In this lesson we're going to be looking at the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace in more detail. Some take the Covenant of Works to refer exclusively to the command God gave to Adam in the garden. But though this command was an extremely important part of the Covenant of Works (as we will see), there was more to God's covenant with Adam than just this single command. The command was given in the context of a covenant relationship that God had entered into with Adam. So, before we look at the command, we're going to take some time to look at the context in which that command was given.1
In particular, God's covenant with Adam included what some have called the “creation ordinances.” After God had created the world, and before man had fallen into sin, there were three ordinances (foundational life-principles) that God established for man. These three ordinances are vital for us to understand because they are laws that God has built into the very structure of the world as He created it. They are as essential to the well-being of man as the law of gravity—and just as essential for us as Christians. Each has far-reaching implications for what it looks like to glorify God as believers in Jesus.2
1. THE SABBATH as a creation ordinance:
A) The INAUGURATION of the Sabbath: After God had created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, Scripture tells us that, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:2-3). This was the inauguration of the Sabbath.
B) The PERMANENCE of the Sabbath: The Sabbath rest that God initiates here is something that He also has established as a principle for created man, and in particular, for His people. So, when God gave Israel the 10 Commandments, the 4th Commandment was, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).3 When the Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus' response was: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27). Jesus' words were given as a stern rebuke to correct a corrupted view of the Sabbath. But though Jesus rejects the Pharisees' wrong ideas about the Sabbath, Jesus' answer upholds the institution of the Sabbath itself. What was to be rejected wasn't the Sabbath—but the Pharisees' false conception of it.
C) The FUNCTION of the Sabbath: Jesus' words in Mark 2 also teach us about the purpose of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was made for [the sake of] man. . .” Jesus' words here serve as a commentary for why God had created the Sabbath in the beginning. Scripture had told us in Genesis 2:3 that the Lord, “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” Now here, Jesus' words teach us that this blessing had to do with mankind. God made and blessed the Sabbath for man's sake—that is—in order that it might be an instrument of blessing to man. It was for man's good that God established the Sabbath.4
A lot of Christians today are confused about the Sabbath and what role it should play. But what Scripture wants us to understand is that the Sabbath is a wonderful thing. Think about it this way: how would you like it if you began working at a new job where you started every year by getting a month and a half of paid vacation? In essence, this is what the Sabbath is (52 days a year). It's the Lord promising seven days of provision for six days of labor. Too often we look at the Sabbath from a negative perspective: “You shall not. . .” But actually, in the 10 Commandments, this is one of the few commandments that is set in positive language. It isn't set in “You shall not” language, but rather, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” The Sabbath was given to be a blessing—not a burden!!
In particular, the Sabbath is a blessing because it is a day to stop, rest, and delight.5 First, 1) it's a day to STOP. The Sabbath is a day to stop all the work we're busy with the rest of the week. This is a pretty significant lesson for us. That God wants us to stop our work on the Sabbath is a) a reminder for us of what God really cares about: not so much doing, but being; not producing, but abiding. It's the same lesson Jesus was teaching Martha in Luke 10. Martha was concerned with all her service. Actually, the Greek word used there is the same word for ministry.6 Martha was too busy with all her ministry to actually stop and listen to Jesus. The Sabbath is a reminder for us of what God really cares about the most. It's also b) an invitation for us to embrace our limits: the Sabbath reminds us that “the world continues working fine when I stop.”7 God doesn't actually need us. He's in control and taking care of the universe just fine without us. The Sabbath is an invitation to “be still and know” that God is God (Psalm 46:10). The call to stop our work on the Sabbath is also c) an opportunity for us to trust in the God who has promised to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).8 So the Sabbath is a day to stop. It's also, 2) a day to REST; physically, spiritually, emotionally. We're not super-heroes. God made us with bodies, with souls, and minds that need rest.9 Lastly, 3) the Sabbath is a day to DELIGHT. It's worth noting that the Sabbath begins with God looking over all He had made and basking in the reality that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).10 What is God doing? He's delighting in His creation. So the Sabbath is a day set apart to delight in God, but also to delight in His creation: “we are to slow down. . .and take the time to see the beauty of a tree, a leaf, a flower, the sky. . .to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. . .” To experience and delight in God's creation.11
D) The SCOPE of the Sabbath: It's also important to note that the Sabbath wasn't just meant to be a single day—it was (and is) a principle of life for God's people. We see this in passages such as Leviticus 25, where God commanded Israel not only to celebrate a weekly Sabbath—but also to celebrate a Sabbath year once every seven years (Leviticus 25:1-7). Likewise, every 50th year (Lit. “seven sabbaths of years”) there was to be a Jubilee year of Sabbath rest (Leviticus 25:8-12).12
These passages speak of having a time of Sabbath for the land—a time for the land to rest.13 On one hand, the land was to have rest because the land belonged to the Lord. On the other hand, God was teaching His people that man wasn't meant to be captive to his creation. God doesn't want us to be workaholics—neglecting our families for the purpose of endless work (even if we call it “ministry”). It doesn't honor God. God wants us to take time to rest in Him and enjoy His blessings. So the Sabbath isn't just about one day in seven. It's a principle that God established for all of life.14
E) The FULFILMENT of the Sabbath: When God established the Sabbath, it was on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath was the last day of the week, which meant that God's people looked forward to it all week. There was some deeper significance to this. All throughout the Old Testament, God's people were looking forward to a lasting, an eternal Sabbath rest. Moses spoke of a future rest that God would give His people in the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 12:9-10). But even when they entered into the land and took possession of it, Joshua could not give them the kind of rest that Moses anticipated (Hebrews 4:3,8-9). Hundreds of years later, Isaiah used the imagery of the Sabbath rest of Jubilee to speak of the One who would bring true and lasting rest to God's people (Isaiah 61:1-3) — and it was this very passage that Jesus turned to at the inauguration of His earthly ministry, and declared, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).
There's a reason that we now celebrate the Sabbath on the first day of the week instead of the last day of the week: it was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. It was on the first day of the week that the women came to the tomb bringing spices—and found it empty—and heard the angel's words: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen” (Luke 24:5-6). It was the first day of the week that the Lord appeared for the first time to His disciples (John 20:19ff); then later to Thomas who hadn't been there the week before (21:26ff). It was the first day of the week that the early church began to meet together for worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Why? Because Jesus' resurrection changed everything about the Sabbath. The true, eternal Sabbath rest that had been anticipated for so long had finally come through Jesus' death and resurrection. And the fact that we now celebrate the Sabbath on the first day of the week also carries with it great significance:
“[The Christian] does not only look forward to a redemption yet to come. He does not merely hope for a future Sabbath rest. He looks back on a redemption fully accomplished. He stands confidently on the basis of what the past already has brought. . .The current believer in Christ does not follow the Sabbath pattern of the people of the old covenant. He does not first labor six days, looking hopefully toward rest. Instead, he begins the week by rejoicing in the rest already accomplished by the cosmic event of Christ's resurrection. Then he enters joyfully into his six days of labor, confident of success through the victory which Christ already has won.”15
2. MARRIAGE as a creation ordinance:
A) The INAUGURATION of marriage: The second ordinance that the Lord established in the early chapters of Genesis was the institution of marriage. We see this in Genesis 2:18-25. After God had made the woman and brought her to the man, Scripture tells us: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (v24).
B) The ESSENCE of marriage: This verse (Genesis 2:24) is quoted another three times in Scripture (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7-8; Ephesians 5:31). It is this verse that the Scripture itself constantly refers back to in order to help us understand the essence of marriage. It's also significant that this statement about marriage was first given before man had fallen into sin, and yet it continued to be referred back to as a blue-print for marriage even after Adam's sin in the garden. So, Genesis 2:24 is quite foundational for understanding the meaning of marriage—both for sinless man and for sinful man.16
So, what is the essence of marriage? There are three things that we can draw out of this passage. First, husband and wife are to LEAVE mother and father: “for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother. . .” In marriage there is a radical change that takes place in ones relationship to their parents. The husband-wife relationship becomes the main priority. This is true for both the woman and the man. The man is to prioritize his wife (her ideas, opinions, wishes) above all other relationships (including those of his parents). The woman is to prioritize her husband (his ideas, opinions, wishes) above all other relationships (including those of her parents). Second, husband and wife are to CLEAVE to one another: “. . .and be joined [or cleave] to his wife. . .” Cleaving means that marriage is “a total and irrevocable commitment of two people to each other.”17 What this means is that marriage isn't to be based on a feeling of love—but on the commitment to love. Finally, in marriage husband and wife BECOME ONE FLESH: “. . .and they shall become one flesh.” Becoming one flesh means complete and total oneness. This oneness includes sexual union but it isn't limited to that (in fact, often the sexual union serves as a gauge for oneness in other areas). As one put it: “Marriage is a total commitment and a total sharing of the total person with another person until death.”18 So, at the heart of marriage is leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh.19
C) The DIGNITY of marriage: The account of the institution of marriage begins with Genesis 2:18: “Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'” This is actually quite a powerful statement if we put it in context. God had seen that the light was good (1:4), the dry land and the seas were good (1:10), the vegetation on the earth was good (1:12), the sun and moon were good (1:18), the sea creatures and the beasts of the field were good (1:21,25) — in fact, Genesis 1:31 tells us that, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” But then the Lord saw that Adam was alone, and for the first time He declared: This is NOT good. The whole reason marriage exists is that God created it, and the reason God created it is that it was not good for man (even sinless man!) to remain alone. So, marriage is very, very good in the sight of the One who created it. This doesn't mean that there's no place for believers remaining single in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7). There's a place of honor for those who remain single in the kingdom of God (Isaiah 56:3-5; Matthew 19:12). But it's vital for us to understand that marriage was never a second-class concession for sinful man.20 God himself has created it. He created it because man was not good without it. And He has crowned it with great honor and dignity (Hebrews 13:4).
D) The DESIGN of marriage: Genesis 2:18 also teaches us about God's design for marriage. Again, we read in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”21 So then, “the woman was created by God to be a helper to the man in the marriage relationship.”22 This is echoed in the New Testament, where Paul says that the man was not created for the woman, but the woman was created for the man (1 Corinthians 11:9). In other words, the purpose of the wife's existence is to glorify God by being a help to her husband. This never meant the woman is inferior to man in any way.23 Both male and female were created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). The difference between the man and the woman is not in their equality, but in their God-given roles.24 “[Woman] is similar to man, yet somewhat different. She is man's complement, not his carbon copy. She is to man what a key is to a lock and what a film is to a camera—indispensable (1 Corinthians 11:11).”25 Without her, man is incomplete. The wife is to be a helper to her husband specifically for the task of filling the earth with the glory of God (Genesis 1:28)26.
E) The DEFINITION of marriage: Jesus' words on the subject of marriage help to correct three corruptions of the institution of marriage. The Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking what conditions were necessary for a man to divorce his wife. We read Jesus' response in Matthew 19:4-6:
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave His father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
First, Jesus is declaring that DIVORCE contradicts the creational order of marriage. Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus clarifies that divorce is permissible (for the offended party) in situations of unchastity (or willful desertion), where the marriage covenant has already been broken (Matthew 5:31-32). But aside from this, divorce is clearly unacceptable: “what God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Second, though the passage is speaking about divorce, we also learn that POLYGAMY contradicts the creational order of marriage. Genesis 2:24 is unmistakable: “a man shall. . .be joined to his wife.” Wife is singular. When God established marriage, He gave Adam only one wife. And it's clear that this was to be the lasting pattern for marriage: “the two [and only two] shall become one flesh.”
Lastly, we learn through Jesus' words that HOMOSEXUALITY contradicts the creational order of marriage. In a matter of just one generation, this particular truth has gone from being a view nearly universally accepted in the west to a view nearly universally condemned. This reminds us that though our culture will sway back and forth, only God's Word is unchanging and true. Jesus here recalls that when God created marriage, it was between “male and female” — between a man and his wife.27
F) The PICTURE of marriage: God not only established the institution of marriage, He also put it forth as a picture of His covenant with us. God's people are likened to the bride of Christ. And in laying down His life for her, Christ has modeled the way in which every husband is to love his bride (Ephesians 5:25ff). A husband is to love his own wife in the way that Christ has loved the church.28 Is it possible? I know I fail every day. But because of the finished work of Christ, there's hope not just for every new day, but for every new moment. Christ has covered us, and His Spirit changes us.
3. WORK (LABOR) as a creation ordinance:
A) The INAUGURATION of work: There are two passages in the early chapters of Genesis that speak of the institution of work as a third ordinance God established at creation. In Genesis 1:28, the Lord said to the man and the woman: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it. . .” Later, Genesis 2:15 tells us, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” These two passages establish work as a third creation ordinance.
B) The BLESSING of work: Just like the Sabbath and marriage, God created work to be a blessing for man. Though the Lord did curse the ground on account of Adam's sin (Genesis 3:17-19), labor itself is not a bad thing, but a good thing for man; it's the way God designed us. It's important to note that labor was established before the fall of man. So, labor is a good thing. God made us to work.
Labor is good for man—and in the same way—not laboring is bad for man. It was when king David began to be slothful and slack in his kingly work that he fell into that great sin with Bathsheba: “Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel. . .But David stayed at Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). In the New Testament, when Paul heard about some Christians who didn't want to work anymore, he had stern words for them (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). This is because God created us to be a people who work.
So again, labor is a good thing for man. We can see this also in the way that labor is intimately related to the Sabbath principle: “Six days you shall labor. . .” (Exodus 20:9). Just as man is commanded to rest once every seven days, he's also commanded to work the other six. It's only in the context of six days of work that man enters into meaningful rest.29 As Ecclesiastes 5:12 says, “The sleep of the working man is pleasant.” So again, labor is not a curse, but a blessing for man.
C) The GOAL of work: We also learn here in the earliest verses of Genesis about God's single overarching purpose for us in and through our daily work. After the Lord created man, He said to them in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God is telling man here that his purpose in life is to fill the whole earth with the glory of God, and to bring all things into subjection to His rule. And it's the same for us: “We are re-made in God's image in order to bring the whole of God's creation in subjection to the Creator.”30 Whatever specific vocation God has called you to, He's given you the same overarching task that He gave to Adam: to fill the earth with His glory. The Great Commission wasn't anything new—the call to fill the whole earth with the glory of God and bring all things into subjection to Him began in Genesis 1:28.
D) The LOCALITY of work: The purpose of our existence is to fill the earth with God's glory. But if Genesis 1:28 teaches us about our purpose, Genesis 2:15 teaches us about our locality: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Having instructed Adam in the great purpose of his existence (1:28), the Lord then gives him a particular vocation and a local place in which to live out that calling: he is to serve God in a place called Eden. Adam was to live out God's great global mission in the context of a local place. This teaches us something pretty important: “The great work to be done is right in front of you with the persons and places that [God's] providence has granted you.”31 When we think of glorifying God we can tend to think in terms of climbing some high mountain far away. But the way God is calling us to fill the earth with His glory is by doing the work He's given us to do in the place He's called us to be.32
E) The DIGNITY of work: There are a lot of people who think that to really glorify God, you have to become a preacher, a pastor, or a missionary. Though they may not admit it, many Christians believe that having a job in “full-time ministry” glorifies God more than having a “normal job.” But look with me again at Genesis 2:15: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” What was Adam's job? Adam was a gardener. He wasn't a preacher, a pastor, or a missionary. Adam brought great glory to God by being a gardener. And think about the rest of Genesis. Noah was a farmer. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were herdsmen. And Jesus brought as much glory to God being a carpenter as He did an itinerant preacher. In other words, you don't have to be involved in “full-time ministry” to be significant or bring glory to God. This is so important (and so freeing). You don't have to be a pastor or missionary to live a life of significance for God. You glorify God by loving and worshiping Him in the context of whatever it is that He's called you to do. God isn't asking us, “What's your job?” He looking into our hearts.33
If the God who created us is the same as the God who has redeemed us, then we ought to give a lot of thought to the three institutions that He established at creation. Work, marriage, and the Sabbath are the most fundamental principles that God has given to define how He has designed us to live in this world. This was true for Adam and Eve—but it's just as true for us as new creatures in Christ.
These things sound so basic and ordinary to us: work, marriage, and the Sabbath. We want to ask, When do we get to the deeper stuff? But there's an important lesson here. For many of us, when we think of living a life that glorifies God, we can tend to think about doing extraordinary things for God. But what extraordinary things did Adam and Eve do for God in Eden (while still sinless, remember)? “They ate food. They cared for animals. They planted seeds. . .They needn't be anything other than who they were, nowhere other than where they were, and possessing nothing more than what they had for God to be glorified by their lives. God was enough. . .Nothing more was needed. . .Holding hands, mowing the lawn, resisting foul temptations, and learning to love the one who created them was enough for a significant life.”34 Let that sink in. For Adam and Eve, God was glorified in the midst of the ordinary. This might be hard for us: “We have trouble seeing how it is glorifying to God to eat food, learn to love, go to bed, and get up the next day for work.”35 But one of the things we learn in Genesis 1-2 is that living a life of significance, living a life that glorifies God doesn't mean doing extraordinary things. What we learn from Adam and Eve is that the way we live a life of significance and glorify God is rather by walking intimately with our God in the midst of the ordinary.
1 Robertson describes the Covenant of Works (which he terms the Covenant of Creation) from a two-fold point of view: “The creation bond between God and man may be discussed in terms of its general and its focal aspects. The general aspect of the covenant of creation relates to the broader responsibilities of man to his Creator. The focal aspect of the covenant of creation relates to the more specific responsibility of man arising from the special point of probation or testing instituted by God.” (p67). He goes on, “The requirement concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must not be conceived of as a somewhat arbitrary stipulation without integral relation to the total life of man. . .All that Adam did had direct bearing on his relation to the covenant God of creation. . .His life as a covenant creature must be viewed as a unified whole.” (p82). Still, it's also true that “the response to the particular prohibition concerning the tree was crucially determinative. The focal point of the covenant rested specifically on this single test. If Adam succeeded in submitting to God at this point, his blessing under the larger provisions of the covenant of creation was assured.” (p83). We need to tread very carefully here, but perhaps an example of this same principle is Judges 2:1-2. God had commanded His people to make no covenants with the Canaanites: And yet, this command in no way began their relationship; it was given in the context of an existing covenant relationship.
2 The great bulk of this section is gratefully taken from O Palmer Robertson's book, The Christ of the Covenants, along with his audio lectures on the Covenants. Much was taken also for the section on Marriage from Wayne Mack (see below).
3 O Palmer Robertson pointed out a truth that helped me a great deal here. In the initial giving of the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, the Sabbath is rooted in God's creation: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. . .For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (vv8,11). But in the repetition of the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy 5, the Sabbath is rooted in God's redemption: “Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy. . .You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day” (vv12,15). So the Sabbath principle isn't just rooted in creation—it's also rooted in redemption. Redemption didn't abolish the Sabbath—it rather gave God's people the best reason to celebrate it.
4 It wasn't because God was tired from His work or needed a holiday! We might say that it wasn't for Him so much as for us.
5 These three aspects and many of the implications are from Pete Scazzero, Four Keys to Experiencing a Biblical Sabbath.
6 Greek diakonia (Luke 10:40); cf. Acts 6:4, “the ministry of the Word;” 2 Tim.4:5, “fulfill your ministry.”
7 From Pete Scazzero article (see above).
8 It's been pointed out that we could have imagined God saying at the beginning of Genesis 2: “Okay, Adam, we've still got a lot of work to do! We've got to get you rolling on cultivating the land, taking care of the garden; you've still got to name all the animals; and remember, you need to fill the whole earth with My glory!” So, it's significant that God establishes the principle of Sabbath here even in the midst of having a lot more real work needing to be finished. God wants us to rest, not just when we finish a task, but in the midst of tasks still needing to be finished (insight from Sujoy Roy, Sermons on Genesis, Bengali).
9 In the words of Trip Lee: “Though God was pleased with the creation of man, We still gotta understand the limitations of man; Many of us stuck in the days of the trance, Man, thinking we can do some things that we can't; You may be thinken' you a beast but believe me, you still gotta sleep in the evening; yeah you still gotta eat, need heat when it's freezing; you peak for a season but peep what we speakin': This is the way that life will be; limitless You put limits on me; by Your grace help us see. . . This is the way that life will be, Infinite You made finite me; by Your grace help us see this is Your design.” (Limitations).
10 This seems to be drawn out by the “behold” preceding it: this word functions as almost an italics kind of emphasis.
11 Quote from Pete Scazzero's article. He gives an amazing example of this in his article: never forgetting the day when he intentionally really took the time to delight in washing his hands with warm soapy water on the Sabbath (in a public restroom)!
12 This principle of Sabbath rest is also reflected in the appointed feasts of Israel, where we read that on certain days during the feasts God's people were not to engage in any laborious work. See Leviticus 23:7,8,21,25,35,36; Numbers 28:26; 29:1,7.
13 See Leviticus 25:2,4; 26:34,43; Judges 3:11; 2 Chronicles 36:21.
14 O Palmer Robertson notes here: “By the way, why was it that Israel went into captivity? Well, in 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 we read: “Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon. . .until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.” Because Israel had neglected the Sabbath principle, God had to take them forcibly into the Sabbath. Even the historical numbering of the captivity is to be understood according to the Sabbath principle, as God's people were in exile in Babylon for seventy seven-year Sabbaths (cf. Daniel 9:24).
15 From O Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, p73.
16 Much of this section gleaned from Wayne Mack, Strengthening Your Marriage.
17 Strengthening Your Marriage, p5.
18 Ibid, p6.
19 To put it simply, to leave denotes priority; to cleave denotes commitment; and to become one flesh denotes unity.
20 Again, the Lord instituted marriage when man was yet in his sinless state.
21 In Hebrew, this reads literally, “a helper corresponding to him.”
22 Quote from O Palmer Robertson, p76. The key phrase here is “in the marriage relationship.” This is all in the context of a marriage union. The Bible is not teaching that all women should be helpers for all men or submit to the authority of men indiscriminately; but that God designed wives to be helpers for their husbands in the context of their marriage.
23 In fact, it's been rightly pointed out that the Hebrew word for “helper” here (ezer) is the same word used to refer to the role of God himself acting on behalf of His people; IE, God is our help or helper (see Psalm 33:20; 70:5; 115:9-11). Where we serve in the SE Asian context, the wife resembles more of a servant. But biblically, if husbands are to love their wives as Christ has loved the Church, it's the husband who is the servant. I love how Wayne Mack puts it: “A leader must have a servant's heart. And if he has a servant's heart he will act like a servant and react like a servant when he is treated like a servant.” (p33).
24 Think about the Trinity. The Father and the Son are equal in power and glory, but they have different roles in the process of redemption. The Father planned out redemption. The Son was sent into the world to accomplish it. The Father and the Son share perfect equality in divinity—but they have different particular roles in the work of redemption.
25 Wayne Mack, Strengthening Your Marriage, p22.
26 This last aspect is quite significant. The command that God gave in Genesis 1:28 to fill the earth with His glory was never given exclusively to the man; it was clearly given to both of them, the man and the woman alike. So, it's not just that though man and woman have different roles, they nonetheless possess equal value; there's more: though man and woman have different roles, they nonetheless share equal significance in extending the kingdom of God and filling the earth with His glory.
27 The three specific applications in this section were gleaned from O Palmer Robertson's, The Christ of the Covenants. We might also note that the Matthew 19:4-6 passage has a good bit to say when it comes to modern gender issues.
28 One practical exhortation here: “Leadership means we must take the lead in reconciliation. I don't mean that wives should never say they are sorry. But in the relation between Christ and his church, who took the initiative to make all things new? Who left the comfort and security of his throne of justice to put mercy to work at Calvary? Who came back to Peter first after three denials? Who has returned to you again and again forgiving you and offering his fellowship afresh? So husbands, your headship means: Go ahead. Take the lead. It does not matter if it is her fault. That didn't stop Christ. Who will break the icy silence first? Who will choke out the words, 'I'm sorry, I want it to be better'?. . .Headship is not easy. It is the hardest, most humbling work in the world.” (Gleaned from Jay Sklar's notes; quote from John Piper). A few other practical examples of what it means that husbands are to love their brides as Christ has loved the Church: Jesus has voluntarily made himself her servant (see above); He is patient with her; He prays for her; he forgives her and doesn't bear grudges; He is always seeking her deepest joy and greatest good in all that He does. Further, He gave himself up for her so that He might sanctify her (Eph.5:25-26), which means that we aren't to marry our wife because she is beautiful, but in order to make her beautiful.
29 John Murray put it this way: “The stress laid upon the six days of labour needs to be duly appreciated. The divine ordinance is not simply that of labour; it is labour with a certain constancy. There is indeed respite from labour, the respite of one whole day every recurring seventh day. The cycle of respite is provided for, but there is also the cycle of labour. And the cycle of labour is as irreversible as the cycle of rest. The law of God cannot be violated with impunity. We can be quite certain that a great many of our physical and economic ills proceed from failure to observe the weekly day of rest. But we can also be quite sure that a great many of our economic ills arise from our failure to recognize the sanctity of six days of labour. Labour is not only a duty; it is a blessing.” (From his Principles of Conduct, p83).
30 Taken from O Palmer Robertson audio lectures on the covenants. See 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:8.
31 Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p52.
32 This may be convicting for some of us but it can also be quite freeing: Even when Adam was sinless, he was limited. God didn't expect or ask Adam to cultivate the entire known world. The plan was to fill the earth with God's glory, yes; but Adam's unique role in that grand mission was to be responsible for one place, the garden of Eden. God knows we are limited. He isn't calling us to be everywhere and do everything. He's just calling us to be faithful in the place where He's put us.
33 This truth gratefully gleaned from Jay Sklar's course on the Old Testament History Books at Covenant Seminary.
34 Insight from Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, pp34-35.
35 Ibid, p49.