Marriage, Family and Children
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THE CREATION OF MAN
THE DIVINE IMAGE IN TWO PERSONALITIES
WHAT IS GOD DOING THROUGH JESUS?
THE RELATIONSHIP OF MARRIAGE TO THESE THINGS
THE UNEQUAL YOKE
WHAT ARE CHILDREN?
ESTABLISH YOUR PRIORITIES
LIVING WITH CRISIS
"And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:26-27).
The likeness of God in man is a marvelous thing, eliciting the inquiry of the holy angels. Men and women have capacities that are apparently not even found in the angelic order. And all of this is for a purpose. Mankind was created to have dominion -- dominion over the works of God's Own hand. That circumstance is an incredible consideration! Once perceived, it changes your view of responsibility. The work that God has given us to do must not be viewed as a burden. It is an opportunity to rule and reign with Jesus.
"Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created" (Gen. 5:2). God is great, beyond our natural comprehension. Apart from Jesus, it is not possible for His likeness to be contained in a single personality. In Christ, the "fulness of the Godhead" was contained bodily, or corporately. Our Savior was the "express," or precise "image of God" (Heb. 1:3). However, when He created mankind in His own image, He chose two personalities; each one bearing unique attributes of the Godhead. The personality differences between man and woman cannot be accounted for psychologically. Organic attributes cannot account for these differences. In their purest form, these traits are differing but harmonious aspects of the divine nature. Together, man and woman can present a more complete picture of Deity. This requires harmony between them, as well as unanimity of purpose: both of which are found in Christ Jesus alone.
Our discussion of marriage, the family, and children, must begin with the consideration of the divine imagery in humanity. We are not dealing with an evolutionary development. Here is the apex of God's creation; the crowning work of His hands. Whatever you may think of the human race, there is nothing else like it--nothing so close to God. No person exists with the capacity to know and fellowship God like men and women.
We have been created in God's image, with capacities like His own. Primarily, this consists of the ability to will; to purpose, plan, respond, and receive. God has given us a will to want Him. Our most noble aspiration is to receive His salvation, thus embracing His purpose
ASSOCIATED WITH MARRIAGE
Our consideration of relationships between man and woman cannot be divorced from these reflections. Together, men and women are to strive to involve themselves in God's "eternal purpose." The will of God is the most important will. Men and women have been made to enjoy the Lord; to know and appreciate Him.
Reconciling the World
God was in Christ, "reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:18-20). His objective is to bring humanity to Himself through Christ (1 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 2:10). Sin estranged our race from its Creator. Nothing is more important than restoring that fractured relationship. Alienation from God is the most tragic circumstance of life, and reconciliation to Him is the greatest blessing. Jesus did not come to affect social change, but spiritual transformation.
Calling Out a People
God is calling a people out of this world for His own glory and utility (Acts 15:14). True religion is centered in "the world to come" (Heb. 2:5). That is why God is calling a people of the world for Himself. This world is destined for destruction, and cannot be salvaged. The entire universe will be destroyed at the appointed time (2 Pet. 3:10-12).
In Christ, we have been ordained unto "good works," that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). God desires to bring us into fellowship with Himself--a fellowship that involves laboring, or working, together with Him (1 Cor. 3:9). It is not enough to work for Him, or to consider ourselves mere servants (although we most assuredly are the servants of God). Jesus set the tone for the Kingdom when He said to His disciples, "No longer do I call you slaves (servants, KJV), for the slave does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father, I have made known unto you" (John 15:15). God is not only working "through" us, He is working "with" us, fulfilling His determined will.
Condone No Conflicts
Nothing in marriage can be in conflict with these things. Neither the husband or the wife is to be in competition with the Living God. None of us must allow ourselves to be intimidated by this requirement. A husband has his greatest marital value when he is assisting his wife prepare to meet the Lord, and a wife obtains her greatest worth when she brings advantage to her husband in the good fight of faith. This is the true Christian view of marriage, even though it is exceedingly rare in our time.
Only two worlds
There are only two places; "here" and "there." The "here" is described as a "present evil world (Gal. 1:4)," and the "there" is "the world to come" (Matt. 12:32; Heb. 6:5). One is temporal, and one is eternal (1 Cor. 4:18). One is destined to destruction, and the other to revelation. If our marriages do not give us an advantage to live in this world for the next world, they have yielded little, if any, benefit to us. You must fight to maintain this perspective, refusing to let martial issues cloud your vision or distract your attention from the things that matter eternally.
By its very nature, marriage tends to conflict with eternal things. Paul teaches that in times of great distress, this is particularly true (1 Cor. 7:33-34). This is not meant to denigrate marriage: God forbid! Rather, it shows us that extraordinary faith and person discipline is required to make our marriage an advantage in the good fight of faith. Marriage IS "honorable" among all (Heb. 13:4).
Only two times
There are only two times; "now" and "then." There is no question about which time is superior. If we are not found acceptable to God "then," what difference does it make what else we may have accomplished "now."
Marriage is not the fundamental relationship, but is an image of the primary one. The center of all social relationships is the body of Christ; those that have been joined to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17). Even in this circumstance, the interrelationship of the body with one another is not primary, but the involvements of the members with their Head, which is the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Higher Relationship
It is not coincidence that the relationship of husband and wife portrays the higher relationship of Christ and the church. Think of this marvelous passage of Scripture: " . . . Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh" (Eph. 5:22-31).
The Purpose of the Text
What is the purpose of this text? To outline the relationships of husband and wife? Many think so. There is no question about the applicability of this text to marital relationships. No follower of Jesus should have any difficulty obeying the words of His Spirit. If the commandments of the Lord are "grievous," a serious deficiency exists in one so burdened. Remember, His "yoke is easy" (Matt. 11:30), and His commands "are not grievous" (1 John 5:3).
The Apostle tells us that what he has said is transcendent: "The mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church" (5:32). The common view of marriage makes this teaching "mysterious." Most view marriage as a legal transaction; something accomplished by law. But Paul says it is a physical union; i.e., "one flesh." Marriage is a relationship; a close and intimate relationship that involves the sharing of one person with another.
Paul's real point is that our relationship to Christ is that way: "I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." This is not a mere legal union; a sort of technical arrangement that allows for the disengagement of the heart and mind. Christ and the church are joined together in a union even closer than that of husband and wife. How remarkable is the affirmation of 1 Corinthians 6:17; "But the one who joined himself to the Lord is one Spirit with Him." This involves a union in thought, purpose, loves and hates.
Husbands and wives have a responsibility to reflect the higher relationship of Christ and the church in their marriage. Failure to do so will cause the glorious unity of Christ and the church to be hidden, and therefore unappealing and ineffectual.
1 Peter 3:7, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."
The term "weaker vessel" is not a derogatory one. The emphasis is on sensitivity, not moral or spiritual weakness. It does not mean that it is more difficult for the wife to understand truth. Neither, indeed, does it mean that she is less capable than her husband, a common misconception. Rather, she bears an aspect of God that is required to comprise the divine image. She is tender, sensitive, and perceptive with her heart. By giving "honor" to her, the husband allows for the expression of these divine qualities. Properly seen, they complement the abilities and perceptions of the husband.
Correctly related, husband and wife assist one another in the appropriation of eternal life. Both sensitivity and logic are required in this quest. You cannot simply dig the truth out of books, nor can you depend upon intuitive skills to discover the hidden riches of Christ. Both traits are to be undergirded by faith and used to strengthen one another. This does not mean all men are logical but insensitive, or that all women are sensitive but illogical. The Spirit is speaking of strengths, not exclusivity, and strengths complement each other.
Few couples consider that their relationship has a direct bearing on their prayers. Believe me, you do not want your prayers to be hindered, or made ineffective. There are critical issues that arise because you are married. They range from critical family illness to the need for regeneration in your children. You do not want your prayers to hit the ceiling and return to you. However, if you do not duly regard one another, your prayers lose their power. The opposite is true also; a godly relationship will cause your prayers to have power with God, like those of Moses and Samuel.
Believers Married to Unbelievers
"And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" (1 Cor. 7:13-16).
This is a remarkable passage of Scripture, revealing the effects of faith. Those that are found in this situation must not despair. It is the only circumstance in Scripture where someone is said to be won to Christ "without the Word" (1 Pet. 3:1).
It would be wonderful if there were no marriages involving believers and unbelievers, but this is not the case. It is true that "marriage is honorable among all" (Heb. 13:4), but it is not true that all marriages bring advantage. Some people have to overcome their marriage to get to heaven. It is important that those in such a condition not despair.
All is Not Hopeless!
This text offers hope to husbands and wives living under apparently impossible circumstances. Your situation can change, and you are able to affect that change with the grace and power of God. If you are currently married to an unbeliever, and are burdened about it, you may be able to "save" that individual--that is what the Scriptures say!
A stewardship from God. "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward" (Psa. 127:3). Correctly viewed, children are a stewardship from God: loaned to us for a season to prepare them for the end of the world and eternity. You must not view this as too challenging. There is grace for this to be accomplished to the glory of God.
Communicating the Truth of God
"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
Parents have a responsibility to communicate God's truth to their children. This responsibility is not a form of slavery, characterized by great difficulty and misery. It is an opportunity to help your children get ready to meet God--and meet Him they will! Help your children become familiar with the Word of God. Give them the advantage in their quest to please God. It is tragic when children must overcome their parent's influence to get to heaven.
Do Not Assume Your Children Will Become Adults
God has not promised that we or our children will live into old age. It is true that the first commandment with promise concerned children: "Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Eph. 6:2-3). This is the standard, or norm, but it is not an unequivocal guarantee. Your knowledge of life will confirm this to be the case.
Teach your children when they are young to live for the Lord, and not for themselves. When severe trials come their way, they will need faith to negotiate through them. Give them every spiritual advantage possible.
Sister June and I moved our family to Joplin, Missouri during the fall of 1992. It was a happy occasion for us, opening remarkable opportunities to serve the Lord. But that is not all that was remarkable. During this time, we experienced a new type of trial; one we had never passed through before. One of our twin sons, Benjamin, began experiencing seizures shortly after we arrived. He was discovered to have cancer in the form of a large tumor in the left frontal lobe of his brain. At the time of discovery, it was the size of a golf ball. Seven days later, when it was removed, it was the size of a man's fist, 4" X 5". He was nine years old. To say the least, it was a difficult period for us.
The tumor was "highly malignant," requiring extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. There was no guarantee Benjamin would remain with us. We made a deliberate choice to continue to live for Christ. Benjamin himself joined the resolve. His mother became his home nurse, receiving special training for his required care.
Benjamin's faith remained strong, and he was remarkably resilient for the next year. Our family of six (four children), maintained faith and hope. I continued to minister the Word extensively, while sister June taught at home and in the local fellowship.
God was good to us. Benjamin is still with us, progressing on a regular basis. During December, 1993, he received a clean bill of health, with no indication of cancer.
My point in relating this experience is to confirm the effectiveness of faith, and the reward of maintaining your walk with God. There is no trial through which faith will not bring you! But if you do not live together in faith, trials will drive you apart--from God and each other.
It Is Not All Blessing
As a parent, you will have trials--trials that will seem to SHACKLE you. They will cover a variety of circumstances, from illness and accident, to seeing your children depart from the faith. It is good for you to consider your children in your prayers, like Job considered his (Job 1:5). Many godly men have been disappointed in their children (Aaron, Eli, David, Solomon, etc.). My prayer is that this will not be the case with you!
Wayward Children Are Not Proof of Wayward Parents
Disobedient children do not necessarily indicate slothful parents. God created Adam and Eve, placing them in the Garden of Eden, with every possible advantage. The fact that they fell did not indicate neglect on God's part.
God also raised up Israel, planting them a noble vine, and removing dominating distracting influences from them (Isa. 5:2-5). Yet, their lives were likened to a "degenerate plant" before the Lord (Jer. 2:21).
Think of the children of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu. They were cursed by God, and consumed with fire because of their corrupt actions (Lev. 10:1ff). David's children, even though he was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), were a heartbreak to him. Eli, a man that knew the Lord, had to sons that were of the devil (1 Sam. 2:12). While many have sought to blame men for the waywardness of their children, God did not do so. All believers pray that their children will be faithful, and bring glory to God. But if this does not occur, it does not necessarily mean your faith or efforts were defective.
It is not fashionable these days to place God first: but God will accept no other position. Your family, regardless of its value, is not your primary relationship. It is important, and you are to maintain yourself toward them with integrity and godliness. But in the last analysis, your primary allegiance is to God Himself through Christ. You must allow nothing to interfere with this relationship! Jesus is clear about this, and you do well to take Him seriously. "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). Those are sobering words, indeed, and the Lord will not renounce them for anyone.
Husband and Wife
Husband and wife are important to each other, but not all-important. They are "one flesh," the closest of all relationships in this world. They are closer than parents and child. That is why a man is to "leave" his father and mother and "cleave" to his wife (Mark 10:7). They are closer than brother and sister, or any other earthly relationship. However, this is not the closest of all relationships. The person that is joined to the Lord is "one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17), and that is closer and more intimate than "one flesh."
Those that are in Christ cannot allow their marriage to interfere with their salvation. Marriage is attended to assist us in our journey to glory, not throw obstacles in its path.
Raising Your Children
My dear wife, sister June, and I have made it a practice to place the Lord first in our family. As a family, for instance, there has never been a question about what we do on the Lord's day, or on Wednesday evening--every week of the year. When special meetings are held for Christ, our family is there. We allow no exceptions other than circumstances that keep us from everything else; i.e., illness, etc. We realize that these meetings are not the sum total of our life in Christ; nor, indeed, are they allowed to take the place of personal devotion to the Lord. They are, however, a needful part of our lives, and are so viewed.
We do not live this way out of a sense of obligation, but in awareness of our need for fellowship with believers. This is the environment in which our blessed Lord works. If we do not allow Him dominance in the ordinary pursuits of life, He will not be available to us in the crises of life. In addition to these things, we have found spiritual life most enjoyable, and labor to show our children by example and guidance that this is so. We encourage and practice spiritual dialogue without children regularly.
We extend ourselves to involve our children in the work of the Lord, making them a part of the assembly of the godly. At a young age, they learn to pray with other believers, as well as read Scripture publicly. We see special gatherings for young people as valuable, but not primary. Even under the Law, the children and "little ones" stood with their parents as Scripture was read (2 Chron. 20:13. On one occasion, this period was a fourth part of the day, or six hours (Neh. 9:2). It is difficult for people in our time to even conceive of such a thing.
The most important gatherings are with the whole local body of Christ, not specialized groups. Jesus works in the environment of His body, ministering varied needs through individual members of His body (Col. 2:19). Our children are recipients of these benefits as well as us.
A consistent walk with Christ will pay large dividends in the time of crisis. Remember, emergencies are not the time to obtain faith, but to use it. Some people expect to receive a lot of grace from God in the time of need, even though they neglect their souls on a regular basis. This will not happen.
I lost my first wife to Lou Gherig's disease on January 1, 1979. This was a time of great testing for me and our six children, but it was not an impossible time. We conducted our family affairs during the last year of my wife's life just as we did before--with God primary in all things. God granted grace to our entire family. Mrs. Blakely received grace to handle her debilitating illness with remarkable strength and consistent faith. Our family received grace to minister to her and provide for her joyous transition to be with the Lord. This was not accomplished without difficulty and considerable effort. There were times when we were not pleased with ourselves. Still, the Scripture was fulfilled, "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
After having been married for nearly 25 years, what was I to do when my wife went to be with the Lord? Would I ever be happy again? My experience seemed to indicate I would not, but my faith and hope told me I would. How gracious God was to me! He brought a lady into my life that was exactly what I needed; a woman of great faith and commitment, June Ellen. We were married in 1980, and God has blessed our marriage with four children and countless joys in Christ.
I came out of the crisis with Jesus because I went into it with Him: and it will be the same with you. It is never vain to serve the Lord, never pointless, never without unspeakable benefit! Learn to live with the Lord in crisis!
Be encouraged in your marriage: it is honorable! Look at it as an appointed means of help. Remember, although you have become "one flesh" with your spouse, you are an individual with whom God desires fellowship. Your identity with Him is the superior identity, and your relationship with Him takes precedence over all others. Actually, if you are in Christ, you know this is true. It only remains for you to live consistent with what your faith confirms to your heart.
Actually, the secret to being the best spouse possible is closeness to and fellowship with the living God through Jesus Christ. If this does not settle differences, they really cannot be settled.
When both husband and wife are walking by faith and in the Spirit, they become effective ministers to each other. They bring remarkable advantages to one another in the good fight of faith. They help each other to "perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord" (2 Cor. 7:1).
Be encouraged to do your best. The Lord blesses every effort to please Him.
When it comes to domestic issues, the Word of God does not provide a lot of details. It speaks to us in terms of principles, not "HOW TO" jargon. Candidly, this is in sharp contrast to the approaches generally taken to marriage, the family, and children.
There is a good reason for this circumstance. In Christ, we come into a unique relationship with Deity. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. Our lives are "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:4). This means we have access to wisdom--wisdom that comes down from above. If we lack wisdom, we are simply admonished to ask our Father in heaven for it (James 1:5). The unequivocal promise is that He will give us wisdom "generously, and without reproach." What is wonderful about this is that it is promised in the context of encountering "various trials." That should be particularly good news to families.
In spite of the professed experts on marriage and family matters, the Word of God does not approach domestic matters in this manner. The truth is that there are no routines that bring guarantees of happy mates, obedient children, and peaceful homes. If routines like that were possible, God Himself would have given them.
Instead, He has given you His Son, His Spirit, and His Word. There are no more powerful influences than these. If you will avail yourself of these resources, the possibilities are limitless.