Archive for the ‘Jonathan Edwards’ Category

Jonathan Edwards on Responsibility & Inability

September 23, 2007

Let us examine some teachings of Jonathan Edwards on the point of responsibility and inability. The sermon we will mostly look at is taken from Knowing the Heart: Jonathan Edwards on True and False Conversion. This book contains a series of sermons that currently cannot be found anywhere else except in this volume. It is put out by International Outreach. This particular sermon, “Persons Ought to Do What They Can for Their Salvation,” is called by John Gerstner perhaps the most important of the general writings of Edwards on his view of evangelism.

Edwards tells us that “’tis impossible that man should be under obligation to do anything that is above the capacity of his nature because his incapacity for it is from God.” He also says that “God never requires anything of man but what is commensurate to the faculties that he has given him. He never commands him to do anything above the capacity of the human nature.” While God does not command man to do things that are above his capacity, for example, do certain things that only the angels can do, however He does command man to do things that he cannot do in his fallen state without new principles. Those things are “to know God, to love God, and to believe in Christ, to exercise a gracious humility, repent, [be] submissive, [exercise] charity, or to perform any spiritual or gracious action. These things are none of them above the capacity of man’s nature.”

We are told that man is obliged and obligated to do things that he is wholly impotent (inability) to do. Yet his impotence in these things is not that which excuses him from it. The reason for this is because his inability or impotency is from himself and not from God. This is a very important point. God gave man the capacity to do certain things and man still retains that capacity. However, man’s perversion of will is of himself and so his inability leaves him without excuse. Man’s inability does not give him any excuse at all but rather shows how he is even more without excuse. If we try to excuse our badness by saying that we are so bad that we are unable to do good this is no excuse at all. What it does is show a greater degree of our badness.

We can look at this now with the term “responsibility” in mind. The terms itself at the very least seems to imply ability. The Arminians say that one must have the ability in order to have an obligation to do something. Reformed people have said the same thing in the past. Man does have the ability in terms of his pre-fall nature and even his present capacity, but the Reformed have gone on to say that man has an inability that he is still without excuse for. Again, man is responsible in that he is obligated but it is also true that he has the capacity to do. His inability is in the moral realm and it is that inability that darkens his mind and his whole nature. But since man bears the fault of his moral inability and the standards of God never change, God commands man to do what is holy in accordance with the nature and capacity that God gave man. Man still has the capacity to do what God commands so God is holy in commanding man to do them. But since man has changed as a result of the fall and he has a moral inability which is of himself, man is still at fault and liable to the judgment of God.

We can also look at this in one other way. What God commands man to do is still possible for man in Christ. God still commands every man everywhere to repent and believe (Acts 17:30-31). Man is now commanded to humble himself and believe in Christ. The problem with this, however, is that man is too self-sufficient, independent and proud to trust completely in Christ. Man still wants some control and just a little power in the situation. But man still wants to be in charge and trust in his own free-will just a little because man does not want to quit trusting in himself and be cast totally in the arms of sovereign mercy. One real problem is that man still thinks that it is in his power to repent and believe. Hear Jonathan Edwards again: “If you imagine that you have it in your own power to work yourselves up to repentance, consider, that you must assuredly give up that imagination before you can have repentance wrought in you” (Vain Self-Flatteries of the Sinner). If we take this statement by Edwards and apply it to what he has said above, what we end up with is something far different than what is taught in our day. Man has the capacity to do certain things, but man’s fallen nature does not have a spiritual capacity. Man must recognize his deadness in sin and give up trying to obey the commands of Christ from his fallen nature because it does not have the spiritual capacity to obey. It is not until man gives up trying to repent and believe and submit to the work of God in the heart that God may work in man a spiritual capacity to repent and believe. It is not, then, just a minor issue about free-will or responsibility, it is about eternal life and how God works that in people. If man must give up all hope in self in order to be saved, Arminianism is not just a little wrong. It is drastically and fatally wrong.

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Man’s Chief End: God vs. the Pharisees

June 19, 2007

Last time we ended on how the Church is like the Pharisees in many ways in focusing on the outward actions and thinking that is love for God rather than the inward motivations and intents of the heart. We looked at how the Pharisees used the instrumental means that God has given yet they removed them from the terminal end that God as set out for them. Boiled down what that means is that God has created all things to be a reflection of His glory and He has given means for humanity to use in order to do that. Yet men want to use the means God has given and keep the terminal end in their own power or perhaps even change it whether on purpose or by deceit.

God has not given Himself or anything else into the hands of men to glorify Him in their own power. The means are to be used as means of grace but the means must also be empowered by grace if they are to be used to manifest the glory of God and not just be used the way the Pharisees used them. In other words, a Pharisee could use the means of grace just as well as many if not all conservatives can. The Pharisee used the means for his own terminal end which was to gain honor for himself and that out of self-love. However, the Pharisee claimed to be holy and to be keeping the Law of God. Many conservatives say the same things and do the same things as the Pharisees. Reformed people are certainly not immune to that charge as well. The Pharisee believed in predestination too.

The Church is full of people that are like the Pharisees in many ways. As long as people believe or at least live as if they have the power of holiness and love in their own power things will not change. As long as people believe or practice the lie that God has given them the means and it is up to them to use them and apply them as they please, things will not change. The means of grace cannot bring grace in and of themselves. The Bible is to be studied as the way God has revealed Himself rather than as a way to live better. Prayer must be practiced as a means of seeking God and His glory rather than a way to exalt self and seek things for self. Preaching must be practiced as a means of seeking and meeting with God rather than a duty to be performed.

While there may be other aspects to this, no one will ever study Scripture and pray as God has intended them until that person seeks God as God and for His glory rather than for a selfish reason. A selfish reason would also include a way to make me look holy or a way to obtain a favor for something for God, and it would also include virtually all religious reasons as well. The terminal end that God has created all things for and has given several means as ways to seek Him is that of His own glory. But it is not in the power of a human being to glorify God. God alone can make His internal glory shine outward and that through human beings. It is only when a human being is seeking God and His glory out of a pure love (which must come from God as well) that what that human being does is then a shining forth of the glory of God.

What I am trying to get at is that no one can glorify God in his or her own power as that is something that resides in the mere pleasure and will of God. It is only when God resides in a human being and is expressing Himself through that human being is His glory being displayed. Until we get that basic point we will be living in a way of works thinking that we are living to the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31 tells us this: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That is how a person lives if one loves God. However, unless the life of Christ is in a person and the Holy Spirit is working His fruit of love in that person it is beyond a person to do so. Living to the glory of God in all things is the Greatest Commandment. As the Law was given to show us that we must have Christ, so the command to glorify God shows us that we must have the life of Christ.

Chief End 24 – God vs. the Conservative Church

June 17, 2007

Last time I ended with these words: “God has given us His terminal purpose for all things and that includes the Church. He has also given the Church instrumental means on how to seek the terminal purpose. But the Church has taken His instrumental means and used them for Her own terminal purposes. This is humanism.” I would like to expand on this idea in this BLOG.

There are many conservatives that will take those within the liberal camp and knock them for replacing the instrumental means of God for humanistic ones. While they use differing language, I am using this type of language for illustrative purposes. They will wax eloquent on how liberals have replaced preaching with nice talks and have replaced Bible study with meetings which do nothing. While those things are true, we must also be careful not to miss something that many conservatives have done. They have replaced God’s terminal purpose with other things. While this is perhaps not as bad as the liberals, this is still using God’s instrumental means for other purposes. In other words, many conservatives and liberals do the same thing in different ways.

Let me use one example to set this out. Preaching is very important in the Bible and in true churches. Preaching the Bible is what should be preached. We are commanded to “preach the Word.” We are never commanded to preach something other than the Word. But what is God’s purpose in preaching and then in preaching the Word? Does He just want men to stand up and teach the Bible? There are many conservatives that thing that preaching the Word is nothing more than to take a text and teach it using what is in the text. That is one style of preaching, but does that kind of preaching really fit with the terminal purpose of God?

It is possible to think that preaching the Word is God’s terminal purpose in preaching, but in fact we know that God has an eternal purpose. If preaching does not have as its goal the glory of God, it misses God’s terminal goal in preaching. The terminal goal of Scripture is also to shine forth the glory of God and so preaching that does not use the text to set out the glory of God also misses the real purpose for preaching. A liberal might think that he or she is to preach in order to make the people feel good about themselves or to move people to social action. That person has missed the whole point of preaching. A conservative might think that he is to preach in order to inform people of the Word of God. Yet if the conservative misses the real purpose of the text he is in the same boat as the liberal. Both have missed the real issue and that is the glory of God.

We can now see clearly how the Church is using the instrumental means that God has given Her and yet is not using them for the terminal end that God has purposed. If the terminal end or purpose is not the goal and the reason that the instrumental means are being used, those means turn to legalism or humanism. The Pharisees used the means that God provided. They prayed, but their prayers were meant to be seen by men. They gave alms, but that was in order to be seen by men. They fasted, but again that was for the purpose of being seen. In the Old Testament God deals sternly with the Israelites because they did the outward actions but they had no love for Him in what they did. They would do the outward sacrifices and the outward forms of worship, but their hearts were far from Him. They had their own version of formalism. The modern Church has Her own formalism. We apply the means and do many activities, but we do not know God. We have replaced love for God to doing something for God. We have lost the true idea of worship and what it means to love and glorify God. We are an impoverished group continuing on with our outward forms of worship thinking we are doing well and yet God is not present.

Chief End 23 – God vs. the Church

June 15, 2007

This BLOG will continue to look at the purposes of God for the Church and evangelism in light of what human beings have done in regards to developing their own purposes. We see all over the place of certain writers and their purposes for the church. However, what must be determined is what God’s purpose is. If the purposes of mankind are different than God’s, then man’s purposes are going to be idolatrous. Even if human beings do biblical things they must be doing those things in accordance with God’s purpose or they will be doing biblical things in an idolatrous way. That is what the Pharisees did in all that they did.

Ephesians 1:11 points out that we have obtained an inheritance and have been predestined according to His purpose: “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” We also see from that text that God works all things after the counsel of His will. God’s purpose and the counsel of His will work together. This is buttressed with Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Those who are converted are called according to the purpose of God.

The same thought runs in Romans 9:11 as well: “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” The same thought is also found in 2 Timothy 1:9: “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” As we look with wonder at the beauty and symmetry found in those texts, we must admire the glory of a God so great that His purpose and grace are granted to people “in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” But we must notice that continued use of the word “purpose” in relation to God. He has a purpose and it is all found in Christ.

How utterly fabulous and glorious it is to admire what these texts and the texts from the last BLOG declare to us. What a God it is that works all things after the counsel of His will and that in accordance with His eternal purpose. This God reveals His word and His mysteries as He pleases and to whom He pleases. This God gives grace to whom He pleases and He is pleased to reveal Himself to infants (humble, poor in spirit). He has granted this grace to all those who are and will be in Christ from eternity. This God has a purpose and He works all things in accordance with that.

Now as we look at the Church, we see something entirely different in most cases. God has a terminal end or primary purpose that He has set out, but churches seem to have their own purposes and goals. But God only saves according to His own pleasure and His revealing Himself in accordance with His own pleasure. What happens when the Church begins to operate according to its own pleasure and has purposes that are not according to God’s purposes and pleasure? When the Church does that, it is actually operating as the enemy of God.

I hope that this approach will sink in. The Church of today has bought into methods, purposes, and practices that are not according to what God has set out in Scripture. The Church of today will also use biblical methods but in ways that are not according to the purposes of God. God has given us His terminal purpose for all things and that includes the Church. He has also given the Church instrumental means on how to seek the terminal purpose. But the Church has taken His instrumental means and used them for Her own terminal purposes. This is humanism.

Chief End 22 – Biblical Evangelism

June 13, 2007

The last BLOG was an effort to show that for true evangelism to occur it must have the message of the glory of God in it to be true evangelism. This is in the context of trying to show that the Church as a whole must go back to the very basics of God’s purpose and intent for the Church in order to be the Church. No matter if a church is being biblical if it misses God’s terminal end or primary purpose for its existence it misses what is utterly vital about the church. If a church is focusing on evangelism and leaves out the primary message of the Gospel and the intent God has in saving sinners, it is not being evangelistic in a truly biblical way.

To recap for just a moment, we need to remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:8-11: “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We must have it driven into our minds and hearts that God has an eternal purpose for all things and that means that He has one for the Church. Whatever purpose He has for the Church is the purpose that all things must be in accordance with. Since evangelism is what the Church is commanded to do, the way that is done must be done in accordance with the purpose that God has for the Church.

What was God’s eternal purpose? We see that in Ephesians 1 in many places. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:4-6). In these verses we see that God chooses before the foundation of the world. That surely points to an eternal purpose. We see that in love He predestined some to adoption as sons through Christ. What was that in accordance with? The text says “according to the kind intention of His will,” but the more literal rendering would be “according to the good pleasure of His will.” And then we see that His predestining work was “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” In other words, God’s eternal purpose had to do with the exalting of His glory. God does all to the glory of His name and that includes the whole of salvation.

We then see in Ephesians 1:9 that “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” Again the words “kind intention” is better translated “good pleasure” which means that God makes known the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure “which He purposed in Him.” This should remind us of Matthew 11:25-27 where Jesus praises the Father for hiding “these things” from the “wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” What did He say after that? “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in your sight.” The Greek word for “well-pleasing” is the same word used in both Ephesians 1:4 and 1:9 that is translated (NAS) as “kind intention.” The revelation of the truth and glory of God is at His good pleasure.

For evangelism to be biblical, then, it must take into account that it is God that must reveal spiritual things to people. He does so according to His eternal plan and purpose for the Church. Evangelism must take this into account and realize that the Gospel is according to a grace that is uncaused in and by human beings but is according to the pleasure of the self-existent God. Anything less sure appears to be a form of humanism.

Chief End 21 – The Church & Evangelism

June 11, 2007

I hope that by now it will be seen that the Church is in a great crisis. The Church has been given over to programs, morality, and basic practices. But it has abandoned its terminal end or purpose as set out by God. I would imagine that I am speaking as if in a foreign language to many. But surely it is self-evident that if a church is doing what it does apart from the purpose that God has assigned all things to be done and that from eternity, that what it is doing is being done from wrong motivations and for the wrong reasons. The topic we are dealing with is that vital.

Last time we were dealing with evangelism. I hope that anyone reading this will get a knot in the stomach when they see the importance of this. That knot would arise because the person might begin to see that so many of the activities and ministries that are done in the name of evangelism are simply done for the wrong reasons and perhaps that means that the evangelism is done improperly. Evangelism is not something that is to be done just because the church is to be involved in it. It is not to be done because it gives people something to do. It is not something to be done because the church needs people to keep it going. No, no, and a thousand times no. Evangelism is to be done because it fits with God’s eternal purpose for the Church and it is to be done in a way that is in accordance with that. Evangelism is not even to be done as a terminal purpose or primary purpose because souls are saved when it is done with the truth of the Gospel.

One thing that might show the importance in this is to imagine that people go out preaching a Gospel or gospel with a terminal purpose in mind. If the gospel that is preached has the purpose of getting a person to pray a prayer, then what is said and done will be focused on that. If the gospel that is preached has the purpose of getting a person to come to a church building at a stated time, then everything will be focused on that. In other words, a terminal end or goal always determines the way we do things and what we try to do. Having the true and biblical terminal end or goal is that important. Without it everything else will be done incorrectly even if it is done to some degree as the Bible says. The terminal end or purpose is utterly vital to doing things as Scripture sets out.

I can only hope that once again at least a few people are getting knots in their stomachs. The evangelism practiced today is to be judged by what it does and how it does it by the terminal end or goal as set out in Scripture. If it is not in accordance with that goal, it is wrong and is deceiving people. It is not that God cannot save people if enough of the truth is presented, but simply that many are being deceived in and out of the Church today by false methodologies that are because the terminal purpose of Scripture is not understood or perhaps ignored. It is easier to go out with a message than it is to be guided by the purposes of God.

Without question the whole tenor of Scripture is that God has created all things for His own glory and pleasure (Rev 4:8-11). God created things as a means to manifest His glory. When Adam sinned and the fall occurred man began to live apart from that purpose. Now all that man does is to sin which is to fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The Gospel is the restoration of man back to where man is saved and then enabled to live for the glory of God. In fact, the whole reason for salvation is said to be “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph 1:6). If this theme is not in the message of evangelism, then the main them of sin and of the Gospel has been missed. There is no true evangelism apart from the message of the glory of God in Christ. When humanity is set out to be the main focus of evangelism, it has missed the real point of it all and what is really good news is not set out and declared. That negates the Gospel.

Chief End 20 – Church’s Purpose 2

June 9, 2007

Last time we began to look at what it would mean for the Church (and a church) to have a terminal purpose assigned to it by God. We looked at Ephesians 3:8-11: “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is no doubt whatsoever that God has created all things and that He has a purpose for all things. He has an eternal purpose for the Church and anything that it does that is not in accordance with that purpose is simply not doing what it is supposed to do.

If the purposes that we set out for the church are from the Bible, we think we are being biblical. However, if the terminal end is not biblical, then the other purposes that we set out are at odds with Scripture. If the terminal or chief end is not from Scripture and is not what God has set out for the Church, then even if the stated purposes are biblical they will be used in an unbiblical way. We can see this by way of illustration in preaching. A sermon may be biblical and orthodox in its content and theology. However, if the preacher’s terminal desire is to impress people or to gain fame for his preaching, the sermon is not out of love for God. In fact, to the preacher it is an act of idolatry in that his terminal desire is himself and not God.

If a church or minister desire to grow in numbers, that is not in and of itself bad. However, if the church or minister desires to grow in numbers apart from the biblical terminal end, then the desire to grow in numbers is bad. If the church desires to grow apart from a biblical terminal end, it will choose methods and goals that are not according to the biblical terminal end. In doing that, though outwardly noble and good, it is nothing less than the practice of idolatry. Let us examine this according to some purposes that are biblical. We have looked at worship in a previous BLOG in this light and so we will not look at it again.

First, we will look at evangelism. Within the SBC this is a hallowed purpose. It is given primary importance and is thought to be why the Church is on earth. However, even a superficial look at Ephesians 3:8-11 should dispel that myth. The Church has a greater purpose than evangelism on earth. It is not the terminal end or primary purpose of the Church. But surely it is obvious that if we begin to plan evangelism and do evangelism in a way that is not in accordance with the terminal end or primary purpose of the Church that it will lead to great problems. If we view evangelism as the greatest purpose of the Church and in fact it is not, then all that the Church does will be pointed to evangelism and evangelism itself will be an idol. Not only that, but evangelism might also be viewed from a business model and be seen as a way to fill a church with people.

We should also note the dangers of having churches where evangelism is seen as the greatest purpose within a local church. People would be trained to do evangelism apart from spiritual growth and apart from a biblical evangelism which can only happen within the framework of a church that is committed to the terminal purpose that God gave it. Let me repeat that thought with different words. True evangelism can only happen within a church that is committed to its terminal purpose or chief end as set out by God. This is why it is so vital to gain an understanding of the Church (and each church) and what it does and for it to be in accordance to God’s purpose.

Chief End 19 – The Church’s Purpose

June 7, 2007

“To avoid all confusion in our inquiries concerning the end for which God created the world, a distinction should be observed between the chief end for which an agent performs any work and the ultimate end. These two phrases are not always precisely of the same signification, and though the chief end be always an ultimate end, yet every ultimate end is not always a chief end. A chief end is opposite to an inferior end; an ultimate end is opposite to a subordinate end. A subordinate end is what the agent aims at, not at all upon its own account, but wholly on the account of a further end of which it is considered as a means.”

– Jonathan Edwards

Note: I use the term “terminal end” to refer to what Edwards referred to as a person’s chief end as that which all other ends are for. This is the person’s greatest goal or greatest desire. The “instrumental end” is that which a person desires something but desires it to obtain a higher or greater desire or goal.

We have been looking at how different things look when we begin to look at the purpose for which God created them. We have looked at prayer, Bible study, worship, and in some ways the church. But let us look at the Church and its purpose. The Church is so weak and anemic today that it is hardly recognizable when we see what it was meant to be in Scripture. The Church is not here in terms of its primary purpose in order to provide help and relief to hurting people, it is here to be the dwelling place of the glory of God and therefore to manifest His glory. The Church is not here in terms of its primary purpose as a social program or even for evangelism, but it is here for one primary purpose or terminal purpose or end. It is that which God has set out for it to do.

Paul sets this out to us in Ephesians 3:8-11: “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We can see from this text that God has had a plan that was according to His wisdom from all eternity. God has had an eternal purpose for the Church and I doubt that it has changed. Paul said that he was given grace “to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what us the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things.” Now we must stop, humble ourselves, and pray for those words to sink in. The apostle Paul was given grace to preach and through that preaching to bring to light a mystery which was hidden in God for ages. In other words, for all eternity this was hidden from the angels. For all of human history no one ever really understood this. But now God brought it to light.

We see in v. 10 that God had hidden something for ages and now Paul is going to bring it to light so that God’s manifold wisdom “might now be made known through the church.” The Church is God’s vehicle to bring forth this truth that He had hidden from eternity. We may be closing in on the eternal purpose of the Church. But notice that His wisdom would be made known “to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” This text tells us that God has a purpose for the Church that is not of this world. It is to shine forth His wisdom to beings that we know nothing about. That purpose is ‘in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Again those words are weighty and will pass right over us if we do not stop and pray for the Lord to cause them to sink deep into our souls.

As we think of what God’s terminal purpose for the Church might be, that is, the purpose for the Church that all other purposes have their purpose in it, we should stress again that this is an eternal purpose. We must also see that this eternal purpose was carried out by God Himself in Christ Jesus. The text does not say that Christ carried this purpose out, but that God carried it out in Christ Jesus. As we reflect on these weighty words, let us come back and reflect what is going on in our day. We see books being written about purposes of the church and purposes in life. Fine, but if those purposes are not in accordance with the main purpose that is the eternal purpose of God, then there is a huge problem with that methodology. Let us also know that if people write and speak about the purposes of the church in a way that is somewhat biblical and yet they are not applied in a way that is in accordance with God’s terminal end or eternal purpose in the church, then those things are not according to the wisdom of God. They reflect humanism.

Chief End 18 – Marriage 11

June 5, 2007

The following paragraph is from the Chief End for Which God Created the World 8 (Marriage). It is meant to give context.

We need to look at the big picture for a moment before we have a short look at some of the particulars. If we desire marriage for selfish and self-centered considerations, then we do not desire the glory of God and the true good of the other. Most marriage counseling appears to be done on a needs basis, that is, that one spouse is to meet the needs of the other. Other forms of counseling are more behavior oriented and verses are prescribed as behavior modifiers in much the same way as medical doctors prescribe medication. The one says meeting the needs of the other glorifies God and the second says that certain behavior glorifies God. But does it really do that? Do certain behaviors in and of themselves glorify God according to His terminal purpose for humanity and all of creation?

In trying to conclude the concept of marriage as it relates to the glory of God, we must say it with all the vigor and conviction that we are given by God to say that marriage is the creation of God as a means to express and manifest His glory. It is not just part of a system of morality that man can do in his own power that in some way demonstrates that he believes in God or thinks that God’s ways make for him a happier life. Marriage is part of creation and creation was intended by God to manifest His glory. The terminal purpose for marriage is found in God’s terminal purpose. Whatever God’s terminal purpose in marriage is determines the most important purpose for marriage in the realm of human beings. Marriage must be approached in theory and practice from the knowledge that it is for the display of the glory of God. That is utterly vital.

Some might smile quietly and simply wonder what that would change. It changes everything. No longer does counseling focus on the felt needs of the man or woman as such and tell one spouse that s/he needs to meet the needs of the other, but instead it tells them that each of them individually and that they corporately exist to manifest the glory of God. The greatest need that any person has is God. Following from that is the need that people have to seek God to fulfill their created purpose and that is to manifest the glory of God. This focus shows us that we cannot glorify God by our actions and duties, but that we only glorify God when He expresses Himself through us. It delivers us from legalism and moralism that is rampant in the religious realm and shows us what it really means to have Christ as our life in real terms. It shows us that salvation is not just a small event, but is rather is the eternal purpose of God in saving people to be His temple so that He might display His glory through them.

If marriage is approached as nothing more than outward morality, then the life of Christ in the soul is missed. Marriage becomes a ritual instead of being the glory of God expressed. The couple takes on ritualistic and perhaps legalistic patterns and thinks that God is pleased when they do so. A good moral marriage apart from the purpose of God in marriage really turns out to be nothing more than moralism. People think that they are pleasing God because they are outwardly moral and do moral things in marriage. But is simply just another way that man has found to express the nature of the Pharisee that is so bound up in the proud nature of fallen man. An outwardly moral marriage does not make a person moral any more than keeping the external laws makes a person moral. The only true morality is the love of God dwelling in a person and then being expressed through the person. Marriage is only moral when it is the expression of the love of God through Christ and by the power of the Spirit.

Christianity is really far from what it is set out to be in the Bible. We have much teaching of aspects of the Bible in books and on CD’s and other forms. But it appears to be mainly focused on the morality of behaving in a certain way and in doing things certain ways which please God. But that misses the real point for humanity, marriage, and the Church which is to be the temple of God by which He displays Himself and His glory. A man cannot love his wife as Christ loved the Church apart from the life of Christ in Him loving the wife through Him. The submission of the wife to the husband must also come from Christ as well. Apart from that life of Christ in us, morality is simply outward works without the heart. That is the life of the Pharisee in marriage and not Christ.

Chief End 17 – Marriage 10

June 3, 2007

The following paragraph is from the Chief End for Which God Created the World 8 (Marriage). It is meant to give context.

We need to look at the big picture for a moment before we have a short look at some of the particulars. If we desire marriage for selfish and self-centered considerations, then we do not desire the glory of God and the true good of the other. Most marriage counseling appears to be done on a needs basis, that is, that one spouse is to meet the needs of the other. Other forms of counseling are more behavior oriented and verses are prescribed as behavior modifiers in much the same way as medical doctors prescribe medication. The one says meeting the needs of the other glorifies God and the second says that certain behavior glorifies God. But does it really do that? Do certain behaviors in and of themselves glorify God according to His terminal purpose for humanity and all of creation?

One of the things that I have been trying to get at in terms of marriage is that the modern “Christian” way of doing things is not Christian at all. The modern “Christian” way is really just another form of pride and selfishness. In many ways the world and the modern “Christian” way have a lot in common. Both do what they do out of a form of selfishness. Both do what they do from their own strength, though the Christian might claim that his or her strength is from God. Both have departed from the biblical standard. The world does not like the standards of God so it denies them. The “Church” does not like the standards of God so it brings the standard down in order to make it manageable by human effort and strength. Both of those ways flow from pride.

The world claims it has no standard and so from pride it exerts what it thinks is its independence from God. The “Church sets up its own standard and from pride exerts its own power in keeping its own standard that it says is from God. The world lives by its freedom while the “Christian” lives according to what he or she thinks he or she is free to do or not to do. The “Christian” may indeed pray and study the Bible in an effort to say that he or she is trying to find God’s standard and live according to it. But that still reveals hearts that do not understand that biblical marriage cannot be lived by human beings apart from God living in people.

Let us look at this a bit closer. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. So he asks himself how Christ loved the Church. Then he sets out to obey the commands. Is that any different than how the Pharisees approached it? The husband wants to be an obedient Christian so he wants to keep the commandments of God. Why does he want to do that? Does he really love God with all of his being? Could it be that he is within a religious culture that demands it of him and tells him that this is how Christians behave? He is then given many motives of why he should love his wife. He must love her in order to love himself. He must love her because it is good for him to do so. If he loves her she will be a better wife. If he loves her he will be considered a good husband. But in reality all of those things (and others) are really moved by selfish reasons. Even doing things to please God can be nothing more than a selfish desire to please God in order to obtain something from God.

The wife is told much the same thing about submission. If she loves God she will do so, though in reality doing so must flow from the love of God and the outward behavior does not necessarily show the inner love. If she will only submit her husband will love her and things will be better in the home. If she will only submit she will be a good example for other women. If she will only submit she will be pleasing God, but of course that can be nothing more than a selfish desire to please God. A selfish desire to please God is a desire to please God not out of true love for God but out of desires that are rooted in self-interest. It is to have self as the greatest desire or chief end.

While I don’t have the space to get into this very deeply, surely you can see that much of what passes as conservative “Christian” marriage is in reality nothing more than selfishness and pride. It is something that the Pharisees would be very proud to have as their own. There is no real need to rely on God or to have His love in the soul. There is no real glory of God being expressed through the human. It is all about self and self gets the glory.