Motherhood: As seen on vintage tv or as told in the Bible?

Motherhood: As seen on vintage tv or as told in the Bible?

There exists a cultural tendency to view Biblical motherhood through the make-believe, one-dimensional filter of a postwar era television sitcom.  While God’s Word sets forth the divine standard of how motherhood is to be fulfilled, it does not do so by scripting fictional scenes in which professionally trained actresses wearing belted dresses, pearl necklaces, and high heels heroically save the day by cleaning the house, cooking the dinner, and counseling the children.  Instead, the Bible vividly portrays motherhood as it really is: Multi-dimensional and difficult.  It is complex!  While the Bible declares that motherhood was created by our powerful and holy God (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25), it also acknowledges that this honorable role is lived out by weak and finite beings who reside in a sin-wrecked world.  So, motherhood is messy yet beautiful, taxing yet tranquil, under-appreciated yet highly exalted. It is familiar with heartache, but it also knows joy. While it is not immune to problems, it possesses a resolve to overcome. These and other challenging characteristics of motherhood are declared and described by the Bible in raw and real fashion, pushing the participants of motherhood toward the inspired ideal as well as assuring them that God is compassionately aware of the complexities that abound in the role they are fulfilling.  Consider the following examples from God’s Word.

Desperation and Determination

Sometimes, motherhood hurts.  And most of the time, the hurt comes from the inability of the mother to shield her children from pain.  But motherhood moves its participants to keep looking, digging, and praying for ways to make the hurting stop.  It faces desperation with determination. While Jesus was in the region of Tyre and Sidon, a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit approached Him, begging for help (Matt. 15:21-28; Mk. 7:24-30). The situation was severe: “My daughter is grievously vexed” (Matt. 15:22).   Her child was hurting and helpless; and motherhood drove the woman to do everything in her power to remedy the situation. She went to Jesus! She didn’t allow her gender or race to stop her.  She didn’t allow the initial silence of the Lord to deter her, nor did she let His faith-testing words discourage her. What a tremendous scene of Biblical motherhood!

Dreams and Disappointments

Most little girls dream of one day becoming mommies.  As they grow a little older, the dreams might fade for a time, but eventually the future that was playfully imagined as a child begins to develop into reality as an adult.  At least, this is the case for most.  There are others who find themselves unable to participate in motherhood, grieving the loss of children they never had.  And this pain, this mourning, is one of the raw realities that the Bible acknowledges. Even though she eventually gave birth to Samuel, Hannah vividly displays the grief and even shame that some experience when their lifelong dreams of motherhood don’t come to fruition.  While unable to conceive, 1 Samuel 1:1-15 describes her as weeping, fretting, experiencing affliction, and being of sorrowful spirit.  While this kind hurt is understandable, those who are unable to enjoy the God-given blessing of motherhood should remember God is aware of their sorrow and longs for them to find consolation in His Fatherhood.

Dependence and Devotion

More than a few mothers admit that they decided to have children because they believed doing so would bring them the attention and affection they were not getting otherwise.  They depended on motherhood to accomplish something it was never designed to do. Showing again that the Bible deals with the reality of this parental role—even the reality of its abuse—one would do well to consider Genesis 29:32: “And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me” (emp. mine, PS).  But Leah was wrong. And she continued to be wrong having several other children under this same false assumption.  Being devoted to the God who provides the blessing of motherhood is far better than depending on motherhood to win the devotion of others.

Many other Bible examples could be listed, showing that real-life motherhood, even when done God’s way, doesn’t always look as pretty as the stereotypes portray. But it’s in these very real places that the Bible offers consolation, issues warning, provides encouragement, and inspires steadfastness for those who participate in motherhood, as well as so many more!

–Preston Silcox

“But the thief on the cross was not baptized.”

Christians sometimes hear the above response when teaching from the Scriptures that baptism is necessary for salvation (cf. Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc.).  The statement is made to defend the position that “faith alone” is sufficient to attain salvation from God.  But how solid is this defense?

 

First, the thief lived and died under the Old Law.  Jesus did not issue His command of baptism until after His resurrection, just before His ascension back to heaven (note the timeframe of Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16).  The New Covenant of Christ, wherein Jesus necessitates baptism for the remission of sins, began to be preached only after our Lord returned to Heaven—at which time He sat at the right hand of God to reign over His newly inaugurated kingdom (cf. Acts 2:14-40).  The popular-but-faulty argument issued from the case of the thief might reveal that the defender of the doctrine is unfamiliar with the covenants.

 

Second, Jesus could save souls as He chose.  Matthew 9:6 says in part, “the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.”  The case of “the rich young ruler” is an example of this.  To this one who wanted eternal life, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19:21).  It’s rather interesting that folks favor the way Jesus saved the thief over the way He offered to save this young man.  How many argue against “baptism for the remission of sins” while arguing for “selling all one has for the forgiveness of sins?”  For the record, Jesus’ complete and unchanging New Testament law now requires baptism for salvation: this is the way Jesus now chooses to save souls.

 

Third, one cannot prove that the thief had not been baptized.  When one argues that the thief on the cross was never baptized, he assumes the burden of proof.  But no one can prove that the thief never submitted to baptism since the biblical record is silent on the matter.  Actually, if one were dealing in matters of mere conjecture, it might be easier to build a case in favor of the thief’s baptism rather than against it.  After all, the robber knew that Jesus was innocent and that He was going to establish a kingdom (cf. Lk. 23:41-42).   Could it be that he had learned this from John the baptizer?  Notice Matthew 3:5-6: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”  Perhaps the penitent thief had been among this great number.  The fact is one cannot definitively prove either position.  This being true, it is futile to build a case from this account on why one supposedly does not have to be baptized in order to be saved.

 

The Scriptures are clear regarding the role of baptism in salvation.  Let us determine to be honest with God’s Word and lovingly submissive to it.

–Preston Silcox

Calling on the Name of the Lord

What does it mean to “call on the name of the Lord?” Denominationalism is flooded with institutions and individuals that proclaim this means to approach Christ in prayer, asking Him to forgive one’s sins and come into one’s heart for the purpose of being his “personal Savior.” Usually, Romans 10:13 is quoted as a proof text for this teaching: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Bear in mind that the phrase is found elsewhere in the Bible and to more easily understand its meaning in Romans, one might consider how it’s used in some of those other places as well.

For example, to emphasize the universal nature of the gospel, Paul in Romans 10 is quoting Joel 2:32. Another New Testament spokesman who quoted Joel was Peter (Acts 2:21). Peter was preaching to those who were guilty of shedding the innocent blood of Jesus. Upon realizing the severity of their crime, the convicted crowd cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They knew they were guilty and they knew they needed forgiveness. In addition, they had heard Peter quote Joel, saying, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” So, what was Peter’s response to their question? Did he tell them to pray to Jesus for forgiveness? Did he command them to ask Christ to come into their hearts as their personal Savior? No! He told them to “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Here is inspired commentary on the phrase, “call on the name of the Lord.” According to Peter, who was speaking by inspiration, calling on the name of the Lord is appealing to, and complying with, the authority of the Lord. In the case under consideration, it meant repenting and being baptized.

What about you? Are you one who calls on the name of the Lord (I Cor. 1:2)? That is, are you one who obeys the Christ? If not, why not determine to follow the example of those 3,000 on the day of Pentecost?

 –Preston Silcox

Suggestions for Studying the Bible

Respect the nature of the Bible. The Book being studied is unlike any other document—it is from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17)! It, therefore, deserves very careful and responsible attention.

Remember that the Bible can be understood. The Scriptures were written in such a way that everyone can search them and come to know the truth (Jn. 8:32; Acts 17:11). Accordingly, when one delves into a study of the Bible, he should expect to understand God’s will (Eph. 5:17).

Realize that the Bible must be properly divided. God’s word covers different covenant periods of biblical history. While all periods must be studied (Rom. 15:4), one must remember that man is now living in the Christian age and is thus amenable to Christ, not Moses, for example (Gal. 3:24-25).

Recognize the importance of an honest heart. The conscientious Bible student will not study God’s word in an attempt to justify false beliefs or immoral practices. Rather, he searches this Book with a desire to discover Truth and stands ready to make personal applications and changes in his own life so that he might please God (1 Thes. 2:13).

–Preston Silcox

The Insufficiency of Sincerity Alone

The belief is popular: As long as a person is sincere in his devotion to God, God will save him. But the popularity of a belief does not guarantee that it is correct.

Consider the case of Paul. Prior to his becoming a Christian, he sincerely believed that he was rendering service to God by persecuting Christians. Consider his own testimony:

Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities (Acts 26:9-11).

On another occasion, Paul proclaimed, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1).  Later in life, the apostle described himself as “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). So even though Paul had been sincere in his service to God, he discovered he had been wrong and stood condemned—sincerity alone was insufficient!

While it is true that God requires man to render service from a genuine heart, obedience to His specific instructions—as revealed in the Bible—cannot be neglected or altered (cf. Rom. 6:17; Matt. 7:21-23).

–Preston Silcox

Study Notes on the Subject of Sin

Christopher Marlowe wrote, “I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance.”  Such words display a terrible ignorance of sin, itself.  Sadly, a great portion of humanity shares in this same ignorance.  Men would do their souls well to study the serious subject of sin and to that end, the following material is offered.

The Definitions and Descriptions of Sin.

The generic Hebrew word for sin means “to miss the mark.”  Likewise, the New Testament uses a Greek word (hamartia) that also means “to miss the mark” or “to miss the target.”  This definition is interesting in light of Romans 3:23 that proclaims, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (emph. mine, PS).

The apostle John spoke of sin in a legal context by writing, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4).  Just a cursory glance at Bible examples of sin thoroughly demonstrates this description.  For instance, Adam and Eve’s eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was sin because God’s law was, “You shall not eat of it” (Gen. 2:16-17).

While many measure sin by the commission of certain acts, James clarifies that one can also sin by omitting certain acts: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, emph. mine, PS).  Perhaps this helps explain the necessity of Jesus’ baptism by John (Matthew 3:13-15).  Since being baptized was a commandment of God, failing to submit to the act (even though He had no sins to remit) would have been a sin of omission.

The Doorway of Sin into the World.

Upon the completion of the creation—and specifically the creation of man and woman—the Genesis account records God’s evaluation of the world: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…” (Gen. 1:31, emph. mine, PS).

By Genesis 3, however, things take a turn for the worse.  The devil, in serpent form, tempts the woman, she and her husband surrender to the enticement, and sin makes its way into God’s “very good” creation.  Reflecting back on these events, Paul said, “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:19).

The Destruction Caused by Sin.

Sin has been described as a deadly disease that has wreaked havoc on the creation since its entrance into the world.  Such a comparison is linked to passages that speak of the death that sin causes:

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
  • “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15).

While many make light of sin or ignore it altogether, the Bible shows the severity of this ever-present element.  The being who enticed the first couple to sin is described by Jesus as murderer (Jn. 8:44).  Sin separates the practitioner from the holy God of Heaven (Is. 59:1-2). Sin will keep the guilty from heaven and cause transgressors to be lost eternally (1 Cor.6:9).

The Deliverance from Sin.

While God in His justice could have exterminated mankind because of its sins (remember that the wages of sin is death), in His mercy He chose to save the crown of His creation.  The Bible is the record of God’s plan to reconcile man back to Himself.  This plan ultimately called for the sacrifice of God in the flesh.  Christ proclaimed, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  Paul describes the merciful matter as follows:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

 Man must respond appropriately to this redemptive work of God.  God requires faith (Jn.8:24), repentance (Acts 17:30), confession (Rom. 10:9-10), and baptism (Acts 2:38).  At the point of baptism, one’s sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).  As one continues walking in the light of God’s will (which includes repentance, confession, and prayer), his sins are continually cleansed by this same sacred blood (1 Jn. 1:7-9).

–Preston Silcox

Not Willing that Any Should Perish

Responding to a false charge of treacherous teachers, Peter penned these words: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”  (2 Pet. 3:9).  Consider a few facts that demonstrate God’s desire that no one to be lost.

  • He Sent His Son. One of the most well-known passages of the Bible speaks to this point.  In John 3:16, Jesus revealed God’s great concern for His creation: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Along these same lines, our Lord revealed His mission to mankind by proclaiming, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).  When one contemplates this great mission of Jesus, the mission His Father sent Him to accomplish and the mission that cost Him his life on Calvary, one can surely see that God is not willing that any should perish.
  • He Established the Church. When Jesus died on the cross, he purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  It is this same institution that was in the mind of God from eternity (Eph. 3:10-11), the same one of which the prophets foretold (Is. 2:2-3), the same one that Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16:18), and the same one to which the saved are added (Acts 2:47).  The great lengths to which God went in order to bring about this body (of which the Lord is the Savior – Eph. 5:23) clearly demonstrates that God is not willing that any should perish.
  • He Provided His Word.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  By means of this Holy Book, God’s love for humanity and His instructions for the same are made known.  What’s more, the Divine Record reveals to man how he can be complete in this life and prepared for the next.  This revelation shows again that God is not willing that any should perish.

While a number of other matters demonstrate God’s desire that no one be lost, one particular point must be stressed.  Man makes the final decision regarding the salvation of his soul.  God has done His part to save the souls of His creation (as noted in the points above), and now each soul must respond in a positive fashion to the conditions of the Gospel.  God will force no one, but gives everyone the opportunity to turn to Him in His appointed way—He desires for all to “come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).