To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. (Gal 3:15)
A man-made covenant is a formal agreement made between two parties. The parties can be individuals, corporations, cities, nation states, or rulers and their subjects, Once the promises and terms of the covenant are set out, agreed upon and ratified by both parties, the covenant is sealed. No one adds to the terms once it has been ratified. The terms of the covenant cannot be changed without a new covenant being drawn up and ratified by both parties.
The marriage covenant involves promises. The exact wording of wedding vows may differ slightly from one wedding ceremony to another, but generally both parties promise to love, cherish, support, protect, respect, and honour each other, and keep fidelity to the exclusion of all others.
But when a person finds that their spouse is exercising a pattern of coercive control, has a mentality of entitlement, and is resisting taking responsibility for their abusive ways, and the oppressed spouse starts to consider separation or divorce, what happens? The hue and cry breaks out: “You mustn’t abandon your marriage! You can’t break the marriage covenant!”
“Everyone knows,” says Paul, ”that you can’t modify a covenant once it’s been ratified.” Covenants don’t work that way. Crooks and shysters break covenants and cheat underhandedly, but people of integrity do not. Once the terms of a covenant are ratified it gives security and assurance to both parties and it cannot be altered at whim.
When an abuse victim says “I’m leaving this marriage because my spouse is an anti-spouse, a monster in wedlock,” and folk say, “You can’t abandon your marriage covenant!” — they are adding to the covenant once it has been ratified. They are doing exactly what Paul says ought not to be done. And they are not even the parties to the covenant!
This is what they are really saying, even if they don’t realise it. They are saying:
The marriage covenant states that you cannot divorce your spouse even if they are breaking the promises they made about loving, cherishing, protecting, honouring and being honest and faithful. Even if your spouse has effectively annulled the covenant by breaking their vows, you are not free to divorce. You just can’t do it. Didn’t you know that when you signed up to the marriage covenant there was a no-escape clause for victims of abuse in the fine print? What? You say that clause wasn’t in the covenant when you signed it? Well, we’ve got news for you! There is a new term in the marriage covenant, it says: If your spouse does the opposite of what he vowed to do — if he abuses and oppresses you — there’s no way you can leave. You’ve got to put up with ill treatment no matter what. And if your abuser fakes repentance you’ve got to believe he is truly repentant.
You better accept this If you don’t, the wrath of God will descend on you, the leaders will discipline you, and the congregation will slander and shun you.
But if you try to tell these people that they have actually added to the covenant once it was ratified, they skirt your logic and put on their nice-guy masks, making out that they are not being unfair because temporary separation is okay.
with understanding that the two of you will get back together
[and that better be sooner rather than later]
The Teaching that a Husband/Father is Priest to His Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 2)
This post is part two in this series in which I am rejecting the common patriocentric teaching that the husband/father is the priest of his wife and children. This teaching is contrary to Scripture and promotes abuse. The only priesthood in the New Covenant is the High Priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of all who are in Christ by faith. [Part 1 of this series can be found here]
As mentioned in part one, Sam Waldron has written a book entitled A Man as Priest in His Home (Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2012). While I have very much appreciated other books by Waldron, this one is a book he should never have penned. It is careless in its handling of Scripture, it is not in agreement with the London Confession of Faith (which Waldron and RB Academic Press profess), and like most all of the basic tenets of patriocentric teaching, this book will certainly promote abuse in the church and in families. Here are the titles of chapters 4-8:
- A Man as an Intercessor in Prayer
- A Man as a Director of Religious Worship
- A Man as a Mediator of Divine Blessing
- A Man as an Instructor in Sacred Scripture
- A Man as a Judge in Holy Things
As is so often the case when we deal with patriarchal theology, we are struck not only with what the author or speaker says, but also with what they do not say. These chapter titles illustrate that this is the case in Waldron’s book. A man, a man, a man…. But what about the wife of the man? It surely would be one thing to write a book about how fathers and mothers function in some ways toward their children as priests serve the people they minister to. But Waldron views the man, the husband/father as priest. Not the wife/mother.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Hebrews 7:26-27 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (27) He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
There are NO benefits of the New Covenant that are exclusive to men or to women. All are taught by the Spirit, all have the law written on their hearts, all are children of Abraham and thus heirs of the Promise, all are true Israelites, citizens in God’s household, and all are priests! As priests, Christians offer themselves as living sacrifices (abuse victims – did you hear that? LIVING sacrifices, not dead ones!), and they display Christ to a lost world:
Romans 15:15-16 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God (16) to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, (5) you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (6) and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
It doesn’t take a Greek or New Testament scholar to sort this out. All you need to do is a computer Bible search of “priest” and related forms and read the verses for yourself. Every Christian is a priest. Christ is our High Priest. We make living sacrifices of ourselves as we serve Christ and display Him to this fallen world. Like Paul, we function as priests when we go into all the world and preach the gospel. And like all priests, we have a temple in which to serve. Only in this case WE are the temple, the foundation of which is Jesus Christ:
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (22) In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (17) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
In his first chapter, Waldron acknowledges that all Christian ministry is priestly. He discusses five aspects of our priestly ministry which he derives from Hebrews 4:14-5:3. He says, “To support the ultimate conclusion of this book that a man serves as a priest in his his home, we must begin with the idea that all Christian ministry is priestly in character.” But in his second chapter he leaps to this conclusion: “The idea that a man is a priest in his home follows naturally from the thesis that all Christian ministry is priestly in character.” He adds “…we’ll look at the scriptural warrant for the man as a priest in his home.” In part three of this blog series I will critique Waldron’s argument which he claims is derived from Scripture.
One final note at this point. I suppose it is possible that Waldron would say “I am not arguing for the husband/father forming a formal priesthood of its own in his home. I just want to encourage men to perform their spiritual duties in their home in regard to their wives and children. I am simply drawing similarities between a biblical priest and a husband/father.” But if that is Waldron’s purpose, he certainly did not state it plainly. Nor did he explain that it was not his purpose in this particular book to talk about the priestly role of the wife/mother and that is the reason he only speaks of the husband/father as priest. The conclusion the reader will draw is that the husband/father is the priest of his home, mediating Christ to his wife and children in a way that is unique to him alone, not to his wife. And besides, in chapter three Waldron steps up the clarity of what he means:
The whole sphere of Job’s priesthood as it is presented in Job 1 has to do with his family and children and nothing else. He was a priest because he was a father. If we have families and if we are fathers, we too are priests.
Boom! There it is. And all of us who know abuse and abusers will agree: abusers will rub their hands with glee at this conclusion. Power and control ordained by God Himself!
Does that title sound harsh and judgemental? Many Christians think it’s wrong to describe a person — for example, a man who abuses his wife — as such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him. But those words are a quote from the Bible.
We have become milksops when we can’t call a spade a spade.
Here is the passage:
Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”
When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.
But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”
Most people read this passage and never raise an eyebrow about how the young man describes Nabal to Abigail. The young man describes his master — the ruler of the household —accurately.
And Abigail also describes Nabal that way. When David is told how Nabal rejected his request for provisions, David vows to destroy every male in Nabal’s household. I wonder how much David’s impetuous vengefulness was the flip side of how he had been restraining himself from taking vengeance on Saul? (the incident when Saul was relieving himself in the cave) David had been incredibly honourable and long-suffering towards Saul, but maybe some of his frustration leaked out when Nabal insulted him.
When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant.Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal [fool] is his name, and folly is with him. . . . “
And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.”
Notice how David praised Abigail’s discretion and obeyed her voice. He didn’t say “Go home, woman; wash your mouth out with soap and water and submit to your husband!”
By telling us David’s words here, God seems to be assuring us that Abigail described her husband accurately and was not dishonorable in her choice words. And Abigail actually took it one step further than the young man, by calling Nabal not only worthless but a fool. No wonder many preachers seem to skate over this passage; the majority of Christians seem to hold the view that it’s not okay for a Christian woman to say this about her husband. Many folk are unwittingly prejudiced against victims of abuse; and there is a double standard about how women are allowed to speak, versus how men are allowed to speak.
If a victim of abuse describes her spouse as a worthless fool, she is likely to be rebuked, or it will be implied by subtle hedging, questioning and advice-giving that she is exaggerating. “It can’t be all that bad!” ”Aren’t you being a bit harsh?” “Maybe you’ve just picked the wrong times to talk to him.” “Maybe if you used a different tone of voice; chose your words more carefully, so he knows you really want to submit to his leadership.”
But in the majority of cases of domestic abuse that we hear about — not just from the victims but from professionals who understand the mindset of abusers — the simple truth is, the abuser is such a worthless fool that one cannot speak to him.
No; let me rephrase that. The abuser is such a worthless fool that you cannot speak to him . . . unless you go along with his lies and distortions; then you can speak to him indefinitely, while he pulls the wool over your eyes and fogs up your perceptions. . .
The Teaching that a Husband/Father is Priest to His Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 1)
This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ). The London Confession of Faith, Chapter 8, Of Christ the Mediator
If you have had contact with what we will call the patriarchal teachings of various individuals and organizations (Vision Forum, Doug Phillips, Family Integrated Churches, Voddie Baucham, Geoff Botkin, etc), you already know that a common plank in their teaching is this business of the husband and/or father functioning as a priest to his wife and children. Numbers of abuse victims we have interviewed have related how this teaching increased their suffering as their church and their abuser used it to enslave them. The husband must disciple and purify his wife. Hey, doesn’t Ephesians 5 say that? It is his prayers that make intercession for the family. It is his teaching of the Word to wife and children that is his unique duty.
As with most errors, this unbiblical doctrine that the man is the priest of his home consists of truth mixed with error. A father is to train up his children in the instruction of the Lord. A husband is to love his wife and promote her sanctification. He surely must pray for his family. These are good and noble things. But none of them make him a priest. None make him a mediator between his family and God. That office belongs to Christ alone. Furthermore, consider this:
1Pe 2:5-9 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (6) For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
So what people constitute this holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ? Who are the members of this chosen race, this royal priesthood? Well obviously it is the church. This priesthood is made up of every single Christian, whether male or female, slave or free, from every nation and language. This means then that not only is a Christian husband and father a priest, but a Christian wife and mother as well. And a Christian son or daughter. Besides the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, is there any other priesthood in the New Testament? No. Most emphatically, no. This is why the Reformers, and we Protestants today, reject the validity of the Roman priesthood or any other priesthood.
In the next installment of this series, we will consider what Scripture has to say about the sacrifices offered by this priesthood. In what way is every Christian a priest? Do we offer sacrifices and if so, what are they? And then I would like to proceed further by giving a critical review of a book recently published by a reformed baptist pastor (that’s my own theological camp) entitled A Man as Priest in His Home. Is that a biblical teaching? As you no doubt already know, my answer is going to be, no way.
[Go to Part 2 of this series]
I have not read Second Corinthians in about two years. It was once my favorite book because I always felt like Paul is baring his soul. No apologies . . . not real worried about TMI . . . sadness, disappointment, over-flowing cup of joy . . . the works. Paul experiences the entire spectrum of emotion in one heart-felt Epistle. I used to read it over and over for years. I read about Paul’s severe affliction (hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger . . . ) and I just knew I could face each day because Paul had it much worse than I. I had even memorized a large chunk out of chapter four:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies . . . 2 Cor. 4:7-10 ESV
I would recite these verses to myself whenever I was hurt or jabbed, as though they were a magic pill to make the crazy stop. I was not reading the letter right . . . I had not put it into context.
The other day, my sweet husband (David) read something out of 2 Corinthians to me and my love for the book was renewed. I ventured that way and was astonished by the fact that I could not stop reading. I fell in love with 2 Corinthians again . . . but in a new and fresh way.
I had not thought about that to which Paul might have been reacting. He is not declaring his martyrdom and suffering as though he is more holy than most. He is describing all that he has been through in utter vulnerability. He is pleading with the Church in Corinth:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. 6:11-13
And here is the same passage in two other versions:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. (NIV)
Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (Message)
Paul went through it all. He had thorns. I love that man.
I was listening to a live Jason Upton performance of his latest praise album. There is a long piece about forgiveness. In the middle of the piece, Jason Upton speaks of the “cup” that Jesus drinks. John 18:10-11 describes where Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus heals the ear and then says to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
There is something extremely powerful in what Jesus says. There is forgiveness . . . there is a deeper understanding of the big picture. If I can look my betrayer in the eye and say, “You are a cup from my Father”, I have victory. I still get jabbed at, years after I made the most difficult decision of my life (leaving my first husband). It is as though these abusers and allies of my abuser just want me to remember that they are still there — ever condemning. Now, I have a thorn; a cup. And I am thankful. Do you know why? Because (as Barb put it), it “keeps a fire in my belly”. I can continue to work and advocate for men and women who are being abused. That sick, dark feeling is never far away . . . I am not allowed to forget it because Jesus has a job for me to do. And now . . . instead of feeling stress and strain, I am thankful.
I am relating to Paul now, as all Believers in Christ can and should. Look at this: ” . . . through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known . .. “ 2 Cor. 6:8-9. He gets it. He was treated like an impostor . . . unknown . . . he was treated with dishonor and was slandered. Yet He was known by the One who counts. Paul was true and he knew it. That is a pretty solid foundation. I am known by God. I know God. I am not perfect but I am true. Good enough.
I am thankful for my thorn. I am smiling as I write this. They can’t get under my skin, anymore. They cannot get into my brain, anymore, quite as easily. It is too full of the Truth of God’s Word these days. Try as they might, their little under-handed “anonymous” baloney hits a wall of Truth. And I stand tall and hold my head up high. Which is my calling and yours . . . as a beloved child of the King.