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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[15. Which Family?]

 

This is the 15. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."

 

15. Which Family?

 

by Frank L. Preuss

 

When Jesus was twelve years old he said to his parents, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" His parents had been searching for Jesus and Jesus had been in the temple courts, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and his answers. And then his parents saw him and were amazed; and his mother asked him about all this and in doing so she speaks of his earthly parents and Jesus answered by talking about his heavenly Father. But his parents understood not what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:41-52).

Jesus' mother talked to her earthly son about Jesus' earthly parents. But in his reply Jesus talked to his earthly father and mother - his parents - not about his earthly parents but about his heavenly Father. They were talking about different subjects. And then the Bible says that his parents did not understand what he was saying to them.

It was a lack of understanding - of understanding about family matters. And the subject of our study here is this family matter: to understand our standing in our family.

We want to understand what Jesus is saying to us. We want to understand the difference between the earthly father and the earthly mother on the one side and our heavenly father on the other side.

We want to understand the difference between our earthly family and our heavenly family - the difference between the family we have been born into when we came to this world and the family of God from which we came and to which we will go again and which we remembered when we were born from above - born of God.

The family of God consists of God and his children. We have been given the power to become children of God - children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of men, but of God - when we received Jesus, when we believed in his name (John 1:12-13).

When we have been born of God, then we belong to a new family - our relationship has become a different one. Our sisters and brothers are now the women and men who are born from above as we are. Our relatives are now all the other children of God. We - the children of God - are the ones who have been born again. To be born again is the pre-requisite to be able to see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3).

Before we got born from above we had been born into a natural family. We were born of natural descent, of human decision or a husband's will. We had natural parents, natural sisters and brothers and natural relatives. We also might have natural husbands and natural wives. But then this change took place in our life and we made Jesus Christ our Lord and received a new family. Those who are also children of God are now our brothers and sisters and mothers. When Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him, he replied, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, "Behold, my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matthew. 12:46-50).

In Luke 8:19-21 we have a parallel report about this incidence. There Jesus says, "My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God and do it."

So when we do the will of our Father in heaven (Matthew's report) then we hear God's word and put it into practice: do it (Luke's report).

Also in Matthew 7:21 Jesus says that those shall enter into the kingdom of heaven that do the will of his Father which is in Heaven - and not every one that says Lord, Lord, to him. If a person says he is a Christian, but does not do what Jesus says, he is not our brother; and if another Person says he is a Muslim or Buddhist, or whatever, and he does what Jesus says, then this person is our brother. The label is not decisive, only the content. What a person does is important - not words that are just religiously spoken but not backed up.

So if a "missionary" goes to the other side of the world, and finds a man who is already a good man - who already does what the Word of God says - and "converts" this man, who is actually already a son of God, to his denomination and therefore teaches him to be a divider and teaches him all the other carnal things of his denomination, then he makes out of this good man a son of hell.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mathew 23:15).

The criteria for our new family members are new ones. The members of our family are not anymore the members of our natural family but those who put God's word into practice.

So if the members of our natural family are putting God's word into practice, then they are members of our family. And if the members of our natural family are not putting God's word into practice, what are they then? Are they then members of God's family?

When the mother of Jesus and his brothers are not putting God's Word into practice, what are they then? Are they then still members of his family?

Jesus came to bring God's will and therefore God's word to men and the disciples were the ones who heard God's word and wanted to put into practice. That was the reason they were with Jesus. But this was not the reason why Jesus' mother and his brothers came to see him. Their reason was quite an opposite one. In Mark 3:31-35 we have a third report about this visit by Jesus' relatives and in that chapter 3 we find in verses 20-30 the background why they came to see him.

Let us read Mark 3:20-22:

And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends (or, kinsmen) heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

There was such a rush of people towards Jesus that people in Israel got concerned about it and tried to do something about it - stop it. The teachers of the law - the scribes - who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils."

Now the teachers of the law were not just some theologians busy in one of many denominations. The teachers of the law had a quite high standing in society; they belonged to the ruling class. And not just the ruling class in regards to religious affairs, but the ruling class in all affairs. The religious leaders were also the political leaders; the high priest was also the political leader of Israel; his authority came from the Romans, who at that time ruled over Israel. And these teachers of the law were probably sent out from Jerusalem to check out the reports that came from Galilee and to evaluate the spiritual significance.

And their spiritual assessment of the situation was negative: There is not a new prophet active in Galilee but a person who is possessed by Beelzebub. It was basically a decision that came right from the top. The specialists had made an investigation due to highest orders and had made a finding.

And this finding was announced: "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." So there existed an official opinion about Jesus and that was absolutely negative. The state had found that he was possessed by Beelzebub. Now today that would mean that a person is mentally not all right. But in that religious state at that time it meant that he was an enemy of God and therefore an enemy of the state. And that again meant that he was an enemy of the people.

We have to consider that kind of background. Jesus' family was suddenly faced with a situation that one of their members was considered to be a highly undesirable person, a person that was - in the opinion of the highest authorities - against God. And already before this decision was known they heard about the crowd gathering, they heard that Jesus and his disciples were not even able to eat. And when they heard this they wanted to go and take charge of Jesus. They said, "He is out of his mind - he is beside himself." And then this finding of the authorities became known. So they felt that there aim to go and to take charge of him was supported by this news of the finding of the teachers of the law.

We have to visualize such a situation - a situation at the first coming of Christ - because it will be very similar to situations Christians have to face at the second coming of Christ. Family members - members of the natural family - will turn against them and hate them and families will be divided. Christians will even be betrayed by members of their own family. There will be pressure on people - on the minds of people - and public opinion will be very influential and people will depend on what others think about them.

So Jesus' family was also not supporting his ministry, quite to the contrary. They were basically in agreement with the teachers of the law. The teachers of the law accused Jesus of being demon possessed and his family accused him of being out of his mind - insane.

There was quite a rush in the house where Jesus was; they were so busy that they could not even eat. And what was the family's reaction? "He is out of his mind," they said. And they went to Jesus - not to hear God's word and put it into practice - but to take charge of him.

When Jesus was told about their arrival he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." (Mark 3:34-35).

The closest people in a natural family are the father, the mother, the daughters and the sons. Jesus here mentions the sons, the daughters and the mother. He does not mention the father. Why doesn't he mention the father? Because he talks about the spiritual family - his heavenly family. And he talks about those parts of the spiritual family that are physically present. And he consciously does not speak of the father - at least not in this part of the sentence - because he spoke of the father already in the first part of the sentence. So he actually speaks of all four: For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:50). So here we have the whole family: Father, mother, brother and sister. The whole heavenly family. The Father which is in heaven and the spiritual brother, the spiritual sister and the spiritual mother. All the one's doing the will of the Father which is in heaven. So Jesus' spiritual mother - and therefore our spiritual mother - are the believers around us.

May be in order to deceive us about our real mother - our spiritual mother - a denomination created a cult around Jesus' natural mother. So keeping their followers busy with this, they hoped, their followers would never find out about their real mother.

It is actually quite a remarkable statement that Jesus says that his disciples are his brothers and sisters and mother. We might have wondered why Jesus talks so often about his heavenly Father but never about his heavenly mother. And here he suddenly does. He talks about his spiritual mother. And he does it in such way that we hardly notice it. Because the Bible speaking of his natural mother and his natural brothers coming to see him and Jesus then talking about this subject, it easily escapes our eyes that Jesus is actually telling us who his spiritual mother is. So in these Scriptures Matthew 12:49-50; Mark 3:34-35 and Luke 8:21 Jesus explains to us who his spiritual mother is. We know very much who his spiritual Father is. The whole Bible is full of facts about his heavenly Father. But here we find information who his spiritual mother is. Jesus' mother is those who hear God's word and put it into practice. We followers of Jesus are his mother. The church is Jesus' mother.

So here we have another aspect of the great mystery of the church as Paul speaks of it: This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

And when we are Jesus' mother then we might have children. And these our off-spring will not be natural children but spiritual children. And even the Old Testament deals already with this mystery. Even the Old Testament speaks of a way that is better than having natural children: to have spiritual children. If you have no natural children or if you are not married then read Isaiah chapter 54 and chapter 56. Isaiah 54:1 is quoted in the New Testament: Galatians 4:27 reads, "For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband." In Isaiah 56:5 it is stated: "Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." So this spiritual mother has many more children and this will be better for her than natural sons and daughters.

Let us look at an example how a Christian can be Jesus' mother. In Romans 16:13 we read, "Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." So Rufus' mother was a mother to Paul. She ministered to Paul and what she did for one of the brothers of Jesus she did for the Lord. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40). And because Rufus' mother, his earthly mother, was a mother to Paul, a spiritual mother, she was also a mother to the Lord, because what she did for Paul, she did for the Lord.

Let us come back to Jesus' natural mother. Jesus says that his natural mother is not his mother. Jesus says that a person who does God's will is his mother. His natural mother was not doing God's will. She was busy opposing the things of God. She was busy trying to stop the Son of God bringing salvation to the people - she wanted to take charge of him, because she thought that her son was out of his mind.

And these are the kind of situations that will occur to us. Our natural family sees what happens in our life - the mighty things God is doing in and around us - and instead of being drawn to God, they react violently against us - they want to take charge of us - they think we are out of our mind.

But let us be very careful and let us act the right way. It is often better when people react in a negative way to our new kind of life than not reacting at all. When our family reacts negatively we should not give up on them. Let us look at Jesus' mother and his brothers.

Jesus' mother had been mightily touched by God and had responded with great faith when God's angel told her that she was to give birth to Jesus - the Son of the Most High. Then she had experienced that it came to pass what she had been told and many miraculous happenings after that.

And now she was opposing her son - thinking that he is beside himself. She was going to take charge of him. If things like these happen with our natural family we should not give up and get upset. Rather let us remember how the life of Jesus' mother proceeded. At the day of Pentecost she was there in the upper room and she was even at the cross when most of his disciples had abandoned Jesus.

And Jesus' brothers were with his mother. They also wanted to take charge of Jesus, they also were opposing their brother. In John 7:2-9 we find some more information about Jesus' brothers and their attitude towards Jesus: "For neither did his brethren believe in him" (John 7:5). But after Jesus' resurrection they were his followers: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14). They belonged to the assembly of God's people right from the beginning. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all there. And James, one of Jesus' brothers, was therefore there as well. This James seems to have been a spiritual leader in the early assembly, Paul says in Galatians 1:19 that he saw James, the Lord's brother, when he went to Jerusalem. And this James is considered to be the author of the Epistle of James. His brother Jude is considered to be the author of the Epistle of Jude.

And we might even find ourselves in our walk with God in a stage where we are actually opposing the way God wants things done and go to other Christians in order to sort them out, because we thing that what they are doing is definitely not of God.

So we have to remain humble when we are in contact with our natural family and we have to walk by faith when it comes to the members of our family - our natural family.

But at that point of time Jesus says that his natural mother was not his mother. She was not his mother because she did not do the will of God.

Members of our natural family who do not do the will of God are not relatives of ours. We treat them the same as we treat other people around us that we know and come into contact with: we are witnesses to them and live a godly life before them, but we live separate from them.

There are however special circumstances and the word of God has dealt with such.

We still have to honour our parents (Matthew 19:19; Mark 10:19 and Luke 18:20) and this command does not fall away when we become borne from above and our parents remain worldly. The command to honour our father and mother is independent of such a situation.

Jesus gives us an example how to honour our parents. He says that it is wrong for a man not to give gifts to his parents with the excuse that the money was reserved as a gift devoted to God (Matthew 15:3-6; Mark 7:9-13). So we should help our parents and we should not use the excuse that the money is earmarked for religious purposes.

Another way to dishonour our parents is to devour widows' houses (Matthew 23:14). If children give their widowed mother a hard time pressurising her to give to them her belongings then they are doing exactly the opposite of what they are commanded - they do not honour their mother.

Another special circumstance is when a Christian is married to an unbeliever. For such a situation we find guidance in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. If the unbelieving partner is willing to live with the believing partner, then they are not to divorce, but if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so:

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

When a child becomes a believer and his parents are unbelievers, then the child still has to honour his parents and in addition he has to obey them (Colossians 3:20): Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

So a Christian might find himself in a situation where he can't just separate himself from certain unbelieving relatives. He will have to study the Word of God concerning that situation and act accordingly.

But this application of the guidance from the Bible should never be a reason not to follow Jesus. Here we have the same rule that applies when we deal with government and other worldly people, we obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20): But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. These two verses Acts 4:19-20 should remind us to never allow members of our natural family to forbid us to talk about the things of God whenever we feel to do so. And there we do not compromise. And we also do not act in fear. We know that whenever we obey God rather than men, that God will be on our side. God will always honour a believer who obeys God rather than men.

The teachings of Jesus are without compromise in this regard. The moment we have decided to follow him, we do so without reservation and no family ties should hold us back.

Let us see how far reaching this is. In Matthew 8:21-22 a man, one of his disciples, said to him, "Suffer me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus said unto him, "Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."

Let the spiritually dead bury their own physically dead.

We leave the business of burying the physically dead to the spiritually dead.

The parallel passage in Luke 9:59-60 reads:

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Here Jesus puts an end to the business of family ceremonies like funerals and weddings and gives us a complete new aim in life. All the aims connected to the natural family are done away with and the aim of the spiritual family is the only one that matters.

This is one of the most significant differences between the old covenant and the new one. The old covenant also shows that members of God's household were not only the ones that were of physical decent of Jacob, but also the ones that believed like Tamar or Rahab or Ruth. Generally however it was the duty of an Israelite to have children to bring increase to the family of God.

God gave this command three times. The first time he gave it to the male and the female he had created (Genesis 1:28):

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.

The second time he gave this command to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1):

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

And this is repeated in verse 7 of Genesis 9:

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

And a third time it was given. In Genesis 35:11 God gave this command to Jacob:

And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.

Three times God gave this command. Every time it was a new beginning. Every time God started with spiritual people.

The man and woman he had created received this command before the fall, at a time when they were still spiritual people.

Then God gave this command to Noah and his sons, the only people he had saved from the flood because they were not corrupted by sin but were spiritual people and they were told to multiply.

And a third time God made a new beginning. Again he gave his command to be fruitful and to increase in number. And again he gave it to a spiritual person, to Israel.

But actually God does not have grandchildren. A person does not become a child of God, because he is born of a father who is a child of God. The father might be a child of God, but this does not mean that the child will automatically be child of God. We know this very well. A person must be born from above. He must be spiritually born - born again - then he becomes a child of God.

So we are not fruitful and we do not increase when we bring physical children to this world. We are fruitful and we increase when we are bringing forth fruit - spiritual fruit. The fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 is what we have to bring forth. We are fruitful and we increase in number when we are bearing fruit - spiritual fruit.

And then, when we bear good fruit, then we are going and we are proclaiming the kingdom of God.

So there is something completely new here. Jesus is proclaiming here in Luke 9:60 a complete new family policy: "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and proclaim the kingdom of God."

We can't increase the kingdom of God by producing physical children. Producing physical children does not increase the family of God. If we want to increase God's family then we have to bear fruit and when we bear fruit then we will automatically go and proclaim this kingdom. If we will be busy with bringing up physical children we will have much less time to go and to proclaim. Jesus says that we should leave worldly things to the spiritual dead. Let the spiritual dead bury the dead and let the spiritual dead produce the spiritual dead. We are not anymore busy with carnal ways of increasing the kingdom.

Nowhere does Jesus tell us that we are to be fruitful and increase in number physically. We will not find such a command in the new covenant. There is something completely new here. If somebody wants to teach Christians to live family life as it is shown to us in the old covenant, then he has to go to that covenant and teach from there. But then he must deny the teachings of the new covenant and the commands of the Lord.

For Christians to marry and to have children is something that is recommended in situations where we are dealing with shortcomings. In 1 Corinthians 7:2 one of these shortcomings is mentioned, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication." And in 1 Corinthians 7:6 it is stated that this recommendation to marry is a permission, not a command. Another of these weaknesses is mentioned right after the first one: "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn" (1 Corinthians 7:9). A further recommendation to marry is found in 1 Corinthians 7:36, where a person has committed himself previously. The general advice given is however: "Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned" (1 Corinthians 7:27-28).

Another recommendation we find in 1 Timothy 5:11-15, here younger widows are counselled to marry and to have children. Let us read the whole passage: "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan."

The shortcoming here mentioned is sensual desire - wax wanton. And the problem is that this sensual desire overcomes their dedication to Christ. And this again causes them to bring judgement on themselves because they break their first pledge. The first pledge being their pledge to follow Jesus. And then some more shortcomings are listed.

In most of these cases marriage is recommended to prevent something worse: immorality, problems arising out of lack of self-control, burning with passions, sensual desires overcoming the dedication to Christ.

Set against these recommendations to marry we find many admonitions to remain unmarried:

His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry (Matthew 19:10).

It is good for a man not to touch a woman (1 Corinthians 7:1).

For I would that all men were even as I myself (1 Corinthians 7:7).

I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I - unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8).

But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches (1 Corinthians 7:17).

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God (1 Corinthians 7:24).

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be (1 Corinthians 7:26).

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife (1 Corinthians 7:27).

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you (1 Corinthians 7:28).

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better (1 Corinthians 7:37-38).

The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:39-40).

The new covenant does not encourage marriage and procreation. There are no examples in the New Testament in this respect. The New Testament does not teach the normal Christian to get married and to procreate and there are no reports of Christians getting married and producing off-spring.

We have here something completely new. Something radically new. This is so radical in its whole lay-out that it takes quite some time to comprehend its full consequences. Jesus makes an end to the teachings of the Old Testament to be fruitful and to increase in number and instead gives the command to go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus makes an end to family life as we know it from the Old Testament and proclaims a complete new family life - proclaims a family of people who do the will of his father - a body of spiritual people.

One of the most outstanding features of man-made churches is that they ignore exactly this aspect of Jesus' teachings and proceed as if they do not exist, and practising the ways of the old covenant is normal procedure for them. Wedding ceremonies are important events for them and much of their social life centres around finding marriage and sex partners. There is hardly anything more unscriptural than a church wedding.

We just stated that the new covenant does not encourage marriage and procreation. There are no examples in the New Testament in this respect. There are however exceptions to this and we had a look at them. But the existence of these exceptions is a support of the general teaching of the New Testament because these exceptions confirm the general teaching by being exceptions.

We are coming now to an important aspect of this situation and its teachings in the New Testament. To understand the teaching of the New Testament we have to realise the difference between two aspects of family life - two aspects of life in a physical family. These two aspects are "being married" and "getting married." The New Testament has to say something about both of these aspects.

Let us first look at "being married." If a person is married, then this agreement is valid, has to be respected and cannot be dissolved. A word has been given and that has a very high standing in God's eyes. Therefore when a person that is married and becomes a Christian, he remains married and will find in the New Testament guidance how to conduct himself in the marriage. There is much guidance for husbands and wives found in the New Testament. Here we just want to establish that when a married person becomes a Christian he remains married. An agreement once made has to be honoured although a person may grow in insight and learn that it is better not to be married.

To give examples: If a Moslem has two wives and he becomes a Christian, then, after he has become a Christian, he will still have two wives. He has to honour the word he has given to his two wives, the word he gave when he was not a Christian. There is no change; he will remain married to two wives. The same when a Zulu who has five wives and 35 children makes a decision for Christ and becomes a believer, then he also will still be a man who has five wives and 35 children; there will be no change. This is a reason why the Bible does not say that a Christian can only have one wife. There is no such rule in the Bible. The only exceptions are elders. Elders can only have one wife. So the Zulu and the man who had been a Moslem cannot become elders, but they are Christians as everybody else in the family of God.

So the New Testament gives much advice for married people and encourages married couples to live a godly life and to maintain the marriage. The New Testament is actually more stringent on divorce than the Old Testament. But there are no indications contained in this guidance the Bible gives for married people that show that the Bible encourages Christians to get married. So the Bible very much protects the marriage, but this protection does not allow the deduction that the Bible encourages people to get married. The Bible also protects very much a slave, but this does mean that the Bible encourages people to become slaves. The Bible has something to say to a slave, how he has to conduct his life and the Bible has to say something to Christians how they have to conduct themselves towards slaves but all this is not an encouragement to become a slave or to have and keep slaves.

Now this comparison of a married person to a slave does not seem to be very appropriate. But that is exactly what the Bible does; the Bible mentions married people and slaves in context. The Bible says that we must not become slaves of men, and that in the chapter that deals with the subject "getting married" - 1 Corinthians chapter 7. "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the slaves of men" (1 Corinthians 7:23). If somebody marries he places himself into a position that is compared to that of a slave. Such a man has to fulfil duties and his body does not belong to him alone (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). A man who has to fulfil duties - a married person - and can't get out of it - because he can't get divorced - and a man whose body does not belong to him alone, is not a free man. And a man that is not free is a slave.

The Bible also protects very much children, but also here this fact cannot be used to say that the Bible encourages Christians to have children. Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16). We cannot use scriptures like these to recommend to Christians to get married and bring children into the world. It would be a misuse of scripture as it is a misuse to take this scripture and try to support the sprinkling of babies - the baptising of children who are not yet believers.

Our duty is to go and proclaim the kingdom of God. If we are bringing up children we will be occupied for many years of our life and this time will shorten our time to go and to proclaim the kingdom of God.

So the Bible tells us how to conduct our lives when we are married and it tells Christians how to conduct themselves when dealing with married people. So when we are looking at the subject "being married," we find that the Bible is giving us quite some teaching and guidance.

But "being married" means a decision to get married was taken in the past and it is now done - the person is married - and the past cannot any more get changed. And "getting married" means that the decision to marry has not yet been made - it is just considered - the wedding has not yet taken place. And to the question, if it is good to marry, the Bible also has teachings and guidance. In the first letter to the Corinthians a whole chapter deals with this: chapter 7.

Jesus himself teaches on marriage and he surprises the Pharisees and also his disciples by being stricter on divorce than Moses. He says (Matthew 19:6), "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." This surprises the Pharisees and they ask Jesus why Moses allowed divorce and Jesus replied, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matthew 19:8-9).

We have here an example of how different Jesus' teaching is to the practice of the Jewish community. Jesus goes much further than condemning outward acts of sin. For him the attitude of the heart is decisive. Not only murder is a sin but already being angry with a brother is sin. Not only adultery is sin but anyone looking at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Now this teaching of Jesus on divorce surprised the Pharisees, but it also surprised the disciples. What kind of conclusion do we have to draw from this teaching of Jesus? I think we should draw the same conclusion the people drew who heard this teaching. Their reaction was the following:

The disciples said to him, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry."

We have hear the same expression that we find in 1 Corinthians 7:1, "It is good for a man not to marry" and in 1 Corinthians 7:38, "But he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better."

Now this is the conclusion the disciples drew from Jesus' teaching: it is better not to marry. And Jesus confirms that his disciples came to the right conclusion.

Jesus replied, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given (Matthew 19:11).

So we have here with Jesus' teaching the same guidance as we get in other parts of the New Testament: marriage is not recommended but it is also not forbidden. In 1 Timothy 4:3 we are told that it is wrong to forbid people to marry.

And Jesus expresses the same. In the following verse, Matthew 19:12, he says that the one who is able to receive it, let him receive it. It is therefore up to us to decide if we can accept his teaching. But when we can, then we should do so. And in this verse Jesus comes back to the real aim we should have in life: the kingdom of heaven. If we have decided that the kingdom of heaven is our real aim in life then it will be quite easy to accept Jesus' teaching.

A person might be on a certain level, may be his understanding is limited and his priorities are not sorted out. He has problems to differentiate between the minor and the main things. His willpower is limited and he rather seeks his own happiness than that of others and he might want to pursue rather worldly happiness and worldly success and therefore limit his own freedom. If he would recognize his own true self and his real purpose in life, these worldly things would be so irrelevant to him that he would not spend time on them. He would not even be able to do so because he has detected a much better goal: spiritual growth - the kingdom of God. And he looks forward to this and yearns for its fulfilment.

So the Bible tells us: it is good for a man not to marry; it is better not to marry; it is good to stay unmarried. Jesus gives a reason why people renounce marriage: because of the kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 7:33-35 it is expressed in this words, "a married person cares about the things of the world" but we should "care for the things of the Lord" and our "aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit" and that we "may live in a right way, without distraction, to the Lord."

A married person cannot avoid to be concerned about the affairs of the world and to live a worldly life. He will not live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. So married persons will always have problems to keep themselves pure - pure from the world. To avoid living a worldly life a man who has a wife can do the following: he can live as if he had none. This is actually a rule. In 1 Corinthians 7:29 it says, "From now on those who have wives be as though they had none."

If we live a married life we cannot avoid being concerned about the affairs of the world; we will always have problems to keep ourselves pure from the world. And that is the reason why Jesus says that others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.

The guidance we therefore receive from the Bible is to stay unmarried or to renounce marriage and to live as if we had no wife. If we really want to have the Lamb's name and his Father's name written on our foreheads (Revelation 14:1) then we have to concentrate on the kingdom of heaven. If we really want to have our mind and our thinking - which is in our forehead - set on the things above then we have to stay away from worldly occupations and interests. Our mind must be set in one direction and not divided. If we want to belong to the 144.000 then we have to live like them: "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed (bought) from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4).

We should not defile ourselves with worldly affairs. We should keep ourselves pure. We follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

We seek the kingdom of heaven. Our mind is set on that aim that is above. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection (or, mind) on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:1-2). If we are really living in the spiritual world, if we really are only in this world but not of this world, then we will live a life that conforms to the things above, then we set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. We will live here already as we will live when we will be resurrected. "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30). In Luke 20:34-36 this account of Jesus' words is given, "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." So it will be very much a question if we still want to be people of this age. We do not want to be of this age. We live a life that conforms to the things above.

We live in this world but we are not of this world. We do not live like the world does. If we love the life of this world then we will not want to follow Jesus. And then we will not be ready at the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus describes this situation with these words, "For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark" (Matthew 24:38), "And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all" (Luke 17:26-27).

Here Jesus describes a typical worldly life, a life of people who have set their mind on things below. Their hearts are set on things below, on earthly things. And marrying and being given in marriage is very much part of this kind of life.

And people living such a life will miss the real life. At the decisive moment destruction will overtake them. They will miss the great banquet. When the invitation comes they will be too busy with their worldly things and will begin to make excuses and say, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" (Luke 14:20). The business of occupying our mind with romance, with physical attraction to other people, with the desire to have friendship with the opposite sex, with courtship and with reading and watching of love stories, will keep us from seeking the things above. These activities will keep us from following Jesus.

If we do not give up these activities we cannot be Jesus disciples. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

The remarkable aspect of this saying of Jesus is that he does not give us a list of priorities where he says that firstly we have to be disciples of Jesus, secondly we have to be church members, thirdly we are to be responsible family people and fourthly something else and so forth. No, he says that we have to be his disciples and everything else must not play anymore a role - even our own life must be considered to be unimportant. Everything else does not count any more. When we become his disciples then everything else cannot have any influence any more. Only what furthers the discipleship is relevant.

We have to give up everything we have when we become his disciples. There is nothing excluded. "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).

And when we start this way of life there will be a dramatic change in everything we do. And this again will have a tremendous influence on the people around us. When we turn our back on the world people will perhaps admire us for this. But what is even more likely is that people will get highly upset about it and will react very negatively. Let us look what happened to Jesus himself in his home town: And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenterís son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:53-58).

So if we really turn our back on the world there will be a reaction. We notice that Jesus speaks of his home town but he also speaks of his own house. This is a confirmation that at a certain stage his family was not following him. And so can it be with us. Our own house is opposed to us.

A description of such a house is found in Luke 12:49-53:

I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened (or, pained) till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

This division will be in one family. And this division will be there because some members of the family suddenly belong to God's family and have left the world behind them. And this will cause a reaction. The rest of the family will react - will react negatively.

In Matthew 10:34-38 we find a similar passage. Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a manís foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."

If a child becomes a follower of Jesus and the child's family turns against this child, then this child will have a new family - the family of God. God will be his father and he will have brothers and sisters. And he can say, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up" (Psalm 27:10). He will end up having a much better family than he had before - God's family. "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my nameís sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matthew 19:29).

But there will be divisions - divisions in the natural family. Division that show who is on who's side.

And the religious people will get upset, especially the leaders. It will be as it was with Jesus. Persecution will start and then this division of the natural family will bring forth betrayal.

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death (Matthew 10:21). Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death (Mark 13:12).

So there will be terrible situations inside Christian families. There will be warfare - no peace. Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." God is a God of peace. But he is a God of true peace - not of false peace. A worldly peace is not a godly peace.

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Here the Bible talks about a worldly peace at the day of the Lord. Worldly talk about peace will be heard a lot about in the news. And that is a false peace. It is a dullness of spirit. People who are not spiritual sensitive will be overtaken by this kind of peace. They will be spiritually hollow.

This desire of the people of the world for peace and safety - for false peace and false safety - will be used by the antichrist. And he will come with a concept that offers people peace and safety. And people will rather give up their freedom in order to have this peace and safety. And they will give authority to the man who offers them peace and safety. People will be dominated by fear and this fear is so great that they will give up freedom in the name of peace and safety.

True peace is doing the will of our heavenly Father; is hearing God's word and putting it into practice. When we are doing God's will we will have peace. Our peace must be the result of actively doing the will of God. False peace will make us spiritually sleepy and we will be like the five foolish virgins.

Jesus did not come to bring this false peace. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a manís foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."

He came to bring the sword and to bring fire on the earth. The purpose is to expose people; to reveal the followers and to reveal the rejecters, so that the rejecters will have to make a decision. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). A man's thoughts and attitudes of the heart will be judged by the sword and the fire will burn up all that which is wood, hay and stubble. Every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Jesus will reveal those who belong to his family and those who don't. Belonging to the family will be what matters.

When we want to belong to Jesus' family then it will help a lot when we become conscious of the difference between the natural family and the spiritual family. This understanding will be the first step. And the next step will be to make a clear decision for the spiritual family. And that again will only be achieved when the natural family is recognized as such and when our loyalty belongs to the family of God - the spiritual family - alone. There can't be any turning back.

 

This is the end of "Which Family?"

Next chapter: [16]

 

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