I have endeavored to maintain, for the most part, Ed’s original wording from his messages. It’s not word for word, as some shuffling around was necessary to combine the overlapping topics from different messages. Some editing was used to omit redundancy, shorten long sentences or help with grammar. I think Ed’s personality, dry sense of humor and interesting terms of speech shine through by endeavoring to stick to how he originally gave it.
Topics have taken from various messages Ed has presented over the years, in order to weave together the contents of this book—on marriage, sex, divorce, separation, immorality, and the unequal yoke. Sad to say, there are many Christians who do not know the Lord’s clear teaching on these matters, who have been accepting the world’s beliefs, lies and misinformation.
As you’ll see, these life issues are really just the occasion, the illustrations, pointing to the main principle which is union with Jesus; our life exchanged for His. There are certainly many life principles and applications to be gleaned in regards to these topics, but you’ll find they all are meant to be the result of, the fruit of the outworking of Jesus being our very life.
Because so many Christians are turning to worldly wisdom, human and “Christian” psychology and various types of counselors for help in the areas of marriage, sex, divorce, separation, immorality, chapters are also included at the end with messages Ed gave warning about the danger of human psychology, and the danger of listening to our conscience. There is a heavenly psychology our Lord has provided for every issue in our lives. I believe Ed’s message concerning the conscience is a helpful adjunct to that message.
Heavenly psychology is usually a 180 degree difference from the world’s advice. There are so many Christians who have been touched by issues in their own lives or in the lives of family and friends concerning marriage, sex, divorce, separation, immorality and the unequal yoke. I pray that the Lord will use those circumstances as an incentive to drive them to the rest available in Him as the final and only answer—His life in us in place of our own – the exchanged life.
~ Janet Huhn
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #5 in Genesis)
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food,’ and it was so. God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:26-31)
“Then the Lord God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:18-25)
Marriage is a safeguard against immorality
Because marriage is such a beautiful picture and because it has taken such a beating in our society—I want you to see the whole picture, so we can see what it is picturing. Did you ever notice how practical the Bible is? Sometimes we like to be more spiritual than the Bible and sound more Biblical than the Bible. Let me create a situation for you and then answer it. I’m sitting in my study (this is not too far from the truth because this has happened), and a young man walks in and I invite him to sit down. He begins to pour out his heart, and he tells a story of a lovely young lady that he’s met and he says, “We’ve been going together for some time now, but quite frankly, we’re having some problems on the physical side of the dating life. I’m feeling some deep attractions and she’s feeling attraction, and some of these passions that we’re having from the weakness of our flesh is just driving us crazy. What should we do?” What would be good spiritual advice?
So, I might say, “Well, I know what to do. Trust Jesus, look to Christ and load that thing on the Lord. He’s promised to give you victory. You trust Him and His grace. He’ll deliver you.” Then I’d quote 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except that which is common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” I’d say thatthere’s a way of escape; look to Christ. Wouldn’t that sound like good, sound, spiritual advice? Well, it’s not. It sounds like good advice, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t give that advice. In 1 Corinthians 7:9 He didn’t say, “If they do not have self-control, let them pray.” He didn’t say that. He didn’t say, “If they don’t have self-control, let them trust Jesus, let them fast and let them claim the victory in simple faith.” He didn’t say if they are having physical problems, let them study the Bible together and pray together. The Holy Spirit is more spiritual, and He said, 1 Corinthians 7:8&9, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Someone might read this and say, “Paul sure has a low view of marriage. He just uses it as a remedy for fornication. Certainly marriage is more than that.” The fact of it is that Paul has a high view of marriage. In fact, nobody has ever seen marriage elevated to the height that Paul saw it because he saw it as a picture of union with Christ.
If you can talk about strong points in marriage and weak points, the weakest part of marriage would be the physical side. That wouldn’t be the highest form of marriage. The highest view of marriage would be the uniting of spirits as one and not the uniting of the bodies. Uniting of bodies would be the lowest form of marriage. Isn’t it amazing that marriage in its lowest form is still God’s cure for vice, fornication and immorality; even in its lowest form marriage is a weapon against sin and immorality! Marriage, and not prayer, marriage and not faith is the cure for immorality. God says that if a person can’t restrain his extravagant lust, let him get married. Sex outside of marriage is a sin. It’s wrong because it violates the picture. It’s saying that we can have a relationship with Christ before we know Him and we can’t. It’s not possible—that’s the whole picture of marriage.
God instituted marriage in order to make a man complete
The general rule is this: It is not good for a man or woman to remain single. That’s God’s general rule. God took a rib out of man to make a woman. He could have just said, “Let there be woman”—and there would be woman, or He could have made her out of clay. He did this on purpose. He went inside of man who was complete and He took something out. When you take something out of what is complete—this is simple math, folks—it is not complete anymore. And that is why God did it that way; to show that man is incomplete without a woman. God instituted marriage to bring the completeness back. Man needs a woman and a woman needs a man. I know there are a lot of folks that are single and you might say: “Oh, yeah, it is good to get married. Where is she? Where is he? Mr. Right, Miss Right hasn’t come along. What am I supposed to do?” The general rule is—if that was true before the fall, it is true more now—it is not good for man to be alone. Of course, there are exceptions. Paul mentioned “the present distress”, and with exceptions God gives His grace. But, unless God is planning to do something very special, then you just expect that God is going to lead you into marriage. Have your eyes open for that, but I don’t think God wants you to go on a crazy “man hunt”.
It would appear from Genesis 2:24 that the family was God’s temporary provision for completeness, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife.” Until God gives you a helpmeet, it is God’s will that you stay home with your mother and father. It’s because God has provided the family as a temporary provision for completeness. I know that goes against our culture and against our society. Parents are saying that as soon as they can, dump the kids off and get rid of them. Before you leave you had better face God with this. You might be turning away God’s provision for completeness for your life. That was His provision.
There are exceptions, and with the exceptions comes the grace. It is always so. I am not laying it down as an iron-clad rule, but I am saying as far as the general principle of God, God has provided marriage for completeness, and until then He has given the family for completeness. At the time when God provides a life partner, then you let go of the family, “leave and cleave”; you cleave unto your life partner. If you are in that exception, then just lean on the Lord for grace. You need the grace because now God is going to have to provide completeness for you in some other way. And, of course, we are talking about on the level of earth. Later on we will look at the spiritual. There may be many human reasons for a young man or young woman to leave home, but here is God’s reason: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, to cleave to his wife.”
When we say God instituted marriage to bring completeness to the man, the first question comes, what constitutes marriage? In the eyes of God, when does God say, “Now they are married?” Is it when they make a lifetime commitment? Someone might say, “It’s an act of the will, and of the heart, and of head, and of the soul, and for a lifetime, and not just a one night stand. It is when the whole will decides we will, forever, be together.” Does that constitute marriage? Someone says: Well, the physical act, the sex act, when a man and a woman come together, they are married. What does the Bible say constitutes marriage? Is the Bible clear on it? Let me say it this way. If the Bible is clear on it, I have not seen the light yet. Maybe you have and you can make it clear to me.
I have prayed and sought to see exactly what constitutes marriage and I cannot find it spelled out—this constitutes marriage. But, what I do feel is clear is this—physical sex does not constitute marriage; it ratifies it. It does not constitute marriage; it proves it. There are Bible illustrations of real marriage, marriage in the eyes of God before the sex act. In fact, Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, and Joseph, were “betrothed”, really married, and they never had relations until after our Lord Jesus was born. So, we know they were married before the sex act. The physical act does not constitute marriage; it proves it. Let me say it another way so you know exactly what I mean. You may not agree, but here it is. It says you can be married without sex, but you can’t have sex and not be married. Now, you can say that constitutes it. I don’t know. I am saying it ratifies it. This is a frightening truth and it is little realized, even among Christians.
Marriage counselors do not get into this. The physical side of marriage, because it’s a picture of the spiritual truth, is very, very precious to the Lord. When that union takes place, marriage is ratified; marriage is proved. Now, I will be bold and say this; even if there is no lifetime commitment. I will even be bolder; even if it is a one night stand. You say, where do you get that? I get that from 1 Corinthians 6:16. He uses the illustration of a harlot. You know there is no commitment there. He said: “He that is joined to a harlot is one with her, for He has said the two shall become one flesh.” He quotes the marriage verse even for a harlot. The physical side of marriage is very precious to the Lord.
Marriage is a picture of our union with Jesus Christ
Not only is marriage a great safe-guard against immorality, not only did God institute marriage to bring completeness to a life, but marriage is God’s object lesson of union with Jesus Christ. Again, we do not need to wonder about it because He spells it out in Ephesians chapter 5:31&32, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Marriage is a love story of two worlds, a love story of union on the earth between a man and a woman who have found completeness in each other, illustrating a relationship with God Himself. In Genesis 1:28 God blessed the man and the woman and said: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The outworking of intimate union is fruit, seed, issue, life. Listen to Romans 7:4, “You are joined to Him who was raised from the dead, that you might bear fruit unto God.” Isn’t that a tremendous thing? Who was He that was raised from the dead? That is the Lord Jesus. You are joined to Him by marriage, to Him who was raised from the dead. For what purpose? That you might bear fruit unto God.
When a man and woman come together in the picture, on the level of earth, the best they can do is join flesh. That is why it says bone of bone, flesh of flesh. That is the best they can do. I mean, we can talk about we are one in mind and one is spirit, but you are not. On the level of earth it is just the flesh. And that is why adultery, which is all flesh, breaks it, and there is a scriptural grounds for divorce, because the picture has been ruined. It is that union, that coming together. But in the Lord—listen to 1 Corinthians 6: 17, “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” In the picture it is one flesh, but in the reality with the Lord it is one spirit. We are united to Him and we have become one spirit. There is no greater intimacy then this blending of the spirits. The physical side of marriage pictures wedded bliss with Him, our union with the Lord. It is the grandest picture of union on the earth. I sympathize with thousands of Christians who have not seen the secret of living in union with Christ.
I have six children, six wonderful children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Every one of them were born out of a very personal, deep, secret, intimate relationship with my lovely wife, Lillian. That is how you get fruit. It is God’s picture of how you get fruit. And may I suggest this? So many Christians are struggling for fruit. They say, “Oh, I don’t have the fruit of the spirit or soul-winning or evangelism or missions. There is no fruit in my life.” And they work on fruit. Don’t work on fruit; work on union with the Lord. Fruit is a by-product of union with the Lord, and that is what He is talking about. Get into a relationship with Him.
God’s method of providing a bride was so instructive. You know, like I said, He could have just said “Let there be woman.” He did not do it that way. Instead, He goes through this very strange and bizarre method. First He longs for completeness, then in verse 21 a deep sleep falls upon Adam, and then God does surgery in his side. And then from his flesh and bone, from his rib, a bride is taken and formed, and then that bride is given back to him and he becomes complete again. First he is created complete, then he is made incomplete by subtraction, then it is given back to him by addition, and then he is complete again.
What is all that about? I know it is more than I have seen, but I think it is at least this. You see, we are studying the first Adam here, and the New Testament talks about the last Adam—our Lord Jesus. Our Lord Jesus greatly desires a bride; He does not need one like Adam needed one, but Adam’s need shows us the intensity of the desire that He has. He greatly desires a bride. For the first Adam to get a bride, he had to go in a deep sleep. May I suggest, maybe, that the second Adam also went into a deep sleep? I picture the cross, because I know that is where He got His bride. I do not know all that is involved in that darkness that covered the cross. I just picture—of course, He was not unconscious like the first Adam was—that He went into a deep sleep. And then we read this strange thing; his side was opened and the bride came out of his side. I see our Lord Jesus on the cross when the soldier’s spear went into His side, and water and blood flowed and mingled down. I might be reading into it; I don’t know. It seems like God intended that. With the first Adam God took the bride and presented her to Adam, and for the second Adam that is how we come to know the Lord. God takes us and presents us to Christ and draws us unto Him. Colossians 2:10 says, “And you are complete in Him.” It is God’s picture of completeness; we are united to the Lord in this marvelous picture.
The seven days picture the new creation. The Garden of Eden pictures heaven on earth and marriage. The culmination of it all pictures our union with Christ and that union produces to all the ends of the earth; “be fruitful and multiply.” That is how we bear fruit on the earth.
THE UNEQUAL YOKE
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #8 in 2 Corinthians)
“And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘The acceptable time,’ behold, now is “The day of salvation’—giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor; by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also. Do not be bound together with unbelievers (unequally yoked); for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Of what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
A characteristic of one who is knowing the all-sufficiency of Christ in them keeps himself by grace yoked to Christ in the Holy of Holies. There are several word pictures that the apostle uses, and he almost takes for granted you know what he is talking about. You see, by the time you get to Corinthians you have been all the way from Genesis so you know everything that has come before. But just in case you do not, let me mention a couple of things to illustrate his picture.
He gives two marvelous word pictures. The first is the picture of the unequal yoke. Verse 14: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.” The margin says literally “unequally yoked.” In the Bible, the yoke is associated with the plow. It is that simple crossed piece of wood that is fastened around the neck of an ox. What they would try to do is find two animals of equal size and equal strength, and they would yoke them together. Sometimes it is in one piece, just a piece of wood with a hole in it, so your head could go through it. Those two animals would then put their heads in there and pull the plow. They have already dug up yokes from this period of time where they have had two pairs of oxen in one yoke; so they had four animals in the one yoke.
Because this yoke was used with animals of burden, throughout the Bible the yoke became an emblem of servitude, of servanthood; sometimes for good, and sometimes for bad. Sometimes it was a picture of subjection. For example, when Israel was in Egypt, the Bible says they were under the yoke of the Egyptians, because they were slaves and were pulling the plows and so on. In Deuteronomy 28:48 God warns His people, “If you turn from Me, I will put you under the iron yoke of your enemies.” And when you come to Christ, remember what He said. “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me.” It is not a bad yoke with Him. Keep that picture in your mind of that piece of wood with two holes in it for the animal heads to go through.
What is an unequal yoke? It is almost comical to think about what it is. It is the same wooden piece, but with holes of unequal size. You have one hole for a big animal and another hole for a little animal. Can you just picture a hole large enough for a big ox and next to him one for a dog? That is an unequal yoke, when you have two animals or unequal things pulling, and many times in opposite directions. Do you know how they would test whether it was equal? They would measure the furrow that was plowed. If it was unequal, the stronger one would turn them around and they would end up going in a circle. So, they would always check the furrow and would change animals until they got them pulling the same way; then they became a team. You can tell if there is an unequal yoke, an unholy alliance, in anything in your life if you just turn around and look at the furrow.
Unequal yoke pertains not just to marriage
Most of the time, anytime the expression unequal yoke is used, or anybody comes to Second Corinthians 6:14, they say it has to do with marriage, “Let’s not be unequally yoked”; it has to do with the saved marrying the unsaved. That is forbidden; we are not to have an unequal yoke. That is a legitimate application of this passage, but He is not talking about marriage. Man has applied it that way, and it is a legitimate application. Can a Christian believer in the Lord Jesus, fall in love with someone who doesn’t know the Lord? That’s a problem in the body of Christ. There can be love, but they can never be one and never answer the pattern or blueprint that God has commanded. That’s the tragedy of the unequally yoked. May God open the eyes of young people to see the high calling of marriage; stay single a thousand lifetimes rather than get involved in an unequal yoke!
We are looking at the Apostle Paul and the characteristics of the Christian life, and he is not talking specifically about marriage, but that is one application of it. Here he talks about believers linking with unbelievers; righteousness with lawlessness, light with darkness, Christ with Belial, and the temple of God with idols. You can have an unequal yoke in a business arrangement, and you can sometimes tell by the furrow that is drawn. Again, it is not wrong to apply it to marriage.
We are God’s temple—the Holy of Holies
Let’s leave that now with the unequal yoke and go to the next picture, and then we’ll come back and put those pictures together. The second picture, in addition to the unequal yoke, is in 2 Corinthians 6: 16, “For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” You were already captured with the idea of an ox and a chicken being yoked together. That catches your attention. Now he says that you are the temple of the living God.
In our culture, when we use the word “temple” we usually think of a church building. We say we are the temple of God; we are the building where God lives. In the Greek, it is not the word “building”. You see, they had a word for the temple complex, the big temple. The Greek word was “hieron”, and many times in the Bible when you see the word “temple” you see that Greek word “hieron”. It is the whole building complex. If Paul were saying you are like that, he would have used that Greek word, but he did not use that Greek word. He used another word; naos. That only refers to one little tiny part of the temple, not the whole temple. It is just one special place in the temple. Can you guess what that place is? The naos is the Holy of Holies. It’s a special word that means the inner sanctuary, the shrine, the sacred enclosure where God Himself dwells.
The temple was basically divided into three big sections. The first section was called the “outer court”, which went all around the temple structure, the edifice of the temple. The next section was called the “holy place”. Then inside the holy place was another little room which was called the “Holy of Holies”. That was right in the middle, deep into the temple complex; the sanctuary or Holy of Holies. In there was a great veil. Remember that veil that was ripped when Jesus died on the cross? That was covering that room—the Holy of Holies—that secret room.
When Moses was ordered by God to build the tabernacle in the Old Testament in the book of Exodus, He told him to make sure he made everything according to the blueprint, and He gave special orders concerning the Holy of Holies. After it was all done, the Bible says that the Shekinah glory cloud came in. It did not come into the temple. It only came into the naos; into the Holy of Holies. Later on when Solomon built the temple he also was given orders by God about how to build the Holy of Holies. After the temple was built and they praised God, the Bible says fire came down out of heaven and set fire on the big sacrifice that was outside, and the glory cloud that was in the Holy of Holies moved out of the tabernacle and moved into the naos of Solomon’s temple. The Bible says that was such a tremendous day that the priests were crowded out, and couldn’t even go in to worship. The temple was filled and that naos glowed as it was filled with the Holy of Holies—the Shekinah glory cloud, the presence of God.
Paul is calling attention to the fact that what was true in the tabernacle and what was true in the temple is true right now. We are, as individuals, our bodies, are the temple, not the whole temple, but just that one room—the naos, of the holy God; and that the glory of God lives in us in the same way it was in the temple. You see, he is illustrating the principle of intimacy with God. Remember, the Bible says that not everybody could go into that Holy of Holies; only the high priest once a year. That was a tough day for the high priest. He had to take five complete baths and seven washings on that one day. He was representing the people, and he had to be holy to get into that place in the presence of God.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time with the picture because we have to get to the point, but there is one other thing I need to tell you about those three rooms—the outer court, the holy place and the Holy of Holies—because it ties in. It is a tremendous expression of the Christian experience. Now, I am bringing this in from other passages, but it does bear on this passage, as I think you will see. There is such a thing as an “outer court Christian”. There is such a thing as a “holy place Christian”. And there is such a thing as a “holy of holies Christian”. If we are going to follow the pattern, Paul says you have to be a “holy of holies Christian”; not an “outer court Christian”, and not a “holy place Christian”.
Let me describe the “outer court Christian”. In the outer court there were only two objects. There was a brazen altar of sacrifice on which the animal was slain. Then as you walked a little further, just before you got into the holy place, there was the brazen laver of cleansing which was made out of mirrors, and there was water in it. The idea was that you have been cleansed by the blood, and now before you go in any further you had better make sure you are clean; you could look in the mirror to make sure you were clean. It is just a marvelous illustration of cleansing. The outer court had one message: be clean; get cleansed. That is where the altar was. That pictured, of course, the great altar, the cross on which (not an animal), but the real Lamb of God had to be slain. An “outer court Christian” is a Christian who has come to the cross; he has been cleansed. Since that is all there was in the outer court, that is the end of the experience of the “outer court Christian”. All he knows is, “I am saved; I have been cleansed. I do not know anything else. I have been cleansed.”
The message of the outer court is dirty/clean, dirty/clean, dirty/clean, dirty/clean. All he knows is he sins, but Praise God for the blood. He gets clean again. Then he goes out and falls on his face, and then he comes back and gets right again. Then he sins again and he gets dirty, and he says, “Oh, but I am saved.” Then he gets clean again. It is up, and it is down, and it is up, and it is down. His message is, “I got saved. I wish everybody could get saved. I was dirty. Now I am clean! I do not have to go to hell! I have been accepted by God.” But that is all he knows. He is an outer court Christian. Every time he gives a testimony, all he can say is, “Forty seven years ago I got saved; God washed my heart clean. I fell into sin, but then He cleansed me again. Then I fell again, and then He cleansed me again.” That is all he knows. It’s because the outer court only had to do with cleansing.
There is a “holy place Christian”. Now, in order to get to the holy place you have to go through the outer court. We are not condemning the outer court. Praise God for the cleansing! You come through the cleansing, and now in the holy place there were other pieces of furniture. There was the seven pronged golden candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. Those who are “holy place Christians” have come a little bit beyond the cleansing. They have seen in Christ that He is my seven pronged candlestick; He is my life, and He is my guide, and He is going to guide me all the days of my life. They know more than the cross; they also know the benefits of God. They come to the table of showbread and say, “I have learned to feed; God will provide all of my needs.” They know a little bit about prayer and communion and intercession. They have come to the altar of incense. They have understood that they can cry out unto God and He can hear them. Their walk with God is deeper than the outer court Christian because they have understood some of the ways of God. They have not only understood His salvation, but now they know He is going to guide and He is going to feed, and that they can have communion with Him and so on. That is the “holy place Christian”.
And then there is the “holy of holies Christian”. Now, I will tell you, I do not know where you are in your life, and we do not have a right really to judge each other, to look at each other and say that you are here and I am there and all of that kind of foolishness. It is good to be an “outer court Christian”. It is better to be a “holy place Christian”. The pattern is, and God’s intention is, that we all be “holy of holies Christians”. That is what God wants us to be. That is the best.
There was only one piece of furniture in the Holy of Holies and it was the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was in the shape of a throne. When they carried that around, the message was that God is our invisible King; God sits on this throne. In the Holy of Holies you have God Himself. That is where the glory cloud was. Some people know just His salvation. Some people know the ways of God. Some people know God. The “holy of holies Christians” know God. They are not just ministering to the temple; they are ministering to the Lord. They are in the place where He is, and it is dark in there, and it is quiet in there. It is a place of rest; it is the place of sovereignty. He rules; He sits on the throne. It is a place where God is all and you are just filled with the glory of God. Now, that is the “holy of holies Christian”. The reason I call attention to that is because all of that is in Paul’s mind in Second Corinthians 6:14 through the end of the chapter.
If we live after the pattern, after the model of the Christian life, then we will have been through the outer court. Every Christian has to go through the outer court, and every Christian has to spend a little time in the holy place, but then God takes you into the Holy of Holies where you begin to live and see that the Christian life is designed to be enjoyable. All right, let me back off from those two pictures now—the
unequal yoke and the Holy of Holies, and go back to 2 Corinthians to tie it into the context.
We are ambassadors for Christ
In 2 Corinthians 5:20 it says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul saw himself as an ambassador. An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomatic representative of one country sent there to represent it in another country. The country that Paul was being sent from was a whole new sphere, it was a whole new world; he was an ambassador from heaven. He was in a kingdom within a kingdom. He found himself among a people, but not of them; he was like them, but he was different. It was a new generation in an old generation. He found himself in a whole new world, sort of detached from the country he had come to minister to. It was more than being an observer. He was not there just to look. God sent him there as an ambassador. He pulled him out, and put him in a whole new world, and then sent him back as a servant, as an ambassador with a message; with a job to do as a servant. He was sent back into that old world.
Now notice what this ambassador faced in this strange country. Look at 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. In those verses the apostle lists 27 different experiences that every ambassador will face:
“…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumult, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown, yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.”
He chose to do those things because of his love for those he came to serve. Now, with all of that as background, I will try to sew this all together so you can see the principle. That is a lot of pressure for any ambassador from any country. We are called to be ambassadors, and we are dropped in a strange country and, all of a sudden, all the circumstances come against us, and every inhabitant of that country we have come to minister to opposes us, and the very duties that we are called to do costs us; tremendous self-denial.
Here is the standard. As he goes, the One who sends him says, “I am going to put you in this land, and there is only one thing I want you to do. You do not have a lot to worry about; it is really quite easy. Here is the only requirement I am going to give you – 2 Corinthians 6:3&4: “Give no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commend ourselves as servants of God.” And he says, “Oh, is that all? Super. All I have to do is not offend anybody in anything, and commend myself as a servant of God, and everything is going to come against me, right? And everybody is going to oppose me, right? And I am going to have a tremendous cost of self-sacrifice, right? No offense? In anything? Not even once?”
God said, “That’s it! When you go, here is the standard. You are going to be a representative of another world, and when you fall, so does the reputation of that other world – so does that ministry. The ministry will be discredited. When you are shamed, the Lord is shamed; His name is shamed, His cause is shamed, and the ministry of reconciliation is shamed.” So, the question comes, how in the world can anybody be an ambassador? How can we survive it? How can we take all the guff that the world we are coming to serve is going to give us?
Here is the principle. Let me suggest how some would say it, who would of course misread this: “If I am going to survive down there, I had better yoke up with them. I had better yoke up with the world.” (You see, there is the context of the unequal yoke.) “I had better put my head in their yoke. They have many wonderful things to offer me. You know, we look at the world and we say we are representing God, but we cannot be weird, even though we are called a peculiar people. It does not mean peculiar/odd. We cannot be weird. We are not coming here to be controversial, are we? We are not to be opposing them. Certainly we can link up with them. We are a heavenly society, but
they have a lot to offer.”
There is many ways to apply it. You can apply it socially and you can apply it in the family, but since we are dealing with spiritual things let me just apply it ecclesiastically – in the church. For example, the church is always needing money. If I turn on the radio or go to my mailbox, I get envelopes and all that kind of stuff, and the idea is if we are going to survive, then we are going to have to put our head in their yoke, you see? “We will have to reason with them. Maybe we can do some fundraising. There are ways to get people to give. We can embarrass them, you see? Just stick a bag under their nose and then they will feel embarrassed and they will have to dig. Or else we can burden them. We can tell them how great a need there is, and then they will feel burdened to do it. Or we can challenge them. The world has studied how to get money out of its subjects, and so we can link up with them and use their policies.”
This is the context of the unequal yoke. God says, “You are going as ambassadors and you are representing another world, another country, another principle, other ways, other methods. Do not yoke up with them; they have nothing to give you. That is not a yoke; it is a noose. The kingdom of heaven does not need what this world offers. We do not need principles of salesmanship. Man raises money. God lowers it.” We need to understand the ways of God.
I think one of the saddest things to ever creep into the church is deputation. It’s when a missionary wants to go to the field and before he goes he has to go on deputation. It means he has to go around to all the different groups and people to raise money. He has to drum up his support so he can go to the mission field. That is an unequal yoke by whatever name you want to call it. Don’t be swallowed up just because they baptize it and put pretty names on it. “Seed faith” some call it. Some call it “faith promise”. Some call it “spiritual pledge”.
Here is another illustration of that same thing; all of this is just compromise. The world has psychology. This is also burning the people of God in so-called “Christian psychology”. They say, “Now, we have studied this. We know how people behave. You are going to have to learn how to be positive with people.” So, there are great courses on how to be positive, how to meditate, how to build up someone’s self-esteem, how to analyze yourself. There is psychological victory. You go into self-analysis, look into your heart, and find out what is wrong; find out the block. There is something in your past that has caused a block. You find out what that is and then bring it to Jesus. That is bondage! There is no way in the world that God has ever called you to do that. For one reason, you have no more ability to discover your problem then you have to solve it, so you are going to go snaky trying to find it. It is the mystery of iniquity. You are not going to be able to do it. All self-analysis and looking into self—you don’t want to look in there! It will kill you; it will drive you mad; it’s a sewer down there.
When God is ready to show you what is in there, it will come up. He has ways to bring it up. Do not deal with anything in your heart until God is dealing with it, and then something is going to be done. Otherwise, it’s a mess. God’s method is, Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there be any wicked way in me.” God is the One that has to search you. Do not go searching yourself or it will end up in frustration and depression; morbid introspection and carrying guilt.
God is saying that you do not need to yoke up with this world in order to be an ambassador. You do not need to go and get endorsements like they say. You do not have to get a famous name to write the preface of your book like they say. You do not have to have advertising campaigns and try to trick them like they say. You do not need publicity gimmicks. You do not have to try to weave in our sweet Lord Jesus into every conversation. You do not need to do that kind of stuff. We walk by the Holy Spirit, by the principles of heaven, not group dynamics. It is the Spirit of God. It is not scholarship; it is the revelation of God to give you this Bible, and the world is offering all of these other kinds of things. That is when he says, “Do not be unequally yoked. Do not put your head in there. You do not need that to survive.” 2 Corinthians 6:17: “’Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and do not touch what is unclean, and I will welcome you.’”
Separation is first unto God
Now if you glance quickly at Chapter 6, you may say, “Oh, the principle there is separation. Come out from among and be separate.” If you do not read it carefully, you are going to end up with a bunch of rules—don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t. “Do not be a stumbling block. Do not eat that. Do not associate with them. Do not play those games. Do not go to that place. Do not put that in your mouth. Do not wear your shirt like that. Your hair is too long. Your sleeves are too short. Your skirt is too long. Do not wear slacks. Do not go mixed bathing. Do not do this. Do not sing that music. You cannot play sports like that.” God is not saying that here. God’s people have taken this chapter and made a legalistic rule out of it. It is not that at all. The principle IS separation; there is no question about that. But read it carefully. It is not separation FROM. And this is his great point. It is separation UNTO. He says you are a temple, and not just any temple. You are that Holy of Holies! You are separated unto the Lord, and in fellowship with Him in that Holy of Holies.
Notice how the chapter begins. “Working together with Him.” Why did He bring up the yoke? It’s because in this ambassadorship it is not like other ambassadorships where I stand here and send you there. He says in this one, “The reason you do not have to yoke up with them is because you are yoked up with Me, working together with Me. I am in that yoke with you, and that is why you do not need all of that other stuff, because you can live inside of this Holy of Holies. The ambassador is to live a separated life. No question about it. But separated unto the Lord inside the Holy of Holies.
Do you realize this? An awful lot of what we call separation is not separation at all. Christians are constantly trying to be holy, and they think, “I am going to be holy by separating myself. So, I am not going to associate with this, and I am not going to do that,” and they begin to take all of that out of their life. Then they look at their lives after they have separated themselves, and they say I still feel lousy. I don’t feel any closer to the Lord than before. And the reason is, they are not! Any separation from must come because of separation unto. You say, “How am I going to be separate from the world?” Get inside that Holy of Holies for a while and you will be amazed how separated you are from the world.
I‘ve got a problem that ties in with this. If I get a little scab anywhere on my body, it does not stay little. It’s because I cannot leave it alone. I just scratch it and pick it and it gets infected and grows. Everybody in the family is on me all the time! Sometimes I deliberately wound myself so I can scratch and pick. But I notice that they are right. When you pick it, it doesn’t go away. It gets worse.
That also applies in Christian living. Some people are always picking. Somebody has got this and they say, “Oh, you are still smoking. Oh, you are still doing this.” Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick; all it does is get inflamed and worse. Get inside the Holy of Holies and start enjoying Jesus, and after a while that thing will fall off, and you’ll wonder where in the world it went. That is how God separates us! He makes those things fall off by separation unto! All God has ever called us to do is know Jesus. All He has ever called us to do is live in this temple, in the Holy of Holies, enjoying Him, and then we will be separated from. It is automatic; you do not have to work at it. Any part of your Christian life you have to work at is unreal. All of this is automatic! It’s intuitive; it’s like breathing. Just know Jesus.
The Christian life is not a life regulated by rules, and do’s and don’ts, and that kind of thing. Paul said, “God has called us to a hard calling. We are going to be opposed by circumstances. We are going to be opposed by other people. We are going to have responsibilities that are laid on us that are going to cost us dearly, cost us in love and in sacrifice, and we are not to give offense to anybody in anything.” How can I perform that? That is a high calling. And the answer is, “I am yoked to Jesus Christ inside the Holy of Holies, and I am in a soundproof pavilion.” You find someone who has begun to enjoy that, and you will see the ministry of reconciliation getting out. That’s God’s plan of redemption.
The apostle saw the foolishness of trying to yoke up with this world. Anybody who tries this world’s methods and goods is going to find out how flat it is. It never works. If things do not work, they do not work; instead of changing their appetites they are changing the menu. God wants to change from the inside. Paul saw that yoking up with this world was futile. He also saw that trusting Paul was futile. Paul saw himself as part of that world down there, and he said, “I do not live anymore by the life of Paul. I have learned to live by the life of God. I have learned to live in the Holy of Holies. That is the only place it is going to happen.” Paul was delivered from the unequal yoke and from the life of Paul, and he just began to trust God.
“And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain – for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.”
(2 Corinthians 6:1&2)
The chapter begins with an appeal not to receive the grace of God in vain. Paul did not receive the grace of God in vain. He quotes from Isaiah 49 here. When you look at Verse 2, what is the acceptable time? Now—that is the acceptable time. What happened at the acceptable time? Paul is saying, “The reason I am surviving in my ambassadorship is because I have not received the grace of God in vain, and what that means is that I call on Him now and He answers me now. I am applying present grace every day. I cannot look to the world; I cannot yoke up with them. I cannot trust myself. What is my hope? I do not receive the grace of God in vain; NOW is the acceptable time, NOW He will help you, He will listen NOW.”
Christ was all-sufficient in Paul because he saw that God was a present tense God. It was not theology. It was not something that he read about; not a creed. It was a Person. In every circumstance, and he had nine of them that he lists here, he called on God, and God heard, and God answered. Paul was trusting in a God. Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In the Bible margin it says, “Abundantly available for help.” Paul learned to live in the Holy of Holies by the present grace of God. He looked to Jesus.
Are you a “holy of holies Christian”? The question is, “Are you knowing Him?” That is what it is all about; the Holy of Holies.
HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #13 in Ephesians)
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the 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 husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up 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. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Marriage is a picture of union with Christ
We are looking at Ephesians 5:22-33 and the illustration of marriage. The principle is to walk in union with the Lord. Actually, if you are outlining the section, it really goes beyond verse 33. It goes into Ephesians 6:9—into the parent/child relationship and the slave/master relationship. But right now we are going to look at the illustration of marriage and the great principle of union with Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord.” For years I had that backwards. I thought Eph. 5:22-33 was a passage about marriage, and about husbands loving their wives, and about wives submitting to their husbands. In one sense I was right, but in a bigger sense I was not. Marriage is the illustration and not the point. I should have caught on sooner with a verse like 32, “The mystery is great; I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” You see, the illustration is marriage, but it’s not a passage on marriage. It’s a passage on union with Jesus Christ.
If you just took the illustration of marriage, you’d come out with a lot of rules on how to have good relationships with your spouse, husband and wife together, but that’s not the point. This isn’t a psychology book. He’s not teaching us how to have good relationships in the family. These are spiritual truths. He’s talking about walking in the light of the Lord and walking in the joy of the Lord and walking in union with Jesus Christ. It’s a spiritual thing. You might say that it’s the same thing, and there is no real meaningful difference; it’s semantics. Well, it’s not the same thing at all. There’s a direction change there; a change in emphasis. It’s not some little difference. It’s the difference between God and men. It’s the difference between grace and works. It’s the difference between heaven and earth.
You see, if you make the illustration the point, you’re a legalist. That’s what legalism does; it doesn’t get the principle; it just sticks with the facts. The facts are given by the Spirit of God to illustrate the principle, and we’ve got to have the eye that God gives in order to see the spiritual principle. There’s a spiritual truth here underneath the illustration of marriage and that’s what God intends. Before we get right into this, let me balance that Bible principle with another truth. In order for any illustration to have power as an illustration, to shed light and illumine, there must be at least one point of comparison or contrast between the illustration and the truth that it’s trying to illustrate.
When we come to marriage as an illustration, we run into a problem. When you look at most marriages, you don’t see union with Christ. When you look at most marriages you see tragedies and a mess. You see an illustration that has been smashed to smithereens; a miscarriage of an illustration. In order to see what God is trying to illustrate, you’ve got to understand He’s using marriage, not as it is, but as it ought to be; marriage as He intended it to be as His illustration. I can’t look at marriage in my life and say, “Now, there’s a picture of union.” I hope that I’m moving toward that. I hope that is God working in it and conforming me to that great reality. He has laid down principles of marriage; He takes the ideal marriage as He intended it, and uses that as the illustration; as it should be and not as it is.
So, by saying that the point of this passage is not marriage, doesn’t weaken the practical application. There’s going to be a lot of application on the level of earth to marriage, as God by His grace begins to restore the illustration to what it ought to be in order to illustrate the great truth. We are going to be dealing with marriage, but that’s not the point. We’ll deal with marriage in order to see the real point which is union with Jesus Christ. We’re not going to deal with marriage as a topic but only as it’s dealt with in chapter 5, but it will be very practical as far as our relationships with our life partners are concerned.
The husband is the giver and the wife is the responder
The blessed responsibility that we’re looking at is union with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit points out at least three comparisons to the ideal marriage and the reality of union with Christ. The first comparison between the ideal illustration, marriage, and the spiritual reality, union with Christ, can be summarized in these words; the husband is a giver and the wife is a responder. That is true of both the heavenly husband and the earthly husband. It’s the truth of the grace of God. God is an initiator; God always does the doing, as does the husband, and the woman responds. Sometimes I wonder how people can read the scriptures so much and twist clear passages into, in many cases, the exact opposite.
Some husbands tragically never get beyond Ephesians 5:23a. They get all excited when they read that the husband is the head of the wife, “Close the Bible—that’s enough.” The husband is the head of the wife, and they don’t understand that in terms of its spiritual context. They see the husband as, “I’m the boss. That’s what that means. I make all the final decisions. When it comes to a show-down, if we’re out of sorts and can’t talk it through to come to an agreement, then I have to run with the ball. I make the decisions and the final decision; I’m the head. I decide.” Some go even further than that and say that no matter what, the wife has a responsibility to submit to the husband because, they say, “He is the God-appointed authority in the home, the head of the house; the man is the ruler.”
In some people’s minds what flows from that is that the wife is a servant; the wife is a slave. She’s got to obey and do what the man says because God set it up that way and the woman has to submit to the husband. The husband makes the rules and the wife very quietly submits and does what the husband says. Is that what the Spirit of God is saying? Is He assigning to the husband, as the head of the wife, as the head of the family, the place of final authority in the home? I don’t have to clear my throat when I give the answer. NO—not at all! In fact, the exact opposite of that is what is presented here. If there is any servant in verses 22-33, it’s the husband and not the wife. The husband is presented as pouring himself out completely and holding nothing back, entirely giving himself, and self-sacrificing in his devotion. In this passage, the husband is the giver and the servant, and he’s living unto another individual—his wife. There’s no domestic tyranny at all in this passage. It’s tragic to the nth degree, and that’s why I’m hitting it so hard because it has been so abused. It’s pitiful to see what has happened to God’s illustration of union with Jesus Christ. If you destroy the illustration, as it has been destroyed, you miss the reality.
For a man to presume to ask for a woman’s love and a woman’s life, and then sink to the depths of becoming her oppressor is tragic, and it’s happening all over the place in the name of the Lord. It’s selfish and self-indulgent; it’s pride and capricious to rule your life partner. You won’t find it in Ephesians 5 and you won’t find it anywhere in the Bible because God never intended it. In verse 23, “Christ is the head of the church; He Himself, being the Savior of the body,” verse 25, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” verse 29, “No one has ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.”
I understand why people are thrown off, because of the word “head” and the word “submit”. That can lead you down the wrong path because you think the word “head” means “Lord” and the word “submit” means “obey”. But words are used in different senses, and you have to see the context in which it’s used. When you read verse 23, and the husband is the head of the wife and in verse 22 wives are subject to the husband and verse 24, the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything, it sounds like it’s saying, “I’m the boss and you’re the servant and you do what I say.” It’s not saying that. The word “head” in this context does not mean “Lord”. That’s true in another place in the Bible where head is used as “Lord”, but not here in regards to marriage. He’s talking about the relationship that the skull, the brain, the head has to the body. And the word “submit” in the context He doesn’t use here for wives. Later on he’ll use “obey” in chapter 6:1 when He’s talking about children and 6:5 when He’s talking about slaves, but He doesn’t use it here for wives. He’s not talking about the head of a government; He’s talking about the head of the body. It’s a union of life and relationship; the head supplies life to the body, and it continually flows to the body, and the body responds.
Throughout this passage and throughout the whole Bible everything that teaches about the wife’s responsibility to submit to the husband is in terms of the husband’s responsibility to give to the wife. He’s the first giver, and it’s part of the picture that God is a giver and we’re responders; we’re His wives. If the illustration were perfect, that’s what it would be like in families. Husbands would be loving their wives and would be giving and giving and giving and helping and helping and nourishing and nourishing and cherishing and cherishing and honoring and honoring and taking care of and pouring out and giving and giving; and the wife would be responding to that. That’s how it is in reality in God, and that’s how He intends it in the picture.
Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies
There’s another comparison the Holy Spirit makes. Marriage is not only a picture of the grace of God, God is a giver and the woman is a responder, but the truth of union with Christ is illustrated in the absolute oneness of the head with the body. In order to complicate this a little further, the Holy Spirit gives an illustration to illustrate the illustration in order to illustrate the reality. Did you follow that? Here’s the reality; union with Christ. Here’s the illustration; marriage, but He knows that illustration is going to get all messed up, so He gives another illustration to illustrate marriage in order to illustrate the reality which is union with Christ. And the illustration of the illustration is of the head and the body; the oneness of the human body.
Notice verse 23, the expression “the husband is the Savior of the body”. It’s a wonderful phrase to show the absolute oneness of the husband and the wife. Notice in verse 28 & 29, “Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. No one hated his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it.” I know there is a wrong way to love yourself, but there’s a right way, too. The Bible teaches that it’s natural for a person to love his own body. If you don’t love yourself it’s un-natural. If a man starts to injure himself, he’s got a mental problem; something is wrong. God has put into man what the psychologists call “the will to live” and a struggle for survival. Man takes the utmost care to make sure that his body is well nourished, taken care of and comfortable.
Everybody here is wearing the right sized shoes. It’s because you love your feet. You love your body and your feet, and you don’t want your feet to get hurt. Why does a man need food? It’s because he loves his stomach. He’s the savior of his feet and he’s the savior of the stomach of his body. Why does a person get dressed in warm clothing when it’s cold outside? He loves his own body. Just as you love your body, when you get married you get to be so one that your wife becomes your body. She is you and you are her, and if you hate your wife, you hate yourself; you hate your own body because you are one. He uses the illustration of our love for our bodies in order to show us the oneness we have with our wife—in order to show us our tremendous union with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In marriage, according to this passage, the wife is likened to the body and it’s just as unnatural for a man to hate his wife as it is for us to hate our bodies. Verse 30, He takes us upstairs; Christ regards us as members of His body, “We are members of His body.” I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this. May God burn it in our hearts! It’s a precious thing that God treats us as He treats Himself; that God loves us just as much as He loves Himself; that He nourishes us and cares for us. In verse 31 where it says, “The two shall become one flesh,” notice what He adds in verse 32, “I’m speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” That’s true on earth, and we can only begin to know that it’s true in our relationship with God. God is a giver; He gives and gives and all we have to do is respond.
The love of the husband transforms the wife
God is the one who regards us as His own body; He nourishes and cares for us, and loves and cherishes us, as much as He loves Himself. And then there’s a third comparison. God is not only the initiator and God not only regards us as one with Himself, but the love of the husband transforms the wife. One of the clearest illustrations you’ll get of that is to read Revelations 21:10 – 22:5 where you have the record of the New Jerusalem. Because the New Jerusalem is the bride, it’s a picture of the Lord Jesus in His church. It’s us; we’re the bride of Christ. The New Jerusalem is the church as it will be some day in its maturity, in its conformity.
Picture a man complaining about his wife in words something like this, “Oh sure, it’s easy to read Ephesians 5:22-33, ‘Husbands love your wives,’ but Paul had something else in mind here. He wasn’t married to a porcupine; he wasn’t married to a woman like I have. My wife is so crotchety and so unlovely; she nags every day, and nothing seems to please her, and she’s never satisfied. Man, I work my hands to the bone all day and when I come home tired and hungry, she’s been yacking on the phone all day, and I have no supper; she’s complaining and the kids are running around, clothes are piled up high and the house is not cleaned. Sure, it’s easy for you to say to love your wife but, man, she’s pretty unlovely. Am I responsible to love her?”
Listen to the principle again. That’s the illustration, and I hope that’s the extreme. The love of the husband transforms the wife. In the passage the wife is pictured as dirty, spotted and wrinkled. On the level of heaven, our heavenly bridegroom, our heavenly husband, does He love the church because she is lovely, because she has no spots, no wrinkles and no dirt? Is that why God loves you, because you are so pure and perfect? According to the passage, Christ loved the church when she was dirty and spotted and wrinkled. She had many faults and imperfections; many mars and blemishes. Christ loved the church, not because she was lovely, but according to this passage, in order to make her lovely. His love makes her lovely. His affection was when there was an abundance of spots and wrinkles, and He loved them away.
“Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up 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 spots or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesian 5:25&26)
He’s not talking about the family. He’s talking about union with Jesus Christ. He’s saying that when Christ loves the church, He keeps loving her spots and wrinkles and dirt, and the church is changed and conformed. And He loves her some more and she’s changed again, and He keeps loving her and loving her, and her spots begin to disappear, and her wrinkles begin to go away, and the dirt begins to get cleaned, and He loves the spots out of her, and He loves the wrinkles out of her, and He loves the dirt out of her. She’s transformed, and one day she will stand before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, blameless and pure and undefiled, with no imperfections, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; adorned, reflecting His own beauty, conformed to His image.
Husbands and men who are husbands to be, whether we like it or not, our wives are becoming conformed to what we are. We have a responsibility before God to love our life partners – spots, wrinkles and all. There’s never an excuse for the children of God. What a graphic description the Spirit of God uses by saying, “spots, wrinkles or any such thing.” Some spots you can wash out, even when they get inside the wrinkles. Some spots are in the pigment of the skin. You can’t wash those off. Then, as if exhausting language, the Spirit of God adds, “…spots, wrinkles or any such thing.” How is the bride brought to perfection and full glory? The answer is by the love of the groom; by the love of the husband. He loves the spots and wrinkles away. He loves away all the imperfections. Over and over I’ve had people come to me; I’m not a counselor. Fact is, I’m not even sure where counseling fits in with the church of Christ. Christ is the Counselor. People have come to me and made this comment, “I don’t love my wife anymore.” I just tell them to go back and love her some more until you have loved her as Christ loved the church.
There is never an excuse for a husband not to love his wife as Christ loved the church. The love required by God comes from above and not from within. Again, the Holy Spirit’s point is union with Jesus. He is telling us that Jesus will always initiate. He will always deal in grace. He invites us to respond. He is telling us that the Lord Jesus always regards us as His own body. We are one. All that is on His heart is to protect, nourish and cherish us. He is telling us that the dear Lord Jesus will not stop loving us because of our dirt, spots and wrinkles and other imperfections. Instead, He guarantees to love us unto perfection; to love us into maturity; to love us until we are conformed unto His image.
We, as evangelical Christians, like to draw charts. But there is a doctrine I do not see on most charts. We have resurrection on our chart and rapture on our chart and judgment seat on our chart and millennium on our chart and heaven on our chart, but there is a great day coming, mentioned over and over again that’s called “presentation”. It’s mentioned in Eph. 5:17, “That He might present to Himself the church in all His glory.” This is a great day for the Lord Jesus Christ; when the groom receives His glorious bride, all perfect and wonderful. He gives her His throne to sit upon, leads her to His marriage hall and sits with her at the marriage supper.
Jude 24 and 25 says, “Now to Him Who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy…” That day is coming when He makes you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy. He will present the bride to Himself as one, having finished a great work of art, and He sets her in some conspicuous place to be adored by all. These are the things I believe the Holy Spirit of God intended when He inspired this great blessed responsibility to walk in union with the bridegroom of your soul.
Certainly it does have its applications in the family, especially to husbands. Are we initiators? Do we regard our wives as our bodies? Do we love their spots and wrinkles and blemishes away? We are to be husbands on the earth, and parents on the earth, and masters on the earth. How can we fulfill those blessed responsibilities? I learn to be a husband to Lillian by being a wife to Jesus. I learn to be a father to my six children by being a child to the Lord. I learn to be a master to men, those under me, by being a servant to the Lord. It all points up to our relationship with Him.
INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #8 in 1 Corinthians)
When you study 1 Corinthians 7 and other passages on marriage, make sure you are solid on your view of the 100% inspiration of scripture. Whatever the passages say, it can’t contradict 2 Tim. 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God.” In the Greek the word “inspired” is “God breathed”. The Bible says that the Bible is God breathed—as if God is breathing on you. If He was actually in the room with you, and you could feel His breath on your skin, He wouldn’t be any closer to you than He is when you study your Bible, because it’s God breathed.
I call attention to this because in 1 Corinthians 7 it looks like Paul is saying, “I’m not inspired in this chapter. I am in other chapters but not in this chapter.” For example in chapter 7:6, he says, “This I say by way of concession, not of command.” Verse 8, “But I say to the unmarried widow..” Verse 10, “But to the married I give instruction, not I but the Lord.” Verse 12, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord…” Verse 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.” Verse 40, “In my opinion she’s happier if she remains as she is and I think I have the Spirit of God.” So, you read that chapter and say, “Great day is Paul disclaiming inspiration in this chapter?” You don’t see anything like this anywhere else in the Bible until you come to this 1 Corinthians chapter on marriage. It sounds like he’s hemming and hawing and doesn’t know what is going on. Is he hedging and saying, “I’m not sure I’m inspired or not?”
Some have approached this chapter with the idea that this is Paul’s opinion; take it or leave it. “Anybody is entitled to his opinion. This is his opinion. Since the Apostle Paul,” they say, “admits that some of this is from the Lord and some of it is not, and some is from his own opinion, then we’re at liberty to disagree with him. If I don’t agree with what he says here, well, that’s just his opinion. He says that it’s not from God, we’re not obligated to agree with him.”
Does chapter 7 contain the uninspired opinion of a mere man? I don’t have a moment’s hesitation that Paul’s opinion in this chapter is every bit as inspired and as God breathed as the Sermon on the Mount or as the high priestly prayer in John 17. It’s all inspired of God. Apostolic advice is inspired advice. God inspired his opinion, and by the time we got it, it became part of the Bible and is 100% inspired. You have a right to question and disagree with anything I say about any part of the Bible because I’m only a man, and I’m giving my opinions. But you don’t have the right to disagree with the Apostle Paul because the Apostle Paul is speaking the mind of Christ.
My Mom shocked me one time when she said, “I don’t agree with Paul, but I like what Jesus said.” Well, if you don’t agree with Paul you don’t agree with Jesus; it’s the same author and same speaker. Jesus is the One Who authored what Paul said. The gospels are what Jesus said while He was on the earth. The epistles are what Jesus said after He went back to heaven, and said through His Holy Spirit through His human instruments. 1 Corinthians is as much the word of God as any part of the Bible.
Some of you have probably seen or have had the red letter addition of the New Testament. In that addition the words of Jesus are in red letters, so you’ll be able to know exactly what Jesus said. That’s okay as long as it doesn’t register in your mind that the words written in red have more authority than the words written in black. The words written in black are just as inspired as the words written in red. If you get the idea that what Jesus says bears more weight than what Paul said or what Peter said or what James said, then you have a very shaky view of the inspiration of the scripture. In that sense, I wish they would print a whole Bible in red in order to illustrate that it has equal weight—whether you are reading in 1 Peter or Timothy or whatever you are reading, it’s just the words of Jesus.
If Paul were disclaiming inspiration in chapter 7, two things would be automatically true. The first thing is that you would never be certain on any part of the Bible because you would have to wonder if it is just Matthew’s opinion or Mark’s opinion or Luke’s opinion or John’s opinion. If you are stuck with somebody’s opinion here you would have no certainty in studying any part of the Bible. The second thing that would be true is that Paul would be weakening his authority. There is no other book in the Bible where Paul leans more heavily on apostolic authority than in the book of Corinthians. He bleeds authority here, and I know he is not going to weaken his authority when he’s writing to the Corinthians. No part of this chapter is less inspired than any other part of the Bible.
I think what he is doing when he says, “This the Lord said; this I say,” is that he’s putting his teaching alongside what the Lord Jesus taught while He was on the earth in the flesh. In 1 Corinthians 7:10 Paul says, “To the married I give instructions, yet not I but the Lord, that the wife shall not leave her husband.” Did Jesus ever say that while He was on the earth? The answer is yes; He did in Mark 10 and in other places. Every time Paul says, “This is what the Lord says,” there’s also a reference to it in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. He’s comparing and putting side by side what the Lord says now through him and what the Lord said while He was on the earth. In other words he’s saying to these Corinthians, “What I’m about to give, you won’t find in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John because Jesus never said this while he was on the earth but He’s saying it now through me.” It’s just as inspired but he’s putting it over against the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.
I love the way this is so casually written, because it shows the wonder of inspiration; how the Holy Spirit uses the Apostles’ temperaments and personalities. He didn’t just dictate to them. Sometimes He dictated, but He didn’t put them in a trance, pick them up like a pencil and start writing with them. He used them with their own thought processes and opinions, but all of them were controlled and inspired by the Spirit of God.
This chapter not only looks like Paul is disclaiming inspiration, but he also makes some comments about the inadvisability of marriage. For example, 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Concerning the things about which you wrote, it’s good for a man not to touch a woman.” The context is marriage. Verse 8, “But to the unmarried and to widows it’s good for them if they remain as I.” The context is being single; he was unmarried, at least at the writing of this text. Verse 32, “I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord and how he can please the Lord. But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world and how he may please his wife and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried and a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord and that she might be holy in both body and spirit. But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world and how she may please her husband. In this I say for your own benefit, not to put a restraint upon you but to promote what is seemly and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”
It looks like Paul is contradicting what God said in Genesis 2:18, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” Paul says, “Yes it is; it’s good for man to be alone,” and he gives all these verses showing that it’s good for man to be alone. The need for marriage is built into man. You don’t find in the Bible a command to breathe, to eat, to drink, or to sleep, and you don’t find in the Bible a command to get married. The reason you don’t is because the law of nature urges you in that direction, and you don’t need a command because that’s built in. It’s not good for man to be alone. God said that. That’s His will.
In Corinth you have the principle of expediency. 1 Corinthians 7:26, “I think this is good in view of the present distress; that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” Paul is not saying that the single state is better than the married. He’s saying, “The single state is better than the married in view of these present circumstances.” That’s not a general rule. He’s saying, “Under the present distress, with all of the immorality and persecution in Corinth…” Don’t forget at this time that some of these Christians were being thrown to the lions. The persecution had already begun, and in the light of that it’s a lot better to be single. If you are married you are going to subject your family, wife and children to some of the persecution. Paul is not contradicting God and saying, “Alright, it’s better to never get married.” He’s saying, “Under these circumstances my advice is that it’s expedient for this hour that you are better off not being married.” He’s not saying, “Bachelor life or the life of the spinster is better than married life.”
Make a difference in your mind between principles of morality and principles of expediency. Here’s the difference. Principles of expediency depend on circumstances. They change depending upon what the circumstances are. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul gave many principles of expediency because of what they were going through that wouldn’t apply to us. Principles of morality, on the other hand, are based on the character of God and therefore it doesn’t change. Most principles never change. Every age they are the same. When you come to a principle of morality that is based on the unchanging character of God, it will never change, no matter who is reading it or from what culture or what background, it’s the same. But when you come to this, Paul says, “Don’t put this on everybody as an absolute iron clad rule. It depends on the circumstances.”
Most commentators believe the Apostle Paul was himself married. There’s no question that he was not married at the writing of Corinthians. Most people think that he was a widower, and they base it on a verse in Acts where he cast his vote with the Sanhedrin against the Christians to persecute the Christians. There was a rule that in order to be a member of the Sanhedrin you had to be married. There is nothing in the Bible for certain that would say that he was married. We’ll probably never settle it, but that’s not important. I know his approach, and he certainly wouldn’t contradict himself.
In 1 Timothy 4:1&3, he describes the doctrine of those “who forbid to marry”. There were some, he said, that forbid marriage. He calls that the “doctrine of demons”. So, I know he’s not going to disagree with that. In fact, if you say that Paul is against marriage, and that he willed singleness, then he also willed the dissolution of the whole world. If you rule out marriage, in a short time there would be no church and there would be no propagation of the human race, and all life as we know if would become extinct.
Paul recognizes the truth of Genesis, but in the light of the Corinthian conflict it was better to remain single. Matter of fact, look at verse 7, “I wish that all men were even as I myself,” and then he adds, “However, each man has his own gift,” and that’s a charisma, a charismatic gift, “Each man has his own charismatic gift from God; one in this manner and another in that.” He calls the exception of being single a charismatic gift. It’s so much a rule to be married that if you can remain unmarried and still have self-mastery in the sex life, you have a special gift from God. Without that gift you cannot do it. You need a special gift of God to have self-control against the drives and passions of human nature. God doesn’t give it to all. He gives it to some. Matt. 19:12, Jesus said, “Not all can receive this; only to those to whom it is given. It’s a gift of God.”
SEX, DIVORCE, SEPARATION
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #8 in 1 Corinthians
and message #54 in Matthew)
“Now, concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman, but because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife and likewise, also, the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but the husband does. Likewise, also, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another except by agreement for a time, that you may devote yourself to prayer and come together again, less Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession and not command. 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. I say to the unmarried and the widows that it’s good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.” (Corinthians 7:1-9)
I would much rather spend my time on Bible principles and on relationship with Christ. Some of these facts I don’t enjoy presenting as much, but I think this one on sex, divorce and separation is really needed. For years when I studied these particular subjects, people I sat under just hemmed and hawed and cleared their throat, and spoke in glittering generalities. When I was all finished I didn’t know any more when I was done than when I first sat down. I’m not going to do that. You may not agree with me in what I say but you will definitely know what I say. I’m going to use clear words.
Is sex a sin?
Let me give the answer and then try to illustrate it from the passage. Outside the bounds of marriage sex is a sin. Inside the bounds of marriage sex is a duty. Let me take that last part first. As you know, marriage is God’s picture of union with Jesus Christ, and the physical side of that intimate union is a picture of the intimacy of our walk and our union with the Lord. The principle that he lays down here is mutual subjection in love. Surrender is the great principle of union love. You’ve got the idea that the man is totally surrendered to the wife and the wife is totally surrendered to the husband. So complete is that surrender, that verse 4 says, “I no longer have authority over my own body. My wife no longer has authority over her own body. I willingly agree to subject myself to her and, likewise, she has agreed to subject herself to me.” There can be no happy marriage where this principle is not embraced; mutual submission in love. That is so necessary.
Let me caution you about books that try to deal with the physical side of marriage and try to solve problems. As a man of God and woman of God, you don’t need them. You don’t need to read all of that stuff. Just come to the Bible and you’ll find all you need about those kinds of things. You can’t get more basic than this; surrender to your life partner. That is as basic as you can get. Sex, according to this, is a duty. The KJV translates verse 5, “Stop defrauding one another.” It’s the Greek word which means, “to rob” or “to spoil” and it means to cheat and to steal. Why is withholding sex from a life partner a fraud? Why is it robbery? The answer is because it’s a debt you owe your life partner. To withhold sex from your life partner is to rob your life partner. It shows a lack of love and surrender. It’s just part of the great picture. I give myself totally to Lillian and she gives herself totally to me; total submission in love.
The Corinthians had a problem. They viewed sex as it was distorted by the pagans and the heathens, among whom they lived. They looked at all of those uncontrolled passions and they never saw the beauty of sex, and never saw it in the circle of God’s revelation, so they distorted it. God brings it home in terms of the duty of our union with Christ. He said, “Yes, inside of marriage it’s a duty; it’s a debt and you owe it. Outside of marriage it’s a sin; a horrible sin.”
What Does the Bible teach about divorce?
Before I give you the Bible answer to that, in order to keep our heart centered on the Lord, let me give four principles on how to approach this, as we seek God’s full revelation on this tremendous issue.
Let me give you the first principle, and tell you God’s heart on divorce. It’s Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce, sayeth the Lord, the God of Israel.” What are the scriptural grounds for divorce? Is desertion grounds for divorce? Can divorced people remarry? Whatever answer we come up with, we must always have God’s heart on divorce. God’s heart on divorce is this; He hates it. It’s a tragedy. He abominates it all the time. It wrecks the home and it mars the picture of union with Jesus Christ. God hates it. If someone has a scriptural divorce, which we’ll discuss in a moment, and doesn’t share God’s heart on divorce, then that person has a spiritual problem.
Be real careful if someone asks you, “Do you believe in divorce?” Don’t just say, “yes or no”. They are probably asking you, “Do you believe there are any scriptural grounds for divorce?” Don’t give the wrong connotation by saying, “Oh yes, I believe in divorce,” and neglect God’s heart on divorce. Your doctrine on divorce must include this, “God hates it.” Don’t take it for granted that they know that. Tell them. People never go away with what you think they know. They only go away with what you give them. Let them know that God hates it. Whatever Paul’s answer is, the backdrop of everything is, “God hates divorce.”
The second principle is this; ask God to give you a heart of sympathetic love toward those who are burned by this. It’s amazing how some Christians who have never been involved with this are almost vicious in the way they deal with others who have been badly hurt and burned. I’m not saying to be sentimental and compromised. I’m saying to ask the Lord to give you a heart of sympathetic love. These are real people created in the image of God, and because of some sin in their life or because of some quirk and circumstance, they’ve been hurt. You can still say that God hates divorce, and have a heart of sympathy and love toward those who are involved in this awful thing.
The third principle is to make sure that you distinguish the principle from the application of the principle. It’s always good to press back to the principle. The principle is always clear but the application can get very thorny, especially when it comes to something like marriage. There’s no end to some of the complications. Sin complicates things horribly, and the more involved it is in the heart strings, the more terrible that complication becomes. Try to stay away from all the problems and make sure your principle is clear. If you always begin with what is 100% certain, then you can move toward that which is not clear. Start with what is clear. If somebody has a husband and he’s off in Viet Nam and he shows up missing, and she has an unscriptural divorce and she marries somebody else, and that person dies, and then she marries somebody else and gets saved, and then her first husband comes home from Viet Nam, what should she do? Make sure that you have a starting place, because your head will swim at the complications that can come up with these things.
The fourth principle is to distinguish the legality of the action from the expediency of the action. What do I mean by that? It’s one thing to say, “This is legal.” It’s another thing to say, “This is the will of God.” It might be legal and not God’s will. Make sure you walk softly before the Lord in that, and have the mind of God. Just because it’s adultery doesn’t mean that it’s God’s will for a separation or divorce. That will be clearer as we go on in this message. Ask God to give you His heart on divorce. He hates it. Ask God to give you a heart of sympathetic love toward those who are involved in it. Ask God to allow you to understand the principles, and separate those from the application of the principles. Then make sure you distinguish between the legality of the action and the expediency of the action. First you’ve got to find out if it’s right or wrong but that doesn’t give the whole answer; then it’s necessary to find out if it’s God’s will.
Okay, let me give you the full teaching on divorce. I’ll give it to you in facts. I’ve stated the first very definitely; adultery on the part of the unfaithful one constitutes a scriptural grounds for divorce for the innocent party; I stress for the innocent party. In Bible times things were so simple. The guilty party was stoned to death. It was all over. They were out of the picture; no problem. In our wonderful age of grace the guilty goes on to repent and to get right with God. So, we need to study the word of God, because the guilty party can very easily become the innocent party through the wonder of justification. In giving the full Bible truth on divorce, I’m going to stick with what is 100% clear; adultery constitutes a scriptural grounds for divorce.
“And it was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of dismissal,’ but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31&32)
“And some Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9)
What constitutes a scriptural grounds for divorce? Fornication and adultery automatically constitutes a scriptural grounds for divorce and for remarriage for the innocent party, if they are still alive.
Divorce is not separation. According to 1 Corinthians 7:11 there is only one difference between divorce and separation. The goal of separation is reconciliation. “If she does leave, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. The goal of separation is getting back together and getting reconciled. Separation is partial. That’s the nature of separation but divorce is not. Divorce is final.
Do you realize that everything the Bible says about divorce it says in terms of remarriage? Otherwise there would be no word for divorce; they would just use separation. Anything the Bible says about divorce it says in terms of remarriage. When a couple is scripturally divorced, that couple is just as completely estranged from one another as if they had never been married in the first place. That’s how strong divorce is. Suppose a couple has been divorced scripturally and then they live together again in the intimacies of the marriage bond? They’ve committed adultery by coming back together. That’s how strong divorce is. Divorce is so final; it’s a complete separation. The Bible says that it’s like one who has already died. Suppose somebody is scripturally divorced and five years later the person that they scripturally divorced dies. He is no deader to her marital affections now than he was when he was divorced. It’s exactly like a death.
Glance at Matthew 5:32, “I say to you that everyone that divorces his wife except for the cause of un-chastity makes her commit adultery.” Why? It’s because she is still married. That’s why. God hasn’t recognized any divorce except for fornication. That’s the only divorce. So, if that person who is divorced on any other grounds – mental cruelty, incompatibility, not salting the food or any other grounds – it’s unscriptural. God’s word clearly goes against all our state laws. There’s no question about it and you don’t have to clear your throat on that. God’s word contradicts that; God doesn’t recognize it. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of paper you have in your hand, God will not recognize any divorce that is not by adultery. If anyone marries a divorced person who is divorced on any other grounds, he is marrying a married person and he commits adultery. It’s wrong.
Look at Matthew 19:9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another…” Yes, there is grounds for divorce, and yes the divorced person can remarry. As a matter of fact that’s the point of divorce, to allow that person to remarry. You don’t have to wonder about that. That’s the great exception clause and that’s why He puts that in there. By the way, divorce is the only time I know of in the whole Bible where God gives you a choice. If your partner commits adultery, you don’t have to get divorced. You haven’t sinned if you get divorced. You haven’t sinned if you don’t get divorced. That’s the only place in the Bible that you’ve got a choice and you don’t have to do it.
Some Christians, of course, have disputed remarriage. They say that you can be divorced and they can see that, but there is no remarriage, even for the innocent party. To prove it they quote Romans 7:2&3, “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while she is living, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband. So, then, if while her husband is living and she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulterer. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so she is not an adulterous, though she is joined to another man.” So, they say that the only way she is free to remarry is after death.
Well, the purpose of that passage is to illustrate union with Christ. The whole idea is that we’re married to Christ. Verse 4, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit to God.” The idea is that I’m going to marry Christ and have union with Him and bring forth offspring unto Him. Since Paul was not writing about divorce and marriage in this passage, but writing about our union with Christ, he gives the general principle and doesn’t give the exception, obviously, because if He gave the exception he would ruin his illustration. He’s illustrating union with Christ. He can’t say, “But you can get divorced.” He’d blow his whole illustration. Matthew 19 is not talking about union with Christ. Primarily it’s talking about divorce and remarriage, so he brings in the remarriage. There is no contradiction there at all.
The question comes, if there’s only one grounds for divorce, how come people say, “Desertion is a grounds for divorce.” Is desertion a scriptural grounds for divorce? The answer is no. Desertion is not a grounds for divorce. 1 Corinthians 7:15 and I’ll give you the only verse in the Bible that people use to show that desertion is a grounds for divorce. “If the unbelieving one leaves, let them leave. The brother or sister,” (watch these four words), “is not under bondage in such cases. God has called us to peace.” So, they say that right there it says that we’re not under bondage and we can get remarried.
Here’s an important Bible principle. How many verses does it take to prove a Bible doctrine? The answer is one, if it’s clear. Any clear word of God is good Bible doctrine. But if it’s not clear, be careful before you put a doctrine on it. To take that four words out of the whole Bible, “not under bondage”, and say that you can get remarried if he deserted, you are reading an awful lot into that expression “is not under bondage”. Not under bondage for what? Not under bondage to remain unmarried? It seems to me like he’s saying, “If he wants to leave, let him leave. You are not under bondage to try to keep him there.” I wouldn’t read a whole doctrine into it about desertion being grounds for divorce on that. You’re not under bondage to try to bring him back. Make sure you have a clear teaching. I think it’s dangerously presumptuous to base everything on “not under bondage”.
There is one grounds only for a Bible divorce. Then the innocent party is not only free, but is encouraged to remarry. Everything the Bible says about divorce is in terms of remarriage. Separation is a question all of its own and Paul deals with that, also. Is it God’s will for any reason for any couple to break up?
What does the Bible say about separation?
“To the married I give instruction, not I but the Lord, that the wife shall not leave her husband, but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband, and that the husband shall not send his wife away. But to the rest, I say, and not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband, otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. If the unbelieving one leaves, let them leave. The brother or sister is not under bondage under such cases. God has called us to peace. How do you know, oh wife, whether you’ll save your husband or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:10)
Let me start off by answering the question, “What does the Bible teach about separation?” And then I’ll give three principles from the verses we just read on why God gives that answer. You may be shocked by this answer, but I believe with all of my heart, that this is the Bible answer on the question, “Is it ever God’s will under any circumstances, for a Christian to initiate a separation?” The answer is no. It is never God’s will—never. Divorce has one exception but separation has no exceptions. It’s never God’s will for a Christian to separate from his life partner, no matter how bad it gets or for whatever reason.
In our day we have looked on separation as the right thing to do in lieu of a divorce. We reason, “It’s better to be separated than divorced.” Well, that’s wrong. Separation is not the right thing to do. You can’t get away from 1 Corinthians 7:10, “The wife shall not leave the husband.” Verse 11, “The husband should not send his wife away.” Separation is not an option, any more than divorce is. I think some Christians would be very shocked to hear that truth. They think, “It’s okay to be separated, as long as you don’t get divorced.”
I don’t have all the answers to all the questions that are raised on this. What about that poor woman that must be subjected to the brutality of a wicked man and live under his constant fear, dominion and oppression? I’ve seen it in reverse, too. They can get pretty tough on the men. Does she or he have to stay and take it? Does a woman have to bear with a man who is a drunkard, thoughtless and hardhearted?
The other day I received a letter from a woman that I had never met, but she told me that her husband had not spoken to her in eleven years. Isn’t that an amazing thing! They’re living under the same roof in the same house and he hasn’t said a word to her in eleven years. Her question is, “Do I have to take this? Do I have to continue under this neglect?” If a man has a nagging, cantankerous wife, especially if she’s given over to drugs or alcohol, does he have to live with her? He can’t divorce her, perhaps, in obedience to God’s word, but can’t he at least separate for his own sanity and spiritual health? No. The Christian must never under any circumstances initiate a separation. Again, I don’t know all the ins and outs and how it applies in different cases but I know that God’s grace is going to have to be sufficient. When you see the reasons that God gives, then you’ll understand why He says no.
I don’t want to be unsympathetic, detached and unfeeling. My heart stretches out in sympathetic love to those who are suffering under such a thing. But having studied this chapter and having seen the reasons why God says, “No separation,” I would never under any circumstances, no matter how bad it gets, advise a Christian to separate. Of course, your heart goes out to the victim and I would certainly encourage them to cast themselves on the all-sufficient grace of Christ when they are going through such things as that. It’s almost as if the Holy Spirit knew that this would be a hard pill to swallow, the way He writes this chapter, and the way He gives the reasons for this hard teaching
Let me give you the three principles illustrated from this text that He bases His doctrine that there is never a reason for separation. The first principle can be stated in these words, “Do not separate because marriage is a holy, sacred, inviolable bond, and marriage is broken only by death, with the one exception for adultery.” Let me illustrate it. God is not naïve, obviously. Although separation is not His way, pleasure, plan or His design, He anticipates it’s going to happen. Verse 11, “But if she does leave, let her remain unmarried.”
Don’t read verse 11 like it’s divine permission. God doesn’t give permission. He doesn’t give it here and He doesn’t give it anywhere else in the whole Bible. It’s not God’s will to separate, but if out of rashness, fear, foolishness, frustration, or if out of disobedience she does, then what? God has not given His permission for separation, but He’s going to meet us where we are. He anticipates that it will happen. So, He lays down principles, “If it does happen, it’s not My will, but here are the principles.” If God doesn’t have an ideal situation with which to work, then He works with a situation that is not ideal. He deals with us where we are. We’ve got to praise God for that. I’m so glad that He deals with us where we are. He’s not going to forsake us because we blew it.
1 Corinthians 7:11, “If they do separate, she is to remain unmarried.” Why? The answer is because she is married. She can’t remarry because she’s already got a husband. God hasn’t recognized that break-up of marriage just because there is a geographical separation. They are still one. That’s why He says, “Or else be reconciled. That’s My real will. Get back together.” The goal of separation is reconciliation and to come back together and be reconciled. You are still married. Departure doesn’t make the marriage void. The contract is not dissolved by separation. With a separated person, if you live a million years, that marriage would be just as in tact as the day they said, “I do.” God says, “Don’t separate. But if you find yourself in a spot that you have separated, don’t dare date and don’t dare get remarried because you are already married. Get back together.” In the eyes of the Lord they are still married. He doesn’t give permission to separate here and He doesn’t give it anywhere else in the Bible, but He knows our nature. If, out of rashness, out of weakness, out of foolishness, out of frustration, out of pain, out of disobedience or out of ignorance, if something happens and one does leave, does God forsake us then? The answer is, “No. He deals with us where we are.”
This illustrates one of the most wonderful truths of God and I’ll encourage you to pull out all the stops and believe this with all of your heart. It doesn’t only apply in marriage, it applies in all the Christian life. That is this; if God does not have an ideal situation to work with, then He’ll work with a situation that is not ideal. I’ll tell you, that’s tremendous. God doesn’t just wait until everything is right before He comes and meets us. God meets us where we are and as we are. He knew that many would separate contrary to His will. He’s not going to forsake them, and He’s not going to cast them out and disown them. This is tremendous grace. If this wasn’t true, we’d all be victims of our past. We’d grow up and never have a chance with the Lord, but God is not like that. He gives us His pleasure, and then He tells us what to do when we blow it, and what to do when we ruin His desire. No Christian is ever to be a victim of his past or of his present. He’s never at the mercy of circumstances, not while there is a living Christ and the precious blood that washes whiter than snow.
In this regard let me call attention to a much neglected Bible principle—and it’s also abused. It can be stated in these words, “God only has a will.” Romans 2:12 tells you about that will, “It’s good, it’s perfect, it’s acceptable.” God only has a will. There is no such thing as plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D, “Oh, if I miss plan A I’m stuck with plan B.” Sometimes it’s worded this way, “God’s second best; God’s third best.” Fish feathers! God doesn’t have a second best. God doesn’t have a third best. God only has a will and His will is perfect, and no matter how badly I have messed up, at any moment in my life I can have God’s perfect will, by the simple step of faith. He always deals in the present and never holds the past against us. Praise God for that!
I’ll give an illustration. Let’s say that I lost an arm because of sin. I got into a drunken brawl and somehow my arm had to be amputated; then I got right with God again. Now I’m right with God but I only have one arm. Before I sinned I had two arms. What is God going to say now? “I’m sorry, Ed Miller, you were to serve me with two arms and two hands and I’m going to hold you to that.” He requires only one arm from me now. When I come back to God He meets me where I am, and I can surrender one arm. Let’s say a man blows half his brains by drugs and drink, and ruins his mind, and then he gets right with God. God will never require from him more than half a brain. God always meets us where we are and never holds our sin against us when we come back to Him. It’s a marvelous truth we need to emphasize over and over again.
So, He anticipates that people will separate. He’s not going to cast them out. He’ll deal with them where they are. What does He say in verse 11? “But if she does leave, let her remain unmarried.” Why is that? Why can’t she remarry? The answer is because she is still married. God has not recognized the breaking up of the marriage just because of a geographical change. That’s why verse 11 continues, “Or else be reconciled to her husband.” They are still married. Separation does not dissolve the marriage bond. The marriage union is holy, sacred, inviable and even if people are separated for a million years, their marriage is just as valid after a million years as the day they first looked into each other’s eyes and said, “I do.” God recognizes that they are married and only death or divorce can break that bond of marriage.
Let me give a little by-pass here and go back for a moment on the teaching of divorce. The only difference between divorce and separation is that the goal of separation is reconciliation and the goal of divorce is remarriage. That’s the only difference between divorce and separation. Everything the Bible says about divorce it says in terms of remarriage. Some people have a problem with divorced people getting remarried. That’s the whole purpose of divorce, so that you can remarry. It’s separation that calls for reconciliation, not divorce. Divorce frees you to marry again.
What about the saved married to the unsaved?
I’m amazed at the illustration the Lord uses to illustrate this; one of the strongest illustrations you can imagine. In order to drive home how much this is on His heart, He uses the illustration of a child of God married to a child of Satan; the saved married to the unsaved. There’s a couple of ways you can get into a mess like that. You can be a bad Christian and get unequally yoked, or you could be unsaved when you got married and then get saved during the marriage. Does God recognize the marriage of the unequally yoked? In order to drive it home again, and you don’t have to agree with me, but when you leave I hope you don’t say, “I wonder what he was talking about?” I’m using plain words and you know what I’m saying.
Here’s a lover of the Lord Jesus, and I’m going to use an extreme illustration, with a hater of the Lord Jesus. Here’s one who worships God in spirit and in truth, and let’s say that person is married to a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist or let’s say a demon worshipper. Here’s someone worshipping Christ and someone worshipping demons. The one who is worshipping Christ says, “There’s something wrong here, something dirty, something unholy, and something that is not right with the worshipper of the living God sleeping in the same bed with an atheist—someone who doesn’t love and adore the Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 7:14 teaches many things but look at the last phrase, “For otherwise your children are unclean, but now are they holy.” What does that mean? I know one thing it means. If a Christian is married to a Hindu and has a baby, is the baby a bastard or illegitimate? It’s a legitimate baby. It’s holy and it’s not unclean. Why is the baby legitimate? The answer is because the marriage is valid. Even though it’s a saved person with an unsaved person, the marriage is valid, holy and sacred in the eyes of God, because it pictures union with Christ. That’s why the one exception of adultery is allowed for divorce and remarriage, because God says it ruins the picture.
Christians shall not separate, not ever. It’s wrong and it never pleases the Lord, even if they are living with a good for nothing, inconsiderate, dirty, rotten no good, they’ll never have grounds for separation. The marriage contract is so binding, so holy and so sacred before God. Even if you are married to a rebellious sinner, the contract still holds before God. The Christian who finds himself married to an unbeliever needs to get God’s revelation on this. I talk to some who feel so polluted living with their life partner because they don’t know the Lord Jesus. I can understand that, but you can’t go against the revelation of God. Their marriage is just as valid, pure and undefiled before God as Ananias and Sapphira.
If there’s an unscriptural separation, and it would have to be unscriptural, the goal is always reconciliation. Someone might reason something like this, “I could live a better Christian life that would be spiritually healthier by getting out of the house or sending him away.” No. You are far better off spiritually staying with the unbeliever; with a Buddhist, a Hindu, or with the demon worshipper.
Someone might say, “What about 1 Corinthians 7:15, ‘If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave. The brother or sister is not under bondage…’” This verse introduces us to a very basic Bible principle. Don’t base an important teaching on any passage that is not 100% clear. That’s very important. How many verses are necessary to make something clear and true to form a doctrine? One, if it’s clear. One verse is enough if it’s clear, but to take three words “not under bondage” and to say, “Now you can get remarried,” when Jesus said that there was one grounds for divorce, I think that is not clear enough. I think what he’s saying is that he’s not under bondage to go after the one that leaves.
What if the other side initiates it, then is it okay? We’re not under bondage to keep it together. You are still married if they initiate it, but I’d be careful before I’d say, “You are ready to remarry.” Keep it in its context.
Some Christians, though, try to make it miserable for the unbelieving partner, so that they’ll leave. They’ll nag, be unloving and will high pressure, and pretty soon the unbeliever says, “I can’t take any more of this. I’m leaving,” and the believer says, “Good; he’s initiated it.” No, he hasn’t. You have. That’s as much initiating it as if you were to pack your bags and leave. You cannot initiate a separation, even in that subtle way, by driving out the unbeliever. The only offense that can drive the unbeliever out has to be the offense of the cross, the offense of your union with Jesus Christ. Our hearts are quite wicked; we can think he’s initiating when he isn’t.
Here’s the Bible emphasis. I must not only not initiate a separation, but with a passion the Christian must long that there be no separation, even from the unbeliever. We must long and pray that the marriage holds together. It must be the greatest grief of a Christian to see that unbeliever leave, and not a sigh with great relief when at last he’s gone. No! The opposite is true and especially, of course, if it’s the believer’s fault. Only the unbeliever can initiate it and even then the separation is not a divorce. You must remain single, and you must realize that you are still married, and you cannot date another person, and you cannot get married again. You are still married.
I hope one thing you are seeing here is that God does not view marriage lightly. Only two things in the world will dissolve a marriage; adultery and death and that’s it. Young people need to hear this. This is God’s greatest object lesson of union with Christ, and it’s very precious to Him; He will not allow it to be tampered with. I hope if you ever get to deal with young people you can convey God’s heart to them. He loves marriage and He hates divorce. Let them know God’s heart.
Marriage is a sanctifying influence
Here’s the second principle; don’t separate because marriage is a sanctifying influence. 1 Corinthians 7:13 & 14 again, “A woman who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, it’s better not to send the husband away. The unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife. The unbelieving wife is sanctified through the believing husband, otherwise your children are unclean but now they are holy.” Verse 16, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? How do you know, oh husbands, whether you will save your wife?”
The thing that makes this principle so wonderful is that God does a reverse on one of His great principles. I’m talking about 1 Corinthians 5:6, “Do you not know that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” God’s principle is the same as Galatians 5:9 and others. God’s principle is that leaven, yeast, is the illustration of evil, and a small amount can soon pervade the entire lump; it spreads. A little sin is like the proverbial bad apple, and it’s going to spoil the whole bunch, and the good will not make the bad good. The bad will always spread. That’s the principle. A little leaven, a little bad will go after the good. The good won’t affect the bad. That’s why we try to tell our young people, Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” Watch the company you keep.
The bad will always influence the good—except the marriage. He turns the principle around and the lump affects the leaven. This is marvelous. Marriage is the only institution on the earth in which the good affects the bad. Every place else the bad affects the good. Marriage is a sanctifying influence. God is saying, “Don’t separate, because in the marriage tie you have a sanctifying influence, and the Godly person, mate, life partner, WILL affect the unsaved.”
Let me create a problem for you and then answer it. I hope I don’t raise more snakes than I can kill. Picture a marriage where the man commits an awful sin. I won’t use immorality because then we’ll go back into divorce, but this is a separating kind of a sin. Let’s say that he becomes a thief and he embezzles a lot of money from his company, so the local church, the whole assembly decides that because of his sin and his unwillingness to repent, that they will cut him off from the fellowship. They are just exercising another principle called “church discipline”. They read verse 5:11 and it says, “Not even to eat with such a one.” So, now here’s a man, and he’s kicked out of the fellowship, not even to eat with such a one. So, the woman says, “I’m in trouble because I belong to that assembly. Now what? I can’t even eat with my own husband?” She can’t divorce because he hasn’t committed anything except a petty crime, and she can’t separate because that’s against the will of God. What is she to do? Does she say, “Fix your own meals and eat in the cellar?” The answer is no, because in marriage God has reversed the principle, and she would be a sanctifying influence on him.
God has ordained that the righteous partner would affect the unrighteous. Sometimes you don’t know what a passage means, but we can take comfort in what we know it doesn’t mean. I know the sanctifying influence is not vicarious faith. In other words, the unsaved is not going to get to heaven on the strength of his wife’s or her husband’s faith, but they are under a sanctifying influence. I know the children aren’t saved because of their parent’s faith. I like what D. L. Moody said one time, “God has no grandchildren; only children. That’s all.” It’s only that first relationship.”
What does 1 Corinthian 14 mean? You can’t take sanctified in the absolute sense. There is only one other way to take it, and that’s in the relative sense; that is that the unbelieving is brought under a sanctifying influence. With a believer in the family there is light in the darkness. There is a testimony there. There’s a chance. Now there is someone to love, to care, to pray and to weep. I think God is saying through Paul, “Don’t be discouraged, wife. I know it’s a hard time in that marriage relationship. You ARE making an impact.” Or He’s saying, “Don’t be discouraged, husband, you ARE making an impact. Live in union with Christ. You ARE making an influence upon those children.” As usual, God doesn’t give you something to do. He gives you something to be. He calls you to be in union with Christ. If you are in that situation, trust God.
I say this carefully but I think it will give credence to what I’m calling attention to; even if the wife dies a martyr at violent hands, it’s a testimony. See, this whole idea of separation, a lot of it is to avoid suffering. Christianity has never stood on that principle of avoiding suffering. Christianity has always spread through the shedding of blood. God says, “Even if the woman or the man suffers, it is still a testimony and she is to live that testimony.” What if He kills me? That’s alright. You’ll go to heaven. You can’t separate. There is no exception to that. You are to trust God and that will be a sanctifying influence. He’s saying, “Don’t be discouraged, wife or husband, because your life lived in union with Christ and drawing on His sustaining grace is going to be a testimony in the life of that unbelieving drunkard or whatever they are.” He’s saying, “Don’t be discouraged, parents, because your life and union with Christ is going to be a testimony to those children.”
1 Peter 3:1, “In the same way, wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.” Oh, how I love that; “Won without a word”! God is a million times more concerned with who we are than with what we say. Marriage is the place that God will best work in hearts. We cannot separate these two things; marriage is a holy, sacred inviolable bond broken only by death; marriage is a wonderful sanctifying influence for good in the hands of the Lord for working salvation in the unbeliever.
There is another illustration the Holy Spirit has given that is very tender and practical. It can be stated in these words; do not separate because it is a bad influence on the children. 1 Corinthians 7:14, “… for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” Remember the context is, “Don’t separate because…” The idea to remain together for the sake of the children is very scriptural. The victims of divorce and separation are often the children. No matter how bad the marriage is, there is more of a sanctifying influence in staying together than in separation. Divorce or separation is a devastation to children. Is it ever is God’s will, for any reason, for a Christian couple to break up. The answer is No! No! No! The marriage contract is a holy, sound, inviolable union. Marriage is also a sanctifying influence. The children are often hurt the most.
What if a person has become a Christian after an unscriptural divorce? Should a Christian remarry someone who has been divorced on scriptural grounds? Should a Christian marry an unsaved person? If a person becomes a Christian after he or she has been divorced on unscriptural grounds, and remarries, what is to be done? It is a fact, that whichever way that person looks, a problem is faced.
1 Corinthians 7:20 “Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.” When the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wrote 1 Corinthians, he faced all sorts of marital snarls. In our American society, we have many marital tangles, but not nearly as many or as bad as they faced in New Testament days. Corinth, morally, was one of the worst places in the world. Immorality was considered to be an act of worship. 1 Corinthians 7:20, I believe, is another way of saying that God deals with us as and where we are, to bring us to the place that He desires for us. God doesn’t deal with an ideal situation when He doesn’t have an ideal situation with which to deal.
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” (1 Corinthians 7:14)
2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
The first is a special case in which it has already been done. My heart goes out in sympathetic love for people who really desire to be right with the Lord now, but they carry all sorts of marital problems from the past. How are they ever going to undo it all? I think the Lord has given a clear principle of guidance. Stay where you are until the Lord makes clear that you ought to make a move. What a stabilizing influence this has been in my life and in my dealings with others. When some tell me of their sad stories, my head begins to swim in a pool of confusion. One might think: “If a person remains in this state, wouldn’t that automatically lead to a light-hearted and frivolous attitude toward marriage and divorce?” I think there are two great safeguards against such an attitude. The first safeguard is a present and total surrender to the Lord. A second safeguard is to accept the fact that there may be a present suffering. Sometimes that is true in the nature of the case; other times, He’ll bring a special chastening.
Should a minister re-marry those who have been divorced on scriptural grounds? Of course, the first question is really, “Should a minister be the one to marry people?” It is not clear at all in the Bible. Many think that is listed in the responsibilities of the Pastor-teacher. It is not! It may be a legal privilege, but it is not a spiritual responsibility. The thing that is 100% clear is, in itself, it is not wrong to do so. That is because, whatever constitutes a scriptural grounds for divorce, also constitutes a scriptural grounds for remarriage.
Here is how many apply it. Some will not marry divorced people because they do not have the means or the time at their disposal to investigate the case, whether or not the divorce was on scriptural grounds. I have found that you cannot always take the couple’s word as being infallible. My own personal policy is that I don’t marry any couple that comes along that asks me to marry them. In fact, I rarely agree to marry people. Under certain circumstances, I might agree to it, but it would be an exception.
Should a Christian perform a marriage ceremony for unbelievers? There are two basic positions on this issue: NOTE: We are not now speaking about the unequal yoke—the saved marrying the unsaved—that is forbidden. But, if there are two unsaved people, is that an equal yoke? Some say yes, that is an equal yoke, because the Lord gave marriage to the human race, not just to Christians. His blessing is on marriage as an institution for the world. Others say no, because when a Christian marries an unbelieving couple, He is, by that act, giving the approval of the church. The unsaved have no right to expect the blessing of the Lord or the approval of Christians.
ILLUSTRATED BY IMMORALITY
(Taken from Ed Miller’s messages #6 & #7 in 1 Corinthians)
“It’s actually reported that there is immorality among you; immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. And you have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who has done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I on my part, though absent in body but present in Spirit, has already judged him who has committed this, as though I was present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled and I am with you in Spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened, for Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the feast, not with old leaven with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people. I did not at all mean with the immoral people of the world or with the covetous or swindlers or idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother, if he should be an immoral person or covetous or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or a swindler; not even to eat with such a one. But what do I have to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? Those who are outside God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)
The message of Corinthians is the message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The church at Corinth was bogged down with many kinds of problems. Instead of giving surface answers, the Holy Spirit turned their eyes straight away to the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit showed that when they were right with the Lord they were also right in all of the horizontal relationships of life. Once we are right vertically, then we’re right horizontally. The problems mentioned in the book of 1 Corinthians were representative problems; division, impurity, differences, marriage, questionable practices, abuse of spiritual gifts and false teaching. In Corinthians you have touched on every problem that is possible for any church. The Holy Spirit just allowed it to take place in one church so that we would everlastingly have the answer to every problem we’ll ever face. To all of these problems Corinth found Christ unqualifiedly enough. Through our union with Christ as Lord we have the solution to every problem whether corporate or individual.
The first thing I want to do is to nail down exactly what the problem was that the Holy Spirit is calling attention to here. 1 Corinthians 5:1, “It’s actually reported that there is immorality among you; an immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.” That expression, “Someone has his father’s wife,” you might take that and say, “The problem is easy; it’s the problem of incest,” and certainly that’s the sin mentioned here. In Leviticus 18:8, and Deuteronomy 22:30, it was forbidden by the Lord for a man to take his father’s wife. The Greek form of the verb used here is that it was an act which was continuing; this isn’t something that the man suddenly had a onetime act with his stepmother. This man at the time it was written was living in that continual relationship with his stepmother as if they were married.
It would be a shocking thing if this was a sin anywhere, but this was a sin in the church among the people of God, among those who claim to know and to love the Lord, and it was out in the open. So, you look at chapter 5 and say, “Oh, that’s easy. God is going to deal with the sin of incest.” If you think that’s the problem, then you haven’t read this chapter carefully because that’s not the problem in this chapter. You see, incest is not the point; it’s the illustration of the point. The Holy Spirit selected this very base, vile and degrading kind of a sin because it illustrates all kinds of immorality—
Notice chapter 5:6, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of doe?” The problem, if you were to state it in general in Corinth was not incest. It was leaven. Incest was an illustration of it, but the problem was bigger than incest. It was all immorality and all the sins of the flesh; fornication, adultery, incest and any degree of the sins of the flesh, whether it was lust, licentiousness, obscenity or lewdness in any degree whatsoever or perverseness. Matter of fact, Paul gives his own list. Look at chapter 6:9, “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” He’s still talking in the same context. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” He’s including a lot more that the sin of incest.
Well, if you see the problem as impurity, that’s not really what it’s about either. It’s true that incest was the issue; the illustration. And it’s true that incest stood as the representative sin of the whole leaven of the flesh, every kind of impurity and immorality, but that’s not the problem and that’s not why the Holy Spirit recorded this chapter. The problem was the Christians’ heart attitude toward the problem of immorality illustrated by the sin of incest. How were they responding to it? How did the Christians feel about having immorality in their midst? God is concerned with the influence that this thing is having on the body and on the people of God.
Notice in chapter 5:2, “You’ve become arrogant and have not mourned, instead.” Notice the same thing in verse 6, “Your boasting is not good.” This arrogance and this boasting is not like it was in the previous chapter when they were boasting about their spiritual gifts and were filled with spiritual pride because they were so blessed and gifted. That’s not what he’s talking about here. They have immorality in their midst and he says that your arrogance is not good and your boasting is not good. These Corinthians (and they are in a sense babes), this church, in spite of all their problems, they loved our Lord Jesus Christ. This church really had a heart for the Lord. It’s true they had plenty of problems, but behind it all there was a passion, a heart that was beating for the Lord Jesus Christ. When you read, “Your boasting is not good,” don’t think that they were proud that they had a sinner and thinking they were wonderful.
In order to get this across I’m going to ask you to play a game with me and use your imagination. I think all of us have had enough experiences in church meetings to enter into something like this. In your mind’s eye I want you to come into a church meeting that took place in Corinth. It didn’t really take place (it might have) but this is my own idea. We’ll name a certain brother “Brother Blewit” because he had some problems. They call a special meeting together and they say, “Brothers and sisters, we have a problem. We’ve got to discuss this. As you know, Brother Blewit is living with his father’s wife and then on the Lord’s Day he comes into fellowship and he breaks bread with us and he sings songs with us and he’s just pretending that this doesn’t bother him and I don’t know what we should do. We can’t allow this thing to go on. What are we going to do?”
So, Christian A raises his hand and says, “I don’t have all the answers but I know the first thing. Let’s pray and pray and pray for Brother Blewit. We’ll agree together as the body and call on the name of the Lord.” Sometimes they pray, “Lord, make him so miserable that he can’t sleep until he gets a repentant heart. Or just make him restless and make him feel rotten until he turns to Jesus. Or just influence his will and bring him back.” Christian B puts up his hand and says, “Well, that sounds good and we ought to do that, but just because Brother Blewit is backsliding, we can’t just forsake him. He’s got real problems. He’s just like us. He’s made out of the same clay we’re made out of, and if he ever needed us, he needs us now. We can’t forsake him. This is a delicate time in his life. Whatever we decide in this meeting can make or break him. Let’s walk softly, brethren, and think about what should be done. We want to save him and don’t want to lose him. He needs our compassion and our understanding.”
Christian C puts up his hand and says, “Brother B is right. Who are we to judge? Given the same circumstances and under the same temptation, we don’t know all that went on, we could find ourselves there just as well. So, we’ve got to love him and stand by him. We can’t kick a man when he’s down. He doesn’t have anyone else. He’s only got us. He’s got to know that we care.” Finally another Christian says, “God is sovereign and God is able to deal with this man and He has strange ways of doing it. We’ll give it over to the Lord, and we’ll stay out of it and God will handle it in God’s way in God’s time.” So, the chairman gets up and says, “Let’s see what we’ve come up with. We’re going to pray, and we’re going to have compassion and understanding, and we’re going to love him, and we’re going to let God deal with it. All in favor?” And they vote. When the vote was taken it was all “ayes”. So, the attitude of the Corinthian Church was to treat him as a fallen brother, to love him, to embrace him, not to condemn him, try to understand, try to enter in and to try to be compassionate; so when he came to the service he was welcomed, he was hugged, he was loved and he was involved and he sang, etc.
Whatever you say about the Corinthians, be careful before you say that’s all bad. Their hearts were okay. The thing that they were arrogant and proud about was the way they handled the situation. They were feeling proud because they had such a heart of compassion not to condemn this man, where other Christians might have just thrown him out on his ear. They were proud because at least they reached out in some kind of humanity and compassion. They felt very generous and good to be able to exhibit what they considered to be a Christ-like spirit of a forgiving heart. They were not harboring any kind of animosity or vindictiveness, and they weren’t trying to destroy this person. They just wanted to love him and let God deal with him.
What was God’s revelation to the Christians at Corinth? In one word—separation. It must have been shocking for the loving hearted Corinthians who felt so liberal and so compassionate to hear in verse 2, “The one who has done this deed must be removed,” and in verse 5, “Deliver him over to Satan,” verse 7, “Clean out the old leaven,” verse 9, “Do not associate with immoral people,” verse 11, “Do not associate with any so-called brother,” and verse 13, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Their method sounded so much more spiritual; “We’ll pray, we’ll love, we’ll have understanding, we’ll have compassion, we’ll embrace him,” and then God says, “Kick him out; throw him out.” The Holy Spirit gives the Corinthians this revelation, “Excommunicate him from the fellowship. Throw him out.” Unlike the meeting at the Church of Corinth the Holy Spirit didn’t even say to pray for him.
One reason that God doesn’t enjoin us to pray for the backslider is because the backslider is unwilling; God has promised that He would never coerce a will or strong arm anybody. When you ask God to work in someone’s life who is not willing you are asking God to do what He has promised He wouldn’t do. It’s really a waste of time because God is not going to strong arm the unwilling. God’s answer is not prayer and it’s not love and it’s not compassion. It’s discipline; be strong with separation and excommunication. If there was ever a neglected principle in the body of Christ, here it is—the principle of discipline. Toleration and compromise seems to be everywhere among the people of God. This chapter does not contradict Corinthians chapter 4, “Don’t judge motives; don’t look into each other’s heart and judge one another.” This is not a case of motives here. This is fruit. This is outward. This is a clear violation of an objective precept of God. This is a deliberate violation and rebellion against God’s revelation. This is not a questionable practice. There is nothing questionable about this, “Thou shalt not…” It’s clear.
Church discipline and restoration
In order to make this practical let me show you exactly what the Corinthians were to do and why. The Corinthians were to act as a unit, as a body, as a group, both in discipline and later on in restoration to bring this brother back. The whole church was to take a united stand against this “so-called brother”. In verse 9 & 11 they were not to associate with him. Matter of fact in verse 11 the last phrase says, “Not even to eat with such a one.” Can you imagine what would go through the mind of a Christian if every single Christian he knew isolated themselves from him and said, “I don’t want anything to do with you?” This is more than a cold shoulder. This is a complete separation of fellowship and a complete breaking of the bond of fellowship; no association, no fellowship, no communication and not with just one or two but with all Christians everywhere.
In verse 10 he points out that he’s not talking about the unsaved. He’s talking about the “so-called brother”. He said in verse 10, “If you are going to cut yourself off from the unsaved, you have to get off the planet.” You’d have to leave the world. But he’s talking about the “so-called brother”. Of course, verse 5 is the big verse in this chapter and the commentators have written books on it. “I’ve decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit might be saved in the day of Jesus Christ.” Some commentators believe that means physical death, “The destruction of his flesh,” actually causing him to die like Ananias and Sapphira; struck down because of their sin. Others say, “No, it’s not that. It’s the flesh as sinful appetite. In other words, if he wants to live like Satan, let him go live with Satan. If he’s going to live that way, then don’t let him think and pretend that he’s a Christian. If he’s going to live like the devil, then cut him loose. Take down all of the external forms and all the shambles; don’t give him a curtain to hide behind. Maybe when he’s out there caught between two worlds, if he’s a real Christian, he’ll be miserable because he won’t be able to be at home with the unsaved.”
When they read that letter of Paul, did they finally kick him out? The answer is that they did. They broke all the lines of communication with the brother, and they threw him out into the world, and they cut him off and said, “We are not going to fellowship with you at all.” The Spirit of God gives us the details. Living among the unsaved, this man could not bear it. He was crushed under the sense of his sin and was devastated being broken off from the fellowship of God’s people. He repented and came back to God, and back to the Church of Corinth, and they said, “No way; you are out.” The church went way beyond. They did a good job, but now they weren’t ready to take him back, even after he repented. So, God writes a second letter,
“If any has caused sorrow, he’s caused sorrow not to me but in some degree in order not to say too much to all of you; sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority. So, on the contrary you should forgive and comfort him.” (2 Corinthians 2:5)
In chapter 5 he said to kick him out and give him to Satan. Now he’s saying to forgive him, less somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
“Wherefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love to him, for to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. To whom you forgive anything, I forgive also. For indeed what I forgive and I’ve forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan. We aren’t ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:8-11)
They were to discipline as a single unit. They were then commanded to restore as a single unit. The reason was in verse 7, “Or else he will be overwhelmed with too much sorrow. He’ll be crushed by it.” You see, the sinning brother has got to have an end to his sin sometime. He’s got to see an end. There’s got to be a time when he can put the whole mess behind him and say that it’s all over and it’s all done. That’s what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 2:10 when he says, “Whom you forgive, I forgive, too.” The whole body forgives at one time. If you forgive him, then I forgive him. If this group over here forgives him, then the whole body forgives him at one time.
Of course, we have a problem today. In Paul’s day the body was one; the church was one. They moved as one and they acted as one, and they didn’t have a church on every corner. In our day it’s like a checkered board. We have denominational squares. We have denominations on a corner here and one uptown and one downtown and all around the town. You can have a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Pentecostal, a Church of God or something else, so that if a brother sins in square A and you say, “Get out,” he’ll say, “Big deal; I’ll go to square B.” So, he goes down to that church and has great fellowship and if they kick him out he can go to square F. So, there’s a problem today because we have denominationalism. The body is not one. It doesn’t move as one and doesn’t act as one. I believe with all of my heart that it’s one of the greatest pains in the heart of the Lord Jesus. God never intended that there be this checkerboard; that there be these sectarian walls of division. He wanted His people to be one. Some have seen an intrinsic evil in all these denominational walls, so they say, “Well, I’m pulling out and I’ll start my own.” And they start a non-denominational denomination which just adds to the problem.
You can’t just throw out chapter 5 because it doesn’t work out. It’s got to work because it’s God’s method. There are certain things that are true in man’s eyes but God doesn’t see it that way. When God doesn’t see it that way He’s right and we’re wrong. For example, man says that there is a difference between laymen and clergy. You can thumb through the Bible all you want and aren’t going to see a difference between laymen and clergy. Man made that up and pumped up the clergy. The clergy is up there and the laymen are down there. God doesn’t see or recognize that. In our judicial system we have passed some laws making certain things right, like killing babies. Some say it’s right because the government says it’s right. Well, God says it’s not right. I don’t care what laws are passed. God’s right. God does not recognize the laws made by our wonderful judicial system when they violate His principles.
We are believers. We are not Baptists or Presbyterians or Catholic or Pentecostal; we are a Christian. Praise God that’s all we are! Those other things God doesn’t recognize. Don’t try to start a new one. Just ignore those like they don’t exist and be one with all the people that are one, and I don’t care where they go to church or where they fellowship or where they assemble. If they know and love Jesus, and you know and love Jesus, you are one body with them. Ignore those walls and sectarian divisions. We need to begin to act and move as one. We need to discipline as one and we need to respond as one. We’re not going to have the absolute power that they had there because it was all one, but we will have a relative influence which is very powerful in the restoring of a backslider.
That’s what they were to do. Why? God gives two simple reasons. The first reason was because that’s God’s only sure fire method to bring back the backslider. On the level of earth that sounds so hard and cruel. It’s like kicking a man when he’s down. Do you realize if you really love the backslider you would use God’s solution to deal with them? God says that the way to bring them back is to break fellowship with them. Do you realize that if you aren’t doing that it’s because you hate him or because you want to hurt him? That’s God’s means. If you don’t use that means, he’s going to become hardened in his iniquity as he sees you tolerating it. He’s not going to see that it’s all that bad. God says that you’ve got to deal with him. The greatest kindness that you could ever show a backslider, and I’m not talking about judging, I’m talking about those who have deliberately and willfully violated and rebelled against objective principles, is to cut them off in order that they might come back. 1 Corinthians 5:5, “That his spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus.”
The second purpose is 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, not only does that method bring him back, but that method is designed to purify the body; purify the group, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of doe? Clean out the old leaven,” (not for him), “that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened; for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us.” Later I want to show you how the Christian life is the Feast of Unleavened bread and how Christ is our Passover. For now just understand the double purpose of discipline; as a purpose in the life of one who is being disciplined and as a purifying influence in the body that is disciplining him. It purifies and makes us holy.
There are no “carnal Christians”
Let me show you three principles on how the Holy Spirit dealt with impurity in that day. I’m going to ask you to turn to 1 Corinthians 5:11, the expression “so-called brother” and then chapter 6:9, “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” And then he gives the great list that we’ve read, and he says again in verse 10, “They shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” The first principle—this is how He did it then, how He’ll do it now and how He’ll always do it—is that the Holy Spirit deals with the backslider as if he were unsaved. This is a very important principle. The idea that is sometimes taught is this; looking at a backslider and saying, “Oh, he’s just a carnal Christian. There’s two kinds of Christians. There’s spiritual Christians and there’s carnal Christians.” There are NOT two roads to heaven. There’s one road to heaven and it’s a spiritual road. The carnal road leads to hell and not to heaven, and is not going to inherit the kingdom of God.
What He’s talking about is the main direction of a life. Every Christian is going to have a degree of carnality. You are going to sin. He’s not saying that you aren’t going to sin. But if the main direction of your life is sin, is against God and is rebellion, then you have no reason to believe that you are saved. Paul would not call this man “brother”. He said “so-called brother”. Be real careful before you divide up the carnal Christian and say, “It’s okay that you live a carnal life; at least you got saved when you were a kid in Sunday school. You blew your life, but at least you are going to heaven.” Be careful about that. Maybe with God in His mercy you might arrive but don’t take any kind of assurance from the word of God on something like that.
Listen to a couple of these verses; 1 John 2:3&4, “The one who says, ‘I’ve come to know him and does not keep His commandments is a liar.’” It doesn’t say that he is a carnal Christian. He’s a liar and, “the truth is not in him.” John 10, “My sheep hear My voice; I know them and they follow Me.” One sign of Christ’s sheep is that they follow Him. If you don’t follow Him, you are not His sheep. See, that’s the direction of your life. Paul didn’t give that wishy-washy teaching that, “Oh well, some are carnal and they are just going to live in sin and some are spiritual.” No, he said, “If he lives like the devil, then he belongs with the devil, so put him out there. If he’s going to live that way, don’t give him any excuse. Get rid of all the external and if he’s truly saved he’ll come back. If he doesn’t come back, he didn’t lose his salvation. He never had it. That’s what the Bible says. 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us because they were not of us. If they were of us they would have continued with us. But because they went out from us, it’s manifest that they were not of us.”
This man isn’t going to lose his salvation. If he’s truly saved he’ll be back. If he doesn’t come back, he didn’t lose his salvation. He never had it. Don’t let them think that you think they are Christians. You can’t judge their hearts and say, “You are unsaved.” You can just say that the Bible says, “Those who live that way are going to hell. So, you have a problem. You better repent and come back to God.” God puts those warnings in there on purpose.
Our bodies are for the Lord
“All things are lawful for me but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food but God will do away with both of them. Yet, the body is not for immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body.” (1Corinthians 6:12)
When the Apostle through the Holy Spirit deals with impurity He stresses the purpose of the human body; a very strong weapon against impurity. We’re accustomed to think of our salvation in a spiritual way, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.” Indeed He is the Savior of your soul! Is He the Savior of your spirit? Indeed He is! But He’s also the Savior of your body.
1 Corinthians 6:13, “The body is not for immorality but for the Lord and the Lord is for the body.” Isn’t that a precious thing to realize; at any moment my body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for my body? What a holy purpose and what a tremendous design! Your body wasn’t made for sex. It was made for Jesus. Your body wasn’t made for its beauty or its dexterity. God put all of that in your body because He made your body for Him. It’s designed to illustrate spiritual things. The Holy Spirit knew that by stressing the purpose of the human body, that He’d have a strong influence on holiness and morality. Notice 1 Corinthians 6:19&20, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own. You have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” Verse 15, “Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ. Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be?” Our bodies are not for themselves, and they are not for our families, and they are not for our pleasure, and certainly they are not for sin. They are for Jesus. The body is for the Lord.
Our bodies are members of Christ
There is a third thing that the Holy Spirit stresses. He’s going to show the precious truth of union with Christ. Could anything be more precious than being united to our Lord Jesus Christ? Do you know what He’s going to illustrate it with? Union with a harlot. Chapter 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! Do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her, for He says, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one Spirit with Him.” This is one of the greatest single passages on union with Christ in the entire Bible, and he contrasts it with this sin of immorality. When he uses the word “joined” it’s a strong Greek word which means that they are glued and cemented together. The Greek word for “temple” here is a very precious word “naos” and it refers to that inner sanctuary called “the Holy of Holies”. It says we are His temple; the Holy of Holies of the Lord.
When you read in the Old Testament about the tabernacle and the temple, why do think it was made out of badger skin? God was saying to His people in picture form, “I want to live in a house of skin.” May I suggest what that house of skin is? It’s you and me. In the Old Testament once a year the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies. Nobody else could go in. Can you imagine when that day came, Leviticus 16, and the high priest went into the Holy of Holies, what would you think if he went behind the curtain and dragged a maiden with him and committed immorality in from of the Ark of the Covenant? You might say, “I can’t believe anybody would do such a thing. Imagine going into the Holy of Holies and committing immorality.”
That’s just a picture. YOU are the Holy of Holies, you are the temple, and every time you are immoral in your body it’s like dragging a woman or a man behind the curtain and going before the Ark of the Covenant and committing immorality in the presence of God. When Paul dealt with immorality he dealt with it by showing the church that carnality is not the road to heaven, and by showing the people of God that their bodies were made for the Lord, and by calling attention to the great truth of union with Jesus Christ, that we ARE the Holy of Holies. Do you see how that ties in with the message of Corinthians and the Lordship of Christ? If He was Lord of their body there would be no problems. He brings you right back to that. He wants to be the undisputed Lord of your body. Whatever you do in word and deed, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and you are bought with a price. “Therefore,” as He says at the end, “glorify God in your body.”
Leaven is our attitude toward sin
“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of doe? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump; just as you are in fact unleavened; for Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the feast, not with old leaven nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
The Holy Spirit gives a double illustration in order to give a full answer to the problem of impurity. First He gives us the picture of leaven and then He gives us the picture of the Passover and the feast that was associated with the Passover. All through the Bible God uses leaven as a picture because leaven had the power to permeate and assimilate. Leaven is yeast that is in bread and makes the bread rise. You put a little yeast in a lump of doe and it will spread through the doe and transforms the doe. The Holy Spirit is calling attention to the fact that a little bit spreads, goes a long way and assimilates.
What is the leaven? Many say, “That’s easy. Just look at how the chapter ends in verse 13, ‘Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.’ It’s that guy who committed incest. He was the leaven. See, the church was a lump of doe and this old leaven was in there. Throw him out and then we’ll be a good lump again. We’ve got to get rid of the leaven and get rid of that sinner and get rid of that incest.” In the context, the man who committed incest is not the leaven; that’s not what He’s talking about. That man is not the leaven. Fact is, the leaven is not even sin. I’m glad of that. Have you ever come up in your own life against a brick wall where you thought you had to get rid of your sin? Have you ever tried to get rid of leaven or try to quit sinning? I’m glad the leaven in this passage is not sin and I’m glad that it’s not this man. You can’t purge out leaven if leaven was sin; you can’t stop being proud or all of a sudden quit feeling bitter or unloving toward somebody. Try to quench a lust and see if it’s going to work. You can’t control your sin or purge out leaven. The problem is not incest or this guy that sinned. It’s not sin.
The problem with this chapter was their attitude toward sin. The leaven, according to the context, is the spirit that was in their hearts that tolerated sin. It was their heart attitude toward sin. You can’t purge out leaven, but in your heart you can have the desire to not have it there; to have the willingness to not want it. It was their attitude toward it that became the leaven. One way you see that is by looking at the opposite and saying, “What’s unleavened?” In 1 Corinthians 5:8, it tells you, “but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Unleavened is sincerity and truth. That’s all. It’s nothing deep. He’s just saying, “I want your heart real and true. As you see all of these things in your life that don’t belong there, you’ve got to have a heart that is unleavened; a heart that is real. The word for sincerity that’s used in the Greek is very strong; it means “judged in the sunlight as true”. The whole lump will be corrupted if our attitude toward sin is not right and not judged in the sunlight.
One time or another we all probably thought the leaven was sin and we tried to purge out sin, and tried to quit smoking or drinking or swearing or tried to quit losing our temper or tried to quit being impatient or selfish. You can’t quit those things. If leaven is sin, then salvation is by works. It’s not sin; leaven is your attitude toward sin. Thousands of Christians are trying to purge leaven, but if your attitude is one of sincerity and truth and you’ve got a heart that says, “Lord you’ve got to deal with the sin but I want to be real; I don’t want this thing and I don’t want to tolerate it,” then God will deal with the sin. Then, of course, it’s by pure grace and God says, “We’ll be a new lump.”
Look at 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” In my Bible I underscored these words to get the point of this, “that you may be just as you are.” When you put yeast in a lump of doe and it begins to do its work, is there any possibility of taking the yeast out of the doe once it has started? What does it mean to purge out the leaven and you’ll be a new lump? It’s all based on the truth that you see there that in Christ we ARE unleavened; every one of us. That’s what He says there to the Corinthians, “You are in fact unleavened.” Every Corinthian and every Christian IS already unleavened in Christ. If you are born again you are unleavened.
That’s how God sees you. But then you look at your own life and say, “I don’t see myself as unleavened; I see myself as a sour lump of doe and getting worse.” So, the Holy Spirit calls attention in verse 7 to what you look like in your eyes and what you look like in God’s eyes, and then He prays that you “may be what you are”; that you may be in your eyes what you are in God’s eyes. That’s all the Christian life is; it’s becoming what we are. We are already unleavened in Christ Jesus, no matter what we see. How can I become a new lump? It’s when I change my attitude about sin. The new lump is saying, “I want a fresh start and start all over; a fresh beginning.” God loves to give His people a fresh start. Nothing delights Him more. If it was progressive, we could never be a new lump because you can’t take the old lump and take the leaven out. But because it’s already settled in heaven, you ARE new leaven at any moment when your heart attitude changes and you start all over and become like you already are. You purge the old leaven by having a heart attitude that doesn’t tolerate sin.
Passover Feast – Separation is first unto God
From this point the Holy Spirit slides into the second illustration, “For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the feast.” The chief principle of the Passover was to show that Israel belonged to God. Israel had been in Egypt for about four hundred years. They were slaves. Israel was their master and Egypt said, “Israel belongs to me.” God said, “No, Israel belongs to me.” God said, “That’s my firstborn son. Egypt, let My people go; let My firstborn son go.” You know the story. Egypt refused to do it and that’s why God smote their firstborn; because they wouldn’t let His firstborn go. God set His people free by power, illustrated by the plagues, and by blood, illustrated by the Passover lamb.
There were two pictures in the Passover and this is where Paul brings it into Corinth and into our lives; two aspects of the Passover that show Christ as our Passover. The first is the lamb slain and the second is the lamb fed upon. Both have to do with our Christian life. The blood of the lamb not only had to be shed, but according to the record it had to be personally applied. When they killed the lamb they caught the blood in a big basin, took a hyssop branch and painted the outside of their doorways; the two sides and the overhead. As the angel of death went by He would see the blood and everybody in the house would be safe, no matter how much they trembled or how much they feared. That was the first part and most Christians have seen Christ as the Passover lamb. Most Christians have come that far. They say, “Yes, there must be a lamb and he must be slain and I must personally apply His blood in order that I might be saved.” You have to know that much to get saved. The problem with the Corinthians is that they only had half a revelation of Christ as their Passover. They didn’t have the other half.
Let me continue the story from Exodus. There was not only the lamb slain, which made them safe, but then there was the lamb fed upon. Thousands of Christians have never entered into this second phase of the revelation of Christ as Passover. We need to feed upon the lamb.
So connected were the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, sometimes it’s just called “The Feast of the Passover”. They blend together and flow together. 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed; let us, therefore, celebrate the feast, not with old leaven or the leaven of malice and wickedness, but the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” God was calling attention to the fact that salvation is not only deliverance from; it’s also deliverance unto.
If you ask any Christian to give his testimony he’ll probably say, “God saved me from… from sin… from drunkenness… from this and from that.” Well, praise God that it’s deliverance from, but that wasn’t the purpose of getting them out of Egypt, so that they’d be out of Egypt. God said, “I’m going to deliver them unto; unto Me. I’m going to show them that they belong to Me and that they are My people.” The whole idea is, “I’m separated and holy unto God, and I don’t want to live a slipshod life. I want to be separated.” Well, God is calling attention in this chapter on purity, that He wants us separated. But separation is not primarily from. Separation is primarily separation unto.
Someone says, “I’m a separated Christian. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t dance, I don’t go to theaters and I don’t do this or do that.” You may be all those things and not be separated if you are not separated unto God; that’s the foundation. The fact is, you can’t be separated unto God without being separated from, but if you first start to be separated from, that’s going to be backwards and is works again. God wanted to show that Christians belong to Him. In Corinth they only had half of the Passover, and only had the lamb slain but not the lamb fed upon. So, their Christian life was a funeral dirge and not a party.
God compares the whole Christian to a Feast of Unleavened Bread. It’s a holy dinner and a feast without leaven, based on Christ our Passover sacrificed for us. The average Christian doesn’t begin to know what it means to feed on Jesus. They are feeding on doctrine or on their local fellowship or on Christian service or the attributes of God, but not God Himself. I believe all of this was in the Apostle’s mind when he brings up leaven, the Passover and the feast, and when he compares the Christian life to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Holiness depends on Him; He’s the lamb slain. The main message of Corinthians and the message for us as Christians both corporately and individually is the message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth! Lord Jesus, may we have ears to hear!
Because so many Christians are turning to human and “Christian” psychology and various counselors for help in marriage, sex, divorce, and separation, etc., the following chapters are included here with messages Ed has given warning about the danger of human psychology and worldly wisdom, and about the danger of listening to our conscience. There is a heavenly psychology our Lord has provided for every issue in our lives. Ed’s message concerning the conscience is a helpful adjunct to the one on heavenly psychology.
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #8 in Philippians)
Psychology in its basic simplicity is a legitimate study. It’s a study of human behavior; observing how people act, what they do, when they do it and what effects the things they do. It’s observing human behavior. I have no problem when psychologists observe human behavior; “this happens and this happens and this happens.” They can observe all they want and write it down, but when they try to interpret, that’s when psychology goes off the rails, because they leave out sin, they leave out God, and they leave out conscience. In their trying to understand they end up going back to some childhood experience that needs to be discovered or removed. May God deliver us from the psychologists, human or Christian, who say, “Okay, I’ll discover your problem. You weren’t nursed when you were a little baby and you had a bad childhood. Your parents were abusive, you had a bad environment, didn’t have the necessary opportunities, doors weren’t open to you and you didn’t have any money,” and all of the rest of that psycho-babble. We don’t need it as Christians. It’s the same thing with the archaeologists. Let them dig up the bones. Just don’t interpret them. Let God interpret the bones. I bring this up because the Bible reveals the psychology of our Lord Jesus Christ; His behavior and why He did the things that He did. In every way it’s a heavenly psychology.
The psychology of our Lord Jesus is 180 degrees the opposite of the psychology of those living on the earth which does not follow God’s plan. The interests that our Lord set His heart and mind on determined His behavior, His comport, His walk and His carriage. May God help us! In order that we can understand the heart of God and discover what is the mind, disposition and attitude that He had, and that we are to have, I want you to be patient with me, please. I want to begin on the low, low, low level of earth; you need to see a contrast. I want to show you psychology as the world interprets it.
The psychologists tell us that they have observed men and women, humanity, do things because they are motivated by something. If you weren’t motivated you would never do anything. You would just vegetate. You’ve got to have a motivation. So, that is one of their early observations. I scratch because I itch. There’s a motivation. I eat because I’m hungry. There’s a motivation. Everything we do has a motivation. For the sake of simplicity I’m going to call this a “drive”. A drive comes from within and every person in the world, with no exception, has needs and, therefore, we have drives.
You can break it up into body, soul and spirit. There are body needs; I need air, food and rest. God has given legitimate needs to the body. Sex is a body need, as well as exercise and comfort. Your soul has needs. I want to be wanted. I want to be appreciated and loved. I want to belong and be honored. I want to be exalted. I want to acquire. Those are soul needs. The spirit needs I’m going to set aside because we’ll come back to that. Every person has needs—a drive.
The second thing psychologists have observed is that there must be an incentive, a drive toward something. The drive is always inside and the incentive is always outside. So, I have an inward drive to get something. If I’m hungry and look and see my favorite food, a devil dog, then that is the incentive. If my need is rest, my incentive is my lazy boy chair or the bed or vacation. There’s always a drive and there’s always an incentive. If the drive is biological and is sex, then it’s a man or a woman. If it’s a true Christian, it’s a man and a woman desiring the will of God. This is human behavior.
If the drive is a desire to be exalted, I’ll probably try to get some position or get on the public stage so people can see me and know me; or I’ll write a book or something like that. So far, so good; the psychologist say there’s a drive and there’s an incentive. But the psychologist has also observed that sometimes there’s a block and my drive can’t get to my incentive. So now, I’ve either got to go through that block or over it or around it or under it. If I’m hungry I go to the refrigerator and if I notice there are no cold cuts, I’m blocked. Now I’ve got to react. If I want an education and get the letter, and they say that I didn’t make the grade and I’m not accepted, I had a drive, there was an incentive but it was blocked. So I’ll have a reaction. That’s human behavior.
I want security and my company is sizing down or there is some unforeseen expense or my insurance is running out, there’s a block. The psychologist observes and records what happens when there is a drive, an incentive and a block. The psychologists have noted that there are four kinds of blocks. I hate to just give you human psychology, but it’s important. You can be blocked by people; your boss, your spouse, your kids, your neighbor, teacher, coach, brother, sister and elders. Sometimes the blocks are circumstances; a car breaks down or the phone rings just at that time and somebody comes to the door. Maybe there’s somebody you love that you need to take care of and it’s draining your resources.
The law is a block to some people. If what you are doing is not legal, it’s a block. If you get pulled over by a state trooper, you’re blocked. If you are called to jury duty, you’re blocked. And sometimes the blocks are a personal weakness. I’m too old and can’t do it. I’m too weak. I’m not healthy enough. I don’t have the energy to do it. I’m not smart enough. I’m not creative enough. That’s the observations of the psychologists; people, circumstances, law and personal weakness. That’s how the world works. There’s incentives, drives and blocks.
Then the psychologist says, “Now, let’s observe what happens if there’s a drive, an incentive and a block, and you can’t reach it.” They observe that there’s always two things that take place. Number one, every time there’s a block, there’s an emotional reaction. There has to be. They haven’t interpreted it yet; they’ve just observe it. There’s always an emotional reaction. Sometimes it’s happy and sometimes it’s not happy. They can go from a smile to a rage, depending on what the block is. Now, stay with me because this is important at this point.
Human behavior; I’ve got to deal with the block. The psychologist calls this an “adjustment”. I’ve got to adjust to the block. And so, they’ve given us a list. You can look it up in any psychology book. Some people adjust by compensation. If you went to the refrigerator and the cold cuts were gone and you’ve been blocked, you say, “Alright “I’ll have peanut butter. It doesn’t matter. I’ll just compensate.” If you got rejected at college you say, “So what! There’s other colleges.” “They weren’t that kind at me at my church, so I’ll go to another church.” It’s compensation. It happens every day, thousands of times a day. I have a drive, there’s an incentive, I go and if I’m blocked I have an emotional reaction. My girlfriend dropped me and I say, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea. I don’t need her.”
Some people don’t compensate; they rationalize. They have a drive, there’s an incentive and a block, and they say, “You know, I didn’t really want that anyway.” They claim that if things had been different, they could have done it and done it a lot better than anyone else. Christians that have that kind of a block, they might say, “It’s the will of God. God closed the door.” There’s a drive, an incentive, a block. However, some blocks just won’t move. Then what happens? So, the psychologists continue to observe. Some people who can’t get through the block just drop out altogether. I went to a mental hospital to visit a friend of mine who was sitting in a chair with a stick and string and a pail. He was fishing. He was in a catatonic stupor. Something had come into his life that he couldn’t take, and he just dropped out.
Some people go to visualization and they daydream; “I can get rich and I can picture a nice car and house,” and they drop out of reality. They are trying to compensate because they don’t have what it takes. They want what it takes, they’ve been blocked, so they try to get around it, over it or through it. If they don’t compensate, if they don’t visualize or rationalize, then the psychologists say that they try to cope. Some people can’t cope unless they are drunk or go on drugs. They’re trying to cope and they can’t.
Some people hide in noise; they want it loud. Some people run to pleasure or run to a crowd and try to get lost. Sometimes the adjustments are so bad that they are called “maladjustments” by the psychologists. They’re trying to get through the blocks and can’t and it can drive them into an institution. They have a psychosis, a “mental breakdown”, or they become schizophrenic with two personalities. They are trying to circumvent the block, or break it down or go around or through it. Some become neurotic. They can actually get paralyzed because they can’t function.
Some maladjustments are called “manias”. Some people set fires. Some can’t go into closed places. Sometimes they become delusional. They are afraid of spaces. They turn to phobias. They fear people, fear men, fear women, fear children, fear babies, fear priests. Some fear animals; dogs, wild animals, cats or spiders. All of this is because they had a drive, there was an incentive, they got blocked, they couldn’t get around it, it wouldn’t pay to compensate and it wouldn’t pay to rationalize, and they had to do something. So, they lie, cheat and steal, and they oppress and kill. Sometimes, if they can’t get around it, they jump from a building or a bridge or put a gun to their head. That’s human psychology.
Let me get to the psychology of heaven. Did our Lord Jesus have a drive? He’s human. Did He have a drive?
“Now they’ve come to know that everything you’ve given me is from You. The words You gave me I’ve given to them.” (John 17:7&8)
“He Who sent Me is with Me; He has not left me alone. I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me to accomplish his work.” (John 8:29)
Did Jesus have a drive? The answer is “yes”; but it wasn’t horizontal toward the level of earth. He didn’t go after earthly incentives. Here is heavenly psychology, brothers and sisters in Christ. He went vertical. He wanted to please His Father and honor Him and do His will. He didn’t want to do anything on His own initiative. He didn’t have any words that were His own. Everything He did was to make His Father happy.
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.’” (John 5:19)
“Even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, the reproaches that reproach Thee fell upon Me.” (Romans 15:3)
“Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; I honor My Father. You dishonor Me; I do not seek My glory. There’s One Who seeks and judges.’” (John 8:49)
“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe in Me.” (John 10:37)
“He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain hear and keep watch.’ And He went beyond them and fell on His face and He prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not as I will, but as You will.’” (Matthew 26:38&39)
Jesus had one drive and one incentive, and His heart was set and focused; that was the mind that was in Christ Jesus, the disposition that was in Christ Jesus, “I just want His will. I just want to please Him.”
Did He ever get hungry? Matthew 4:4, “He answered and said, ‘It is written; man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds..’” Certainly He was hungry. He was human, but He had only one drive. If God wanted Him to eat, He’d eat; if He didn’t, he wouldn’t. John 6:57, “As the living Father sent Me and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he will also live because of Me.” For Christ to live was His Father. For me to live is Christ. For you to live is Christ. How simple this is!
Did our Lord Jesus ever get blocked? Were there ever any people or circumstances that got in His way? Do you remember when He cleansed the temple and He had all the religious community in His way? Talk about a block; how about the cross? He had one incentive. Remember when they were going to throw him off the cliff? Luke 4:28, “And all the people of the synagogue were filled with rage when they heard these things. They got up and drove Him out of the city and led him to the brow of the hill by which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down from the cliff; but passing through their midst, He went His way.”
Do you see the heavenly psychology? If I set my heart just to know Him, I’m going to walk right through the block; the blocks aren’t there. They become stepping stones. That’s what happened to our Lord Jesus. He just continued and passed on His way. John 10:39, “They were seeking again to seize Him but He alluded their grasp.” How do you allude their grasp? Did He run and hide? Did He sneak in a door? He just walked.
One day His disciples approached Him, John 11:7, “After this, He said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go to Judea again,’ and the disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you.’” Was He going there again? That’s a block, ladies and gentlemen. They were seeking to stone Him. “And Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of the world. If anyone walks in the night, he stumbles because the light is not in him.’” He was just living to please His Father. He wasn’t worried about blocks or people or circumstances or personal weaknesses. He just wanted to please Him. By the mighty power of God the blocks take care of themselves.
“Do not worry, then, saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink, what will we wear for clothing; for all these things,’” (incentives), “‘the gentiles seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of that. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.’” (Matthew 6:31)
That’s heavenly psychology; that’s the mind and disposition of our Lord Jesus. I don’t have to become anxious. All I need to do is to have my heart set; for me to live is Christ and I want to please Him. Let any person or demon of hell or circumstance or disease come and let anything come, I’m going to walk with Him and do His will and honor Him, setting my heart to please Him. He gave up who He was to depend on His Father God to live in that psychology. So, that’s the exchange; we lay down our lives, who we are, to live in that same relationship with Him.
“Pray, then, in this way, ‘Our Father Who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9&10)
That’s how to live; that’s how God created man to live. This is the image of God restored. It takes God to be a man. He put God back in the man. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Now, how do I get this disposition? How does God put it in me practically? That’s where we need to go next. Before we get there, I wanted you to know what the mind of Christ is. The disposition, the attitude and the mind of Christ is having one life and one incentive. That’s it! We need to move forward in that one psychology. That will determine all our behavior. For us to live is Christ.
How to have the disposition of Christ, the mind of Christ
How can I have the disposition of Christ, the attitude of Christ, the direction of Christ, the inclination of Christ, the single purpose of Christ, the drive of Christ, the mind of Christ? How can that be mine so that I won’t be otherwise minded? Jesus had two natures, He was divine and He was human, and He laid aside deliberately what He was by nature, in order that He might live in total dependence and availability to His Father God. We have two natures, one is human, and one is divine. One must be set aside.
“As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father,” (that’s the illustration) “so he who eats Me, will live because of Me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:57-58)
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Jesus emptied Himself and never once grasped after that which He had set aside—who He was by nature. Some people have related verse 5 and 7; “have this mind in you,” and, “He emptied Himself”. So, as the thinking goes, He is our example. This is how He did it, so now I’ll look at His example and I’ll try to copy that. Then if I can do it, I’ll have His disposition. Unfortunately, there is a difference between Christ as our example and Christ as our substitute, our very life. There is a way that self tries to empty itself of self and tries to deny self. Anything self does must be set aside. That is not emptying.
In many minds this idea of emptying self is a process. They say that it’s little by little; I’m never quite get empty. It’s a process, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, and as you grow in the Lord, they say, you are more empty and dying. I die daily is the process. You never quite arrive. You are never quite totally surrendered. You surrender, but then if you examine yourself, there are other things to be surrendered. There are people who are living the Christian life, as they understand it, who are constantly emptying themselves and trying to die to themselves; trying to surrender more completely. It takes the joy right out of the Christian life. The whole idea of Philippians is joyful humility. If you try to copy Jesus, you will be frustrated at every turn. No matter how much you deny yourself, there is still more.
The exact opposite is what the Bible teaches. How did God intend man to live? I am suggesting it’s not by the gloomy process of gradually trying to die to self, which never happens. The enemy loves to baptize human effort and make it sound spiritual. Many Christians are locked into the idea that the Christian life is just a daily grind. You’ve got too much self and that’s your problem. Whatever happened to “My yolk is easy and My burden is light” and the Christian life that He promises?
You don’t get full by being emptied. You get emptied by being full. When the glory of God filled the temple, He drove out the ministering priest. It’s flushing it out. So, as you enter the fullness of the Lord, you’re going the experience the emptiness that we are talking about. The Christian life is not yourself trying to get empty. That is a Christ less and a very futile struggle. When Jesus emptied Himself, He set aside who He was by nature. Emptying is not a process; it is a onetime act of faith, and it leads to an everlasting disposition.
You see, two thousand years ago when the Lord Jesus died, you died with Him. It was completed. I’m already dead; I don’t need to die anymore. I accept that I died with Christ on the cross. In that moment, I begin that disposition. My heart is now, “I’m going to be available to You, and I’ve set myself aside.” The humility described in Philippians 2:5-8 is not like some people think of humility. Humility is not living in poverty, wearing old clothes you get from a thrift shop, driving an old jalopy; giving up vacations and desserts may not be humility. Having somebody drain your life and drain your resources, drain all your energy, walk all over you may not be humility. Humility is not low thoughts of self. Humility is no thoughts of self. I don’t exist.
When our Lord Jesus died on the cross He was absolutely naked. The artists have been kind and they put a loin cloth on Him, but He didn’t have a loin cloth. He was naked and wasn’t humiliated, because He was humble. He was so humble, He couldn’t be humiliated. If you can be humiliated, if you can be embarrassed, you’re not humble. If I can be humiliated, if I can be embarrassed, I’m not humble. I haven’t set self aside. Let me put it another way, a little more pointed; if you can be offended, you’re not humble. Humility is no thoughts of self. Self is out of the picture. It is not my life now. It is His life, His very life.
It’s joyous humility because there are two lives. One must be set aside. The life I live, I live by His life. We talk about denying self. There are two lives. One must be denied. I deny me. Take up the cross, there are two lives, one must be rejected. I reject me; that is the life I reject. There are two lives. One must be set aside, emptied. I set me aside, just as Jesus set aside who He was by nature. It is joyous humility because it’s not my life. That’s what brings the joy into it. I don’t have to worry about trying to do it. He is not our example—He is our substitute. He lives in our place. It is not me living; it is Him living. The joy comes by realizing that it is His life. That is what I mean when I say it is not a process. It is a onetime act. I accept what Jesus did two thousand year ago when He said He took not only my sins, but also my nature to the cross. I believe that; I reckon myself dead—a onetime act and an everlasting attitude. All I want is His pleasure, my meat is to do the will of God. I’m going to live unto the Lord, and so now I have that disposition that is in Him.
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the death of the cross. When a Christian, by the mighty life of God, sets aside who he is by nature, he enters into this joyful humility which is described in verse 8 as obedience. What is humility? As I said, it’s not driving an old jalopy, necessarily. It is the obedience of trusting the God who lives in you. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that God commanded you to become a millionaire. Nice command, and if you obeyed Him you would be humble. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient. Obedience is dependence upon the God that lives in you. As Jesus said, “It’s not My words, it’s not My deeds, and it’s not My acts. Every time you see Me move, you see the Father.” Now if you look at Ed Miller, when I’m appropriating Christ, not always, but when I’m looking to the Lord, when you see me, you should see Jesus. When I see you, I should see Jesus. That is man as God created man to be.
“To us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thought with spiritual words. A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16)
We say man is three parts; body, soul and spirit. I know what people mean by that and I accept that, but in one sense, you don’t have a spirit. You are a spirit. The spirit is the you. That is the real you, and that is why when you die the body is dead. The spirit leaves the body and goes to join the Lord. You don’t have a spirit, you are a spirit. I know you are in that body. I see you peeking out of those beady eyes. You are in there. That is you—spirit. Just so, God doesn’t have a spirit; God is a Spirit. That is His life. When you say you have the Spirit of God, it’s another way to say you have the life of God.
In 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man.” The only one who knows what you are thinking is you, your spirit—you. I can’t read your mind. I don’t know what you are thinking. I don’t know what God is thinking. The only one who knows what Gods thinking is God. But what if, and I speak as a fool, what if I could have your spirit in me. Then I would know what you are thinking, because I would have your spirit. That is exactly what has happened; you have received the life of God, and you have the mind of Christ. The life of God, the Spirit of God, having the mind of Christ is another way of saying, “I have the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in my life and because I have the Spirit of God, I have the mind of God, and I have the life of God.” How can I have the disposition of God? The answer is “I have the mind of Christ. I have the Holy Spirit. It is not me living any more. It is now Him living in me and the One who is living is working that disposition.
I am not going to be changed. Ed Miller, sadly, will always be Ed Miller; that which is flesh is flesh. It’s not going to be improved. It’s not going to get better and as I grow in the Lord, I’m not changing. We will get our change; “We will not all sleep, we will all be changed.” Until then we are not going to change, but Christ is going to live more and more. As we allow Christ to live in us, then wherever He sends us, we will go, and whatever He says, we’ll say, and whatever He does, we’ll do. It is all His will. There is the joy, and it’s not us. We don’t have to try to be happy. We don’t have to try to drum it up. We don’t have to try to do anything. That takes the bondage out of the Christian life. Setting ourselves aside is what it means to empty ourselves; not continually beating ourselves up so we are more and more like a crucified person. We are not in the picture. From now on, all that matters is Him. We have become available to the indwelling Christ. As Christ was abiding in His Father and His Father did the works, so will we, man as God intended man to be, set aside who we are by nature, and we’ll abide in Christ, and Christ will do the works.
(Taken from Ed Miller’s message #42 in Matthew)
Before you are saved, before you know Jesus, law and conscience have a ministry in your life. They are designed to condemn you and designed to make sin ugly and alive. They are designed to slay you. They only know one language; guilty, guilty. If you do something wrong, the law says “guilty”. If you do something wrong your heart says, “Guilty, guilty, guilty”. Every time you turn around; guilty. Listen carefully, and God give you wisdom. Once you become a Christian, you no longer have a relationship to your conscience. Your conscience becomes an enemy. It is no longer a friend. It’s not on your side. Its mission is over.
Did you ever hear the devil’s big lie; “Let your conscience be your guide?” Listen to these verses; 1 Corinthians 8:12 talks about a “weak conscience”. 1 Corinthians 8:7 and Titus 1:15 talks about “a defiled conscience”. 1 Timothy 4:2 talks about “a conscience that is seared with a hot iron”. Hebrews 10:22 talks about an “evil conscience”. Hebrews 9:14 talks about a “dead conscience”. Oh, isn’t that a wonderful guide; weak, defiled, seared, wicked, evil and dead? That’s your conscience.
What is conscience? Is it an entity? Is it a state of mind? Is it based on an absolute standard on the traditions of men? Is it based on culture? Is it relative? Is it absolute? I don’t know what it is, but I know what it does. It only knows one word; guilty. It gives a million and one reasons why you should go to hell and not go to heaven; “You sinned, you lied, you stole, you’re angry, you’re impatient, you’re selfish.” Talk back to your conscience and say, “Now listen here, conscience, you say ‘guilty’, but I’ve been forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. I’ve received God into my life. I’ve taken His Son and He died for me.” Do you know what your conscience will say? “I know nothing of that. I don’t know anything about grace. When God created me He programmed me with one word; guilty.” That’s all the law written in your heart knows; guilty. It does not know forgiveness and it does not know grace and it does not know the Spirit of God. It does not know the love of God. It just says, “You deserve to die. You deserve to be separated from a thrice holy God. You deserve to burn forever in hell. You are guilty.”
That’s what makes the conscience such an enemy. On the one hand it refuses to believe the message of grace and on the other hand, because it was ruined in the fall, you can deceive your conscience. It’s easily satisfied. If your heart says, “You don’t love your neighbor; guilty,” and then you bring them a can of soup, your conscience will say, “There, that’s better.” You might not have a change of heart at all. Your conscience will be deceived. Your conscience will settle for self-righteousness. That’s what is so wrong with it. Thousands and thousands of God’s children have not understood this, and they live in constant bondage and slavery and fear to their conscience.
I think one of the great miracles that God does in the Christian’s life is that he sets them free from conscience. Once you are saved, conscience has no ministry in your life. Conscience militates against the message of God’s grace. I know one Christian who is in glory now because she was bullied all her life with conscience, and finally took her own life because she listened to that voice, “Guilty.” God’s word said, “Forgiven.” God’s word said, “Clean.” And she listened to the voice of her conscience and she finally took her own life.
Most Christians haven’t seen that relationship. Because they haven’t seen their relationship to the law and to the conscience in the heart and they hear these voices all the time, “Guilty, guilty, guilty,” and the inside says, “I agree with that; guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.” They’ve got to find a way to shut those things up. “How can I shut the mouth of the law and how can I shut the mouth of conscience?” So, they come up with these cute little inventions that don’t come from the Bible. “I know what I’ll do. Every time conscience says, ‘Guilty,’ I’ll 1 John 1 my sins away. I’ll confess my conscience clean and I’ll just keep confessing and every time it brings it to my mind I’ll just confess.” So, they spend all their day confessing their sin; over and over again confessing, confessing, confessing, confessing. And since the law with all of its high standards keeps saying, “Guilty, guilty, guilty, I’ll set up a whole system of rules and regulations and I’ll begin to live by them.”
Here is what the Bible says, “The law and conscience have a ministry in us before we are saved to show us that we’re guilty. But when you get saved, the law is replaced by grace and conscience is replaced by the Holy Spirit and the revelation of Christ in the Book; the Life of God in the Book. You begin to walk by a new light. It’s not the light of conscience anymore. May God give you deliverance from the conscience! Don’t listen to it! It’s the Christian’s enemy. You are going to grow in grace and you are going to grow in knowledge, and you are going to grow in light, but you’ll never grow in assurance. If you are in heaven a million years, you shouldn’t be any more certain of your security than right now, because assurance doesn’t grow. It rests upon a finished work; the work of the Lord Jesus. And don’t let your conscience tell you anything else! That’s what the Bible says. Believe God’s word; the revelation of God’s word through the Holy Spirit.
The Exchanged Life
By Ed Miller
Not to impress or earn a crown or merit anything
But out of love and thankfulness I sought to please my King.
For stooping love, and grace so free toward one, so lost and low
I set my heart to pay the debt of gratitude I owe.
How can I, pardoned, yield Him less than all I have and am?
What other song is suitable than “Worthy is the Lamb”?
And, so it was, I set my heart to serve with life and limb
And never take another breath that wasn’t unto Him!
The more I tried to serve the Lord and bless His worthy name,
The more I grieved Him by my sin—more guilty I became.
Repent! Confess! And rise again—old promises renew
Became the story of my life as I, more weary grew!
Why was the promised “easy yoke” so difficult to wear?
And why, the burden, if so light, a crushing weight to bear?
Why, if my spirit’s will was strong, His face alone to seek—
Why did I fall at every turn? Why was my flesh so weak?
If love and gratitude fall short, what motive can there be?
And who will praise, if it is not redeemed humanity?
My life was all I had to give and happily resign,
And even that, by blood, was His and wasn’t even mine.
By fits and starts my anxious heart, now void of peace and rest
Drudged on in fruitless agony, to satisfy my quest.
No righteousness had I to bring; no motive, foul or fair;
The dream I had to live for Him, expired in despair!
Undone! I fell before the Lord and called upon His name
Without a single offering—as, when at first, I came.
And now, as then, my inner eyes were opened wide to see
Apart from Christ, my Substitute, there was no hope for me!
I knew full well, for me He died, for me His blood was shed;
I also knew it was for me He rose up from the dead.
I had no doubt, my Substitute dies in my stead and place.
That’s why I sought to live for Him, to thank Him for such grace!
But, can it be? Oh, glorious day! Can such a thing be true?
The tidings of a Substitute—refreshing as the dew—
Broke on my heart, and turned at once my water into wine!
His purpose was to live for me—exchange His life for mine!
It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me—
No longer must I do for Him; I simply have to be!
As once He lived and died on earth, and rose for sinful men,
He now indwells my thankful heart to do it once again!
Now, from my Risen Head, there flows to me, a life divine;
A fruitful branch I have become—abiding in the Vine;
The joy I seek to bring to Him, the thanks I long to give
I offer in my privilege: allowing HIM to live!
(available for download at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)