Man is the glory of God, and woman is the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7). And far from a demotion, that means that woman is the glory of the glory. But the Bible teaches that this glory is the result of sacrificial love. The love of Christ is at the center, driving this glory in the church until it fills the world, but husbands, in particular, are called to imitate that sacrificial love cultivating that glory in nourishing and cherishing their wives just as Christ does the church.
“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:29-30).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Despite all the modern calls for self-care and self-esteem and self-love, the Bible teaches that people naturally love themselves just fine: no one ever really hated his own flesh (Eph. 5:29). Everyone does what they think is best for the nourishing and cherishing of themselves, even if that desire is often twisted (Eph. 5:29). That human instinct is a reflection of the Lord’s care for His church (Eph. 5:29), and we in the church are part of his body, his flesh and his bones, just like the first woman and the first man (Eph. 5:30, Gen. 2:23).
OF HIS FLESH & BONES
When Adam saw his bride he 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” (Gen. 2:23). This appears to be the first poem in human history, and no surprise: it is a love song at the first human wedding. But what Adam says can be somewhat missed if you don’t understand Hebrew grammar. In Hebrew, the comparative is formed by saying that something is “big” or “strong” or “beautiful” from something else: it is more big/strong/beautiful than that other one. However, the superlative is formed by saying that something is the big/strong/beautiful of [all] the bigs/strongs/beautifuls (e.g. “Holy of Holies” or “Song of Songs”). When Adam says that the woman is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” he is saying that the Woman is like him, only the best form, the best version: she is the glory of man or man glorified (1 Cor. 11:7).
In fact, in the very act of naming his wife “Woman” (Eeshah) which means something like “glory-fire,” he also gives himself a new name “glory-man” (Eesh). Up to this point in the narrative, the word for “man” has been “adam,” named after the ground (“adamah”) (Gen. 2:7). Adam is saying that in the creation of the woman and their union, the glory of the woman is so potent, it has made him shine. This is yet one more way in which a man who loves his wife, loves himself.
And here, the Bible says that the church is in that position with the Lord. We are “of his flesh and of his bones” in an analogous way, implying that Christ thinks of the church as His glory, that we make Him shine. And that is actually what was said earlier in Ephesians: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).
NOURISH & CHERISH
Husbands are commanded to love their wives in this way: nourishing and cherishing them, as the Lord does the church, and as a man naturally cares for himself (Eph. 5:29), considering her “of our flesh and of our bones,” which therefore not only means loving her “as ourselves” but if we’re connecting all these dots, loving her “as better than ourselves.”
The word “nourish” literally means to “feed,” and “cherish” means to “keep warm.” In the following chapter, fathers are commanded to “bring up” or “nourish” in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4, cf. Gen. 47:17). And Paul uses the same word for “cherish” to describe how the apostles cared for the saints in Thessalonica like a nurse (1 Thess. 2:7). In those surrounding verses, Paul describes that cherishing as gentleness, affection, and working night and day not to be a burden and to see those saints walking worthy of God (1 Thess. 2:7-12).
At the center of this love is sacrifice: Adam was put in a deep sleep and endured the first surgery, the first bloody cut and broken bones in the history of the world (and in an unfallen world). And our Lord Jesus Christ is the new Adam who was nailed to a tree for His bride, and a spear pierced His side. As the first Eve was gloriously constructed from Adam’s bloody side and the New Church Eve is being formed from Jesus’ bloody side, so too every husband is called to that kind of sacrificial love for his bride, nourishing and cherishing her, so that she might be his glory. There is no glory apart from sacrifice. There is no crown apart from the battle.
In this way, the Bible uniformly insists that your theology comes out your fingertips. Your theology fills the air of your home, the tenor of your dining room, the aroma of your bedroom. The question is not whether but which. Is it the theology of Christ crucified for sinners or is it some bossy, manipulative, works-oriented, try-harder, or apathetic, despairing heresy?
Part of the message of Genesis 1 reiterated here is that men were made for this. God made men first, so that they might be cut first, so that they might bleed first, so that they might die first. The gospel in action is “my life for yours.” In this is love, and God made men strong so that they might go first. Lay down your pride and confess your sins. Lay down your anger and forgive gladly. Lay down your laziness, your apathy, your envy and get up and get back to work. Your King is already ahead of you.
What should Adam have done in the garden when his wife sinned? The Bible says that Adam was not deceived like Eve was, so many speculate that Adam despaired, thinking it was too late and decided to die with his wife. But we know what Adam should have done because it is what Jesus actually did. Adam should have led his wife to the Lord, taken full responsibility for the sin, and offered to die in her place. Jesus laid His life down for us, so that we might lay our lives down for one another. And men were made to lead the way.