The garden of Eden has been depicted countless times, yet I’ve never seen a single painting of Adam alone. It’s easy to forget that for a time, it was just Adam and the animals. As they passed by and he named them, his sense of aloneness was heightened. Imagine being alone in the middle of a wilderness; then, imagine coming to the realization that no matter how far you walk in any direction, you will never come across another human being—another person like you.
God’s commentary on the situation is weightier when one considers his commentary on everything else:
- “God saw that the light was good” (Gen. 1:4)
- “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10)
- “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:12)
- “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:18)
- “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:21)
- God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25)
- “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
- “God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 2:9).
- “And the gold of that land is good” (Gen. 2:12).
Then in Genesis 2:18, God declares,
- “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
The aloneness of man is the first thing in all creation that God declares “not good.”
The aloneness of man is the first thing in all creation that God declares “not good.” It’s important, then, for us to understand exactly what is meant by “alone.”
The Second Adam
Genesis 2:18 is rarely quoted outside of weddings or conversations about marriage. After all, it is given in the context of God making a wife for Adam: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). For this reason, the verse is commonly read as saying that “it is not good for man to be unmarried.”
God made a wife for Adam to answer his aloneness; it does not logically follow that marriage is the only answer for aloneness.
The greatest problem with this reading is that Christ—the second and true Adam, man as man was meant to be—was unmarried. It was good for Christ to be single and celibate, even as it was good for Paul, who called singleness a “gift from God” (1 Cor. 7:7). Who would dare to say that it was not good for Jesus or Paul to be unmarried?
God made a wife for Adam to answer his aloneness; it does not logically follow that marriage is the only answer for aloneness. While marriage is honorable and a profound mystery that refers to Christ and the church, there are other honorable states and other answers for aloneness.
Christ shows us that a person can be unmarried without being alone.
Christ shows us that a person can be unmarried without being alone. Christ traveled with twelve companions and called them “friends” (Jn. 15:5). He shared a special bond with Peter, James, and especially John, who leaned on him at the Last Supper. He frequently visited the house of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He enjoyed eating and laughing with his brothers and sisters and mothers in the church (Mt. 12:50). He was whole, healthy, and happy, yet he was unmarried.
The Second Eve
As Adam was a type of Christ, Eve was a type of the church. Christ slept the sleep of death, and when he arose, the church was born from his side. The church as the bride of Christ, the new Eve, is given by God as an answer for human aloneness. It is the communion of the saints that will outlast even human marriage: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mt. 22:30).
Married and unmarried Christians alike need the fellowship of the church to answer the problem of aloneness.
When we are united with Christ and become one spirit with him, we are also united with his body and bride, the church. Married and unmarried Christians alike need the fellowship of the church to answer the problem of aloneness.
The church needs to correct its interpretation and expand its use of Genesis 2:18. It is damaging and demeaning to say of a single man or woman, “If they don’t get married soon, they’re going to be alone for the rest of their life.” It is the church’s responsibility to ensure that no unmarried member is alone, but that they receive the love, intimacy, and support of God’s own family.