Two Become One

Two Become One

The Bible has much to say about marriage. Genesis 2:15-25 documents the creation of marriage. There are many laws about marriage in the Mosaic law. Jesus affirmed God’s design for marriage (Mark 10:5-9, 19). We – the church – are continually referred to as Jesus’ bride (Mark 2:19-22, Revelation 19:7, 21:9, 22:17). In Paul’s and Peter’s epistles, we see two long writings on marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7) as well as other shorter instructions.

I would like to focus on a verse that is found in the law, the Gospels, and in Paul’s writing. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It is quoted directly by Jesus in the gospels (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7) and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31. We can see the importance of marriage since it runs throughout the Bible, but since this one verse is repeated three times, it must be particularly important.


In Genesis, the phrase “a man shall leave his father and mother” would not have meant anything to Adam who had no father or mother to leave. This verse was written for the first readers of Genesis hundreds of years after the event itself and for us today who do have fathers and mothers to leave. The “therefore” at the beginning of the verse tells us to look to the previous section to know what the verse means.

The preceding verse records Adam’s reaction to seeing Eve – “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh (Genesis 2:23).” After seeing Eve, Adam did not just find someone who was made for him, he found someone who was made from him. In a very real way, they became one flesh – Adam’s flesh reunited with himself. Today when a man marries a woman, it is symbolic of this reunion and joining back that which is lacking in the man.

Why was this union of flesh needed? None of the animals God created were suitable helpers for Adam (Genesis 2:20). The word helper in context means one who supplies a particular strength or need that the other lacks. Eve complemented Adam and supplied for him traits and abilities he did not possess. Adam could not be joined to an animal as he would still be incomplete, and he could not be joined to another man because he would lack the qualities Eve had as a woman to supply what was lacking in Adam.


In Matthew, we see Jesus referring to Genesis when confronted by the Pharisees about divorce. The Pharisees were testing Jesus to see if He would contradict the Mosaic laws on divorce (Matthew 19:3, see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). They asked if it was lawful to divorce for any reason and Jesus responded to them with Genesis 2:24 and adding, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:6).” Jesus’ addition to the Genesis text reinforces the joining together of two people into one flesh by affirming that God joined them together. The imagery of separating one flesh into two is graphic; it cannot be done without severe damage and the two will never be the same.


In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives as to their specific roles in marriage. It is in verse 31 that Paul quotes Genesis 2:24. Leading up to this verse, Paul commands husbands to love their wives as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28) and then makes the comment that nobody has ever hated their own flesh (Ephesians 5:29), reinforcing the theme of two becoming one flesh.

Paul then reveals that marriage is symbolic of the union of the church to Christ saying, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).” When God instituted marriage, He already had in mind this union. It can be very hard to comprehend how the union of two imperfect sinners can represent Jesus and the church. Thankfully, Paul says it is a mystery and is profound.

Jesus loved the church perfectly despite the imperfections of the church. He did not give up when the church gave up on Him. He did not fight back when He was accused and mocked. He defends us still today even though we deny Him (Hebrews 7:25). Is there any doubt that Jesus will fail in His calling? No – the end is already written, and Jesus is faithful (Revelation 22:20). He has joined Himself to us and He will never separate from us. We are to have this same type of love and perseverance in marriage.

More than feelings, more than a piece of paper – let us who are married pray for humility to remember that the joining of male and female together is one of the most profound and mysterious works of God.