Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Steeplechase & the Lone Ranger (part 2)

Ephesians 5:29-32 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 (“megas”), and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

This passage is the cause of much strife, though not unexpectedly, as our hearts are proud & tend to refuse submission to either God or man. But that obstinate pride should be stymied in the one who’s deepest desire is to please God, for marriage’s highest honor is to be a walking, talking, breathing metaphor of the special bond that exists between Christ & His church. Interpreting Eph. 5:22-31 in the enlightenment of verse 32 should propel married Christians to go above & beyond to better their bond, not foremost in their love each other, but foremost instead in their love for God. In the same way that David perpetrated deadly sin against man, but then claimed to have sinned against God alone (Psalm 51:4), we must understand rejecting the God-appointed spousal duties is, in the eternal, the deepest, most “profound” sense, truly rejecting Christ Himself; for Christ clearly has appointed husband & wife to model His otherwise largely ineffable union with His church. Then, contrastingly, submitting to & embracing said calling is to embrace the more “profound” sort of submission prefaced in verse 21:

Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Once again, we see God’s calling purposed not primarily towards serving man, but God in Christ. As with King David’s confession, if we were to firstly concern ourselves with right service towards God, everything else would come into line. A King David rightly reverencing God would never want to be the cause of undue injury to Uriah, especially for the cause of coveting his wife. See, primarily, his “reverence for Christ” was lacking, which was the cause of his inability to submit to reverencing their marital covenant. What Psalm 51:4 does is push all the manifest effects of this lack of reverence aside & strike dead at the cause of the problem- a void of respect for God’s ordained order, & therefore, God Himself.

Similarly, the outlaw who rejects God’s ordained order of…

Ephesians 5:19-20 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (20) giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (21) submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

…primarily rejects Christ Himself. Take note of the fact that “addressing one another” is an inherent part of “making melody to the Lord”; that “submitting to one another” is part & parcel of “reverence for Christ.” Because they are united, as in marriage, one with the other, to heap undue aspersions on the bride is insult & denigrate the Groom as well. To insult my wife is no less than, & possibly even worse than, insulting me, for love would cause me to be more quick to respond in defense of my wife’s honor than in defense of my own. We should all therefore be slow to speak against God’s church, “out of reverence for Christ.” I’m not saying that we should hesitate to call out unbiblical doctrine, just the ad hominem attacks that we sometimes add to a proper respectful doctrinal rebuke.

There are generally two types of childish believers that refuse the maturing nature of steady Christian fellowship- the steeplechaser & the lone ranger. The first hops churches like the drunk hops bars- every time he doesn’t find what his flesh craves, he simply gets in his car & drives down the street to the next venue. This infantile Christian never matures because he never stops seeking the base fleshly desire. He always has poor words for the place he just left, & arrogantly considers himself a better Christian than they. His pride is his downfall, because it precludes his humble acquiescence to authority; again, as with King David, his transgression is at the most rudimentary level, a rebellion against God’s authority instead than man’s.

One may think the lone ranger Christian- the one not regularly attending any body of believers- to be someone at the polar extreme, but actually, it’s the same type of rebel, only with an even deeper degree of arrogant insolence. The steeplechaser at least senses the need for fellowship, but the lone ranger has developed such an audacity to think he can please God & grow to maturity without anyone’s help. It’s just me & God he says, I don’t need anyone else. Where does he find this model in Scripture or even in the early post-apostolic Church?

Indeed, the arduous trail that Antioch’s early 2nd century pastor Ignatius walks tells the tale of a submissive, but also tenderly loving fellowship of churches that interact with him on the on his slow march towards a martyr’s death in Rome. No bevy of lone rangers supported him or received instruction from him, even though in that age of Emperor Trajan’s severe persecutions a Christian could easily justify such a withdrawal from Christian fellowship. True believers instead traded the lone ranger’s invisible manner of worship for a public witness that was akin to kicking sand in the face of an 800 pound gorilla. No, even in a day when it was truly dangerous for Christians to gather, they still gathered, as evidenced by the record of the seven letters he wrote as he was carried in chains to Rome. They reveal a number of local church bodies united for the cause of Christ, yet even in that day the prideful lone rangers must have existed, given Ignatius’ words to the Ephesian & Roman churches of his day:

“Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the overseer and the whole church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, ‘God resisteth the proud.’ Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the overseer, in order that we may be subject to God.”

“Remember in your prayers the church in Syria, which now has God for its pastor, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love [will also regard it]…. My spirit salutes you, and the love of the churches which have received me in the name of Jesus Christ, and not as a mere passerby. For even those churches which were not naturally on my route at all came and escorted me from one city to the next.”

Hi-ho Silver, away- with the utterly unbiblical notion of a believer maturing in Christ, or fulfilling his “part” in God’s church apart from being in submission to & showing love towards a local fellowship.

To reject Christ’s body, pictured in its present form as a bride preparing for her blessed day, is to reject the Groom as well, for they are truly destined to become united as one. (Matt. 25:1-13)

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