of God. It is a spiritual truth. A great mystery indeed.
So, in conclusion, let us return to our Genesis passage of God’s creation of the man and the woman, the creation of Adam first, the creation of woman from flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, and the joining of the two into one flesh. In His unsearchable wisdom, God was creating humankind and woven into that creation was a great mystery, not only a pattern for all marriages to follow, but a glorious picture of the beauty of Christ and the church, which was yet to come. We should all stand in amazement!
What shall I say to you as I reflect on my life regarding the truth of one flesh? I can only say as the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12:
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
I shared with you that when David and I were married we remained as two individuals. God had joined us as one, and He viewed us as one, but we had no idea what we had really been called to. I made every mistake imaginable (and so did David), but the Lord taught me to take my eyes off David and all his faults, failures, and sins, and concentrate of being the wife that God had called me to be. And that was a tough job!
However, in the final analysis, what I learned is that God blesses His Word. When I stopped arguing with God, defending myself and my “rights”, going my own way (whether blatantly or manipulatively), and then bowed before the Lord in humility and honesty, God was faithful to forgive all my mistakes, refresh my heart and mind, and give me the grace to press on. I found that a very close walk with the Lord was the only answer. In and of myself, I would always go astray and go my own way, thinking that my way would produce a better result. How foolish of me!
Over and over the Lord would bring me back to the truth of one flesh. Over and over the Lord would bring me back to the truth that He had given David to me as my head. Over and over He would remind me of the picture of Christ and the church. I remember when the question occurred to me: What would it look like if the church declared that she would be “her own woman” and that she didn’t need a Head?
Oh my, what I must have looked like to my Lord! I was independent. I acted apart from my husband. I sometimes opposed him, but I also cleverly tried to manipulate him to get my way.
I cannot emphasize enough that the Spirit and the flesh are contrary to one another. My flesh will ALWAYS pull me away from truth. We are only able to walk where God calls us to walk by His grace and by His Spirit. When we stumble (and we will), we go back to the Lord. He will lift us up!
My journey has not been an easy walk, but it is one that I would not trade. The more I walk in one flesh with my husband, viewing myself as a part of David, and viewing him as my head, the more the Lord blesses our marriage. Neither of us are the same as we were 40 years ago as we entered this marriage, and neither of us would go back to our old ways. Why? Because there is a joy now that we did not know when we were independent of one another and insisting on our own ways!
All I can say is that we are a walking, breathing testimony that God blesses His Word. So, I beg you, don’t be afraid to walk in truth. I know it is not easy. I know all the arguments, fears, and doubts, but I also know the joy that the Lord will bring. None of us are yet perfected, but may we continue to press on, that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us … all for His glory!
So, Until Next Time:
In truth and honesty before the Lord, examine your life.
If you are married, how do you view you and your husband?
Do you live as one flesh?
You will have to give your husband fully to the Lord in prayer, no longer pointing out his faults and failures as excuses for your actions.
Seek the Lord. Ask Him to renew your mind according to truth.
Ask Him to show you the things that you need to change.
Be willing to take one step at a time, obedient to what the Lord shows you.
Trust the Lord as you walk by faith in His Word.
Every wise woman – will seek to honor the Lord in her marriage.
As I worked on this writing the first verse and chorus of a well-known hymn by Louisa Stead came to my mind. With much love, I leave you with those words:
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.
Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.