Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Should an unmarried couple sleep together as guests in your home?

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Should an unmarried couple sleep together as guests in your home?

What began as a simple question has turned into a small dissertation!  I have narrowed this down as best I could and have borrowed extensively from “Got Questions Ministries” ( providing many of the reference verses I needed.

The responses to this deceptively simple question have been all over the board.  From a Christian perspective, this is what I have been able to distill:

  1. The definition of “sexual immorality” needs to be clearly exposited.
  2. The definition of the “household” (the family) and the authority that governs that household needs to be exposited.
  3. What is the Lord’s will?  What does being “salt” and “light” look like in regards to this issue?  Opinions are like armpits – we all have at least one and it usually stinks.  Opinions change, God’s word never changes.  In other words, what does the scripture say about
    1. How we are to love God?
    2. How we are to love our Neighbor?
    3. How we are to be proper stewards?
  4. And finally, as believers we are always free to chose – always.  There is no coercion – it is always a matter of the heart.  Hopefully, this will better help us to see where our hearts are . . .

First, let’s take a brief look back to see where we are:

Bed Sharing – Traditionally, all married TV couples in the 1950s and early 1960s were required sleep in separate (twin beds) to uphold moral codes of the times. Many of the top couples of all time such as Rob and Laura Petrie,

and even Ward and June Cleaver never had the satisfaction of knocking knees in the same bed in front of the American public.

Ward-June Cleaver

The first TV program to show a husband and wife sharing the same bed on a regular basis occurred in 1947 on the Dumont sitcom MARY KAY AND JOHNNY. TV’s first sitcom ever. The program told the tale of a newly married couple living in Greenwich Village. Unfortunately, no copies of the show exist so we must rely on the documented memories of others to prove the point. Later in the 1950s Ozzie and Harriet broke the taboo and were seen in the same bed.


While Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on I LOVE LUCY definitely slept in separate beds, their neighbors Fed and Ethel were actually the first on that show to sleep together in the same bed (well sort of). It seems on the January 17, 1955 episode “First Stop” Ethel and Fred try to navigate their way through a sagging mattress and consequently are seen squirming in bed together.

 Lucy-Ricky Ricardo

Another sitcom couple who have linked with being the first to share a bed were Darrin and Samantha Stephens, a witch and advertising executive who lived at 1164 Morning Glory Circle Drive in Westport, Connecticut on the prime time sitcom BEWITCHED/ABC/1964-72.

 Darrin-Samantha Stephens

Florence Henderson (a.k.a. Carol Brady) from THE BRADY BUNCH had claimed for years that she and her TV husband Mike Brady (Robert Reed) were the first couple to share a bed together, but through the magic of reruns, her claims has been deposed.

Mike-Carol Brady 

And, of course, while Herman and Lilly Munster on THE MUNSTERS and Fred and Wilma Flintstone were seen in the same bed, they are not technically speaking humans. The Munsters being monsters and the Flintstones cartoons.

 Herman-Lilly Munster

TRIVIA NOTE: The reason TV couples were not allowed in bed together harkened back to the Hayes Code, a series of rules and regulations designed to moderate the action of Hollywood film industry directors and producers in the 1930s.
The Hayes Code censorship guidelines dictated that a man and woman could never be seen in the same bed. If the situation occurred that a man and woman were on the same bed together, one of them had to keep a leg on the floor. So, for instance, a man could sit on the side of a bed and talk to a woman in the bed, but one of his legs had to maintain contact with the floor at all times.


Marilyn Monroe in Bed

The Hayes Codes also prohibited the navel of a woman to be displayed in the screen. Filmmakers found loopholes in the rule, however. In the case of belly dancers, a well-placed jewel in the belly button helped them bypass the spirit of the Hayes Code and continue to make “sheik” & “harem” movie adventures.
The power of the Hayes Code reared its head in the 1960s, as well,. when actress like Barbara Eden as Jeannie the Genie in her Harem Costume on the sitcom I DREAM OF JEANNIE, Sally Field in her bathing suits from teenage comedy GIDGET, and Dawn Wells wearing her knotted-up shirts on the maritime sitcom GILLIGAN’S ISLAND were all made to cover up their navels from the supposed leering eyes of lusty American youth. The Hayes Code fell to the wayside when it was replaced by the MPAA Ratings announced in November 1968 (G, M, R and X rating guidelines). Times have changed.

gossip girl 

So where are we now?  Strictly addressing television shows only we have come a long way (please note that all of the following images were selected because they can generally be considered tame in comparison to what is available).  Current programming (e.g. Gossip Girl, 666 Park Avenue, The Good Wife, Revenge) routinely depicts unmarried bed sharing as normal. 

666 park avenue 

Emphasis is now placed on sexuality regardless of marital status as well.

the good wife 

The acceptance of what is normal continues to expand and diversify across all traditional boundaries of age, gender and sexuality.  This is also increasingly prevalent and accessible to younger viewers.

revenge cast photo 

The very definition of what is “normal” has been challenged and remolded according to the current culture.  The show Modern Family is typical in now presenting dysfunction within the family unit as normal.  This image shows three groups:  1) divorced and remarried with stepchild on the way, 2) a so-called nuclear family with their quirks and 3) a homosexual union with adopted child:

modern family 

The concepts of marriage, love and relationship are also being redefined according to the culture.

The New Normal 

Lasciviousness, lust, wanton sexuality, objectification, fornication and progressive disregard for God’s warning against such sexual immorality is the new accepted reality, broadcasted constantly, blatantly and repeatedly (e.g. weekly “reality” television shows like The Bachelorette)


It is naïve and foolish to think that we are somehow immune to the virtual onslaught of ideas, images and spirit of the culture that we are exposed to every day.  We have become desensitized.  Are we really able to watch a show for it’s storyline and characters while our subconscious is being perpetually assaulted by so many images, ideas, suggestions and subliminal marketing occurring in the background and not be somehow affected?  Not more than 60 years ago – in the span of only two generations, the issue of bed sharing by non-married couples was a non-issue as this would have been assumed and generally regarded at that time to be inappropriate.  Now what was once normal seems radical and what was radical is now becoming normal. 

Ellen DeGeneres 

So what can we expect from here?  More of the same, but as a culture becomes systematically desensitized expect increasingly shocking elements to push the envelope.  To take one aspect, and at the risk of straying from the topic at hand, I estimate empirically that nearly 50% of the television shows that deal with relationships have incorporated a token homosexual character or homosexual relationship to further “normalize” our perception.  What is currently a peripheral element (but increasingly present) will at some point become the central focus:

New Normal 

First as an increasingly accepted form of relationship, than as an increasingly accepted definition of marriage and lastly as a form of identity which will be targeted to the youth (e.g. Glee):


In the Showtime series entitled (perhaps prophetically) House of Lies, a young Donis Leonard Jr. depicts an androgynous grade school cross-dressing character.  This is the new normal.

Donis Leonard Jr 

If you are perturbed by this, you are no different than the generation that first witnessed the married characters Ozzie & Harriet sharing a bed – with their clothes on.  How far we  have progressed.

Romans 12:2

English Standard Version (ESV)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1)  Sexual Immorality

This is a big topic.  The bible defines any sexual relations outside of marriage as “fornication” and is essentially a form of adultery or unfaithfulness to Christ.  Why?  Because the bible defines marriage as a profound mystery that refers to Christ and his beloved – the church (Eph 5:32).  Marriage is sacred, fornication is of the flesh and is where the term “pornography” originates from.

On Fornication:

porneia: fornication

Original Word: πορνεία, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: porneia
Phonetic Spelling: (por-ni’-ah)
Short Definition: fornication, idolatry
Definition: fornication, whoredom; met: idolatry.

4202 porneía (the root of the English terms “pornography, pornographic”; cf. 4205 /pórnos) which is derived from pernaō, “to sell off”) – properly, a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity; promiscuity of any (every) type.

[See also the contrasting term, 3430 /moixeía (“marital unfaithfulness“).]

Word Origin
from porneuó
NASB Translation
fornication (4), fornications (2), immoralities (1), immorality (16), sexual immorality (1), unchastity (1).

porneuó: to commit fornication

Original Word: πορνεύω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: porneuó
Phonetic Spelling: (porn-yoo’-o)
Short Definition: I fornicate, practice idolatry
Definition: I fornicate; met: I practice idolatry.
Cognate: 4203 porneúō – commit fornication (sexual immorality); (figuratively) to be unfaithful to Christ, while posing as His true follower. See 4202 (porneia).
Word Origin
from porné
to commit fornication
NASB Translation
act immorally (1), commit…immorality (2), committed…immorality (3), did (1), immoral (1).

porné: a prostitute

Original Word: πόρνη, ης, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: porné
Phonetic Spelling: (por’-nay)
Short Definition: a prostitute
Definition: a prostitute; met: an idolatrous community.

pornos: a fornicator

Original Word: πόρνος, ου, ὁ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Transliteration: pornos
Phonetic Spelling: (por’-nos)
Short Definition: a fornicator
Definition: a fornicator, man who prostitutes himself.

Question: “What does the Bible say about sex before marriage?”

Answer: There is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible that precisely refers to sex before marriage. The Bible undeniably condemns adultery and sexual immorality, but is sex before marriage considered sexually immoral? According to 1 Corinthians 7:2, “yes” is the clear answer: “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” In this verse, Paul states that marriage is the “cure” for sexual immorality. First Corinthians 7:2 is essentially saying that, because people cannot control themselves and so many are having immoral sex outside of marriage, people should get married. Then they can fulfill their passions in a moral way.

Since 1 Corinthians 7:2 clearly includes sex before marriage in the definition of sexual immorality, all of the Bible verses that condemn sexual immorality as being sinful also condemn sex before marriage as sinful. Sex before marriage is included in the biblical definition of sexual immorality. There are numerous Scriptures that declare sex before marriage to be a sin (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).

Question:  “If an unmarried couple has sex, are they married in God’s eyes?”

Answer: It is true that sexual relations is the ultimate fulfillment of a couple becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). However, the act of sex does not equal marriage. If that were so, there would be no such thing as premarital sex—once a couple had sex, they would be married. The Bible calls premarital sex “fornication.” It is repeatedly condemned in Scripture along with all other forms of sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes abstinence before marriage as the standard of godliness. Sex before marriage is just as wrong as adultery and other forms of sexual immorality because they all involve having sex with someone other than your spouse.

If an unmarried couple has sex, does that mean they are married? The Bible gives us no reason to believe this to be the case. The act of sexual relations may have made them for a moment physically joined, but that does not mean God has joined them together as husband and wife. Sex is an important aspect of marriage, the physical act of marriage. Sex between unmarried people, though, does not equal marriage.

Question: “What does the Bible say about worldliness?”

Answer: The dictionary definition of “worldly” is “relating to, or devoted to, the temporal world.” Worldliness, then, is the condition of being concerned with worldly affairs, especially to the neglect of spiritual things. The Bible has a great deal to say about worldliness, none of it good.

Paul equates worldliness with spiritual immaturity in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, where he addresses the believers in the church of Corinth in regard to their worldly behavior. Though they were believers—he calls them “brothers”—they were spiritual babies who could not understand the deep things of God that Paul wished to share with them. They had never progressed past learning the basics of the faith and were seemingly content to remain there. This lack of maturity led to their behaving as though they were still part of the unsaved world. They quarreled among themselves as to which of them was greater because of which of the apostles they followed (1 Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:4), when in reality they followed none of them, following instead their own lusts and desire to elevate themselves above others. Paul exhorted them to grow up and mature in the faith so they would cease from worldly behavior.

The epistles depict worldliness as the exact opposite of godliness.
The world’s wisdom is not wisdom at all (1 Corinthians 3:18-19). Rather, it is foolishness, especially the world’s wisdom on the subject of religion. We see that today in the endless discussions of “spirituality” by men whose spiritual wisdom is based on nothing more than worldly illusions. True wisdom that comes from God is juxtaposed against the foolish “wisdom” of the world throughout Scripture. The message of the cross is foolishness to those with worldly wisdom who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18) because true wisdom comes not from man’s philosophies, but from God’s Word. True godliness is always opposed by the world.

Furthermore, Paul refers to a “worldly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10) which is the opposite of the godly sorrow that comes from true repentance. Godly sorrow is what we feel over our sin when we come to see it as God sees it and when our view of it is in accord with His. Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, does not stem from the knowledge of sin against a holy God, but rather from circumstances in which the worldly find themselves. Worldly sorrow stems from a love of self and may arise from the loss of friends or property, from disappointment, or from shame and disgrace. But once the circumstances right themselves, worldly sorrow disappears. Godly sorrow, however, is only alleviated by turning to Christ, who alone provides freedom from the sorrow, the penalty and the power of sin.

Finally, Scripture draws a clear distinction between friendship with God and friendship with the world. James 4:4 tells us that “friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” He goes on to say that “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” The apostle James uses the strong words “hatred” and “enemy” to drive home the point that we can be in the world or in the kingdom, but not both because they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Those who choose worldliness choose to live in the enemy’s camp because all that is of the world is under the control of Satan (1 John 5:19). He is the ruler of this world, and when we choose the world, we enlist in his evil army and become enemies of God.

For the Christian, the choice is clear. To avoid worldliness, we must mature in the faith, growing up in all things in Christ so that we are no longer spiritual infants, tossed about by the lies of the world
(Ephesians 4:14-15). We must come to know the difference between the wisdom of God and the foolishness of worldly wisdom, and that is only achieved by careful and diligent study of the Word, seeking God’s wisdom in prayer (James 1:5), and enjoying the fellowship of other mature believers who can encourage us to reject worldliness and embrace godliness.

Conclusion:  Sex outside of marriage is fornication – regardless of what the world calls it.  God’s wrath against such behavior is clearly stated (1 Cor 5, 6, 7; Gal 5; Eph 5; Acts and Revelation).  Sex does not equal marriage.  Believers should not give the “green light” and thereby passively encourage sin amongst unbelievers because that is where our culture currently resides; but rather demonstrate the light of Christ as an alternative, in love and without judgment.  Tacit approval of such a relationship is unfaithfulness to Christ.  If you must suffer being called “old-fashioned” or risk someone staying in a hotel, so be it.  We should not be hypocritical by allowing sin when children are absent, or blame shift when children are present; but be consistent as “imitators of Christ” in our homes.  Confessing believers are to have no association with such behavior amongst other believers (Eph 5, 1 Cor 5).

2) The Household (family)

This is another big topic.  The root of this word “house” literally means “to build” and is the same word Jesus uses in the synoptic gospels that “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Matt 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17).

Your house is not a roof under which to keep your stuff, but a foundation upon which to build.

hous’-hold: Three words are usually found in the Bible where the family is indicated. These three are the Hebrew word bayith and the Greek words oikia and oikos. The unit of the national life of Israel, from the very beginning, was found in the family. In the old patriarchal days each family was complete within itself, the oldest living sire being the unquestioned head of the whole, possessed of almost arbitrary powers. The house and the household are practically synonymous. God had called Abraham “that he might command his children and household after him” (Gen 18:19). The Passover-lamb was to be eaten by the “household” (Ex 12:3). The “households” of the rebels in the camp of Israel shared their doom (Nu 16:31-33; Dt 11:6). David’s household shares his humiliation (2 Sam 15:16); the children everywhere in the Old Testament are the bearers of the sins of the fathers. Human life is not a conglomerate of individuals; the family is its center and unit.
Nor is it different in the New Testament. The curse and the blessing of the apostles are to abide on a house, according to its attitude (Mt 10:13). A divided house falls (Mk 3:25). The household believes with the head thereof (Jn 4:53; Acts 16:15,34). Thus the households became the nuclei for the early life of the church, e.g. the house of Prisca and Aquila at Rome (Rom 16:5), of Stephanas (1 Cor 16:15), of Onesiphorus (2 Tim 1:16), etc. No wonder that the early church made so much of the family life. And in the midst of all our modern, rampant individualism, the family is still the throbbing heart of the church as well as of the nation.

On the Household:

oikeios: of one’s family, domestic

Original Word: οἰκεῖος, α, ον
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: oikeios
Phonetic Spelling: (oy-ki’-os)
Short Definition: of one’s family, domestic
Definition: of one’s family, domestic, intimate.

home, household, temple
Of uncertain affinity, a dwelling (more or less extensive, literal or figurative); by implication, a family (more or less related, literally or figuratively) — home, house(hold), temple

bayith: a house

Original Word: בָּ֫יִת
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: bayith
Phonetic Spelling: (bah’-yith)
Short Definition: house

court, door, dungeon, family, forth of, great as would contain, hangings, Probably from banah abbreviated; a house (in the greatest variation of applications, especially family, etc.) — court, daughter, door, + dungeon, family, + forth of, X great as would contain, hangings, home(born), (winter)house(-hold), inside(-ward), palace, place, + prison, + steward, + tablet, temple, web, + within(-out).
see HEBREW banah

banah: to build

Original Word: בָּנָה
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: banah
Phonetic Spelling: (baw-naw’)
Short Definition: built

Word Origin
a prim. root
to build
NASB Translation
besieged* (1), build (112), build* (1), builders (10), building (16), builds (8), built (177), construct (1), constructed (1), fashioned (1), fortified (3), fortifying (2), have children (1), made (1), obtain children (1), rebuild (13), rebuilding (3), rebuilt (17), rebuilt* (2), restored (1), set (1), surely built (1)

Question:  “What does the bible say about family?”

Answer:  The concept of family is extremely important in the Bible, both in a physical sense and in a theological sense. The concept of family was introduced in the very beginning, as we see in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'” God’s plan for creation was for men and women to marry and have children. A man and a woman would form a “one-flesh” union through marriage (Genesis 2:24), and they with their children become a family, the essential building block of human society.

We also see early on that family members were to look after and care for one another. When God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response is the flippant “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The implication is that, yes, Cain was expected to be Abel’s keeper and vice versa. Not only was Cain’s murder of his brother an offense against humanity in general, but it was especially egregious because it was the first recorded case of fratricide (murder of one’s sibling).

The Bible has a more communal sense of people and family than is generally held in Western cultures today, where citizens are more individualized than people in the Middle East and definitely more so than the people of the ancient near East. When God saved Noah from the flood, it wasn’t an individual case salvation, but a salvation for him, his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives. In other words, his family was saved (Genesis 6:18). When God called Abraham out of Haran, He called him and his family (Genesis 12:4-5). The sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision) was to be applied to all males within one’s household, whether they were born into the family or are part of the household servant staff (Genesis 17:12-13). In other words, God’s covenant with Abraham was familial, not individual.

The importance of family can be seen in the provisions of the Mosaic covenant. For example, two of the Ten Commandments deal with maintaining the cohesiveness of the family. The fifth commandment regarding honoring parents is meant to preserve the authority of parents in family matters, and the seventh commandment prohibiting adultery protects the sanctity of marriage. From these two commandments flow all of the various other stipulations in the Mosaic Law which seek to protect marriage and the family. The health of the family was so important to God that it was codified in the national covenant of Israel.

This is not solely an Old Testament phenomenon. The New Testament makes many of the same commands and prohibitions. Jesus speaks on the sanctity of marriage and against frivolous divorce in Matthew 19. The Apostle Paul talks about what Christian homes should look like when he gives the twin commands of “children, obey your parents” and “parents, don’t provoke your children” in Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21. Furthermore, we see similar New Testament concepts regarding the importance of family in the process of salvation in the book of Acts when on two separate occasions during Paul’s second missionary journey, entire households were baptized at the conversion of one individual (Acts 16:11-15, 16:31-33). This is not to condone infant baptism or baptismal regeneration (i.e., that baptism confers salvation), but it is interesting to note that just as the Old Testament sign of the covenant (circumcision) was applied to whole families, so also the New Testament sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to entire households. We can make an argument that when God saves an individual, His desire (from a moral/revealed-will perspective) is for the family to be saved. Clearly, God’s desire isn’t just to save isolated individuals, but entire households. In 1 Corinthians 7, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing spouse, meaning, among other things, that the unbelieving spouse is in a position to be saved through the witness of the believing spouse.

From a covenant perspective, membership in the covenant community is more communal than individualistic. In the case of Lydia and the Philippian jailer, their families/households were baptized and made part of the church community. Since we know that baptism doesn’t confer salvation, which is only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we can assume that not all were saved, but all were included into the community of believers. Lydia’s and the jailer’s salvation didn’t break up their families. We know that salvation can be a strain on a family, but God’s intent isn’t to break up families over the issue of salvation. Lydia and the jailer weren’t commanded to come out and be separate from their unbelieving families; rather, the sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to all members in the household. The families were sanctified (set apart) and called into the community of believers.

Let’s now turn our attention to the theological concept of family. During His three-year ministry, Jesus shattered some prevailing notions of what it meant to be part of a family: “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:46-50). Now we must clear up some misconceptions with this passage. Jesus is not saying that biological family isn’t important; He is not dismissing His mother and brothers. What He is doing is making the clear theological point that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the most important family connection is spiritual, not physical. This is a truth made explicitly clear in John’s Gospel, when the evangelist says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

The parallels are quite clear. When we are born physically, we’re born into a physical family, but when we are “born again,” we are born into a spiritual family. To use Pauline language, we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15). When we are adopted into God’s spiritual family, the Church, God becomes our Father and Jesus our Brother. This spiritual family is not bound by ethnicity, gender or social standing. As Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

So what does the Bible say about family? The physical family is the most important building block to human society, and as such, it should be nurtured and protected. But more important than that is the new creation that God is making in Christ, which is comprised of a spiritual family, the Church, made up of all people who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. This is a family drawn “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), and the defining characteristic of this spiritual family is love for one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Question: “What does the Bible say about household salvation?”

Answer: Having a proper understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning household salvation must begin with an understanding of what the Bible teaches about salvation in general and election in particular. To begin with, we know that there is only one way of salvation, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13-14; John 6:67-68; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8). We also know that the command to believe is directed to individuals and the act of believing is an individual action. Understanding this is important when it comes to correctly understanding the concept of household salvation because it helps us focus on the fact that salvation can only come through an individual believing in Christ. It is not something that a father can do for a son or daughter, nor is the fact that one member of a family or household believes any guarantee that the rest will also.

In fact, Jesus Himself indicates that the Gospel often divides families. For example, in Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Also, if we understand what the Bible teaches about election, we again come to understand that God elects individuals to salvation and that only those that are elect will be saved (John 6:44-65). This indicates that both election and salvation are not corporate but individual in nature. God elects individuals to salvation (Romans 9:6-18), and those that are elect believe and are saved (Acts 13:48).

So, if salvation is an individual action, then how are we to understand those passages in the Bible that seem to contain a promise of household salvation? How can we reconcile the need for individuals to believe in order to be saved and the promises of verses like Acts 11:14 that indicate a promise was given to Cornelius that his household would be saved? First of all, like any passage of Scripture, it is important to understand the genre or type of book the verse is in. In this case it is found in Acts, which is an historical narrative of actual events that took place. This is important because the fact that God promised Cornelius that his whole household would be saved does not mean the same promise applies universally to all households across time. In other words, it was a specific promise to a specific person at a specific point in time. One must be very careful about interpreting these types of promises as universal in nature because they must be understood correctly in their historical setting in order to be correctly interpreted.

Second, we need to look at how God fulfilled His promise to Cornelius. If we go back to Acts 10:33, we first see that Cornelius and his household were gathered “to hear all that you (Peter) have been commanded by the Lord.” In other words, they were in a place and position to hear the Gospel which “is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). Upon hearing the Gospel preached by Peter, everyone in Cornelius’s household believed and was baptized (Acts 11:15-18). So, while God had promised Cornelius that his household would be saved, the way they were saved was consistent with God’s plan of salvation, which is through the preaching of the Gospel. They were not saved because Cornelius believed but because they believed.

Another passage in Acts that carries the promise of household salvation is found in Acts 16:31. Here the Philippian jailer asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” To which Paul and Silas respond, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Again, it is important to remember that this promise is given to a specific individual in a specific context; however, unlike the promise to Cornelius, this one contains a promise that is clearly universal in nature and spans all time periods and contexts. That promise is not one of household salvation but is one that is entirely consistent with every other verse in the Bible that speaks of salvation. It is the promise that if you believe in the Lord Jesus “you shall be saved.” Also, if we continue to study this passage in context, we see again that salvation came as the result of hearing the Word of God and responding in faith (Acts 16:32). Again, this is consistent with every other verse in the Bible concerning salvation. Individual people hear the gospel and respond in faith and are saved. They were not saved because they werepart of the jailer’s household; instead, they were saved because they believed the Gospel message and responded in faith.

A third verse in the New Testament that some will use to try to teach household salvation is 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” Is this verse somehow teaching that an unbelieving spouse can be sanctified or saved on the basis of their spouse’s faith in Christ, or that their children will be holy before the Lord because one of their parents is saved? Of course, the obvious answer to that is “no” because that is totally inconsistent with the overall teaching of Scripture. That becomes even clearer when one again examines the context of the passage. In this case, the passage is not dealing with salvation or sanctification (being made holy before God) at all. Instead, it is dealing with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife, and this and the following passages deal specifically with the issue of a Christian who has an unbelieving spouse. Paul taught that Christians should not be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with unbelievers. Here in this passage, he clarifies that if a believer is already married to an unbeliever they should remain married as long as the unbeliever consents to do so. The reason this would be allowable is that the marriage relationship would be sanctified (holy or set apart in God’s eyes) based upon the faith of the believing spouse. Likewise, the children of that marriage will be legitimate in the sight of God despite the fact that Christians are not to be unequally yoked with the lost.

Noted Greek scholar A.T. Robertson in his book “Word Pictures of the New Testament” writes this about 1 Corinthians 7:14: “Paul does not, of course, mean that the unbelieving husband is saved by the faith of the believing wife. Clearly, he only means that the marriage relation is sanctified so that there is no need of a divorce. If either husband or wife is a believer and the other agrees to remain, the marriage is holy and need not be set aside. ….If the relations of the parents be holy, the child’s birth must be holy also (not illegitimate).”

The fact that 1 Corinthians 7:14 is not speaking of some type of household salvation is clearly seen in the rhetorical question that Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 7:16: “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” The obvious answer is they don’t because only God knows who will be saved and who will not be.

While there really is no promise of “household salvation” that a believer can lay claim to, that does not mean that we should not earnestly hope, pray, and work for the salvation of our families. And while there are times as foretold by Jesus in Matthew 10:34-36 that salvation will divide a family, there are also many times where the God of Abraham also becomes the God of Sarah, and then of Isaac and then of Jacob. As Charles Spurgeon said: “…though grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood nor of birth, yet doth it very frequently—I was about to say almost always—happen that God, by means of one of a household, draws the rest to himself. He calls an individual, and then uses him to be a sort of spiritual decoy to bring the rest of the family into the gospel net.” God has not only appointed or elected individuals to salvation. He has also ordained the means by which they will be saved, which is hearing and responding in faith to the Gospel message. As Spurgeon so eloquently communicates, this often involves a family member, as God saves one person and then uses him/her in such a way that others in the family hear the Word of God, believe, and are saved.

Question: “What does the Bible say about hospitality?”

Answer: Hospitality can be defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.” Hospitality is a virtue which is both commanded and commended throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, it was specifically commanded by God: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34, emphasis added).

During His public ministry, Jesus and His disciples depended entirely on the hospitality of others as they ministered from town to town (Matthew 10:9-10). Likewise, the early Christians also depended on and received hospitality from others (Acts 2:44-45; 28:7). In fact, travelers in ancient times depended heavily on the hospitality of strangers as traveling could be dangerous and there were very few inns, and poor Christians could not afford to stay at them, anyway. This generous provision to strangers also included opening one’s home for church services. Hospitality was indeed a highly regarded virtue in ancient times, especially for Christian leaders (Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2).

The writer of Hebrews reminds us not to forget to “entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). Indeed, in the book of Genesis we read of Abraham’s humble and generous display of hospitality to three strangers. Wealthy and aged, Abraham could have called on one of his many servants to tend to the three unannounced visitors. Yet the hospitable and righteous Abraham generously gave them the best he had. And, as it turned out, he had entertained the Lord and two angels (Genesis 18:1-8).

Christians are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). As followers of Christ, we emulate His love and compassion when we show hospitality, not only to fellow Christians, but even more so to strangers and the less fortunate. In fact, we honor God when we are kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:31; 19:17). As Jesus said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:13). Christ also taught us the second greatest commandment, to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), and the Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that “neighbor” has nothing to do with geography, citizenship, or race. Wherever and whenever people need us, there we can be neighbors and, like Christ, show mercy. This is the essence of hospitality.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus discusses the hospitable behavior of those who will inherit the kingdom: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:34-36). In these days we often don’t think much about entertaining strangers, but hospitality is still an important part of Christian ministry (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). By serving others we serve Christ (Matthew 25:40) and we promote the spread of God’s truth (3 John 5-8).

Conclusion:  Household = family.  It is the foundation of society and the charge for the head of the family (men please take note) to lead.  You are responsible for what occurs in your home – no one else.  Decisions made within the home or pertaining to the home are not equivalent to decisions made outside the home.  A godly family is sanctified (set apart).  This is what makes you a light to the world in that you are distinctive as being different from the world.  Hospitality means serving and inviting others into your home, but not inviting others into your home to corrupt it.  We can love others as ourselves, serve others in humility but we are not to relinquish our roles as sovereign over the household.

(From the time of the creation of mankind, each individual has been entrusted with resources of time and material wealth. Everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him. We are responsible for using those resources so that they increase in value. As Christians, we have additionally the most valuable resource of all – the Word of God. If we believe and understand Him, and apply His Word as good stewards, we are a blessing to others and the value of what we do multiplies. We are accountable to the Lord for the use of His resources.)

3) What does scripture say?

Yet another big topic. 

  • Ephesians 5 sums it up pretty well.  We must love God, imitate God, walk in the light, walk in love, be wise, look carefully and not to partner with the darkness – i.e. love the sinner but not the sin. 
  • Galatians 5 says we are justified, called to freedom and to walk by the Spirit and not use our freedom to gratify the desires of the flesh (including approval from the world).  We are not bound by rules, but by a heart that desires what is right.  We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. 
  • James 1 says to be doers, not hearers only, to not be deceived, to ask God fro wisdom and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Question: “Is it good to have close friendships with unbelievers?”

Answer: As Christians, we have to constantly face temptations and the attacks of the world around us. Everything we see, read, do, hear, put in our bodies, etc., affects us somehow. That’s why, to maintain a close relationship with God, we have to put aside our old ways of doing things—the things we watch on TV, old bad habits (excessive drinking, smoking, etc.), the activities we participate in, and the people we spend our time with. People are divided into only two categories, those who belong to the world and its ruler, Satan, and those who belong to God (Acts 26:18). These two groups of people are described in terms of opposites all through the Bible; e.g., those in darkness/those in the light; those with eternal life/those with eternal death; those who have peace with God/those who are at war with Him; those who believe the truth/those who believe the lies; those on the narrow path to salvation/those on the broad road to destruction, and many more. Clearly, the message of Scripture is that believers are completely different from nonbelievers, and it is from this perspective that we must discern what kind of friendships we can really have with unbelievers.

The book of Proverbs has a few wise verses on believers befriending non-believers: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26). We should stay away from foolish people (13:20, 14:7), from people who lose their temper easily (22:24), and from the rebellious (24:21). All these things represent those who have not been saved. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). First Corinthians 15:33 tells us that bad company corrupts good character. Unbelievers are slaves to sin (John 8:34), and Christians are slaves to God (1 Corinthians 7:22). If we become deeply involved (either by friendship or a romantic relationship) with non-Christians, we are setting ourselves up for turmoil. It can (and does often) cause the Christian to stumble in his walk, fall back into a sinful life, and also turn others away from God (by misrepresenting God and Christianity). Another detrimental effect of closeness with unbelievers is our tendency to water down the truths of Scripture so as to not offend them. There are difficult truths in the Word of God, truths such as judgment and hell. When we minimize or ignore these doctrines or try to “soft pedal” them, in essence we are calling God a liar for the sake of those already in the grasp of Satan. This is not evangelism.

Although these close relationships are not recommended, it does not mean we turn our noses up and ignore unbelievers, either. Second Timothy 2:24-26 tells us that as servants of the Lord, we are to be kind to and not quarrel with anyone. We should gently teach those who oppose the truth, and be patient with difficult people. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly father.” We should serve unbelievers so that they may see God through us and turn to Him in praise. James 5:16 says that there is great power in the prayer of a righteous person, so bring your concerns for unbelievers before God, and He will listen.

Many people have been saved because of the prayers and service of Christians, so don’t turn your back on unbelievers, but having any kind of intimate relationship with an unbeliever can quickly and easily turn into something that is a hindrance to your walk with Christ. We are called to evangelize the lost, not be intimate with them. There is nothing wrong with building quality friendships with unbelievers – but the primary focus of such a relationship should be to win them to Christ by sharing the Gospel with them and demonstrating God’s saving power in our own lives.

Question: “What is biblical stewardship?”

Answer: To discover what the Bible says about stewardship, we start with the very first verse: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As the Creator, God has absolute rights of ownership over all things, and to miss starting here is like misaligning the top button on our shirt or blouse—nothing else will ever line up. Nothing else in the Bible, including the doctrine of stewardship, will make any sense or have any true relevance if we miss the fact that God is the Creator and has full rights of ownership. It is through our ability to fully grasp this and imbed it in our hearts that the doctrine of stewardship is understood.

The biblical doctrine of stewardship defines a man’s relationship to God. It identifies God as owner and man as manager. God makes man His co-worker in administering all aspects of our life. The apostle Paul explains it best by saying, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). Starting with this concept, we are then able to accurately view and correctly value not only our possessions, but, more importantly, human life itself. In essence, stewardship defines our purpose in this world as assigned to us by God Himself. It is our divinely given opportunity to join with God in His worldwide and eternal redemptive movement (Matthew 28:19-20). Stewardship is not God taking something from us; it is His method of bestowing His richest gifts upon His people.

In the New Testament, two Greek words embody the meaning of our English word “stewardship.” The first word is epitropos which means “manager, foreman, or steward.” From the standpoint of government, it means “governor or procurator.” At times it was used in the New Testament to mean “guardian,” as in Galatians 4:1-2: “What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.” The second word is oikonomos. It also means “steward, manager, or administrator” and occurs more frequently in the New Testament. Depending on the context, it is often translated “dispensation, stewardship, management, arrangement, administration, order, plan, or training.” It refers mostly to the law or management of a household or of household affairs.

Notably, in the writings of Paul, the word oikonomos is given its fullest significance in that Paul sees his responsibility for preaching the gospel as a divine trust (1 Corinthians 9:17). Paul refers to his call from God as the administration (stewardship) of the grace of God for a ministry of the divine mystery revealed in Christ (Ephesians 3:2). In this context, Paul is portraying God as the master of a great household, wisely administering it through Paul himself as the obedient servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Also significant in what Paul is saying is that once we’re called and placed into the body of Jesus Christ, the stewardship that is required of us is not a result of our own power or abilities. The strength, inspiration and growth in the management of our lives must come from God through the Holy Spirit in us; otherwise, our labor is in vain and the growth in stewardship is self-righteous, human growth. Accordingly, we must always remember the sole source of our strength in pleasing God: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NJKV). Paul also said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

More often than not, when we think of good stewardship, we think of how we manage our finances and our faithfulness in paying God’s tithes and offerings. But as we’re beginning to see, it’s much more than that. In fact, it’s more than just the management of our time, our possessions, our environment, or our health. Stewardship is our obedient witness to God’s sovereignty. It’s what motivates the follower of Christ to move into action, doing deeds that manifest his belief in Him. Paul’s stewardship involved proclaiming that which was entrusted to him—the gospel truth.

Stewardship defines our practical obedience in the administration of everything under our control, everything entrusted to us. It is the consecration of one’s self and possessions to God’s service. Stewardship acknowledges in practice that we do not have the right of control over ourselves or our property—God has that control. It means as stewards of God we are managers of that which belongs to God, and we are under His constant authority as we administer His affairs. Faithful stewardship means that we fully acknowledge we are not our own but belong to Christ, the Lord, who gave Himself for us.

The ultimate question, then, is this: Am I the lord of my life, or is Christ the Lord of my life? In essence, stewardship expresses our total obedience to God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Question: “What does the Bible say about legalism? How can a Christian avoid falling into the trap of legalism?”

Answer: The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is a term Christians use to describe a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. Legalists believe in and demand a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations. Doctrinally, it is a position essentially opposed to grace. Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

Even true believers can be legalistic. We are instructed, rather, to be gracious to one another: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” (Romans 14:1). Sadly, there are those who feel so strongly about non-essential doctrines that they will run others out of their fellowship, not even allowing the expression of another viewpoint. That, too, is legalism. Many legalistic believers today make the error of demanding unqualified adherence to their own biblical interpretations and even to their own traditions. For example, there are those who feel that to be spiritual one must simply avoid tobacco, alcoholic beverages, dancing, movies, etc. The truth is that avoiding these things is no guarantee of spirituality.

The apostle Paul warns us of legalism in Colossians 2:20-23: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Legalists may appear to be righteous and spiritual, but legalism ultimately fails to accomplish God’s purposes because it is an outward performance instead of an inward change.

To avoid falling into the trap of legalism, we can start by holding fast to the words of the apostle John, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17) and remembering to be gracious, especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10).

A word of caution is necessary here. While we need to be gracious to one another and tolerant of disagreement over disputable matters, we cannot accept heresy. We are exhorted to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). If we remember these guidelines and apply them in love and mercy, we will be safe from both legalism and heresy. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

4) Christian Freedom

1 Corinthians 6:12

English Standard Version (ESV)

Flee Sexual Immorality

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

Ultimately, how we chose to run our household is a decision that we make before the Lord.  God desires “steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).  We are to look to God first.  We are to be consistent as our actions are ultimately towards Him in all things.  We are to serve God and serve the interests of others that are helpful and not hurtful.  Discerning between helpful and hurtful requires spiritual maturity.  We will not always get it right, but God is patient and merciful.

Question: “Why did Lot offer up his daughters to be gang raped?”

Answer: This incident involving Lot’s daughters appears in Genesis 19:1-11. Two men who were really angels appeared in Sodom where Lot lived with his family. The wicked men of the city surrounded Lot’s house seeking to have homosexual relations with the angels. Lot begged the men of the city not to do this evil thing and he offered up his two virgin daughters to them instead.

To our modern sensibilities, it’s hard to understand why God would allow this terrible incident to occur. We are told in 1st Corinthians 10:11 that the record of the Old Testament is for an “example” to us. In other words, God gives us the whole truth about biblical characters, their sin, their failures, their victories and good deeds, and we are to learn from their example, what to do and what not to do. In fact, this is one of the ways God teaches us what we need to know in order to make good choices as believers. We can learn the easy way by knowing and obeying God’s Word, we can learn the hard way by suffering the consequences of our mistakes, or we can learn by watching others and “taking heed” from their experiences.

Scripture does not reveal Lot’s reasoning for offering up his daughters. Whatever his thought process was, it was wrong and indefensible. Based on what is revealed about Lot’s life one might wonder if he was righteous. However, there is no doubt that God had declared him to be positionally righteous, even during his time in Sodom. “And if God rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds)” (2 Peter 2:7-8). At some point Lot had believed in the coming Messiah, and that faith resulted in a righteous standing before God. It is likely that Lot’s uncle, Abraham, had passed this truth down to him.

What we have in the story of Lot is an illustration of a man who once lived close to his godly relatives and had backslidden and was living according to his sin nature. Lot had moved to Sodom, even though he knew what it was, and he “sat in the gate” (Genesis 19:1). That sounds quite simple but in fact sitting in the gate meant that Lot had so entered into the society of Sodom that he was a judge there (Genesis 19:9). In spite of his position, the men of Sodom had no respect for him because they knew he was a hypocrite.

We may sit in judgment of the culture of that day, but protecting one’s guests required great sacrifice. Was Lot right to offer his own daughters in place of the ones that the men of Sodom wanted? No. We can see in the story that the Lord’s messengers protected Lot and his daughters in spite of Lot’s lack of character and worldly viewpoint. Lot meant to appease the men of Sodom so that the hospitality of his house would not be damaged, but he makes the wrong choice in offering his own daughters, and God’s messengers overruled him.

Lot did the things he did because he chose to live in his old sin nature and do what was easy and made choices to flirt with evil instead of living to honor God, and as a result, there was suffering for Lot, his wife and daughters and by association for the nation of Israel for years to come. The lesson for us is that we need to make choices that do not conform to the world but to submit to the Word of God, which will guide us into living lives that are pleasing to God.

 Question: “Christian liberty – what does the Bible say?”

Answer: Christian liberty is found in the Bible in several concepts. For example, liberty for the Christian can mean that he or she has been freed from the penalty of sin by faith in Jesus Christ (John 8:31-36; Romans 6:23). Also, Christian liberty can refer to being freed from the power of sin in one’s life by daily faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s character and conduct (Romans 6:5-6,14). In addition, Christian liberty can mean that Christians are freed from the Jewish law of Moses in that the law only “exposes” sin in one’s life, but cannot “forgive” sin (Romans 3:20-22).

Finally, Christian liberty can mean that Christians are freed in respect to such activity that is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Therefore one can feel free to engage in such activity as long as it doesn’t “stumble” or “offend” another Christian (Romans 14:12-16). Most of these activities revolve around social “do’s” and “don’ts, such as whether or not to wear certain kinds of clothes, make-up, jewelry, tattoos, piercings, and/or practicing certain things, such as smoking, social drinking, recreational gambling, dancing, or viewing movies or videos. As the passage in Romans 14 says, these things may not be strictly prohibited by God’s Word, but they can be bad for one’s spiritual growth or Christian testimony and can offend other Christians whose consciences prevent them from partaking in them.

Furthermore, Christians who tend to vigorously promote such liberties can sometimes fall into a loose lifestyle of undisciplined living, while, on the other hand, Christians who tend to vigorously limit such liberties can sometimes fall into a legalistic lifestyle of being defined by what they are “against.” So, it is wise to seek God in prayer and His Word to determine whether or not a particular activity is actually forbidden in Scripture. If it is, it should be avoided. If it is not forbidden, then we should seek to determine how the activity reflects on our reputation as Christians and whether it will help us or hinder us in representing Jesus to unbelievers around us, whether it edifies them or offends them.

The ultimate goal for the Christian should be to glorify God, edify fellow believers, and have a good reputation before unbelievers (Psalm 19:14; Romans 15:1-2; 1 Peter 2:11-12). “For you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Question: “How can I increase my spiritual discernment?”

Answer: Discernment is defined as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; an act of perceiving something; a power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” The definition also stresses accuracy, as in “the ability to see the truth.” Spiritual discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error. It is basic to having wisdom.

Arguments and debates surround spiritual truth because it is obscure. Jesus, speaking to His disciples about the Pharisees, said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11). Satan has “blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4), so God must shed light on the human mind to enable us to understand truth. It is impossible to attain wisdom without God. He gives discernment or takes it away (Job 12:19-21).

Some have mistakenly defined spiritual discernment as a God-given awareness of evil or good spiritual presences—the ability to tell if a demon is in the room. While some people may possess this capability, it is not the biblical meaning of discernment. Spiritual discernment ultimately has to do with wisdom and the ability to distinguish truth from error.

Wisdom is personified in Proverbs 1 and described as someone that we can “get to know” (vv. 20-33). The Bible says that Jesus Christ is “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Therefore, wisdom, or spiritual discernment, is something that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. The world’s way of getting wisdom is different from God’s way. The learned of the world gain knowledge and apply reason to knowledge to solve problems, construct buildings and create philosophies. But God does not make the knowledge of Himself available by those means. First Corinthians 1: 18-31 says the “wisdom of the wise” is frustrated by God who delivers wisdom to the “foolish” and the “weak” by way of a relationship with Jesus Christ. That way, “no human being can boast in His presence” (verse 29). We learn to be spiritually discerning by knowing Him.

It is not wrong to possess knowledge or have an education, and it is not wrong to use reason and logic to solve problems. However, spiritual discernment cannot be attained that way. It must be given by the revelation of Jesus Christ to the believer, and then developed by way of training in righteousness (Hebrews 5:14) and prayer (Philippians 1:9). Hebrews 5:11-14 shows how spiritual discernment is developed. The writer speaks to those who had become “dull of hearing,” meaning they had fallen out of practice discerning spiritually. The writer of Hebrews tells them that everyone who lives on “milk” (rather than the “solid food” desired by the mature) is unskilled in the word of righteousness; however, the mature Christian has been “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” The keys, according to this passage, are becoming skilled in the Word of God (by which we define righteousness) and “constant practice” (through which we gain experience).

So, how does one increase spiritual discernment? First, recognizing that God is the only one who can increase wisdom, pray for it (James 1:5; Philippians 1:9). Then, knowing the wisdom to distinguish good from evil comes by training and practice, go to the Bible to learn the truth, and, by meditation on the Word, reinforce the truth.

When a bank hires an employee, he is trained to recognize counterfeit bills. One would think that the best way to recognize a counterfeit would be to study various counterfeits. The problem is that new counterfeits are being created every day. The best way to recognize a counterfeit bill is to have an intimate knowledge of the real thing. Having studied authentic bills, bank cashiers are not fooled when a counterfeit comes along. A knowledge of the true helps them identify the false.

This is what Christians must do to develop spiritual discernment. We must know the authentic so well that, when the false appears, we can recognize it. By knowing and obeying the Word of God, we will be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” We will know God’s character and will. This is the heart of spiritual discernment – being able to distinguish the voice of the world from the voice of God, to have a sense that “this is right” or “this is wrong.” Spiritual discernment fends off temptation and allows us to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

2 Timothy 4

English Standard Version (ESV)

Preach the Word

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Joshua 24

English Standard Version (ESV)

Choose Whom You Will Serve

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”


Video – Exodus Now! – Bishop E.W. Jackson (Sept 2012)

October 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Virginia pastor Bishop E.W. Jackson gave this impassioned 12 minute speech at the National Press Club on Sept 29, 2012:

(cannot imbed video – please click link)


No disagreements (couldn’t agree more)

Jesus is our Sabbath Rest – Ray C. Stedman

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

The sticky wicket is this word “day”.  Not as simple as it first appears.  I think that Dr. Stedman’s interpretation is the correct one however. 

A little preface, and then his commentary . . . (references from


yom: day

Original Word: יוֹם
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: yom
Phonetic Spelling: (yome)
Short Definition: day

NAS Exhaustive Concordance:

NASB Translation
afternoon* (1), age (8), age* (1), all (1), always* (14), amount* (2), battle (1), birthday* (1), Chronicles* (38), completely* (1), continually* (14), course* (1), daily (22), daily the days (1), day (1115), day of the days (1), day that the period (1), day’s (6), day’s every day (1), daylight* (1), days (635), days on the day (1), days to day (1), days you shall daily (1), days ago (1), days’ (11), each (1), each day (4), entire (2), eternity (1), evening* (1), ever in your life* (1), every day (2), fate (1), first (5), forever* (11), forevermore* (1), full (5), full year (1), future* (1), holiday* (3), later* (2), length (1), life (12), life* (1), lifetime (2), lifetime* (1), live (1), long (2), long as i live (1), long* (11), midday* (1), now (5), older* (1), once (2), period (3), perpetually* (2), present (1), recently (1), reigns (1), ripe* (1), short-lived* (1), so long* (1), some time (1), survived* (2), time (45), time* (1), times* (2), today (172), today* (1), usual (1), very old* (1), when (10), when the days (1), whenever (1), while (3), whole (2), year (10), yearly (5), years (13), yesterday* (1).


STRONG’s Exhaustive Concordance:

age, always, continually, daily, birth, each, today,

From an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverb) — age, + always, + chronicals, continually(-ance), daily, ((birth-), each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), + elder, X end, + evening, + (for) ever(-lasting, -more), X full, life, as (so) long as (… Live), (even) now, + old, + outlived, + perpetually, presently, + remaineth, X required, season, X since, space, then, (process of) time, + as at other times, + in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), X whole (+ age), (full) year(-ly), + younger.


Mount Sinai

  • substitute “Jesus” for “the sabbath/seventh day”
  • substitute “Him” for the word “it”

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  ~ Exodus 20:8-11


The Seventh Day (creation)

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.  ~ Genesis 2:2-3


Completion (Jesus is the Sabbath Day)

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.   ~ Genesis 2:1  (creation completed)

This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.  ~ Dan 5:26  (end of kingdom of darkness)

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.  ~ John 19:30  (restoration)



Examining the roots:  “shabbath”, “shabath”, “shebii”, “shibim”,  “shib’anah”, “sheba”, “shaba”, “saba”

Original Word: שַׁבָּת
Part of Speech: Noun
Transliteration: shabbath
Phonetic Spelling: (shab-bawth’)

shabbath: sabbath, every Sabbath

Intensive from shabath; intermission, i.e (specifically) the Sabbath — (+ every) sabbath.


Original Word: שָׁבַת
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: shabath
Phonetic Spelling: (shaw-bath’)

shabath: to cause to, let, make to cease, celebrate, cause make to failA primitive root; to repose, i.e. Desist from exertion; used in many implied relations (causative, figurative or specific) — (cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.


Original Word: שְׁבִיעִי
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: shebii or shebiith
Phonetic Spelling: (sheb-ee-ee’)

shebii or shebiith: seventh (an ordinal number), seventh time.  Or shbi iy {sheb-ee-ee’}; ordinal from shib’iym.; seventh — seventh (time).


Original Word: שִׁבְעִים
Part of Speech: Noun
Transliteration: shibim
Phonetic Spelling: (shib-eem’)

shibim: seventy (a cardinal number), seventy, threescore and ten

Multiple of sheba’; seventy — seventy, threescore and ten (+ -teen).


Original Word: שֶׁ֫בַע
Part of Speech: Noun
Transliteration: sheba or shibah
Phonetic Spelling: (sheh’-bah)

sheba or shibah: seven, by sevenfold, teen

Or (masculine) shibrah {shib-aw’}; from shaba’; a primitive cardinal number; seven (as the sacred full one); also (adverbially) seven times; by implication, a week; by extension, an indefinite number — (+ by) seven(-fold),-s, (-teen, -teenth), -th, times). Compare shib’anah.


Original Word: שִׁבְעָ֫נָה
Part of Speech: Noun
Transliteration: shibanah
Phonetic Spelling: (shib-aw-naw’)

shibanah: seven (a cardinal number)

Prol. For the masculine of sheba’; seven — seven.


Original Word: שָׁבַע
Part of Speech: verb
Transliteration: shaba
Phonetic Spelling: (shaw-bah’)

shaba: to swear, adjure, charge by an oath, with an oath, feed to the fullA primitive root; propr. To be complete, but used only as a denominative from sheba’; to seven oneself, i.e. Swear (as if by repeating a declaration seven times)— adjure, charge (by an oath, with an oath), feed to the full (by mistake for saba’), take an oath, X straitly, (cause to, make to) swear.


Original Word: שָׂבַע
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: saba or sabea
Phonetic Spelling: (saw-bah’)
saba or sabea: to be sated, satisfied or surfeited, have enough, fill full, self, with, be to the full of, have plenty of, be satiatedOr sabeay {saw-bay’-ah}; a primitive root; to sate, i.e. Fill to satisfaction (literally or figuratively) — have enough, fill (full, self, with), be (to the) full (of), have plenty of, be satiate, satisfy (with), suffice, be weary of.

Jesus is our Sabbath Rest

by Ray C. Stedman 

Yesterday, which was the seventh day of the week, my wife and I attended a Bar Mitzvah service for a Jewish neighbor lad, to hear him conduct the service much as a rabbi would. He read, for the first time, from the scrolls of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. It was very impressive to see the rabbi unlock the ark in which the Torah is kept, bring out the scrolls, unroll them on the table, as Jews have done for centuries, and hear this thirteen-year-old boy read in Hebrew from the scrolls. Then he gave thanks for two things which have been the treasure of Israel for centuries, the Law and the Sabbath.

As you know, the Sabbath is one of the oldest institutions in the world, dating, as the Bible makes clear, from the very earliest appearance of man upon the earth, when God blessed and hallowed the Sabbath. Later, it was part of the Law given to Moses and Israel. Many Christians today are troubled — considerably at times — by the question: “Should we be observing the Sabbath yet today?” There are certain Christian groups who feel that this is the case; in fact they insist that we are not genuine Christians unless we observe the commandment of God to keep the Sabbath continuously. It is those claims that I want to examine now as we look at this record from the book of Genesis for the seventh day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)

We must try to unfold the riddle of this passage, the hidden mysteries which God delights to hide within these simple words. We will look together at seven facts which will open to us the remarkable truth that is hidden in this strange institution of the Sabbath. It seems strange that after 2000 years of Christian teaching the Sabbath is still little understood, though its true meaning is of crucial importance to us.

The most outstandingly noteworthy thing that this passage indicates, which differs completely from the other days of creation is the absence of any reference to an evening or a morning. The record of all the other days of creation closed with the words, “and there was evening and there was morning, (a first, second, etc.,) day.” But there is no reference to evening or morning in this passage. This helps to confirm what we have already seen in these “days” of creation: that these “days” do not primarily emphasize time, but development. The evening and morning were indicative of a developing process, beginning in a rather incomplete state and moving toward light. But on this seventh day there is no evening and morning. In fact, twice in this brief passage we find the word, “finished,” occurring. “Thus the heavens the earth were finished” (Gen 2:1a) and “God finished his work” (Gen 2:2b). Obviously there is no need for development, no place for it. The work of God is complete on the seventh day, and therefore no evening or morning is mentioned.

Therefore, whatever the Sabbath is (which we will see as we go along), it is a perfect thing. It is always the same whenever we experience it. It is not something to grow into; it is something to step into and to discover it to be exactly what it always is perfect, finished. That is our first clue.

Let us now look at the second. It is obvious from this passage that the supreme meaning of sabbath is rest. In fact, the word “seven,” the word “sabbath,” and the word “rest,” are all the same basic word in Hebrew, Shabat, seven, sabbath, rest. Therefore, the heart of the meaning of sabbath is rest. That is its primary significance.

Let us not misunderstand that. That does not mean rest as we often think of it. When we have been working hard and are weary and tired we need rest in order to restore our strength. But this is not the significance of the word here. It simply means the ending of activity, the cessation of effort. God was not tired by his creative work, he did not need to rest to restore strength. He did not stop because he was fatigued; he stopped because he was through. The Hawaiians have a very expressive word for it, pau. It means finished. He is pau, finished; and so he stopped. That is what we do when we are through with something, we stop. And this is what God did. He stopped because he was through. He had done all he intended to do and he rested in the midst of a perfect creation. Therefore the true sabbath, we will learn from this clue, is not the keeping of a special day but the ending of a specific effort. That is what sabbath means.

As a third point here, the specific effort from which God rested was creation. The text says, “So God rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (Gen 2:3). This is the last account of any creative activity. Man was made and then God rested, and there has been no creation since. Man is the last effort of God in creation, on the physical level. Therefore this sabbath, this rest upon which God entered, is still continuing today. God is not creating physically today. God is ceaselessly active in many, many ways, but not in creation. In the fifth chapter of John, when Jesus was in the synagogue the Jews were very distressed because he had healed a man on the sabbath day. The Pharisees accused him of breaking the Sabbath and Jesus answered them by saying, “My Father is working until now, and I am working,” (cf, John 5:17). His argument was that it was proper for him to do a deed of mercy on the sabbath day because he was simply imitating his Father who was ceaselessly active in mercy and love on his sabbath day, his long rest. God had stopped creating but he was still busy in a thousand different ways. Thus the sabbath means that God’s creative activity has ended.

Even evolutionists acknowledge this. Interestingly enough, many evolutionists admit that man is the end of the evolutionary ladder, and that nothing further has been evolved since the producing of man. We cannot agree with them as to how man came into being, but it is interesting that they agree at this point that there is no further evidence of development beyond man.

As a fourth point we must therefore recognize that the weekly sabbath, i.e., Saturday, is not the real sabbath. It never was, and it is not now. It is a picture or a reminder of the real sabbath. The true sabbath is a rest; the Jewish sabbath is a shadow, a picture of that rest. All the Old Testament shadows pointed to Christ. They were predictions, foreviews, of the coming of the One who would fulfill all these remarkable things. Every lamb that was brought as an offering was a shadow of the work of Christ. Every burnt offering, every bit of incense that was offered, was a picture of the fragrance of Jesus Christ. The tabernacle was a shadow of him. The high priest, in his garments and his office, was a shadow of Christ as our High Priest. Read the book of Hebrews and you will see how beautifully all this is brought out. These Old Testament shadows were looking forward to the coming of the One who would fulfill these and thus end them. When the work of Jesus Christ was finished the shadows were no longer needed.

We behave very similarly today. Some twenty-two years ago when, as a much younger man, I was in Hawaii, I found myself engaged to a lovely girl who lived in Montana and whom I hadn’t seen for three or four years. We were writing back and forth in those lonely days, and she sent me her picture. It was a beautiful picture and I showed it to all my friends dozens of times. I propped it up on the desk and I would look at it at least three or four times a day. It was all I had to remind me of her and it served moderately well for that purpose. But one wonderful day she arrived in Hawaii and I saw her face to face. I didn’t spend much time with the picture after that, nor have I since. The other day I was cleaning out the garage and ran across the picture. It was still a beautiful picture, and I noted that she had not changed very remarkably since those days, but I found that the picture was quite incomplete and unsatisfying. When the real thing came there was no longer any need for the picture.

This is exactly what happened with these Old Testament shadows, including the Sabbath. When the Lord came, and his work was ended, making possible the true fulfillment of God’s intention in the Sabbath, the picture was no longer needed. The weekly sabbath ended at the cross. Paul specifically says this. In the letter to the Colossians he confirms it to us. In Chapter 2, beginning with Verse 13, he says,

And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it [not him; it, the cross].

Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17)

That should make it clear. This is why the claims of the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Baptists, and other groups, that Christians changed the sabbath, are absurd, ridiculous. They claim that the Pope changed the sabbath by a papal edict from Saturday to Sunday, and that around the third or fourth century Christians began to celebrate Sunday rather than Saturday, out of obedience to this papal edict. But nothing could be further from the truth. History does not corroborate that in any degree. The Sabbath has always been Saturday and it always will be. It is the seventh day of the week. Sunday has always been the first day of the week. It has never been a sabbath, and it is pure legalism to call it a sabbath or to treat it as one. It is not a day of rest or restricted activity and it is not designed as such. It is the first day of the week; to Christians, the Lord’s day.

The shadow-sabbath ended at the cross, as Paul has made clear. The next day was the day of resurrection, the day when the Lord Jesus came from the tomb. On that day a new day began — the Lord’s day. Christians immediately began to observe the Lord’s day on the first day of the week. They ceased observing the Sabbath because it was ended by the fulfillment of its reality in the cross, and they began to observe the first day of the week. This is what you find reflected in the book of Acts. Justin Martyr, who writes from the 2nd century, says,

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, when he changed the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ, our Savior, on the same day, rose from the dead.

A fifth fact about this: Though this shadow-sabbath, i.e., Saturday observance, ended at the cross, the true sabbath, the rest of God, God’s ceasing from effort, continued and still continues today. That sabbath, in its application to us, is defined for us in Hebrews 4, Verses 9 and 10:

So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God [it is available to us now]; for whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

That is what the true sabbath is, to cease from your own labors, your own efforts, your own activity; to cease from your own works. “Well,” you say, “if I did that I would be nothing but a blob, an immobile inactive piece of flesh.”

Exactly! Of course you would. But the implication is that you cease from your own efforts and depend on the work of Another. That is the whole import of the book of Hebrews, another One is going to work through you. This is why Paul cries, “Not I, but Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” (cf, Gal 2:20). This was also the secret of the life of Jesus, as we have seen. He himself said, “It is the Father who dwells in me who does the work,” (cf, John 14:10). “The Son can do nothing by himself,” (cf, John 5:19). This is the secret of the Christian who learns “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” (cf, Phil 2:13). So the secret of true Christian life is to cease from dependence on one’s own activity, and to rest in dependence upon the activity of Another who dwells within. That is fulfilling the sabbath, the true sabbath.

That true sabbath, we read in Genesis 2, God blessed and hallowed. As we have already seen in this series, blessing is connected with fruitfulness and dominion. God blessed the animals and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He said to man, “Be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over all the earth.” That is what blessing means, to make possible both fruitfulness and dominion. When God “hallowed,” or “sanctified” (KJV), the sabbath, he assigned it a specific function to perform. That is what sanctification always is — to put to a proper or intended purpose. Thus God designated the true sabbath to the function of producing blessing (fruitfulness and dominion) for man. This is why the Lord Jesus declared, “the sabbath is made for man; not man for the sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). So the true sabbath rest is to rest on Another, and this is the divine provision to produce fruitfulness and abundance of victory in a Christian’s life.

Let us look at that a little closer because that is God’s provision for living adequately today. Are you adequate? Do you find yourself able to cope with the situations in life into which you are thrust day after day, moment by moment? Are you confident? Are you capable? Are you panic-proof? Are you filled with fruitfulness, fragrance, abundance? God’s rest is designed to produce that. God said it would. He makes it available for that purpose and it is the only thing that will do it; there is no substitute.

I’m afraid most of us fit the self-description of someone who said he was a mouse studying to be a rat. By our best efforts we can rise to a high level of mediocrity — inadequate, unable. Why? Simply because we are depending on our effort. We are either extroverts, confident that we can do things and therefore frequently falling flat on our face; or we are introverts, so afraid to try anything that we don’t even dare show our face. It is all because we are looking to ourselves as our resource; our background, our training, our gifts, our talents, our education, etc. It either results in feeling that we have what it takes and can be confident, able, and powerful; or, as we look at ourselves we say, we don’t have what it takes and therefore we can’t take it and we won’t even try. So we become either over-confident and under-equipped, or under-confident and overworked, trying constantly to make up by activity what we lack in results.

God knew that this would be our problem. He understands us. Nothing is hidden from him; he knows exactly the way we operate. Therefore he has designed an adequate provision for our weakness, teaching us how to operate on an entirely different basis, to no longer look to oneself but to look to the one who dwells within; to expect him to do something through you, using your mind, your will, your emotions, your feelings, but it is he who does the work. But unless you begin to count on his working you will never experience it.

Right here comes the seventh factor, the one serious problem which remains. Christians say again and again, Why is this so difficult to do? Why do I have so much trouble? Why is it that Hebrews 4:11 goes on to say, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Why must we work at this?

Some seem able to learn it, and from time to time we see someone virtually come alive and their Christian life is simply transformed by learning to operate on this principle. They lose their egotism, as extroverts; or they lose their introverted feeling of self-consciousness. They begin to do things and to enjoy them, experiencing the blessing and excitement of Christian living.

Others say, “I see all this, and I want to do it too. I know what is said about how to rest, but I try it and it doesn’t work. Why? Why do we fail?” The answer is given, I think, in a word of the Lord Jesus, recorded in Matthew 11, words we well know:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Notice that twice in that passage is the word rest. One rest is given, the other is found: One is experienced when we first come to Jesus Christ. He gives us rest. Do you remember when you came to Christ? You simply believed what the Scripture said, that on the cross of Calvary he took your place, he died for you; he bore the punishment for your sin; he was wounded for your transgressions, he was bruised for your iniquity; and you believed that. Immediately there was a sense of peace flooding your heart, a quietness. You felt no more guilt, no more fear of death, no more need for painful efforts to win Brownie points with God. You were resting on the work of Another. Christ paid it all; you were freely forgiven. What a sense of rest that was! He gave it to you.

But as you went on as a Christian you found that problems began to return and failures came. Your Christian life became boring and dull, barren and uninteresting. You knew something was wrong and you resolved to try harder, to give yourself more fully to Christian activity, to throw yourself into it with more zeal and effort. This you did, and for awhile things went better, then it seemed to ebb out again into the same old thing. You ended up bored and disillusioned, disenchanted, discouraged. What is the answer? Well, it is what our Lord said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and you will find rest,” (Matt 11:29-30a)

Back in the days of the old West the oxen teams that came across the prairies were yoked together with a great, wooden yoke, made to fit over the necks of two oxen. A yoke is always made for two, never for one. Jesus was a carpenter, and in the carpenter shop in Nazareth he often made yokes. From this he draws this very apt simile. “Enter into the yoke with me,” he says, “you on one side; I on the other.” A yoke is also a symbol of servitude, of controlled labor and activity. It means the end of self-service. When an ox is yoked, he is no longer free to do what he wants to do. He is under the direction of the owner, the driver. To be yoked means the end of running his own life and seeking his own way. This is what Jesus means. He did this. “He learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” the writer of Hebrews tells us (cf, Heb 5:8). He learned to do what he did not want to do, because God wanted him to do it. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me,” he says (Matt 11:29a).

When you enter into the yoke with Jesus you expect the Father to take over the program of your life. You may be surprised what he does with it. You no longer have the right to decide what you are going to do with your life. It does not make any difference what time of your life you enter into this yoke, whether you are a youth at the beginning of your adult life, or whether you are a man sixty years old, with a great business depending upon you as the executive head. It does not make any difference. When you enter into the yoke with Jesus Christ you give up the right to determine what your life may be. You expect him to direct you.

It is his job to give the orders, it is his job to make you know what he wants you to do. He may make some dramatic changes, or he may not. He may leave you right where you are, doing what you are doing now, or he may tell you to stop it all, at great cost perhaps, outwardly, and leave it and go some place else to do something else. But one thing is certain, one thing he surely will do, no matter if he sends you some place else or leaves you right where you are — one thing he will certainly do: He will remove you from the spotlight, out of the center of things, he will enroll you in school. And do you know what the curriculum will be? “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart,” (Matt 11:29b KJV). He will begin to teach you humility — how not to be the center of attention, how to be content with letting someone else get all the credit. He will enroll you in the school that cancels out ego satisfaction. That is the principle by which the world lives, in its delusion. It is the thing that is destroying human life; the desire to be a god, your own god; to run your life to suit yourself. This can never be for those who are called to be Jesus Christ’s — “you are not your own, you are bought with a price” (cf, 1 Cor 6:19b-20a).

The reason why you cannot enter into the joy and glory and excitement of the rest which God has provided in ceasing from your own activities and resting upon his, is because, in some way or another, you are protecting some area of the ego, the self-life, saying, “This is mine; keep your hands off.” As long as you do that you cannot have rest.

“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” (John 12:24 KJV)

Rest is the secret of human fruitfulness. As you consent to this, a wonderful thing will begin to happen. You will find rest. Jesus said you would. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest.” (Mathew 11:29 KJV). Rest, with all it implies in terms of fruitfulness and dominion; reigning, ruling, producing that which is worthwhile and satisfying in life. That is the secret of life. This is why Jesus said, “If any man will save his life, he shall lose it. But if he shall lose his life for my sake, he shall find it,” (cf, Matt 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24). He will find rest, he will fulfill the sabbath for that is what the sabbath is. It is God’s divine provision for us. In the only judgment that is ever worthwhile, the judgment before the assembled hosts of heaven, when every life is reviewed as to whether it was worth the living, whether it hit the target or not, the secret of a success that will merit the words of Jesus, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” is to learn the rest of God. Anyone who learns that (and to the degree that you learn it) is keeping the sabbath as God intended the sabbath to be kept. (From The Seventh Day, by Ray C. Stedman, 12/10/67, The Beginnings: Commentary on Genesis)

Additional Information: Ray Stedman discusses entering God’s rest in his IVP commentary on Hebrews,Chapters 3-4.

The Ray C. Stedman Library

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Categories: Salvation, What matters