Grace Bible Church was so blessed to have Chaplain Dennis and Nikki Holmes join us for worship last Sunday! Here’s Dennis’ sermon, “The Mystery of God’s Ways.”
Big Question: How much faith will save me?
I. “Into the District of Tyre and Sidon” 21
21 And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.
A. Why Jesus withdrew: to escape His enemies and the crowds.
B. Where Jesus withdrew to: …into the district of Tyre and Sidon.
II. A woman was crying out for help for her daughter. 22
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demonpossessed.”
A. The Woman 22a
1. She was a Canaanite
2. She was a woman
3. She was loudly, continuously crying out, “Have mercy, Son of David!”
B. The daughter: cruelly tortured by demons 22b
III. She was met with Silence, Indifference, and a Theological Roadblock 23-24
23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
A. The silence: Jesus didn’t answer her. 23a
B. The Indifference: The disciples were annoyed by her. 23b
C. The Theological Roadblock: Jesus stated that He wasn’t sent to minister to non-Jews! 24
1. The Messiah must first be offered to God’s people Israel.
- Mat 10 5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
2. An obedient nation of Israel will draw the nations to God.
- Isaiah 62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning. 2 And the nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will designate.
3. But…Israel was in the process of REJECTING her Messiah!
IV. The mother refused to give up 25-27
25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.”
A. She bowed low and begged for help 25
B. She believed there must be room for Non-Jews to be blessed by the Jewish King 25-27
V. Jesus did as she wished—her daughter was healed at once 28
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
Conclusion: What can disciples of Jesus, and seekers of Jesus learn from this story?
For followers of Jesus…
- Opportunities to care about other people will often seem very inconvenient.
- If you don’t care about the pains, heartaches, and troubles that people are carrying, you simply will have nothing to say to them.
- The present time is a time of welcoming all people to Jesus, not keeping them from Him.
For those who seek the salvation Jesus offers…
You are not saved by having a great amount of faith, but by having ANY amount of faith that is in the right Person—Jesus!
Our Big Question today is, “How much faith does it take to save a person?”
The Answer is this: It is not a matter of the amount of your faith that saves you, but Who your faith is placed in. Any faith in Jesus—saves!
Such as these… Mark 10:13-16
I. The Disciples scolded parents for bring their children to be blessed by Jesus 13
13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.
II. Jesus intervened on behalf of the children and their parents 14-16
A. To His disciples: indignation, commandment, and warning. 14-15
14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
B. To the children: Affection and Blessing 16
16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
CONCLUSION: How does this apply to us today who have gathered at Grace Bible Church?
1. The Church is responsible to welcome ALL people TO Jesus, all the time, no matter what problems they bring with them.
2. Parents are responsible to bring their children to Jesus.
3. Children are particularly loved by Jesus, independent of their parents, their friends, or even their church.
4. All people may enter the kingdom of God simply be trusting in Jesus to receive them, as they are.
Traditional understanding: “like a child” = admirable, “innocent” traits of a child, such as teachability, honesty, humility, obedience, etc…. But the problem with this understanding of the term is that we all know that children are more complex than that, and they certainly demonstrate the opposite of these positive traits! Besides, it doesn’t make any sense at all that Jesus would teach that we can gain entrance into His kingdom based on our moral qualifications!
Question: What qualities can we find in these children, so that we might become “such as these”, and enter into the kingdom of God?
Answer: The children in this story demonstrated both a DESIRE for and a TRUST in Jesus. Indeed, all who trust in Jesus will be saved, blessed, and forever a member of His kingdom!
Sermon: Hope Lost, Hope Found
- A few of His friends went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus 1-3
A. On Saturday evening they purchased the necessary spices 1
1 And when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
- Sabbath over = Saturday evening
- Mary of Magdalen:
- Mary (mother of Jesus) the mother of James (the younger brother of Jesus).
- Salome: probably the mother of the Zebedee twins, James and John.
- Spices =aromatic spices, used to mask the stench of the decomposing, drying body.
B. On Sunday morning they went to the tomb 2
2 And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
- They worried that a large stone blocked their entrance to the grave 3
3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
- They were shocked to find an open tomb, an angel, and Jesus gone 4-7
A. The tomb was open 4
4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
B. They found a young man inside the tomb 5-7
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.
1. The young man explained that Jesus had risen 6
And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.
2. The young man told them to remind the disciples to go to Galilee 7
7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.'”
- Mark 14:28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
- The women fled in fear from the tomb, saying nothing to anyone 8
8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Welcomed, but not Wanted
Big Idea: You can welcome Jesus into your life, but not want Him to stay.
- The Preparations for King’s entrance to His people and city 1-7
A. The right place on the right day: Jerusalem 1
As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives,
Luke 19:41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. = This particular day was chosen to enter the city by Jesus because it was in exact fulfillment the day Daniel foretold the Messiah would enter the city = 483 years after Artaxerxes issued a decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Dan 9:25, Neh 2).
B. The right way: on a special colt 2-7
He sent two of His disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3 “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.” 4 They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it.
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. = Signs of the Kings arrival in Jerusalem: Rejoicing, a King of justice, the ability to save, humility—and riding on a donkey! Jesus purposefully had arranged the colt ahead of time, and deliberately rode it into Jerusalem so all who read the prophet Zechariah would know exactly who He was.
II. The Presentation of the King to His people and His priests 8-11a
A. …his presentation to the people on the road to Jerusalem 8-10
8 And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”
Centuries earlier, when Simon Maccabeus entered into Jerusalem after defeating the occupying Greeks, he entered with “…with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel.” There was clearly a strong militaristic spirit in this crowd—they felt that their Messiah, the King, was coming to do battle with the Romans who occupied their beloved country.
1. “Hosanna!” = Salvation, from suffering! 9a
Psalm 118:25 O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! (Hebrew word: hoshea = “Save, now!”)
2. “You are the blessed one of God” = Divine favor 9b
BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD;
3. “Bless the kingdom of David” = Political victory! 10
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”
The response of the crowds tells the reader of at least three things that they believed about Jesus of Nazareth:
“Hosanna!” = T hey believed He would save them, MILITARILY, from their oppression and poverty. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” = They believed that Jesus was God’s representative, and therefore brought DIVINE POWER with Him. “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” = they believed that the Davidic line was soon to be restored to the throne of Israel, in Jesus of Nazareth. This was the POLITICAL salvation they longed for.
B. …his presentation to the priests in the temple in Jerusalem 11a
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple
Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. = It was one of the last prophecies of their own Scriptures that the Lord they so desperately sought after would Himself come “suddenly” to His temple. And yet, when the Lord did come into the temple He was not received, it sounds as if He wasn’t even noticed. What is perhaps most notable of the events of this day are not so much what did happen–as bizarre as His entrance into Jerusalem was–as much as what did not happen: The promised Messiah of God came into the Holy City on te exact day He’d promised, in the exact way He’d promised, and He ended the day barely noticed in His own temple–the very heart of Judaism!
- The Departure of the King from the temple and the city 11b
…and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
What is the story telling Grace Bible Church today, and what does it mean for us tomorrow, on Monday morning?
They welcomed Him as a savior from their hardships, but not from their sins. They wanted deliverance from the Romans, the priests, their hunger, their troubles, but not from their own sins. We are often tempted to see our need for salvation as something outside of ourselves; as being delivered from those people and these circumstances that hold back blessing and health from us, when what we desperately need is inner transformation.
They welcomed Him as someone sent from God, but not as in fact being God. We do the same today when we suggest that Jesus was a great moral teacher, a great man, etc., but they don’t then follow Him, per se, but might select the parts of His teachings that resonate with their own values and desires, and reject His teachings that challenge those things.
They welcomed Him as the rightful king over their own nation, but not as the Ruler over all nations. “the kingdom of our father David…” They were hoping for a tribal-king to unify and defend them from the nations, not the God of the nations. We do this today when we treat Jesus as if He we have an exclusive privileges from Him that others don’t have, or when we treat our church as an exclusive, members-only club, and not a huge, welcome, open-to-the-public celebration of hope, salvation, and opportunity.
What is this psalm about? The Jewish rabbis clearly saw it as a Messianic Psalm. That’s a psalm (song) that is primarily related to Israel’s Messiah (Anointed One), the historical figure of Davidic descent who would one day arise from within the nation to deliver His people from oppression and oppressors, and begin an eternal reign marked by international prestige and dominance, and national righteousness, prosperity, and security. The book is full of such Psalms, and has legitimately been called “the Prayer-book of the Messiah.” The last words He spoke on the cross were a quotation of a verse of the Psalms, and it appears that Jesus clearly saw His own life and ministry, death and resurrection, etc., as the fulfillment of the book of Psalms. His apostles seemed to view it the same way, with the very first sermon preached (on the day of Pentecost, by Peter) taking the structural form of an exposition of two of the Psalms, 16:8-11, and 110:1. In the gospels, Jesus clearly proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah of Israel. The writers of the book of Hebrews clearly affirms this messianic identity of the Lord when he quotes a couple of verses of Psalm 45, introducing the phrase, “But concerning the Son…” (Hebrews 1:8). In doing do, the writer identifies the Lord Jesus as THE Messiah figure promised to Israel, and desired with great anticipation by that nation. Therefore, this is clearly a psalm written in anticipation and worship of the coming Messiah, our Lord Jesus.
After an introduction to his psalm in which the author identifies himself as a member of the “sons of Korah,” and reveals the type of psalm he has written (perhaps to inform the music director of the type of music to play in accompaniment). He then goes on to share why he has written the psalm: He has been meditating on his Messiah, and through divine revelation has learned amazing things about this coming King—and he simply must record what he has seen…
…My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. (1b)
A loose but workable outline of this psalm can be expressed in one sentence: The awesome Messiah-King, Jesus Christ, is coming to fetch His bride, to return to His Father’s home where the grand wedding will take place, commencing an eternal marriage. I have placed this sentence as large divisions of the passage, over a textual outline of the passage. I hope in doing so I have not created too tangled an outline of the marvelous love song written to our dear King Jesus!
I. The Messiah-King, Jesus Christ, is coming… 2-9
A. He is handsome appearance and gracious speech 2
2 You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.
B. His astounding might in battle 3-5
1. He is a mighty warrior 3
3 Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty
2. He always fights for the right things 4
4 And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
3. He defeats all His enemies 5
5 Your arrows are sharp; The peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.
C. He rules over an eternal kingdom 6-9
1. He rules in eternal righteousness 6
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
2. He loves what is right, and hates what is wrong. 7
7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
3. He is desirable to all who draw near to Him. 8-9
8 All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad. 9 Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies; At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.
II. …to fetch His bride the Church… 10-15
A. She lives with longing for her King alone 10-12
1. She leaves all to follow after Him alone 10
10 Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father’s house;
2. She worships Him alone 11
11 Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.
3. She expects future blessing through Him alone 12
12 The daughter of Tyre will come with a gift; The rich among the people will seek your favor.
B. She is adopted into a royalty when she marries Him 13-14
13 The King’s daughter is all glorious within; Her clothing is interwoven with gold. 14 She will be led to the King in embroidered work; The virgins, her companions who follow her, Will be brought to You.
III. …to return to His Father’s home where the grand wedding celebration will take place. 15-16
15 They will be led forth with gladness and rejoicing; They will enter into the King’s palace. 16 In place of your fathers will be your sons; You shall make them princes in all the earth.
Cross-ref: Revelation 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Post-script: The author’s blessing on the King 17
In response to the marvelous things the author has seen of this King and this beautiful bride—symbolic of the Lord Jesus and His Church, the author resolves that he will do one thing: he will seek to write so that the name of the King will always be remembered, so that thanks would be given to the King forever.
17 I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever.
Conclusion: What does this mean for us today at Grace Bible Church?
Sharon and I received a card last week in the mail that simply said, “Save the date!” It was a pre-invitation, asking us to be sure to “save the date” of my nephew’s wedding in July. We have to make plans, or NOT make plans—in order to be sure to make it to the wedding. In the same way—expecting the King, our Groom, to return for us one day, to take us to His Father’s home, where He is preparing a “place” for us—that requires a change in how we plan and look at life, too. I bleive this Psalm is a type of “Save the Date” message to us from God.
This Psalm presents a warning, an invitation, and celebration to us today:
1. There is an underlying warning that runs throughout the Psalm: This King loves righteousness, and will one day return to judge the unrighteousness of our world.Cross-ref: Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
2.There is a clear invitation here, an announcement for us to “Save the Date.” We can ignore that announcement, if we so choose. But we are all invited. We’ve been invited—will we now “Save the Date” in our hearts and lives, in a practical way, be living with a view to that future, indescribably joyful day when our King arrives to take us to the Father’s home, to live with Him forever? There are some clues here in this Psalm about how we might join the celebration: Listen, O daughter…give attention…incline your ear…Forget your people and your father’s house..” We only save the invitations that we receive that we truly value, and intend to respond to. Do you value this invitation from God to have a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ?
3. There is a matchless celebration coming, where the Groom and His Bride are finally together, for all eternity. While we are certain the Bride of Jesus today, as His beloved Church—there is still an ache, a longing and desire to finally be with Him forever—to have our “marriage” to this King finally, once and for all time celebrated and commenced. The Bible promises that one day there will certainly be a grand wedding feast where we will indeed finally be with Him forever, face to face!
Three issues to consider when considering getting married…
- Great CAUTION should be shown before marrying in these challenges times. 25-31
A. Our times are troubled, marry or remarry only with great caution 25-28
25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.
B. The eternal perspective of our faith changes how we see everything… 29-31
1. RELATIONSHIPS: Our present understanding of marriage won’t last 29
29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none;
2. DEATH: Our weeping will not last 30a
30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; 30b
3. HAPPINESS: Our joys will not last 30c
and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice;
4. POSSESSIONS: Our purchases will not last 30d
and those who buy, as though they did not possess;
5. CULTURE: Our various, worldly pleasures not last 31
31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
II. There are inescapable CONCERNS that a marriage will face. 32-35
A. The husband’s cares are now divided between the Lord and his wife 32-34a
32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided.
B. The wife’s cares are now divided between the Lord and her husband 34b
The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
C. Marriage adds great challenges to a life devoted to following the Lord. 35
35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Unfortunately, in the history of Christianity, even to this day–the concerns that marriage partners carry towards one another have been viewed as a regrettable impediment to spiritual growth and health. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is through the daily routines of kindness, comfort, and self-giving that make up a healthy marriage that amazing opportunities develop for the believer to grow closer to the Lord. Paul is not chastising those who marry–he is simply pointing out a fact: a married person’s concerns ARE divided between the Lord and the spouse, but, the person’s loyalty and intimacy with the Lord are only strengthen and nurtured through obedient participation in the marriage relationship! It is just as regrettable that person called to marriage would remain single as that a person called to singleness would force himself/herself to marry.
III. There is the need to obtain proper CONSENT before entering into marriage. 36-40
A. FATHERS: Consent to arrange marriage for Christian daughters 36-38
Mike Aquiline, Director of the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology, describes some of the more horrible aspects of the culture of death that the ancient Mediterranean world devolved into during and after the years of the New Testament period of the church. It was especially harsh for females. Regarding the ancient institution of marriage, he writes,
And pagan marriage offered no respite from this misery. Greco-Roman women were usually married off at age 11 or 12, to a mate not of their choosing, who was often much older. (Christian girls tended to marry at about 18) Afterward, they suffered in predatory relationships rife with contraception, abortion (which often killed the mother), adultery, and unnatural sexual acts. Infanticide was common, especially for female or defective offspring. Of the 600 families who show up in the records from ancient Delphi, only six raised more than one daughter. Though most of those 600 families were quite large, they had all routinely killed their baby girls. Dr. Rodney Stark quotes a letter from a pagan businessman writing home to his pregnant wife. After the usual endearments, he closes his letter by saying, briefly and casually, “If you are delivered of a child before I come home], if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl, discard it.” (Stark, The Rise of Christianity)
So, the decision on the part of a father in ancient Corinth of whether or not to “give” his daughter in arranged marriage was a very significant, vital decision to make. As the Christian families increasingly opted to not participate in the marriage customs of the surrounding culture, keeping their daughters with their birth families for a longer duration—they began to be known for the high value and dignity that they placed on their sons, but especially on their daughters.
1. To follow the cultural custom of arranging a daughter’s marriage is not a sin for a father. 36
36 But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.
Roman legal age of marriage for girls was 12, for boys it was 14 years of age. Most marriages were arranged by parents (husbands and wives). Faithfulness and harmony in the marriage were Roman ideals, and Christian parents also arranged their children’s marriages as did the surrounding culture.
2. To decide not to follow the customs of the day was a good thing. 37
37 But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.
3. Summary: Freedom to do either, but a father does “better” to keep his daughter at home with her family longer than his surrounding culture did. 38
38 So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
B. Consent for WIDOWS to remarry 39-40
Note: These verses are not addressing the issues of remarriage faced by those who no longer are married (such as divorced or abandoned mates) or those who have never been married. The verses appear to address those who have actually been widowed, and apply to those whose former mates are still formally recognized as “husbands.”
39 A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.
C. A good application for ALL of us regarding the consent to marry might to be be sure that we are in obedience to both our consciences and to the Bible.
Application: Singleness and Grace Bible Church
- The benefits of singleness will remain unrealized if you do not take advantage of them—the church community needs you! The mere opportunity to avoid the troubles of life that your married brothers and sisters face is not an invitation to live a care-free, happy-go-lucky life. The mere opportunity to live a life of deeper devotion and spiritual pursuits does not mean that you are a St. Francis of the Singles—you still need to get your hands dirty in ministry. Use who you are, where you are, and how you are in life, right now!
- The burdens of singleness are unbearable when they are faced alone—you need the church community! Isolation kills, and the mono-culturalism of only being with fellow singles or fellow young people stunts growth. Isolation intensifies temptation and relapse into harmful patterns and sin—you need the church to “rub shoulders” with friends, and to share your life with them, and to find the right kind of relational intimacy. The battle of loneliness shouldn’t be fought alone! The answer to loneliness, particularly after the loss of mate, or a divorce or separation, is not to withdraw, and certainly NOT to seek another marriage relationship. It is to belong to the Lord, (like Paul) should you remain unmarried for the rest of your life or for a season—you need the church to share that life with!
Verses 17-24 form a fascinating section of chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, serving as a type of heavy duty hinge between Paul’s discussion regarding those who either had been or were presently married (vv1-16) and his counsel regarding those who had never been married, whom he refers to by the classical term, virgins and those wives whose husbands had died (25-40). Verses 17-24 not only serve to conclude his direction to the first group, but also serve to introduce his counsel to the second. In these verses Paul advises both groups: Don’t scramble to leave the place in life where God found you, but also follow Him when He leads you off of that path… This passage deserves much more treatment than I intend to give it from the pulpit this Sunday, so I’ve put together this short summary of it for your consideration. Thanks! Pastor Ken
- Paul’s Big Idea: Stay where you were when God called you to follow Him, but follow Him where He leads. 17
17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.”
I can imagine many places where a person might be in life that they would NOT want to “remain” in once they are called by Him to the new life of salvation! It’s important to remember Paul is writing regarding some specific questions he’d been asked by the Corinthians regarding these issues of marriage (7:1), so we should not assume that Paul is suddenly, in response to those questions, departing from his response to go on a tangent and write about Judaism vs. being a Gentile, or slavery vs. living as a free-person. It is reasonable to assume that Paul is still speaking of marriage issues, although he is backing off enough to give a very generalized view here, and is not giving an unalterable, fixed command for all Jews, all gentiles, all slaves, all gentiles, etc., but is instead providing guiding principles for them to apply to their specific circumstances.
Example Number One: Whether you are from Jewish culture or from the gentile culture—don’t run away from where God found you. 18-20
18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” 20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.”
To be called while “already circumcised” simply meant that one had become a believer in Jesus Christ out of the Jewish culture of ancient Corinth. Physically, such man had been circumcised in adherence to the Jewish law, probably as an infant. (Some Greeks who converted to Judaism did undergo circumcision.) But in a larger, (and I think more likely sense), Paul is referring to a man who lives with Jews, and lives as a Jew—observing the Jewish customs and traditions. Such a man was not to try and hide where he’d come from when God found him. (It was possible, and fairly routine, for a circumcised man to undergo a surgical procedure to reverse the circumcision—mainly to alter the cosmetic effects of the procedure.) Likewise, a Gentile man, who would not have undergone circumcision, was not to undergo circumcision in some sort of misguided attempt to more closely identity with the culture of the Jews. Understanding the Lord Jesus was a Jewish man, and would have been circumcised, this would certainly have been a very real possible desire for a Gentile man who had become a follower of Jesus. In each of these cases, the believer was to consciously remain in the culture condition in which God had called him.
Example Number Two: Live as free men who have become slaves to the Lord. 21-23
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he, who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
It is impossible to understand this passage unless we gain a very clear idea of the vast differences between the slavery forms of the ancient Roman world and that of the Colonial and pre-Civil War United States of America. The United States condoned, practiced, and facilitated a system of slavery the likes of which had been rarely seen in human history. It is perhaps the most inhumane, self-defeating, animalistic system of bondage one can find in history. Americans must own that part of our history, and never seek to forget or justify existence, just as we must not simply shrug our shoulders at the subsequent forms and presence of racism and racialization that the nation is still seeking address in its culture—even after the abolition of slavery with the Civil War.
Slavery in the Roman Empire, on the other hand, was very complex and different from the American version, and it permeated all levels of Roman culture. Up to 1/3 of the slaves in any given Roman city were born of slave-mothers, and had grown up as slaves. Slaves were everywhere, and one could not easily recognize a slave when one saw him or her, say, on a street in Corinth. Your doctor, lawyer, household manager, farm supervisor, warehouse foreman, etc., and certainly your children’s teacher—was a slave. Slaves in ancient Rome might be lashed to the oars of a war-ship, and consigned to an almost certain death. They would be found in the mines, working alongside prisoners and convicted criminals, and liable to suffer an early death. But also, they might be found working side by side with free-men on public works projects. They might be married (although their marriages would not be considered legal per Roman law), might have children, might be soon to receive their freedom from a kind master, or certain to be sold to another master. They might be freed by a master—so that the master could marry them (this is only in the case of a female slave), or, they might be repeatedly molested and raped, with the permission of the law, by a cruel master or his wife. And get this—some of the slaves had chosen to be slaves, having “sold” themselves into a limited time of slavery to a master, usually in order to pay off a debt! I don’t think I’ve begun to scratch the surface of the complexity of the ancient Roman world’s system of slavery—but I hope I have presented to you that it was in a multitude of ways vastly different than the horrific, reprehensible crime of slavery that our government and its forbearers allowed early in our history.
So, what was a man (or woman) to do when called by God into a saving relationship—and by the grace of God now a member of a church, perhaps worshipping alongside both other slaves and slave-owners? Paul advises this: “If you’re a slave, don’t worry, just make sure you jump at the opportunity to become a free-man, if and when the opportunity arises.” His reason? “You are now, in the eyes of the Lord, free—so live that way as the chance arises.” And to those who had met the Lord while free-men; they were to see themselves as now being the Lord’s slave. And to each Paul is adamant: “Do not become the slaves of men!” I realized there are many applications that we can make to this specific statement of verse 23; “Don’t submit to man’s religious rules.” “Don’t be a people-pleaser!” etc. But I think we should also be sure to affirm what the basic meaning of Paul’s instruction would be to those he was writing: Don’t make yourself a slave to anyone on earth. No matter how rough times get—do not enter into a slave-master agreement with anyone, ever again!”
In conclusion, Paul summarizes his point: “Stay where you were when God called you, and from there, follow Him to wherever He leads you.”
24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
Paul does not tell Jews to act like Gentiles, as if that would somehow make them more “Christian”, or perhaps more acceptable to the surrounding, non-Christian culture. He doesn’t tell Gentiles to act like Jews, as if it would make them more “Messianic.” (Don’t we often struggle with the desire to change the externals of our lives as a means of image-making, and not out of genuine submission to our Lord?) Paul doesn’t tell slaves to aspire to remain slaves, but instead to seek freedom when it comes, as they have a new Master, Jesus Christ, a Master who does not suffer worldlings to hold His brothers in captivity. This was a lesson written with the blood of its own sons, fathers, and brothers by the United States in the 1860’s. Paul neither asks anyone to remain in bondage, nor does does he advocate running away from who we are, and where we were at in life when God called us to His Son. And for those who met Christ while enjoying the social status of being a “free-man,” Paul reminds them, and us today who enjoy so much freedom in our American culture: “You are now slaves to the Lord. Serve Him alone, and never again choose slavery over the life of freedom that He has purchased for you with His precious blood.” Changes to the external circumstances of our lives are to arise out of THE great change of our salvation, and never independent of it!
Introduction: Paul continues his words of encouragement concerning marriage, answering questions that he’d been asked by the Christians at Corinth. In this section he addresses the marital concerns of three distinct groups: Those who had been (but no longer were) married, those whose marriages were in crisis, and those whose mates did not share the Christian faith. Our approach to these verse will be guided by the observation that they are not a source of God’s Laws concerning marriage, remarriage and divorce, but are instead an account of God’s deep Love for marriages of all sorts, and desire that all marriages would function at their fullest, richest capacity for intimacy, redemption, and peace.
I. For those formerly married, either remain single and celibate, or remarry 8-9
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
II. For those Christian couples whose marriage are stressed 10-11
A. Do not separate 10
10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband
B. If presently separated, either remain single or reconcile with your mate. 11
11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
III. For believers whose mates do not share their faith. 12-15
A. If the non-Christian mate is satisfied—remain in the marriage. 12-14
12 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away.
1. The non-Christian mate is blessed (sanctified) to be married to a Christian. 14a
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband;
2. Their children are sanctified in having a Christian parent 14c
for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.
B. If the non-Christian mate leaves the marriage, let them go. 15-16
1. We are called by God to a life of peace 15
15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.…
2. We cannot ensure that our non-Christian mates will be saved by our loyalty to the marriage. 16
16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
Application—What does this text mean for Grace Bible Church today?
1. We are alert to the damage of the hardened heart. 10-11
- Restated: As Christians, we reject the very notion of dissolving our marriages or deserting our mates.
- “…a hardened heart…” is the underlying reason that Jesus gave for the divorce of believer marriages. While there are apparent provisions given in the NT for the divorce of Christians—forgiveness, acceptance, healing, and restoration are ALWAYS the preferred path to take in a marriage
2. We honor the immeasurable worth and absolute legitimacy of marriages that are not united in faith. 12-13
- Restated: We wholeheartedly concur that all marriages, including those between Christian and non-Christian, are of precious in the eyes this church.
- Many Christian ministries have done a pathetic job of ministering to their members who are in mixed marriages, and an even worse job of looking out for their non-Christian mates.
3. We treasure the opportunity for blessing and salvation that a Christian spouse and parent offers their mates and their children. 14
- Restated: We treasure the priceless opportunity to bring the blessing of God and hope of salvation into the lives of our mates and our children.
- This is the Big Picture—the restoration of people to their Creator, the introduction of people to Jesus Christ.
4. We accept the choices of our mates, but long for them to be saved. 15-16
- Restated: While we wholeheartedly give our affection and respect to our unsaved mates, we will also respectfully allow them to leave us should they so choose. But…in our depths of our souls—we long for them to meet Jesus and find His salvation.
Sermon: The Obligations of Christian Marriage
I. Our marriages have an obligation of MUTUAL EXCLUSIVITY 1-2
1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good ” a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
II. Our marriages have an obligation of MUTUAL LOYALTY 3
3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
III. Our marriages have an obligation of MUTUAL AUTHORITY 4
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
IV. Our marriages have an obligation of MUTUAL INTIMACY 5-6
5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
V. Our marriages have an obligation of MUTUAL GRATITUDE 7
7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
Conclusion: For Grace Bible Church…
1. We define marriage by the Word of God, not our culture’s laws and practices.
2. We promote healthy, physical intimacy in all marriages.
3. We seek to care for and bless our mates with “fear and trembling” at the great responsibility of being a mate.
4. We honor and recognize every gift from God—whether the gift of living in a marriage relationship or the gift of living a life of singleness.