One of the most famous creatures in Greek mythology is the Phoenix. The Phoenix was a bird of fire that supposedly lived for over 500 years. At the end of its life it was believed that it would create a nest of cinnamon sticks and set it aflame so that the bird would then be consumed by its own fire. However, the death was thought to be a regenerating process. The ashes that were left would congeal into a new egg. Thus, the Phoenix would arise again with new life.
From the shadows of death Christ arose with new life. So they sort of adopted the bird as their own in order to help portray the hope we have in Christ.
In a similar way we can apply the symbol of the Phoenix to the kingdom of God and the church. For Isaiah here sees a vision of the future. He relays for us what that vision is. And it is one of resurrection. It is one of revival among God’s people. Isaiah sees the kingdom of Christ rising from her ashes.
For the last several weeks we’ve been looking at chapter 1 of Isaiah, and we’ve seen that it was a pretty dreary picture. Isaiah portrays the kingdom as one in complete ashes. God had swept through and destroyed it. But Isaiah reminds us here that this will not be the end of the story. Out of the rubble, the kingdom will rise again. Under the Messiah’s governance the kingdom of God will be restored.
Really, in his own way, Isaiah tells us what Christ told us in Matthew 16, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Ultimately, Isaiah wishes to renew our hope in God. He wants us to trust Him. That’s why he has the exhortation in verse 5, “Come let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Just as the ashes of Jerusalem may cause the people of God in the OT to give up hope in God, the dismal state of the church today can get us down. If we gaze too much on the brokenness of the kingdom, we’ll be tempted to say, “All is lost! It is not worth walking in the way of God!” So to boost our spirits and give us the confidence we should have to keep the faith, the Lord wants to view the climactic zenith of the messianic kingdom.
The passage begins, you might say, on a high note. It foretells the primacy or the preeminence of the Messianic kingdom.
I. Its preeminence [2a]
Isaiah speaks of “the mountain of the house of the Lord” (which is mount Zion, which is where the city of Jerusalem was). As the capital city of Judah and the place where the temple resided, this city was representative of the whole kingdom of God. But this mountain bulges and sprouts like a beanstalk so that it eventually comes to tower over all the other mountains of the earth. When the transformation is done, none of the other mountains in Palestine can compare with it. You almost think that the Himalayan mountains or the Alps or the Rocky Mountain range out west look like mole hills.
The meaning of this comes to be realized when you remember that mountains were places where the gods were worshipped in olden days. If you are familiar with the OT, you know that Baal, and the other false gods, were worshipped on the “high places.” If you are familiar with Greek mythology, you might know that Mt. Olympus was where Zeus was supposed to be worshipped.
So here we find that the kingdom God would one day become be the preeminent religion. It would come to tower over all the other religions of the earth. The Lord would be recognized as the only true God, and the false gods would be looked upon as nothing.
And what a wonderful reminder this is for us. We are living in a day where there seems to be a smorgasbord of religions. Everyone says that all religions are basically the same and you can get to heaven by any road you want to take. As a matter of fact, in America, you are even free to make up your own religion and add it to the melting pot. And everyone is supposed to regard it equally.
Yet, the Lord reminds us here that there is only one name under heaven given among men by which you must be saved. There is only one true and living God, and He is the triune God of the Bible. All the other religions are nothing more than the products of men’s imaginations. They are satanic in their origin, and, on the day when Christ comes back, they will be cast down.
I know that the religion of Islam is growing at a rapid pace. They say that the Muslim population will soon be the majority religion in Europe in just a few years. I know that there is a growing interest in the Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.). And you probably are not surprised to hear that the Mormons are rapidly spreading throughout the world. But their growing numbers are not a testimony to their legitimacy. It is simply a testimony of how depraved we are, and how we will embrace any foolish notion that comes our way.
The truth is that there is only one true religion in the world. And it is the religion of Jesus Christ. And there will come a time when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Granted, it might not look that way now. By all outward appearances, it may seem that Christianity is nothing but weakness. The other religions of the world will always seem more appealing and more worth while to follow. Nevertheless, in time the truth will be revealed. Christ will return and his reign will be established. People will look at the gods that they worshipped and see how worthless they really are and how foolish they have been to trust in it.
Our duty now though is to cling solely to Christ. Despite what the media tells us, He is God. He is the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father but by him. As a result, it behooves you, if you have not already, to seek membership in his kingdom.
And if you do, you will find yourself in good company. That’s what the passage goes on to affirm. After stating the preeminence of Christ’s kingdom, it elaborates on its popularity.
II. Its popularity [2b-3]
At the end of verse 2 it says that all the nations shall flow to it. What a beautiful way to talk about how the multitudes are going to be found in God’s kingdom. Isaiah uses the terminology of a mighty river to show how Jerusalem will end up teeming with people. The kingdom of God will one day be flooded with a deluge of Christians who wish to give praise to God.
If you recall 9/11 you may remember seeing the thousands of people crowding the streets, fleeing from the twin towers. The streets were packed with people. Now picture that in reverse and multiplied by the thousands and ten thousands more. Millions upon millions of people pouring towards the temple of the Lord.
Of course, this is a picture of what was begun on the day of Pentecost. It is a picture of the church age and how the gospel is now being proclaimed throughout the world. Like never before the gospel is going out, and it is being embraced by the masses.
I know that I frequently come down hard on the church. Probably not a Sunday goes by when I don’t talk about how the church in America is turning away from the Lord. But I don’t want you to think then that all is lost. Christ continues to claim souls throughout the world. As a matter of fact, Christianity is growing at an incredible rate.
It is like a wildfire in Asia. The church there might be invisible to the eye because it is oppressed by the government, but it is rapidly growing. While it is difficult to give an accurate count because it must operate in secret, some believe that the protestant church could number upwards of 50 million people. It could soon outnumber the 70 million communists in the land.
The church is also exploding in places like Latin America and Africa. For instance, in 1900 there is said to be 19 million Christians in Africa. Today it is believed that there are approximately 400 million people who claim to be Christians. “The statistics from the World Christian Encyclopedia say that in 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa.”
As well, when we think of foreign missions, we typically think of people going to Africa. But most of the evangelistic activity is done by African pastors now, and no longer by foreign missionaries.
These are just a few testimonies to the massive increases in Christ’s kingdom throughout the world. The peoples are already streaming to Christ. And the book of Revelation tells us that when time is finally done, there will be gathered before the Lord a multitude so great that it cannot be counted. Myriads will be found there, all joining together to worship the Lamb who was slain.
I remember back in high school, my basketball coach held a Bible study. And there was one time when we were gathered together and he was talking about the promise keepers event that he had been to not long before. He said it was amazing. He said, “Matt, there is just something amazing being in a stadium chuck full of guys who are all lifting their voices together in praise.” Yet, that will not even begin to compare with what we’ll experience in heaven.
Do you ever think of this? Do you ever try to imagine what it is going to be like when Christ comes again? One of my questions is, how am I going to see him? I’m going to want to cast my crown down too, but I wonder if I’ll even be able to get close enough to throw the thing.
Can you imagine what it will be like when Christ comes again? It says in the book of 1 Thessalonians that all those who have died in the Lord will return with him when he comes back. Can you even begin to fathom it? It is going to be like the millions of Israelites that came flooding out of the bondage of Egypt. That’s not even to mention those Christians who are still living who will be caught up to meet him in the air!
The new world is going to be swarming with people. And it is my hope that you will also be among that sacred number who has walked in the light of the Lord.
Our passage goes on to tell us what it will be like in that day. After acknowledging the preeminence and popularity of Christ’s kingdom, he says something of its peace.
III. Its peace 
Verse 4 says that all the disputes people have will be settled, and the spears will not be needed anymore. They’ll beat them into pruning hooks and plowshares. Nations will no longer go to war or even train for it.
Now, I believe that it is at this point that we should pause and ask, when exactly is this peace going to come? I’ve sort of been implicitly giving you my take on it all through here. But there are other opinions out there, and perhaps it would be good to mention them.
What we’ve been talking about is eschatology. That is, we’ve been looking at the end times. And, those of you who participated in our end times study know that there are different views on the end times. There is what you call the pre-millennial, post-millennial, and the a-millennial positions. All of these have to do with when Christ is going to come back and the 1000 year reign he will have on earth as mentioned in Rev. 20. And as we think about this peace that is talked about in this passage, you might ask, where does it fit in?
The pre-millennial position is that Christ will come back before the millennium. And when he comes back he will establish his kingdom of peace. So you will have 1000 years where Christ reigns on earth. Believers and unbelievers dwell together in perfect peace. After that 1000 years is up, then a rebellion breaks out, the battle of Armageddon occurs and the final judgment then immediately follows.
The post millennial position is that Christ comes back after the 1000 years of peace. So, those who hold this position believe that the gospel is going to go out into all the world so that it eventually pervades every corner. They believe that virtually all the world will be converted. And once this occurs, because unbelief is (for the most part) extinct, there will be such a high morality that there will be this period of 1000 years where there is nothing but unbreakable peace.
Then there is what is called the a-millennial position. And I will be honest with you, this is the position I take and the one that I’ve been assuming all throughout this message. The a-millennial view holds that we are currently in the 1000 year reign of Christ. Obviously the number 1000 would be regarded as a symbolic number as it has already been 2000 years since the time of Christ. But you can understand that Christ is now exalted to the right hand of the Father where he rules in a spiritual way over his church. Though it be a spiritual rule, it is nonetheless a real/legitimate rule. Christ is now protecting his church, guiding her, and subduing all her enemies as any king should do.
Once this period is ended (which no one knows the time or season of) Christ will return. After he returns, then you will have this peace. All those who are God’s enemies will be cast into hell. The church will be purified and free from sin. Being that there is no more sin, there will be no need for war.
That is somewhat of an excurses, but hopefully you find it informative. The point is, there will one day be perfect peace. Christ will indeed come again. All the selfishly inclinations and spirits that are set against the ways of God (which is why peace does not now permeate the world!) will be gone. Peace will then endure.
This is why I give the final exhortation to walk in the light of the Lord. If you put your faith in God and seek to obey him, you will participate in this peace. When Christ comes to establish his kingdom, you will enjoy the everlasting harmony that will be here.
So I encourage you to put away all unbelief. Those of you who have not put your trust in Christ yet, it is time to do so. It is time to number yourself among the throngs who will be going to Zion. Look to Christ and seek his kingdom. And those of you who now profess Christ, your job is to abide in him. Do not let your spirits become discouraged. Do not let your life be guided by what you see around you. Even in the high times of the Spirit, the church will always appear weak. Our job is to live by faith. We must trust that the kingdom will come. We must live in such a way that shows that we believe that this vision will one day become a reality. So come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
At the same time, evil can be a slippery thing. Think about the pantheist--i.e. the person who believes that God is in everything and everything is God. If that is true, then how do they determine what evil is? Evil has to be divine. They would never say this, but if they were consistent they would have to admit that evil is really non-existent.
The same goes for the Atheist. If there is no moral lawgiver, then who is to say what is morally right? If we are all just a random blob of particles, or if the basic premise of life is that the strongest shall survive, then who’s to say what is good and what is bad?
I actually have seen one atheist admit this. He could never live it out, but theoretically he was trying to be consistent. He posed a question to some Christians in a debate. He recounted a gruesome rape and murder that had occurred and then asked, “If God is good, how can he permit such things to happen?” I then asked him how he determines that such a thing is “bad”? In his own words he said, “I don’t really believe that there is a distinction between good and evil.” It was obvious by the way he said it that he really didn’t mean it. He was just trying to be consistent with his views during the debate. Everyone else just laughed at him because it was such an absurd statement.
But that’s the conundrum: When it comes to this whole thing we call evil, there is a sense in which people are groping around in the dark trying to grasp it.
All this is to say that the existence of evil is a question that every worldview and belief system must attempt to answer. And that is exactly why this section of Scripture has been given to us.
In this passage the Lord gives us the answer. The book of Genesis is the book of beginnings. It tells us about the beginning of the world, the beginning of man, the beginning of marriage. Now it tells us about the beginning of evil.
And you’ll notice that the Passage starts off by telling us that there was a time when evil did not exist. There was a time when perfection was the rule of the day.
I. The Absence of Evil [2:25]
This is why I began our reading with the last verse of chapter 2. In that verse we see the complete absence of evil. It says, “The man and woman were both naked and they were not ashamed.”
This is telling us of the original righteousness that Adam and Eve possessed. Man’s original state was that of complete innocence. He was completely pure, loving only that which was good and having absolutely no inclination towards evil at all.
And it is something that we cannot fully comprehend. Our lives are so mingled with sin that we can’t even read this verse without having a perverted thought. At best, we laugh at the thought of two people prancing around a garden in the buff.
But it was true. The only thing that Adam and Eve had as garments was their skin, and they were perfectly innocent in it. There was nothing that would cause them to blush or recoil from one another. Rather it was the complete opposite. When one would catch a glimpse or the other their only reaction would be perfect praise for the natural beauty of their beloved.
We find here that their lives were a perfect display of devotion to God. Or, as Kenneth Hughes has said, “Loving God was as natural as breathing, and as effortless!”
This is important for us for two reasons. First, it shows us that good and evil are not equal and coexistant powers. A while back our brother Craig showed us the Ying and the Yang, the black and white tadpoles that look like they are wrestling. That symbol represented a philosopy of life. That good and evil are two equal and coexistent powers. The two have always existed beside each other and have always fought each other.
As we see here, that is not true. Evil has not always existed. That wasn’t part of the original design of things.
But there is another reason why we should note this original state of things. The absence of evil at the beginning of time helps us see that God is not the cause of evil. When it comes to the whole complex of evil we have to understand that it is an intruder. It is an invasion into the created order. It was not part of the original design of things.
One of the things we are prone to do is lay the blame upon God. We’ll say that God made us this way or something to that effect. But the testimony of Scripture is that God is in no way to be associated with the cause of evil. He did not create us with any sort of inclination toward evil in any way.
He did make us with the ability to lose this innocence, as we will see in just a moment. We do not doubt that Adam, in his original state was a free to choose evil (posse peccar, as Augustine would put it).
The Scripture is clear on the fact that Adam was a free agent. God had given him the ability to choose. But that is not the same as saying that He made us inclined to sin.
God’s original design was that man should enjoy perfect tranquility. Or, in the words of the children’s catechism, “God made man holy and happy.” If anything, the state of Adam’s innocence and the original righteousness with which he was endowed would incline him towards contentment in obedience.
But of course, this is not how things ended up. Even though Adam and Even enjoyed a time of perfect tranquility, it eventually came to a screeching halt. The first six verses of chapter 3 recount this for us.
II. The entrance of evil [3:1-6]
And we see that sin entered the world through the disobedience of one man. Adam took the fruit and he ate. It was nothing other than a direct transgression of the one command God had given. Through this we see what evil really is. Evil is sin. It is disobedience. It is rebellion against God and His law. You remember that God had given Adam one command, “Do not eat of the fruit of this one tree. All the others are free for you to partake of, but this one is off limits. You must not eat of it.”
But Adam did not obey. He chose to defy that command.
And the moment he bit into that fruit, history changed.
YOu must keep in mind that Adam is not just acting for himself here. He is acting as the federal head of mankind. The actions of this one man are the actions that are applied to us all.
Now, there are people who object to this kind of thinking. Many people say, “That’s not fair!” Why do I have to be accountable for his actions?
We have to remember that Adam was acting as our representative. And this is something that we do all the time. In a few weeks, you will be going to the ballot box and electing people to represent you in Washington. These officials that we elect are charged with the duty of acting on our behalf. And the choices they make, of course, are essentially our choices. Their decisions affect each and every one of us. If they choose to raise taxes, then your taxes will be raised and you have to comply.
That’s how a federal system works. And here we are to understand that Adam was acting as our representative. He was the head of Eve, and the head of all the human race. Just like you fathers. You men are the heads of your home, and everything you do affects the rest of your family. As the head, your decisions have repercussions for the rest of your household. It might even have repercussions for generations to come.
That is how it was in the beginning. Adam and Eve were our first parents. And the decision of Adam to rebel against God had serious repercussions for the rest of the human family. All the sons of Adam and all the daughters of Eve were plunged into sin by his act.
Now you might say, “Well, if I were there I would never have done such a thing!” I hear this accusation quite often. To which I respond by saying, “OH PLEASE! Spare me such foolery!”
You and I fall into sin a thousand times a day. I wonder if Satan even bother’s to contend with us. We are too easy of a target. It takes the sport out of it! With the amount of sin in our lives and the feeble ability we have to resist temptation, such a thought that we would be better than Adam is ridiculous!
What’s more, we shouldn’t think so little of Adam. God would not create a schlub. Adam had to have been a noble creature. We already saw that he was endowed with innocence, and we know from his naming of the creatures that he was created with a supreme intellect.
The reality is that the best man was presented for the job. And despite this, he failed the test, and the ruin of mankind was made complete.
This act of course, did not spring entirely out of the blue. We see that there were some promptings that led to it. And that is the main substance of what is recorded in these verses. The passage tells us that there were a number of things that led up to Adam’s eating of the fruit.
And there are so many things we could talk about here. The most important thing to note though is that this all transpired because of there was an attack upon God’s word and God’s order.
Satan’s method was a two pronged strategy. He attacked the word and he went after the woman.
There is a great deal we could say about Satan’s attack on God’s word. But I want us to focus on the other point of attack. I think it is a lesson that all the men in this congregation need to think about.
You notice that he didn’t initiate his advance by going straight to Adam. He posed his question to Eve. His advance against humanity was to get at Adam in a round about way.
When you imagine this scenario, don’t think that Eve was all alone. We tend to think that it is almost as if she’s getting mugged in a back alley all by herself. That’s not the way it happened. The context reveals that Adam was right there. It says in verse 6 that she gave the fruit to her husband who was with her. And what you should see is that Adam’s fall is already underway.
As the head of Eve he should have stepped forward and put an end to it right there. He should have been zealous for the Lord and said, “NO! WE WILL HAVE NONE OF THIS!” And he should have grabbed his wife’s hand and ran.
And it wasn’t just his zeal for God it was his zeal for his wife. Adam sort of stands there and watches this transpire. And he watches his wife eat it, as if to say, “I’ll let her do it first and see what happens. If she dies, I’ll know not to do it.” It’s like saying, “Go ahead honey. You be the guinnea pig.”
There is a sense in which Adam’s eating of the fruit is just the culmination of his sin. He had already abdicated his role as head.
And I point this out because we as men need to recognize what this is saying about our duties in the home. We have the duty before God to lead our families in the fear of God. We have the responsibility to be proactively seeking to maintain the purity of our wives and daughters and our sons.
Our job is to protect and preserve. This is why we are to lead our families in the Scriptures each day. This is why, if need be, we take the TV and chuck it out the window. Or say, “We are not going to let you hang out with so & so anymore.” God calls us to be the guardian and protector of the house.
Adam didn’t do that. And for that reason, we are where we are. Better yet, “We are what we are.”
You might say, “Well what do you mean by that? What do you mean that ‘we are what we are’?”
Well, things are different now. Our essential nature has changed. That’s what verse 7 tells us. Verse 7 tells us of the repercussions of evil.
III. The repercussions of evil [3:7]
It says, “They eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin cloths.”
Things were suddenly different for Adam and Eve. In this verse you see that they incurred much more than just the guilt of that first sin. Their whole nature had changed. They weren’t able to look at each other the same. They were no longer able to frolic about in the garden as they did before. The moment they had tasted of the fruit their whole orientation was transformed.
The poison of sin immediately begin to course through their veins. Immediately they were filled with lust and, along with it, the shame of being exposed.
Of course, the rest of the Scripture will develop us what this means. But we have presented here a quick glance at the depravity of man. Verse seven is telling us that as soon as Adam took that bite, he died.
He didn’t drop to the ground and die physically, but he did die spiritually. Man was now dead in his trespasses and sins. The one act of disobedience had permanent damage. The ramifications were significant because now he was utterly opposed to all things good. He lost his original righteousness. That innocence immediately evaporated, and now they were utterly contaminated with the stain and pollution of sin.
So is everyone who had been born of Adam.
That might be a hard statement to swallow. But that is the real truth as to our nature. When it comes to the problem of evil, the real problem is you. The real problem is me. It is what now resides inside of us.
That’s not the way we wish to conceive of things. We do not want to recognize ourselves as the real problem. We would like to pin the evil on something outside of us, like our environment or our upbringing. But the truth is we are the problem.
There within our chests is a dark pit of wickedness, the potential of which we cannot fully imagine.
The answer to the problem of evil is to be found right here: There is no one righteous; no not one. There is no one who does good; not even one. No one seeks for God, but all have turn aside and become worthless.”
You might say, “Well that is not very Christian of you!” But in reality, it is the most Christian thing to say. Because that is the sum and substance of Christianity.
This is why Jesus Christ came into the world. He came because you and I lost this innocence. It is because we are guilty before God of having broken his law and are under the power of sin. He came to save us from our sin.
The New Testament points out that Jesus comes to earth to be the Second Adam.
The book of Romans, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
As we look at Adam, we are sorely disappointed. We see that he failed the test. He failed to remain true to God. But where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. The New Testament shows us that Jesus came to be the new and better representative—the better Adam. For Jesus’ life was spotless. He lived the perfect life.
He was tempted, but he did not succumb to it. This is why we say that Jesus is the only Savior. He is the only one who can remove the guilt of Adam’s sin. He is the only one who can make us right with God.
So the end result is that you can either be in Adam or in Christ.
And that is where we end today. You must understand that this passage is here to drive you to Christ.
You can either continue about your merry way and remain in the guilt of Adam’s sin, or you can turn to Christ.
In the upcoming lessons we will have opportunity to flesh it out, but here we must recognize that “in Adam’s fall, sinned we all.” And there is only one remedy for this evil: It is the Lord Jesus Christ.
After the service last week I got to talking with Mike and Raylene Hlavaty. Raylene mentioned that it was good to talk about the goal we are supposed to have in marriage. She said she believes that a lot of marriages struggle because they don’t know what they are supposed to be aiming for.
I could not have said it better myself. That’s exactly right. I would posit that most marriages do not have “happily ever after” because they do not know what God intends in marriage. They don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. The marriages end or plod along because they fail to understand what God says here in this verse.
We have here God’s plan for happy marriages. And there could be no greater Christian teaching on marriage. You may remember that Jesus referred to this passage in his life and ministry. When questioned about marriage, Jesus basically said, “Just go back to the original design.” The Apostle Paul also referred to it at least twice in his writings.
In every way our Lord affirmed that God’s plan for marriage is to be built on this blueprint.
As we come to our passage today I want us to focus our attention on the three principles God has laid down here regarding how a marriage is supposed to work.
And the first thing we should see is that every marriage must begin with a divorce!
I. It involves leaving father and mother
Our passage says that a “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother.”
This is telling us that before a marriage occurs there is to be a separation that occurs. If we want our marriage to function properly, then God says that many of those ties we have to our homes and to our parents must be severed.
One person put it this way, “The bond of marriage must be so strong that it actually severs one of the strongest relationships on the planet.”
Now, on the face of this, we understand that leaving your father and mother means that a physical separation must occur. And I want to emphasis this: Kids, when you get married, you need to move out. Your parent’s home is not your home anymore.
But there is more to it than that. Leaving your father and mother is not limited to finding a new address. It is possible to live on the other side of the planet and still be tied to your home.
We have to understand that God intends our relationship with our parents to change. It is obvious that it is never going to be broken completely. But it ought to be broken effectively. The parent child relationship has to undergo a metamorphosis.
As Wayne Mack says, leaving your father and mother means that you must no longer being slavishly dependent upon your parents for affection, approval, assistance or advice. As a child you draw those things from your parents. As a single person, your parents may still be the main source of support and counsel. And we understand that during such times, that is fine. That was the way God intended it.
But when a couple comes to be married, these needs and attachments to be reallocated. Your primary source of love, counsel, and support must now be found in your spouse.
You will relate to your parents differently. And parents, you should take note this too. Once your children marry, you cannot continue relating to them in the same way. They will be your son or daughter still, but the way you relate to them out to change.
Think about it this way. All growing up little Suzzie was daddy’s little girl. He cared for her, consoled her, and counseled her from the time she was in diapers. The moment he walks her down the aisle and gives her away, that relationship must change. When in the wedding service he puts her hand in her soon to be husband’s, that is a symbol of transference. He’s saying, I’m committing my duties as her daddy to you.
That’s what God intends. There is supposed to be a whole new family unit formed. She now has a new head of home whom she is to look to for these things. If daddy continues to be her source of consolation, then there will be problems. God did not intend that. Her new husband is most likely going to become embittered and resent her and her father. Holidays are going to be a little tense. And he’s going to feel that way because she is essentially saying, “I don’t trust him. I don’t recognize him as the head of my home.”
The same holds true on the other end. If a man is giving more credence to his mother’s wishes than to his wife’s, then there are going to be a number of problems that arise. If he’s always at mom’s beck and call, and not giving his wife’s needs and desires precedence, then his wife will become embittered. She is going to feel alienated.
We must understand that God did not design the parent child relationship to last forever. God intends those ties to the home to change. And if we want “happily ever after,” then we must make sure that there is a definite break in those ties.
And as those ties are broken, we are to recognize that new ties are created. God’s design is not just that a man would leave his father and mother, but He intends a man to cleave to his new bride.
II. It involves cleaving to your wife
The passage says that the man will hold fast to his wife.”
The word that is used here is used throughout the Old Testament. One instance is in the book of Job. In the midst of the afflictions that come on him Job he says that his flesh clings to his bones. You get the picture of a man who is wasting away. You’ve probably seen pictures of people who have lost a lot of muscle mass. Their skin looks like it is wrapped tightly around their bones.
The word is also used in Psalm 22 in reference to the agonies Christ experienced on the cross. One of the pains that Jesus experience was thirst. And Psalm 22 says, “My tongue clings to the roof of my mouth.” It’s the idea that it is so dry that it simply can’t move. It is frozen there.
So the word that the Lord uses here has the idea of constant attachment. You might say that it is the Old Testament word for superglue.
And this is how we are to view our marriage. Contrary to popular opinion, marriages are not to end in divorce. They are not to be based on animal attraction or sentimental feelings that can wear out with time. Marriage is supposed to be an irrevocable covenant. In it you are supposed to pledge your constant faith and abiding love.
Unlike the parent child relationship, this is supposed to be a permanent relationship. According to Scripture, you are to be bonded to this person until death do you part. And, really, this person is to be the centerpiece of your life. You cleave to them in that you make it your whole life’s aim to serve him or her until the very last.
That’s not the way that it is usually viewed today. The modern mindset is typically, “I will stick with you until someone better comes along.” Or, “You will be mine until I can’t stand you anymore.”
But marriage, as the Bible defines it, says, “I am going to cling to you with an unwavering devotion. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, nothing is going to deter me from being your husband (or wife).”
This is why I love the traditional wedding ceremony. The words that are recited in the old school wedding nail it. You promise to have and to hold her for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live. And as you slip that ring on her finger you say, “This ring is a token and pledge of my abiding love and constant faithfulness.”
Those words express what is communicated here. Those words express what it means to cleave to your wife.
Again, I think Wayne Mack nails it in his book Strengthening Marriage. He says,
“When two people get married they promise that they will be faithful to each other regardless of what happens. The wife promises that she will be faithful even if her husband is afflicted with bulges, baldness, and bi-focals, even if he loses his health, wealth, and charm, and even if someone more exciting comes along.
“The husband promises to be faithful even if the wife loses her beauty and appeal, even if she is not as neat and tiddy or as submissive as he would like, even if she does not satisfy his sexual desires completely, even if she spends money foolishly or is a terrible cook.”
That is well put because it gets at the real understanding of what it means to cleave. There is the idea of permanent devotion to your spouse.
Again, I recognize that this is not the norm. People who marry today cleave to many things—their spouse not being one of them. They cleave to their parents, they cleave to their friends, they cleave to their children, they cleave to themselves and their own desires or pursuits.
This is why so many marriages end the way they do or are characterized by anger or frustration.
We must understand that the word of God says differently. God’s intention is that we forsake all others and cleave to our spouse.
There is one other items that we must mention. You’ll notice that the verse culminates in the very last part where it says, “And the two shall become one flesh.” This tells us that marriage involves more than your leaving your father and mother and cleaving to your wife. Marriage involves a complete union of life.
III. It involves a complete union of life
Again it says, “The two shall become one flesh.” And we are to understand that a fusion is supposed to occur.
At the most basic level this has to do with the physical side of the relationship. In 1 Corinthians Paul talks about becoming one with a prostitute.
And we should note how important the sexual union is between a man and a woman. The television will tell you that its “just sex.” But that is a great lie. Biblically speaking, it is (among other things) a form of uniting. It is giving yourself to someone and yielding yourself to that person in the context of the bedroom. The intimacy you experience there reaches a depth that cannot be fully explained with words. And that is why it is so essential to a marriage.
And this is why we believe that one should abstain from sexual relationships until marriage. I recognize that Hollywood glorifies sexual prowess and promiscuity is favored all around us. But this is why you young people ought to strive for purity. Sexual intercourse is far more than a physical act. It is more than merely a carnal pleasure. It is one of God’s means of uniting two people.
That’s why it must be reserved and only met in the context of the “leaving and cleaving.” God meant it explicitly for the purpose of assisting that marriage union. And when it is rightly expressed, the relationship takes on a beauty and depth that cannot be fully articulated.
But, as I say, the physical element is only part of what is meant here. This oneness that is spoken of here goes beyond the sexual dimension. The oneness is a merging of the persons in every area of life.
This is something that is often misunderstood today. A lot of it has to do with the fact that so many people today live together prior to marriage.
Statistics tell us that 70% of couples today live together before marriage. This isn’t good. That’s because it is an attempt at oneness without the merging of life. The two attempt to remain two and keep a great deal of independence. People usually live together because there is no real commitment to each other. So there is a sharing of sorts, but at the same time there is a great deal of reservation—a holding back of some form or other (most likely, more than one form or other!).
But that’s not the way it is supposed to be. God designed the two to become one.
In marriage, there is to be a union of all life. It is not just a sharing of the bed; it is a merging of every dimension of your life. It is a merging of your goals and life pursuits. You come to share your thoughts and ideas.
Even your finances ought to merge. I do not recommend that couples have his and her checkbooks or “his and her money.” There should be a fusion that occurs in that all that you do economically becomes one.” Money is one of the main issues in a marriage. That’s because it is so very much intertwined with your lives, wishes, and intents. If you have his and her money (his and her bank accounts) that is going to be symptomatic of a great deal else that has not coalesced in your marriage.
I recognize that the depths of this have not been touched on. The reaches of these truths is something that ought to encourage further reflection and study. I simply hope that what has been said so far has provided you with a bit of catalyst for that.
I will close by saying this: If you understand what is said here, you understand why marriage is used so often in Scripture regarding our relationship to the Lord. And you see here something of a fulfillment of it in Christ’s relationship to his bride.
In the fullness of time, Jesus left his heavenly home that he might be united to his bride. Of course, we know that as God He could never be completely separated from the Father. But as to his humanity, there is a sense that he was. And in his life and death, we see him cleaving to his bride. Through the thickest darkness and bleakest moments—even hell itself, he remained true to her. And as we are brought to faith in Christ we are united to him. We experience a union whereby all our old cares are set aside in order to yield the whole of our life to him.
We recognize that the principles here found in Adam and Eve establish the norms for Christian marriage. But we also recognize that, though this match was made in heaven, prior to the fall, we have in our marriages the awesome opportunity to replicate something of the glorious gospel of our salvation. We have here the principles that reveal that which leads into heaven.
To be sure, what is laid down here points us to the ultimate “happily ever after story.” And may that be what challenges us to commit ourselves to these principles in our own marriages.
 Larry Christenson, The Christian Family.
 Wayne Mack, Strengthening Your Marriage.
Recently I had a conversation with a pastor who had done a series of sermons on sex. I told him that I’ve talked with a number of people in his congregation about it and I told them that they were really enjoying the messages and finding them quite insightful. I told him because I wanted to just pass on a word of encouragement and let him know that what he was doing was a great thing.
I could tell he was grateful for the vote of confidence, but his response to me was somewhat interesting. He said, “Yeah, well. It has taken me long enough to talk about it.” (He has been in the ministry for a number of years now).
I thought, “Boy, I tackled that one in the first year and a half of my ministry!” We had a number of sermons on it when we were going through the book of Proverbs. And here we are, only 5 years into the life of our church and we are hitting it again pretty in depth!
You know, this is just one example of how the church needs a healthy balance. For a long time this was an issue that people didn’t speak about in the church. It is sad too, because our culture is so oversexed that we need solid biblical teaching on the matter. In fact, much of our ills today come from a lack of emphasis on the proper notion of sexual intimacy.
Today is Reformation Sunday and you know, this is a great topic for it. We need to think like Reformed Christians on the topic of the marriage bond.
Since it is Reformation Sunday, it is only proper that we begin with a quote from Luther, isn’t it? Luther once said the church can often be like a drunk that tries to mount a horse. You can understand the analogy that he uses when you imagine it. Here you have the inebriated fellow putting his foot in the stirrup and hoisting himself up. But because of he is so intoxicated he fails to maintain the proper balance. So what happens is that his momentum takes him flailing over the other side and down to the ground with a thud.
Luther says that this is a picture of the church. One moment she is on one side of the horse, involved in some extreme practices. Then she reacts and strives for reformation. But the balance is lost. Her momentum only causes her to topple over the horse and land in another extreme.
This is exactly what we’ve experienced with the notion of Christians and intercourse. For a long time, such teaching was repressed and seen as taboo. But what has happened? The church has had a knee jerk reaction. Things are now at the other extreme. Immorality is at high tide.
The church is always in danger of extremism. And certainly it was the case here in Corinth. For the last couple of weeks we have been dealing with the issue of purity when it comes to sexual relations. We’ve seen & heard that the Corinthian culture was a cesspool when it came to such things. It was a debauched society, and the church wasn’t much different. But in the midst of all the immorality there, there arose a group that went to the opposite extreme. And that’s what we see in this passage.
As you see from the first verse Paul begins to address some questions the Corinthians had posed to him. They wanted some clarification on the matter of celibacy. Apparently people were beginning to think that abstaining from sex was a greater form of spirituality. You can see how it works, “Sexual immorality is a terrible problem here. So let us be gone with it altogether!”
Really, we need this teaching. This is a great teaching for our day because we are at a place where we can be in danger of doing that knee jerk reaction, and many people within Christian circles already have. So it is good for us to initiate a reformation on the topic and consider the spirituality of sexual gratification. I want us to think about the Reformed view of sex.
The first thing to discuss regarding a Reformed view of sex is our sexual orientation.
I. Our sexual orientation [1-2, 6-9]
Now I recognize that when you use the word “sexual orientation” today it has to do with whether a person is a homosexual or heterosexual. That’s not what I’m talking about though. We all know that homosexuality is wrong. Paul just mentioned it in the previous verses.
When I say sexual orientation I am talking about how we are divinely oriented towards sexual intimacy. That is to say, God has worked into our system the natural desire for sexual fulfillment.
Paul brings this out a number of times throughout this passage. Look at the first verse. He says, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
Now a lot of people have taken this verse the wrong way. They say that Paul is here pushing the single lifestyle because he says it is good. That is to twist what Paul is saying though. Paul is not saying that the single life is good in that it is a higher spiritual life or better than being married. He is saying that if you are able to do it that’s fine—i.e. if you have the gift, it is not wrong for you to remain in that state. However, that’s not the norm!
Paul is saying that typically, people who are single struggle with sexual temptation. Why is that? It is because they have hormones! And from whence came those hormones? The answer is that they came from God. That’s the way he created us! He has planted within us that desire—he gave us that orientation that longs for that intimacy. So, when you reach a certain age, you start to have those cravings.
And Paul points out that’s why God created marriage. It is because those desires that he gave you are so strong. Moreover God wants you to fulfill those desires in a way that brings you the most pleasure. That’s why Paul says at the end, if you can’t control yourself, get married. It is better to marry than to burn. God doesn’t want you to suffer. He gave you those desires for your greater happiness.
Do you hear what I’m saying here? True spirituality is not consist in thinking that these desires are sinful and pleading with God to take these desires away. God has given us sexual desires. A person is not to be considered a monster when they have these yearnings.
Too often I have heard Christians talk about how we shouldn’t even have the desire for sexual intimacy until we are married and if we do then that young person is sinning. And this has lead to too many of our young people becoming mixed up and living in so much frustration
To say such a thing is not true. To say that that we shouldn’t even have those feelings is to devote the good things of God to the devil. I’m serious, that kind of notion give the devil a creative power that he doesn’t really possess. It is to say that somehow Satan zapped us and planted those desires in us so that he could tempt us and torment us. That can’t be true though. Satan doesn’t have that power. He can’t create anything. He can only tempt us to twist or abuse the good things that God has created.
Do you remember what happened after God created Eve? Do you remember what happened when she and Adam met? Adam didn’t go up and shake her hand and say, “Hi I’m Adam. Nice to meet you. Can you help me change the oil in the tractor?” No! Adam was immediately spell bound when he laid eyes on her. The tractor was the last thing on his mind. As a matter of fact, he sang a song: “This is at last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” Why do you think he said, “This is at last”? It was because he was very happy to see her! Evidently, he was longing for some deeper companionship that he couldn’t get from the rest of the animals.
Now don’t think that I am saying that Adam was lusting. Of course he wasn’t. He was still in his upright state. The desires he had were pure and they were good because that’s the way God had made them. That same orientation has continued on down to today.
So we all need to recognize that God has given us an orientation towards sexual intimacy. He was the one who built those passions into our system. That’s why he says that every man should have his girl and every woman his guy, unless he has the gift—that is the gift of celibacy as mentions in verse 6.
I don’t know if I need to mention or not that this is why the Roman Catholic Church has so many problems with its clergy. There are so many pedophiles and perverts there because they make their priests take a vow of celibacy. But that’s a vow top which they cannot live up. To even take the vow is to defy our divine design. It is to open the door to all kinds of sexual immorality.
They think they are being so spiritual though, don’t they? I’m going to be married to the church and I am therefore renouncing all women. That’s not spiritual. That is unspiritual.
If you don’t mind me doing so, I’ll quote from Martin Luther again. Luther said that true holiness consists in taking up your daily duties before God. He said there is nothing more holy than a man who digs a ditch, a woman who changes a diaper, or a young couple who engages in sexual intercourse.
Why did he think that? It is because those are the kinds of things that please God. God is pleased when we start thinking this way. Or perhaps a better way to say it is, “God is pleased when we start acting this way.” Because he has created us to be sexually oriented creatures and he has created marriage for the gratification of the desires he has placed in us.
Being that we are on the topic we can easily transition to our second point. Now that we’ve talked about our orientation towards sexual intimacy, we can talk about our obligations regarding sexual intimacy.
II. Our obligations regarding sexual intimacy
Paul is very direct here. He tells us that if and when we get married, we are duty bound to satisfy the desires our spouse. Look at what he says. In verse 3 he says, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights,” and vice versa. And he even gives the reason, “you body is not your own.” As Alistair Beg says, when you get married, your spouse becomes an equal shareholder!
Then he goes on to reiterate what he has just said with even stronger language. He says, “Do not deprive one another.” There is to be no withholding going on, unless it is agreed upon. And even then, Paul limits how long you should abstain. It should be for a limited time, he says! And as soon as the time is up, you should come together again.
A lot of people think that the puritans were a bunch of prudes. But that is not true though. The puritans had a very high view of sex, and they did a good job of teaching on this subject—to the point where most of us would blush. They preached that a husband and wife were to keep the marriage bed hot. That was the title of an actual sermon in those days! “Keep the marriage bed hot!” They took the subject seriously.
In a sermon on this topic one puritan said that our spouse is to be considered “a playfellow who has come to make our age merry.” Think about that! A play fellow!
All this is to say that the puritans understood the reformed view of sex and they emphasized the fact that we are divinely obligated to be not just husbands and wives, but lovers of the most erotic type. As a matter of fact, there is one instance recorded where a man was put under church discipline because he was not attempting to gratify the physical desires of his wife! I would also go so far as to say that if your spouse is not providing for you, you may have the right to divorce. That would be the grounds of sexual immorality and desertion.
But why would they put a man under discipline for such matters? It is because they understood this teaching right here. They understood that God commands us to keep the marriage bed hot. And if there is one thing that we need today it is a red hot Reformed understanding of intimate love.
Do you know why there is so much infidelity today? There are a lot of reasons, but part of it is because people are not obeying what God says here. A man or a woman are not having their desires satisfied. As a result, they are looking to other places to find that gratification. It is as Calvin said in his commentary; the remedy for fornication is a right teaching regarding the marriage.
As I said, there are a lot of other factors, but that is one. Let’s just pose a scenario. Think about it this way. A man and a woman get married. Rather than following the Biblical ideal, the woman takes a job. She wants to find her fulfillment in her occupation and the newlywed couple can earn a lot of money. Already you see that their priorities are not right.
So each morning the two wake up, make their lunches together, and then they head out for work. After 9 hours of being on the job they come home. Then they have the rest of the day together. The first few years go along just fine. They are happy and they end up having a couple of kids together. But that’s when life starts getting rough. Now, after a long day at work—dealing with the hassles of a grumpy boss and grouchy clients—the couple comes home to two incredibly demanding kids. Both are already exhausted, the wife probably more so because she is the weaker vessel. But they both then have to pour more energy into the kids. After finally getting them calmed down and settled down into bed, they collapse into bed themselves. All energies for any other sort of extracurricular activities is gone, particularly of the woman.
With a lifestyle like that, it is not going to be long before one is going to start looking to find other wells from which to drink.
That is just one scenario. A million more could be posed. What is important to understand here is that a woman’s focus should be on fulfilling her man’s desires. The man should be focused on being everything that a woman wants.
Your goal as a couple is twofold. We know that God commands us to keep the marriage bed pure. That’s a no brainer. But it should also be our goal to (as the puritans said) to keep the marriage bed hot. As a matter of fact, we keep it pure by keeping it hot.
We make the joke sometimes about people come to church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. But there are marriages that operate on that principle too. Along comes Valentine’s Day and the anniversary and, well, we got to muster up the strength. You know that I’m exaggerating so some degree here. But you understand what I’m getting at. That can be the mindset we have. But that is sinful. That’s not the way we are to be.
You should ask yourself, “If the thermostat were kept in our bedroom, would that affect the rest of the house?” Now if you answer that question by saying things get pretty cold in that section of your house, there is something very wrong.
Yes, that’s right. It is wrong. It is sin. These are divine commands and if you stand in opposition to them you are rebelling against God. As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that if you are a good husband or wife in every other way, yet you do not fulfill these obligations, then you are not a good spouse at all because this is the ultimate expression of love.
If you would, allow me one more quote from Martin Luther. In the book, “A Rhapsody of Love and Spirituality” David Fekete puts outlines Luther’s view of love. And he deals quite a bit with the notion of sex. Luther is quoted as saying this,
“Conjugal excels all other forms of love. The love towards one’s spouse burns like a fire and seeks nothing but the person of the spouse. It says, “I do not desire what is yours, I desire neither silver nor gold, I desire neither this nor that; I desire you yourself; I desire you entirely, or not at all. All other love seeks something else than the person of the loved one. Conjugal love alone wants the entire person of the loved one himself.”
If you need any more proof, just go and read the book of Song of Songs. There in that book you see to people who are enraptured with each other. Their love finds its fullest expression in their union.
And yes, this passage does find its fulfillment in Christ. The intimacy of the marital union finds a correlation in our union with Christ. Christ said in his high priestly prayer, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." There could be no better expression of closeness or love than that. There is a oneness and union that is beautiful, and it is replicated in the union that we have in the context of the marriage bond.
So here in lies the essence of true spirituality. True spirituality does not consist simply in sitting in a corner of your house all by yourself with a bible in your lap. It may involve that from time to time. You need also to realize that being off by yourself may sometimes be a direct revolt against true spirituality.
God has ignited within us the fires of passion, and he calls us to let that love bloom and blaze with passionate strength. His design is that we kindle these embers of love by seeking out one with whom we can share these desires and likewise make merry.
Ultimately, the Reformed view of sex provides a trinity of pleasure. We gratify our own God given desires and those desires of our beloved. And ultimately, God himself is pleased. For he delights when his law is obeyed, and he receives the greatest pleasure when his children delight themselves in each other.
One of the assignments I have my juniors when I taught high school Bible was to create a pamphlet for tourism. We were studying the missionary journeys of Paul, and I asked them to choose a city and research it. They were then to create a pamphlet that would introduce the city and give an idea of what it was like at the time Paul came to it.
I remember well one of the student’s pamphlets, mainly because it was so vulgar. It made me think that perhaps I should have thought through the assignment a bit more thoroughly. He had chosen the city of Corinth. The title on the front of the pamphlet was “The City of Sin!” And when you opened up the flyer, there were some pictures that would not necessarily qualify as pornographic, but were certainly pushing the limits of being in good taste.
While my student’s project was overtly offensive (and lacking tact for a school assignment), I couldn’t help but say that he depicted well the lascivious lifestyle of the Corinthian people. A depiction of the city of Corinth would have to read like an guide to the Hugh Hefner mansion if it was going to be anywhere accurate to the reality
To say that the Corinthians were a promiscuous society would be perhaps the understatement of the century. The lewdness of the city was so notorious across the Roman Empire that the term “to corinthianize” was coined, and it referred to the idea of sexual indulgence or any other sort of corrupt practice.
And it was within this sex crazed culture that a church was born. As is the case at all times, the church had a hard time separating herself from the culture in which she existed. So it would be inevitable that Paul would have to spend a great deal of time outlining the biblical notion of sexuality.
Certainly we find yet another reason why this book is a book for our time. Each of you knows well that I don’t have to spend a lot of time detailing how our contemporary culture shares the addiction to sexual fornication. To see how debauched we are all you have to do is turn on your television or stand in the checkout line at the grocery store.
There is no doubt that churches today need to renew their interests in what the Bible says about the proper boundaries of sex. And we can begin to do so as we look at what the Lord teaches in the passage that is before us this morning.
Paul’s argumentation here is splendid. To combat the sexual immorality that was rampant there in Corinth Paul does two things. First, he attacks the antinomian spirit that the Corinthians had embraced, and then he articulates a theology of the body—something that would have been quite new to them. Being that those two lessons are so very much needed in our day, we will do well to listen to these points.
Now, to maintain sexual purity in our day the first thing we must do is resist the theology of “anything goes.”
I. We must resist the spirit of “anything goes”
One of the greatest problems we have today is what is called “antinomianism.” That’s the belief that we are forgiven in Christ, so we can do anything we want. Oddly enough, this is nothing new. The Corinthians did the same thing. You can see that in verse 12. Paul quotes a motto that was frequently touted throughout the church. The Corinthians were going around saying, “All things are lawful for me.”
What had apparently happened is that the people had heard that they were free in Christ. No doubt Paul would have preached like he did to the Galatians that for freedom Christ has set us free. But they had twisted that idea of liberty. Their mindset had come to believe that when it comes to the Christian life they didn’t need the law anymore.
And this is true of many people today too. This same mantra is used today. But that’s not true. All things are not lawful for us. This is a twisted notion. And we know that it is twisted for at least three reasons. One reason is because it disdains the propriety of the law.
A. Antinomianism disdains the propriety of law,
When we say we are freed from the law, that is a very true statement. But it can be misleading if you do not take it in the right way. When we say that we are free from the law, what we mean is that we are freed from the curse and condemnation of the law. We are free from the punishment that we deserve as lawbreakers because Christ has taken that curse for us. But that does not mean we are freed from the law in its entirety. We cannot cast it off as something that is null and void and completely useless.
Think about a man who has been sent to prison for murder. After he does his time and gets out, is he free go murder again? Of course not. He is still obligated to honor those laws. He’s been freed from law’s condemnation, but its obligation is still in effect.
Christ has set us free from the curse of the law because he has taken that law. However, he has not set us free from the obligation of the law. If anything, he has set us free so that we can begin to obey the law.
Let me put it this way. In the history of the church there have been defined three uses of the law. One use is that it acts as a civil restraint. When people see and hear the law, it restrains them from doing evil. This is why so many people want the law out of public places. They want to be free to do as they please and live a life of sin. If that law is there, they are restricted from doing that.
Another use of the law is that it points out our sin and drives us to Christ. In other words, it shows us that we need a savior. The third use of the law is that is serves to show us how to live as Christians. It is our guide on how we may please God. This third use is what many people forget. The law doesn’t only drive us to Christ. It is there to help us live for Christ.
So we need to watch out for this antinomian spirit. It is twisted because it disregards the propriety of the law. But our passage also shows us that this antinomian spirit attacks the wellbeing of our neighbors.
B. Antinomianism attacks the wellbeing of our neighbor
Paul says, “‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are helpful.” Paul is saying, “let’s say for a second that everything is lawful. Even if that were the case, there are still some things that are not helpful. That is to say there are things that are harmful and infringe upon our neighbor’s personal estate.”
We know that this is true of things that are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves. Is there anything wrong with having an alcoholic beverage? Of course not. The Bible permits that. But what if we are drinking a beer in front of a bunch of guys who are former alcoholics, is that wrong? Of course it is. What is permissible isn’t helpful in that situation.
How much more harmful then, are those things that God forbids? This is especially true when it comes to sexual immorality. That’s what we will talk about more deeply in a moment, but it serves well to note it here. Sexual sin is one of the most dangerous sins because of all the damage that it does, be it to yourself or to someone else. We live in a day where sexual sin is thought to be no sin at all and that promiscuity has no repercussions. Just look at the television sitcoms. People hook up and sleep together, and it is portrayed as a wonderful thing. Then the episode ends. It doesn’t show all the consequences that follow: the heartache, the worry, the shame, and all the other ramifications.
This is why the Lord said in the Old Testament, “do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it might go well with you.” What this is saying is the exact opposite. When you don’t follow God, you will find that the all round well being of your neighbor will suffer.
There is one more thing that you should note about this antinomian spirit though. It not only disdains the law and attacks our neighbor. It destroys our liberty.
C. Antinomianism destroys the notion of our liberty
In verse 12 Paul talks about being enslaved. He says that we should never be enslaved by anything. What he is talking about is an addiction. He is talking about something that has come to dominate your life. At one time you may have had a hold on it, but now it has a hold on you.
Some of you might have seen those toy tubes, where you put a finger in each end of the tube. Somehow your fingers get stuck in there, and the more you try to pull, the tighter the grip becomes on your finger.
This is the idea that Paul is talking about here. We can toy around with something for a while. We can think that it is nothing. But we can become trapped in it if we are not careful. Of course, it doesn’t begin all at once. It happens over time. You dabble in it for a while. Perhaps you started and there was no thought ever of sticking with it. But you did it once, and you decided to do it again. After a while a pattern is established. You become hooked on it. Then one day, you find that you cannot live without it. You are addicted to it. You have become enslaved to it.
When Christ came into our lives, he came to set us free from this slave mentality. He came proclaiming liberty to the captives. And if we turn our backs on his law—or if we brush it off like it means nothing, we destroy the notion of true liberty. What we do is put our hands out to the shackles of sin.
We have to understand that the antinomian spirit is not a Christian spirit. It is the spirit of the devil. It is the spirit of the anti Christ. So we have to resist it. And if we do, we will be well on our way to guarding against sexual immorality.
But to remain sexually pure, you must not only resist the anything goes spirit, you must also develop a theology of the body. And that’s what Paul does in the rest of these verses.
II. We must develop a theology of the body
The Corinthians had a terrible theology of the body. That’s what you see in verse 13 where it says, “food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” And then it goes right into talking about sexual immorality. Apparently they thought that the craving for sex was just the same as the craving for food. So you fill the craving of one like you do for the other.
I don’t know if that mentality exists today. But we don’t have any better thoughts about the body. We typically think that we can do with the body what we like. It is as disposable as tissue paper. We don’t have a high view of the body.
But Paul here shows us that we should. This passage is great because it shows that our body relates to each person of the Trinity. It begins by telling us that…
A. Our bodies are consecrated to the Father.
Look at verse 13. He says, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Then at the end of the passage he says, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”
The language there is that of the slave market. Slaves would be bought and sold at auctions there in the public square. And once he was purchased, he was to devote his body to the service of his master.
What Paul is saying that our bodies are to serve a higher purpose now because the Father owns us. God the Father purchased us with the blood of his Son. He sent his Son to die in order to pay the redemption price. Now we belong to him, and our bodies are to be dedicated to his service.
When the Lord redeemed Israel from the land of Egypt, they were supposed to be devoted to the Lord. They were no longer slaves in Egypt. They were the Lord’s people. After coming out they were to be consecrated to his service.
That’s what has happened to us. We do not have the right to do whatever we please with our bodies. They are God’s property and they are to be used in the way that he wants them to be used.
But not only are our bodies consecrated to the Father, they are united to Christ.
B. Our bodies are united to Christ
Look at what Paul says in verse 15. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! (16) Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." (17) But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
Paul is talking about how we have been united to Christ. It is one of the most fundamental teachings of Paul. He is saying that we now have a spiritual union with Christ, and that spiritual union has physical implications. It shows us that sexual activity is no just a physical thing that is neutral spiritually. Because we are united to Christ, we are bound to be pure as Christ was pure.
The third person of the trinity is mentioned in verse 19. Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. By that he means that our bodies are indwelt by the Holy Spirit
C. Our bodies are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
In the OT the temple was the place where God was said to reside. And the Jews took the greatest care to keep the temple from being defiled. When it was defiled, that was an extremely profane thing.
Likewise, when we become Christians, the Spirit makes his home in us. And it would be a horrible thing to defile the place where God lives.
In the OT it talks about the abomination that causes desolation. What that refers to is the time when the temple was desecrated. There is one instance where Daniel prophesied about in Daniel 11. Many scholars believe that Daniel was prophesying about a guy by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. About 165 years before Christ Antiochus came and sacked Jerusalem. But taking the city wasn’t enough for him. He went so far as to desecrate the temple. It is said that he made all sorts of pagan sacrifices in it. But he also is said to have sacrificed a pig right on the alter just to spite the Jews. Now to a Jew, that would have been a horrendous thing.
But that defiling of the temple is the same sort of thing that a Christian does if he goes off and fornicates. Our bodies are not just physical entities like the Jewish temple. The Holy Spirit really resides within us. So we should be even more motivated to keep it pure and free from immorality.
Certainly there is more that Paul could have said about our bodies. This isn’t a full blown theological dissertation on the body. But it does point out that every person of the Godhead has some dealing with our physic, and that should be enough to make us realize how important it is to keep ourselves from being sexually immoral.
Certainly this will not be his last word on the matter of chastity either. The next chapter will continue to focus on it. But this initial teaching provides some strong points to ponder. So let us remember how important it is to remain sexually pure. God calls us to flee the mindset that we can do anything we want anytime we please. We don’t live by the belief that “anything goes.” God has given us his word to direct us on how to live. Christ has set us free, but he has set us free to live now in obedience to him.
But the aim of our church is to grow gardens in the midst of the ashes. Our aim is to rebuild society. And the way we do that is found right here. God has given us a blue print on how to build this garden. Garden growing begins with families.
If we are going to build these gardens, we have to start with good bricks. And, as we see here, before there was a nation, before there was a church, there was a wedding. God started with the covenant of marriage. God started by making good bricks.
That is where we need to begin. We need to go back to the very beginning. We have to start by laying the foundation and returning to a Biblical understanding of the covenant of marriage.
And as we look at this passage, I want us to notice two things about marriage. The first thing we have to grasp is how much men need marriage.
I. The need man has for marriage
You will notice that our passage starts out with a something of a somber tone. We’ve sort of been on an ecstatic high in our study of Genesis so far. We’ve heard the refrain, “And the Lord saw that it was good” repeated over and over. Then, at the end of chapter one, it was almost as if God were calling for an encore. There we read that God saw that it was very good! Reading it straight through can almost make you feel giddy because of all the “good’s”. But our passage starts out, “Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone."
Interesting, isn’t it? Despite all the splendor of Adam’s state, his being created in God’s image, his being placed in the lush garden, despites his having dominion over the animals, and despite even his perfect communion with God himself, a radical deficiency is found to exist. There is a void in his life. He is alone! And God’s unilateral assessment is that this is not good!
God then resolves to fill this need. He says, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” And we see here that its not just a relationship that he’s missing. But he’s missing the ability to fulfill his duty in life to the degree that he should. He needs a helper—someone who will come along side him and help him with his work. He need someone who will encourage him in his work. He needs a companion who will be a diversion from his work—someone who can give him reprieve from his labors, so that he can engage in his work all the more effectively after having been refreshed.
And it is this void that is filled by the woman.
But this is what you need to understand: God has knit this need into the very fabric of creation. God designed man in such a way that he is incomplete without her.
And I want you all to understand this. One of man’s greatest needs is a godly companion. And not just any companion, but a wife. He doesn’t need a drinking buddy. Man’s best friend is not a dog! Man needs a wife. He was built for marriage.
I point this out because we’ve gotten it all backwards today. Marriage is not seen as one of the basic necessities of life. At best, in our day it is typically thought of as a nice option. The average age of people getting married is moving later and later. Our thoughts are that we need to get the education so we can get the job. Then, once we have established ourselves in our career, maybe we can think about getting married. So marriage seems to be something of an afterthought.
And that of course is only among those who are actually thinking about marriage. A lot of people are not even doing that anymore. What we are seeing is that a lot of people are just enjoying a bunch of shallow hook-ups.
So like I said, at best marriage has become an afterthought. But that’s not the way it should be. It should be a primary thought. We men need to be married. We were designed with this deficiency and we need that God given companion.
I want you young men to be thinking about this. Get a wife! I know that there are some exceptions to the rule. The New Testament tells us that some men, like the Apostle Paul, have the gift. But that’s the exception to the rule. And the real gift is not singleness, but the real gift is a god fearing woman. Because you need it! You are only half the man you are supposed to be without her.
And those of us who are parents need to remember this too. If this is true—if a man’s greatest need is a godly wife, why are we not as proactive in getting our children connected with a godly spouse? We home schoolers, our focus is the education of our children. We tend think that is the main thing for their lives. But it is not. It is an important thing, to be sure. But it is not the main thing. And usually, our philosophy is, “We will get them educated, but they are on their own when it comes to making a match.” Sure, we may pray about it from time to time, but our overall focus is the education or maybe their work, and not so much their being wed.
We need to fix that. I’m not saying that we should have arranged marriages. But we need to be mindful of the fact that our boys need to be wed. As we rear our children we need to be teaching them to think marriage. We need to cultivate opportunities whereby they can develop relationships.
Our text reminds us that God has designed men for marriage. The Scripture tells us that the natural rhythm of life for us is that we work, worship and be wed. As we see here: He has built that need into the very fabric of our lives, and we should not delay it unnecessarily.
If we want to rebuild the culture, it all begins right there. It begins with a right understanding of man’s innate deficiency. It begins with understanding how much we need to be married.
And once we understand how much we men need marriage, then we can start thinking about the supply God has made for marriage.
II. The provision God makes for marriage
The passage details for us what God did to fill this need. God has all the animals come to Adam so that he can name them. We could say a lot about this. It says something about Adam’s intellect. He’s involved in some scientific investigation here. He’s not just willy nilly picking out names (I’ll call this one bird. I’ll call this one monkey, etc). He’s studying the animals. And by means of his intensive research he them names them.
Now, we could say a lot about that, but what is more important to emphasize is that he doesn’t find a single one that is suitable for him. After going through all the animals, he still is alone. He no doubt had a lot of fun with the little creatures. But at the end of the day not one of them was qualified to be the companion that he needed.
So God causes him to fall into a deep sleep and he takes one of Adam’s ribs. With it he creates the woman. And upon awaking God presents her to the man. Of course, Adam immediately realizes that she is the one. He rejoices in God’s provision and exclaims with joy, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” He recognizes that she is his perfect match.
Now there are a few things we need to say here by way of instruction. When it comes to God’s provision for the man there are a few things that are important for us to note. The first thing is that God provided him with a woman.
A. God provided a woman
It is of note that God Adam didn’t find any helper in the animal kingdom. God didn’t create another man. God didn’t create multiple women. It was Eve and that was it.
And by this we understand that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. Things like polygamy, homosexuality, and adultery are not part of God’s design. They are perversions from the way He has ordered things.
Today there is an attack on traditional marriage. People are trying to re-define it, tweak it, or completely change it. You saw not too long ago how intense this debate has become. The rage that was sparked over Chik-fi-la expresses how turbulent the situation has become.
But in the face of this onslaught we must stand up and affirm what God has clearly laid down in Scripture. And here we see that God has provided for man’s need. He has provided a woman.
But her femininity is not the only thing you should notice. You should also realize that God provided an equal.
B. God provided an equal
The text here expresses that she is not by any means subhuman or deficient as a person. She has the exact same dignity as Adam.
We saw a few weeks ago that both males and females were created in God’s image. That same idea is being confirmed right here in this passage. Our text says that God created her out of Adam’s rib. By doing this the Lord establishes that she is she is on the same plane as Adam when it comes to her humanity.
The old adage is that she was not created from Adam’s head that she should rule over him, or from his feet that she should trample her. But she was made from his rib, that he should love and cherish her.
This idea of being “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” distinguishes us from the other religions of the world. Unlike many religions around the world, we do not think that women are a lower class of humanity. Wives become something similar to chattel because they are seen as second rate humans.
But that’s not true with us. Wherever Christianity comes into a culture, the status of women changes significantly. They are given a whole new world of freedom because we view them as having equality before God.
But understand, it is this equality that makes the woman the suitable helper. It is this equality that makes her companionship meaningful and fulfilling. The lesser creatures couldn’t provide that.
There’s one other thing we should note about God’s provision. We’ve said that god has provided one who is a woman. He has provided one who is an equal. But we should not fail to see that God has provided one who is designed to be a helper.
C. God provided a helper
The passage indicates this twice. The first time is in verse 18. There, as we saw earlier, it says that it was not good for man to be alone, but God would make a helper fit for him.
Then in verse 20 it is mentioned again. After Adam checked out all the animals, the conclusion was that not a one was a suitable helper. And the solution was the creation of the woman. And the assumption is that woman would be this help.
This is radically different than the mainstream thought today. To be sure, this notion would be blasphemous to many in our day. Feminists have worked very hard to erase this idea of the woman being the man’s helper. We are told today that women are to live independent lives apart from men. They ought to seek their own careers and pursue their own desires, and not see themselves in any way being dependent upon or connected to man.
But you cannot escape what the Bible says here about the woman’s divine design. She was created for the man. She has an inherent connection to him and her life is deeply intertwined with the man.
And before you start thinking that this is a dismal thing, you really need to understand the real glory of it.
The word helper is the word “ezer.” And it is the very same word that is often used of God himself. We just sang “Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’ve come.” The word Ebenezer is “means rock of help.” That comes from the OT where the saints would sometimes erect a pile of rocks as a tribute to the Lord. They would say that God had been their Rock and Help. The only reason they have survived is because of God’s divine assistance.
And in the New Testament you know that the Holy Spirit is called “the helper.”
And here we see that the woman’s role is a reflection, if not a perfect replica, of God’s help. She, in fulfilling her role, is God’s agent of divine care.
You ladies are here to be the means of God’s support.
That is not something you will find in any other religion. Most other religions tell us that the woman is the furthest thing from God. But here we find that she is the very hand of God.
That’s part of the reason why we are supposed to give women the special measure of honor that we are. And, more than that, this is why we need to seek a godly wife. God has provided her for the purpose of being His special means of help for the man.
Not long ago I was sitting in on a Bible study. In that study they were talking about the state of our nation. And one lady was getting a little frazzled. She wanted to do something. She wanted to correct the situation and see the tide turn for the better. She wanted to see a garden built in the ashes. So she asked the person leading the study, “Well, what do we do? How do we take America back?”
The answer is right here. The answer is to quit focusing on the macro and really start focusing on the micro. The house can only be as good as the bricks with which it is made. And we need to begin by making good bricks.
When we come back to the nature of man as God designed him and we get our bearings straight on the companion that He has provided, then the tide will start to change. If we get these things straight, we will change the church. And as we change the church, we’ll begin to change the course of the whole society.
The punctuality of John Newton, while tide-surveyor at Liverpool, was particularly remarked. One day, however, some business had detained him, and he came to his boat much later than usual, to the surprise of those who had observed his former punctuality. He went out in the boat as heretofore, to inspect a ship, but by some accident the ship blew up just before he reached it; and it appears, that if he had left the shore a few minutes sooner, he must have perished with the rest on board.
Coincidence? I think not! Or is it?
How you answer that question depends a lot on your world view. An atheist would not respond in the same way you do. You believe in a sovereign God, he doesn’t. You believe that everything that comes to pass does so as a result of God’s decree. An atheist would say that it was all a matter of chance. The answer to that question, is, at its basis, a question that has to do with the first commandment.
Last week in our study we considered how the first commandment requires us to have a singular devotion. That is to say our affections are to be placed upon God alone. Tonight we are going to take that one step farther. If the first commandment requires us to have a right affection for who God is, it also requires us to have a right affection for what God does.
So tonight we are going to consider how we should delight ourselves in God’s Providence. Basically I want us to understand that we should delight in God’s wisdom, his timing, and his power.
I. We must delight ourselves in his wisdom
A lot of what happens to us hurts, doesn’t it? If we could have a tête-à-tête with God, we would sit him down and say, “What are you doing?”
The Larger Catechism can help us here. In Q&A 105 it says that the first commandment prohibits us from “charging God foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us.”
Now when it says “evils” it doesn’t mean that God is doing “that which is wrong.” That is the way we normally use the word “evil.” But in olden days the word evil had another meaning. It meant “things that were harmful.” Or perhaps better, “things that seemed to us to be wrong or harsh.”
This is where you can think about Job. Job had one really bad day, didn’t he? You could say that he had one really bad hour. In just a matter of minutes his whole life was turned upside-down and inside out. He went from being on Lifestyles of the rich and Famous to the world’s most impoverished man.
Then there was round 2. After his environment collapsed, he was afflicted with some sort of disease that made him basically rot. He sat in the dust and scrapped his flesh with a piece of pottery. (even his breath wasn’t spared! See Job 19:17.)
Now what would you have done if you had this happen to you? But what did Job do? It says—after all this had happened to him—that he blessed the name of the Lord. Then the writer of the book leaves this commendation in 2:22—“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
Now I started this point by saying that we must delight in God’s wisdom. That is important to remember. Because when trails assail us, and we curse God, we are saying “What God has done was out of accord with what He should be doing. If God really loved me he wouldn’t do this (or let this happen)!”
I think it is a lot like how Katelyn reacted when she got one of her first immunization shots. When the needle pierced her skin, the first thing she did was not cry. Before she cried she looked at her mother and me—as if to say, “What are you doing!?!?!” I can’t remember where we were, but I do remember how her head turned and her eyes widened. For that instant just before the shriek her face was plastered with a look of utter bewilderment. We knew she couldn’t understand, but what we did was actually for her greater well being.
It’s like the story told by John Yates. A man who was the only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small uninhabited island. He cried out to God to save him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a rough hut and put his few possessions in it. But then one day, after hunting for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; he was stung with grief. Early the next day, though, a ship drew near the island and rescued him. “How did you know I was here?” he asked the crew. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
Though it may not seem so now, your present difficulty may be instrumental to your future happiness. That is why we must learn to delight ourselves in God’s wisdom, no matter how bad our situation may seem.
If we are going to delight in God’s providence, we must not only delight in his wisdom, but we must delight in his timing.
II. We must delight ourselves in his timing
Sometimes its not about what we get, its about when we get it, isn’t it?
Single people would like to lament, “God, I have been in 5 different weddings, but not one of them was my own.” Someone like that can think, “Why hasn’t God brought me a woman or a man?” Or a woman may say, “You know God, my biological clock is ticking. I know that you gave Sara a child when she was 90, but I rather not go that route.”
We have to remember again that God knows what is best. This is why we must be careful thinking about God on the basis of his providence. What we believe about God should be shaped by his Word, not just his providence. If we base what we believe about God on his providence then we can come to think that he is some big ogre. We can think, “You promised me this, but your not giving it to me. What are you doing?”
We may believe he is a cruel monster than a loving father. But his Word will never teach us that. His word always reveals him to be an affectionate father. It reveals him to be one who looks out for his children and always does what is best for them.
Maybe he is saying, “Things just are not ready yet.” Would a farmer let his child eat of the an apple tree when the apples are not ripe?
Maybe he doesn’t want you to have it because it wouldn’t be for your good, at least at that time. You don’t get to drive until you are 16. That’s because it wouldn’t be good for you to do so before then. You have not developed the maturity yet (yes, I know, a lot of 16 year-olds don’t have the maturity either!).
Whatever the reason may be (and most often we don’t know why) we still must rest in the fact that God knows the proper time. And if we wait for it, and delight ourselves in his timing, think about how wonderful it will be when it comes.
A lot of people think that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was something that God was going to give Adam and Eve. You know the story, he said “You can have anything and do anything, except eat of that tree.” But a lot of people believe that God was going to give it to them in the proper time. As a matter of fact, they say that Adam and Eve had a probation period—that means the time would come to an end.
We don’t know how it would have turned out obviously. But don’t you think it would have been better if they waited?
We must remember Solomon’s words, “Everything has its season.” God has foreordained everything to come to pass at just the right time. Therefore we should commit ourselves to his care, and delight in it.
With regard to God’s providence, the 1st command requires that we delight in his wisdom, in his timing, and—may I also add—we should delight in his power.
III. We must delight ourselves in his power
Now, to a degree, we have already established this. In talking about God’s wisdom and timing we have assumed that he had the power to bring whatever it is to pass. But I want us to consider God’s power a little more, perhaps from a different angle. If we rightly understand God’s providence—his might & authority—then we will be led to credit him with the praise that he is due.
Let me say it this way: We can be tempted to ascribe the praise due to him to other things—powerless things—such as idols, ourselves, or some other creature.
In the book of Habakuk the prophet mocks the stupidity of the Israelites. He talks about how they begin to worship their fishing nets. He describes it like this:
“He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich.” (Hab 1:15-16)
So they go out on the lake, they catch a lot of fish, and they see the “power” of the net—and it’s ability to provide—and they begin to worship their nets.
This has happened all through the ages. Have you ever wondered why Hindu’s worship cows? That’s a pretty absurd god—at least in our eyes. Well, the cow started off as a useful animal. It was used to plow the fields and do all other types of work. Because of it’s power they began to exalt it above all other animals. In time it became so exalted that it was worshipped. Then as a holy animal, people would not “profane” it. So they stopped using it in the fields and for food.
Of course, in America, you don’t usually see people sacrificing to their computers or their cars. Our problem is most often ourselves. Our problem is that we ascribe the praise to ourselves. We say things like “I put food on the table.” Or “I have come so far and done all this.” We can be like Nebuchadnezzar who went for a walk one day and said, “Isn’t this the great Babylon that I have built by my power?”
If we have that attitude are we any different than the Hindu or the net-worshiping Jew? Not really. We all make the same mistake—we don’t see God as the one upon whom we are dependent.
Johannes Vos sums it up well when he says, “We must always remember that we are created beings and that God is our Creator, on whom we are dependednt for our very life and consciousness. This Creator-creature relationship is and always will be the main fact of our existence. To disregard it, even for a moment, is wicked.
Remember that when you bow your head at meal-time, or when you wake up in the morning. It’s amazing how independent we make ourselves out to be—when that first breath hits our nostrils in the morning we should be thinking, “Thank-you, Lord.”
Think also how this should affect your talk. I was joking a few weeks ago when I said we were going to have a “pot-providence” instead of a “pot-luck.” But think about how we can take the praise and credit away from God when we talk about things happening “by mere luck” or “chance.” We say those types of things all the time, don’t we? “You got lucky on that one, didn’t you?”
If you find a $100 bill in your bushes tomorrow morning, it isn’t because it is your ‘lucky day.’” It’s because God forordained that someone wouldn’t be paying attention as they came out of the bank. It’s because God made the wind to blow at just the right moment. And it was because he—by his mighty power—caused your bushes to grow up right where they did.
In 1937 Walt Disney released the first full-length animated movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Producing an animated movie was a gargantuan task. Disney artists drew over one million pictures. Each picture flashed onto the screen for a mere one-twenty-fourth of a second.
As we watch the movie run at regular speed, it seems so simple. We have no Idea all that goes into it.
Our lives are just like that movie. As our lives run at regular speed, we have no idea how much God’s providence fills every second. God puts infinite thought, skill, and careful attention into every detail. This is why we must learn to delight ourselves in him.
Tonight we have enjoyed seeing some in our midst stand up and profess their faith publicly. And it is appropriate that we do this in our evening time because we are studying what it means to “have no other gods” before our God.
Those of you who stood up here have just declared that Jesus is going to be your God. In professing your faith in Jesus Christ and taking the vows to this church you have said that Jesus is Lord and he alone is going to rule over your heart.
In looking at the first commandment we have said thus far how important it is for us to Know God. It is so important for us to study to show ourselves approved unto God. A relationship is built when two people get to know each other. As they get to know one another they grow together.
But it is not enough for us to simply know God. If God is going to be preeminent in our lives we must also acknowledge him.
Let’s say that I am sitting down to fill out some paperwork at the doctor’s office. I am going along checking all the boxes and filling in all the necessary information. But then I come to a question that asks my marital status. Let’s say that I purposely check “single.” What is that going to say about how I regard my wife?
The litmus test of how important someone or something is to us is our acknowledgement of it. The same is true with our relationship to God. If God is number one in our lives we will acknowledge him—and we will acknowledge him publicly, passionately, and intelligently.
The first and most obvious way we show that God is preminent is by acknowledging him openly.
That is to say, we claim him before others.
In Matthew 10:32-33 we read “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
The Bible makes it clear that a hidden faith is no faith at all. If you hide your faith in Christ Jesus, you make a declaration that you have no faith in Christ Jesus. If you don’t own him before the world, then you don’t own him at all.
You can easily imagine a person who might say, “I am a Christian. I go to church, but I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t want people to know about it at the office, because if they did, it would really ruin how things are going for me.”
That is not openly confessing your faith. That is being ashamed of God. He no longer has the number one place in your life, but your job does.
All of you who have stood up here this evening have openly acknowledged Christ. That’s a great thing. You have just proclaimed to the world that Christ is your Savior. But don’t think that this is the only time that you need to do that. It needs to be affirmed everyday, outside these walls. I might even say, “its easy to do that here.” This is a safe environment. Here we are surrounded by people who are like minded. Nobody is going to make fun of us or oppose us here. But on the outside, it’s a different story. And we have to be ready to make the same profession—even when the tide is against us and we are in the minority.
Let’s be sure, we can all sin. We can lapse when we are called to affirm our faith openly, and still be a Christian.
This morning I mentioned the persecution that existed under the Roman Emperor Decious. I mentioned that there were many Christians who boldly professed their faith in the midst of that persecution. When the authorities told them that they had to renounce Christ, they wouldn’t do so. They would rather face the lions than speak such a terrible thing.
But don’t think that everyone was so bold. There were many Christians during that fierce persecution that failed to stand up for Christ. There were many Christians, who were weak. And when given the choice to say “Caesar is lord,” or be fed to the lions, they chose to renounce Christ. A lot of these people would then come back to the church weeping because they had turned their backs on Christ.
Even the Apostle Peter denied Christ openly, and three times in a row at that! When that little girl asked him if he was one of Christ’s disciples he cursed and said “NO WAY! I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was weak, wasn’t he?
All of us probably have had times where we have failed to stand up for Christ. But let’s remember, that is a sin. It’s not the unforgivable sin. To be sure Christ can forgive you. But we should never presume upon him. As the Apostle Peter says, in our hearts we must “set apart Christ as Lord.” That is to say we need to convince ourselves of Christ’s exalted position. And we need to be ready to affirm our faith in him before the world at a moment’s notice.
And that really leads us to our second point. To acknowledge God openly, we must also acknowledge him passionately.
Turn in your Bibles to Rev. 3. If you are familiar with the layout of the Bible you may already know that these are the letters that Jesus sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor.
In Rev. 3:15 Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
It seems that the Laodicean church wasn’t as passionate about Christ anymore. They weren’t cold—they hadn’t fully turned away from him, they didn’t hate him. But they weren’t passionate about him either. They had become indifferent. They were lukewarm.
It is like a couple who have been married for a while and are starting to drift apart. They still acknowledge one another, but their heart really isn’t in the relationship anymore.
Nobody wants to remain in that kind of relationship, and neither does God. As a matter of fact, God shows by this passage that he hates people who are lukewarm more than he hates those who are cold!
Lukewarmness is a terrible condition of the heart, and we must guard against it. Matthew Henry with his usual eloquence says, “If religion is a real thing, then it is everything…. If it is a worth anything, it is worth everything.”
Many people think the puritans were the least passionate people alive, but that is not true. Of all things they were the most passionate people who lived—That’s because they had a fervent passion for God. As a matter of fact, we have what we call “Devotions.” When we say we are going to have our devotions, we mean we are going to read our Bibles and pray. That finds its roots in the Puritans. They believed and taught that one’s love for God was nurtured in those things.
Jonathan Edwards even picked up on this notion of passion for God. In his book, The Religious Affections, he said, “If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.”
One of the greatest weapons in Satan’s arsenal is convince us that we need not press on in the faith. If he can lead us to be satisfied with how things are, and make us not wish to upset the status quo, then he will become the victor.
God hates someone who is complacent in the things of religion. Someone who claims to be a Christian, but really isn’t on fire for Christ is detestable to him.
Acknowledging God means we must do it publicly and passionately. But be careful. God does not want misdirected passion either. That is why we have to acknowledge God…
III. Properly (Rom 10:2,; luke 9:54-55)
Do you remember how zealous Paul was before he became a Christian? He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, wasn’t he? He was so zealous for his faith that he persecuted Christians. He actually thought he was doing a great thing for God.
In the book of Romans Paul talks about the same sort of Jews—those who shared his former convictions. He said, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” They were passionate about God. They professed him publicly, but their zeal was misdirected.
We can be like that, can’t we? We can be so zealous for the truth that we really lay into someone. How come that happens when we are talking about the Bible. Instead of having a meek and patient spirit, we can become angry and lose our temper.
Such action does not flow from the Spirit of Christ. That comes as a result of our wicked impulses. How we show that the Lord is our God, can’t be done in any old fashion. Even how we express our love for God must conform to his desires.
Johannes Vos gives a good illustration of this in his commentary on the Larger Catechism: He said that a newspaper reported that somebody inscribed the words, “JESUS SAVES” in the fresh paint of someone’s car. Somehow I don’t think that God was pleased with that.
I find it funny that the ones that Jesus often became the most upset with were his own disciples. When you read the gospels, you find that he comes down on them pretty hard sometimes. And they deserved it because a lot of the time they had misdirected zeal.
We have to be careful how we acknowledge Christ. That old adage, “Look before you leap.” That’s good advice for Christians. Before you do anything, look at the Scriptures. See if Christ will really be pleased with it.
Peter Cartright, a Methodist circuit preacher in the 19th century, came to a town in which he was to preach. Before the service he was informed that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation, and that he should temper his message so that he would not offend him. When it came time for Cartright to preach he stepped into the pulpit and said, “I hear that Andrew Jackson is in the congregation. He should know that if he does not repent, then he will go to hell.” After the service President Jackson came up to Cartright, shook his had and said, “If I had a regiment of men like you I could whip the world.”
That was a rather bold profession. And it was most proper for him to do so. And it certainly shows us that Cartright was not afraid to acknowledge God publicly and passionately.
We too may be tempted to turn the other cheek on God, but we should never do it. God calls us to courageously acknowledge him.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.