Friday, May 14, 2010

The Mystery: One Body in Marriage and the Church

The promises that God made to Abraham in the Book of Genesis are illustrated in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Ephesians teaches what is happening all around us: the fulfillment of God's Words to the patriarch. It is a theology expressing the theme "one body." It is characterized with the practicing of separation of Abraham from familial bonds, and it is also characterized with his fellowship in God in his Heir. There is a double call to faith for Abraham. One call is faith in the promise of salvation, and another call is for Abraham's holiness and discipleship. This double call is also taught in Ephesians.

Paul uses a term to describe this "one body" theme in marriage and the church; it is a mystery. This mystery has been revealed by doctrine given to Paul from Jesus Himself (Eph. 3:2-4), and that doctrine is written in the letter and is concurrently being manifested by the church to an unsaved world. Eph. 5:30-32

For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

ONE BODY: The Promises

It was a single man, one body: Abraham, who received the promises of God. The first speech God ever made to Abram was

Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

It is amazing that God promised Abram offspring as plentiful as the dust of the earth. As of chapter fifteen of Genesis, the LORD had mentioned this promise three times to him, but who would be considered his descendant? He had no children of his own flesh and blood. There was a child born in his home who would be his heir. Abram inquired of God, and He answers. The promise, God explains, will come through a yet unborn child.

It was a single child, one body: Isaac, who became the manifestation of God's promise. Ishmael and all the concubines' children were sent by the patriarch far away from Isaac in a land to the East, and Isaac inherited everything (Gen. 25:5-6). This process was a source of persecution for the heir and a heart-issue grounded in familial love when Abraham chose to exclude his first son (Gen. 21:11).

It was a single individual, one body: Christ, who is the Seed confirming Abraham's covenant. "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ" (Gal. 3:16).

ONE BODY: The Separations

Abram dwelled with unbelievers in Ur. God wanted to bless Abram, but departure was the condition in which He would accomplish the blessing. The scriptures teach in the New Testament not to keep accord with unbelievers, 2 Cor. 6:16-18

'I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be my people.'


'Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.
I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be my sons and daughters,
Says the LORD Almighty.'

But it was not just with the unbelieving quality of his house, family and country from which God wanted to separate Abram. The fact that Terah, Abram's father, and nephew Lot, tagged along with Abram as he followed God's leading, demonstrates a certain amount of faith by his relatives. In fact, Lot was judged righteous and spared from the destruction of Sodom later on in Genesis evidencing that he was a man who most likely believed in the promise given by God to Abram (and therefore was justified, a true brother in the faith as well as the flesh).

It was from family altogether that God desired Abram to separate.

After Abram takes his first trip to Egypt he returns to the original altar he built and calls on the name of the LORD (Gen. 13:4). But the LORD did not respond to his call till after he deals a final separation from his nephew. Afterward God speaks affirmation to Abram. Abram had to say to Lot in 13:9

"Please separate from me."

Much later in life, when seeking a suitable wife for his son Isaac from amongst his relatives, Abraham commands his servant who will bring back this wife in Gen. 24:6-8 saying,

Beware that you do not take my son back there. The LORD God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, 'To your descendants I give this land,' He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife from my son from there. And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.

God puts a premium on an everlasting sever of orientation with the family of origin. In the New Testament, separation from relatives and family is still the essential test of discipleship to the LORD. Luke 9:57-62

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Here we can see the double call to put faith in Jesus. First for salvation - these two men both call Him Lord, having already believed in Him for eternal life as a free gift, which is not attained by commitment. But the second call to faith is for discipleship. The choice is theirs. The cost is personal; the cost comes at the expense of family accord. This is not the only scripture juxtaposing commitment to the LORD and the connectedness to relatives. Matt. 10:34-39

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Leaving all to follow Christ explicitly targets the family of origin as an influence to forsake. Luke 14:25-33

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Jesus is making a family marked by faith. He passionately recognizes those of the faith and no longer acknowledges the family of the flesh. Indeed it is interesting in these passages that Jesus recognizes His family as those believers who obey Him. Matt. 12:46-50

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."
He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

ONE BODY: The Alliances

Paul speaks to the Ephesian believers just as God spoke to Abram calling that which was dead truly alive. Our justification positionally moves us out from our deserved fate and grafts us in to another fate. Romans 4:16-22 describes the circumstances of death turned to justification:

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

We were also spiritually dead dwelling with unbelievers, but raised to life in Him if we believe. Ephesians 2:1-7

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 2:24 is the first time marriage is given revelation. Adam and Eve's directive has two parts; the "leaving," and the "cleaving." The "leaving" seems a little easier to understand. The "cleaving" is a little more difficult. In this cleaving faith-family there are a few categories of two former representative parties who are reckoned now as one. In fact, the representative sorts (below) comprise many millions of individuals who are considered by God as unified. The five categories of alliance are:

  • The Gentiles and the Jews. In Christ, they are no longer opponents but made one body from the two. Ephesians 2:11-18
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

God has a plan for increasing the descendants of that small nuclear family of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. His will is to reach back into that wealth of relatives and families of unbelievers in all the world and call them to faith in God through the gospel of Christ. The enmity in our own household can become peace if its members believe and choose to follow Christ. The peace is ours by position, by justification. However peace is not realized, experienced, or made manifest in experience without fellowship in Christ as we walk in the footsteps of faith like our father Abraham. There is a double call to faith in the LORD. This is why Paul immediately introduces discipleship beyond this positional teaching of justification. He begins by asking the Ephesian believers to reckon on the mystery. Eph. 3:8-4:1

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling for which you were called....

  • A husband and his wife. In truth, two individuals are reckoned as one body. Eph. 5:28

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

  • Jesus Christ and the Church. In truth, they are reckoned as one body. Eph. 1:22-23 & 1 Cor. 12:12

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.

  • Jesus Christ and the Father. They are two persons, yet one being. John 17:11 & 17:20-23

Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

  • Heaven and earth. Two realms presently governed by two opposing principalities will one day have total annexation under God's reign. Eph. 1:7-12

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

"In Him" and "In Him also" denote the double calls to faith; one justifying for the gift of eternal life, and the other a choice to follow in Abraham's walk of discipleship, and by doing so becoming the blessing that God wanted to make of him.

Heaven kisses earth and God dwells forever with His people when all enmity has been destroyed - what a stark reminder that there is a real place called hell reserved for unbelief and there will be judgment for our walk beginning with the house of God. It is through our guarded commitment to only orient ourselves in Him and His promises that we will be a blessing to the world and fulfill God's purpose on earth. It is through marriage and the church of Christ that God is depicting His eternal redemptive purposes.

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