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A Brief Study on Marriage and Divorce in the Christian Community

Introduction:

The following is a study about Christian marriage or, more broadly, marriage and divorce in the Christian community.

This study has been made necessary due to recent changes in my own long-held (but in some respects erroneous) views, most especially in regards to the subject of divorce and remarriage.

As noted in my study notes to Mark 10:2-11, “Divorce” in Notes: Mark, 8-2006 (actual writing 11-21-06), it was due to the providence of God that in two study courses, one on 1st Corinthians and another on the Gospel of Mark, that I have been forced “the love of Christ compels me” (cf. 2. Cor. 5:14) to revisit and reevaluate my own understanding, leaning not on it but rather upon what the Word of God teaches.

This study, while certainly not the definitive work on the subject is, nonetheless, the result not of human will (as even I find some of the conclusions difficult to accept, in the flesh) but because the love of Christ the love for Christ, compels me to address these issues as the Lord, in His graciousness, has opened them to my understanding.  It is thus, my sincere hope and prayer to God, that His Word and Name be glorified in this work.

Article I.   Marriage

Section 1.01   Intro

(a)      Earthly Marriage Defined.

(b)      Purposes of and Limitations to.

                  (i)     Marriage was Intended for Companionship

                 (ii)     To Provide Man with a Helper Suitable to Him

               (iii)     To be a Life-Long Relationship

               (iv)     To be Monogamous

                 (v)     To be Heterosexual

(c)       Summary

Section 1.02  Spiritual Truths Relating to Marriage

(a)      Chief Purpose

(b)      Spiritual Truths, Images Behind Marriage

                  (i)     The Love of God Demonstrated in General

                 (ii)     The Love of God Demonstrated in Nurturing and Admonition of Family Members

               (iii)     The Love of God is the Heart of the Gospel

(c)       Summary

Article II.  Divorce

Section 2.01  Introduction

(a)      Divorce Defined

                  (i)     Hebrew O.T. Terms Related to Divorce

(ii)   N.T. Greek Terms Related to Divorce

                 (ii)     Summary

Section 2.02  Purposes, Practice, and Limitations of

(a)      Purpose

                  (i)     Example of the Progressive Nature of the Law and God’s Revelation of the Gospel Thereby

(b)      Divorce in the O.T.

                  (i)     O.T. Laws and Teachings re: Divorce.

(c)       Divorce in the N.T.

                  (i)     N.T Teachings Related to Divorce

                  (a)   Intro:
                   (b)  The Gospels on Divorce
                   (c)  Paul on Divorce
                   (d)  Summary

Section 2.03   Final Words

 

 

 

Article I.   Marriage

Section 1.01                                 Intro

Before any analysis of marriage and divorce can be undertaken, it is first necessary to define our terms.  This is especially so in our “post-modern” society where the meaning of just about any word or concept is, shall we say, “up for grabs,” that is, not having a fixed, unchanging meaning or definition but rather only that meaning or understanding that each individual attach to it.

For this study, the Holy Bible, the very Word of God, comprising of the 66 canonical books of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, will be our dictionary.

In the Scriptures, there are two basic types of marriage:

  • The Earthly; a physical, emotional, legal, and spiritual covenantal relationship between human beings. And,
  • The Spiritual; that is, spiritual truths revealed about the relationship of God with His Covenantal People, revealed through the medium of Earthly Marriage.

(a)      Earthly Marriage Defined

What is “earthly marriage” per God’s Word and why does it exist?

According to God, marriage is a covenantal[1] relationship between a man and a woman.  The first “marriage” as such, being made by the creation of Eve by God, to be a “helper” to Adam (cf. Genesis 2:18-24).  This account of the “first” marriage is affirmed by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ’s use of the very words of Genesis about the purpose and nature of marriage during His own earthly ministry [as God incarnate] and that reference was to the relationship between the first man and first woman, before there were any other humans on the planet (cf. Matthew 19:5).  This fact leaves us no alternative than to believe that Eve’s creation and giving to Adam by God Himself, was the “first” marriage on earth.

(b)      Purposes of and Limitations to Marriage

                  (i)     Marriage was Intended for Companionship.

After the creation of Adam, God saw that he was alone, the only one of his kind.  God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” (Gen. 2:18 (Bible NKJV, 1982))  So, God made a woman, Eve, so that man would have someone like himself (in humanity) to keep him company and be a help to him.  Also, Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9.

Related to companionship is to provide an outlet for the physical/spiritual expression of love between married partners.  This is wonderfully illustrated in the “Song of Solomon” in the Old Testament.  OF course, this has its greatest expression in the Love of Christ for the Church (to be discussed later).

                 (ii)     To Provide Man with a Helper Suitable to Him.

To provide man with someone to share in the responsibilities of life.  Eve was created to be “an help meet for him.” (KJV, 1769)  The expression comes from the Hebrew word ‛êzer[2] which means “helper.”  Compare also, Proverbs 19:14 “a prudent wife is from the Lord.” (KJV, 1769)

               (iii)     To be a Life-Long Relationship.

Marriage was instituted and intended by God to be a life-long relationship.  This truth is seen in the following passages:

  • Genesis 2:24– “the two shall become one flesh” italics and underline added for emphasis.
  • Matthew 19:6– “What God has joined together, let not man separated.”

               (iv)     To be Monogamous.

Marriage was never intended to be a polygamous affair.  Although there is no straightforward and direct prohibition of any and all polygamous marriages, e.g., “Thou shall not have 2 or more husbands/wives,” in the Old Testament (hereafter O.T.) Laws, there are several passages which, taken together, indicate that while God did make laws regulating it, it was not part of His original design for marriage.  The New Testament (hereafter N.T.) Scriptures bring home the truth of God’s original design for monogamous marriage.

For O.T. Scriptures, see: Genesis 2:24, the two [not 3, or 4, or…] becoming one flesh.  Leviticus 18:18, the prohibition on the simultaneous marriage of sisters.  Deuteronomy 17:17, prohibiting the kings of Israel from multiplying wives for themselves, a common practice among political leaders to solidify treaties and other political alliances.  And Proverbs 18:22, God’s reference to whoever finds “a good wife” [singular] finding favor from the Lord.

In the N.T. we have:

1st Corinthians 10:1ff telling us that what happened to those who came before, whether good or bad, was recorded in the O.T. Scriptures for our example.  Also there are the N.T. teachings that more clearly teach that the ideal marriage of God is a monogamous, life-long relationship.  Additionally, every N.T. reference to marriage that is not addressed to all husbands and/or all wives, refers to a man [singular] and his wife [singular] not wives.  And finally, the qualifications for leadership in the church include the fact that a leader must be “the husband of one wife.” Cf, 1st Timothy 3:1ff.

                 (v)     To be Heterosexual.

Marriage was intended to be between a man/male and a woman/female only.  It was not intended to be between two men or two women.  This is seen not only from God’s words in Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5 (supra), but also the fact that one of the purposes of marriage was and is, “Procreation.”  God commands mankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (cf. Genesis `:22, 28; 9:1,7; et al). something that a same-sex couple cannot do.  Furthermore, God has given abundant revelation that any sexual relationship between persons of the same-sex [homosexual or lesbian] is an abomination [great sin] to God.  Compare Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26, 27; 1st Corinthians 6:9; 1st Timothy 1:10.

(c)       Summary

Above we have looked briefly at the definition of, purposes for, and limitations to marriage as ordained by God.  In addition to the earthly purposes of marriage, all of which are for mankind’s blessing and good, the ordinance of marriage is also intended to teach several spiritual truths as well.

Section 1.02                                 Spiritual Truths Relating to Marriage.

(a)      Chief Purpose.

The chief spiritual truth revealed by/in marriage is the preaching of the Gospel.  But then, this is the chief spiritual truth of all Scripture. (cf. John 5:39).  “What,” you ask, “does marriage have to do with the preaching of the Gospel?”  The answer is, “Much.”

God inspired the writing of the entirety of the Holy Scriptures, including its teachings relative to marriage, for one primary purpose – to reveal Himself and His Gospel to Mankind.  This is affirmed in many places, among which are:

John 5:39 – Jesus says that the Scriptures speak of Him.

1st Corinthians 10:1-11 – That all [the O.T.] was recorded for our example.

2nd Timothy 3:16-17 – That all Scripture, including passages on marriage, were inspired by God to make us complete.

2nd Peter 1:3 – That all things necessary for life [temporal and eternal] and godliness [in this present life] are provided in the knowledge of Christ (by way of the inspired Scriptures which speak of Him).

From the above examples we can deduce that IF (and for only two letters, “if” is a very powerful word as all that follows hangs upon it) ALL Scripture was given by the inspiration of God to reveal Himself to us and to reveal His Gospel plan by which we are saved, then what is written in Scripture about marriage (and divorce) is so written not just to tell us what happened and what is required in our earthly relationships, but also and primarily, to teach us the spiritual truths of the Gospel and the relationship that is to exist between us and God.

(b)      Spiritual Truths, Images Behind Marriage.

Two of the greatest means by which God reveals Himself and His Gospel to us are through images of the human family; the husband/wife relationship and the parent/child relationship being primary.  There are others, to be sure, but those centered in the familial relationships are among the most beautiful and strongest.  It is my hope to demonstrate that, as designed by God, marriage illustrates the following truths about God and God’s [Gospel] plan:

                  (i)     The Love of God Demonstrated in General.

The love of God (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1st John 4:19) is demonstrated by the prescribed loving care of the wife by her husband (cf. Ephesians 5:25-32).  Note that God commands that husbands “love” αγαπατεG25 V-PAM-2P [3] (Robinson; James Strong, 1890) their wives even as, in the same manner, as Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for her.

Why would God command such a love?  Because it is the same type of love that Christ has for us and a great part of God’s plan of salvation is that we become like Christ (cf. Romans 8:29; 2nd Corinthians 3:18).  This is also born out in verses 26-28 of Ephesians 5 which gives the reason for the command as follows, “…that He might sanctify and cleanse her…that He might present her to Himself… holy, and without blemish.” (Bible NKJV, 1982) (Ellipsis and underscore added for emphasis and brevity.)  Notice that twice Paul begins with the conjunction “that,” a word which in context denotes a purpose for the preceding action.

Just as Christ has a purpose in loving and giving Himself for His bride [the Church], so too, the husband is given a purpose for loving and giving himself for his wife – to first, be an imitator of Christ and also to bless and sanctify her (cf. 1st Corinthians 7:14).  Therefore, the husband is to be towards his wife as Christ; self-sacrificing, non-condemning, gentle, patient, in all things working to draw her into a deeper relationship not just with himself, but with God and Christ.

How does this type of love of a husband for his wife related to the Gospel?  We know that this relationship as mandated in Scripture illustrates the Gospel message because Paul writes in verse 32 of Ephesians 5 that, he spoke that mystery “concerning Christ and the Church.” (Bible NKJV, 1982)

                 (ii)     The Love of God Demonstrated in Nurturing and Admonition of Family Members.

The love of God is further demonstrated in the nurture and admonition of spouses, one for the other and one’s children, to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that God’s blessing comes upon those who seek Him with a whole heart (cf. Matthew 6:33; Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalms 37:3-5).  It is in the sacrificial seeking of the other’s good that we find our Lord’s own example; He who left all the glory of Heaven to come in humbleness to us, to live among us, and ultimately to die for us, cf. Philippians 2:5-8.

               (iii)     The Love of God is the Heart of the Gospel.

The love of God, which is the heart of the Gospel, cf. John 3:16, is demonstrated by the union that exists between a husband and a wife; the two becoming “one flesh,” united in marriage.  So too, the believer is to become one with God (cf. John 17:22-26) just as Christ and the Father are one (cf. John 10:20)

The union that exists between a husband and a wife is more than a physical or mental, or emotional union.  It is a spiritual union forged by God and not to be broken by man (cf. Mark 10:9).  Just as the union between man and God, in the form of the Church is a spiritual union, of which God warns against any attempt at defilement, cf. 1st Corinthians 3:16-17.

(c)       Summary

In the above and in many other ways, marriage teaches us of the love of God; the patient, longsuffering, endurance of God (cd. Hosea; 1st Corinthians 13:4,7); and the forgiveness of God (cf. Hosea 2:14-23).  Even more so, a godly marriage teaches us or reflects the intimacy of the relationship that God desires with His people.  This intimacy is clearly reflected in the Song of Solomon.

Article II.                                      Divorce

Section 2.01                                 Intro.

If the whole of Scripture is inspired of God to reveal the Gospel of Christ by which we might be saved (cf. John 5:39, supra), what place does divorce have in this revelation?  What part does it play?  Is there any legitimate place for it in the church today?  And if so, to what effect?

(a)      Divorce Defined.

In the Scriptures, there are 4 terms directly related to divorce and one term indirectly but in context refers to divorce.  Those terms are:

Strong’s Number:
H- Hebrew O.T.
G- Greek N.T.
Hebrew/Greek Form Transliteration Relevant Verses per the KVJ or Authorized Version
H3748 כּריתוּת kerı̂ythûth Deuteronomy 24:1,3

Isaiah 50:1

Jeremiah 3:8[i]

H1644 גּרשׁ gârash Leviticus 21:14; 22:13

Numbers 30:9[ii]

G630 ἀπολύω apoluō Matthew 5:32[iii]
G647 ἀποστάσιον apostasion Matthew 5:31; 19:7

Mark 10:4

G683 ἀφίημι aphiēmi 1st Corinthians 7:11-13[iv] (Indirect but contextually referring to Divorce)

                  (i)     O.T. Hebrew Terms Related to Divorce:

H3748 kerı̂ythûth This term comes from H3772 kârath meaning to cut, to separate as in “cut off,” whether physically, i.e., cut off someone’s head (cf. 1st Samuel 5:4), or spiritually/socially (cf. Genesis 17:14).  As applied to marriage, the term refers specifically to the “bill of divorce” and is found only 3 times.  (See table).

H1644 gârash This word has many uses biblically, drive out, cast out, thrust out, drive away, etc. (see end note ii).  Of wives, it refers to “putting away” or “putting aside,” where H3748 kerı̂ythûth referred to the documents of divorce, gârash refers to the state of being divorced, see table above for usage.

                 (ii)     N.T. Greek Terms Related to Divorce.

G630 apoluō In the New Testament, a “bill of divorce,” G647 apostasion, is mentioned 3 times and only once the actual state of divorce.  The term apoluō referring to the state of divorce is also translated as “release,” “put away,”, “let go,” etc. (see end note ii) but only once is it used as “divorced.”

G647 apostasion The term apostasion is an interesting term.  Apostasion is a form of the word apostasia (G646, Strong’s) meaning “apostasy,” or a “falling away.”  However, Strong’s dictionary says the word is derived from G868, aphistemi, which means variously; to remove, to instigate a revolt, to desert, etc.

G683 aphiēmi This third term is found only 3 times in the N.T. in relation to marriage.  All three incidences are found in 1st Corinthians 7:11-13.  The first two occurrences reference the husband not “leaving” or “putting away” (contextually, not divorcing) his wife (vv. 11, 12 respectively) and the 3rd to a wife not leaving (or in context divorcing) her husband.

               (iii)     Summary

In other words, whether O.T. Hebrew, or N.T. Greek, the terms that are translated as divorce, much like names, have negative associations; sinful, shameful, defeated (Compare the Hebrew name Ichabod which means variously, “no glory,” “the glory has departed,” “where is the glory?”).

Section 2.02                                 Purpose, Practice, and Limitations

(a)      Purpose

Why, if marriage was intended to be for life, is there any provision for divorce at all?  Jesus Himself, during His earthly ministry[4] gives the answer, it was due to the hardness of men’s hearts (not women’s hearts, as women were not, nor are biblically allowed to file for divorce) cf. Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:5.  The renowned Bible Commentator, Matthew Henry explains this writing in his commentary on Mark 10:1-12
“(1.) That the reason why Moses, in his law, permitted divorce, was such, as that they ought not to make use of that permission; for it was only for the hardness of their hearts (Mar 10:5), lest, if they were not permitted to divorce their wives, they should murder them; so that none must put away their wives but such as are willing to own that their hearts were so hard as to need this permission.”  (M.H. Commentary on Mark 10:1-12, §II §§4 §§ (1).  This is a stunning indictment of the evil or hardness of men’s hearts, indeed.

The purpose then was twofold.  First, to save women’s lives who might otherwise suffer worse (one need only look around to see the truth of that).  Second, to force from the man, an admission of his own hard, sinful heart; a hard heart being equated in Scripture with a sinful heart, cf. Ezekiel 3:7; 11:19-21; 36:26; Mark 10:5; Romans 2:5; et al.

Related to the above is one of the purposes of almost every civil and/or criminal statute given by God to Moses, that was to put a limit, to put the brakes on what was already being practiced without God’s consent and/or to an excess.  For example, the laws limiting retaliation for harm done; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, were given to put an end to excessive retaliation by a victim or a victim’s family.  Thus, if, for example, if I, through negligence or design, cost one of your relatives the use of his right ear, (such as Peter cost one of the High Priest’s servant’s come to arrest Jesus in the Garden, cf. John 18:10), then under the Law, the most you could legally require from me was my own right ear.  You could not legally cause me any greater physical harm or crippling, nor could you legally kill me.  Neither could you do more to any relative of mine should I not be able to be held directly accountable.  Likewise, the Law on divorce, limited what a husband could do to a wife for anything short of adultery itself, for which there was another punishment, death for both the adulterer and adulteress.

Keep in mind that though there was a law allowing for divorce which limited what could be done, that Law did not promote or encourage the doing of it.  It merely “allowed” for it to be done lest something worse happen.

As with God’s other civil and/or criminal statutes, the Law on divorce represented a softening, a limiting on retaliation and an increase in justice which, just as with God’s revelation of Himself and His Gospel, was progressive in nature.  Thus, while permitted due to the hardness of men’s hearts, the Mosaic divorce laws were only one step in the revelatory process of God’s Gospel.  This can be seen by comparing other teachings of Jesus (directly or through His Apostles) about the laws of the O.T. and how men interpreted them incorrectly.  Remember also, the Law was not evil but “holy and just, and good,” according to Paul, cf. Romans 7:12.

                  (i)     Example of the Progressive Nature of the Law and God’s Revelation of the Gospel Thereby.

Numerous examples of the progressive nature of God’s revelation by way of the “Law” are found in the so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” in Matthew 5:1-7:29.  A portion of His sermon was explaining just what God’s Law really said as opposed to the many incorrect interpretations of it that existed in His day.  In Jesus’ Day, there were many rabbinical schools of thought regarding how to properly interpret the Torah and other Writings explaining it[5].  In Jesus day, as in our own, the schools of interpretation ran from extreme left/liberal to extreme right/harsh.  Needless to say, both sides, left and right, could not both be right.  Thus, many of Jesus’ teachings were to correct many of the erroneous teachings and beliefs that existed within the Jewish communities.

The following is excerpted from my own commentary on Matthew 5:21-48 “The Real Meaning of the Laws of God” available in full with related linked notes here:  https://sovereigngracebroadcaster.com/2015/10/06/meditations-on-the-gospel-according-to-saint-matthew-chapter-5-2/

Matthew 5:21-48 “The Real Meaning of the Laws of God”

v.21 – Regarding murder.  Jesus, citing the prohibition against murder, Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17, goes on to show that hatred, anger against another person, as opposed to hateful acts committed by that person, is the same as murdering them in one’s heart.  The Apostle John expanded on this when he wrote, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”  (1st John 3:10), and, “[whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1st John 3:15).

Vv.23-25 – Jesus speaks of the need/importance of reconciliation.

Vv.27-28 – Regarding adultery, First, Jesus cites the actual law, Exodus 20:14Deuteronomy 5:18; then He explains its true application, showing that to “think it” is to “do it.”  Thinking is in fact, a form of action, of doing.  Thus, the physical act has its beginnings in the mind or heart.

Vv.31-32 – Jesus set the record straight on God’s view of divorce.

  • First, He cites the Law on procedure – a certificate of divorce must be written and delivered to the other party, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1.
  • Then, to counter the liberal (for men) divorce laws practiced by the scribes and Pharisees (for whom just about anything constituted an “impurity” in the wife, and so, a justification for divorce), He limited divorce to its original intent, cases of sexual immorality.
  • For more on this subject, see: Matthew 19:3-9; 19:4-6; 19:7; 19:8-9 and associated notes following; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24Ezra 10:3ff and note[vi]; Malachi 2:15-16 and note[vii].

Vv.33-37 – Regarding oaths.  Jesus refers to the law against false oaths, cf. Numbers 30:2, and the practice of many to get around the law by swearing by anything but God.  Jesus points out that the Law was about ensuring honesty and reliability.  That you should not even need to make a vow to be believed.  Your word alone should be known to be reliable.  Compare v.37with James 5:12.

Vv.38-42 – Regarding vengeance.  Payback.  Jesus says, “Don’t do it.”  Cf. Romans 12:7, 14-21.  Non-resistance to attacks on one’s own person, rights, pride.

  • Note that this is not to say there is no place for vengeance. On the contrary, elsewhere Scripture teaches that vengeance belongs to the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrew 10:30), and that this is not a contradiction of God’s laws on retribution/vengeance as given to Moses in Exodus, cf. Exodus 21:12ff.  Jesus is simply saying here that we ourselves are not to seek vengeance.  Vengeance, if it is to be had, is to be left to God’s perfect judgment and justice.
  • Related to the above point, we read that one of the functions of a lawful government is to be the executor of His judgment upon evil-doers, cf. Romans 13:4.

Vv.43-48 – Regarding love.  Jesus addresses the issue of love.  Here the Greek word is ἀγαπάω, Strong’s #25, agapao – to love with agape type love.  He shows how love is to be practiced, to whom it is to be shown (including enemies) and why (because God gave us the example to follow.)

(b)      Divorce in the O.T.

The first recorded incidence of divorce in the Bible is found in Genesis 21, the sending away by Abraham of Hagar, the Egyptian who had been given to him as a second wife by Sarai (cf. Genesis 16:3).  Naturally, this marriage of convenience was against the intended design of marriage, one man, one woman, for life.  It was also against His plan of Redemption, God intending that His Messiah be descended from Abraham through Sarai/Sarah, not Hagar. The resulting strife resulted in Hagar’s having to leave with her son.  That strife that began between Hagar and Sarai/Sarah and their respective offspring Israel and Ishmael, and descendants is still on-going as can be seen in Israel and the Middle East today.

The next recorded incidence is that involving the Philistine wife of Samson.  Here we have a woman married by Samson in conflict with God’s Law prohibiting marriage between God’s Covenant People and pagans, cf. Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3; Judges 14:1-15:6.[6]  In this case, the “divorce” was made by the bride’s father following Samson’s apparent failure to consummate the marriage after his angry departure from the wedding party.  Here the “divorce” was according to the customs of the Philistines and initiated by the father of the bride.  Here again, conflict, bitterness, and long term hostility were the end products.  In truth, neither this nor the similar experience of David’s wife Michal, that of being given away from out under his feet by her father Saul, cf. 1st Samuel 25:44, can be considered as examples of “divorces” per se as neither were initiated by the spouses in question but by the fathers of the brides.  But, as they do show the negative results of the forced termination of marriage by other than the natural death of a spouse, they do teach us the sanctity of marriage and the consequences of an early termination.

The next example is found in the Book of Ezra.  The following is excerpted from my Commentary on Ezra, found in part as a foot note to Matthew 5:21-48 in my Commentary on Matthew.  The commentary is to Ezra 10:3ff.

Ezra 10:3ff

(3)  Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

(4)  Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”

(5)  Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.

(6)  Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.

(7)  And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,

(8)  and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.

(9)  So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

(10)  Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.

(11)  Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.”

(12)  Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.

Divorce!

The men of Israel, recognizing their sin in having taken “pagan wives” (verse 2) now want to remedy the problem by a radical solution.  They propose to Ezra, a covenant with God to put away, divorce their pagan wives and children.

Though the Bible faithfully records this event, I do not believe their solution was according to God’s will.  I believe it was simply sinful men trying to get right with God according to their own understanding.  Did they succeed?  Only God knows.  Was their choice the best, or even the right one?  No, I don’t believe so.  But one must recognize that their understanding of God and His nature was still limited.  Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, had not yet come.

Jesus teaches that Moses allowed divorces “because of the hardness” of men’s hearts, but that it was never God’s plan.

See Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-10; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24 for the New Testament teachings on Divorce and Malachi 2:16 for God’s attitude towards it.

And there you have it.  In all the O.T., apart from the laws themselves, there are only 3 (4 if you count David and Michal, 2 if you discount both David and Samson) cases of divorce recorded.  Clearly divorce, at least among God’s people was something that, if the amount of mention it received indicates anything, was supposed to be both a serious and a rare matter.

There is one other divorce recorded in Scripture but it is not a divorce between a man and a woman but a divorce between a nation [Israel] and her God.  It is recorded in the book of Jeremiah, third chapter, 8th verse, where God declares that He had put her away and given her a Certificate of Divorce for all her unrepentant [spiritual] adulteries.  Yet, if one reads this in context, verses 6-25, this divorce was but one more effort on the part of a loving God to awaken the conscience of the people of Israel and bring them back to Himself in repentance.  Note how in verse 14 of that chapter, God says He is still married to them even though He had put away and given them a Certificate of Divorce.  This particular event teaches 3 things.

  • Even a divorce for cause only severs the communion between spouses and not the union itself. Thus, the ability to receive the divorced wife back (e.g., the permanence of marriage).
  • The mercy and patience of God toward us. Israel, having been guilty of adultery could have been killed [metaphorically] outright.  Instead, God opted for mercy and continued calls for repentance by only divorcing her.
  • That unlike man’s, God’s divorce is motivated not by His hardness of heart but rather, His love for His people. This is evidenced by His repeated calls for Judah to respond correctly to the example of what happened to her sister Israel, and for Israel to return to Him.

                  (i)     O.T. Laws and Teachings re: Divorce.

Related to the subject of the practice of Divorce are the laws governing divorce.  The first such law (in order of appearance in Scripture) is found in Leviticus 21:14, the law defining whom a priest of the Lord may and may not marry.  Among the may not’s being a “divorced” woman.  This restriction was to protect the purity/holiness of the priest and by extension the name of God whose servant/representative he was.[7]

Next is the provision in the Law for the return home of a daughter of a priest who is a “widow or divorced and has no child,” cf. Leviticus 22:12-13.

In Numbers 20:8, it is interesting to note that the vow of a “divorced woman” (who is not living under her father’s roof) shall be counted as valid.  An elevation of not just a divorced woman but of women in general not heard of among the pagan religions of the day, wrongfully of many “Christian churches through to the 20th Century, and still unheard of in Islam!  This also corresponds with Christ’s teaching that divorce was due to the hardness of the “man’s heart,” that a woman so wronged by her husband (remember, this does not cover adulteresses who were to be stoned along with their cheating partner), that God would elevate her societal and legal position in the nation rather than have her suffer additional hardship and stigma.  Truly God is a merciful and loving God.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 give several regulations regarding divorce.  It allows divorce for reasons of uncleanness (the Hebrew word used H6172 ‛ervâh some type of physical or social impurity short of adultery.  While falling short of the N.T. standard, this restriction on divorce was an improvement over many contemporary practices and consistent with God’s progressive revelation.  Compare with the law permitting women divorced under this provision who were w/o children to return to the homes of their fathers as an example of God’s merciful provision for the unloved and unwanted.  Notice the provision in verse 4 that prohibits the husband from taking back the wife he divorced for uncleanness if she had subsequently been remarried and later widowed or divorced.  Such a marriage (remarrying a previous wife who had later married and was divorced or widowed) was itself considered to be a defilement, testifying to the sacredness of marriage and its intended lifelong nature. (Remember this key provision indicating the legitimacy under the Law, of remarriage under certain circumstances.  I believe it ties in readily with Paul’s writings in 1st Corinthians chapter 7 regarding an unbelieving spouse who abandons his/her wife/husband, that even at their harshest or strongest, God’s Laws are never meant to put down but to protect and elevate His people.  Even those whose application result in the death of some law breakers, e.g., death penalty/capital offenses are meant for the overall good of His people in there being a warning to the rest.

(c)       Divorce in the N.T.

There are no N.T. accounts of divorce in the N.T.  The closest thing would be the Samaritan woman at the well who gave Jesus water to drink.  She had been with numerous men, none of whom had been her husband.  But, that is another subject.

                  (i)     N.T. Teachings regarding Divorce.

a)         Intro

As explained earlier, in line with the progressive nature of God’s revelation of Himself and His Gospel, the various laws: civil, criminal, ceremonial, and moral of the O.T. were given to begin teaching us about God and our relation to Him as His creation and/or His people.  As the beginning of His revelation, the teachings and lessons of the O.T. find their completion in Christ and the N.T. Scriptures.

One other quick note.  Though we speak in terms of the Old Testament and the New Testament, it must be understood that we are speaking only in terms of the extent of revelation of God’s Salvation plan or Gospel.  There is and always has been only one plan of salvation, one Gospel.  Thus, Christ and His teachings are the fulfillment, the completion of what God began revealing of Himself, of ourselves, of His redemptive plan through Moses and the Prophets.  There is therefor, no conflict, no contradiction between what is revealed in the O.T. compared with what is revealed in the New when dealing with the same subject matter, the teachings are complimentary, not contradictory.

b)         The Gospels on Divorce

That said, there are only a few passages in the N.T. that deal with the subject of divorce.  Let us examine them.

The first reference (sequentially) is found in Jesus’ so-called, “Sermon on the Mount., Matthew 5:1-7:29 in which Jesus, in a demonstration of His authority as the God of the O.T., corrects and/or explains the proper understanding of and/or application of God’s Laws as previously revealed in the O.T.  Many of God’s laws, as previously noted, had by the time of Christ’s advent been perverted by or even supplanted by the teachings of men, but that too is another subject for another day.

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus addresses divorce.  He said,

31″Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  (32)  But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

As I have previously addressed this passage earlier in this study (supra) I will refer you back to that section and simply add this little bit.  Jesus set the record straight on God’s view of divorce.  First, He cites the Law and the procedure, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  Then to counter the liberal and sinful divorce laws practiced by the scribes and Pharisees – just about anything could be considered an “impurity” or “uncleanness” according to them, He limits divorce to cases of sexual immorality on the part of the wife.  “Sexual immorality” or πορνειας the Greek porneias from Strong’s G4202, in context bearing the meaning of fornication not involving adultery as adultery while certainly including fornication was a separate and much more serious offense punishable by death.

The next time divorce is mentioned is Matthew 19:3ff, again it is in context of our Lord correcting man’s misrepresentations of God’s Law and going on to address God’s reason for it in the first place.  Following is an excerpt from my commentary on Matthew that deals with this passage.

19:3 Liberals – vs. – Conservatives

  • The Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful in the eyes of God, for a man to divorce his wife “for just any reason.” This is the key to their question:  In the first century, there were two main divisions within the sect of the Pharisees; one very liberal, the other very strict.
  • The liberals thought that a man could divorce his wife for just about anything that displeased him – if she burned supper, spilled wine on his favorite robe, whatever. In effect, they were trying to see which side of their debate Jesus would take.  They were not interested in what God had actually said in His word as much as whose side Jesus would take.
  • The two factions; liberals who were followers of Rabbi Hillel, and conservatives who were followers of Rabbi Shammai, were both well established in Jesus’ day.

19:3-9                      Re: Divorce

  • Jesus corrects the Pharisees about marriage/divorce. Cf. Mark 10:1-2.

The Whole Counsel

  • See also: Matthew 5:31-32 and note to 5:21-48 The Real Meaning of God’s Laws, supra.
  • One important consideration not previously mentioned, at least not in relation to this topic, is that one must take the whole counsel of God into consideration when dealing with how to apply Scripture in our lives. We cannot take one or two verses that, by themselves, support our preconceived (or preferred) views.  We must take all of what God has to say on any given topic.

See Matthew 7:7-8 and 17:20[v] and their notes to see how and why taking the whole counsel of God into consideration is important.

19:4-5                      According to the Word

  • Instead of arguing from conflicting traditions, Jesus takes them to the Word of God.
  • Compare Isaiah 8:20.

19:7 Command OR Permit?

  • Matthew reports the Pharisees responding to Jesus by asking why Moses “commanded” them to give a certificate of divorce and thus put away his wife. Compare this with Mark 10:4 where Mark records the Pharisees saying that Moses “permitted” or “allowed” men to divorce.
  • While there seems to be a conflict between these accounts, it is not necessarily so. Both accounts report that there were a number of Pharisees who came to test Jesus on the matter of divorce.
  • Mark 10:2 makes it very clear that the motives of the Pharisees were not pure; that is, they were not interested in the truth but rather, to see if they could trap Jesus up by getting Him to take sides in their own debate (see note to 19:3 above), thus showing a weakness in His own teachings.
  • Matthew and Mark, in all probability, simply recorded two different responses by two different Pharisees among those present and those two being on opposite sides of the debate. Notice, the Pharisee in Matthew’s account presses the issue by misstating the law of God as “commanding” divorce (as some interpret the passage).  The Pharisee in Mark’s account merely states that it was “allowed” without touching on why.
  • Another, and I believe more accurate consideration is that the Pharisee’s reply in Matthew about God’s “command” dealt not with a command “to divorce” but rather a procedural matter in divorce, that is, a “certificate of divorce” being a required element. In the latter case, there is still no conflict with Mark.  In Matthew, the Pharisee seems to side-step the legality of divorce in general by emphasizing an element in the prescribed divorce procedure.  Look at the exchange:

3 Some Pharisees approached Him to test Him.  They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” 5 and He also said:

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother

and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?”

8 He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts.  But it was not like that from the beginning.  9 And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

(Holman Christian Standard Bible) Bold, Italics and underline added for emphasis.

  • Notice that the original question was if it was lawful to divorce on “any grounds,” Jesus replies, effectively, “No.” The Pharisee then comes back with why Moses (speaking for God) “commanded” them to “give divorce papers” to the wife and then send her away.  This is a false citation of Deuteronomy 24:1 where Moses gives first the reason and then process for divorcing one’s wife.  The reason being “uncleanness” and the process, giving her divorce papers and sending her away.  Notice the Pharisees’ reply did not deal with the original question or Jesus’ response, shifting to the process instead!  Jesus then clarifies the matter stating that Moses “permitted” (not commanded) divorce itself and so, there is no conflict but rather agreement between Matthew and Mark.

19:8-9                      God Hates Divorce

  • God is against divorce (cf. 19:4-6; Mark 10:5-9) though He did make allowance for it due to man’s own hardness of heart. He limits it to such cases where the marriage covenant had already been broken by infidelity.  Yet even then, He does not endorse divorce, He merely “allows” it.
  • Compare Jesus’ direct teaching here with His teaching through Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15). There, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, expands Jesus’ teaching to cover an area not raised during Jesus’ earthly ministry, or raised but not previously recorded (cf. John 21:25).

19:8-9 (cont.)       Infidelity

  • Verse 9 gives the only reason allowed for divorce – sexual immorality!
  • “Sexual” immorality, or fornication (Greek, πορνεία, porneia Strong’s #G4202) (James Strong, 1890), was the uncleanness referred to in the Law of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 24:1). The Hebrew word in Deuteronomy being ערוה, ‛ervâh, lit.  “nakedness,” Strong’s #H6172,  (James Strong, 1890) is the same word used in Leviticus 18:18 “uncover her nakedness,” a reference to having “sexual relations” with one’s step-mother is the same sin described in 1 Corinthians 5:1 called “fornication” or “sexual immorality.”

19:10-12                 Celibacy

  • Jesus addresses the issue of celibacy. It is ok for some, but not for all.  This teaching of Jesus (and later expanded on by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-3) directly contradicts the ordinance of the Roman Catholic Church, that forbids priests, bishops, monks, nuns, etc., from being married.  Compare also 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
  • Celibacy, marriage, singleness are all issues of individual calling and God given disposition.

Next, we have a parallel account of the encounter found in Mark’s Gospel, 10:1-12.  Again, Jesus takes them first to the Word of God, not popular wisdom.  Then having directed them to God’s Word, He tells them what it means, not according to man’s interpretation, or better, misinterpretation, but according to God’s.

c)         Paul on Divorce

Finally, we have the teachings of God as revealed through the Apostle Paul, as found in 1st Corinthians 7:11-13.  Outside of the Gospels, this is the only other place the subject of divorce is referenced and even here, only indirectly and in context, using Old Testament phraseology.

Here is the passage as found in the King James (Meyers, 2002-2014) Version with Strong’s Numbers.

1Corinthians 7:11-13 KJV+

11  ButG1161 andG2532 ifG1437 she depart,G5563 let her remainG3306 unmarried,G22 orG2228 be reconciledG2644 to her husband:G435 andG2532 let notG3361 the husbandG435 put awayG863 his wife.G1135  12  ButG1161 to theG3588 restG3062 speakG3004 I,G1473 notG3756 theG3588 Lord:G2962 If anyG1536 brotherG80 hathG2192 a wifeG1135 that believeth not,G571 andG2532 sheG846 be pleasedG4909 to dwellG3611 withG3326 him,G846 let him notG3361 put her away.G863 G846  13  AndG2532 the womanG1135 whichG3748 hathG2192 an husbandG435 that believeth not,G571 andG2532 if heG846 be pleasedG4909 to dwellG3611 withG3326 her,G846 let her notG3361 leaveG863 him.G846 (Meyers, 2002-2014)

Modern translations, understanding the context simply render the term “divorce.”  See, for example:

1Co 7:11-13 NKJV But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.

And that’s it. No other reference in the New Testament outside of the Gospels.  So, what can we learn from this?  Let’s first go back to the older translation and the terms “put away” and “leave” respectively.  The term aphiēmi, Strong’s G683 is translated “put away” when used in reference to the husband’s actions and “leave” in reference to a wife’s actions.  In the one case, it directly references and uses terminology equivalent to the O.T. usage where it speaks of a man “putting away” or “divorcing” his wife for cause.  In the latter, regarding the wife’s actions, the term is translated “leave” which while not phrased the same as with a man, does mean the same in context.  Remember, in the O.T., a woman could not file for divorce under any circumstances.  Yet, when we read chapter 7 of 1st Corinthians in its entirety, we see a reference to the wife leaving (or divorcing) her husband, “10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband…” (Bible NKJV, 1982).  This is something new in the matter of divorce, the possibility of wife leaving or divorcing her husband.  Albert Barnes, in his commentary writes the following:

Let not the wife depart … – Let her not prove faithless to her marriage vows; let her not, on any pretense, desert her husband. Though she is a Christian. and he is not, yet let her not seek, on that account, to be separate from him – The law of Moses did not permit a wife to divorce herself from her husband, though it was sometimes done (compare Mat 10:12); but the Greek and Roman laws allowed it – Grotius. But Paul here refers to a formal and legal separation before the magistrates, and not to a voluntary separation, without intending to be formally divorced. The reasons for this opinion are:

(1) That such divorces were known and practiced among both Jews and pagans.

(2) It was important to settle the question whether they were to be allowed in the Christian church.

(3) The claim would be set up, probably, that it might be done.

(4) The question whether a “voluntary separation” might not be proper, where one party was a Christian, and the other not, he discusses in the following verses, 1Cor 7:12-17. Here, therefore, he solemnly repeats the law of Christ, that divorce, under the Christian economy, was not to be in the power either of the husband or wife. (Barnes, (1798-1870))

Matthew Henry, in his commentary writes:

  1. To the advice itself, which is that if an unbelieving husband or wife were pleased to dwell with a Christian relative, the other should not separate. The husband should not put away an unbelieving wife, nor the wife leave an unbelieving husband, 1Cor 7:12, 1Cor 7:13. The Christian calling did not dissolve the marriage covenant, but bind it the faster, by bringing it back to the original institution, limiting it to two persons, and binding them together for life. The believer is not by faith in Christ loosed from matrimonial bonds to an unbeliever, but is at once bound and made apt to be a better relative. But, though a believing wife or husband should not separate from an unbelieving mate, yet if the unbelieving relative desert the believer, and no means can reconcile to a cohabitation, in such a case a brother or sister is not in bondage (1Cor 7:15), not tied up to the unreasonable humour, and bound servilely to follow or cleave to the malicious deserter, or not bound to live unmarried after all proper means for reconciliation have been tried, at least of the deserter contract another marriage or be guilty of adultery, which was a very easy supposition, because a very common instance among the heathen inhabitants of Corinth. In such a case the deserted person must be free to marry again, and it is granted on all hands. And some think that such a malicious desertion is as much a dissolution of the marriage-covenant as death itself. For how is it possible that the two shall be one flesh when the one is maliciously bent to part from or put away the other? Indeed, the deserter seems still bound by the matrimonial contract; and therefore the apostle says (1Cor 7:11), If the woman depart from her husband upon the account of his infidelity, let her remain unmarried. But the deserted party seems to be left more at liberty (I mean supposing all the proper means have been used to reclaim the deserter, and other circumstances make it necessary) to marry another person. It does not seem reasonable that they should be still bound, when it is rendered impossible to perform conjugal duties or enjoy conjugal comforts, through the mere fault of their mate: in such a case marriage would be a state of servitude indeed. But, whatever liberty be indulged Christians in such a case as this, they are not allowed, for the mere infidelity of a husband or wife, to separate; but, if the unbeliever be willing, they should continue in the relation, and cohabit as those who are thus related. This is the apostle’s general direction.
d)         Summary

Notice that, unlike taught in some fundamentalist circles and commonly found even today in some churches, the teaching of Scripture as affirmed by Barnes and Henry among others, while affirming God’s intention that marriage be a life-long covenant, also makes provision for those cases, where men’s (or women’s) hearts are hardened to the point where they do harm to the one to whom they owe fealty and love.  Rather than making of marriage a bondage like unto that of a slave, He reveals it for what it is meant to be, a loving, tender, and uplifting thing.  And when there is harm being done, whether physical, emotional, or a combination thereof, He provides a process by which the matter may be resolved either preserving and restoring the marriage to what it was meant to be, or providing a means of life saving escape for the injured party.

Section 2.03                                 Final Words

I don’t pretend to have presented here the definitive word on the difficult subject of Marriage and Divorce.  I do believe, however, that by the grace of God, what I have learned in my studies of God’s Word, and of the nature of God, that He is both Holy and will not tolerate sin, yet is loving and tenderhearted towards His children, leads me to the conclusion that both Marriage as created by God, and Divorce, as allowed and regulated by God are both, as with everything else, used by God, transformed by God into that which is “for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose,” that we might be “conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” which is our ultimate good, to become like Christ.  Cf. Romans 8:28-29.  In Biblical Marriage, we have presented a beautiful picture of Christ in relation to His Church, in relation to us, of great love and fidelity.  In Biblical Divorce, we have a picture of both the devastation of sin in the lives of man and particularly husbands and wives, but also of God’s provision and tendency to protect the innocent and the wounded.  To provide for hope and for life.  That being the case, marriage is an estate into which one should neither rush to enter, nor to depart.  But in all cases, we should seek His will for our lives and His glory in them.

May God bless the reader of this work.

Michael Fernandez            February 26, 2017

 

End Notes:

[1] Covenantal- adjective from: Covenant.

Covenant (Webster, 1828)

COVENANT, n. [L, to come; a coming together; a meeting or agreement of minds.]

 

  1. A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed; or it may be implied in the contract.

 

  1. A writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties; or the clause of agreement in a deed containing the covenant.

 

  1. In theology, the covenant of works, is that implied in the commands, prohibitions, and promises of God; the promise of God to man, that mans perfect obedience should entitle him to happiness. This do, and live; that do, and die.

 

The covenant of redemption, is the mutual agreement between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of sinners by Christ.

 

The covenant of grace, is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel.

 

  1. In church affairs, a solemn agreement between the members of a church, that they will walk together according to the precepts of the gospel, in brotherly affection.

 

COVENANT, v.i. To enter into a formal agreement; to stipulate; to bind ones self by contract. A covenants with B to convey to him a certain estate. When the terms are expressed ti has for before the thing or price.

 

They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. Mat 26.

 

COVENANT, v.t. To grant or promise by covenant.

[2] ‛êzer

(James Strong, 1890)

H5828

עזר

‛êzer

ay’-zer

From H5826; aid: – help.

[3] Αγαπατε

(James Strong, 1890)

G25

ἀγαπάω

agapaō

ag-ap-ah’-o

Perhaps from ἄγαν agan (much; or compare [H5689]); to love (in a social or moral sense): – (be-) love (-ed). Compare G5368.

Αγαπατε

V-PAM-2P (Robinson)

Part of Speech: Verb

Tense: Present

Voice: Active

Mood: iMperative

Person: second [you+]

Number: Plural

 

[4] A point of clarification.  Any and every time I make a statement of the type, “Jesus Himself” says, said, etc., I refer to a recorded statement that Jesus made during His incarnation.  As Jesus is God, anything Scripture teaches, O.T. or N.T., is His Word and carries the same weight of validity as those things that are recorded of His earthly ministry.

[5] The Hebrew Scriptures also referred to as the Tanak or Tanakh were comprised of the Torah or Pentateuch,(Exodus-Deuteronomy) the Nevi’im or Prophets (Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I-II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve (or Minor) Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) and the Ketuvim or Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, I-II Chronicles).  In addition to the Scriptures, the Jews held as authoritative the various writings explaining them, much like our commentaries today only carrying far more weight, principal among them being the Talmud.

[6] Interesting historical note.  Those restrictions prohibiting marriage outside the Hebrew Faith/Covenant Faith, were used (and still are today) by many to incorrectly teach racial separation in marriage, that is to wrongfully prohibit interracial marriage.  Those laws were not about “race” but about “religion.”

[7] Historical note:  Nowhere in Scripture is to be found the practice of mandated priestly celibacy.  That is strictly a papist invention.

[i] Per the KJV Concordance there are only 4 occurrences of the Hebrew term, all of which are related to Divorce.

divorcement, 3

Deu_24:1, Deu_24:3, Isa_50:1

divorce, 1

Jer_3:8

(KJV Concordance)

[ii] Per the KJV Concordance, there are 46 different occurrences of the Hebrew term with different meanings.  Only 3 of them refer to Divorce.  These are as follows:

Total KJV Occurrences: 46

drive, 12

Exo_6:1, Exo_23:28-31 (4), Exo_33:2, Exo_34:11, Num_22:6, Num_22:11, Jdg_2:3, Hos_9:15, Zep_2:4

cast, 9

Gen_21:10, 2Ch_20:11, Psa_78:55, Psa_80:8, Pro_22:10, Isa_57:20, Amo_8:8, Jon_2:4, Mic_2:9

thrust, 6

Exo_11:1, Exo_12:39, Deu_33:27, Jdg_9:41, Jdg_11:2, 1Ki_2:27

driven, 5

Gen_4:14, Exo_10:11, 1Sa_26:19, Job_30:5, Eze_31:11

divorced, 3

Lev_21:14, Lev_22:13, Num_30:9

drave, 3

Jos_24:12, Jos_24:18, Jdg_6:9

drove, 3

Gen_3:24, Exo_2:17, Psa_34:1

put, 2

Lev_21:7, Eze_44:22

driving, 1

1Ch_17:21

expel, 1

Jdg_11:7

troubled, 1

Isa_57:20

(KJV Concordance)

 

[iii] Total KJV Occurrences 111. 111 of which only 1 refers to Divorce.    These are as follows:

Total KJV Occurrences: 111

away, 27

Mat_1:19, Mat_5:31-32 (2), Mat_14:15, Mat_15:22-23 (3), Mat_15:32, Mat_15:39, Mat_19:3, Mat_19:7-9 (4), Mar_6:36, Mar_6:45, Mar_8:3, Mar_8:9, Mar_10:2, Mar_10:4, Mar_10:11-12 (2), Luk_8:38, Luk_9:12, Luk_16:18 (2), Act_13:3

go, 13

Luk_14:3-4 (2), Luk_22:68, Luk_23:22, Act_3:12-13 (2), Act_4:21, Act_4:23, Act_5:40, Act_15:33, Act_16:35-36 (2), Act_17:9, Act_28:18

put, 13

Mat_1:18-19 (2), Mat_5:31-32 (2), Mat_19:3, Mat_19:7-9 (4), Mar_10:2, Mar_10:4, Mar_10:11-12 (2), Luk_16:18

release, 13

Mat_27:15, Mat_27:17, Mat_27:21, Mar_15:9, Mar_15:11, Luk_23:16-18 (3), Luk_23:20, Joh_18:39 (2), Joh_19:10, Joh_19:12

let, 10

Luk_22:68, Act_3:12-13 (2), Act_5:40, Act_15:33, Act_16:35-36 (2), Act_17:9, Act_23:22, Act_28:18

sent, 7

Mat_14:22-23 (2), Mat_15:39, Mar_6:45, Mar_8:9, Luk_8:38, Act_13:3

send, 6

Mat_14:15, Mat_15:23, Mat_15:32, Mar_6:36, Mar_8:3, Luk_9:12

released, 4

Mat_27:26, Mar_15:6, Mar_15:15, Luk_23:25

at, 2

Act_26:32, Heb_13:23

depart, 2

Luk_2:29, Act_23:22

dismissed, 2

Act_15:30, Act_19:41

liberty, 2

Act_26:32, Heb_13:23

loosed, 2

Mat_18:27, Luk_13:12

set, 2

Act_26:32, Heb_13:23

departed, 1

Act_28:25

divorced, 1

Mat_5:32

forgive, 1

Luk_6:37

forgiven, 1

Luk_6:37 (2)

lettest, 1

Luk_2:29

putteth, 1

Luk_16:18

(KJV Concordance)

 

[iv] Total KJV Occurrences: 156.. Only 3 of them or I should say only 3 times do any of them refer to Divorce.

left, 36

Mat_4:20, Mat_4:22, Mat_8:15, Mat_22:22, Mat_22:25, Mat_23:38, Mat_24:2, Mat_24:40-41 (2), Mat_26:44, Mar_1:20, Mar_1:31, Mar_8:13, Mar_10:28-29 (2), Mar_12:12, Mar_12:20-22 (3), Mar_13:2, Mar_13:34, Luk_4:39, Luk_13:35, Luk_17:34-36 (3), Luk_18:28-29 (2), Luk_21:6, Joh_4:3, Joh_4:28, Joh_4:52, Joh_8:29, Act_14:17, Heb_2:8, Rev_2:4

forgive, 23

Mat_6:12 (2), Mat_6:14-15 (4), Mat_9:6, Mat_18:21, Mat_18:35, Mar_2:7, Mar_2:10, Mar_11:25-26 (4), Luk_5:21, Luk_5:24, Luk_11:4 (2), Luk_17:3-4 (2), Luk_23:34, 1Jo_1:9

forgiven, 21

Mat_9:2, Mat_9:5, Mat_12:31-32 (4), Mar_2:5, Mar_2:9, Mar_3:28, Mar_4:12, Luk_5:20, Luk_5:23, Luk_7:47-48 (3), Luk_12:10 (2), Act_8:22, Rom_4:7, Jam_5:15, 1Jo_2:12

let, 15

Mat_7:4, Mat_8:22, Mat_13:30, Mat_27:49, Mar_7:27, Mar_14:6 (2), Mar_15:36, Luk_6:42, Luk_9:60, Luk_13:8, Joh_11:44, Joh_11:48, Joh_18:7-8 (2)

leave, 11

Mat_5:24, Mat_18:12, Mat_23:23, Mar_12:19, Luk_11:42, Luk_19:44, Joh_14:18, Joh_16:27-28 (2), Joh_16:32, 1Co_7:13

suffer, 8

Mat_3:15, Mat_19:14, Mat_23:13, Mar_7:12, Mar_10:14, Luk_18:16 (2), Rev_11:9

alone, 6

Mat_15:14, Mar_14:6, Mar_15:36, Luk_13:8, Joh_11:48, Joh_12:7

suffered, 6

Mat_3:15, Mar_1:34, Mar_5:19, Mar_5:37, Luk_8:51, Luk_12:39

away, 4

Mar_4:36 (2), 1Co_7:11-12 (2)

forsook, 4

Mat_26:56, Mar_1:18, Mar_14:50, Luk_5:11

leaving, 3

Luk_10:30, Rom_1:27, Heb_6:1

forgave, 2

Mat_18:27, Mat_18:32

forsaken, 2

Mat_19:27, Mat_19:29

leaveth, 2

Joh_10:11-12 (2)

put, 2

1Co_7:11-12 (2)

sent, 2

Mar_4:36 (2)

aside, 1

Mar_7:8

cried, 1

Mar_15:37

forgiveth, 1

Luk_7:49

go, 1

Mar_11:6

laying, 1

Mar_7:8

omitted, 1

Mat_23:23

remit, 1

Joh_20:23 (2)

remitted, 1

Joh_20:23 (2)

yielded, 1

Mat_27:50

[v] Matthew 7:7-8; 17:20

Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  (8)  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Matthew 17:20 NKJV  So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

7:7-8                Ask, Seek, Knock

  • “Ask…seek…knock…” In each case, the Greek verb is in the present continuous or progressive present tense and the imperative mood.  Literally it means, “Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking,” etc.
  • This, as other passages dealing with prayer and receiving what we ask for in faith, must be taken in the context of what the whole of Scripture has to say on the subject of prayer. See, for example the following note, “Ask.  But How?”

7:7-8                Ask.  But How?

  • Following is a brief review of what Scripture has to say about the how of prayer:
  • We are to ask God through Christ. John 14:13-14; 16:23-24, 26.
  • We are to ask in faith, believing that we will receive. Matthew 21:22; James 1:5-8.
  • We are to ask unselfishly. James 4:2-3.
  • We are to ask per God’s will. Matthew 6:10; 26:39, 42; 1 John 5:14-15.
  • We are to ask in a state of obedience or having first confessed and repented of known sin. Psalm 66:18; James 4:3; 1 John 3:22.
  • We must also understand that sometimes God says, “Wait” or “no” according to His perfect plan and will for our lives.

17:20               The Power of Prayer

  • “[F]aith the size of a mustard seed.” In the Middle East, the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds visible to the naked eye.
  • “[A]nd nothing will be impossible.” This is not to say that we, as believers, will go around casting mountains (in the sense of geographical objects) into the sea – playing havoc with the countryside.  Rather, it means that anything we ask in faith (even, little faith), and in accordance with His will, will be done, including, if He wills, the casting of physical mountains into the sea.  Cf.  Matthew 21:21.
  • Cf. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ…”

17:20 (cont.)  Unbelief or Little Faith?

  • While there are some manuscripts (principally those used in the NU or UBS4 Greek New Testaments, which the majority of newer translations use) which are different than the Textus Receptus (Lit. The “Received Text” the manuscript upon which the KJV, NKJV, and Geneva Bibles are based) which leads to sometimes contradictory conclusions or translations that are contradictory; that is not always the case as we see here.  The Received Text reads as follows:

ο G3588 T-NSM  δε G1161 CONJ  ιησους G2424 N-NSM  ειπεν G3004 V-2AAI-3S  αυτοις G846 P-DPM  δια G1223 PREP  την G3588 T-ASF  απιστιαν G570 N-ASF  υμων G4771 P-2GP  αμην G281 HEB  γαρ G1063 CONJ  λεγω G3004 V-PAI-1S  υμιν G4771 P-2DP  εαν G1437 COND  εχητε G2192 V-PAS-2P  πιστιν G4102 N-ASF  ως G5613 ADV  κοκκον G2848 N-ASM  σιναπεως G4615 N-GSN  ερειτε G2046 V-FAI-2P  τω G3588 T-DSN  ορει G3735 N-DSN  τουτω G3778 D-DSN  μεταβηθι G3327 V-2AAM-2S  εντευθεν G1782 ADV  εκει G1563 ADV  και G2532 CONJ  μεταβησεται G3327 V-FDI-3S  και G2532 CONJ  ουδεν G3762 A-NSN-N  αδυνατησει G101 V-FAI-3S  υμιν G4771 P-2DP  (GNT-TR+ Strong’s Numbers and RMAC).

ο δε ιησους ειπεν αυτοις δια την απιστιαν υμων αμην γαρ λεγω υμιν εαν εχητε πιστιν ως κοκκον σιναπεως ερειτε τω ορει τουτω μεταβηθι εντευθεν εκει και μεταβησεται και ουδεν αδυνατησει υμιν  (GNT-TR, text only).

  • The NU/UBS4 reads as follows:

ὁ δὲ ᾿Ιησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν ὑμῶν. ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, μετάβηθι ἐντεῦθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται, καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν. (GNT).  BOTH Greek texts have the same exact wording.

  • Why then do the newer translations that are based on those newer manuscripts use “little faith” as contrasted with “unbelief, when both Greek texts say the exact same thing? Whatever the reason, I believe that in the context of “mustard seed” size faith, that “unbelief” was what the original meant as, “little [mustard seed size] faith” is all Jesus said was needed and in that context, there is no justification for translating the Greek term απιστιαν G570 N-ASF as “little faith” rather than “unbelief.”
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The “Total Depravity Excuse” (Indirectly Debunked by Dr. James White) 

Before I start, one thing needs to be made perfectly clear… Without Christ, man is totally depraved.  Why do I say this? Romans 8:5-8 (NASB) “For those who are according to the flesh se…

Source: The “Total Depravity Excuse” (Indirectly Debunked by Dr. James White) 

A good and informative article for those new to the faith and the Reformed Faith in particular.

Answering Another Fool (Another Ungrounded Premise)

Solid biblical reasoning.

theidolbabbler.com

I recently published a blog entitled Answering a Fool (The Ungrounded Premise), which you can check out here. In it, I addressed an inciting meme put up by an atheist, which I had come across on Facebook. It needed to be addressed because of its blatant sarcasm and its utter lack of verisimilitude.

This time, I am writing about a post (which I also came across on Facebook), written by another atheist. Just as with the the meme that I responded to, this Facebook post also presumes a false premise. (In all fairness, it didn’t carry the same sarcastic quality as the meme had.) The intent here is to provide another example of how we (Christians) might answer a fool when challenged.

The Facebook post read as follows…

“Question for Theist ??
If Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Astronomy, Biology, medicine and genetics, Ecology are all science related. Why is…

View original post 334 more words

Answers to FB Questions

I’ve been in a dialog with a FB friend whom I also know somewhat in person (she’s the friend of a friend from Phoenix).  She is a fellow Christian but holds to the Arminian heresies regarding the Gospel and Salvation.  Following are her Original Post (OP) and my answers to her.

“Here are some issues I don’t think you’ve clearly addressed regarding Calvinism. Or maybe you have, but not to me. If God has already decided who’s saved and who isn’t, how does your reaching out and evangelizing make any difference? Even if a person never heard about the Bible, wouldn’t that person still go to heaven because God predestined it? Why do you need to preach? And if nothing happens outside of God’s will, why try to stop abortions? Or stop anything? If God predestined an abortion, it’ll happen regardless, right? And lastly, why do you get upset with non-Christians? If they’re incapable of believing in God, why blame them for their evil ways? Why blame them for being prideful and stubborn? They can’t be anything but. And why does God only love a small amount of people? By making it impossible for most people to go to heaven, He doesn’t love everyone. That’s a sad way to view God… Why does the Bible say that He wants everyone to be saved? He makes sure that most people don’t even have the option of choosing Him.”

And here are my replies.

First reply:

Michael Fernandez Those are some good, though common objections/questions Abra. I will see what I can do in this limited format, however, if you would be willing to PM me your mailing address, I would like to send you a free copy of a small book called the “The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism” by Craig R. Brown. Also, I would recommend the following online resources that are also ‘free’ to download.
1.) A.W. Pink’s “The Sovereignty of God” which addresses each of your questions/objections. It can be found here:
http://www.reformed.org/books/pink/index.html

2.) Lorraine Boettner’s, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” the book that I first read in hard cover format that revealed to me that I had already become a Calvinist even while not knowing what a Calvinist or Calvinism was. This book can be accessed here:
https://www.monergism.com/reformed-doctrine…

Ok, now to work on my own answers, humble though they may be in comparison to the above works. I will present them when I have finished writing them which I hope will be tonight or tomorrow.

And here is my longer second reply:

To begin, let’s enumerate your questions and see if they have any commonalities.

  1. If God has already decided who’s saved and who isn’t, how does your reaching out and evangelizing make any difference?
    1. Even if a person never heard about the Bible, wouldn’t that person still go to heaven because God predestined it?
    2. Why do you need to preach?
  2. And if nothing happens outside of God’s will,
    1. why try to stop abortions?
    2. Or [try to stop] anything?
  3. If God predestined an abortion, it’ll happen regardless, right?
  4. Why do you get upset with non-Christians?
    1. If they’re incapable of believing in God, why blame them for their evil ways?
    2. Why blame them for being prideful and stubborn? They can’t be anything but.
  5. And why does God love only a small amount of people? By making it impossible for most people to go to heaven, He doesn’t love everyone.
    1. That’s a sad way to view God.
  6. Why does the Bible say that He wants everyone to be saved? He makes sure that most people don’t even have the option of choosing Him.

Questions 1 and 2 including their sub sections, are related in that they ask “why” do we, you, me, Believers in general do certain things if the outcome is already predetermined or predestined.  Well, the simplest and yet most profound answer is because God tells us to do so.  He tells us to reach out, to evangelize, to preach, to warn, and that He does so is, or should be sufficient cause for us to do so.  Now does that mean we can’t seek to understand more fully the reason(s) why, if such a reason (or reasons) was comprehensible to us?  No, on the contrary we should always be seeking to know more about our Lord and God that we might both fear and love Him for the Great and Awesome God that He is.
So, yes, we preach, evangelize, we reach out to the lost, even knowing that the number of those who will be saved is already fixed.  But, while God knows who will and will not be saved, we don’t.  Further, just as God has predestined His elect for salvation, He as also predestined the means by which they will be saved.  We find this in Romans.

Rom 10:13-17 HCSB

(13)  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

(14)  But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?

(15)  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!

(16)  But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message?

(17)  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

 

Note if you will, this brief passage answers all the first two main and sub questions. Our reaching out with the Gospel does make a difference because God causes it to, verse 14, 15.  Compare this also with 1st Corinthians 3:5-7 HCSB

(5)  What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given.

(6)  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

(7)  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

So, you see, the means, preaching is determined by God to be the means He wishes to use, while at the same time not leaving the result in our feeble hands.

The Romans 10 passage also deals with those who never hear the Gospel question, asking the rhetorical question, how shall they call on Him in whom they don’t believe?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they’ve never heard?  The answer, of course is, “They can’t,” just that plain and simple.  In short, God not only predetermines the end result but also the means to that end.

Now to question 2 and it’s related subsections, “And if nothing happens outside of God’s will,

  1. Why try to stop abortions?
  2. Or [try to stop] anything?”

That’s a good question.  The primary reason, imo, is that as we (believers) are called to be salt and light in this sin filled world –

Mat 5:13-16 HCSB

(13)  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

(14)  “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.

(15)  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.

(16)  In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 

  • We have a duty to act, to strive against the influences of the dark. Now we know that salt does two things well, it act as a preservative of food, to slow down the decay, and it adds savor to foods, increasing our delight in them.  It also does another thing, it can be used to cleans a wound, or aggravate one, i.e. cause irritation.  Now in the spiritual realm, we are to be salt. We are to act a preserving agents, preserving or defending against moral decay/corruption in our societies/communities.  We are also to show, by our manner of living and enjoying life in Christ, that there is great joy to be found in the Christian life.  Furthermore, knowing the irritating quality of salt on wounds, we know that our message and lifestyle will cause discomfort to those lost in sin when we are acting our part as salt in their presence.  These qualities are used by God in two manners. 1.- To cause the elect to become so uncomfortable in their sin that they begin to seek some relief, preparing them to receive the Gospel.  – To harden the non-elect in their sin, making them more antagonistic toward the Gospel and its Author.  The reality of the sun and its light and how it affects clay and wax comes to mind.  The same sun that hardens clay, (non-elect), softens wax (the elect).  The difference being in what they are made of.  All people begin as clay, sin loving, God hating, clay.  But when God regenerates them, giving them a new heart or nature, they are transformed into wax, and now, instead of being hardened by the sun (the Gospel) they become softened, receptive to it.

Likewise, light.  We strive against the sins of the world just as light strives against the darkness. Where there is light, darkness cannot remain.  We strive against abortion and other moral darkness to bring light in their place.

How does this relate to God God’s will?  First it is God’s will that we be salt and light and act accordingly.  Second, goes back to the fact that God not only ordains the ends, but also the means to accomplish said ends.  Scipture teaches this principal that if we don’t preach the Gospel, the stones themselves would do so. Luk 19:39-40 HCSB

(39)  Some of the Pharisees from the crowd told Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

(40)  He answered, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!”

 

Now to your 3rd question. “If God predestined an abortion, it’ll happen regardless, right?”  That is a difficult question to answer in a short manner.  In a way, the answer is yes.  But at the same time, we have to be careful about this.  While nothing happens outside of God’s will, whether decretive or permissive, God is never the author of sin, which abortion is.  Sinful women kill their babies and commit all manner of other sins, just as sinful men rape women, and commit all manner of other sins.  Sinners sin, that’s in their nature.  Now, God, while not being the author of sin, does allow it to happen for His own purposes, according to His Divine Wisdom, and for His Ultimate Praise and Glory.  As to abortion, we, not knowing God’s ultimate plan for any individual, must strive against it.  We may be successful or we may fail, either result according to His will.  We don’t know but that by allowing a specific abortion, God prevented a greater evil from happening.  Moreover, believing that all infants who die are received immediately into glory, God may have kept that particular soul from a life of sin.  Consider for example the decree that the Israelites should go to the Amalekites and kill every last man, woman, and Child.  1Sa 15:2-3 HCSB

(2)  This is what the LORD of Hosts says: ‘I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt.

(3)  Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”

 

Why would a loving God who wants “everyone” to be saved order such a thing?  Because He wants His own, His elect, every one of them, to be saved from sin and from the penalty of it.  How does this relate?  Consider what the Lord said before this as to why these people had to be killed, Deu 20:16-18 HCSB

(16)  However, you must not let any living thing survive among the cities of these people the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

(17)  You must completely destroy them–the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite–as the LORD your God has commanded you,

(18)  so that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things they do for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God.

 

Note particularly verse 18.  “So that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things they do for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God.”  Now, we know that the wages of sin is death, so all those of age who had sinned were deserving of death.  No big problem there, they got Justice from God, not mercy or grace.  But what about the young children and infants?  Again we have this comfort regarding them that they would be immediately taken to be with God, whereas left alive in the culture of the day, most if not all of them would have grown up in the sins of their fathers, waxing worse and worse and heaping greater and greater punishment upon themselves in the day of judgment.

Your 4th question and subsets –

Why do you get upset with non-Christians?

  1. If they’re incapable of believing in God, why blame them for their evil ways?
  2. Why blame them for being prideful and stubborn? They can’t be anything but.

Well, I personally don’t get upset with “non-Christians” as such.  With some of the things they do, yes, with them personally, not often.  Why blame them for the things they do?  Because they are responsible for what they do.  While it’s true that they can’t be anything but sinners, they don’t have to sin as much as they do.  They choose sin and they choose the degree of sin all by themselves.  God doesn’t force them to do so.  Furthermore, related to blame, God says they are to blame for their evil ways, and I’m not arguing with Him on that (or any other matter).
Rom 1:18-32 HCSB

(18)  For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,

(19)  since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.

(20)  For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

(21)  For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened.

(22)  Claiming to be wise, they became fools

(23)  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

(24)  Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

(25)  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.

(26)  This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

(27)  The males in the same way also left natural relations with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.

(28)  And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.

(29)  They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips,

(30)  slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,

(31)  undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.

(32)  Although they know full well God’s just sentence–that those who practice such things deserve to die–they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.

 

Note particularly verses 18 and 20, “by their unrighteousness” not God’s, and that they are “without excuse” meaning, they are to blame for their sins.

  1. Your 5th question, and subsets –
  2. And why does God love only a small amount of people? By making it impossible for most people to go to heaven, He doesn’t love everyone.
  3. That’s a sad way to view God.

Well, first of all, while compared to the vast numbers of all people who have ever lived, are living, will live, yes the number of people is small.  Nonetheless, it is not a small amount.  If one factors in all the babies and toddlers who never lived to the age of accountability, as well as all the other elect of God, there will be a vast number of people inhabiting heaven in the end.

As for making it impossible for most people to get to heaven, you comment that God doesn’t’ love everyone.  That’s true, but it’s not a “sad way to view God.”  That comment is but a reflection of your own human tendency toward sin and pride, as if you or I can judge God.  God does not love everyone without exception.  True, but that is not a poor reflection on God.  That God loves anyone at all is the true measure of His Love and Goodness for none of us “deserve” His love, none of us is “lovable.”  Here are some notes from my own study notes to the Psalms on this particular point.

11:5 The Lord’s Hate
●           v. 5, “the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”  Cf. Psalm 5:5 and note.

●           That God hates something or someone or, types of some ones, does not negate the fact that “God is love” (cf. 1st John 4:8) or, that “God so loved the world.”  (Cf. John 3:16).

●           That God hates or loves, demonstrates that He is a being with emotions, feelings.  That being the case, with us, the sin is not in having an emotional reaction to something, but rather, what we do with or about that emotion.  Cf. Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.”  Anger, an emotion, is not inherently sinful.  Our reaction to or, use of anger can be.  An emotion that is fed unjustly or in an unrighteous manner also produces sin.  For example, prejudice on racial grounds is unjust, irrational, and leads to mistreatment of or misjudging of others.

●           That God hates, loves, feels, is what makes Him capable of and desirous of having a relationship with us.  It is also why He was able to make a provision for our salvation, as, on our own, we could never enter His perfect presence.

●           Compare Proverbs 3:32ff, esp. v 33.

Q. – If God is love [and He is, cf. 1st  John 4:8], can God hate anyone as opposed to anything?

AA.) Yes.  God can hate people, anyone, someone.  It says very clearly here; God hates “the wicked” [general category or type of person] “and the one who loves violence” [specific type of wicked person].

A.  B1.) If God can hate anyone, then a universalistic application of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world” would be made false.  If God really does hate anyone, He cannot [by default] love EveryOne.

A.  B2.) If God does not love everyone, then He did not send His Son to die for EveryOne; on account of, yes, for everyone, no.  That is to say; Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished exactly what it was meant to accomplish; the salvation of the elect, the ones God does love. It also accomplished the condemnation of the non-elect, the ones God hates.  In either case, it was effective in accomplishing God’s purposes.

Q. – What about the saying, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”?

Answer.) That saying applies only to us, and our attitudes.  We do not know the heart of anyone, or the eternal calling of anyone.  Only God does.  And therefore, only God is qualified to hate the sinner as well as their sin, without violating His own nature.

Q. – What about those who, before [in time] they were saved, were sinners; were enemies of God and of Christ (cf. Romans 5:18, 10)?  And, is there a distinction between the “garden variety sinner” [so to speak] called elsewhere, the “unrighteous person” [to use Paul’s terminology in 1st Corinthians 6:9), and the “wicked” (cf. Proverbs 16:4)?

A.) In regard to those who were “sinners,” “enemies of Christ,” this in itself does not prevent God from loving them.  In fact, God tells us to love our enemies (cf. Matthew 5:44).  How then, can it he, that He do less?  He cannot and does not, as Paul tells us in Romans (as cited above).  As to whether there is a distinction between the [garden variety] “sinner” and the “wicked”; I believe there is, and that a careful reading of Scripture were the “wicked” (Strong’s #7563 רָשָׁע, rasha` here; and #4190 πονηρε , Mat. 18:32, et al.) are mentioned compared with those where the “sinner” (Strong’s # 2400 חַטָּא,  chatta’ , as in Genesis 13:13; 1st Kings 1:21, and #268 αμαρτωλους, hamartōlos, 1st Tim. 1:15, i.e., those He came to save) is mentioned, will show this to be so, at least in the majority of the cases

●           Compare also Psalm 5:5, “You [God] hate all workers of iniquity…the Lord abhors [hates very much] the blood thirsty and deceitful man.”

5:5 The Boastful and Workers of Iniquity
●           Shall not stand, cf. Psalm 1:5

●           Are people whom God hates.

●           See note The Lord’s Hate, at 11:5 following.

Also, related to the small number of people who will enter heaven, over and over this truth is repeated when God speaks of the “remnant” (small number remaining) of Israel who will be saved, of the wide road that leads to hell and the many on it and the narrow road to heaven and the few on it.  Likewise, the wide gate and the narrow gate.  If God loved everyone, He could and would save everyone and all without violating their persons, which brings us to your 6th question.

“Why does the Bible say that He wants everyone to be saved?  He makes sure that most people don’t even have the option of choosing Him.”

Your way of phrasing that question by adding the qualifying statement after, seems to me to be another dig at God, questioning His love, His Justice, and even His goodness and implying that there is a conflict between God’s Love and His actions.  There is not.  First off, you err in stating that the Bible says God wants everyone without exception to be saved.  Your recognition that He has made sure that most don’t have the opportunity to choose Him speaking directly in support of that fact.  This takes us back to question 1a above and the passage in Romans referenced in the answer.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the [preaching of] Word of God.  God ordains the ends and well as the means to those ends.  The preaching of the Gospel is the means that God has chosen to reach the lost.  That He did not choose to make that Gospel message available to all people everywhere and every-when, is evidence that He then does not intend to save everyone, everywhere, in every time.  If that be the case, He clearly does not love everyone or He would have made provision for their being recipients of His Love.  It does, however point to His being compassionate and merciful, even to those whom He does not love nor intend to save.  By not giving them the Gospel, He in effect, lessens the penalty that will be enacted upon them in the Day of Judgment, being as they never heard the Gospel to reject it, they will, at least, not have that sin added to the others for which they will be condemned, whereas those who have heard the Gospel, reject it and die in their sins, they will have a worse punishment in eternity than those who did not.  Jesus Himself said as much here: Mat 11:20-24 HCSB

(20)  Then He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent:

(21)  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!

(22)  But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

(23)  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today.

(24)  But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

And Repeated here:  Matthew 10:14-15; Luke 10:10-16

You must understand and grasp this, NO ONE DESERVES to be saved.  God does not owe anyone anything, let alone to be in His presence.  Thus, when He, for reasons known to and only completely understood by Him, choses to pass by the vast majority, leaving them in their sins and to their just reward for them, He does them no wrong.  Secondly, though God did not proactively reach out and provide the Gospel message of Salvation to everyone in every place and time, it’s not as though He stopped anyone from believing or seeking Him if they wanted to.  They just don’t want to.  We see this truth clearly portrayed in Romans 1.  That God IS, is clearly demonstrated by the Creation as a whole.  But men, loving darkness more than light, instead of turning to that Creator God, made other gods for themselves because they knew and hated the One True God, loving instead, their sins.

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 5

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 5

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010

By

Michael Fernandez

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted.

MATTHEW CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

5:1-7:28            The Sermon on the Mount

  • Compare Matthew’s long account of this sermon on the mount with the “Sermon on the Plain” or “Level Place” in Luke 6:17-49[i].

5:3-10   The Beatitudes

  • Here are the popularly called “Be Attitudes.” cf. Luke 6:20-23[ii]
  • I myself would call them the “Severely Lacking in Self-Esteem Attitudes” as the attitudes described here are those which, if not reflecting a lack of “self-esteem” would actually oppose such “self-centered” attitudes and thinking.
  • “[P]oor in Spirit” – Humble, knowing the wretchedness of one’s own condition and inability to do anything about it.
  • “[W]ho mourn” – others-centered rather than self-centered.
  • “[M]eek” – Humble, not self-seeking.
  • “[H]unger and thirst for righteousness” – Seeing one’s own lack of righteousness (certainly a blow to one’s “self-esteem” as opposed to those who are “self-righteous” and so, have a high self-esteem because they are (in their own opinion) worthy.
  • “[M]erciful” – Mercy, an aspect of love, does not seek its own, but the well-being of the other. This is an attitude that is particularly lacking in today’s psychologized and sexualized culture, where every form of sexual perversion and immorality are being pushed as “normal” and “healthy” and “good,” but ultimately harms all the participants and often others beside.  Not much mercy there.
  • “[P]ure in heart” –these be would the ones whose hearts are right before the Lord.
  • “[P]eacemakers” – not prone to anger, violence, or vengeance.
  • “[P]ersecuted for righteousness sake” – not self-preserving, self-seeking.

5:13-16 Walk the Walk – II

  • Do not be the same as the world. If your life is no different from that of the unbelievers around you, what incentive do they have to accept your “faith” in Christ, especially when they see that your “faith” has done nothing for you that they cannot get in/from the world?  If anyone get nothing else from all I have written, I pray that they get this, if Christ has not changed your life, your heart, your outlook and as a consequence, how you live, He is not your Lord nor your Savior.  If He has done those things, show it, live it.
  • See also, “Walk the Walk” at Matthew 3:8[iii]

5:17      Fulfilling the Law

  • The following is taken from the Mt Zion Bible Institute course, The Life of Christ, chapter 4, page 19, and question 5.

“Jesus literally fulfilled all the Old Testament Law in three ways:

1)         He walked in Perfect love of God and people during His entire life on earth.

2)         He lived a sinless life, and

3)         He gave Himself as the one perfect sacrifice for sin (God’s Passover Lamb), so that no more sacrifices were ever needed.

  • It should be noted that in this passage, there is nothing that suggests that Believers under the New Covenant, are under the Old Covenant’s ceremonial law as a means of justification before God. For that matter, not even the Old Testament believers were justified by the “Law,” whether its moral, civil, or ceremonial aspects, but rather, as Paul points out, they were “justified by faith, cf. Romans 4:1ff[iv].

5:19      Placement in the Kingdom

  • In the context given of obeying/disobeying the commandments of God and/or one’s teaching regarding them, the Kingdom of Heaven, in this context therefore, refers to the corporate or visible church of God; such a visible church being comprised of both wheat and tares, saved and unsaved.
  • John MacArthur, in his commentary (MacArthur Study Bible) views this as referring to heaven itself, and salvation. Thus Christians will be rated, placed in heaven, according to their degree of relation to the above – positive or negative – but in no case affecting their salvation itself.

While I agree in general, that there will be different levels of reward in heaven and punishment in hell; (see 10:14-15 and note: Judged Accordingly following.[v])  I believe that his application of that truth to this verse to be misapplied, see previous point above.  This is because the “kingdom of heaven” referred to here is “the kingdom of the Messiah, or in the church which he is about to establish” (So, Albert Barnes, et al.) the kingdom which Jesus described as being not of this earth, though established on it.

This is not to say the MacArthur is completely wrong, he is not wrong in general in pointing out that a Believer’s actions (as contrasted with a professing unbeliever’s) on earth will not affect their being saved; only what reward a Believer will have in heaven.  That however is not the point of this passage.

  • Matthew Henry, in his commentary equates these two classes of people with those members of the visible body/kingdom of God, i.e., the church and their relative positions in the eyes of God, therein. He also implies that those “least” may in fact be lost, even while members of the Church visible, being outside of the Church triumphant.

5:21-48 The Real Meaning of the Laws of God

v.21 – Regarding murder.  Jesus citing the prohibition against murder, Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17, goes on to show that hatred, anger against another person, as opposed to hateful acts committed by that person, is the same as murdering them in one’s heart.  The Apostle John expanded on this when he wrote, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”  (1st John 3:10), and, “[whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1st John 3:15).

Vv.23-25 – Jesus speaks of the need/importance of reconciliation.

Vv.27-28 – Regarding adultery, First, Jesus cites the actual law, Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; then He explains its true application, showing that to “think it” is to “do it.”  Thinking is in fact, a form of action, of doing.  Thus the physical act has its beginnings in the mind or heart.

Vv.31-32 – Jesus set the record straight on God’s view of divorce.

  • First, He cites the Law on procedure – a certificate of divorce must be written and delivered to the other party, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1.
  • Then, to counter the liberal (for men) divorce laws practiced by the scribes and Pharisees (for whom just about anything constituted an “impurity” in the wife, and so, a justification for divorce), He limited divorce to its original intent, cases of sexual immorality.
  • For more on this subject, see: Matthew 19:3-9; 19:4-6; 19:7; 19:8-9 and associated notes following; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24; Ezra 10:3ff and note[vi]; Malachi 2:15-16 and note[vii].

Vv.33-37 – Regarding oaths.  Jesus refers to the law against false oaths, cf. Numbers 30:2, and the practice of many to get around the law by swearing by anything but God.  Jesus points out that the Law was about ensuring honesty and reliability.  That you should not even need to make a vow to be believed.  Your word alone should be known to be reliable.  Compare v.37 with James 5:12.

Vv.38-42 – Regarding vengeance.  Payback.  Jesus says, “Don’t do it.”  Cf. Romans 12:7, 14-21.  Non-resistance to attacks on one’s own person, rights, pride.

  • Note that this is not to say there is no place for vengeance. On the contrary, elsewhere Scripture teaches that vengeance belongs to the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrew 10:30), and that this is not a contradiction of God’s laws on retribution/vengeance as given to Moses in Exodus, cf. Exodus 21:12ff.  Jesus is simply saying here that we ourselves are not to seek vengeance.  Vengeance, if it is to be had, is to be left to God’s perfect judgment and justice.
  • Related to the above point, we read that one of the functions of a lawful government is to be the executor of His judgment upon evil-doers, cf. Romans 13:4.

Vv.43-48 – Regarding love.  Jesus addresses the issue of love.  Here the Greek word is ἀγαπάω, Strong’s #25, agapao – to love with agape type love.  He shows how love is to be practiced, to whom it is to be shown (including enemies) and why (because God gave us the example to follow.)

5:31-32 Marriage & Divorce in the Christian Community

  • See topical study on this subject.
  • See notes to 5:21-48 above.

[i] Luke 6:17-49

(17)  And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases,

(18)  as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed.

(19)  And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.

(20)  Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.

(21)  Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.

(22)  Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

(23)  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

(24)  “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation.

(25)  Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep.

(26)  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

(27)  “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

(28)  bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

(29)  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.

(30)  Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.

(31)  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

(32)  “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

(33)  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

(34)  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.

(35)  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.

(36)  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

(37)  “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

(38)  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

(39)  And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?

(40)  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

(41)  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?

(42)  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

(43)  “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.

(44)  For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.

(45)  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

(46)  “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

(47)  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:

(48)  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.

(49)  But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

[ii] Luke 6:20-23

(20)  Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.

(21)  Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.

(22)  Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

(23)  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

[iii] Matthew 3:8

(8)  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,

3:8         Walk the Walk

  • “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”

○              First of all, this is something no one can do on their own.  One bears fruit that conforms to one’s nature.  Just as with natural trees, each bearing its own type of fruit: apple trees bearing apples, orange trees bearing oranges, a good, i.e., healthy tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree, bad fruit.  This is a natural example of a spiritual reality.  The natural, unregenerate man bears the fruit of his fallen sinful nature.  The godly, born-again man bears the fruit of the Spirit.

○              Second.  The above having been said; this is a classic command to, “Walk the walk,” and not just, “talk the talk.”

  • Related to the first point above; it must be understood that this bearing of good or bad fruit is not necessarily saying, in fact does not say, that the unregenerate man does not ever do things that are inherently “good.” Evil men have often been known to do “good things” or perform kind acts, etc.  The problem is that these inherently good deeds/acts, are themselves sin in the eyes of God (cf. Isaiah 64:6  “We have become like one who is unclean, and righteous deeds are like a polluted garment .  We fade like a leaf, and iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”  ESV).

[iv] Romans 4:1-25

(1)  What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?

(2)  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

(3)  For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

(4)  Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

(5)  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

(6)  just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

(7)  “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED;

(8)  BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN.”

(9)  Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.

(10)  How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

(11)  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,

(12)  and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

(13)  For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

(14)  For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,

(15)  because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

(16)  Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

(17)  (as it is written, “I HAVE MADE YOU A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS”) in the presence of Him whom he believed–God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;

(18)  who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.”

(19)  And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

(20)  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,

(21)  and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

(22)  And therefore “IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

(23)  Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,

(24)  but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,

(25)  who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

[v] Matthew 10:14-15

(14)  And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

(15)  Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Judged Accordingly

  • Jesus teaches that there are different levels of condemnation in hell. Elsewhere, He teaches the parallel concept of judgment being according to one’s works.

Compare: Matthew 11:21-24; Romans 2:5-6; 2 Corinthians 11:15.

[vi] Ezra 10:3ff

(3)  Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

(4)  Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”

(5)  Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.

(6)  Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.

(7)  And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,

(8)  and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.

(9)  So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

(10)  Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.

(11)  Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.”

(12)  Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.

Divorce!

The men of Israel, recognizing their sin in having taken “pagan wives” (verse 2) now want to remedy the problem by a radical solution.  They propose to Ezra, a covenant with God to put away, divorce their pagan wives and children.

Though the Bible faithfully records this event, I do not believe their solution was according to God’s will.  I believe it was simply sinful men trying to get right with God according to their own understanding.  Did they succeed?  Only God knows.  Was their choice the best, or even the right one?  No, I don’t believe so.  But one must recognize that their understanding of God and His nature was still limited.  Jesus the fulfillment of the Law has not yet come.

Jesus teaches that Moses allowed divorces “because of the hardness” of men’s hearts, but that it was never God’s plan.

See Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-10; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24 for the New Testament teachings on Divorce and Malachi 2:16 for God’s attitude towards it.

[vii] Malachi 2:15-16

(5)  “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, And I gave them to him that he might fear Me; So he feared Me And was reverent before My name.

(6)  The law of truth was in his mouth, And injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, And turned many away from iniquity.

Divorce!

God is pro-marriage.  He hates divorce.  It doesn’t get any plainer than that.

God equates divorce with violence.

On the Distinctions Between the Error of “Common Grace” and the Biblical Doctrine of “Particular Grace”

This is an article that was shared by a Retired Reformed Minister friend of mine. It’s a bit long but well worth the read.  Here it is unedited.

Beloved Christians Everywhere, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO TEACH AND BELIEVE THE DOCTRINES OF ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION AND OF BY GRACE ALONE, THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE BY THE REV. LANNING IS MOST PROFITABLE. It has been and remains a real blessing to me personally
Sola gratia! Grace alone!
By Rev. Andy Lanning
Sola gratia is one of the well-known Latin
“five solas” of the Reformation: sola gratia,
sola fide, solus Christus, sola Scriptura, soli
Deo gloria. The “five solas” summarise
the Reformation’s answer to the Roman
Catholic Church, which tried to exalt man
to a position alongside God. Over against
the Roman Catholic teaching that salvation
depends partly upon God’s work and partly
upon man’s work, the reformers taught that
man is justified by faith alone (sola fide),
because of grace alone (sola gratia), on the
basis of the work of Christ alone (solus
Christus). Over against the Roman Catholic
teaching that the pope’s word was of equal
authority with God’s Word, the reformers
taught the authority of Scripture alone
(sola Scriptura). The entire Roman Catholic
system robbed God of His glory by giving it
to man, whereas the reformers taught that
all glory in salvation and revelation belongs
to God alone (soli Deo gloria).
To this day, sola gratia is a dear and beloved
doctrine in Reformed churches. This
particular “sola” teaches a foundational
truth about salvation, namely, that our
salvation does not depend in any way
upon our worth or works, but upon the
sovereign grace of God alone. Sola gratia
echoes the truth of Ephesians 2:8, 9. “For
by grace are ye saved through faith; and
that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
not of works, lest any man should boast.”
If salvation depended upon us, we would
perish. Because our salvation depends upon
God, we are saved indeed. Thanks be to
God that we are saved by grace, and by
grace alone! Sola gratia! Grace alone!
However, some Reformed teachers and
churches today are undermining the
glorious gospel of sola gratia by their
promotion of the theory of common grace.
These teachers claim that there are two
kinds of divine grace: a particular saving
grace of God for His elect people alone,
and a non-saving common grace of God
for all people. This theory of two graces was
recently promoted in Singapore by Rev.
Maurice Roberts, a retired minister in the
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).
Speaking for the 2014 Reformation Day
Conference of First Evangelical Reformed
Church, which had as its theme Sola Gratia,
Rev. Roberts taught that God demonstrates
His favour toward humanity in two ways:
by a common grace for all and a saving grace for His people. The promotional material
for the speech promised that Rev. Roberts
would “elucidate upon God’s common and
saving grace . . . .” The speech went beyond
this promise, as Rev. Roberts not only
elucidated the theory of common grace, but
promoted and advocated it as biblical truth.
When Rev. Maurice Roberts, a respected
and influential Reformed minister,
promotes common grace in Singapore,
at the invitation of a Reformed church
in Singapore, he gets the attention of
Reformed people in Singapore—readers
of Salt Shakers included. Therefore we
are compelled to examine Rev. Roberts’
teaching by asking three questions: What is
the theory of common grace? What is the
error of common grace? And what are the
consequences of common grace?
1. What is the theory of common grace?
Common grace is a theory about God’s
attitude toward all people. It claims that
God has a gracious attitude of kindness,
compassion, pity, and favour for all men
without exception. According to this
theory, God’s favour is not limited to His
elect people in Christ, but extends to all
men, including the reprobate. The name of
the theory is helpfully descriptive: common
grace. The “grace” of common grace describes
God’s attitude as one of grace, favour,
kindness, and compassion. The “common”
of common grace describes this divine
favour as extending to all men in common.
According to Rev. Roberts:
“There is . . . a general goodness of God,
what you might call a universal kindness of
God. Listen to what Jesus says about God:
‘He is kind to the unthankful and to the
evil.’ He is referring to His heavenly Father,
and He says God is kind, merciful to those
who never become Christians, who never
listen to the gospel, who never read the
Bible, who never go to church. God is kind
even to these.”
God displays this common grace to all
men, so the theory goes, through the many
good gifts that He bestows upon them.
Not only the elect, but also the reprobate
receive many necessary things and many
pleasant things from God. According to the
theory of common grace, bestowal of such
wonderfully good gifts must imply that
God also has a positive attitude of grace
and favour for all who receive these gifts.
According to Rev. Roberts, continuing
from the quotation above:
“Now let’s be clear what Jesus meant. He
meant that God is so kind that in this life
He gives to the wicked many favours which
express His goodness and His pity to fallen
sinners. What sort of things do I mean? I
mean, He gives them food and drink and
health and good weather and homes and
good government and happiness, etc. You
dear people don’t need me to tell you, as
I visited your beloved island of Singapore,
what a wonderful community you have. How safe it is, and how much protection
you have, and how many services you have
of many kinds, and benefits of many kinds.
You don’t need to be hungry in Singapore
– plenty of places to eat, yes. Well, that’s a
favour from God, and that favour is enjoyed
by people who never ever go to church,
never ever read the Bible. And Jesus puts it
like this: God is kind to the unthankful and
to the evil.”
Common providence?
Upon reading this description of common
grace, some may wonder whether Rev.
Roberts is simply teaching a variation of
the Reformed doctrine of providence.
There may even be some who know that
common grace is a false doctrine, and
yet are sympathetic to what Rev. Roberts
says, who attempt to excuse his theory of
common grace by claiming it is merely a
theory of common providence.
The term “providence” refers to God’s
sovereign control over all things. Herbs and
grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren
years, meat and drink, health and sickness,
riches and poverty, yea, and all things are
distributed to men by God according to
His own sovereign will and by His own
sovereign direction. Usually, the Reformed
faith simply refers to God’s sovereign
control as “providence”. Perhaps it would
be legitimate to refer to God’s providence
as “common providence”, because God
exercises sovereign control over the elect
and the reprobate alike. The elect man and
his reprobate neighbour receive the same
common providence of rain and sunshine
on their crops. They enjoy the protection
of the same police force. Their children
catch the same flu, and see the same doctor
and take the same medicine for relief. God
sovereignly distributes to the elect man and
to the reprobate man alike.
Such a doctrine of providence, and even
“common providence,” is biblical and
confessional. It is the doctrine of Matthew
5:45. “That ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven: for he maketh
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the
unjust.” It is the doctrine of Article 13 of
the Belgic Confession. “We believe that the
same God, after He had created all things,
did not forsake them, or give them up to
fortune or chance, but that He rules and
governs them according to His holy will, so
that nothing happens in this world without
His appointment…”
However, Rev. Roberts’ theory of common
grace is emphatically not a theory of common
providence. The Reformed doctrine of
providence teaches that God governs both
the elect and the reprobate, but it does
not teach that God has the same gracious
attitude toward the elect and reprobate as
he governs them. The Reformed doctrine
of providence speaks of God’s particular
favour for the elect, believing saints of
God. For example, Article 13 of the Belgic
Confession: “This doctrine [of providence]
affords us unspeakable consolation, since
we are taught thereby that nothing can
befall us by chance, but by the direction of
our most gracious and heavenly Father . . .
.” In this article, although God sovereignly
distributes to all men in His providence,
His favour is only for “us,” that is, the elect
children of our heavenly Father.
The Reformed doctrine of providence
teaches God’s universal government, but
His particular grace. Rev. Roberts’ theory
of common grace teaches God’s universal
government, and God’s universal grace.
Rev. Roberts’ theory is not merely one of
common providence, but common grace.
God’s wish to save all men
Rev. Roberts intensifies his theory of
common grace by claiming that God also
desires to save all men. God’s common
grace, so the teaching goes, is not merely
a kindness in God’s heart that gives men
nice earthly gifts, but a loving-kindness
that wishes to give all men the heavenly
gift of salvation from sin and eternal life.
God’s saving grace will only save the elect
in the end. But, according to Rev. Roberts,
God’s common grace makes Him desire
the salvation of the elect and the reprobate
alike. Quoting Rev. Roberts again:
“But here’s the wonderful thing: so kind
and generous is God that He expresses
to sinners His wish, His desire, that they
should all be saved.
Now that’s amazing.
I’m going to quote to you now. Listen to
the words in Ezekiel 33: ‘As I live, saith the
Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death
of the wicked, but rather that the wicked
turn from his way and live.’ Now God is
saying that to people who hate Him, and
who never come to believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ. God is saying, I have no pleasure in
your death, sinners. My wish is that you
turn, sinners, from your wicked way.”
Rev. Roberts repeatedly uses the term
“sinners” in the quotation above. The
sinners he is talking about are not elect
sinners, predestined to salvation, but
reprobate sinners, predestined to hell. They
are the sinners “who hate [God], and who
never come to believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ.” To these reprobate sinners, Rev.
Roberts says, “God… expresses… His wish,
His desire, that they should all be saved.”
2. What is the error of common grace?
Rev. Roberts’ theory of common grace is that God has a gracious attitude of kindness and
mercy in His heart for all men, including
the reprobate; that God distributes earthly
gifts to all men in His gracious favour for
them; and that God graciously wishes that
all men would be saved.
Rev. Roberts’ theory of common grace is
false doctrine.
It is false doctrine because it is unbiblical.
The Bible teaches that God’s grace is
particular. That is, the objects of God’s
grace in Scripture are never all men
without exception, but always His elect
people alone. From the first reference to
grace in Genesis 6:8 to the last reference
in Revelation 22:21, God’s grace is for
the elect. Noah found grace in the eyes
of the LORD (Genesis 6:8), as did Moses
(Exodus 33:17). God was gracious to His
church in the Old Testament (Exodus
33:16), as He is to His church in the New
(Romans 16:24). Grace is for the beloved
of God, called to be saints (Romans 1:7),
for them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
that call upon the name of Jesus Christ our
Lord (I Corinthians 1:2, 3), for the faithful
in Christ Jesus, chosen in Christ before
the foundation of the world (Ephesians
1:1, 2, 4), for all the saints in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 1:1, 2), for the saints and
faithful brethren in Christ (Colossians
1:1, 2), for the church which is in God
the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ (1
Thessalonians 1:1), for the dearly beloved
(Philemon 1, 3), for the elect according
to the foreknowledge of God the Father
(1 Peter 1:2), for them that have obtained
like precious faith with the apostles through the righteousness of God and our Saviour
Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1, 2), for the elect
lady and her children (2 John 1, 3), and for
the servants of Jesus Christ who receive His
revelation (Revelation 1:1 with 22:21).
What makes the particularity of God’s
grace stark and clear is that the Bible
always describes God’s attitude towards the
reprobate as an attitude of wrath, never as an
attitude of favour. Always, from eternity to
eternity, God curses the wicked. Indeed, His
curse permeates their entire earthly life, for
His curse is in their house (Proverbs 3:33).
He bestows many wonderful gifts upon
the ungodly, not because He is gracious to
them, but to make their path slippery as
they slide into destruction and desolation
(Psalm 73). He hates the reprobate Esau
(Romans 9:13) and Esau’s children, the
reprobate nation of Edom (Malachi 1:1-5).
He appoints the disobedient to wrath, and
makes them stumble in this life upon the
Rock of offence (1 Peter 2:7, 8). He before
of old ordained men to condemnation,
and in this life pronounces woe upon them
(Jude 4, 11).
In Rev. Roberts’ theory, God’s grace is
common. In the Bible, God’s grace is
strictly particular.
The Bible teaches only particular grace,
and knows nothing of a common grace,
for this profound reason: God’s grace is
in Jesus Christ. That is, God’s attitude of
favour is never displayed apart from Christ,
but is always grace in Christ. After all,
God’s attitude of gracious favour is not an
attitude first of all for us, His people, but an
attitude of gracious favour for Christ Jesus.
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Therefore,
for us, God’s grace is in Christ Jesus (2
Timothy 2:1). God graciously chose us in
Christ in the decree of election (Romans
11:5, Ephesians 1:4). We are justified freely
by God’s grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
God’s grace reigns through righteousness
unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord
(Romans 5:21). The law was given by
Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ (John 1:17). We know the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was
rich, yet for our sakes He became poor; that
we, through His poverty, might be rich (2
Corinthians 8:9). In the ages to come, God
will show the exceeding riches of His grace
in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus
(Ephesians 2:7). Therefore, God declares
to His people in Christ, “The grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (2
Thessalonians 3:18).
Because God’s grace is in Christ, it always
irresistibly and infallibly saves. Grace in
Christ does not merely bestow earthly
treasures, but heavenly treasures. Grace in
Christ does not merely wish to save, but
actually saves (Ephesians 2:8, 9), justifies
(Romans 3:24), gives eternal life (Romans
5:21), sustains through infirmities (2
Corinthians 12:9), makes accepted in
the beloved (Ephesians 1:6), redeems in
Christ’s blood and forgives sins (Ephesians
1:7), quickens (Ephesians 2:5), calls with a
holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9), and helps in
time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
In Rev. Roberts’ theory, God has a grace
that does not save. In the Bible, God’s grace
always saves.
3. What are the consequences of common
grace?
Churches and teachers that tolerate and
promote common grace open themselves
up to serious consequences. The worst
consequence is that they make a mockery
of God. The god of common grace is
divided against himself. He cannot make
up his mind whether he loves certain
people or not, whether he should save them
or not. In his eternal decree of reprobation,
he righteously hates them and wills their
destruction, while in his common grace,
he at the same time mercifully wishes
their salvation. How perplexed the god of
common grace must be as he holds both
love and hatred, both blessing and curse in
his heart for all of the reprobate! Not even
the pagans teach that their idol gods are this
confused, but the god of common grace
remains impossibly bewildered. Such a god
is unstable and confused; such a god is to be
pitied. However, the true God of the Bible,
the God of particular grace, is not divided
against Himself. He is not confused about
His attitude toward men. In time and
eternity, He graciously blesses His chosen
people in Christ; in time and eternity, He
righteously curses the reprobate. With
perfect consistency, He loves His own;
with perfect consistency, He hates the
impenitent wicked. Teachers of common
grace mock the true God when they assign
to Jehovah the fictional attitude of common
grace.
Another, related consequence of common
grace is that its proponents not only mock
God, but they also mock His grace. In the
theory of common grace, God’s grace is
utterly impotent. In common grace, God
supposedly wishes and desires the salvation of all men, but that same grace is unable
actually to accomplish the salvation of all
men. People continue to “hate Him” and
“never come to believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ,” even though God expresses to them
“His wish, His desire, that they should all
be saved.” God’s so-called common grace
fails to accomplish what it desires. It is
powerless, impotent, useless grace. Fallen
man should tell the god of common grace
to keep his grace to himself, thereby sparing
both god and man the frustration of such
impotence. However, the true grace of God
is sovereign, powerful, and irresistible. God’s
grace always accomplishes what it desires,
infallibly saving those whom God desires
to save. The “I” in the Reformed acronym
TULIP does not stand for “impotent grace”
but “irresistible grace”. Reformed teachers
and Reformed churches who know the
irresistible grace of TULIP have no business
tolerating, much less teaching, impotent
common grace.
Another devastating consequence of
common grace is that it opens God’s people
to doubt whether God is truly good to
them. Especially, the child of God who
suffers in this life is taught by common
grace to question God’s goodness to him.
After all, if nice earthly things are the
evidence of God’s favour, then lack of these
things must be the evidence of God’s anger.
This common grace thinking was exactly
the sin of Asaph in Psalm 73. He noted
with great envy that the wicked prosper
(vs. 3) while he was plagued (vs. 14). At
first, Asaph approached this problem from
a common grace theology, assuming that
God’s gracious goodness was demonstrated
in earthly things. Therefore, his first
conclusion was that it was vain to be a child
of God, because the wicked received all the
evidences of God’s grace. “Behold, these are
the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they
increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed
my heart in vain, and washed my hands in
innocency. For all the day long have I been
plagued, and chastened every morning” (vss. 12-14). So spiritually paralyzing were
these doubts that they almost drove Asaph
to abandon the faith. “But as for me, my
feet were almost gone; my steps had well
nigh slipped. For I was envious at the
foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the
wicked” (vss. 2, 3). These are the awful
doubts that common grace theology can
create in God’s people. How can Reformed
teachers and churches entertain, much less
promote, such a theology?
God removed Asaph’s doubt by bringing
him finally to understand that God’s
attitude toward people is not demonstrated
through the provision of earthly things.
Rather, God always despises the impenitent
ungodly (vs. 20) and is always graciously
good to his people (vs. 1). The gifts that
God gives in this life to the ungodly only
hasten their plunge into destruction (vs.
18, 19), while the sorrows that He sends
to His people are used to draw them nearer
to Him (vs. 26). God rescued Asaph from
devastating spiritual doubt by taking
away Asaph’s common grace theology
and giving him instead a particular grace
theology. Likewise, it is incumbent upon
all Reformed teachers and churches today
to teach and defend God’s particular grace,
and to repudiate the soul-destroying error
of common grace.
Una Gratia
The theory of common grace is false
doctrine, with serious consequences. But it
is popular false doctrine.
It has able, influential proponents,
including Rev. Maurice Roberts. It has
many adherents, including large Reformed
denominations throughout the nations.
It finds sympathy almost wherever it
goes in the Reformed world. Indeed,
the false doctrine of common grace has
now been tolerated in Singapore, as Rev.
Roberts openly promoted his theory at the
invitation of a local Reformed church. The
false doctrine of common grace is popular,
and spreading.
Therefore, Reformed believers in Singapore,
now more than ever, must stand for the
biblical truth of God’s saving, particular
grace. Standing for the truth of God’s saving
grace will mean vigorously repudiating the
theory of common grace as an intolerable
false doctrine.
Perhaps Reformed believers in Singapore
could even advance the cause of the true
doctrine of God’s particular grace by
coining a new term: una gratia.
The Latin sola gratia means “grace alone.”
The Latin una gratia means “one grace.”
Just as sola gratia expresses the biblical truth that we are saved by grace alone, so una gratia expresses the biblical truth that such saving grace is the only kind of grace there is.
There are not two kinds of grace of God,
one saving and particular, the other non-
saving and common. God’s grace is only
saving and particular: one grace, una gratia.
Just as sola gratia is a helpful, memorable
way to distinguish the Reformed faith from
all theories of works-righteousness, so una
gratia could be a helpful, memorable way
to distinguish the Reformed faith from the
theory of common grace. Sola gratia is a
rallying cry for all lovers of the gospel of
grace; una gratia could be a rallying cry for
all lovers of sovereign, particular grace. Sola
gratia! et (and) Una gratia!
Regardless of whether Reformed believers
use this phrase or not, let us maintain the
truth that this phrase represents. We are
saved by grace alone, and such saving grace is the only grace there is. By this truth, God
is honoured and glorified as the sovereign,
gracious God, who mercifully and infallibly
saves His own people in Jesus Christ.
Sola gratia! et Una gratia! Soli Deo Gloria!

A Long and Winding Road: How I Came to be a Calvinistic Christian

Back in the mid-seventies, I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and one year, well, during our annual rifle requals, my shooting coach was a Sgt. who was a born-again, spirit filled Christian (I hope you Arminians who believe in Calvinists being the “chosen frozen” are paying attention here), he was also a rock solid, hard core Marine.  One day he invited me and some of the guys in my unit to go to church with him at his church in Wilmington, N.C.  I accepted.  I saw in him a glow, a joy that despite the drugs, despite the alcohol, despite screwing every skirt in sight, I was a very unhappy camper.  So,  being as I wanted what he had, that joy and peace, I accepted his invite.

Well after several weeks of attending his church, a Sword of the Lord reading [Sword of the Lord  is a religious paper popular among Fundamentalist, KJV’ers], KJV only, Independent, Fundamental [men don’t wear long hair, women don’t wear pants] Baptist church, I finally joined because I saw other people there with that same glow and joy and peace. I wanted it and figured, well, I guess ya gotta be a “Christian” to get this stuff and be in the church.  So I did believe (in my head) that Christ was God who came to earth, took on humanity, lived a sinless life, was betrayed, tried, crucified, and rose on the third day, so I became a “Christian,” got dunked and everything.
I still didn’t have that peace, that joy.

Weeks went by; Church every Sunday morning and night. Sunday School every Sunday morning. I learned me a lot of Bible.
Still didn’t have that peace, that joy.

Sunday mornings when the preacher preached and choir choired, I would get goosebumps all up and down my arms I was so moved.  But back on base,
I still didn’t have that peace, that joy.

Several months went by, the Sgt. who I only saw now at church, left for a,…. a,…. (shhhhh. quiet) a “Calvinist” church.” It was a major scandal. To hear the deacons or the pastor talking (always in whispers) you’d think he’d joined a satanic cult.  I kept going to church there, faithful every week. Even worked in the bus ministry.
I still didn’t have that peace, that joy.

Well, of course, that’s why, why didn’t I think of it sooner?  I was still drinking, doing drugs, f__king and smoking cigarettes and everyone knows; Christians cuss, don’t drink, they don’t f__k, they don’t do drugs, they don’t smoke. So, I gave up cussing and drinking,
and still didn’t have that peace, that joy,
and f__king,
and still didn’t have that peace, that joy.
I gave up drugs, and yes, even cigarettes! Get back to base
and still didn’t have that peace, that joy.

One day I overheard someone saying how deacon so an so lost his position because they found out he was f__king deacon such and such’s wife. Hmmm. Real Christians don’t f__k huh? That night at base,
I had even less peace..

Shortly after Deacongate, I was cleaning the head of the bus ministry’s bus and what do I find under the dash of the bus? A 3/4 full bottle of Jack Daniels. Hmmmm. Real Christians don’t drink huh… Went back to the base that night and never returned to that church. I had become an enemy of the “Church” and “Christians” bunch of frauds and fakes that they were. The one real Christian who left months earlier (who I did see from time to time on base and was still a real, hard core Marine) they had been bad mouthing for months. And me, I was more miserable than ever because I saw no hope in this religion.

I became such an enemy of Christ and His people that I even beat down a street preacher one day because he dared to be on “my” street interrupting my walk to the bus stop. So I took his white board off of its stand, broke it across his head and beat and kicked him bloody, then told him if I ever saw him there again I would kill him. “Christians” are all just a bunch of fakers anyway, well, except for a few. That night and for years to come,
I was without peace, without joy, and without hope.

The sex, the drugs, the every sin I could find didn’t fill that empty void in my soul.  It was only by God’s sovereign grace, after I had hit rock bottom, in jail facing a minimum of 65 years in prison for Attempted Murder and other charges, and was seriously considering taking a knife and cutting my own throat that I head His voice saying “Come to Me Michael.”

The odd part of what happened next is, the voice I was hearing was that a little Paisa,  Mexican national who had been picked up on a probation violation.  He entered this large cell were I was, maybe 30’ x 10′ with about 20 men in it, all making noise, talking banging on the cell door, etc.  He went and sat down at the other end of the cell, on a bunk next to another paisa and began sharing the Gospel in Spanish.  Now, I’ll admit I know Spanish.  But I’m also hard of hearing.  Despite that, clear over where I was, I hear a Voice, in English
“Come to Me Michael.”

I knew who it was; who it had to be and I said,
“But Lord, I can’t, I can’t I’m not worthy, I’m no good.”
He said, “Come to Me and be My child.”
I said, “But Lord, I cannot, I’m no good. I have nothing to give You.”
He said, “I didn’t ask you for anything except that you come to Me.”
I said, “But Lord, You, You can’t possible want “Me,” I’m no good, I’m a loser, a failure.”
He said, “Come. Just as you are and I will make you My own.”
“But Lord, You don’t know what I’ve done.”
“Yes, I do.”
“But Lord, You don’t know about this, and that, and this other thing.”
“Yes, I know about those things too. I know everything about you Michael. Every sinful thought, word and deed.”
“But Lord, I don’t understand. If You know all that, how could you want me.”
He said, “Son, I have wanted you since before I made the world. I was just waiting for the time when your false pride and willfulness would be broken enough for you to listen, for you to see, that it’s not about what you can give to Me, but about My eternal Love for you.  You see son, you already belong to Me, I paid the price for you long ago. I just want you to come to Me now.”
I finally got wore out and told Him, “Lord, I don’t understand it, but if you want me after all that, then for what it’s worth, I’m Yours.”  At that moment I felt unconditionally and truly loved for the first time in my life.  Someone who knew every dark, dirty little secret of my heart and still loved me, unconditionally.  My life was transformed that day and has never been the same since.  I’m not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I am different.

It was only years and much study later that I learned about the doctrines of God’s Sovereign Grace, a/k/a “Calvinism.”  By then I had already learned them in the Scriptures only afterwards finding out that what I had become in my theology of God’s Salvation was a…., a….. “Calvinist!”  It was at that time I stopped all studies with what I had learned were “Arminian” churches. Oh I’ll still attend one, if there is no Reformed church to attend. But that’s another matter.

The unconditional nature of God’s love towards me, a sinner was something I could not and still have not gotten over. That He had chosen and paid the price to redeem me, long before I was ever born, even knowing then, everything that I would do in this age, impressed me. That His Son’s sacrifice on the cross ensured my salvation assures me yet today. And that He has promised to work in me, to finish the work He began in me gives me assurance and hope for the future.

Folks, I urge y’all, go where the Lord leads you to go, trust Him, and put your faith in Him.

Pro 3:5-8 NKJV
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
8 It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.

THE DEFECTS IN MAN’S COMMON VIRTUES

From “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” by Lorraine Boettner, Chapter X “Total Inability,” pages 37-39.

  1. THE DEFECTS IN MAN’S COMMON VIRTUES

The unregenerate man can, through common grace, love his family and he may be a good citizen. He may give a million dollars to build a hospital, but he cannot give even a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of Jesus. If a drunkard, he may abstain from drink for utilitarian purposes, but he cannot do it out of love for God. All of his common virtues or good works have a fatal defect in that his motives which prompt them are not to glorify God, — a defect so vital that it throws any element of goodness as to man wholly into the shade. It matters not how good the works may be in themselves, for so long as the doer of them in out of harmony with God, none of his works are spiritually acceptable. Furthermore, the good works of the unregenerate have no stable foundation, for his nature is still unchanged: and as naturally and as certainly as the washed sow returns to her wallowing in the mire, so he sooner or later returns to his evil ways.

In the realm of morals it is a rule that the morality of the man must precede the morality of the action. One may speak with the tongues of men and of angels; yet if he Is lacking that inward principle of love toward God, he is become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. He may give all his goods to feed the poor, and may give his body to be burned; yet if he lacks that inward principle. it profits him nothing. As human beings we know that an act of service rendered to us (by whatever utilitarian motives prompted) by someone who is at heart our enemy, does not merit our love and approbation. The Scripture statement that “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto God,” finds Its explanation in this, that faith is the foundation of all the other virtues, and nothing is acceptable to God which does not flow from right feelings.

A moral act is to be judged by the standard of love to God, which love is, as it were, the soul of all other virtue, and which is bestowed upon us only through grace. Augustine did not deny the existence of natural virtues, such as moderation, honesty, generosity, which constitute a certain merit among men; but be drew a broad line of distinction between these and the specific Christian graces (faith, love and gratitude to God, etc.), which alone are good in the strict sense of the word, and which alone have value before God. This distinction is very plainly illustrated in an example given by W. D. Smith. Says he: “In a gang of pirates we may find many things that are good in themselves. Though they are in wicked rebellion against the laws of the government, they have their own laws and regulations, which they obey strictly. We find among them courage and fidelity, with many other things that will recommend them as pirates. They may do many things, too, which the laws of the government require, but they are not done because the government has so required, but in obedience to their own regulations. For instance the government requires honesty and they may be strictly honest, one with another, In their transactions, and the division of all their spoil. Yet, as respects the government, and the general principle, their whole life is one of the most wicked dishonesty. Now, it is plain, that while they continue in their rebellion they can do nothing to recommend them to the government as citizens. Their first step must be to give up their rebellion, acknowledge their allegiance to the government, and sue for mercy. So all men, in their natural state, are rebels against God, and though they may do many things which the law of God requires, and which will recommend them as men, yet nothing is done with reference to God and His law. Instead, the regulations of society, respect for public opinion, self-interest, their own character in the sight of the world, or some other worldly or wicked motive, reigns supremely; and God, to whom they owe their heart and lives, is forgotten; or, if thought of at all, His claims are wickedly rejected, His counsels spurned, and the heart, in obstinate rebellion, refuses obedience. Now it is plain that while the heart continues in this state the man is a rebel against God, and can do nothing to recommend him to His favor. The first step is to give up his rebellion, repent of his sins, turn to God, and sue for pardon and reconciliation through the Savior. This he is unwilling to do, until he is made willing. He loves his sins, and will continue to love them, until his heart is changed.”

The good actions of unregenerate men, Smith continues, “are not positively sinful in themselves, but sinful from defect. They lack the principle which alone can make them righteous in the sight of God. In the case of the pirates it is easy to see that all their actions are sin against the government. While they continue pirates, their sailing, mending, or rigging the vessel and even their eating and drinking, are all sins in the eyes of the government, as they are only so many expedients to enable them to continue their piratical career, and are parts of their life of rebellion. So with sinners. While the heart is wrong, it vitiates everything in the sight of God, even their most ordinary occupations; for the plain, unequivocal language of God is, ‘Even the lamp of the wicked, is sin,’ Proverbs 21:4.”

It is this inability which the Scriptures teach when they declare that “They that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Romans 8:8; “Whatsoever Is not of faith in sin,” Romans 14:23; and “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to Him,” Hebrews 11:6. Hence even the virtues of the unregenerate man are but as plucked and fading flowers. It was because of this that Jesus said to His disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And because those virtues are of this nature, they are only temporary. The one who possesses them is like the seed which falls on the stony soil, which perhaps springs up with promise of fruitage, but soon withers in the sun because it has no root in itself.

It follows also from what has been said that salvation to ABSOLUTELY AND SOLELY OF GRACE,—that God Is free, in consistency with the infinite perfections of His nature, to save none, few, many, or all, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will. It also follows that salvation is not based on any merits in the creature, and that it depends on God, and not on men, who are, and who are not, to be made partakers of eternal life. God acts as a sovereign in saving some and passing by others who are left to the just recompense of their sins. Sinners are compared to dead men, or even to dry bones in their entire helplessness. In this they are all alike. The choice of some to eternal life is as sovereign as if Christ were to pass through a graveyard and bid one here and another there to come forth, the reason for restoring one to life and leaving another in his grave could be found only in His good pleasure, and not in the dead themselves. Hence the statement that we are foreordained according to the good pleasure of His will, and not after the good inclinations of our own; and in order that we might be holy, not because we were holy (Ephesians 1:4, 5). “Since all men alike deserved only God’s wrath and curse the gift of His only begotten Son to die in the stead of malefactors, as the only possible method of expiating their guilt, is the most stupendous exhibition of undeserved favor and personal love that the universe has ever witnessed.”33

URL: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/boettner/predest.html

Author(s):

Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Eerdmans, 1932 (copyright not renewed during 1959-61 and has

expired)

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Rights: Public Domain

Date Created: 2004-05-25

CCEL Subjects: All; Theology