The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee
The Love of Christ / P.212
We must have before us now two passages of the Word, one from Genesis 2 and one from Ephesians 5, which, considered together, are of great importance at this point.
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’” (Genesis 2:21-23).
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
In Ephesians 5 we have the only chapter in the Bible which explains the passage in Genesis 2. What we have presented to us in Ephesians is indeed very remarkable, if we reflect upon it. I refer to what is contained in those words: “Christ . . . loved the church.” There is something more precious here.
We have been taught to think of ourselves as sinner needing redemption. For generations that has been instilled into us, and we praise the Lord for that as our beginning; but it is not what God has in view as his end. God speaks here rather of “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but . . . holy and without blemish.” All too often we have thought of the Church as being merely so many “saved sinners.” It is that; but we have made the terms almost equal to one another, as though it were only that, which is not the case. Saved sinners – with that thought you have the whole background of sin and the Fall; but in God’s sight the Church is a divine creation in his Son. The one is largely individual, the other corporate. With the one the view is negative, belonging to the past; with the other it is positive, looking forward. The “eternal purpose” is something in the mind of God from eternity concerning his Son, and it has as its objective that the Son should have a Body to express his life. Viewed from that standpoint – from the standpoint of the heart of God – the Church is something which is beyond sin and has never been touched by sin.
So we have an aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus in Ephesians which we do not have so clearly in other places. In Romans things are viewed from the standpoint of fallen man, and beginning with “Christ died for sinners, enemies, the ungodly” (Romans 5) we are led progressively to “the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35). In Ephesians, on the other hand, the standpoint is that of God “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and the heart of the gospel is: “Christ . . . loved the church, and give himself up for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Thus, in Romans it is “we sinned,” and the message is of God’s love for sinners (Romans 5:8); whereas in Ephesians it is “Christ loved,” and the love here is the love of husband for wife. That kind of love has fundamentally nothing to do with sin as such. What is in view in this passage is not atonement for sin but the creation of the Church, for which end it is said that he “gave himself.”
There is thus and aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus which is altogether positive and a matter particularly of love to his Church, where the question of sin and sinners does not directly appear. To bring this fact home Paul takes that incident in Genesis 2 as illustration. Now this is one of the marvellous things in the Word, and if our eyes have been opened to see it, it will certainly call forth from us worship.
From Genesis 3 onwards, from the “coats of skins” to Abel’s sacrifice, and on from there through the whole Old Testament, there are numerous types which set forth the death of the Lord Jesus as an atonement for sin; yet the apostle does not appeal here to any of those types of his death, but to this one in Genesis 2. Note that; and then recall that it was not until Genesis 3 that sin came in. There is one type of the death of Christ in the Old Testament which has nothing to do with sin, for it is not subsequent to the Fall but prior to it, and that type is here in Genesis 2. Let us look at it for a moment.
Could we say that Adam was put to sleep because Eve had committed a serious sin? Is that what we have here? Certainly not, for Eve was not yet even created. There were as yet no moral issues involved and no problems at all. No, Adam was put to sleep for the express purpose that something might be taken out of him to be formed into someone else. His sleep was not for her sin but for her existence. That is what is taught in these verse. This experience of Adam had as its object the creation of Eve, as something determined in the divine counsels. God wanted a woman. He put the man to sleep, took a rib from his side and made it into a woman, and brought her to the man. That is the picture which God is giving us. It foreshadows an aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus that is not primarily for atonement, but answerable to the sleep of Adam in this chapter.
God forbid that I should suggest that the Lord Jesus did not die for purposes of atonement. Praise God, he did. We must remember that today we are in fact in Ephesians 5 and not in Genesis 2. Ephesians was written after the Fall, to man who had suffered from its effects, and in it we have not only the purpose in Creation but also the stars of the Fall – or there would need to be no mention of “spot or wrinkle.” Because we are still on the earth and the Fall is a historic fact, redemption is needed (Ephesians 1:7).
But we must always view redemption as an interruption, an “emergency” measure, made necessary by a catastrophic break in the straight line of the purpose of God. Redemption is big enough, wonderful enough, to occupy a very large place in our vision, but God is saying that we should not make redemption to be everything, as though man were created to be redeemed. The Fall is indeed a tragic dip downwards in that line of purpose, and the atonement blessed recovery whereby our sins are blotted out and we are restored; but when it is accomplished there yet remains a work to be done to bring us into possession of that which Adam never possessed, and to give God what his heart most desires. For God has never forsaken the purpose which is represented by the straight line. Adam was never in possession of the life of God as presented in the tree of life. But because of the one work of the Lord Jesus in his death and resurrection (and we must emphasize again that it is all one work) his life was released to become ours by faith, and we have received more than Adam ever possessed. The very purpose of God is brought within reach of fulfillment in us by our receiving Christ as our life.
Adam was put to sleep. We remember that it is said of believers that they fall asleep, rather than that they die. Why? Because whenever death is mentioned sin is there in the background. In Genesis 3 sin entered into the world and death through sin, but Adam’s sleep precede that. So the type of the Lord Jesus here is not like other types in the Old Testament. In relation to sin and atonement there is a lamb or a bullock slain; but here Adam was not slain, but only put to sleep to awake again. Thus he prefigures a death that is not on account of sin, but that has in view increase in resurrection. Then too we must note that Eve was not created as a separate entity by a separate creation, parallel to that of Adam. That is God’s method with the Church. God’s “second Man” has awakened from his “sleep” and his Church is created in him and of him, to draw her life from him and to display that resurrection life.
God has a Son, his only begotten, and he seeks that the Son should have brethren. From the position of only begotten he will become the first begotten, and instead of the Son alone, God will have many sons. One grain of wheat has died and many grains will spring up. The first grain was once the only grain; now it has become the first of many. The Lord Jesus laid down his life, and that life emerged in many lives. These are the Biblical figures we have used hitherto in our study to express this truth. Now, in the figure of Eve, the singular takes the place of the plural. The outcome of the Cross is shown to be a single person: a Bride for the Son. Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for it.