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Hermeneutics (Brownlow-Dindy) April 22, 2021

Date: 2021-04-23T15:55:30Z
Duration: 0:0:0

Speaker:
Terrance Brownlow-Dindy
Title:
Hermeneutics (Brownlow-Dindy) April 22, 2021
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Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

V. P. Black, a favorite preacher from a few generations ago, would often say in sermons that the most powerful people in the United States were not the President and his cabinet nor any military personnel, but the United States Supreme Court. He would not always give specific examples of why he would say that, but having reflected over the years, it seems at least one major contributor to that assessment was the 1973, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.” The basis of that decision, according to the court, was that laws against abortion “violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy,” which the court found “implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (‘…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’)” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Roe-v-Wade). Obviously, not depriving “any person of life” did not take into account the person’s life inside the womb.

When news broke of the recent “leak” of a document that the United States Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the panic and mobilization of opposition against such overturning was obvious and instant. Of course, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, it would not make abortion illegal. It would merely allow each State to determine its own abortion laws. Were you old enough in 1973 to remember national sentiment at the news of Roe v. Wade? Were you a member of the church in 1973, and if so, did you study Bible lessons or hear sermons on abortion related topics? Many today are not old enough to remember the sentiment in 1973. However, we may still remember how we felt in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) that same-sex marriages are legitimate and legally binding in the United States and its territories. No matter the feeling toward that, however, it is important to remember that civil law never has or ever will displace God’s law in Deity’s sovereign court.

Human Conception
Results In Human Children

Because legal abortion has been so ingrained in American culture since 1973, people view it as a moral, God-given right. Focus has been on the “woman’s right to choose,” rather than the human life inside her womb. Since God exists and the Bible is His inspired (i.e., God-breathed) word, then whatever the Bible teaches regarding when human life begins is true. Several passages show human pregnancy involves human children inside the wombs of their mothers (Ps. 139:13-16; Eccl. 11:5; Job 3:11-16; Jer. 1:5).

Perhaps the most obvious is a comparison of Luke 1:41, 44 with Luke 2:12, 16. The word “babe [baby, ESV]” is from the Greek word brephos (βρεφός), which in Luke 1:41, 44 is used for a child in the womb (i.e., fetus). The same word (brephos) is also used in Luke 2:12, 16 for young, or newborn, children. Luke also uses brephos in Luke 18:15, where it is translated “infants [babies, NAS95],” and in Acts 7:19, where it is translated “babies [young children, KJV; infants, ESV].” Outside of Luke’s writings, brephos is used in Second Timothy 3:15, where it is translated “childhood [a child, KJV],” and in First Peter 2:2, where it is translated “babes [babies, NAS95; infants, ESV].” A human being is considered in all these situations, whether inside or outside the mother’s womb! No one can rationally argue that a human fetus is not a human life! Yet, because America has been bombarded with the “cultural norm” that it is acceptable to snuff-out human life in the womb for unwanted or crisis pregnancies, there are many who think it is immoral to make laws against on-demand abortions!

Cultural Norms Are Not
Necessarily Biblical Norms

In any area of life, people whose culture indoctrinates them with certain values and then those people construct their day-to-day living based on that indoctrination are going to think differently than people who have not been so influenced by that same culture. A good example is a faithful brother and missionary to Muslims with whom many in the brotherhood are familiar. He was reared in Bagdad. His culture indoctrinated people to hate Americans. Many facets of their society were geared toward perpetuating hatred toward America and its culture. Given those facts, it is easy to see how the average person from Iraq would have a different attitude toward America than the average person, say from Bermuda, or other nations whose culture and practices are American friendly. Thankfully, by God’s grace, this faithful brother from Iraqi was a deeper and more spiritual thinker than the indoctrination of his culture!

Culture can be both a Scripturally obligatory matter that is temporary as well as a perpetual matter of option. For example, there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat, for “God created [it] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good … if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:3-5). However, if Christians are in a culture where eating meat is considered participating in idolatry or if eating meat causes another Christian to sin by violating his or her conscience, then eating meat is temporarily sinful (1 Cor. 8:1-13). When new Christians learn God’s word and allow it to transform their lives, their consciences will eventually approve eating meat and/or participating in activities with other faithful Christians (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 14:1-7).

Cultural norms that are inherently sinful, however, must not be followed or even allowed a place in the Christian’s heart. An experienced missionary once told an FSOP chapel assembly that certain countries in Asia only allowed one child per family. While there is nothing inherently sinful for parents to have only one child, the problem arises when more than one is born. “Law abiding” citizens are called upon to have additional children “euthanized” (which is a polite way of saying murdered) in order to maintain the mandate. Since males are valued more than females, and since many parents do not want to directly kill their children, babies are often born in back rooms, unnoticed by authorities. As a result, orphan homes are overrun with girls, who become prime candidates for the sex traffic trade.

It is one thing when a country allows its citizens to commit immoral activities (like America with its legal allowance for fornication, abortions, same sex marriages, etc.), but it is quite another issue when a country (like the one mentioned above) forces its citizens to commit immoral acts. An incidental lesson here is when Christians in America start thinking the “grass is greener” in communist countries or with their philosophies, they need to consider the enforcement of mandates like the one-child-per-family! Christians are not authorized to commit sinful acts, such as murder, in obedience to culture (cf. Acts 5:29; Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).

New Testament Principles
Transcend Cultural Norms

One big difference between Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity is that Christianity has been declared binding for all people in all ages since its inauguration in Acts 2 (cf. Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:16). Parts of Old Testament Judaism required being in Jerusalem for feasts (cf. Deut. 16:1-6). Judaism also required descendants from Levi to serve in the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 28–29). Since the Old Testament feasts as such are not part of the Gospel, there are no ties to physical Jerusalem. Since all Christians are priests in God’s kingdom (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), the Levitical system has no binding concern in Christianity (cf. Heb. 7:11-14; 8:7).

The Law of Moses also served as both the civil and religious law for Old Testament Israelites. This can be seen in its laws and regulations for tribal elders (and later kings), as well as religious practices like blood sacrifices, Sabbath days, purification procedures, etc. (Lev. 20; Num. 27). Thus, civil law that was derived from God’s law and passed down was always reliable and binding upon the Jews. Although civil government is from God (Rom. 13:1-5), the New Testament authorizes no exclusive form of government. Rather, it gives principles that when applied make any government more efficient and tolerable for its citizens (cf. Mt. 5:38-48; 7:12). For example, a monarchy is great when the king is living and ruling according to Gospel principles, but when he lives and follows wickedness, the people suffer (Mt. 2:16)!

While Christians have freedom to practice any cultural item that does not violate God’s will (Rom. 14:23; 1 Cor. 9:19-23), they must not be deceived into accepting sinful cultural norms. Government sometimes mandates things it thinks will best serve it citizens. For example, the one-child-per-family mandate mentioned above was probably for population control, which can be good (cf. Jer. 16:1-4). However, no one has a right to murder people for the sake of “population control” (cf. Ex. 1:15-22)! Consider also a person living in first-century Corinth. The city’s reputation through history reveals that fornication was a way of life for a large segment of that population. Thus, citizens would be desensitized to that sin, which attitude could also spill into the church. This is why Paul dealt with that sin quite extensively in his first epistle to them (1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 6:18). Cultural norms, whether promoted by civil government or merely allowed, must not be followed when they violate God’s transcendent will!

Conclusion

An overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a step in the right direction (Pr. 14:34), but it will take more than that to turn culture norms toward godly views of human life. The Christian is living among people in high positions who, if they had their way, would increasingly mandate silencing opposition to ungodliness in culture. It seems the older Americans are, the more freedoms they realize have vanished or are in danger of it. While loss of freedom is less than ideal, Christians can still please God with little or no political freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 7:21-23). Christians must continue to undergird themselves with the Gospel. The time may come when the amount of political freedom is contingent on conformity to mandated norms that are sinful (such as being forced to murder, endorse homosexuality, “transgenderism,” etc.). May we maintain such integrity and faithfulness that if persecuted, we would rejoice that we “were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” and that we keep “teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Which Divorce Does God Hate?

Over the last year, this writer has had several discussions with different brethren who were defending the position that God accepts remarriages that Jesus plainly calls adulterous (Mt. 19:9), as long as those marriages were entered before the couple became Christians. After all, they will say, God forgives sin when people are baptized into Christ. In these discussions, the people so arguing would say something like, “I can’t divorce her [the unscriptural wife] because God hates divorce, and I don’t want to do anything God hates.” Yes, the Bible indeed teaches that “He [God] hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16), but which divorce is it that He actually hates?

God Hates Divorce From Scriptural Wives

Malachi 2:16 is a passage that is twisted by those defending the position above. Malachi 2:10-16 deals with the corrupted family life of God’s remnant who returned to Palestine from captivity (cf. Ezr. 1:1-4; 7:1-10; Neh. 1:1–2:8). In this section of Malachi, the prophet identified two main reasons why their family life was corrupted.

First, their family life had been corrupted by their religiously mixed-marriages (Mal. 2:10-12). Intermarriage with those of the surrounding nations was expressly forbidden under Israel’s law (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3). Solomon’s violation of this law several hundred years prior to this time greatly contributed to Israel’s apostasy (1 Kgs. 11:1-13; Neh. 13:23-27). Since idolatry led to the Exile (cf. Hos. 7:8-10; 13:2), it should have been unthinkable for God’s remnant to tolerate this kind of apostasy again.

Malachi reminded them that their common unity in the covenant made mixed-marriages an offense against their own brothers and sisters (Mal. 2:10). They should have respected the covenant their “one Father” had given to the children of Israel when God created them to reflect His character (cf. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 43:7; 63:16; 64:8). Instead, they broke the covenant’s unity in “dealing treacherously” and “profaning the covenant” through entering into these mixed marriages, an “abomination” to the Lord. Furthermore, marrying outside the covenant polluted the holiness of God. They were indulging in idolatrous practices with these foreign wives and then entering into God’s presence as if everything were alright (cf. Ezr. 9:1-2; [cf. Isa. 1:11-15]). Judgment was pronounced upon those guilty of mixed marriages (Mal. 2:12). The guilty would be removed from the covenant people for taking wives of heathen women (cf. “does this”) and for acting piously while at the same time desecrating the “holiness of the Lord” (cf. “yet who brings an offering,” Mal. 2:12).

Second, their family life had been corrupted by divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). Mistreating their covenant wives made their worship and sacrifices unacceptable (Mal. 2:13). “Cover the altar … with tears” may refer to the rejected wives’ tears which, so to speak, extinguished the altar fires (Hailey 416), or it may refer to the people’s tears upon their realization that their communion with God was broken (Verhoef 273). Either way, since these tears were not the guilty husbands’ tears of godly sorrow (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10), God did not accept their sacrifices (cf. Num. 16:15).

The reason why their offerings were not accepted was because their marriage vows had been broken (Mal. 2:14). Marriage involves more than just the two spouses. Marriage also involves God (cf. Mt. 19:6)! “The Lord has been witness,” not only of the marriage, but also of the treatment of their wives. Even under the old law, marriage was a binding covenant to which the Lord was (and is) witness (cf. Gen. 31:50; Pr. 2:17). Lawfully, they only had a right to one wife. That authorized wife is identified as “the wife of your youth” (found only twice outside this context, Pr. 5:18; Isa. 54:6). This refers to their first love, to one to whom they promised faithfulness and support (Verhoef 274). Note how this is term is also paralleled with “your companion” and “your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). Yet, they had been faithless to their only God-approved wives by rejecting them for heathen women.

Malachi gave two reasons why breaking their marriage vows was wrong. First, divorcing the covenant wife did not perpetuate God’s covenant (Mal. 2:15). Although this verse is textually one of the most difficult in Malachi, it is possible to understand its general meaning, which can be conveyed by two possible interpretations. One is that God made Adam only one wife (although He could have made him more) for the specific purpose of producing “godly offspring. Thus, this divine purpose is contrary to both divorce and mixed marriages (Verhoef 277). The other is that the person who seeks a godly offspring is spiritually wise and does not therefore violate God’s divine institution of marriage (Keil 453). In either case, the continuance of the covenant is threatened by the lack of “godly offspring.” Therefore, they must quit divorcing their wives. No husband of God’s remnant desiring to have “godly” descendants, would divorce his Israelite wife to marry a heathen woman!

Second, breaking marriage vows is wrong because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). God has always intended that there be one man with one wife for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5-6). “He hates” conveys the idea that God continually and habitually hates divorce. “Divorce [putting away, KJV]” was tolerated only because of their “hardness of heart” (Deut. 24:1-4 cf. Mt. 19:7-8). The sin of divorcing their God-approved wives to marry a “daughter of a strange god” was compounded by the violence involved. The expression, “it covers one’s garment with violence” is figurative for all kinds of blatant wrong doing which, like the blood of a murdered victim, leaves its mark for all to see (Baldwin 241). The man who divorced his God-approved wife, ignoring God’s covenant and her deeply wounded feelings, covered his garment with the violence of iniquity.

From a detailed analyses of this text, it is clear that the divorce God hated was the divorce from their God-authorized wives. Under that covenant, the “wife of his youth” was the only wife to which the Israelite husband could be married.

God Commands Divorce From Unscriptural Wives

Not only did God hate His people’s divorcing their Scriptural wives (Mal. 2:10-16), He also commanded the guilty to put away their unauthorized wives. Sections of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah also concern the post-exilic remnant who had sinned by marrying unauthorized wives. Ezra was informed that:

The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands … For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass. (Ezr. 9:1-2)

Ezra reacted with mourning (Ezr. 9:3). He prayed to God:

For we have forsaken Your commandments … and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations … O Lord God of Israel … Here we are before You, in our guilt … no one can stand before You because of this! (Ezr. 9:5-15)

Despite their sin, Ezra was reminded, “yet now there is hope in Israel” (Ezr. 10:2). Restoration involved separation from unlawful marriages.

Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice … of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. (Ezr. 10:3)

The “covenant” they made required them to “make confession to the Lord God … and do His will; separate yourselves … from the pagan wives” (Ezr. 10:11). The “descendants of the captivity did” exactly as God through Ezra demanded (Ezr. 10:16), even in cases where children were involved (Ezr. 10:3, 44).

Nehemiah 13:23-31 also details similar instruction and response from the guilty.

While these are Old Testament examples and people today are not answerable to Old Testament law, there are some truths we learn from the fact that God commanded these unauthorized wives to be put away (cf. Rom. 15:4). First, God is merciful and will allow His people to repent of sin and be restored to His favor, even when the sin involves marriage (Ezr. 9:9-15; 10:1-3 cf. Acts 8:22; Rom. 2:4). Second, some marriages are not pleasing to God (Ezr. 9:13-14; 10:2, 10 cf. Mk. 6:17-18; Mt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Third, the guilty are responsible for their own repentance in any sin, including sinful marriages (Ezr. 10:4, 12, 16, 19 cf. Lk. 13:3, 5; 2 Cor. 7:10).

Conclusion

The claim by some today that it is sinful to put away their unscriptural wives because “God hates divorce” is an abuse of Malachi 2:16. The divorce God hates is the one from “the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:15), not from the unauthorized wife, “the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11), which God commanded to be put away (Ezr. 10:11-44; Neh. 13:23-31). Rather than justify unauthorized marriages, people involved need to repent, for God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls

William Still (October 7, 1821–July 14, 1902) was a prominent abolitionist and civil rights activist who coined the term “underground railroad.” As one of the chief “conductors” in Pennsylvania, he helped thousands of people of African decent achieve freedom and get settled away from enslavement to other humans. Throughout his life, Still fought not only to abolish slavery but also to provide civil rights to former slaves in northern territories. Still’s work with freedom seekers is documented in his monumental book, The Underground Rail Road (published in 1872). Upon hearing of this not-so-familiar yet sigificant historical figure, it reminded me of a major work of Christians, especially preachers. Paul wrote:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

1 Cor. 9:19-23

Christians Are Free

When Paul declared, “I am free from all men” (1 Cor. 9:19a), he was affirming that he no longer lived a life where he sought to please men at the expense of doing what was right according to God’s will (cf. Gal. 1:10-12). Paul was free in at least these three ways: (1) free as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28-29); (2) free from financial support from the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 9:15-18); and (3) free from the consequences of sin (Rom. 6:17-18). However, important to this context, a fourth way is also apparent. Paul was free from man-made requirements of salvation. “Religion” is full of such requirements, but they are not binding. Paul wrote about this in more detail:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Col. 2:20-23

The string of commands, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” is not talking about smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Rather, it is referring to false religious practices of denial that people thought made them more spiritual. Some were teaching the more a person denied himself, the more spiritual he would be. There is a sense in which this is true as it relates to worldly lusts (cf. Mt. 16:24; Titus 2:12-13; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). However, for a person to continually deny appetites that God has placed in humans (such as hunger and thirst), thinking that this will make him more pleasing to God, is false! In the name of such views, monks in Mediaeval times would literally pluck out their eyes and cut off their fingers, hands, and other body parts or lie naked in a swamp to let insects bite them, thinking this made them holier! The ESV translators rendered the term “false humility” (NKJ) as “asceticism” (Col. 2:23), which refers to the religious practice of severely denying oneself physical things, thinking it will automatically make him more spiritual. This was part of the heresy affecting the Colossians when Paul wrote (Col. 2:8, 18). Christians are not bound by man-made requirements (Col. 2:13-17)!

Christians Are Slaves

Although Paul was “free from all men,” he still declared, “I have made myself a servant to all” (1 Cor. 9:19b). The phrase, “I have made [myself] … servant” is from a single Greek word (douloo, δουλόω) that means to enslave. There were, of course, different kinds of slavery in the first century Greco-Roman world. The slavery about which Paul spoke of himself was completely voluntary, like that of a “bond servant” (Rom. 1:1, NKJ). Paul wrote that every person is a slave of one master or another:

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Rom. 6:16-18

The only way to become a slave of righteousness is to “obey from the heart” a form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17-18), which must include baptism (Rom. 6:3-4). When people obey the Gospel and become Christians, they are crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:17-18; Gal. 2:20). As Paul said he became a “servant of all,” Christians today must also serve their neighbors (Mt. 22:36-40). Again, this is to be a completely voluntary submission (cf. “I am debtor,” Rom. 1:14). In so serving his neighbor, Paul did not compromise truth by “becoming all things to all men” (Gal. 1:10). Christians can adapt the cultural customs of others as long as those customs do not violate God’s law. For example, if a culture does not eat certain meat because they deem it “unclean,” a Christian working among them, even though he knows better, should not eat that meat, at least until some teaching is done to show that God allows Christians to eat any meat that is “received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 3:4). Like Christ, we must come to serve, not to be served (Mt. 20:28).

Christians Win Souls

“That I might win the more” is the reason Paul gave as to why he was free from man-made religion and free to submit himself as a servant to others (1 Cor. 9:19c). The word “win [gain, KJV]” (from kerdaino, κερδαίνω) means to gain, profit; win over (Phil. 3:8; 1 Pet. 3:1). When Paul interacted with people, he did so with a view of winning them to Christ. This is perhaps best summarized:

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

(Rom. 1:14-16)

We can “become” like other people and serve them without sinning. Jesus did (cf. Phil. 2:5-11)!

Conclusion

Paul went on to write how he would forgo his “rights,” adapting himself to the customs of his hearers, so that he might win them to Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul certainly did not compromise the Gospel by becoming “all things to all men.” In matters of indifference, Paul forsook his rights so as not to arouse unnecessary prejudices that would close the minds of some to the Gospel.

Jesus is our great example. He said:

[W]hoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Mk. 10:43-45

William Still and his “underground railroad” did a great work by freeing physical slaves of physical masters. We, however, have a greater opportunity to do an even greater work: freeing people from the bondage of sin and death by bringing them to Jesus! Are you a slave of Jesus, freed from sin and the shackles of man-made religion, seeking to liberate souls in bondage to the same?

Endnotes

Image Attribution: Nick-philly, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls
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Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022

Zachary Jones came to FSOP from the Lake Drive church of Christ in Vinton, Virginia, for whom Tommy Blewett (1986 FSOP graduate) has been preaching since 1988. Zachary became a Christian in 2018. Before enrolling in FSOP, he worked as an ice rink attendant. In addition to a high school diploma, he also attended the Secondary Academy for Success in Bothell, Washington. While a student at FSOP, Zachary served as our “tech guy.” He started school during the covid-19 pandemic, when FSOP installed new electronic equipment to maximize our online capabilities. Zachary was invaluable in helping us. After graduation, Zachary plans on working with Tommy and the Lake Drive congregation.

Paul Walter came to FSOP from North Texas, having retired as chief of police after a twenty-seven year career with various departments in Mississippi and Oklahoma. He is a Marine Corp veteran. He is a licensed general contractor, plumber, HVAC, and electrician, and he has generously helped brethren with those talents. While a student, he was involved in Orange Street church of Christ’s Polk County jail ministry. He also went with Ted Wheeler on a mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. After graduation, Paul plans to return to North Texas and to work with his home congregation, Linden church of Christ, and other churches of Christ in that area as the need arises.

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Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

V. P. Black, a favorite preacher from a few generations ago, would often say in sermons that the most powerful people in the United States were not the President and his cabinet nor any military personnel, but the United States Supreme Court. He would not always give specific examples of why he would say that, but having reflected over the years, it seems at least one major contributor to that assessment was the 1973, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.” The basis of that decision, according to the court, was that laws against abortion “violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy,” which the court found “implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (‘…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’)” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Roe-v-Wade). Obviously, not depriving “any person of life” did not take into account the person’s life inside the womb.

When news broke of the recent “leak” of a document that the United States Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the panic and mobilization of opposition against such overturning was obvious and instant. Of course, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, it would not make abortion illegal. It would merely allow each State to determine its own abortion laws. Were you old enough in 1973 to remember national sentiment at the news of Roe v. Wade? Were you a member of the church in 1973, and if so, did you study Bible lessons or hear sermons on abortion related topics? Many today are not old enough to remember the sentiment in 1973. However, we may still remember how we felt in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled (Obergefell v. Hodges) that same-sex marriages are legitimate and legally binding in the United States and its territories. No matter the feeling toward that, however, it is important to remember that civil law never has or ever will displace God’s law in Deity’s sovereign court.

Human Conception
Results In Human Children

Because legal abortion has been so ingrained in American culture since 1973, people view it as a moral, God-given right. Focus has been on the “woman’s right to choose,” rather than the human life inside her womb. Since God exists and the Bible is His inspired (i.e., God-breathed) word, then whatever the Bible teaches regarding when human life begins is true. Several passages show human pregnancy involves human children inside the wombs of their mothers (Ps. 139:13-16; Eccl. 11:5; Job 3:11-16; Jer. 1:5).

Perhaps the most obvious is a comparison of Luke 1:41, 44 with Luke 2:12, 16. The word “babe [baby, ESV]” is from the Greek word brephos (βρεφός), which in Luke 1:41, 44 is used for a child in the womb (i.e., fetus). The same word (brephos) is also used in Luke 2:12, 16 for young, or newborn, children. Luke also uses brephos in Luke 18:15, where it is translated “infants [babies, NAS95],” and in Acts 7:19, where it is translated “babies [young children, KJV; infants, ESV].” Outside of Luke’s writings, brephos is used in Second Timothy 3:15, where it is translated “childhood [a child, KJV],” and in First Peter 2:2, where it is translated “babes [babies, NAS95; infants, ESV].” A human being is considered in all these situations, whether inside or outside the mother’s womb! No one can rationally argue that a human fetus is not a human life! Yet, because America has been bombarded with the “cultural norm” that it is acceptable to snuff-out human life in the womb for unwanted or crisis pregnancies, there are many who think it is immoral to make laws against on-demand abortions!

Cultural Norms Are Not
Necessarily Biblical Norms

In any area of life, people whose culture indoctrinates them with certain values and then those people construct their day-to-day living based on that indoctrination are going to think differently than people who have not been so influenced by that same culture. A good example is a faithful brother and missionary to Muslims with whom many in the brotherhood are familiar. He was reared in Bagdad. His culture indoctrinated people to hate Americans. Many facets of their society were geared toward perpetuating hatred toward America and its culture. Given those facts, it is easy to see how the average person from Iraq would have a different attitude toward America than the average person, say from Bermuda, or other nations whose culture and practices are American friendly. Thankfully, by God’s grace, this faithful brother from Iraqi was a deeper and more spiritual thinker than the indoctrination of his culture!

Culture can be both a Scripturally obligatory matter that is temporary as well as a perpetual matter of option. For example, there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat, for “God created [it] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good … if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:3-5). However, if Christians are in a culture where eating meat is considered participating in idolatry or if eating meat causes another Christian to sin by violating his or her conscience, then eating meat is temporarily sinful (1 Cor. 8:1-13). When new Christians learn God’s word and allow it to transform their lives, their consciences will eventually approve eating meat and/or participating in activities with other faithful Christians (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; 14:1-7).

Cultural norms that are inherently sinful, however, must not be followed or even allowed a place in the Christian’s heart. An experienced missionary once told an FSOP chapel assembly that certain countries in Asia only allowed one child per family. While there is nothing inherently sinful for parents to have only one child, the problem arises when more than one is born. “Law abiding” citizens are called upon to have additional children “euthanized” (which is a polite way of saying murdered) in order to maintain the mandate. Since males are valued more than females, and since many parents do not want to directly kill their children, babies are often born in back rooms, unnoticed by authorities. As a result, orphan homes are overrun with girls, who become prime candidates for the sex traffic trade.

It is one thing when a country allows its citizens to commit immoral activities (like America with its legal allowance for fornication, abortions, same sex marriages, etc.), but it is quite another issue when a country (like the one mentioned above) forces its citizens to commit immoral acts. An incidental lesson here is when Christians in America start thinking the “grass is greener” in communist countries or with their philosophies, they need to consider the enforcement of mandates like the one-child-per-family! Christians are not authorized to commit sinful acts, such as murder, in obedience to culture (cf. Acts 5:29; Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17).

New Testament Principles
Transcend Cultural Norms

One big difference between Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity is that Christianity has been declared binding for all people in all ages since its inauguration in Acts 2 (cf. Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:16). Parts of Old Testament Judaism required being in Jerusalem for feasts (cf. Deut. 16:1-6). Judaism also required descendants from Levi to serve in the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 28–29). Since the Old Testament feasts as such are not part of the Gospel, there are no ties to physical Jerusalem. Since all Christians are priests in God’s kingdom (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:5-6), the Levitical system has no binding concern in Christianity (cf. Heb. 7:11-14; 8:7).

The Law of Moses also served as both the civil and religious law for Old Testament Israelites. This can be seen in its laws and regulations for tribal elders (and later kings), as well as religious practices like blood sacrifices, Sabbath days, purification procedures, etc. (Lev. 20; Num. 27). Thus, civil law that was derived from God’s law and passed down was always reliable and binding upon the Jews. Although civil government is from God (Rom. 13:1-5), the New Testament authorizes no exclusive form of government. Rather, it gives principles that when applied make any government more efficient and tolerable for its citizens (cf. Mt. 5:38-48; 7:12). For example, a monarchy is great when the king is living and ruling according to Gospel principles, but when he lives and follows wickedness, the people suffer (Mt. 2:16)!

While Christians have freedom to practice any cultural item that does not violate God’s will (Rom. 14:23; 1 Cor. 9:19-23), they must not be deceived into accepting sinful cultural norms. Government sometimes mandates things it thinks will best serve it citizens. For example, the one-child-per-family mandate mentioned above was probably for population control, which can be good (cf. Jer. 16:1-4). However, no one has a right to murder people for the sake of “population control” (cf. Ex. 1:15-22)! Consider also a person living in first-century Corinth. The city’s reputation through history reveals that fornication was a way of life for a large segment of that population. Thus, citizens would be desensitized to that sin, which attitude could also spill into the church. This is why Paul dealt with that sin quite extensively in his first epistle to them (1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 6:18). Cultural norms, whether promoted by civil government or merely allowed, must not be followed when they violate God’s transcendent will!

Conclusion

An overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a step in the right direction (Pr. 14:34), but it will take more than that to turn culture norms toward godly views of human life. The Christian is living among people in high positions who, if they had their way, would increasingly mandate silencing opposition to ungodliness in culture. It seems the older Americans are, the more freedoms they realize have vanished or are in danger of it. While loss of freedom is less than ideal, Christians can still please God with little or no political freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 7:21-23). Christians must continue to undergird themselves with the Gospel. The time may come when the amount of political freedom is contingent on conformity to mandated norms that are sinful (such as being forced to murder, endorse homosexuality, “transgenderism,” etc.). May we maintain such integrity and faithfulness that if persecuted, we would rejoice that we “were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” and that we keep “teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

Articles In This Issue

  • Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Don’t Say Gay? – Prayer Update –
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Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Which Divorce Does God Hate?

Over the last year, this writer has had several discussions with different brethren who were defending the position that God accepts remarriages that Jesus plainly calls adulterous (Mt. 19:9), as long as those marriages were entered before the couple became Christians. After all, they will say, God forgives sin when people are baptized into Christ. In these discussions, the people so arguing would say something like, “I can’t divorce her [the unscriptural wife] because God hates divorce, and I don’t want to do anything God hates.” Yes, the Bible indeed teaches that “He [God] hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16), but which divorce is it that He actually hates?

God Hates Divorce From Scriptural Wives

Malachi 2:16 is a passage that is twisted by those defending the position above. Malachi 2:10-16 deals with the corrupted family life of God’s remnant who returned to Palestine from captivity (cf. Ezr. 1:1-4; 7:1-10; Neh. 1:1–2:8). In this section of Malachi, the prophet identified two main reasons why their family life was corrupted.

First, their family life had been corrupted by their religiously mixed-marriages (Mal. 2:10-12). Intermarriage with those of the surrounding nations was expressly forbidden under Israel’s law (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3). Solomon’s violation of this law several hundred years prior to this time greatly contributed to Israel’s apostasy (1 Kgs. 11:1-13; Neh. 13:23-27). Since idolatry led to the Exile (cf. Hos. 7:8-10; 13:2), it should have been unthinkable for God’s remnant to tolerate this kind of apostasy again.

Malachi reminded them that their common unity in the covenant made mixed-marriages an offense against their own brothers and sisters (Mal. 2:10). They should have respected the covenant their “one Father” had given to the children of Israel when God created them to reflect His character (cf. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 43:7; 63:16; 64:8). Instead, they broke the covenant’s unity in “dealing treacherously” and “profaning the covenant” through entering into these mixed marriages, an “abomination” to the Lord. Furthermore, marrying outside the covenant polluted the holiness of God. They were indulging in idolatrous practices with these foreign wives and then entering into God’s presence as if everything were alright (cf. Ezr. 9:1-2; [cf. Isa. 1:11-15]). Judgment was pronounced upon those guilty of mixed marriages (Mal. 2:12). The guilty would be removed from the covenant people for taking wives of heathen women (cf. “does this”) and for acting piously while at the same time desecrating the “holiness of the Lord” (cf. “yet who brings an offering,” Mal. 2:12).

Second, their family life had been corrupted by divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). Mistreating their covenant wives made their worship and sacrifices unacceptable (Mal. 2:13). “Cover the altar … with tears” may refer to the rejected wives’ tears which, so to speak, extinguished the altar fires (Hailey 416), or it may refer to the people’s tears upon their realization that their communion with God was broken (Verhoef 273). Either way, since these tears were not the guilty husbands’ tears of godly sorrow (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10), God did not accept their sacrifices (cf. Num. 16:15).

The reason why their offerings were not accepted was because their marriage vows had been broken (Mal. 2:14). Marriage involves more than just the two spouses. Marriage also involves God (cf. Mt. 19:6)! “The Lord has been witness,” not only of the marriage, but also of the treatment of their wives. Even under the old law, marriage was a binding covenant to which the Lord was (and is) witness (cf. Gen. 31:50; Pr. 2:17). Lawfully, they only had a right to one wife. That authorized wife is identified as “the wife of your youth” (found only twice outside this context, Pr. 5:18; Isa. 54:6). This refers to their first love, to one to whom they promised faithfulness and support (Verhoef 274). Note how this is term is also paralleled with “your companion” and “your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). Yet, they had been faithless to their only God-approved wives by rejecting them for heathen women.

Malachi gave two reasons why breaking their marriage vows was wrong. First, divorcing the covenant wife did not perpetuate God’s covenant (Mal. 2:15). Although this verse is textually one of the most difficult in Malachi, it is possible to understand its general meaning, which can be conveyed by two possible interpretations. One is that God made Adam only one wife (although He could have made him more) for the specific purpose of producing “godly offspring. Thus, this divine purpose is contrary to both divorce and mixed marriages (Verhoef 277). The other is that the person who seeks a godly offspring is spiritually wise and does not therefore violate God’s divine institution of marriage (Keil 453). In either case, the continuance of the covenant is threatened by the lack of “godly offspring.” Therefore, they must quit divorcing their wives. No husband of God’s remnant desiring to have “godly” descendants, would divorce his Israelite wife to marry a heathen woman!

Second, breaking marriage vows is wrong because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). God has always intended that there be one man with one wife for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5-6). “He hates” conveys the idea that God continually and habitually hates divorce. “Divorce [putting away, KJV]” was tolerated only because of their “hardness of heart” (Deut. 24:1-4 cf. Mt. 19:7-8). The sin of divorcing their God-approved wives to marry a “daughter of a strange god” was compounded by the violence involved. The expression, “it covers one’s garment with violence” is figurative for all kinds of blatant wrong doing which, like the blood of a murdered victim, leaves its mark for all to see (Baldwin 241). The man who divorced his God-approved wife, ignoring God’s covenant and her deeply wounded feelings, covered his garment with the violence of iniquity.

From a detailed analyses of this text, it is clear that the divorce God hated was the divorce from their God-authorized wives. Under that covenant, the “wife of his youth” was the only wife to which the Israelite husband could be married.

God Commands Divorce From Unscriptural Wives

Not only did God hate His people’s divorcing their Scriptural wives (Mal. 2:10-16), He also commanded the guilty to put away their unauthorized wives. Sections of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah also concern the post-exilic remnant who had sinned by marrying unauthorized wives. Ezra was informed that:

The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands … For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass. (Ezr. 9:1-2)

Ezra reacted with mourning (Ezr. 9:3). He prayed to God:

For we have forsaken Your commandments … and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations … O Lord God of Israel … Here we are before You, in our guilt … no one can stand before You because of this! (Ezr. 9:5-15)

Despite their sin, Ezra was reminded, “yet now there is hope in Israel” (Ezr. 10:2). Restoration involved separation from unlawful marriages.

Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice … of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. (Ezr. 10:3)

The “covenant” they made required them to “make confession to the Lord God … and do His will; separate yourselves … from the pagan wives” (Ezr. 10:11). The “descendants of the captivity did” exactly as God through Ezra demanded (Ezr. 10:16), even in cases where children were involved (Ezr. 10:3, 44).

Nehemiah 13:23-31 also details similar instruction and response from the guilty.

While these are Old Testament examples and people today are not answerable to Old Testament law, there are some truths we learn from the fact that God commanded these unauthorized wives to be put away (cf. Rom. 15:4). First, God is merciful and will allow His people to repent of sin and be restored to His favor, even when the sin involves marriage (Ezr. 9:9-15; 10:1-3 cf. Acts 8:22; Rom. 2:4). Second, some marriages are not pleasing to God (Ezr. 9:13-14; 10:2, 10 cf. Mk. 6:17-18; Mt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Third, the guilty are responsible for their own repentance in any sin, including sinful marriages (Ezr. 10:4, 12, 16, 19 cf. Lk. 13:3, 5; 2 Cor. 7:10).

Conclusion

The claim by some today that it is sinful to put away their unscriptural wives because “God hates divorce” is an abuse of Malachi 2:16. The divorce God hates is the one from “the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:15), not from the unauthorized wife, “the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11), which God commanded to be put away (Ezr. 10:11-44; Neh. 13:23-31). Rather than justify unauthorized marriages, people involved need to repent, for God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)!

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls

William Still (October 7, 1821–July 14, 1902) was a prominent abolitionist and civil rights activist who coined the term “underground railroad.” As one of the chief “conductors” in Pennsylvania, he helped thousands of people of African decent achieve freedom and get settled away from enslavement to other humans. Throughout his life, Still fought not only to abolish slavery but also to provide civil rights to former slaves in northern territories. Still’s work with freedom seekers is documented in his monumental book, The Underground Rail Road (published in 1872). Upon hearing of this not-so-familiar yet sigificant historical figure, it reminded me of a major work of Christians, especially preachers. Paul wrote:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

1 Cor. 9:19-23

Christians Are Free

When Paul declared, “I am free from all men” (1 Cor. 9:19a), he was affirming that he no longer lived a life where he sought to please men at the expense of doing what was right according to God’s will (cf. Gal. 1:10-12). Paul was free in at least these three ways: (1) free as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28-29); (2) free from financial support from the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 9:15-18); and (3) free from the consequences of sin (Rom. 6:17-18). However, important to this context, a fourth way is also apparent. Paul was free from man-made requirements of salvation. “Religion” is full of such requirements, but they are not binding. Paul wrote about this in more detail:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Col. 2:20-23

The string of commands, “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” is not talking about smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Rather, it is referring to false religious practices of denial that people thought made them more spiritual. Some were teaching the more a person denied himself, the more spiritual he would be. There is a sense in which this is true as it relates to worldly lusts (cf. Mt. 16:24; Titus 2:12-13; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). However, for a person to continually deny appetites that God has placed in humans (such as hunger and thirst), thinking that this will make him more pleasing to God, is false! In the name of such views, monks in Mediaeval times would literally pluck out their eyes and cut off their fingers, hands, and other body parts or lie naked in a swamp to let insects bite them, thinking this made them holier! The ESV translators rendered the term “false humility” (NKJ) as “asceticism” (Col. 2:23), which refers to the religious practice of severely denying oneself physical things, thinking it will automatically make him more spiritual. This was part of the heresy affecting the Colossians when Paul wrote (Col. 2:8, 18). Christians are not bound by man-made requirements (Col. 2:13-17)!

Christians Are Slaves

Although Paul was “free from all men,” he still declared, “I have made myself a servant to all” (1 Cor. 9:19b). The phrase, “I have made [myself] … servant” is from a single Greek word (douloo, δουλόω) that means to enslave. There were, of course, different kinds of slavery in the first century Greco-Roman world. The slavery about which Paul spoke of himself was completely voluntary, like that of a “bond servant” (Rom. 1:1, NKJ). Paul wrote that every person is a slave of one master or another:

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Rom. 6:16-18

The only way to become a slave of righteousness is to “obey from the heart” a form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17-18), which must include baptism (Rom. 6:3-4). When people obey the Gospel and become Christians, they are crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:17-18; Gal. 2:20). As Paul said he became a “servant of all,” Christians today must also serve their neighbors (Mt. 22:36-40). Again, this is to be a completely voluntary submission (cf. “I am debtor,” Rom. 1:14). In so serving his neighbor, Paul did not compromise truth by “becoming all things to all men” (Gal. 1:10). Christians can adapt the cultural customs of others as long as those customs do not violate God’s law. For example, if a culture does not eat certain meat because they deem it “unclean,” a Christian working among them, even though he knows better, should not eat that meat, at least until some teaching is done to show that God allows Christians to eat any meat that is “received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 3:4). Like Christ, we must come to serve, not to be served (Mt. 20:28).

Christians Win Souls

“That I might win the more” is the reason Paul gave as to why he was free from man-made religion and free to submit himself as a servant to others (1 Cor. 9:19c). The word “win [gain, KJV]” (from kerdaino, κερδαίνω) means to gain, profit; win over (Phil. 3:8; 1 Pet. 3:1). When Paul interacted with people, he did so with a view of winning them to Christ. This is perhaps best summarized:

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

(Rom. 1:14-16)

We can “become” like other people and serve them without sinning. Jesus did (cf. Phil. 2:5-11)!

Conclusion

Paul went on to write how he would forgo his “rights,” adapting himself to the customs of his hearers, so that he might win them to Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul certainly did not compromise the Gospel by becoming “all things to all men.” In matters of indifference, Paul forsook his rights so as not to arouse unnecessary prejudices that would close the minds of some to the Gospel.

Jesus is our great example. He said:

[W]hoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Mk. 10:43-45

William Still and his “underground railroad” did a great work by freeing physical slaves of physical masters. We, however, have a greater opportunity to do an even greater work: freeing people from the bondage of sin and death by bringing them to Jesus! Are you a slave of Jesus, freed from sin and the shackles of man-made religion, seeking to liberate souls in bondage to the same?

Endnotes

Image Attribution: Nick-philly, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaker:
Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls
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Harvester May 2022: Which Divorce Does God Hate?

Articles In This Issue

  • Which Divorce Does God Hate? – Brian R. Kenyon
  • The time is right for such a discussion – Don’t Say Gay? –
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Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester May 2022: Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022

Zachary Jones came to FSOP from the Lake Drive church of Christ in Vinton, Virginia, for whom Tommy Blewett (1986 FSOP graduate) has been preaching since 1988. Zachary became a Christian in 2018. Before enrolling in FSOP, he worked as an ice rink attendant. In addition to a high school diploma, he also attended the Secondary Academy for Success in Bothell, Washington. While a student at FSOP, Zachary served as our “tech guy.” He started school during the covid-19 pandemic, when FSOP installed new electronic equipment to maximize our online capabilities. Zachary was invaluable in helping us. After graduation, Zachary plans on working with Tommy and the Lake Drive congregation.

Paul Walter came to FSOP from North Texas, having retired as chief of police after a twenty-seven year career with various departments in Mississippi and Oklahoma. He is a Marine Corp veteran. He is a licensed general contractor, plumber, HVAC, and electrician, and he has generously helped brethren with those talents. While a student, he was involved in Orange Street church of Christ’s Polk County jail ministry. He also went with Ted Wheeler on a mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. After graduation, Paul plans to return to North Texas and to work with his home congregation, Linden church of Christ, and other churches of Christ in that area as the need arises.

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Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022

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  • Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022 – Brian R. Kenyon
  • Free Slaves Liberating Captive Souls – Brian R. Kenyon
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Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Harvester March 2022: What Do You Think You Know About FSOP?

Articles In This Issue

  • What Do You Think You Know About FSOP? – Brian R. Kenyon
  • New Development Director –
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Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester March 2022: What Do You Think You Know About FSOP?
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Harvester Jan 2022: Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship?

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  • Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship? – Brian R. Kenyon
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Brian R. Kenyon
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Harvester Jan 2022: Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship?
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Which Divorce Does God Hate?

Over the last year, this writer has had several discussions with different brethren who were defending the position that God accepts remarriages that Jesus plainly calls adulterous (Mt. 19:9), as long as those marriages were entered before the couple became Christians. After all, they will say, God forgives sin when people are baptized into Christ. In these discussions, the people so arguing would say something like, “I can’t divorce her [the unscriptural wife] because God hates divorce, and I don’t want to do anything God hates.” Yes, the Bible indeed teaches that “He [God] hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16), but which divorce is it that He actually hates?

God Hates Divorce From Scriptural Wives

Malachi 2:16 is a passage that is twisted by those defending the position above. Malachi 2:10-16 deals with the corrupted family life of God’s remnant who returned to Palestine from captivity (cf. Ezr. 1:1-4; 7:1-10; Neh. 1:1–2:8). In this section of Malachi, the prophet identified two main reasons why their family life was corrupted.

First, their family life had been corrupted by their religiously mixed-marriages (Mal. 2:10-12). Intermarriage with those of the surrounding nations was expressly forbidden under Israel’s law (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3). Solomon’s violation of this law several hundred years prior to this time greatly contributed to Israel’s apostasy (1 Kgs. 11:1-13; Neh. 13:23-27). Since idolatry led to the Exile (cf. Hos. 7:8-10; 13:2), it should have been unthinkable for God’s remnant to tolerate this kind of apostasy again.

Malachi reminded them that their common unity in the covenant made mixed-marriages an offense against their own brothers and sisters (Mal. 2:10). They should have respected the covenant their “one Father” had given to the children of Israel when God created them to reflect His character (cf. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 43:7; 63:16; 64:8). Instead, they broke the covenant’s unity in “dealing treacherously” and “profaning the covenant” through entering into these mixed marriages, an “abomination” to the Lord. Furthermore, marrying outside the covenant polluted the holiness of God. They were indulging in idolatrous practices with these foreign wives and then entering into God’s presence as if everything were alright (cf. Ezr. 9:1-2; [cf. Isa. 1:11-15]). Judgment was pronounced upon those guilty of mixed marriages (Mal. 2:12). The guilty would be removed from the covenant people for taking wives of heathen women (cf. “does this”) and for acting piously while at the same time desecrating the “holiness of the Lord” (cf. “yet who brings an offering,” Mal. 2:12).

Second, their family life had been corrupted by divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). Mistreating their covenant wives made their worship and sacrifices unacceptable (Mal. 2:13). “Cover the altar … with tears” may refer to the rejected wives’ tears which, so to speak, extinguished the altar fires (Hailey 416), or it may refer to the people’s tears upon their realization that their communion with God was broken (Verhoef 273). Either way, since these tears were not the guilty husbands’ tears of godly sorrow (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10), God did not accept their sacrifices (cf. Num. 16:15).

The reason why their offerings were not accepted was because their marriage vows had been broken (Mal. 2:14). Marriage involves more than just the two spouses. Marriage also involves God (cf. Mt. 19:6)! “The Lord has been witness,” not only of the marriage, but also of the treatment of their wives. Even under the old law, marriage was a binding covenant to which the Lord was (and is) witness (cf. Gen. 31:50; Pr. 2:17). Lawfully, they only had a right to one wife. That authorized wife is identified as “the wife of your youth” (found only twice outside this context, Pr. 5:18; Isa. 54:6). This refers to their first love, to one to whom they promised faithfulness and support (Verhoef 274). Note how this is term is also paralleled with “your companion” and “your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). Yet, they had been faithless to their only God-approved wives by rejecting them for heathen women.

Malachi gave two reasons why breaking their marriage vows was wrong. First, divorcing the covenant wife did not perpetuate God’s covenant (Mal. 2:15). Although this verse is textually one of the most difficult in Malachi, it is possible to understand its general meaning, which can be conveyed by two possible interpretations. One is that God made Adam only one wife (although He could have made him more) for the specific purpose of producing “godly offspring. Thus, this divine purpose is contrary to both divorce and mixed marriages (Verhoef 277). The other is that the person who seeks a godly offspring is spiritually wise and does not therefore violate God’s divine institution of marriage (Keil 453). In either case, the continuance of the covenant is threatened by the lack of “godly offspring.” Therefore, they must quit divorcing their wives. No husband of God’s remnant desiring to have “godly” descendants, would divorce his Israelite wife to marry a heathen woman!

Second, breaking marriage vows is wrong because God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). God has always intended that there be one man with one wife for life (cf. Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5-6). “He hates” conveys the idea that God continually and habitually hates divorce. “Divorce [putting away, KJV]” was tolerated only because of their “hardness of heart” (Deut. 24:1-4 cf. Mt. 19:7-8). The sin of divorcing their God-approved wives to marry a “daughter of a strange god” was compounded by the violence involved. The expression, “it covers one’s garment with violence” is figurative for all kinds of blatant wrong doing which, like the blood of a murdered victim, leaves its mark for all to see (Baldwin 241). The man who divorced his God-approved wife, ignoring God’s covenant and her deeply wounded feelings, covered his garment with the violence of iniquity.

From a detailed analyses of this text, it is clear that the divorce God hated was the divorce from their God-authorized wives. Under that covenant, the “wife of his youth” was the only wife to which the Israelite husband could be married.

God Commands Divorce From Unscriptural Wives

Not only did God hate His people’s divorcing their Scriptural wives (Mal. 2:10-16), He also commanded the guilty to put away their unauthorized wives. Sections of the historical Books of Ezra and Nehemiah also concern the post-exilic remnant who had sinned by marrying unauthorized wives. Ezra was informed that:

The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands … For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass. (Ezr. 9:1-2)

Ezra reacted with mourning (Ezr. 9:3). He prayed to God:

For we have forsaken Your commandments … and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations … O Lord God of Israel … Here we are before You, in our guilt … no one can stand before You because of this! (Ezr. 9:5-15)

Despite their sin, Ezra was reminded, “yet now there is hope in Israel” (Ezr. 10:2). Restoration involved separation from unlawful marriages.

Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice … of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. (Ezr. 10:3)

The “covenant” they made required them to “make confession to the Lord God … and do His will; separate yourselves … from the pagan wives” (Ezr. 10:11). The “descendants of the captivity did” exactly as God through Ezra demanded (Ezr. 10:16), even in cases where children were involved (Ezr. 10:3, 44).

Nehemiah 13:23-31 also details similar instruction and response from the guilty.

While these are Old Testament examples and people today are not answerable to Old Testament law, there are some truths we learn from the fact that God commanded these unauthorized wives to be put away (cf. Rom. 15:4). First, God is merciful and will allow His people to repent of sin and be restored to His favor, even when the sin involves marriage (Ezr. 9:9-15; 10:1-3 cf. Acts 8:22; Rom. 2:4). Second, some marriages are not pleasing to God (Ezr. 9:13-14; 10:2, 10 cf. Mk. 6:17-18; Mt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Third, the guilty are responsible for their own repentance in any sin, including sinful marriages (Ezr. 10:4, 12, 16, 19 cf. Lk. 13:3, 5; 2 Cor. 7:10).

Conclusion

The claim by some today that it is sinful to put away their unscriptural wives because “God hates divorce” is an abuse of Malachi 2:16. The divorce God hates is the one from “the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:15), not from the unauthorized wife, “the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2:11), which God commanded to be put away (Ezr. 10:11-44; Neh. 13:23-31). Rather than justify unauthorized marriages, people involved need to repent, for God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)!

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Brian R. Kenyon
Title:
Which Divorce Does God Hate?
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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church

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Harvester Oct 2021: Thy Kingdom Come Popular View Leads To False Conclusions

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Harvester June 2022: Conception, Culture, and Christ’s Church
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Harvester April 2022: Two Students Graduating May 15, 2022
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Harvester Jan 2022: Should the Covid-19 Vaccination Be a Test of Fellowship?
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Harvester Oct 2021: Thy Kingdom Come Popular View Leads To False Conclusions

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Harvester Oct 2021: Thy Kingdom Come Popular View Leads To False Conclusions
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