Monday, June 29, 2009

Why There is a Local Church - Part Three

From the beginning of the church's existence, the church has existed as a collection of local churches. Each city had it s own. Each region had its own. But, boy, we've sure taken this concept to the extreme in our day, haven't we? Today there are literally hundreds of denominations, and a good size city may literally have hundreds of churches. There are local churches on practically every corner. Sometimes one corner can have four churches on it, one each from a different denomination. Any small village might have three Methodist churches and a half dozen Baptist churches.

And we wonder why? Why has the church fractured into so many different denominations? Why have they, in turn, fractured into so many different branches? We have American Baptists, Southern Baptists, General Baptists, Conservative Baptists, Regular Baptists, Missionary Baptists, Reformed Baptists, and I'm just getting warmed up. I grew up Baptist, by the way, so I am one of them.

But why? Why can't we get along? Why can't we have a united doctrine and a united voice? Why do we have to disagree so much? Yeah, I know. Somebody said we are all people. And by that, we mean fallen, sinful people usually too intent upon our own wishes and desires instead of worrying about what God wants. They claim if you put two Baptists in a room together, you'll get three opinions on any given subject. But that's probably true of any denomination.

There is an even more basic reason, though, for why we fracture so much. The answer is found in Matthew 13, in two parables Jesus told. The first is about the wheat and the tares. The second is the parable of the mustard seed. We'll cover the first today.

The parable of the wheat and tares is found in Matthew 13:24-30:
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, "Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?" He said to them, "An enemy has done this." The servant said to him, "Do you want us then to go and gather them up?" But he said, "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest, and at that the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn, but gather the whet into my barn.'"
In understanding the parable, the farmer sowing wheat, according to Matthew 13:37-38, is Jesus sowing the sons of the kingdom, or believers, throughout the world. For our benefit, we'll consider this as happening in the local church as well. The enemy is Satan. The tares are a weed, probably darnel, that looks and grows like the wheat. It's really hard to tell them apart, with one major exception - the tares never produce fruit. The tares never produce a crop of wheat. But you can't tell until the harvest. The enemy would sow tares into the field to destroy the crops and the livelihood of the farmer. So this is Satan's way of sabotaging the work of building the church. And he has been quite successful.

While Christ populates the church with born-again believers, Satan populates the church with make-believers who look and act like everyone else in the pews. But they never bear fruit. They take up space. They use up resources. They demand their share of the positions on the committees. But they never contribute anything of value to the life of the church. Yet, they are there, side by side with the true believers within the church. Like tares, they are so intertwined with the root system and so hard to pick out, that it is impossible to get rid of them. Which is why Jesus said that the separation won't take place until the end times judgment when the saved will be taken to heaven and the lost will be cast into hell.

Until then, our churches will always be a mixture of saved and unsaved people within our walls. The better churches may have fewer while the apostates churches may be almost all tares. But unsaved people are always a part of the mix, and they will be until the end. Always there to oppose the work and oppose true doctrine. No wonder there are so many disagreements and divisions within the local church.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why is There a Local Church - Part Two

Of all the names the New Testament uses for the local church, the one I like best is the family of God. When we are born again into the family of God, we become brothers and sisters in Christ, joined not by the bloodline of our parents, but by the shed blood of Christ. Then we begin functioning like a family - a spiritual family, We begin functioning in much the same way as our flesh and blood families functioned.

You can see this in Acts 2:44-47,
"Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
That's Jesus building His church. And they loved each other. They took care of each other. They acted like family. And the local church made a stronger family for them than their own flesh and blood brothers and sisters, parents, or even children in some cases who often turned on them when they trusted Christ. When their flesh and blood families disowned them, their spiritual family took them in.

So as you can see, the church is a mystical, spiritual entity. It exists over space and time made up of spiritually regenerated people. But we can't see the universal church. We can't minister through the universal church. We can't fellowship with something that is ethereal. We need a place with real flesh and blood people.

That's why local churches have been in existence since the day of Pentecost as groups of believers banded together to form local congregations for mutual fellowship and encouragement. Wherever the apostles went, they would form local churches. Each city would have its own with its own leadership, and there would be numerous churches throughout a country or throughout a region. So the universal church has always existed as local churches. So we can think of the universal church as a concept, but we have to have a local church to be a part of. I trust you have made a commitment to join and serve through a local church.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why is There a Local Church

This month, I've begun a new sermon series in our church on the local church. I wanted to share some of the things I've been preaching. First, I assume you have some concept of the church. You know that the church isn't a building or a denomination. The church is made up of a redeemed people. The word church comes from a compound word in Greek, ecclesia. It is composed of the prefix ek, meaning out of, and klesia, meaning called. Together they render called out. The church is a group of people called out by God.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The church is a spiritual entity that Jesus Himself is building by calling out people from the world to be His. He used a little play on words here. In Greek, the word for Peter is a word for a small stone, while the word for rock is a word describing bedrock. The church is not built on Peter, the pebble, but upon the bedrock of his confession of faith in Matthew 16:16 that Jesus is, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," a confession of faith unto salvation.

Jesus is building His church worldwide. He's building it in unlikely places as far away as China and Iran - in places like South America and Africa - places where now great revivals are happening. He's not just at work in North America. As a matter of fact, it seems like He is doing greater work building His church elsewhere. The church of Jesus Christ is worldwide.

It also spans time. Jesus began His church dramatically on the day of Pentecost with miraculous signs: the sounds of a mighty, rushing wind, the Spirit of God descending as tongues of fire to rest upon each disciple, and the gift of tongues as each apostle arose and speaking in his own language was understood in the native language of each hearer. And they preached the Word of God clearly and forcefully. They proclaimed the Gospel message in power. And people were saved. Peter preached, according to Acts 2:21, "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." That very day, 3,000 souls repented of their sin, trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, called on His name, and were added to the church.

The church is still being built today as each of us fulfills the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 29:19-20:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."

So what is the church of Jesus Christ? It is a spiritual entity made up of every person born again into the Family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, living or dead, no matter where they live and worship and in any age since the day of Pentecost until today.

It is described in many ways in Scripture using many relationships we can understand. The church is called the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:23-32 and Revelation 21:9. In Ephesians 1:22-23, it is called the body of Christ whose head is Jesus. There are many other descriptions, but the one I like best is when the church is called a family - the family of God. It is called this in Ephesians 3:15. As in a family, you enter the family by being born into it, just as we are born-again into the family of God. So may I ask you, have you been born again into the family of God through repentant faith in Jesus Christ? Are you part of this family? If not, I urge you to do so today and join the best family on earth - the family of God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Being a Respectful Wife

Last time,we talked about what respect really means in the context of a husband and wife. We said that it didn't mean that she should sit quietly by without ever offering her input or sharing her feelings, even when they ran counter to those of her husband. But when a wife needs to talk turkey with her husband, she should do so with utmost respect and courtesy. Obviously if a wife does, her husband is a whole lot more likely to listen. But also, in the context of the type we have talked about so often, the wife represents the church. The church must always be respectful to Christ. The word respect is translated as reverence in the Old king James, and it is often used in Scripture for the fear of the Lord or for godly reverence toward Him. It's a good word to describe the godly attitude of a Christian wife.

But in the context of the marriage, where two very human people are partnering to raise a family and make a life together, the wife often has to disagree with her husband. She is his helpmeet, after all, and needs to help him through the times he gets things wrong. She must learn to state her opinions, sometimes several times. A helper doesn't remain silent. But she doesn't disrespect her husband or his authority. The two can go together.

Certainly, there are enough verses that talk about a wife who disrespects her husband. Some of them are quite comical, except to the husband in that situation where the wife picks, picks, picks at everything he does. Let me quote a couple of them. Proverbs 21:9 says, "Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman." Then there is proverbs 21:19 which says, "Better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman."

You get the idea. This kind of woman can make her home a living hell on earth. It's no wonder that a man married to her never wants to be home. Who could blame him? Hanging out at the bowling alley or down at the local bar probably seems like heaven by comparison. How much better for the wife to accomplish her role as helper in a respectful manner. This is the whole point of Proverbs 12:4, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones." Nothing brings a man more shame than to be ridiculed and belittled in public by his wife. Proverbs 14:1 says, "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands." Or, could we say, with her mouth? or with her looks of disgust? How much better to build up your husband with words that are respectful and encouraging? In so doing, she will build her house.

One more passage. Proverbs 31:10-12 says,
"Who can find a virtuous wife? Her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life."
She would build him, not tear him down. Do him good and not evil.

Why does a wife's love and respect turn into contempt? She starts off standing at the altar thinking only of love, waiting breathlessly to make her life with the man of her dreams - her knight in shining armor - only to find out that he is all too human. He thinks the garbage can should be kept in the kitchen, instead of the laundry room like your family always did. Or maybe he don't ever think to take out the garbage at all, because in his family his mother always did it. "How can he not know it's the man's job?" you think. And then he snores and keeps you awake all night. Love can quickly turn into contempt. Of course, just plain old familiarity can breed contempt. But as Francis De Sales wrote, "Have contempt on contempt."

Do you know what? It works both ways. He is finding out the same kinds of things about you. It would be so easy for both of you to disrespect each other. And quite frankly, you've both probably earned your share of disrespect. I certainly have. But is that what God would want? Look at taking the plank out of your own eye before you worry about the speck in your spouse's eye.

William law wrote back in the 18th Century:
"No one is of the Spirit of Christ but he that has the utmost compassion for sinners. Nor is there any greater sign of our own perfection than you find yourself all love and compassion toward them that are very weak and defective. And on the other hand you have never less reason to be pleased with yourself than when you find yourself most angry and offended by the behavior of others."
Law is saying that if my respect changes into contempt, it is because I am weak, not because my spouse is failing. Rather than contempt, we need understanding. Rather than focus on their failings, we would be better served to focus on our own failings, and work to correct them. As C. J. Mahaney says, "We can be thankful for our fellow sinners when we spend more time looking for evidence of grace than we do in finding fault."

Now a word to husband. Certainly every husband wants to be respected. But wouldn't it be better for you to concentrate on how you can earn that respect than worry about why your spouse isn't giving it to you? So many men who legitimately desire to be respected, when that desire isn't met, tend to retaliate. Rather than working to build their life so that they can earn respect, they try to tear down their spouse in the same way they feel torn down. That never works. You can never earn respect by tearing down another person. Be the man you should be and see if your wife doesn't respond with respect. Remember, a Christian marriage is characterized by giving, not getting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Meaning of Helpmeet

Last time, we talked about the meaning of respect in the negative, meaning we talked about what it didn't mean for a wife to respect her husband. It is not servitude. So much of the confusion comes from a misinterpretation of the meaning of the word helper, or helpmeet, in Genesis 2:18. When God announced He would create the woman, He said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." The wife was created by God to be a comparable helper.

But what does that mean? I once heard Chuck Swindall speaking on this passage, and he quoted from the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:
helper - n : one that helps, esp: a relatively unskilled worker who assists a skilled worker, usually by manual labor.
Now that's not very complimentary. Some feminists might even call them fightin' words. And the fact that some men have treated their wives like they believe it gives this verse a bad reputation. Chuck Swindall, of course, was using the definition as a bad example. He wasn't endorsing it. Anyway, that's what Webster said, not God. Unfortunately, too many people think that is what a helpmeet is.

The Hebrew meaning is so much better. It means someone who assists another to reach complete fulfillment; to complement, to fill up. The word is often used in Hebrew for a rescuer. Now doesn't that sound better? God adds, in Genesis 2:18, that that this helper is comparable, or suitable. She is the one God specifically designed for man. She is one corresponding to her husband. The definition of the word that I like best is completer. MY helpmeet is the one who helps me become all that I am intended to be.

Men, your wife was designed to complete you, to help you become all you should be, all God intended you to be. She wasn't intended to be a cheap servant or a slave, nor to be a mousy doormat. Rather, if you remember Genesis 1:28, she was intended to be our co-regent jointly taking dominion of the earth with us. We are to walk shoulder to shoulder as husband and wife. That's the way God created us. That's how marriage was intended to be, and good marriages still operate that way as the husband and wife complement each other.

My wife certainly does that for me. But she doesn't do it by sitting back silently like a wallflower. Nor by nodding agreeable every time I say something stupid like one of those dashboard ornaments with the head on a spring so it continually bounces up and down. What do they call them. Bobble heads, I think.

When I am in the wrong, my wife tells me. I was a science major in college and totally indoctrinated with evolution, zero population growth, radical environmentalism, you name it, everything else our godless higher educational system passes off as the truth. And I bought it - hook, line, and sinker. But then I met the girl I would marry. When I would spout off with that propaganda, she'd ask, "Do you really believe that?" Then she would tell me what common sense would say. She made me examine my views and beliefs critically, and I came to my senses. She helped me out of that deception.

A wife is no helper if she sits quietly back and lets her husband head off a cliff, to their mutual destruction. That's not respect. She is no helper if she sits back and lets her husband make a fool of himself. That's not being a helper. It isn't showing love. I don't know what you would call that except maybe stupid. Respect involves esteem and admiration, It involves proper acceptance and courtesy of the other person. It involves treating them like we would want to be treated. Hey, that's the Golden Rule, isn't it? It involves godly reverence. And, since the husband is to represent Christ in the relationship as the wife represents the church, reverence is a good word to describe the respect that a wife should have for her husband. A husband properly fulfilling his role will be revered by his wife.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Respect - What a Man Needs

Last time we outlined form the Bible how respect is a requirement for everyone to everyone. In the New International Version of 1st Peter 2:17, it says, "Show proper respect to everyone." But if that is the case, why is Paul singling out the wife specifically in Ephesians 5:33, saying, "And let the wife see that she respects her husband?"It is for the same reason that Paul singled out the husband when it comes to showing love. The husband is specifically reminded to love his wife in spite of the fact that we are all supposed to love one another. Certainly he is to do this because Christ loves the church that way, but also because this is his wife's greatest need. It is what she needs most. Wives are hard wired that way.

Likewise, the wife is reminded specifically to respect her husband even though we are all commanded to respect one another. Why? Because first, the church is to respect Christ, but also because respect is the husband's greatest need. It is what he needs most. He is hard wired that way. Every man needs a wife who will look up to him and respect him even more than he needs a wife to love him. When surveys of men are taken, respect always ranks lots higher than love as the most important need of a man. It is built into him.

So what is respect? How does a wife know when she is being obedient to this command? Is it to say, "Yes, sir!" and bow and grovel? In some Oriental cultures, the wife is not allowed to speak in a man's presence and has to walk five paces behind him down the street. Is this the respect this is talking about? NO! That doesn't sound at all like Biblical marriage. It sounds like slavery.

I've read books that take this concept to that extreme. They go hand in hand with those books that require the wife to be submissive like a mousy little doormat. No joke, I've read advice to the wife that goes like this: "If your husband is driving you shopping and finds a parking space near the door and pulls into it, praise him. Tell him what a good job he did finding a parking spot. It shows he is capable of finding a parking space." Seriously! That is in print.

I really thought that was a tongue in cheek joke when I first read it, but it wasn't. If my wife responded that way to me, "Oh, honey, you found a parking space. I'm so proud of you." I'd think she was mocking me - making a fool out of me - being condescending toward me - like the best thing I could do was find a parking space. It wouldn't make me feel respected. It would make me feel like her little kid who is dealing with self-assurance issues and needs mommy to stroke his ego. "That's such a good little boy. Mommy is so proud of you." Biblical respect is so much deeper. Next time we will talk about what it really means to respect your husband.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Conclusion

It seems like we've been working our way through this passage on marriage from Ephesians 5 for a long time. But now, we have finally come to the conclusion. Paul gives one last exhortation to both the husband and the wife in Ephesians 5:33. He writes, "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." We've repeatedly talked about the husband's mandate to love his wife, so this is old ground. But here Paul uses a different model. Now he tells a husband to love his wife just as he loves himself. We've covered that. But the second half of the verse is addressed to wives. Paul begins and ends with the wife. First she was to submit to her own husband, now she is to respect him.

But before we talk directly to wives, we need to know that respect, like love, is commanded of everyone. It is a universal requirement of Scripture. We all want to be respected. Men especially are obsessed by it. Yet, we rarely consider our own requirement to respect others. But we are all commanded to give honor and respect. We are required to honor and respect our parents in Leviticus 19:3; to honor and respect the elderly in Leviticus 19:32; to respect government in Romans 13:1-7, to honor and respect church leaders in Hebrews 13:7 and 17; and, yes, to respect God in Malachi 1:6. So it should not be surprising that husbands and wives are required to respect each other.

We looked at the husband's requirement in 1st Peter 3:7. It says, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers not be hindered." So, as you can see, giving honor and respect is something we are commanded to do for everyone. As a matter of fact, 1st Peter 2:17 says, "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." The New International Version translates that first phrase as, "show proper respect to everyone." That's the command to each of us. But here, Paul singles out the wife and specifically commands her to respect her husband.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Violating the Type

Last time, we talked about how our marriages are to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. We are what the Bible calls a type, or tupos in Greek. Just as in the Old Testament where the sacrifice of the lamb pictured Christ's sacrifice on the cross where Jesus died in our place and His blood was shed for the remission of our sins, our marriages picture Christ and the church. Depending upon how well we obey the commands we've been talking about from Ephesians 5:22-32, we are either a clear picture or a cloudy picture. We either accurately show how Christ and the church interact, or we distort the view we present to the world. Therefore, everything we do in our marriages is important.

For instance, should the wife ever try to usurp authority from her husband and take over being the head of the home? No! Why? Would the church ever usurp Chris's authority? Likewise, should the husband stay at home and become Mr. Mom while his wife goes out to work and takes responsibility for feeding and clothing the family? No! Why? Would the church ever take over providing for Christ? Of course not. It says in Philippians 4:19, " And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Do you see the importance of this? Why must husbands love their wives sacrificially? Because Christ loved the church enough to die for her. Why must he be the spiritual leader in the home? Because Christ purifies His bride with the washing of water by the Word. Why must he be the breadwinner? Because Christ nourishes His bride, the church. Why must the husband stay with his wife till death do them part? Because Christ's love is permanent. He will never leave us or forsake us. For the husband to fail in any of these responsibilities puts a blight on the reputation of Christ who would never, ever fail the church.

Now certainly, this, like every passage of Scripture, is to be interpreted with some common sense. A wife, when her husband gets into an accident and becomes a quadriplegic, or gets Alzheimer's, isn't going to say, "Sorry, Sweety Babe. I can't take care of you because the church would never take care of Christ." Of course not! She is going to take care of him. She did promise till death do them part and through sickness and health. This may not exactly fit with the typology, but it is the Christian thing to do. To not take care of her husband would be a greater blight on the name of Christ. So we have to use our head and take the Scriptures as a whole. Where the Scriptures speak, we obey. Where they are silent, we let the Holy Spirit be our guide.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Showing the World Christ and the Church

We've worked our way through Ephesians 5:22-33 over the past couple of months, and we are now getting to the end of this study. We've found that God said one thing to wives - Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." - but He said four things to husbands.

First, husbands are to love their wives with a sacrificial love, loving her just as Christ loved His bride, the church. Ephesians 5:25 said, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her."

Second, the husband is to love his wife with a purifying love, just as Christ loved His bride, the church. We saw this in Ephesians 5:26-27, "That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."

Third, the husband is to love his wife with a caring love just as Christ would love His own body, another illustration for the church. We saw this in Ephesians 5:28-30, "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of his body, of His flesh and of His bones."

Fourth, the husband is to love his wife with a permanent love, just as Christ will never be separated from His bride, the church. That was the emphasis of Ephesians 5:31, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." They shall be joined so tightly as one flesh that they never will be separated in his life.

Someone pointed out that there isn't a lot of balance here; that the bride had to do only one thing - submit - while the husband had to do four things to love his wife as Christ loved the church. They suggested that somehow that wasn't fair. There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, the husband is the head of the home. Remember? So he has more responsibility to set the pace, while the wife only has to respond to her husband's lead. Naturally, the husband would have more detailed instruction. So certainly, the husband would have more specific commands. And even in saying that, you realize that we've looked only at one portion of Scripture. There is a whole big Bible filled with lots of other passages that deal with the family. We've only scratched the surface. Passage after passage address both the husband and the wife. This discussion has not been a thorough treatment of the subject, just a once over of a small section on the subject.

The second reason there are more rules for the husband is tied up in the next verse where we finally get to the concept we've alluded to time after time. This is the concept that the husband is to be a type of Christ in the home while the wife is to be a type of the church. Together we form a picture of the great spiritual relationship between Christ and His church. We demonstrate that union in flesh and blood that exists spiritually between Christ and His bride. The verse says,Ephesians 5;32, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

This long passage we thought was about marriage has not been about husbands and wives at all, but about Christ and His church. This is why it is so important how we act in our marriages. What we do is a direct reflection of Christ and His church. People are to see how that relationship works by looking at us. What we show the world is either the truth or a lie. We either show them a clear picture of Christ and His bride or we show them a distorted view, depending on how well we follow the examples we have learned in this passage.

It is such a beautiful picture, but what a colossal responsibility. Knowing that we are a type should color every decision, every action, every attitude that we have in regard to our marriages as Christians. Every decisions should be made knowing we are a reflection of Christ and his church. We should want to accurately reflect our Lord and Savior to the world.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why God Hates Divorce

We were looking at a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning marriage from Matthew 19. We saw that Jesus pointed them back to the book of Genesis to see God's intent for marriage. Then we looked at where God said he hated divorce. That was the message that came through loud and clear in Malachi 2:16, "For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce."

but didn't God condone divorce? That was the accusation of the Pharisees. In Matthew 19:7-9 we read, "They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?'" The Pharisees were referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, a passage in which Moses mentions divorce. But the only command from that passage was that if the wife following the divorce married someone else and then got another divorce, her first husband could not remarry her because she was defiled. But, "See," they said. "God, through Moses, commanded that people should get a divorce." They twisted the Scripture then just as people do today.

Jesus answered this way from Matthew 19:8, "He said to them, 'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.'" No, it was not commanded. God graciously permitted divorce as a concession to the innocent party.

Divorce was never God's intention. Rather it was the result of sinful men with hardened hearts. Divorce is never called a sin in Scripture, but it is always caused by sin - by some one's sin and by some one's hardened heart. At least one person in the relationship persists in sin refusing to repent and restore. Some one's sin is the cause of the divorce, but the other party could certainly be guiltless - an innocent victim of that sin. And that is the very reason why God gets so angry at divorce. God cares about the heartache of the innocent party. He cares about the heartache caused by the hard heart of the guilty party. So God permitted divorce for the protection of the innocent spouse so the innocent spouse could gain relief from the continuing, unrepentant sin of the other.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jesus Speaks on the Permanence of Marrige

Since we've been talking about the permanence of marriage, it would be helpful to see what Jesus had to say about it. The definitive passage is Matthew 19:3-6. It begins with the Pharisees questioning Him, "The Pharisees also came testing Him, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?'" That's the question, is it OK to get rid of your wife - to divorce her - for just any reason like society now says?

How will Jesus answer? Verses 4-6 tell us:
"And He answered and said to them, 'Have you not read that He [God] who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
Jesus took them all the way back to Genesis and quoted from Genesis 1:27 and from Genesis 2:24. His point was, God joins the couples in marriage. It isn't up to man to separate what God joined. God's intent was obviously that marriage be permanent - till death do you part. Marriage is intended to be a one flesh, permanent relationship - a loving, intimate union of two people into one flesh.

Can a marriage ever be dissolved? Well, can one flesh ever be torn asunder? obviously, the answer is, Yes! We see it happen all the time. But it can't happen without ripping the body apart. It doesn't happen without the destruction of the family. It doesn't happen without hearts being torn asunder. From God's use of the terms, it is obvious that divorce is like ripping a person in two with all the accompanying pain and agony and the death that follows as the union that God Himself made is destroyed.

And why? Because people refuse to deal with the problems between them. They refuse to fight for their marriage, preferring what seems to them to be the easy way out through divorce. But divorce is never easy. That's a lie of Satan. And Jesus says that's not a satisfactory solution. He glued the two of you together with Super Glue - the best available - so that you couldn't be pulled apart. Only with great difficulty can two things be pulled apart once they have been glued. So often, when wood is glued, it won't separate at the joint. It tears along its own grain. You can't separate the two pieces without great damage.

It's the same in marriage. Obviously they can be ripped apart with great damage, but it's not supposed to be that way. Would Christ ever allow His bride to be ripped away from Him? Could anything be strong enough to rip off part of His body? For us to divorce shreds the picture we portray as the type of Christ and His bride and as His body. Can you see why God would have a bad attitude about divorce? Malachi 2:16 teaches,
"For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garments with violence, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."
Divorce is a treacherous thing. It is tearing apart two people that have been made one flesh. It's talking about victims, as the deserted spouse and children are left broken hearted and often destitute. It's talking about children who are left fatherless. It's talking about homes shattered. Yes, It covers their garments with violence, and that's why God says He hates divorce. Do you think God has changed His mind? Malachi 3:6 says, "For I am the Lord, I do not change."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nothing Shall Separate Us

Since, according to Ephesians 5:32, our human marriages are a type of Christ's relationship to the church, we can see the need for permanence in our marriages. They really must be "Till death do us part." Last time, we said our doctrine of eternal security parallels this truth. Therefore, for a man to divorce his wife is to say that a believer can be separated from Christ. But that is impossible. Would Christ let that happen? Would Christ let His bride get away? NO!

You can see the tenacity of Christ in John 10:27-30, where Jesus said,
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."
Christ's holds us tight in the middle of His fist so nothing can take us away. There is nothing strong enough to remove us, especially when the Father is holding onto us too. Together, they form an impenetrable barrier providing complete assurance for us. When Jesus says He gives us eternal life and we shall never perish, that is exactly what He means.

Likewise, we as husbands are responsible for providing our wives that same assurance. We will never leave them. We will never let them go. We will fight for them. Our love and our presence is permanent. It must be permanent. Does your family know that?

Jesus, of course, is our example. In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus says, "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" In Romans 8:35 it asks, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or the sword?" The answer is No! Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Romans 8:39 clearly states that none of those things "shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ our Lord." Nothing should separate us from our families either. NOTHING! Our love must be that permanent.

Marriage doesn't hold that lofty a position in our society anymore. Some of you can remember that, back in our parents generation, divorce was rare. It left a stigma. It carried a certain amount of shame to be divorced. You couldn't even get a divorce unless you could prove adultery on the part of your spouse. So wives would hire private investigators to lurk in the bushes outside motel windows with their cameras to get evidence for the divorce courts. There was tremendous social and economic pressure to hold onto your marriage. There was a lot of incentive to work it out and to hang in there. Sure, there were some marriages that weren't all that good back then, but they stuck it out for the kids sake - so the kids could be raised with both parents. And that was a good idea.

Today, in our age of easy divorce, people can dissolve a marriage for any reason or no reason at all. Broken homes are as common as dandelions in summer. Single parent families are becoming the new norm. Is our society better because of it? The obvious answer is, No! Are people happier? Again, the answer is, No! And our kids have suffered immensely. Won't you fight to preserve your marriage at all costs? Won't you?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Permanent Love

Marriage is intended by God to last till death do us part. The unfortunate situation is that couples have a hard time lasting that long. Husband give up fighting for their wives, and wives no longer feel desired. They both fall out of love and head for the divorce court. That certainly is a problem in the world. It also a problem in the church. According to Christian pollster George Barna, self described, "born again" Christians have a higher divorce rate than non-believers. Those who call themselves fundamentalist have the highest divorce rate of all. This is shocking. This is a total failure of our mandate to love our wives as Christ loved the church.

So far, over the past few weeks, we've talked about three ways that a man should love his wife as Christ loved the church. Christ's love is sacrificial, it is purifying, and it is caring. Today we will look at one more truth - that Christ's love is permanent. A husband's love for his wife must also be permanent. Christ will never stop loving His bride, the church. Neither should a husband ever stop loving his wife. He must have a love for her that doesn't quit - that will fight for her with every last drop of blood to protect the relationship.

We can see the permanence of the relationship when we look at Ephesians 5;30, which talks about the church being the body of Christ. It says, "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, of His bones." No one would cut off part of his body. Yet, according to Genesis 2:24, which is quoted in Ephesians 5:31, we see that the husband and wife are also joined itogether by marriage into one body. It says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

Remember, we have mentioned several times about how Christ uses our marriage relationship as an illustration of His relationship to the church. Ephesians 5:32 says, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Yes, it is a great mystery that we are considered Christ's body, but what a great illustration. Because in the marriage relationship, the husband and wife are joined together so tightly as to "become one flesh."

I like the way the Old King James Version translates this. It says that a man shall "cleave" unto his wife. That's a little more graphic in that it gives us the idea of peanut butter cleaving to our palate when we eat a PBJ sandwich. The word means to glue. A husband is glued to his wife - joined so tightly to her that they become one flesh never to be separated in this life. After all, we could no more be separated from Christ as part of His church than could someone tear off His arm or leg. How ridiculous! Or rip out His heart. We are one flesh, after all. God likewise intends marriage to be that permanent. And His standards do not change.

We can not be separated from Christ. That is what this passages teaches. As believers we are so connected to Him as to be considered part of His body. Our doctrine of Eternal Security flows out of this truth. Since we are talking about marriage, we don't have time to build a case for this doctrine. But marriages that end in divorce totally destroy the picture. For a man to divorce his wife is to say that Christ's bride can be torn away from His embrace. It is to say that His heart could be ripped from His body. Would the all-powerful Christ let that happen? Would He not fight to protect His bride? Would He not fight to keep His body from being torn asunder? Of course He would. And so should every husband fight to preserve his marriage.