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Today's world finds few families untouched by divorce, an invention of and for the flesh, a worldly device, bruised (Gen. 3:15) and identified by Jesus' ministry (Mat. 19:9), and contained for centuries in ill repute. In more recent ages it has become Satan's chief missile of destruction upon the nations, having achieved an acceptance unequalled by any other breach of God's holy law.
As we see our loved ones betrayed, it is nearly impossible in the face of this complete acceptance of divorce and its resultant remarriage to even think of denying them this solution or forbidding them church membership because of it. But the scope of adultery extends so much further than a fault that the church ought to forgive that, if the sufferings of our own flesh did not so completely blind us, we could agree with the above scripture that, in His house, it is still an abomination in the sight of God.
The marital status of a prospective candidate for baptism is indeed a proper subject for investigation, for it will be either in accordance with or contrary to that image of God in the person of His Son that His church is to reflect before the whole world and the image in which man (male and female) was created (Gen. 5:1, 2). As this image was obscured in idolatry and unbelief under the law, God likened His chosen people to an adulterous woman, but when Jesus shed His blood on the cross, He brought forth His bride chaste and pure. No more would she be put away for her idolatry (Jer. Ch.2; Ch.3) or delivered unto judgment for her fornications (Ezek. Ch.16). When Christ became the end of the law for righteousness, He nailed the handwriting of ordinances that were against her to the cross, and she died in Him that all her members might be raised up, cleansed in the blood of His perfect sacrifice, clothed in His righteousness, and married to Him.
Shall her members now go forth, commit adultery, and declare, "I am delivered to do this abomination"? God forbid! During their earthly sojourn her members are clothed with flesh, and when divinity (her Husband's work within her) and carnality dwell together, a cross must be borne. Has her Husband excused her from bearing her cross? No, for now she is to govern her members so that her walk and conversation will reflect this obedience, fidelity, and love before all the nations for the honor of her Husband and for the glory of God. And just so long as she maintains her purity of membership and holiness of conversation and daily walk, she shall judge her enemies; they will hate her, but they will be unable to gainsay the precious truths that she holds.
Thus, the church of Christ dares not indulge her members in those things whereof she is now ashamed. Why? For slavish fear? No, because of her love borne now in a heart of flesh, because of His commandments written now in inward parts, because of her mourning for the great price her Husband has paid for her, and because of the rod of His chastisements.
Indeed, His Bride must not regard sin in her members because of the instructions for her in His word of scripture, telling her how to walk in ways which will reflect the image of God before the world in the person of His Son: her Husband, Friend and King. Several of these ways follow in the succeeding chapters.
In governing her members, the church of Christ is to demonstrate submission to Him as the Head over the church and as the One who has the preeminence in all things concerning her (Col. 1:18). If all men (mankind) are created in this image, how much more are her members to reflect His likeness before the world?
In the context surrounding the above scripture, Paul does away with the customs of headdress for men in church worship as a dishonor to the image of God who is his Head (ICor. 11:3, 4). But, he says, a woman who prays in the church with her head uncovered dishonors that image, attempting, as in the beginning, to place herself above the man. He rebukes the Corinthian women, and boldly suggests that if any will behave as a man let her be shorn as a man, but if she is mindful of the shame, let her be subject to authority by being covered (I Cor. 11:2-6).
This is a profound subject and worthy of attention. The likeness of God as the Head over His bride, was created in all men in Adam and was disclosed by the disobedience of the woman whose desire must then be unto her husband (Gen. 3:16). This pointed to the day when God's own disobedient people should be subject in love to His Son. As the Head of the church, Jesus has the preeminence; in His likeness, the man's head must also have the prominence that in the beauty of his shorn head and shaven face should be revealed the glory of the very Godhead. "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head (evidence of being under the direction of another) because of the angels (spiritual reasons)," for which the covering of her own long hair was given to her (I Cor. 11:10, 13-15).
This image of God in Christ, shown forth from the creation, has been represented through the years even in the natural preference for the God-appointed lengths of hair. This has been maintained through all but the most corrupt ages of time, with the spiritual meaning being established in the primitive church: the shorn head of the man and the long hair of the woman both reveal and glorify Christ as the Head of His bride and her Covering.
This duality of hair lengths to show forth the image of God, [to which even the natural man would conform in this world (1 Cor. 11:14)] stood unchallenged until the rebellion against it exhibited by society in recent years. Long hair was the first to go when women began their rebellion against the authority and headship of men in the last century, and more recently, long hair began to adorn the heads of men in their rebellion against the authority of established rule, whether it was their parents, their government or their Creator.
While Paul denies that it is the custom of the churches to so deal with a rebellious woman as to shear her head (I Cor. 11:16), he expressly establishes that both her uncovered head while praying and prophesying and her shorn head are signs of her rebellion.
So we find it today, for as women have left off the veils of the past and the bonnets and hats of more recent years, they also desire to be shorn-an act of worldly women in their rebellion against the authority of men. And the women of the church have adopted it with the sanction of the elders and without shame and fear before God. Dear reader, is it the image of Christ which God looks upon today? Does He wink and agree that a woman's shorn hair is really more comfortable and appealing? He shall rather, without fail, remind us of our rebellion.
Shall a woman then cover herself with her long hair as a memorial of her sin? No indeed, and Paul establishes that subjection shall not be interpreted by the man to mean inferiority (I Cor. 11:11, 12). She was taken from Adam's side to stand equal with him, a "helpmeet", worthy of him. But because she exalted herself to be equal with God, she was found guilty, and in the cursing she must take her place subordinate to her husband. This was necessary for there cannot be two heads in a family for peaceful rule. But headship also means "source", and as a source of life and love to her, a man's wife has only to obey, for he shall have secured her good before his own.
It is indeed to the man that God has given, in His own image, a certain glory. In the spirit of man there dwells duty and honor, in his strength, protectiveness, and in his beauty a perpetual youthfulness (that his plainer counterpart must spend many hours with many artificial aids to imitate), and he is commanded to give honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel. In so doing, he becomes the source of her honor and self-esteem, diminishing his own honor not at all.
A man must not expect to elicit from his wife the honor it takes to establish his rule over her, while he attempts to establish her place by humiliating her. This has been too prevalent in men all through time. The wife is too weak to maintain this role of constantly upholding the man, so that soon she must fail and, burdened under his abuse, rebel.
Neither shall a man give honor unto his wife as if bestowing a few favors upon one who is beneath him. He shall rather, as commanded by the scriptures, forsake his parents to stand with her in a flesh and bone creation, each unable to function wholly without the other. He is to love her and share with her the honor that God has given him, raising her to that equality first intended in her creation. Then in the likeness of Christ and the church (which also has nothing of her own to give or to offer her Husband), she glorifies him, her willing submissiveness reflecting his love, his honor, his headship and her fulfillment.
The worldly women give vent to their rebellion; the bride of Christ may not. The appropriate lengths of hair in her members is the express manner by which the true church shows to the world her submission to her Husband's rule, and she glorifies Him Who is the Source of all good unto her.
And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." ICor. 14:34, 35
In governing her members the church of Christ shows forth her obedience. The church's natural members are called upon to reflect that relationship between the husband and wife who, because Eve disobeyed God, must thenceforth by His command obey her husband; thus, He establishes the order and lack of confusion when rule is given to the head and obedience to the body.
Is the woman then to be considered forever a shameful intrusion upon the church without gifts and without wisdom? No, not at all. When Jesus came upon the earth, it was a time when the laws of God had "become of none effect" by the traditions of men. Women did not speak to men publicly, and to touch a man in public was a great offense punishable, I am told, by death. Jesus changed not one law, but by His treatment of women, He established the intent of God's law in their behalf, and the eyes of Christian men were opened to view their wives in a new light.
Men could talk to Jesus, touch Him, question Him, demand of Him. How much more faith need be given to a woman to approach Him in public, to brave the penalty of touching Him, to speak of her need (Luke 8:43-48)? Consider the poor woman from Canaan who must have been given a quadruple portion of faith, as a woman of a despised nation, not only to speak to Jesus but also to speak again when rebuked (Mt. 15:22-28)!
Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables (Mt. 13:3), but it was to a woman He openly revealed His office (John 4:25, 26). A widow with no son was considered utterly destitute, beneath even the pity of rulers, but not only did the Holy King Himself have compassion on such (Luke 7:13), He openly scorned the religious offerings of the rich when He proclaimed the offering of a poor widow to be greater than theirs (Luke 21:1-4). How they must have hated him!
It is not a lack of faith or spiritual experience and understanding that prohibits a woman from speaking in the church, but for the likeness her silence and obedience represents. That is why, though the worldly institutions allow their women to preach, the true bride may not. The silence of her women members in the church is the express manner in which she demonstrates her obedience to the Word of her Husband, seeking His Amen as a sanction for all she says and does.
In governing her members, the church of Christ reflects before the world His finished work on the cross, the scriptures clearly instructing her in faith and in holiness of daily life (Rom. Ch.5; Ch.6). By the first, sin has no power over the second, the law having been satisfied.
But the law satisfied by the penalty paid is not the whole of the matter. In the natural realm, if a man could lay down his life to satisfy the penalty for another's crime, justice could be satisfied, but the guilt would forever remain his who escaped. The church, however, has received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins (Is. 40: 2). When the Lord satisfied the penalty of the law in behalf of His church, she became dead to the law by the body of Christ (Rom. 7: 4); the law had no more dominion over her (7: 1). Then, when He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against her, the law became dead to her [to be remembered against her no more (Col. 2: 14, 15)]. And both of these deaths were accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ-a three-fold death to clear the way for the erring wife to return unto God (Jer. 3: 14).
Paul once again uses the natural holy matrimony (created for all men to be the image of Christ and His Bride) to show forth this holy work throughout all ages of time.
This time, however, it is the departure from that holy estate that becomes the express image of the church when she was bound to the law, divorced from its righteousness and married, as it were, unto sin [which was by the law (Rom. 7:5)], and bringing forth fruit unto death.
In the natural case, when a woman married while yet bound to another, "she shall be called an adulteress," and Paul leaves no doubt as to the duration of her adulterous condition: it is the living first husband which constitutes the adultery of the second marriage, and only the death of the first husband can clear her name (Rom. 7:1-3).
See how perfectly the natural fits the spiritual: Paul says, "... I had not known sin, but by the law ... (v 7)." Just as the sin of spiritual adultery was occasioned by the law of the first covenant, so is the sin of natural adultery occasioned by the law of the first mate. It took the death of God, Himself, in the Person of His Son Jesus to clear the way for His beloved to return unto Him, so must the first husband die to cleanse the second marriage from its defilement.
There are many with living first mates that have been called by an experience of grace while in a second marriage. Some believe that the adultery attached to this marriage is wiped out by this calling. But, in this respect, we find adultery standing different from every other sin.
First, adultery by reason of divorce and remarriage is a continuing state, for it can neither be repented of (the defiled wife could not return unto her first husband), nor departed from [even though the second husband died (Deut. 24:3, 4)].
Second, there is no end to a state of being except that which is appointed to end it. For the adultery of the church, there was the three-fold death explained earlier in this writing; for the individual it is the death of the first mate (Rom. 7:3; 1Cor. 7:39).
The scriptures clearly teach, however, that a divorced and remarried person may indeed be called to a hope in this three-fold death through an experience of grace (John 4:1-42). When Jesus died on the cross every person comprising the members of His bride was raised up, justified and sanctified, equal with each other and undefiled because of the death of the law that bound them (the invisible church). In the image of the spiritual, however, even a recipient of that spiritual cleansing is not free from his state of natural adultery as long as the first mate lives, and cannot become a member of the visible church which is the express image of the invisible, undefiled bride.
There are others who contend that the state of adultery comes to an end by departing the second marriage, qualifying one for church membership. This also is based on the belief that adultery is exclusively an illicit act from which one must depart as he would drunkenness, stealing, or any other sin to show forth the fruits of repentance.
Excerpted from THE IMAGE OF GOD by K.W. Swain Copyright © 2004 by K. W. Swain. Excerpted by permission.
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