THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (8) – THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE (3)
During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “The Christian marriage (2)”. Her main scriptures are taken from the Books of Romans and Ephesians. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16, 17). “Submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:21-33)
THE DOCTRINE OF BIBLICAL SUBMISSION – DEFINED
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God… Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21; NKJ; NIV)
Biblical submission is the universal Law of the Kingdom of God, applying to all believers, men and women, old or young. It is the crown of success in all Christian relationships, in the marriage, in the family and in the workplace. Humility and love are the foundation of Christian behavior. Simply said, no submission, no success! Because we are born sinners, biblical submission is not a natural behavior. It is an acquired spiritual skill by the power of the Holy Spirit. Biblical submission is the true testimony of grace working in all believers! The word ‘submit’ is a powerful Biblical word. It means to willingly place yourself under another’s authority. To properly understand submission, you must understand what ‘authority’ means. These two words are always connected. Authority is the right to make decisions, give orders, direct, and restrain others and compel their obedience. Authority is defined as the power of a leader, master, expert to influence thought, opinions, and behavior of others. The word dominion means sovereign power and supreme authority. Because He obeyed unto death, God the Father has given all authority in heaven and on earth to His Son Jesus Christ (Mt 28:18; Phil 2:8). This authority was given to Him not as the Son of God but as the Son of Man. In His name, we have received delegated authority, to rule as Kings and Priests in the Kingdom of God and for His glory alone!
Submission is a word often used in the military. It describes the end of the war. There was a fight. One side won and the other lost the battle. The weaker side has to surrender to the victorious side. If the defeated side refuses to surrender, they will be killed. Submission is wisdom: It is better to be a slave than a corpse! Humble submission saves lives! Practically, you stop resisting and fighting another and you surrender to his will. You are a prisoner of war. To submit, it means that (willingly or unwillingly) you do what another wants, because you are not powerful enough to resist him. It means to surrender to the control of the other because you realize that he has a superior force. Spiritually, it means to recognize and honor the human delegated authority in the Body of Christ, stop fighting it and surrender to it, out of reverence and fear of Christ, the Head of the Church, and the Commander of the Armies of Heaven. Submission is a spiritual positioning, spiritually covered and safe. By submitting to the authority of the other, you declare that he is stronger than you and that he has saved your life! To resist the authority in the Body of Christ is foolish and dangerous. It means that you want to fight Christ, the Judge of all who appointed His servants over you! Humble people submit easier than the proud people. Submission releases the Grace of God upon the humble. The proud resist the authority and God resists them. They fight God and God fights them. Be careful because the human authority ‘does not bear the sword in vain’ (Rom 13:4). Nobody wins against Christ! He is the eternal victor over all! “Therefore, stand in awe of God!” (Ecc 5:7; NIV)
WHAT BIBLICAL SUBMISSION IS NOT
Before we describe submission as seen in the Bible let us look at what submission is not. Let us start with the negatives. Submission is not identical with the fear of man, which is slavery. Fearing man kills your faith in God. It tries to replace the healthy fear of God with the counterfeit fear of man. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe” (PV 29:25). Submission is not passivity or foolishness. Submission is the product of an active intelligent will. This is how it works… in my mind I know that Jesus Christ is my Master.
I accepted the fact that I cannot win against Him. He is stronger than me. I have thought about rebellion, and I concluded that it is sin. I hate sin! I reject pride, and stubbornness! Therefore, it is my desire to submit to Christ and to the spiritual authority He has placed over me. This surrender is not foolishness but wisdom and freedom. Christ is my King!
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Col 3:18, 19)
The Bible has clear marriage guidelines. These commands apply only to the believers. Unbelievers may read try to apply Biblical precepts to make their marriages better, but they are not able to obey God’s Word. For the children of God, the Bible is the Life Manual. God’s Word is written to us, sinners saved by grace. In the marriage set up, there are two basic rules: First, the wives submit to their own husbands (as Christ submitted to God the Father). Secondly, the husbands must love their wives, not in their own way, but ‘as Christ loves the church’ (Eph 5:25). In Christ, the husband and wife are equal before God. Their salvation experience is the same. But in marriage, these simple rules must be obeyed for God to bless the couple. Both these actions are basic spiritual attitudes. They both must glorify Christ, our Lord! Submission and love are inspired by Jesus Christ and must give Him alone the glory! The Holy Spirit gives both the husband and wife the power to obey. Submission to the human authority is always done for Christ’ sake. In the area of marriage, the wife submits to her own husband ‘as unto the Lord and in everything’ (Eph 5:22-24). This submission proves that she honors and loves the Lord Jesus Christ, that she is indeed a child of God. Pretending to submit for social reasons is deceptive and it will fail at last.
BITTERNESS, THE ENEMY OF MARRIAGES
In the scripture above, the husbands are commanded to love their wives and ‘do not become bitter towards them’. This is a special warning giving to the married men. Please pray for understanding! It means that the husband must recognize the tendency to become bitter against their loving wives. They must fight the strange temptation to become bitter as husbands at home. This is a warning to all leaders and husbands, in particular! What does this bitterness mean? Bitterness is chronic unrepentant anger. It starts with a wound that is not healed. Humanly speaking, it is a chronic, incurable spiritual disease. It is an emotion extremely difficult to bear. A root of bitterness causes trouble, defiles many and fights against the grace of God in marriage (Heb 12:15). Marital bitterness poisons the whole home and makes everybody miserable. A bitter person is a fault finder, unhappy with himself. He makes others sad or angry. People avoid such a man. He causes division in the home. When you see a man or a woman afraid to marry, it is because they have experienced this bitter taste in a previous relationship. To them, marriage is like drinking poison every day, like having an incurable disease, with no hope of being happy ever again. That is why they prefer staying single. Bitterness causes piercing, sharp emotional pain, like the sting of a wasp. The wounds of bitter words are long lasting and difficult to forgive or forget. A bitter husband is harsh, hot tempered, holds grudges, is mean, greedy, hard hearted, proud, stubborn, and difficult to teach. In Nigeria people say that ‘love has become sour’. As a pastor I counsel women who suffer terribly married to a bitter man who discourages them to be happy. The wives are afraid to say that something makes them happy because their husbands will spoil that good thing. Only God can help!
This tendency to bitterness is more common to husbands but it can be found in all careless relationships. What is the cause of this bitterness found in some husbands? The main cause I see is disappointment with their wives. At the beginning they love their wives. No bitter man wants to marry. To marry, you need to be happy. Love comes before bitterness. But this is the danger: It is possible for a man to truly love his wife at the beginning of the marriage, but later, he becomes bitter against her. It is like a good fruit that becomes rotten with time. Why? What causes this change from good to bad? Thru prayers and the study of the Word I discovered that husbands become bitter towards their wives, when the wives fail to meet up with their husbands’ expectations, with their ever growing spiritual and physical needs. This problem may be hidden when they are young, when they are still busy making money and rising children. But after some time, the husband may desire to draw closer to God, or he desires that they should improve their standard of living. If the wife is ignorant of the source of this ‘midlife crises’ (as some call it), the husband will become disappointed in her. He will resent her ignorance. He will complain against her choices. This bitterness may manifest itself in one area. For example, he says: ‘My wife is a good woman. She works hard. She is a good mother to our children. I love her very much. But… she does not respect me… she talks too much… she spends too much money on nonsense…’ These excuses are not big enough to make a husband so bitter but if the wife does not try to understand his pain, he will begrudge her silently in his heart. He will compare her with other women he starts to admire silently. That is the seed of marital bitterness. In a way, both are guilty. The bitter husband has tried, but failed, to help the wife grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. They are still married but he withdraws from her. She is left behind, like the statue of a bride, smiling on her wedding day, but the dress is now thorn and faded, the artificial lashes fallen on her wrinkled cheeks… They still live together but the sweet wine of early romantic love has gone, leaving behind the bitter taste of native medicines in the dry old mouth… This is the sad story of all marriages that have a shell, but no life inside. These marriages need resurrection power! God alone revives marriages!
I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother and a grandmother. I had to study this subject because I need to fight the demons that will attack my husband. He does his own fight. But I am his helper. I should not be ignorant of this temptation. I must help him fight bitterness and not foolishly add to it. As a wife, I have tried to keep close to my husband, spiritually in particular. It pains me when he quotes a Bible verse or teaches me something new, and I am totally ignorant of that subject. I use that pain to grow! I challenge myself to study the Word of God so that when my husband needs somebody to talk to about the Bible, I am ‘current’ with it. I have learned many things about subjects that I do not like. I know much about politics and current affairs in Nigeria. I am not a politician, but I need to know these things, if they are good or bad. Ignorance has never helped anybody. I need to know my husband’s plans, dreams, and God’s purpose for his life. I need to pray for those. I need to grow as he grows. We need to grow together! This is the safety and the sweetness of a mature marriage that even death cannot destroy! We are not competing against each other. We must complement each other. To be able to complement my husband I need to grow too. As the vision for our lives and ministry develops and increases with time, so we must grow with it. To be left behind spiritually, to be a passive wife, it is sin. If I am lazy or careless with our relationship, if I just walk lazily behind him with nothing new to add to our marriage, that sin is almost like spiritual adultery. My husband will be tempted to be worried, angry, disappointed, and bitter against me, his wife, helper, and friend. As a wife, I should not be found to be too fast and lead my husband. I should also not be found to be too slow and leave him alone. Marriage is two people learning to be one. It has a beginning! It is also a process. Each one of us must grow in grace towards God and towards one another. I should not take his love for granted. I should be watchful for any ‘virus’ of disappointment towards me that I sense in my husband. I must be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I will help him be the man God wants him to be. We both work hard at making our marriage a success. But the hard work is bringing a greater than expected harvest of peace, joy, and ministry to those who call us parents in Christ. I boldly declare that in Christ alone, our marriage is free from the pollution of bitterness! Love has won the battle! Dear children, may these words challenge you! God loves you! God loves your marriages! Glory to God!
THE MOTIVES FOR MARRIAGE
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Pet 3:1-6). This is God’s command to the wives: they should submit to their husbands, not just occasionally, but as ‘a conduct’. They should live in an attitude of submission. The reason why many wives struggle in the are of submission is because the foundation of the marriage was faulty. Dear wife, you may have to revisit the beginning of your relationship with your husband. Do it thru the leading the Holy Spirit! If the foundation was right, giving glory to God, then thank God! If the foundation was of the flesh, it means it is faulty. You may have to re-surrender your marriage to God, to start afresh on a new foundation. What is the purpose of this submission and love in the marriage? It is to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). It is for the glory if God and for the common good!
“The wives should behave with purity of motives and a reverential attitude towards their husbands. when they see your modest and respectful behavior [together with your devotion and appreciation—love your husband, encourage him, and enjoy him as a blessing from God]” (1 Pet 3:2; AMP). Wife, examine your motives. Why did you marry this man? What was your purpose? Did you fall in love with him or with his money? Did you fall in love with him or with your dream of being a bride? The motives for an action are more important to God than the action. This is a spiritual law. Dear wife, ask yourself: why did you marry your husband? What was your purpose in saying ‘yes’ to this particular man? God judges the heart, the motives behind every work and every word. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (PV 21:2). In Hebrew, the word ‘to weigh’ means to measure, to balance, to equalize, or to level. You may think that you are right, but God judges the motives of the heart. This is a warning against self-deception and carelessness. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (PV 14:12)”. If we apply this proverb to marriage, we can say: ‘you may be happy to marry that man, but the marriage will end in divorce’. God alone knows the future. He alone knows the hearts and destinies. An unbeliever marries led by his flesh, by his sexual lusts or selfish ambition. But a believer should marry only after seeking God, with fasting and praying, to know the will of God in the matter. “The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7). The word ‘refuse’ means to reject, something that will disappear, and will waste away. Even the prophet Samuel was deceived by the stature and look of David’s older brothers. God corrected his vision. This is a lesson for all of us. We must see everyone thru the eyes of the Holy Spirit who alone knows the quality and the value of each heart. Many have been deceived by outward appearance in making their choice as a marriage partner. Selah!
ADVICE TO SINGLE SISTERS
Single woman, your greatest desire should be to marry a godly man! More than wealth, fame, social status or educational level, the man you marry should be a genuine child of God! He must be serious with God. He must love the Bible and all church activities. Study the man you desire to marry, how he behaves to other females. If he is rude to other women, he will be rude to you too. If he is lazy before marriage, he will still be lazy later. Dear sister, you cannot change the heart of any man. Marriage does not change hearts. Only God does that! If you cannot respect him before the wedding, it will be impossible for you to submit to him as your husband. You need to be sure that the man you choose to marry is God’s will for you. Godly successful marriages are ‘made in heaven’ before they manifest on earth. If you marry just because your parents and friends, put pressure on you, or because you are ‘getting old’, or because you need someone who will pay your bills, or because you want children, all these are not godly reasons for marriage. Also, learn to submit to other women in the church. This is great exercise preparing you to submit to your husband. You need to pray that God will purify your heart in preparation for marriage.
Why it is hard for sisters to submit to other older ones and for wives to submit to their husbands? It is basically because they are not saved. They have an imaginary form of what it means to be a Christian woman or a wife. The Jews had the same problem. They were religious and they thought that they are right with God. That is why they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ who brought His own righteousness. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Rom 10:3). They were ignorant of what God requires and they invented their own standard of behavior. That is why they refused to submit to God’s Righteousness. In the same way, a wife who is ignorant of God’s Word about marriage, will refuse to submit to God and to her husband. She will submit to her own worldly imagination of what a wife should be. As you can see, spiritual ignorance leads to divorce. Selah!
GOD DESIRES TO BLESS YOUR MARRIAGE
The Christian marriage is different than any other. Both husband and wife need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. People may deceive others outside, but at home, the truth is clearly seen. No one can pretend when he (or she) is naked. Husband and wife cannot totally deceive one another. Today, there is much abuse of power and ignorance of true love. The husband’s love has to be like Christ’ love. This is ‘agape’ love. In the New Testament there are three words translated love. The first is ‘eros’ which describes sexual lust, a selfish love that wants something from the other. The second word is ‘phileo’ that describes friendly relations, like the love between siblings. Lastly, there is ‘agape’ love. This is God’s sacrificial love, ready to serve without any reward. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the child of God (Gal 5:22).
The husband should love his wife combining these types of love. He should love his wife, sacrificially, as his sister and friend, and sexually. Sex is God’s gift to the marriage couple. The husband should not sexually lust after other women. The gift of sexual faithfulness is for his wife alone. This is part of the romance, beauty, and mystery of marriage! God is the witness and the judge of the marriage partners (Malachi 2:14). He disciplines and He rewards! Can you imagine a court room where God is both the Witness and the Judge? He can never lose a case! Faithfulness in marriage is greatly rewarded by God!
A wise man said: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times but with the same person” (anonymous). The husband is commanded to love his wife with sacrificial agape love. He is to help her mature as a woman of God. She is to submit to his covering and mentorship. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body (Eph 5:23). Christ is the Savior of the Body. This means that Christ takes care of the Church! He does that thru the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In the same way, the wife is protected, preserved, and shielded by the husband. The wife should know this! She should appreciate the care of the husband. She should say to him: ‘My dear husband, I am touched with your love and your care for me! God bless you!’ Say it often! It helps both of you! In the marriage, the husband is the ‘head’ of the wife. What is the connection between the head and the body? They are one! There is a unity! If one stands, the other will stand! If the ‘head’ falls, the body will fall! The marriage partners do not compete, but they must complement each other. The Christian marriage is like a living Body! Each part does the word God assigned to it! The husband helps the wife, and the wife helps her husband. The Holy Spirit helps both! The body is not just a collection of parts. It is an organic whole. The husband and wife are not separate. They are one! Each one has different duties and functions, but they work for the good of the whole.
The wife is not passive. She should cooperate with the mentorship of her husband. The wife should not be guilty of independent action. The wife should not be too fast or too slow for the husband. She should quench the spirit of her husband. Leadership is a gift from God for the husband. Let him lead! But their actions should be in harmony. The wife submits to the leadership of her husband. That is not slavery of foolishness. It is obeying God’s command. The husband has the authority to lead his wife and he is responsible to God for performing his work. He knows that he is not God to his wife. He cannot control the wife’s conscience. She must make decisions led by the Holy Spirit and according to her conscience. The wife needs to see the value of being a helper to her husband. Without this vision, she cannot submit or help him.
The husband should love his wife ‘as Christ loves the Church’. To love like this, the husband needs to study the Word of God. Why does the Apostle Paul insist about this love? He wants us to know the truth about the love of Christ towards the Church. It is a mystery, it is true! But we can pray for the revelation of this mystery! Every believer should know this. Christ is the Husband to every believer!!! Mediate on this revelation! “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Rom 7:4). The Resurrected Christ is the Husband of each believer! This revelation is the source of love in marriage between a man and a woman. When you think about marriage, do you think about the Cross? When you think about falling in love to marry, do you have Resurrection in mind? This is the Biblical pattern of marriage! Selah!
The Church is the Bride of Christ. Christ loves the sinners He saved by His Grace! He is married to the Church despite her weakness and sins. Christ is not ashamed of our sins and failures. He knows that we need help to love Him too. The Church needs to be washed. He washes her. She was in rags of sin. He covered her with is Righteousness. He loves the Church not because she was beautiful. No! Christ Loved us with an everlasting love from the foundation of the world. He wants to change her His ugly wife to make her a beautiful princess of heaven! Do you believe that? Christ gave Himself for her. He could only save her by dying. And He died for her. He is concerned about her wellbeing. He desires her to be perfect. Christ is passionate about changing the Church from dirty to clean, from sinful to glory! This passion to change His Bride is the product of His Grace! King Grace is never discouraged to love His Bride! This is what you call true, eternal love!
The husband must have this same desire, to change his wife. He must have a vision for her. He must pay the price to make her wonderful. He is thinking of her future. At the wedding of the Lamb, Christ wants to show His Bride to the whole universe! Dear husbands, do you have this passion? You should! The wife is to submit to her husband and to his desire to change her. She too should desire changes, to make the husband proud. This is called the doctrine of sanctification. The submission of the wife manifests as her desire to be holy. She wants to be separated from the world and to go closer to her husband. She does not resist this change. She does not keep worldly friends. She pays the price to become the wife her husband dreams about. The wife submits and she cooperates with her husband’s dream of how his wife should be. If she has another dream of her future, she will resist his dream and refuse to submit. The marriage will not mature. Spiritually, submission equals sanctification. The unity of the Spirit is vital in a marriage so that God will bless it!
This is a beautiful picture of a wife who submits and her husband who loves. It is found in the Word of God. Study and meditate upon it! “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me” (Song 2:3-6). The wife seats under the authority of her husband. That is when she is able to see how special and loving he is. Submission to her is ‘great delight’. In this position, she is fed by him, she is led from one level of love to another. The public sees her at the ‘banqueting house’. She is well fed and refreshed. Submission brings revival. She is protected by the arms of her husband. Intimate love is seen by many as strong and growing. Selah!
Dear wife, study the Word to find what please God? As you please God, so you shall please your husband! As you know, God is pleased with faith. So, you must have faith in your husband! God rewards faith and He will bless your marriage (Heb 11:6). This is a reward worth seeking! Be filled and led by the Holy Spirit! “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). Dear wife, as you cannot please God in the flesh, you cannot please your husband if fleshly desires control you! Be kind and generous with others. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb 13:16). As God is please with Kindness, your husband will love you more if you practice kindness and generosity to all. If you please God, He will answer your prayers and your husband will love you more. “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him” (1 Jn 3:22). Find out what pleases God! Be wise and discerning! Have no worldly friends. Expose them as bad influence! As Christ is jealous over you so your husband will be. You need wisdom to please Christ and husband. Reject every form of love for the world. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph 5:8-11). Our Lord always pleased His Father. That is why He was never alone. You too, be like Jesus and the presence of God will constantly with you. “He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (Jn 8:29). Your marriage will blossom like the rose even in the desert. This is God’s desire towards you, that you, your husband and your children may prosper in life! Praise the Lord!
MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN
We do not understand marriage except we understand the doctrine of Christ and the church. The unbelievers know nothing about this. Christ loves the Church, and He has paid the ultimate price for it. This love manifests itself in practice. Love is not something theoretical. It is not something to be talked about, a song or a poem. Listen to what our Lord says: ‘If you love Me you obey My commandments’ (Jn 14:15). Based on our standards, we do not think that this love is romantic enough. But the test of a man’s love for his wife is in his doing not in his talking. The romance of marriage is mostly seen in works. This is part of the mystery of marriage. There are many sweet talkers that come your way. But they make bad husbands! Sisters, be careful! Jesus did not come to earth only to talk about His love. He talked but when the hour has come, He paid the price for His Bride to be saved. Even now, Christ does not complain saying: ‘This My Bride is so stubborn and lazy. She does not appreciate all my love for her…’ No! He continues to love His Bride, washing her with His Word, disciplining her with His rod of love! The price Christ paid for love is the ultimate price. Death for love! But He has no regrets! “For love is as strong as death” (SS 8:6). In the battle between sin and Grace, Grace won! Love won! Look at us, sinners saved by such an amazing love! We are so slow to appreciate this love! If we truly desire to honor Christ, there shall be no quarrels between husbands and wives! Study the Love of Christ! In the past, He died for the Church. At present, He washes and takes care of the Church by the Holy Spirit! In the future, this marriage will be consummated in glory! Husbands, may you have the vision of loving your wives, past present and future! Dream about perfection! Invest in greater testimonies! Never be ashamed of your love for Christ and your wife! This is the Gospel! You cannot separate justification and sanctification. It the same way, you should not separate the wedding day from the marriage. The wedding day is special and filled with joy. The rest of your life, your marriage will have challenges. But with Christ, the joy should continue ‘until death do us part’. It is Christ who saves you and sanctifies you by His Word and by His Spirit! This is ‘the washing’! He married a dirty Bride, but He will not let her remain dirty. The same who justifies is the One who sanctifies!!! That is why He died for you! If you refuse to submit willingly, He will discipline you! He will not allow you to remain the same! The decision for sanctification is not yours. It is His! Resist Him at your peril! To sanctify is to separate you from the world and to set you apart for God’s service. It also means to make holy! He moves you from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light and now He washes you! Christ isolates you! For Himself! We are saved to marry Christ and to praise Him! “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). Do you understand the doctrine of love? You are no longer free to do what you want. You belong to your Groom! Praise Him! Forever! Do you believe that? Glory!
THE POTTER AND THE CLAY
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so, he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make” (Jer 18:1-4)
One of the best pictures of submission to the authority of another is seen at ‘the potter’s house’. God sent the Prophet Jeremiah to have a clear vision about the authority of God on earth and in heaven! This revelation can also apply to the marriage. In other words, as the clay submits to the potter’s hands, so the wives should submit to their husbands. As the potter molds the clay into a vessel of his choice, so the husband should help the wife become his perfect helper.
I wanted to learn about the potter’s work. These are the stages for the humble clay to become an object of art in the Potter’s hands. 1-Finding the clay. 2- Cleaning the clay. 3- Preparing the lump as the baker prepares the dough for bread. 4- The lump goes on the potter’s turning wheel 5-The potter breaks the lump and opens the heart. 5- The lump starts to rise. 6- The Potter beautifies the vessel with his signature on it. 6-The vessel goes inside the fire to be totally purified and made strong! The fire seals the work and the beauty. 7- The vessel is ready! The test: The potter pours water into the vessel and looks inside. He must see the reflection of his face. This is his glory revealed! The humble clay has now become a vessel of honor for the Potter’s use and ready to be displayed to others!
Let us meditate upon this story. The Potter has a dream vessel in his mind. He looks for clay in the swamp. That is the best place to find good clay. Clay is humble mud!!! But the clay in the swamp is mixed with impurities. The potter knows that. He brings the clay home, and he filters out the impurities. The clay becomes now clean, free from the impurities gathered in the swamp of sin. Next, the potter uses his hands to mold the clay into a lump, just the way a baker prepares the dough for bread. The clay needs to become elastic. During this time of preparation, if the clay can talk, he will say: ‘Oh, your hands are too heavy, pressing me down… it is so painful…’ But the Potter goes on and on until the clay becomes flexible. The potter knows his work! He will say to the clay: ‘Dear clay, I love you! I know the plans I have for you. Plans of good and not of evil. To give you a hope and a future. I will change you into something beautiful, more than you are able to dream right now! Trust Me!’ After that, the potter places the lump of clay in the center of the wheel. He turns it on and on. The lump becomes like a ball. Then, the potter places his finger in the middle of the lump, breaking the heart of the clay. He breaks the heart to open it. This work is extremely painful to the clay, but the process goes on. The breaking and opening of the heart is a very intimate time between the potter and the clay. It is a time of searching the heart, the motives of our actions. It is a time of godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Love is painful in the process. But love never fails and it’s suffering ends in glory!
I testify that I am the clay under the potter’s hands. This is my advice to you: ‘Dear clay, this is not the time to give up on the potter or on yourself. Be patient! There is present pain but there is joy ahead!’ Pray like this: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps 139:23, 24)”. The next stage is the lifting of the clay. The wheel continues to turn. The potter puts pressure on the lump with one hand inside and the other outside. Slowly, the vessel rises under the potter’s gentle but firm hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6; NIV). The vessel rises. As the vessel continues to open it up, you can see the changes outside of the vessel. The potter works from inside out to make the vessel beautiful. Religion works from outside in, but God always works from inside out. The clay learns to submit to the potter’s hands working from inside out. This is called ‘sanctification’. Then, the potter beautifies the vessel with some drawings on its body. It is the seal, the signature of the Potter on the vessel. Each vessel is unique. God molds each one of His children with His hands, in a unique shape. The older the clay, the more flexible it becomes. Then, the potter puts the vessel into the fire. This is another painful process. But fear not, God will be with you in the fire! His presence is all you need! This is the testimony of all saints: Against all odds, hope blooms in the furnace. Fire burns impurities and the clay stronger. Now, if you bang the vessel with a nail, the vessel has a voice, a song! “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!
I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel” (Jdg 5:3). Sing, Deborah, sing!
If the clay refuses to submit to the potter’s hands, and refuses to drink the water of life, it becomes dry. The potter will take it away from the wheel, breaks it and softens it once more. This is the attitude of the backslider. The potter will not give up on the clay. The process starts all over again. The Potter is persistent and will not throw the clay back to the swamp of the world! Trust Him! Submit to His design! Finally, never forget! Without the Potter, the mud in the swamp will become nothing else. He will stay there, a useless thing without any hope. There shall be no beauty and no usefulness for that mud! So, bless the day when the Potter came looking for you, and found you in that deadly swamp of sin. Bless the Potter’s hands that mold you daily! You are God’s masterpiece, the work of King Grace, and the art of heaven! Angels look in wonder at what you have become! The pains of submission are not to be compared with the glory revealed in you! You must fulfill the Potter’s dream for you! God will use the vessel to pour His Word and Grace into other vessels! Worship the Lord!
“Change my heart, O God,
Make it ever true;
Change my heart, O God,
May I be like you.
You are the Potter,
I am the clay;
Mold me and make me,
This is what I pray”