Sunday, February 21, 2016

Properly Understanding Marriage

If marriage is properly defined, marriage is properly defended, and God is properly glorified.

I truly believe that it is fairly simple to discern a person’s worldview by what they believe about the Lord Jesus Christ. (When I say worldview, it includes what a person thinks about eternity.) It is also fairly simple to discern the worldview of a person based on what he or she believes about marriage. I would generally conclude that what we believe about marriage helps us to understand many other spiritual things of God. This spiritual discernment as it pertains to understanding marriage can often boil down into what we believe about other “aspects” of Christianity. The question is this...Is what we think and understand about marriage vitally important to understanding the Gospel?

Another example is what many Christians believe about the age of the earth. There are “young earth” and “old earth” believers. To some Christians, the age of the earth is a lesser essential of the faith and what we believe about the age of the earth should not divide the body of believers. I, and others would argue that the age of the earth is a very important essential because the foundation of the age of the earth is a stepping stone for what one believes about other essentials, including the definition of marriage.  Of course we could say that marriage is a lesser essential so what does it matter....  
Many believe that the moment you redefine marriage is the moment you exclude, or deviate passages of scripture. If this is true, could deviating from scripture to explain the age of the earth have anything to do with tampering with essential doctrine of the Christian faith? If you believe in an older earth model via evolution, could this change the way you think about other passages of scripture? I certainly believe that scripture points to the young earth model and that scripture accurately places the age of the earth at less than 10,000 years old simply based on the age of Adam. (Gen 5:5)

In a recent Answers in Genesis article, Influential Pastors and Theologians on the Days of Creation and the Age of the Earth,  author Simon Turpin makes the point that there needs to be an understanding of scripture by properly handling scripture in the context it was written. This is typically understood as “biblical hermeneutics”. There is a significant difference in believing Gen 1:1-3 with a young earth view or an old earth view. The point that Simon makes is that the wrong view of scripture can reflect in what you believe about other matters. Also, if we take something that is not biblical to determine what the Bible says, we have undermined our position.

"Even though all five of these men believe in the principle of Sola Scriptura, when it comes to Genesis 1–3 they have undermined their own position by allowing “science” to dictate what the Word of God means."

The five men Simon refers to are all “influential” theologians/pastors with doctorate degrees. If these men are in error in understanding the age of the earth based on believing science, could this reflect on what they believe about other essentials? I would say, yes. In fact, I read this article questioning the understanding of what qualifies a man or women as a “Theologian” or “Pastor”.

If these men believe that their titles are essential in understanding the “things of God”, could that exclude the idea that the Holy Spirit is not sufficient in helping ANY believer understand the things of God? Perhaps a better question is in order, “Is it necessary to understand the things of God without a degree or formal training?” If you answer yes, then why is there a distinction between the professional "clergy" and the "layperson"? 

The first thing that came to my mind when reading the title of this AIG article was this overall acceptance of the clergy/laity caste system and how this division of the body relates to everything…not just the age of the earth or the definition of marriage…The foundation of this article is that these "Influential Pastors and Theologians" have clout in what they say based on who they are, or who they believe they are based on what they were taught through education. Simon Turpin would have us believe that his biblical hermeneutics of scripture as it pertains to Eph 4:11 would include us believing that today's influential Pastors and Theologians are what scripture was talking about concerning "teachers" "and pastors".

Turpin writes:

"Scripture informs us that God gave pastors and teachers to the church for the equipping of the saints and the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11–12). These influential leaders care for God’s people by instructing, exhorting, comforting and leading them in the application of the truths of God’s Word."

This article fails to discern the root of the issue on why "Influential Pastors" got to be "influential" in the first place. Understanding what these men believe about the age of the earth pales on what they believe about themselves. The assumption is that the body of Christ today is a caste system that includes two distinct classes of Christians. The one class is the “clergy” which includes those men or women who believe that they are set apart through scholasticism or ordination (Influential Pastors and Theologians), and the other class is the uneducated and spiritually immature Christian. However, the Bible calls ALL believers "priests" (1 Peter 2:9) and not just certain individuals based on what they know or what someone taught them.

This clergy class is typically defined by the term “sacerdotalism”.  This is defined as a belief that priests and pastors are mediators between God and man.  It is believed that these men and woman have direct access to the Lord based on who they are. It places the justification of what Christ did in the laps of certain men and women who believe that the pastoral ministry sets therm apart from other believers. But we know that justification comes from the Lord Jesus Christ, and not men.

 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
We also know that EVERY believer enters the priesthood, but the Lord makes it clear that spiritual order comes through gender. (1 Timothy 2:11-3:13)  The typical Protestant pastor will argue that sacerdotalism is a “Catholic thing”, until you ask them about the significance of “ordination” and what separates an “ordained” Christian from an “unordained” Christian. Pastors like to point to one verse in all of scripture to validate their profession. (Eph 4:11)) The word "pastor" means shepherd, and this is a one gift of several to a multiple of believers in the body of Christ.

The professionally “ordained” woman who argues that there is a priesthood of all believers which justifies her "pastoral ministry" was probably deceived by a man who believes that his “ordination” separates him from the laity. In other words, when someone says that woman Pastors(capital "P") are not in the bible, I will say that "men" Pastors are not in the bible either. This profession was adopted by Constantine to to make appointed men priests, and the reformers kept the sacerdotalism of the priesthood and changed the name to "Pastor". (Note: Lower case and upper case letters are significant whenever you refer to priest or pastors...) 

Scripture points to elder-ship of “men” who were set apart because of their spiritual maturity and not based on institutionalized scholasticism or how many languages they could speak. This "apostolic secession" was not intended to mirror the Roman Catholic Church, but was intended to make elders of younger men in the body of Christ…not through institutions, but through the power of the Holy Spirit through a community of believers. Older elders passed on their elder-ship to younger men through years of living in a community of believers.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the body of Christ. The moment you, or I believe that priests, popes, pastors, and clergy mediate between God and men is the day you have started to deviate from the truth of God's word. The elders and deacons of the first century church were older men who led by example, and not by lording over the flock(1 Peter 5:3) Today's clergy/laity system would be totally foreign in the first century church. There is no shortage of sacerdotalism among clergy today.

Since the clergy/laity system takes the headship away from the Lord Jesus Christ and places it on the Senior Pastor. This creates passivity among those labeled “laity”, and quenches the power of the Holy Spirit. This system takes away the requirements of husbands, NOT Pastors, to be the spiritual leaders of their homes. Instead of the church becoming a community of believers, this system creates division.

Sacerdoatalism has influenced the thousands of books asking questions on why the church is so divided on issues like the age of the earth and the definition of marriage. I believe sacerdotalism is one of the greatest heresies of all time and has done more to undermine the power of the Holy Spirit more than we care to know. There is an epidemic of passive pew sitters that worship "Pastors".

I would have to agree with Karl Barth, who quoted:

"The term ‘laity’ is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from the Christian conversation."

If I have a worldview based on believing that the sacerdotalism is a foundation of the church, that scholasticism and knowledge of men supersedes the power of the Holy Spirit, could this change what I think about the age of the earth?  What about what I believe about  traditions? What about marriage? 

The AIG article makes a great point that if we trust “Influential Pastors and Theologians” who undermine their position by allowing science to dictate what the word of God says about the age of the earth, what does that say about their vocations influencing everything about God when their vocations are not even biblical? I would say that a professional hireling Pastor is very dependent upon their salaries, and some will, or will not tell you that they have compromised the word of God during some point in their tenure on the fear of losing their job.

One of these “Influential Pastors” in this article is JohnPiper of Desiring God fame. I have already reviewed his book on marriage, "This Momentary Marriage-A Parable of Permanence", and found that his acceptance of sacerdotalism permeates the entire book; especially as it pertains to divorce and remarriage.

Piper writes the book believing that the clergy/laity caste system is the body of Christ. He believes that his position, title, vocation, or whatever you want to call it, qualifies him to administer the vows of marriage. In this instance, Piper and all Pastors have stood in place as a mediator over the Lord Jesus Christ on the covenant of marriage. My previous post asks the question on who is officiator of Marriage, God or man?

The Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear in two of the Gospels that God defines marriage as it was form the beginning:

Matthew 19:And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

If we read these scriptures as "post-resurrection believers", it should be very easy for a child to understand that the law of marriage TODAY is the same as it was in the BEGINNING. Divorce is no longer applicable to marriage because scripture points to marriage as one man and one woman for life. The Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear that IF divorce is your option (proving your heart is HARD), then remaining unmarried or reconciling the marriage is the ONLY option He gives you. 

Do we need a caste system based on traditions of men and the tenets of this caste system (aka the Westminster Confession of Faith) to tell us the definition of marriage?

Marriage is not man’s idea; marriage is God’s command from the beginning. Shortly after the Protestant Reformation, the clergy/laity caste system has handed marriage definition into the hands of secular societies who’s only intent is to destroy the body of Christ. When the “Influential Pastors and Theologians” of this system seek to cry foul when the cultures of today re-define marriage, they only have to look into the mirror to see where this all started.

Unless there is complete repentance of sanctified adultery through administering “remarriage” licenses of divorced covenant marriages by the "Influential Pastoral Ministry", the redefinition of marriage will not stop until biblical marriage is totally destroyed. 

In conclusion, I believe it is eternally essential to compare the early church to what everyone assumes is the representation of the church to be today. Taking away the headship of Christ is not a good idea. The clergy/laity cannot help but to take away the headship of Christ. If your mediator to God is your "Senior Pastor", then you may not have biblical worldview. If you are a Senior Pastor, I urge you to prayfully consider your profession through the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God, and seek the truth about this caste system. Ask yourself if this “pastoral calling” is really glorifying to the Lord, or is this really a hindrance to the body of Christ?.

A biblical worldview takes into consideration that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to make things as they should be. The church does not replace Christ, the church points others to Christ. We are to make disciples by remaining under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is to be a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gifts accordingly, and supplies each man and woman with a clear understanding of positional order in the family and the church. We are to preach the Gospel in and out of season, and be salt and light in a dark world. The greatest witness of the Gospel is the lives changed by the Gospel.

I have stressed time after time that marriage definition is also a very essential part of understanding the Gospel, and what we think about marriage is what we think about the Gospel. Marriage by definition is one of the greatest examples of Christ’s love for His church. The greatest marriage of all is when we accept the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and truly believe that He is our bridegroom for all eternity. If marriage is properly defined, marriage is properly defended, and God is properly glorified.

In Christ’s love,


Saturday, February 20, 2016

When is a Marriage a "Marriage in the LORD"?

“Should a pastor conduct the wedding of two non-Christians? What about a Christian marrying a non-Christian? Are there any circumstances in which a pastor should not marry two Christians?”
“These are questions I hear all the time from other pastors. What makes it permissible to conduct a wedding in this or that situation, and when should a pastor say no?” 

Who said that a wedding can only be conducted by a pastor? Who said that a pastor has the authority over marriage? These are real questions that need to be answered….

Here is another article “When Should a Pastor Say “No” to a Wedding” by The Gospel Coalition (TGC) that assumes a marriage can only become a marriage if a pastor says so. Consider that a marriage becomes a marriage when civil laws say so, since the Reformers turned marriage definition over long ago…. Anyone can get “ordained” to perform marriages. Some states allow notary public to perform weddings.  If this is true, then when does a marriage “REALLY” become a marriage.
Assuming in agreement that marriage is between one man and one woman…

 I understand that this article pertains to boundaries that “clergy” must consider before officiating a wedding, but we need to be clear on the specific of marriage definition. This article avoids other tangibles that need to be considered as it pertains to one man and one woman. It is one thing to consider the three points of the author, but there is nothing on this article as it pertains to those who were divorced seeking remarriage.

The three templates the author covers are:
1.     Christian marrying a non-Christian
2.     Christian marrying a Christian
3.     Non-Christian marrying a non-Christian.

Most churches and denominations have specific qualifications when performing marriages. Some churches will require that both the man and woman become "members" of the church in order to get married. This membership involves both the man and woman confessing faith in Christ. This is believed to solve the problem of templates 1 and 3. However, becoming a member and actually believing the Gospel are two separate issues. Anyone can obtain a membership, proclaim they know Christ in a church and still not be saved.

What assurance does a pastor have knowing for sure that the couple he married are believers?
The first template “A Christian marrying a non-Christian” is fairly easy to discern. The author uses verses 1 Cor 7:39 and 2 Cor 6:14-18. I could not agree more that these verses do not permit a believer to marry an unbeliever. But what about a denomination that does marry a believer to an unbeliever? Is this union a marriage in the Lord?

A marriage in the Lord is any union that falls under the definition of marriage laid down by the Lord. (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:4-6 and Mk 10:6-9) Thus, a marriage is one man and one woman who were never previously married; unless their previous marriage ended by the death of their spouse. (Ro 7:2,3; 1 Cor 7:39) Does this definition involve the salvation of either man or woman? No.

The marriage is one man and one woman, never before married. (This “never before married’ is important to note) Even though this unequally-yoked marriage was not what should have happened, the marriage covenant is acknowledged by the Lord through the vows and the witness to those vows. The idea that marriage “happens” on a piece of paper submitted to a court house is far less significant to when it “happens” in the Heavenly realms witnessed by the Creator of marriage.

 I believe the author handles this correctly by acknowledging the marriage. 1 Peter 3:1-6 is most likely referring to a marriage of two unbelievers where the wife comes to know the Lord and the husband does not. It is far less unlikely this verse is for a believer who willfully married an unbeliever. This scripture is not a precursor to divorce, is it?

I would question the faith of a believing spouse as to why he or she would yoke themselves to an unbeliever when scripture tells them not to. If the Holy Spirit gives us conscience to know right from wrong, would a believer really marry an unbeliever? The answer is no, he or she would not marry an unbeliever, and never would they question it.

Believers marrying believers:

Now it comes to the core of the issue. If a marriage is conducted to two believers, what obligation does the presiding clergy have to that marriage? What about the witnesses of other believers? I agree with much of what this author says about this template, including comparing this marriage to Eph 6:22-33. However, I think it is very important to understand what is said in the last paragraph.

“If a couple is living in open, habitual, and unrepentant sin (such as cohabiting or being physically intimate), you should forego performing the ceremony—assuming they persist in their unrepentance—since you cannot commend them as public witnesses living exemplary lives.”

Presumably, the author is condemning cohabitation before marriage, and rightly so. This is fornication, and it is sinful. Even if the couple is living together and not having sex, there is an appearance of evil (fornication). The world cohabitates and fornicates, believers do not. A couple who lives together before they seek marriage is not reflecting the lives of a believer.

I want to look at this template from a different perspective and under a light that exposes a very dark shadow in this article. There is not one mention of the word divorce and remarriage in this article. In other words, why is there not a template of the “Divorced Christian?”

Are we to assume that a divorced person that is a Christian can marry in the LORD?

Kevin DeYoung of TGC covered this in his rather questionable sermon on divorce and remarriage. In that article A Sermon on Divorce and Remarriage”, Kevin asked what he believed to be hard questions that a correct definition of marriage was able to easily answer. This article doesn’t even touch the divorce scenario. Why?

Then there is the idea that performing a ceremony is solely the responsibility of the clergy. If that is true, why don’t clergy attend the court preceding’s of a divorce from a marriage they conducted? They should be there defending the marriage and telling the judge that both couples made a vow under oath and breaking a marriage is not only against the law of men, it is against the law of marriage. What about the other Christian witnesses of the marriage ceremony? What is their responsibility of a couple who wants to break their vows of marriage? I have offered an example of what it takes for the church to properly defend marriage here...How the Church SHOULD handle marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

I believe Russel Moore ‘somewhat” understands that marriage begins in heaven and is ordained from above. In Moore’s article (which is referred to by this original post) “Should Ministers Officiate at the Weddings of Unbelievers? No”, he believes that marriage definition is the responsibility of the church. His response to this is somewhat double-minded as he believes that “certain” marriages are the church’s responsibility instead of ALL marriages being the church’s responsibility.

“For unbelievers the church has no right to hold a couple to their vows through church discipline. They are not members of the church. A church that isn't able to hold a couple to their vows (through discipleship and discipline) has no right to solemnize these vows. So, in the case of unbelievers, a minister of the state is perfectly appropriate to officiate because it is the state, not the church, which will hold the couple accountable.”

Moore believes that the ‘church” is an institutionalized caste system of clergy and laity.  I would disagree with his understanding of church polity because his understanding of the clergy/laity caste system has already failed marriage definition by believing traditions give loopholes to divorce from a one-flesh covenant marriage. Since EVERY believer is in the priesthood of saints, marriage definition and administering of marriage vows is the “responsibility” of ALL believers and not a certain group based on their titles.

Moore believes that “Christian” marriage definition is not the responsibility of civil laws, and that civil marriages are not the responsibility of the church… Unfortunately, there is no real difference between a Christian marriage and a secular marriage. Divorce is just as prominent in Christian marriages as it is in secular marriages. (Though I MUST add that divorce statistics drop significantly when both the husband and wife pray and have a biblical worldview.)

What has the church done to save marriages? These civil laws give freedom for one spouse to unilaterally divorce from a marriage regardless if they confess Jesus as Lord or not. These laws are both acknowledged by Christian and secular marriages. When was the last time you saw a minister and the witnesses of a marriage stand in defense to the marriage vows of a couple during this couple’s divorce court hearing?

Moore and his “clergy” constituents have long ago handed marriage over to civil authorities, and in order to wrest marriage definition from the grasp of civil authorities is to confess their failure in believing a marriage can end in divorce. Divorce and remarriage MUST not happen under the watch of the body of Christ, and that can only happen if marriage is properly defined.

If these institutions of higher authority (congregations) wants to defend marriage, they need to repent of divorce and remarriage. There are many cases where a marriage was saved by administering what Moore calls, “discipleship and discipline”. But if we are terribly honest, how many marriages slip through the cracks without any involvement of the church? I would argue that the passive laity of these institutions tend to rely on one man to deal with these “troubled marriages” simply based on the idea that it is his “job” as a pastor to administer to these troubled marriages.

This opened the door of other ministries that take the burden off the pastor, DivorceCare is one such ministry that takes the burden of preserving marriages as a body of Christ. Handing the hurting spouse of tumultuous marriages over to these specific ministries relieves the body of Christ from having to deal with these marriages themselves. Unfortunately, the eternal damage these ministries have caused is astounding. Most pastors will ignorantly support this ministry without ever once listening to what these ministries are teaching people…

Moore can write these articles defending marriage, and he can talk out of one side of his mouth, but the truth is that marriage has long been compromised by men and women like him. Instead of treating marriage as God’s authorized plan for human life, the evangelicals like Moore, and the many authors of TGC have played games with the minds of the “laity” they swore to protect. They also believe their professions give them the right to define marriage based on what they have “learned” from traditions and not what the word of God really teaches about marriage.
Marriage is one man and one woman for life.

Remarrying a Christian who divorced or was divorced from a living covenant spouse is not a marriage in the LORD. This union is adultery and remains adultery until repent of. If Moore or ANY other pastor will tell you that they can marry a divorced Christian...don't believe them. Divorce calls for remaining unmarried or reconciling the marriage becasue a husband is NEVER to divorce his wife, and if she is divorced, she is to remain unmarried or reconcile the marriage. (1 Cor 7:10,11) This is a COMMAND from the LORD. What AUTHORITY does a professional clergy, a judge, or a notary public to marry? The answer is NONE. They have NO authority to marry a divorce person with a living covenant spouse, NONE. 

Until Moore and TGC understand that marriage definition far transcends their vocations, they will lack the proper defense of marriage. Until men like Moore repent of believing a one-flesh marriage can end in any other way than the death of one or both spouses, they will slip further into compromise. Until the body of Christ is ready to defend marriage by praying, administering, rebuking, and exhorting couples of troubled Christian marriages, they will never show the world the truth about marriage being the example of Christ’s love for His bride.

In conclusion, this article offers three brief tips to seek God’s guidance:

1.     Listen to your conscience
2.     Be guided by scripture
3.     Seek council from other pastors

I believe these are all great ways to determine when it is right to perform a wedding, but this can apply to all life matters as well. Listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is a must and is essential in properly understanding the word of God. (1 Cor 2) The Holy Spirit should be telling all of us that marriage is more important than we ever thought possible. The whole length of the Bible is God reconciling us to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a marriage made in heaven.

Seeking council from other “pastors” only works if that council coincides with God’s word. Seeking council from godly men and women in the LORD is essential. If we believe that council is only determined from men and woman who are given titles through ordination, we may not understand the body of Christ. There is no shortage of lies coming from clergy, and seeking council from other pastors without the Holy Spirit and the word of God will only get you in trouble.  

I pray that you seek the Lord in prayer and read the Bible with an understanding that our time on earth is very short. Marriage is very important to God, and it is the responsibility of His children to live out marriage with the love of Christ. Marriage permanence is not just important to those who are in marriage, it is equally important as a witness of the Gospel. Will you stand for marriage permanence today, no matter the cost? Will you remain in a covenant of marriage for the sake of the Gospel? Will you defend marriage by believing that marriage is defined as one man and one woman for life?
Eph 5:31,32 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

In Christ’s love,