Archive | April 2014

The Mystery of Marriage

Great Mystery

… And they two shall be one flesh. Ephesians 5:31

God has painted a most beautiful picture of  life, as it is intended with Him, in the union of marriage.  God Himself chose marriage as the means of portraying this spiritual truth.  Marriage was neither designed nor instituted by mankind.  Neither can it be changed by mankind.

What was the great spiritual truth that God was portraying as He formed the man from the dust of the ground and then formed the woman from the man’s own rib?  What was the significance of God bringing the woman to the man and the two becoming one flesh?  And, very importantly, how can a Christian marriage aptly reflect these great truths?

One important observation that should be made by the one that believes and loves God’s Word is that this picture of marriage is found both at Creation in Genesis (Genesis 2:18-25) and in the closing chapters and verses of Revelation (Revelation 21:2,9; 22:17).  In the very beginning of the Bible, we find God creating a man and his bride.  At the very end of the Bible, we find the God-man, Christ Jesus, coming for His bride.  Perhaps we would not have the spiritual eyes to link the two truths, but the Apostle Paul sheds great light upon these truths in Ephesians 5.  As the Apostle was exhorting and instructing the believers at Ephesus in very practical ways that husbands and wives should treat one another, he uses Jesus Christ and the church as the example.  In his explanation of the proper relationship between a husband and wife, he says:  This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).  A mystery was that which could only be made known by divine revelation.  It was a truth that was hidden or covered until God Himself revealed it – at His appointed time.  The word mystery can be understood in the context of Colossians 1:26: Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints.  In the same way, the Apostle Paul says that this mystery of marriage concerns Christ and the church.  As Christians, therefore, we should humble ourselves before the Lord asking that He help us understand this mystery which He has revealed in His Word.

God has chosen to demonstrate, in a visible way, the spiritual truth of Christ and the church.  And that visible demonstration is to be seen in marriage – in the relationship between a husband and wife.  For the Christian, this truth has tremendous implication as to how we are to respond to our own husband or to our own wife.  How often do we consider that our day-to-day functioning as husband and wife can bring much glory to the Lord, or actually cause His name to be blasphemed (Titus 2:5)? Let us consider a few parallels between God’s institution of marriage and Christ and the church.

–  Adam was formed first, then Eve (Genesis 2:7).  Christ was existent long before the church became His bride (Colossians 1:16-17).

–  God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, so that his bride could be taken from his side (Genesis 2:21).  It was through the death of Christ that the church was brought forth.  He was pierced in His side (John 19:34).

–  Adam called Eve bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23).  Regarding Christ, the church is called members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Ephesians 5:30).

–  Just as God joined Adam and his wife into one flesh (Matthew 19:4-6), Christ and the church are joined into one flesh, as the believer becomes a member of His body (Ephesians 5:30).

–  Interestingly, the Scripture teaches that Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14).  Similarly, Christ was not deceived, as He came and paid the sin debt for his bride (John 18:11).

–  Traditionally, a bride was bought with a dowry.  Christ bought and paid for His bride. For ye are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

–  God brought the woman and gave her to Adam (Genesis 2:22).  A bride was traditionally given in marriage by her Father.  It is the Father that gives the church to Christ (John 18:9).

–  A bride traditionally gave up her identity and took the name and identity of her husband.  The Scripture teaches:  Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created (Genesis 5:2).  Likewise, the Christian should leave the old life behind and take upon the identity and name of her new Husband.  Listen to this beautiful analogy in the Psalms:  Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him (Psalm 45:10-11).

–  In marriage, God joins the two together (Mark 10:8-9).  In salvation, the believer is joined to the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17).

–  As the marriage is consummated, the wife gives herself to the husband, and the husband comes in unto her.  In salvation, the believer gives herself to the Lord, and He, through the Holy Spirit, comes in unto her (Romans 8:9) .

–  The intimacy between a husband and wife should continue throughout their lives.  The intimate relationship between a believer and the Lord will continue throughout eternity (Revelation 21:2,3).

–  The husband and wife are to forsake all others and be faithful unto death (Romans 7:2).  The Lord has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  The church is to forsake all else and be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10).

–  The husband is to be the head, and the wife is to be a member of his body (Ephesians 5:23, 31).  Christ is the Head of the church, and the church, collectively, are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30).

–  The husband is to love the wife (Ephesians 5:25).  The wife is to respect her husband and arrange herself under his authority (Ephesians 5:24,33).  Christ loves the church with a perfect love, and the church is to respect and reverence Him and to arrange herself under His authority (Ephesians 5:24-25) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33

We have lost much of the beauty of marriage.  It is a relationship as no other.  It is the relationship that God Himself has chosen to reveal the mystery of Christ and the church.  As those around us view our marriage, they should see a picture of Christ and His church – because God has chosen that relationship to reveal His truth.  May the Lord renew our minds and hearts that we may see our marriage as He sees it.  Then, may we guard carefully the beauty and the mystery of marriage.

For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things:

to whom be glory forever.

Amen
Romans 11:36

Being Modest in an Immodest World

Modest apparel

Many years ago I stood, looking into my closet, trying to determine what I should wear. I seemed double-minded in my thoughts.  The world and my own desire to be attractive pulled me in one direction.  The truth of the Word of God and the Spirit within me pulled me in another. It was then that I began to study the Scriptures looking for truth to guide my daily choices.  Yes, daily I had to choose what I would wear.  Some days I chose well.  Other days I leaned to the world and to my own desires.  Which way would I ultimately go?  Following are lessons that I learned along the way which helped to establish:

A Chaste Appearance

Did you know that the Word of God teaches that everything that we say and everything that we do comes from the heart (Luke 6:45, Mark 7:21­-23)?  You can learn much about someone’s heart by listening to the words that she speaks.  You can tell much about someone’s heart by watching the deeds that she does.  And you can tell much about someone’s heart by observing the way that she dresses.

As a Christian woman, your testimony about the Lord can be enhanced by the way that you dress or it can actually be destroyed.  Outward dress alone is not the essence of your spiritual life, but your spiritual life will directly affect your outward dress.  That which is in the heart will surface in the way that you dress.

The fallen human heart is, in truth, always and only about itself.  It seeks its way – that  which pleases itself and brings attention to itself.  The Bible teaches that the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).  It is so easy to fall into each of these areas of sin regarding our outward appearance.

The first area of sin from which we must flee deals with the lust of the flesh.  When we fail to safeguard this area of our lives, we cause many men and brothers in Christ to stumble because of our actions.  If we dress in a sensual way, we not only provoke them to sin, but we are actually a participant of that very sin with them.  May God help us understand.  A woman usually desires to be attractive, but if the attraction she seeks is a sensual one, she falls far short of God’s desire for her.  Even if this woman says with words that she is not desiring to have a sensual appearance, if she is revealing her body and shape in any way, she does in fact have a sensual appearance – that which appeals to the senses. Modesty always seeks to cover, not to reveal.

The second area of sin from which we must flee is the lust of the eyes.  Within the fallen human heart is the sin of covetousness.  The fallen heart lusts after that which it sees and after that which another may possess.  In our manner of dress, we can cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble if we dress in an extravagant or showy way.  We may be the catalyst that causes covetousness to arise within the heart and the lust of the eyes to predominate.  Again, we need the Lord to open our understanding to these truths.  If the desire of our heart is to love one another, to strengthen one another, to build and encourage one another, we will willingly place limitations upon ourselves for the good of others.

And finally, we must flee from the pride of life within our heart.  This pride may be associated with our position, our possessions, or our physical attributes.  We may dress in a way that draws the attention of others to those things.

May we learn to consistently flee those things. But there is also another subtle sin that can creep into the heart of the Christian woman.  A prideful heart that says, “Look at how godly I am,” is perhaps the most wicked heart of all.  Jesus pronounced woes upon the Pharisees that made clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within were full of extortion and excess.  He condemned the manner in which they were like whited sepulchers, which indeed appeared beautiful outwardly, but within were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  They were rebuked because outwardly they appeared righteous unto men, but within they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  His word to them was not that they disregard the outside, but that they cleanse that which was within, that the outside might be clean also (Matthew 23:25-28).  You see, it is so easy to attempt to get the outside right so that people may look at us and admire our “godly appearance” without us ever having a concern for our hearts.  However, our Lord says that if the heart is right, the outside will be right also.  When the motive of the heart is to love our God and to love others, right dress will follow.

We have looked at some of the negative aspects of dress – those things which we should not do, but how uplifting it will be to look at the positive aspects of dress – those things which the Word of God instructs.

Without an excessive amount of attention given to ourselves, the Scripture instructs women to maintain a certain appearance.  We will examine certain words and thoughts, directly from the Bible, to discover the deep underlying truths about a woman’s appearance.  Simple practical suggestions will also be included.  It is our prayer that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened as we examine these six truths.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.  

1 Timothy 2:9-10

Orderly – In 1 Timothy 2: 9-10, the word translated as modest is kosmios and means:  orderly, well-arranged, decent. This would indicate that there should be a certain order to our appearance.  We should display neither a disorderly nor an unkempt appearance.  Our God is a God of order, and all things about our lives should reflect His order.  It is interesting to note the lovely appearance of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household:

for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Proverbs 31:21-22

Modesty – The next word at which we will look is shamefacedness.  The word means:  modesty.  Perhaps the most literal translation is:  not known.  Though we are to be fully known to our husbands, we should seek to be not known to all others.  Practically, this would affect many choices in apparel.  Our clothing should be loose fitting, seeking to conceal our shapes, rather than seeking to reveal them.  Necklines, dress lengths, and the fit of the bodice of clothing should all conform to this guideline, seeking that our shapes be not known.  A jacket, sweater, or blazer worn over a dress will also add to a modest appearance.  And finally, should any of your long dresses have slits, they should be altered so that the slit does not reveal much of the leg.  The eye is drawn to a slit in a dress, especially as you walk or sit.  That simple slit may be suggestive of sinful thoughts to another.  Remember, modesty seeks to cover, not to reveal.

Soberly – The word sobriety means: with a sound mind.  It entails right thinking to the point that it affects behavior.  We should think so rightly about proper dress that it will affect choices that we make, and hence, clothing that we wear.  Remember that all of our life should have two main goals:  To love the Lord God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40).  Our dress, therefore, should be pleasing to the Lord and should not cause others to stumble.  Out of a love for the brethren, we should seek to wear things that would neither cause a brother to lust, nor a sister to envy.  Right thinking is of the utmost importance in the things that we choose to wear.

Simplicity Not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.  Each of these things, in extravagance, has a showiness about them – a showiness that would cause attention to be drawn to our self, rather than to our Lord.  We should never dress in an extravagant way.  If we seek to dress with simplicity, it will affect each those things referred to in this verse – our hairstyle, our jewelry, and the clothing that we wear.  Modesty and simplicity – what wonderful companions!

Femininity – Deuteronomy 22:5 states:  The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment:  for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.  Therefore, we should seek to have a distinctly feminine appearance.  Choose clothing, hairstyles, etc. that are distinctly feminine.  For a woman to possess a feminine appearance is pleasing to the Lord.  He designed her to be distinctly feminine.  Choose your clothing in light of this truth.

Purity – In Titus 2:5 young women are instructed to be chaste.  This word has the meaning of:  purity.  Seek to have a pure appearance in all ways.  Remember it is the Lord that you represent, and He is holy and pure.  We will see Him one day and will be like Him in that day.  The Scripture says:  Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

Study these words – study these truths!  Write these words down, and bring them with you as you shop.  Ask yourself questions to see if that which you purchase is pleasing to the Lord.  Spend a few hours in your closet, before the Lord, in an honest evaluation of your wardrobe.  You will probably find that you need to eliminate some things.  Recalling these words will also help you decide what to wear on a daily basis.  Take time to evaluate all facets of your appearance:  your clothing, your hairstyle, your make-up, and your jewelry.  An honest evaluation will produce a godly appearance.  Ask yourself:

  1. Is it orderly?
  2. Is it modest?
  3. Am I demonstrating right thinking by wearing this?
  4. Does it exhibit simplicity?
  5. Is it feminine?
  6. Does it enhance a pure appearance?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, your outward appearance should be scriptural.

There are, however, two additional factors of far greater importance than outward dress in the life of a godly woman.  Take time to look up the following verses and to meditate upon them.  They will be a blessing to your heart.

A godly woman must possess the right heart attitude (see 1 Peter 3:3-5).  Always remember that God looks upon the heart. Spend much time allowing Him to adorn your heart.  It will be pleasing to Him – and interestingly, it will be a blessing to those around you.

A godly woman must be adorned with good  works (see 1 Timothy 2:9-10).  The most important matter of our life is not about our self.  It is about others.  Rather than all of our time and attention being given to our outward appearance, it should be given to ministering to others – to our husbands, to our children, to those in need, and to those whom the Lord would have us serve.

In conclusion, your appearance should reflect your Lord.  It will also reflect your husband and make a statement about what kind of wife he has.  Your appearance should reveal humility, submission, modesty, and godliness without being unkempt and disorderly.  The motive of the heart is the key.  Are you seeking to reflect your Lord in your appearance, or are you seeking to draw attention to yourself?  Are you pursuing godliness, or are you pursuing the things of the world?

… whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Dead or Alive, or Both?

I live yet not I

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1

What insights can we glean from the Word of God about being a living sacrifice? Perhaps one of the first things we find is that this sacrifice is alive! It is not a dead sacrifice. It is a life full of the Spirit of God – a life full of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Yes, it is a living sacrifice and never a dead work.

Secondly, we learn much by meditating on the word sacrifice. Biblical sacrifices always required the death of the one being sacrificed. It may seem conflicting to think of a living sacrifice being alive and dead at the same time, but listen to the words of the Apostle Paul: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).  Yes, there is death and life at the same time. The death of ourselves – we have been crucified with Christ – and the life  of Christ in me – a living sacrifice.

Now the real question is: Do we present our bodies to live in this way? Do we deny ourselves? Do we say “Not my will, but Thine be done”?  Do we seek to be alive in Christ, living that abundant life that He has promised? If so, do we realize that we are only giving back to God that which is actually His? The Bible teaches that we are not our own. We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And that price was the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). If we are Christians, we are not our own. We have actually been bought by the Lord, and He may use our lives in any way that He desires.  How blessed and peaceful it is just to walk in agreement with Him!

We may also notice from the Romans 12 verse that being a living sacrifice is our reasonable service. It just makes sense that we would serve the One who has saved and delivered us. Why then, would the Apostle Paul have to beg these Christians to present themselves as a living sacrifice in service to the Lord?

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of Jesus cleansing ten lepers, but only one returned to Jesus to thank Him.  What a sad thought – that great miracle was performed for all ten, but nine of them went on their way, never returning to thank Him. How often we are just like those nine! May God forgive us!

Look at the sacrifice that we are to bring to the Lord: By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name (Hebrews13:15).  As with those lepers, all that we can bring to Him is praise and the giving of thanks.  We must turn from our own way, return to Him, and give back to Him that which He so richly deserves!

Let’s give some time to one further thought about a living sacrifice. Do you know that there is really nothing else that we can bring to God? He has done all that is necessary, through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, for each of us to be brought into a living relationship with Him. There is nothing that we can do, and certainly there is nothing that we can bring Him. He owns it all. All belongs to Him.

Hear the questioning rebuke of Paul: What do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Perhaps a living sacrifice can be understood as described by the heart of David as he had painstakingly gathered all of the gold, silver, brass, stones, wood, iron, works of the artificers, and much more for the building of the temple. Knowing that God had chosen Solomon for the work, the people rejoiced as they gave all of these and more offerings for the work of the Lord (1 Chronicles 29). After much outpouring of praise (v. 10-13), David asks this question: But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee (v. 14). He continues: O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build Thee a house for Thine holy name cometh of Thine hand, and is all Thine own (v. 16). Truly it is all His own, and we can only give back to Him of His own!

Take time to meditate on and pray about all that God has given to you. Think deeply on the blessings of salvation, the blessings of your family, the blessings of health, the blessings of gifts and talents, and so much more! How would God have you bring each of those things to Him, giving them back to Him, accompanied with praise and the giving of thanks? What does it mean, in your life, to actually present your body to God as a living sacrifice? It is truly the fullest life that one can live!

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1