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Christian Living

Go and Prepare a Place

How Engagement and Marriage Worked in the New Testament

In Bible times, when a couple became engaged, the groom-to-be with go home and prepare a place for them to live by adding a room to his parents’ house. As soon as he finished the construction, he would go to his fiancée, the marriage ceremony would take place, and they’d go live in the room he built for the two of them.

Though the Bible doesn’t detail this practice, history does. I’d heard this before, so it was nothing new to me to hear it again in the minister’s sermon.

Joseph and Mary

The message was about Joseph and Mary in the book of Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25). At this point in the narrative, Joseph and Mary are engaged. This means Joseph is building a room for them, adding on to his parents’ house. Once the room is complete, they’ll marry and begin their life has husband and wife.

This is the point at which the Virgin Mary becomes pregnant under Holy Spirit power. Joseph doesn’t break their engagement, and he continues building their home. Once it’s done, they get married. But they don’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus is born.

This explanation helps us better understand the story of Joseph and Mary. But then my mind took off and found other situations where the practice applies as well:

Peter and His Wife

It’s always bothered me that Peter, a married man, would leave his wife alone while he traveled with Jesus. How could she provide for herself while he was gone?

But realizing this ancient practice—where a young married couple would live in a room attached to the house of the man’s family—gave me a better understanding. Yes, Peter’s wife would stay home as he travelled with Jesus, but she wasn’t by herself. She was with her in laws, since the room she lived in was attached to their house.

She wasn’t alone when her husband traveled. She was with family. Knowing this lessens my concerns over Peter’s wife.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In Jesus’s parable of the ten virgins, these young ladies wait for a wedding ceremony to take place, but they don’t know when it will be. Though this seems strange to us now, it makes sense when we understand the custom of the day.

Their friend is engaged. Her wedding will take place once her fiancé completes the room for them to live in. Since no one knows for sure when this will happen, the wedding ceremony guests wait in expectation.

We can imagine the groom working late into the evening putting the last touches on the room. He finishes at last and in eager expectation he goes to get his bride-to-be, even though it’s the middle of the night.

The virgins hear he’s on his way. Five of them are ready to join the happy couple in their wedding feast and marriage celebration. The other five aren’t ready, and they’re left out (Matthew 25:1-13).

The lesson here is to be ready for Jesus to return. This leads us to the next observation.

Jesus and His Church

Jesus tells his followers that his father lives in a big house. He’s going there to prepare a place for them, to build a room for them to live. Once he completes the construction, he’ll come back to get them. Then he’ll take them to live with him so they can be where he is (John 14:2-3).

Though this may perplex modern day readers, two thousand years ago, the inference made sense to Jesus’s audience. They saw it as an allusion to marriage, to a spiritual wedding.

Jesus will build a bridal suite for his church. When it’s complete, we—collectively as his church—will marry him (Revelation 21:1-4). We will be the bride of Christ.

One day Jesus will come back to earth to get us. Then our wedding ceremony with him will take place, and we’ll live with him forever.

But right now, he has gone to prepare a place for us. And we wait for him to come back. We must be ready, for he could return at any moment—even in the middle of the night.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Avoid Spiritual Adultery, of Being Unfaithful to God

Jeremiah Compares the People’s Relationship with God to a Cheating Spouse

The prophet Jeremiah, along with many other writers in the Bible, accuse God’s people of spiritual adultery. They are unfaithful to their Lord. They cheat on him. They run around with other, lesser gods.

Marital Adultery

Cheating on a spouse is a situation most people readily comprehend, having experienced it, witnessed it in others, or faced that temptation themselves. The result of adultery is a damaged or destroyed marriage, broken hearts, and scars that last a lifetime.

In a marriage relationship, adultery—being unfaithful to your spouse—stands as a critical mistake, a potentially relationship-ruining act of selfishness. The same is true of God when we cheat on him. How our duplicity must break his heart.

Cheating on God

But how, you ask, do we cheat on God? We are unfaithful to our Creator when we put other pursuits before him, when we no longer allow him to be number one in our life.

Though in the Old Testament this means chasing after other gods, that practice isn’t so widespread today—at least not in a literal sense. But we do serve other gods in a figurative manner.

From a spiritual standpoint this is a potentially relationship-ruining act of selfishness.

Even more important than being faithful to our spouse is being faithful to God—both now and forever. Click To Tweet

Spiritual Adultery Examples

These acts of spiritual adultery may take many forms. This includes pursuing pleasure, recreation, and even idleness.

For many there are other gods that exist too. One is materialism: earning more money, buying more things, and accumulating more wealth. This unsatiated desire for more becomes the God that we worship because it displaces our Lord from his rightful place as being number one in our life.

Human relationships—though important—also threaten our right relationship with God. Anything that distracts us from him rages as a temptation to be unfaithful.

These adulterous pursuits disrespect God just as adultery disrespects a person’s spouse.

The Bride of Christ

Metaphorically speaking, as Jesus’s followers, we will collectively become his bride—the bride of Christ. John’s epic vision recorded in the book of Revelation captures this well. In the end of this age we—Jesus’s church—will prepare ourselves for our Savior, made ready and beautifully dressed for our betrothed. (Revelation 19:7 and Revelation 21:2).

Then we will unite with Jesus and live with him forever.

Faithfulness Matters

Even more important than being faithful to our spouse is being faithful to God—both now and forever.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 1-3 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 3:20.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

Visiting Churches Is Lot Like Dating

Visiting churches seems a lot like dating. It’s like dating churches.

Consider these two discussion questions:

1. Church websites and social media pages are like a dating profile, with the best photos—sometimes out-of-date or misleading—and featuring positive traits while ignoring flaws. 

What changes should you make online and in printed materials to present an accurate representation of your church?

2. If visiting a church is like dating, joining a church might correspond to marriage. When you join a church, you commit and stop seeing other churches. 

What can you do to help first-timers return, form meaningful connections, and commit to your faith community?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

How Can We Be Children of God if Jesus is the Only Son of God?

Discover How God Can Have One Son and Have Many Sons (and Daughters) Too

The Bible calls Jesus the Son of God. We see this in forty New Testament verses from speakers ranging from his disciples to his detractors, including evil spirits and even Satan.

Saying that Jesus is the Son of God suggests there’s only one Son. Indeed, other verses—such as John 3:16—call him God’s one and only Son.

This means that God is Jesus’s father, and Jesus is his only Son.

But if Jesus is the only Son of God, why does the Bible also call us sons and daughters (children) of God? If we receive him (John 1:12), are led by his Spirit (Romans 8:14), and have faith (Galatians 3:26), then we become children of God.

As his children, is that why we pray to him as “Our Father” (see Matthew 6:9) or should only Jesus get to do that?

The Bible is not contradicting itself. Jesus can be the one and only Son of God and at the same time, we can also be sons and daughters of God. Here are two ways to understand this.

The Bride of Christ

Jesus talks often about the groom (bridegroom) and his bride, implying that he is the groom and his followers are his bride. John the Baptist testified that he came to pave the way for the Messiah: Jesus, the bridegroom. The bride belongs to the groom (John 3:27-29).

The apostle John reinforces this in his epic vision that includes a future wedding of bridegroom and bride. Jesus is the Lamb, and we are his bride.

As the bride of Christ, we become God’s children through marriage. God has one Son, and through our marriage to his Son, we, too, become the children of God.

However, this idea of being spiritually married to Jesus is hard for many people to accept, especially men. Fortunately, there’s another analogy that’s easier to grasp.

Through Adoption

Another illustration of our relationship with Father God is adoption.

Paul writes that by receiving God’s spirit we’re adopted into God’s family, becoming his sons and daughters. Through God’s spirit, we can then call him, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Being adopted as his sons and daughters was God’s plan from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4-6).

Adoption is a beautiful image. As adopted children, God selects us; we’re chosen. The act is intentional. Through adoption we then become God’s heirs, co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 4:14). As heirs, we receive eternal life from him (Titus 3:7).

As God’s children we are heirs of all he has. This includes the gift of spending eternity with him. Click To Tweet

We Are Children of God

Through our spiritual marriage to Jesus, we become children of God. Through our spiritual adoption into his family, we also become children of God. As God’s children we are heirs of all he has. This includes the gift of spending eternity with him.

Praise Father God.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Were Adam and Eve Married?

The Bible Never Says that Adam and Eve Married

To consider Adam and Eve had children without the benefit of marriage is disconcerting to many; it assaults our traditional idea of matrimony and having kids.

The Bible, however, does refer to Eve as Adam’s wife and Adam as Eve’s husband. Well isn’t that marriage? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Consider Abraham and Sarah. Sarah gave her slave Hagar to Abraham to sleep with him and make a baby.

The Bible then refers to Hagar as Abraham’s wife, even though no marriage took place.

Based on these two stories, it seems the biblical idea of becoming husband and wife is connected to sex, not marriage. After all, as soon as Eve is created, the Bible says man will leave his parents, be united to his wife and they will become one.

I think the idea of becoming one implies permanence, a lifelong sexual commitment. Getting married isn’t mentioned. After this, in the next verse, Eve is called Adam’s wife.

Biblical Marriage

Marriage, by the way, isn’t cited in the biblical timeline for several centuries, some eight generations later (remember people lived for hundreds of years back then). The first occurrence of marriage is with Lamech, the father of Noah.

Some Bible scholars place extra emphasis on the first mention of a word in the Bible, using it to frame our understanding of the word.

This gives us another pause, for the first mention of marriage is in reference to polygamy, as in “Lamech married two women.” This is certainly a perversion of the idea of two people becoming one.

In all this, I’m not suggesting we disregard marriage, and I’m certainly not advocating polygamy.

My suggestions are that our idea of traditional marriage may not be as biblical as we think, that we need to be careful before judging people with differing practices, and that sex does indeed make us one, as in husband and wife.

May we view this oneness as sacred and lifelong.

[Read more in Genesis 2:25, Genesis 3:6, Genesis 16:3, Genesis 2:24, Genesis 4:19.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Bible Insights

Is Watering Animals a Prelude to Marriage?

In the Bible there’s the story of Jacob, who rolls away the stone from the well to water Rachel’s sheep. They get married.

Then there’s Moses. He rescues some shepherd girls when they are being harassed and provides water for their flocks. He marries one of them.

Performing simple acts of service result in some most amazing things. Click To Tweet

It’s just not a guy thing, either. Rebekah provides water for a stranger and his camels, showing herself to be the one for Isaac, son of the stranger’s master. They get married.

Sometimes performing simple acts of service result in some most amazing things.

[Genesis 29:10, Exodus 2:16-21, and Genesis 24:15-20]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.