Adam and Eve

The Battle of the Sexes 3: Male Headship

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46 - The Battle of the Sexes and God's Original Plan - Male Headship pt 3

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Have you ever been house shopping? Anita and I have moved a few times and have owned a couple homes, so we know what it’s like to spend days and days going through strangers homes and wondering if you can see yourself living there. I was really, really bad at it because even if the house was shaped perfectly if I didn’t like the colour of the walls, I just couldn’t get past it. Anita would be like, “Wow, this place is great!” and I’d be like, “Yeah, but that one wall is purple, and I don’t think I could live with that, so let’s try somewhere else.” Not a good way to buy a house, right?

Buying a house isn’t just buying a paint colour, right? There’s a lot to consider. There’s the big picture stuff like what neighbourhood are you living in? How close are you to the next house? Where’s the nearest shopping or bus station? How long do you intend to stay?

Then there’s the living space. How many rooms will you need? How big of a kitchen? Does your stuff fit in it?

But it goes deeper, right? You have to check behind the walls to see how the electrical and plumbing are. You have to check the furnace, the roof, the attic. Check for ants or termites. In Cleveland, we had to get it tested for Radon gas to see if the air in our house would kill us.

But it goes even deeper than that, right? You have to check the foundation of the house to see if there are cracks, if it supports the house, if it’s draining water properly, or if it’s slowly sinking into the ground. If the foundation isn’t right, your whole house can twist so your doors and windows don’t even fit properly.

As we’ve been going through our passage in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 I’ve been trying to explain it from the foundation up so we can understand what God is saying. This type of passage is like walking into one of those modern architecture houses where everything looks kind of weird and you wonder how anyone can live there, or how it even remains standing – but once the architect takes you through it you start to see the genius of the design. Let’s read our passage one more time and then we’ll do a bit of review:

“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”

The Foundation

On the first week, we talked about the foundation of the house. What is it built on? Will it stay standing? What makes it strong? And we said that the foundations of this passage is built on five important things: First, the authority of the Apostles, who carry the authority of King Jesus. Second, the Godhead of the Trinity which extends beyond time and culture. Third, it is established in God as Creator and fourth, in the way He purposefully designed His creation. And fifth, it is established in common church practice, which again goes beyond personal preference and culture. So the teaching in this passage has a strong, strong foundation.

The Walls

The next week we talked about the walls of the passage, explaining the cultural context of the passage and figuring out what parts are decorative and which parts are structural. It’s natural to ask, “Why is Jesus, through Paul the apostle, making such a big deal over what a woman wears on her head?” The answer is that choice of whether or not a woman wears a head covering in that culture showed told a lot about what was going on in her heart. It showed pride, irreverence, and promiscuity. It was disrespectful to God, the church, and their families. It was confusing to new believers and a poor witness to non-believers. There was a lot of ways this heart issue came out, but one of the main ones that we read over and over, and which I’ve been dancing around, is that it showed a lack of submission to God’s established authority structure.

Why is this a big deal? Verse 2, “the head of every wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Verse 7-10, “…woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.  That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”

How the women were presenting themselves showed what was going on in their heart, and the biggest problem was that it showed that these wives were refusing to submit to the headship of their husband, which meant they were refusing to submit to the headship of God. That’s why the head coverings were such a big issue in Corinth. Not because a woman’s supposed to have long hair, or because she needs to wear a hat, but because in that culture, removing your head covering in the Christian church announced to everyone that your heart was not right with God.

In our house analogy, the head coverings were like the decorations, paint, pictures, and furniture in the home. It’s usually the first and most lasting impression we have of the house, but it’s all temporary and according to the style of the owner, right? If I hate the purple and want to do it up in a watermelon theme, I totally can, right? But when it comes to buying a home what really matters is what’s happening inside the walls and the foundation, right?

The Gospel of Jesus

But before I came to this main issue, we needed to ensure that this really was God’s original plan, so we spent two weeks going through Genesis 1 and 2 so we could see God’s establishment of Male and Female, husband and wife, before the Fall of Man, before sin messed everything up.

Why? Because this is a gospel issue. A couple weeks ago we said that the story of Jesus Christ is the story God’s plan of salvation – how He intends to fix the problem of sin once and for all. The Bible speaks of becoming a Christian as being born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23). It says that being in Christ means we are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). It speaks of being purified, redeemed, cleaned, and washed. And all that happens through faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. We believe that He died on the cross, taking our punishment on Himself, shedding his blood in place of ours, taking God’s wrath so we don’t have to, in order that we could be saved from the consequences of sin. And we further believe that this isn’t just about us, but all of creation being redeemed (Rom 8:20-23) along with us. Through Jesus, God is fixing all the things that sin has wrecked, destroying everything that is evil, and remaking everything to be good again. As 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

And that includes the relationship between men and women, which was terribly broken when sin entered the world. If you call when we studied Genesis 1 we saw how God made men and women the same in worthy of glory, power, dominion, honour, and calling. Then last week we saw that God also gave us important differences. God made Adam first, making him live without Eve for some time without her, and then introduced her as his complementary helper. We noted that He made Adam out of the dust like all other animals, but the woman was made out of a piece of the man, saying something very special about her and their relationship with one another. And we also noted that Adam named Eve, just as he had done with all of the other living creatures, and we said that in the Bible, naming something shows authority.

The Eternal Sonship of Jesus

It is that authority structure, the issue of Male Headship, that we see in our 1st Corinthians 11 passage – and it’s represented in the head coverings controversy.

It is God’s plan that man and woman are uniquely made in His image, unlike any other creature. That means a lot of things – our ability to love, be creative, be rational, be just, and make choices – but it also means that we are social. Humanity was made to be in fellowship. We see this in the mystery of the Trinity as it’s presented in the Bible. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, equal in essence, but distinct in person. The Father as God (Philippians 1:2), Jesus as God (Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3–4), but speaks of them all as separate persons. They have been in relationship for all eternity, and therefore it is no surprise that when God created an image bearer, that it would be a relational creature.

But something else that is part of God’s plan, and part of us being in the image of God, is that there is a divinely established authority structure. There is a Father and a Son. This is called the “Doctrine of Eternal Sonship” and it simply says that the Bible presents Jesus as having always existed as the Son. There was never a time when Jesus was not the Son of God, and there has always been a Father/Son relationship in the Godhead. Jesus didn’t merely assume this role when He came to earth, but is, and has always been the second person of the Godhead.

We won’t get into the full doctrine here, but it comes from all manner of passages (Colossians 1:13-36, Hebrews 1:2, John 20:21, Galatians 4:4, John 3:16, 16:28, Hebrews 13:8) and Christians have agreed on this for a long time. It’s in the Nicene Creed from 325AD which says that Jesus Christ is “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”[1]

The point is that there has always been a hierarchical structure within the Godhead of the Trinity, and so when God created man in His image, He created that in us too. And he did so by making the man the head, as God is the head, and the female the one under his authority.

Back to our 1 Corinthians passage: Verse 2, “the head of every wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Verse 7-10, “…man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.  That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” It’s about reflecting the image of God in our lives and relationships.

Sin Ruined It

But then, in Genesis 3 we how when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil everything changed. (Open with me there). The story opens with the tempter, Satan, manipulating the words of God and telling Eve that God has lied to her. Where is Adam? Where is the partnership? They are meant to help each other, to follow God together, but where is Adam? It says in Genesis 3:6 that Adam is standing right beside her, but he’s silent. He’s not leading, guarding, protecting, helping, correcting, or anything. He’s just standing there. He’s not doing what he should be doing. It wasn’t the eating of the fruit that was the first sin, the whole situation was kicked off by Adam’s sin.

One commentary I have says, “Adam’s sin was both an act of conscious rebellion against God and also a failure to carry out his divinely ordained responsibility to guard or ‘keep’ both the garden and the woman that God had created as a ‘helper fit for him’. The disastrous consequences of Adam’s sin cannot be overemphasized, resulting in the fall of mankind…”[2]

In verse 8 we read, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”

God already knew what had happened, of course, but who did God call out to? To head of the family, Adam. He was the one primarily responsible for what happened.

Keep reading, “And he [that is Adam] said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’”

Watch carefully what happens next: “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

God confronts the man and he totally blame shifts to both God and Eve. God confronts Eve and she blame shifts to Satan. The authority structure has completely fallen apart. Adam even tries to drag God into taking some blame. Now guilt and shame is spreading onto both of them as they squirm uncomfortably in front of God – and why? Because the head didn’t do his job. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all [men and women]…” Who takes the blame for the fall of man throughout all of scripture? Eve who ate first? No. Adam, the “head”. In 1 Corinthians 15 Jesus is called the “Second Adam”, the one who did it right. The first Adam caused sin to corrupt everyone and everything, and the Second Adam, Jesus, will cause everything to finally be made right again.

The Curse on Men and Women

All of this came because God’s created order, His established hierarchy, was disregarded and disobeyed. Can you see now the true sin that was happening in the Corinthian church? It wasn’t about head dresses, it was about the disrespecting, disregarding, and disobeying God’s established created order of authority between men and women, husbands and wives.

This sort of talk doesn’t fly outside of conservative, evangelical circles, does it? In fact, it goes against most of our natural inclinations, doesn’t it? Does that give you a certain gut reaction? It does for me.

Do you know why we have such a hard time with this? Look at Genesis 3:16 as God pronounces the curse that comes from their sin. The serpent receives the first curse, as the first one to act in disobedience to God. Then Eve, the next one to act, receives the second curse:

“To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’”

Pain is a common theme in all three curses. The serpent’s crushed head, the woman in childbearing and childrearing, and Adam in his work. And though it affects all mankind, it is Adam who receives the curse of death. But there’s something else in the curse as well that I want you to notice: the woman’s curse impacts her two primary roles, in procreation and in her relationship with her husband.

In verse 15 we see that it is through the woman’s children that the serpent’s head will be bruised – pointing to Jesus, who would have a human mother, but whose Father was the Holy Spirit, not a man like Adam. But the other curse was in her relationship with her husband. From that point on the relationship between men and women would be strained and difficult.

The word desire is important there and it has 2 important meanings. It partly means that her “desire” will be for her husband, meaning women will have an inner drive to be with men for emotional support, protection, and for sexual fulfillment, and in order to make babies. It is also used in Genesis 4:7 to describe sin pulling Cain in the wrong direction. God says to Cain, “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Sounds a lot like Eve’s curse, doesn’t it?

So what’s happening in Eve’s curse here? Essentially it means that even though Eve desires to be with Adam just like they were in the Garden of Eden, now Adam and Eve, and all men and women after them, are going to have a lot of messed up, confusing, contrary, hurtful desires. Part of her will want to have Adam around, but then they are going to fight and argue and compete for domination. Instead of being perfect partners that complete and complement one another’s strengths, now her desires will conflict with to his. Now instead of men and women working together, they will be engaged in a battle to see who will rule. Adam will use his physical strength to subdue her and rule over her, she will resist and reject and seek to usurp him. Both, drawn together with mutual need and desire, but neither submitting to the other, each always thinking they are getting the short end of the stick, trying to oppress or control the other.

Conclusion

This is the curse of Genesis 3 and the main issue of 1 Corinthians 11:2-6. Paul was talking to Christians, to believers who had been set free from sin, imbued with the Holy Spirit, made new by their relationship with Jesus, set free from the curse, set free from all of this horrible battle of the sexes, and were meant to be restored back to the way that God had originally intended men and women to live together: equal in dignity, worth, respect, mission, dominion, gifting, and access to God. Not grasping for power or oppressing one another. Not asserting their dominance over the other. Not women trying to replace men and men trying to oppress women. Not trying to escape God’s plan for how the world is meant to work, but submitting themselves to it in a worshipful humility.

But, in the head coverings controversy, the women were showing that they were still living like people who were under the curse. Pridefully grasping for power and attention, having contrary desires that caused them to disobey and disrespect their husband and their God, promoting the confusion of the roles of men and women, disgracing themselves in the church, and disregarding their own place in God’s plan of salvation. They were acting like unbelievers.

My encouragement to you is the same as it has been for the past few weeks: To consider whether you are submitting to God in the area of the roles of men and women. To ask yourselves in what ways you are seeking to oppress, control, or subjugate the opposite sex, instead of thanking God and appreciating the differences He created. To consider your marriage and what ways you’ve allowed your own sinful nature to dictate your beliefs about how you are to relate to your husband or wife.

Men, have you, like Adam, relinquished your role as head of the family? Women, are you ignoring him and just doing whatever you desire?

Submit yourselves, your relationships, and your marriages to Christ. Ask for and receive forgiveness for your sins in the name of Jesus, and then ask Him to teach you how to live His way, not yours.

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/eternal-Sonship.html

[2] ESV Study Bible

The Battle of the Sexes and God’s Original Plan (Part 2)

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45 - The Battle of the Sexes and God's Original Plan pt 2

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What you believe will dictate how you behave, that is a universal truism. If you change your beliefs you will transform your behaviour.

If a person doesn’t take care of their body says they know they should eat better and exercise, that they believe a healthy lifestyle is valuable but doesn’t actually eat veggies or get off their chair, can you truly say they believe what they say they know? Not really. But watch what happens when they have their first heart attack, or when they are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes – suddenly the excuses melt away and they are forced to confront their belief system and make some changes.

Or consider the student who tells themselves and everyone else that they are “studying”. They go to their room, check their phone, open their books, sharpen their pencil, go look for a highlighter, grab a snack, call a friend, look up the perfect study music on the internet, realize their desk is too cluttered so they tidy it up, but then they’re thirsty and need a drink, so they go to get some water, but really, they’re kinda tired so they should get some study fuel so they run out to get some Starbucks…. And all along the way people are saying, “hey, what are you doing today?” The student’s response, “I’m studying!”. “Then why are you at the store?” – “Oh, I’m just taking a quick break. Studying is hard work!” Part of them somewhat even believes it, right? But what happens when the test comes and they fail? They are forced to confront their actions. They are forced to confront whether they were really studying.

If you ask people what they believe about the roles of men and women in the church and in marriage you will get a lot of responses, based on a lot of beliefs, won’t you? People will quote verses, tell stories, share their personal understandings and beliefs, but how many of them actually believe what they are saying? How many of the things we actually say marriage line up to what we practice?

For example, take the simple phrase, “Men and women are equal.” A lot of people say they believe this, but do they? Are men and women equal? Well, if we define equal as being “the same”, then no, we’re not. Our bodies are obviously different, what with hormones and baby making system and all, but it’s not only that. According to neuroscientists, there are some considerable differences in how we see our world.[1] There’s no difference in intelligence between men and women, but they did learn that women are better at situational thinking and men are better at predicting patterns. Men are better at focusing on one task while women are better at multi-tasking. Women are better at picking up social cues and can empathize with what’s going on around them, while men are better at disregarding emotional distractions and rude behaviour and focusing on exact issues. Men are typically better at math than women. Women feel pain more intensely than men. Men are better with controlling their bodies movements and have faster reaction times, but women are better at discerning colours and learning languages and have better long-term memories than men. Men are better at short-term memory. Men get a rush of pleasure chemicals when they are faced with a risky situation. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. Sexually, men are aroused mostly through their eyes, while women are more complex requiring multiple senses, ambiance, touch, scent, temperature, to get excited.

That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it? Now, I want you to be careful when you hear that because there was absolutely no judgment in any of those statements, yet we are conditioned by the society around us to be immediately offended by hearing that we are different – because the word “different” has become associated with “inferior”.

If a scientist says men are better at disregarding emotional distractions, focusing on one task then somehow it gets translated into, “Female emotions are bad.” If a scientist says, “Men are better at controlling their body and have faster reaction times.” it somehow gets turned into, “Women are bad at sports!” But that’s not what he said! He’s just reporting the facts. But when those facts get filtered through our belief system, we often end up with an emotional response. And when our sinful nature gets involved it turns into arguments, put-downs, contests, and hard feelings. We somehow, naturally turn the information turns into a battle of the sexes.

Review

But that’s not how God intended the relationship between men and women to be! The differences between us are not meant to be a source of contention, but a reason to worship God. They weren’t meant to drive us apart from each other, arguing about which set of strengths is better, but cause us to marvel at the differences and depend on one another. Men have strengths that women don’t have and women have strengths that men don’t have.

The laser focused, risk-taking man needs the balance of the woman’s ability to multitask and be emotionally and situationally aware – and the overwhelmed and harried woman who is seeing a million things the man doesn’t needs the man’s ability to predict patterns, establish priorities, and focus on one thing at a time. Of course, I’m speaking stereotypically, and not everyone is like this. I fully grant that there are lots of ways that this isn’t the hard and fast rule. Some men are more in touch with emotions, some women are amazing at math, some guys couldn’t hit a fastball to save their life, and some women are super driven and focused on achievement and their work – but hopefully, you see the point that we need each other’s differences. Or as a bunch of smart people at the TGC said it, “Men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways.”[2]

And this is represented in scripture too, certainly in the 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 passage we’ve been studying for the past few weeks, but also in other passages in scripture. So what I want to take us to a few different places in scripture and then flesh the concept of the different roles of men and women, often called “complementarianism” out. But first, we’ll do a quick review of where we’ve already been.

On the first week, we talked about the authority behind the passage, citing everything from the authority of Jesus to how God biologically created men and women. The next week we studied the cultural context of the passage, discussing head coverings in ancient Corinth, what was happening in that particular church, and how that applies to us today. Last week we went back to Genesis 1 and talked about God’s original intention to make men and women equal in dignity, worth, glory, power, honour and dominion and the sin of disrespecting, subjugating, denying and ignoring one another. But I told you last week that wasn’t the whole picture. While Genesis 1 emphasizes our similarities, Genesis 2 retells the story of the creation of man and woman emphasizing our differences.

The Original Plan

So let’s open up to Genesis 2:5-25,

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…. [skip to verse 15]… The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’

Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

God the Sculptor

I want to point out a few things here that tell us about how God intended men and women to understand and relate to one another, particularly husbands and wives, but also generally. Certainly, a lot of the language at the beginning of Genesis is poetic – it’s not a science textbook on genetics, but there are some incredibly important truths here. The whole narrative slows down and God is portrayed as a gardener, a sculptor, an artist, forming, designing, and bringing to life a very special portion of creation. Everything else He spoke into being, but now the picture is of him bending down, hand-crafting something special, like a potter working with clay.

This shows us something of the importance of living creatures, animals and mankind to God. He sees living creatures, especially mankind, different compared to everything else. Mountains and galaxies and flowers are beautiful, but they are not living creatures. And while animals are amazing, humans are His masterpiece, His image in the world. Here we see God forming out of the earth, out of the dirt, all living creatures – except one.

Something’s Not Right

Look at verse 18. Notice that Eve, woman, is not around yet. That’s not an accident. God had created every other animal in all creation with a mate, every flower had a way to reproduce, the cycle of life had been engaged for every part of the planet – but not for Adam. Was this an oversight on God’s part?

Obviously not, but wow, people have used thinking like that to torture this passage into a patriarchal, sexist, misogynist insult to women. They say this whole story was written by men, for men, so that they would have a religious reason to subjugate women. Is that what this is? Is this section an insult to women? No way!

Just as the story slows down and zooms into God’s artistic hands when He starts creating Adam, here we see the story start to build drama. A story is unfolding here and it’s meant to show us something very important. Adam pops onto the scene along with the animals, by God’s design, as a natural part of creation. He’s part of the creative order – but now something special happens. Instead of the story slowing down, the whole narrative of creation stops.

In verse 15 we see God take Adam and place him in the garden of Eden so he can work it and keep it. “Ok, Adam, here you go. Enjoy the garden, work it, eat whatever you want, except that tree over there… but have fun and get to work.”

And Adam’s out there doing whatever he’s supposed to be doing, right? He’s hoeing away, taste testing everything, petting the cats, figuring out how seeds work, or whatever, but something is “not good”. Those two words introduce drama into the story of creation. It brings the whole story to a stop. Everything up to this point has been “Good” and “very good”, but now, something is “not good”. What’s not good? What on earth is missing? What’s wrong? Adam is sinless, standing in the garden of Eden, in the most idyllic setting imaginable. The planet still has that new-car smell. But something is not good? What is it? Woman is missing.

Was this God’s oversight? We sometimes read it that way, don’t we? It’s like whenever I buy something from Ikea. I take it home, look at the plans, lay it all out, do my best, try to get it all right – but then when I step back to admire my work, it looks a little off. It’s too wobbly, it’s not good. So I go looking in the box and realize that I missed a piece!

That’s not what’s happening here. God doesn’t make mistakes, so what is happening here? God is grandly introducing the greatest part of creation, the best thing He will ever produce for Adam. He’s teaching Adam something important by making him go without for a little while. Look how it happens!

In verse 19 we are reminded, once again, that Adam and every other creature was made out of the dirt. They were all from the same stuff, living in the same land. And all of these creatures were paraded before Adam so he might see them and name them. Naming something designates authority.

We still do this today. What’s the first thing we do when we get a pet – or a new piece of equipment? What do we do after we create a piece of art or a new invention? Name it. Most of science involves finding and naming things. This shows our dominion over creation. Adam names a bunch of animals and it stirs something in him. There was no helper fit for him.

Wait a minute. Not a helper fit for him? Consider the options. Horse, elephant, badger, falcon, wolves… but nope. Wait, I’m forgetting someone important that was around. God! God was there. This was before the fall, before sin. God and Adam could speak face to face. He could ask God anything and it would be given to Him because there was no such thing as a wrong choice! But yet God had said it was not good for Adam to be alone, and after a time of working the garden and seeing all the animals, Adam knew it too. Adam felt alone, in Eden, standing next to God.

There was a longing in his heart that nothing on earth, even, for some reason, God, could not fill. I know that sounds strange to evangelical ears, but it’s right there. He looked to find a helper, He found none, and God Himself knew it was “not good”.

Longing For A Helper

What does that tell you about how much men need women? Why there is such a deep longing in our hearts for the love of our mothers, our sisters, our female friends, and our wives. This section doesn’t denigrate women, it lifts them up in the highest of esteem. There is nothing in the world equal to women! When God said “I will make a helper fit for [Adam].” our modern ears want to lower the value of that word. Who’s more important the man or his helper? We assume the man, right? But that word is the term EZER in Hebrew and does not signify a lesser relationship. It is the term used when neighbors and relatives help each other accomplish a task (Isa 41:6). It’s used when two nations make a political alliance or when military reinforcements join a fight (Ezra 10:15, Josh 10:4, 2 Sam 8:5). And it’s also used repeatedly of God who is our “helper” (Psalm 54:4; 118:7, 121). If it’s used of God, then it cannot be a negative term or one implying something that is lesser than the other.

God knew that Adam would need a helper. Soon Adam too would know he needed a helper, a partner, someone to alleviate his alone-ness and partner with him on the mission God had given him[3].

But he didn’t need another Adam. He needed someone suitable, or “fit” for him. That’s what God said, “I will make a helper fit for him.” That word means a corresponding part, the other piece of the puzzle, someone that had what God purposefully didn’t give him. There is no sense of subordination or subservience there. It is an equal partnership of people who are the same in worth. This doesn’t make men higher and women lower, it makes them partners. Their differences make them need each other, and working together makes them stronger than if they worked by themselves.

God The Surgeon

Now, look at verse 21. Notice that the picture of God changes. He is no longer a sculptor or a sculptor but a surgeon. The picture we have is of God anesthetizing the man, causing a deeper than normal sleep to come upon him so He could do something special.

The woman is not formed from dirt, like every other living creature. She is not spoken into being like the rest of creation. What is happening? The woman is taken out of man to show that they are not just made of the same substance, but united in a bond that goes beyond any other. Adam was formed from dirt, but so were alligators. Here we see something different. We see God showing us something special: The bond between men and women is different than anything else in all creation. God takes a piece out of man, and forms, or builds, the woman from it. The man was “formed” from dirt, the woman was “made or built” from man.

And from then on, God would work the miracle of creating His human images, not from dirt or ribs, but the children of mankind would be formed in the woman’s womb, built out of the same stuff, the same material as their parents. And what would bring this about? The physical, loving, intimate, sexual union of the man and the woman together in the covenant bonds of marriage. We see the first marriage ceremony take place in Eden and it was to form the system by which God would continue to spread His glory, His Image, throughout the world.

Conclusion                                                                                      

Next week we will get into verse 23, where man names the woman, and what that means about male headship, but I want to close for now saying that when I began today I said that “what you believe will dictate how you behave”.

I think everyone here agrees with that, but as I said, I wonder if your beliefs line up with what you are saying.

  • Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God?
  • Do you believe God has the right to tell you how to view the relationship between men and women?
  • Do you believe you must submit yourselves to Him, despite what you think or have experienced?

If so, then what I’ve just taught you may require you to change your behaviour.

  • Do you believe that men and women are equally intelligent and equally worthy of respect – or do you value the opinion of one over the other?
  • Do you believe that God made men and women purposefully different and that those differences should be celebrated – or do you believe that to be different is to somehow be lesser?
  • Do you believe that the women you work, serve and worship with are a gift to mankind –that every part of society truly needs women – or do you believe that women are a hindrance to getting things done?

Of course, this works both ways, so I encourage you to think long and hard about your beliefs about the roles of men and women in this world and how you perceive them – to ask God to show you where you are biased for or against, where you have confused difference for inferiority, and to ask forgiveness for insulting God’s design and His image.

 

[1] https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html & http://www.fitbrains.com/blog/women-men-brains/ & http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/study-finds-some-significant-differences-brains-men-and-women

[2] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/four-dangers-for-complementarians

[3] http://margmowczko.com/a-suitable-helper/

The Battle of the Sexes and God’s Original Plan (Part 1)

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Audio:

Review

If you’ve been with us for the past 2 weeks hopefully you’ll remember how we’ve been building the foundation of understanding here. I’ve taken this one slowly because if we don’t build study this passage from the bottom up, it could be easily misinterpreted and therefore potentially damaging.

It’s easy to dismiss something if you think that it’s just cultural or from the “olden days”, right? Certainly, we’re all biased by preferring newer methods and means, but more-so when it comes to ancient cultures and practices. We eat modern diets, read modern books, use modern technology, and believe modern concepts – and the idea of importing and applying millennia old ideas doesn’t come naturally, so we require some pretty good reasons as to why it’s better or more authoritative.

So we started with the authority behind the passage. If this is cultural, then it’s changeable, but if it’s established in something that transcends culture, then we’d better pay attention. And if you recall, there were 5 of them. Whatever this passage is teaching is, as we see in verse 2, built on Apostolic Authority, which is to say, the same authority as Jesus. The second foundation, as we saw in verse 3, was the Trinity, or God’s established hierarchy. The third, as we saw in verse 8, was the foundation of Creation or God as Creator, going all the way back to before the fall of man in Genesis 3. The fourth foundation, as we saw in verse 12, was biology. The teaching here is rooted in God’s choice to make humans as male and female. And fifth, as we saw in verse 16, was common church practice – that this wasn’t a special teaching for the Corinthians, but a universal teaching for all churches everywhere.

So that was the first week. Last week we moved onto the cultural considerations or historical context for whatever is being said here. Even though the foundation of this passages teaching is beyond culture, we still have to understand the context of the writing, and so last week we studied head coverings and fashion in ancient Greek and Roman culture. This led us to understand the issue being addressed in this passage, that being the freedom that women were finding with their new relationship with Christ, the unique nature of the church being a place that considered men and women to be equal in dignity, worth, and access to God, had gotten out of control and the women were breaking with societal norms and doing away with the head coverings that their culture wore.

This helped us to understand that what Jesus is telling us, through Paul. The foundation of the passage was universal, but the issue was contemporary to the Corinthian church. So, their cultural issue, that of doing away with head coverings, was showing a something deeper – a problem of the heart. I said last week that the women in the church were experiencing an “intoxicating level of freedom in Christ” and that because they were human they had taken it too far. They had used their freedom to sin (Gal 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16) by disrespecting their husbands, disobeying Jesus, confusing new believers, and offending anyone who saw them.

Male Headship Controversy

But we’re not done with this passage yet. Foundationally, this was about breaking God’s divine standards. This showed up in a cultural way in the head coverings issue, but our interpretation of the passage is still missing a crucial part, and it’s something that I’ve been hinting at, but skipping past: and that is the issue of Male Headship.

How do you feel when I say that term? It likely depends on your age, your environment, your history, your education, and your knowledge of the Bible. We live in the modern and liberal nation of Canada, outside the very modern and very liberal city of Ottawa, and these two words are incredibly divisive right now. In fact, in a lot of places, with the rise of things like transgenderism and radical feminism, just using the term “Male Headship” would be considered hate speech.

That sounds radical doesn’t it? Like fear mongering. Well, here’s an example of what I mean: This is Kevin Arriola, a student at Ryerson University in Toronto. He’s seen some difficult things in his life and wanted to start the Men’s Issues Awareness Society. The invitation was to get some of the men and women at the school together to talk about some of the issues they’ve seen. Things like: male homelessness, the higher rate of suicide and incarceration, the declining performance of boys in academic settings, etc. Immediately, the feminist groups at the university flipped out, calling the group misogynist, anti-feminist, and ideologically dangerous. Within days, the student union shut them down. Ironically, half of the members of Kevin’s little group are women! In fact, the main team consists of Kevin and his social media director Alexandra! They’re fighting it right now, but it doesn’t look good.

My point behind sharing this story is to say that if a young man can’t start a discussion group un a university campus – the supposed bastion of learning and debate – about serious issues facing men today – then how do you think society is going to react to the words: “Male Headship”? Not well, right? It stirs up a lot of preconceptions and emotions, doesn’t it?

Therefore, we must be very careful when talking about this subject. We need to make sure that when we talk about it that we speak biblically, not passing along our own ideas, our history, our family upbringing, our culture, or assumptions about what we think the Bible says.

For Christians, we believe that God’s way is the best way, and therefore we pray and search the scriptures to see what He has to say and then submit ourselves to that – knowing that even if it goes against our feelings, history, preconceptions, culture, or desires, that it will be the best for human flourishing and bring God the most glory.

The Gospel

This is a gospel issue. The story of Jesus Christ, the good news (the gospel), is that Jesus Christ is using His power to restore everything to the way it should be. As Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new!” This is why we talk about being born again, washed clean, or regenerated. God the Father made everything perfect, but then humans sinned and messed it up. But through Jesus death on the cross, He has broken the power of sin and is not only saving individuals, but redeeming them, delivering them from sin and darkness, and sanctifying them, taking out their sinful heart of stone and replacing it with a holy heart of flesh. And the story of the gospel is that He’s doing the same thing to the whole world.

That’s why Romans 8:20-23 says,

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (ESV)

Sin messed up all of creation, and just as Christians have an inward groan and longing to be “set free from our bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of… glory…” waiting eagerly for our final redemption, so does everything else. We hate how messed up the relationships between men and women are, and we want it to be better. And it isn’t merely education that is going to fix it. It can only come from God through the work of Jesus Christ.

The Battle in Our Current Context

We’ve seen a lot of problems and confusion with male female relations over the past little while haven’t we. On one hand we have Harvey Weinstein who has been accused of entrapping, raping, molesting, and all kinds of other horrible behaviour to women in Hollywood. And then on the other hand we have the death of Hugh Hefner, the creator of a publishing empire built on the sexual objectification of women. Both of these men are predators, using their money and influence to take something very precious. But for some reason, though Hefner was an abusive rapist predator just like Weinstein, he was heralded by the media. It shows just how confused the culture is about male female relations.[1]

But it’s not just non-believers and ultra-left Hollywood that is confused, is it? The Christian church doesn’t get off scott free. Recently a #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear hashtag went around social media, and while some of it was ridiculous, some of it was really sad to read. The history of Christianity is full of all kinds of rebellion, oppression and domination. I still remember 2008 when I preaching a series based off some curriculum called “They Like Jesus, but Not the Church”. Dan Kimball had interviewed a whole bunch of twenty and thirty year olds and asked them what they had against Christianity. And one of those common objections was that the Christian church has a reputation for restricting and oppressing women.

And sadly, that’s been true in some cases as men take biblical passages like this one today, and others, misinterpret them, misapply them, and use them to harm women. Sure, as we’ve seen in our Corinthian context, this can happen in reverse as women use scripture to wrongly too, but a lot of the guilt falls on the shoulders of men.

This is likely why the term “Male Headship” creates such a visceral, instinctive, gut fear reaction. It’s because the church has often done a very poor job in seeking to understand and apply these passages properly. Men take it as permission to oppress women, and some women see it as a command from God to allow themselves to be disrespected and subjugated. This is where we get ideas like women are supposed to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, where men can demand sex whenever they want and the women aren’t supposed to enjoy it, where men are better managers and women better parents – all of which is unbiblical garbage. It’s a mess of wrong interpretations, which is why we need to be so very careful.

The Original Plan

This frustration between men and women, husbands and wives, is sometimes called “the battle of the sexes”. Where does that come from? Unsurprisingly, it comes from sin. This isn’t God’s doing, it’s ours. Let’s look at how God created it in the beginning. Open with me to Genesis 1:26-31 because I want to show you something very special and very important.

In Genesis 1, when God was creating everything, He did it in a very purposeful, very meaningful, way. First He did big things, like separate light and darkness, divide the earth and sky and space, and then He filled those big things with stars and planets, plants, birds, and land and water creatures. And then, pausing there, God began a special creation unlike any other.

Take a look at this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” It’s no accident here that God presents himself as a plurality. “Let us… after our…” God is speaking to Himself, to the Trinity. God the Father, addressing Jesus Christ the Son, through whom John 1:1-3 says all creation was made, and by whom Colossians 1:17 says all things are held together. They are a plurality of oneship; all equally worthy of glory, power, dominion, and honour – and yet distinct in their roles.

And so it should surprise us that when the creation that reflects His image would also be a plurality – male and female, both equal in glory, power, dominion and honour – and yet distinct in their roles.

Now look at verse 26 again,

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”

Who gets dominion over the earth? The word “man” as in “make man in our image” is the inclusive term for mankind – both men and women. And then it says, “let them have dominion…” Who gets dominion? “Them”.

There’s a great scene in the original, and better, Jurassic Park where three of the main are sitting in the jeep staring out at some of the dinosaurs and one of the men says quietly, “God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man, man destroys God, man creates dinosaurs.” The woman continues the thought and says, “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.”

And while this is a great quote in in the movie it also betrays a common misunderstanding of what we’re seeing here in Genesis. A lot of people think it says that God gave the whole world to Adam and everything else, including women, are subject to Him, but that’s not what it says. God gave dominion of the world to both.

Let’s keep reading in verse 27:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

God, in His second commandment, says that there shall be no idols made of Him. Why? Because Genesis 1 is clear that both men and women are created in the image of God, and like a two piece jigsaw puzzle, it is only when they come together that they complete image. We don’t need a gold or stone image of God because humanity is God’s image!

Genesis 1 is almost all plural! Both men and women, all mankind are given equal dominion, equal rights, equal blessings, and given the same commandments. Look at verse 28:

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.’” (ESV)

“It was very good.” Men and women, equal in dignity, worth, glory, power, honour and dominion. Both given the charge to enjoy the world God had created, to work it together, to be together in love and harmony, cultivating the earth, spreading God’s Garden Temple across the entire planet, and populating it with the fruit of their love, generations and generations of children who would all worship and enjoy the perfect presence of God. All the “you’s” in that passage are plural, God’s blessings and commandments are given to both Adam and Eve, man and woman, together. Not just Adam.

To Be Continued

But then, if you’ve read your Bibles at all, you’ll realize that you get this story again in Genesis 2. Why is that? Why do we read about Adam and Eve being created in Genesis 1 and then again in Genesis 2? Is it just a repeated story for effect? No, it’s because we are learning through those stories, in their similarities and differences, about God’s design for men and women, especially husbands and wives. Genesis 1 emphasizes our similarities, Genesis 2, our differences.

I wish I had time to complete this study, but we’re going to have to continue it next week. I’m told that my sermons are getting too long and the pews are too uncomfortable, so I need to cut things short, but let me end with this: We lose a lot of blessings when we engage in the battle of the sexes and refuse to submit to God’s teaching about male and female relations. Everyone loses out when humanity disrespects, subjugates, denies, or ignores each other – men or women.

I just sat in a two day Leadership conference and was surrounded and taught by some amazing women. There were some seniors, but I was amazed by how many younger women there were. Some were in business suits, others in fashionable dresses, others in jeans, and a few even had nuns habits, but all were there to learn how to be a better leader in their job and community.

One woman speaker, Sheryl Sandberg, is the COO of Facebook and spoke not only on leadership and hiring issues, but also on how to move forward after we face difficult challenges in life. Another very successful woman, Juliet Funt, spoke in the importance of not only being focused and doing hard work, but also balancing work with meditation and family life. Angela Duckworth has an incredible amount of education and spoke about passion and perseverance. Immaculee Ilibagiza shared an amazing testimony about her experience during the Rwandan genocide and the power of forgiveness.

It would be sheer insanity for anyone to deny that these were all very gifted, strong, intelligent, creative women that everyone – both men and women – ought to listen to. And yet, in the church today there are people who will simply refuse to listen to women, in so many areas, even silencing them, believing them to be somehow inferior to men. Men and husbands, mocking their wives and daughters, dismissing their opinions, gifts, talents, and desires, simply because they are female. That’s not how we God intended us to be together, and it is sin.

My encouragement to you today, whether you are male or female, is to look inward and ask yourself if you are engaged in the battle of the sexes. Are you biased against women? Have you been taught, or somehow come to the conclusion, that women are somehow lesser than men, or that men are somehow lesser than women?

Do you, deep down think men are stupid and women smart (or vice versa) That a woman is less trustworthy than a man (or vice versa)? Do you think women are more loving and better parents then men, men are better at leadership and management? Women are too emotional, men too angry, women too talkative, men too stubborn, women too anxious, men too childish, men too worried about sex, women too worried about looks?

I challenge you to submit these assumptions to God, to pray about them, and to ask if they are biblical – or if you’ve simply allowed sin to dictate your beliefs about others and are actually biased and engaged in battle with the other gender. Then we’ll talk more next week.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/sep/28/hugh-hefner-playboy-founder-91-dark-side

Why Sexual Sin is a Big Deal – God As Husband (The Gospel & Sexual Sin: Part 3)

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Sermon Audio:

Handout / Small Group Questions:

The Gospel & Sexual Sin Part 3: God As Husband – HANDOUT

Sermon Text:

I need you to do a little, mental legwork this morning and recall the last few sermons, because, in truth, they along with today’s is really altogether one sermon. Part of me longs for the days when preachers would be expected to preach for more than an hour at a time, and then got another crack at the topic during the evening service. But, sadly, those days are gone and I’m not a good enough speaker to hold your attention for that long anyway – so we make due.

It’s been a challenge for me to address the beginning of 1 Corinthians 5, and the topic of human sexuality, in a comprehensive manner, because I felt we needed a good introduction to the topic before jumping in. However, leaving weeks in between sermons has its disadvantages in that it’s easy to forget what was already said.

A couple weeks ago I gave the introduction to the sermon as I spoke on Jesus’ response to the Woman Caught in Adultery and the importance of remembering that Jesus amazingly gracious and loving toward those who have broken His law, even with repeated instances of sexual sin. Last week I gave the middle of the sermon as I moved from the forgiveness found in Jesus to the reminder that even though God is gracious, He does have a standard by which He expects humanity to live. Jesus didn’t come to let anyone do whatever they want as long as no one gets hurt, but to save us from our sins and help us live His way instead. We ended last week by making a transition from the introduction to the main topic by talking about the Greek word PORNEIA, the “junk drawer” word used to describe all forms of sexual sin that fall outside of God’s design for humanity.

And now, building off of all that, we move into a bit more meat on the topic, building a theology of human sexuality, based on what God expects of us. It would be easier (and more fun) for me to go on a diatribe against all the ways we get this wrong but that would be forgetting what I said at first; we need to know the authentic article before we can understand the counterfeit. So that’s what I want to do today. Look at the biblical view of human sexuality.

The Big Deal of Sexual Sin

So, why is sexual sin such a big deal? Is it because it’s so damaging and destructive to humanity? Is it the danger of addiction, disease or ruined relationships? Is it because the church is prudish and hates it when people have fun? You’ve probably heard that sexual sin is just like any other sin, that it’s no worse than any other, so why should we spend so much time talking about it… but actually, sexual sin does have a special category in scripture.

Let’s read 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

That puts sexual sin into a different category. But why, what makes sexual sin so special?

It comes down to God’s original design for humanity, and the huge importance of marriage in the Bible – the physical union of two people that represents a spiritual union, which in turn, represents a picture of Jesus’ relationship to His church. That’s a big concept, isn’t it?

Let’s take it apart.

We’ll start with the context of the verse we just read. Start at verse 13:

“The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

A Mystical Union

First, I want you to notice the interplay between the physical and the spiritual nature of sex. In verse 1 we see “The body”, which is physical. When the Lord saves us, it’s not just a spiritual salvation, but a renewal of our whole being – emotional, spiritual and physical. He saves our heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection demonstrated that after we die, we won’t live in eternity as spiritual beings, but with resurrected, perfect, physical bodies like Jesus had. Therefore, when we get saved we don’t merely turn our hearts over to the Lordship of Jesus, but our bodies as well.

But then it goes deeper in verse 15 and moves from the physical to the spiritual. Our physical bodies, which it says later are similar to the physical “temple of the Holy Spirit”, are also connected spiritually to Jesus. Our bodies are “members of Christ”. Elsewhere, as in Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12, Christians are called the “Body of Christ”, basically meaning we are, as individuals and as a church, the eyes, hands, and feet of Jesus in this world. We are, in a real sense, the physical manifestation of the Word of God in this world. Most often, when God wants to do something, He doesn’t do it with a mighty miracle but instead works through the people of His church. It’s just as miraculous, but far more subtle. To be “members of Christ” means we are both spiritually and physically united with Jesus in a very real, very intimate way.

And so, it says, how horrible it would be, how out of place, how ruinous, that someone who’s body is united to Jesus, would unite their body with a prostitute’s? “Never!” Paul shouts!

 

Two Become One

In verse 16 the argument is made against sexual sin this way: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” Our worship of God, the Lordship of Christ, His relationship to the church, and our salvation is all tied to the picture of human marriage and sexuality. You’ll notice that the words “The two will become one flesh” is written is quotes. That’s because it’s a quote from Genesis 2:24. Let’s read the whole of the context there:

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:18-25)

This is the first marriage and is the perfect picture of how humanity was intended to exist. Man was created by God and designed to be incomplete without woman. Adam stood in the perfection of creation, in the presence of God, and was incomplete. God showed Adam every animal He had created, lions, bears, dogs, cats, and among them none were found that were a proper helper. And after that great parade, Adam knew it too. I wonder if he, standing in Eden, had then felt a sense of lack; that something was missing.

And so God made for Adam a complement, a helper, a being who would be his equal in dignity and worth. Not another animal, but one like Him – but not exactly like him. Not a copy, but a partner, a companion. Notice how God phrases it, “I will make helper fit for him.” The word “helper” does not imply weaker or stronger. And “fit for him”, doesn’t mean “like him”, but “matching him”, like to opposing puzzle pieces. God didn’t make a clone, but a compliment.

In chapter 1:27 it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” It required both man and woman to represent God’s image. It even uses the words “male” and “female” not “man” and “woman”, to express the importance of the difference found in both genders.

They, together, as a complimenting pair, would be united spiritually to God and spiritually to one another. And in their sexual union before God, one “fitting” the other, would be the pattern for all human sexual relationships, taking them from two separate beings and creating “one flesh”. From that point on, as physical and spiritual images of God, humans were to grow up, leave their parents, bind themselves to a spouse, and form an exclusive, covenanted, sexual union.

God as Husband, Church as Bride

Let’s take a moment to explore theme that because it’s important. The picture of marriage in scripture is always an exclusive covenant. Why? Because it’s an image of God’s relationship with us.

All through scripture, God’s relationship with His people is framed as the image of a husband and wife. God and Jesus are both represented as husbands and believers as the bride. It’s one of the most important ways that God has given us to understand his relationship with us – which is why, when people start messing with marriage, human sexuality, or gender, it is such a huge problem!

Marriage isn’t something humans came up with to express their love for one another. It’s not a cultural creation meant to celebrate mutual affection and legally unite two people’s finances and tax situation. Marriage was given to us by God as one of the main images by which we would understand how He feels about us, deals with us, and commits to us.

Check out how God speaks to His people in these passages:

  • “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name…” (Isa 54:5)
  • “…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:5),
  • “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” (Hos 2:19)
  • Jesus calls himself a “bridegroom” multiple times (Matthew 9:15; 22:25; John 3:29), and at the very end of the Bible, when Jesus comes again, it says there will be the great “marriage supper of the Lamb” where God presides over a grand wedding and the bride of Christ (the church) presents herself in clothes of “fine linen, bright and pure”. (Revelation 19:6-9)

The love a man has for His wife is only a pale imitation of God’s love for His people. The protective emotions he feels for her, the concern he has for losing her, the betrayal he feels when she cheats on him, the pain he feels when she suffers, the desire to make her life better, to provide for her, to encourage her, to please her, to see her smile, the jealousy he feels, wanting her all to himself; these powerful, overwhelming, primal feelings, are all merely tiny glimpses of how God feels about His people, how Jesus feels about the church.

This is most profoundly pictured in the Old Testament book of Hosea where God calls the prophet to do something very difficult to show the nation what He’s going through. It says in Hosea 1:2,

“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’”

In other words, Hosea’s marriage was to be an image of God and His people.

Hosea goes and finds a prostitute named Gomer, takes her off the streets, marries her, and has three children with her. But, as predicted, Hosea’s wife cheats on him. She runs away, sells herself into prostitution again, and Hosea is forced to buy her back from her slave owner. After buying her back, he begs her to stay, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

The narrative story is interspersed among prophecies from God, showing His anger, pain, frustration, sadness… but also His desire to get His bride back at any cost! He declares that he has the right to divorce her, to write her off, forget about her and find a new bride, but He refuses to do that because they are married and He loves her! Yes, there would be a cost, and the bride would go through much suffering before it was over, but in the end there would be reconciliation and restoration! Not because she deserved it – far from – but because of the husband’s commitment to the marriage and the great love He has for her. He would do anything to win her back.

My favourite part of the book comes in Hosea 2:13-16. Let me read it to you.

“…I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’…”

There’s no one that can tear the heart out of someone chest like your spouse. The image of marriage here is one where not only does the wife cheat on him, but runs off for no reason and gives herself to man after man, wandering the streets in the most shameless and erotic clothes, partying with every disgusting, deplorable, degenerate man she could find, until she is ruinous to the point where she’s even forgotten her husband’s name. She gets herself in such trouble that she ends up like the prodigal son, except instead, she sells herself as a sexual slave.

And what is the husband’s response? To buy her back at whatever cost so she can be free from danger. And then, amazingly, to “allure her” meaning to re-seduce her, to win her back with romance so she will love Him again! To “speak kindly to her”, literally “speak to her heart”. To give her back her vineyards, and to make her “Valley of Achor”, which means “valley of trouble” into a such a distant memory that she sees it as the “door of hope”. He’s going to show her so much love that it will be like when they were newlyweds!

Why would He do this? Is He a sucker for punishment? Is He in some kind of weird, abusive, co-dependent relationship with humanity that He needs us in order to feel good, no matter how bad we treat Him? Sure, He loves us, but is that the only reason?

No. He does it because He has promised to. He made a covenant with us. He is in an exclusive, covenant, promised, marriage bond with His people, and He will never leave them, divorce them, forsake them, or abandon them. He loved us so much He was willing to trade His Son for us – His adulterous bride. But not only out of love. He redeemed us from slavery by the blood of Jesus because He promised He would always be there for His bride.

 A Spiritual Picture

This is why the sacredness of marriage and human sexuality is so important to believers, and why corrupting it is such a big deal. Man and woman, male and female, in the holy, exclusive, covenant bond of marriage, show the image of God and paint a portrait of Jesus’ relationship to the church. It’s a very, very important illustration that God has given us.

When society messes with that image, it messes up the narrative of all that God is trying to teach us through it. God set it up the way He wanted and then made natural and scriptural laws to ensure it remained a strong image for humanity to look at for all time. This is why Christian theologians often argue that there is no such thing as same-sex marriage, polygamous or polyandrous marriage, group marriage, bigamous marriage, open marriage, or whatever else people come up with… because by definition a “marriage” is literally the “union of a man and woman for life”. It can’t be anything else because nothing else fits the description or image God created.

It is our sinful nature to try to improve upon, change, or personalize what God has already settled. We want to make ourselves the special case. We think our feelings, opinions, desires, emotions, or preclusions give us the right to negotiate different versions of what God has set up.

  • “My marriage isn’t working out and I have feelings for another person, therefore I have the right to follow my feelings and marry someone else. I can’t be held accountable for how I feel.”
  • “My spouse isn’t fulfilling my sexual desires, therefore I have the right to have them satisfied a different way. It’s their fault for not doing it, and God’s fault for not taking away these feelings.”
  • “I have a strong biological urge to have sex, therefore I must follow through on that urge, regardless of who it is with. It’s not my fault I have these urges.”

Our feelings have very little to do with it because human sexuality is much bigger than our opinions or urges. God has given the gift of sex to be used one, singular way, because that is the way that gives Him the most glory, teaches us the most about Him, and helps us understand the way of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Messing with God’s plan for marriage and sex messes with God’s image and with the Gospel!

Forbidden Fruit: Why We Keep Changing What We Believe About Who God Is and What He Has Said

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16 - Forbidden Fruit

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about how important it is for us to realize that we don’t have the right, or the need, to make up things about who God is or what God wants, because He has already told us everything we need to know. All through scripture, we are taught that God didn’t leave us to try to figure out most things on our own, but instead chose to tell people what He wanted and then required us to obey.

And more than that, whenever people did start making things up, changing ideas about His will or His person, they were condemned and punished. Think about it.

God created the universe, designed the earth, populated it with everything necessary for an enjoyable and fruitful life, and then put Adam and Even in the middle of a garden. They were in perfect relationship with God and each other. They had meaningful work and a mission to carry out: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” God was the King of all, and had made Adam and Eve rulers of the earth. They had “dominion” over everything, and God had dominion over them.  Everything was “very good” until Adam and Eve decided to believe false things about God and go against how God said they should live. (Genesis 1:28-31)

Satan’s argument started, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’”. Of course not, and he knew it, but this opened up a dialogue with Eve based on challenging what God had revealed about how they should live. Eve answered, “…God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Already we see Eve giving God’s word a little alteration. God didn’t say that they couldn’t touch it. Either she or Adam had added that little bit to God’s instructions.

Now that the dialogue was open, and God’s Word was getting more pliable as the conversation went on, Satan continued with, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He implies that God is holding out on them, that He can’t be trusted, that there is something better that God doesn’t want them to have, that His current revelation wasn’t good enough, and all they had to do was go outside of what God had revealed to them and they’d find something better than God wanted to give them. “God lied, Eve. He’s keeping you from the good stuff.”

Good for Food

The story continues, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Gen 3:6)

We see that both Adam and Eve were standing there, and both were complicit in this sin – but where did the temptation come from? It came from wanting to know more than God had revealed to them, and disobeying what God had told them to do.

In a very real sense, Adam and Eve had looked at the one, true religion – or way of relating to God – that God had designed and said:

“It’s not enough. It doesn’t meet my needs. It doesn’t give me what I want. It doesn’t explain enough. It doesn’t feel the way I want it to feel. So let’s invent our own version of this religion. One where we are still in the Garden, still able to walk with God in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8), but doesn’t have all the restrictions that this one does. After all, God is a God of love, right? Therefore, I’m sure it will be fine if we bend what He says. He wouldn’t just kill us, would he? There’s no death in this world! I could never worship a God who would kill someone just for eating a piece of fruit. I’ll invent my own version of God that is more open to other people’s opinions and isn’t so restrictive. Our god will be one that allows people to worship in a way that feels right to them. And if they want to worship God by getting to know Him better through eating that fruit, then they should be allowed! Let us throw off the shackles of the old rules, and embrace a new way of knowing God!”

Sound familiar? This is the world’s way of connecting to God. They come to a god of their own design, on their own terms. That thinking goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

In their own human wisdom they looked at the tree and thought, “Wow, that looks tasty, and safe, and not poisonous at all. Why would God prevent us from eating a tree that was “good for food”? God invented food, and God invented trees, and this tree looks “good for food”, so God must be ok with it, right? That’s called self-justification, or self-deception. If it looks good, feels good, tastes good, and makes sense to us, then it must be ok, right?

We do this all the time, even with Christianity: I like this song, so it must be a good worship song that God likes too. I like this church, so it must be one that God likes too. I felt a tingle during that worship service, so that means the Holy Spirit was there. I don’t like those verses in the Bible, so God must not like them either. Those people are the kind of people I like, so they must be closer to God. Worshipping at home feels better than organized religion, so God must be ok with me rejecting the church and inventing my own version of Christianity. I like how this preacher sounds, so I’ll listen to him. This book agrees with me and tells me what I want to here, so it must be right.

It’s all very tempting, isn’t it? It all looks “good for food”, and tastes right to us, so we believe it must be good. God had declared the whole world “very good”, and had declared that one tree bad. But Eve’s eyes looked upon it and declared it “good”. Self-deception.

A Delight to the Eyes

Eve also saw that the tree was a “delight to the eyes”. Notice how quickly she went from, “God said that tree will kill us if we touch it” to “my, what a delightful tree that I definitely want to touch and eat from.” What happened? James 1:14-15 describes it best,

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Something inside of her, and Adam, had changed. The tree was exactly the same tree as it was before she had started listening to the serpent, but her perception of it had changed. It now contained something she wanted, and in order to make it okay with herself, she altered her perception of it.

“Well, that tree’s not so bad. It’s actually a pretty tree. It’s quite delightful, actually. It’s a beautiful tree with beautiful fruit and it would be a shame for me not to take one. God provided this beautiful tree. He invented it. He makes all things beautiful, so why shouldn’t I take it? It’s not wrong to appreciate something that’s beautiful, is it. If God had wanted me to stay away, then He should have made the tree ugly and the fruit disgusting. It’s actually God’s fault that I’m even near this tree. He made it so nice. He made it make me feel good. He’s the one who is at fault here. Why say something is wrong, but make something so delightful?”

Remind you of anything?

We do this all the time with various sins – whether it’s addiction to drugs and alcohol, pornography and lust, money and possessions, gluttony, wrathful anger, or almost anything else. God tells us it’s wrong, and our conscience follows up in agreement. But then we find ourselves thinking it over in our mind and trying to justify how great it will be, and how it’s actually a good idea, and how it’s someone else’s fault that we’re doing it anyway. It’s the same every time.

But we also do this with our relationship with God. The One, True God, and all His revelations aren’t “delighting” us enough. Instead, God has us living through a time of trial, discipline, suffering, or even just plain boredom. God’s not being entertaining enough, He refuses to remove pain and discomfort, or distract us with pleasures, so we go off to find something that will. And those things are delightful. But God’s Word says that we need to be careful with them, to not idolize them, or to avoid them altogether… so what do we do?

A lot of people simply change or dismiss God’s Word. They don’t like what God has revealed, so they re-write part of the Bible, declare it irrelevant, or simply remove that part from the Book. Or, they go find – or even write – another book that will tell them that they want to hear. It happens all the time. God’s revealed truth isn’t delightful enough, so they go to Oprah’s book list and buy something there that will tell them what they want to hear.

God’s not giving them what they want, so they go read “The Secret” which tells them that there is no God, but instead there’s a universal energy force that they can manipulate to attract things to them that they like. They don’t like that Jesus said He’s the only way to be saved, and that Christians sometimes suffer, so they find a new age guru like Deepak Chopra who says that happiness isn’t found in any kind of god, but found inside ourselves through introspection and meditation. They don’t like that people go to hell, so they go read Rob Bell who says that everyone gets to go to heaven.

These books seem “good for food” and are a “delight to their eyes”, but they are a trap. They go against what God has revealed and lead us to temptation and sin.

Make One Wise

As Eve stood back and looked at the tree, her perception changing, her heart deceiving itself so she could take and eat, she came up with one more reason that it was a good idea. It would “make one wise”. Notice this wasn’t just a physical attraction anymore. And see how the poison of the temptation sinks deeper into the soul.

It started out merely looking “good for food”, it continued to become a “delight to the eyes”, but here we see that it wasn’t just tasty and pretty – it would give her something that God wouldn’t or couldn’t: special wisdom; knowledge God didn’t want her to have.

The implication here is that God had withheld something from her and Adam that she felt she needed to be complete. Yes, God had kept her in the dark about something, but it was to protect her. As it stood she only knew good – this tree would give her the knowledge of evil. But now she desperately wanted to know and all she had to do was reach out her hand and take a bit to see what God was withholding from her.

She felt God had refused an experience to her, but this would fill that gap and make her a more whole person. She had a curiosity that needed to be fulfilled, but God wasn’t giving her an answer. God’s revelation wasn’t enough for her. She needed wisdom and experience that was outside of what God had planned for her and Adam.

One commentary I have says that the fruit “appeared to her as a means for spiritual advancement.”[i] This tree was no longer just one of the many trees in the Garden, it was now, for her, the best tree in the Garden; there was more to be gained from this tree and its fruit than anything else the Lord God had provided.[ii]

Patterned Through Scripture

We see this pattern all the way through scripture, and it continues today. God tells us what He’s like, what He wants, and what He wants from humanity. We listen and follow for a little while, but then come up with our own ideas of what God’s like, what God wants, and what He wants from us – and then we forget about God and go after we like and want. We aren’t satisfied with what He has revealed so we invent something that sounds better to us.

Consider the story of Nabad and Abihu found in Leviticus 10. God had just spent a whole lot of time declaring exactly how He wants things to go when it comes to worshipping Him and offering sacrifices in the Tabernacle. He went into incredible detail, and after Aaron, Moses and the priests had followed every instruction, God showed up in power and consumed their offering, showing they did it right

But at the beginning of Leviticus 10 it says this:

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”

What happened there was that they hadn’t followed what God had said about how to worship Him. This was a huge deal because this was the very infancy of the Jewish religion, the very beginning of learning how God wants to be worshipped. They needed to know how seriously God takes His Worship and His Word and what the penalty was for disobeying. It wasn’t just about getting the religion right, but showing that when they disobey God’s Word, they are sinning, and that sin leads to death.

To disobey God’s Word leads to the corruption of the individual soul, and if you are leader, the corruption of others. Some people think that they took the fire from the wrong place, burnt a different kind of incense, or even showed up drunk. Whatever the case, God demonstrated in no uncertain terms that He doesn’t mess around when it comes to disobeying what He says to do.

God wants His people to be holy as He is holy, and that means holding to the highest standards of conduct (Lev 19:2; Matthew 5:48). All through the Old Testament Law God reminds His people that they aren’t merely to obey the Law because it is right and good, but because they are His representatives to the world and are a reflection of Him.

Just as Adam and Eve were created to bear the image of God, so Israel would bear God’s image, and so do Christians today. All humanity bears God’s image, but we, God’s people, are meant to be the ones who do it best.

In the New Testament, we see that God hasn’t changed how He deals with humanity since the Garden of Eden. He created Adam and Eve to be His image bearers, gave them a place to meet Him in worship, gave them what they needed to be fruitful forever, and a mission to spread that message to the whole world, but they chose to reject Him and His Word, and it caused their destruction. Then He raised up the people of Israel to be His chose people, gave them the Temple as a place to worship, told them how to be fruitful forever, and told them to spread that message to the whole world, and they rejected Him and His Word, and it caused their destruction.

Today God is doing the same thing. After Jesus came to be the final sacrifice under the old system, He changed how things would look, but didn’t change God’s plan. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” That’s no different than the story of Nabad and Abihu, is it? And it’s not much different than the message given to Adam and Eve, or Israel: “This land is holy and you are holy. I will walk with you here if you follow my word and don’t eat of the tree. But if you sin, you will destroy God’s temple and will also be destroyed.”

Except now, the temple isn’t made of stone, it’s made of flesh. God’s temple is the people of His church – but He has the same standards and gives the same warning to us.

God’s Plan of Salvation

Listen to what is written among the final words in the final chapter of the final book of the Bible, because it shows how God’s message has been consistent from the start:

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

The whole Bible is an invitation to be saved through Jesus Christ. The healing water is free for everyone. All who are thirsty for grace, peace, forgiveness, and life, the payment has been made for you by the blood of Jesus. And the Spirit of God and the Bride of Christ, the Church, extends the invitation to all to “Come!”

But, when you “come”, you must come God’s way. Don’t change God’s Word. Don’t invent new ways of coming. When Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

 How Can We Know the Difference?

This is the crux of the problem that Paul is trying to address in the opening chapters of 1st Corinthians. This church had their beliefs all messed up and had imported all kinds of foreign, wrong, teachings about God and His will for their lives, and Paul was warning them that the path they had chosen didn’t bring more life, but death. They had fallen for the same demonic deception that Eve had.

They had looked at the teachings from other religions, philosophers, and things that just felt right to them, and saw they were “good for food”, “a delight to the eyes” and “was to be desired to make one wise”, and had taken a big old bite. Their pursuit of wisdom and knowledge had lead them to destruction because it had lead them away from the revelation of God.

But the question comes, how can we know the difference between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God? If all these things look good, feel good, and seem like wisdom, then how can we be sure which one is of God and which one is not? How do we keep from being deceived?

The Bible gives the answer in the passage we’ve been studying.

“…these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16)

Jesus Christ, it said before in 1:30, is the “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” If we want to know the mind of God, we must be connected to Jesus. A “natural person” is someone who is trying to figure out God, the Universe, Eternity  and Life, using their human wisdom and human strength, driven by their bodily appetites, their carnal knowledge, thinking the way an animal would, preferring the things that bring them the most pleasure. They will naturally go towards things that look “good for food”, and “delight the eyes”, and will be deceived by their own appetites.

But in contrast, a “spiritual person” – meaning one who has given their heart, soul, mind and strength over to Jesus to be redeemed, sanctified, renewed and made righteous – is listening to God’s voice, God’s Spirit, God’s Word, and God’s truth – and will see things differently.

Conclusion

Therefore I close with two encouragements. To those who are Christians here today, don’t succumb to the temptation to seek things outside of God’s Will and God’s Word, no matter how “good” and “delightful” they seem to you.

Instead, seek the “mind of Christ” by seeking the counsel of the Spirt of God and the Word of God. Read the living Word of God, the Bible, every day, praying as the Lord taught you, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…. lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9-13) As you do so, your natural self will wither and you will be able to “understand” the things that “are spiritually discerned”. Then you will be able to teach others.

I encourage you to go and pray the words of Psalm 51,

“God… you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart…. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

To those who are not Christians today, or who are not seeking the mind of Christ – those who are racked with doubt, fear, shame, anger, lust, and who’s faith is either dead or dying – those who have invented their own God, their own religion, and have rejected what God has revealed – I implore you to “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (Isa 55:6) for “…now is the favorable time… now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2) It profits you nothing to invent your own god and your own religion. Come to God as He has said you must come: humbly and on His terms.

[i] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Lewis, T., & Gosman, A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis (p. 230).

[ii] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: (p. 12). Peabody: Hendrickson.

EPIC: The Story of God & Humanity

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(Click here for the sermon video.)

God has been writing a story since the beginning of time and it is EPIC. What follows is a brief history of the universe written to help you see how it all hangs together and introduce you to the main character of the story: Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday - Epic

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the start of our story. Notice how I said that it’s the start of our story. Not the beginning of The Whole story. Just our part. God existed before there was ever a heavens or an earth.

So God created the universe, the stars, the plants, our world, and everything on it. And He did it in steps. There was order to creation. We don’t know everything about the beginning of time, but we do know that it did not come together by random chance. As we look through the creation story we can see that God is imaginative, powerful and is really enjoying His work. Over an over again God looks at what He is doing and says that “it is good”. He likes what He sees. He made the skies, the oceans, the birds, trees, sun, moon… all of it. God, in an amazing process, formed all of creation out of nothingness… and calling it a good thing.

And then after everything else was created… He started His greatest work. God literally saved the best for last. He decided to create humanity. All of the rest of creation was a good thing… but this was going to be the best thing. God formed a man out of the dust of the ground. The last thing that God did while creating all that has been created was to lovingly design humans, and breathe His very life into them. He bestowed upon us something unique in the world… a living spirit. Humanity was designed to bear God’s own image and carry inside of them divine breath. We are the best thing He ever made, and He loves us very much.

And He took His two favourite creations, Adam and Eve, and put them into a wonderful garden. There was endless food, total comfort, no sin, no shame, nothing to fear. Greed wasn’t a problem, relationships weren’t a problem, sex wasn’t a problem, disease wasn’t heard of, and best of all, these humans had the glorious privilege of walking and talking with God face to face. It was the best place ever. But it didn’t stay that way.

 Chapter 2: The Fall

Adam and Eve, with some help from the devil himself, decided it wasn’t good enough. God had placed them where they would have everything they could ever need, but had only one rule: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A world of delicious options and only one tree from which they weren’t aloud to eat. Can you imagine a world where there is only one bad choice? Everything else on the entire planet was a good choice. There was only one bad one.

Many have asked why God would put that tree there at all. The answer is simply this: without it, there would have been no choice. In order for His creation to have free will and the ability to love, there must be the option of choice. There must be a way to choose not to love, not to obey, not to believe. If there is to be free will, rejection must be an option.

If the only flavour of ice-cream ever invented was vanilla, then it really doesn’t make sense to go around saying that your most-favourite flavour is vanilla! Of course it is. There is only meaning when there is another choice.

And Adam and Eve made the other choice. They chose not to trust their creator. They chose to believe God was holding out on them. They chose to take that which they were not allowed to have, and which they had been warned would do them harm. That choice changed the whole of creation.

 Chapter 3: Cast Out From Eden

The moment Adam and Eve decided to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, everything changed. It was at that moment when sin entered the world. God had warned them that everything would change, but they chose to anyway. He told them of the consequences, but they looked and saw that it was good looking fruit. They knew that once they ate it, they would have a special knowledge which they didn’t have before. They wanted that… and they ate. Before that moment they only knew good… after they took that bite and followed through on their temptation to sin, they would know “good and evil”.

And since God is good, perfect and holy, and He can’t be around evil – He has no part with evil or evil-doers. Their action made it so that He could no longer communicate face to face with His beloved people any more. Things had changed.

The sin not only affected them, but the rest of the world as well. They were the pinnacle and the stewards of creation, and now that they had sinned, all of creation was marred – it’s like it bled from them onto everything.

Soon after we see shame, anger, distrust, fear, blaming… weeds, toil, pain, frustration… everything changes because of sin. In an act of divine grace they were cast out of Eden so they would not eat of the Tree of Life and be sustained by it forever in their sin.

As God had promised, Adam and Eve would know death. You see, death was something that wasn’t a part of God’s perfect design. But every choice has a consequence, and the consequence of disobedience is the need for just judgement. As people who believe in justice, we understand this. A good society, a good God, punishes wrong. The punishment for sin is death.

All bad news, right? Well, even though it was all bad news, there was one glimmer of hope in the whole midst – the promise of salvation to come. Even in the midst of judgement, God shares the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, telling them that the problem they just made would one day be fixed (Genesis 3:15). God promises that there will one day, Someone born of women will finally do something to reverse all of their mess. Though it would be bleak for a while, and the consequences were dire, there would be hope for humanity.

Chapter 4: Noah

Now even though humanity had fallen and was no outside the Garden of Eden, that didn’t stop them from “going forth and multiplying”. Adam and Eve were having children, and their children were having children, and the world was being populated. The Bible says that Adam lived 930 years and someone can have a lot of kids in that amount of time!

Not only were people multiplying, but their sin was multiplying too. People were acting getting worse. The bible says that by the time of Noah things were really grim. Now Noah was Adam’s Great x 8 grandson. Eight generations had gone by, and there were lots of people on the earth, but they were inventing new ways to be evil, violent to one another and corrupt to the core. They were now disregarding their Creator completely.

The Bible says that God was grieved that had made humanity at all. He had such a great love for them, but they had so completely turned their backs on Him, His reason for creating them, and were doing such harm to each other, that He was sorry that He had made them in the first place. So He decided to send a flood to wipe them out. Not to destroy humanity, but to destroy the wickedness of that generation which had gotten completely out of control.

But again, there was grace in the midst of judgement. God decided to save Noah and his family, the one family left who were listening to Him. Was Noah perfect? No, but He did love God and seek to live He mattered. It was not that Noah was worthy to be saved, but that He was the only one listening to the message of salvation.

After, God used Noah and his family to repopulate the world again. He started over. That’s what God does. He takes in impossible situation and adds creativity, and grace, and love, and hope. Yes, they would fall again. Noah didn’t make it very far out of the ark before he and his family were sinning again.

Even this pointed to Jesus in that we are reminded that even the most righteous man on earth was not good enough to stay righteous for long – there was a deeper problem, an internal problem with humanity – a darkness and depravity that went to every human’s core – that needed to be dealt with. God promised never to wipe humanity out again because He was about to put His full plan into motion.

 Chapter 5: Abraham

Right around the death of Noah, possibly even the same year, a man named Abram was born. God’s narrative of grace continues as He decides to show love to an obscure, pagan man. Abram wasn’t anyone special, just a guy who God decided to work through. God says, “leave your country and your people and go into a different land.” and Abram obeys.

God then makes a promise to Abram – who was then a senior citizen, married to a barren wife, and had no children – that he would have many descendants and they would become a great nation. In fact, God promises that the whole world would be blessed because of his family line. He would give them a special place to live and would take care of them. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and gets to work.

This was a pretty good deal for Abraham, but he never gets to see the plan fully worked out during his lifetime. That doesn’t mean God didn’t keep his promise, though. Abraham did have two children, and his grandson would be a man named Jacob.

Jacob was the one who would really see God’s blessings taken to another level as his children became the 12 patriarchs for the nation of Israel. It was these twelve families that would form the political and geographic system through which the rest of God’s plan would be carried out.

Chapter 6: Joseph

God needs to make sure that this family is taken care of, which is where we get the story of Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob. God amazingly uses the anger and jealousy of these brothers to save them from starvation, years before a terrible drought would hit the land. Most of us here know or have heard the story of Joseph.

His story was personally tragic as his brothers sell him into slavery, he’s falsely accused of rape, and is sentenced to jail for many years. After a while God gives Joseph the opportunity to help the Pharaoh interpret a bad dream he was having – a dream about a terrible drought to come – and Joseph is put in charge of preparing for it.

In an amazing way, God takes care of His people by bringing them down to Egypt to be saved from a famine that would have wiped them all out, and prepared them for the next phase of His plan.

Chapter 7: Moses

Jacob and these 12 brothers were down in Egypt and were more than accepted there, but then a different Pharaoh came into power who didn’t know about Joseph and the promises that the previous administration had made to his family. Instead he started to fear Jacob’s family (who were now being called “Israelites”), and instead of keeping the covenant with them, he made the whole nation slaves to the Egyptians. They were in slavery for hundreds of years. Suffering, but still having children.

One of these children was named Moses. At the right time in history, God worked some powerful miracles through plagues on Egypt. The final plague would once again show God’s mercy in the midst of judgement and point to the Saviour who was to come — the Passover where a spotless lamb would be killed and it’s blood used to save people from death.  Moses would be the person to lead His people out of Egypt as one, unified nation, ready to get back home to the land that God promised their father Abraham — an exodus to the “Promised land”.

But first, God brought them to a place where He would make a covenant with them. He wanted to make an agreement that as long as they would commit themselves to being His special people, trusting and worshipping Him alone, He would take care of them.

God, in His grace, knowing that they would sin and harm each other, just as all humanity had done for all time, He wrote laws for them to live by. Know that I am the only God, don’t murder each other, don’t steal from each other, honour your parents… all these rules were for their own good, and to make sure that the relationships between Him and themselves could continue.

God couldn’t be around sin, but He gave them a religious system by which they could finally approach their Creator, know Him better, and get temporary forgiveness for their sins.

God’s people were free from slavery, ready to take back the promised land, had a good leader in Moses, laws to protect them, and God’s promise to take care of them… But of course, still being marred by sin, broken in their souls, they rejected God and started praying to, worshipping and putting their trust into created things – even statues of their own making.

Even a good leader and a Law written by God Himself wasn’t able to keep people from committing evil and preferring sin to righteousness. And death still existed in the world. There was more that needed to be done.

Chapter 8: Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat.

The next chapter in human history is sort of the in-between time which I’m calling Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat. It was the time of the Judges, the Kings and the Prophets. In the time between the giving of the Law and when Jesus the Saviour would come a lot of things happened, but it seemed to keep to this endless cycle of Sin, Suffer, Repent Repeat.

As far as good things that happened: With God’s help they conquered most of the people that had moved into their Promised Land, and divided it up amongst the 12 different tribes. They built some great cities and became one of the richest civilizations in history. They even took down the tabernacle – the temporary tent of worship – and built a beautiful temple.

A lot of bad things that went on too. The Law that God put in place through Moses as a way to make sure that their relationships to Him and others would be strong… well, they broke all of them. They crafted idols to worship, they cheated and abused each other, committed adultery, dishonoured their parents, broke the Sabbath, and even sacrificed their own children to demons. Throughout this time God kept raising up prophets to warn them about the consequences of their bad decisions, but they kept killing the prophets!

For a long time, God was the King of Israel, but eventually they decided that they didn’t want God to be their King anymore, but instead wanted to be like all the other nations and have a human king. This was like a slap in God’s face! He had always been their ruler, their Law giver, great judge, provider, the one to keep them safe and lead their armies — and now He wasn’t good enough. God’s chosen people, the one that he picked out from among all the others, the one that He had promised Abraham would be a great nation, turned their backs on Him, just like all those who had come before.

They put the king in place, but God in His mercy kept sending prophets to show the people how to live, the dangers of their sin, and the way back to peace with God and each other. Each of the prophets would share God’s mercy, remind them of His hatred for sin, about how much He wanted the people to come back to Him, warn them that if they continued on the path they were on that He would have to discipline them for their own good.

Then, since no one would listen, the prophets would talk about Promised One that would finally come and end this repetitive cycle of Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat, once and for all. They reminded the people about the One who was promised to Adam and Eve, the One who would come through Abraham’s tribe, the One that would conquer evil, sin and even death. The coming of Jesus is typified, alluded to, or outright prophesied in every book of the Old Testament.

This cycle went on for years… hundreds and hundreds of years… Sin, Suffer, Repent, Repeat, and all the while God was continuing to prepare the world for the One who would finally end all of this. He was showing everyone that there was not one person who could obey the Law, not one who would worship Him. The prophets would show their weakness, the priests would fail the nation, the kings would become corrupt, the people would rebel… the Law condemned everyone.

They needed one who would be called the Messiah, hich means “Chosen One”. He would be the one who would finally break the pattern. He would finally obey the law perfectly, love God and others perfectly, be the perfect prophet, perfect priest, and perfect king. He would conquer their enemies, bring justice to the oppressed, and lead people into a right relationship with God. He would be called the Christ, the Anointed one. And for years, Israel waited.

Chapter 9: The Messiah

God waited until the world was just right (Gal 4:4). Israel was at the pinnacle of their rebellion. The Romans had built a civilization that would allow the gospel to travel easily. God waited until just the right moment to send His greatest Gift to the world. But He surprised everyone by how He did it.

Consider the irony of how Jesus entered the world. Since the beginning of time people were waiting for this One Person to come. This would be the most important person in history, the Saviour of the world from their greatest problems. And when He finally came… almost no one knew. When the Messiah, the Christ, finally arrived, He didn’t come as a mighty King on a white horse leading a huge army. He didn’t come in a bolt of lightning and a booming voice proclaiming the Judgement of God.

No, as the old Hymn says, “He was no stately form, He had no majesty, that we should be drawn to him”. He came as a baby, a helpless infant. The Son of a virgin, adopted by a poor, Galilean Carpenter. Born in a humble stable, in a tiny village – a nobody from nowhere.

No palace like King Solomon. No fanfare like King David. No blasts of fire like Elijah. The Chosen One came in so quietly that His presence went nearly unnoticed by almost all of those who were looking for Him. The Jewish scholars of the day (and today) are looking for a political leader, a military conqueror… but that’s not what they got… at least not yet.

And what did humanity do with Him? Well, His identity didn’t stay hidden forever. What did people do when they finally found out this Messiah that had come?

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day that the followers of Jesus worshipped Him as Messiah, laid palm branches and their cloaks at the feet of Jesus who was riding into Jerusalem, showing Himself to be the King of the Jews and the one foretold by the prophets. They were celebrating the forthcoming conquest of the Roman army, the overthrowing of their political oppressors, their new position as the most powerful kingdom in the world. They were right to celebrate, but they were wrong about how Jesus would do it. And when He didn’t do things their way… their disappointment turned to anger.

I can’t say it any better than the Deacon Stephen does to the Jewish Ruling Counsel before his martyrdom in the Acts 7. He was standing before the very people who were supposed to care for the Israelite people and teach them all about the coming of Jesus! These were the ones who should have been the first to know, acknowledge and spread the news that God had sent the Messiah!

Here’s what Stephen says to them:

“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet that your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous one – The Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

Humanity did it again! God Himself enters the world in human form. He sends His own beloved Son, 100% God and 100% man, the only one with the qualifications to exchange His life for ours. The only one who could save us from sin and death. The perfect one to teach us how to live, love and worship. And what is our response? We condemn the Anointed One, the Messiah, the perfect Son of God, to the worst, most painful, agonizing, excruciating death imaginable… a Roman cross. We murdered Him.

One would think that that would be the end of the story. Where do you go when there is no more hope left? How can an author write a story when the hero is killed before the villain is defeated? You can’t. The story must stop when the hero is dead. Right?

For a moment, God’s pen lifts from the paper. The world looks bleak. There is no hope. The disciples are scattered. The Messiah is dead. The villain won…

Chapter 10: The Resurrection

But our God is the greatest author of all. His pen stops for only a moment. He turns the page and begins the next chapter. The death of Jesus Christ would not be the end of the story. Three days after Jesus dies God writes a story that turns the greatest defeat in history into the climax of His Epic tale. He turned silence into a crescendo!  He turns the ultimate tragedy into the ultimate victory!

God turns all of History on its head. In the story God is writing there are no mistakes. The One who was to be our Saviour… was supposed to die. His victory came because of His death. No one can write a better story than this one. There is no greater hero than one who would give His life for others. The name of this Hero is Jesus Christ. He gave His life for us.

At the beginning of the story God said that the consequence of sin would be death. The Messiah was going to come and defeat the greatest enemy of this world. Almost everyone thought that this meant that it would be a political, military, human victory. But God, the great author, reveals that humanity’s greatest enemy isn’t any person or nation or empire… the greatest enemy in this world is death – death that came because of sin.  So what needed to be conquered? Sin.

The judgement and effects of sin – physical and spiritual death, and the total removal of the grace, love and presence of God that would be found in Hell – which entered the world with Adam and Eve, and has poisoned every human soul, needed to be dealt with. His righteous judgement needed to be poured out to bring about perfect justice. We will never understand the full measure of the punishment that Christ took for those who would put their faith in Him. Jesus came as our representative – the perfect human, the only One who did not deserve judgement – and chose to take the punishment for anyone who would believe and trust in Him.

Jesus is the ultimate hero as He walks out of the grave, conquering the greatest enemy ever. He defeats the effects of sin. He beats death. That weight of judgement that all of humanity had borne for thousands of years was placed on His shoulders, and He carried it, paid for it, and then offered the freedom that He bought with His own blood, to anyone who would believe in Him.

Chapter 11: Living In The Denouement

Today, we are living in the denouement. We are living at the end of the great Epic. The story has unfolded, the villain has been conquered, the Hero has been lifted high. We are living in the days of epilogue before God brings His story to a close at the final judgement. Every day gets us closer to the end of this story and closer to next book, the story of eternity.

This Epic gives us the greatest message that can be known: That you were created for more than just what you see and touch. You were designed by a loving creator who gives you a hope and a purpose. Your life is more than just burgers, cars, money, sex, career.

You are a created being whose decisions have eternal consequence. You need not fear death, and you can trust that even your most difficult times can be turned into great victories because of our awesome God. You can experience divine love, be cleansed, and made new. God will never leave you, never forsake you, and because of the work of our Hero, Jesus Christ, you can live in His presence today and forever.

This is a great story because it is a true story. People have loved it so much, and believed in the Hero so deeply, that they have died to tell it to others. I urge you, if you have not already, to accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to tell His story to as many people as you can.

* There are lots of important pieces of the story which I didn’t share. Not because they are unimportant, but simply because I wanted to keep it short and understandable for anyone who hasn’t heard the story told this way before.