1st Corinthians - Wayne Barber/Part 49 | John Ankerberg Show

1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 49

By: Dr. Wayne Barber
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By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
In verses 12-14 Paul deals with an unbelieving spouse that is willing to stay. So stay with them. But in verse 15, we find a different category. We find a category of an unbelieving spouse who is not willing to stay. This is a brand new situation altogether. What does a believer do when an unbelieving spouse divorces them, separates themselves from them?

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1 Corinthians 7:15-17

Should I Stay Married? – Part 2

We’re going to start in about verse 15 of chapter 7 in a little bit. But first of all, I want to go back and review some. I know that my review is rather redundant, but just hang with me. You’ve got to have the whole flow of the context. When you stay in the flow of it, it’s not as difficult. But when you grab a verse here and a verse there, here a verse, there a verse, and everywhere a verse, verse, you get all confused. We’re going to talk about, “Should I Stay Married, Part 2.”

All of this started in verse 1. In verse 1 he says, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote.” There was a letter written to Paul with questions that we don’t have. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there would be a discovery and somebody would say, “Look what we have discovered, the questions that were written to Paul.” But it hasn’t happened and God has ordained that. All we have are the answers to questions. We don’t really know exactly what they were.

The context of immorality actually started back in 6:9. I want you to remember this. That’s been the house that we’ve been sort of camped out in. All of these truths have lived in from that time, because he’s talking about the immoral culture of Corinth. Remember, if you were in Athens or anywhere else in Greece and you were living an immoral perverse life, someone would say to you, “Watch out! You’re living like a Corinthian.” You must understand the culture, the immorality, the perversion that was around them.

It comes right into chapter 7. You see, they didn’t have chapters and verses. It was just one long letter. In verses 1-7 of chapter 7, they seemed to have asked him a question wrapped around their perverted idea of sexual behavior. They had made the mistake of equating the sexual intimacy in marriage with the immoralities of verse 2. That was a mistake that people are still making in the twentieth century. We hear the word “sex” mentioned in a public place with men and women present and we’re embarrassed. Why are we embarrassed? We’re embarrassed because what we’ve heard from the world. But we must understand that God ordained this relationship within the bonds of marriage. Sexual intimacy in marriage has nothing to do with the immorality that’s spoken of in verse 2. They failed to make the distinction.

Some were of Paul according to 1:12 and 3:4. They were following after Paul. Paul was single and celibate. They said, “Hey, since sex is wrong and we want to be spiritual, then it’s best just to stay single.” So the question seems to be, “Should I stay single or should I get married?”

Well, Paul has to jump right in the middle of that and turn it back around like it should be. He expresses in verses 1-7 that the sexual intimacy in marriage is God-ordered, God-ordained, and God-blessed, and has nothing to do with the immoralities outside of that marriage bond.

In verses 8 and 9 we see he changes to another question. He seems to be dealing there with the divorced and the widowed. He uses the term “unmarried,” but since he has to qualify that term in verse 34, it appears that these unmarried have been married before, the divorced and the widows. Their question seems to be “May I remarry?” In other words, the first question is “Should I marry or stay single?” The second question is “May I remarry, is it permissible?” The apostle Paul says, “It’s better to remain as I am,” which means, in his context, to stay single just like you are. It’s better to do that.

Now, he obviously is referring, when it comes to widows, to the older widows, because in 1 Timothy 5:14 he says, “To the younger widows I say get married and have children.” So he’s got to be speaking of older widows and those who have been divorced. So he says, “Stay as I am. It’s better for you to stay single.” However, he qualifies that. He says that if you can’t keep your sexual desires under control that were awakened in the marriage that you’ve experienced before, then it’s better for you, if Scripture allows and God raises the right person up, to go ahead and marry. So he deals with that question. Remember, none of this is a full teaching on anything. It’s Paul simply answering questions that have been written to him.

Then in verse 10 he turns toward married couples, and the questions that were absolutely abundant about marriage and remarriage and divorce. Those kinds of things had come up. We’ve got to remember. This is a pagan culture where this church was founded and all kinds of scenarios came out of that culture.

There were two specific kinds of families he deals with here in the marriage situation or married partners. One was where both partners were believers; two, was where one was a believer but the other was an unbeliever. We dealt with the first one the last time – of those who were believers. He tells those who both partners are saved to stay married. We get a good look at the authority of the apostle in verse 10 because he says, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord.” What he’s saying is, “I’m just relaying to you what our Lord Jesus taught when He was here on this earth.” That’s all he’s doing as an apostle. He was telling the message of another, relaying the message of his commander to those around him.

Now, what God commands is very clear regarding two believing spouses. The permanency of marriage comes right out in this. This is God’s ordained idea and principal. Verse 10 reads, “that the wife should not leave her husband.” That’s automatic. Then in verse 11 we read, “that the husband should not send his wife away.” This is God’s command. But the fact that one may leave the other or be sent away by the other, you see people are going to do what they want to do regardless of what God says. Paul handles that. He says in verse 11, “(but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband).” He does not give permission for remarriage if the condition of that leaving was not what our Lord Jesus spoke of in Matthew 19:9, which would be immorality which would involve adultery, etc.

We do know there is an exception clause, but it doesn’t mention that here, so it appears that these folks are leaving each other, or one being sent away because the toast is burned or because the husband doesn’t make enough or whatever. Paul says, “If that happens, and I’m telling you not to do it, but if you do it, don’t you dare get remarried. You don’t have Scriptural grounds to do that.” The only exception is Matthew 19:9. That does not come up in 1 Corinthians 7 at all, but we all know Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, “Except there be for immorality,” which is the big house that all the sexual sin with somebody else lives in. So if one believer leaves, divorces his wife with no grounds of immorality on either of the spouses part, then he is not to get remarried.

Paul then moves to the split family. By split family I mean one’s a believer and one’s an unbeliever. He says that if the unbeliever chooses to stay with the believer then, by all means stay married. It says in verse 12, “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.”

Now that phrase “to the rest I say, not the Lord,” I do not believe in any way Paul is just simply giving an opinion. What I believe he’s saying here is, “Jesus did not deal with this specific situation when He was here on earth. Now I, as His apostle, have been assigned to do that and I’m completing the picture here.” He says this as an apostle, with that authority we’ve already seen that he has. Don’t leave the unbelieving spouse. Don’t send away the unbelieving spouse if they are willing to stay with you.

Then he shows why in verse 14. To me this is one of the most encouraging verses in our whole study. He says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.” That does not mean by being sanctified or holy that they’re saved. That’s not what he’s saying. The root word of “sanctified” or the root word of “holy” means to be set apart. By the very presence of a believer in that family, that whole family is set apart. They had the influence of God Himself in that family. They’re not like a pagan family in the sense that there’s a believer in their midst. We forget the power of a believer in a dark situation and so often we bail out of something when we should stay right in the middle of it and let God be God in and through us affecting everybody that’s around us.

I was down in Florida, and the pastor of a church there told me his testimony. I had never heard it. He said that he was born into a family where his Mom and Dad were not believers. He’d never heard about Jesus. He never heard the Gospel growing up except from his grandmother who was saved. As she was in the midst of all that darkness, she just kept right on holding up the light. He said as a result of that, when he got into his teen years, he came to know Christ. As a result of that, he led most of his brothers to his Christ and three days before his father died, he led his own Daddy to the Lord Jesus Christ. All of that because a grandmother held on to the truth, stayed in the situation, and let the light of Jesus flow through her life.

Don’t bail out of the situation. Stay in that situation. If the unbeliever will stay, let him stay. We don’t realize the power that a believer has. That whole family is set apart. That whole family is sanctified in the sense that God lives in one of the members of that family.

Well, in verses 12-14 he deals with an unbelieving spouse that is willing to stay. So stay with them. But in verse 15, we find a different category. We find a category of an unbelieving spouse who is not willing to stay. This is a brand new situation altogether. What does a believer do when an unbelieving spouse divorces them, separates themselves from them? There are five things I want us to look at in this passage and I think it will help a lot of us to be encouraged that God’s Word understands our circumstances.

The reality of an unbelieving spouse

First of all is the reality of an unbelieving spouse leaving and abandoning the believer. The reality must be faced because it’s very real. Perhaps you’re a Christian and you came out of an unbelieving family and your husband or your wife is an unbeliever. You must face this reality. They may come to the place that they want to divorce you and sever their relationship with you. Verse 15 says, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave.” That’s interesting, isn’t it? You’d think that came from a liberal counselor someplace. That came right out of the Word of God. Let’s talk about that for a second. The word “unbelieving one” is apistos, a – without, and pistos – faith; without the faith, or a person without faith.

The word for “leave” is chorizo, which means to sever, to separate something. In the context it would refer directly to divorcing you. Somebody says, “I’m going to divorce you because you have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, it’s in the present middle indicative. He’s in the act of divorcing his spouse. This is not a whim. This is not something that happens instantaneously. This is something that happens over a period of time and the signals, probably, have been everywhere. Middle voice means he’s making his own choice. This is going to be his responsibility. He’ll answer to God for it. It’s nothing that the person has done to cause him to make it. That would be passive voice. It’s middle voice, on his own. Indicative, he’s doing it. Write it down. It’s a fact. This is what he’s doing.

Get the picture. Here’s a man loving life as he thought he loved it until his wife got saved. All of a sudden it’s a different scenario. He hasn’t been around this one before. Immediately he begins to think, “Am I willing to live in this relationship?” Now, remember, when a person gets saved they’re capable of loving like they’ve never loved before. So here he is being loved like he’s never been loved before. Something happens inside of him, though, and he says, “I’m going to leave. I’m going to divorce.” He starts making his plan. Of course, the signals would be seen by anybody living in that close relationship. He’s going to be responsible. He’s making the choice himself.

Now I want you to see this. This is the behavior of a nonbeliever. This is never the behavior of a believer. You’re saying to me, “Oh, I know some believers who are doing this.” Are you sure they’re believers? Maybe you need to take them back to God’s Word and show them this is not how a believer acts. This is how a person without faith acts. He walks away from his wife. He severs the relationship.

Well, in verse 15 he goes on to say, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave.” Paul issues a command. It’s present tense being the attitude of imperative mood there. It’s a command and it’s an active voice. You make a choice here, buddy. It’s a command I’m giving to you. You let him leave. Do nothing to stop his leaving. Let him go on and do what he’s determined to do. This goes against what our flesh tell us sometimes. Oh, what can we do to keep the marriage together? You do everything you know to do, but if that man has determined to leave you and he’s already signaled that to you and he’s going to do it, the Scripture says, “Let him leave.” It’s a fact. It must be dealt with. If he’s determined to leave then Paul says to let him leave.

Remember, from 6:9 to where we are, immorality has been the silent context that’s been wrapped around everything that we’ve taught. That’s important here. I believe the behavior of this unbeliever is not only tied to his lack of belief but specifically tied to some kind of immoral pleasures he’s getting and he doesn’t want to stop because he’s got a believing wife now who won’t participate with him. To me somehow they’re connected. I really believe that. Everything we’ve talked about has been connected to that kind of context. You see, the problem is that a believing spouse walked in one day a changed person.

Go back to chapter 6. I want you to read verses 9-11 again. Make sure you know what they came out of. Verse 9 of 1 Corinthians 6 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” I didn’t write that, by the way, folks. This is lifestyle now. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Look at Verse 11, “And such were (what?) some of you; but you were washed.” You washed yourselves. This word for washed is not the inward cleansing that the blood of Jesus cleanses. Only He can do that. Only His blood can do that. This is talking about you washed yourselves. It’s the same sense over in James when he says, “Cleanse yourselves, wash yourselves.” In other words, turn away from that sin. Walk away from that sin and turn toward the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what repentance is.

They used to live that way but now this man’s got a wife who’s turned away from that kind of thing. She’s different in the household. Do you know what this does? This begins to immediately begin to expose his wrong. It exposes his desires that are fleshly and sinful. It aggravates and agitates him and either he responds properly to the light that’s within her or, as the Scripture says, he chooses to bail out, sever the relationship and walk away. Somehow what he’s doing, even though I cannot prove it, seems to be tied to immoral pleasures. What man would be foolish enough to walk away from a wife who now loves him like he’s never experienced before in his own life? However, if there are desires he won’t turn loose of maybe that have been exposed and it’s aggravated and agitated his flesh and this gives him credence to do what he’s doing. Right, wrong, or indifferent, he leaves. He severs the relationship.

So the reality is there. When a person gets saved out of an unbelieving family you may have to face this, that an unbelieving husband may walk away or an unbelieving wife may walk away, divorce you, sever the relationship and that’s a difficult thing to have to face.

The result of an unbelieving spouse

But secondly, there’s the result. What result does it have of an unbelieving spouse abandoning the believer? What state does this leave the believer in? He goes on to say in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Now let’s examine the phrase. He says, “the brother or the sister.” So we can be talking about the man leaving or the woman leaving. Which one is left behind, the brother or the sister, is not under bondage. The word “not” there is the word for the absolute not. Almost every time you find it that’s the word ou. It is the absolute not. There’s another not. You see, in English we only have one word for not. We have one word for love. We love our grandmother, the American flag, Jesus and our dog. Nobody knows the difference in what you’re talking about. But when you’re in the Greek language it’s more specific. There are two words for not. The me is a relative not and we’ve seen that already in studying 1 Corinthians. But this is the little word ou. She is not in any way, shape, or form “under bondage in such cases.”

The word “bondage” there is in the perfect passive tense. It’s written as if it’s in the present. Douloo means to be free of the yoke of slavery. You say, “Now, wait a minute. Is marriage slavery?” Yes. Some of you may say, “Yeah, right. Amen!” Especially some of us, when we get home and we’re tired and our wife says, “Take the garbage out.” You feel that yoke of slavery. Remember, marriage is a picture of our relationship with Christ. Are we slaves of Christ? Absolutely. Are we slaves because we have to be? No, we’re slaves because we want to be. The same thing is in marriage. This isn’t a “have to be” situation, this is a “want to be”, a “get to be” situation. There is a yoke of slavery. It’s the good kind of slavery to where the two are dependent upon each other.

Well, it’s a covenant bond. When a man who’s an unbeliever leaves the believer, he breaks that covenant bond. Paul says that if the unbelieving one leaves then this yoke or bond that existed is no longer there. Perfect tense, his action caused the believing spouse to be in the state that she’s in. Passive voice, she did not initiate it. It was initiated upon her. So she is no longer yoked. There is no bond. There is no covenant bond there. It’s been broken.

Now, this brings up an interesting scenario, doesn’t it? Is the believer now free to remarry? I’m not inerrant. The Word of God is. I’ve already told you, don’t build your faith on what I say. Build your faith on what the Word of God says. But the answer I come up with is “Yes.” If she’s free, what rule are you going to put on somebody who’s free? She’s free. If divorced is allowed, then, evidently, remarriage is allowed. That’s a big question that a lot of people are pondering. But what I can see is what the text says. He or she is no longer held responsible to the marriage bond. Therefore in my understanding, that releases them to marry.

You may be saying, “Wait a minute, you’re contradicting yourself.” What am I doing? “Well, you said that there was only one exception and Jesus gave that in Matthew 19:9. Are we adding another exception here?” That’s a good question. It appears to me that desertion of an unbeliever to a believer somehow in God’s economy equated with the adultery or the immorality of Matthew 19:9. Since Jesus said there was only one exception then somehow the two are equated. We must remember that it’s very unlikely, again, that an unbelieving spouse would have divorced his wife if there was nothing out here that he wanted. And we also must remember the sexual immorality in the context of the whole culture and however you put it together, to me, that man is divorcing her to go right to an immoral relationship. I guarantee you. Ninety nine percent of the time it will prove itself out. Somehow they are intertwined. I could not prove it; however, from the whole context perhaps we can because of the sexual immorality that’s around. Whatever way you approach it the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things. The Scripture says she is no longer yoked. She is no longer in that bond of slavery. The result of an unbelieving spouse divorcing a believing spouse, the result upon that believing spouse is she is no longer in that covenant bond. That has been broken and she is no longer enslaved to that bond.

The resource of the abandoned, believing spouse

Well, we see then the reality—it could happen. We see the result of that upon the believer who has been abandoned. But let’s look at the resource of the abandoned believing spouse. What resource now does she have in the situation that we’re looking at in verse 15? “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” The little word which is translated “but” is the little word de. It has the idea of frequently to introduce something else. It’s as if Paul says that and then says, “Now, let me introduce something else. Let me share something else with you that’s very important to this issue.”

“[B]ut God has called us to peace.” What is he saying here? That’s a good question. I’m sure everybody has an idea. Let me share with you mine. I think he’s saying that even though the unbelieving spouse leaves and divorces a believing spouse, that the believing spouse must live at peace with the one who left, no hostile actions are to be taken. The door is kept wide open for that person to come back and hear the Gospel message. There is absolutely nothing that can mar her testimony with the one who walks away from her. The believer is at peace with God. That’s got to be implied in the verse. We have peace with God. We have the peace of God, so, therefore, we have a resource to be able to survive the situation. She can live at peace with him because she’s at peace with God. But there is to be no hostility, nothing in any way that would mar the beautiful testimony that God has presented in her life.

Look at Romans 12:18. I want to go back to that chapter which is all about relationships, particularly people who treat you wrongly, abuse you, etc. It so helps when you start putting the two together and understand where Paul, perhaps, may be going. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible [that’s a great phrase] so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Where in that verse does it say they are going to be at peace with you? Even in Colossians it says that the Spirit produces peace which is a referee in your heart. To be at peace with all men. You say, “Well, he doesn’t love me. He treats me with hostility.” That’s alright. Can you be at peace with him? Yes, you can if you’re at peace with God.

Now, you’re not to be at peace with him so you can be at peace with God. You’re at peace with God so you can be at peace with him. That’s the way it works. No hostility, no enmity between the two of you. You be at peace with whoever treats you the way they treat you. The believer’s not in conflict with God. Therefore, he doesn’t have to be in conflict with the one who has treated him wrongly. It’s always from us to them. We don’t look at how they treat us. We look at how we treat them. That’s the key, to stay on that side, to stay on that end of the truth. They may not be able to be at peace with us but we can be with them.

So a believer who’s been abandoned has a resource. They have a resource and that resource is God Who through Jesus Christ has given them a peaceful relationship with God. Now they’re one. But He’s also given them His peace so that they can be at peace with whoever is related to them no matter how they’re treated. So therefore, keep the door open. Let there be no hostility. Let him leave but don’t fight. Be at peace with all men. God has called us to that peace.

I’ve heard some say that means that with all the fighting and everything else that’s going on, it’s better for you to go ahead and get divorced. To me that’s weak. It’s real weak. What I believe he’s saying here is to keep that door open. Be at peace with him.

The regret of the abandoned, believing spouse

Let’s look at the fourth thing, the regret of the abandoned spouse. There is a regret to any abandoned spouse who is a Christian for the unbeliever who has left them. You see, when a person becomes a believer, the deepest burden of their heart is to see others come to know the same person they know, particularly in the marriage. That’s when they start loving a husband or a wife like they’ve never loved them before. The thing they want more than anything else in the world is for that person to come to know Christ. They desperately want that. The regret is in the form of, “Could I have done something different?” How many people beat themselves up by saying, “Could I have done something different? If I had acted differently, if I had done this or done that, maybe they would have come to know Christ and we wouldn’t be in this situation. If they never come to know Christ, it’s my fault.” They beat themselves to death until the day they see Jesus. Paul erases that kind of false guilt that people put upon themselves.

It says in verse 16, “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” This is all tied back to “let him leave.” I used to think it meant to stay married. Do whatever you can do to keep him because you can save him but if you leave him or if he leaves you, how will you ever know? I think the word “know” is one of the keys to understanding that verse. The word for “know” there is the word eido, which comes from the word horao, which means to perceive and understand a situation. A lot of things we can know by learning but this is something intuitive. This is something God puts within somebody.

He says, “You don’t have that ability.” It’s amazing how there’s no vacancy in the Trinity. We keep applying for that position and we think that if we had done this, then they would have gotten saved. How do you know that? No man knows that. Salvation is not the work of man. Salvation is the work of God. He uses man but it’s His work. He’s the One who draws people to Jesus. It’s not our work. We are involved in the work, but it’s His work, His business and He only knows whether or not that person would have come to know Christ. You don’t know. That’s what he’s saying: Stop beating yourself up. How would you ever know? You can live as long as you live and say, “If I had just done this, if had just done that.” Paul is saying, “He was determined to leave and you let him leave. As long as you kept that door open and peace was there, no hostility, don’t beat yourself up. You don’t know if perhaps he would have ever come to know Christ. Only God knows that.”

That’s important for us to understand. I wish sometimes we could know. But remember, there are two absolutes. One is, there is a God; two is, I’m not Him and neither are you. We don’t know. You can never know that. So don’t beat yourself up falsely. Don’t put a false guilt on yourself. There is something here that you can find through the resource you have with God and the regret does not need to be there. Oh yeah, you always have regrets but not the kind that causes you the undue guilt you put upon yourself.

The response of the abandoned, believing spouse

Finally, the response of the abandoned believing spouse. How do they live now? How do they cope? I saw a picture one time of a young fellow who had one of those boom boxes on his shoulder. He was walking down the street and he had a t-shirt on that said, “Don’t bother me. I can’t cope.” That is a good picture of the Christian church in the twentieth century. But Paul shows you how you can cope. How can you live in the situation when you’ve been abandoned and your husband has walked away from you and you did what he said and you stayed at peace with him and you kept your witness alive but he just walked away from you.

Well, he’s going to answer that in verse 17. “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And thus I direct in all the churches.” There could not be many more deeply hurtful situations than to be a believer, a brand new believer, and have the one you’re married to, the one you love the most, abandon you and walk away because of your belief. There could hardly be any more hurtful situation than that.

Sometimes it causes people to start blaming God. You can hear it echoed because we hear it in the twentieth century. People are still doing it. They look up at God and say, “God, why did You let this happen to me? If You were a loving God, You wouldn’t let that happen to me. You let me get saved and You ruined my marriage.” That seems to be the thought that comes from the hearts of those who are untaught. Verse 17 is an answer to that very perplexing problem. The New American Standard, I think, really nails is when it says, “Only, as.” We must be so careful not to let bad circumstances lead us to the conclusion that God does not care for His people.

You see, God is sovereign, folks. We say this all the time. He is sovereign. He either causes it or He allows it, however you want to phrase it, but He’s behind it. And God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect and whatever God allows, evidently, He’s assigned to the one to whom is His one. We forget this. We forget that we’re bought with a person. We forget that He comes to live in us, to be in and through us what we’re not. Circumstances in life do not work against us. They work for us.

I want to tell you something. There is a mentality to our secular world today that people are victims and because they’re victims that justifies all kinds of behavior. But I want to let you know, folks. Write it down. Nail it down. As a believer you are never a victim. You are a learner, a disciple. You’re a product of grace. You are a part of God’s family. You are not a victim. Get off that excuse, if you’re using it. You get to the cross and ask God to forgive you. You are not a victim. If God allowed it, then God has a purpose in it and you must look to Him to find it and walk through with the grace that He enables you to walk through. You see, we’re not victims.

So Paul says, “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one.” You see, we’re not a number and nothing’s by chance. God loves us and our lives are either in his sovereign or permissive will. It’s like putting a puzzle together. I have a piece; you have a piece; and somebody else has a piece. But have you ever noticed that none of the pieces look alike? My circumstances are different from yours. Your circumstances are different from mine. You say, “Yeah, but I cause a lot of mine.” So? He’s a master weaver. He even takes our mistakes and puts them back into His plan.

As a matter of fact, it might be good right now to go back to a passage we studied together that sometimes get lost when you study another epistle. You’ve got to put them all together. Go back to Romans 8:28. Let’s just make sure we understand what I’m saying here. We are not victims. We’re learners. Life works for us. It doesn’t work against us.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know.” The word for “know” is that same word. It’s that intuitive understanding. Understand, when he says “we,” Paul puts himself into that category. If you studied Romans 8, then you understand that Paul is talking about those who are living trusting God. Even though they can’t see, they walk by faith. Now, if you’re not living that way, forget it. You don’t know. But if you are living that way, you know. You couldn’t explain it to anybody if you had to. When you’re living trusting God, attached to Him, in light of your individual given situation, then you know. You know. But if you’re not living that way in light of your given situation, you don’t know.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” What a powerful phrase! God causes them all to work together for good. The idea I get is of an orchestra. I love an orchestra. When you walk in to hear an orchestra, you hear all those different sounds and they’re warming up. It sounds terrible. All of a sudden somebody walks up and taps the podium. Everybody gets quiet. And the conductor causes all those sounds to work together for the good melody that he’s trying to create. If you leave out one of them, you left out part of the melody. It’s all got to be in it.

God orchestrates life. God is behind it. God is a master weaver. You can’t even mess up so that God can’t use it to weave it somehow back into His purpose for your life. He is in control. You’re not victims of society. He causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose, to those who get up every morning and say, “God, I only want what Your purpose is in my life to this day. I want to live that way.” When you come to that place of surrender, then these things begin to make sense to you.

As a matter of fact, to understand verse 28 of Romans 8, you’ve got to go back a little bit. Go back to verse 24 to catch the flow of the context here. He says in verse 24, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? [He already sees it.] But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Willing to bear up under whatever because we know what’s coming. Then it says in verse 26, “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Now, let’s talk about that verse. Some people say, “You see that? There’s a prayer language. That’s what he’s talking about.” Folks, that’s not at all what he’s saying here. Don’t stretch it out of its context. What he is saying is, “Something’s going on and you can’t see it but you can believe it because it’s in God’s Word.”

When you have a given lot assigned you, maybe an unbeliever leaves you, as a believer you’re not left alone. God’s involved in this thing. Get hooked up with Him. God has a way to get you through that. He’ll even use that given lot in your life to conform you in the image of Christ. He says, “the Spirit also helps our weakness.” What’s our weakness? We don’t know how to pray. We get on our knees and come before Him so distraught, so weary, so beat up, we don’t even know what to say to Him. The Spirit helps our weakness. Sunantilambano is the word. Sun means together with. You can’t separate the two because He lives in us. Isn’t that beautiful? Anti means facing us. I’m facing Him; He’s facing me. Lambano means to take up, to receive something up.

The idea I get is that I’m assigned to pick up a burden. It’s a heavy log. I pick up this end of the log and it’s so heavy for me I can’t pick it up by myself. I’m so distraught but the Holy Spirit winks at me and says, “Relax, you’re trusting Me.” And He helps me in my weakness. He picks up the part that I can’t pick up. He knows how to pray because He’s God. It’s God the Holy Spirit and He’s praying with the Father. They’re praying the perfect will of God.

That’s why in 1 Thessalonians we can thank Him in the situation; that’s why in Ephesians we can thank Him for the situation; because it’s been prayed already. When we don’t know how to pray, but God’s praying for us, that’s what He’s talking about. Look at the verse again. He says, “but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” He’s talking about a silent language in the Godhead. You don’t ever hear it but you believe it’s going on while you have not an idea of even how to pray. God has stepped in to assist you and, therefore, if the change doesn’t come then you can believe it’s the perfect will of God. If you ask God to change your circumstances and He doesn’t, then let Him take the circumstance and change you because He’s a perfect God and He’s helping you in your weakness.

Verse 27 reads, “and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints [how?] according to the will of God.” Then verse 28 wraps it all up. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good.” You can see it. What are you hoping for? That’s the whole context there.

Then he comes down to verse 29 and tells you what the good is. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Do you know what the good is? The good is He’s using the circumstance to conform us into the image of Christ Jesus.

My friend Bill Stafford was down in Stone Mountain, Georgia, once and saw the carving of these three Confederate generals. He was sitting there looking at them and he said, “You know, not one thing was added to that rock to make that rock look like it looks. But a whole lot had to be chipped off.”

You see, God uses the given lot in life that He gives to us as the chisel and the hammer which is causing us more and more to decrease so that Christ in us might increase. That’s the Christian message. So if you’re abandoned, remember something. If you’ll walk in the lot assigned to you, in the grace God’s given you, then you’ll walk in the purpose God has. I don’t know what it is. Neither does anybody else. God does. The ultimate purpose we know, which is to be conformed in the image of Christ Jesus.

Verse 17 in 1 Corinthians 7 again says, “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And thus I direct in all the churches.” The phrase “as God has called each” literally is as God has dealt to each one. Do you know where that phrase is used? In Romans 12:3 that exact phrase is used. It says in Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” The exact phrase, “allotted to each.”

If you’ll put those two together it’s incredible. As God allots different assignments to each one of us, if it’s to be abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, so be it. Whatever it is God also has allotted to each a measure of faith and given ability to believe Him in the situation that you’re in regardless of what that situation is.

It’s like James says. Our trials are multicolored. They’re color-coded. Peter says so is the grace of God. It’s color-coded. Paul say in Ephesians so is the wisdom of God. It’s color-coded. So if I’m going through a red trial, God gives me red faith, red grace, and red wisdom to match me in the midst of that trial, exactly what I needed. The only reason I’m not living in it is because I want to think of myself as a victim rather than a learner and a student in the family of God. Let this be a new classroom that God’s going to use to conform you into the image of His Son.

So, chapter 7 is interesting, isn’t it? When I got into it I was scared to death. It seems like the longer I’m staying in it the more I’m enjoying it. How practical it is right to where we live. Paul goes on and says, “And thus I direct in all the churches.” As a matter of fact, this sets up a thought train that goes all the way through verse 25 and it’s very important. He says not just for you there in Corinth but for all the churches. I guess that would say to us today to live in the lot that God has assigned by the grace and the faith that He’s given and the wisdom He’ll give to you.

Remember, the problem at Corinth, they attached themselves to men. They were not attaching themselves to Christ. That was their whole problem. If you’ll attach yourself to Jesus, He’s the resource, you’re sufficiency to bear up under whatever it is that God puts your way. You can’t count on it.

God’s Word will never deceive you. It is truth you can stand on. It will never be for anything other than for your good. Grab it. Hold on to it and live in it.

Read Part 50

Dr. Wayne Barber

Dr. Wayne Barber

Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.
Dr. Wayne Barber

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