AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH – November 23, 2008
A CONTINUATION OF THE ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE OF THE
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES
THE FAITH OF A CHILD
AND THE CORRECTION BY THE RESURRECTION
Mark 10:14-15, 12:23-27
I THE FAITH OF A CHILD
Pharisees can ask
astonishing things. Their tingling uncertitudes sometimes match their ringing
self-righteousness. The former are often the result of non-faith, non-sight,
non-alignment, like that of wheels not only out of kilter, camber, but at right
angles to the desired direction of progress. Thus they came to Jesus Christ,
asking about the permissibility of divorcing a wife. When Christ made it clear
as in Matthew 19, that adultery alone was a just ground for this, they asked why
then Moses had made it possible to obtain a
'certificate of divorcement'.
Now that was for 'uncleanness' (Deut. 24:1-2). The divorce question as there presented, was in terms of her not returning to him after being taken by another. It was lack of favour, to be sure, but this had to have a basis, namely uncleanness. Christ proceeded to tell them about the reality of marriage, for it is not an art form in human relations, but a divine procedure, designed for a harmony and unity, a continuity and a reality such that "what God has joined together" it is not for man to ‘separate’!
To imagine that it was otherwise, Christ was showing, was contrary to the very first divine intimation in Genesis of the divine design for man in this matter. On the other hand, if there is sexual impurity, this was exceedingly explicit as a ground for divorce. In fact, Deuteronomy 22:22 shows that not merely divorce but death could be the consequence. This scarcely in context even required mention, being known for centuries, and was about as obvious as driving on this side or that of the road, since death could be invoked in THAT case! Why then the question ?
The Pharisees were slow to see, perhaps quick to desire this liberty. In Islam, it is shown often to be far easier: you do not have to show adultery! Such is the degeneration from a biblical perspective which can readily enter into the matter. It is a question of disfavour, to be sure, but not of this alone. Men are not gods, and any religion which tends to make them so, is wounding reality. This is not to say that man is not biblically given a certain presidency in the marriage situation, but it is to be borne with understanding, since he MUST LOVE THE WIFE SELF-SACRIFICIALLY, as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25-27). This allows nil domineering, and is a horror except there be love. It is not, however, sacrifice of the Lord which is in view, for His words and commands it is the man's responsibility to have honoured and fulfilled, since after all, what he has in authority is born from the authority of Him whose word is to be DONE! Each is an appointee: God is sovereign.
It is amazing, given these facts, that some churches have forbidden divorce for adultery as if Christ had never spoken as in Matthew 19 with THIS EXCLUSION notice for it prohibition. To exclude this is to play God, which unfortunately some churches do, yesterday forbidding ANY divorce, and today seeking licence for adults of the same gender to imitate marriage! The Bible however moves neither to the right nor to the left, and is not a matter of human desire, but divine directive. As Paul pursues the point, in Galatians 1: Is man to reconcile man to God by persuading God to change, or God to man by persuading man to receive God as He is! If, says Paul, I were the servant of man, I COULD NOT BE the servant of God. On that basis, not a few nominally Christian pastors are not servants of God!
Design specifications are a GIVEN thing, not for fudging, fussing about. They ARE, as much as the body is, and for that matter, the mind.
A man who finds his wife has committed adultery, of course, might elect NOT to press the matter and to forgive (on the analogy of Hosea where God does just this in the analogy, which Hosea had to practice!); but that is mercy to overlook an evil, not licence to practise one! It is conceivable that if someone left a wife, and she then married another, that this act, which did not have grounds in adultery at the outset, might allow remarriage of the man, but this is a deep matter, involving purity of motive.
Some indeed might elect not to marry, and it is a gift which has a lifetime specific, one which Paul for example found for himself. It certainly avoids the evils which are conceivable if a wife or husband becomes unfaithful. More, it teaches us the meaning of faithfulness, and of marriage, that it is a species of union so profound that to minimise it in terms of preference is to act as if for a different kind of creation than mankind, which is made in the image of God, where faithfulness is profound.
After these things, Christ in due course proceeded as we see in Mark, to bring in a child. He did not want the little ones set aside, as they sought Him (a rebuke to those who do not believe in child evangelism), but they were to come to Him personally (a rebuke to humanly controlled child evangelism). Now He showed that there was indeed a parallel between a child's desire for Him, and entry into the kingdom of heaven, and the whole relationship which this entailed. IF, He indicated, you do not enter the kingdom of heaven as a little child, you cannot enter in at all!
How then does this relate to such topics as Christian apologetics ? which indeed has sanction as in I Peter 3:15 ? It brings out the point that reason is no enemy of faith, but its confirmation. It is a testimony which stands; but it is not the same as faith. Faith is not opinion, nor is it a series of arguments, however categorical in impact.
Trust, as in a little child, is inter-personal, founded in knowledge: you KNOW what you are trusting if it is not a mere emotion; and it is the knowledge of God which is in view, for it is in HIM that you are to trust and not in another (Jeremiah 17, Psalm 2).
Child-like trust commits itself,
finds and takes its place.
2 MALADY OF MISDIRECTION
It does not argue with divine
perspective, but receives it, operates on it (Mark 12:24-27).
It believes it, as it believes that its arms in sum have two hands. Ultimately, it is induced by God (Matthew 16:17), but not without reason (Mark 8:17-19). Thus Christ in correcting a lack of perception in His disciples, as in this text, points them to HAPPENINGS of a miraculous character, as ground for EYES and EARS to report and the spirit of man to accept. It was not in a vacuum indeed that this occurred, but in a scriptural environment of terms: HE WAS AS HE IS, THE CHRIST, shown in His place and in His mission incontrovertibly, and it was long shown and known that it was in Him that one should trust. He had given ground for the identification to those with Him, and shamed them because they had not STUDIED this and RESPONDED in apt FAITH!
Faith is the natural response to truth by those made by God for God, and presented with due ground for identification of His will and word. Sin seeks to obviate this, but faith readily penetrates the obstruction, and avoiding it, as in a car one avoids a stone on the road, proceeds on its divinely appointed course. It is also a supernaturally provided understanding in which faith operates, as does a whale in water, as we see in the case of Peter and in Galatians 5, Ephesians 2. Saving faith is a gift of God, this salvation by grace through faith, we there learn. He would have all to receive it, but He knows who are His (John 3:17, Colossians 1:19ff., II Timothy 2:19).
Thus if anyone pauses at the door of faith, let that one enter; for there is invitation and none is excluded for lack of love, since GOD IS LOVE (I John 4:7) so that in nothing would He desire the death of man. But there is room for no pretence or pretension. As a child trusts (and so obeys) or does not, so is it with man. In the end, you do what you are, and this is either what God prescribes or it is not. Thus you use the means of grace or you do not, because you value them or you do not, and if you do not, it is because you are not believing. If you do, then you are changed (John 3), faith a fruit of new life in Christ. Faith acts, as James is quick to point out.
Faith does not even LOOK for a way OUT of what it believes in, in practice, like the Pharisees; it moves with insight because its eyes are open and upon the Lord to act within the kingdom of heaven.
A little later in Mark, in fact at 12:23-27, we see this time the Sadducees (those who, unlike the Pharisees, were more interested in ignoring parts of the scriptures than circumventing them, more 'liberal' in today's terms, and their way was abhorrent to Christ as you see in Luke 11:46-54). Their knowledge which should have aided many to find the Lord, was treacherously used to betray the Lord, and to turn aside even those who were entering into the kingdom. As in any war, those who affect to be loyal citizens while betraying the cause, are entirely abhorrent, frequently given the death penalty. It is such who have run many a large church over the past 100 years, and increasingly whole churches are becoming slaves in servitude to such treachery.
In this case, Sadducees, notorious for ignoring resurrection, like those with an Autumn-fixation who resolutely rejected the coming Spring, seeing only Winter at hand, posed to Christ a certain case. It was that of a woman whose husband died, only to be replaced by a brother. Then, in a repetitive series of untimely funerals, she had replacement husbands, and thus several successively. Whose wife would she be in heaven ? asked the smirking pseudo-scholars.
Christ declared them IGNORANT (the very thing which their learning would supposedly have excluded, such is the shame of dissidence from deity) on two counts. First they did not KNOW the scripture, and second they did not know the POWER of GOD!
As to the first, He recalled that God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the episode of Moses at the burning bush. The language indicates continuity not termination. He is the God of the living, not of the dead, He declared, with an apparent overtone that those before Him would not understand this SINCE THEY for their part, were NOT among the living! They were not saved, mere scurrilous imposters. Those who attend churches which allow the slicing off of parts of the Bible, or the ignoring of it in any part, or addition, do not well to have the dead as pastors. "Be separate," says Paul, "and do not touch the unclean thing!" - citing Isaiah 52:11. Nor is it only stark unbelief, as there, that is involved, as you see in I Timothy 6, Romans 16, Ephesians 5-6, but deviation from the words of Christ. This is achieved by addition or subtraction, by ignoring or roaring out your own ideas as if part of the word and will of God: both are a work of blindness.
The resurrection is part of the reality of having the God of the LIVING, as YOUR GOD. What it takes, to create, to resurrect, He does. He does not speak in myths, leaving that to the profusion of delusion in our own advanced part of the Age, as predicted (II Timothy 4).
It is also showed, this rejection of resurrection by specious argument on the part of the Sadducees, that they did not believe in the power of God. Creation gives an index at the outset to the entire, utter power of God. We are brought into being at His word (now seen in DNA in amazing fashions, a causative code enabling reproduction to occur, not magically, but by the will and the word of God, as inscribed, and inscribed because uttered, and uttered because He desired to CREATE MAN). We are sustained in being by the same word, which inscribed in the Bible and in the heart of believers (as in Hebrews 8), is plain with vast force (as in John 11:25-26, and the practical action seen and heard with eyes and ears). Die ? then resurrection. Lose this life in the Lord ? then receive eternal life, and having received it, receive resurrection.
There are thus three vast creative actions for the Christian. One is to be CREATED, as part of mankind in the image of God; the next is to have the Lord's light enter so that one becomes a NEW CREATION (II Corinthians 4:6, 5:17), which is put by Paul in direct parallel with the total creation as such, in the first place a in Genesis. The third is to be RESURRECTED, so that one is not junked as to reality, but merely changes mode, from a fallible body to an infallible because protected one, from a testable body, to an incontestable body, from a mortal body to an immortal one (II Corinthians). Without believing this, man is not a Christian, but a heretic (I Corinthians 15-16); for it is basic to the faith. Believing it, and confessing (not just professing) Christ as Lord, this is the open door to being a Christian. Such are saved. When it is REAL it influences everything from attitude to practical faith in its applications. It does not make perfection, but it is protection from mere artificiality and formalism!
Let us return now to our thoughts on reason and faith. Thus while reason verifies, faith rejoices, does not prevaricate or presume, but acts with assurance on the premisses given by God.
Faith fears offending God with squirming, having a clean fear born of love (John 14:22-24),
but looks with understanding, rejoicing in the living God as Saviour, Counsellor, Master,
braces itself for conflict (Ephesians 6),
admits no repression (Luke 9:26),
gives expression (Romans 10:9).
Reason does what it is good at, it is reasonable and shows the truth.
Faith does what it is called to, it believes God.
Faith like that of a little child, is
unquestioning, but not illiterate,
is assured, but not bucolic,
is masterful because God is sure,
but is not presumptuous,
expects great things of the Lord, but does not prescribe His counsel,
rejoices in Him who calls, because He is sublime, spiritual and pure,
the very God of his/her creation, regeneration, avocation and heart's desire.