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Michael Hardt

Shadows Of The Church

Please read Genesis 2:18-24

Few readers will be surprised by the statement that women such as Eve (or Isha), Rebekah, Asenath etc. are types of the church. In fact, unmistakable quotations and allusions such as Ephesians 5:30,31 provide sufficient proof.  However, familiarity with this fact should not breed contempt of the truth illustrated.  Both, the depth of God's counsel hidden in these figures as well as the variety and beauty of the details of these types are most remarkable - forcing us, in fact, to limit this article to just one of them.

And Jehovah Elohim said, It is not good that Man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate, his like. And out of the ground Jehovah Elohim had formed every animal of the field and all fowl of the heavens, and brought them to Man, to see what he would call them; and whatever Man called each living soul, that was its name.  And Man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the heavens, and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam, he found no helpmate, his like (vs. 18-20).

The fact that God created man, male and female, is already stated in chapter 1 (v. 26).  The second chapter deals with man's relationships1 (to God, creation, and 'woman').  With regard to Adam's relationship to Eve, a very interesting fact comes out here, namely that the reason for her very existence would be his happiness. Naturally, the church is entitled to find all joy and satisfaction in Christ, but her raison d'etre (reason for existence) is His joy, not her's.  He is the object in view; she is created because of His desire.

This simple consideration, already, may well change the way we sometimes think about the church of God. It is a company of people who are richly blessed, yes, and who find their joy in the Lord - but this is not why the church was formed. It was for Him.

Adam was alone. And so was Christ as man on earth.  Speaking about Himself in figure, He indicated that He would remain alone - unless he died (John 12:24).  His disciples' inability to comprehend him further contributed to His being alone (just think of Gethsemane).  And even as the risen Man, He would be alone - in the sense of incomplete - if it was not for the church, his 'fullness'.  So it was, in figure, with Adam: despite his high mental capabilities - enabling him to describe all created animals in a suitable way by naming them - he was incomplete. He was alone and God stated that this was not good.  There was nothing in creation that could have shared his thoughts, understood his feelings or reciprocated his love. In this sense Christ, as man, was incomplete. We would not dare to state it if Scripture did not tell us plainly that the church is 'the fullness of him that fills all in all' (Eph. 1:23).  Can there be a more elevated position than belonging to this group,2 the church?

Having looked at just these few details, do we not feel how we need to allow God to shape our thinking? The church was not formed for her own sake but for Christ's. Those belonging to her are given to Him as complement, as those who have the capability of feeling as He does with respect to everything in this world (and even with respect to things beyond it). Do we reciprocate his love in a practical way, and are our thoughts, feelings and aspirations in harmony with His?

A further detail strikes us. Both Adam and Eve were to occupy a place of dominion over the world including all animal creation: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over the whole earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth.' (1:26). This statement certainly referred to both, Adam and Eve. The next verse says, 'And God created Man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them'. However, in our scripture, Adam is seen as taking this place of dominion over creation without Eve, before she existed. This detail beautifully illustrates two further points regarding Christ and the church:

1.        Christ alone is worthy in Himself (intrinsically) to take dominion over the earth as Son of man (Psalm 8), and

2.        the church will do it with Him, but only due to her association with Him.

Christ is the heir, and we are co-heirs because, and only because, we are associated with Him (Rom. 8:17).

At the same time, we realise that Eve was distinct from the sphere of creation put under Adam's dominion.  Many true believers today assume for themselves the role of the King's subjects (as can be verified from a large number of modern hymns). This will indeed be the position of believing Jews during the Millennium, but it falls short of the true calling of believers today.  For us, it is not a matter of Christ reigning over us, but that He wants us to reign with Him when the time for His reign has come.  Again, this interpretation is borne out by scripture itself when it says that Christ has been given as 'head over all things to (not over) the church' (Eph. 1:22).

And Jehovah Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon Man; and he slept. And he took one of his ribs and closed up flesh in its stead. (v. 21)

If the omnipotent Creator - having created Adam out of the dust of the earth (v.7) - chooses this remarkably different way of creating a suitable companion for him, surely, it is not without reason.

God made Adam fall into a 'deep sleep' - no doubt a figure of the death of Christ which was necessary for the formation of the church. Again we refer to the grain of wheat that had to fall into the ground and die if it was not to remain alone.  So Christ entered into a state that was entirely foreign to Him as the author of life, that of death, in order to bring into being the church, His fullness. This picture reminds us that

1.        the church is the fruit of Christ's sufferings and death on the cross, and that

2.        the formation of the church could take place only after the death of Christ.

It might be well to mention in passing that we do not use types to derive truth from them but to illustrate truths we find in the New Testament.  So we know, for instance, that the church was formed at Pentecost when believers were baptised into one body (1 Cor. 12:13) and that she is the fruit of His work (e.g. Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). It is true that Old Testament believers were born again and redeemed on account of the Lord's work on the cross, but the church was formed only after the true 'Adam' had fallen into a 'deep sleep'.

It has often been pointed out that Adam's companion was formed out of his rib to illustrate her place of affection at his side (as opposed to the place of one being ruled by Him).

And Jehovah Elohim built the rib that he had taken from Man into a woman; and brought her to Man. (v. 22)

When it comes to the way in which God's act of creating Eve is described the word 'built' arrests our attention. Certainly, it was an act of creation.  Yet, the expression used is peculiar - stating that God 'built the rib. into a woman'. This is the first occurrence of this verb (to build) in the Bible. Strikingly, the word used for the building of the church in Eph. 2:20, 22 is derived from the same root as the word used here (in its Greek translation in the Septuagint).  Although the church is presented as companion here the mention of the fact that God 'built' Eve is designed to confirm the truth that the builder of the church is a divine One. The Lord Himself said to Peter: 'Upon this rock will I build my church' (Matt. 16:18).

This is not to say that believers do not have a role in the building up of the church. Edification is not formation. In God's grace, He allows every member of the body to work towards the edification of the church (Eph. 4:16).  But as far as formation goes, God is the builder.

Further, this verse tells us that God, having 'built' Eve, presents her to Adam. As with most types, there is a parallel as well as a contrast. In the case of Christ and the church, we read that Christ will present the church to Himself glorious. The obvious explanation for this difference is that Adam was not divine -but Christ is. 'He is the true God' (1 John 5:20).

And Man said, This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: this shall be called Woman, because this was taken out of a man. (v. 23)

'This time' shows the contrast with all that had happened before when no counterpart, no intelligent and empathising being was found among the whole animal creation. This time, it was different. Adam recognises Eve as 'bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh'. This interesting expression shows us that,

1.        Eve derived her very existence from Adam, and that

2.        she exhibited features which were his own - he identifies her as 'woman' (- Isha), that is being taken out of man (- Ish).

In applying this verse to the church we are on safe ground as the phrase is applied to the church by the Apostle Paul: 'we are of his flesh, and of his bones' (Eph. 5:30). Paul uses this picture to illustrate the way in which husbands should care for their wives ('for no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it') and the way in which Christ cares for the church ('even as also the Christ the assembly').

We are left to marvel at God's wisdom in creating Eve in this peculiar way - providing us with a beautiful picture (on the very first pages of His Word!) of His counsel and its present effect: the church. She,

  1. derives her existence from Christ (whose death, resurrection and ascension were necessary for the giving of the Holy Spirit through Whom she was formed),
  2. exhibits features of Christ (for instance, she is 'from God', 'out of heaven' and 'has the glory of God' Rev. 21:10,11),
  3. is linked with Christ in the closest conceivable way and, being of His flesh and bones, can therefore be assured of His care even now (before she is presented to Him 'without spot and wrinkle').

With regard to Isha[3] being acknowledged by Adam as being 'of man', and the one who at last was the perfect companion and complement for man, we quote the words of another:[4] 'Eden could not, with all its delights for the senses, nor could his vast and unrivalled dominion abroad, as 'king of all he surveyed' do what Eve did for him. She unsealed his lips with a confession that now he was satisfied'. What a privilege it is to belong to the company (of all believers from Pentecost to the rapture) that represents the object of the Lord's full satisfaction, the fruit of the travail of His soul, the harvest of the One who sowed with tears but reaps with rejoicing (cf. Isa. 53:11; Psa. 126:4.5; Heb. 12:2). Surely, the Lord is the suitable object of our love, but the truth illustrated here is that, in the church, a company has been formed that is the suitable object of His love.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (v. 24)

Again, the application to Christ and the church can be made. Christ, as man, forsook that which was His, by way of relationship to His earthly people, Israel, in order to acquire and possess the church. This verse is quoted by Paul in Ephesians 5:30: 'Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great' but He then unmistakably applies it to the church: 'but I speak as to Christ, and as to the assembly'. The marriage bond, therefore, becomes the picture of the union of the church with Christ.

The fact of the two being one takes us back to the first chapter of Genesis where both, man and woman, are referred to as 'Adam' (Gen. 1:26).  Again, this is not an imprecision, but a distinct analogy with New Testament teaching. When speaking about the church as the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul confirms the meaning of this peculiarity when he refers to Christ and the assembly, together, as 'the Christ': 'For even as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ' (1 Cor. 12:12).

If God's wisdom is visible in creation - God's 'all-varied wisdom' is made known through the church. It is perfectly expressed, as a matter of fact, in God's counsel as described in Ephesians 1-3; and it should be visible practically where this church finds expressions in the various towns and villages where Christians are gathered to the Lord's name.

M Hardt

[1] This account for the change of God's name from 'Elohim' in chapter 1 to 'Jehovah' in chapter 2.

[2] Men and women who lived in Old Testament times or who will live during the tribulation period - some of them extremely faithful and devoted - will not share this privilege, which is reserved to those who believe in Christ during the time of grace, i.e. between Pentecost and the rapture.

[3] She is only called 'Eve' after the fall.

[4] 'Heaven and Earth' by J G Bellett.