Gods Plan One Man, One Woman

At the beginning of creation, according to Jesus Christ, God made mankind male and female. Part of the command from the beginning was to multiply, God said, and replenish the earth. Hence there is a built in attraction between the male and the female of the "species" or kind that is natural, and within Godís boundaries, a good thing. And this attraction does not die just because people become Christians. It is there; it is still good for a man to be attracted to his wife and for the wife to be attracted to her husband; but it must be managed. Therefore the word of God has all sorts of lessons in various ways scattered throughout its set of instruction. The followers of Christ would do well to hearken to those teachings, both in terms of Ďdoís" and in terms of "doníts."

The battle between light and darkness as it is waged in the human soul is intense. Those who are of the world are on record as having lost the battle, and their only hope is the redemption found in Christ Jesus. For those who are redeemed, the warnings are consistently strong and pointed. Most saints will need to be married in order to maintain their holiness in Christ. "I wish all men were even as I myself am," Paul comments concerning his own ability to be single and remain focused on Christ. "However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that" (I Corinthians 7:7). Each saint has to be honest in his own assessment of himself and govern himself accordingly. "Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband."

A Matter of Self-Control

Satan is indeed the roaring lion, prowling through the churches, seeking someone to destroy. And one of the key tools in his destruction chest has to do with sexual improprieties. It is pretty obvious from the figurines and carvings from the ancient world, as well as the continual barrage of images and celebrity news of the modern world, that the human race as a whole does not handle the intended intimacy of the husband/wife relationship very well. Fornication and adultery are prevalent, and the attendant destruction of relationships and accompanying heartache abound in modern society. People coming into the church from the world, as new Christians, often bring many of these issues with them. This, coupled with the temptation that just normally is hanging around, results in the churchís continually having to deal with immorality. Thus it is, and so it was!

Most saints will need to be married in order to stay sexually pure, especially at younger ages. If a follower of Jesus can remain single and devoted to the cause of Christ, he should do so. But, if a person is burning with desire, it is better to marry, rather than ending up burning in the hellfire!

Separation Issues

This side of glory, none of us lives in an ideal world. Ideally, every person becomes a Christian, husbands and wives are brothers and sisters in Christ, and the Christian family is one of harmony and peace. Until the Lord calls us to be absent from the body and at home with Him, we live in a place fraught with pain and sorrow, sickness and death. Part of that pain and sorrow often has to do with marriage relationships. Sometimes one of the marriage partners needs what the other is unable or unwilling to give at that time. Sometimes there is selfishness or obtuseness, which really get in the way of healthy communication and teamwork. Sometimes there are conflicting goals, or different priorities, or different ways of seeing things. This is partly why Paul said it would be better if everyone could stay single like he.

From a human perspective, things on earth seem to go very slow. Sometimes the saint grows impatient with the time it is taking for his spouse to "come around" to understanding and following the gospel. But God is the one who joined the particular husband to his particular wife, and it is important to give Godís plan time to work. "For how do you know, O wife," is the direct query of the apostle, "whether you will save your husband? Or how to do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (I Corinthians 7:16). Ultimately, one of saintís major purposes while on earth is to save others. So, if his marriage is the vehicle God is using to save his marriage partner, is he not willing to make that marriage a high priority, and to do his best to make it a wonderful marriage? And if the saint really loves his spouse, wouldnít he want that spouse to be in eternity with him?

Holiness Questions

Old Testament holiness had a lot to do with certain itemsí being clean or unclean. But under the terms of the new covenant, holiness has much more to do with the heart of the child of God rather than whether the object itself could be regarded as holy or unholy. Old Testament foods for the Jew were clean or unclean depending on animal of origin; new covenant food is sanctified or made holy by the word of God and prayer. And just as the Jew had to be super conscious of whether or not his food was clean, so the Christian is to be super conscious that his food is made holy, so that nothing unholy or unclean enters his mouth. But more than that, the saint recognizes the teaching of Jesus that it is out of the heart that come the evil thoughts, fornications, murders, adulteries, etc. Hence it is that the true disciple of Christ wants to do his part in making sure that the circumcised heart he received in his immersion into Christ remains pure, and that he desires to be holy as his heavenly Father is holy.

God used the physical clean/unclean aspects of the old covenant to set the stage for what He really wanted to accomplish under the terms of the new. The purpose of clean/unclean foods was to prepare for the new covenant people of God to be concerned about whether actions and/or attitudes are holy or unacceptable to God. The brethren in Corinth, with as many problems as they obviously had as a congregation, obviously still had a concern about holiness and sanctified relationships. May the brethren of modern times also have a concern about their personal holiness, and the sanctification of their relationships!

The Lord's Assignment

The great God over all is able to determine the boundaries and the times of the habitation of each nation on this planet. He is able to execute His will, while preserving the free will of each individual who will ever exist on earth. He who "stretches out the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth," also "forms the spirit of a man within him" (Zechariah 12:10). The point is that many of the circumstances surrounding a Christianís life have been pre-ordained, and the saint in all humility is to accept the will of the Lord. Why did Esther attain to royalty at exactly the right moment to preserve the remnant of the Jews as a basis for the coming Christ and His church? How is it that both Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, or that Augustus Caesar issued the taxation decree at exactly the right time? How is it that the apostle Paul was born with Roman citizenship? God is working in our lives, even if we do not know the outcome. "For how do you know, O wife," is the apostle Paulís comment, "whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?"

Ultimately, this discussion has to do with the ability to trust God and to be content with what He has provided. The Lord has assigned each one, said Paul, a certain place and a certain set of circumstances at time of his immersion into Christ. The happy desire of the saint is to function in a manner worthy of the great name by which he was called. "What matters is the keeping of the commandments of God."

Contented Slaves and Singles

The word of God does not indicate that the Christian life is pain free or without work. Rather, Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29). The key for saints is to be able to learn from Jesus how to accept with humility the circumstances in which they find themselves, and do the right thing ó to keep the commandments of God. Even though our Lord prayed with great intensity amidst the olives of Gethsemane that the cup of suffering might be removed from Him, He humbly acceded to the will of the Father, and carried out His part of the plan set in motion before the foundation of the world. He was "tempted in all points as we," according to the inspired commentary; could He set aside normal desires for an earthly spouse and family, and focus on His mission? And can we, the saints of the Most High, likewise set aside our earthly desires, and focus on our purpose in the body of Christ, following in His footsteps?

Spiritually, every Christian is the Lordís freedman; indwelt by the Spirit, he is in liberty. The goal is for every saint to be, as Paul exhorted the Philippian brethren, content in whatever set of circumstances he finds himself. It may take some education in the word and in experience, but each is to learn from Jesus, and in Him find rest for his soul.

Spouses and Spiritual Issues

"I wish that all men were even as I myself am," stated Paul in regard to his being single in the Lord. "However," he notes, "each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that" (I Corinthians 7:7). The thrust of his comments in this whole section of this letter to the church of God in Corinth is that if a saint can remain single and focused on the Lord, he is better off to do that. "But," he says, "if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn." As the apostle discusses this in some depth, he brings four issues to the forefront: circumcision, slaves, singles, and spouses. The issue of circumcision or uncircumcision was decided by someone else at birth; the individual did not have a choice in that, so "let him remain in that condition in which he was called." Similarly with a slave ó generally speaking, it was out of the control of the individual whether he was born free or enslaved, and once again, the exhortation is, "Let each man remain in the condition in which he was called." But marriage is a different issue, because someoneís choice is involved. Hence the apostle is giving some inspired advice to singles and spouses in the local congregation, noting, "And thus I direct in all the churches."

The church needs many people working together to continue to carry out the commission of the Lord to evangelize the neighborhood, as well as to continue to edify the saints. When the brethren are fully conscious that there is "present distress," that "the time has been shortened," and that "the form of this world is passing away," then they can realistically set their sights on what is important, and set the prospect of the felicities of domestic life on the back burner.

Undistracted Devotion

Brethren will make, by deliberation or by default, decisions about what is truly important to them. Basically, they will choose heaven as their priority, or they will choose earth. But choosing heaven is no easy matter; it may be a "no brainer," but it is not easy. Most people want to go to heaven, but they do not want to develop the belief system in their own lives that is necessary to enter the courts of glory, nor to undergo the sacrifices necessary in taking up their respective crosses and following Jesus. Hence, choosing heaven requires a continual persistent, daily mental effort to set aside things of this world and focus on the realm of the unseen as revealed in the scriptures. The requirements of survival ó feeding, clothing, sheltering the carcass ó can occupy enough space in the saintís thought processes so as to be somewhat of a distraction. But when the issue of marriage is added to the mix, then the challenge of fixing the spiritual gaze on the Lord in His glory can be greatly intensified.

Earthly life is so short and eternity is so long that earthly goals and desires can be shoved into the background. It is no secret that Satanís goal is to get the saint to focus away from heaven and drop the gaze of his affections to earth. The intense desire of the apostle Paul, in regard to the church in Corinth, is understandable. He wants to promote the appropriate regard for marriage and sexuality, and "secure undistracted devotion to the Lord."

Wrap Up on Virgins and Widows

Historically, women have not had many rights. Christianity has done much to elevate the status of women, in that women hold the status of "equal heir" in the spiritual realm, and that men are given some very specific instructions in terms of laying their lives down for their wives as Christ lay down His life for the church. The picture, then, is that the Christian husband, and thus the Christian dad, is not a tyrant, but one who carefully and prayerfully puts the interests of his wife and family ahead of his own. The saintly elder or bishop is one who "manages" his own household; he is thus involved in the thoughtful development and spiritual growth of each of his children, helping them to be all they can be within the scope of the scriptures. Dad is going to consider thoughtfully the desires of his virgin daughter.

The overriding goal is to help the saints get to heaven. Many things, including marriage issues, can really cloud saintsí thinking, but the apostle is not going to be deterred in his purpose of getting as many as possible through the gates of glory. These instructions are given with that goal clearly in mind!