As Christ and the Church

Whether you are married, engaged, dating or single, the issue of marriage should be important to you. The thought that goes into marriage is so skewed in the world today, that we as Christians must take heed to not let it affect us. In the last few months, I have put a lot of thought into my upcoming marriage, and how marriage is perceived by so much of the world. The world is so set on equating men and women, and if they can’t make that happen, they try desperately to set women above men in any way possible. Traditional marriage is so often seen as nothing more than an excuse for male chauvinism. It’s not. It’s an incredible balancing act, a cooperative, working relationship between two people, who, although they are not equal in authority, are equal in value.

The Form for the Confirmation of Marriage Before the Church that is used by the PRCA shows clearly our stance on marriage, that being male headship. It exhorts the bride to be the biblical help-meet for her husband, using phrases like “honor and fear him” and even uses that scary word “obedient” that so many women seem to be afraid of. That scary word comes up again in the portion of the form that contains the vows, where the bride vows to “be obedient to him, to serve and assist him…” This is not simply the opinion of an old fashioned, old school denomination either, this is backed up by the very Word of God (see Genesis 2:18, 3:16, Ephesians 5:22-24).

So no, marriage is not a fun-filled, co-dependent, equal-opportunity relationship. The only relationship in which persons perfectly co-exist without any dispute over cooperative ruling is the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. In any human relationship there simply must be a leader. In marriage it is to be the husband.

So what if we (women, or the world’s viewpoint of women) stopped being so selfish (because that’s what it is), and quit looking at what we have to do, don’t get to do, or who we have to listen to, and what if we looked at what men have to do, don’t get to do, or who they have to listen to. Let’s go back through the marriage form and look at traditional marriage from the groom’s side, and maybe we will see why marriage isn’t cruel or controlling, but rather an amazing bond.

First, we had looked at the exhortation to the bride, so let’s look at the exhortation to the groom now. In this section we find a call to “lead her with discretion, instructing, comforting, protecting…” That may not sound so bad, but think of the selflessness all of those things take. The exhortation goes on even further about the incredible love commanded of the husband.

Next, we looked at the vows in the form, in which the husband now swears to “never forsake her, to love her faithfully; to maintain her as a faithful and pious husband is bound to do…”  Again, see the selflessness here, as a man vows to work hard (see the end of the exhortation again) to provide physically, emotionally and spiritually for the woman he loves, the woman God has given him. Again, this is not the opinion simply of an old fashioned church, but Scripture backs this up. See Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:25-29.

Is this what we are afraid of submitting to, this kind of authority? When a woman takes marriage vows, she isn’t vowing to obey a controlling, careless spouse. She is promising to submit to a man who has just sworn that he will love his wife as tenderly and powerfully as Christ loves his Church.

I found something interesting while researching appropriate passages for this article. As I searched online for common wedding texts, I found that Ephesians 5 came up several times. That is fitting, and I did use it several times as you’ve seen. However, the verses that were selected were only the verses regarding the husband’s duty to his wife. There were no verses found about the wife’s duty to her husband. The world is so afraid of submission that they pick and choose verses that do not require that of them.

Are we so afraid to submit to a man who is called to behave himself toward us as Christ does to the church? Do we think it will be miserable? Are we miserable when we (as the church) submit to Christ? No! Submitting to Christ is what the church does joyfully, as our duty to the Lord who loved us unconditionally, so much so that He gave up His life! Greater love has no man (John 15:13)! So don’t let the world’s jaded idea of marriage fool you, a Christian’s marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. A man and woman must understand that in marriage, they do have different roles to play, but when they are played correctly, God is glorified and our lives are enjoyable and blessed.

Suzie Kuiper

Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Forgive Our Debtors. 

Every day in our prayers we ask for forgiveness of our sins. We confess them before God as they weigh heavy on our hearts. How often do we pray for the ability to forgive others? The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer pairs these two together and puts an emphasis on the importance of each one.

In Matthew 18 we read the Parable of the two debtors. It is a very familiar parable to us all about a servant who was forgiven an unpayable amount of debt he owed to his master. After the servant was forgiven this debt, he went to his fellow servant who had borrowed a minuscule amount of money, and had him cast into prison until he would pay the debt. We read this passage with disgust and we can hardly believe the cruelty of this man. How dare he refuse to forgive this man after he had just been forgiven of an unimaginable amount of debt!

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt” (Matt. 18: 29, 30).

We read this passage with disgust, yet we are that servant. Every time we sin we add and we add to our collection of debt against God, and it has built up to an unpayable amount. We are the man who owes money to his master, and to make it even worse, we refuse to forgive our neighbour just as he did. Every time we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive our neighbour (at times even our closest friends), we are STILL that man who is trampling his friend into poverty. The hate and anger that builds up in our hearts that quite often lasts days and weeks is our way of disobeying the fifth petition. This fifth petition is part of the beautiful prayer given to us from Jesus, and we repeatedly pray over and over again.

As we forgive our debtors.” Jesus directs us to pray this. He instructs us to pray this because he knows our sins, and he knows how hard it is for us to forgive! So often we dwell on a small incident, and as our anger builds up, we drive farther and farther away from God’s command to forgive those who sin against us. Forgiveness takes prayer, takes patience, takes love, and takes selflessness. To forgive we must turn our hearts from anger, bitterness, and hurt. But forgiveness goes against our human nature. We don’t want to forgive! Out of our obedience to God we must have faith and pray for Christ to work that forgiveness in our heart. We must forgive our debtors. Only those who forgive, may be expected to be forgiven from God.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14,15). 

Yet our story has a different ending.
“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” (Matt. 18:34).

This story is a parable of earthly men, and the poor fellow servant is cast into prison. It is here that we must be fully aware of God’s unfailing mercy. The debts that we build up before God, we are not able to pay and we never will be. God knows this, which is why he sent his Son to pay for them. He does not cast us into the depths of hell, but he promises us eternal glory. And as the Lord continues to forgive our repeated sins as we confess them before him, he will also continue to give us the strength to forgive our debtors.

Please forgive all of our sins, Lord, and help us to forgive others.

Averly Kikkert

The Image of God and Human Dignity (2)

For this post, I want to focus on two parts of the image of God, righteousness and holiness. I’ll be using two definitions from Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics.

Righteousness: “Man’s righteousness was the virtue of his whole nature by which, according to the judgment of God, he was wholly in harmony with the will of God; he was fully capable of doing the will of God, and doing God’s will was his delight” (vol. 1, 298).

Holiness: “That original rectitude of his nature according to which he was consecrated to God in love with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength” (vol. 1, 298).

When man fell into sin, his righteousness became unrighteousness. It seems like by default, when people think about unrighteousness, they think of it as the opposite of righteousness. By this I mean that we often see righteousness as following God’s law and unrighteousness as going against God’s law. However, there’s this massive theme in scripture about man always doing what is ‘right’ in his own eyes and I think it’s better to view unrighteousness ultimately as self-righteousness. Instead of looking up to God and following His law, we look at self as our god and want God (and everyone else) to conform to our own law. Just as God has His righteous law which is derived form His righteous nature, unregenerate man has his own laws derived from his own self-righteous nature. Likewise, we have a desire to be seen as righteous, or, to put it another way, declared as righteous, a.k.a justified. But by nature we seek to be declared righteous apart from Christ and according to our false righteousness. The same is true when it comes to holiness. Instead of being consecrated, set apart and dedicated to the service of the Creator, man became consecrated, set apart, and dedicated to the service of creature. If you want a summary of what happened at the fall, replace the word God from the two above definitions with the word man.

Based on this, I want to list off some implications as it relates to the topic of race. Although these implications also extend far beyond race.

  1. Man sees self as god and therefore sees those who are similar to self as more “godlike,” according to their unregenerate, twisted understanding of what it means to be “godlike.” We are more inclined to gravitate towards those who walk like us, talk like us, act like us, and look like us because we see us as “god.” So when someone talks, looks, and acts very different from us we have a natural tendency to be drawn away from them, to think evil thoughts about them, and unrighteously judge them in our hearts.
  2. Man exchanges God’s law for laws similar to themselves and thus man is inclined to have certain rules particular to his own culture. Those who abide by those rules are seen as righteous. Those who disobey are unrighteous. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have certain cultural rules, but it can be wrong to unrighteously judge those who don’t follow your own culture’s rules.
  3. Man has a natural tendency to justify (declare righteous) the actions performed by those similar to himself and similar to his own culture, and likewise to condemn the actions of those of different cultures who are different from himself. This is, in my opinion, the crux of all the racial division that’s currently happening in our country. There’s a natural inability to see things objectively according to truth, because our sinful pride.
  4. By nature man is consecrated, set apart, and dedicated to the service of self. He also easily  becomes dedicated to those similar to himself and forms groups of men similar to himself. This ends up creating an us-vs-them mentality toward those who unlike themselves.The result is that becomes difficult for groups of people who are alike to sympathize with and get to know those who are outside of their groups and understand things from the perspective of those unlike them.

The gospel however, restores all these:

  1. In Christ, we serve the one and only true God. We see all those who are in Christ as equally one with Christ Jesus. Instead of unrighteously judging people based on how different they are from us, we exercise righteous judgment according to Scripture and seek to have others be more like Christ.
  2. In Christ, man submits to Christ’s law as the law above all. He is able to be a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, in order to win all to Christ. He has the gospel freedom that frees him from cultural rules. Yet he is able to appreciate the differences between cultures and respect that some are of a weaker faith and therefore try not to offend their conscious.
  3. In Christ, there is no need to justify any of the actions of our own ethnic groups because Christians from all ethnic groups are justified by Christ and united to Him by faith alone. It’s easy for us to understand that people from our own ethnicity, even large groups of them, are depraved sinners and are capable of the most heinous of sins.
  4. In Christ, man congregates to those who are set apart and dedicated to the service of the Lord. Believers of all races together become a holy people and a royal priesthood. The us vs. them mentality is no longer between different ethnicities, or even people in general. It’s us vs the world system, the prince of the power of the air, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places. Thus, we are united to fight a common enemy and worship an uncommon Lord.

Hopefully these realities can give us a proper context by which we can understand much of what’s going on in our nation and give us a desire to spread the gospel all the more.

Mike Murrell