Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
Heirs Together of the Grace of Life
Man is for strength, judgment and achievement;
Paul wrote to the Ecclesial members at Corinth: "I am jealous over you with a godly jealously; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:2). The natural, then, is a basis for the spiritual. On her espousal, a young girl busies herself in preparation for the coming marriage. She prepares her trousseau chest, and it is expected of her that she shall remain faithful to her espousal, that she shall remain pure and undefiled, her chastity inviolate, with no other associations than the one of her espousal. Paul in Eph. 5:1-7 appeals to the espoused members of Christ's Ecclesia that they "walk in love, as Christ also has loved us," but fornication (i.e. unchastity before marriage) and all uncleaness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints: Let no man deceive you with vain words (as so often is the case, both naturally and spiritually), for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." "Be not ye therefore partakers with them."
The faithful remnant of the espoused has busied herself in preparation for the coming marriage. Her trousseau chest is being filled with good works, and a character developed along lines well-pleasing to the Husband-to-be. Her chastity has been maintained and she refuses to be enticed or cajoled into unlawful associations with any other. So that, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to claim His Bride for Himself, it will be said of her: "His wife hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7; 21:2). By the union of the Bride and Bridegroom in the Marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7) they will be made one. In the marriage union the espoused Bride will be clothed with her house from heaven 2 Cor. 5:1-4, and thereby will be "born of the Spirit." The union will be complete, and she shall be "like Him" (1 John 3:2-3). Together they will rule in the Kingdom Age of 1,000 years.
As we consider these marvellous joys which are held in store for the faithful among the Ecclesia, can we be anything but inspired to greater purity of faith and life? The unfaithful, in the day of her glory, is pictured as being "arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked (margin -gilded) with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornications" (Rev. 17:4). Compare this frightful picture with this glorious one of the faithful in the day of her glory: "To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8). The responsibilities of the espoused Bride of Christ are clear. Is our chastity (individual and collective) being preserved?
"Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." "These are the true sayings of God." -E. B. W.
In nothing is a young sister more exposed to danger than in the choice of companions. She will do well to be on her guard, and choose only those whose aims are the same as she herself has chosen. Let her avoid frivolous company, whether professedly in the truth or not. All are not Israel who are of Israel, neither are all wise who profess the truth. She should cultivate sobriety without being morose. Let her discourage levity and light talk as spiritually hurtful, and when possible avail herself of the society of soberminded brethren and sisters, with whom intercourse will be profitable and instructive, remembering the words of Solomon, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise."
Let her be specially mindful of the allegiance she owes to Christ in the choice of a companion for life. It is natural and right that her thoughts turn in this direction, and a truly holy relationship may come of it, but let her be sure to encourage no advances outside of the truth, nor be won over by promises to consider the truth when a union has been effected. The snares that encircle a union of this sort (which would be a virtual allying of herself with the world) are more dreadful and numerous and intricate than a young girl dreams of. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" is an apostolic injunction, and uttered for our benefit, as the mind of Christ. Even in the truth, let her be careful that the brother with whom she would keep company in view of a life-long relationship, is thoroughly in love with the truth, and bent upon a faithful obedience to it, and let them together beware of the tendency of the young mind to overlook the obligations which the possession of the truth imposes, and to make the profession of it a mere garb or occasion for serving the flesh.
I have known cases in which the truth has been thus associated, with the result of the flesh triumphing to the suppression of the things of the Spirit. As she prizes the successful issue of her earthly career, let the young sister take all heed in the beginning of the journey, that in this matter she take no false step. She ought in this, as in all matters that affect her well-being, seek and earnestly desire guidance and direction from God. He has caused the promise to be placed on record: "in all thy ways acknowledge the Lord, and he will direct thy path." Let her confide her cause to Him, and go forward in trustful confidence. -Jane Roberts
You cannot resist the influence of a constant companion, whether the influence is good or bad, reasonable or otherwise. Therefore be careful in your selection. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise."
Whom To Marry
Are you, in searching for a partner for life, looking for one whom God would approve -- one who would serve a nobler part than the mere providing of a comfortable home, or animal pleasures? Then turn your eyes in the way of those only who love the Bible, and who show their love for it by a regular and faithful reading of its pages. This is the counsel of the oracles of God. What if this counsel is mocked by outsiders, and emphasised by far too few of those who name the name of Christ? Wisdom is wisdom and is indestructible, and happy are they who heed her voice. Marriage with the alien is a sin, and marriage with those who are unfaithful to Bible teaching is related to it. Satisfactory partners -- wise and good people (judging wisdorn and goodness by the divine standard) -- are not to be found away from Bible influence, and this influence exists only where a constant and attentive place is given to Scripture study. In the matter of marriage, never be in a hurry. Avoid being led into an unwise arrangement by self-deception. A man or woman is not in the Truth (whatever his or her claims may be) who does not believe and obey it -- who has no fondness for it, and fondness shows itself by a desire to read and talk about it. We are wise if we aim at securing partners more spiritually minded than ourselves, not less so. Marriage is a very serious matter -- it means either help or hindrance in the fight for eternal life. God is concerned with the marriage of His children, for He is concerned with their salvation. Hear, therefore, His voice in the act of choosing. He has spoken plainly. Hesitate not to search and ponder His mind and your marriage will be no failure. -C.H.J.
A False Excuse For Disobedience
There is no one in the Ecclesia that I care for, it may be said, and perhaps said in truth. But this would not justify union with the alien. Disobedience (which alien marriages are) is not allowable under any circumstances. Let us be careful lest we invent excuses for the purpose of evading plain and stringent commands. The one who talks as above would see that his ideal of a partner is a scripture approved one; and, next, he should not forget to make his desire a matter of prayer. God gives husbands and wives, in answer to prayer, as well as daily bread. If God withhold a partner for a time it is for our good. Therefore let the one who has to wait be patient and trustful. -C.H.J.
Marriage Is Honorable
It is a great mistake to think that Paul discountenanced marriage because upon one occasion, by reason of certain distress, he gave exceptional advice (1 Cor. 7:26). To the Hebrews (Ch. 13:4) he wrote of marriage being honourable in all, and the word he used has been rendered had in reputation (Acts 5:34): dear (Acts 20:24); precious (1 Cor. 3:12); most precious (Rev. 21:11); and similarly in fourteen texts. Besides, Paul expressly commanded "the young women to marry" (1 Tim. 5:14). Who were they to marry? Surely not old brethren -- or the medically unfit -- or the alien young men! No: marriage is honourable in all. Brother Roberts was right in concluding as he did: "I always felt that marriage was something that lay in my path before I could enter upon the earnest work of life. And, now I see how serviceable it has been in every way for the work that has been done." How many of us who have been Christadelphians practically all our lives can say Amen to those conclusions? -F.G.J.
Heirs Together of The Grace of Life
The words of Peter aptly set the stage for our exhortation. He succinctly outlines the duties that wives bear to their husbands, whilst at the same time enjoining upon husbands their deep obligation to dwell peaceably with their partners, granting the honour due to them because they are "heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Pet. 3:7). The Greek word -- here translated hinder, signifies to impede the easy path of a person by breaking up the road, or by placing obstacles upon it. Hence, metaphorically, it depicts the distracting effect that lack of understanding and harmony between a man and his wife can have on their worship, and particularly their prayers.
Marriage is the combining of two individuals into a single unit, and because of this unity, it is difficult to over-state the influence that husband and wife wield over one another. The Lord Jesus, in emphasising this singleness of purpose brought about by true marriage, declared: "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh" (Matt. 19:5). A common outlook on life, and a kindred spirit in respect to spiritual values are absolutely essential to a sound and fruitful life together. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" asked Amos (Ch. 3:3). The happiest marriages among those outside the Truth are those in which husband and wife enjoy a common interest and share their moments of enjoyment together. When two people have the same goal in life, and seek a common plateau of success, they will be mutually willing to work and sacrifice to achieve it. The failures and disappointments they will meet along the way will seem trivial when experienced together. For those of us in the family of God who are married, the need for marital agreement and singleness of purpose is even greater. Our entire life is built around the Truth. Remove it from our sphere of existence, and our whole purpose for living will be shattered. For the Truth is far more than a mere catechism of fundamental facts; it is a way of life which involves us emotionally. Marriage is like the joining together of the tributaries of a stream which merge into a single river and unitedly flow with added power to the sea. With two such powerful and demanding influences in our lives, it is understandable why the attitude of either spouse so deeply affects the other.
In view of the fact that so often the marriage union tends to distract from the Truth, we can sympathise with Paul's desire that all men were even as he, himself. The apostle found it advantageous to remain single, as far as he personally was concerned. It would be good for anyone to remain so, providing such celibacy proved an aid to the Truth. Paul, however, recognised that the power to abstain was a gift from God, not given to every man. For the majority it would be far better to marry than to burn. But why did the apostle adopt such an attitude as this? Why did he feel that it would be better, if one could contain himself, to abide even as he? The answer, of course, is to be found in the measure of service one is capable of rendering to the Truth. So often one member of a marriage union exercises a bad influence on the other. In the natural course of married life, Paul declares: "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise the husband hath not power of his body, but the wife" (1 Cor. 7:4). Such responsibilities demand the utmost in caution and restraint in both husband and wife. The demands which one makes of his spouse should never be allowed to interfere with the claims of the Truth. Because of the constant division of service that marriage involves, Paul encouraged men and women to serve the Lord "with carefulness." He urged all to enter the service of Truth unencumbered with anxieties for he knew well the frustrations that can arise from divided interests. "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife" (2 Cor. 7:32-33). Paul, speaking under the guidance of the Spirit, knew whereof he spoke. There are always certain distractions present in a marriage union that can greatly hamper our service to God, if we allow them to do so. The Scriptures abound with examples of the tremendous influence one member of a couple can wield over the other for good or ill. It was Eve who fell to the subtilty of the serpent, and after experiencing the change from that of "very good" to that of evil, induced her husband to likewise transgress. Jezebel's corrupt in fluence on her husband, Ahab, is legendary. This king of Israel added to all his sins by taking the wicked Jezebel to wife, and following her immoral worship of Baal. The depravity and immorality to which Jezebel drove Ahab is unsurpassed in sacred history: "Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him" (1 Kings 16:33). In the New Testament, the experience of Ananias and Sapphira stands out as an example of the manner in which two professing Christians evily affected each other. It was not only Ananias who kept back part of the price, but Sapphira was also "privy to it." They had "conceived this thing" in their hearts, and had "agreed together" to tempt the Spirit of the Lord." We are left to wonder what would have happened in these examples had either of the partners insisted on adherence to the law of God. Perhaps he or she would have caused, by chaste behaviour, the conversion of the other. Fortunately the examples are not all bad. The intervention of Abigail prevented the hasty revenge of King David on the wicked Nabal. In the New Testament, the very lovely story of Aquila and Priscilla is found throughout the ministry of Paul. Their mutual zeal for the Lord convinced Paul that he should take them with him as he left Corinth and departed to Ephesus. When the apostle left them in Ephesus, he did so with the confidence that they would work together to further the spread of the Truth. In his epistle to the Romans, he greets them as "my helpers in Christ Jesus" and makes mention of "the ecclesia that is in their house" (16:3,5).
Marriage was originally designed to help the husband. That is the significance of the statement found in Genesis 2:18: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." The Hebrew root for both help and meet is the same, and, according to Gesenius, has the primary meaning of "girding, surrounding, hence defending." It is used of an aid in warfare such as an ally. It is clear that God's purpose for supplying Adam with a wife was not merely for the propagation of mankind, but, more important, as a companion who would be able and willing to render spiritual aid to her husband, and to foster his flagging hopes when the need arose. The responsibility of the husband to the wife is not less urgent. As spiritual leader in the house, his attitude toward the whole sphere of Christ living will have a deep affect on the service his spouse is capable of giving. Both partners in a marriage relationship, therefore, must exercise care and vigilance lest he or she prove a hindrance rather than an aid. Let us all beware, lest we discourage our partners by being lethargic or hesitant in our obedience to the Truth. Many well-meaning brethren and sisters stay at home, or engage in some activity other than the Truth, on those nights when a Bible Class is being conducted, merely because either the husband or the wife has evidenced disinterest in attending. It is a sad reflection to realise that the lethargy or lack of spiritual response in one's mate is sufficient to extinguish the spark of responsibility in oneself. How brightly and vigorously should the flame of Truth burn within those who are misdirected so easily! It takes a strong, deeply spiritual individual to fulfil his duties to God and the ecclesia in spite of his or her mate's languor. Strong, because often actions take on the appearance of lack of endearment and consideration of his marital partner when he sees clearly his duty to God and does it! Once the habit of yielding to the weaker partner's wishes is established, it is exceedingly difficult to stop. Marriage soon becomes a contest between one's obligation to the Truth and the vacillating fancies of a spiritually decadent spouse. Compromise, under these conditions, becomes disastrous, for it leads to that state of lukewarmness which is abhorrent to Christ (Rev. 3:14-16).
Marriage is the full realisation of love in the highest sense of the word. It is the unreserved giving of one's self to another. It is, therefore, much more than mere physical association. True, genuine love will manifest itself in a deep concern for the other's welfare. It will be revealed, not merely in verbal expressions, but also by a sincere anxiety for the other's spiritual and moral growth. The real test of the sincerity of one's love, both for one's spouse and for the Truth, is in meeting one's responsibilities to God, and doing everything in one's power to encourage the same willingness in his partner. If our love is to be without dissimulation, then we must be certain that we see clearly those spiritual values which demand our first consideration. If both partners truly love the Truth, as well as each other, how pleasant will be their journey towards the Kingdom of God if both are willing to share in the work of the Truth, walking hand in hand in its service, how prosperous will their efforts be in the Lord's vineyard! Their lives together will truly reflect that lovely relationship that exists between Christ and his Ecclesia. Further, what a crowning exaltation when, on the day of accounting, both husband and wife are told: "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." -R.S.
Complete mutual love and sympathy existed between Adam and Eve, for they were not only "one flesh" by marriage, but also by creation, for Eve was formed out of Adam by the action of a common parent. They would thus both inherit common aspirations and ideals. No other marriage has been quite like that one. The exact counterpart is found in the marriage of the Lamb and his Bride for in their case also, the one has been formed out of the other by the action of a common spiritual Parent.
A Sister may find much more to contend with than she had expected on entering the married state. She may have pictured to herself the delightful times she would have when united to one in the truth, who would be to her a continued help and instructor.
Perhaps she expected too much from him, and forgot that she would also have to do her part, as having at last to give an account of herself. Perhaps she had pictured to herself the delightful evenings they would spend together when her husband could read aloud to her, as she busied herself with her needle, and how the heavenly dews of spiritual refreshing would continually descend, as the result of her husband's ministrations in things divine.
Her actual experience in married life will greatly disappoint her. She overlooked the fact that her husband also would be in need of ministration; that his arduous struggle with an evil world outside would unfit him in some degree for positive attention, and lead him to look to home as a haven of rest, when each days toil was ended. Must not his disappointment be great if he finds his partner more an additional weight than a relief, and not by any means the fellow helper he had fondly anticipated? If there is not great care to exercise forebearance here, a rupture of the happy experience of first-wedded days will take place. It will above all things be necessary first, that both husband and wife be thoroughly in love with the truth, having the fear and hope and love of God richly dwelling in each, independently, inducing in each a willingness to submit to whatever the truth requires at their hands. -Jane Roberts
Overcoming Evil With Good: Emulating Abigail
It sometimes happens that the husband is overbearing, and forgets the conditions which engender a loving and ready service on the part of his wife. He neglects the working out of his pattern, and takes to admonishing his wife about some flaw in her attitude, instead of acting the part that would remove the flaw. Paul nowhere enjoins upon the husband to assert his headship over his wife; but exhorts him to meet his wife's loving and spontaneous subjection by following the example of Christ, with the great love with which he loved the ecclesia. However, to follow this, would lead me out of my province. I must leave him to think it up for himself, hoping he may, as the result, approve the more excellent way. I direct my thoughts and counsel to the sister-wife who finds herself mated with such a one.
Her task will be a difficult one, but let her not quail before it. Let her by all means endeavour to fulfil in a becoming manner the duties and responsibilities of her position. Let the dignity and patience of her meek and quiet spirit, be the means of heaping coals of fire upon the head of her faulty companion, if such she have. Let her remember that a "soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger." If she has a Nabal to deal with, she can at least, like Abigail of old, shew herself to be a woman of good understanding; and her wisdom may, like her, avert much evil that would otherwise come upon her household. -Jane Roberts
Advice For Those Unequally Yoked
There are, doubtless, many drawbacks to a sister who finds herself in this position. She is thereby deprived of much encouragement and help, and experiences many obstacles which would not exist with her husband's hearty co-operation in, and identification with the truth. Still, even this form of evil may not exist without advantage to the sister so circumstanced, though such advantage will, doubtless, rank among the "forced benefits" of her experience. One of them will be that she will be thrown upon her own resources for spiritual sustenance, and her profiting will appear in her individual intelligence and spontaneity in the truth. At the same time, there is much danger. Her connection with an unbelieving husband may exclude the atmosphere of the truth, and surround her with adverse influences which she may be unable to resist. She may, if not on her guard, be insensibly and gradually robbed of her enthusiasm for the truth, and having a name to live, may become dead. The simple principle of placing "Christ first," her Lord, in all her course through life, would prove a guiding star out of many a dangerous path into which she might otherwise be led. Better brace the disfavour of husband and friends than imperil a favourable reception from the King of kings, when he comes forth to judge his household.
Of course, she will require to use discretion in such a matter, and not unnecessarily cause trouble; still, if she cannot comply with the commands of Christ without giving offence to her husband, she has no alternative. But let her see to it that it is really the offence of the truth, and not the flesh in some form taking advantage of the liberty wherewith the truth has made us free. If she have brought herself into his condition of unequal yoking subsequent to her acceptance of the truth, she will have ample reason to repent her folly and her sin, and will, probably, find sufficient retribution in the increased difficulties which she will find around her, in the good fight of faith. If she have arrived at a knowledge of the truth after her union with an unbeliever, she can at least rejoice that she has done so, and will make the best of her surroundings, hoping by her faithful endeavours to bring about a better and more harmonious state of things. -Jane Roberts
Married In The Lord
To those who know by happy experience the blessedness of union and fellowship in the truth, nothing need be said. Their joint labours will show the sweet advantage of being of one accord, and of one mind: fellow helpers into the Kingdom of God, and heirs together of the grace of life; growing up into Christ who is the head, being rooted and grounded in the love of him. To such the truth is a never-failing source of interest. It furnishes them with occupation for all their spare time, and more, and so great is the variety of ways in which it will claim their attention, help and sympathy, that, whether occupying the highest or the lowest or the middle place in society, they will find enough to fill their hands, and will certainly have no time for the genteel frivolities with which it is customary in "society" to fill up the time. Their private studies can hardly be placed on the list of labour. These are to them as resting places where they drink and are refreshed, and strengthened to resume the journey, in which they are firmly united as fellow pilgrims, toiling together with strong purpose for a common end.
But this happy experience does not fall to the lot of all who profess the Truth. There are cases in which husband and wife, both professedly in the Truth, do not run smoothly together. There are many reasons for this unfortunate state of things, some of which cannot entirely be done away with, though most of them may be modified. The great bulk of the brethren and sisters belong to the class who have to toil most of the time in secular matters - each in their own department, and each having to endure much fatigue and weariness, which unfits for that cordial manifestation of appreciation which under more easy circumstances would flow from each to the other, rendering daily intercourse a source of mutual happiness and comfort. Still, the fact that some hard working couples get along without strife or jarring, shows that fatigue alone does not constitute a barrier to conjugal felicity in the Truth. The probability is that shortcomings on both sides are the direct or indirect cause of the difficulty; or it may be that a high sense of the obligations of the Truth on one side is not reciprocated on the other. Now as a life of continual jarring, whatever the cause, must be prejudicial to progress of the truth, it would be well for the sister who finds herself thus placed, to try to discover if she possibly can, how she may by any modification of her own behaviour, bring about a happier and more becoming state of things. It would be better for her to forego even what she might legitimately claim as her right, if the truth were thereby served, than stand out for it at the cost of a perpetual unpleasantness, which interferes with the work of the Spirit. She will always have the consolation that whatever he loses by the service of the Truth now (if incurred willingly) will be repaid her an hundredfold when the Lord returns. This is taking for granted that she is a true sister -- one of Sarah's daughters, willing in all things to be subject to the will of her Lord. Indeed unless she be this, there is no chance for her at all in the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. "Christ first" means self last, or rather, self crucified, and therefore, in a suffering and humble condition. The consecration of self to Christ and his truth, needs daily renewing amid the daily occupations in which we engage, and only in this daily renewal of service and sacrifice, may the true sister hope to attain that spirit of ready obedience in all things to the will of Christ, which will enable her to endure patiently, and avoid the rock upon which others split and flounder who do not endure, but who murmur and dispute about what they ought to endure, as seeking Him who is invisible. If the love of Christ were paramount in each, the troubles that disturb in this manner could not arise. This love of Christ needs continual strengthening by intercourse with him in the Word and in prayer. Yesterday's supply will not entirely suffice for today. And in this matter we should be careful not to deceive ourselves. A sister may imagine that she loves Christ supremely; but let her test herself by what she is willing to endure for his sake. She may find that she has overrated her affection; that many things dispute the pre-eminence with her in her mind and affections. She will find it a work of time to gain the mastery over her own natural desires, and to readily and willingly give the first and best consideration to him who alone is worthy of it. Yet let her not lose heart because she finds herself defective. She will, in the end, overcome and conquer, if her faith fail not; and never forget that "faith cometh by hearing," and hearing by "the Word of God." She has special need to fortify herself. -Jane Roberts
The Bride of Christ
Many beautiful figures are employed in the scriptures to describe the close and affectionate relationship between Christ and his people, but there is none more beautiful than that of marriage. What is marriage? For an answer we must turn, not to the many unhappy alliances which obtain on all hands but to God's ideal of the institution. God made "male and female" that they twain should be "one flesh." Where this oneness this divinely intended unity exists, men nourish and cherish their wives, they love them as their own bodies. Thus it is says Paul, with Christ and the ecclesia He allowed himself to be cruelly slaughtered for her sake, he now yearns for her well-being as the Scriptures teach. As we think upon the revealed mystery we feel that we miserably fail in our appreciation of Christ's love, of his deep down fondness for us and of the joy which little acts done in his name and for his sake must yield to him. But he doubtless bears with us. He knows well the deadening influences of sin which press so heavily upon all of us. Our deficiencies are not to last for ever. O Lord "Increase our faith" and forgive our shortcomings. Exaltation to spirit nature will right matters. The Kingdom of God will see a perfect multitudinous woman as we now behold in Christ a perfect man. Then will come the time for a complete antitype of human marriage only in the antitype the excellences will exceed the type as the light of the sun exceeds that of the moon. -A.T.J.