Evil Oath Taking

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” -Matthew 5:33–37

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to profess something to be true, and then have to swear some sort of oath in order to be believed. We would say something like “I swear to God,” or “I swear by my mother’s grave.” Why would we say such things? Because as young boys, we lied all of the time. We needed to take some sort of oath in order for another to believe us. Also, if we really wanted to cover up some lie we would take an oath upon the highest authority we could think of in order to appear trustworthy.

Taking oaths was never meant to be a means of covering up lies. This practice disgusted Jesus so much he decides to abolish all oath taking whatsoever. The followers of Jesus are to be known as truthful and trustworthy people. After all, we claim to serve the one who calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life.”

I have struggled in the past to see a church membership vow as being something biblical. Years ago, a friend cited Jesus’ words to me in Matthew 5 as an argument against church membership and it seemed good to me at the time. I do not believe this any longer. Jesus does away with the practice of swearing by an authority higher than one’s self in order to be seen as trustworthy. This coming Sunday, my Beloved and I are becoming members at Bethlehem Baptist Church. An elder will read a number of paragraphs for us to affirm in the presence of the congregation. When he reads each paragraph, my wife and I are simply to say yes or no. This agrees with Jesus words in Matthew 5. We are not going to stand up and swear to God that we will affirm the church covenant. We are not going to call upon a higher authority to ensure our words will be true and followed out. Jesus tells us that any such oath would be evil. We simply will, by God’s grace, say yes. Below is BBC’s church covenant.

  1. Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive Jesus Christ as the Lord, Savior, and, supreme Treasure of our lives, and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, angels and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
  2. We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love, to strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness and peace; to promote its spirituality and fruitfulness; to sustain its worship, ordinances, and discipline; to welcome, and test biblically, instruction from the Scriptures by the elders of the church which accords with the Elder Affirmation of Faith, seeking to grow toward biblical unity in the truth; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
  3. We also engage to maintain family and personal devotions; to educate our children in the Christian faith; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment, to avoid all tattling, backbiting and excessive anger; to seek God’s help in abstaining from all drugs, food, drink, and practices which bring unwarranted harm to the body or jeopardize our own or another’s faith.
  4. We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.
  5. We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will, if possible, unite with a likeminded church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant.
  6. We acknowledge that implicit within this covenant is the consent to be governed by the Relational Commitments that have been officially adopted by the church and that address peacemaking and reconciliation, accountability and church discipline, marriage and divorce, counseling and confidentiality, and the protection of our children.

The Adulterous Divorce

Matthew 5:31–32 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

God designed marriage to be with one partner of the opposite sex, for life. Divorce is never to be the quick solution to any problem.

If we take Jesus’ exemption clause out of his statement temporarily, it makes it easier to understand what he is saying.

But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery…

The women in Jesus’ culture would have certainly aimed to get remarried as soon as possible so they could be supported. If a man divorces his wife, he becomes the cause of her adulterous relationship in her next marriage. This is heavy. And this is one of the reasons why marriage is intended for life.

The exception clause that I removed now gets inserted again.

except on the ground of sexual immorality…

The husband makes his wife commit adultery when he divorces her. Except when she has committed sexual immorality against her husband in their marriage. In that case, he is free to divorce her as she has made herself commit adultery by her actions. The husband bears no guilt of adultery if and when she remarries.

This post is not intended to be a thorough doctrinal treaty on the subject of divorce and remarriage. If there are some reading this blog who are considering divorce, I hope that you think twice after reading the words of Jesus. If the alternative to your marriage is remaining single all the days of your life, maybe staying in the marriage and getting counsel is the best option for you. There once was a rich man who approached Jesus wanting to follow him. Jesus knew the man loved the world and his riches. Jesus asked him to give up all that he had, and then come and follow him. The man went away sad unwilling to part with his possessions. The disciples marveled at this interaction and exclaimed “who then can be saved?” Jesus said that it was impossible with man, but with God; all things were possible.

It was impossible for the worldly man to give up his possessions for the sake of Christ. But it was possible for God to awaken the man to forsake all for Jesus. Likewise, it might seem impossible for your husband/wife to forsake the world to walk along side you for life. But it is possible for God to quicken their soul to follow and hold you all the days of their life. With God, all things are possible!

Naming My Son

Matthew Chapter 1: Naming My Son

Something struck me this morning while I was reading through the genealogies of Matthew chapter 1. It is said of the patriarchs of old that only the mother or father could name their own child. An angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in a dream to inform him that his betrothed bride is pregnant with a son. Not only would this have been shocking for Joseph to be told the sex of the child in Mary’s womb; but for the angel to tell Joseph what to name him. By the Lord telling Joseph to name the baby Jesus, he was letting him know that the baby was his own very child. This baby was none other than the Son of God!

Christians Are Reconciled To God If And Only If …

Colossians 1:21–23 “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if (emphasis mine) indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Our Bibles teach us that God is absolutely and supremely sovereign over every aspect of his creatures and his creation. We learn in Ephesians that his gift of salvation is not a result of our works, but solely a gift through the sacrifice of Jesus. I also believe in the doctrines of grace. The specific doctrine whirling in my mind as I write is the “P” in TULIP. This doctrine teaches that those whom God elected to inherit eternal life will persevere in their faith. But there is also another lens which we must look at salvation through; the lens of our continual belief and hope in the gospel of free grace. Our salvation depends not upon anything that we can or could do. Yet our salvation depends entirely upon whether we continue steadfastly in the hope of the gospel. The gospel is unconditional, and yet completely conditional. This passage of Scripture teaches that Christians have been reconciled to God only if they continue steadfastly in the gospel.

The first thing to note about our text is that all people need reconciliation because they are born alienated from God, hostile in their minds, and perform evil deeds. You and I were at one time alienated from God. This word means that we were once shut out from the intimacy and fellowship of God. We were an estranged, non-participant in the community of the triune godhead. We also were hostile in our minds. This hostility is either active or passive. We can be either actively at odds with the Lord the way an enemy force presses against their opponent. Or we can be passively indifferent to God, never thinking much about him at all. Both of these mindfulnesses are hostile to the Lord. Our Bibles teach us we were all at one time this type of enemy.

I lived thirty years of my life as an enemy of God. I was sinful in vile ways, radically autonomous and independent. I do not recall ever having many thoughts about God. If I stumbled into Church once or twice a year, I did not take anything I heard for more than just a boring story. I would not consider myself actively aggressive against the Lord, but was more passively indifferent.

The second thing to note about the Colossians passage is that Christians become reconciled to God through the death of Jesus. The incarnation of the Son of God is an absolute necessity for our salvation. God is Spirit. And as a spirit, he is unable to die. He sent his Son down to this world to be clothed in flesh in order for God to die. Death is a result of sin. And sin needed to be swallowed up in the death of a perfect and pure sacrifice. Jesus became that sacrifice on the cross, and earned the position of being the only person who could ever reconcile a sinner to God. This was accomplished through the death of Jesus.

Thirdly, Christians enter into this reconciliation through faith and hope in the gospel. The gospel teaches not only the death of Jesus, but also his victorious resurrection. Sin and death were swallowed up in his victory. There is no longer any sting that death or sin can eternally hold in the life of the believer. We certainly feel both of these weights while our flesh remains apart from the Lord. But we hope in the day when our bodies will be raised from the dead, and we will be with the Lord. This is our hope. We enter into this reconciling hope through faith in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. We, the enemies of God will one day be presented before his throne holy, blameless, and above reproach. We receive this through faith.

Lastly, Christians remain reconciled to God if they continue steadfastly in the gospel. This is the point where the mind of man reaches it’s limits to comprehend this antinomy. God elects us from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. We enter into this relationship passively at first. We are enacted upon to receive a new heart. Our eyes awake to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus. We hear the gospel and believe it by faith. This new birth is a miracle and a sole act of God. Yet, our text teaches that our continual state of reconciliation depends upon whether we remain steadfast in the faith or not. Does our salvation depend upon us? No, and Yes. We Calvinists can tend to a passive state where we utter things like, “once saved always saved.” But the old doctrine of the perseverance of the saints taught that those whom God elected will persevere in the gospel. We will not default to simple clichés, but rather press hard, stable, and steadfast in this duty called faith. James 1 tells us that if we are mere hearers of the word and not doers, we will deceive ourselves into thinking we are on the road to heaven when in reality we are traveling to hell.