The Source of Conflict in Marriage; James 1:12
In these first introductory verses of James, James is emphasizing various principles which are vital for us to understand if we are going to be able to persevere or endure, top hand in there, in the midst of tests and trials. There are constantly going to be tests in our lives, 1) because we are sinners, we have a sin nature, 2) because we live in a fallen world.
Ephesians 5:25 NASB "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up [as a substitute] for her…" There is impersonal love at the cross. It is impersonal because man is minus R. Impersonal love toward man is motivating Jesus Christ to go to the cross and dies as our substitute. Secondly, there is personal love for God motivating Him because while He was on the cross all of our sins were imputed to Him and during those three hours God judged Him for every one of those sins. He was motivated to do that because of His personal love for God, devotion to God, initiating grace in eternity past, aggressiveness in taking on the role of Kenosis and becoming a man, perfect humanity and perfect deity, humility, intensity, steadfast loyalty, consecration; all these are part of that personal love for God that is motivating Him on the cross. Then we take this a step further. He has impersonal love but that is directed towards all mankind. That is the doctrine of unlimited atonement. John 3:16—the world; 1 Timothy 4:10—the savior of all men, but especially believers. At the Cross Jesus is viewing all mankind but in His omniscience he knows that in the plan of God, God is going to be calling out a unique body in the church age known as the church, and that will be known as the bride of Christ. In anticipation of that Jesus Christ, looking at believers as His future bride in His omniscience, is exercising personal love. That is why in this passage in Ephesians 5 Paul is making the analogy between husbands to wives as Christ to the church. There is something more going on here than impersonal love and this brings on the idea of personal love in the same way that Christ has His personal love for the church.
Genesis 1:26 NASB Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." What we see here is that God created the human race. There's male and there's female and they are both image bearers, they both have the image of God. That makes them equal in terms of their position. As a creature towards God they are both equally image bearers, they are both equal in terms of humanity.
Genesis 2:15 NASB "Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it." There are two interesting words here in the Hebrew. The word that is translated "cultivate" is the qal infinitive construct of abad. It means to serve, to slave, to work. There was work in Paradise; there was responsibility. This relates to the first divine institution, individual responsibility. Adam was given responsibility in the garden, to work the garden, to serve God there by working and developing the garden and taking the basic things that God had given him in creation and then developing it in the image of God. Just as God created Adam, too, was in then image of God to create. He is set over creation to rule and reign creation, so he has responsibility. God gives him as part of his responsibility a warning related to the tree, verse 17. He could eat of any tree but not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:18 NASB Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." This is the first indication that we get that the man's job is to be the primary worker, the one who carries the load of responsibility in the garden. But he can't do it all by himself so he gets an assistant. A helper is designed to do what, by the very nature of the word? The helper is designed to help the first person, the man, do what God told him to do. The role of the helper is to help the man do the job that God called him to do and that God gave him to do. This is where we begin to see that there are two people here and they are going to be a team. So we have a team that was placed in the garden, and that team is given certain responsibilities. Player 3 1 is responsible to take care of the garden, to work and till it, and to fulfil his responsibilities. Since he can't do it all by himself he is given player # 2 to come alongside and help in performing that task. But they both need to be oriented to a task.
There is something else going on here. Player #1 is placed in the garden with this particular test. Why is that test there? It is there because before this ever happened God had created a race of rational creatures called angels. The highest of those angels is a creature, called Lucifer initially, which means light-bearer. God gave him tremendous responsibilities, but he began to look at himself in the mirror. He wanted to have all the worship of the angels; he wants to be God and he falls. One third of the angels went with him and then there is a big trial that takes place. God executes a judgment which is eternity in the lake of fire, and we deduce from Scripture that Satan fires the charge, how can a loving God send His creatures to the lake of fire? So God says he is going to demonstrate why all of this is important—the implications of humility as opposed to your arrogance, the significance of service, of grace, the demonstration of God's justice and righteousness, and it would be done through a test case called man. So issue #1 is going to be the test of the #1 player and how he responds to the test. There is another issue: it is a team game. And the team failed. So what happens is that not only are there issues that relate to the individuals because of their fall, but there are also issues to play out in human history related to the behaviour of the team. In the Old Testament all we have is the divine institution of marriage which is related to believer and unbeliever alike. But the stakes go up when you get to the church age because we get new revelation directed to believers in the New Testament related to marriage in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 2 & 3, new information which tells us that there are going to be higher expectations of church age believers in marriage because the first marriage failed, and it is not only going to be demonstrated to church age believers that God is gracious and just in all that He does, and we will demonstrate all of these principles through the unique spiritual life of the church age, but we are going to do it through this new team called the Christian marriage. It is that Christian marriage that has a critical role to play as witnesses in the angelic conflict.
First of all, any marriage is made up of one male and one female. God did not create a marriage for two people of the same sex. Christian marriage is made up of a male believer and a female believer. But they have problems to overcome as a result of the fall. So we have to go back to the original design and the original situation in the garden and how God designed a role for the male and the female if we are ever going to solve the problems created by the fall. God created them male and female, and the male has a male soul and the female has a female soul. The male soul is designed to be an initiator. He is the leader; he is the responsible one. The female soul is the responder.
Sin had a damaging effect on every aspect of creation. A lot of men couldn't initiate their way out of a wet paper bag. And there are some women who couldn't respond their way out of a wet paper bag. That is because everything has been affected by the curse, the fall. The souls were damaged. They are still in the image of God but they are corrupted. The souls of males and females are damaged and impacted by the fall, so that God's original design where man is the initiator and the woman is the responder is now all out of order. We see this in the next chapter where God is outlining for Adam and Eve and the serpent the consequences of the fall.
Genesis 3:14 NASB "The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;  And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed [Christ]; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."  To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire [Heb. teshukah, which means dominating, controlling desire] will be for your husband, And he will rule [a dominating rule: the war between the sexes] over you."  Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life." Before the fall Adam was working, serving, but it was a joy, he was going places, there was no resistance, no frustration, no difficulty; it was just pure, unadulterated pleasure to do what he was doing before the fall. But now there is frustration that is going to be built into the system—hardship, obstacles, difficulties.  "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field;  By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return." Now responsibility shifts from being something that is joyful to something that is toil. It is difficult. We don't like toil and difficulty, we don't like to deal with things we can't control, so the woman wants to dominate and the man has the tendency to want to avoid responsibility. What we see here as a result of the fall, the curse of sin, is that the male and female, in terms of their original divine-intended roles, want to reverse this. Under the sin nature the man wants to be the passive responder and the woman says she wants to be the team leader.
If we want to understand anything the New Testament says about the role of women and men and the church and marriage Paul always goes to Genesis 2 & 3. Why? Because you have to understand the impact of sin on the different members of the team if you are going to understand why we have the problems we have in the marriages we have and what we have to do about it. And the only solution begins at the cross. It is only by coming to grips with what happens at the cross and the grace of God which underlies our perceptions of impersonal love and personal love that go forward in the Christian life. We have to realize that the solution to reversing the curse is grace. Grace is exemplified by what happens at the cross.