Biblical Marriage

Ephesians 5:21-33

Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Christ and the church. The husband is supposed to love his wife as Christ loves the church. The wife is supposed to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. This is the biblical role in Christian marriage (Eph. 5:22-33).  Yet, the sad reality is this is not always true. Current statics shows that half of Christian marriages end in divorce, just as non-Christian marriages. Let’s explore Ephesians 5:22-33 and see the role of biblical marriage in two points: The responsibility of wives (5:22-24) and the responsibility of husbands (5:25-32).

The text cannot be any clearer as to the role of a wife in a marriage relationship. Wives are to submit to their husbands. This submission is a functional subordination not an ontological subordination.  In other words, their role within a marriage is different but there is equality in the differences.

This submission is a partial restoration of what happened in the garden of Eden. In the garden as a result of the fall. God cursed Satan, Adam, and Eve. God said to Eve, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” Some commentaries will take the word desire as sexual desire, but in its context and usage in Genesis 4:7, it is better to take it as control. From that moment on women have a propensity to want to control men. Sin produces a power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman are to live harmoniously. Biblical marriage is a reflection and a partial restoration to the pre-fall state.

Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands and Paul provides an example of that submission: as the church submits to Christ. The word ‘submit’ is in the indirect middle voice. The indirect middle implies the subject acts for itself and for its own interest. The church freely submits to Christ and that submission is for the betterment of the church. Likewise, wives are to freely submit to their husbands because it is in their best interest.

The responsibility of husbands is to love their wives.  Husbands are commanded to love. The characteristic of this love is: unconditional, always concerned with the highest good in the one loved, self-sacrificial, and to love his wife as his own body.

Husbands are to love unconditionally. This love refers to love irrespective of merit, even to the underserving.  In essences, husbands are commanded to love their wives regardless if their wives love them back. It is not a reciprocal love.  It is a one way love. You love her when she is yelling at you, mad at you, gives you the silent treatment, and when she is wrong but still insists that she is right. It is an unconditional love

The second element of love is it is always concerned with the highest good in the one loved. Everything husbands do toward their wives is for her good, never his own. Husbands always have their wive’s interest in mind.  How will it benefit her, how will it edify her?  Are my choices beneficial for her?  Will this make her sad? Live your life in such a way as to please her.  It is not about you in a marriage, it is about her. Guys we need to get that through our thick heads. In any dating or marriage relationship, it is not about you it is about her.

The third element of love is that husbands are to love self-sacrificially because Christ loved the church self-sacrificially. Christ gave up his life for the church so that He might sanctify her having cleansed her from her filth so that he might present the church to himself without spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless. So likewise, husbands are to metaphorically speaking sacrifice themeslves, whether it be his life, dreams, ambitions, desires in order to keep her pure.

The fourth element of love is husbands are to love their wives as he loves his own body. Whatever a husband would do for himself he must do for his wife.  Paul goes on to explain what he means by this. As a man nourishes and cherishes his own body even if he does not like the way he looks, he will still feed it and care for it. If he takes care of himself, He must nourish and cherish his wife.  He must provide and care for his wife as he does for his own body. In the marriage context, husbands and wives are one flesh through sexual union.  In loving his wife he is loving himself because they are one flesh.

Husbands are to love their wives as their own body because Christ and the Church are in spiritual union. Because Christ and the Church are one, husbands should look to that example as an exhortation to nurture and cherish their wives.

Given these elements of love, the last element in husbands love your wives is the duration of this love. Husbands are to love in these manners continuously. This display of love is not a mood swing.  It is an ever present reality on this side of eternity. Husbands are to love their wives unconditionally, sacrificially, always concerned for her highest good, and are to love her as he love his own body continuously.

If husbands love their wives biblically as described in Ephesians 5:22-33, then it is easy for wives to freely submit to their husbands.  In the submission, wives know that the husbands will not abuse their position, but use their position to serve them.

If Christian marriages are like this then the divorce rate would drastically drop, infidelity would drop and the world would know that there is something different about Christian marriages.

Be a Part of the Solution rather than the Problem

Chick-Fil-A

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

With the controversy of Chik-Fil-A and the boycotting, and many other circumstances that have come about as a result, I was most saddened and hurt by the outright harshness and bitterness that has come from within the Christian community regarding this whole situation.  Some of these statements are directed at the Church, and in many places de-value the Word of God to a place under the cultural perspectives that are prevalent and popular today.  Just in case you don’t realize, the Church is being persecuted and oppressed for the values it extols and loses out often because those that profess to be Christian have not adequately defended or lived out the Gospel truths in their own lives.  The simple truth is this, the people within this Church will never be able to live up to this high calling due to inherent fallen-ness of man and our sin.  So I mourn, because in one way Christians are called hypocrites for our poor living of God’s truth, and the other way is we are unable to speak our views because we are then considered ignorant/old-fashioned/hateful when we simply stand for the truths that we believe in.  The reality is we are in a dark time and if one side is unable to speak its views without an immediate angry reaction, then is this true healthy dialogue that is happening?  In many ways, I feel like folks are seeing the Church as this:

Church is like a toilet

Unfortunately, this is often how many view the Church today.

I want to make a point to state this: if you want to discuss my personal beliefs and views on this, then  please feel free to meet with me in person to talk more about the subject.  I am here to make this statement instead: Be a Part of the Solution rather than the Problem.

Recently, a sibling came to me complaining that our faith community does not pray enough.  She shared how she didn’t see us praying enough and was frustrated and disappointed at our community.  In the moment, I asked her this simple question: did you go to prayer meeting?  What essentially she was saying was that she had not seen our faithfulness to pray as a body.  Granted, she was right in some sense… our church struggles in praying together, but I knew that it was a bit unfair for her to make this assessment because I had never seen her at our meetings.  Her response that followed my question was one of acknowledging that she had not attended.  I replied then that perhaps her role then is to start praying for others and to start attending.  In doing so, one speaks with more credibility and sets an example for others, and you start to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  Just like you, I hate that there are many in the Church that make those in the LGBT community feel unloved, unwanted, and less-than.  But let me clarify one thing… not every Christian is like this.  There are a large group of Christians that are daily trying to take up their cross and to honor Christ in all that they do and how they live.  They are loving others and praying for others.  They are actively serving the LGBT community and dialoging with others and serving the less fortunate and preaching the truth about God… the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  In attacking the “Church”, you are also unintentionally attacking your very beloved brothers and sisters that have been a part of your Christian life and all those Saints that have come before you.  By attacking the “Church”, I think we also reveal a poor understanding of what the Church is here for too.

So let me define Church in a very short brief explanation (off the top of my head)… the Church is a supernatural entity and gathering of God’s people for His purpose and plan from our time into eternity that will come to fruition and are linked by the life, death, resurrection, and promise of Jesus Christ.  God’s people whether local or universal (“Catholic”), is the Church, and are given gifts to be used to bring about His glory and purpose.  My Professor in Seminary, Dr. Tuck said that the church is: “the people of God, people of the light, the heavenly community and congregation.”  We are the body that serves to bring about God’s plan and purpose, we are the body of CHRIST!  Realize that the body of Christ needs grace just as much as the world does.

The funny thing is this, the Church, the people of God are NOT saved and being used because they are the Dream Team of good people; if anything it is because we really suck!  It is exactly because of their inherent brokenness and flawed-ness that the Church is called to be Jesus’ hands and feet and voice to this world that is lost.  It is taking the weak and the foolish and shaming the strong and the wise.  God does not need us to do His work, but by His grace allows Christians to participate despite our inherent and apparent imperfection and hypocrisy.  The irony is God can use the worst situations to bring about His greatest achievements; it is in doing so that humanity gets no credit and He gets all the glory.  If the Church consisted of holy perfect people, then we would not be about Christ but ourselves.  It is in this constant dependency and need that we constantly are seeking after God and crying out to Him for help.

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  Jesus did hang out with society’s rejects and losers.  He also hung out with the popular and even super-religious folks.  Do you have a Jesus’ words in red letter Bible?  If so, then what you notice is this: Jesus in the words He spoke was filled with truth that was so beautiful and perfect and incredibly impossible to live up to apart from God; it had such holiness, power, and was without error.  Yet if you look at Jesus’ life in the black letters (normal print), what you see is a Savior that was incredibly gracious and loving.  He was patient with those that needed patience, and strong and firm to those that were self-righteous.  The truth is: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17b).  Jesus was a perfection of both grace and truth lived out; He exemplified that paradox of being able to accomplish both.

The unfortunate reality is: we all desire to be both grace and truth and like all humanity we tend to swing like a pendulum overcompensating or undercompensating in our lives.  We can be incredibly gracious and yet truth-less, and we can also be incredibility truthful and yet be grace-less.  Either way is NOT Jesus because they are inherently flawed and may actually hinder others.  Being gracious and loving without truth brings about nothing that Jesus did; He extolled the Scriptures… He did not come to abolish the Law that was given, but to fulfill them.  Our righteousness needs to exceed even those of the religious people!  Being truthful and Word-centered without grace brings about nothing that Jesus did either.  Jesus perfectly loved His enemies and prayed for them as He died there on the cross at Calvary… He was perfect in His love as well.

You can’t have one without the other. Grace and Truth… and yet we each desire to find that balance. This is the Christian life inspired, guided, strengthened, reinforced and lived out daily until we are called home.  If you profess to know Jesus Christ and show very little grace; you have missed the point.  God is love, and in Jesus’ very act of submission and sacrifice… His life/death/resurrection exemplifies God’s love!  If you profess to know Jesus Christ and show very little concern for God’s Word, His truth; you have missed the point.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He is truth and He has brought about the Word to teach and show His Story!

If you disregard what the Word is teaching and saying, and sacrifice it all for “love” then you are NOT proclaiming the truth.  You cannot have grace without the truth; and you cannot have truth without grace.  When it is one or the other in extreme what you have is anti-nomianism, or legalism; it is an unhealthy imbalance.  Either way is not what Jesus teaches and NOT how he lived!  If you are not concerned with the inherent sin found in our world today that has been shown and addressed by God, then you are not seeing this world as God sees this world.  It is the very case that God loves this world so much that He has sent Jesus to address this sin of this world.  If one disregards this sin, then what was the point of Jesus’ life/death/resurrection?

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  The world does not need any more people hating on those that follow Jesus.  The Bible already pointed out that there are folks that will do that and even kill Jesus’ followers, there is no need for more because if anything it reveals one’s own bitterness and hatred rather than truly helping the circumstances.  Be a part of the solution… have you ever thought that perhaps your insight into God’s truth and how to love the LGBT community is an opportunity to educate rather than to accuse?  Rather than pointing one’s finger, which is the problem, let’s be a part the solution by educating and setting an example for others.  Prayerfully and by teaching and gaining the trust of those we love and desire to encourage, we patiently point out how to love and to dialogue with those that may be ignorant within our Churches.

Here’s the thing too… for those outside the Church, we have an opportunity to be part of the solution as well. We don’t walk into conversations and start fights with the truth, but as God is the Creator, let us be creative in how we display, share and interact with grace and truth to those in this world.  In the same way, it is building relationships and trust and sharing with love and grace and showing them how a Christian is to be holy as He is holy; it is also sharing and telling others of the truths found in Scripture and sharing the Gospel (remember all Scripture is profitable for teaching/reproof/correction/training in righteousness).  It is showing our less-than perfectness and showing that only Christ has brought about perfection and it is not our actions and works that result in this, but His grace alone.  Let us not fight the world by the world’s ways, but through God’s way which is through love that is shown by both grace and truth.  Let us always remember this.

Lastly, you will be persecuted for your position.  You will demand truth and grace, but the world and even the church will perhaps only see one or the other.  Be persecuted, but keep running the good race.  Your life needs to continue to reflect His truth and grace, and your focus must be on Christ only.  Your first and only allegiance needs to be the Lord.  For others, you are called to love them and see God’s heart for them. It is through this then you are to manifest truth and grace.  Remember, the Church consists of sinners, and yet, this is the community which Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for!  God is somehow using this rag-tag bunch of folks to do His good work, and He loves them as well.  Let us be a part of the solution rather than the problem; let us not condemn those in the body, but let us teach and encourage them to love and pray for others, and to value the word of God.  Let us practice a balance of grace and truth.   Grace and peace to you.

Why we should study the Metaphysics of the Trinity

This month’s guest post comes to you from Isaiah Lin. Like many of us who write on this blog, his roots are in Santa Barbara. Currently, Isaiah is studying at Talbot. Isaiah’s family and my family have known each other for many years through serving together at the Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Santa Barbara. Over the years our families have gone on many trips together, but the sweetest memories are those spent serving together. This past weekend, Isaiah and I had the opportunity to serve at CCCTO‘s summer retreat, where Dien To spoke. You can catch Dien’s 5 part series called “What’s the Big Picture?” on the CCCTO website.  

Augustine (De Trinitate)

Introduction:

With the following post, I want to raise a concern that weighs heavily on my heart. My concern can be phrased as the following question: Why is it the case that most professing Christians know close to nothing about the triune nature of the God they say they worship? I want to raise and briefly address three questions in this post. First, what happens if we as the Church fail to study and teach the doctrine of the Trinity? Second, why should we bother studying the Trinity at all? And third, by what means can we begin a pursuit of the doctrine of the Trinity? This post will be far too brief than it deserves, but I hope it will nonetheless be sobering, motivating, and thought provoking.

Question 1: What happens if the Church fails to teach the doctrine of the Trinity?

In addressing this first question, let us broaden our scope and contemplate this quote:

“The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But
whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied… Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is…” (Gresham Machen Christianity & Liberalism p. 176-177)

Now, whether you agree with Machen’s other works and systematic theology or not, he does put his finger on something quite relevant to our discussion today. What happens if the next generation of professing Christians believes that Jesus was fully man but not fully God? What would you say about them? With reverence, I dare say that whatever this hypothetical generation is, it is not a generation of Christians. The doctrine of Christianity is not the sort of thing that molds itself to whatever those who profess to be Christian at the time believe. I hope that this inspires some introspection on the part of those who would consider themselves Christian. Believing you are a Christian does not make you a Christian. Believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ does. But this implies a certain understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ actually is, not whatever you want it to be. I take it there are many people who believe they are Christian, but are not genuine members of the Body because they have too far perverted the Gospel message. Scary? It should be. So it becomes clear that teaching an accurate account of Christian doctrine is of utmost importance. After all, Scripture tells us that teachers will be held to a higher standard (James 3:1). For clarity, I am not saying that unless we understand everything there is to know about Christian doctrine, we are not Christians. However, I am saying that what we know and teach about Christian doctrine matters.

So let us return to our first question. What happens if the Church stops teaching the doctrine of the Trinity? For one, Christians will begin to think that the Trinity is unimportant. Learning about effective evangelism and being a “good person” will be seen as a better use of time.

And isn’t this what we see in our churches? Clearly these other pursuits are good, but question why our churches emphasize certain doctrines over others. It’s worth thinking about. Another potential consequence, perhaps more devastating than the former, is the vulnerability it creates in the Body. If we do not teach our children something as fundamental as the triune nature of God, should it surprise us when they so easily get swept away by cults that make similar, yet heretical claims? It’s simple. If one does not know what God is like, then there is almost no way for that person to discern if someone else is wrong about what God is like. And as Machen writes, “…whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied…”

Question 2: Why bother studying the doctrine of the Trinity?

As if the consequences of not studying the doctrine of the Trinity are not severe enough, is there a positive reason for why one should pursue Trinitarian studies? Clearly I think the answer is yes. I cannot begin to impress upon you the importance of pursuing knowledge of the Trinity. Whether we are aware of it or not, we now live in the wake of the anti-intellectual movement in Christian culture. Many have abandoned rational thought, believing that faith excludes reason, leaving devastating impacts on the teachings of Christ and Christian doctrine in general. Think back through all the sermons that you have heard, or Sunday school lessons you have taken. Do you ever remember learning about the Triune nature of God beyond the mere affirmation that he is Three in One? Further, it’s not only that Trinitarian studies have ceased in our churches, but it’s also often the case that the pursuit itself is actively condemned. People often say, “That’s too philosophical,” or, “we will never fully understand God in this lifetime, so what’s the point?” It may be true that we will not come to a complete knowledge of God in this lifetime, in fact that’s quite likely, but neither will we fully understand all of what scripture has to teach. But this doesn’t stop us from the pursuit of learning about God through scripture. The very fathers who established orthodoxy understood this clearly. Augustine, Richard of St. Victor, Aquinas, and countless others dedicated their lives to these intellectual pursuits ultimately contributing to establish the very orthodoxy that our evangelical faith is built upon.
The point is, the pursuit of knowing more about the Holy Trinity that we love is itself virtuous. Why study the metaphysics of the Trinity? When properly done, it can be worship in the purest of forms.

Question 3: How can we begin a pursuit of the doctrine of the Trinity?

Now, if you’re with me up to this point, you may be wondering how we can begin such a pursuit. I submit to you the following two ways are two incredibly vital means by which we ought to.

History:

Looking back at what scholars have discerned about Scripture is tremendously helpful in interpreting scripture. So it is also the case for Trinitarian theology. The early church had a lot to say about the Trinity. We need to ask ourselves questions like, why do we believe in a Trinity if the word ‘Trinity’ is not explicitly in the Holy Scriptures? Further, where did our Trinitarian doctrine come from? Simply put, the early church had to establish an orthodoxy to combat false teachings that were being presented. Essentially, these are the grounds for the establishment of the creeds. The creeds were a formal affirmation of doctrine put in place intended to combat unsound doctrine. Perhaps the best example of this is the heresy of Arianism. In the early church, Arius was teaching that the second and third persons of the Trinity were not eternal, but created by the Father. In the first council of Nicaea, Arius was deemed a heretic for this very doctrine. Following this, we can see these orthodox principles affirmed later on, the Athanasian Creed being one example. I mention these things because it’s obvious that studying the history of our Church can lead to a wealth of knowledge regarding accurate doctrine. When was the last time your church offered a class on historical theology?

Metaphysics:

First off, what the heck is metaphysics? Frankly, this is no easy question to answer. However for our purposes, we can settle on an ambiguous definition such as, metaphysics is the study of being. Now, this definition probably isn’t very illuminating, so for ease, let us look at some questions that would fall under this discipline. What is existence? Is it a property of a thing? What is a property? When we say that the grass is green, are we really saying that there is such a thing that is grass, and further, that this thing has the property of being green? What does it mean to be identical to something? What does it mean for two things to be related to one another? If you have tried to answer these types of questions about the nature of things, then you have undoubtedly attempted to engage in the enterprise of metaphysics. In this enterprise, we try to understand the way the world is. We try to understand all sorts of things like first causes, the human mind, possible worlds, and yes, the nature of GOD.

If we think for a moment about this, it really shouldn’t be all that shocking. Often times we wonder about the nature of God. “How is the Trinity possible?” we might ask. How is any god possible at all? Well, why might we have an intuition that He might be impossible? If we think this because of the natural sciences, such as physics and chemistry, we should pause for a moment and reflect. Physics and chemistry are in the game of describing aspects of the physical world. They use empirical methods to show patterns and probabilities in the physical domain. So ultimately, how much can those enterprises even say about the immaterial? Metaphysics, on the other hand, is not constrained to the domain of the physical realm. If there is an inconsistency in God, or one wants to argue that God is impossible, it must be demonstrable, at least in part, through metaphysical argumentation. After all, metaphysics is in the game of answering questions such as, what is a person? What is a substance? Both of these are critical in understanding the Holy Trinity.

So Metaphysics may seem a bit abstract at first, but hopefully, the more you study it, the more it becomes relevant, because the enterprise is not aimed at simply clarifying the terms used in the natural sciences, but to independently discern aspects of reality.

Final Thoughts:

It is clear that I have only touched on a miniscule portion of this topic and so much more can be said. This is an invitation for you to continue to pursue God in this way on your own. Make no mistake. The passion that many Christians have to live out their convictions is a good thing. The claim here is that sound doctrine needs to be the foundation for our actions. It ought not be merely a supplementary pursuit. That being said, hopefully what we have done here is a few things.

  1. I hope that you have begun to see the importance of the life of the Christian mind. Pursuing God with our minds is a calling for all Christians, not just those who want to pursue careers in theology or philosophy.
  2. I hope you have caught a glimpse of the vast amount of knowledge to be gained from historical theologians and the early church. I hope that you begin to see that learning about the development of orthodoxy, whether you adhere to every last bit of it or not, ought to play a role in the development of your theological positions.
  3. I hope you see that to become more resilient to cults who disguise themselves with the term “Christian,” we need to first understand what it is that we believe. Then, we need to encourage our brothers and sisters to maturity in the same way.

Lastly, I will remark that I am tremendously optimistic. I have seen an explosion in recent years in the number of people earnestly seeking after and glorifying God with their intellect. God will be faithful to his people.

So, why study the doctrine of the Trinity?
When properly done, it can be worship in the purest of forms.

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