CTT | Christian Dating?

So, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. It’s been a while since we last tacked the subject of dating relationships, so I thought I’d revisit the topic. In covering this topic, there is going to be a lot of Law. We’ll get to the Gospel in this area, but in our society and even in our churches, there is a great deal of lawlessness in the area of romantic relationships.

Where does the Bible address dating?

Before I answer this question, let’s start off by clarifying what we mean by “dating”. In our modern context, “dating” in its cleanest form is what we call two unmarried individuals getting to know each other in hopes of determining whether or not they’d like to marry. I have no doubt that there are some who put this into practice with the best of intentions. In its dangerous form, “dating” is a short-cut to companionship and carnal knowledge between two unmarried individuals in hopes of gleaning all of the benefits of marriage without any of the commitment. Should this “relationship” last long enough as the most desirable, or the best each individual can hope to get, then it might progress into a marriage relationship. The common theme here is that it’s somewhat considered a process for selecting a spouse, but the difference between good dating and bad dating is the level of premarital intimacy. A major element in American culture is the hyper-individualism we embrace in every decision we make. We “date” for what we think will make us the most happy. We explain away dating mistakes, abuses, and heartbreak through the lens of “finding ourselves” or “doing what’s right for me”. Nowhere in Scripture is the marriage relationship described in such selfish and self-centered terms. Since marriage is never described as such, how can anyone justify “dating” with that mindset as a valid approach to finding a spouse. So, we have an issue with the term “dating”. Our modern context goes about it selfishly, carnally, and individualistically. So, let’s discuss this Biblically. For starters, let’s ask a better question than “where does the Bible address dating” by asking “Where does the Bible address finding a spouse”.

Where does the Bible address finding a spouse?

The short answer is “Yes, but not in great detail”. The first mention of finding a spouse we’ll look to is in Genesis 2. Let’s also look at what Jesus taught in regards to the Law of marriage.

Genesis 2:23-24 (ESV)

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The first point I want to make here, is that until we are married, we are not individuals, we are very much a part of our family. Western society had a “kick them to the curb at 18” when I was growing up, and millennials tend to more of a “the kids know what’s best for them these days” mentality. Each of this is destructive to our understanding of the estate of the Family and the vocations of parents and children. The fourth commandment (5th Reformed) is in play here (honor your father and your mother) for both the man and woman leading up to marriage. Who you choose to marry impacts both families greatly. There are those whose family ties are already fractured, for now I’m talking to families that are intact. There are boundaries that need to be placed, for it is you who must choose to marry, but the fourth commandment applies across every social context. Rebellion is a horrible way to enter into the marriage covenant.

The sixth commandment (7th Reformed) “do not commit adultery” is one we modern-day Christians like to minimize either by stratifying the degrees of adultery or by crafting environments where we can understandably “oops” into sexual immorality by suddenly being overcome by burning passion, “in the heat of the moment”. The first approach comes by renaming the form of adultery we are more comfortable forgiving/excusing into “premarital sex” rather than adultery. We like to reserve that word for when one or both parties engaged in sexual intimacy is in-fact married to someone else. Then, we like to create degrees of error depending on the extend of the physical intimacy so there’s sex, and then there’s foreplay, and there is “heavy petting”, wet vs dry kissing, sexting, flirting, etc. Is this the right approach? No, it isn’t. To quote Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (ref)“. Changing what we call a sin, and inventing our own taxonomy of terms sub-dividing that sin into categories does not have any real impact on the sinfulness of the sin. It’s still sexual immorality. It’s still adultery. Jesus addresses this attempt at diluting the Law directly in His sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV) | Lust

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

This goes for women, too, by the way. None is immune to this sin. So, if thoughts and fantasies apart from action are no less adultery, there is no muting of the sin of adultery in your dating by simply drawing a line in the sand where you think you’ll be able to refrain from crossing before marriage.

As for the “heat of the moment” approach to sexual sin, Proverbs 5 addresses this quite plainly as well. Whether you run toward sexual sin, or simply plan to be carelessly swept away by your own passions or are caught in a temptress’ snare, death is death, and to flirt with death is folly.

The Scriptures point to sexual purity whenever the discussion of marriage comes up. The primary reason for this is that sex is given as a gift only within the covenant of Marriage. Outside of marriage, sex is a curse. Sex in all of its forms outside of marriage is sin. It is a particularly dangerous sin. So, we’ve established that sex outside of marriage is sin. Let’s take a moment to see what happens when the Pharisees tested Jesus concerning marriage and divorce, particularly with how the disciples heard His teaching.

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

If you take some time reading through Malachi, you’ll see that the priests were abusing the letter of divorce under the Mosaic covenant and leaving the wives of their youth for younger models (Malachi 2:13-16). The LORD sends rebuke through the prophet, Malachi, for this and several other grave sins. So, marriage is a life-long covenant, not to be broken by man. The disciples, realizing the seriousness of the marriage covenant here, come to the conclusion that it’s better not to marry. They were right, but Jesus reminds them that not everyone can go through life without sexual sin. That is a particular grace; therefore, God has given us marriage. No marriage = no sex of any kind. That’s the Law. At this time, adultery was punishable by death, though not always sentenced to it. If you recall, Joseph thought to quietly divorce Mary, the mother of Jesus until and angel spoke to Joseph confirming the Word of the Lord to Mary (Matt 1:19-25).

Okay, so what about choosing a spouse?

Dear brother and sister in Christ Jesus, you are free to choose whom you will marry. You are not free to include sexual sin in your selection process, that is still sin and will require continual repentance. It’s also a horrible, terrible metric for selecting a spouse. In our modern context of dating, we allow things we don’t like in hopes of getting whatever we want. It is reckless to base a life long commitment of marriage on a few moments of sexual pleasure that may or may not be genuine and may cease the moment your marriage is settled. Physical beauty is fleeting, we all age. Making physical attraction/chemistry the focal point of choosing a lifelong spouse is also foolish.

I’d like to take a moment to read through the Apostle Paul’s instruction regarding marriage and remarriage in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV) | Flee Sexual Immorality

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The vast majority of us fall in the category of those to whom it wasn’t given to be born a eunuch. We struggle with sexual immorality. We are told to flee from it. Marriage is a blessed escape vehicle from sexual immorality, for within marriage sex becomes a gift of uniting us with our spouse into one flesh. A word of LAW here, and it is not my aim to offend any of you, but where Paul writes “prostitute” we should consider those who are comfortable with sexual intimacy outside of marriage. In this Roman culture where we find Corinth, they were more “sexually liberated” than we are even today. The “red-light” district in those days were mainstream, publicly known, and even included in worship of various deities. Paul is having to rebuke Christians for engaging in such practices and providing Biblical instruction to them on the matter. This teaching couldn’t be more relevant for us today. Brothers and sisters in Christ, do not take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute or an immoral woman, and do not lead each other into sexual immorality.

Chapter 7 goes into great detail regarding marriage, remarriage, and being single. I encourage you to read through the whole chapter as one letter, but for now I’ll quote the portions that directly relate to what we’ve discussed so far.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (ESV) | Principles for Marriage

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Remember when we talked about our individualistic, self-centered, selfish approach to marriage. This blows that right out of the water. Now, I’ve sat through many a “marriage seminar” that has taken this passage and turned it into a pragmatic “if you meet your spouse’s needs then they’ll meet yours”, but this isn’t teaching a quid-pro-quo approach to sexual relationships within marriage. This isn’t about negotiating sexual favors, this is about surrendering ownership of your body to your spouse. You don’t get to desire/demand the things she hates, and vice versa. And it is usually here where the temporal effects of carnal living attack our marriages the hardest. Sexual immorality scars the mind and the body and twists and shapes your desires and fantasies. There is more to 1 Cor 6:18 than unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease, sexual sin will numb the conscience and warp the mind. The enemy will fire condemnation at you for things you’ve done, and hurl accusations toward your spouse for the things you wish they do or don’t do. For those of you who have not fallen in this area, Praise be to God. Continue to abstain and pray for continued grace in this area, that the enemy will not be given more ammunition. If you’ve fallen in this already, Repent, and trust in the LORD.

1 Corinthians 7:8-16 (ESV)

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul is urging that we keep the covenant of marriage in as far as it is within our charge. We see here that Paul is teaching what Jesus taught (no surprise since Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ) regarding being single. If you can be unmarried, remain unmarried. But better to remarry than to burn with passion (sexual sin). Paul instructs the Corinthians later (2 Cor 6:14-15) not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but here he is addressing marriage and stating quite plainly that being married to an unbeliever is not cause for divorce, especially if that unbeliever is willing to remain in the marriage. But, if the unbeliever separates, let them go.

So where does that leave us?

The Church is the Family of God, we who are of the household of Faith are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. The Law of God is summed up in 2 Commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). If you are unmarried, take a spouse from among the household of faith. Do not prey upon the weak, do not cause one to stumble into sin.

My children are still quite young, but a day will come when I will have to give sound advice on this matter to them.

  • Stop looking for “someone to date”, you’re looking for someone to marry.
  • Look for a spouse from among the Household of Faith, the Church.
  • Understand that finding a spouse is a family affair. Know their family and let your family get to know them.
  • Remember the 10 Commandments, and pray/confess them daily.
    • 1. Am I trusting the LORD for all of my needs? Have I made an idol of my singleness or my desire to marry? Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
    • 2. Have I called upon the Name of the LORD in this matter? Pray to the LORD, make your petitions to Him.
    • 3. Am I resting in Christ Jesus? He is our Sabbath rest. Lord, forgive me for being anxious in the things I cannot control, and for trying to bring about my own peace of mind through dating and seeking a spouse.
    • 4. Is my desire for a spouse in keeping with honoring my parents? Am I guilty of rebellion in my pursuit of a spouse? Lord, have mercy.
    • 5. Have I thought evil of an ex? Have I harbored anger at a rival suitor or thought evil of a brother/sister in the Christ? Lord, have mercy.
    • 6. Have I committed adultery in my heart, or in my flesh? LORD, have mercy.
    • 7. Have I stolen another person’s property or failed to protect my neighbor’s belongings? Lord, have mercy.
    • 8. Have I destroyed (or failed to defend) the reputation of an ex, a rival suitor, a brother/sister in Christ, my neighbor? LORD, have mercy.
    • 9/10. Have I coveted my neighbor’s spouse/fiance/friendships in my heart? LORD, have mercy.
  • Choose a spouse. Don’t engage in mysticism, don’t look for a “soul-mate”, don’t let fate (or hormones) decide, choose a spouse. If that spouse choose you in return, marry and be blessed in the LORD.
  • The Christian life is one of repentance. The Married life is one of repentance and forgiveness. You’ll have to grow into your marriage in much the same way you grow in Faith and repentance. God is faithful and His Mercy endures forever. Amen.

As a mere layman, I’m sure this list will need some work. If you are struggling with this, do please contact your pastor about praying through the 10 Commandments.

The Gospel of Grace and Forgiveness

The problem of sin is an ever-present one while the LORD tarries. Many of our families are broken by sin, death, adultery, abuse, divorce. The wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is everlasting life. There is forgiveness for sin at the Cross of Jesus Christ. All sin. Including sexual sin.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In this life, we will have struggle. In our struggling, we will have temporal consequences for sin. Praise be to God our LORD and Savior that our right-standing with God is not based upon our works of the flesh; rather, they are in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Alistair Begg – In This is Love (1 John 4:10)

2011-alistair-beggToday, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. The world doesn’t get to define love. It isn’t theirs. It isn’t ours, honestly… God is the very definition of Love. The world first redefines “love” and then flips this scripture to read “love is god”, but they’ve made their own god by taking the liberty of first defining what they want love to be. Now, this isn’t really where Alistair takes this message, but this is why I’m choosing this sermon for this day.

Sermon link: In This is Love

God’s love for us – for each one of us – is expressed in the great cost He paid at Calvary, bearing the wrath that our sins deserve. But as we learn in this Good Friday message, until the Holy Spirit shows me my sinfulness, I won’t understand my need of salvation.

1 John 4:7-21 (ESV) | God is Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Biblical Encouragement and Guidance for the Unwed Christian

dringValentine’s Day is a seriously rough holiday for the unwed Christian. Even for those who reject the holiday openly. But being a single Christian in a world that is completely wrapped up in defining ourselves by sexuality, being Christian while being single gets a lot of mixed messaging throughout the year, not just on February 14th. It was not all that long ago (still less than 10 years) when I counted myself among you. But I failed in more ways that I care to mention, so for this post, it isn’t my authority we will be leaning on. As with all of the Bible Study posts here at Faithful Stewardship, we will be turning to God’s Word. I do want to encourage you in this… having placed my faith fully on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I now live and walk by the Grace of God the Father, and have been made whole, and continue being perfected (exhortation, admonition, repentance, and forgiveness) by His Word and His Holy Spirit. No matter where you are in life, or in your Christian walk, there is always Hope, and He is at the Right Hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. So in Christ, we are made righteous and free to love the Lord Our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and all of our mind. With that encouragement as our focus, let us turn to the Word of God. But first, let’s address some woeful misconceptions about the single life.
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Biblical Submission | The Marriage Relationship

marriageIn an effort to counter the commercialism and false-teaching of Valentine’s day, let’s look to the Scriptures to find what God has to say about relationships. Now that we have established the baseline for Biblical relationship, let us look at Marriage Relationships. We will be looking at passages in the Bible that lay out, in no uncertain terms, what the roles of wives and husbands are within the Marriage Relationship. To keep this post from becoming too long, I would ask that if you haven’t looked at the foundation for the delegation of Authority to Adam please take a few minutes to do so. Please note that in that post, we not only establish the chain of command, or line of Authority, we also establish the equality of man and woman. Our previous post ended with a look at Ephesians 5. As a bit of review and introduction, let’s return to Ephesians chapter 5 to begin our discussion in context. If this is you first visit to FaithfulStewardship, please visit our Welcome page for links to this and other Bible study series.

Ephesians 5 (ESV)

Walk in Love

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. Without a doubt, the toughest calling for a Godly woman is to submit to her husband. This is simultaneously a clear description of authority, responsibility, but also of love. Remember, love is the baseline for all relationships of Christians. What makes the Marriage relationship special for men, is the special love, dedication, honor and respect from the one woman, in all of creation, that he asked to marry him.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Husbands, your love for your wife should serve as a depiction of Christ’s love for the church. You are the example to your children of the love of a Father, and of the love of Jesus Christ who laid down His life for the Church.  This is a tall order, but it is not new to mankind. God gave authority to Adam before He even made Eve. Jesus bore in His flesh, the punishment for all the sin of mankind that entered as a result of the sin of Adam. The Apostle Paul lays this out wonderfully in 1 Cor 15. Now, while the authority was given to Adam, he screwed up. But, by the Grace of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, man (by Grace, through Faith) is made righteous in the sight of the Lord and has his example in Jesus Christ. Therefore, let each husband love his wife as Christ loves the Church, and let the wife submit to and respect her husband. Paul felt this was such an important lesson, he also gave it in his letter to the Colossians:

Colossians 3:18-25 (ESV) 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Colossians 4:1 (ESV) 1 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

I find this separation in modern translations a bit odd; however, remember that Paul is writing a letter, not chapters and verses. Again, here, we have the entire unit of the family, of the household (which includes bondservants), to the Kingdom of Heaven. The roles of husband and wife remain the same (not just from Eph, but from Genesis), the role of children and of fathers, bondservants, and masters all are maintained in perspective of first our foundational charge to of 1 Cor 13 love for our neighbors, and as a service of our Lord Jesus Christ. To bear this last point to mind, understand that Paul calls himself and Timothy “bondservants of Christ Jesus” in his introduction to the letter to the Philippians. Now, I’ve heard and read commentaries accusing Paul of mixing in cultural norms here. We dare not entertain such notions given the fact that All Scripture is God-Breathed. Thankfully, we have another Apostle who writes on these things, the Apostle Peter.

1 Peter 3:1-7 (ESV) 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Wow. Notice here, that Peter takes it another step forward. Remember that Paul setup the family or household relationships as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. Here, Peter takes it the next step by suggesting that the Godly submission of a wife to her husband might win the repentance of a husband who is disobeying the Word of God, without speaking a word herself. The next portion is often misconstrued as a prohibition of physical beauty… well that’s just silly, especially given the Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon (yay, homework reading!). What Peter is doing here is commanding a shift of importance away from the physical, temporal (and even temporary) beauty to that of the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is Precious in God’s sight. Peter also extend the exhortation of husbands (don’t get tangled up in misogyny/feminism and stumble over “weaker vessel”) to live with your wives in honor and understanding so that your prayers may not be hindered. Did you hear that, husbands? Your prayers to God the Father might be hindered by your failures as a husband. Let us be clear, your failures are in your charge, not hers. If she refuses to submit and show you honor, that is not your failure, that is hers. If you don’t love her as Christ loves the Church, honor her, and live with her in an understanding way, that’s your failure, and it may hinder your prayers. While this might be a new concept for you in the context of marriage, it isn’t a completely new concept, because teaching the Lord’s Prayer,  Jesus taught that if we don’t forgive others their sins, we won’t be forgiven ours. He also taught that we are to settle our differences with our brothers before giving our gifts to the Lord. So this shouldn’t be a totally foreign concept for us. Husbands, your failure to love your wife Biblically may hinder your prayers to God the Father. We must get this right, gentlemen. Just as Eve received her own punishment for her sins, God will deal with hold our wives accountable for their actions, we are responsible for our households. So we bear a double-load, one of fulfilling our role, and another as a result of being responsible, and accountable for our household. Where am I getting this? Let’s go back to Paul for just a moment, in his letter to Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:1-13 (ESV) 1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

We will look at Biblical instruction for how the Church is to be established, later. I do want to say that if you’ve had a divorce in the past that is sin. But just as all other sin, there is forgiveness for sin, by the Grace of God, through Faith, and that not of yourselves it is the Gift of God. Having had sin in your life at one time does not forever prohibit you from being a deacon or Overseer (Elder) in the Church. There is forgiveness at the cross, otherwise none of us would ever be worthy of approaching the Throne of God, much less to be entrusted with the Word of God. We are no longer under the Law, for we are under the Gospel of Grace. There is, however, an element of time involved, and fruit of the spirit must be cultivated and evident in our lives if we are to be set as examples within the Church (verse 10 let them also be tested first….).

Marriage, is serious business. It is only for this life. It does not extend into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a picture of God’s love for His people, of Christ’s love for His Church, and a blessed path for avoiding sexual immorality.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (ESV) 1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Husbands, this is not a verse whereby you exact your demands for sex. She has rights to your body as well, and this verse isn’t limited just to sex. While women are just as interested in sex as we are, the avenue or pathway of that desire usually looks vastly different from our own (usually, there are exceptions). Our wives desire relationship, and that requires our presence, attendance, affection, understanding, honor, and love before and after the sex. These are her conjugal rights and your obligation as a husband, too (if you are perplexed… start again at the top of the post, and re-read). Laying down your life for her as Christ laid down His life for the Church is a way of life, one that we can only hope to walk by the Grace of the God. Note, there is no such thing as a “sexual need”. It doesn’t exist. Sexual immorality exists, temptation exists, and I am so grateful that God provided us the gift of the Marriage Covenant. Does marriage take away temptation? No. If you ignore the marriage covenant, you’ve added more problems to your life and brought more people into your immorality than you would have by sinning alone. I mention this for 2 reasons, first there is no Biblical basis for gay marriage and second, there is no “free out” anywhere in the bible for divorce. There is only Law which exposes sin, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ where He paid the price for all unrighteousness, and if we remain in Him we are forgiven. In Proverbs 5 we find a warning against Adultery. 23 verses, the first 14 of which identifying the dangers of the temptation. In verse 15; however, we find hope…

Psalm 5:15-23 (ESV)
15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.

So you see, Paul isn’t unfounded in his assertion “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” since if you avoid sex outright, you avoid the snare of sexual immorality. However, He recognizes that not all men and women are capable of living that way, so rather than burn up with passions, he encourages men and women to marry and stick to that covenant in a manner pleasing to God.

Therefore, this Valentine’s Day, and every day from this day forward… Let us love our spouses in accordance with God’s Word. Let us love our neighbors in accordance with God’s Word. And let us place our faith on Jesus Christ… for it is only by the Grace of God that we have any Hope, Faith, and Love. Husbands, love your wives… Wives submit to your husbands… and both of you, do everything in service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

Biblical Submission | Relationships

marriageSo, it’s February, and Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  My wife and I don’t really make much of a big deal of this holiday… it’s more commercial than Biblical; however, given how many online blogs and sermons seem to be taking advantage of the holiday to teach self-help advice on Love and Marriages, I figured I’d weigh in.  I’d like to take a look at what the Bible has to say about the Marriage relationship as well as some things that are not found in the Bible. There are many places where we can start this discussion of Marriage, but I think the best place to begin, is in the baseline for relationships. This will be a 2 part series.

It does us no good to discuss Marriage Relationships without first establishing the baseline for relationships. So, for starters, let’s look at what Jesus had to say about how we are to treat each other. I’d like to begin our reading in Matthew 22. To catch us up a bit on the context here, this is after the Triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. We see Jesus cleanse the temple of merchants and money changers, and when the children praise Him as being the son of David, the scribes challenge Jesus for not rebuking the children (because what they were doing was giving Jesus the praise due to the Messiah). They question the authority of Jesus to be speaking in the temple, and He moves on to teaching in parables to very openly declare who He is and of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first parable we find in Matthew 22 actually uses a wedding feast to represent Kingdom of Heaven. I’m starting here because it sets up the later portion we will be examining closely.

Matthew 22 (ESV) 1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” 15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.

So, while the setting of the parable is a wedding feast, this is a picture of the Kingdom of heaven. Those invited who ignored the call represent the Jews in Israel who rejected the Messiah. So then the servants are sent out to the rest who were not originally invited, for the feast was already made ready. This tells of the Gospel going out to the Gentiles. Finally, those who come to the wedding feast, must come dressed for the wedding. Unless they are made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they cannot partake in the wedding feast (See Zechariah 3). Now, the next encounter is an absolutely beautiful lesson on submission to the governments of men, and to God regarding paying taxes. Awesome. But let’s move on to the next parable starting in verse 23.

Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV) 23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

I promise, we are starting at the foundation of relationships first, though we are getting hints at some of what the Bible teaches regarding marriage. Notice here, that marriage is clearly something for us while we are on this Earth… not for the Kingdom of Heaven. Moving on…

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Okay stop! This is where we want to begin building the foundation for understanding what the Bible teaches about relationships, and upon that foundation we will look further into what the Bible teaches about the Marriage Relationship. Unquestionably, the single, most important relationship setup in the Bible, is that we are to love the Lord Our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind. This is the single greatest commandment, but notice that Jesus was quick to include a second, that we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. Is there a third? No. Jesus stops the list at 2 commandments, and clearly states that upon these 2 commandments rests all the Law and the Prophets. That’s it. Loving our neighbor as ourselves covers every imaginable relationship among mankind… including but not limited to marriage. It has to, because there are no other commandments in the short list, and the first is completely exclusive to God. Okay, but… how do we define who is “my neighbor”? Do we look to the Greek? the Hebrew? the Talmud? Well… let’s first look to how Jesus responded when the same question was asked of Him. Let’s look in Luke 10. Since this is a question asked of Jesus directly, we’ll just jump straight to verse

Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

So then, who is our neighbor? Mankind. The interesting thing about this answer, is that it was phrased in such a way where the Jewish lawyer is being told to emulate a Samaritan to show mercy on his neighbor, and to love similarly. That’s huge. So, that’s how Jesus defined being a neighbor. I want to also take a look at how the Bible defines love, since loving God and our neighbors is the crux of the Law and the Prophets. For this, lets look at what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

This passage is almost always read in the context of marriage, at weddings, anniversaries, etc. But that is not the context of this passage, and I think limiting it to such occasions does the hearer an injustice. This is not some high-standard to aim for in our romantic/marriage relationships, this is a standard of living, of loving God and our neighbors as ourselves. This portion comes almost as an aside, or a reality-check, in a discourse on operating in the Gifts of the Spirit. The Church at Corinth had apparently gotten carried away to the point of losing sight of the very purpose of the Holy Spirit and His gifts to the Church. That is how we get to verses 1-3, where Paul is saying that you might be fully operating in tongues, prophetic power, knowledge and faith, and still miss the mark. Remember that Jesus didn’t base the Law and the Prophets on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, He based them on 2 commandments of love. And that is reaffirmed by Paul in verse 13. This isn’t simply how we are to love our spouse, this is how we are to love.

In closing, we will look at the first part of Ephesians 5 which will bring this post to a close, and pave the way for the next post as move into some of the specific things the Bible has to say about the Marriage Relationship. It  is paramount, that we do not lose sight of the baseline for Christian behavior, and love for our neighbor. Because there is absolutely no room for abuse or mistreatment of any, not even strangers or so-called enemies. Nothing we discuss within the Marriage relationship justifies mistreatment, because mistreatment of our enemies isn’t even permitted.

Ephesians 5:1-21 (ESV) 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

So then, there we have our foundation for Christian relationships. We are to love our neighbor (friends and foreigners alike) as ourselves at the 1 Cor 13 level. Within the body of Christ, we are to walk in love, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Baseline approach to relationships. Not just marriage, not even dating or courtship… baseline. And anything short of this is sin.  Thank God for His ever abounding Grace, for without the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are surely dead in our trespasses and sins. Apart from Him, we don’t have a chance at keeping the Law and the Prophets even if they are condensed to 2 commandments!

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge