“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 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 338

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29, NKJV).

What we are doing in this series is examine what the Scriptures say about eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood. In later presentations we will have much to say about John chapter 6. In the meantime, stay with us as we explore this subject one layer at a time. We want to shed light on all the necessary pieces which form the mosaic of how Jesus feeds His people. We concluded yesterday’s message on the theme of nourishment. Today, we will go deeper by addressing the question: In what ways does Jesus nourish His Church? After all, eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood boils down to the issue of nourishment. We will find out if the means by which Jesus nourishes us includes putting His flesh and blood in our mouth or not. To address this question today, we will appeal to the authority of two prominent Apostles, namely Peter and Paul.

Let us start with what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:25-29. We are interested in what he says about nourishment. He says, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes itjust as the Lord does the church” (v. 29). Here, Paul is urging husbands to do for their wives what Jesus did (and does) for the Church. But what is it that Jesus does for His wife, the Church? The answer is, Jesus “nourishes” the Church. And how does Jesus nourish the Church?

Paul gives us the answer in v. 25-27: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” The key ways Jesus nourished (nourishes) His Church are highlighted in bold font. Jesus nourished the Church by loving herdying for hersanctifying her and cleansing her. He did this so that His Church would be a beautiful, spotless and presentable bride, full of vitality.

After making this point, Paul told husbands to learn from Christ and nourish their wives as He did. Now we know that Jesus’ love for us is our nourishment. When He sanctifies and cleanses us, that too is His way of nourishing us. What is missing here is the idea that Jesus nourishes us by putting His flesh and blood in our mouth, down into our stomach. If Jesus would nourish the Church by putting His flesh and blood in our mouth, now would have been the perfect time for Paul to tell us. But he did not. Either Paul knew about this kind of nourishment (feeding on the Son of God via the alimentary canal) and did not tell us, or He was unaware that such a nourishment existed. The latter is the reality. Paul did not know about such nourishment.

Now let us turn to Peter. He was writing to Christians (most likely recent converts) scattered around “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). At one point, Peter said to them, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (2:2). When Peter speaks of “the word,” he is referring to the word of God. Earlier, he had reminded these believers that they became born again through the incorruptible word of God which was preached to them (1:23-25). Now Peter tells them that the word which brought about their new birth is the same word by which they would grow. Therefore, he encouraged them to nourish themselves on the pure milk of God’s word.

Here, as in the case of Paul, if chewing the flesh of Jesus was part of the believer’s nourishment, now would have been the best occasion for Peter to say so. But Peter new nothing about feeding believers by putting the Son of God in their mouth. He knew nothing about it because Jesus said nothing about it.  

We have said enough for today. We will continue next time, if the Lord wills. Until then, feed on Jesus by feeding on His word. Amen.

For further studyJohn 6:1-36; 15:1-17

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

Prayer Barriers: Dishonoring Your Wife

Daily Devotion | Day 296 

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [your wives] according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7, KJV).

So far, we have identified in the Bible two barriers to prayer: unforgiveness and doubt. Today, we will look at a third barrier. This time the barrier is located within marriage. Specifically, it applies to husbands. Therefore, if you are a husband or are planning to become one, you will find today’s message personally relevant. As usual, let’s briefly recall the purpose of the current series on “Prayer Barriers.”

Prayer is vital to our relationship with the Father. Therefore, if there are factors that can block our prayer from being heard, it’s necessary that we identify them. Identifying the root of a problem brings us closer to its solution. Fortunately for us, the Bible talks about these things. Our duty is to become acquainted with what the Bible teaches. Once a barrier is identified, the goal is for us to remove the obstacle and prevent it from being a problem in the future. Let’s look at today’s passage taken from 1 Peter.

In chapter 3 Peter had a word for married couples. He started with wives, reminding them to submit to their husbands, and to imitate the holy women in the Bible, in particular, Sarah (1 Peter 3:1-6). Next, as expected, Peter turned to husbands. His message for husbands is what you find in today’s opening Scripture. Let’s start with the last thing Peter said, which is, “that your prayers be not hindered.”

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter revealed something profound concerning marriage in general and husbands in particular. He revealed that a husband’s prayer can be hindered, depending on how he treats his wife. To prevent this from happening, Peter says husbands must dwell with their wives according to knowledge. In a husband’s relationship with his wife, he needs to be guided by knowledge on two levels.

First, he needs to know that the woman is “the weaker vessel.” Aware of this, the husbands needs to do what he can to uplift his wife. He does this by treating her with honor. When you honor someone, it means you esteem them and acknowledge them as having significant value in your eyes. But if you dishonor someone, you lower their value. For a husband, an attitude of dishonor will hinder his prayer.

Second, the husband will do well to remember that he and his wife are joint-heirs of “the grace of life” in Christ Jesus. In other words, in Christ, the couple has a common (joint) inheritance of God’s grace. Being head of the household, the husband is expected to be aware of this and treat his wife accordingly. As he honors his wife, he can be sure that his prayer is not hindered. 

Husbands, may the Lord grant you wisdom, understanding and strength as you lead your household. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study1 Samuel 1:1-8 and Ephesians 5:22-33