When the Honeymoon is Over
Mike Benson, Evansville, Indiana
My mind reels every time I read this story . . .
The day had finally arrived for Jacob. For seven years he had looked forward to making Rachel his wife (Gen. 29:18). He had served the better part of a decade for his bride-to-be, and it had seemed but a few days to him (v. 20).
Following the "wedding reception" (v. 22), Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, brought his new bride to him in the evening. The newly-married couple then spent their first intimate night alone (vv. 21, 23):
It was the custom to have a great festive week after a wedding, beginning with a banquet on the nuptial night, with many male guests invited. At the proper time, when the wedding formalities had been observed, Laban presented his daughter to Jacob as his wife.
Although Leah was veiled, Jacob never questioned that it was really Rachel. The two sisters were no doubt sufficiently alike in stature and general mien, probably even in tone of voice, that the deception was fairly easy to accomplish on the unsuspecting Jacob. When he took her into his chambers and into his bed, it was dark, and no doubt much of the conversation that night was in whispers and in brief words of love. Probably also Leah had been arrayed in Rachel’s clothing and perfumes. It was not until the morning that Jacob actually saw he had been grievously deceived [Henry Morris, "Jacob and Laban," The Genesis Record, Baker, 461].
Amazing, isn’t it? Rather than sleeping with Rachel, Jacob had spent the first night of his honeymoon alone with Leah (v. 17)—and he didn’t even know it!
We can only imagine the anger and shock that he felt at the moment of discovery. The Bible says, "So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’" (v. 25). Jacob’s kinfolk had conspired against him, and he found himself in bed not with the beautiful daughter of Laban, but with the tender-eyed1 daughter of Laban (v.17).2 He must have been hurt.
May I suggest that Jacob is not the only person to have experienced this kind of "morning revelation"? Every day, newlyweds around the world awaken to the realization that they’ve married the wrong person. Like Jacob, they discover that they’ve joined themselves to someone far below their expectations:
"I never knew he had a drinking problem . . ."
"I always assumed she would attend worship with me . . ."
"I never realized he had such a temper . . ."
"I never imagined she could be so careless with money . . ."
"I never noticed when we were dating that he could be so possessive and controlling . . ."
The truth is, we ALL eventually "wake up" and find ourselves in this kind of circumstance (cf. Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8,10). Imperfections that were once hidden [or overlooked] inevitably come to light and the honeymoon draws to an end. But what happens at this juncture is critical because when we experience real disappointment in our mates, the relationship then takes one of two directions. Either the union begins to dissolve and divorce ensues, or else we commit ourselves to making the marriage succeed (Matt. 19:6; cf. Rom. 7:3). Jacob decided to take the latter approach. Despite his frustration, he was able to "work through" (vv. 26-30) his unique marital problems and find an acceptable solution. Granted, the Patriarch lived under a different law and dispensation than we do today (cf. Gal. 6:2), but the principle remains the same. We can bemoan the fact we didn’t marry a "Prince Charming" or "Cinderella," or we can make adjustments and bring real substance to our vows.
Dear reader, what will you do when you experience disappointment in your marriage? How will you respond when you realize that you’ve married "the wrong person"? Will you work like Jacob (cf. Lk. 9:23; cf. Eph. 5:25, 28-29; Tit. 2:4), or will you run?
1I find it noteworthy that Jacob earlier in life had deceived his father (Gen. 27:1ff), Isaac, about his own identity. Now the tables have been turned on him in return (cf. Gal. 6:7).
2The description "tender-eyed" in Hebrew means weak-eyed, a turning eye, or cross-eyed. Evidently, Leah had a problem with her sight and the disfigurement made her face unappealing.
Establishment of the Church
Gus Nichols, 1892-1975
The church of Christ had not been established during the personal ministry of Christ, or during the period of the limited commission before the death of Christ. It was during that time that Christ said, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). "Will build" is future tense. Christ had already sent the apostles out to preach under the limited commission (Matt. 10). But the church had not yet been built or established.
Church and kingdom
There is no difference in the church of Christ and the kingdom of Christ. When Christ said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18), He immediately said, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (v. 19). The Lord’s table is in His kingdom (Lk. 22:29-30). But the Lord’s table is in the church (1 Cor. 11:23-34; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:16,21). Therefore, the church and the kingdom are one and the same thing. Of course, the church is a spiritual kingdom, and not a literal one. Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
Kingdom had not come in the Old Testament
The kingdom of the Lord had not come in the Old Testament. Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, Daniel said, "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed" (Dan. 2:44). This referred to the days of the Roman Caesars, or to the fourth kingdom then under consideration (Dan. 2:26-44).
To be for all nations
Daniel also said, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14).
To be established in last days
Isaiah said, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it" (Isa. 2:2). Joel said the Spirit would be poured out in the last days (Joel 2:28-32). Peter quoted this as fulfilled beginning on Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21).
"At hand" before the cross
John the Baptist preached, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). "At hand" meant it had not come but its coming was nigh (See Joel 1:15; 2 Tim. 4:6). Later, "Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). If the kingdom was still future when John said it was "at hand" then it was still future when Jesus said it was "at hand." As recorded by Mark, Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk. 1:15). Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10). In giving the limited commission Jesus said, "And as ye go, preach, saying, "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10:7). Later Jesus sent out seventy more teachers and said to them, "Say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (Lk. 10:9). Again, "Be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (Luke 10:11). Here are John, Jesus, the twelve, and the seventy, making eighty-four preachers out preaching before the cross the good news that the "kingdom of heaven" or "kingdom of God" was "at hand" or had "come nigh." All of this meant the church was about to be established. It was during this time that Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18).
Had not come at the crucifixion
Just before His death, Jesus said unto His disciples, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). The kingdom had not come, but was to come in the lifetime of some then living and present.
At the last supper, the night before the crucifixion, Jesus said, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:28-30).
That same night, when He instituted the Lord’s supper, Jesus said, "For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come" (Luke 22:18).
One of the thieves became penitent at the crucifixion and said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42). After the crucifixion was over, "Joseph of Arimathea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus" (Mark 15:43).
Had not come near the ascension
Near the ascension of Jesus the kingdom had not come, for the apostles said, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power, but ye shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:6-8). The next verses tell about His ascension.
Had to ascend first
Daniel said, "And I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man, came with the clouds of heaven (the ascension, Acts 1:9-11), and came to the Ancient of days (to God), and they brought him (Christ) near before him (God). And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people (as in the Commission), nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14).
The parable of the nobleman
On one occasion the disciples thought the kingdom would come upon their arrival in the city, and Jesus "spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman (Jesus) went into a far country (heaven) to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return" (Luke 19:11-14). Yes, Christ had to go into heaven before He could receive His kingdom. He is now ruling over His kingdom from His throne at God’s right hand. And when He comes He will condemn those who would not have Him rule over them.
His throne is in heaven
Christ had to ascend to heaven to sit on His throne and to receive His kingdom, and to rule over men on earth. Like Melchizedek, Christ is both king and priest at the same time (Heb. 7:1; Gen. 14:18). He could not be a priest and rule as a king until He ascended to heaven and sat down on His throne. The prophet said, "behold the man whose name is the Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord (the church, 1 Cor. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:18), even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech. 6:12-13).
The Lord’s throne is in heaven. God said, "Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven" (Psalms 89:35-37). Yes, Christ’s throne is in heaven (See also 2 Sam. 7:12-13). Peter quoted these passages on Pentecost as fulfilled in Christ: "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" (Psalms 132:11). The angel promised Jesus the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33).
Raised to sit on David’s throne
Peter commented on these Scriptures on Pentecost and said of David, "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne. He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hades, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:30-31). Yes, Christ was raised up from the dead to sit on David’s throne in heaven. "Therefore, being by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost (the throne of David promised by the Holy Spirit), he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens, but he saith himself, The Lord (God the Father) said unto my Lord (Christ), Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool" (Acts 2:33-35, quoted from Psalms 110:1). Then he later says, "The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the days of his wrath" (Psalms. 110:5).
But when did the kingdom come?
Christ having ascended to be seated on David’s throne, and to receive His kingdom from God the Father, sent His kingdom, His reign, upon earth on Pentecost. Jesus had said the kingdom would come when the power of the Holy Spirit should come. "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power" (Mk. 9:1). But the power was to come when the Spirit (promised in commission) should come (Luke 24:46-49). Again, Christ said, "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8).
Kingdom came on Pentecost
This power and the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost (Acts 2). They were then filled with the Holy Spirit and could preach the gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven (Acts 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:12). The coming of the Spirit on Pentecost is called "the beginning" (Acts 11:15). The New Testament was then ready to go in force (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:20-23; Acts 2:1-4). The kingdom had now come, been set up, established. The gospel was preached that day, and about three thousand obeyed it and were added to the church, which Christ had promised to build (Acts 2:36-47; Matt. 16:18).
The establishment of the kingdom is now a matter of history. The church has been established. Those who obey the gospel of the commission are added to the church, or translated into the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13; Acts 2:41,47). When Jesus comes again He will present this kingdom unto God the Father, and then the faithful will be forever with Him in heaven (1 Cor. 15:22-26; 2 Pet. 1:5-11). Heaven will be the glorified state of the kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18-20).
Homosexuality: This is Where We Part Ways
Brad Harrub, Apologetics Press, Montgomery, Alabama
The phone call was like many we receive at our offices. Someone had come across an article on our web site and wanted to talk to someone about it. In the course of our conversation, the young man spoke passionately about his beliefs, defending what he felt was right. About fifteen minutes into the conversation, he made the following comment: "Yes, I feel like I must speak up and be heard, similar to the homosexuals today who desire equal rights." Up until that moment, we were having a healthy conversation and were both able to communicate various views and ideas. But with those words, our conversation took an abrupt turn. I told this young man that this is where he and I "were definitely going to part ways." (Obviously, this individual was not familiar with Apologetics Press and our stance to defend New Testament Christianity).
Having struck a nerve, the caller asked me if I was kidding. In amazement, he went on to comment that he could not believe I did not want all people to "share equal rights." I assured him that all people were created in the "image and likeness" of God (Gen. 1:26-27), but that did not stop people from committing acts that God would not endorse (e.g., rape, murder, stealing). He then questioned my love for others, and asked, "how can someone who professes Christianity treat others with such disdain?" Sadly, the world has done an excellent job of teaching this young man that anyone who does not accept homosexuality is guilty of the worst type of sin—the sin of intolerance. I reassured him that I tried very hard to treat all humans in a loving manner, but that did not mean I (or, more important, God) approved of their actions. Our conversation continued for another fifteen minutes, as I continued reminding him that no matter how you slice it, the Bible—God’s Word—viewed homosexual practices as sin (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 1:26-32; Lev. 18:22). I kept reiterating the point that sin separates us from God (Isa. 59:1-2), and as such, those who continued to practice such acts without repenting would spend eternity in torment.
Over and over this young man kept questioning why I would not want to give equal marriage rights to other "fellow human beings." And over and over I stated very simply that what I wanted did not really matter. Rather, God had set forth a plan, and we as obedient Christians are to follow that plan. The gentleman noted that legislation likely would be passed in my lifetime recognizing homosexual marriages as true unions. I conceded that, unfortunately, he probably was right, but I continued to stress that laws would not change this abomination in the eyes of the Lord (think—abortion). Changing tactics, he tried to discredit the Bible, but quickly realized that was not going to be possible, given the resources I had at my fingertips. Looking for any means to put a chink in my argument, he stressed that the "majority" of Americans were now accepting homosexual couples. He pointed to the numerous examples that are clearly evident in our media. I told him that, yes, I was aware that most sitcoms felt obligated to have a token "homosexual" couple in order to be politically correct. But I noted that I have just as much of an obligation to keep such material out of my household. Just because Hollywood embraces it does not give it credence. I patiently reminded him that just because the majority accepted something (e.g., abortion, divorce), that did not make it right. I quoted Matthew 7:13-14, and mentioned that Christians were never going to be in the majority. We are to be transformed, not conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2). He laughed, and asked how I could believe in a God who would send the majority of people to hell. I responded by asking him how many people he knew who were willing to be obedient to and serve an all-powerful God. After his silence, I told him that God is not only a just God, but He also is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. I pointed out that, sadly, society has mischaracterized God as so "loving" that He will accept everyone and all of their actions. I reassured him that while society might continue to bow up their backs against God’s divine edicts, that did not change the fact that one day, every knee would bow (Phil. 2:10).
He pointed out that Americans were becoming more compliant; I repeated that made no difference—look at how our society now views marriage and divorce. Multiple marriages are common. In fact, some time ago, I was walking through airport security and a man in front of me laughed aloud and said to his two male friends, "who doesn’t have an ex-wife these days?" What a tragic commentary on our society! I told the young man on the phone that if someone were homosexual, he or she did have the ability to remain celibate—just like someone who has been divorced for unscriptural reasons. This young man could not have expressed more incredulity. He asked me if I really thought that men and women should remain celibate just because they were homosexual or happened to get out of a "bad" marriage. He said, "you can’t be serious." I reminded him that the rewards in eternity far exceeded any earthly pleasures.
This young man then pointed out that he found it ironic that God had allowed homosexuals to be "born like that." Again, not realizing my background (anatomy and neurobiology), I quickly reminded him that scientists have completed the human genome this year, and no "homosexual" gene has ever been found—which is interesting, given all the time and money that has been focused on finding just such a genetic causative agent. Certainly, society wants the vast majority to believe that these individuals "cannot help themselves," yet according to science, there are no data that support his "born with it" view. We ended our conversation with his asking me if I really thought that God would send people to hell simply because they acted on the "feelings" they had for members of the same sex. He could not fathom my simple response. I told him, "Yes, because the Bible says that is exactly what He will do!"
Friends, the vocal homosexual minority has had their fifteen minutes in the spotlight—their time is up! It’s high time Christians remind the world of the definition of sin. How long will we sit by idly and allow legislation to be passed that destroys God’s original plan for families? How long are we going to continue to support news and media networks that openly endorse gay relationships? Are we so intimidated that we have completely forgotten what God’s Word says on the matter? Has the homosexual agenda succeeded in characterizing everyone who does not accept their movement as tantamount to committing "hate crimes?" We shake our heads as denominations openly install a homosexual "bishop," but what happens when a homosexual wants to work with the youth in a local congregation? Will we continue to remain passive? If homosexual marriages are acceptable, then why not go ahead and legalize bestiality, pedophilia, and polygamy—after all, these are simply individuals wanting their "equal rights." How far are we going to let this go before we finally speak up and inform the world that homosexual acts are sin that bring about spiritual death (Rom. 6:23; Jam. 1:13-15)? This young man labeled me as a fundamentalist. If "fundamentalist" means that I am striving diligently to follow the directives set forth in the Bible, then I thank him for that compliment.
God Is "Number Conscious"
Neal Pollard, Mechanicsville, Virginia
Occasionally the accusation, "you are just number conscious," flies. If we speak in terms of attendance and emphasize its importance, we may justify mentioning it by saying that numbers represent souls. That is true, but there is no need to be ashamed of "number consciousness." After all, the Holy Spirit must have been.
The Holy Spirit chose the wording of the Bible (cf. 1 Cor. 2:13 - "combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words"). Did you know He chose the noun arithmos (from whence comes "arithmetic") eighteen times in the New Testament, with five occurring in Acts? Each time the word is used, God has been counting. In Acts, God is keeping track of the numbers being converted and the numbers making up the community of the converted—the church. Arithmos, in the literal sense, means "to count" or "to reckon," and "sum" or "number" (Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1, 461). In these passages from Acts, arithmos is used literally and specifically—"the number of the men came to be about five thousand" (4:4), "a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves [to Theudas]" (5:36), "the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly . . ." (6:7), "a large number . . . believed" (11:21), and "the churches . . . were increasing in number daily" (16:5). Aside from Gamaliel’s Acts 5 speech, the Acts passages report numerical growth in the early church.
Gearing our programs and preaching at all costs (and compromise) to optimize our attendance figures is not what is prompted here. Truth offends and turns away many. That primitive church had a large share of enemies and detractors. While many submitted to immersion, some resorted to throwing stones (Acts 7:58; 14:19). The early Christians were tarred, run over, beaten, imprisoned, burned alive, fed to lions, exiled, and otherwise mistreated. While this was sporadic, it was often intense. That is an obvious indication they had a number of enemies. Yet, through living hope (1 Pet. 1:3), they worked at their mission and God gave the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). All the while, Heaven kept count.
Long before the cross, God had said, "Behold, all souls are Mine" (Ezek. 18:4). He’s been in every delivery room. He’s heard every baby’s cry, watched every skinned knee, been privy to every child’s fear, and seen every sinful word and action develop. He was there at the moment every individual crossed the line from "safe" to "separated" (cf. Isa. 59:2). As Creator and Redeemer, God rightly marks down every instance where a person goes from "separated" to "saved." So, let’s think like God, pursue evangelistic opportunities, teach the truth, and the number of disciples will increase. Be "number conscious"!
"The Love of Christ Constraineth Us"
Hugo McCord, Vancouver, Washington
The love of Christ - who can describe it? It supersedes sexual love (eros), and family love (storge), and friendship love (philia). It is what God is: agape (1 John 4:8). It is selfless service, undying concern, and unending commitment. It is unconditional, impartial, and never failing. It has been called the "in spite of" love.
When the love of Christ takes hold of a sinner’s heart, he confers "not with flesh and blood," but immediately he rushes, even at midnight, to the water of baptism (Acts 16:25-34).
On arising from the water, he is never the same again! From that moment he lives "no longer" for himself, but only for Him who died for him (2 Cor. 5:14-15). He has "crucified" and "buried" his "old" self, and is "renewed in the spirit of his mind" (Gal. 5:24; Rom. 6:4; Eph. 4:22-23). He is a "new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17).
Everlastingly grateful, he describes to all who will hear "the excellencies of him who called" him "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). He exclaims that Jesus "loved me, and gave himself for me," yet not for him alone, "but for the whole world" (Gal. 2:20; 1 John 2:2).
He may be criticized or even spurned by his blood-kin, but what Jesus has done for him means everything. He is grieved, because of mother love, if he has to turn away from mother’s religion, but his decision has been made, and he will not turn back. One man, some 24 years after the love of Christ mastered him, was still grieving about his kinfolks: "I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brothers’ sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:2-3).
Oh! How much he wanted his kinfolks to be taken over by Christ’s love! He wrote, "My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved" (Rom. 10:1).
All the rest of his life, after Christ’s love took over, for some 34 years, he suffered prisons, lashings, and even stoning. But the constraint of Christ’s love, "an urge with irresistible force," made him say, about all the threats against him, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).
The word "constraineth" is variously defined as taking hold, ruling, controlling, compelling, urging, seizing, inciting, and driving. But something more meaningful than all dictionary definitions is to see sinner in action after the love of Christ has captured him. For example, spend some time with a man named Epaphroditus.
The parents of Epaphroditus, apparently residents of Philippi in Macedonia, named their son in honor of Aphrodite (Venus), the Grecian goddess of love. In the Lord’s providence, Paul and Silas preached Christ’s love in Philippi in the 50s. Lydia and a jailor and others yielded to that love and obeyed the gospel (Acts 16:11-34). Epaphroditus did also, turning from his parents’ pagan religion (Phil. 2:25-30).
We hope that the parents of Epaphroditus became Christians also, but we are certain that Christ’s love captured the heart of Epaphroditus, moving him to live for Jesus who had died for him (Phil. 2:25-30).
In the spring of A.D. 61, Paul arrived in Rome, a prisoner in chains, but, instead of being imprisoned, he was allowed to rent a house and live there (Acts 28:30). However, rent had to be paid, and food had to be bought. Paul’s money ran out. He could not follow his trade of tent making, for the authorities kept Paul chained to a soldier (Acts 28:16, 20). Even when he had company and made a speech to visitors, the chain was visible (Acts 28:20).
Over at Philippi, Christians had not forgotten the man who introduced them to Jesus. Somehow they heard that Paul was a prisoner in Rome and needed money badly. Those loving Christians, constrained by the love of Christ, took a collection of money for Paul, and they asked Epaphroditus to carry it to Rome. He was to be their messenger (literally, their apostle, apostolos, Phil. 2:25).
What a trip! Over 400 miles! By land and by water. And after he had arrived, a disappointment! The money was not enough! What to do? Christ’s love constrained Epaphroditus to get a job in Rome to earn money to assist Paul. Very likely he held down two jobs, for he became ill, very ill.
Paul insisted that he go home, and he wrote a letter to the Philippian Christians, asking them to receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold such people in honor. He was near death for Christ’s work, risking his life, that he might make up your lack of service to me (Phil. 2:25-30).
Paul esteemed Epaphroditus highly. He wrote to the Philippians what that man meant to him personally, saying he "is my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier" and "servant of my need." And he let the Philippians know how greatly he was relieved when Epaphroditus had recovered: "God had mercy on him, and not only him, but also on me, so that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow" (Phil. 2:27).
We hope that Epaphroditus was able to make the arduous trip back home. However, we will not know until we talk with him in heaven.
Besides Epaphroditus, many early Christians, constrained by Christ’s love, made themselves "living" sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). Some became dead sacrifices, as Antipas of Pergamus, not loving life "so much as to refuse to die" (Rev. 12:11). Jesus looked down from heaven and saw Antipas "slain," and sent word to John on the isle of Patmos that Antipas was "my faithful martyr" (Rev. 2:13).
Before John died, he went to Smyrna and appointed Polycarp as an elder of the church there. He is another wholly motivated by Christ’s love, but living in a time when Christianity was both unpopular and illegal. Both the Jews and the Roman government tried to stamp out Christianity.
The Roman consul gave Polycarp a choice: "Swear, and I will release you: curse Christ!" Polycarp replied, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me. How then shall I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?" The old man was ordered to be burned at the stake. The Jews helped gather logs for the fire. Today at Smyrna (present day Izmar), on the slope of Mt. Pagus, are the ruins of a theater and a stadium close by the spot where Polycarp died in flames on Saturday, February 23, A.D. 155.
Many centuries later, on a farm out from Dickson, Tennessee, a mother told her children about the work of J.M. McCaleb, who left comfortable America in 1892 to live in pagan Japan, being constrained by Christ’s love. One of her daughters, Sarah Andrews, was baptized at age fourteen, and told her parents she wanted to do what J.M. McCaleb had done. What? A female missionary! In a foreign language? Thousands of miles from Tennessee! Alone! What nerve!
That was 1904, and she would not change her mind! At age twenty-five, sponsored by no congregation, supported only by her parents, on Christmas Day, 1915, she left alone for Japan. There she served unrelentingly for forty-six years, teaching neighborhood women, boys, and girls. Mack Wayne Craig, her nephew, wrote,
Because she was a single woman, much of her work was devoted to teaching girls and women. She used her house to teach them to cook and sew, as well as to help them learn of the Savior. . . . When war broke out, she was interned as an enemy alien, and confined to her house. Wounded soldiers were brought to her house for her to be a nurse for them. "I did my best," but "because of a lack of food, I broke down." My body began swelling, which is one sign of starvation. . . . I weighed only 75 pounds. . . . There was a duration of almost three years that I had no word from the homeland whatsoever.
Today there are three congregations in Japan that she helped to establish. The church in Dickson, Tennessee, supported her for the last twenty-five years of her life. When she was asked to retire and to move back to Tennessee, she replied, "It is just as near to heaven from Japan as it is from America.
An orphan girl, Oiha San, mothered by Sarah in her home, grew up and loved Sarah deeply. At Sarah’s grave in Shizuoka, Oiha and others erected a monument in her memory. Ten years later, at the Sunday morning service in Shizuoka, December 26, 1971, Hugo and Lois McCord met and hugged and reminisced with the gray-haired Oiha San. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," all being constrained by Christ’s love (Rev. 14:13).
You did something today that you will never do in Heaven
Allen Webster, Jacksonville, Alabama
You did not realize it, but you have been involved today in activities that would be completely inappropriate in heaven. No, not sinful things (hopefully), but little things that serve to remind us that we are not at home in this world. Most likely today, you have done more than one of these things.
You drove by a cemetery. There are no hillsides dotted with the markers of loved ones "across Jordan." You won’t find silent cities of the dead in heaven, for no one ever dies there! John wrote, ". . . there shall be no more death . . ." (Rev. 21:4).
You turned on a light switch. There is no darkness there . . . "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Rev. 21:23). "There shall be no night there" (Rev. 21:25b), so there will be no street lamps, no night lights, no candles, and no light switches.
You faced a temptation. We face temptations daily in this life, because the devil and his workers are ever busy (1 Pet. 5:8). Oh how we wish we could lay our armor aside and just rest from the constant battle of faith (Eph. 6:13-18). That day is coming! In the land where we are staking our claim, the devil has no passport! In fact, he will have been cast down into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10). His helpers, too, who are personified as the beast and the false prophet by John, will be cast into that lake (19:20).
You visited a sick person. Each week, we try to get by to see the sick in hospitals or shut-in at home, but we’ll never do so in heaven. Sickness is a result of the fall, and all those ill effects are reversed in heaven. John said, ". . . the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4).
You locked your doors. We live in a wicked society. Every night the news tells us about those who were robbed, beaten, and killed the night before. We rush to fasten our windows, bolt our doors, and secure our homes. But, did you know that there will be no bad news in heaven?! The doors on those mansions have no dead bolts, the windows have no locks, and there are no burglar alarms. "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life" (Rev. 21:27). The wedding feast is by "invitation only" and nobody crashes that party!
You saw an old person. We daily see the aging process in ourselves and our loved ones. Our skin wrinkles, our vision dims, our strength fails, our hearing goes, our energy wanes (cf. Eccl. 12:3-7). But in that land there are no retirement homes and no nursing facilities because there are no old people! (Well, we’ll all be old, but no one will show it.) There we receive new, incorruptible bodies (2 Cor. 5:1-6).
You shed a tear. Hardly a week goes by in which there is not some sadness mixed with our blessings. We face heartaches, and sometimes heartbreaks, far more frequently than would be our choice. But did you know that the Bible says, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying . . ."?
You took an aspirin. Here we have to deal with headaches, arthritis, and a million other pains. There are no drug stores in heaven! Because nobody has any sicknesses. John wrote, ". . . neither shall there be any more pain . . ." (Rev. 21:4).Don’t you want to go home?
Does Baptism Sanctify an Unscriptural Relationship?
Neil Richey, Lynchburg, Virginia
The scenario is this - a man and a woman marry (both having never been married before). Neither is a Christian. After several years, the same man and woman decide to divorce (fornication is not the cause). They have clearly violated Matthew 5:32. Now suppose that the man marries again, and he is now out of ignorance living in adultery (cf. Matt. 19:9). While in this relationship he is taught how to become a Christian. He is therefore baptized for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38). Question, did his baptism sanctify (make right) his relationship with his new wife?1. Baptism never makes a sinful act a righteous act. If it was adultery before he became a Christian, it remains adultery after he becomes a Christian. I read about a preacher and elder who went to talk to the husband of one of the members about becoming a Christian. After sitting down and studying the Bible together, the man asked the elder and preacher to follow him into the woods. They came upon a moonshine still. The man asked, "Can I continue to operate this still and be a Christian?" When he was told that he could not, he began chopping the still into pieces. He then said, "I am ready to become a Christian." We know that one cannot be a Christian and continue to operate a moonshine still. But, do we also know that one cannot be a Christian and continue to live in adultery?2. Baptism never sanctifies an unscriptural relationship. Suppose that two men are living together in a homosexual relationship. They hear the gospel and desire to become Christians. Would baptism make their relationship right? Would they then have the right to continue to live in that relationship after being baptized for the forgiveness of sin? We understand that baptism does not sanctify the unscriptural relationship of a homosexual couple (1 Cor. 6:9), but do we also know that baptism does not sanctify a marriage relationship that is adulterous?
In a study such as this, the question arises, "Can one who is in an unscriptural marriage not obtain forgiveness for his sins?" Without question, he can. Anyone who chooses to submit his will to God’s may have God’s pardon. But, without meeting God’s terms there is never pardon, and one of those terms is repentance (Luke 13:3). To repent means "to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins" (Thayer). In other words, when one repents, he decides that he will not continue in sin. For instance, he who was making moonshine will no longer make it. He who committed sins of a homosexual nature will not do that anymore. Likewise, he that is living in adultery will not live in adultery any longer.