“Till Death Do Us Part?”

Invoking death during marriage is unwise, ungodly and dangerous. The Holy Spirit didn’t inspire the words, “till death do us part.” The words are very charming, even romantic, but they conceal a dangerous trap. It’s a self-inflicted curse in disguise. Christ wouldn’t teach us to use those words. Nor would the apostles.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve became a couple without any vow, let alone a vow about “till death do us part.”

Whoever invented the phrase, “till death do us part,” most likely meant no harm. Yet, the belief engendered by this phrase has exposed and continues to expose millions of couples to danger. We cannot call both God and death as witnesses to our marriage. Where there’s God, there’s no death.

Regardless of one’s intentions, to invoke death, sickness or poverty in a marriage vow is to enter into covenant with death, sickness and poverty, agreeing that these enemies have, or will have, power over you at some point. Invariably, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. No wonder many marriages feel dry and couples are constantly struggling with disease, unhappiness, and financial troubles. God cannot be party to such an arrangement.

By acknowledging death as having power over our marriage, we are, in a sense, yielding control of our marriage to death and admitting that death has the final say, not God. Surely, we pronounce our vows with a sincere heart. We mean to say we’ll remain committed to the relationship no matter the circumstances. That’s good and noble.

However, in this matter, our sincerity reveals our spiritual blindness. There’s nothing Christian about naming sickness, death or poverty in a marriage ceremony. There’s no advantage to aligning marriage with death, sickness or poverty. Love is forever. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Solomon, 8:7). Love is life.

Marriage, as understood by Christians, is of God, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ didn’t come into the world to teach us how to cope with sickness, death and poverty. He came to destroy them and he gave us authority to do the same should any of these enemies raise its ugly head.

It’s a grave error, therefore, to base Christian marriage on un-Christlike vows, no matter how ‘religious’ those vows appear on the surface. We enter into agreement with Christ and at the same time agree with sickness, death and poverty. Our good intentions don’t matter at this point. What matters is the inherent contradiction in our belief system.

There’s no spiritual justification for affirming belief in sickness, death or poverty. Weaving this harmful belief into the fabric of the marriage covenant exposes couples to the very enemies we hope to conquer.

As we grow in spiritual understanding, it’s important to adjust our beliefs and practices accordingly. There’s no shame in leaving behind harmful beliefs and practices. We must strip our marriage vows of any references to, and agreement with, sickness, poverty or death.

If we want marriages to flourish, it’s necessary to abandon our agreement with death, sickness and poverty. Instead, we must enter into covenant with life, abundance, health and prosperity.

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Stephen Ogoe

Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 3)

Daily Devotion | Day 337

“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and His church” (Ephesians 5:29-32, NKJV).

Yesterday we discussed Adam’s marriage covenant with Eve and how this covenant made them one flesh. We also noted that the one flesh principle is true for all married couples. Husband and wife are one flesh because they feed on each other. They do this through fellowship of their bodies, not through chewing of their flesh. The questions before us remain the same: At the Lord’s Supper, do we eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood? If so, how? If not, why not?

Toward the end of yesterday’s presentation, we noted that Jesus does indeed give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, but the means is not through our mouth. Feeding on Jesus does not involve swallowing Him the way we chew and swallow lamb chops. Today we will take our discussion one step further. Note carefully every word, every phrase and every line of our opening Scripture.

We are told that Adam is a type or figure of Jesus (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). The Bible calls Jesus, “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). In the Old Testament, Adam is paired with his wife, Eve. Similarly, in the New Testament Jesus is paired with His wife, the Church. Just as Adam had a marriage covenant with Eve, so does Jesus have a marriage covenant with the Church. Jesus is not paired with (or have a covenant with) any other woman. When Jesus took bread and wine, saying, “Take, eat; this is My body . . . Drink . . . For this is my blood of the new covenant (Matthew 26:26-28), He was inviting us to enter into a marriage covenant with Him. The price He paid to marry us was the sacrifice of His body and blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

“A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” was first applied to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:24). But now Paul applies it to Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5:29-32). In Paul’s own words, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and His church” (v. 32). Jesus left heaven’s glory and came to earth to be joined to His wife, the Church. Because He did this, the two (Jesus and the Church) have become one flesh just as any husband and wife are one flesh. Keep the word “flesh” in mind. In v. 29 Paul writes that no one ever hated his own flesh. By “his own flesh,” Paul is referring to the man’s wife. But the same is true for the wife. Her husband is her flesh indeed. Therefore, when a man sees his wife, he sees his own flesh. Likewise, when a woman sees her husband, she sees her own flesh.

Applied to Jesus, when He sees the Church, He sees His own flesh. And when the Church sees Jesus, she sees her own flesh. Jesus and the Church now form one indivisible entity. Without hesitation, Paul drove the point home when he stated, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (v. 30). This reminds us of what Adam said when he saw Eve, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Notice the striking similarity.

Jesus’ invitation that we eat His flesh and drink His blood does not involve chewing His flesh as meat in our mouth. It is an invitation to be married (and stay faithfully married) to Him, thereby becoming one flesh and one blood with Him. When He tells us to eat His flesh and drink His blood, He is speaking like a husband to his wife: “Take all of me. In turn, I take all of you. Together, we will be one flesh and one blood.”

Jesus is not asking His bride (the Church) to swallow Him like a piece of meat. Jesus is a Person and our Husband. We feed on Him through love, obedience, fellowship and holiness – abiding by the terms of our covenant with Him. That is how we stay nourished. And it is in this sense that Jesus is our Bread of Life.

To be continued next time, God willing. Remain faithful to Christ. Amen.

For further study1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and John 6:47-58

Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 336

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NKJV).

Jesus said He will give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink (John 6:48-58). Then at supper with His disciples He took bread and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Then the cup, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do . . . in remembrance of Me” (v. 25). Therefore, when we eat the bread and drink the cup at the Lord’s Supper, are we eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood? This is the question we are discussing.

As we delve into what Jesus said, we want to look at as many relevant Scripture passages as possible. One of these passages is found in Genesis 2:21-24. Our opening Scripture captures only v. 24, but we will not overlook the remaining verses. At first this passage may seem to have nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper. But soon, we will discover that it does. Recall what we said yesterday about marriage and covenant.

God put Adam to sleep and from him, He made Eve. Then He presented Eve to Adam. When Adam saw her, he exclaimed with delight, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (2:23). What the Bible said next is striking, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). What we have here is the first marriage covenant.

We will focus on the idea of joining and becoming one flesh. A bond had been established between Adam and Eve through marriage. This bond created a union of the two individuals. So strong was the bond that Adam and Eve ceased to be separate flesh. They became one flesh. Applying this truth to every husband and wife, Jesus declared, “so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:8-9).

The union of Adam and Eve meant he was in her and she was in him. But at the same time, they did not lose their distinct individual identities. Adam was still Adam and Eve was still Eve. It is the same with all married couples. They are one flesh in the real sense of the word, yet they preserve their unique individuality. We now must point out an interesting fact. 

By what means do husband and wife become one flesh? They become one flesh as a result of the marriage covenant which is ‘activated’ through intercourse. Without intercourse, we cannot properly speak of one flesh. This explains why Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He [God] says, ‘shall become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:16). Observe that Paul uses “body” and “flesh” interchangeably. The joining takes effect as soon as a man and a woman have intercourse. Whether they are married or not, is irrelevant. If they are married, they become one flesh in God’s sight, legally and righteously. If they are not married, they still become one flesh in God’s sight, but illegally and sinfully (fornication or adultery). The first instance draws God’s blessing, but the second draws His wrath (Ephesians 5:3-7).

We must point out that the Bible refers to husband and wife as one flesh in a real and literal sense. However, for them to become one flesh, the man does not have to cut his flesh and serve it on a plate for the wife to eat. Nor does he have to bleed in a cup and ask the wife to drink his blood. The wife does not have to cut her flesh, either. They both are one flesh but the means by which they become one flesh is not through a mutual consumption of their flesh and blood. To become one flesh, they do not need to serve their flesh to one another as one does with barbecue or steak. Rather, they become one flesh by entering into a marriage covenant via intercourse. This is the only means God has provided for a man and a woman to become one flesh. 

Once the marriage covenant is in force, husband and wife abide in each other in a loving union as one flesh. In this sense, they partake of each other’s flesh and blood. One flesh cannot exist without fellowship of the flesh (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). In other words, there can be no union unless both parties ‘feed’ on each other. And it is the marriage covenant which creates this fellowship of two bodies, resulting in one body. In the end, husband and wife experience a mutual partaking of body and blood through their covenant, not through tearing away each other’s flesh in vampire-like fashion. 

What we have said so far brings us to our main question: When Jesus speaks of giving us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, is He suggesting that we swallow Him in our mouth; or is He inviting us to something more profound? We have just begun. In the coming days we will build on what we have said today, if the Lord permits.

Until then, remain in the Lord. Amen.

For further studyEphesians 5:22-33

Eat Jesus’ Flesh and Drink His Blood? (Pt 1)

Daily Devotion | Day 335

“For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me” (John 6:55-57, NKJV).

Our message for the next few days will be a continuation of what has been said previously in The Lord’s Supper: Lessons from Corinth. Although the two messages are closely related, we found it helpful to treat the current series as a distinct sub-topic within the discourse about the Lord’s Supper. We did this for three reasons. Firstly, what we are about to discuss is indispensable if we want to grasp the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, the topic is extremely rich and profound. As such it requires its own time and space. Thirdly, it is a subject that has generated controversy, division and confusion among Christians for centuries. 

Christians deserve clarity about what Jesus did for their salvation, especially regarding the body and blood of Jesus. We can benefit from what Jesus did if we know what it means for us. We hope the current series will further this cause. If you have not read the previous five-part series on the Lord’s Supper, please do so. This teaching is an extension of that.

What Jesus has done for us – in His death and resurrection – is marvelous. Our responsibility and privilege is to examine it critically, and appropriate it for our edification and for the sole glory of the Father. As the title suggests, the question we will be addressing throughout this series is: When we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper, are we eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood? Some (notably Roman Catholics) say, “Yes;” others (mostly Protestants/Evangelicals) say, “No.” And there are others who are ambivalent. But what do the Scriptures say?

As we tackle this question, we will look at what happened in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:21-24). Our study will take us also to Capernaum where Jesus said He would give us His flesh and blood (John 6:22-59). Additionally, we will examine vital truth from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:28-33) as well as highlight lessons from David’s friendship with Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:11-17). Throughout this teaching, there are two Bible concepts we want to keep in mind: marriage and covenant. These two concepts are the keys for understanding what Jesus said about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. In other words, the concepts of marriage and covenant provide the ‘hermeneutical parameters’ or framework for understanding and celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

The principle of fellowship, union or oneness is well established in the Bible, usually in the context of a covenant. Understanding how this principle works will clarify  how the Lord’s Supper works. Fellowship is a mutual sharing which makes the parties involved become (literally) one. This means at the Lord’s Supper fellowship we are joined to the Lord’s body and blood and the Lord is joined to us as one. Paul made this clear in the passage we read yesterday (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The cup we bless, he said, is fellowship (communion) of the Lord’s blood, and the bread we eat is fellowship (communion) of the Lord’s body.

What Paul said is no different from what we hear from Jesus in today’s opening Scripture. The Lord says, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” Notice that Jesus has His mind on fellowship or union with Him. As we partake of His body and blood, it leads to an intermingling. In a manner of speaking, Jesus passes into us and we pass into Him, thereby becoming one reality. Therefore, Jesus and the Lord’s Supper participant, while remaining distinct individuals, essentially are one.

We will pause here. What we have said so far is an introduction. God willing, we will go in-depth starting tomorrow. Remain blessed in Christ and have a wonderful weekend. Amen.

For further study: John 6:1-59 

Ruth: An Icon of Loyalty (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 327

“But Ruth said . . . For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV).

[Correction: In yesterday’s message, I incorrectly referred to Ruth as the grandmother of David. The fact is, Ruth was the great grandmother of David]

We began yesterday to reflect on Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi. In addition, we spoke briefly about the value of loyalty and the role it plays in love and friendship. Today we will conclude the message by taking a close look at the content of the vow Ruth made to her mother-in-law. Our words are part and parcel of who we are. Consequently, we cannot separate ourselves from our words. The integrity of your words affect the integrity of your character. The stakes are even higher when you make a vow or a promise. Ruth’s words fall into the latter category. She did not simply express a desire to follow Naomi. She vowed she would. Her vow was solemn, specific and comprehensive. She meant every word she spoke, and she made good on it.

What is interesting is that Ruth was not entering into a covenant with Naomi. A covenant usually involves two parties who both make a mutual commitment to fulfill the terms of the covenant. Naomi did not ask Ruth for any commitment. Nor did she pledge any commitment to Ruth. Therefore, this was all Ruth’s initiative and hers alone. Her vow looks similar to the marriage vows we have today. But Ruth was not getting married to Naomi. She was not taking office, either. No one had promised to give her any benefits in return for her commitment to Naomi.

When a man and a woman exchange marital vows, they anticipate mutual benefits arising from their union. These benefits include, but are not limited to, offspring, carnal intimacy, financial security, job security, tax benefits and social status. In Ruth’s case, she could not count on any of the above-mentioned benefits. She had little to no expectation of receiving any favors from Naomi in exchange for her loyalty. Her vow, therefore, was primarily a unilateral commitment of loyalty motivated by genuine love for her beloved mother-in-law. If Ruth could be this loyal to her mother-in-law, one wonders how loyal she was to her late husband. If you are a man and you get to marry a woman like Ruth, I say, blessed are you among men.

Before we sum up, let us point out something else about the things Ruth said. First, she said would go wherever Naomi went. Geographical boundaries would not make her abandon Naomi. She was not afraid to travel beside the one she loved. Second, she said she would lodge wherever Naomi lodged. In Ruth’s eyes, Naomi was family. If all Naomi could afford was a single room, she would be with her. If she even ended on the streets, she would not leave Naomi’s side. Third, Ruth embraced Naomi’s people as her own. Race, ethnicity and nationality would not come between her and her loyalty to Naomi. Because she loved Naomi, she loved her people also.

Fourth, she embraced Naomi’s God. She did not despise the LORD, but was willing to abandon her own gods and serve JEHOVAH. Keep in mind, Naomi did not ask Ruth to abandon her religion. This step of faith was Ruth’s alone. Fifth, Ruth vowed to die and be buried where Naomi would die and be buried. She determined to honor, cherish and love Naomi even in the latter’s death. And to seal her commitment, she invoked the LORD, asking Him to judge her if she failed to honor her vow to Naomi.

Ruth’s loyalty knew no bounds. It did not fluctuate. It was stable and it extended to the very end of life. By her loyalty, Ruth became the daughter Naomi never had. In this, she became a true icon of loyalty. Looking to her example, let us review how we treat the people we say we love. Amen.

For further studyRuth 2:1-23