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According to 1 John 1:4, the very goal of the gospel of the covenant of grace is that we may experience the fullness of joy.  It is certainly our prayer as pastors that you yourselves live in the consciousness of the joy of your relationship with our covenant God in Jesus Christ.

In the light of Psalm 43 we are given to see that this exceeding joy is ours even in darkness.  This is an important perspective.  It addresses the struggle of our own experience.  Trials seem to us the threat that would remove joy from us.  Yet the Holy Spirit through James tells us to consider even our trails “all joy.”  How does that come to expression?  Psalm 43 gives confession to my exceeding joy—even in darkness.

The psalmist identifies God as his exceeding joy (verse 4).

It is important that we immediately notice that, because you and I quite stupidly seek our joy elsewhere.  Almost without thought we find ourselves seeking our joy in earthly things, earthly activities, and earthly relationships.  We can take those things that in themselves are good gifts of God and make them idols.  We could mention money, toys, entertainment, friends, sex, wine, food—you get the idea—all of which are good gifts of God when used for the purpose for which he gave them.  But any one of them can become a snare to the soul when we give them a place never intended by God.

So we easily move from one idol to another.

To have friends—it doesn’t matter what we have to do to keep them—that promises to be the source of joy.

Then comes work, and money becomes a focus.

And if you are old enough to drink, what place is that going to occupy?  For some, that drinking becomes slavery to an idol.

The culture that we live in today is overtly sexual.  The Bible speaks openly about sex as a precious gift of God to his people from the beginning.  But that precious gift of God was so special that it was given solely for marriage, and that between one man and one woman for life.  Today we are told that sex is for anyone to indulge in.  After all, if you’re going to be happy, you have to do what makes you feel happy.   Not only are we told that sex is the source of joy, it’s “in your face” promoted as a necessary part of a happy life.  And it doesn’t even have to be for marriage.  In fact, it can be for yourself as you sit before the computer screen or your smart phone.

The Bible talks about the pleasures of sin.  There’s a recognition that sin satisfies a certain lust for pleasure.  But the Bible also makes very clear that if you are looking for those sinful pleasures to provide you a life of joy, of happiness, you are going to be devastated by the disappointment, because the pleasures of sin are only for a season.  Then what?  That’s the problem with idols, you see.  It doesn’t matter what form an idol takes.  It promises to give you what you want, to make you feel good, to give you happiness, maybe even to help you cope.  But the promises turn out to be big lies.  Deception is never going to lead you to joy.

The psalmist prays, “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.  Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.”

God is the identity of our joy, yes, our exceeding joy.  While deception will never lead us to joy, God’s light and truth will.  For there is only one joy, that found in God himself and in the fellowship of his own covenant life as the triune God.

Probably the most astounding aspect of the Christian religion is the wonder of God choosing to take a people into the joy of his own covenant life.  That’s the heart of the gospel!

To live in the fellowship of God, as partakers of his covenant life, is alone our exceeding joy (1 John 1:3–4).

That’s what the psalmist is speaking about.  Do you know something about that?  Are you growing in the consciousness of that?  Without that all is vanity.  Life is empty without the joy of living in the consciousness of the fellowship of God in Jesus Christ.  You must know that.  But we also have to grow in our consciousness of that wonder and of that joy.  Because as is also evident from this psalm, we live facing a multitude of threats to our joy, and Satan would like nothing better than to obstruct our sight of that wonder and to lead us in a pathway that brings us to despair.

The psalmist himself speaks of matters in his own life that threatened his joy, that obstructed his sight of God’s fellowship and favor.

It is thought that David wrote these psalms during his flight from Absalom, his own son.  David therefore was cut off from the sanctuary of God and the fellowship with Jehovah that at that time centered in the tabernacle.  But the occasion for that disruption was certainly found in the attacks upon his faith.

The psalmist had enemies, and not just a few either.  It may well have been Absalom leading the pack.  But when you look at verse 1, David asks of God, Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.”  Considering that David was God’s chosen king, the very type of the Messiah, their rejection of David was the rejection of Christ.  It was apostasy.  And as always has been the case, where there is apostasy, there is deepest hatred for the church.

If you have ever been misrepresented, been slandered, had your motives falsely judged, then you know of what David speaks.  We certainly do as churches.  And we have to expect that.  Not only that, but you know as well as I that if someone wants to find something to criticize, a reason to hate, they don’t have to look very hard.  The sins in our midst are many.

The same is true in the broader Christian church.  A powerful evidence of the increasing hatred toward Christianity in our own country can be seen if you read any news articles online and just glance at the “Comments” section that often follows those news articles.  Christians are being blamed for just about every heinous sin and every social problem seen in this country.  When you are slandered, when you see the name of your God defiled, don’t you find that a disruption of the joy of your life?  David did.

In addition, when we think about that which threatens our joy, we certainly have to consider our own infirmities.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that in that brief period of time that we live in the strength of youth.  But even the strength of youth is no guarantee that you won’t face affliction and serious trial in your own life or that of a loved one.  That’s part of life, even as Christians.  But Satan would use those things to obscure our sight of the glory of God and the riches of our joy of living in the fellowship of his love.

Then there are the sins that mar our lives, which rob us of the joy of the gospel.  We know that God cannot have fellowship with those who walk in sin.  And while the gospel would point us to Christ, our righteousness, who himself paid the debt of our guilt and sin, we still stumble and fall.  And those sins that we commit remove from us the consciousness of God’s favor.  And God forbid, should we walk in sin, impenitent, clinging to whatever idol we insist on worshiping, we can only experience what David himself experienced during the course of his life when he had been ensnared in an impenitent walk.  He would later write about it in Psalm 32: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”  No peace, no joy, because no fellowship with him who alone is our joy.  Yes, there are many threats to our joy.

But the chief threat is our own perspective, improperly colored by our own sinful nature.

That too is clearly faced in Psalm 43.  The psalmist gives expression to the struggle of his own soul. He relies on the God of his salvation, confessing, For thou art the God of my strength.”  But in the very next phrase he calls into question God’s faithfulness.  Why dost thou cast me off?”

       Do you think God doesn’t know your needs, your struggles?  Read the psalms.  The Holy Spirit inspired them as God’s word to us in answer to our needs and struggles.  Have you sometimes felt like God is far away?  Don’t think you are alone in that.

It is important to see here, though, that even in his struggle David is being upheld by the tender mercies of God and his almighty hand.  That is true with you and me as well.

But that struggle is a matter of our own perspective nevertheless.  We want things to go “our way.”  And when we face disruptions to that way that we determine is our way, our faith is tried.  We want God to show us that our way is right.  “Take away the trial; remove the enemy; deliver me from this problem.”

But God reminds us and would have us remember that he is God.  He’s not there to give us whatever we ask for.  He’s not there to show us that our way is the right way.  He will answer us according to his will, because he knows in perfect wisdom what the best way is for us and how to accomplish his perfect purpose in our lives and for our salvation.  We tend to mope in our own self-pity, rather than fixing our eyes upon the wonder who is God our Savior.

So David needed to be drawn to the strength of his joy.  That’s true for you and me too.

By the Spirit’s work in him, David asked that God lead him, not out of his oppression, but to God’s holy tabernacle.  What he needed for the restoration of joy was the fellowship of his God.

That’s true for us too in the trials that are ours.  We might express to God our desire for a change of circumstances.  But we have to realize that joy does not come by the change of our circumstances, but by living in the fellowship of God, our exceeding joy.

To live in that joy we have to be led by God’s light and his truth.

Our perspective has to be changed from the earthly, naturally self-centered focus that is ours to one that focuses on the wonder that God has taken us in Jesus Christ into the tabernacle of his own covenant life and love.  God’s light and truth, applied by the Holy Spirit, alone change us and our spiritual perspective.  God’s light and his truth alone are able to lead us into God’s holy hill, into the spiritual consciousness of what it is to live in the fellowship of God.

Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.”  That altar pointed God’s people to Christ, to the cleansing of their sins by the shed blood of the sacrifice.  Only by our sins being taken away, covered by Christ’s blood, do we have that fellowship with the Holy One.  By God’s light and truth leading us to Christ, we are given to see the wonder, the absolutely amazing wonder, that God has taken us with all our sinfulness, with all our struggles, with all our weaknesses, with all our afflictions, with all our sorrows—God has taken us and has said, “You are mine.  I have loved you with an incomparable love.  I have cleansed you.  I am sanctifying you.  I am leading you to joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Stand in awe before the wonder.  “I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”  Is that your confession?  Then you will see in God himself your exceeding joy — even in darkness.  And you will be able to say, “For I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

This article is an abridged version of a speech given at the Colorado Young Adults Retreat, March 16, 2016, the theme text of which was Psalm 118:24

Text: Colossians 3:12-13

 

 

Colossians sets before us a pointed reminder of the preeminence of Christ when it comes to all Christian doctrine and practice.  The Christian faith, unlike any other religion, does not focus on laws, not even divine precepts, and certainly not human ordinances.  It rejects all forms of legalism.  The Christian faith focuses very intently on Christ himself as the revelation of the amazing grace of God in saving a fallen people, chosen by him from eternity.  The Christian faith and the divine revelation of the gospel focuses on Christ as the one in whom is revealed God’s everlasting covenant of grace and therefore the joy of the Christian life.  Everything serves to reveal Christ to us who are his.  That is a gospel desperately needed in our day.  It is also a gospel that alone has powerful effects in the lives of those who come under its power.  You young adults will not live in holiness without that Christ-centered focus.

The apostle in Colossians 3 begins to unfold the positive fruits of living with a Christ-centered focus and therefore a knowledge of being one with him in his life of victory and exaltation.  The life of Christ in us comes to expression by putting on Christian virtues, clothing ourselves with those spiritual virtues which crowd out those sins that otherwise would rise and consume us. Paul points us in verses 12 and 13 to:

OUR PROPER CHRISTIAN ATTIRE

What It Is

With the figurative language of the text we are taken to the closet and shown the spiritual wardrobe of the saints, the attire of those who are beautiful in God’s sight.

When we belong to Christ, we wear a uniform that marks us clearly as belonging to him.  The way we live and how we appear must be in harmony with what we claim to be. The failure to do so exposes as imposters, those who claim to belong to Christ.

Now let’s look at this wardrobe, and each of the pieces of that spiritual attire that we are to wear to the glory of God.

The first article of spiritual clothing that we are to put on is bowels of mercies.  The bowels refer to the seat of all emotion and affection (Lam. 2:11). The apostle tells us here that if we are new creatures in Christ, then we must be compassionate.  One of the most powerful examples of such compassion is given us in Jude, verses 22–23: “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”  Talk about reaching outside your comfort zone!  That is the compassion, the true Christian sympathy, that is to gird us, as the apostle expresses by this calling to put on bowels of mercies.  Such compassion that would reach out to seek another’s spiritual welfare might even be considered foundational to the other virtues set before us in Colossians 3:12. One must truly know by experience the mercies of Christ before he himself will be characterized by kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and longsuffering.

Kindness is the second article of our Christ-like clothing.  Our nature, our old man of sin, is full of harshness.  There is a tendency to look for the worst in others, to speak evil of others, to exalt ourselves above those around us, even if only in our own minds.  But kindness overpowers what is harsh.  To put on kindness is to clothe yourself with a grace that pervades and penetrates your whole nature, so that your disposition toward as well as your treatment of others is charitable.  You readily understand how important is this article of the Christian’s spiritual clothing.  To see in the midst of God’s church those who lack kindness, to see in myself any lack of kindness, is to see the ugliness of Satan himself on display.  God knows how often this kindness among us is lacking.  He calls us to repentance, which repentance includes a turning from our sin and a putting on bowels of mercies, kindness.  It is his kindness, after all, that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

The third piece of that spiritual wardrobe we are to put on is humbleness of mind.  There must be not only an expression of humility in our lives, but we are required to put on humbleness of mind, to realize how small we are, that is, to replace that wretched pride of our old natures.  We sometimes like to think that the world revolves around self, around my opinions.  That pride is inherent in the legalism that the apostle exposed and condemned as the heresy that it is.  But have we confronted that pride of our own natures?  Have you confronted the pride of your own nature?  Looking to Christ we are reminded of the call of Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  To put on humbleness of mind is to grow in our knowledge of God and his Christ and to see ourselves in the presence of that brilliant holiness.  Only by understanding the exceeding greatness of our sinfulness and the glory of God our redeemer in Christ Jesus as the one in whom we have new life, do we also have a proper perspective of ourselves in relationship to our fellow church members and neighbors.  Who am I to think myself higher than my brother?

Then follows that next piece of clothing, meekness.  Meekness, or what might also be translated gentleness, marks a person as having a steel-like strength.  The supreme characteristic of meekness is that of being under control.  One who is meek is not easily provoked with the infirmities and even foolishness of others, but continues to seek their spiritual good.  We who live in an imperfect world and an imperfect church with imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ need to clothe ourselves with meekness.  Being moderate, restraining our passions, and seeking the peace of Zion is required of us as those who are risen with Christ.

The final article of spiritual clothing mentioned is longsuffering.  Longsuffering belongs to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  This virtue involves not only patience, but also endurance.  It is to live in the consciousness of God’s longsuffering toward us, knowing “that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15).  Longsuffering expresses itself in the willingness even to bear reproach and persecution for the sake of the gospel.

Let’s not overlook the fact that this beautiful heavenly garment that we are called to put on as those whose life is in Christ Jesus is a wardrobe that can be worn only in fellowship with others.  Notice also that we have here an imperative: “Put on.”  Such are the fitting garments of the bride of Christ that must be seen in our relationships within our own congregations and families.

Putting On Those Spiritual Garments

These are spiritual virtues.  How are we to put on what is essentially spiritual and therefore inward?

You understand that these spiritual garments are the gift of God, who alone adorns us by his Spirit through the word.  These virtues are possessed spiritually and inwardly before ever coming to outward manifestation.  We put them on by making use of the means the Spirit uses so to clothe us and to make us more and more beautiful—the means of grace.

To put this in the context of this epistle with its focus on the preeminent Christ, this means that we put on these garments by realizing who we are in Christ Jesus.  Only when we are standing in the consciousness of our relationship with Christ and therefore with our focus on him who bought us will we put on the virtues of Christ’s life.  God has formed us after the image of his own dear Son.  What an astounding privilege we have in serving him in thankfulness of heart also in our relationships with other members of Christ’s body.

The exhortation to put on speaks of continual action.  It isn’t merely to think about it, let alone excuse our failure to dress in the garments Christ calls us to wear.  It is to put them on and to keep putting them on.  The work of the Holy Spirit, in the application of the word preached, makes us more and more beautiful by working in us both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.  That is the Christian life.

We must see yet one other critically important truth.  As the elect of God, holy and beloved, there are foundational garments that we must put on, without which all the spiritual garments we have considered from verse 12 do not fit and in fact expose us as ugly before God.

The Essential Garments

Verse 13 calls our attention to those essential garments without which we cannot clothe ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.”  As if we might readily deceive ourselves as to the importance of this, which is foundational, and redefine forgiveness to such a low standard even an unbeliever could do better, the apostle continues: “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

This is where our lives are really put to the test.  Once again the apostle addresses the reality of our daily existence in an imperfect world.  In the midst of our own families and in the midst of the church, we not only have our own sinful natures to deal with, but we also have to live with other sinful people.  Offenses arise, sometimes even when there is no legitimate reason for one to find offense.  How then are we to live in this imperfect, sinful world?

To behave as Christians is to forbear one another.  That isn’t simply to overlook or ignore every iniquity.  But it is to have an attitude governed by a Christ-centered focus, seeing how he has dealt with us in the face of our offenses.  We sing with the psalmist in Psalm 130, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”  We confess his forbearance toward us, wretched as we are, and as offensive as are our sins toward him.  He forbears, not immediately rising up to inflict revenge, but rather endeavoring to bring us back to our senses, to lead us to repentance.  That’s the attitude and approach we are to take toward each other.

Along with forbearance is the garment of forgiveness.

Certainly the one whom Christ has forgiven must be ready and willing to forgive those who have sinned against him.  Whosoever refuses to forgive is left unquestionably under condemnation (Matt. 6:15).  It is easy to guard the offense in our memory like a treasure.  Our old man of sin would keep malice raging in our hearts.  But when that is the case, let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking we have forgiven.

Some would defend their refusal to forgive by saying, “But they haven’t confessed their sin against me.”  It is true that meaningful forgiveness will not be the act of one alone.  The offended must be willing to forgive, and the one who causes offense in the way of sin against God must confess his sin and seek forgiveness.

But don’t point the finger at the one whom you say has caused offense and excuse yourself for your unwillingness to forgive, when you have not even attempted to seek his spiritual welfare by going to him in humbleness of mind with the desire to lead him to the cross.  To forgive is to seek a person’s spiritual good, not to persist in hatred.  But “as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

You see, when the preeminent Christ is the focus of our thoughts, of our spiritual mind, then and only then, will we be seen as Christians.  It is not enough in the midst of Christ’s church to put up with each other, barely to tolerate each other, to refuse to retaliate and figure that is good enough.  To know Christ is to see his love overcoming our hatred, to see his suffering bearing our iniquities, to see his forgiveness for all our offenses.  It is therefore to live in this imperfect world with a spiritual wardrobe that reflects the greatness of his grace and glorious majesty as the one with whom our life is hid in God.

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

May God bless you in that walk of life.

 

This article is an abridged version of a speech given on April 9, 2015 at the young adults retreat hosted by Loveland Protestant Reformed Church. The theme of the retreat was “Our Calling to be Holy” from Colossians 3.

In the first two speeches of this convention we have considered various lessons from the life of Joseph. One of the things we noticed is that Joseph was not blessed with the family life that most of you have enjoyed. He came from a very dysfunctional, troubled family. Yet in the midst of a life of adversity, Joseph manifested the powerful work of God’s grace—not only in the way he dealt with his suffering and trials, but also in the way he lived in devotion to God, striving to walk in holiness in all things.

I now direct your attention to yet another way in which God’s grace was seen at work in Joseph. Joseph served God. Throughout his life we are given the example of Joseph dedicating himself to the Lord in service. By his life we are reminded that serving God doesn’t belong just to ministers. It isn’t only a matter of serving God in the church. Nor is it a matter of occasional, special service projects. But in every aspect of life and no matter the calling or vocation God gives you, your life as a child of God is to show forth the privilege of serving the Lord. In other words, your life in fellowship with your redeemer is to be a life that shows thankfulness for his love. That is true, even if you live in difficult circumstances.

As we conclude our consideration of “Lessons from the Life of Joseph,” and specifically “The Privilege of Serving,” I call your attention to the distinct periods in Joseph’s life, each of which shows how that service of God involves every aspect of our lives.

Serving in Family Life

We begin by observing Joseph serving God in family life. That is where the recorded history of Joseph begins. Apart from telling us about his birth, revealing an early childhood in his unsettled and traveling family, and letting us know that his mother Rachel died when Joseph was in his mid-teens, the Bible doesn’t tell us any more about Joseph’s early childhood and spiritual instruction.

The substantive history of Joseph begins in Genesis 37, where we are told that Joseph, at age 17, was a herdsman. As soon as he was old enough, he was given certain responsibilities in the household of Jacob. He was found with some of his brothers caring for the flocks of his wealthy father Jacob. Even though we read that Joseph was special in his father’s eyes, that does not mean that he was brought up with everything handed to him on a silver platter. Children who are not taught to work, children who have everything handed to them, are children who generally turn out to be irresponsible and unproductive parasites upon society. We are called to labor. Especially as young men, you are called to labor. That, after all, is going to be your life’s calling, as providers for your households and the kingdom of God. Joseph was taught to work.

But the example for us is that Joseph did his work to the glory of God.

Notice as well that Joseph had to work alongside those who were ungodly. Most of you have the blessing of growing up somewhat sheltered from the influences of the ungodly. Notice, I don’t say, from the influences of sin. We carry sin with us. We live in relationships marred by sin, within the family and within the church and school. We have to learn how to live as Christians within those relationships marred by sin. Yet generally we grow up somewhat sheltered. But we live in the world. And when the time comes that you are able to take on more responsibility than just those chores around the house, and you begin working outside the home, for many of you that will mean rubbing shoulders with those who are unbelieving and ungodly. I well remember beginning a job as a freshman in high school, being the only Christian in the work place. Not only do we have the calling to do our work to the glory of God, but also to stand faithfully as Christians among those who love not God nor his truth. Joseph did so faithfully.

But when I say that Joseph had to tend the flocks alongside those who were ungodly, there was a complicating factor. Those ungodly were four of his brothers, the sons of Jacob’s two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah. Some of these brothers may have later repented and been converted, as would be the case with other of Joseph’s brothers. But at this time they were notorious for their wickedness. While we are not told specifically what their sins were, they were sins that gave these sons and their family a bad name. Joseph worked with them. But he would not be a partaker of their evil deeds.

What are your friends like? What is your reputation? How do you handle being around those who are unbelieving and perhaps openly ungodly, even if they might call themselves Christian? Joseph worked with them; but he could not have fellowship with them in their sins. To use New Testament language, Joseph was not a man-pleaser, but a servant of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. It would have been easy to go along with those brothers. It would have made life a lot simpler—humanly speaking. But you can’t have it two ways when those ways are polar opposites. Joseph would serve his Lord, because there was no one more important in his life.

When I speak of the complicating factor of Joseph’s ungodly fellow workers being his brothers, we also have to consider Joseph’s special calling in that regard. The ungodly whom God places on the pathway of our lives are our neighbors, according to Scripture, and therefore those whom we are called to love as ourselves. That love is to come to expression by seeking their spiritual good, calling them to repentance and pointing them to life. But there is an added calling when brothers or those who call themselves brothers walk in sin. It is to be understood that not only did Joseph refuse to be a partaker of their evil deeds, but he had spoken to them in the name of God. He called them to repentance, to no avail. His very life and speech witnessed against them. That is why they hated him. But when he was unable to effect a change, he had the calling to take it to the higher authority, his father, whose own reputation was being damaged by the wickedness of his sons. So Joseph told his father about the evil committed by his sons. Again, that was not the easy way. But it was right. It was the way that sought his brothers’ salvation. Also here Joseph carried out his calling to the glory of God.

And when we are told that Joseph told his father about the evil of his brothers, the implication is that Jacob attempted to deal with his sons. He did not simply file away in his mind the report of Joseph, and hope that all would turn out well with his other sons. As a godly father, he rebuked them for their iniquities. They knew, in other words, that Joseph had reported their evil deeds. And when sin and hypocrisy is uncovered, there can only be one of two reactions. Either the sinner will humble himself and repent; or he will harden himself and reveal all the more the hatred of his heart. Those who hear the precepts of God and his truth faithfully set before them either will hate it and seek to hide behind the filthy rags of their own self-righteousness, or they will come out into the light, bow before God’s verdict, and repent. May God give you and me grace to repent always. With these sons of Jacob, the response was one of hardness of heart and impenitence. They not only continued in their wickedness, but began to focus their hatred with even greater intensity upon Joseph.

Now I would have you notice that Joseph’s desire and willingness to serve in the household of his father Jacob, while founded in his love for God, was also an expression of the fellowship that he enjoyed with his father.

Much could be said about Jacob’s faults and sins as they affected his family. But even as a teenager Joseph revealed a love of the truth and a determination to stand for the truth in honor and love for Jehovah. Thus this father and his one son were brothers in the Lord! They were friends together, united by faith in the Messiah! Jacob and Joseph could talk together about spiritual things. What a blessed thing that is!

What is your relationship to your parents? May God grant that there is spiritual fellowship and oneness. Yes, as parents and particularly as fathers, we have to provide spiritual direction to our children. Sometimes we don’t do that very well. And perhaps in his old age, those spiritual things were more on the foreground now with Jacob than they had been when his other sons were younger. But the sad fact as seen in the record of this family is that Joseph’s brothers didn’t want such spiritual fellowship and conversation with their father. And in our day, when everything goes on at such a mad pace that there is no time for worthwhile things and spiritual conversations unless one consciously makes the time, there are far too many whose lives are much more like Joseph’s brothers’, than they are like Joseph’s.

You sons and daughters ought to enjoy spiritual fellowship with your parents. You ought to give serious consideration to what your parents think of you, far more consideration than that given to what peers think. The fact that many young people are more concerned with what their peers think than what their parents do is often nothing more than an excuse for mindless disobedience. The inclination to follow the word and example of sinful peers rather than the wise instruction and example of God-fearing parents is an inclination that arises out of the old man of sin. Joseph was not perfect. He was just like you. But Joseph received the instruction and correction of his father. He trusted the Word of God that his father taught. And the fruit was seen in a strong spiritual bond of love and respect, communion and joy. That is what motivated Joseph’s service of God in the home of his father.

One more thing before we move on to the other aspects of Joseph’s life of serving God, because this affects them all: Joseph lived this life because he stood in the brilliance of the righteousness of one who was yet to appear on the scene of history. God saw Joseph in Christ. God took Joseph into his own fellowship of love and communion. And living in the consciousness of that covenant fellowship with God, Joseph would walk in that fellowship, even when it required that he face persecution. For Christ’s sake he would bear persecution! Is Christ that important in your life? Do you live in the consciousness of your covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Do you belong to him—body and soul? That knowledge is critical to serving him in every aspect of your life.

Serving God as a Servant to Potiphar

That we see also as we consider Joseph serving God as a servant to Potiphar.

The way in which God led Joseph to Egypt is familiar to you. The Ishmaelite merchantmen, who had bought Joseph from his brothers for 20 pieces of silver, sold him for a profit to a man named Potiphar. We ought to notice immediately the Lord’s hand in this. Joseph was brought to Egypt and sold to a person who stood in direct connection with the king, who in our day would probably be called the head of the secret service, and who was able presently to throw Joseph into the same prison where offenders against the king were kept.

Jehovah, by his counsel, was leading Joseph every step of this journey. The ways of the Lord with us are often mysterious. We are unable, from the point where we stand, to see the connection between the way and the end. But in the life of Joseph this truth is revealed to us just the same. Nothing happens by chance, but by God’s fatherly hand for you who love him.

In the service of Potiphar, Joseph showed himself to be a young man of tremendous talent. He was ambitious, hard-working, responsible and trustworthy. So that Potiphar was willing to entrust his entire household, his whole estate and all his financial dealings, into the hands of this young Hebrew. That is astounding when you think about it. How tremendously noticeable must have been the gifts that Joseph had received of God, as well as his spiritual perspective toward all things.

Now, very few of us have the gifts and abilities that Joseph apparently had. But every one of you has gifts necessary to serve God in a particular place in life. The question is: How do you use those gifts? Joseph showed himself faithful to God by using his gifts to God’s glory in this particular calling. He served Potiphar with complete faithfulness, not as a man-pleaser, but for God’s sake. For most of you right now, the particular station in life that God has given you, the most time-consuming calling, is that of students. Do you apply yourself as did Joseph? And what about at work? The abilities and gifts God has given you, all of which still are developing, are to be used for God’s sake.

We read that Potiphar didn’t even know the affairs of his estate, didn’t even know his financial situation, so extensively had he committed all things into the hands of Joseph. The only thing Potiphar knew was that the meals were faithfully provided for him each day by Joseph. He could also see that things were prospering greatly under Joseph’s care and stewardship. We are told in verse 4 that Potiphar saw this prosperity, and knew that Jehovah prospered this Hebrew. It becomes evident, then, that not only did Joseph live in obedience to God, but he also testified of his relationship to Jehovah.

It is in this context, of course, that Joseph fled the temptation of Potiphar’s wife.

I mention that incident here only to point out that the temptation did not come upon Joseph because he was frequenting a place where he should not have been. He wasn’t hobnobbing with the ungodly in the neighborhood tavern. He wasn’t dancing with the women of Egypt. He wasn’t going about the house of Potiphar, looking for an opportunity to see Potiphar’s wife naked. Or, to put it in today’s context, he wasn’t on the web feeding his lust by looking at naked women. He was in the house of Potiphar simply doing the duties that his master required of him.

It is important that we understand that. We read in Proverbs 6:27, 28: “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” If the temptation that Joseph faced was due to his own deliberate playing with fire, you can be sure that the outcome would have been entirely different. Genesis 39:11 makes explicit reference to the fact that Joseph was in the house to carry out his master’s business, nothing else. Moreover, it is apparent from that verse that there usually were many servants in and around the house every day. When Joseph entered the house on this particular day, he did not realize that “none of the men of the house” were there at the time. In fact, in that act of fleeing fornication, Joseph’s love for God came to expression in his love for Potiphar. He served Potiphar faithfully also by honoring him not only in his relationship as a servant to his master, but also by honoring Potiphar’s marriage. But once again God took his faithful servant and led him to another area of service, one Joseph would never have chosen—in the king’s prison.

Serving God in Prison

For his faithful obedience to God, Joseph found himself serving God in the king’s prison. Falsely accused, Joseph lost his job in the house of Potiphar. He lost his freedom, what little freedom he had as a slave. He was cast into prison, for an unspecified term. For all Joseph knew, he would live out his life there.

Those years in prison were wonderful years. I realize that’s an astounding characterization of the history. But Joseph did not sit and sulk in Pharaoh’s prison. He did not wallow in self-pity, questioning God’s wisdom. We find him in prison, enjoying the mercy of Jehovah, patiently bearing his burden, with an amazing measure of contentment. Which is to say, Joseph lived in the knowledge of and in subjection to the truth that God is God, and that in every circumstance the Lord works all things for our spiritual profit. Even prison could not dim the beauty of Joseph’s godly life.

Joseph enjoyed Jehovah’s fellowship while in that prison.

Certainly that would not have been the case, if Joseph had not enjoyed his fellowship before entering that prison. Again, young people, the chief lesson we learn from Joseph’s life is the importance of living in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. It is true, Joseph would never have been in this situation, if he had not had such a close relationship with his redeemer, that compelled him to walk in godliness regardless of the consequences. But this is his reward—the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy. And that mercy was expressed in a tangible way that Joseph could clearly see and experience. We read that Jehovah gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

That prison was not a place where prisoners sat on their hands. They worked in hard, menial labor. Joseph began his prison term doing that work. You talk about a drop in position!—from the chief ruler in Potiphar’s household to the labors of a prisoner! But recognizing that no work is too lowly when it can be done to the glory of God, Joseph faithfully and diligently performed those labors. With the humility of one who serves the Lord in everything, Joseph performed his work, showing that his life was one committed to the Lord his God. That was seen by the keeper of the prison.

Joseph was noticeably different from the other prisoners. He was godly. And God, Who rules the hearts of men, moved the keeper of the prison to give Joseph great freedom. But it didn’t stop there. The prison keeper’s confidence in Joseph continued to increase, until Joseph was promoted to a position of authority. He became, as it were, the prison keeper’s “right hand man.” Not only was he given the run of the prison, but he exercised complete control over all the prisoners. And in all those labors Joseph showed himself trustworthy, humble and caring, a servant of the most high God even in prison—until God set him free once again

Serving God under Pharaoh

In a very wonderful way Joseph was delivered from the bondage of prison to serve God under Pharaoh. God led him to the court of Pharaoh. Joseph appeared before Pharaoh; a Hebrew slave before the king of Egypt.

There is something striking in verse 14 of Genesis 41. Even before an ungodly earthly majesty, Joseph appeared clean shaven and dressed fit for the occasion. Such was the respect he showed an earthly superior. The Bible makes a point of mentioning that. How, then, shall we appear in worship before the King of all the earth? That is certainly an aside. It has little to do with the main thought of the passage. But it is mentioned nonetheless. And how do you show up for your job interviews? What is the general appearance you convey as a child of God? Obviously we must think about these things. Else such a detail wouldn’t be noted in the Bible.

Then we are told of the conversation that took place between Pharaoh and Joseph and Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. When you consider that conversation you will find that on Joseph’s part all the emphasis is on God’s sovereignty. Do you live, young people, in the consciousness of God’s absolute sovereignty, his rule over your life? Joseph would not have made that testimony unless he also understood that God himself had determined Joseph’s way, even through that long time in prison. Joseph had entrusted himself to the care of his God, living in contentment. That perspective rules also in his testimony to Pharaoh, his respect toward Pharaoh and his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams.

To that interpretation Joseph added also wise counsel. “Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine” (Genesis 41:33-36).

Pharaoh looked at the young man standing before him, one who was the spokesman of Jehovah, and was amazed. Not only was this Joseph able to tell him the meaning of his dream, but he was also able to give to Pharaoh a solution to the many political and economic problems that presented themselves in this amazing revelation. “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou” (Genesis 41:38-40).

So Joseph immediately passed from a wonderful deliverance to an amazing exaltation! How amazing are the works of God! Let’s remember: This is the God whom we serve, and who has saved us. (I want to come back to that momentarily.)

Pharaoh gave Joseph everything he needed to carry out his responsibilities in his newly appointed position and office. With that power and authority vested in him, Joseph served as the chief ruler in the government of Egypt. But he exercised his office under God. He subjected the entire land to his strict economic policy. With wisdom that makes our country’s economic policies look like something written only for a comic strip, Joseph exercised faithful stewardship. By his rule Joseph showed the people that bumper crops and prosperity were not to be taken for granted, but were gifts from the God of heaven and earth, the God who governs all things. There were no entitlements, no hand-outs. By his rule he not only spared the land of Egypt from economic ruin, but was used by God for the provision of the church. That, after all, was the purpose for this amazing exaltation of Joseph.

We realize that God’s sovereign work in all things always has a purpose. All things lead to Christ. All the events in this history were divinely and precisely directed in a such a way that the outcome would be Joseph’s exaltation as ruler of Egypt at exactly the right moment with a view to bringing the covenant seed into Egypt. God would lead his people into Egypt, to preserve them, to try them, to cause them to grow into a mighty nation. And so he would set the stage to “call his son out of Egypt.”

But the gospel of this history for you and for me is this: What Jehovah God did in Joseph’s life for the sake of preserving the line of Christ, he has also promised to perform for every one of his children.

The wonder work of Jehovah in the outworking of Joseph’s life so long ago is also happening even now in your life and mine, and to everyone who is united to Christ by a true and living faith. The Lord told us, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Christ gives us the victory. A rich inheritance awaits us. And everything leads us to that end.

I know that sometimes this is hard to believe. We cannot see how all these things work toward that end. And our faith is often very weak. I know that. But look again at Joseph. When he sat in Egypt’s prison, did it even seem possible that his own dreams of being exalted would come to realization? Did that seem possible? And yet the Lord brought that very thing to pass!

When you know that he looks upon you in Christ Jesus, you may also lay hold of Psalm 37:9-11: “Evil doers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” That promise is absolutely sure. And its surety is demonstrated to us in the Scriptures. Not only is it Jehovah’s promise, Who is unchangeably faithful; but Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, has been revealed as accomplishing the victory. He sits in the highest heaven, glorified at God’s right hand. All you who are one with him shall surely follow him into that reward!

Be patient therefore until the day of our Lord. Serve God in that knowledge, in every aspect of your life. Then will our churches continue to thrive as well, to the glory of our bridegroom, who is Christ our Lord.

As we have seen from Titus 2:4, 5, the young wives must be taught to love their husbands and children. That love comes to concrete expression by their being discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good. But there is one other thing that young wives must be taught.

Obedient to Their Husbands

The older women must teach the young women to be obedient to their own husbands.

This is the calling sounded repeatedly throughout the Bible’s teaching on marriage: The godly wife is to be in subjection to her husband.

That refers, first of all, to the attitude of her heart. She must know in her heart that God gave her husband to her as the head of their home. To live in subjection to him is to live in obedience to God Himself.

The reason is stated in Scripture, in Ephesians 5:23, 24: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

We recognize, of course, that husbands sometimes are most difficult to deal with. That is why Scripture also addresses the husbands very pointedly concerning their calling to treat their wives as Christ treats His Church, nourishing and cherishing her, giving honor to her out of the deep spiritual love of the regenerated heart. For the young men who read these articles, that is your calling as a husband, for which you will also answer to God. And therefore also you may not ignore your wife, nor refuse to allow her to talk or express her feelings. Marriage is communion, fellowship between husband and wife.

But turning again to the text before us we see that, without exception, the wife who will live in obedience to God must live in subjection to her husband.

You should remember, at the time this epistle was written, the church was full of new converts, many women whose husbands were unbelieving and ungodly. Peter addressed that issue specifically in I Peter 3:1, when he wrote: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”

It makes no difference if the husband is unreasonable and disobedient to his calling as a husband. The wife is to show her love for God by living in subjection to her husband.

There is nothing more disruptive to the home than a rebellious wife who will not submit to the rule of her husband.

There is nothing that gives a more disastrous testimony to the wicked world, than a woman who claims to be a Christian, but lives in rebellion to her husband.

What a horrible testimony to the truth of God’s Word, when a wife in the church rules in the household of her husband, contrary to her husband’s desires!

What tragedy, when the wickedness of the world’s women is manifest in households of the church! You wives must be in subjection to your husbands, says the Word of God.

The Instruction of the Older Women

Again, I remind you older women: It is your calling to exhort earnestly the young women concerning these things.

Of all these things that we have heard from this text, not one of them comes naturally. And you young women, as well as you older women, having heard these virtues and characteristics of godliness set before you, recognize very clearly that these things don’t come naturally for you, do they.

It takes the grace of God and the fellowship of the Spirit of Christ to enable us to walk in godliness. In all spiritual virtues we must be taught of God. And God uses means to teach us.

It may be difficult for a young woman to receive this instruction from a man. It may also be difficult for you to approach your daughters and other young women in the church concerning these matters. We are often of a mind to let things be, and hope that they somehow turn out well. But we may not live that way.

You, as godly women in Zion, are to exhort the young wives and remind them that what we have here is not merely the instruction of a self-seeking man. This is the very Word of God, the God Who is all-wise, Who knows what is best for us and for our families and for the Church, the God Who loves us so much that He gave His Son for us, and now shows us how to enjoy the fellowship of His covenant love. We must walk in obedience to Him.

The instruction of this text is as much the teaching of the Bible as is the truth of total depravity, the virgin birth of our Savior, Christ’s death and resurrection, and any other doctrine of the faith. And as important as is God’s truth and His revelation concerning those doctrines, of the same importance is the instruction given us in Titus 2:4, 5.

This is the life of a young wife that is consistent with the truth of God’s Word and the life of a Christian.

A Spiritually Fruitful Obedience

Godly obedience to this high calling is indeed spiritually fruitful.

That is evident from the last part of verse 5, where the focus is on the fruitfulness with respect to God’s honor and glory.

Women are to live such a life of godliness, that the Word of God be not blasphemed.

That shows that the way you live reflects upon God.

For one who claims to love God and His Word, and yet who lives contrary to it, that person shows reproach to the Word of God, that it is not in his or her heart.

And when a person walks uprightly, that person shows that the Word of God reflects in his or her life. This brings a seriousness to your calling, doesn’t it.

The Word of God is blasphemed by the world when we Christians speak so much about the covenant of God with us and our children, when we claim that our children are God’s gifts to us, and then we forsake our calling as godly parents. We give occasion for the Word of God to be held in contempt. So that those who oppose us say, “The Word of God? It has no power. It doesn’t make a real difference in your life, does it!” Sometimes we hear that, don’t we. It only takes one member of the congregation living wickedly, and we hear, “You PRs; you claim to have the truth, but it sure doesn’t make any difference in how you live, does it!”

But we must remember that this inspired instruction is given to young women who have been born again by the Spirit of Christ. You who are God-fearing know that there is nothing worse than to live in such a way that we cause God and His Word to be blasphemed. You don’t want that! You love the Lord God! And therefore—I know of you—you want God’s Word to be praised.

That is why you hear this Word of God. You find your strength and fulfillment in the way of obedience.

Isn’t it so?

These matters pertaining to the life of young wives are the things that become, that are consistent with, sound doctrine. And God is glorified in those virtuous young wives and mothers who walk in obedience to His Word.

But in addition, when God is glorified, He also gives His blessing.

Look once again, beloved, at those characteristics manifest in the God-fearing young woman. She loves her husband; she loves her children. She is discreet, chaste, a keeper at home. She is good, obedient to her own husband.

It is those kind of characteristics that make the women of the world rage. To them such characteristics spell male-domination and bondage, drudgery and suppression. What do those things spell to you?

According to God’s Word, those things spell BEAUTY, spiritual beauty. Such beauty is possible only by your freedom in Christ Jesus, freedom to walk in the way of God’s will. For we are partakers of God’s glory and grace in Christ Jesus.

The young woman who strives to live in obedience to this Word of God certainly rises above the degrading principles of sin and wickedness. That is not to say that obedience is found to be easy. Nor is it to say that such a life will not result in certain sacrifices and hardships. But when you live according to God’s precepts, your life is seen as one of beauty and nobility. It is seen as such by God Himself. But it is also seen as such by God-fearing husbands and children and brothers and sisters in Christ.

When you walk in the way of this Word, though you are so conscious of your weaknesses and sins, you set examples before your husband and children and neighbors that are worthy of emulation. They will know that your life is hid with Christ in God.

And so you also shield your children from the evils and errors, sins and wickedness that surround them. By your own example of godliness, you warn them against the ways of the world, and show them the higher, more beautiful and worthwhile things of life: obedience to God and His Word, and partaking of the fellowship of His love.

Of the woman who lives in such a way, the writer of Proverbs 31 speaks, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her…. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:28, 30). Hear this Word of God, my young sisters in Christ. Walk in His way. And May God Himself so grant you His blessing.

In our last article in which we began our study of Titus 2:4, 5, we called attention to the love which a young wife is called to give her husband and children.

According to this inspired Word of God, that calling to love comes to virtuous manifestation, as we see in verse 5.

Discretion

In the first place, we note that the young wife is to be marked by discretion.

To be discreet is to be of sound judgment, wise in conduct and management. To be characterized by discretion is to have a spiritual-minded perspective and approach to all decisions necessary in the home.

The discreet woman avoids that which would injure her own soul and influence, or that would injure her husband and children. She realizes that what she takes into her life and what she does will have its effect through the years. She realizes that what is in harmony with God’s will shall certainly have a good end, but the bad is a means to a grievous outcome. Therefore she seeks to do what is right in God’s sight, and rejects the bad.

And she knows, because the heart is deceitful above all things, that she may not rely upon her own feelings or opinions as to what is right in a given situation; but she must seek God’s will in all things.

The young women who is discreet is a young woman who prays. She prays for wisdom, for sound judgment, for the fervent desire to walk according to all God’s precepts. And God grants her request. The enemy is not able to “pull the wool over her eyes.” She seeks the glory of God and His praise.

And when she errs, for she still struggles with her sinful nature, that error is the exception, and her husband and children will recognize it as such.

Chaste

The young wife must also be chaste.

That is a reflection of the love she has for her husband, love flowing forth from the love of God in her heart.

She is chaste, pure, expressing a life of holiness. She is careful about her conduct, her influence, her plans and purposes. She guards her tongue, that source of much impurity and evil. She is careful concerning her dress. She does not live for extravagance, is not wasteful. She is cautious about where she goes and doesn’t keep company with those who are unholy and impure.

To this godly young woman, pure and upright womanhood is a pearl of great price. She possesses self-control, not to be led astray like the silly women who are worldly and ungodly.

This holiness characterizes her life because she anchors her life to Christ, the Rock.

These are among the attributes that you women who are older are to set before the young women.

Keeper at Home

In addition, a God-fearing young wife is to be a home-worker and good.

In our society and in the day and age in which we live, this text has become one that most preachers would like to avoid. The expression “keepers at home” is so unmistakably clear, that in churches where young mothers working outside the home has become the norm, rather than the exception, the teaching of this Word of God presses upon the waywardness of many. That makes it uncomfortable, not only for those who have disobeyed this Word, but also for the preacher who must preach it without regard to the faces of men and women.

The consequences of disobedience to this commanded place of the mother are seen even by society. Many want to deny those consequences, but they are evident in undisciplined children, broken marriages, two-income families filled with financial strife over where money shall be spent, and many other societal evils. But we do not make judgments in the matter on the basis of bad results in society when mothers leave their God-given calling in the home.

We stand before the Word of God Himself. As Christians the Word of God is the standard for us, both concerning what we believe, but also how we live.

Remember, the Apostle gives instruction here concerning that lifestyle which is becoming, i.e., which is consistent with sound doctrine. This is the kind of lifestyle that is in harmony with God’s truth.

It is God’s will that young mothers are to be “keepers at home,” home-workers. For there is a steep price to be paid in the violation of this Word of God.

Again, you will notice that the text speaks specifically of those young women who have children in the home. And the text speaks not only of toddlers, but children from infancy through the age of adolescence. When you have children who come home to an empty house after school, or who are regularly left during the summer months without mother’s direct supervision and guidance; when you have children that are turned over to someone else’s care during the day, there is a forsaking of the God-ordained bond between mother and children, and the responsibility that God has given father and mother with respect to their children.

The inspired Apostle puts it this way in I Timothy 5:14: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

Mothers with children at home are not to be off working outside of the home, but in their house, serving God, literally, as the “despot of the house.” Now, in the usage of our language that term despot often carries the connotation of a tyrant. But the meaning is simply that in the home during the day there must be one with authority, one who is governing. The husband is out of the home, laboring in obedience to God’s will for him. The wife and mother must be in the home, governing and giving constant guidance, also spiritually, for the welfare of that home.

No exceptions are mentioned. Sometimes there is argument made that there must be exceptions to this, if financial necessity requires a second income. But where do you find such an exception in the Bible? Where do you find it? I don’t find it anywhere.

I find much instruction in Scripture concerning what we must do in times of financial distress.

I learn from Scripture that when I consider myself lacking, I must first examine my own lifestyle and expenditures. Do I have a mistaken notions about what are necessities and what are luxuries? Are there things that we can do without, or lesser things that will suffice our needs?

I learn from Scripture as well, that when I look at my budget and my expenditures and find that I am not mismanaging as a poor steward those gifts which God has provided, nor am neglecting my calling to labor for the provision of my family, then I must seek help from others. I Timothy 5 is clear on that, to mention one passage.

The others from whom I must first seek help are my relatives. That is nothing shameful. That is the way God would have us go. And Christian relatives, parents, brothers and sisters, even aunts and uncles, should be sensitive to the needs of such families and stand willing to help them. I Timothy 5:8 is clear: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

And then, the Bible tells us, if our needs are such that our extended family cannot help us, we are to seek the mercies of Christ from His appointed deacons. Again, that is not a shameful thing, when God has providentially placed you in that position. That is a tremendous blessing, to know that God has appointed a means to care for you in time of need. And let me just mention, that includes provision for the godly instruction of our children in our Christian schools. When we are needful for financial assistance, that help must be there, also in order that we may fulfill our covenant obligations in the godly instruction of our children. God’s mercies provide for us through the office of deacon. We must not seek another way than the ways which God points us toward.

The Bible tells us how to deal with financial distress. Let us heed God’s wise instruction.

But never does the Bible give as an option, the mother’s forsaking of her calling to be a “keeper at home.” That is a necessary and tremendously important aspect of her calling, a manifestation of godly virtue on the part of a young wife and mother in the church.

As to those who object that the church would make the house a prison for mothers, we will not be led astray by such argumentation, shall we.

You understand that it is not at all the point of this text to confine young women exclusively to the house. She has other callings within the body of believers that will take her out of the house from time to time, often with her children.

Besides being an integral part of her husband’s household, she is an integral part of the church, and lives in the fellowship of the saints.

Good

The God-fearing young wife also shows love for her husband by showing herself “good.” She is to be taught to be “good.”

The reference to being “good” is a reference to the fact that she is not only the home-maker, but a helper in the body of Christ. She is ready to come to the assistance of other members of the congregation. She visits others in the church, particular to speak encouraging words. She takes her time by showing pure religion and undefiled, visiting the widows and orphans.

Unlike one who fills her day with work outside the home, this virtuous woman has time for others.

Not only to be discreet, chaste and keepers at home, but good—that is the calling of the young wife.

You older women must teach these things to your daughters and younger sisters in Christ. (To be continued.)

 

This is the first of a series of articles, the substance of which was a sermon from Titus 2:4, 5 preached in Randolph Protestant Reformed Church on February 5, 1995. It is published by request. Although applicable especially to wives and young women who desire to prepare themselves for holy marriage, it is also applicable to older women—whose calling it is to instruct their daughters and younger women in these crucial truths, and to young men, who ought to seek these virtues in a wife.

Today I call your attention to the Bible’s instruction concerning an aspect of Christian family life. As we have seen often before, God has given marriage for our spiritual good and the good of his church. We are blessed who receive marriage and family life as God’s good gift. But we must also recognize that in order for it to serve for our spiritual good, our family life must conform to the will of God and the precepts of his word.

As we turn to Paul’s epistle to Titus, his fellow minister in the gospel, we find him giving Titus instruction concerning the ministry. Titus must emphasize in his ministry the calling of God’s people to put sound doctrine to practice. That is emphatically true when it comes to family life. Satan recognizes the importance of the institution of marriage and the family. For that reason, he levels numerous assaults upon the family, placing many temptations before the children of God.

This second chapter of Titus begins with the connecting word “But.”

The Apostle had just referred to the influence of the ungodly world upon the church. The world lives in open defiance of God, shamelessly trumpeting its sin as a great fun.

And because of the sinful natures even of God’s people, and also because of the reprobate that are found even in the development of the lines of the covenant, within the walls of the church, such wickedness in the world has an influence in the church.

In the very last part of chapter 1, Paul had warned of those who are defiled and unbelieving. He was speaking of those in the church. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).

“But….” In opposition to such and in defense against that influence of evil, “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” That is, speak concerning that godly life which is fitting with the confession of a Christian, which is consistent with the great truths of God’s word.

And part of that sound doctrine which Titus must preach and teach is the application of God’s truth to holy marriage and to family life.

Teaching Young Women

As we consider the instruction of verses 4 and 5 of Titus, chapter 2, it is striking that the instruction actually belongs to the calling of the older women in the church. It is not the calling of Titus and other ministers to teach the young women of the church, first of all, with respect to their calling in family life. But the older women have that responsibility.

Titus must preach sound doctrine and apply that truth to the life of God’s people.

But the members of the church must enter into the application of that truth.

That is an urgent responsibility! The opening words of verse 4 really do not convey the emphasis. But the text says literally, that the older women are earnestly to teach the young women. The word used actually means “to discipline, to hold one to her duty,” and therefore to exhort earnestly. That calling belongs to you older women.

When we use the terms “older” and “young,” we realize that age is a relative thing. But the text somewhat defines the terms here.

The young women are those who are married or of age to be married, and include mothers whose children are yet at home and whose life, therefore, is characterized by the tremendous daily responsibility of child-rearing. In that case, we might regard young women as those in their late teenage years and perhaps well up into their 40s.

The older women, on the other hand, although not exclusive of unmarried women, are generally those who are married and have already borne the responsibility of raising children. That may include those as young as in their mid to late 30s, as well as those who are older. Their children, if not already out of the house, are older.

These women, who have grown by experience and also have some spiritual maturity, are to show concern for the younger women of the church by teaching them the ways of God-fearing marriage and motherhood. You are to set before them, not only the pattern of your own life, but you are earnestly to speak to them the Word of God concerning the calling of a young wife.

Called to Love

The fundamental element of your calling, Christian wives, is that of love.

We speak now of that spiritual virtue which recognizes marriage and the family as God’s wonderful gift to his church.

That young women have husbands and children is only by God’s appointment.

That God has given to his church marriage is by his sovereign appointment. He has done so, according to Ephesians 5, in reflection of that amazing relationship between Christ and his church which he has established by his sovereign and eternal decree of election. The inspired Apostle speaks of the institution of marriage and that holy relationship, when he says in Ephesians 5:32: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

For a young woman to love her husband, she must recognize her God-given place.

In Genesis, chapter 2, we learn that man alone was not able to perform the calling that God had for him. God created the woman as the help fit for him. What a tremendously important calling you God-fearing wives have! Without godly wives and mothers in the home, the family and the church could not exist! The church, after all, is founded upon the life of the family.

What a glorious place God has given you women! You are indispensable to the welfare of us all. The home, the church and the cause of the kingdom depends directly upon your work as godly wives and mothers. Knowing that indispensable place given you by God, you are called to love your husband.

True Love

The love, therefore, which unites the Christian husband and wife together is much deeper than mere physical and romantic attraction. You will not find this love in the world’s books or the world’s movies.

This is a love which bears all things, which forgives many faults, which seeks the welfare of its object. It is the love of God in Christ which he works in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. And that love, as a matter of the soul, comes to expression.

Such love is the giving of one’s self to another.

This is the love of self-denial, the love which seeks the other and gives to the other.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme example. We read in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” He gave Himself to the death of the cross for the welfare of his bride, for her salvation.

Here in Titus 2:4 the same calling of love is set before the young wives in the church.

Husbands must indeed love their wives. That is their chief calling in marriage.

But the text before us today sets the same calling before you wives.

To love your husband is to live for him, recognizing his headship as the picture of Christ’s headship over the church. It is to pray for him and to support him in all his endeavors. It is to be a spiritual help to him. It is to apply yourself in your daily life to preparing for him the most comfortable home possible. It is to be there for him, to fellowship with him.

To love your husband is to live with I Corinthians 13 written upon your heart. Such love also comes to expression in many other virtues, as we shall see presently.

Besides the love for her husband, the young mother is to love her children.

This, again, is not a natural love. Else it would not have to be taught you.

Your calling here is a calling to that deeply spiritual virtue of love. You are called to reflect the love of God in your relationship with your children.

That is often difficult, because our children are sinners. Not only so, but they are sinners in such a way that they reflect the sins of our own natures. That makes it very painful to experience. But you are called to love your children.

Such love is a love that provides for the children. A God-fearing mother is there for her children. She is not selfishly pursuing other interests to the neglect of her children. She is there, recognizing that her children require full-time labors of love. They must be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

During those several hours of the day when her husband is at work, the full responsibility for that calling rests upon mother’s shoulders. She must love her children, providing discipline for them, teaching them, having devotions with them, praying with them.

This love, love for her husband and love for her children, is the foundation of the Christian home where the young wife has her calling. Such love comes to manifestation. (To be continued.)

The topic we consider today falls under the main theme of the Convention, “Running the Race.” Hebrews 12, verses 1 and 2, from which text the theme is taken, is a passage that builds upon what was written in Chapter 11. And Hebrews 11 is the chapter of that great cloud of witnesses, those who lived by faith, received a good report of God their Savior, and now await our perfection with them. Hebrews 12 points to those who have run the race before us. They now stand lining the course that you and I must run. They are cheering us on, as it were. And we look at them and are encouraged and challenged, even excited to accomplish what they were able to accomplish before us. That is the picture, very briefly, of the text.

I am called to speak specifically of THE COURSE that we run. You understand that when we come before a theme that speaks of running the race, we are dealing with a figure of speech. God addresses His Word to us in language that we can understand, and uses figures taken from our earthly life to set before us spiritual realities. So it is also with this idea of running a race. Greek culture put no little emphasis on sports. The Olympic Games have their origins in ancient Greece and were well-known events to the early New Testament Christians. Those games consisted almost entirely of what we know as track events. Running and horse races were the leading events. But the idea of the Christian life as running a race pre-dates the Olympic games. Already the Psalms in Psalm 119:32, shows us the confession of the believer, who says, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” And the Song of Solomon presents the church, the Bride of Christ, as running after the One Whom she loves. So this evening we give some thought to the race that we run as Christians, and particularly the course that we run.

A Difficult Course

The race that you are called to run must be run on a difficult course. We don’t run on a nice track, but on an obstacle course. When our whole life is compared to a race, the figure puts us in a giant stadium. You live your life in a giant stadium. That stadium is this world. The race that you run is found on a course marked by all the obstacles that characterize this world. It is a world of sin and darkness, of sicknesses and pains, a world filled temptations and sorrows.

It is striking that the word translated race in Hebrews 12:1 is the Greek word which translated literally would be agony. It is a contest in which you participate only through much agony. In addition, the course runs uphill. Your life as a Christian is a life that travels a narrow path taking you uphill, toward sights unseen. It leads toward that city that has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. The track to that goal is not only narrow, but it is elevated high off the ground, so that you must be very careful not to fall off, either to the right hand or to the left. To the right hand you would fall into the bondage of legalism or of works-righteousness, which would rob you of your freedom in Christ; but to the left hand there are all the enticements of the world, those pleasures of sin which are only for a season and which lead to destruction.

Still more, the path on which you must run is not a smooth track, but a track filled with large stones that you have to carefully climb over or go around on what seems to be a treacherous ledge. And besides those boulders, there are pitfalls and water holes that you must wade through very carefully—especially because some of those pits are not merely muddy, but full of quicksand that would drag you down and suck your life out of you. And while you are climbing uphill, it isn’t even a steady climb, but you have some areas of the course that are steeper than others, and some in fact which require you to climb sheer cliffs, relying on the help of those who have gone before and who will show you how to do so safely.

And when I speak of having to run a race on an obstacle course, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that you will be running this race in a hostile environment! Oh yes, there is that cloud of witnesses cheering you on. You must focus on them. You must stick as close as possible to those who are on your side. But you are running the race in an enemy stadium, one still under the possession of the prince of this world, the wicked one. Let me tell you, in fact, about that wicked one. For a time he had access to heaven, to that city to which we travel. He doesn’t any more. When Christ accomplished His perfect work on the cross and was exalted to heaven, the devil and his angels were cast out. Revelation 12 tells us about those happenings. But then we read this in Revelation 12:13-17: “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.” The reference there is to his persecution of the church from which Christ came forth. “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” Does that mean that she now has no difficulties? Listen. “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Oh yes, you run this race before a hostile crowd. I don’t mean to imply that they always openly express their hatred against us. Often they pretend to be friends. They may even run along side us for a little while. But all the while their purpose is to prevent us from finishing the race. We are constantly confronted by obstacles. You must run on a difficult course.

Furthermore, the course that we run is a course that requires endurance. That also is emphasized by the idea of a race.

The difficulty of our course is denoted by several other figures in Scripture. Sometimes our Christian life is likened to a wrestling match. We are told in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Wrestling requires strength, agility, and a certain knowledge of technique in the exerted effort to conquer the opponent. Other times in Scripture the Christian’s course is compared to a battle. We are called as soldiers of Jesus Christ—not to fight with any earthly weapons, but to bear hardship, not being entangled with the affairs of this life, but to fight the good fight of faith (II Timothy 2:3; I Timothy 6:12). And we understand that a soldier is subject to great dangers.

But in running a race the body is taxed for endurance. Intense exertion is required for this long run. It demands not merely speed of foot, but the strongest powers of physical endurance, a healthy heart and strong lungs.

You may have noticed that Hebrews 12:1 speaks of the need to run with patience. The nature of this course is not one for sprinting. The course is of different lengths for each of us. Paul Noorman undoubtedly would have been here with us tonight, but he had finished his race. The length of his run wasn’t very long. You don’t know how long the course is for you. It may be 80 more years long. It may not be much longer than what you have already run. But the fact is that the course is not one made for sprinting. Some of us are naturally inclined to running short distances at a fast pace. I was never a long-distance runner. I didn’t have the lung capacity for it. I was a sprinter. But you can’t sprint an obstacle course. You may “make tracks” for a little ways, but you’re constantly running up against obstacles in this course. So it becomes an endurance race.

Moreover, we run this race with many hindrances of our own. Hebrews 12:1 admonishes us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us. What the text calls every weight is anything that hinders us during our race, anything which dulls our spiritual senses, anything that stifles our spiritual appetite or chokes our prayer life. There are many, many things that hinder us, aren’t there, so many daily cares and anxieties. And the sin which doth so easily beset us—if we had to run this race alone, we would never make it! We would soon become exhausted and fall over the side to our own destruction. Or we would quit and say, “It’s not worth it.” Yes, if it were left to us, we would never finish the race, and we would never obtain the crown of victory. But this race is not a man-made and humanly contrived race.

A Course Divinely Appointed

We run on a course appointed by God. Hebrews 12:1 speaks of “the race that is set before us.” That’s a race appointeddetermined for us. It was appointed for us from eternity. You were created by God and recreated in Christ Jesus to run this race that was determined from before the foundation of the world as the way to glory for the people of God.

It is the race initiated by God Himself in paradise when He put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman. All through the Old Testament God’s people had to run this same race. They ran by faith. They ran as those of whom the world is not worthy. In grace God has surrounded us with that great cloud of witnesses. They are before us as examples of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, yes, even the former harlot whom God redeemed, Rahab. There was Samson as well as David, and thousands of others who cannot be named for lack of time. They were all sinners saved by grace, who also ran the race and by faith obtained victory. They ran with their eyes fixed on the goal, the heavenly country and the promised Seed through Whom they would obtain that goal. Their testimony through the Scriptures is this: He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities; but we have been kept by the power of His grace.

That same race is now yours, appointed by God for you. It is yours as Protestant Reformed young people. Mind you, it is an amazing thing that you are addressed by God here as contestants in this race. It isn’t because you are so good, so strong naturally. It isn’t because God saw in you an ability to run such a race. It isn’t of anything in you. Moreover, your life isn’t set on this course because of what you decided. You didn’t decide to join the team. You haven’t volunteered.

God chose you and set you on this course. Do you believe that? God took you who were dead in trespasses and sins, and breathed into you the breath of life. He sent His Son to redeem you. He quickened you, made you alive by the regenerating work of His Holy Spirit. And so He called you and made you willing to endure this hardship.

Moreover He equips you with everything necessary for this great endurance run. You run, therefore, as those redeemed by Christ, created and sanctified in Him in order that you might enter this course, run the race, and obtain the victory. You must know that because, all along the course, it is necessary to look to Jesus the author and finisher of your faith.

Know also that God has determined the exact course that each one of you shall run. I already talked about the hardships and difficulties that must be faced on this course. But each of you shall face different difficulties and obstacles. Some of you have already faced particular trials and afflictions. Some of you shall face great difficulties and sorrows. Each of you will face particular temptations, even though with every temptation God shall also “make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13). Some—trying foolishly to seek your own course—will fall into grievous sins, yet to be restored by the wonder work of God’s grace. But you who are Christ’s will run, following the course marked out for you, until you reach the goal and receive the victor’s crown. But we must say still more about this course being appointed.

That the course is appointed by God means not simply that He has made us contestants in this race and determined the course itself, but He also has determined how we must run the race.

If you and I are runners in this race, we must run as God has instructed us by His Holy Spirit. In all contests there are rules. If a contestant breaks the rules on the way to the goal, he is disqualified. For us those rules are set down in the infallible Word of truth. They are set before us by the authority of Him Who alone has the right to determine the rules of the course. So definitive are those rules, that we read in II Timothy 2:5, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” That means no one receives the crown of victory, except according to the laws laid down for the contest. It is not the mere running of the race, therefore, that secures the prize, but it is whether you have run as God would have you run.

There are those who would run the course to heaven. But they want to choose their own course, select their own pace, and set their own rules. That is why, Scripture tells us, when you look at the broad picture many run, but few obtain the prize. You have to run the course marked out in the Scriptures of truth, and confirmed in the example of Jesus. Then there will be found in you a stretching out yourself to walk in His fear, to live to His praise, and to enjoy His fellowship. In you will come to expression the confession of Psalm 119:32, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Then the work of the blessed Spirit of Christ will be found thriving in your soul. For to do this, you see, you must have the life of Christ in your soul. To be able to run is of divine grace, the power of Christ’s life in you. To endure in the running you must have a continual supply of His grace, bestowed from the fullness of your covenant Head. To persevere requires the strength of Christ continually being made perfect in your weakness. But so you are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

That means, of course, that Jesus is not set before you as a mere example, as one of the great cloud of witnesses cheering you on. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, the One in Whom you put your trust. Nothing will divert our minds from the many hindrances and temptations except faith and trust in Christ Jesus. And when verse 2 of Hebrews 12 speaks of Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith, He is that because He ran our race. For the joy that was set before Him, He fulfilled all righteousness, enduring the cross for us.

The race that He ran was one that we could not run. Oh yes, there is an aspect of His race that we still must endure today. He had to endure the troubles and sorrows of this life, even persecution at the hands of wicked men, which troubles we must also face. But even then our suffering does not compare with what He had to endure. We suffer as sinners, you see. He was the Sinless One. But His race was one that we could not run. For on His course was an obstacle that we could never have overcome. In fact, that obstacle was on His course because of us. In His path was the cross. Every step along the way He was conscious of the fact that He was drawing closer and closer to the cross, where the fullest expression of God’s curse was seen. That cross marked God’s curse. And that curse was there because of our sins, yours and mine. Christ took our curse upon Himself and endured.

He endured for the joy that was set before Him, the joy which included the salvation of His Church, the Bride which He loves. Sustained by the clear truth that the only way to glory is the way of perfect obedience, even through suffering, Jesus ran the race, being obedient even to the death of the cross. He fixed His eyes on the joy that was set before Him and endured the cross, despising the shame.

Are you afraid of shame, of being rejected by others? If you run this course, you will suffer shame. You will be rejected by some of your peers. Some may even have to suffer rejection of family members. Your fellow employees and neighbors will heap shame upon you. That’s a fact of life, because this race leads down the narrow way, the way that is not popular, a way that is exclusive—not to skin color or nationality, not to male or female, not to rich or poor; but exclusive to those who belong to Christ. You always have plenty of opportunities to escape that shame and to gain the praise of men. You will be asked to go places and to do things that would take you off course and inflict injury upon your own conscience. You will be asked to compromise principles which you may not compromise. Always the question stands before you, “Will you have the praise of men, or the praise of God?”

Christ, too, faced shame. He faced not only the shame of His earthly peers, the shame of the world, but He faced the shame of the cross! That shame of rejection that we fear, Christ took willingly upon Himself. He despised the shame! He didn’t succumb to it; He did not compromise to “save face” among men; He did not faint because of it. He considered it worthless in comparison to the joy that was set before Him. He scorned that shame! It meant nothing to Him. He scorned that shame for our salvation. He died in order to bring us to God.

He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He stands before us on this course at the very beginning, as the Starter of the race. There is that great cloud of witnesses alongside the course, cheering us on. But from the very beginning of the race, there stands our Lord Christ as the Starter of the race. Before the time of the “starter’s pistol,” all those who were in the race had to look at the starter. The starter was in place, the runners set, and all fixed their eyes upon that starter. At the moment he dropped his glove or handkerchief, off they went. Look to Jesus. Take your eyes off Him, and you will falter. From the very beginning look to Him, Who is the Author of your faith. Look at all that He has done for you. Look at the relationship He has established with you. Look at the price He paid for you. Then run.

But look to Him also as the Finisher of your faith. As Jesus stands at the beginning of the course, so He stands as the end, the Rewarder of all those Who run to Him. Keep your eyes upon Him throughout the course of the race. Don’t let the enemy distract you. Don’t let them entice you to their wells of poison when you are feeling tired. Look to Him Who sits upon the throne, King of all, Lord of your life.

We run the race and are assured of the victory in Him. It is in that light, in that victory, that you run the race. You are on a course marked out by Christ’s bloody victory, a victory He obtained as your Head, your Redeemer. Remember that. It is an amazing course, appointed you by God’s grace.

A Course With A Tremendous Goal

Finally, young people, I remind you just briefly that we run this race on a course that has a tremendous goal. The goal is perfection.

What a contrast to the goal which is common to man. The Bible both in Proverbs and in Isaiah speaks of the goal toward which man naturally runs. “Their feet run to evil” (Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7). Peter uses terms a little more graphic in I Peter 4:4 when he speaks of those outside of Christ running toward “excess of riot” (I Peter 4:4). And you know that it is easy for us, taking our eyes off the goal that God has set before us, to head toward the wrong goal. Examples are set before us repeatedly in the Scriptures, and we know them as well from our own experience. The prophecy of Haggai, to mention one example, is a stark reminder. There the people of God are found focusing upon themselves, upon their own things. Their goal was their own earthly prosperity. God sent His prophet, in fact, to rebuke them, to call them to repentance, and to remind them of their calling to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and not to run after the things of this world. How quickly we take our eyes off the goal.

The goal, however, that God has set before us is the beauty of holiness, the glory of God coming to expression in our lives—and that perfectly. The new man in Christ knows instinctively that, when God gave His Son to save His people from their sins, that salvation was to be perfect. What else can the inspired apostle Peter mean when he writes to us in II Peter 1:4, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” To be partakers of the divine nature—that is what is set before us.

Which is to say that the goal is not merely heaven. All would like to go to heaven, if they can determine their own way there and what heaven will be like. The essence of our salvation is not that we are excused from going to hell, and taken into a tremendously beautiful place called heaven. Certainly that is part of our salvation. But the essence of heaven is not what will be seen outwardly, but the enjoyment in body and soul of perfect fellowship with the living God through Jesus Christ our Lord. To use the language of Psalm 27, it is to “dwell in the house of the LORD” in the fellowship of His perfect love, and “to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Apart from the enjoyment of His love and fellowship, all the outward beauty of heaven would be lost. So the goal of the race is that fellowship with the Holy One through Christ in the state of perfection. It is to glorify and praise Him as prophets, to serve Him as priests, walking forever in good works, to reign in perfect freedom over all the works of His hands, and to do so perfectly.

But at the goal there is also a prize. That prize is a crown, the crown of victory. It is the crown of life everlasting which the Lord has promised to all those who love Him. It is the crown of glory that never fades away.

In those moments when you are struggling, and find yourself nearly exhausted from your exertions in the race, look to that prize, held in the hands of your Savior. Do so in your youth. Because that crown of glory is worn by Him Who has run this race for you and has obtained the victory for you. A glimpse by faith of that glorious crown and of Him Who owns that crown as your Friend and elder Brother will revive you like a cup of water given to those who are midway through a marathon. When divine grace gives you wisdom to have respect unto the recompense—the payoff—of the reward, then you will find that even bearing the reproach of Christ is greater riches than all the treasures of this world.

Press on. Forgetting those things that are behind, reach forward. For He Who has given you to run this race will also see you through to the accomplishment of His work of grace in you.

I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on October 25, 1955, the first-born child of Roger and Florence Key, and was baptized in Wyoming Park Christian Reformed Church.

As a toddler through junior high school I grew up in Jenison, Michigan. I went to Jenison Christian School through the eighth grade. When I was 13 years old my father took a job in Petoskey, Michigan, and we moved to Charlevoix, a beautiful town nestled between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. I didn’t go willingly. I was very unhappy about being uprooted and removed from my rowdy junior high school buddies. Looking back, however, it was a very beneficial move in the providence of God.

Already in junior high there were peer pressures that I was not standing up to very well. God used this move to work a change in direction in my spiritual life—the beginnings of a change that would culminate several years later in my entrance into the Protestant Reformed churches.

Although several years later my parents would join Atwood Christian Reformed Church where Reverend Audred Spriensma was serving his first pastorate, upon first moving to Charlevoix our church home became the Community Reformed Church (RCA). There I immediately established new and in fact healthier friendships. I learned that one of the most important influences in standing up to various peer pressures are the friends you keep. I am reminded of what we read in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” It is critically important that the friends we have are godly, and show a desire to walk in the way of the Lord even over against the trends. All the more important were those church friends because I was no longer in the setting of a Christian school either. My high school years were spent in Charlevoix Public School. Certainly my experience both in grade school and high school have contributed to my zealous appreciation and support for our Protestant Reformed schools, and my fervent desire to see also our high school students receive a distinctive Christian education.

Through my high school years and first two years of college, I worked in a lumber yard in Charlevoix, and found much enjoyment in that work. I decided to go to college to pursue a degree in business. After graduating from high school in 1973, I began my college education at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey, a two-year school. To save costs, I continued to live at home and commuted each day to school. In 1975, I transferred to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, where I continued my studies in the School of Business at WMU. I was also able to get a job with a retail and wholesale Building Supply Center that I had come to know while working in Charlevoix.

Growing up I was a very active in sports, especially baseball and football. I did pick up another hobby that I am able to continue to some degree today, and that is photography.

Those interested in Protestant Reformed Church history may find it interesting that, upon moving to Kalamazoo, I lived in the old parsonage of First Christian Reformed Church, where Reverend Henry Danhof was pastor in 1924. The parsonage had long been vacated, and was rented out by the church. My bedroom was Rev. Danhof’s former study. That didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but little did I know that I would someday be a member in the churches that found its origin in the controversy of which Rev. Danhof was a part.

Upon moving to Kalamazoo, I re-established relationships with a couple cousins who lived there at the time. There was a young woman living with my cousin, Mary Key, whom the Lord in His good providence brought into my life. Nancy Bosch and Mary were best friends. After getting to know Nancy, our acquaintance began to blossom. We were able to discuss spiritual things freely and openly. On November 27, 1976 we were united in marriage at the Third Reformed Church in Kalamazoo.

The Lord has blessed our marriage richly, beyond measure, especially by the spiritual growth He has given us. We have been through many trials together, drawn closer by them all. By God’s grace we were led to a richer understanding of the truth of God’s Word, and came with unity of heart and mind to the Protestant Reformed Churches in 1979. God has also blessed our marriage with four daughters, and now a granddaughter. Stephanie is married to Andy Lanning, a seminarian, and is prepared to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a pastor’s wife, God willing. They have been blessed with a baby girl, Jessica. Our daughter Michelle just completed her first year of teaching in the Northwest Iowa Protestant Reformed School in Doon. Elisabeth works as a dietary technician at Mary Free Bed Hospital in Grand Rapids, while Mary Anne just graduated from Western Christian High School in Hull. The words of III John 4 ring true: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

My whole life, in God’s wonderful providence, was a preparation for ministry, even when the ministry was the farthest thing from my mind. Although thoughts of the ministry had crossed my mind when I was probably a junior or senior in high school, I was quickly able to wash those thoughts out of my mind. Occasionally, they would come to the fore again, but I was able to find many excuses to suppress those thoughts. Ultimately, however, those thoughts were not able to be suppressed. After being married, moving to Grand Rapids from Kalamazoo for a job, and returning from the RCA to the CRC, I began to think more seriously about the ministry. The major hindrance, however, was what I perceived to be a significant and rapid departure from the historic Reformed faith in the CRC. I was troubled enough by what I saw and by what I heard from several seminarians with whom we associated in our church, that I was not at all inclined to attend Calvin Seminary. At this time my wife and I began visiting other churches, considering whether it was our spiritual obligation to leave the CRC, and struggling with the question of “Where to go.” Bear in mind that at this time we were yet unfamiliar with the Protestant Reformed Churches. I became a member of the Reformed Fellowship, what many considered the ultra-conservative group in the CRC, which was attempting to maintain the old paths. Of concern to me, however, was the fact that I was the youngest member of that organization by about 25 years, and the men who were in their 40’s were all ministers. That was not a good sign, either, for the future of the CRC.

There were several significant events that happened in the course of a couple years, which God used to lead us to the PRC. To go into them in detail would require a book, so I will single out only a couple.

In 1978, my wife and I received our first exposure to the PRC, when a friend of ours invited us to a lecture held in Hudsonville church. Professor Hanko spoke on “The Pleasures of Babylon in Jerusalem.” I recall very distinctly two things about that event. First, the attendance at that lecture was astounding to us. The church was packed. And it was not just elderly in attendance, but young families and young couples. (I wonder if that is the case in the Grand Rapids area any more among our Protestant Reformed people.) The second thing that stands out in my recollection is that Prof. Hanko, while focusing on the dangers of worldliness in the Protestant Reformed Churches, made a passing reference to the Christian Reformed Church and the loss of the antithesis. He attributed that loss to “common grace.” That passing reference struck me and my wife. It was our first acquaintance with the term “common grace.” It also put the question in our minds, “Was this just some Protestant Reformed propaganda, or was there truth to the statement that the loss of the antithesis (very evident to us as members of the CRC) was to be attributed to the Christian Reformed adoption of this doctrine called “common grace.”

I set out to study the issue. Over the course of the following few weeks, I spent time in the Calvin College library and before Scripture studying the history of the common grace controversy. It was as if the lights came on—and shone brightly. At the same time, in the church where we were members, we began seeing the influence of common grace in the preaching as well as in the Bible studies or adult Sunday School classes. Three different 6 or 8 week classes, each led by different Calvin College or Seminary professors, brought out various aspects of the influence of common grace, and even criticisms of the Protestant Reformed Churches. God was using all these events to point us in the direction of the PRC—especially when, upon investigating some of the criticisms of the PRC, I found the charges against the PRC to be slanderous caricatures and false representations of what the Protestant Reformed churches teach.

Another event, out of many, that played a part in our change of churches at this time was a brief conversation held with Rev. John Byker, a minister in the CRC at that time. I spoke with Rev. Byker after a speech he had given under the auspices of the Reformed Fellowship. He was forthright about the departure of the CRC, and questioned the future of the denomination. After his speech, I spoke with him, explaining that my wife and I were expecting our first child, and wondering what to do about our church membership. He advised me that, for the sake of our children, we had a calling to look for a church that held more faithfully to the truth of God’s Word. He gave me that advice, even though at that time he felt his own office compelled him to stay in the CRC until it was no longer possible for him to serve. Although we were still unsettled as to where we would go, we were convinced that there were more faithful churches where we should be members.

Once we had opportunity to hear the distinctive preaching of the PRC, it was only a brief time before we were able to come to a clear understanding about other teachings of the PRC, and make a decision that this is where we belonged. And while we soon found out that sin abounds also among the Protestant Reformed people, and the devil is always seeking to destroy the church and her unity, we rejoice for the place God has given us in the PRC. Once settled in our church membership, I also was compelled to submit to that subjective calling God had given me to study for the ministry.

There are many memories of seminary, although most of the memories of practice preaching have long ago been suppressed. I have fond memories, though, of receiving instruction under Professors H. C. Hoeksema, H. Hanko and R. Decker, as well as the fellowship of my fellow students. The faithfulness of our seminary in preparing preachers is something for which the churches must be thankful and for which we must continually pray.

Upon graduating from seminary in 1986, I received a call to Southeast Protestant Reformed Church. We were thrilled to take up the labors there, having been members there for a while under the ministry of Rev. Haak and having gotten to know the congregation a bit prior to my call. We had a blessed ministry there, being extraordinarily well-received by God’s people, and finding strong support from the elders. It was most difficult for us to say good-bye to the saints there, when in 1991 I accepted the second call that the congregation in Randolph, Wisconsin extended to me. Our family was young enough yet to make the adjustment well, and grew to love the small town life of Randolph, let alone the congregation there. We were in Randolph for nine years, during which time we were blessed with the establishment of Faith Christian School and significant growth in the congregation. In 2000 I accepted Hull’s call—also the second one that the congregation extended to me—and have labored here now for three years.

I have always found young children a joy to teach. While I haven’t written a book of stories from my catechism classes, children often say or ask things that are not only expressive of a child-like faith, but that will also bring a smile to your face. I also enjoy immensely the opportunity to teach young people who have come to some maturity and see the importance of their own spiritual growth. Because of the proximity of Southeast PRC to Calvin College, and now Hull to Dordt College, I have also had many opportunities to meet with young people from outside our churches, and to open the Bible to them, showing them the consistency and beauty of the Reformed faith.

At this stage in the history of our churches, we who serve in the ministry do little more than build upon the foundation laid by other men. But one of the most rewarding things in my ministry was to see the people of God come together in Randolph and begin a Protestant Reformed school. That work of God, together with the influx of new members that it brought to Randolph’s congregation, brought a significant and healthy change to the congregation. We pray that God will bring about the same fruits in a Protestant Reformed high school in Northwest Iowa.

Although our churches have enjoyed 50 years of relative peace since the schism of 1953, the churches repeatedly face controversy. A man doesn’t need to be in the ministry long to face controversy—whether disputes over various issues, or opposition to the exercise of discipline, or the verbal rejection of the Word preached because it impinges too much upon a person’s walk of life. In recent history we have even grieved over the schism of a minister and congregation. All such controversies are sorrowful for those involved. As churches we must remember how susceptible we are to the attacks of Satan. The devil doesn’t need to focus his attention on churches that have already departed from the truth of Scripture. His attention is focused upon us. We had better live in that awareness, praying always to be kept from the snares of the evil one. We must remember the urgency with which Scripture exhorts us to maintain the unity of the church.

I have seen several comical things happen while leading worship services. I’ll relate just one of them. One Sunday, during the sermon, a child who was about three years old, decided he had looked at the walls and ceiling long enough, and certainly had sat long enough. It was time to run. To his parents’ horror, he jumped out of the pew on the side aisle where they were sitting, and began his run. He ran down the aisle toward the front, turned and ran across the front, in front of the pulpit—by now with dad after him—up the opposite side aisle all the way to the back of the church, and around the back, circling the church until he reached the pew where his family was sitting, and climbed back onto the pew as if he had just accomplished a major fete. I’m sure he had second thoughts about that “fete” after his dad took him out of the sanctuary for a little “father-son chat.”

Another story I can’t resist telling involved a family visit. While conducting family visitation, I held a 3-year-old boy on my lap. And as I’m leading the family visit, I felt his little fingers go into my mouth, where he rubbed my teeth. To his parent’s everlasting embarrassment he blurted out, “Do your teeth come out? My grandpa’s teeth come out!” My elder just about fell off his chair. He was laughing so hard!

The ministry has to be a matter of heart-felt conviction, an unshakable desire to preach the gospel, and a deep love for God’s people. There are challenges in the ministry unlike any other vocation, as well as a deep trying of the faith always. A young man who will pursue the ministry must know humility, and must realize that it is God alone Who calls and qualifies according to His will. During the years that I was studying in our seminary there were 16 young men who did not make it through, some of whom have been able to give useful service to the church in other areas. Those who pursue their studies with passion and yet who do not make it through are not to be ashamed. God alone calls. And those whom He does not call can yet occupy a very important place in the church.

Any faithful minister prays for the spiritual growth of our youth and evidence of spiritual maturity. There are always young people that are the focus of many prayers and much concern because they choose to walk a pathway that bring many sorrows. But I am encouraged always to see many seriously-minded young people in our churches, who long to live in gratitude to their Redeemer, and who are not afraid to seek help in the many difficulties and temptations that they face. So long as we give our young people faithful preaching and a godly home life, God will continue to show His faithfulness to His promise to gather His church from believers and their seed.

As we have seen from Titus 2:4,5, the young wives must be taught to love their husbands and children. That love comes to concrete expression by their being discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good. But there is one other thing that young wives must be taught.

Obedient to Their Husbands

The older women must teach the young women to be obedient to their own husbands.

This is the calling sounded repeatedly throughout the Bible’s teaching on marriage: the godly wife is to be in subjection to her husband.

That refers, first of all, to the attitude of her heart. She must know in her heart that God gave her husband to her as the head of their home. To live in subjection to him is to live in obedience to God Himself.

The reason is stated in Scripture, in Ephesians 23, 24: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

We recognize, of course, that husbands sometimes are most difficult to deal with. That is why Scripture also addresses the husbands very pointedly concerning their calling to treat their wives as Christ treats His Church, nourishing and cherishing her, giving honor to her out of the deep spiritual love of the regenerated heart. For the young men who read these articles, that is your calling as a husband, for which you will also answer to God. And therefore also you may not ignore your wife, nor refuse to allow her to talk or express her feelings. Marriage is communion, fellowship between husband and wife.

But turning again to the text before us we see that, without exception, the wife who will live in obedience to God must live in subjection to her husband.

You should remember, at the time this epistle was written, the church was full of new converts, many women whose husbands were unbelieving and ungodly. Peter addressed that issue specifically in I Peter 3:1, when he wrote: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”

It makes no difference if the husband is unreasonable and disobedience to his calling as a husband. The wife is to show her love for God by living in subjection to her husband.

There is nothing more disruptive to the home than a rebellious wife who will not submit to the rule of her husband.

There is nothing that gives a more disastrous testimony to the wicked world, than a woman who claims to be a Christian, but lives in rebellion to her husband.

What a horrible testimony to the truth of God’s Word, when a wife in the church rules in the household of her husband, contrary to her husband’s desires!

What tragedy, when the wickedness of the world’s women is manifest in households of the church! You wives must be in subjection to your husbands, says the Word of God.

The Instruction of the Older Women

Again, I remind you older women: It is your calling to exhort earnestly the young women concerning these things.

Of all these things that we have heard from this text, not one of them comes naturally. And you young women, as well as you older women, having heard these virtues and characteristics of godliness set before you, recognize very clearly that these things don’t come naturally for you, do they.

It takes the grace of God and the fellowship of the Spirit of Christ to enable us to walk in godliness. In all spiritual virtues we must be taught of God. And God uses means to teach us.

It may be difficult for a young woman to receive this instruction from a man. It may also be difficult for you to approach your daughters and other young women in the church concerning these matters. We are often of a mind to let things be, and hope that they somehow turn out well. But we may not live that way.

You, as godly women in Zion, are to exhort the young wives and remind them that what we have here is not merely the instruction of a self-seeking man. This is the very Word of God, the God Who is all-wise, Who knows what is best for us and for our families and for the Church, the God Who loves us so much that He gave His Son for us, and now shows us how to enjoy the fellowship of His covenant love. We must walk in obedience to Him.

The instruction of this text is as much the teaching of the Bible as is the truth of total depravity, the virgin birth of our Savior, Christ’s death and resurrection, and any other doctrine of the faith. And as important as is God’s truth and His revelation concerning those doctrines, of the same importance is the instruction given us in Titus 2:4, 5.

This is the life of a young wife that is consistent with the truth of God’s Word and the life of a Christian.

A Spiritually Fruitful Obedience

Godly obedience to this high calling is indeed spiritually fruitful.

That is evident from the last part of verse 5, where the focus is on the fruitfulness with respect to God’s honor and glory.

Women are to live such a life of godliness, that the Word of God be not blasphemed.

That shows that the way you live reflects upon God.

For one who claims to love God and His Word, and yet who lives contrary to it, that person shows reproach to the Word of God, that it is not in his or her heart.

And when a person walks uprightly, that person shows that the Word of God reflects in his or her life. This brings a seriousness to your calling, doesn’t it.

The Word of God is blasphemed by the world when we Christians speak so much about the covenant of God with us and our children, when we claim that our children are God’s gifts to us, and then we forsake our calling as Godly parents. We give occasion for the Word of God to be held in contempt. So that those who oppose us say, “The Word of God? It has no power. It doesn’t make a real difference in your life, does it!” Sometimes we hear that, don’t we. It only takes one member of the congregation living wickedly, and we hear, ‘You PR.’s; you claim to have the truth, but it sure doesn’t make any difference in how you live, does it!”

But we must remember that this inspired instruction is given to young women who have been born again by the Spirit of Christ. You who are God-fearing know that there is nothing worse than to live in such a way that we cause God and His Word to be blasphemed. You don’t want that! You love the Lord God! And therefore—I know of you—you want God’s Word to be praised.

That is why you hear this Word of God. You find your strength and fulfillment in the way of obedience.

Isn’t it so?

These matters pertaining to the life of young wives are the things that become, that are consistent with, sound doctrine. And God is glorified in those virtuous young wives and mothers who walk in obedience to His Word.

But in addition, when God is glorified, He also gives His blessing.

Look once again, beloved, at those characteristics manifest in the God-fearing young woman. She loves her husband; she loves her children. She is discreet, chaste, a keeper at home. She is good, obedient to her own husband.

It is those kinds of characteristics that make the women of the world rage. To them such characteristics spell male-domination and bondage, drudgery and suppression. What do those things spell to you?

According to God’s Word, those things spell BEAUTY, spiritual beauty. Such beauty is possible only by your freedom in Christ Jesus, freedom to walk in the way of God’s will. For we are partakers of God’s glory and grace in Christ Jesus.

The young woman who strives to live in obedience to this Word of God certainly rises above the degrading principles of sin and wickedness. That is not to say that obedience is found to be easy. Nor is it to say that such a life will not result in certain sacrifices and hardships. But when you live according to God’s precepts, your life is seen as one of beauty and nobility. It is seen as such by God Himself. But it is also seen as such by God-fearing husbands and children and brothers and sisters in Christ.

When you walk in the way of this Word, though you are so conscious of your weaknesses and sins, you set examples before your husband and children and neighbors that are worthy of emulation. They will know that your life is hid with Christ in God.

And so you also shield your children from the evils and errors, sins and wickedness that surround them. By your own example of godliness, you warn them against the ways of the world, and show them the higher, more beautiful and worthwhile things of life: obedience to God and His Word, and partaking of the fellowship of His love.

Of the woman who lives in such a way, the writer of Proverbs 31 speaks, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her…. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:28, 30). Hear this Word of God, my young sisters in Christ. Walk in His way. And May God Himself so grant you His blessing. ♦

In our last article in which we began our study of Titus 2:4,5, we called attention to the love which a young wife is called to give her husband and children.

According to this inspired Word of God, that calling to love comes to virtuous manifestation, as we see in verse 5.

Discretion

In the first place, we note that the young wife is to be marked by discretion.

To be discreet is to be of sound judgment, wise in conduct and management. To be characterized by discretion is to have a spiritual-minded perspective and approach to all decisions necessary in the home.

The discreet woman avoids that which would injure her own soul and influence, or that would injure her husband and children. She realizes that what she takes into her life and what she does will have its effect through the years. She realizes that what is in harmony with God’s will shall certainly have a good end, but the bad is a means to a grievous outcome. Therefore she seeks to do what is right in God’s sight, and rejects the bad. And she knows, because the heart is deceitful above all things, that she may not rely upon her own feelings or opinions as to what is right in a given situation; but she must seek God’s will in all things.

The young women who is discreet is a young woman who prays. She prays for wisdom, for sound judgment, for the fervent desire to walk according to all God’s precepts. And God grants her request. The enemy is not able to “pull the wool over her eyes.” She seeks the glory of God and His praise.

And when she errs, for she still struggles with her sinful nature, that error is the exception, and her husband and children will recognize it as such.

Chaste

The young wife must also be chaste.

That is a reflection of the love she has for her husband, love flowing forth from the love of God in her heart.

She is chaste, pure, expressing a life of holiness. She is careful about her conduct, her influence, her plans and purposes. She guards her tongue, that source of much impurity and evil. She is careful concerning her dress. She does not live for extravagance, is not wasteful. She is cautious about where she goes and doesn’t keep company with those who are unholy and impure.

To this godly young woman, pure and upright womanhood is a pearl of great price. She possesses self-control, not to be led astray like the silly women who are worldly and ungodly.

This holiness characterizes her life because she anchors her life to Christ, the Rock.

These are among the attributes that you women who are older are to set before the young women.

Keeper at Home

In addition, a God-fearing young wife is to be a home-worker and good.

In our society and in the day and age in which we live, this text has become one that most preachers would like to avoid. The expression “keepers at home” is so unmistakably clear, that in churches where young mothers working outside the home has become the norm, rather than the exception, the teaching of this Word of God presses upon the waywardness of many. That makes it uncomfortable, not only fort hose who have disobeyed this Word, but also for the preacher who must preach it without regard to the faces of men and women.

The consequences of disobedience to this commanded place of the mother are seen even by society. Many want to deny those consequences, but they are evident in undisciplined children, broken marriages, two-income families filled with financial strife over where money shall be spent, and many other societal evils. But we do not make judgments in the matter on the basis of bad results in society when mothers leave their God-given calling in the home.

We stand before the Word of God Himself. As Christians the Word of God is the standard for us, both concerning what we believe, but also how we live.

Remember, the Apostle gives instruction here concerning that lifestyle which is becoming, i.e., which is consistent with sound doctrine. This is the kind of lifestyle that is in harmony with God’s truth.

It is God’s will that young mothers are to be “keepers at home,” home-workers. For there is a steep price to be paid in the violation of this Word of God.

Again, you will notice that the text speaks specifically of those young women who have children in the home. And the text speaks not only of toddlers, but children from infancy through the age of adolescence. When you have children who come home to an empty house after school, or who are regularly left during the summer months without mother’s direct supervision and guidance; when you have children that are turned over to someone else’s care during the day, there is a forsaking of the God-ordained bond between mother and children, and the responsibility that God has given father and mother with respect to their children.

The inspired Apostle puts it this way in I Timothy 5:14: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

Mothers with children at home are not to be off working outside of the home, but in their house, serving God, literally, as the “despot of the house.” Now, in the usage of our language that term despot often carries the connotation of a tyrant. But the meaning is simply that in the home during the day there must be one with authority, one who is governing. The husband is out of the home, laboring in obedience to God’s will for him. The wife and mother must be in the home, governing and giving constant guidance, also spiritually, for the welfare of that home.

No exceptions are mentioned. Sometimes there is argument made that there must be exceptions to this, if financial necessity requires a second income. But where do you find such an exception in the Bible? Where do you find it? I don’t find it anywhere.

I find much instruction in Scripture concerning what we must do in times of financial distress.

I learn from Scripture that when I consider myself lacking, I must first examine my own lifestyle and expenditures. Do I have a mistaken notions about what are necessities and what are luxuries? Are there things that we can do without, or lesser things that will suffice our needs?

I learn from Scripture as well, that when I look at my budget and my expenditures and find that I am not mismanaging as a poor steward those gifts which God has provided, nor neglecting my calling to labor for the provision of my family, then I must seek help from others. I Timothy 5 is clear on that, to mention one passage.

The others from whom I must first seek help are my relatives. That is nothing shameful. That is the way God would have us go. And Christian relatives, parents, brothers and sisters, even aunts and uncles, should be sensitive to the needs of such families and stand willing to help them. I Timothy 5:8 is clear: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

And then, the Bible tells us, if our needs are such that our extended family cannot help us, we are to seek the mercies of Christ from His appointed deacons. Again, that is not a shameful thing, when God has providentially placed you in that position. That is a tremendous blessing, to know that God has appointed a means to care for you in time of need. And let me just mention, that includes provision for the Godly instruction of our children in our Christian schools. When we are needful for financial assistance, that help must be there, also in order that we may fulfill our covenant obligations in the Godly instruction of our children. God’s mercies provide for us through the office of deacon. We must not seek another way than the ways which God points us toward.

The Bible tells us how to deal with financial distress. Let us heed God’s wise instruction.

But never does the Bible give as an option, the mother’s forsaking of her calling to be a “keeper at home.” That is a necessary and tremendously important aspect of her calling, a manifestation of Godly virtue on the part of a young wife and mother in the church.

As to those who object that the church would make the house a prison for mothers, we will not be led astray by such argumentation, shall we.

You understand that it is not at all the point of this text to confine young women exclusively to the house. She has other callings within the body of believers that will take her out of the house from time to time, often with her children.

Besides being an integral part of her husband’s household, she is an integral part of the church, and lives in the fellowship of the saints.

Good

The God-fearing young wife also shows love for her husband by showing herself “good.” She is to be taught to be “good.”

The reference to being “good” is a reference to the fact that she is not only the home-maker, but a helper in the body of Christ. She is ready to come to the assistance of other members of the congregation. She visits others in the church, particular to speak encouraging words. She takes her time by showing pure religion and undefiled, visiting the widows and orphans.

Unlike one who fills her day with work outside the home, this virtuous woman has time for others.

Not only to be discreet, chaste and keepers at home, but good—that is the calling of the young wife.

You older women must teach these things to your daughters and younger sisters in Christ. (To be continued.) ♦

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