November 2017

Looking at divorce through Jesus-tinted spectacles

 

Divorce through Jesus spectacles

Any way we look at it, divorce is a problem.

It is a problem for the vast number of Christians who experience divorce, it is a problem for the pastors to attempt to heal the wounds caused, and it is a problem for theologians who cannot agree on how to deal with it. In three decades as a local church pastor, I never encountered even one divorce that was not painful and destructive at some level.

What makes it even more painful for those experiencing divorce is that often their theologians and teachers judge them harshly and condemn them to a future life of celibacy and loneliness.
The only parties who get a free pass in these circles are those who’s spouses have committed adultery; the rest are told to suck it up and persevere, or divorce and incur God’s judgement and the churches censure.

I have written a 2,600-word article on the subject of divorce, which you can find HERE, but for those who just want the high-level points, here they are:

  • Matthew 5:31-32 records Jesus’ statement concerning divorce within the context of the Sermon on the Mount, and more particularly, within the context of the true nature of the Law concerning adultery. The subject matter is adultery, not divorce, and Jesus’ objective was to show the Pharisees that their righteousness was fake because when they divorced their wives they were guilty of breaking the 7th Commandment.
  • Matthew 19:3-12 presents the account of how the Pharisees tried to draw Jesus into taking sides with one or other of the prominent teachers of the time. One taught that only adultery provided grounds for divorce while the other held that a man might divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus responded by defining marriage as God-given and inviolate. When questioned about Moses’ sanction of divorce, Jesus informed them that this had only been allowed because of the hardness of their hearts, but that this did not make it acceptable.
  • Those who present divorce almost as an unpardonable sin often cite Malachi 2:13-16. However, this passage does not constitute an absolute ban on divorce, and how could it when Moses later sanctioned Certificates of Divorce and prohibited only one particular practice concerning divorce.
  • In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Paul only approves of divorce when a non-Christian spouse initiates it.
  • It is clear to me that God does not approve of divorce. However, divorce is not the 11th Commandment and does not constitute an unpardonable sin. It appears from Moses’ reference to a certificate of divorce that although God finds it very displeasing, He does provide for it in order to protect His people, and particularly the women. Jesus made it clear that this concession was only because of the hardness of heart and not because He or His Father approved of it.
  • The Lord Jesus dealt with a woman caught in adultery in a very compassionate and forgiving manner (John 8:10-11). From this, and other passages that deal with repentance and forgiveness, we cannot argue that adultery constitutes a sin that God will not forgive, or that He will not fully restore a repentant adulterer.
  • Jesus does teach that sexual union between either one or both parties in a post-divorce re-marriage constitutes an initial act of adultery, but there is no indication in His teaching that re-marriage creates a condition of ongoing adultery.
  • 1 John 1:9 has, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. This is a well-established biblical principle and must apply to every class of sin except for attributing the supernatural works of Jesus to the devil (Mark 3:29).
  • May a divorced person remarry? My answer is ‘yes’, provided the parties concerned realise that they have broken covenant and that God is not at all pleased with this. Additionally, they need to repent and seek to correct the attitudes and circumstances that lead to the divorce. Their pastor should be involved in preparing them properly for the new marriage covenant and pray with them for forgiveness and restoration.
  • When is it acceptable to initiate divorce? In my opinion, physical or severe emotional abuse or rape are reasons to initiate a divorce. This would certainly also be the case if children were being harmed or in real danger of harm. Unrepentant and repeated adultery would also give grounds for divorce. But, in all these cases I would strongly suggest counselling or professional intervention before a divorce is finalised. Severing a marriage covenant is greatly displeasing to God and very harmful to all involved, and so divorce should always be a last resort.

Divorce is usually painful, destructive, and a negative influence on children, family and friends.

People who have experienced divorce, other than the callously self-seeking, should be treated more with compassion than with legalistic censure.
If you would like to read the full article then you will find it HERE, next week I will publish a TruthTalk dealing with this controversial subject.

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TruthTalks: Death

TruthTalks: Death, the final frontier

Top image for death post

Following the post on “Death, the final frontier” we bring you the TruthTalks on this.

After a short summary of the post, Christopher Peppler and I get into an animated (sorry for the interruptions Daddy) discussion on the topic of death, where we go, who goes where, what happens to our pets, etc. Listen here now or click on the subscribe button to receive notifications of new podcasts which come out every 2 weeks and sometimes more often. Thank you for taking the time to read and listen to this and God bless you!

 

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Death Feature Image

Death, the final frontier

Death, the final frontier

Benjamin Franklin said that ‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’, but although taxes can be avoided there is no way to avoid death. The opening words in the introductory voice-over of Star Trek are, ‘space; the final frontier’, but in real life it is death which is the final frontier.

Certainly, death lies as an all-consuming black hole at the event horizon of our earthly existence, but is it an end to life or simply a transition into a different dimension of life? To use Star Trek terminology, is the black hole of death really just a wormhole into another reality?

Humanist scientists and some religious folk regard death as the termination or life, but most spiritually oriented people believe that life is eternal and that what we call ‘death’ is just a doorway into something more. This is the Christian position for all except for a minority of theological systems that claim eternal life only for an elect few. Certainly, my understanding of the biblical revelation is that all human beings have eternal ‘life’ but that some pass through the transition of physical death into an eternity with God in Heaven, while others move from this earthly life into a dark and abysmal existence apart from God.

I can understand why those who suspect that death is THE final frontier would fear it and want to avoid thinking and speaking of it. However, to those ‘in Christ Jesus’ death signifies a transition into the nearer presence of our Saviour and Lord. Why then do so many ‘Christians’ avoid the subject of death?
Perhaps some folk just do not know that what Jesus said to Martha applies equally to them. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Perhaps they don’t know that He also said, ”I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). Could it be that they overlook what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:10 about ‘our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’?

It would be comforting to think that those Christians who fear death do so solely because of ignorance of the biblical revelation, but I don’t think that this is usually the case. I think that it is more likely that the problem arises from a deadly misconception of what constitutes a ‘Christian’. The words of hope that Jesus and Paul articulated are not for people who define themselves as Christians simply in terms of heritage, social categorisation, or reasonably ‘good’ lifestyle. Those who are born into a Christian orientated family are not necessarily assured of eternal life with Jesus. Nor are those who classify themselves as Christian because they are not Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and so on. Equally, those who attempt to live by Christian values may not necessarily be able to claim for themselves the assurance of divine favour in a life to come.

The Apostle Paul writes many times that in order to be assured of eternal life in the presence of God we must be ‘in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:23 and many other references). Jesus had previously appeared to him and commissioned him to go to people everywhere and “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). Paul later expressed his personal desire to ‘gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).

To be assured of eternal life in the presence of God we need to be ‘in Christ Jesus’, and to be in Christ we need to have faith in Jesus to save us from an eternal life of separation from God. If we are in Christ then we need not fear death, and we do not need to avoid speaking of it or even preparing for it.

Fear of death is a strong indicator of the lack of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, the best thing we can do for those who fear death is to share the Gospel of life with them.

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TruthTalks Sermons

The transformative power of failure

Transformation sermon top image

Failure is not an end in itself, but a vital part of the transformation and learning process.

Last week I published an article on this subject and Karen and I would normally chat about it this week. However, I preached on this subject on Sunday and thought that the sermon would be the best way of presenting it this week– so here it is.

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.