Al Mohler – ‘Divorce: The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience’

Al Mohler – ‘Divorce: The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience’

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Jesus, the misogynist?

“Jesus both elevates and underlines the equality of women as co-bearers of the image of God and the creation mandate, and he also redeems the roles given to man and woman at the beginning by inhabiting them, both as servant-head and ‘ezer-subordinate.

“Throughout the gospels, every encounter that Jesus has with women is a positive one. The women understand him before the men do; women are excused their housewifely duties in order to sit and learn with the men (Luke 10:38ff). Women stay with him at the Cross when his male disciples have mostly hidden; it is to women that Jesus shows himself first after his resurrection, and it is a woman, Mary Magdalene, who is for a few moments the entire church: She is charged by Jesus to tell his disciples of his resurrection and his commands — the first Christian, the first evangelist. (John 20:1ff) Jesus’s every interaction with women elevates their status in a culture that very much considered them second-class beings. The early church, having seen the Holy Spirit fall on women the same as on men at Pentecost, adopted such a radical attitude towards women that Paul had to remind women not to adopt a unisex approach to ministry. Even when engaged in the identical ministry as men, they should do it in a way that affirms their female role, rather than denies it. See 1 Cor 11, 14.”

– Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (co-authored with Tim Keller), at 174 and 266.

The name bridegroom, like every name applied to our Lord in the Bible, is full of instruction. It is a name peculiarly comforting and encouraging to all true Christians. It teaches the deep and tender love with which Jesus regards all sinners of mankind, who believe in Him. Weak, and unworthy, and short-coming as they are in themselves, He feels towards them a tender affection, even as a husband does towards his wife. It teaches the close and intimate union, which exists between Jesus and believers. It is something far nearer than the union of king and subject, master and servant, teacher and scholar, shepherd and sheep. It is the closest of all unions, the union of husband and wife, — the union of which it is written, what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. — Above all, the name teaches that entire participation of all that Jesus is and has, which is the privilege of every believer. Just as the husband gives to his wife his name, makes her partaker of his property, home, and dignity, and undertakes all her debts and liabilities, so does Christ deal with all true Christians. He takes on Himself all their sins. He declares that they are a part of Himself, and that he who hurts them hurts Him. He gives them, even in this world, such good things as pass mans understanding. And He promises that in the next world they shall sit with Him on His throne, and go out from His presence no more. 

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, at 154-155.

would I officiate a wedding for two unbelievers?

One of the recent ‘hot topics’ in evangelical circles is that of marriage. In fact, two prominent preachers in the US have published books in the past year on this very topic: Tim Keller (The Meaning of Marriage) and Mark Driscoll (Real Marriage).

Marriage is God’s idea – not a human institution – and is an imperfect copy of the perfect love between Christ and His bride, the church. It is sad to see how God’s institution of marriage has been marred so deeply by sinful man in our postmodern culture.

Interestingly, The Gospel Coalition is running two blogposts in parallel today on the topic: Would I Officiate a Wedding for Two Unbelievers? Deepak Reju says yes, while Russell Moore says no. A disclaimer should be proffered at this point – both columnists are agreed on the fundamental doctrines regarding marriage, but differ slightly on the role of the church in solemnizing the marital covenants. I commend both reads to you, if only to raise your attention to some of the key issues relating to marriage.

alright boys, time to man up

Had a really good chat with a close friend of mine this morning over breakfast; we happened to broach this topic and I thought I’d write a short blurb on it. Before I begin however, I should add a disclaimer here: this is an evangelical Christian perspective of marriage & boy-girl relationships.

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Now this passage of scripture is so rich in meaning. Unfortunately, too often do men merely see v.22 and consider this to be the main point here. In other words, readers think that Paul’s main point to the Ephesians is simply: “Wives, submit.”

This is problematic for a number of reasons. For one, I have heard, much to my surprise, accusations of Paul being a misogynist; and no doubt these dissenters would cite this passage as support for this view. I shall show later on that this is fallacious. But it should be noted here that Christianity, embodied in Jesus, has more regard for gender equality than any other worldview or religion, both in Jesus’ time and today.

Secondly, such a view allows MCPs (male chauvinist pigs) to justify their chauvinistic behaviour and actions towards their spouses (or girlfriends). Often the argument runs as such: “but the bible says that you should submit to me”. The woman, taking this argument at face value, then seeks to define what “submission” entails – is it more like “obedience” and less like “slavery”, etc? But this is a pointless debate! (and one that, sadly, I have encountered on far too many occasions.) It misses the larger context of the passage!

May I suggest that these two views are sorely misguided (and infuriating). Taking v.22 (“Wives, submit…”) and making it the focal point of this text (and hence of Paul’s exhortation) leads to unfruitful discussion at best, and highly dissatisfying and dysfunctional relationships at worst.

Might I propose instead that the focal point be vv. 25-27. I’ve reproduced vv 25-33 here, and emboldened my proposed focal point:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Husbands, fathers, boyfriends (or would-be husbands), and even potential would-be boyfriends, take heed of this: WE ARE TO LOVE OUR WIVES JUST AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH.

The question then arises: how did Christ love the Church? v25b gives us a clue: “He gave Himself up for her.” Yes, if you recall, Christ gave up His life on the cross to reconcile the church to the Father. That is the kind of love we are to have for our wives (and by extension, the girlfriends whom we are dating for the purpose of marriage). John 15:13 says:

13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

That is the standard we are to aspire to in our love relationships.

What’s more, Christ did not give himself up for the church because we were worthy of His love. Far from it! Romans 5:7-9:

7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ died to make us holy. We did not earn His love by our good behaviour, so to speak. We simply could not. The church was adulterous – we turned to idols to satisfy the longing that only He could satisfy. To put it differently but no less accurately: THE BRIDE OF CHRIST WAS A PROSTITUTE. An undesirable, detestable prostitute. But Christ came and gave His life up for us to make us beautiful. 

In conclusion, what does it mean to love our wives as Christ loved the church? Plainly, there is an element of grace and of sacrifice. Christ came more than halfway, and we men must do the same. And it is through the relationship that she becomes more and more beautiful to you. Can you see now that a Christian relationship is so much more than just “wives, submit”? It is a beautiful bilateral model for a love relationship!

In short: Christ is the ideal standard that we men need to work towards in our relationships.

It’s time for us to man up.