Spiritual Adultery

By Cary Cox

God designed the institution of marriage as a living sermon proclaiming his gospel to the world. The intimacy and love shared between a husband and wife is a small taste – a glimpse! – of the great joy and pleasure of being united to Christ forever. In the presence of God is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). All marriages, whether Christian or not, point the watching world, the angels and demons, and all of creation to the great salvation of God in Christ for his covenant people. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 5:25-27, where he calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, for the purpose of presenting her to himself. When a husband tenderly loves his wife and puts her needs ahead of his own he is preaching about the love of Christ for his church. In verses 31-32 Paul goes even further. He quotes from Genesis where God said that a man should leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, becoming one with her. “This mystery is profound,” Paul writes, “and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (v32). A great mystery is being revealed in these words! God has ingrained a picture of his great salvation – Christ and the church joining together in love and shared joy forever!! – into the very fabric of the institution of marriage.

This is what makes sexual sin so unique, and so heinous. A bad marriage preaches a false gospel. We distort the gospel picture when we step out of our roles in marriage. An abusive husband preaches through his actions that Christ is not a tender Savior to his church. A woman who will not follow the loving leadership of her husband thereby proclaims that the church should not respect her Lord. Homosexuality distorts the gospel picture, as man uniting with man presents a Christ-with-Christ image (selfishly keeping his love for himself rather than pouring himself out for the rescue of his bride), and woman uniting with woman displays a Christ-less church-to-church relationship. Divorcing your spouse when things get hard proclaims to the world that Christ can give up on us when loving us becomes inconvenient. And adultery invents a false gospel of a cheating Christ or church. We quickly begin to see that there is more at stake in our marriages than our personal happiness. It has to do with the glory of God.

A Biblical Theme

The theme of marriage as a picture of God in Christ uniting with his people in joyful relationship runs throughout the whole Bible. God proclaims himself the great husband to his covenant people and speaks his love for her. And sin begins to be spoken of in terms of spiritual adultery! When God’s people give other things first place – the place that God alone both deserves and demands – we have committed adultery against our Lord. God is passionate about both his own glory and the good of his covenant people, and this passion is seen in his divine jealousy. Rather than a petty human jealousy, the jealousy of God for his people is both good and right. Because of the glory of his Person, God is glorious and is worthy of all worship. And as the Creator and Redeemer of his people he alone deserves our loyalty and love. Therefore, God’s highest and greatest commandment for his people is to love him with all our heart, soul and strength. To love anything or anyone else before him is to commit spiritual adultery. We see this idea in both the old and new testaments of Scripture.

Old Testament

In the Old Testament God proclaims to Israel that their Maker is their husband (Isaiah 54:5). He will take pleasure in his people, rejoicing over Israel as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (Isaiah 62:5)! As a husband is pleased with his wife, finding joy in her love and beauty and friendship, so God delights in his covenant people!

We also see sin presented in terms of spiritual adultery in the Old Testament. In fact, God uses very strong and shocking language to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness. He refers to them as prostitutes, harlots and whores, who give their sexual love to almost anyone. God, through his prophets, uses this strong language to reveal the extreme filthiness, wickedness and treachery of his people’s sin. He calls them to repent of their adultery and return to him.

The language of spiritual adultery begins almost as soon as Israel enters into covenant with God at Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 34:13-16 God warns Israel of the dangers of falling into idolatry when they enter the promised land. They must destroy the idols in the land lest they be tempted to “whore after” the false gods of the land (v16). In Numbers 15:39 the Jews are instructed to make tassels on the bottom of the men’s robes to remind them of God’s laws, that they will not “whore after” other things. And before Moses died, God warned him that after his death Israel would break their covenant with God and “whore after the foreign gods among them in the land they are entering” (Deuteronomy 31:16).

When Israel did enter into the land they failed to drive out all the sinful nations as God had commanded. And, just as God had warned, they found themselves overcome by the strong spiritual and cultural temptation toward idolatry. “They whored after other gods and bowed down to them” (Judges 2:17). This became the pattern throughout the time of the judges and into the time of the kings. Israel’s songs of worship reflected on their tendency to ‘cheat on’ their God. Psalm 106:35-41 tells the sad story of their idol worship, “which became a snare to them.” Their entrapment to these “demons” (v37) even caused them to sacrifice their children in worship of strange gods! In doing this, God said “they played the whore” (v39).

Yet it is in the prophets where this language of adultery is at its strongest. Through Jeremiah God tells Israel that he remembers the love they used to have for him in their youth, which was “as a bride” (2:2). But then he recounts their unfaithfulness to him: “On every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore” (2:20). God goes on to describe Israel as a camel or donkey in heat, sniffing the wind and looking for lovers (2:23-24)!

In Ezekiel God’s language becomes more and more shocking. In chapter 16 he tells the story of his relationship with Israel. Israel was like an unloved baby, thrown in a field to die. God passed by and found the baby, kicking in its blood, as good as dead. He spoke life to the child, who grew into a beautiful young lady. The Lord treated her with tenderness and kindness, giving her elaborate gifts. But she trusted in her beauty, forgot what the Lord had done for her, and began to offer herself to other lovers. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God says that Israel “lavished your whorings on any passerby” (v15), “offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring” (v25, where the Hebrew literally says “spreading your legs”). “Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!” (v32).

Ezekiel takes this language even further in chapter 23, describing Israel’s idolatry as the fondling of her breasts (v3) and lusting after her lovers (v5). Her lovers, who are the surrounding nations, are described as having “whoring lust” (v17) and genitals the size of donkeys, “and whose issue was like that of horses” (v20). This language is meant to disgust Israel and shame them as they realize what they have done by forsaking God.

Though there are many more examples of this in the prophets, Hosea is a unique book. God called Hosea to more than just a message. His very life would be a living prophecy! God commanded Hosea to go and marry a prostitute who would cheat on him, because Israel has committed adultery against their Lord. Things deteriorated to the point where his wife has became a slave. Hosea purchased her and spoke tenderly to her (ch3) despite her wickedness, just as God is calling Israel to return to him in repentance.

God warns Israel and calls them to repent through the prophets, and he disciplines them for their wicked unfaithfulness. Ultimately he sends them into exile in Babylon for seventy years. Yet, in all of this we see the tender and patient, steadfast love of God for his covenant people. He brings them back from exile and they wait for 400 years for Messiah.

New Testament

It is into this context that Jesus Christ came, proclaiming that he himself is the bridegroom! He uses the well-known language of God as the husband and points it to himself (Matthew 9:15; 25:1-13). John the Baptist also refers to Jesus as the bridegroom (John 3:29). Christ is “God with us” (Mat 1:23), the Old Testament husband of Israel who has come down to rescue his bride! At the cross Christ poured himself out for his people, the church (Eph 5:25), who is no longer ethnic Israel but believers from every tribe and tongue. Through his blood Christ has entered into a new covenant with his bride.

In the epistles, the apostles also use the ‘marriage as picture of God and his people’ theme to call the church to faithfulness to Christ. Idolatry is still spiritual adultery, and the church must be devoted to Christ alone as we wait for his return.

In 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 Paul speaks of his planting the Corinthian church in these terms. He says he “betrothed” them to “one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” But the church has become willing to receive false teaching, and this concerns Paul. “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” We hear in Paul’s words the same heart we heard in God’s words to Israel. In fact, Paul describes his feelings as “a divine jealousy.” Paul shares the love of God toward his people and he is compelled to warn them against spiritual adultery. The church must reject fake Jesus’ and different spirits and false gospels. We must fight our tendency to wander from a pure devotion to Christ. He is first place, and he is enough.

James also uses this language, warning believers that friendship with the world (by which he means a love for the world system in place of God) makes us an “adulterous people” (4:4). The people of God in every generation are still in danger of committing spiritual adultery.

When we get to the final book of the Bible we get a glimpse of the consummation of God’s great plan. The God who has declared himself to be the bridegroom of his people, who has pursued his covenant people through all their wanderings and failings, is at last united with them in glory and joy! In the final pages of Scripture we hear these words: “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev 19:7-8). Here at last is the pure church for whom Christ died! The great story has come to a joyful conclusion, as “the dwelling place of God is with man” (21:3). We are shown “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” coming down from God, “having the glory of God” (21:9-11). When this day dawns, the institution of marriage is no longer needed. The picture is obsolete, as we enter into the joy of what marriage pictured: Christ and his people, united together in shared love and joy, forever!

A Picture We Can Understand

We can understand the heartache of adultery. When we hear God speak as a husband who has been cheated on, we are moved in our affections. We understand the anger and hurt of betrayal. Marriage is something we “get.” Even imperfect marriages know something of the joy of two people sharing love. Perhaps God has ingrained this gospel picture into the common experience of marriage to help us understand more clearly both his great love for us, and the extreme wickedness of our spiritual adultery.

 Conclusion

Have we too committed spiritual adultery against the Lord? We must admit that our hearts are “prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” How quickly does our gaze move from Christ and his glory, being captivated by lesser things! Idolatry is a very real and dangerous threat. May we confess it and forsake it, repenting of our spiritual adultery and renewing our love for Christ, by his grace.

Jesus praised the church in Ephesus, but had one thing against her: she had forgotten her first love (Rev 2:1-7). He called her to repent and do the works she did at first. May the Lord restore to us the joy of his salvation! May we be a faithful church, clinging to Christ in single-hearted devotion until he comes!

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Liberty

By Mickey McCall

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. “

2 Corinthians 3:17

On the 4th of July, my family and I were vacationing in Colonial Williamsburg and were given the opportunity to see many celebrations of our country’s birth. There were festivities, music, readings of the Declaration of Independence and many other events to commemorate the 4th. Most impressive to me was the marching of the fife and drum corps down main street toward the courthouse. The sound of the two instruments together made me want to jump in line and march with them, to take up my own drum or fife. The 4th of July is a date we, as Americans, set aside to commemorate our nation’s independence from the tyranny of King George III of Great Britain. In the midst of all this celebrating, pomp and pageantry, I was reminded of something that happens in the lives of Christians.

We are set free with liberty.

We, who were once slaves to self and sin, are now set free from the bonds that held us so tightly. Instead of a covetous heart that only looks out for ourselves, we are now capable of loving others as Christ loves us. He gave Himself up and died for us. We can now lay down our own lives in service to the one who died for us.  What we are NOT set free to do is sin. It is ridiculous to believe that the very thing you are being set free from is the thing you would then continue to serve. It would be like the United States declaring itself free from the rule of Great Britain, and continuing to serve the King of Great Britain as if nothing had changed. That would be preposterous, and yet some people believe this lie.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-3

If you have died to sin, you will no longer look to it for life.  We have been set free from sin to do good works — works the Father ordained that we do from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:10). Now we are fellow citizens of a Kingdom not made with hands. We are set free from the tyranny of sin and brought into a better kingdom with much better promises. After all, the promises of the government of sin are death and punishment, but the promises of the heavenly kingdom are life and peace.

The fife and drum corps picture a properly functioning church. With the corps as with any marching band, it is very important to keep in step with each other and follow the conductor (the guy with the big scepter). The church has a conductor — His name is Jesus (the one with The scepter). The church is called to keep in step with the spirit of Christ (Gal. 5:25). Paul says we do this by not becoming conceited, provoking or envying each other. Imagine the confusion if a band member decided he was better off marching to his own beat rather than that of the rest of the band, or if he started playing a different tune in the middle of a song. The church can appear like this when we become conceited, puffed up and proud. The leaven of hypocrisy quickly leavens the whole lump. We were not called to toot our own horn but to be a functioning body part that knows its role. That is what walking in liberty looks like.

Every Page of the Bible is About Jesus

By Cary Cox

In prophecies and pictures, contrasts and types, every page and passage of the Old Testament points to Jesus. This is a huge claim, but it is one that Jesus himself and his Apostles made very clear.

Here are 7 passages that show us that all of Scripture is about Jesus Christ:

Passage 1: Luke 24

In perhaps the most black-and-white of the claims, Jesus says that he is the subject of the Old Testament. And he’s not merely talking about vague references, either. He says the Scriptures make plain that the Messiah would suffer and die, rise into glory, and give forgiveness of sins in his name! This means that Christ and the gospel are hidden on every page and every passage, if we have eyes to see. He even marveled that his disciples could not get this, calling them “slow of heart to believe” the Old Testament!

  • And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” [27] And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. …Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (these are the 3 divisions of the Old Testament –  including every book!) must be fulfilled.” [45] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46] and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, [47] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47 ESV)

Passage 2: John 5

Here again Jesus very clearly points to himself as the subject of the Scriptures:

  • You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. …For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”(John 5:39-40, 46-47 ESV)

Moses, who wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, wrote about Jesus! Think of the stories included in these books: Abraham and Isaac, the Passover lamb, the sacrifices in Leviticus, the Priesthood in Numbers, the laws of the King in Deuteronomy 17, and so much more. ALL about Jesus.

Passage 3: Acts 10

We’ve seen Jesus’ claims. What about the apostles? In Acts 10 we see that Peter also believes that all of Scripture points to Jesus.

  • To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”(Acts 10:43 ESV)

All the prophets spoke of Jesus and the gospel! Jonah? Yes, that pictures Christ. Obadiah and Nahum? Jesus the Judge. Isaiah? Yes, when he saw the Lord high and lifted up, he was looking at the Son of God!

Passage 4: 2 Corinthians 1

Now we come to Paul. And we are not surprised to learn that Paul agrees with Jesus and Peter.

  • For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV)

All the promises of God are fulfilled (find their ‘Yes’) in Jesus. All of them!

Passage 5: Colossians 2

Paul also speaks of the Law as being about Jesus. The Law was a shadow, but Jesus is the substance!

  • Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. [17] These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.(Colossians 2:16-17 ESV)

Passage 6: 2 Timothy 3

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he mentions Timothy’s faith in Christ, which he got from the ‘sacred writings,’ or the Old Testament Scriptures! (thanks to Vic Connell for pointing this one out!)

  • …and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.(2 Timothy 3:15 ESV)

Passage 7: Hebrews 10

Finally, the author of Hebrews is also in agreement. Quoting the Old Testament as the words of Jesus himself, he records:

  • Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; [6] in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. [7] Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 ESV)

The Scriptures, in both the old and new testaments, agree, overlap, flow together and join into one great story of Jesus Christ. They point to the forgiveness of sins that come through his name alone. What encouragement we have, knowing that all of God’s revealed word is pointing us to come to him through his Son, Jesus Christ!

When we have Jesus, we have enough.

Reconciliation

By Mickey McCall

“We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”          2 Cor. 5:20b

Reconciliation: the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement.¹

We need reconciliation. The problem in finding reconciliation, or a bringing back together into a right relationship, is that we too often do not recognize that we need to be reconciled until it is too late. How many marriages end because we do not see that the relationship is ajar in some way? Surely, in able to be reconciled, one must first recognize that the relationship is in peril or even severed.

You see, God made everything. And He made it good and right, but we rebelled. We, in Adam, all rebelled and fell. Our relationship with our Creator was then severed in a very real way. We died. Spiritually, we all died, and death — physical death — also entered the world. We have been serving sin and sinful flesh ever since. Until we see the problem — that our relationship with the Creator has been cut off due to our own rebellion — the remedy will not give us hope. We must realize the need for reconciliation before the good news of reconciliation in Christ will benefit us. The truth is there, but we suppress it.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Rom. 1:21-23

“Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image.”² Our brother A.W. Tozer brings across a good point. We, as Christians, like to form God into an image that looks a little more like us. The problem with that is, well, it’s idolatry. Instead of worshipping God as He has revealed Himself to us in His word, we just take the parts of Him we like and leave out the others, replacing them with attributes that look a little more like ourselves. Before you know it, you are no longer worshipping God anymore but yourself. How cheaply do we exchange the “glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man”?

But praise God that in love “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Eph 1:5-6. God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself. It is all according to His will and for His glory. We can be brought back into a right relationship with the Father through the Son. We are no longer dead in trespasses and sin because we are crucified with Christ and, nevertheless, we live! We have been born again, and it is now Christ who lives in us because:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:17-21

Now what are we to do with this reconciliation that was purchased for us at the Cross of Christ? How should we live? We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We have the ministry of renewed relationship between the Creator and the creature through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have it — and all thanks, praise and glory goes to God! For He has justified us. He has purchased our pardon. He is the Savior, hero and King. We must spread the word of this hero, this King. We must tell others what He has done for us. We must preach the gospel that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Cor 15:3b-4

I think Tozer hits the nail here: “Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who and what He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full Lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that is in our power to give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.”2 Because we love Him, we no longer see His commands as grevious, but we want to do His will for His glory. Our Joy is found in serving, treasuring and knowing the Lord. We are now satisfied in Him alone. He is our Father and He is a good Father. We as adopted sons and daughters, love to be in the presence of our Father. So come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory great things He has done!

1 Definition from Merriam-webster dictonary
2 Both quotes come from chapter 8 of A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”