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adultery authority divorce fornication marriage Uncategorized

Observations From Perhaps The Most Difficult Passage In The New Testament

Neal Pollard

What is perhaps the most difficult statement in the Bible is not grammatically complex or difficult to comprehend from an intellectual standpoint. But what elder, preacher, or other member has not agonized over it many times. Asked point blank for His teaching on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, Jesus says, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Mat. 19:8-9). There are quite a few observations that can be made from this reading.

  • Jesus makes a timeless statement (“from the beginning”).
  • Jesus makes a universal statement (This applies to “whoever”).
  • Jesus makes an authoritative statement (“I say to you”)–Matthew often reveals Jesus’ contrasting His teaching with the inferior Law of Moses.
  • Jesus does not mandate (necessitate) that divorce occur in the case of fornication.
  • Jesus identifies the exception to the rule (“whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery”)–It is fornication (BDAG–“Unlawful sexual intercourse”).
  • Jesus’ teaching here cannot be negated by other Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 7; 2 Cor. 5:17).
  • Jesus teaches that another marriage (excepting for one’s spouse’s fornication) is adulterous.
  • Jesus does not free the guilty to remarry.
  • The duration of adultery in the second marriage considered by Jesus persists as long as that subsequent marriage persists.
  • The teaching has been difficult from this inception (see Mat. 19:10-12).

This passage must be taught patiently, lovingly, wisely, compassionately, and prayerfully! Yet, on what grounds can we decide not to teach it? Treating it with the reverence it deserves, why would we seek to dismantle or discredit it? Of course, we would not.  By teaching it, we risk losing good will and favor with many but by teaching it as Jesus taught it we show respect and fidelity to His supreme authority. May God grant us “a spirit…of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7) on this eternally important passage. 

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Categories
contribution giving Uncategorized worship

A Small Portion Does Not Mean Small Proportion

Neal Pollard

Those who address us prior to our giving often make a statement like this, that we are giving back but a small portion of what God has blessed us with. In other words, if you could owned and could contribute all the world’s wealth, week after week, how would that compare to the sacrificial gift of Christ (cf. Mat. 16:26)? In fact, how could it compare with the many additional blessings besides atonement—a body equipped with the ability to perform involuntary actions (breathing, blood flow, cell regeneration, etc.), an environment conducive to life (air to breathe, photosynthesis, etc.), a planet in harmony with sun and moon making life possible, and the list is endless. It is not only impossible to out-give God, it is impossible to come anywhere close.

The Bible does not dictate a percentage for the New Testament Christian giver. The inferior covenant (cf. Heb. 8:7-8) required a tenth of all (Heb. 7:5), a pretty good benchmark for those of us having access to the better covenant established upon better promises. It is impossible to know what anyone might be thinking who hears the well-intended, if well-worn, statement, “We have the opportunity to give back a small portion of the many blessings we have received…” It does not mean, “A small proportion.” Nowhere does the Bible sanction stingy, leftover-style giving. In fact, it condemns such (read Malachi). Instead, Paul writes, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).

Giving involves a monetary, financial exercise, but it is a distinctly spiritual activity. It is an act of trust, a faith that the God who has provided will continue to provide and bless the one who bountifully shares what he has been given. When we, like the Macedonians, give beyond what we believe is beyond our ability (2 Cor. 8:1-5), we open up an exciting door in our walk with Christ.

If you are one who gives a small proportion of your income, may I challenge you to increase it? See what happens in your life. You are not giving to manipulate or coerce God, but you will experience a growth not possible on the “small proportion” side of generous giving. Trust Him! He has never broken a promise yet (read Mal. 3:10 and Luke 6:38).

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Categories
mechanical instruments of music singing Uncategorized worship

Some Hurdles I Just Cannot Jump Regarding Instrumental Music In Worship

Neal Pollard

How often the matter gets discussed among preachers in churches of Christ, I cannot say. But, I know that it does. More members of the church than we might care to think do not have this matter settled in their minds, especially as it has to do with the state of those who have been immersed for the forgiveness of sins, submit to the authority of Christ in other areas of their lives, but who use the instrument in worship. Some have said they think its use is wrong and we have been right to argue against its use but do not think they can say it is a salvation or fellowship issue. It should be stated that many of these are sincere brethren who love the Lord and people nor are they change agents intent on trying to destroy the Lord’s body. Too often, we have lacked an environment where we could have healthy, constructive dialogue free of name-calling, suspicion, and visceral discussion. But failing to discuss and work through matters like these does not make them disappear.

Having said that, here are some hurdles I just cannot jump regarding this matter:

  • The presence of singing and absence of instruments in New Testament passages. The fact that every instance of singing in the context of the Christians’ activity together reveals singing (Greek is a precise language; ado means to utter words in a melodic pattern [Louw-Nida] and ). Psallo, according to Lexicographers, encompassed playing musical instruments at an earlier time in its linguistic history, but did not mean that in New Testament times (e.g., BDAG, 1094; TDNT, 8:494). Interestingly, the translators of English translations, beginning with the King James Version, were unanimously members of religious groups that used mechanical instruments in music. Despite their obvious bias in worship practice, they translate the Greek “singing and making melody in your hearts.”
  • The absence of instrumental music in worship in early church history. Though a member of the church of Christ, Everett Ferguson has the utmost respect from scholarship across the religious spectrum. In multiple volumes, Ferguson meticulously sets forth the case that instrumental music was absent in the church from its establishment until many centuries later. His studied conclusion is that this was neither incidental nor coincidental. He writes, “The historical argument is quite strong against early Christian use of instrumental music in church” (The Instrumental Music Issue, 98; the whole chapter is a worthwhile read). In another work, he states, “The testimony of early Christian literature is expressly to the absence of instruments from the church for approximately the first thousand years of Christian history” (The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, 272). John L. Girardeau, a Presbyterian scholar, devotes an entire, well-documented chapter to the historical case of only vocal music in Christian worship for many centuries and upon doctrinal grounds (see Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church, 86-100).
  • The examples of how God dealt with unauthorized worship throughout history. What do we make of what God does with Cain’s worship in Genesis 4, Nadab and Abihu’s worship in Leviticus 10, and Jeroboam’s worship in 1 Kings 12? Why would God care in the Patriarchal and Mosaic Dispensations that His commands for worship be followed per His instructions, but lose that desire under His Son’s covenant?
  • The fact that God draws definitive, doctrinal conclusions through the use of silence. The writer of Hebrews says, “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests” (7:14). The argument shows that Jesus could become a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, but not under the Old Testament rule and covenant. Why? God specified Levi as the tribe for the high priest under the old law. It did not explicitly say that a high priest could not come from any other tribe, but it did not have to. What it specified was sufficient, an argument made in the New Testament.
  • The fact that authority can and must be tangibly determined.  Why is it that we sing in worship at all? Is worship merely a matter of what we come up with and wish to offer? Few would argue such. The basis for worship arises from what the New Testament teaches. Nearly everyone, then, would say there are definitive, delineated boundaries. If there is and must be divine authority for worship, and thus “rules” that are objectively determined, there must be activity that falls out of those bounds. Where will we find the boundary markers if not in Scripture?

This list is not meant to be exhaustive and it cannot, in one brief article, be exhaustive. It is included here to show us the great pause that should exist in changing our minds or our teaching on a matter where God has been vocal and specific. The weight of that is not insignificant or inconsequential. May we lovingly and wisely approach this matter and take great care before we relegate a matter of divine importance to a mere matter of human preference.

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Categories
marriage

Five Reasons God’s Law Of Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage Applies To All

Neal Pollard

People approach the very sensitive subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage in several ways. Some, ignorant of what Jesus says about it, are a law to themselves and come up with any number of “alternatives” including living together without marriage, homosexuality, adultery, and the like. Some have become stricter than Jesus, saying that divorce for any reason is a sin. This is making a law where God has not (Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). Some have become less strict than Jesus, making allowance where He has not. One of the most common allowances is the idea this law does not apply to everyone. Also, some have tried to make the sin of adultery something other than what context shows it to be. Here are five reasons why God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage applies to all.

(1) Jesus Goes Back To The Beginning Of Creation (19:4,8). Jesus is not teaching something that was limited to His own time and it certainly was not an articulation of the Law of Moses (see 19:7-8). Instead, Jesus goes back to the dawn of time to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Jesus, in giving His command, reaches behind Moses to “the beginning.” This shows a timelessness to the command. God designed it a certain way, man distorted it, and Jesus dictates a new way that is universal in nature. He points ahead by pointing back to the beginning.

(2) What God Has Joined Should Not Be Separated (19:6). When two people have a right to be married, whether or not a preacher or religious person performs the ceremony, God is joining those two together. Verse nine gives God’s only exception for allowing the marriage bond to be severed and only then for the one against whom fornication is committed (the “innocent party”)(see the last phrase in verse nine). There is no qualifying phrase beyond that one exception to justify ending one marriage and forming another.

(3) Jesus’ Teaching Is Explicitly Clear (19:9). It truly takes “expert help” to misunderstand what Jesus teaches here. Take out the exception and here is how the “rule” reads: “Whoever divorce his wife and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” That could not be clearer! The exception is also perfectly clear.

(4) The Disciples’ Reaction (19:10). Their reaction is actually extreme. They conclude that it is better not to get married. Jesus does not validate such thinking, but it gives us insight in to what they understood. Jesus’ law for marriage, divorce, and remarriage is stringent! If “adultery” merely meant “covenant breaking,” would the disciples react so? One would simply need to “repent” of having broken their marriage vows, and then enter another marriage. If Jesus meant that, the disciples would hardly have reacted at all.

(5) Christ’s Final Response About Eunuchs (19:11-12). Jesus clears up any doubt by how He ends this discussion. He speaks of three classes of eunuchs-those born that way, those made that way by men, and those who make themselves that way “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” Being delicate here, we understand what it means to be a “eunuch.” That cuts to the heart of what our Lord is saying and one of the blessings accompanying the marriage relationship. Those who divorce for reasons other than the exception Jesus gives in verse nine would have to be in that third category of person discussed in verse 12.
This is not a truth that can be delivered with cold stare, pounding fist, and judgmental heart. It is one that more likely will be accompanied with breaking heart, blinding tears, and extreme hesitation. Probably nothing is more unpleasant to teach, but as part of the “whole counsel” (Acts 20:27) it must be taught. Culture cannot be the authority on this matter. Neither can emotion. Instead, as always, we must let Jesus be the authority (cf. Col. 1:18; 3:17; Matt. 28:18).