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The “One Flesh” Model of Marriage

THURSDAY August 31

The “One Flesh” Model of Marriage

Study the Creation narrative of Genesis 2:15–25. What happens in the story before the statement concerning a husband and wife being “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24)?

A key to applying Paul’s counsel to wives and husbands is to see his citation of Genesis 2:24 (in Ephesians 5:31) as the culmination of it. As he meditates on the Creation story of Genesis, Paul considers the needs of Christian congregations and the health of family relationships within them. He hears in Genesis 2:24 a message that echoes down through time. By divine design, marriage is intended to be a “one flesh” relationship, with sexual unity mirrored in emotional and spiritual unity, and emotional and spiritual unity bringing meaning to the sexual relationship.

Note that in choosing Genesis 2:24, Paul selects a statement about marriage made before the Fall and applies it to the relationships between Christian husbands and wives. In our distinctly post-Fall world, rampant exploitation of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman reveals how deeply entrenched in modern cultures is the idea that the sexual union represents subjugation of the woman. Paul argues that the sexual relationship, as reflected in Genesis, is not one of subjugation but of union. It does not symbolize or actualize the dominance of the male but the union of husband and wife, so much so that they are “one flesh.” We may look to both Ephesians 5:21–33 and Genesis 2:24, then, for an important, countercultural, and corrective theology of marriage and sexuality.

In this same context, Paul in the next verse talks about a “profound mystery” (see Eph. 5:32, ESV). This includes both sides of the double metaphor Paul has been discussing: Christian marriage understood in the light of Christ’s relationship with His church (Eph. 5:32) and Christ’s relationship with His church understood in the light of Christian marriage (Eph. 5:32).

Christian marriage is elevated by comparing it to the relationship between Christ and the church. In addition, by thinking of the church’s relationship to Christ through the lens of a caring, Christian marriage, believers gain new clarity about their shared relationship to Christ.

In what ways does Ephesians 5:33 serve as a concise summary of Paul’s counsel in Ephesians 5:21–32? If married, how can you seek to more fully implement these principles in your marriage?

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