Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook
How to Advance Spiritually - Part 2

How to Advance Spiritually - Part 2

February 7, 2021

     God desires that we advance to spiritual maturity which glorifies Him and blesses us and others. This advance assumes one has believed in Christ as Savior and has spiritual life (John 3:16; 20:31; Acts 4:12; Rom 5:6-10; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:3, 23).[1] To be clear, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Only Christ’s atoning work at the cross is sufficient to save, and no works performed before, during, or after salvation are necessary. Though good works should follow our salvation, they are never the condition of it. The information taught in this lesson applies only to the Christian, for “The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14 NET; cf. John 8:43-44).

     The advance to spiritual maturity is a process that takes time as Christians learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis. There is always opposition, for we live in the devil’s world and are confronted with many obstacles and distractions that seek to push or pull us away from God. Though constant distractions are all around us, we move forward by “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Bringing our thoughts into captivity means focusing our minds on God and His Word (Isa 26:3; Pro 3:5-6; Col 3:1-2), and not allowing our thoughts to be bogged down and trapped with the cares of this world (Matt 6:25-34). This requires spiritual discipline to learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis. Biblically, several things are necessary for us to reach spiritual maturity, and these are as follows:

  1. Be in submission to God. Scripture tells us to “Submit to God” (Jam 4:7), and “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). Submission is a will surrendered to the will of another. Being in submission to God is a sign of positive volition that we’ve prioritized our relationship with Him above all else, and that we trust Him to guide and provide in all things. Like a good friend, He is naturally in our thoughts, and we live every day conscious of Him, being sensitive to what may offend, and making every effort to please Him through a life of faith. When we yield to God, His Word opens up to us, as Jesus said, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17; cf. Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14; 1 John 5:20).
  2. Continually study God’s Word. Ezra, the priest, was one who “had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezr 7:10). The growing believer is one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). As Christians, we understand that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). We cannot live what we do not know, and learning God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will. From regeneration onward, we study God’s Word in order to grow spiritually, that we might reach Christian maturity. God has helped the church by giving Pastors and Teachers (Eph 4:11), “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature person, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13). Christians have the individual responsibility of studying God’s Word in order to live the best life and grow to maturity (Deut 8:3; Jer 15:16; 2 Tim 2:15; Heb 5:12-14; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18).
  3. Live by faith. Living by faith means we trust God at His Word. The writer to the Hebrews states, “But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38; cf. Heb 3:7—4:2), for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6). It is possible to learn God’s Word and not believe it. For example, the Exodus generation heard God’s Word and understood it; however, “the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” (Heb 4:2). Our faith is effective when God’s Word is more real than our experiences, feelings, or circumstances.
  4. Restore broken fellowship with God through confession of personal sin. All believers sin, and there are none who attain perfection in this life (Pro 20:9; Eccl 7:20; 1 John 1:8-10). For this reason, familial forgiveness is necessary for a healthy relationship with God. David understood the folly of trying to conceal his sins, which resulted in psychological disequilibrium and pain; however, when he confessed his sin, God forgave him (Psa 32:2-5). John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God forgives because it is His nature to do so, for He “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Psa 86:15; cf. Psa 103:8-14). And He is able to forgive because Christ has atoned for our sins at the cross, satisfying the Father’s righteous demands regarding our offenses (1 John 2:1-2). The challenge for many believers is to trust God at His word and accept His forgiveness and not operate on guilty feelings.
  5. Be filled with the Spirit. Paul wrote to Christians, “don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit” (Eph 5:18 CSB). If a believer consumes too much alcohol, it can lead to cognitive impairment and harmful behavior. But the believer who is filled with the Spirit will possess divine viewpoint and manifest the fruit of godliness, worship, and thankfulness to the Lord (Eph 5:19-20). Being filled with the Spirit means being guided by Him rather than our own desires or the desires of others. The Spirit’s guidance is always according to Scripture. Being filled with the Spirit does not mean we have more of Him, but that He has more of us, as we submit to His leading.
  6. Walk in the Spirit. Paul wrote, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). In this passage walking is a metaphor for daily living, which can be influenced by God (Deut 5:33; 10:12), other righteous persons (Pro 13:20), sinners (Psa 1:1; Pro 1:10-16; 1 Cor 15:33), or one’s own sin nature (Gal 5:17-21). To walk in the Spirit means we depend on His counsel to guide and power to sustain as we seek to do His will. The Spirit most often guides us directly by Scripture (John 14:26), but also uses mature believers whose thinking is saturated with God’s Word and who can provide sound advice.
  7. Accept God’s trials (Deut 8:2-3). Paul wrote, “we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). James said, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (Jam 1:2-4 CSB). The Lord uses the fire of trials to burn away the dross of our weak character and to refine those golden qualities consistent with His character. The growing believer learns to praise God for the trials, knowing He uses them to strengthen our faith and develop us into spiritually mature Christians.
  8. Pray to God. Prayer is essential to spiritual growth as we need to have upward communication with God to express ourselves to Him. Prayer is the means by which we make requests to God, believing He has certain answers ready for us, and that we just need to ask (Jam 4:2). Scripture directs us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Th 5:17), and “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18; cf. Jude 1:20). To pray in the Spirit means we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit as He directs and energizes our prayer life.
  9. Worship and give thanks to the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews stated, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). And Paul wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica, saying, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th 5:18). To give thanks (εὐχαριστέω eucharisteo) is to have a daily attitude of gratitude toward God for His goodness and mercy toward us. Part of this attitude comes from knowing God is working all things “together for good” (Rom 8:28), because “God is for us” (Rom 8:31).
  10. Fellowship with other believers. The writer of Hebrews states, “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25). Spiritual growth ideally happens in community, for God expects us to exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of others (see Rom 12:10-13; 14:19; Eph 4:32; Phil 2:3-4; 1 Th 5:11-15).
  11. Serve others in love. We are part of the body of Christ and God calls us to love and serve each other. Paul wrote, “you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13), and “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10). Peter states, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10). As Christians, we are told, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phi 2:3-4).
  12. Take advantage of the time God gives. Time is a resource we should manage properly. Paul writes, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). Solomon wrote, “Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, the place where you will eventually go” (Ecc 9:10 NET). God has determined the length of our days, as David wrote, “in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for my life when as yet there was not one of them” (Psa 139:16). Every moment is precious and we must make sure our days are not wasted on meaningless pursuits, but on learning God’s Word and living His will, and walking in love with those whom the Lord places in our path.

     As Christians, we will face ongoing worldly distractions in our lives which are designed by Satan to prevent spiritual growth. We have choices to make on a daily basis, for only we can choose to allow these distractions to stand between us and the Lord. As Christians, we experience our greatest blessings when we reach spiritual maturity and utilize the rich resources God has provided for us. However, learning takes time, as ignorance gives way to the light of God’s revelation. Frustration is often the handmaiden of ignorance, but spiritual success comes with knowledge of God and His Word.

 

[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotes are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 version.

How to Advance Spiritually - Part 1

How to Advance Spiritually - Part 1

February 6, 2021

     God desires that we advance to spiritual maturity which glorifies Him and blesses us and others. This advance assumes one has believed in Christ as Savior and has spiritual life (John 3:16; 20:31; Acts 4:12; Rom 5:6-10; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:3, 23).[1] To be clear, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Only Christ’s atoning work at the cross is sufficient to save, and no works performed before, during, or after salvation are necessary. Though good works should follow our salvation, they are never the condition of it. The information taught in this lesson applies only to the Christian, for “The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14 NET; cf. John 8:43-44).

     The advance to spiritual maturity is a process that takes time as Christians learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis. There is always opposition, for we live in the devil’s world and are confronted with many obstacles and distractions that seek to push or pull us away from God. Though constant distractions are all around us, we move forward by “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Bringing our thoughts into captivity means focusing our minds on God and His Word (Isa 26:3; Pro 3:5-6; Col 3:1-2), and not allowing our thoughts to be bogged down and trapped with the cares of this world (Matt 6:25-34). This requires spiritual discipline to learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis. Biblically, several things are necessary for us to reach spiritual maturity, and these are as follows:

  1. Be in submission to God. Scripture tells us to “Submit to God” (Jam 4:7), and “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). Submission is a will surrendered to the will of another. Being in submission to God is a sign of positive volition that we’ve prioritized our relationship with Him above all else, and that we trust Him to guide and provide in all things. Like a good friend, He is naturally in our thoughts, and we live every day conscious of Him, being sensitive to what may offend, and making every effort to please Him through a life of faith. When we yield to God, His Word opens up to us, as Jesus said, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17; cf. Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14; 1 John 5:20).
  2. Continually study God’s Word. Ezra, the priest, was one who “had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezr 7:10). The growing believer is one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). As Christians, we understand that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). We cannot live what we do not know, and learning God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will. From regeneration onward, we study God’s Word in order to grow spiritually, that we might reach Christian maturity. God has helped the church by giving Pastors and Teachers (Eph 4:11), “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature person, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13). Christians have the individual responsibility of studying God’s Word in order to live the best life and grow to maturity (Deut 8:3; Jer 15:16; 2 Tim 2:15; Heb 5:12-14; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18).
  3. Live by faith. Living by faith means we trust God at His Word. The writer to the Hebrews states, “But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38; cf. Heb 3:7—4:2), for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6). It is possible to learn God’s Word and not believe it. For example, the Exodus generation heard God’s Word and understood it; however, “the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” (Heb 4:2). Our faith is effective when God’s Word is more real than our experiences, feelings, or circumstances.
  4. Restore broken fellowship with God through confession of personal sin. All believers sin, and there are none who attain perfection in this life (Pro 20:9; Eccl 7:20; 1 John 1:8-10). For this reason, familial forgiveness is necessary for a healthy relationship with God. David understood the folly of trying to conceal his sins, which resulted in psychological disequilibrium and pain; however, when he confessed his sin, God forgave him (Psa 32:2-5). John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God forgives because it is His nature to do so, for He “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Psa 86:15; cf. Psa 103:8-14). And He is able to forgive because Christ has atoned for our sins at the cross, satisfying the Father’s righteous demands regarding our offenses (1 John 2:1-2). The challenge for many believers is to trust God at His word and accept His forgiveness and not operate on guilty feelings.
  5. Be filled with the Spirit. Paul wrote to Christians, “don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit” (Eph 5:18 CSB). If a believer consumes too much alcohol, it can lead to cognitive impairment and harmful behavior. But the believer who is filled with the Spirit will possess divine viewpoint and manifest the fruit of godliness, worship, and thankfulness to the Lord (Eph 5:19-20). Being filled with the Spirit means being guided by Him rather than our own desires or the desires of others. The Spirit’s guidance is always according to Scripture. Being filled with the Spirit does not mean we have more of Him, but that He has more of us, as we submit to His leading.
  6. Walk in the Spirit. Paul wrote, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). In this passage walking is a metaphor for daily living, which can be influenced by God (Deut 5:33; 10:12), other righteous persons (Pro 13:20), sinners (Psa 1:1; Pro 1:10-16; 1 Cor 15:33), or one’s own sin nature (Gal 5:17-21). To walk in the Spirit means we depend on His counsel to guide and power to sustain as we seek to do His will. The Spirit most often guides us directly by Scripture (John 14:26), but also uses mature believers whose thinking is saturated with God’s Word and who can provide sound advice.
  7. Accept God’s trials (Deut 8:2-3). Paul wrote, “we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). James said, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (Jam 1:2-4 CSB). The Lord uses the fire of trials to burn away the dross of our weak character and to refine those golden qualities consistent with His character. The growing believer learns to praise God for the trials, knowing He uses them to strengthen our faith and develop us into spiritually mature Christians.
  8. Pray to God. Prayer is essential to spiritual growth as we need to have upward communication with God to express ourselves to Him. Prayer is the means by which we make requests to God, believing He has certain answers ready for us, and that we just need to ask (Jam 4:2). Scripture directs us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Th 5:17), and “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18; cf. Jude 1:20). To pray in the Spirit means we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit as He directs and energizes our prayer life.
  9. Worship and give thanks to the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews stated, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). And Paul wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica, saying, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th 5:18). To give thanks (εὐχαριστέω eucharisteo) is to have a daily attitude of gratitude toward God for His goodness and mercy toward us. Part of this attitude comes from knowing God is working all things “together for good” (Rom 8:28), because “God is for us” (Rom 8:31).
  10. Fellowship with other believers. The writer of Hebrews states, “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25). Spiritual growth ideally happens in community, for God expects us to exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of others (see Rom 12:10-13; 14:19; Eph 4:32; Phil 2:3-4; 1 Th 5:11-15).
  11. Serve others in love. We are part of the body of Christ and God calls us to love and serve each other. Paul wrote, “you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13), and “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10). Peter states, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10). As Christians, we are told, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phi 2:3-4).
  12. Take advantage of the time God gives. Time is a resource we should manage properly. Paul writes, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). Solomon wrote, “Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, the place where you will eventually go” (Ecc 9:10 NET). God has determined the length of our days, as David wrote, “in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for my life when as yet there was not one of them” (Psa 139:16). Every moment is precious and we must make sure our days are not wasted on meaningless pursuits, but on learning God’s Word and living His will, and walking in love with those whom the Lord places in our path.

     As Christians, we will face ongoing worldly distractions in our lives which are designed by Satan to prevent spiritual growth. We have choices to make on a daily basis, for only we can choose to allow these distractions to stand between us and the Lord. As Christians, we experience our greatest blessings when we reach spiritual maturity and utilize the rich resources God has provided for us. However, learning takes time, as ignorance gives way to the light of God’s revelation. Frustration is often the handmaiden of ignorance, but spiritual success comes with knowledge of God and His Word.

 

[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotes are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 version.

Proverbs 31 - A Woman of Excellence

Proverbs 31 - A Woman of Excellence

October 25, 2020

     Proverbs 31 describes the woman of excellence. The phrase an excellent wife (Pro 31:10; Heb.   אֵשֶׁת־חַיִלesheth chayil) was first used of Ruth, who was described as a woman of excellence (Ruth 3:11, NASB) or a woman of noble character (CSB). Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, who married Bathsheba, who is perhaps the one who shared her wisdom with her son, King Solomon (Pro 31:1). If this is correct, then it’s possible Bathsheba saw in Ruth a template for the woman of noble character. A study of the book of Ruth reveals she was committed to God and His people (Ruth 1:16-17; 2:11), possessed a strong work ethic (Ruth 2:7, 17), listened to good advice (Ruth 2:8-9; 3:1-6), showed respect to others (Ruth 2:10), cared for the needy (Ruth 2:17-18), sought to marry a noble man (Ruth 3:7-10; 4:13), and was praised for her excellence and love for others (Ruth 3:11; 4:15).

     According to Proverbs 31:10-31, the excellent wife is precious to her husband (Pro 31:10), and he trusts her (Pro 31:11). It is said, “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pro 31:12). She delights to work with her hands, knowing she’s providing for the good of her family (Pro 31:13, 15, 17-19, 27). She’s a smart shopper (Pro 31:14), and savvy business woman (Pro 31:16, 24), who is recognized for her work (Pro 31:31). She uses her time well (Pro 31:15, 27), is energetic and strong (Pro 31:17), cares for the poor and needy (Pro 31:20), provides for those in her household (Pro 31:21, 27), and does not neglect her own needs or appearance (Pro 31:22). As she is respected in the home, her husband is respected in the community (Pro 31:23), and both he and her children give praise for her dignity (Pro 31:28). She has an optimistic outlook on life, as “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future” (Pro 31:25). She is also noted for her wisdom, and “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Pro 31:26). She is the ideal wife, for though many women have done nobly, she excels them all (Pro 31:29). What makes this woman so excellent? What drives her to possess all the virtues of a godly woman, for which her husband praises her? Solomon tells us. It’s not her personal charm, which is deceitful; nor her physical beauty, which is fleeting (Pro 31:30a). Rather, it’s because she is “a woman who fears the LORD” (Pro 31:30b). This one “shall be praised” by all who know and appreciate her godliness. What is prioritized is the inner qualities of godliness and virtue that make for an enjoyable, stable, and lasting marriage. Other qualities and features of godly women are as follows:

  • "I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (1 Tim 2:9-12)
  • "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Tit 2:4-6)
  • "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Pet 3:1-6)
Role Responsibilities in Marriage

Role Responsibilities in Marriage

June 14, 2020

     Ephesians 5:22-33 addresses Christian couples only and portrays the marriage as tri-personal, involving the husband, wife, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian husband and wife are spiritually equal in God’s sight (Gal 3:28; 1 Pet 3:7); however, spiritual equality should not be confused with role distinctions. The husband is to be the leader of the home, as Christ is the head of the church, and the wife is to submit to her husband, as the church submits to Christ. Both the husband and wife fulfill God’s expectations when they learn to function together as a unit, each executing their godly roles. The Christian man who agrees to marry automatically comes under the authority of God who directs him to love his wife as Christ loves the church. The wife who agrees to marry also comes under the authority of God who calls her to submit to her husband.

     God designed the husband to be the loving leader to guide the relationship into His will, and the wife is to walk in harmony with him (Gen 2:18; 21-23; cf. Eph 5:25-33). The husband is to love (ἀγαπάω agapao) his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25), and he does this in submission to Christ who is his authority (1 Cor 11:3). The apostle Paul describes Christian love, saying, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:4-8a).

     The Christian husband is called to live with his wife in an understanding way and to honor her as a fellow heir of the grace of God (1 Pet 3:7). He is to make his wife feel protected and safe, for there can be no love where fear is present (1 John 4:18). Biblical love is sacrificial (Eph 5:25; cf. Matt 20:28; John 13:34; 15:13; Rom 5:8; 14:15; 15:3), is greater than feelings (Col 3:19), and cares more about others than self (Matt 5:43-45; Phil 2:3-4). Biblical love is gracious, unselfish, and given freely from the bounty of one’s own resources, with an open hand, always for the benefit and joy of others, expecting nothing in return. It is, in fact, God’s love, born in the heart of the believer who walks with God and desires His closeness.

     The husband’s love is measured against the love of Jesus Christ. So how does Christ love? The greatest act of Christ’s love is seen in the sacrifice of His life by which He saves and sanctifies the church (Eph 5:23, 25). Christ is also full of grace and truth (John 1:14-17), He lifts the burdens of those who come to Him (Matt 11:28–30; Mark 10:42–45), He builds up and protects (Matt 16:18), He prayerfully intercedes (Rom 8:34), He comforts (2 Thess 2:16-17), and He is faithful (2 Tim 2:13). The Christian man who fully understands the love of Christ for him will have both a motivation and model by which to love his wife.

     The wife was created to “help” her husband (Gen 2:20). The word helper (עֵזֶר.Heb ezer) is an exalted term that is sometimes employed of God who helps the needy (Gen 49:25; Ex 18:4; 1 Sam 7:12; Isa 41:10; Psa 10:14; 33:20). Just as God helps His people to do His will, so the wife is called to help her husband serve the Lord and bring Him glory. She helps her husband by encouraging him to seek the Lord and live godly. The wife is also called to love her husband (Tit 2:4), and to respect him (Eph 5:33), both in private and in public. To respect is to revere, value highly, think much of, esteem. She respects him because of the Lord, not because he is perfect or always deserves it. In this manner, respect is a display of grace, not merit. Being respectful is thoughtful and intentional as she consults him as the leader of the family, discusses matters with him (work, finances, friends, etc.) and supports his decisions. Though he fails, she does not criticize him in front of others, nor talk badly about him when he’s not around. Rather, she is polite and notes his good qualities and accomplishments. Of course, the man who grows spiritually, serves as the spiritual leader to his family, makes more good choices than bad, and faithfully loves his wife makes it easier for her to respect him.

     Lastly, just as the husband has an ideal model of love and service in Christ, the wife has an ideal model in the woman of excellence described in Proverbs 31. The phrase an excellent wife (Pro 31:10; Heb.  אֵשֶׁת־חַיִל esheth chayil) was first used of Ruth, who was described as a woman of excellence (Ruth 3:11, NASB) or a woman of noble character (CSB). Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, who married Bathsheba, who is perhaps the one who shared her wisdom with her son, King Solomon (Pro 31:1). If this is correct, then it’s possible Bathsheba saw in Ruth a template for the woman of noble character. A study of the book of Ruth reveals she was committed to God and His people (Ruth 1:16-17; 2:11), possessed a strong work ethic (Ruth 2:7, 17), listened to good advice (Ruth 2:8-9; 3:1-6), showed respect to others (Ruth 2:10), cared for the needy (Ruth 2:17-18), sought to marry a noble man (Ruth 3:7-10; 4:13), and was praised for her excellence and love for others (Ruth 3:11; 4:15).

     According to Proverbs 31:10-31, the excellent wife is precious to her husband (Pro 31:10), and he trusts her (Pro 31:11). It is said, “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pro 31:12). She delights to work with her hands, knowing she’s providing for the good of her family (Pro 31:13, 15, 17-19, 27). She’s a smart shopper (Pro 31:14), and savvy business woman (Pro 31:16, 24), who is recognized for her work (Pro 31:31). She uses her time well (Pro 31:15, 27), is energetic and strong (Pro 31:17), cares for the poor and needy (Pro 31:20), provides for those in her household (Pro 31:21, 27), and does not neglect her own needs or appearance (Pro 31:22). As she is respected in the home, her husband is respected in the community (Pro 31:23), and both he and her children give praise for her dignity (Pro 31:28). She has an optimistic outlook on life, as “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future” (Pro 31:25). She is also noted for her wisdom, and “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Pro 31:26). She is the ideal wife, for though many women have done nobly, she excels them all (Pro 31:29). What makes this woman so excellent? What drives her to possess all the virtues of a godly woman, for which her husband praises her? Solomon tells us. It’s not her personal charm, which is deceitful; nor her physical beauty, which is fleeting (Pro 31:30a). Rather, it’s because she is “a woman who fears the LORD” (Pro 31:30b). This one “shall be praised” by all who know and appreciate her godliness. What is prioritized is the inner qualities of godliness and virtue that make for an enjoyable, stable, and lasting marriage. Other qualities and features of godly women are as follows:

  • "I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (1 Tim 2:9-12)
  • "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Tit 2:4-6)
  • "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Pet 3:1-6)
Marriage: A Divine Institution

Marriage: A Divine Institution

June 13, 2020

     According to Scripture, God created four foundational institutions that are for individual blessing and national stability. The four divine institutions are: Responsible Dominion—the sphere of life God has placed under our care (Gen 1:26-30; 2:16-17), Marriage—the covenantal union of a man and a woman to serve and enjoy God (Gen 2:18-24; cf. Matt 19:4-6), Family—the smallest social unit intended to train succeeding generations for godliness and authority orientation (Gen 4:1-2; Deut 6:4-7; Eph 6:1-4), Human Government—delegated authority to promote freedom, order, and to protect citizens from evil (Gen 9:5-7; 10:32; 11:1-9; Acts 17:24-28; Rom 13:1-7). Each of these institutions build on each other, for there will not be national stability if the families are not morally strong; the families will not be morally strong if the marriage is not godly; and, the marriage will not be godly if individuals are not making good choices to know and walk in God’s will.

     Marriage, being a divine institution, it is not open to redefinition or modification by people, and there are penalties—both individual and national—for those who would tinker with them. The first married couple set the standard for marriage. As man and woman, Adam and Eve were created in God’s image to live under His provision and authority, to walk in fellowship with Him, and to fulfill the specific purpose of ruling over His creation (Gen 1:26-28). In this regard they were to complement each other. All three members of the Trinity were involved in the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 1:26-28). Scripture reveals, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). Adam and Eve were created for relationships; first with God, then with each other, then the animals and world around them. They were to fulfill the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). They possessed a clear sense of purpose under the authority of God.

     Genesis chapter one provides a snapshot of the creation of the first couple; however, in Genesis chapter two, we learn there was a short lapse of time between the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 2:15-24). Originally, Adam was created sinless, with the unhindered capacity to walk with God and serve Him. Though he was sinless, Adam was not complete. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [Heb. עֵזֶר ezer] suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). Before God created the first woman, He took time to educate Adam about his relational incompleteness. God brought a multitude of animals before Adam (most likely in pairs of male and female), and after observing and naming them (Gen 2:19), Adam realized “there was not found a helper [Heb. עֵזֶר ezer] suitable for him” (Gen 2:20). God corrected what Adam could not. The Lord caused Adam to fall asleep and “took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place” (Gen 2:21). God then “fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man” (Gen 2:22). This was a divinely arranged marriage. It is noteworthy that the “woman was taken not from Adam’s head to dominate him, nor from his feet to be trodden down, but from under his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.”[1]

Sin changed humanity and the world in which we live. Satan (a fallen angel) attacked the first marriage and tempted the man and woman to disobey God (Gen 3:1-7). Adam and Eve listened to Satan and rejected God’s will (Gen 2:15-17; 3:1-8), and sin was introduced into the human race and the whole world is now under a curse (Gen 3:8-19; Rom 5:12-19; 8:20-22). Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam sinned with his eyes open (1 Tim 2:14). The institution of marriage continued after the historic fall of Adam and Eve and took on various ceremonies based on ever changing social customs. The Bible directs believers to marry believers (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14-15), but does not prescribe a specific ceremony to follow, or vows to take, but leaves these matters for people to decide for themselves. Marriage is divinely illustrative of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel (Isa 54:5), and Christ’s relationship with the church (2 Cor 11:2). Marriage is to be holy, because God is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16). Marriage is to be built on love, because God is love (1 John 4:16-21).

     Marriage is a covenant relationship (Prov 2:16-17; Ezek 16:8; Mal 2:14-15; Matt 19:6). In Scripture, the word covenant (Heb. בְּרִית berith, Grk. διαθήκη diatheke) is used of a treaty, alliance, or contract. The strength of a covenant depends on the person, or persons, who enter into it. Some covenants are vertical between God and individuals or groups, and some are horizontal between people. Some of God’s covenants are unilateral, in which God acts alone and unconditionally promises to provide and bless another. Some of God’s covenants are bilateral, in which blessing or cursing is conditioned on faithful obedience to stated laws. Covenants made by people are generally bilateral, depending on the faithfulness of each person to keep their promise. Though we, as individuals, may unilaterally promise to be faithful to our spouses (which is good), no matter what, we also realize that our promises are no stronger than our ability or integrity to hold on to them. Because none of us are morally perfect, nor hold infinite power to be good and do good, but live in a fallen world and possess sinful natures that draw us away from what is right, we realize that faithfulness to vows is not always a reality. Even some of the godliest men and women have failed to keep their word. Because of sin, the Bible permits a way out of the marital relationship in cases of adultery (Matt 5:32; 19:8-9), or abandonment (1 Cor 7:12-15). Though available, these options are not always preferable (1 Cor 7:10-11).

 

[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 35.

Steps to Spiritual Maturity

Steps to Spiritual Maturity

June 22, 2019

     The advance to spiritual maturity is a process that takes time as Christians learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis. But this is not an easy process, for we live in the devil’s world and are confronted with many obstacles and distractions that seek to push or pull us away from God. Though constant distractions are all around us, we are “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Bringing our thoughts into captivity means focusing our minds on God and His Word (Isa 26:3; Pro 3:5-6; Col 3:1), and not allowing our thoughts to be bogged down and trapped with the cares of this world (Matt 6:25-34). This requires spiritual discipline to learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis as we advance to spiritual maturity. Biblically, there are several things believers must do to reach spiritual maturity:

  1. Be in submission to God. Scripture tells us to “Submit to God” (Jam 4:7), and “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). Being in submission to God means we desire the Lord’s will above all else. When this happens, God’s Word opens up to us (Jo 7:17).
  2. Continually study God’s Word (Psa 1:1-2; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18). As Christians, we cannot live what we do not know, and learning God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will. Therefore, from regeneration onward, we study God’s Word in order to replace a lifetime of worldly viewpoint with divine viewpoint.
  3. Live by faith (Rom 10:17; Heb 10:38; 11:6). Learning God’s Word becomes effective when mixed with our faith as we apply Scripture to all aspects of our lives. Our faith is effective when God’s Word is more real than our experiences, feelings or circumstances. The writer to the Hebrews states, “But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38), for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6).
  4. Accept God’s trials (Deu 8:2-3, 16; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 3:17; 4:12-13). God uses trials to strengthen our faith and develop us spiritually. Often, we don’t like hardship, but we must learn to accept it as necessary. For the Lord uses it to burn away the dross of our flawed character and to refine those golden qualities consistent with His character. The growing believer learns to praise God for the trials, knowing He uses them to advance us spiritually (Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Heb 12:11; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 4:12-13).
  5. Be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Being filled with the Holy Spirit means being controlled by Him. It means we follow where He guides, and His guidance is always according to Scripture.
  6. Walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-21). Walking in the Spirit means we depend on Him to sustain us as seek to do His will.
  7. Restore broken fellowship with God through confession of personal sin (1 Jo 1:5-9). The confessed sin is directed to God, which is faithfully forgiven every time (1 Jo 1:9).
  8. Fellowship with other believers (Act 2:42; Heb 10:24). Spiritual growth does not happen in isolation, as God expects us to exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of others.
  9. Serve others in love (Gal 5:13). We are part of the body of Christ and God calls us to love and serve each other. Peter states, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10).
  10. Take advantage of the time God gives (Eph 5:15-17; cf. Heb 5:12; 1 Pet 1:17; 4:1-2). The believer does not reach spiritual maturity overnight, and since we have only a measure of time allotted to us by God (Psa 139:16), we must make sure our days are not wasted on meaningless pursuits, but on learning God’s Word and living His will.

     As Christians, we will face ongoing worldly distractions in our lives which are designed by Satan to prevent spiritual growth. We have choices to make on a daily basis, for only we can choose to allow these distractions to stand between us and the Lord. As Christians, we experience our greatest blessings when we reach spiritual maturity and utilize the rich resources God has provided for us. However, learning takes time, as ignorance gives way to the light of God’s revelation. Frustration is often the handmaiden of ignorance, but spiritual success comes with knowledge of God and His Word.

 

A Husband’s Love and a Wife’s Submission

A Husband’s Love and a Wife’s Submission

March 31, 2019

     Ephesians 5:22-33 is a continuation of the command to live wisely (Eph. 5:15), and to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This section begins the household codes in which Paul addresses the members of a local church, which include wives and husbands (Eph. 5:22-33), children and parents (Eph. 6:1-4), and household slaves and masters (Eph. 6:5-9).

  • "Wives, be subject [ὑποτάσσω hupotassoto submit, rank under – borrowed from vs. 21] to your own [ἴδιος idiosone’s own, distinct] husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head [κεφαλή kephalechief, head, leader] of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject [ὑποτάσσω hupotasso] to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." (Eph. 5:22-24)

     The word submission comes from the Greek verb ὑποτάσσω hupotasso, which was first used as a military term meaning to rank under, submit, or obey. Submission does not imply inferiority, for Jesus submitted Himself to His parents (Luke 2:51) as well as to God the Father (1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28). Biblical submission is foremost to God and then to those who do His will. Angels are to submit to God (1 Pet. 3:22), the church to Christ (Eph. 1:22), church members to elders (Heb. 13:17), Christians to government (Rom. 13:1), slaves to masters (1 Pet. 2:18), and the wife to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24). The wife reveals her love for Jesus when she submits to her husband.

  • "Husbands, love [ἀγαπάω agapao – present/active/imperative – to love, cherish, commit] your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her [sacrificed Himself for her benefit], 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [ῥῆμα rhemathe spoken word, probably the gospel], 27 that He might present to Himself [ἑαυτοῦ heautou – reflexive pronoun] the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." (Eph. 5:25-33)

     The Lord Jesus Christ stands as the ideal role model for the Christian husband; specifically His sacrificial love for the church, which is salvific, and concerned with the church’s glory, purity, and holiness. Christ’s love originates from eternity past, but manifested itself at a point in time, nearly two thousand years ago, when the eternal Son of God condescended and became a man (John 1:1, 14). During His time on earth He manifested grace and truth (John 1:17), lived a holy life (John 6:69; Heb. 7:26), faced adversity with Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11), and perpetually pleased His Father (John 8:29). He came not to be served, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He always spoke truth, both strong and gentle (Matt. 23:13-39; John 8:1-11), even in the face of hostility (John 8:40). He welcomed children (Matt. 19:13-14), cared for the sick (Matt. 8:14-16; 14:14), fed the hungry (Mark 6:35-44), and made the humble feel loved and welcome (Luke 7:36-50). The King of kings and Lord of lords manifested Himself as the Servant of servants when He humbled Himself and washed the feet of His disciples that they might learn humility (John 13:1-17). By the end of His earthly life He’d completed His Father’s work, saying, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4), then He faced the cross and laid down His life for others (John 10:11, 15, 17; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Giver of life had given His life that the church might know His Father’s love (1 John 3:16).

     A husband, in the biblical sense, is a man who models his life after Christ. This assumes he is, first and foremost, in a relationship with the Man, the Lord Jesus Christ and has been born again into a new life (1 Pet. 1:3). As the responsible leader in his home, he is to lead with a sacrificial attitude that is concerned about his wife’s wellbeing. Just as Christ leads, feeds, and protects His church, so the husband leads his wife into God’s will, nourishes her with God’s Word, and protects her spirit, body, emotions and reputation. In order to fulfill his divinely delegated role in the marriage, he devotes himself to the study of Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), and strives toward spiritual maturity (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 4:11-16). As a growing believer he lives by faith (Prov. 3:5-6; Heb. 10:38), is filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), walks in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), shows love to others (1 Thess. 4:9; 1 John 3:23), delights himself in the ways of the Lord (Ps. 1:1-3), walks humbly (Mic. 6:8), helps the needy, the widow and orphan (Prov. 14:31; Jam. 1:27), and pursues righteousness, justice and love (Ps. 132:9; Tit. 2:11-12). He does this so that his life will be transformed to become like the One who saved him (Rom. 8:29; 12:1-2). The husband makes his wife’s submissive role easy when he loves her as Christ loves the church, and he forfeits his right to lead if he abuses her or directs her to sin.

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