Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Cat and Other Tails: 
Random Remembrances from Our Youth

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

       My favorite part of high school was the band program, both concert band and marching band. Several other classes were required, but band, which was an elective, I enjoyed. It was also one subject in which I could get a good grade without expending much effort. (Being first chair in the trombone section helped. I was not as accomplished as Dad, who went to Julliard, where he majored in trombone and voice.) After graduation many of my friends went off for further schooling. I was content to stay and work in a gas station (“Pete’s Garage”), convinced that college was for intellectuals, and that I was not an intellectual. At the time, I had neither direction nor ambition. Those came several years later.  (The persistent refrain at parent-teacher conferences for me in grade school was: “He’s not working up to his ability.” It took a while for me to overcome that assessment.)

      I also lacked any interest in using what attracted many of my peers: alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Having become a Christian some years earlier, I knew that God would not want me to impair my physical health or mental faculties. Several of my friends in high school were not so discriminating, a tendency not limited to youth. The band director was an alcoholic and would host parties for students at which there was no limit to underage drinking. Occasionally, he came to class visibly inebriated, behavior that eventually got him fired. At that time, I was not personally familiar with the effects of alcohol—neither of my parents drank; my father had taken the Methodist abstinence pledge, probably because his father was an alcoholic—so the signs of the director’s public intoxication, rarely to the extreme, generally escaped my notice. Thankfully, my reticence to “follow the crowd” kept me from such indiscretions.

      Marty, a drummer in the high school music department with me, was a regular user of illegal pharmaceuticals (e.g., marijuana, barbiturates, LSD). He did not appear to be addicted and seemed to function well. He would often offer me some of whatever he had. It was both generous and sincere, yet I declined each time. To my knowledge, his mother did not know about his drug use, but I noticed over time a degradation in his ability to think clearly. That observation confirmed for me my decision to eschew substance abuse of any kind.

      In August of 1969, Marty and I drove his 1963 Valiant (with its push-button transmission) to a music festival in upstate NY at a place called Woodstock. We had to park several miles from the concert site. The promoters were not expecting so many people to come. They sold tickets for 50,000, assuming that not all would actually attend. An estimated 400,000 came. Although we had tickets for two days, there was no checking tickets at the gates, because the initial onslaught of concert goers tore down the gates. The event lasted for three days and was amazingly peaceful, but we only stayed for one day. There was too much mud—it had been raining for several days—there were too few Port-a-Potties, there were no public food options, and there were too many people. The sound system was great, though, but there was barely enough room for us to walk among the huddled masses, all seated on the ground in the mud. The only space was at the foot of the elevated stage, yet by then a person was too close to see anything.

      Linda and I had a much better time when we saw the documentary “Woodstock” the next year. We were able to drive close to the showing, there was no mud in the asphalt parking lot, the theatre seating was plentiful and comfortable, there were food options (such as one finds at a mall theatre), the restrooms were clean and line-free (unlike the too few over-taxed Port-a-Potties at the concert). Marty and I were glad we went to Woodstock, even if only to say, “We were there.” Nevertheless, the movie was a more pleasant experience and worth the wait. Besides, I actually got to hear and see more of the concert.

      My earliest attempts at finding an academic path forward were neither focused nor fruitful. After high school, I enrolled in a technical school for computer programming, which began a series of student loans I was not able to retire fully until I moved to PA years later. Following that brief scholastic venture, I enrolled at NYIT hoping to complete its computer curriculum. That endeavor did not go well, especially when the teacher of my first semester English course addressed the class with this inexplicable piece of encouragement: “It’s good most of you are not computer majors [which I was planning to be], because the computer field is closed.” I dropped out of school soon after. I wonder how the direction of my life might have been different but for that inspiring remark.

      On my way to class one day, I received my very first (and only) traffic citation, for making an improper right turn. What impressed me most about the incident was not this encounter with law enforcement, but the patrolman’s grammatically passive statement: “A ticket will be issued.” While he doubtless intended his assertion to sound official, perhaps forestalling any objection on my part, I later learned it to be a weak construction. Why I remember what he said more than the trauma of that meeting, I can only attribute to my eventual sensitivity to effective grammar.

      Linda was a trendsetter in high school, although not always in a way she intended. For example, one day she and a girlfriend (Janice) decided to dye their white jeans red to wear in a variety show, which they did in Linda’s washing machine at home. But they did not clear the machine of excess dye before her mother, a nurse’s aide, washed her six white hospital uniforms in preparation for the week. As a result, those uniforms all turned pink, which Linda’s mother had to explain to her supervisor the next day…. To her mother’s surprise, her supervisor liked the change, so much so that she ordered each department in the hospital to adopt a different color uniform to distinguish it from the nursing staff, which wore only white. The policy change did not, however, endear Linda’s mother to her coworkers, as most of them now had to purchase new uniforms. Nevertheless, it did show Linda’s keen fashion sense along with her ability to influence people’s buying decisions, and it earned her mother the nickname, “Pink Lady.”

      Linda and I were both students at Freeport High School (on the south shore of Long Island), but I had already graduated before she moved from Arizona to New York. At the time she was a senior (1971), driver education was a very popular course most students looked forward to taking, because passage meant that one could get a license at 17 versus 18. We both took the course, but Linda did not do well on the final road test, during which she hit a grocery truck. Fortunately, it was parked, so damage was minimal. Nevertheless, she failed the exam, which may actually have been for the best. With her poor depth perception, she could not gauge distance properly. (That incident ended her driving aspirations until, at age 47, having corrective lenses, she retook the exam and passed.) While her part of that road test was over, the outing was not. A girlfriend (Elizabeth) took her place behind the wheel and proceeded to follow the instructor’s direction—“Turn here”—too soon, driving the front end of the vehicle off a pier. She then climbed over the front seat and exited one of the back doors with Linda and the other students (two boys). The instructor, being a very heavyset man, could not move as quickly and remained trapped in the front seat as the car teetered over the water. The students watched from afar, listening to his exceedingly colorful commentary, until the fire department arrived and pulled the car back from the precipice, enabling the teacher to step out onto dry land to the applause of a growing crowd. Needless to say, Linda’s girlfriend did not pass her road test either.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Is Abortion a Capital Offense?

 

Is abortion a capital offense?

Dr. Paul Manuel—2010 revised 2022

 

     Some ethical questions arise from contemporary events, especially as the ethics of one issue may clash with the ethics of another issue. For instance…

Was Scott Roeder justified in killing Dr. George Tiller?

Such was Roeder’s claim in response to the many abortions Dr. Tiller performed. Nevertheless, God does not address the issue of abortion directly, let alone describe it as murder, and His law makes no special provision for the unborn, despite their so-called “innocence.”[1]

 

     The prohibition against murder (e.g., in the Decalogue) does not pertain to abortion;[2] it pertains to the homicide of an adult.[3] The death sentence for other crimes illustrates the point. In none of them that involves a woman is the possibility of her pregnancy a mitigating factor in her judgment, and the penalty accords no immunity to an unborn child.

 

         Adultery

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife…both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Lev 20:10)

         Immorality

Moses was angry with the officers of the army…who returned from the battle. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were those who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so….kill every woman who has slept with a man. (Num 31:14-17)

         Idolatry[4]

At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women, and children. We left no survivors. (Deut 2:34)

We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city—men, women, and children. (Deut 3:6)

These last passages also show that the sixth command does not apply to infanticide (Manuel 2006). A child is not immune from suffering for the sins of the parents.[5]

 

     The term “right to life” may be relevant politically, as a reference to the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” clause in the Declaration of Independence, but it has no relevance biblically. The only “right” God promises us is to a fair trial.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)

To assert that the unborn should have the same legal protection as adults (e.g., in the sixth commandment) goes “beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6). God makes no such declaration.

 

     There are passages that speak about God’s involvement in prenatal development and birth:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb…. I was woven together in the depths of the earth…Your eyes saw my unformed body. (Ps 139:14-16)

There are also passages that indicate His plan for certain unborn children:

Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations… You must keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. (Gen 17:5, 9)

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jer 1:5)

It does not follow, however, that the unborn have any special status or protection from God. Only widows, orphans, and resident aliens can make such a claim and can point to legislation for that purpose.[6]

 

     A common assumption of Christians who hold a pro-life position is that they represent God’s perspective and that He values life above all else. Were that the case, He would not assign the death penalty to crimes such as adultery, immorality, and idolatry. That He does require execution in those cases demonstrates that the highest value in God’s economy is not life but holiness, which derives from obedience. Holiness is God’s preeminent attribute, being the divine trait man must emulate above all others. As He says through Moses:

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (Lev 11:44)

Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. (Lev 19:2)

You are to be holy to Me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be My own. (Lev 20:26)

This entails a radical revision of priorities. It means ordering our lives according to His perfect standard versus personal gratification, ever mindful of the difference between God and us. As He says through Isaiah:

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…. 9 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8)

That difference may be why His actions are difficult to understand, such as when He prescribes the abortive death of unborn children, something pro-life advocates are hard pressed to accept.

 

     In a sense, those who claim to be pro-choice have taken a more biblical title (not a more biblical position), because God does allow man to choose (Manuel 2020). The problem with the pro-choice movement is that it applies the title late in the decision-making process, after people have made the more important decision, the one that results in conceiving a child.[7] That choice, especially as it pertains to the vast majority of abortions, almost 75% of which involve unmarried women,[8] offers a more biblically defensible point of opposition. That is, pro-life advocates would be on firmer scriptural ground by concentrating on the prevention of unintended conception[9] and by streamlining the process of adoption.

 

     Was Scott Roeder justified in killing Dr. George Tiller? No, Scott Roeder was not justified in killing Dr. George Tiller. Far from upholding the biblical prohibition against homicide (by action he was not authorized to take), Mr. Roeder was guilty of transgressing the very prohibition he claimed to defend and was deserving of the penalty that violation carries, despite the doctor’s horrific record. In fact, Mr. Roeder’s sentence of life in prison is far more lenient than he deserves.

 

    Abortion is not a capital offense, nor is it a violation of the sixth commandment, which applies to the unlawful termination of a life already born. It is, however, a potential affront to God’s holiness, subject to His judgment, and “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

 

 

Bibliography

 

Manuel, Paul http://paulwmanuel.blogspot.com

     2006       “On Hostility” (Exod 20:13), a sermon in the series The Decalogue: A Summary of God’s Precepts for God’s People.

     2009       “Understanding What God Has Said: A Mini-Course in How to Discover What a Biblical Passage Means.”

     2020       An Essay about Free Will: Man’s Will and God’s Will, Complimentary or                              Contradictory


[1]In support of their position, pro-life advocates often appeal to a passage that allegedly accords a fetus the same status and legal rights as the mother.

Exod 21:22 If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

It is unclear in this passage if the “serious injury” that requires compensation is to the mother or to her unborn child. For pro-life advocates to make their assertion (of the latter) violates an important hermeneutical principle:

      Do not base doctrine on a single passage, especially if it is unclear (see Manuel 2009, n. 158).

A parallel statute in another code (with many similarities to Mosaic law) removes the ambiguity.

Code of Hammurabi (c. 1700) 209 If a man struck another man’s daughter and has caused her to have a miscarriage, he shall pay ten shekels of silver for her fetus. 210 If that woman has died, they shall put his daughter to death.

The death of the fetus is subject to a fine; only the mother’s death is a capital offense, and that is likely the situation in Exod 21 as well.

        In any case, the stated punishment (“eye for eye”) occurs in two other instances of conflict between adults that result in injury, and both apply to the offending adult.

Lev 14:19 If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20a fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

Deut 19:16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime…. 19 then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you…. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

[2]For treatment of this and other misapplications of the sixth Decalogue commandment, see Manuel 2006.

[3]There is no evidence that God’s people understood the precept to have wider application. All specific cases in scripture involve adults.

[4]Hosea presents an especially graphic declaration of judgment.

Hos 13:16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.

[5]The most famous case is that of David’s son.

2 Sam 12:15 …the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill…. 18a On the seventh day the child died.

Cf. Exod 20:5 …I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers

The state of David’s child, innocent or not, was immaterial to the judgment God prescribed.

      Children may suffer for their parents’ sin, which often has repercussions long after the original perpetrators are gone, such as the product of an illicit sexual union. Nevertheless, each person is generally responsible for his own sin.

Exod 20:5 I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

Num 14:18 He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.

Deut 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

[6]God makes special provision for the needy:

Deut 14:29 The aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Ps 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling

Isa 9:17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows.

Mal 3:5 I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.

Jms 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

[7]Ronald Regan said, “I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

[8]This statistic is from “Abortion Facts” at The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform website (www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.htm).

[9]A recent study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health showed the success of an abstinence-only program of sex education for adolescents.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Zacchaeus—Lost and Found (Luke 19:1-10)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2021

Text:

Luke 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”

Luke 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.

Luke 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Outline:

      I.    The publican wants to see the rabbi (vv. 1-4).
     II.    The rabbi wants to meet the publican (vv. 5-7).
    III.    The publican wants to reimburse his (old) debtors (v. 8).
   IV.    The rabbi wants to welcome his (new) disciple (vv. 9-10).
   

            A.   Jesus continues his ministry tour.

            B.    Zacchaeus climbs to view Jesus.

Application: Do not make your immediate response to God’s gentle prodding negative (1 Cor 12:7).

            A.   Jesus will visit a social pariah.

            B.    People criticize contact with a publican.

Application: Do not expose yourself unnecessarily, but do not shy away from a chance to help someone else (Gal 6:10).

            A.   Zacchaeus promises to reduce his wealth.

            B.    Zacchaeus promises to repay his debtors.

Application: True repentance is evident to those who knew the old you and who see a difference in the new you (Jms 2:18).

            A.   Jesus explains the publican’s national position.

            B.    Jesus explains the purpose of his advent.

Application: You have a responsibility to acquit yourself well, to exhibit his character and embody his instruction. (Heb 10:36).

Introduction: There is often a general feeling of apprehension that follows a letter from the IRS, and sometimes with good reason:

“Hello, is this Rev. Green?” “It is.” “This is the IRS. Do you know a Steven Smith?” “I do.” “Is he a member of your congregation?” “He is.” “Did he donate $10,000.00?” There was a pause, then “He will.”

There is often a general feeling of apprehension that follows a letter from the IRS, and sometimes with good reason. The protagonist in the NT passage this morning probably never received such a letter, but his financial dealings might have attracted the Roman government’s attention if it had such an agency.

Background: Today’s message features a Bible character that may be best known from a popular SS limerick:

Zacchaeus was a wee little man,

And a wee little man was he.

He climbed up in a sycamore tree,

For the Lord he wanted to see.

As the Savior passed that way,

He looked up in the tree.

And he said, “Zacchaeus you come down,

For I'm going to your house today!”

Zacchaeus was a wee little man,

But a happy little man was he.

He had seen the Lord that day,

And a happy man was he.

Today’s message is about the subject of this limerick and appears in one biblical passage:

Luke 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.[1] 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

            A.   Jesus continues his ministry tour.

    Having travelled through Galilee, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, possibly to attend one of the annual Jewish festivals. He already has a reputation as a learned teacher, and people are eager to hear him, so they gather along the route in case he pauses to address the crowd following him.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Maturity versus Apostacy (Heb 6:1-6)

Dr. Paul Manuel--2021

 Text:

Heb 6:1 Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Heb 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Outline:

      I.    Embrace maturity, which is redeeming (vv. 1-3).

            A. Profess the right doctrine.

                 1.   Faith in God

                 2.   Raising the dead

            B. Practice the right deeds.

                 1.   Instruction about baptisms

                 2.   Laying on hands[1]

Application: Every Christian possesses at least one spiritual gift, which he must exercise “for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7),

     II.    Eschew apostacy, which is condemning (vv. 4-6).

            A. Do not reject the Holy Spirit.

                 1.   The believer’s contact with God is secure.

                 2.   The believer’s connection to God is certain.

            B. Do not fall away from Christ.

                 1.   The believer’s fate without God is lonely.

                 2.   The believer’s future apart from God is condemning.

Application: God lays out two options for man, two ways he can conduct his life, only one of which ends well (Matt 7:13-14).

Introduction: Sometimes the solution to a problem is not really a solution at all but only creates a bigger problem.

Jeff’s teen-age daughter had just received her learner’s permit and was eager to drive the car. She got in the driver’s side, adjusted her seat and shoulder belt. After glancing at all the mirrors, she turned to her father with a puzzled look and complained, “I can’t see myself in any of these!”

Sometimes the solution to a problem is not really a solution at all but only creates a bigger problem. Adjusting what you think mirrors should reflect does not necessarily make for greater safety, just as adjusting what you think salvation should require does not necessarily accord with God’s requirements for salvation.

Background: Some biblical passages deal exclusively with historical events while other passages are more theological. The text for the message this morning treats the particularly difficult issue of eternal security—Is a person once saved always saved, or can a person lose his salvation? Does Heb 6:1-6 answer that question?

     The author is writing to Jewish believers, extolling the virtue of Jesus’ sacrifice and reminding them about its benefits, as well as counseling them to make wise choices as they grow in Christ.

      I.    Embrace maturity, which is a redeeming (vv. 1-3).

Heb 6:1 Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[2] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

            A. Profess the right doctrine.

                 1.   Faith in God

    This is the most basic doctrine, the one tenant that unites all children of God regardless of denomination. Both Jews and Christians in every age hold this belief in common (Manuel 2007). They may differ on the details, but both agree on this central tenant: It is necessary to believe in God, to have a relationship with Him and reap the benefits that relationship brings.

    One of God’s great abilities is counteracting the inexorable trend of what every human being must face: the eventual end of his existence, which God reverses by…

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Order of Melchizedek (Heb 7:1-17)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2021

Text:

Heb 7:1 Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.

Heb 7:4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

Heb 7:11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Outline:

      I.    Melchizedek has no genealogy (vv. 1-3).
            A. He had no beginning.
            B. He had no ending.
     II.    Melchizedek has a limited ministry (vv. 4-10).
            A. He accepted the tithe.
            B. He represented the Levites.
    III.    Melchizedek has broad analogy (vv. 11-17).
            A. He foreshadowed the coming messiah.
            B. He preceded the coming messiah.
      I.    Melchizedek has no genealogy (vv. 1-3).
            A. He has no beginning.
[and]
            B. He has no ending.
 
      Melchizedek has a limited genealogy, with no beginning and no ending. Moreover…
 
     II.    Melchizedek has a limited ministry (vv. 4-10).
            A. He accepted the tithe.
            B. He represented the Levites.
 
Although the text only mentions Abraham’s offering, other people may have recognized Melchizedek’s priestly position by supporting him with their offerings. Furthermore, additional priests besides Melchizedek may have represented God during this period at other shrines.[6]
      Melchizedek has a limited genealogy and a limited ministry, having accepted the tithe and represented the Levites later. But…
 
    III.    Melchizedek has broad analogy (vv. 11-17).
            A. He foreshadowed the coming messiah.
            B. He preceded the coming messiah.
 


Application: The time you have left on earth is strikingly short when compared to eternity; do not squander it (Deut 11:1).

Application: The tithe is a reasonable percentage from all that God has provided to His people (Ps 50:10).

Application: You determine how to spend your time and money according to their impact for the kingdom of God (Matt 24:44).

 

Introduction: Some things are more important to do than other things, even things that actually may be important by themselves:

A young boy came to Sunday School late. His teacher knew that he was usually very prompt and asked him if anything was wrong. The boy replied that he was going fishing but his dad told him that he needed to go to church. The teacher was very impressed and asked the boy if his dad had explained to him why it was more important to go to church than to go fishing, to which the boy answered, “Dad said he didn’t have enough bait for both of us.”

Some things are more important to do than other things, even things that actually may be important by themselves. Abraham came to a local shrine to make an offering. It was an appropriate expression of gratitude, given that God had just helped him rescue his kidnapped nephew Lot.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Sanctity of Marriage redux (Heb 13:4)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2020

 Text:

Heb 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Outline:

      I.    Marriage is an honorable state.

Application: God intends marriage to be a permanent endeavor between a man and a maid lasting as long as both shall live. (Matt 19:6)

     II.    Marriage is a pure state.

Application: All people are responsible to keep God’s commands about sexual morality. (1 Cor 6:18)

    III.    Marriage is an accountable state.

Application: People often behave as if their conduct has no consequences. But actions do have consequences, both good and bad. (Matt 16:27)

Introduction: Much has transpired since man’s first contact with woman in the Garden. Man may even have gotten smarter, some men at least:

Jim said to his co-worker Jack, “I have not spoken to my wife in several months…because I don’t like to interrupt her.”

Some men may even have gotten smarter, although silence does not guarantee marital harmony.

Background: Marriage is not for everyone, but it is for most people, if for no other reason than to provide a proper setting for physical intimacy:

Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband… To the unmarried…I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Cor 7:2-3, 8-9)

Many people, however, engage in the latter (i.e., physical intimacy) without adopting the former (i.e., marriage), thereby engaging in immorality and setting themselves outside God’s will, which is not a good place to be. On the contrary, the best place to be is at the center of God’s will, and marriage helps most people with that positioning, especially if they maintain “The Sanctity of Marriage.”

     Paul argues against asceticism (Hughes 1977:563), considering marriage an acceptable state, even a preferable state, although he himself is unmarried (“as I am” v. 8), and he counsels his readers accordingly. Why Paul is unmarried may have to do with his itinerant lifestyle. In any case, he does not consider his occupation to be a disqualifying factor:

Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? (1 Cor 9:5)

Still, he recognizes a husband’s obligation to his wife:

A married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife. (1 Cor 7:33)

Perhaps Paul does not want his attention divided between the needs of those under his care and the needs of a wife. It is a strict way of applying Jesus’ warning against serving “two masters:”[1]

Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. (Matt 6:24)

Nevertheless, Paul realizes that marriage deserves the believer’s respect, and “that….

      I.    Marriage is an honorable state.

     As an honorable state marriage is also a desirous state, something sought because it is advantageous in many ways:

        Having a mate can enable a person to “enjoy life” (Eccl 9:9).

        Having a mate can bring a person “good” always (Prov 31:12).

        Having a mate can be profitable because “two have a good return for their work” (Eccl 4:9).

And most importantly…

        Having a mate can bring “favor from the Lord” (Prov 18:22).

     Moreover, marriage is to be a permanent state (“as long as you both shall live”). Divorce, however, is permissible, although it evinces man’s weakness, his rebellious nature (Manuel 2015):[2]

I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. (Mal 2:16)

Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. [This suggests that divorce was not an option for Adam and Eve.] Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matt 19:8-9)

The vague grounds for divorce that many people claim today (e.g., irreconcilable differences) are simply unacceptable to God, who expects people to resolve their disagreements not retreat from them. Such resolution is especially necessary when children are involved, both for their ultimate good and for the example it sets. The only grounds that accords with God’s will is marital unfaithfulness (again, disobedience), because that truly breaks the marriage bond. Anything less may strain the union, and often does, but does not rupture it irreparably in God’s eyes (although even when it does, reconciliation, however unlikely following divorce, is still possible).

     When a marriage fails, it often demonstrates unrealistic expectations about what such a union entails or, more importantly, an unwillingness to yield one’s personal ambitions to the ambitions of another. Successful marriage always entails some sacrifice (and compromise), but successful marriage always brings great reward, exceeding whatever sacrifice it requires. Marriage is an honorable state.

Application: Many people do not view marriage the same way they regard a career or education, as a goal one achieves only with great effort. Yet there are many similarities, especially in the commitment marriage requires. It is a long-term endeavor, not “to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly.” Marriage is not an experimental lifestyle one establishes on a whim and then discards if it does not go well. There is no such thing as a starter marriage, a brief first union that ends in divorce with no kids, no property, and no regrets. God intends marriage to be a permanent endeavor between a man and a maid lasting as long as both shall live:

What God has joined together, let man not separate. (Matt 19:6)

Marriage is not a temporary arrangement. It is a permanent commitment between two people from the start. As such, marriage is an honorable state.

     II.    Marriage is a pure state.

     When the biblical author says “the marriage bed [is to be] kept pure,” he means that God has imbued the physical act of intercourse with the ability to sanctify the union in His eyes.[3] By the same token, intercourse outside of marriage, lacks the divine imprimatur and is, thereby, impure. That is why God prohibits immorality, because, whether by any sexual license, adultery or fornication, immorality sullies what God has sanctified.[4]

     The term the biblical author uses here, “pure” (NAS “undefiled”) evokes the sacrificial system, and the need for all offerings to meet God’s exacting standards. He expects His people to uphold the same high standard in their personal relations, including the relation of marriage:

Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her. (Lev 18:20)

Do not defile yourselves…because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. (Lev 18:24)

Do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God. (Lev 18:30)

God has always wanted His people to remain pure, and for married people this is especially so.

     Nevertheless, purity is not for the married alone; it is for “all,” including the unmarried. They are to maintain their purity as long as they are unmarried. Beyond (or after) that, they are free, even expected to engage in marital intercourse:

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Cor 7:5)

All people, married and as well as unmarried, must “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18). No sexual immorality, not adultery or fornication, may have a part in the life of God’s child.

     There is something about marriage that makes it unlike any other relationship, about the intimacy it establishes, an intimacy that Adam understood:[5]

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Gen 2:23-24)

Intimacy does not automatically follow a single act of intercourse (or a formal ceremony). It depends on maintaining a most important attribute in the relationship, the one feature that promotes careful attention to details, details the song “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof that Golde sings to her husband Tevye when he questions her devotion:

Do I love you? [she asks]

For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes

Cooked your meals, cleaned your house

Given you children, milked the cow [= an interesting juxtaposition]

After twenty-five years, why talk about love?

It should be obvious. Golde’s attention to the details of their marriage is proof of her love for Tevye. Such attention to detail combats the forces that would chip away at marriage.

Application: Marriage is not like a series of outer garments a person collects in a clothing store before entering the changing room to see which one fits then deciding what to buy. It is much more like a package of underwear that, once opened, cannot be resealed and returned for a refund.

     Some of God’s commands He directs narrowly, to His people Israel. Other commands He directs broadly, to all people, including gentiles. Prohibitions against various kinds of sexual immorality are of the second type. As such, all people are responsible to keep God’s commands about sexual morality. So the apostle Paul says more than once:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Cor 6:18)

Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity…because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Eph 5:3)

Put to death…whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires…. (Col 3:5)

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality. (1 Thess 4:3)

No one is exempt from maintaining moral purity. Marriage is a pure state.

    III.    Marriage is an accountable state.

     A vow people take before God—and all vows are before God—they are responsible to keep, lest they suffer His displeasure, as several passages warn:

When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. (Num 30:2)

If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. (Deut 23:21)

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? ….He who keeps his oath even when it hurts. (Ps 15:1, 4)

People must recognize that they are responsible to God for the words they speak (Manuel 2002b).

Application: You may think that much of what you say is inconsequential, and it may be. Much of what you say in the course of a day does not matter, but you say it any way. A promise, however, is not inconsequential.

     A vow or promise may be to another person, but it is essentially before the Lord. Indeed, every vow is before the Lord, whether or not a person intends it to be:

Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. (Deut 23:23)

Consequently, a vow is a serious commitment one must not make lightly, lest he incur God’s displeasure. God does not take lightly, frivolous vows. For some people a vow or promise comes easily, too easily. The words, “I promise” are often quick to pass one’s lips, especially in casual conversation. They should not. People must reserve such language for solemn occasions (e.g., wedding, court), not make it a flippant addendum for emphasis:

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. (Eccl 5:4-5)

Many parents use the phrase “I promise” with their children, which can raise unrealistic expectations for the them or damage the parents’ credibility, especially if they do not follow through with their commitments. Ultimately, a vow or promise is to the Lord, which makes both it and the person who utters it accountable before God.

     People often behave as if their conduct has no consequences. But actions do have consequences, both good and bad:

The Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)

What consequences will your actions today have? Marriage is an accountable state.

Conclusion: Silence does not guarantee marital harmony, but fidelity does promote it, in great part because it accords with God’s will. Whether or not you are married, you can understand “The Sanctity of Marriage.” Does your life accord with God’s will?