Archive for February 2009

The Patriarch’s Teaching Responsibility

February 17, 2009

It is the responsibility of the patriarch to teach his family the Scriptures. No one else has been given this responsibility, and it is a responsibility that he cannot delegate to others. He is the divinely appointed head of the home, and he alone is responsible for the spiritual welfare of those under his headship. This is a God-given responsibility that cannot be surrendered to anyone. This is a serious matter before God.

This, by the way, relates directly to the truth of the church in thy house.” A home, which may include extended family and guests, led in ministry by the head of that home – the husband and father. As a general principle, other family men may from time to time be there – ideally on a learning basis, until they too can or will take on their own God-given family responsibility.

The primary teaching place is home. That is the standard of Scripture.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

… The father to the children shall make known Thy truth (Isaiah 38:19).

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:7).

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home … (I Corinthians 14:35)

James Wesley Stivers, in his work, Restoring the Foundations (Patriarch’s Publishing House) writes concerning the truth of these verses,

Can a “pastor” do this for your family? Can your child’s Sunday School teacher? No. It is impossible. What God is describing in this text is a live-in spiritual tutor. One must live with the person he is discipling [training]. Jesus lived with His twelve disciples for three years. They ate and slept in His presence … All this talk about church discipleship is fantasy. So is the concept of home cell groups. These are phony substitutes.

There seems to be something lost in a relationship between a parent and a child, if it is the decision of the parent to commission a third party to provide biblical instruction and spiritual nurture to the child in his stead. I argue that it is a dereliction of duty … Parents are to disciple their children. It is an immutable part of the vocation of parenthood.

Stuck in Weekly Religious Tradition

We naturally suppose that the “institutional church” is the primary agent in proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the Word of God. That is the primary role assigned to the “church” in our day. But it has not always been so. In early America, as it was in the earliest church, the Christian home was the spiritual center …

It is impossible to provide the basis for Christian character and spiritual experience in one of two hours a week. Constant contact with a Christian leader is necessary. That is why the “discipleship movement” was so popular in recent years. It recognized the inadequacy of the “institutional church” to provide even the basic spiritual foundations in a persons life …

Some people believe, as I was prone at one time, that if one wishes to do anything for God, one must do it within the confines of the “church” apparatus – that God’s work is done primarily at “church.” Actually … the family is the chief agent for the passing-on of the Christian faith from generation to generation. …

Even the work of evangelism, once thought to be the principle purpose of the pulpit preacher, is better done through the home. The most effective evangelist, as many men and women with tender emotion admit, is that of a godly mother or father. Better than three-fourths of all conversions come through the work of family and friends …

It is a personal faith which must be transmitted, not an abstract and institutional one.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook

Divine Sustainer

February 11, 2009

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18).

This single verse from Genesis reveals to the observant student of Scripture the most amazing role of the wife to her husband. As we shall see, the significance of this passage, as well as the divine role that the Lord has give to the wife, is truly astounding.

The wife is her husband’s companion, helper, co-laborer, and assistant. Yet her largest and most significant role is that of sustainer. This is the heart of the matter concerning God’s use of the word “help.”

Eve was made – by divine design – to be Adam’s sustainer. A careful study of the Hebrew word for “help” is where we will learn the very core of who God made the woman to be. The Hebrew word is ezer,” Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon #5828. Outside of the context of Eve, the word is used 19 more times in the Old Testament. Of these 19 times the vast majority (at least 16 of them) are a direct reference to one of God’s attributes. It is in these passages where we will gain our real understanding of this Hebrew word that is translated “help” here in Genesis chapter two.

One would notice from an examination of the passages that contain the word “ezer” in them, that God’s own role of “help” to Israel as defined by its usage is that of a rescuer, a deliverer, a life-saver – in a word, He is sustainer. His work in this regard is certainly no small matter. “Ezer” is a word that describes one who actively intervenes.

Robert Alter confirms what we learn from the usage of “ezer” in the Old Testament:

‘Ezer’ elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone …” – Genesis: Translation and Commentary, W.W. Norton & Co. (1996).

That God would use the exact same word “help” as the description of the woman is very significant. God describes Eve with the very same word that He uses to describe Himself. He committed to her one of His attributes. He gave to her one of His very own roles, so that she may be to her husband a divine vessel of sustenance.

The wife has been designed by God Himself as her husband’s sustainer. She is not merely a “helper” in the sense that she just assists him in lifting the other end of his tool chest, or assists him in balancing the checkbook (although she may do these things). No, she is his divine helper, his divine sustainer, his divinely designed life-saver.

The husband’s sustenance actually comes from God Himself – He is his sustaining source – but God has divinely determined that His sustaining provision be supplied through the instrumentality of the wife. She is God’s chosen vessel of His sustenance to the husband. She provides her husband with divine sustenance. She has been given to her husband to be God’s channel of divine enablement to him, and since this is a role rooted in divine-life, she can only fulfill her design by living God’s life to her husband.

So, God’s design in the husband-wife relationship is ultimately a spiritual one. Thus for us today, husband and wife are the closest members of Christ’s body to each other.

“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).

By God’s design, the husband-wife relationship is the very closest joint within the body of Christ. Who could be more “fitly joined together”? Thus there is an “effectual working” between the two of them, her being his designed sustainer – in the likeness of God’s very own role – and accordingly they are said to be “heirs together of the grace of life” (I Peter 3:7).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Heaven’s Embassy: the Divine Plan and Purpose of the Home
Bible Student’s Press

Workers and Lovers

February 7, 2009

Indeed, the first thing the creator God does with the man is not put him in relationship, but place him in the garden to “dress and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). God creates the woman not only as an answer to loneliness, but as a helper in this garden work (Genesis 2:18). Thus, the first humans in the garden are two things intertwined, workers and lovers …

This part of the story can prompt us to consider how erotic love and work might be deeply interconnected. For although many find themselves lost in the grind of meaningless jobs, there can be a deep erotic dimension to work that coincides with what is deepest in ourselves …

Genesis 2 preserves the vision that work can come from our core. Many of us find ourselves caught at least sometimes in oppressive or addictive work …

Indeed, the garden of Eden story sets the first human erotic relationship in the context of just such work. God begins the process of creating the woman by saying, “It is not good that the man be alone, I will make an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18) … First and foremost, the man and woman in Eden garden share in working the ground from which they were made … It is in the context of such sharing of our deepest vocations that our relationships can become sacred and joyful …

For Genesis 2 does not envision humans just in joyful embrace of one another, but also as joined in common work. And society does not just shut down humans sexually, but it also forces people to engage in crushing work that alienates rather than enlivens them … This is the way that we are alienated, day by day and hour by hour, from our core passions and dreams. We may be tempted to assume that this is just the way things are, that we just need to grin and bear it. Yet this ancient text at the outset of the Biblical tradition suggests otherwise; it suggests that the God of the cosmos originally formed us for another destiny – for shared work and love.

David M. Carr
The Erotic Word (2003), pages 34-38

Love Bestows Loveliness

February 6, 2009

There is nothing wrong with wanting a lovely garden; there is a great deal of folly in wanting a lovely garden that will tend and keep itself. The Bible teaches that a Christian husband is responsible for the loveliness of his wife. Before she is married, her father is responsible for that loveliness. When she marries, her husband assumes this responsibility. The husband’s example in this loving is Jesus Christ.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

God therefore requires husbands to love their wives with effect

I will discuss the importance of inward beauty … But because we live in a culture that is obsessed with external beauty, Christians have sometimes reacted and thought that any consideration of physical beauty is “worldly,” and that Christians should be concerned solely with spiritual qualities … But in fact, this is not spiritual Christianity at all … it is Gnostic disparagement of the material world …

A brief consideration of many scriptural passages demonstrates that there is such a thing as feminine beauty.

Abraham, for example had a beautiful wife.

“… He said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair [beautiful] woman to look upon” (Genesis 12:11).

Isaac also married a beautiful woman:

“And the damsel was very fair [beautiful] to look upon” (Genesis 24:16).

Jacob also loved a beautiful woman.

“Rachel was beautiful and well favoured” (Genesis 29:17).

When husbands undertake the assigned responsibility of loving their wives in such a way that they grow in loveliness, they need to understand that the results will be visible. This does not mean that, with the right husband, all women could be equally beautiful. Some women have the advantage of a greater natural beauty, and others had exceptional fathers – men who treated their daughters right. But it does mean that a man who marries biblically should expect his wife to be visibly lovelier on their tenth anniversary – and if she is not, he knows he is the one responsible. But as the one responsible, he has to know where true beauty begins.

Douglas Wilson
Reforming Marriage, pages 53-57

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