Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How To Pick a Fight With God and Win! Part 2

The last time I wrote to you I told you that I was in the middle of my fight with God. I am determined to strive with God until I receive the blessing that He spoke to me. Jacob is not our only example of Biblical characters fighting with God but the story of his all night struggle with the angel is a great example of what it takes to win a fight with God. So, while it is my desire in this blog post to inspire you to fight there are a few things you need to know before you go picking fights with God.

First, you must remember who God is and what He has told you. In order to strive with God concerning the blessings and promises He has made to and for you there must be an understanding that He is able to fulfill those promises and what they are.  The struggles of this world and our tendency to withdraw from Him when in the middle of our earthly struggles can overshadow the knowledge we have of Him causing us to see Him and His desires for us incorrectly. We must remember that He is God and we are not. We must remember that He is for us…You must remember that He is for you!

Once you remind yourself of who you, who He is and whose you are it is imperative that you know the blessing He has promised to you. Otherwise, you will begin to believe the lies of Satan that says He is against us or that we have misheard His promises. This is the same method the serpent used on Eve. The lie told to Eve in the garden was that God was for Himself and that she misunderstood. This lie implied God withholds something of Himself from us in an effort to remain above us; separate from us. This is the lie Satan still uses today.  If we adopt this concept it won’t matter what He tells us or does we will interpret His motives and desires incorrectly.  

The next part of Satan’s lie is that we either have misunderstood or cannot understand. If we adopt this part of the lie then we will always live a life on shifting sand. To say that God never changes but not know who He is leads us to instability. To say God gave us His Word so that we can know and be sure of Him and then say we cannot understand His word is to build a house on shifting sand. Jacob knew God and the promises of blessing God had spoken to Him. He was not afraid to call God out.

Is God far above us? Yes.

Are His ways like our ways? No.

Is God far beyond mere human comprehension? Absolutely.

Is it arrogant to say I can know God and understand His Word? No!

To say that I as a child of God cannot know Him or understand His Word is arrogance.

Why?  

We have been given the Holy Spirit. We have been given the mind of Christ. We have been given everything necessary for life and health and peace. We have been given the spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. Through the death and resurrection of Christ we have been reborn. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we have been given the ability to know and understand God and His Word. 

To say that I cannot know these things makes us more powerful than God because we are claiming that our fallen limited human state is more powerful than the ability of the Holy Spirit to overcome it. We have become more powerful than God.

We also make God a liar we when claim these things. Look at all the scripture that talks about our ability to know God and His Word.

1 Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 29:13, James 4:8-10, Matthew 7:7-8, Jeremiah 24:7, Proverbs 2:1-6, 2 Chronicles 15:2, Jeremiah 17:10, Psalm 9:10, Jeremiah 9:24, Isaiah 45:19, John 17:3,
2 Corinthians 4:6, John 14:26, John 16:13, 1 John 2:27, Luke 12:12, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12-13,
Isaiah 30:21, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 1:16-17, Proverbs 1:23, Hebrews 10:14-16

We see in scripture example upon example of God’s desire to be known by us both personally and for us to know His Word. We see countless examples of those who did understand and know Him both on a personal level as well as His Word.

The key verses from the list above that should end this debate of whether or not we as born again believers can know and understand God and His Word for me are found in 1 Corinthians 2:10-16

For TO US  God revealed them THROUGH THE SPIRIT; for the Spirit searches all things, EVEN THE DEPTHS OF GOD. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that WE MAY KNOW the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST.

Jacob knew this and was confident in it. He let God know that he understood he had a knowledge of and history with God. He also reminds God of the blessings He has spoken over his life and in this confirms the he himself knows what has been spoken over his life by God.

Jacob then finished with an acknowledgement of his understanding of who he is on his own. Through Jacob’s own confession he acknowledges that God is loving and faithful and that he is not. He acknowledges the provision that God has already provided for him and that he would not be where he was without the power of God on his side. He then goes on further to acknowledge his fear and complete dependence upon God for deliverance.

These things are the essentials in picking a fight with God. If you don’t know who God is, who you are both with him and without him, the blessings He has already spoken over your life and your inability to deliver yourself in any situation I don’t suggest you pick a fight with God just yet. After all, can you really know what you are fighting for if you don’t know these things? I’m not saying you can’t strive with God if you don’t know these things but I am telling you that your fight will be considerably longer without them. 

The next, essential component in a fight with God is honesty. Jacob was completely transparent with God. He admitted that he was afraid. He admitted that he desired his own personal safety as well as the safety of his family. Jacob wasn’t trying to sound spiritual in order to get God’s attention or gain His approval. Jacob got down to the nitty gritty and God respected it. 

If you are going to win your fight with God you must have honesty. You have to admit to God what it is that you are truly after.

Once again, I feel I must warn you that if you don’ t know what you are after in your fight with God or if you insist on putting on airs with God in an attempt to impress Him with your religion your fight will last a lot longer than you want and possibly can endure. 

You cannot win a fight with God without complete gut wrenching honesty. So God will wrestle with you until He gets you to the point where gut wrenching honesty is all you have left.

The next component in winning a fight with God is probably one of the most overlooked yet most important for endurance. Are you ready for it? Get ready to have your mind blown!

God doesn’t fight fair so neither should you.

This is essential to understand or you may quit the fight believing that what happens next in your fight should be interpreted as punishment for engaging in the fight in the first place. 

Now, I feel like this part needs a bit more explanation than the rest so I want to give you two examples of what I mean. 

The first comes from the lessons Europeans learned concerning warfare from the Native Americans. Europeans fought battles in a way that frankly I have never understood. They would stand in infantry lines at close quarters with their enemy who did the same and fire shots. 

I remember as a child thinking how completely stupid this way of fighting was. 

Native Americans on the other hand used the resources their surroundings gave them to their advantage in warfare. They used trees as shields and hiding places, they would fire off arrows and guns from whatever vantage point best lent itself to their success. They used poison from native plants and animals to inhibit their enemies ability to fight and so on. This makes sense to me. Europeans learned quickly in their battles with the Native American tribes that they had to adjust their fighting style or become accustom to losing. 

One of Washington’s generals, General Forbes is quoted as saying, “We must comply and learn the art of war from enemy Indians.” 

My second example comes from the term street fighting. There is a vast difference between the rules of fighting in a boxing ring versus street fighting. In a boxing ring there are referees to make sure everyone complies with the rules and plays “fair.” On the street however, you do what it takes to win, everyone knows it and no one complains.

God is a street fighter.

Notice in the story of Jacob and the angel they were wrestling and when the angel realized that He was not winning He employed street fighting tactics or Indian warfare. He used the weakness of his opponent to his advantage.

Genesis 32:24-25
When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.[1]

So then what is the exact significance of God’s touching Jacob upon the socket of his thigh?

“The sinew of the thigh is the strongest in the human body. A horse could scarcely tear it apart.” God had to break us down at the strongest part of our self-life before He can have His own way of blessing with us.
—J. H. McConkey[2]

God when He saw that Jacob was not going to give up in this fight touches him on the strongest part of his body and dislocates it! 

That’s street fighting at its finest!

McConkey had it right in his statement above. God was testing Jacob to see just how much he was invested in this fight he had picked before he would bless him. God wanted to prove Jacob’s commitment. It is said that Jacob limped from that day on but I don’t that that this can be proven. This event did make such an impact on Jacob and his people that the sinew of the thigh is not eaten to this day in Israel.

Genesis 32:32
Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob's thigh in the sinew of the hip.

If you going to pick a fight with God then there will be pain; God will make sure of it. Why, because it is in the pain that we are purified. Just as McConkey stated God will have to break you down at your strongest part so that He can have His own way of blessing you. So be prepared for it. If you aren’t willing to endure excruciating pain and keep fighting, if the blessing isn't worth the price you have to pay then I suggest you don’t engage God in battle. 

But if you are and if God is going to employ street fighting tactics then so must you.

Street fighters have something that ring fighters don’t; Desperation. Street fighters are fighting from something deep within themselves. They are willing to pay any price for the victory because they know they need it for survival. Ring fighters rest in the safety of the referees call for fairness. Street fights aren’t about fairness they are about who needs the victory more. Jacob had been street fighting since before he was born. He was conceived as a soul desperate for the blessing.  From the grabbing of his brothers heal, to the stolen birthright, to wrestling with an angel and telling him,

Genesis 32:26
“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Hosea 12:3-4 tells us that Jacob wept and sought the blessing in the fight.

In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor.
He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us,

There was something in Jacob that knew the only way to get ahead in life was to obtain the blessing and he was not going to quit until he got it.

What about you? Do you desire the blessing more than life like Jacob? 

Do you understand that the only, and I can’t stress this enough…the ONLY way to get ahead in this life or the next is to obtain the blessing?

Are you desperate for it?

If you aren’t’ then you certainly won’t win because it is precisely this desperation that inspires the determination to see the fight through to the end even in the midst of excruciating pain. It is this desperation along with the understanding of who God is and who you are that will see you through to the end in victory.

There is a price to be paid in picking a fight with God and it will hurt. Consider the cost or you may just come out of your fight with nothing more than a limp. 

The word yaqa that we find in verse Genesis 32:25 means to dislocate but it also means to alienate.

3363.   יָקַע yaqa (429b); a prim. root; to be dislocated or alienated:—

We see that both happened to Jacob in his striving with God. 

First God, alienated Jacob from his brother then he was alienated from his wealth and his family which is how he ended up alone on this side of the river where God began the wrestling match.

Next, God brings the pain by making the alienation very real and personal for Jacob. He alienated Jacob from his own health, personal strength and comfort.  Jacob endured great pain as a result of picking this fight with God and you will too. Jacob on the other hand gained a victory that far outweighed the pain. We can too if we are willing to endure.

Lastly, if you are going to pick a fight with God and win you must be completely committed to the fight. No matter what don’t quit until something changes; exert yourself, persevere; commit to the struggle.

Look again at the conversation between Jacob and the angel in the middle of their wrestling match. 

Use your imagination.

Jacob has the angel pinned to the ground maybe with his hand on his chin forcing his face into the dirt. 

The angel manages to mumble in a strained breathless voice, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.”

Jacob loudly fires back with a determined yet pain filled, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The angel replies, “What is your name?” and he hears a determinedly defiant response from his opponent, “it’s Jacob.”

Then something amazing happens. Jacob wins!

Genesis 32:28
“Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

From that point on Jacob would be known as the one who strives with God. Not just Jacob but an entire nation of people would be known as the ones who strive with God. 

This is what the name Israel means: he who strives with God; God strives. 

We as believers, Children of God, are to be known as a people who strive. Scripture tells us to contend for the faith. Paul tells us to fight the good fight. We are to be a picture of Christ to the world and Christ was a fighter.

If we look at the progression of Jacob’s fight with God we see the same things in the life of Christ. Christ was alienated from all of these things. He was alienated from His wealth, His family, His brothers and sisters, and lastly from His physical health, strength, and comfort. He didn’t let go until He obtained the victory. We should fight just as hard.

What you will learn in your fight with God, what I have learned so far is that I am not fighting against what I thought from the beginning. I am not fighting for what I thought form the beginning. 

But God knew. He knew what my heart needed and wanted. He knew what I was fighting for and so He was happy and excited to engage in the battle with me because God not only loves a good fight…He loves a good fighter. 

So go ahead, pick a fight with God. 

STRIVE

Do it right and see if you don’t come out blessed!


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:24–25). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1404). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How to Pick a Fight with God and Win! Part 1

(a 2 part series as it seems I have more to say about his topic than I realized when I began writing.)

Yes, you read it right. You see I read something just a few days ago in scripture that made me realize I have been fighting with God. 

Now, the uber religious folks out there are all sanctimoniously nodding their heads in agreement. 

“Oh, yes dear, come to altar.”

 If you have ever fought with God and heard their voices much like the voices of the friends of Job in the middle of his fight with God you can probably hear them again today and you cringe. But there’s something that those of you who have fought with God realize that the sanctimonious peanut gallery does not realize and may never realize.


You can not only pick a fight with God but you most certainly can win that fight!



 
                                                                                                      Created by Balasoiu - Freepik.com 
Oh, George, did you hear her? That poor girl’s gonna go straight to hell. (tisk-tisk)



Do you Strive?


We all seem to from time to time. Some of us strive for perfection. And if I can be candid the religious “some” may well be striving for the picture perfect godly family, or picture perfect religion or reputation which is why we don’t really tell folks how we are doing when asked on Sunday morning or we wait until we are away from church and have looked over our shoulder before we begin to gossip I mean discuss the situation concerning sister “so and so” or we wait until we think everyone has left the church building before we let that vulgar curse word fly out of our mouth as we vent our frustration from the happenings of the “Lord’s” day. Yes, I have been around church long enough to not only be guilty of all of the above but also to witness a good portion of the rest of us “children of God” actively becoming guilty of them as well.  But back to the point some strive for success or status, some of us strive for peace or security and so on.  

We strive.

I think we all from time to time strive for one thing or another.

But do you really STRIVE?

I mean the blood, sweat, tears and time kinda strive? Do you?

When was the last time you were so desperate for something that you did that kind of striving? 

This is where I am. I have picked a fight with God. We are still in the middle of our fight.

  
I HAVEN’T WON YET BUT I’M NOT LETTING GO 
UNTIL I DO!

Does that last sentence remind you of anything or anyone? It should. It did for me when it first rattled around in my brain. Head over to the book of Genesis with me and let’s see if I can refresh your memory or possibly inspire you to pick your fight with God.

Genesis 32:24
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” [1]

Before we go on there are two things that need to be made abundantly clear to those of us who tend to deify the characters we read about in the Bible. By deify I mean we lift them up above mere human status as though they were more righteous than the rest of us or somehow stronger which is why they made  it into the Bible and that all their decisions and actions were always right and godly. 

So the first thing to make abundantly clear is that Jacob was a liar. He was a cheat; a scoundrel. And Jacob knew God.  But Jacob was also a fighter. From before he was born he was fighting.

Genesis 25:21-22a
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; [2]

Jacob being a twin grabbed a hold of his brother’s heel at birth.

Genesis 25:24a-26b
behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob[3]

Before he took his first breath Jacob was a fighter.


Esau was born first. His name comes from
6213b. עָשָׂה asah (796b); a prim. root; to press, squeeze:—handled(3).[4]

I laughed out loud when I read that one interpretation of the name of Esau is “handled.” Jacob surely handled his brother alright. Next, Jacob was born holding onto the heel of his older brother Esau. 

Jacob’s name comes from
6119.   עָקֵב aqeb (784a); from an unused word; heel, footprint, hind part:—footprints(1), footsteps(1), heel(4), heels(3), hoofs(1), rear guard(1), steps(1), trail(1).[5]

I grew up in church and in Christian school and one thing I have been taught all along is that Jacob’s name means supplanter. But after looking up his name as I was studying I noticed that this is not at all true. Jacob’s name means as it states above – heal, footprint, or hindpart.

His name does not mean “supplanter.” 

But we have his angry older brother calling him that in Genesis 27:36 which is probably where the misunderstanding comes from. The point being that your character or personality is one thing but it is your actions that often define who people regard or remember you as. Jacob’s name does not mean supplanter but his actions in his dealings with his brother and father have defined who he is for us for generations.

Reputations linger so be careful what you do with your name.

Then again if my name meant hindpart I might be more than okay with everyone believing it meant supplanter instead.

I am not saying that what Jacob did concerning the birthright and blessing was wrong; nor am I saying that what he did was right. This is not the point of this post. I am just attempting to clear up a commonly taught misconception. 

The word supplant means to take the place of another, as through force, scheming, strategy, or the like; to replace one thing by something else. So by this definition we can say that Jesus Christ was also a supplanter - just something to think about.

Now before you go off halfcocked telling me I am wrong on this point please do the work for yourself and study. Then present the corrective information to me so that I can study it as well and we can discuss. But if you aren’t willing to study and be iron that sharpens iron then I say keep it to yourself. The last thing I want is for any of us to go around lookin’ like a fool. That doesn’t do much for the keeping of the honor of the name of God or His church now does it.

Back to Jacob.. 

So we see that even before he was born Jacob was striving for something. Now let’s fast forward to the situation in Genesis 32 and discuss why Jacob was alone and what he was wrestling for so earnestly. 

Remember, that Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and blessing. This wasn’t like stealing your brother’s candy money or his bicycle. No, this was a huge deal. This made Jacob, the younger brother, the “head” of the family once his father passed away. This would have been something very shameful for Esau to live with. Esau was understandably angry even if he did sell if for momentary self gratification. The two brothers parted ways and Jacob prospered but not without his own struggles.

We read in Genesis 32 that Jacob parts ways with Laban. He then does something that I think all too often we miss or overlook. Genesis 32:1 tells us that Jacob goes on his way and the angels of God meet him. When Jacob sees them he doesn’t flip out. In fact, there is no sign of fear at all given to us from scripture on the part of Jacob. The Bible tells us that when he saw them he named the place where he was Mahanaim because it was God’s camp.




  









So we see Jacob going along his merry way and he decides to send messengers to his brother in Edom. He tells the messengers to tell his brother what he has been up to and how he has prospered but notice how Jacob tells them to relay the message. He uses terms of respect; “My lord, Esau” and “your servant, Jacob.” Because Jacob had received the birthright and the blessing he should have been known as “lord” of the family not as Esau’s “servant.” But Jacob knowing full well the depravity of his own nature and past actions humbles himself even though he wasn’t bound by law to do so. The messengers come back and inform Jacob that not only did they relay the message to Esau but that Esau was on his way to meet him.

Funny, how the appearance of supernatural angelic beings did not strike fear into Jacob but the news that his older brother was coming to see him makes him cower. Interestingly, the messengers did not give any indication to Jacob that his brother was coming to do harm to him. But nevertheless, Jacob takes immediate precautionary action. He divides all that he has into two groups and then sends them in different directions. His strategy was that if Esau attacked and destroyed one group the other would remain safe. He then calls out to God and picks the fight.


Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’ ”[6]


The best way to start a fight is to remind someone what they once said to you and imply that they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Oh, God, you told me this would work out and now look at the mess I’m in. Now I know I don’t deserve what you have done for me so far but you said return and prosperity and now look. My brother is on his way and I am divided into two different groups for safety. God, he’s gonna hurt me. This doesn’t look or feel like prospering. You said You would prosper me remember! (my own humorous paraphrasing)

Jacob then creates this rather elaborate attempt at appeasing what he has perceived is his brother’s anger through stages of gifts and messages. That same night Jacob takes his wives, his children and his maids and crosses a ford. He then sends all of them across another stream while he stays put and this is how Jacob ended up alone and afraid.

Now come back to Genesis 32:24

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” [7]

This brings us to the second thing that needs clarification and that is that the “man”, the “he” in verse 25 and the beginning of verse 26 is an angel. When the angel realized that he had not prevailed against Jacob he…wait for it….fought dirty! Then when that didn’t work the angel begins to plead with Jacob a mere human…a non-supernatural being to let go of him! This astounds me to no end. 

Frankly, if it doesn’t astound you I wonder why not?

Jacob wrestled with the angel of God and overpowered him through mere human determination and chutzpah. From that day forward, Jacob was forever changed hence the name change. Look at what the angel says to him in verses 27-29.

Genesis 32:27-29
“he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” [8]


Do you see it? Jacob picked a fight with God and men and he won! Yup, you read it right. 

You can pick a fight with God and win.


In Part 2 of this blog post I will show you just how you can pick a fight with God and win!






[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:24–26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 25:21–22). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 25:24–26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[4] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
[5] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:9–12). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:24–26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:27–28). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What is this Mystery of the Gospel Anyway?

Ah, so it seems that the mystery is still a mystery. 

If you look on the internet or in Christian bookstores you will find it. If you listen to preachers either in your home church or through online sermons you will hear it. But it seems the one place we have forgotten to search for it is the only place it is actually found. What is it? It is the Mystery; more specifically the mystery of the Gospel.

Paul spoke about it as though it had not only been revealed to him but as though he had also revealed it to the church. Yet, it seems we have either missed it or have buried it.

Many who speak on the explanation of what this mystery is seem to have misunderstood its purpose and representation. This has in this writer’s opinion led to a plethora of wrong theology and structure within the body of Christ. Before I get into what I believe is the explanation of the mystery I want to give an examples of this error that best exemplifies the common misunderstanding. The example below is from a well-known Biblical scholar of today and this example shows a common view held among today’s Christian scholars on the subject of the mystery of the Gospel.


  • The union of man and woman in marriage is a mystery because it conceals, as in a parable, a truth about Christ and the church. The divine reality hidden in the metaphor of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between His Son and the church. Human marriage is the earthly image of this divine plan. As God willed for Christ and the church to become one body (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13), so He willed for marriage to reflect this pattern—that the husband and wife become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).



Sounds good so far…



  • The inference…”



But here is where we get into trouble. When we start inferring what Christ meant in what He said. The above statement is true to be sure. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church but the inference we draw is where things get just fuzzy enough that it causes us to err. Let’s read the example further.



  • “…what Paul draws from this mystery is that the roles of husband and wife in marriage are not arbitrarily assigned but are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and His church. Therefore husbands and wives should consciously copy the relationship God intended for Christ and the church.– John Piper



Sounds harmless at first and even possibly Biblical but is it right?

Sure we are to model Christ’s behavior. That is a true statement. Yes, husbands and wives are to live in relationship with each other that will properly show the relationship between Christ and the church. Once again I have no problem with this part of the statement. The part that gets us into trouble is the part that tells us we have inferred that there are distinctive roles for the husband and wife in marriage but the explanations we teach of those roles and the picture that marriage is to provide of Christs relationship to the church are not rooted in scripture as explained by scripture but rather scripture as explained by inference.
Let me stop here and say that I by no means have a complete understanding of this topic but I understand enough to know that we have somewhere missed the mark on this topic and are giving a wrong picture of Christ and the church to the world. 

The picture we give through our teaching is that the husband takes on the pictorial role of Christ and the wife takes on the pictorial role of the sinner in need of redemption. We draw this conclusion from the passage in Ephesians 5. Later in this same passage Paul is very clear what the mystery is.

In his letter to the Colossians Paul is equally as clear as to the nature and understanding of the mystery.  Now normally in my writing I give scripture references but do not necessarily post the scripture text. This is because I want you to look for yourselves and discover but today I want us all to look at the scripture together to see what I am writing about. We will begin in Ephesians and then look at Colossians.


  • ·        For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32


  • ·        For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—  if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of Gods grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of Gods grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. Ephesians 3:1-7


  • ·        To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, Ephesians 3:9-11


  • ·        Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:25-27


  • ·        that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, Colossians 2:2


What we learn from these passages is that Paul is instructing the church that the mystery is indeed the relationship between Christ and the church but the point is the unifying of two people into one body in relationship with Christ through the sacrifice of his blood.

The mystery is not that Christ is in authority over all the church. This is a misleading statement as if Christ had to accomplish what he did in order to gain authority. 

First, the purpose of Christ’s redemptive work was to restore creation to its rightful place and relationship to its Creator and itself. Christ’s authority was never in jeopardy due to the fall of man. Christ’s authority was never in question due to the fall of man. Christ’s authority need not be restored for it was never lost or marred.  Christ is in authority over all of creation not just the church. He has a relationship with all things not just the church. All of creation is involved. Some live in a restored relationship of unity with their creator and their fellow man while others still live in separation.

This is the picture of Christ and the church not that the marriage portrays the distinctive roles for husbands and wives but that the restoration of relationships occurs in Christ; two people, the Jews and the Gentiles; husband and wife become one flesh, people, body. If subordination and hierarchy are to be portrayed in the marriage relationship by husband and wife with husband as Christ and wife as the church and this example is the picture of the joining of the Jews and Gentiles into one body then the question must be asked are the Jews in authority over the Gentiles? Are Gentiles to submit to Jews in the church? If so, then how? How do we see this put into motion today?  It is my understanding that Christ didn’t die to set up earthly roles for human beings. He died to restore and to unify.



When we interpret the mystery this traditional way as seen in the example first given at the beginning of this blog post it gives the implication that only one person in the marriage is to mirror the example of Christ in the world while the other portrays the example of fallen man in the world restored by Christ. Yet we know that all believers are to be the example of Christ in the world. Men see themselves as Redeemers while women view themselves in need of redemption by man whether consciously or subconsciously. This particular interpretation of the mystery also sets man up as master to be obeyed and followed and woman is set up to do the obeying and following. Many claim as by their natural state.


  • Women by the ordinary law of nature are born to obey, for all wise men have always rejected government by women as an unnatural monstrosity. – John Calvin



It is my argument that the picture the mystery is to portray through the marriage relationship is that of two people being united in Christ. The Jews and the Gentiles were united in Christ into one people; one body but notice also that men and women were united, slave and free, circumcised and uncircumcised and even Barbarian and Scythian.


  • ·        For 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, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:26-29


  • ·        and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:10-11


Some argue that these passages refer only to the spiritual aspects of man through salvation and do not remove or deal with physical barriers.

  • as far as equality is concerned, neither male nor female refers only to equal access to the blessings of salvation through Jesus Christ. The context warrants no other conclusion. – Jack Cottrell


But I again must disagree. I disagree with this assessment of these verses because while it is through the sacrifice of Christ that all men are unified into one body and salvation is made available to all it is through the renewing of the mind as seen in Colossians 3:10-11 that these distinctions should disappear between us as human beings. It is through the renewing of the mind that we should see our relationships with Christ differently as well as our relationships with each other. There were tangible physical differences that took place for each of the groups mentioned in both the Galatians and Colossians passages. 
The veil was torn for all people. Technically, in light of Christ women, Greeks, barbarians, and slaves were allowed into the Holy of Holies not just the Jewish high priest. All were adopted as ‘sons’ by God.

  • ·        He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:6


  •      But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father! Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.  Galatians 4:4-7


There are many more verses that use this same phrase “adoption as sons.” Many who try to minimize the gender influences in the Bible do a great disservice to those who seek to truly understand. They are also wiping away the very thing they are trying to prove. Many believe that these male and female pronouns are the result of cultural influence and as such need to be corrected for today’s understanding but this is a grievous error. The above two verses as well as all others that use this same phrase make the point not only of cultural influence but of God’s understanding and transcendence of this cultural influence for those who become His children.

You see only sons could receive the inheritance in first century Middle Eastern culture. This is why these verses are so great. God adopts us all as sons so that we all receive the same inheritance through Christ. There are reasons which I will not go into in this post as to why the cultural influence is necessary as an integral part of the plan of Creation and how Christ’s sacrifice and subsequent victory place us all high above them. For now, I will leave it at we according to scripture are all “adopted as sons” and as adopted sons all share the same rights and responsibilities as sons of God.

Please don’t get me wrong gender differences are important and should be respected, honored and celebrated but they should not be used as barriers or platforms.

 I encourage you all to do a scripture study of the “Mystery” for a fuller understanding of this topic. I also welcome discussion on this point as long as the sources of the conversation come from scripture first and inference/cultural influences second.

As I stated previously, I have by no means come to a full understanding of this topic. What I think I begin to understand today may be changed by increased illumination into the things of God through His Holy Spirit that dwells in me but this one thing I do know. We have done a great disservice to the world’s understanding of the mystery when we make it about one role taking the position of Christ while the other takes the position of the repentant sinner. We are all sinners in need of Christ and as such none can serve in the position of Christ save Jesus Christ alone.


If this is the picture to be portrayed then the hierarchy must remain intact thus making Greeks submissive to Jews in both the physical and the spiritual realm.
The mystery is about the unifying of two people/groups which is only found in relationship with Christ. This is the relationship of two people operating in equality as one in the power and authority of Christ.

In Christ we have restored relationships. The Jew and the Greek can enjoy unity and equality only when united in Christ. Man and woman can only represent the mystery when we understand that we both represent people who need Christ and only in relationship with Him can we be properly united into one body in equality with each other.


This is the mystery.



[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eph 3:8–11). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Col 1:25–27). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Col 2:2). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ga 3:26–29). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Col 3:10–11). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eph 1:5). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ga 4:4–7). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.