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Marriage at the Resurrection August 18, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 22:23-33.

Summary: In this passage, the Sadducees – who do not believe in a resurrection – confront Jesus. After noting that Moses had established the levirate law, they present the following scenario to Him:

  • there is a group of seven brothers
  • the eldest marries, and then dies
  • the second eldest marries his widow, and then dies
  • the process repeats until the youngest dies.

They then pose the following question: at the resurrection, who will be the husband of this woman?

He responds by asserting that they have wandered from the truth. In particular, they fail to grasp the following points:

  • marriage will not exist at the resurrection, as resurrected people will be spiritual beings
  • Exodus 3:6 proves the veracity of the resurrection, since God uses the present tense in describing His relationship with the Jewish patriarchs.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus asserts that marriage will not occur at the resurrection. Ryle offers some insights on this point:

We know little of the life to come in heaven. Perhaps our clearest ideas of it are drawn from considering what it will not be, rather than what it will be. It is a state in which we will no longer be hungry or thirsty; sickness, pain and disease will not be known; wasting old age and death will have no place…we shall always be in God’s presence…we shall give all glory to the Lamb.

I continue to struggle with the concept of the complete absence of pain and suffering. My sense is that this life conditions me to accept the duality of joy and pain; for example, joyfulness is sharpened by painful memories, and vice versa. If so, then I wonder how I can be permanently joyful. I sense that this is a concept that I will not fully comprehend in this life; thus, I must continue to ask God to help me draw closer to His understanding of that concept as time passes.

We also see that many are “astonished” by Jesus’ assertion that Exodus 3:6 proves the veracity of the resurrection. As modern-day believers, we often fall into the trap of viewing His contemporaries with an air of superiority, as we do not engage in debates over the veracity of the resurrection. Yet we should note that He put forth a novel explanation of Exodus 3:6; this was a paradigm shift. Indeed, we also struggle with paradigm shifts, especially if we have an emotional connection with our mistaken beliefs (on a related note, I am curious about the interplay between neuroplasticity and paradigm shifts). Thus, instead of belittling His contemporaries, we should approach this passage with humility, thanking Him for His grace in giving us the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all wisdom.

Divorce July 1, 2018

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 19:1-12.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus enters the area of Perea, where He teaches and heals a sizable crowd.

Yet some Pharisees want to discredit Him; thus, they ask Him if He sanctions divorce for any reason. He responds in the negative, quoting from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 to support His position. These passages demonstrate that God has established marriage to display:

  • His divine plan for His creation
  • an unbreakable bond between two partners
  • the oneness of two partners – which cannot be divided
  • a divine action – which should not be reversed.

The Pharisees respond by referencing Deuteronomy 24:1-4, as they believe that God sanctions divorce in that passage. Jesus responds by asserting that God only tolerates divorce – and only when at least one partner has committed adultery.

His disciples respond by asserting that singleness is preferable to marriage. Jesus cautions them on this point, as only the following categories of people can prefer singleness to marriage:

  • those with congenital disorders
  • those who have been castrated
  • those who have chosen singleness to advance the kingdom of God.

Thoughts: Here, Jesus asserts that divorce should be avoided at all costs. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

Nations are nothing but a collection of families. The good order of families depends entirely on keeping up the highest standard of respect for the marriage tie…

I am thankful that I was raised in a two-parent household, as I believe that both of my parents provided me with tangible and intangible benefits (e.g. stability at home allowed me to reach my academic potential). If I had been raised in a single-parent household, I wonder how my life would have turned out (e.g. would I have come to faith in Christ). Clearly it is possible for children raised in single-parent households to be “successful”, though my limited understanding of this topic is that being raised in a two-parent household increases one’s “odds of success.” Knowledgeable readers should feel free to correct me on this point if I am mistaken.

This passage does raise several challenging questions regarding God’s view of divorce when neither partner has committed adultery. For example, as a believer, how should you respond if your spouse:

  • renounces their faith in Christ?
  • verbally abuses you on a regular basis?
  • physically abuses you on a regular basis?

My understanding of this passage is that Jesus does not sanction divorce in any of these scenarios, though I wonder if He would sanction a (hopefully) temporary separation in the third case. If your spouse physically abuses you, you should not seek to be in their presence, as placing one’s life in jeopardy would not honor God. Yet refusing to divorce a physically abusive spouse could serve as a powerful testimony to them. That being said, I am fairly ignorant of these matters; thus, I am willing to listen to those with more experience in this regard.

Divorce November 22, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 5:31-32.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus begins by quoting from Deuteronomy 24:1. He then interprets that commandment, asserting that (as evidenced by the more detailed account in Matthew 19:1-11):

  • God has designed marriage as a monogamous, intimate and enduring relationship
  • God conceded to human weakness in giving that commandment
  • remarriage after divorce is tantamount to adultery; an exception can be made for sexual sin, though.

Thoughts: Since I am not especially qualified to address this subject, I will simply make two general observations:

  • maintaining a marriage relationship is difficult
  • Jesus’ teaching in this passage is intended to provide a married couple with a long-term perspective on their relationship.

Hallelujah! February 28, 2016

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Here are my thoughts on Revelation 19:1-10.

Summary: In this passage, John hears a great multitude in heaven:

  • praising God – as He has punished the great prostitute for her sins and avenged all martyred believers
  • proclaiming the marriage between God the Son and His pure church.

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures join this doxology. An angel then proclaims that all who participate in the marriage between God the Son and His pure church are blessed. John is overcome by these words and actually prepares to worship this angel; the angel stops him, though, and re-directs his worship to God Himself.

Thoughts: Strolling through this book has compelled me to ponder the challenges that modern-day believers in First World countries face. In particular, I think that our situation is analogous to that of the Israelites during:

  • the times of the judges – especially after God delivered them from their enemies and granted them a respite from their tyranny
  • the reign of Solomon – after David had thoroughly subdued their enemies; at that time, the nation was prosperous, and Solomon was able to build a magnificent temple for God.

In those instances, Israel inevitably succumbed to idolatry and drifted away from God. Thus, I think it is important for modern-day believers in First World countries to consider:

  • Do we worship any idols?
  • What can cause us to drift away from God?

I believe that the answers to these questions will vary – to some extent – among believers. Yet we are bound by our shared calling to worship God in spirit and truth. Hopefully we can spur each other on in this regard, especially as we anticipate the return of the Lord.

Wives and Husbands May 24, 2012

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Here are my thoughts on Ephesians 5:22-33.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting wives to obey their husbands – as part of their obedience to Christ. Wives should obey their husbands – as the husband leads the wife, which is analogous to Christ leading His church; indeed, He is her savior. Nevertheless, just as the church is obedient to Christ, wives should obey their husbands in all things – according to God’s will.

Paul then exhorts husbands to love their wives – as Christ loved His church enough to die for her in order to sanctify her, having already removed her guilt via the rite of baptism, which is the sign of His promise of the forgiveness of her sins. Moreover, the ultimate objective of Christ in this regard is to display His church as His glorious bride – without any faults, but fully sanctified. Similarly, husbands should love their wives because their wives are their bodies; a man and his wife are one. This is based on the fact that a man will always nourish and cherish his own body – just as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church, which is His body. He illustrates the oneness between Christ and the church by quoting from Genesis 2:24, which states that a man and his wife are one. Indeed, the oneness between Christ and the church is beyond human understanding. Paul concludes by exhorting the Ephesians – although they cannot fully understand the oneness between Christ and the church – to apply what they do understand of that relationship to their marriages and:

  • love their wives as being themselves (in the case of the husbands)
  • acknowledge the superiority of their husbands (in the case of the wives).

Thoughts: In verse 23, we see that husbands are meant to lead their wives just as Christ leads His church. Hodge offers some interesting thoughts on this point:

The ground of the obligation, therefore, as it exists in nature, is the eminency of the husband – his superiority in those attributes which enable and entitle him to command. He is larger, stronger, bolder – he has more of those mental and moral qualities which are required in a leader. This is just as plain from history as that iron is heavier than water…The superiority of the man, however, is not only consistent with the mutual dependence of the sexes and their essential equality of nature and in the kingdom of God, but also with the inferiority of men to women in other qualities than those which entitle to authority.

I assume that men and women can agree on the point that “He is larger, stronger, bolder.” One can see this reality playing out in the loss of another women’s soccer league and the financial troubles of the WNBA. Clearly athleticism and viewer ratings have some positive correlation. As for Hodge’s note regarding “the inferiority of men to women in other qualities than those which entitle to authority,” he did not go on to list these qualities, though; providing such a list would have given his readers a better sense of his views on the equality of the sexes. On a related note, I am curious as to whether any women have written commentaries on Ephesians; if so, how did they interpret this passage?

In verse 26, we see that Christ has removed the guilt of the members of His church via the ceremony of baptism. Hodge offers some insights on this point:

Whatever he may have experienced or enjoyed before, this is the public conveyance to him of the benefits of the covenant and his inauguration into the number of the redeemed. If he is sincere in his part of the service, baptism really applies to him the blessings of which it is the symbol.

This caused me to ponder the significance of the baptism ceremony, as several high schoolers at our church were recently baptized. Now I have always believed that the day that one “prays the sinner’s prayer” is, in some sense, more important than the day that they publicly confirm it via baptism. Yet it is apparent from Hodge’s quote that the baptism ceremony itself conveys some important blessings. Perhaps God is always pleased when His people publicly glorify Him – by declaring Him to be their Lord and Savior in this case – and thus He rewards them for that declaration. Also, public baptism is based on Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, where God the Father publicly declared His approval of His Son and visibly empowered Him with His Spirit. Perhaps God approves of His sons who are being baptized, and He gives them more grace to fulfill His will in their lives. So, in some sense, public baptism is a more momentous occasion than I had realized.

An Illustration from Marriage March 5, 2011

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Here are my thoughts on Romans 7:1-6.

Summary: In this passage, Paul proves his assertion from Romans 6:14, where he states that believers are not under God’s moral law, but are actually under grace. In particular, he states that believers are not under God’s moral law since they have, in some sense, died. To show how death yields freedom from God’s moral law, he uses the illustration of a married woman, who is legally bound to her husband as long as he lives; in fact, she would be labeled an adulteress if she were to marry another man during her first husband’s lifetime. Now if her husband were to pass away, though, her legal ties to him would be severed and she would be free to marry another man. Given this illustration, Paul then infers that since we are united with Christ in His death on the cross, we have died to God’s moral law and are free from its obligations. Previously we were bound to obey God’s moral law, yet it actually spurred our sinful nature into action, causing us to serve sin and reap its “rewards.” Now the Holy Spirit empowers believers who have been freed from their obligations to obey God’s moral law, granting them the strength to serve God and bear fruit for Him.

Thoughts: In verse 6, we see the phrases “the new way of the Spirit” and “the old way of the written code.” Hodge explains them as follows:

That is, we serve God in a new and holy state due to the Spirit, which the Spirit has produced, and not sin in, or according to, the old and corrupt state under the law.

Clearly the presence of the Holy Spirit and its transformational power in our lives is essential for us to truly serve God and honor Him. As believers, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have to honor God by committing righteous acts and satisfying a “divine checklist” in the process. When we strive in this direction, though, we quickly see that we fall far short in this regard, and our conscience rebukes us. Indeed, we must continually remember that it is the Holy Spirit who leads us, and not the other way around. This is a struggle that is common to all Christians.