Christian Marriage Sermon Notes 

#3 It is not Good For Man to be Alone

 

Genesis 2:18 & Matthew 25:1-13

 

Pastor Jeffrey J. Meyers

 

One of the most astonishing statements in the creation story is found in Genesis 2:18.  God’s evaluation of Adam estate on the first day of his life is: “It is not good for man to be alone.”   Do you know what that means?  Do you really?  We have read and heard it so many times that we barely think about it anymore.  We just take it in stride.  I believe this is a big mistake.

 

What’s So Astonishing About It?

Our first task this morning is to put this declaration in context.  It is the immediate preceding context that I am interested in, first of all.  We will get to what follows Gen. 2:18 in good time.  For now, consider how surprising God’s evaluation is given what has just preceded it. 

Genesis 2:4-25 is a description of God’s creative work on the 6th day.  It is not a second creation narrative, but a focusing in on God’s special work on the sixth day, especially the formation of humanity.  There are a number of distinctive features of this account, but one of the most significant is the fact that throughout it the personal, covenantal Name of God—Yahweh—is used.[1]  This is one of the clues that Genesis 2 describes a covenant making event.  Adam is made in covenant with God.  The covenant Name of God is used throughout. Accordingly, in the formation of Adam and Eve we have God acting in a more personal, more intimate way than he had with the creation of light and water and plants and even animals. 

First, we have this remarkable description of God’s forming Adam from the dust of the ground and then breathing into him the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  One can hardly imagine something more intimate and personal that a mouth-to-mouth inbreathing of the Spirit of life.  Second, as a result of this we read that Adam becomes a “living being” (literally “a living soul”).  This does not refer merely to biological life.  Man becomes a “living being” fundamentally in relation to Yahweh, his God.  Life, especially this living relationship with Yahweh God is a gift.  Adam doesn’t have to earn it.  There is no intimation here of meriting God’s favor or love.  He is given this immediately.  Our own catechisms can give the wrong impression here when they talk about the “covenant of works.”  There is nothing for Adam to merit or earn or work for here in Genesis 2, even if there is, as we shall see, something more for him to wait for and faithfully receive.  Adam enjoys fellowship with God.  But Adam has yet to enter into the fullness of all that God has in store for him, but he will not work for it and merit it; rather, he ought to faithfully receive it in God’s good time.  This, of course, he will fail to do when he snatches for the fruit of the wrong tree in  Genesis 3.  But we are rushing ahead to another story.  Right now I am simply trying to point out how Adam is personally and covenantally united to his Creator God.  How he has received this living relation with Yahweh as a gift from God.

Third, God’s personal interaction with Adam is also evidenced in his talking with him.  After Yahweh builds a garden-sanctuary (presumably with Adam looking on), he speaks to Adam about how humanity is to accomplish its “ruling” task (Gen. 1:26-28).  This will be accomplished, first of all, by “serving” and “guarding” the garden (2:15).  Also, in this conversation, the personal covenant-keeping God, Yahweh, tells Adam what he can and cannot eat.  He must wait for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But there is no prohibition against the Tree of Life; he is free to eat of it.[2]

But now, after all of this personal interaction, what’s odd about God’s evaluation in v. 18?  God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Why is this so surprising?  Is Adam alone?  Well, is he?  No, Adam is not alone.  He has Yahweh God as companion.  Right?  He’s not alone.  Adam is made in Yahweh’s image, which means he is a son of God.  He has a heavenly Father.  Correct?  Sure.  He was created for fellowship with his Creator.  But as Yahweh God himself declares, for some reason, his own fellowship with Adam will not suffice.  What’s going on here?

It is certainly not that Yahweh God himself is not sufficient as a companion to satisfy Adam’s aloneness.   Surely he is.  But for some reason, God’s companionship is not enough.  At least for now.  Which means that Adam will experience “being alone.”  Which means that he will need a companion, a wife.

 

God’s Scheduled Absence

Two Sunday evenings ago I dealt with this question of God’s visible, tangible, apprehensible absence from our daily experience.  I think I struck a nerve with a good many of you.  The basic question is: where is God? If God really exists why doesn’t he show himself?  Why is he not here to guide us and help us and speak to us?  Where is he?  Have you ever asked these questions? Surely at times in your life you have had your doubts even about the reality of God, wondering why, if he’s so real and so important, he doesn’t show up and make himself known? What purpose could it serve that God be visibly and audibly absent from our everyday lives?  That he not manifest himself in some more direct fashion?  Now, I don’t have time to go into everything I said in that sermon, but similar questions arise here in Genesis 2:18.  Why isn’t God’s presence and fellowship going to be sufficient for Adam’s state of aloneness? 

Even before the fall of man, before God withdraws of his presence as a judicial punishment for man’s sin, there is nevertheless a real, qualified absence of God’s perceptible presence for Adam.  Enough that he will need companionship.  Enough that God himself recognizes that he will in some sense be “alone.”  Is this not astonishing?  Are you following me so far?  Let me drive the point home for you in a little bit different way.

Why is a matching, fitting, suitable helper needed at all?  Wasn’t God or even the three persons of the Godhead fitting, suitable fellowship for Adam?  Wasn’t God the perfect partner for man.  Why is Adam said to be alone?  He’s not alone.  He’s a son of God in a living relationship with Yahweh.  Isn’t that enough? Wasn’t man made for fellowship with God?  The answer to this is that it seems that God himself at creation (even before the fall!) was not intent on manifesting his presence to Adam and Eve at every moment of every day.  If the story of Genesis 3 is any clue, he would return once a week at a scheduled time and an appointed place in the center of the garden to meet and speak with man.  Adam would experience God’s scheduled presence.  But he would not have an uninterrupted, face-to-face experience of Yahweh God to fulfill his need for companionship. 

Does this seem odd to you?  Maybe only because with all of our pious talk about having a “personal relationship” with God, we effectively suppress the ever-present, untidy fact that he’s not here to talk with or to see or to experience directly in any normal sense.  Adam will know, he will experience the fact that fellowship with God himself is not going to be enough.  That’s not heresy.  God declares it to be so!  In some sense, God has not completely manifested himself to Adam yet.  Even here in the garden God will not make himself directly available to Adam continuously, day by day, moment by moment.  As we said, God comes back, for example, the next day, apparently at the scheduled time of meeting (Gen. 3:8), to question man about  what he had been doing in his “absence.”  Adam sees God coming and hides.  What I am saying is that God had no intention of showing up at Adam’s elbow or ear all through Adam’s day.   Adam would need to learn the value of God’s companionship by means of God’s scheduled absence. Therefore, Adam needs human companionship.

We might say this another way.  Even before the fall, God only partially gives himself to Adam.  One of the reasons for this is so that humanity would develop socially, as a community.  As I said a few evenings ago in discussing this, if God were to be personally, audibly present to each of us at any or every moment of the day, we would never need to talk to anyone else!  There would be no need for community.  No need to serve one another.  No need for church, for the assembling of one another.  No need for fellowship.  In fact, other people would be a distraction.  We would all go off privately and talk with God in solitude.  But God has removed his perceptible presence from us in order to mature us as communities, to give us husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, and friends and neighbors. 

Returning to the theme of marriage, all this means something profoundly mysterious: God has said that he is not going to be our spouse in this life, not in any kind of face-to-face way.[3]  Thus, being alone in this life is a tragedy.  We need one another, and most of us need a husband or a wife.  So this is one reason God withholds his direct presence from humanity even before the fall.  In this life, before the last day, God has told us that he will not be a present companion except through the mediation of other human beings.[4]  But there is more, much more.

 

Longing for the Consummated Union

Sometimes we give people the wrong impression when we use such cheeky language as “personal relationship” to talk about the Christian life.  Now, indeed, Christians are in “relationship” with God and it is certainly “personal.”  In modern American culture, however, this phrase has connotations that tend to subvert the more hearty biblical understanding of divine-human relations.  There’s a TV commercial for the book Power For Living.  Have you seen it?  Some famous football player—I’m not sure who it is—talks about how difficult life is and how people can become depressed and are often alone, etc.  The solution offered is that one can have a “personal relationship” with God.  This language is repeated throughout the commercial.  Now, I wonder what non-Christians who hear that kind of language—which,  by the way, is not exactly the language used in the Bible—I wonder what they think they will have or experience if they ask Jesus into their life. 

The truth is that how Christians relate to God is a great deal different than the kind of informal “personal relationships” we have with one another.  At the heart of the difference is the casual, breezy connotations of modern “personal relationships.”[5]  But there is also this matter of God’s face-to-face presence, or to be more precise, his face-to-face absence.  The personal relationship we have with God is vastly different than those we enjoy with other human beings.  We see, touch, hear, and experience the presence of our husband, wife, child, or friend.[6]  Even so, we have no direct, face-to-face access to the presence God or even the God-man Jesus Christ, who has been removed from us into heaven.  The One who was once experienced with the eyes, hands, and ears (as John relates in 1 John 1:1) is now “proclaimed” and fellowship with him is now experienced indirectly through faith in his Word (1 John 1:2) and within the community of saints (1 John 1:6-7; 2:9-11; 4:7-21).

I believe that this is one of the core tensions of created human life, especially for Christians.  This tension, this frustrating lack of direct access to God’s presence has been exacerbated by the fall and subsequent curse of God on humanity, but that doesn’t entirely explain the distance between humanity and God.  Adam was alone is some profound sense on his first day of existence, even before he rebelled against God and was cast out of the garden (Gen. 2:18; 3:23). 

Right here in Genesis 2 we are confronted with the fact that God is not yet directly, immediately accessible to Adam for uninterrupted, face to face fellowship.  Oh, sure, there is fellowship.  Yes, there is access.  There is no sin or curse or moral separation between God and man.  But there is a distance nonetheless.  This means that man was (and is) in some sense alone without another human being.  Adam was not yet given the fullness of God’s relational presence.  He would have to travel to the Garden of Eden once a week where God would meet with him.  God’s presence was scheduled and located.

Let me put it this way: God does not say to Adam: “It is good for man to be alone with me”  or, “It is good for man to have me and me alone as his companion.”  Think about that!  Just let it sink in.  Why is this?  Why this scheduled presence or this scheduled absence, depending on which way you want to think about it?  Why hasn’t God given man uninterrupted, face-to-face communion immediately?  This is a tough question.  And the answer to this is not easy to grasp, even if it gets to the heart and soul of humanity’s deepest longing.

Even though Adam was created in fellowship with God at creation, the union between God and humanity was not yet fully consummated.   Note the language I used: not yet fully consummated.  God has something more in store for man.  Something better.  An even richer, fuller intimacy with himself.  Why should this surprise us?  The creation itself was not created all at once and it was not yet even fully developed when Adam was created on the sixth day.  It was all “very good” but it was not fully fully-developed.  That there was a future for man and creation should be evident in the narrative of Genesis 1 and 2.  By the seventh day, to be sure, God had finished his work of creation, but humanity had yet to begin ruling the earth.  According to Genesis 2: 8-17, God had constructed a garden on top of a mountain plateau in Eden, but the down-stream lands where as yet undeveloped.  Adam was to do this by following the pattern he found in the Garden of Eden and extending it throughout the world.  For example, we are told that there was gold, bdellium, and onyx scattered throughout the land of Havilah.  All of this raw material was waiting for man to take hold of it and fashion it into glorious things like jewelry, houses, cities, etc. 

At any rate, there was a great deal more that needed to be done in the world and Adam and Eve were to be the agents of transformation as the images of God (see sermon #1 in this series).  All of this is just to note that the text of Genesis 1 and 2 implies that there was to be a history and maturation of mankind and the earth.  Now, take the next step with me.  Doesn’t it also make sense that man’s relation to God would also grow and develop?  That God had something richer and more glorious planned for humanity as well?  Although God was present to Adam and Eve, and although he loved them and took care of them, and although they were “happy and holy” as our children’s catechism puts it, nevertheless, this does not mean that God did not have something even better in store for humanity as they grew and matured.[7]

One way the rest of the Bible puts it is like this:  the celestial marriage between God and man will not take place until the firmament seal over the earth, the boundary the separates heaven and earth is broken; then the bride (humanity) will be married to the groom (the Son).  Remember Genesis 1:6, 7, & 8.  There we are told that a firmament boundary was established by God between the highest heaven (his dwelling) and earth (man’s home).  Between this highest heaven, which was created on day one (Gen. 1:1), and man’s earthly home God positions a firmament boundary.  This boundary exists even before the fall.  One clue that God intended one day to dismantle this firmament-boundary is the strange fact that of all the things that God is said to have created in Genesis 1, this is the only one that is not called “good.”  Which does not mean that it was “bad,” just that it was not the best  Something better would one day transpire—a full union of heaven and earth.  Remember what happens in Rev. 21: Heaven and earth are finally brought together and the firmament boundary that separates God and man collapses.  This tearing of the boundary that separates God and man occurred definitively in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus (1 Pet. 3:18).  Remember the torn veil in the temple (Matt. 27:51) which indicated that the way into the Most Holy Place (heaven!) was now open (Heb. 9:1-12).  Jesus has taken our glorified human nature and brought it through the firmament boundary into heaven itself (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Heb. 4:4).  Remembering that he is the Forerunner, Captain, the Firstfruits, and the Husband of his bride, we understand that he has experienced first what is ultimately in store for his bride (Heb. 6:20; 2:10; 1 Cor. 15:23; Rev. 14:14; Eph. 5: Rev. 21:2).[8]  But the full experience of what Jesus has accomplished for us will not come till the last day (1 John 3:2).  The last day will bring a consummated union between God and his people, his bride (Rev. 19:5-9).  Until then there is some distance, some separation.[9] We do not yet have direct, face-to-face access to God’s presence (1 Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4).  For Adam, the celestial marriage, the goal of all creation and human history was yet to come.  For us, too!

 

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

Maybe Jonathan Edward’s has put it most provocatively: “There was, as it were, an eternal society or family in the Godhead, in the Trinity of persons.  It seems to be God’s design to admit the church into the divine family as his Son’s wife” (Miscellanies, p. 741).  This is what God planned from the beginning, sin only complicated the matter.  Edwards again: “The end [goal] of the creation of God was to provide a spouse for his Son Jesus Christ, that might enjoy him and on whom he might pour forth his love. . . .Heaven and earth were created that the Son of God might communicate his love and goodness to a spouse.”  (Miscellanies, p. 103).  It is precisely this marriage, this union between God and his people that has not yet been consummated for us.  Until then we do not experience what we know and hope for by faith.[10]

It is imperative that I stop here and make an important clarification.  God himself has no deep need for fellowship with man.  The Godhead has no necessity for man’s companionship.  There is no inadequacy in God, like there was in the single man Adam.  God is not single.  He is triune—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is a community—one and three, three and one, in perfect loving eternal togetherness.  When God creates another, mankind/humanity, he does so out of the richness and overflow of his own eternal love.  He creates another outside of himself in order to gift humanity with life and ultimately with what he himself enjoys—fullness of life and love.

But not only to gift humanity with life, but to enlist humanity in helping him finish the task that he has began during the creation week.  Man is made to image God and do what God did, as I argued in the first sermon in this series.  Thus, man helps God finish the task of glorifying what he has made.  Humanity is a suitable helper for God.  Not, of course, in the exact same sense that man needed a helper (see below).  God did not need a helper, but he chose to create one nonetheless to share in his own work.  This was an act of grace and love.[11]

But now the question is how far will God go in order to bring humanity into the possession of the blessedness that he enjoys?  How far will God go to bring man into union with himself and to see to it that humanity is able to carry out the mandate that was given to him?  The answer is that the Godhead will go all the way.  God the Father intends to see a marriage of daughter humanity and his Son.  The Son has the same passion.  The Spirit also desires to see it come to pass.  This was their passionate intention from creation.  Jonathan Edwards was correct.  They will see it to fruition.

In order to accomplish this marriage, God the Son must become man, assuming to himself human nature for eternity.  And by becoming man, the Son, humbly places himself in a position of inadequacy and need.  As a man and not a woman and not some asexual version of a human being, the Son of God comes to need a helpmeet.  He himself now comes under the divine declaration: it is not good for man to be alone.  He now needs completion.  It is not good for him (as a man) to be alone.  He needs a woman to be a complete man.  If he has no bride, he remains forever incomplete.  He is without a side.  A companion.  He needs a helpmeet, a suitable helper.  But the only bride available to him after the fall of Adam and Eve is dead and under the judgment of God.  So in order that the Son might have this bride, he must die in her place.  He will take her guilt and judgment on himself.  Then she can be made fit for him by the Spirit and at the end of human history be brought to him for the consummation of their marriage.

This is the story of human history.  This is why humanity is in some profound sense alone until that last day.  Of course, we believe that in some legal and even real sense Jesus is our Husband now (Eph. 5:23).  We are even now the bride of Christ, members of his body (Eph. 5:30; Gen. 2:23).  The Church is united to Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-27).  And so by means of the Holy Spirit Jesus is indeed present with us through the Word, Sacraments, and his people (1 John 4:13).  And in some real sense we also are present with and in fellowship with God.  Jesus has passed through the heavens as a man (Heb. 4:14).  He has glorified our humanity, taken it into heaven, and now lives in closes possible relation to the Father and Spirit (Col. 1:18; 3:1-3).  We sit with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6).  We are the queen at his right hand (Ps. 45).  He has indeed as the Son of Man, the last Adam, purchased for his bride salvation and life everlasting (Eph. 5:23). We possess it now in some sense.  Everything he has is ours.  But, then again, in another sense we do not yet fully possess it (Rom. 8:23).  We only experience our union with him imperfectly in this life.  The full experience of union with Christ awaits the last day when we are glorified and see him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4).

In other words, we who are believers, who trust in this divine-human Husband do not yet experience the fullness of this personal relationship with Jesus.  We earnestly wait and long for such an inexpressible experience, the consummation of our love relationship with him.  This is what it means to live by faith and not sight!  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1).  This is why in almost every context where Jesus is referred to as the Husband and the Church the bride, there is this waiting, longing, looking, hoping, and praying for his coming.  “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them.  Then they will fast.” (Matt. 9).  “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. . . But while the bridegroom was delayed. . .” (Matt. 25:1, 5).   In 2 Cor. 11:2 Paul says, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.  For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”  The Church is in some sense betrothed and awaiting the marriage ceremony.  The well known passage Ephesians 5 reminds us that Christ the Bridegroom intends “to present her to himself a glorious church.”  This will be the wedding feast of the Lamb, that we only by faith and very imperfectly experience every week at the Lord’s Table, primarily because the wedding feast of the Lamb has not yet come.  One day we will say, as Rev. 19:7 assures us, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  Until then we cry out, “How long, O Lord” and “Come, Lord Jesus.” 

You see, there will come a day, the day of all days, when the last trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ shall rise, a day when we will be brought to our divine Husband as the glorious bride that has been waiting, longing for such intimate, face-to-face communion.  Oh, don’t you feel this absence even now.  Don’t you, like a bride longs for her wedding night, passionately  long for intimate union and communion with our divine Husband?  Aren’t you just a little bit frustrated with this sustained absence of Jesus, this state of being alone, of not enjoying the full communion we read is promised to us in the Scriptures?  Don’t you know and feel that we do not yet have everything that God intends for us as believers?  This is why there will be no marriage in heaven.  We will no longer be alone. Until then, we need the companionship of other human beings, friends and neighbors, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, and especially the intimate union of husband  and wives—“It is not good for man to be alone.”

 

The Church’s one Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is his new creation by water and the Word:

From Heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;

With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.

 

Elect from every nation, yet one over all the earth,

Her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth;

One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,

And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.

 

Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed,

By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,

Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?”

And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

 

’Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,

She waits the consummation of peace for evermore;

Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,

And the great Church victorious shall be the church at rest.     -Samuel J. Stone (1866)

 

 

ENDNOTES



[1] The Hebrew name yhwh (Yahweh) is translated as the small caps “Lord” in most English translations (NIV, NKJV, etc.).  In some older translations the mistaken vocalization “Jehovah” is used.  Whatever your translation, always remember that the name yhwh (Yahweh) is God’s personal Name (Exod. 3:15).  Whenever it appears it always implies a personal covenantal relation.

[2] Adam and Eve ought to have began their lives by taking from the tree of life and thereby thankfully confessing their dependence upon God’s grace for life.  This should have happened on the first day of Adam’s life, the seventh day of creation which God set apart as a “holy” day of worship and rest.  Instead, as we know from Genesis 3, they ate from the wrong tree.  When Adam and Eve bypassed this Tree of Life and went for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were saying in effect that they did not need to go to God for life.  They were presuming on God’s gift of life.  Adam was asserting that he had life in himself.  He was not thankful for what he had received.  He spurned God’s good gifts and grace.  He was asserting his autonomy, or better, his own auto-vitality.  Somewhere Calvin says, “He gave the tree of life its name, not because it could confer upon man that life with which he had been previously endued, but in order that it might be a symbol and memorial of the life which he had received from God.”  The tree of life was a figure of Christ, to lead Adam to the knowledge of divine grace “that man as often as he tasted the fruit of that tree, should remember whence he received his life, in order that he might acknowledge that he lives not by his own power, but the grace of God alone; and that life is not an intrinsic good, but proceeds from God.”  The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, symbolized the privilege of making judicial pronouncements, of kingly rule.  This “office” was something that God intended to confer upon Adam and Eve in due time.  They had to be patient and wait until they were ready.  The phrase “knowing good and evil” does not simply refer to moral knowledge, but judicial discernment.  The word “knowing” might be better translated “judging” or “discerning good and evil.”  In the only other places in the Bible where the phrase is used it stands for “judicial wisdom and discernment” (2 Samuel 14:17; Solomon asks for wisdom,1 Kings 3:9).  As Adam and Eve would have passed by the TOKGE day after day or Sabbath after Sabbath, refusing the seductions of the tempter, they would gradually acquired a deepening sense and wisdom about good and evil.  “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).  At some point in their history, God would have announced that the fast was over and the feast had come.  They would have been invited to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and become enthroned as co-rulers with God, junior partners governing the world under and with Yahweh God.  So, you see, it was not that Adam and Eve had to merit or earn God’s favor and love by being obedient, rather they had to confess God’s gracious favor by eating from the Tree of Life and then by obedience and fasting from the other tree mature in their ability to judge wisely between good and evil.  Once they had grown up and become wise they would have been given access to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as the symbol of their own maturation as rulers under God.

[3] The fact that God does have occasional face-to-face discussions with a very few individuals in Bible history only highlights the fact that 99.99% of the people of God have not had such a privilege.   Yahweh is said to have spoken “to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11; cf. Num. 12:8).  But no human being, not even Moses, ever experiences what the angels do.  According to Jesus, the “angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).  Even those who are graced to see, touch, and hear the Lord Jesus only had this kind of remarkable presence of God for about 3 years.  After that, the had to mediate their experience through the message of the Gospel.  We have the promise to see the “face of God” on the last day, but not in this life (1 Cor. 13: 12; Rev. 22:4).

[4] Now, clearly, Adam had some sort of direct access to God, even though it was scheduled and not uninterrupted and always accessible.  After the fall, however, even such a scheduled presence as Adam enjoyed is removed and we are now completely dependent upon meeting God through the mediation of other human beings.  Even the Scriptures are a mediating presence that presuppose the human instrumentality of authors, copyists, translators, publishers and so on.  We simply have no unmediated access to God in this life.  Even in the new heavens and new earth our access to God will be mediated by the glorified humanity of our Lord.  As we shall see shortly, this is a fundamental Christian insight.  Pagans always dream of unmediated, disembodied contact with the divine.  We know better.

[5] The Bible uses the word “covenant” to describe the way God and humanity relate.  When the Bible talks about the covenant, it means something more specific than just a personal relationship.  God's covenant with us is the form of his personal relationship with his creatures.  It is a formal, structured personal relationship.  The marriage covenant is actually a good illustration (see Ezekiel 16).  A man and woman who are dating have a “personal relationship” with one another.  At some point they fall in love.  That original personal relationship is deepened and given a new form when the express their love for each other for the first time, but the relationship is still relatively informal.  When the man asks the woman to marry him, then they both make verbal agreements and the man gives her a ring as a token of his love.  Their relationship has now taken on a new form, a kind of weak covenant, if you will.  Nevertheless, they are not yet married.  They have not yet entered into the marriage covenant.  When they walk the isle on the day of their marriage, we might say that they have a strong personal relationship, but until the rings are exchanged, vows are made, and the pastor says, "I now pronounce. . ." they are not in covenant with each other.  Once the formal ritual is complete, the covenant has been inaugurated, and they now walk out of the church in a new covenantal relationship.  Their original “personal relationship” has been transfigured into a formal covenant.  The same kind of analysis could be applied to the baptismal covenant.  In fact, the baptismal covenant is a kind of nuptial bath, a marriage covenant between the Lord and his Church into which the new disciple is initiated by water (Eph. 5:26).

[6]Note how a face-to-face experience is integral to human personal relations (Acts 20:25, 38; 1 Thess. 2:17; 3:10; 3 John 1:14).

[7] This very brief discussion of creation and God’s pre-fall eschatological intentions for creation can also be gleaned from Paul’s discussion of the resurrection body in 1 Cor. 15:44b-50.  Adam’s original created existence as a “living soul” was meant to be transcended, and would have been, even if Adam had not sinned.  See Geerhardus Vos, “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), pp. 91-125 and Richard Gaffin, The Centrality of the Resurrection: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), pp. 82ff.  Another way to put this is that humanity and creation was meant to progress from glory to glory.  God created out of nothing the raw material of creation (Gen. 1:1).  It was initially formless, dark, and empty on that first day of creation (Gen. 1:2).  It was not yet finished.  God then worked with it, forming, filling, and lighting it up—that is, glorifying it by in his six-day work.  At the end of the creation week it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but not yet finished, not yet brought to its final end.  This is clearly implied in that he creates man to be the continuing agent of glorification.  From the Garden of Eden mankind would have ranged out to the four corners of the world, following the four rivers that flowed from the garden, extending the pattern which he found there, bringing out all of the potential latent in creation and in his own created nature as well.  Communities were to be formed.  Cities built.  And humanity itself would have learned more and more about God and in some very profound sense matured in its relationship to God, gaining wisdom by serving God and one another.  At some point God would have effected a transformation or transfiguration of humanity into the fullest possible union and fellowship with himself.  The fall altered how this would happen, but not the intended goal itself.  Notice how Revelation 21-22 describes eschatological goal for God’s people and creation as a garden city (Rev. 21:1ff.).  This is the movement of human history—from a garden to a garden city, from daughter-humanity betrothed to God to the consummation of that promised marriage on the last day.

[8] I have mixed the metaphors somewhat, but I think you get the point.  Jesus goes first, we follow.  Jesus experiences now what we will experience at the last day.  What he has, we will one day possess.  What he sees, we will see.  Until then we live by faith.

[9] As one commentator notes: “Until then there is distance between God and man, not a distance caused by sin (because there was as yet no sin), but a distance set up by God as part of his program of maturation for us.  During this time we are to learn about our role-relationship with God by means of role-relationships in this world, under the firmament” (James B. Jordan, Trees and Thorns 38, p. 2).

[10] I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I am not saying that we have absolutely no experience of God whatsoever in this life.  Nor am I suggesting that you not diligently seek the presence of God.  What I am saying is that whatever experience of God you have in this life will only be a mediated, indirect experience that comes through the instrumentalities he has provided to function during this time before the end of human history as we know it.  So we read and listen to the Bible, worship and pray with one another in church, and eat and drink from the Lord’s Table—all of which and more are the necessary means by which we imperfectly experience the presence of God in this life.  There simply is no other way, at least nothing that shortcuts these created means.

[11] The fact that humanity is God’s human helper is communicated subtly through the careful structuring of the narrative as well.  According to Genesis one, on the sixth day of creation God created man in his own image and likeness, to take dominion over the creation.  He created humanity to rule, to be chief servant over the earth under God.  Now, in Genesis 2 (a record of what happens on the sixth day of creation) Yahweh’s sixth action in this chapter is to fashion another human being, one made in the image and likeness of the first.  Just as the woman is a suitable helper for Adam, so also humanity is a suitable helper for God.  Thus, we can infer that humanity was created to be a helper suitable or fitted to God himself.  Again, not because he needed one, but because he graciously willed to have one.  So humanity is God’s destined bride, the Father’s daughter who is to grow up to be the Son’s wife.  This is foundational to understanding the importance of marriage in God’s world and in the big scheme of things.