Monday, January 28, 2013

God's Plan for Marriage

Part 29 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22).

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church... (Eph. 5:25).


In the Beginning 

We live in a time when our culture is negatively influencing the church to a greater degree than the church is positively transforming our culture. Marriage, in many ways, is under attack, and it’s vital that Christians have a proper understand of what marriage is supposed to be. In the first three chapters of Genesis we discover God’s plan for marriage, and we also see how sin has negatively affected marriage since the fall.

1. The man and the woman were created as equals. 

Gender equality is seen in Genesis 1:26-28: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Both the man and the woman were equally made in the image of God, equally blessed, and equally given dominion over the earth.

2. The man and the woman were given different roles. 

Men and woman are equal but different. What are the unique roles that God has given to husbands and wives? First, a husband is to be a servant leader. Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). “Clearly the biblical picture of a husband laying down his life for the wife is directly opposed to any kind of male tyranny or oppression. The husband is bound by love to ensure that his wife finds their marriage a source of rich fulfillment and joyful service to the Lord” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2272).

Second, a wife is to be a strong helper. After the creation of Adam, there was a period of time when he lived alone. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit [suitable, NIV] for him’” (Gen. 2:18; cf. v. 20).
The English word “helper” is not the best translation for the Hebrew word ’ezer. “Helper” connotes merely assisting someone who could do the task almost as well without help. But ’ezer is almost always used in the Bible to describe God himself. Other times it is used to describe military help, such as reinforcements, without which a battle would be lost. To “help” someone, then, is to make up what is lacking in him with your strength. Woman was made to be a “strong helper.”
The word “suitable” is just as unhelpful a translation. This translates a compound phrase that is literally “like opposite him.” The entire narrative of Genesis 2, in which a piece of the man is removed to create the woman, strongly implies that each is incomplete without the other.
Male and female are “like opposite” to one another. They are like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together because they are not exactly alike nor randomly different, but they are differentiated such that together they can create a complete whole (Timothy Keller, Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, pp. 174-75). 
Genesis 2:21-23 describes the creation of Eve: “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’” Verse 25 adds, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (cf. Eph. 5:31).

The unique roles given to husbands and wives were not a part of sin's curse. In Genesis 1 and 2 there are several indications of differences in role between the man and the woman prior to the fall: (1) Adam was created first (Gen. 2:7, 18-23); Eve was created as a helper for Adam (Gen. 2:18); Adam named Eve (Gen. 2:23); (4) God named the human race “man,” not “woman” (Gen. 5:2); (5) the serpent came to Eve first to distort God’s order (Gen. 3:9); (6) God spoke to Adam first after the fall (Gen. 3:9); (7) Adam, not Eve, represented the human race (1 Cor. 15:22); and (8) the curse brought a distortion of previous roles, not the introduction of new roles. When Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands,” he is saying, “Wives, allow your husbands to take the lead.” But he also says, “Husbands, make sure you really love your wives” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 461-64).

3. The fall of humanity led to a struggle for control within marriages. 

After Adam and Eve sinned, God said to Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).
These words from the Lord indicate that there will be an ongoing struggle between the woman and the man for leadership in the marriage relationship. The leadership role of the husband and the complementary relationship between husband and wife that were ordained by God before the fall have now been deeply damaged and distorted by sin. This especially takes the form of inordinate desire (on the part of the wife) and domineering rule (on the part of the husband). The Hebrew term here translated “desire” (teshuqah) is rarely found in the OT. But it appears again in 4:7, in a statement that closely parallels 3:16—that is, where the Lord says to Cain, just before Cain’s murder of his brother, that sin’s “desire is for you” (i.e., to master Cain), and that Cain must “rule over it” (which he immediately fails to do, by murdering his brother, as seen in 4:8). Similarly, the ongoing result of Adam and Eve’s original sin of rebellion against God will have disastrous consequences for their relationship: (1) Eve will have the sinful “desire” to oppose Adam and to assert leadership over him, reversing God’s plan for Adam’s leadership in marriage. But (2) Adam will also abandon his God-given, pre-fall role of leading, guarding, and caring for his wife, replacing this with his own sinful, distorted desire to “rule” over Eve. Thus one of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage (ESV Study Bible, p. 56).
Andres Kostenberger writes, “…while the fall changed the marital relationship forever, God’s ideal for marriage as articulated in Genesis 1 and 2 nonetheless continued to set the standard for the responsibilities and roles of husbands and wives toward each other in the subsequent history of humanity” (God, Marriage, and Family, p. 27).

Jesus Is Our Model

Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus was submissive to the Father (a model for wives) and a servant to humanity (a model for husbands).

Kathy Keller writes,
In this passage we see taught both the essential equality of the First and Second Persons of the Godhead, and yet the voluntary submission of the Son to the Father to secure our salvation. Let me emphasize that Jesus’s willing acceptance of this role was wholly voluntary, a gift to his Father. I discovered here that my submission in marriage was a gift I offered, not a duty coerced from me.
As I personally struggled with understanding gender equality within gender roles, it was this passage that entirely took the sting out of the subordinate role assigned to the female sex (The Meaning of Marriage, p. 175).
A husband and a wife both fulfill their marriage roles by acting like Jesus.

In his book, Families Where Grace Is in Place, Jeff VanVonderen suggests that Ephesians 5:22-33 should not be seen as separate from verse 18, which says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” VanVonderen writes, “The ramifications of being filled with the Spirit literally reverse the effects that the curse has on the relationship” (Families Where Grace Is in Place, p. 91). In other words, only when husbands and wives are filled with God’s Spirit can they fully experience the joy of marriage.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Be Filled with the Spirit

Part 28 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:15-21).


Christian Living 

Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk” (v. 15a). “Walk” is a key word in Ephesians (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). The NIV says, “Be very careful, then, how you live.” As Christians, we should desire to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (4:1).

God didn’t save you so that you could waste your life. 

How we are to live is explained by three “not…but” statements: (1) “ [walk] not as unwise but as wise” (v. 15b); (2) “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (v. 17); (3) “do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18).

As we live each day, we should be “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (v. 16; cf. Dan. 2:8). The KJV says, “Redeeming the time.” “A good translation would be, ‘Buy up every opportunity’” (Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 288).


Spirit Filling 

Paul contrasts being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit: “And do not get drunk on wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18). The “Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, the second person of the Trinity. (Paul has already written that Christians have been told that they have been “sealed” by the Holy Spirit, and that they must not “grieve” him, 1:13; 4:30.)

The filling of the Spirit is mentioned many times in the New Testament, especially in Luke’s writings (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 4:1; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9, 10, 52).

To be “drunk with wine” is to be under the influence of alcohol. The result is “debauchery.” To be “filled with the Spirit” is to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Being “filled with the Spirit” means that “the Holy Spirit is the controlling influence motivating and directing the lives of believers” (Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 290). (A very different “filling” is seen in Acts 5:3, where Peter said to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.”)

The Spirit can be seen as both the instrument (filled by the Spirit) and the content of the filling (filled with the Spirit). The purpose of the Spirit’s filling is Christlikeness (cf. 4:13).

“It must be noted that the present imperative passive verb, “be filled,” probably indicates an iterative force, a repeated action of filling by the Spirit. The imperative mood places the responsibility on the believers. The passive voice suggests that believers cannot fill themselves. Rather, believers are to be filled by the Spirit. Thus, believers are exhorted to be filled repeatedly by the Holy Spirit no matter where they are or what they are doing” (Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 704). The Spirit always lives within believers (1 Cor. 6:19), but believers are not always filled by the Spirit (i.e., they don’t always surrender control of their lives to the Spirit).

How does being filled with the Spirit affect a Christian’s life? In verses 19-21, we find three results of being Spirit-filled (cf. Col. 3:16).

1. A Spirit-filled Christian sings. 

When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (v. 19). “The purpose of singing is both praise to God and instruction of believers” (Snodgrass, Ephesians, p. 291).

2. A Spirit-filled Christian gives thanks. 

When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20). “Always” probably means “regularly.” Giving thanks for “everything” doesn’t mean we should be thankful for every single thing (e.g, sin). Perhaps “everything” refers to all of our blessings (keeping in mind that even adversity can benefit us).

3. A Spirit-filled Christian submits. 

When we are filled with the Spirit, we will be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). The Greek word translated “submitting” (hypotasso) literally means to “arrange under.” (As a child, Jesus was “submissive” to Joseph and Mary, Luke 2:51.)

The motivation for submission is “reverence for Christ.” “It is likely that ‘submitting to one another’ means ‘submitting to others according to the authority and order established by God,’ as reflected in the examples that Paul gives in the following verses” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2271). It is true, however, that all Christians are to love and serve one another.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What the Cross Says About God's Righteousness

Part 3 of The Cross: What It Says About God

You can listen to this sermon here.



Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:25-26).


The Righteousness of God 

Righteousness is one of God’s moral attributes. “God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 203).

People often argue that the God of the Bible is not always righteous. They point to some of the doctrines (e.g., hell) and stories (e.g., the flood) of the Bible and say, “That’s wrong!” (Admittedly, there are no easy answers to some of these objections.)

Abraham once questioned God’s righteousness. When God told him that he was going to destroy the city of Sodom, Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25). Abraham was concerned that God was going to punish the righteous with the wicked (v. 23). In the end, Abraham trusted that God would do what was right.

God always does what is right. 

There are many statements in Scripture about the righteousness of God. “Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jer. 12:1). “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4). “Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules” (Ps. 119:137). “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works” (Ps. 145:17). “I will speak the truth; I will declare what is right” (Isa. 45:19). “‘I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD” (Jer. 9:24). “The Lord …is righteous; he does no injustice” (Zeph. 3:5).


Justifying Sinners 

In Romans 1:18-3:20, the apostle Paul argues that all of humanity is guilty of sin. He writes, “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). In other words, no one is capable of keeping the law of God. Paul goes on to say, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (v. 19).

Paul adds, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (v. 20). To be “justified” means to be declared righteous. It is impossible for us to be justified by obeying God’s law. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10, NIV).

God loves us and wants to justify us. But he is also righteous and must punish our sin. How can God satisfy both his love and his righteousness? We find the answer in Romans 3:21-26.

1. We can be declared righteous apart from the law. 

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it” (v. 21). Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that “there are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words, ‘But now.’”

2. We can be declared righteous by faith. 

“The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is not distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vv. 22-23).

3. We can be declared righteous because of Christ's work. 

“And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (vv. 24-25a). A “propitiation” is an offering that appeases God’s wrath (retributive justice). It is God who provided the propitiation (cf. 1 John 2:2).

Religion is spelled D-O. But Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. There is nothing we can do to make us righteous before God. Only by trusting in what Christ has done can we be justified.


The Right Way 

“This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (vv. 25b-26).

The cross was the right way to make unrighteous people righteous. 

God “accepts as righteous before him sinful people who have faith, and he accepts sinners as righteous without violating his own just character because Christ has fully satisfied God’s demand that all who commit sin must die” (Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 130).