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Truth Project #7 - Sociology: The Divine Imprint

May 6/12 Eph.5:21-33

ORDER, AUTHORITY, SUBMISSION - AND THE CAR KEYS

One of the major rites of passage into adulthood, if not THE major one in many teens’ minds, is that of learning to drive. The terms have changed over the years: getting your ‘learner’s permit’, your ‘beginner’s licence’, now your “G1/G2" - but whatever you call it, it’s a significant step marking a child’s transition to maturity. To get your licence means society reckons you to be responsible enough to be entrusted with some serious POWER. You’re ‘going places’, making your own way, your own decisions, calling the shots. While there’s a mind-blowing degree of freedom that accompanies this - permission to be out on the ‘open road’ with the whole continent before you - it also comes with a chilling degree of responsibility: as driver at the wheel, you’re the one who’s got to protect your passengers, you will have to demonstrate caring for someone by sheltering them under your roof, while travelling down the road at 88 feet per second and missing oncoming traffic by mere inches. You’ve been entrusted with amazing authority - but at the same time, you’d better rein in your heady elation by SERVING well those who are riding with you, dependent totally upon you for their well-being. That entails not exposing them to danger unnecessarily by foolish or erratic driving.
    Now, let’s multiply the metaphor by a few thousand. Imagine a busy 6-lane stretch of the 401. Nose-to-tail transports in the right-most lane, while busy commuters are whizzing along in the middle and left lanes at dizzying speed. You definitely have to have your wits about you while navigating! Imagine watching the scene via traffic-cam or helicopter. It could be a beautiful sight, so many vehicles all moving along in harmony, a constant flow of humans and metal, an impressive sea of humanity flooding from one place to the next. Contemplate the dynamics of order and submission. There’s a definite protocol involved: drive on the right side of the road, not the left like in England; keep right except to pass; don’t wander from side to side over the lines - that would be a good way to get clipped or send someone into the ditch! Signal your lane changes in advance, and BY ALL MEANS shoulder check before you dare make a move. Mind your speed - you don’t want to go too fast OR too slow, that causes problems, too.
    When everyone’s submitting to the rules, when we all co-operate in an ORDERLY fashion, it can be an impressive sight – and everyone gets where they want to go. BUT suppose some idiot were to pull a “U-y” and start heading into the traffic the wrong way, or even just veering from left to right, from lane to lane wildly, unpredictably - that would be positively dangerous, murderous, insane.
    Responsibility, authority, submission - so important for such a mundane activity as driving. How much more for the universe at large, and our most prized human relationships? The Bible insists that God is a God of order. [SLIDE 8] Job 25:2, “Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes ORDER in the heights of heaven.” 1Cor 14:33, “For God is not a God of disorder...” [SLIDE 9] What’s the opposite of divine goodness and order? James 3:16, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find DISORDER and every evil practice.” So order is associated with God, order is good; DISorder is associated with evil.
    If we have eyes to see it, as we look around in nature we find it shot through with orderliness. Creation consists of all kinds of ‘systems’ in which the elements submit to natural ‘laws’ - at least we call them laws, because the participating factors SUBMIT to the rules of the road so to speak, they follow predictable patterns so the whole system holds together in a recognizable form. For instance, [SLIDE 10] the water cycle; molecular structures such as DNA; photosynthesis, by which plants manufacture food from sunlight and carbon dioxide; the tides; and wonderful complex protective processes inside our bodies such as blood clotting. [VIDEO: ORDER IN SYSTEMS]
    From the subatomic level to the magnitude of solar systems, everywhere we look, we find ORDER stamped upon nature by its Creator. Elements submit to laws, the rules; when organism get rebellious and run wild, as in a cancer tumour where somehow genetic brakes and regulators are ignored, that leads to havoc and breakdown.

GOOD OR NOT? GLIMPSING GOD’S ETERNAL INTERNAL COMMUNITY

In Genesis 1, we find a common refrain repeated again and again to describe the outcome of God’s creative activity. [SLIDE 15] V4, “God saw that the light was good;” v10, after creating the land and seas, “God saw that it was good.” V12 after creating vegetation, “God saw that it was good.” V18, the lights in the sky - “God saw that it was good.” V21, the sea creatures and birds; v25, the land creatures; v31, at the end of the sixth day, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” He has a good thing goin’!
    But we hit what Dr Del Tackett calls a “Divine Pause” in chapter 2 v18 after the creation of Adam: “It is NOT GOOD for the man to be alone.” WHAT? Good - good - good for six days straight, and now suddenly something is NOT good? That’s strange. [SLIDE 26] Why was it NOT good for man to be alone?!
    As Dr Tackett observes, it’s not that this is ‘not good’ in a qualitative sense, as if God had done some shoddy workmanship or made a three-legged dog; it’s ‘not good’ in an ethical sense, something is intrinsically wrong, out of whack with the moral structure of the universe - in fact, clashing with the ‘goodness’ of God’s very nature. For the essence of the Trinity is community and fellowship, not aloneness.
    Now, the word “trinity” isn’t found in Scripture, but the three aspects of God’s being (Father / Son / Holy Spirit) frequently occur together. Mt 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” Jesus says in Jn 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” There’s a UNITY but also a diversity in the awarenesses within the Godhead, a recognition of different roles and origination. Jesus could say in Jn 20:21 “the Father has sent Me...” And He predicted in Jn 14:26, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, ...the Father will send in My name...” And in Jn 16:7 He says, “I will send [the Counselor] to you...” Trinity means a threeness of personality within a unity of being: Father, Son, and Spirit are ALL “God”, they’re not separate in that sense. So there’s the fact of community and intimacy going on within God’s most private being from all eternity, even before anything else existed. Adam’s ‘aloneness’ was very much in contrast to that.
    The Westminster Confession from the 1640s describes God this way: [SLIDE 18] “In the unity of the Godhead there be 3 persons, of 1 substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” So even within the core of God’s being we see a certain ORDERing, an organization, and submission. That’s diagrammed in this chart [SLIDE 19], “the Triune God: Perfect Unity, Relationships, Equality, Roles, Authority & Submission.” Jesus the Son submitted Himself to being ‘sent’ by the Father, doing the Father’s will even to dying on a cross; the Holy Spirit proceeds from or is submitted to the Father and the Son. Jn 16:13, “He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears...” The Spirit also brings glory to the Son  - next verse: “He will bring glory to Me [Jesus] by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” And the Son honours the Father: Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify Your name!” (Jn 12:28) The Father blesses the Son, saying at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” So you’ve got this loving blessing and honouring and sending and submitting going on within God’s very being, in perfect unison. [SLIDE 23] “It’s all about relationships.” [SLIDE 27] One by itself like Adam indicates aloneness; two makes possible relationship and intimacy; three makes possible community and fellowship.

FAMILY AND CHURCH: LOVING LEADERSHIP, ESTEEMED SUBMISSION

So as the Truth Project begins to look at our social structures, we find this [SLIDE 50] ‘divine imprint’ or stamp reminiscent of God’s inner community reflected in our basic institutions of family and the church. [SLIDE 30] In the family, as in the Trinity, we find elements of authority and submission, yet oneness and unity. Now, in the “Cosmic Battle” the world, our flesh, and the devil would twist the meaning of authority and submission to make them almost dirty words. So, hold onto your hats – what you’re about to hear runs counter to the picture you’d find in the media, but the Bible offers God’s word-picture of the ‘best’ that He intended for us.
    [SLIDE 42] Dr Tackett diagrams it this way, similar in pattern to the Trinity of God’s being. The Husband provides loving leadership or headship, submitted himself to Christ, answering to God ultimately for what goes on in the family. He cares nurturingly and considerately for his wife, who in return co-operates in a submissive way (remember the cars ‘submitting’ to the lines on the highway - this is meant to be a GOOD thing!). The children issue forth from husband and wife and honour their parents, while being cared for and protected by them. What are some scripture passages that inform this model?
    [SLIDE 44] 1Peter 3:7, “Husbands, in the same way BE CONSIDERATE as you live with your wives, and treat them WITH RESPECT as the weaker partner and as HEIRS WITH YOU of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” That last part points at the husband’s accountability to God: treat your wife like dirt and the Lord’s going to be against you! Here we can see authority isn’t about playing-the-heavy or lording-it-over, throwing-your-weight-around, but being considerate, respectful in offering leadership. Your wife’s not ‘under your thumb’ but a CO-HEIR with you with respect to the gift of eternal life in Christ.
    Other passages: Col 3:18-21, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Don’t bully them around or beat them up, but provide reasonable direction and discipline with calmness, respect, and love.
    Paul counsels Titus (2:4f), “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Ephesians 6:1-4, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."Honor your father and mother"— which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Your reference point isn’t “my way or the highway”, but God’s instruction based on Scriptural principles. That shows everyone in the family that you too, even as ‘head of the home’, are in turn submitted to God, you’re accountable to Him for how you lead as a dad. Proverbs 1:8 teaches children: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Submission again to those above you.
    But the passage that throws most light on this sensitive issue of the relationship between husband and wife, and interestingly ties it in to Jesus’ interaction with the church, is one Yvonne and I had read at our wedding - Ephesians 5:22-33. Amazing parallels here; note especially the little conjunction ‘as’, or ‘in the same way’ - Paul’s presenting a beautiful analogy. [SLIDE 31] “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife AS Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Saviour.Now AS the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. [SLIDE 32] [GUYS - ARE YOU LISTENING? HE DIDN’T STOP THERE!] Husbands, LOVE YOUR WIVES, just AS Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, [DON’T FORGET CHRIST DIED FOR THE CHURCH - DOES YOUR HUSBANDING SACRIFICE TO THAT EXTENT?] and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.[SLIDE 33] IN THIS SAME WAY, husbands ought to love their wives AS THEIR OWN BODIES.He who loves his wife loves himself.After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, JUST AS Christ does the church – for we are members of His body. [SLIDE 34] [here Paul quotes Genesis 2:24] ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound [but he’s not talking about human marriage anymore!] - and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [SLIDE 35] However, let each one of you LOVE HIS WIFE AS HIMSELF, and let the wife see that she RESPECTS her husband.” Love and respect need to be together here: guys, don’t EXpect your wife to RESpect you if you’re not forthcoming with LOVE on your part. And, v21 would remind us, all this occurs within the framework of submitting to one another (as believers) “out of reverence for Christ.” It’s not about the man getting all high-and-mighty and the woman being some kind of doormat, not at all: that’s a perversion of what true authority and submission are meant to be.

THE DIVINE IMPRINT IN THE CHURCH

The apostle has already pointed us in the direction of how this applies in the church, another basic social institution, key to God’s order for society. Paul said Christ is the head of His church, His body; He feeds and cares for and cleanses us members of His body. We submit to Him as “Lord”. The New Testament institutes an order of leadership within the church on the human level; [SLIDE 37] Titus 1:5f, Paul and his co-workers APPOINTED ELDERS in the various towns where there were churches - men “whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient”: we can see submission valued here, too. Paul exhorted the elders at Ephesus, [SLIDE 38] “Keep watch over yourselves and all the FLOCK of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.Be SHEPHERDS of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.” You can see the ‘pastoral’ imagery here, sheep and shepherds leading, not oxen being driven by goads. [SLIDE 39] Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and SUBMIT to their AUTHORITY.They keep watch over you as men who must GIVE AN ACCOUNT (they’re responsible for you, they’ll answer for how they lead).OBEY them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” [SLIDE 40] 1Tim 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double HONOUR, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
    So you start to get a diagram something like that of the family, but with Christ over the elders, and the ‘flock’ or members owing honour and submission to both Jesus and the church leaders. But the elders aren’t to let the feeling of power go to their heads! 1Peter 5(2f) commands, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers— not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” See that GODLY type of leadership and submission again? Servant leadership, willing, eager, not ‘lording it over’.

THE HIGH STAKES OF GETTING IT RIGHT

On paper, it’s a potentially beautiful picture of harmony, co-operation, caring authority and respectful submission in both the family and the church, reflecting the perfect unity that already exists within God’s being, the Trinity. But when sin enters in and wrecks the relationships, the toll can be costly. Sin can be understood very basically as a breakdown in relationships, whether between God and man, man and wife, or man and his neighbour.
    The Truth Project materials list several of what it calls “family-related pathologies” that result when we ‘blow it’ with regard to the Biblical model: “abdication of male responsibility, radical feminism, ‘rights of the child’, pornography, abuse, homosexuality, and the redefinition of the family.” These issues are very current in Ontario society! TP materials add, “Our response, like God’s, should be one of grief, compassion, and renewed willingness to reach out with the healing message of God’s plan for the social order.”
    I’d like to close with a video clip from the Truth Project showing several people’s definitions of ‘family’, with all its modern variants. But please watch closely for the tattoo artist named “Flash” - what he shares briefly of the brokenness of his family of origin, and now his own family. What ‘good news’ can we offer such people, in Jesus’ name? How can we model for them a better alternative, one more in line with what God originally had in mind? [VIDEO][prayer]