by Mike Ratliff
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:22-27 NASB)
The main argument that I run into in debates and discussions these days after scripture is used to nullify an opponent’s arguments is that he or she “does not agree” with whatever doctrinal position I am defending. In other words, the veracity of a truth is determined by their belief in it or not. That is a completely invalid argument. The qualities of a truth that make it true are not dependent upon whether people believe it to be true. Our enemy, a liar from the beginning, is hard at work selling compromise as something vital in our relationships and all dealings with others.
The world says that compromise is essential in order to be politically correct. However, the Word of God tells us that we cannot compromise on the truths found there. They are true and essential. I once had a “discussion” with a young man who was extremely idealistic. He was a Humanist. He told me, “If there is no compromise then all we have is tyranny!” I shared with him why the American political system is so far away from where it needs to be. I told him that politics force compromise and politicians stay in power by making the majority of people happy with their actions, right or wrong.
When I told him that it might very well be God’s will that His people would live under the worst tyrants imaginable, he became very angry with me, telling me that it would be the duty of those Christians to overthrow such tyrants and do their all to bring about the most just government possible. Really? Is that what Christians are supposed to be doing with their short time on planet Earth? Aren’t we to submit to whatever governments under which God has placed us? We are to do so up to a point. We must obey God in all things. If the government we are under demands things of us that go against what God commands then we must obey Him not man. However, the rest of the time we are to be good citizens.
What about personal holiness? Are we called to become more and more holy or are we free to live this life any way we desire? Let’s look at an exhortation from the Apostle Paul from his first letter to the Thessalonian church.
1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 NASB)
Paul appeals to the authority of Jesus Christ in this passage. What are Christians supposed to be about according to Paul? They are to walk in a way that pleases God. What way is that? It is obedience to the commandments Paul gave the Thessalonians earlier. Paul summarizes them in the next passage.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 NASB)
First, Paul reminds us that it is God’s will for us to be sanctified. What does that mean? To be sanctified is to become holy. How are we to do that? We abstain from fornication by learning how to posses our bodies in sanctification and honor by not becoming involved in the passion of lust. If we spend all of our free time glued to the television or going to movies or listening to fleshly music or being all about self-gratification in whatever form, then we will become permeated with the ways of the world, becoming conformed to its ways. If we do that then we will be unable to avoid the passion of lust. Is this God’s will for us? No, our sanctification is God’s will. That is the opposite of becoming conformed to this world. It requires being transformed by the renewal of our minds. (Romans 12:2)
This requires us to become Spirit-filled, that is, our sails being filled with the wind of the Holy Spirit guiding us in all that we do. When we do this, we will be different than the world. We will not take advantage of or defraud anyone no matter what excuse we may come up with to justify doing so. We must remember that the Lord is the avenger of all such. That should also help us understand why we are called to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek when we are on the receiving end. Paul compares the work of the flesh to uncleanness. If we are conformed to this world then we are defiled because we are in bondage to our flesh. We are called to be holy not fleshly. Here is v8 again, “So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” Ponder that. If professing Christians refuse to obey God’s command to be holy as He is holy, to become Spirit-filled, to obey Him in all things, not man, then they are actually rejecting God.
What will this life look like that is one of repentance, confession, obedience and submission?
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 NASB)
The life that is crucified with Christ is subject to His Lordship and will be one that loves the brethren in an ever-increasing state. The disciple that lives a life that is pleasing to God is one that is quiet and inoffensive. That does not mean that our enemy may not be given permission to sift us like wheat or that his seed may attack us. No, we may very well suffer greatly for living uncompromised, holy lives, which are separate and not conformed to this world. God may also have us rebuke the apostates or the heretics. That will surely bring their wrath back upon us, but we must obey God rather than men.
We must do some self-examination. Is the life we are living well pleasing to God? Are we in bondage to our flesh or are we walking in repentance? Let us honestly assess ourselves here, asking God to show us the truth. We must then repent of all He shows us then seek to become Spirit-filled and obedient in all we do.
Soli Deo Gloria!