It has been said that married life demands teamwork.
With this we can agree. Husband and wife must cooperate fully. They must always work together as members of the same “team.” Never must they think, will or act as players on an opposing team do, or as individuals with personal goals that militate against the “team” which they represent.
However, let it be clearly understood that in marriage there is no trading of “players” to another “team,” as is done so frequently in the world of sports. The husband may not, for a younger, more vivacious “player” trade off his aging wife who shows the effects of bearing his children. The wife is not to separate from her husband whose health is broken and whose finances have diminished to a marked degree. She is not to ask to be traded to another “team” where the financial and social advantages are greater. She is not to do this even though she never literally vowed “for better, for worse, in sickness, in health” to be his wife. They are not to do this even though they no longer love each other in that physical sense that brought them together years before this present state of affairs.
The married are married for life. God said that after He created Eve. Not Adam, not Moses, but God gave this unbreakable law. Reading Genesis 2:21-25 it does not become plain that this is not Adam’s word. He is speaking in verse 23, and there he declares, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Then we read, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It might seem as though this is the continuation of Adam’s speech. Were it not for the testimony of Jesus in Matthew 19:4, 5 we would most likely’ take such a position. But Jesus says, “Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother. . . and cleave and they twain shall be one flesh?” It is God’s law . . . . that when a man takes a wife he must consider her and deal with her for life as his wife.
The idea is not that a man sins if he does not leave his father and mother to take a wife. Paul, who repeats this principle in Ephesians 5:31 never took a wife. He also has something good to say about single life in I Corinthians 7 when the considerations are spiritual. But the meaning is that once a man has taken a wife, he must leave father and mother and must cleave unto his wife. He may not cleave any longer to father and mother. He must cleave to his wife. He must leave his father and his mother. He may not leave his wife.
And though these words are addressed to the man who takes a wife, the parents of that man (and woman) will also leave that man. In process of time they are going to leave him through the corridor of death. The son may not when this occurs be s young man any more. He may have seen God’s word fulfilled in the earthly lives of his parents, that they have seen their “children’s children.” But leave him these parents will, sooner or later. However from the moment that their children have taken husbands or wives, they, the parents, must leave them alone. It is not easy after ruling them from the days of their birth through some twenty years, more or less, to let go completely and now let them rule themselves and their wives and families. But the wise parents will keep hands off the disciplining of the grandchildren, and they will carefully avoid spoiling their children’s children. Surely they will be very careful not to set the grandchildren against their parents. It is not, either, an uncommon thing for parents to encourage their children to come running home after a disagreement or difference of opinion because their parents have shown that they are not as insistent as God is that they be one flesh. The wise and spiritual parent will realize that there is a message for him also in this word of God.
One message implied in the verse is that wise and spiritual parents will warn their children when they give evidences of planning to link themselves as one flesh with those that are spiritually incompatible. Not only will they point out the sin thereof, as pictured very clearly by Paul in II Corinthians 6:14-18. But they will emphasize the truth in Genesis 2:24 that marriage is for life, and that such an unequal yoke will have to be borne for life! They will warn of the consequences for the children that God may be pleased to give them.
Now the leaving and cleaving are controlled by the being one flesh. Married children are not to leave their father and mother in every respect. They are still to cleave to them in love. They must still honor them as their father and mother. And in the twilight of the earthly life of these parents they, the married children, are to gladden them with visits as frequently as is possible, or with letters and phone calls. By that time they ought to be able to appreciate, as they never could before their marriage, what their parents have done for them. They can then also look ahead a bit and consider Jesus’ words, “And as ye would that men should do unto you, do ye likewise to them.” Luke 6:31
Now to cleave unto each other does not simply mean live together, as noble as that may be. They must cleave to each other as one flesh. And that they are one flesh means that they need each other, that they are two parts of one whole that cannot function as it ought without each part serving with the other. Each half, then, must not try to live for itself. In fact, each half must not simply live for the other half. This will become evident as soon as God gives them children. The wife cannot live for the husband, The husband cannot live for the wife. Both must then live for the family, They must leave their fathers and mothers and cleave to each other for the sake of being one flesh, as well as being one flesh.
Now they are joined together as one flesh not only to bring forth the covenant seed. And the idea surely is that unless they are man and wife they may not live like one flesh. They had better cleave to father and mother then in a son or daughter relation. But they are one flesh in order that they may jointly and fully live as the bride of Christ. Remember that the things of the kingdom happen in parables. Mark 4:11. With our narrow, man-centered, atheistic eyesight the things which we see are the real and only thing. The vine is the vine, the lamb is the lamb. But the Word of God tells us that Christ is The Vine, and all our vines which we see and have classified are but pictures of Him. He is The Lamb, and the creatures we call lambs are but pictures of a more wonderful and higher reality in Him. And, by the way, in Mark 4:11 the word these is in italics, because Jesus actually says, “All things are done in parables.” And so our marriage also is not the reality but a picture of that blessed oneness between Christ and His Bride, the Church. Let it in passing also be pointed out that in Christ and His Bride we have an eternal cleaving, a oneness that never ends, in a perfect faithfulness on the part of Christ. And since our marriage is a picture of that oneness, we may not under any circumstances end the cleaving and the being one flesh. We sin when we break that picture. We sin against Christ!
Remember, too, that this word of God is connected up with the creation of Eve, and therefore is presented as a principle before there was any sin in the world. The leaving and cleaving is not an ordinance made necessary by sin, and is not a regulation to restrain sin. It was a divine ordinance that God established for righteous Adam and Eve. They were to cleave to each other and live as one flesh. And it is still the God ordained way for man through all time in order that he may serve God fully with the combined male-female life.
At the same time the text condemns all bigamy. God made one wife for Adam and told him to cleave to her. It is quite true that in Genesis 2:24 God does not lead Moses to say, “And the two shall be one flesh.” But He does say this on the occasion of making for man only one wife and in that connection saying that they should be one flesh. And it is one flesh that He here declares that they shall be. What is more that same Spirit did guide Paul in Ephesians 5:31 to say, ” . . . and they two shall be one flesh.” And Jesus said the same thing inMatthew 19:5.
Besides, do not all of our own experiences teach us that a man with two wives or more destroys that very idea of one flesh? Would it not be a flesh and a half, if he had two wives? And that is not only nonsense but exactly makes living as one flesh impossible. Man and wife can live one life as one flesh. But the other woman (or man) who is added will see to it that the oneness between the first two is disrupted. That man cannot give all to more than one wife, cannot cooperate fully with two. He will always be holding back something from the one that he gives to the other. And does not Scripture also teach clearly the truth that one man and one wife are one flesh, and anything more destroys the whole picture of Christ and His Bride? What trouble there was for Abraham from the day he took Hagar to stand beside Sarah! What a miserable life Jacob had, what a disruption of the oneness there was between him and his two wives! Let no man say that Scripture does not condemn bigamy. These stories did not need to be recorded in Scripture to give us a full account of the covenant line and for the revelation of Christ as our Saviour. But they are included and in unmistakable language set forth to show that he who violates this principle that they two shall be one flesh is sinning against an unchangeable ordinance of God.
The expression “one flesh” also indicates that this oneness is only for this life. They are not one spirit, but one flesh. Husband and wife do not lose their spiritual identity, nor their own personal spiritual life. But they are one flesh, and that means that being joined as husband and wife, they are such as long as the flesh of both of them lives. In the life to come they will be neither male nor female, husband nor wife. They will no longer be flesh. All shall be the bride of Christ cleaving to Him as a perfect body of varied members, each member in its place functioning with the other members in a perfect service of love.
Let those, then, who contemplate marriage give serious thought to the fact that it is going to be for life. Let them also bear in mind that they are to be one flesh for a full service to Christ in every aspect of their life. They are to be one in bodyand soul. If for spiritual reasons they already see the impossibility of such a life together, it ought not be entered into, and all plans to do so should be dropped. Our young people ought to seek that other half in the church; and their first consideration should be the prospects for a full sharing of life in the worship and service of Christ. Doctrinal differences can prevent full cleaving with the soul, and produce a fraction of the “one flesh.” A marriage that is a four-fifths flesh instead of one flesh is tragic. But so is one that is a nine-tenths flesh instead of one whole flesh.
And those already joined as one flesh find so much need to go to this God Who ordained marriage to pray for the grace of His Son to enable them to live a life that is a true picture of His faithful cleaving to His bride, and to live a life that is indeed one flesh, putting aside selfish interests and carnal ambitions that threaten to divide that one flesh into one battle field.