September 1st 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Sept 2019Luke 7:36-50, Exodus 20:14

An addition to the Authorised Version of the Bible in 1631 earned the printer a significant fine of £350 imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its problem – it omitted one word out of that particular print, the word ‘not’ from the seventh Commandment. It read, ‘You shall commit adultery.’ For that, the version of the Bible became known as the ‘wicked Bible.’ In our study of the seventh Commandment we are certainly not going to leave out ‘not!’ Today, of course, such an oversight might be rewarded. A university lecturer asked a class if they could downsize the Ten Commandments, which would they leave out. The majority said the seventh commandment.

We live in an age there where marriage is under constant attack; people are living together, having affairs, making it seem justifiable. People regard the seventh Commandment as outdated. A positive assertion of marriage is needed all the more today because it is so widely disregarded. God’s way is the right way, God’s way is the best way.

  1. The attack upon marriage and the promotion of promiscuous behaviour.

We are told that adultery and other forms of sexual immorality are natural, normal and necessary. The Bible states from the beginning God intended all sexual activity to be between one man and one woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24).

Man was not created to be like the animals but to enjoy a single, committed relationship for life. The very word adultery means a violation of marriage by breaking commitment (Leviticus 20:10). Although God often showed mercy to such sinners, the severity of punishment reveals the severity of the crime.

Following on from the lie that adultery is natural, there is the additional lie that adultery is normal. Television, newspapers and magazines are constantly filled with adultery. But adultery is abnormal to God’s purpose. He reserves His strongest words for it (Jeremiah 5:7-9). The consequences of adultery and promiscuity are far reaching: the devastation of partners, the great emotional cost for children, the cost to state in terms of the price of divorce in our land. The Lord reserves the most serious warnings for any who believe such behaviour is normal.

The ultimate excuse for adultery is the spouse no longer loves his or her spouse and finds greater happiness in the arms of another. This is based on the mistaken belief that love is just an emotion that comes and goes. It goes against Biblical teaching in which one gives oneself exclusively to one other, irrespective of the ebb and flow of feelings. Real love is not self-seeking, it is self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25). Many times those who have seen adulterers’ promiscuity as the road to happiness have found it as the road to ruin.

The sanctity of marriage and rejection of sexual acts outside marriage is normal, natural and necessary. Satan seeks to destroy and damage the God-ordained order for family and individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ cites adultery as the grounds for gaining divorce (Mark 10). It is sad that Christians fall for the lie. It is best seen in ministers who have committed adultery but are allowed back into the pulpit. Sin, of course, is forgiven and the minister should be received back into the fellowship of the church. But by his infidelity to his wife, they have barred themselves from preaching. 

  1. The deceitfulness of adultery.

For many this Commandment has no fear because we can honestly say we have never committed adultery, we have been faithful to our husband or wife. However, that is to ignore the seed of adultery that is found in our hearts. All of us, in some way, have been guilty of weakening our marriages. The scriptures point us to the way sexual activity prior to marriage breaches the seventh Commandment. The abuse of the gift of our sexuality before marriage deprives a future wife or husband (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18). Today many people believe that having many partners is not wrong, provided they are one at a time. There are many problems that conflict marriages because of sexual activity outside, prior to marriage.

People can engage in marital unfaithfulness. They may enjoy sexual fantasy in viewing inappropriate material, flirting with the opposite sex. This weakens marriage too, even if there is no acting on the thought. The scriptures call us to be pure in thought and action. We are to guard our minds from all immorality (Philippians 4:8). God knows what we feed our minds on.

There is the problem of inappropriate thoughts. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). Accordingly, there is no-one here this morning who is not guilty of breaking the seventh Commandment. When we condemn the actions of others which we find obscene and sickens us, remember we too have been guilty of obscenity which sickens Him. We too need forgiveness. There is help at hand in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of God for adulterers is best seen in three women who broke the seventh Commandment:

           The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)
         The woman, believed to be Mary Magdalene, who scandalised the Pharisees                      (Luke 7),
          The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).

            What do we see in each case?

  • Whereas others were keen to condemn these women, Jesus did not. On the contrary, He deals with them as if they were respectable.
  • He forgives their sin, bringing them freedom from the penalty of sin.
  • He changed their lives, transforming them into disciples who loved righteousness. He establishes a new relationship in their lives with God and God’s law.
  • The Saviour remained faithful to them, even going to die on the cross to pay the price of their sin.

There is no doubt they continued to fail Him, even as we do, but He never forsook them, even as He never forsakes us.

The good news, the gospel news, then is there is forgiveness for adulterers and those with promiscuous behaviour, to those who repent. Forgiveness is available to all who turn to Christ. But it also involves sinning no more. In God’s power they must flee from the sin of the past and not repeat it. You can’t continue in the old ways. People who do are not truly born again.

  1. Marriage is used in the Bible as a picture of the relationship between God and His people. That’s a sobering challenge to those of us who are married. Are our marriages a picture of the relationship between God and His people? Do we reflect the union of Christ and the Church? We may not commit physical adultery but there may be nastiness, attitudes that don’t speak of a commitment of love.

Even amongst Christians there are those who defile their marriage with pornography, who seek to use their partner in the porn of their own sordid experience of sinful immorality. Praise be to God, not only in their forgiveness, not only in their restoration, there is also the complete, never-ending commitment of the Lord Jesus Christ to each and every one of us that can never be broken. He will never forsake us, He will never abuse us. He will never cease to love us. He will also be to us our heavenly spouse who has sacrificed Himself for our eternal good.

The seventh Commandment does have a ‘not’ in it, it’s not left out. It is there for the glory of God, the good of His people and the good of all mankind.

February 18th 2018: Owen Jones

Owen Jones-Feb18Ephesians 5:32 ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’

There is a mystery in the mystical union we have with Christ. There are metaphors that make the mystery a little clearer. In days gone by, when romance was in the air a couple could be referred to as ‘courting.’ Today, ‘being an item’ is often used. We are more than an item. The relationship between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ is an unbreakable union, it is already in being. Every believer becomes part of the bride, the wife. God speaks about us as the bride, the wife. Psalm 45. Every truly born-again believer is ultimately joined in unity with Christ. This presents the loveliest picture of two being one.

How should we look right now and on that future day? We see the bride united as: a faithful wife, a fruitful wife and as a beautiful, breathing-taking wife.

United as a faithful wife:
Paul uses beautiful illustrations – the wife is like the church that gives in, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.’ (Ephesians 5:22). Marriage teaches us at least one thing – giving. Wives submit to husbands, but the bigger picture is lives in submission to Christ. It is part of the creation ordinance and now part of the new creation. When the local church gives in to community and no longer has the Bible at its centre it ceases to be what it once was. Submit to one another in reverence to Christ. Give in to every word because Jesus tells you. As the church submits to Christ, wives submit to husbands. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Ephesians 5:32). Husbands, measure the giving. Who is giving more – her or him? Christ gave Himself up for the church. Giving up – true love – is demonstrated at Calvary. Like Hosea, the prophet. God told Hosea to love his wife as the Lord loves the Israelites. The husband gives his name to his wife, she happily accepts it. They are legally one. How faithful are we to Him, to each other?

United as a fruitful wife:
The spiritual illustration. Remember the higher principal – your union is with Christ. The church is mysteriously joined to Him as a faithful and fruitful wife. The fruit? Holiness. If you are in Christ that’s the fruit you’re going to bear, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.’ (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s all on the one tree, always in blossom, always in season. Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ (Matthew 7:20). The fruit of intimacy, close fellowship, produces its own fruit. As we read His word, He comes to us.

Some marriages fail because couples no longer have anything to say to each other. How long has it been since you talked to the Lord? Couples can live separate lives under one roof. Start talking to one another again. When was the last time you heard the Lord Jesus Christ speak to you?

What about the fruit of increase, the great commission, the bride increasing from the nations? The preaching of the gospel works in people’s hearts and lives, something is being conceived. There’s a birth, an increase.

We also need to know and produce the fruit of Christ’s likeness. Do you think in the same way as Christ thinks? When you speak do others hear the voice of their Saviour? You and I begin to look like the ones we love. When God breathed life into us He breathed knowledge, love and righteousness. In regeneration, He renews that which had been erased at the Fall.

United as a beautiful wife:
This is a profound mystery. There’s no need for make-overs. Why? The marriage day is fully realised in the future (Revelation 19:7), but something is happening now. All the wrinkles and the lines are gone. Jesus must be the centre stage – the wedding day of the Lamb. But look at His Bride, ‘It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fair linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.’ (Revelation 19:8). All the tears, all the sorrows cease to be. Let us rejoice and give Him the glory. The Bride has prepared for this day. How? She is dressed in fine linen. Everything we do now prepares us for that holy day (Ephesians 5:26). Then we get married, there’s a new home (Revelation 21:1-3). There’s an RSVP, ‘And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ (Revelation 19:9). You are the Bride but you’re invited to be there as a guest. It’s a dual picture.

You will never look as good as you will on that day.

The sands of time are sinking;
the dawn of heaven breaks;
the summer morn I’ve sighed for,
the fair sweet morn awakes;
dark, dark, hath been the midnight,
but dayspring is at hand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty
without a veil is seen;
it were a well-spent journey,
though trails lay between:
the Lamb with His fair army
on Zion’s mountain stands,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the Fountain,
the deep sweet Well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted;
more deep I’ll drink above:
there to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown He giveth,
but on His piercèd hand;
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.

Ann Ross Cousin (1857)

There will come a day when every eye will be upon Him, when you will behold Him. Are you preparing yourself in acts of righteousness?