Michael Boling – Keeping Your Lips From Deceit

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Psalm 34:13 – Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

One of those parenting moments you hope never happens but know it will came knocking at our door recently. We discovered that our daughter had been creating a well-planned series of lies to cover up something she should have informed us about but claimed she was too afraid to reveal. As noted in Luke 8:17, noting is hidden that will not be made manifest.

Now as a child, I was well acquainted with the effort that goes into setting up and maintaining a series of lies regardless of the reality that eventually that house of cards would come crashing down. Ultimately, the punishment I received or the disappointed I saw in the eyes of my parents for not being truthful with them far outweighed any consequence I might have received if I had just been honest in the first place. The old saying is very true – “Honesty is the best policy”.

Dealing with the parade of lies that have been revealed when it comes to our daughter will not prove to be an easy feat. With that said, the underlying teaching moment will reside in the value learned from a passage such as Psalm 34:13. As those who claim to be followers of God and who claim to have a desire to be more like our Creator, we must realize am important fact, namely God is always truthful and never lies. In fact, Scripture repeatedly notes that God abhors a lying tongue. It is an abomination to Him.

James 3:5 reminds us “the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles!” More often than not, a lying tongue can burn a relationship with the trust that once existed being destroyed. As a parent, it is important to drive home this truth to our daughter. Allowing a habit of lying to take root is a dangerous road to travel. This is why God commands us to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit. The word translated deceit in this passage is the Hebrew noun mirmah meaning “treachery”. Why are we to abstain from such things? It is because treachery is a practice and approach of Satan whose main battle plan involves wiles which is best defined as trickery.

Truth and lying/treachery/trickery are polar opposites. The mouth of the believer should not be a place where both reside. Truth should be all that comes from our lips. How do we deal with the temptation to speak lies and treachery? God tells us to “keep” our tongue from evil and deceit. To “keep” means to guard, to keep watch, to preserve, and to set a blockade around. Can we keep our tongues from deceit by our own efforts? Clearly not given the amount of deceit that takes place on a daily basis. To keep is a constant state of readiness that can only take place by exercising our spiritual muscles through the work of the Holy Spirit. One must associate themselves with those who speak truth. One must inculcate truth into every fiber of their being. Speaking truth must be practiced in order for those aforementioned spiritual muscles to take shape.
To stand against the wiles of the devil, we must constantly don the full armor of God. Our waist is to be girded with truth. Why? Perhaps so we will not be caught with our pants down when our house of cards (i.e. parade of lies) comes crashing down.

Teaching these truths to our teenage daughter is of course imperative, but it is a lesson I humbly admit I need to learn myself. Lying is all too easy, but as a child of God, I must desire truth over lies.

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Michael Boling – What Happens When We Die: “Dying You Shall Die”

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4)

One might wonder what these verses have to do with the topic of what happens when you die outside of the use of the word die in both passages. As we build on the biblical evidence for how man was created by God, the introduction of the issue of sin and its impact on man is the next important issue to examine. Thus, the above passages speak volumes in understanding the impact of sin and the connection to what happens when we die.

Taken at face value in its typical English translation, one would assume God meant that if man partook of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, immediate physical death would ensue. In fact, that face value style interpretation has resulted in biblical skeptics scoffing at Scripture. After all, Genesis 2:17 states “you shall surely die.” When we examine the specifics of the Hebrew terms used in Genesis 2:16-17, it becomes clear the punishment God noted would happen should man disobey.

The meaning of the Hebrew word die (muwth) means to die. With that said, questions rightly can be asked as to what kind of death would ensure and if physical death was the focus, why then did Adam and Eve not immediately keel over and die the moment they disobeyed God.

Some, perhaps attempting to side step these questions, have stated that since Adam and Eve did not immediately experience physical death the moment they sinned, that has to mean God was speaking of merely spiritual death given sin creates a spiritual separation between a holy God and sinful humanity. Spiritual death is certainly an undeniable aspect of the impact of sin. After all, the movement of Scripture is one towards dealing with this in problem with the end result being a full restoration of relationship between God and man.

This is not the full biblical and theological picture; however, as death also speaks to more than physical separation between God and man. If we dig into the context and in particular the presentation of words in the Hebrew, the answer to this puzzle comes into clear focus.

There is a specific manner in which die (muwth) is presented. In our English translations, this verb construct is not noticeable. However, in the Hebrew, there is a double verb used. This type of construct identifies a process, an immediate reality that will come to finality at a future time. The actual phrase should read “dying you shall die”. We can now begin to see that death was not commanded to be an immediate dropping dead event. Conversely, death would be a process that would eventually ensue in a physical death event when man would return to the dust from whence they came and the breath of life given to them by God to allow them to be a living being would return to God.

We see this death process noted elsewhere in Scripture. For instance Romans 8:22 states “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Creation did not immediately wither up and pass away when Adam and Eve sinned. Instead, the universe is slowly but surely decaying, indicative of the groaning noted by Paul in Romans 8:22. We also note in an everyday sense the reality of growing old and dying. This death and decay process is a result of sin and is rooted in God’s command that dying you shall die.

The twisting of God’s command by the Serpent (nachash) now begins to make sense. Once again we have to look at the construct of the Hebrew verb translated as die (muwth) as used by the Serpent. Instead of repeating the “dying you shall die” truth stated by God, instead a single verb is used. A small yet important twist that denied this physical death process. The lie that was presented was that physical death would not ensue with sin. Instead, man would become like God. Now exactly what is meant by becoming like elohims (gods) is a discussion for another day; however, the intent is quite clear, namely a subtle twist of God’s command which both Adam and Eve fell for resulting in the true result of sin taking place, the process of physical death and of course the reality of spiritual separation from God.

Some may ask why this has any level of importance. Why should anyone pay attention to Hebrew verb constructs? For starters, the importance of the first few chapters of Genesis and how they inform our understanding of the remainder of Scripture. Thus having a proper grasp of the result of sin and the reality that death and decay are a result of sin, provides us the basis to understand the message of the gospel. The glorious message of the gospel is far more than getting saved so you can to go heaven. The message of the gospel is the promise of redemption, the fixing of the sin and death problem. What is the core of the sin and death problem? It is both physical and spiritual death. The promise of the Messiah our Redeemer is rooted in the fact his sacrifice on the cross served as atonement for sin to deal with the spiritual death and relationship problem. Furthermore, his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection provides us with the glorious promise that the physical death that came as a result of sin would also be dealt with when Messiah returns. Certainly death will come to us all unless we are alive when he returns; however, we know death ultimately has no sting for the believer. The dying you shall die will one day be replaced with eternal life, the return to the Garden.

Here in the first two chapters of Genesis we find yet again a very important theological concept that is further unpacked and presented over and over in the rest of Scripture. Sin resulted in physical and spiritual separation between God and man. God promised that the seed of the woman would triumph over the seed of the Serpent. That promise took place on the cross and will come to its ultimate and final promise when Messiah returns and forever deals with the sin and death problem for all eternity. Noting the seeds planted in the Garden in these formative chapters of Genesis helps us understand what we are looking forward to when we return to that Garden in eternity future.

Additionally, as it relates to what happens when we die, we can make a connection between these formative chapters of Scripture and the words of Paul in Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As God declared in Genesis 2, the wages of sin is indeed death – physical death. Paul contrasts the wages of sin with the promise of eternal life given to the righteous.

The question as to when that eternal life is revealed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57:

“Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Notice the timing of when death is said to no longer have its sting. It is at the Parousia, the second coming of the Messiah. It is then what was written by Isaiah will be fulfilled in full, namely that “God will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8).

Also notice that Paul states that we will not all sleep, but we will be changed. Again, the awakening from this sleep (a biblical euphemism for the dead) and the changing from mortal to immortality will not occur until the second coming of the Messiah. Until then, the righteous have confidence in Romans 6:23.

We will all face the consequences of the first death – the death of the physical body, the return of the physical body to the dust of the earth and the breath of life returning to God from where it comes (Eccl. 12:7). Praise to God that is not the end of the story as death will meet its eternal end when Messiah returns.

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Michael Boling – Apologetics in the Home (Deut. 6:6-9)

Hammer-it-Home

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9)

As a parent, I am keenly reminded each and every day of the battle that wages for the hearts and minds of children. Add to that being the parent of an adopted child and you have an even greater battle taking place. In the day to day routine, it seems at least in my home that we easily forget one of the fundamental keys to parenting, something God has commanded parents to be about doing at all times with their children. That key to effective parenting revolves around the teaching and implementation of God’s word at all times and in all places.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God commands parents to do a number of things. Before we examine what He commanded, it is important to take a quick step back to grasp where Israel was at when God spoke these words and what they were about to embark upon. The children of Israel were about ready to enter the Promised Land. Before they stepped foot into the land of promise, God reminded Israel of what He had done on their behalf, how He had delivered them from bondage, and moreover, He reminded them once again of the commands He had given them to live by.

Thus, the words God is referring to in Deut. 6:6 are the sets of commands He gave to Israel on how they were to love Him and love others. These commands were not just a onetime declaration that could be heard and then forgotten or lost upon later generations. To ensure the constant focus and emphasis on these instructions, God commanded parents to constantly share these truths with their children.

God is quite clear on how He wants this instruction to take place. First, He gives the command for parents to diligently teach these things. This phrase “teach them diligently” by no means reflects a half hearted approach or attitude. The word translated as teach is the Hebrew verb shanan which means “to inculcate anything on any one.” Now for those not familiar with inculcate means, that words connotes the concept of hammering something. Perhaps a good way to think about this activity is in relation to hammering a nail into a piece of wood. Unless you are Popeye the Sailor Man, it is highly unlikely you will be able with one smack of the hammer to drive that nail flush into the wood. It takes repetition and it requires hitting that nail exactly on the head. Furthermore, it requires hitting that nail in the same spot over and over, driving that nail into the wood. This same concept can be related to what God is commanding parents in Deut. 6:7. He expects parents to drive home the word of God at all times with great zeal and purpose.

The next important point to note is God expects parents to start this instruction with their children. Do not wait until your kids are teenagers to start mentioning the word of God. Start young and start often. Why? Proverbs 22:6 promises, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” When you plant the seeds of Scripture deep in the heart of a child when they are young, God’s word takes root in their life. While it is no guarantee they will follow after God when they grow to adulthood, studies have revealed “that when both parents were faithful and active in the church, 93 percent of their children remained faithful.”1

The next command God gives is for parents to “talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” This statement covers every element of one’s daily activities and possible locations. Now talking is far more than just a passing conversation. The word translated as talk is the Hebrew verb dabar which means “to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing” with the underlying idea of leading and guiding as a shepherd would his flocks being the primary emphasis. This means parents are to shepherd their children by using the word of God as the shepherd’s crook, keeping them on the straight and narrow path. This takes place at home, anywhere outside the home regardless of whether you are sitting down or standing up. Basically God is saying – “Parents. At all times and in all places instruct your children in My word.”

As if this was not clear enough, God further notes “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Binding God’s commands on your hands and your eyes signifies that the truth of His word controls your actions and thoughts. Writing God’s word on the doorposts of your house and on your gates reminds parents of the need for Scripture to define how their home is ran and how it functions.

How then are parents to be able to follow these clear commands of the Lord? Being able to instruct your children in the ways of God and in His holy word requires the parent to be faithful in their own bible study and in prayer. It will take preparation, serious earnest preparation with God’s word sinking into the fabric of your own heart before you can then pour out the refreshing and cleansing water of God’s word into the lives of your children. This means that parents must hammer home God’s word into their own lives, setting the example of what diligent bible study looks like. This means that parents must live out in their own words and actions the truth of Scripture.

This is not easy and breaking lazy habits will not happen overnight. With that said, just as exercising your physical muscles takes diligence, practice, and know how, so to exercising your spiritual muscles will require action, diligence, practice, and know how so you can in turn train your children how to exercise their spiritual muscles so they can instruct their children. It is high time parents burn some spiritual fat, get a biblical chiropractic check-up and get to work following God’s clear command found in Deut. 6:6-9. Swinging that biblical hammer to drive home the truth of Scripture takes a lot of work and there is no denying that one bit. There is also no denying the benefits that will occur for those parents who are obedient to this command.

It is time parents stop abdicating their God ordained and commanded responsibility to Sunday School and Youth Group leaders to train their children in the ways of God. While they play a part, the primary responsibility rests in the lap of the parents.

Hammer it home parents!

References
  1. http://www.gotquestions.org/falling-away.html#ixzz3H0IsZJHG []
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Michael Boling – What it Means to “Think on These Things”

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Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

I would venture to say that most believers are familiar with Philippians 4:8. In fact, it is likely a verse that comes to our minds, at least on a momentary basis, when ungodly thoughts rear their ugly head. But do we really grasp what it means to “think about these things”? Furthermore, what are these things that should be at the constant forefront of our thoughts and for that matter, our actions? Finally, what does it look like in a practical sense to be thinking on things above? I would like to address these three important questions in this post.

Defining “think about these things”

A great place to start when trying to understand what a word means is the dictionary. Now we must remember that behind the English translations we read is the original language in which the passage was penned. In the case of Philippians 4:8, we need to take a look at what the Greek word for “think” actually means. Think is the Greek verb logizomai meaning “to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on.” Gerald Hawthorne notes the Apostle Paul has asked the Church at Philippi (and by extension us as well) “continuously to focus their minds on these things, to give full critical attention to them, and so to reflect carefully upon them with an action-provoking kind of meditation. It was not his desire to ask them merely to think about such noble matters without putting them into practice in their lives.”[1]

We can quickly see that to “think on these things” requires more than just a passing thought or lip service. It demands active and continuous meditation, not the type of meditation where thought never quite translates into action. Conversely, this type of meditation requires the implementation of what is being pondered into every aspect of daily life. The truth of what we should be thinking about must make a difference in our speech, thoughts, desires, actions, ultimately leading to positive and lasting spiritual growth.

What is it We Should be Thinking About?

Now that we have a solid understanding of what it means to “think on these things”, we have to now take a look at and define what we are to be thinking on in the first place. The Apostle Paul assuredly did not ask the Church at Philippi to think on whatever floated their proverbial boat. We are provided with the parameters that form the fence line if you will for where are thoughts should be focused. Let’s take some time to examine what Paul tells us to think upon.

Whatever is true: There is little mystery to the definition of the Greek adjective alēthēs which is translated in English as true. It simply means true. With that said, there is the aspect of this word that speaks to what it means to think on whatever is true. Alēthēs also has an action element to its definition noting the need to love and speak the truth or to be truthful. Homer Kent states that true “has the sense of valid, reliable, and honest – the opposite of false.”[2] Anything that even remotely consists of falsehood or that has the traits of dishonesty are the complete opposite of truth and thus should not be what we dwell on nor should they find they way into our thoughts or actions.

Whatever is honorable: Next Paul notes that whatever is honorable should be what we think upon. Honorable, sometimes translated as noble or honest, is the Greek adjective semnos meaning something that is venerated for its character. Donald Fee suggests that in this passage, Paul is noting that which is worthy of respect.[3] Certainly there are many men and women of God who have noteworthy character, people in the body of Christ who demonstrate more often than not a dedication to the things of God. However, there is only One whose character is completely reputable. There is only One who is the very definition of holiness and righteousness and that is God. To think godly things is to seek after that which pleases God. It is to be holy as He is holy. That is a might task; however, it must be the goal of every thought and deed of the believer.

Whatever is just: This idea of justice finds its root in the same word from which righteousness is derived, namely the Greek adjective dikaios That which is just aligns itself with the commands of God revealed in Scripture. In fact to be righteous, demands adherence to God’s perfect law. This is yet another lofty goal but a necessary one. Furthermore, to think on whatever is just requires the believer to read, understand, and put into practice God’s commands for righteous living provided in His Word. Only that which is worthy of the approval of God should be that which we think upon. Anything outside that framework is sin.

Whatever is pure: Purity connotes the idea of being without blemish, spot, or wrinkle. The Greek adjective hagnos means pure from every fault; immaculate. Now we must admit that our thoughts are often on that which could rightly be considered filthy. Even the slightest speck of dust in our thought life and in our actions is considered filthy in the eyes of God. This is especially true given hagnos speaks to the idea of moral purity. In an age where all manner of sexual immorality is championed, we must dedicate ourselves to seeking after moral purity as outlined in God’s Word.

Whatever is lovely: Loveliness as used in this passage means something very specific. It is not whatever we choose loveliness to mean. That which is lovely is that which pleases God. The Greek adjective used in this verse that is translated as lovely is prosphilēs meaning pleasing or acceptable. This word has a very strict application to it. Hawthorne aptly notes “It has as its fundamental meaning “that which calls forth love”…Thus the Christian’s mind is to be set on things that elicit from others not bitterness and hostility, but admiration and affection.”[4] This type of action is what Paul described in Ephesians 4:29: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Whatever is commendable: Something that is commendable is worthy of praise. Kent notes that commendable or admirable as it is often translated suggests “what is praiseworthy, attractive, and what rings true to the highest standards.”[5] As with the other virtues listed by Paul in this passage, the only standard that matters is Gods as noted in His word.

How to “Think on these things”

As noted earlier, thinking in the sense Paul exhorts is far more than a passing thought or fancy. It involves a clear element of thought constantly borne into action which then shapes every aspect of our lives. We have discovered in our analysis of the things Paul says we are to think upon that each and every thing mentioned by Paul is related to nothing short of spiritual excellence. Anything short of such excellence falls short of what God expects from His people.

Does this mean that we will achieve such a level of holiness in this life or for that matter that we can attain a life of complete devotion to “these things” on our own effort? The response to both questions is absolutely not. In this life we will continue to battle with sin and with those things that grab our focus and attention away from the things above. There is no amount of personal effort that can lead to a life lived according to God’s perfect standard. What then are we to do given the pursuit of holiness remains God’s expectation of His people?

1. Have a passion for God’s Word. Meditating, reading, studying, and most importantly applying the truths found therein, is a fundamental key to uprooting and mortifying sin in our lives. As we engage in persistent and consistent study of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit takes his pick ax and starts to dig out those sinful desires which so easily entangle us, replacing those desires with a passion for the very things Paul notes in Philippians 4:8.

2. Devote yourself to a life of prayer. In Colossians 4:2, Paul exhorts believers to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Praying without ceasing is a life lived in constant communion with God. An active prayer life focuses our attention on what God would have us do rather than the clamor and selfish desires of the world around us. Prayer is more than sending a few words heavenward at the dinner table and then moving on with life. Prayer is communication, a two way conversation between you and God. This means that prayer involves active listening on our part, letting our requests be made known to God and then doing what Paul noted in Colossians 4:2 – watching and being thankful.

3. Surround yourself with godly people. The old saying “bad company corrupts good morals” is as true today as it was the day it was penned. If you are not involved in a local body of believers, now is the time to find a place where God would have you establish roots. Part of how we spur one another towards love and good deeds is by not forsaking gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). God never intended the Christian life to be lived in isolation from fellow believers. The very sense of the people of God being called a body is rooted in the reality that we all play an important part in this thing called the Church. We need each other so that we may pray for one another, study God’s word together, and to come along side our fellow believers so that we may together strive to do that which pleases God and brings Him glory and honor.

4. Put on the new self. Finally, we must put on the new self. Paul exhorts us to do this in Colossians 3:1-3 – “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Cast off the old man with its fleshly desires and put on the new man, devoted to things above. This is a hallmark of a mature believer who is growing in the grace of God. By devoting yourself to the Word of God, living a life of prayer, and connecting with godly people within the body of Christ, we can begin to see the Holy Spirit work in our lives, ripping out that cantankerous old man and replacing it with a passion for truth. The new self is not a mask. It is a lifestyle that reveals a life devoted to God.

Let us think on these things not out of mere ritual or to appear holy, but rather out of a heart of love for God in thanksgiving for what He has done for us. Set your mind on these things!

References:

[1] Gerald Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 188.
[2] Homer A. Kent, Jr. “Commentary on Philippians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.11: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 152.
[3] Donald Fee, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Philippians (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1999), 179.
[4] Hawthorne, 188.
[5] Kent, 152.

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Michael Boling – What Happens When You Die: Was Man Created a Living Soul or a Living Being?

Now that we have established the stark difference between the Greek and Hebrew/biblical understanding of the nature of man, we can begin to examine what God outlines for us in Scripture regarding this doctrine. As with anything in Scripture, in particular when it comes to the biblical doctrine of man, any discussion on this topic must begin in Genesis.

We are told in Genesis how God made man:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:2-27)

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)

We have some basic facts provided to us in these passages. First, God made man in His image, giving man dominion over creation. Secondly, and perhaps most germane to this conversation is man was formed from the dust of the ground and was given life by God breathing into man the breath of life. When and only when God breathed into man the breath of life, man became something.

Now it is this something that forms much of the crux of the “what happens when you die” debate. Some translations (such as the KJV which I quoted above), state “man became a living soul”. Others translate this portion of Genesis 2:7 as “man became a living being”. What if any difference exists between the terms soul and being? Actually, at least in how the term soul is typically applied in much of today’s theology, there is a significant difference between what many understand how to define soul and what the biblical definition actually provides.

Before we dive into the establishment of a foundational understanding of the term soul, we must back up a second and take a look at the terms “breathed” and “breath”. In doing so, we will identify what allowed man to become a living soul/being.

God breathed into man the breath of life. These are important terms to understand, in particular as they are presented from the Hebraic/biblical mindset. It is common knowledge that in order for one to be alive, they have to be breathing. Stop breathing and you are quite frankly dead. Even if assisted breathing devices are what is allowing an individual to breath, it is still the process of breathing (albeit through a machine), that keeps the person alive.

In Genesis, we see God forming man from the dust of the earth (an important element we will return to later in our study). Then God breathes into man which animates the created body. The word translated as “breathed” is the Hebrew verb naphach, meaning “to blow out”, in this case air. God breathed into man something very specific – the breath of life. The word translated as “breath is the Hebrew noun nĕshamah, meaning breath. As noted by C. Ryder Smith, “As the text in Genesis implies, it is something from outside that God gives to man. Man is not neshamah, but has it.”[1] Thus, because man has the breath of life given by God, man then becomes something.

What does Genesis state man became once God breathed into man the breath of life? Man became what is noted in Hebrew as nephesh chayyah (living being). It is the term often translated as “soul” that becomes the source of debate if you will. What is a nephesh? Is it a soul in the idea of something that is or can become removed from the physical body? Or does nephesh define the entirety of what makes up a man? This is where we begin to note the important differences between Greek and Hebrew/biblical thought in the pages of Scripture.

In the Hebraic/biblical mindset and definition of terms, nephesh means something substantially different. Jewish scholar Neil Gillman saliently notes the following:

“In Greek thought, the soul is a distinctive entity which preexists the life of the person, enters the body at birth, separates from the body at death and continues to exist in some supernal realm.

The Bible, in contrast, portrays each human as a single entity, clothed in clay-life flesh which is animated or vivified by a life-giving spark or impulse variously called ruah, nefesh, neshamah, or nishmat hayyim.

In the later tradition, these terms came to be understood as synonymous with the Greek “soul.” But this identification is not in the Bible. The term “nefesh” signifies the neck or the throat (as in Psalm 69:2), or the breath (that passes through the throat, as in Job 41:13), or the life-blood (as in Leviticus (17:10-11). By extension, it signifies a living human being since it refers to the two characteristics that make a person alive: Breath and blood. When Exodus 1:5 numbers Jacob’s progeny as “seventy nefesh,” it means simply seventy persons, not seventy disembodied “souls.”[2]

Man became something when God breathed into man the breath of life. It is clear the correct definitely is not that a disembodied soul was placed into the physical body of man that resulted in man having life. Such a position is entirely a pagan Greek Platonic notion. Scripture teaches that God gave man (and by extension all of humanity from that point forward) the break of life and that breathe of life results in man as a living being. Nephesh represents the entirety of man. The idea of a soul that somehow is able to be separate at any point from the physical body is a concept foreign to the Hebraic/biblical position found in Scripture, most notably in the creation story found in Genesis.

Life and the ability to main life comes from God. It is a gift to us from the Creator. It is that breathe of life which makes us a living being.
Do we have a soul or are we a soul? According to Genesis 2:7, we are a living being. Nephesh refers to man as a living person, not a physical body that has a soul that can depart somewhere upon death. It is high time we recognize the negative influence of Greek pagan philosophy on our understanding of the nature of man. This process begins with recognizing how God created man as outlined in Genesis 1-2.

References:

[1] C. Ryder Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Man (Eugene: WIPF and Stock, 2009), 6.
[2] Neil Gillman, The Death of Death (Woodstock: Jewish Lights, 1997), 76.

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Michael Boling – Time to Get Back to Reading

Books. Ever since I was a child, I have loved reading. With that said, there have been times when I have frankly been burnt out by reading. Perhaps it is due to changing reading interests, a busy schedule, or the pressure to keep up with the steady flow of review copies from publishers. I admit for what is likely a combination of those reasons, I took an extended break over the past few months from reading and doing book reviews. In fact, I cleaned out a good portion of my personal library. Much of what went bye-bye were titles I read once and knew I would not return to either as a resource or for a second go around. Some books while good and interesting are honestly only good for a once through read. Plus we needed the space in the basement for other things.

Lately, I have been feeling the reading bug biting once again. It is always a challenge when you have a backlog of books to read as to what to choose first. There is one non-theological title I have been slowly but surely reading on the subject of interracial baseball prior to the depression. One of my favorite baseball players, Bob Feller, is one of the subjects of this book. It has been quite the fascinating read thus far. This particular books seems like a good choice as any with which to pick up the pace with and complete here in the next week. If anything, that will afford some time to choose the next title. Maybe I will make it easy on myself and grab the next book in the stack o’ stuff. We shall see what happens. Once I decide on the next set of books, I will be sure to share what they are and why I selected those titles.

So back to reading I go and with it, likely a steady (or at least steadier) stream of book reviews and here is to hoping the reading bug turns into an infection, one I do not recover from for a bit.

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Michael Boling – The Wiles of the Devil: What is a Wile Anyway?

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“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” (Eph. 6:11)

This is a rather familiar passage of Scripture as it begins the section of the Apostle Paul’s instructions on what it looks like to put on the full armor of God. Perhaps we often overlook what it is we are arming ourselves against. Clearly we are donning this armor to do battle, otherwise what would be the point of such an effort? We know who the enemy is as Paul states the one we do battle with is the devil. With that said, Paul notes something particular about how the devil wages war – the wiles of the devil.

Now this word wiles is one not typically used in everyday conversation. Those who used to watch the Looney Tunes cartoons might remember a character called Wile E. Coyote. He was famous for hatching a variety of ploys by which he would most assuredly capture the elusive roadrunner – courtesy of those fine folks at the Acme Corporation of course. Unfortunately for Wile E. Coyote, regardless of how elaborate his scheme was he could never seem to catch his prey.

We can learn a bit about what the term wiles means from the actions of Wile E. Coyote. First and foremost, this cartoon character used well planned albeit poorly executed trickery. His underlying plan was to try and catch the roadrunner unawares. This connotes the idea of a methodology which in fact is exactly what the Greek noun methodeia that is translated as wiles means. The term is defined as “cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery.”

The devil is a bit more competent than Wile E. Coyote; however, the same approach taken to lure the roadrunner is what our enemy uses in his attempts to trick humanity. Mind you the devil will not use rocket powered roller skates nor will he paint a tunnel on the face of a cliff face. His wiles are far more thought out and cunning. Think back to the Garden of Eden and the encounter between the devil and Eve. There was no boulder perched on the top of a mountain ready to be unleashed on Eve as she walked below. What took place was quite simply and devastatingly for us all a carefully planned and executed rewording of God’s statement to Adam and Eve. That was all it was – a few words switched around and left out, the very definition of cunning, deceit, and trickery.

It seems we are often so focused on looking for the full frontal assault of the enemy that we are caught unawares by his true wiles. Those sneak attacks are the ones that arguably get us in the most trouble. The “did God really say that” approach is one of the enemies most well-honed attack strategies. It is the proverbial trip wire we stumble over. Rest assured the enemy will employ a frontal assault, but it seems such attacks are intended to make us forget about his attempt to sneakily direct his focus on our rear guard.

This is why Paul noted the necessity of constantly donning the full armor of God. Each piece of armor protects us from the enemy’s wiles so that we may be able to stand. Forget a piece of armor and those wiles will more often than not find their mark through deceit and trickery. However, a believer who is cognizant of the need to put on the whole armor of God is promised they will be able to not only stand against those wiles, but they will also be able to gain ground against the enemy through the power of God working in their life.

This is spiritual warfare 101, so vigilantly and diligently be on the lookout for all the devil’s subtle wiles and by all means don the full armor of God. Our enemy is clever, but God has made known to us the devil’s playbook. Those who root themselves in the Word of God will be able to identify the wiles of the devil and respond by wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

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Michael Boling – The Yoke of Jesus

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“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Taking the yoke of Jesus. This is a familiar verse that is most often referenced when someone is going through a struggle or life just seems to be dropping its immense weight on one’s shoulders. Its other popular use comes into play when the topic of the law is mentioned with some asserting that old crusty law of God was for days past and is a yoke of bondage while the yoke of Jesus is full of grace, with the two never needing to meet.

So just what is this yoke Jesus speaks of in the closing verses of Matthew 11? Is he speaking of laying our burdens on his shoulders? Or is Jesus speaking of complete freedom from God’s law with grace being the new paradigm? Or perhaps some of both or neither.

We know one thing and that is Jesus calls us to come to him and he will give us rest. This rest involves taking upon us a yoke, namely the yoke of Jesus and in doing so we will find rest for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. This means complete freedom from something is not a possibility as a yoke was a device that provided guidance and direction to the oxen. That guidance and direction was given by someone with the purpose of plowing a field or moving a cart. Without any guidance from the driver, the oxen would wander in anything but a straight line, going wherever they please.

Another interesting element of this command by Jesus is the fact that by taking on his yoke, we will be in a state of learning from him. This means this yoke, along with providing guidance, also provides instruction and by taking this yoke of guidance and instruction, we will find rest.

This certainly is an interesting word picture painted by Jesus. Something most would consider and constraining (a yoke) is presented as a source of rest. A heavy wooden device is stated to be easy and light. With all that said, what could be this yoke Jesus speaks about in this passage?

I would like to suggest that the yoke Jesus speaks of is both himself and the Word of God. We know the yoke is Jesus because we have his command to come to him. We also know from Scripture that in Jesus we find our rest, partially in this life and in fullness in eternity (Heb. 4:9-10). Efforts done outside the framework of the work of Christ on the cross are done in vain and are a heavy yoke. They are directionless and chaotic at best with the individual taking the reins of their life without God as their master. When Jesus takes the seat as our Lord and Master, we place ourselves in submission to his reins and leading. Instead of human effort driving the cart of our life, Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit guides us.

What else in Scripture is presented as a guide for our lives, a source of instruction, a place of rest, and a light burden, at least for those willing to submit to it? Scripture fits all of those descriptions. Psalm 119:105 reminds us that God’s Word is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path”. Hebrews 4 speaks repeatedly of entering into God’s rest with a closing argument about the penetrating power of Scripture and the priestly work of Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I John 5:3 states “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

We can see that God’s Word fits all the descriptions noted by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. To present the yoke of Jesus as freedom from God’s Law is to misunderstand what God’s Law and the function of Scripture. When the Holy Spirit writes God’s Word (His Law) on our hearts and we demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commands, we are taking on the yoke of Jesus. Being obedient to God’s commands is not a burden. It is only a burden when we desire to take matters into our own hands and when we attempt to guide our own lives. When God leads and directs our lives and when we take the approach of loving God and keeping His commandments, we are truly finding a place of rest under the yoke of Jesus.

Unlike the yoke of bondage found in personal piety outside of God’s leading, the yoke of Jesus is easy. This word easy does not mean there is no effort involved and all of life is now a bowl of peaches and cream. The word easy means “something that is pleasant”. Proverbs speaks of the way of wisdom which of course is found in a life devoted to God and His commands. In fact, Proverbs 3:17 reminds us “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”, with her of course representing wisdom.

When we put all this together we find that taking on the yoke of Jesus is all about submitting to him with God’s Word being the reins that guide our life through the work of the Holy Spirit. God’s commands are not a burdensome yoke. They are presented as being quite the opposite, specifically they are a place of rest, comfort, instruction, and guidance. The yoke Jesus wants us to take is found only through him.

Today will you take off the burdensome yoke of self and put on the yoke of Jesus? Will you be willing to devote yourself to the reading of God’s Word and being obedient to God’s commands? Will you cease striving to find rest in any other place than Jesus and the Word of God? If you feel burdened, it because you have a yoke of self that is resting on your shoulders. Let Jesus take that yoke of fleshly bondage and replace it with his yoke. In doing so, you will have a desire to follow God’s Word and to allow those healing words of life to provide you with instruction, rest, and direction with God taking the reins to the yoke and to your life. Taking the yoke of Jesus is not freedom from God’s commands. Conversely, it is about finding freedom by obeying God’s commands not through our own vain efforts, but out of love for God who in His grace and mercy removes the yoke of self and gives us the yoke of His Son Jesus.

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Michael Boling – The Bride of Christ

Many believers have likely heard the term “bride of Christ’. However, grasping what that phrase means and how it relates to the corporate Body of believers to include what is required of individual believers who make up the corporate Body.  So with all that said, what is this being the bride of Christ really all about and why in the world does it matter to my everyday life as a Christian and how I relate to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and fellow believers?  In order to understand what it means to be the bride of Christ, it is first helpful to see how Scripture describes the bride to first understand the characteristics that Scripture attributes to the bride. In this post, we will focus on the necessity for the bride to be holy and how that plays out again within the construct of the bride individual and the bride corporate.

Scripture declares the need for the bride to be holy. Ephesians 5:25-27 states “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Let’s focus on the characteristic of what it means to be without stain or wrinkle, often translated as without spot or blemish. Despite what some may think, being holy or without stain or wrinkle, spot or blemish is not speaking of perfection in this life. In reality, what the Apostle Paul is referring to, being the learned Hebrew scholar that he was is the Hebrew word tamiym. This is a word used over 90 times in the Old Testament and means complete, whole, entire, sound, or mature. In Genesis 6:9 states “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” Now this does not mean Noah was perfect and without sin. The Hebrew word translated perfect is tamiym. In Genesis 17:1, God told Abraham “walk before Me and be blameless.” Once again, the word translated as blameless is tamiym. Even a cursory review of the life of Abraham will reveal he was not perfect. What God desired was maturity, a desire to become closer to Him. This is the essence of what it means to be tamiym. Through the process of sanctification and the power of the Holy Spirit, believers can become tamiym, without spot or blemish.

How does one become tamiym? Good works, hard work, luck of the draw, clean living? Let’s return to Ephesians 5:25-27. Paul speaks of Christ giving Himself up for His bride doing what exactly? Christ is making her holy (again a clear reference to tamiym) by “the washing with water through the word.” I Corinthians 6:11 states “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Ps. 19:7 states “The law of the Lord is perfect (tamiym), refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” It should be rather clear the Word of the Lord is tamiym, it washes us and thus there is something important about the word and the concept of tamiym in relation to what it means to be holy as the bride of Christ.

It is readily apparent God wants a bride that is tamiym, mature, without spot or wrinkle. How does one work towards becoming tamiym?

When Psalm 19:7 speaks of “converting the soul”, many have attributed that as the act of salvation. In reality, what this passage is speaking of is the impact that washing oneself in the water of the Word, which has been demonstrated to be tamiym (perfect), will have in the life of the believer. It will literally “convert” or change the soul, more appropriately translated as nephesh, the entirety of what constitutes an individual namely their mind, will, and emotions from being simple (Hebrew word pĕthiy – naïve, simple, foolish) to being tamiym. James 1:2 speaks of this process by stating “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The bride of Christ is called to be mature and complete. Part of how that is accomplished is by spending time in the Word of God, the source of wisdom.

Let us heed the words of Hebrews 6:1-3: “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” Notice once again the call for maturity. It is through the Word of God that spiritual maturity can be found, the place where the bride of Christ can daily wash herself in the sanctifying and cleansing power of God’s word in order to convert our nephesh from being naïve to being wise in things of the Lord. This is a requirement and characteristic of the bride of Christ, that of seeking God’s paniyem (His face) by devouring the Word of God. Do we desire to be so close to God through the reading and study of His word that his taniym law is so written on our hearts that the glory of God shines through us in every word and deed we do to the extent we are truly a light on a lampstand or a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden? After all that is a characteristic of what it means to be the bride of Christ, a longing for a Word from our bridegroom!

This of course begs the question as to how maturity can be accomplished, specifically maturing in the things of God and His Word. Can that be accomplished solely through personal Bible study outside the fellowship of a local body of believers under the leadership of a godly pastor committed to teaching the things of God? If that were the case, one has to immediately answer why the early church did not approach Bible study in that way. We find in Acts 2:42 that the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Was that devotion merely a personal time of Bible study or was it accomplished in a larger group of fellow believers?  It is clearly the latter.

Part of becoming tamiym is the essential element of coming together as the corporate bride to devote ourselves to being instructed in the life giving bread found in God’s Word. We have already noted that the Word of God is a vital aspect of the believer moving from a place of simplicity to that needed place of maturity. Throughout this series on the Church, we have discussed the increasingly popular lone-ranger approach to Church. Such a concept is completely foreign to the teaching of the entirety of Scripture. As the bride, we are called to koinonia (fellowship) whereby we can pray for one another, meet one another’s needs, and feast on the bread of God’s Word all for the explicit purpose of spurring one another towards love and good deeds in order to share the powerful message of the gospel to a lost and hurting world. We come together as individuals to make up the corporate bride, each presenting the gifts God has granted us with the goal of glorifying Him. Such an approach truly demonstrates a people who understand what it means to be the beloved Bride of Christ for glorifying Him is what loving God and loving others is all about according to Scripture.

Those who reject coming together as the corporate bride, reject the need for spiritual growth as an individual that feeds into the larger community of believers nor do they have a desire to build up the bride or to spur fellow believers towards love and good deeds. They also ignore the reality that coming together in koinonia is an act of courage as it crucifies self for the needs of fellow believers. They reject the reality that church history demonstrates the vital need for believers to be the bride of Christ in a corporate sense. Their selfish approach to community rejects the necessity to help others within the body, whether in the local setting of believers or those across the globe.

Those who truly understand that Scripture commands us to gather as well as the command to be tamiym and holy will grasp the beauty of what it means to be the Bride of Christ.

Is it too hard to ask of ourselves to gather together as His bride knowing that in doing so we show our love for the One who did so much for us? We really have a clear choice here. We either obey God or we disobey. As the bride, obedience leads to maturity while disobedience keeps us in that place of immaturity, self-centered and prideful. Loving Christ and others is best accomplished within the confines of a local community of believers, the Bride of Christ.

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Michael Boling – Husbands: Give Yourself to Your Wife

Eph. 5:25-33, “25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Most are familiar with the words of the Apostle Paul found in Ephesians 5:25-33. For that matter, this passage of Scripture finds its way into many wedding ceremony sermons and marriage retreats and rightly so. The command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church certainly presents an important rule of life. As I pondered this passage on the way to work the other day, one element really stood out to me, namely the aspect of just how husbands are to love their wives in connection to the example Christ set. That particular element is the concept of giving yourself up for her, a part that is intimately connected (no pun intended) to what it means to love your wife as Christ loves the church. It is this aspect of giving yourself for your wife that we will explore in this post.

As required for any examination and application of words found in Scripture, we will begin with defining terms; in this case the word “gave”. The Greek word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:25 is the verb paradidōmi which means to “give one’s self up for, give one’s self to death for, to undergo death for (the salvation of) one”. The first part of that definition seems innocuous enough as after all, to give of yourself for someone else seems like a reachable goal although the actual application of that in daily life seems to be rather difficult for many. It is the second and third aspects of the definition that seem to be where the real problem and lack of understanding resides. What does it mean to give of yourself to the extent that you would undergo death, in particular for the salvation of another? Let’s spend some time examining what that might look like.

Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Ephesians 5:25 rightly notes

“Here is a grand rule, according to which every husband is called to act: Love your wife as Christ loved the Church. But how did Christ love the Church? He gave himself for it – he laid down his life for it. So then husbands should, if necessary, lay down their lives for their wives: and there is more implied in the words than mere protection and support; for, as Christ gave himself for the Church to save it, so husbands should, by all means in their power, labor to promote the salvation of their wives, and their constant edification in righteousness. Thus we find that the authority of the man over the woman is founded on his love to her, and this love must be such as to lead him to risk his life for her.”[1]

Clarke hits the nail on the head in regards to what the Apostle Paul is getting across in Ephesians 5:25 this verse with the use of the word paradidōmi. What does it mean then in a practical sense to lay down your life for your spouse? While there is the possibility laying down your life might include the actual placing of your life in the place of another, meaning physically dying so another might live, what Paul seems to be implying in this passage is the crucifying of self for the glory of God in a demonstration of your passionate love for your wife. Since Christ is set forth as the example of what loving the Church and what paradidōmi looks like in action, we can surmise that a husband giving himself for his wife in the spirit of love demands the same action Christ did for the church on the cross. What did Christ do? He willingly gave up His life, meaning He was crucified for the sake of another.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:24 what it means to crucify yourself in the manner which is described in Ephesians 5:25. Paul notes in the Galatians passage “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” There are some connections that need to be made in this passage to the construct of a covenant spousal relationship. To belong to Christ Jesus is to be in a covenant marriage relationship. Since we are betrothed to Christ and He is our bridegroom and we are His bride, Christ expressed His profound and unending love for His bride by giving Himself for her on the Cross. Paul goes on to declare that since we belong to Christ Jesus in that covenant of marriage, we then must crucify the flesh with its resulting passions and desires for the purpose of giving our entire self in love, adoration, and obedience to the bridegroom Christ Jesus. Being in love with Christ is more than a feeling. Conversely, it necessitates action on our part through the work of the Holy Spirit as we transform and renew our minds, crucifying and mortifying sin in our lives all for the glory of God and love for Christ. This is how our relationship with the bridegroom is defined and how it should operate on a daily basis.

So how does our relationship with Christ flow down to and impact the relationship between husband and wife? According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:25, in the same manner as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for her and in the same manner as we in turn show our love for Christ in that marital/betrothal relationship, the husband must also crucify the flesh with its passions and desires because we belong in a covenant marriage relationship with the wife.

This begs the question as to what constitutes passions and desires. Once again we need to examine some word definitions. The word translated as passions or in some translations as affections is the Greek noun pathēma. Thayer, in his Greek lexicon, defines this word in the context of Galatians 5:24 to mean “of an inward state.” Essentially, this refers to the things that impact our inward self that ultimately result in action, whether positive or negative action. The word lust used by Paul is the Greek noun epithymia which refers to “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.” When you put those two terms together, it results in the idea that what is to be crucified are those things which God forbids and that which negatively impact the relationship between husband and wife. Thus, we are commanded by God to crucify those things out of our love for our spouse in recognition of our love for Christ and His love for His bride.

To give of oneself for the sake of another requires continuous acts of selflessness. Selfish desires and lusts must be mortified through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a constant battle that requires diligence and constant attention. This of course requires that the husband first commits himself to being dedicated to loving God and studying His Word. Since Paul provides a cascading example of relationships in Ephesians 5, we must be aware that when one part in the chain is broken, there will be problems. We certainly know that Christ’s love for His bride will never falter or fail. This leaves the potential for issues in the area of the husbands love for Christ as well as the husbands love for his spouse. Thankfully, we need only to look to the example set forth by Christ in His love for the Church to understand what true love and giving looks like. This involves studying how Christ loves His bride, what He did and continues to do for His bride, and how Scripture outlines such a relationship is to be implemented in all of life. We have covered many of those issues in this post already. I will add that a healthy relationship between the bridegroom and bride (Christ and His Church) rests on a love for God’s word and in turn, a healthy relationship between husband and wife also rests on a love for God’s word. A husband who is committed to loving and giving himself for his wife will be cognizant of the need to wash her daily in the Word. This is what Paul declares in Ephesians 5:26 that Christ does on our behalf through the work of the Holy Spirit. Since our relationship with our spouse should mirror our relationship with Christ, the fact that Christ washes us in His word requires that husbands wash their wives in the word.

Now that we have walked through Ephesians 5:25, noting what Paul is calling husbands to do for their wives, what does this look like in daily life? It is one thing to understand a doctrine theoretically and quite another to grasp a doctrine and then apply it to real life. It is that real life application that is often lacking in so many marriages. In the spirit of the Puritan authors, since the doctrine has been clearly stated, it is not time for the relevant application.

The best way I know how to share what loving your wife and giving yourself for her looks like on an everyday basis is to share my own struggles with this issue. My wife and I have been married for ten years and this past year, we adopted a twelve year old girl. Needless to say, our life has changed quite a bit from lots of time together to quite honestly, very little alone time, at least compared to the first nine years of marriage. Anyone with children knows this is just part of life. With that said, it elevates the need for loving and giving to an even greater level of importance. Let’s face it. Working husbands spend nine hours a day in the throes of work to come home to homework and the demands of family life. What is the greatest thing we as husbands desire more often than not? ALONE TIME! That precious time with the remote control when we can watch that favorite sports team compete, or possibly time alone reading that book we can never seem to finish, or having time for our own desires and pursuits whatever that may look like. In a practical sense, for most husbands, crucifying passions and desires involves dying to self in the area of plopping on the couch or wanting to escape. Does this mean that husbands can never pursue hobbies or watch football or have a little quite time all alone? The reality is there will be times when we need to recharge our batteries and that may involve some time alone with the demands and pressures of home set aside for a short and defined period. What it does not mean is escaping to those hobbies and pleasures because we do not want to crucify our wants and desires for the sake of our family’s needs.

For example, after working all day, there is nothing I dread more than sitting at the table helping my daughter with homework. I graduated high school and college for goodness sake. What do I care about word problems and finding the adverb in a sentence? (Be honest…you think the same thing.) The reality is I have to crucify my desires for the intellectual growth of my child. I have to shut my mouth and control my emotions for the benefit of another. It may also mean that I have to give my wife a break and help out around the house with family chores even when there a plethora of other things I want to do with my time. It means shutting up and listening when she speaks about her day at work and the challenges she faces. It requires coming alongside her and actually loving and showing compassion for her instead of the proverbial nodding of the head hoping the conversation will wrap up soon so I can watch television or zone out.

Is any of that easy? Absolutely not but it is worth it. Was it easy for Christ to die on the cross for His bride? Jesus wept tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. His journey to the Cross was not easy, yet He died on that Cross out of His love for His bride. Husbands are you willing to take up your cross daily out of love for your bride? However that looks like in your marriage, it is a must. Love is again more than a mushy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. Love is an action and in the case of marriage, it involves the constant act of crucifying self for the benefit of another, laying down your life, passions, and desires so another might live. Are you willing to do that for your wife? Christ set the example we are to follow. If we truly love Christ, we will and we must show our love for our wife by doing what He did for His people, dying to self and giving ourselves to the one we should love and adore.

References:
[1] http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?bk=48&ch=5

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