Marriage as an effective tool for evangelism (2)

Series Title:  Better things are coming

Scripture Readings

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7


A wool growing farmer on an outback station once made this remark about Christians and effective evangelism (and he probably just applied some principles of breeding and selecting stock to build up his sheep):  “Pastor, there’s one sure way for Christians to get the upper hand over non-Christians – we need to start breeding Christians!”  He went on to say, “If every Christian marriage can be successful in raising Christian children, and they do the same thing, before long we would populate this planate.”

His premise is probably somewhat naive and simplistic, but there is something about the truth in it.  Can you for just one moment let your mind go and work out how much different this planet would have been if every child growing up in a Christian home, would continue to do the same – generation after the other.

Biblical framework:  Marriage

I find it very significant that the Bible, right at the beginning, states that God created animals and made it possible for them to multiply – and this was possible because there were generally two opposites, male and female.  When He eventually made man to rule over what He had made, He gave him a helper – and both of them were created in the image of God.  So, creation was blessed by the first marriage mentioned in the Bible – a work of God’s hand.

When Jesus began his ministry on earth, He chose to perform his first miracle at a wedding celebration.  it is as if Christ knew the importance of marriage as a way of building the kingdom of God.

The last few pages of the Bible take us again to a wedding:  this is the wedding of the Lamb, Christ Himself.  Right now He is preparing the rooms and the mansion of his Father, and when the fulness of time arrives, He will come back and take his church to be with Him.  The marriage will be consummated when He purifies his bride with fine linen, and being washed clean from all sin in the blood of the Groom Himself, they will be united with Him forever.

Three images of marriage;  right in the beginning with creation, right at the beginning redemption in Jesus Christ, and then the image of and eternal union with the Groom at the end of time.

The day God “took a wife”

The Bible is full of images of a marriage relationship between God and his people.  Some might find it offensive to think about our relationship with God is this way, but we cannot escape the expressions pointing to this in the Scriptures.  Let’s listen to a few Scripture passages:

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5, NIV)

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5, NIV)

“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:14, NIV)  

It all began when God rescued his people out of Egypt.  The very same word the Bible uses for a man who “takes” a woman in marriage is used in Exodus when God rescued his people from sin.  For instance:  when Abraham pretended that Sarah is his sister and give her to Abimelech the Lord appeared to Him with these words:  But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him,

“You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” (Genesis 20:3, NIV)  

Deuteronomy 24:1 uses the expression.  When Boaz married Ruth, he used the same expression.  Now, let’s go to Exodus.  God sends Moses to his fellow Israelites with these words:

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6–7, ESV)

Ezekiel chapter 16 in very explicit way describes the relationship between God and his people:  God picked up this young girl who was rejected by every one else and took her to be his wife.  The book of Hosea is all about the marriage relationship between God and his people.  Their unfaithfulness is expressed as adultery.

Now, what was God’s purpose of taking Israel as his wife.  We can only look at one passage:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her (or Hephzibah) , and your land Married (Beulah); for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. (Isaiah 62:3–4, ESV)

Without confusing you, “husband” in Hebrew is ba’al.  It can also mean “owner”, or “lord”.  In this sense God is the husband, or the Lord and owner of his people:  He bought them in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  The world Beulah in the verse in a way refers to the other partner of the marriage:  the woman, or the bride.  The whole picture is so beautiful:  the diadem, the beauty, the lonesomeness change into the delight of the groom.

The point to make further is this:

The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. (Isaiah 62:2, ESV)

The relationship between God and his bride-church is to show the nations who both God and the church is.  The whole idea is that this attractive and beautiful marriage will draw people to be part of it, seeking the God who so loves and cares for his bride that they too will want to be part of it.

The husband under God

With all of this in mind, we now go to 1 Peter 3:7

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)

This is not the easiest verse in the letter of Peter.  But a good way of interpreting Scripture is to have other passages help you.  Now, quite often in the Old Testament where the wife is referred to as “vessel” it has in mind the marriage relationship.  The husband, the “lord” “took” his “vessel” and cared for her and loved her.  In a sense, both of them are “vessels” in the hands of God as part of his bride-church, but the husband caring for his “vessel”, his wife, cares for here using the relationship of God between Him and his people as example:  he cares for her as he cares for his own body.  As a matter of fact, this is what Paul had in mind in Ephesians 5:

In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, (Ephesians 5:28-29, ESV)

She was made from the man, in a sense he is not complete without her.  So is the wife always part of her husband.  The husband acts like the Lord God, who will do everything to see that his “weaker vessel” is cared for, that she is loved.

Commentators see the resemblance between this verse and 1Thessalonians 4:4

that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, (1 Thessalonians 4:4, ESV)

The Greek in this verse uses the word “vessel” (translated as “body”), and adds the word “own” (translated as “control”).  The context here is very clear:  live holy, avoid sexual immorality, not in passionate lust like the heathen, no one should wrong his brother (which in the context means to not defile the marriage of another).  Another translation of this verse can then go like this:

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from fornication, that every one of you know how to hold his own vessel in sanctification and honour (i.e., live with his wife in sanctification and honour), not in passionate just like the Gentiles who know not God.

This corresponds with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:2

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2, ESV)

The unfaithfulness and spiritual adultery of God’s people stood in the way of the nations to seek God.  In the same way, unfaithfulness in the marriage will stand in the way of outsiders seeking the Lord.  On the contrary, the faithful and godly marriage reflects something of the relationship between Christ and his church, and it’s at this point that marriage is such a mighty tool for evangelism:  it is not only an example to your children to love the Lord, but it is attractive to outsiders.  It becomes one of the best and successful tools for evangelism.

Understanding and knowledge

A translation of 1 Pet 3:7 reads:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way  (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)

Most of us will never know how to understand our wives!  So, what does this verse tell us?  I know one can stretch the point a bit, but “know” and “knowledge” in the Scriptures very often refers to the intimate relationship between husband and wife.  In the same way do we find the word in Hosea – the book about God’s marriage relationship with his people – and brings out this charge against the people:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you …(Hosea 4:6, ESV)

Of course this knowledge implies knowledge, but the lack thereof stems from their poor relationship with the Lord.

In the same way, it is possible to understand the words in 1 Peter 3:7 that the husband’s relationship to God is somehow conditioned by or dependent on his relationship with his wife, and vice versa.  If husbands do not apply everything they know about God and his Word in their marriage relationships, marriage will suffer.  The verse says:  both will receive the gift of life.  It is God who gives it, and He is most pleased when husband and wife live in a relationship which reflects his relationship with his church.

A good marriage and answered prayers

A crippled marriage relationship has a result a crippled prayer life.  A healthy marriage has a result a healthy prayer life.  A husband who does not know Christ and his redeeming love for his church, which is his bride-church, will not know how to pray for his family, or even the word around him.  We cannot try to get around this.  We may say how many prayers, and we might even be serious about it, but according to this text, we will have unanswered prayers if there is something wrong in our relationship as marriage partners.

I think the same applies for the wives:  if they do not understand their relationship with Christ correctly, and live in perfect submission to Him as the Bible says, they prayers will remain unanswered.

A house that prays together is a house that stays together.  I wonder if our stale prayer life as a church can not be taken back to unfulfilled marriage relationships.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 4th October 2015

Marriage as a tool for Evangelism (1)

Better Things are Coming

Scripture Readings

  • Ephesians 5:22-33;
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7

Catching up

Christians are people who once were lost, but:

  • who received a new life from God by grace
  • who have an eternal hope which cannot be destroyed
  • who believe that the Bible is about God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ
  • who now live as aliens in this world
  • who are now satisfied in Christ, and say “no” to sinful desires
  • who now freely submit to worldly authority for the honour of God
  • who only fear and ultimately obey God as their highest authority
  • who need to bring holiness into the work place

Today’s message

  • Irrespective of social standing, race or gender, all who believe in Christ are heirs of God’s grace in Christ
  • All Christians submit to authority as God ordained for his glory
  • The beauty of a Godly marriage is attractive, even to the unbelievers


More and more people seem to forget Henry Ford’s sage advice when asked on his 50th wedding anniversary for his rule for marital bliss and longevity. He replied, “Just the same as in the automobile business, stick to one model.”  He’s talking about faithfulness.  This advice does not rest on sound Biblical principles, but it reflects the principle which God instituted.  Yes, marriage is between one man and one woman for live, with the exclusion of any other person.  Any other definition cannot stand the test of Scriptures.

The fundamentals:  all who believe in Christ are heirs of God’s grace in Christ

Peter writes:

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7, NIV)

There are people out there who want to discredit the Bible, leaving the impression that it endorses an idea that men are superior to women.  What a nonsense!

The verse we just read states very clearly:  husbands and wives are both partners of the gracious gift of life.  As far as a husband standing before he became a Christian is concerned, there is no difference between him and an unsaved wife:  both stand guilty before the throne of God and both will end up sharing the same eternal punishment.  If the husband became a Christian, God’s grace turns him over from eternal damnation to become someone who shares in the grace of God; the same thing happens with his wife.  Other religions might want to treat women as second class citizens with no rights to forgiveness and salvation – this is not true of Christianity.  Paul writes:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28–29, NIV)

As a matter of fact, up to this point in the letter Peter works on the principle that all who respond to the Gospel call and come to Christ, are partakers of the new birth through the Word of God.  All, and this includes husbands, wives, sons, daughters slaves and free,  become part of the holy nation and the royal priesthood spoken of in chapter two.  Yes, they were once living in darkness, but are now called into the marvellous light of God.  All thus changed by the grace of God find in themselves war against the things of this world, and find themselves on the road of a pilgrim in a world where they have no permanent address.

One very important lesson we need to take along from the Scriptures is this:  most forms of relationships mentioned in the Bible reflects something of the relationship between God and his people.  God says of Israel:  I am your husband.  Of the church the Bible says that she is the bride of Christ.  God’s people are known as the sons and daughters of God.  Even the relationship between slave and master reflects something of the relationship between God and his people.  We saw that last week:  Christian slaves in this world become salves to Christ, and brothers to other Christians.

This is an extremely important principle:  healthy earthly social relationships do reflect the relationship God has with his people;  warped earthly relationships make people to look at God in a bad way.  We will come back to this point.

God ordained authority for his glory

As we have seen two or three weeks ago, God is a God of order:  He ordained authority, even the authority of kings and rulers.  Paul writes:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1, NIV)

The fifth Commandment forms the basis of all authority:  “Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land Lord your God is giving you.”  The Larger Catechism puts is this way:  “… not only natural parents but all superiors in age and gifts and especially … those over us in authority , whether in family, church or government.

As such we all honour governments, even the bad ones – although we reserve our highest respect and fear for God, who put all authorities in place;  we also respect and honour those over us in the workplace and in the school.  And, now – and this is the prickly point for some – we submit under God to what He instituted for the best way for a marriage and a family to work:  wives submit to husbands, and husbands submit to God – not because the husband is intrinsically better or superior, or because the wife is fundamentally inferior.  No, the same principle is valid in the workplace:  the employer is not better than the employee, in the same way as the policeman is not intrinsically better that the citizen, or the judge is superior than the witness of the one charged.

God ordained order, because He is a God of order.  And as far as marriage and family is concerned, God ordained for the husband and father to lead his family.  It is never about the husband, but it is always about the husband between God and his family – all for the sake of God’s glory.  In the end, my dear brother, you lead your family not to honour you; you are not the one who gets the glory – your responsibility is to live in such a way before your wife and children that they – and the world around you! – will find it easier to believe in God as Father.  There are children wandering the streets who just can’t reconcile the idea of a loving God because they cannot fathom a Heavenly Father who loves, respects, is trustworthy and caring if they look at their own father.

The beauty of a godly marriage

O, if only we had enough time today to step by step go through the verses of our chapter.

Remember the remark of last week:  the best gift the church of Christ can give to the world would be to live like the church of Christ.  If only husbands and wives can be like these verses instructs us; if only dads and moms can consequently reflect the principles of these verse our world would be so much different.


The very principle that applied to all to submit to worldly authority, even to the godless Caesar, and the same principle that applied to salves in relationship to their masters, and to masters to their slaves, is continued into the next section.  What does it say:  Christians, now aliens and pilgrims in this world live under God, but obey Him as they submit to what He ordained for an orderly society.

For wives to submit, or to be submissive to husbands in our day is heresy.  The spirit of our time, especially driven by the Feminist Movement, is to reject male authority, and even to hate it.  Let’s add to this that scores of men hate the idea of being the leaders of their families.  Yet, the God of order ordained it, and as such it must be good.

If wives really understand what God demands of husbands this godly submission will be a delight, and not a infringement on their social rights.

The behaviour of a submissive wive is ruled, first of all be here submission to God.  God through his Spirit living in her, changes her whole attitude to those around her.  If she became a Christian as a married wife, her life – even without words – can draw her husband closer to God.  Everything she does is to live like the church as the bride of Christ before her husband.  She is pure and reverent in living out the Gospel – the Word which her husband still does not want to hear, but now see being played out before his eyes.  They way she does her homework, care for her family, and live in marriage relationship with her husband becomes a sermon preached well.  Her obedience to God sets the example of reverence and worship to God.  Her true beauty does not lie in outward adornment, but comes from her heart.  If she can obey me because she loves her Saviour even if do not treat her well, then surely there must be something in this Saviour.

The Christian wive is not forbidden to have jewellery, but her beauty does not rely on the glitter and gold.  Her beauty is not dependent on her hairdos, however, she will always present well, not because she represents a paint company or a cosmetics house, but because she represents her Saviour and his bride, washed and purified in his blood.  The beauty she wants to display to her husband and family is the ageless beauty of a sinner restored to God.

That is why she has a gentle spirit.  She is gentle, calm and collected.  Why?  She reflects the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Gal 5:22). This is what God looks on as being really beautiful; its the kind of beauty which God values greatest.

God-worshiping women who lived long ago did the same.  Take Sarah as example.  She was confident that God would fulfil what He had promised, and although Abraham kept seemingly aimlessly wandering from one point to the other, only holding on the the promise of God, Sarah called him, “My lord”.  Although not always, she hoped in God and were tender and obedient to her husband.  If Abraham is the father of all believers, then surely Sarah is the mother of them all.  Take her example:  even when she was beyond her years of childbearing, she trusted God through Abraham, and she experienced the joy of holding a baby of her own at the age of ninety.


My dear friends, the wives gathered here this morning, does your life display these qualities?  Do you represent your Saviour to your husband and children with the beauty that lasts and comes from within?  Are you a picture of the bride of Christ wishing to do the bidding of your Groom?

Evangelism, winning souls for Christ, can and should begin right in your house.  Your family should always be your first target.

I love the words of this old gospel song:

While kneeling by her bedside in our cottage on the hill 

My mother prayed her blessings on me there 

She was talking there to Jesus while everything was still 

And I heard my mother call my name in prayer

She was anxious for her boy to be just what he ought to be 

And she asked the Lord to take him in his care 

Just the words I can’t remember but I know she prayed for me 

For I heard my mother call my name in prayer

So I gave my heart to Jesus and I’m living now for Him 

And someday I’ll go and meet Him in the air 

For He heard my mother praying and He saved my soul from sin 

Yes He heard my mother call my name in prayer

Yes I heard my mother call my name in prayer 

She was pourin’ out her heart to Jesus there 

Then I gave my heart to Him and He saved my soul from sin 

Yes I heard my mother call my name in prayer

Summing up

  • All who believe in Christ are heirs of God’s grace in Christ
  • God ordained authority for his glory
  • The beauty of a godly marriage – evangelism begins at home

Sermon Preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 20 September 2015

Holiness in the workplace

Series:  Better things are coming

Scripture Readings

  • Philemon 1
  • 1 Peter 2:18-25

Catching Up

Christians are people who were once were lost in sin, but:

  • who received a new life from God by grace
  • who come to Christ and honour Him
  • who spiritually sacrifice praise to God
  • who draw from eternal hope to overcome present suffering
  • who now live as aliens
  • who are now satisfied in Christ, and say “no” to sinful desires
  • who now freely submit to worldly authority for the honour of God
  • who respect worldly authority because kings are under God
  • who only fear and ultimately obey God as their highest authority


Holiness in the workplace:

  • Christians are always mindful of their salvation in Christ Jesus
  • Christians always follow the example of Christ Jesus
  • Christians always respect those in authority over them
  • Christians demand no right other than what they enjoy in Christ


It would be reasonable to think that all politicians, once elected into parliament, would aspire to become a minister of some department, or even become Premier of Prime Minister.  In Australian politics, especially in the current climate, there are two departments considered to be prickly ones:  Industrial Relations and Immigration.  Both departments can prove to be full of land mines; think about dealing with Unions on one hand, and refugees on the other hand.

Our text deals with both:  we are refugees on a working visa, without any right or citizenship; and we find ourselves in the workplace every day, either as employer, or as employee.  The question is, how do Christians live as employers and as employees – sometimes in hostile environments?

Christians belong to Christ

In a seminar I recently attended the question about what the church has to offer to this world was on the table.  The short answer was:  the greatest gift the church of Christ can give to this world is to live like the church of Christ.  if we apply this to the workplace we can sum it up by saying that Christians need to radically live out who they are in Christ in the way they do their work, and in the they they treat their workers.We are Christians because we belong to Christ; our very name connects us to Him who we serve – we slaves of Christ, and we need to seek his glory in anything we do because Christ connected us to Him.  How?

Let’s begin at the end of this chapter, verse 24-25:

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24–25)

Verse 25:  We were like lost sheep, going our own way. We faced danger and death and, like the lost sheep, we could not find our home back to God.  We were not born with spiritual compasses to find our way back home.  Delivered out into the snares and pitfalls of our archenemy, the devil, our life was hopeless, without sense and meaning, without future.  Paul puts it this way:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10–18)

But God…

But God … The grace of God in Jesus Christ is this:  Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree, by his wounds we have been healed.  These words come from Isaiah 53, that wonderful chapter in the Old Testament referring to Christ as the suffering Servant.  When Philip explained to the Ethiopian in his chariot (Acts 8) the meaning of this chapter about Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, he believed and was saved.  He was made a new man in Christ.  He became a servant of Christ, a Christian.

This is what happens to every Christian: out of the darkness, as Peter puts it earlier in this chapter, God calls us into his marvellous light.  His call is based on the work of Christ who is the Cornerstone once rejected by the builders.

What now?  No-one walks away from Christ the same way he or she came to Him.  Listen:  “So that we might die to sin and live for righteousness”.  We are united with Christ, we are forgiven and healed, we return to Christ on the calling of God through the Gospel to die to sin – and live for righteousness.  The Bible calls it first of all repentance, but repentance for the Christian never stops – it continues in the daily repentance of sanctification:  to more and more we say “no” to the world” and say “yes” to see the will of Christ displayed through our Christian witness.

With this in mind let’s go to the second point.

Christians need to live like Christ

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21, NIV)

There is not an moment in the life of a Christian that he or she should take his eyes off Christ.  In every situation, under all circumstances, by and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we must follow Him.  A true disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who walks with Christ and learns from Him.  I find it interesting that Jesus demanded of his disciples to follow HIM, not in the first instance remember his words.  How important that might be to know the Bible, read it and even drill into our memory some verses of the Bible, these things cannot take the place of our complete submission to Christ and to walk with Him.  Listen to John 15:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)

O, may we as church of the Lord Jesus Christ understand these words – it will make all the difference.  This is exactly what Peter wanted those who read his letter wanted to understand:  Christian living is not memorise and a set of rules; Christian living is to walk in the shadow of Him who healed us by his wounds.  At his command we do, and for his sake we follow his example.

What does all of this to do with the workplace and the way we are good employers and employees?   In short, we need to do as He set the example.

Respect for bosses and labourers


“Submit to your masters in all respect.”  Another way of translating this is “Show your masters all the respect you can.”

When Peter wrote this letter, working as a slave was very common.  Slaves outnumbered free people in cities like Rome. Not all of the slaves were uneducated; in fact many of them had a very fine education, so much so that the majority of the teachers, doctors, and other professionals belonged to this class. Can you remember how the old Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey sneered at the young lady teacher, saying that education is of no use to high society for as long as there are people of the lower classes who know how to do arithmetic and can write?

Slaves had no rights; they were completely owned by their masters, who did with them as they pleased.   And some master were horrible.  The text in 1Peter 2 refers to “crooked” masters; they were unjust and treated the slaves harshly.

Some of Peter’s readers became Christians after they were bought as slaves.  If they were free in Christ, and if they now belong to another Kingdom, did that imply that they were free from their masters, even the bad ones?  No, Peter said, take your salvation as Christian into your workplace and live as Christian by the example of Christ, as someone saved from the slavery of sin.

Christians are not called to be Christians only on a Sunday.  That’s where we make a mistake.  The way we do our work every day is in itself an enormous witness.  Paul writes:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, (Ephesians 6:5–7)

Colossians 3 puts it this way:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23–24)

The worker on the workshop floor, the mechanic under the oil-dripping car, the office worker trying to make the books balance, the teacher trying to instil knowledge in their students, do what they do for Christ.  Yes, our trustworthiness, punctuality, honesty and reliability are things that adorn our message of Christ.  We need to do what we do very well; if we did, talking about Christ becomes so much easier, and makes so muck more sense.  The opposite is glaringly true:  the unreliable, untrustworthy and dishonest worker will have a hard time to try to convince his unbelieving employer to follow Christ.  If the attitude of Christ is reflected in our everyday work, then there is something of a holiness in the workplace, then the workplace becomes on of the most important files for evangelism.  Even if it means that we take it on the chin when we are treated badly – because this says our text, is what our Lord did.  And besides, the text says it is grace, or a gracious thing to do.


Not all of us work for someone – we have people working for us.  Our text in 1 Peter does not deal with it, so I am not going to elaborate on the subject, other to take what Paul writes to Philemon:  A worker who has become a Christian – and all Christian employers should pray for, and work towards the salvation of their employees – is better than a slave, he is a dear brother.  If he or she is not there yet, treat them as Christ would have in love and respect.

Just a word to contemplate:  Christian employees working for Christian employers should not automatically expect favours because they are in the service of a brother/sister; in this situation, everything the Bible says about holiness in the workplace stands.  The opposite is also true:  the Christian employer has no right to exploit his Christian employee, purely because Christian workers might be willing to walk a second mile without complaining.  Sadly, many Christian employers dodge appointing Christian employees (and vice versa) because some Christians can be so un-Christian in the workplace.  What a charge against Christianity!

One “right” – my standing in Christ

I think we would understand the Bible wrongly if we think it endorses the practice of slavery – especially as it was practiced in the time of the Roman Empire.  What the apostles wanted the new Christians to understand very clearly is that they did not become Christians to overthrow all laws and customs.  Surely the outcome of their testimony and the way they practiced their walk in the Lord did call for better work practices, and rightly so did Christians take the lead in the abolition of slavery, while the rest of the world clung to it purely to exploit their labourers.

So, ultimately, for the Christian at least, we do not claim as absolute standard and rule our rights under present governments or workers unions.  My worth does not lie in my rights; my worth lies in my standing before God who called me to be his own through Jesus Christ who took my sin upon Him.  Therefore, in some cases Christians might work the extra hour or two without pay; they might need to take it when they are not treated according to the standards of this world.  After all, I think Christians should always approach their labour as service, first of all to God:  it is He who enabled us to work and to earn a living.  If things are going hopelessly wrong for Christians in the workplace, their first port of call is not industrial action, but a bended knee before the Saviour.


Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 13 September 2015

Living under worldly authority

Series:  “Better things are coming”

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 45:1-9
  • 1 Peter 2:13-17

Series so far

Christians are people who once were lost, but:

  • who received a new life from God by grace
  • who come to Christ and honour Him
  • who spiritually sacrifice praise to God
  • who draw from eternal hope to overcome present suffering
  • who now live as aliens
  • who are now satisfied in Christ, and say “no” to sinful desires

Summary of this sermon

  • Why do we need to submit to worldly authority?
  • We submit as people made free by God
  • We submit to honour God
  • Must we submit under all circumstances?


Kim Davies, county clerk in the state of Kentucky was jailed last week.  She was supposed to issue marriage certificates to same sex-couples.  Kim Davies said:

“I promised to love him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home…” 

She described how she became a Christian and said she is unable to believe anything else. The court ruled that her good faith belief is simply not a viable defence.  Should she have resigned from her position before all of this happened?  We do not know the full answer just now.  But what is clear from all of what has happened, we know that it is surely far more difficult to be a Christian in the once Christian America.

The Christians to whom Peter wrote became citizens of a new kingdom.  Their highest allegiance was to God and not to the Caesar.  Everyone else saw the Caesar as a god who made life possible for them.  He presented himself as god and they worshipped him as god.  But Christians did not bow to him.  Caesar worshippers held that the Christians turned against the gods of the old who had made Rome strong; they had this superstitious believe that Christians were responsible for the disasters which were overtaking the Mediterranean world.

Westminster Confession of Faith

God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil authorities, to be, under Him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good. And, for this purpose, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.  It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people.

Submission with the purpose of doing good

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (verse 15)

We get our directions for living and conducting our lives in a pagan culture from the Bible where the will of God is revealed. Remember, we are aliens and strangers. We follow the terms of God’s covenant as the way how to live in this world. He tells us what is right and what is wrong through his Book.  The Bible is our supreme authority for daily living.

But we are not called to a sort of Christian jihad: we are not persecuting others because they don’t believe as we believe; we don’t behead those who pass rules and laws which do not reflect our understanding of the Bible. It would be nice if all laws were Christian laws; but this is unfortunately not the case.

God’s purpose for his for us as his church – just like it was for the people of Israel – is that we live out such a joyful, sacrificial, humble, fearless life of goodness to others that their vilification of Christianity will finally be silenced. Remember what the verse says:

By doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Foolish people, as we have seen in our study of Proverbs, are not those who are intellectually backwards, but those who do not believe in God.  On average non-Christians do no know about God.  They form their ideas, make pronouncements, and judge Christians accordingly.  Christians in the time of Peter were distrusted in part because of the so-called “secret” and misunderstood nature of their worship. Words like “love feast” and talk of “eating Christ’s flesh” sounded understandably suspicious to the pagans, and Christians were suspected of cannibalism, incest, orgies, and all sorts of immorality. Many stories even today are spread against Christ, Christians and the church.  Many of them are true, because Christians don’t live holy lives.

In a discussion of Facebook about what has happened to Kim Davies last week someone writes:

If you choose to fashion your belief system around a collection of bronze-age goat-herder fairy tales, edited, redacted and thoroughly bastardised in the Middle Ages, now used to suck money out of the poor and ignorant by Calvinist televangelists, fine. But don’t expect the rest of us who live here in the 21st century age of Science and Reason to be bound by your ghastly primitive prejudices and predilections.

Unfortunately what Christians sometimes say they believe and what Christians live out don’t always add up.  That is a sin in the eyes of God.  Unholiness brings dishonour to the Name of Christ. So, some criticism against the church is justified.

When Christians can’t love one another, when Christians drag one another before the civil authorities, when Christians lie and swear and drink and cheat like the rest of the world, it brings dishonour to the Name of God.  In short, when Christians feel at home in the world and start loving the world, and when they forget that they have heavenly citizenship, the world rightfully judge the church.

But if by our lives and example we love out what we believe, the uninformed world will be informed and the ignorance of the world will be silenced.

Let us take an example:  Any good Christian parent, who wants to glorify God in the upbringing of their children, will know that God demands us to discipline our children.  The general picture the world has about a disciplining  parent is one who walks around with a long stick, hitting the children on their heads.  The world has this idea that we lock our children up on rooms.  But discipline is far more than the rod.  Upbringing under God for his glory is what counts.  If we are successful in this the world will look at children of Christian parents and they see the difference.  They already see the difference as they in droves enrol their children at Christian schools.  Of course, if we fail in doing what God says and we follow worldly standards in raising our children, we have nothing to silence them with.  We failed and brought dishonour to the name of God.

In everything we do, we get our strategy and the strength and guidance to live it from God.

Submission to authority as bond slaves of Christ

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God (verse 16).

What this verse teaches is that we belong to God and not to any government or human institution. We are slaves of God and not man. We do not submit to human institutions as slaves to those institutions but as God’s free people. We submit in freedom for his sake. Not in bondage for the king’s sake.

Our society is full of examples of people who are not free, although boasting in their freedom.  However, immorality and ungodliness leads to slavery and bondage – just ask the alcoholic and the drug addict; just ask the parent who could not care less about the upbringing of his child, and now spend endless nights crying themselves to sleep.

Can you remember the days where there was not a mention of public liability?  Why was it so?  Long ago people had a sense of responsibility; they knew that they were accountable.  Further, then people understood that their lives are in the hands of God.  They trusted God.  Now they trust the good (or bad!) lawyer or solicitor to wring the last drop of blood our of the party they sue – only to spend the money in a way they find acceptable in their own sight:  there is nothing of God and his will in this.

We are aliens in this world.  We have passed from death to life. But in the meantime God sends us back into this world – not as we once were – but as free people, as aliens who live by other values and other standards and goals and priorities. We do submit; we are not Christian jihadists. We submit freely, not shrinking before human authorities, but gladly obeying our one true King – God.

Because we belong to God, our whole nature of freedom and joy and fearlessness and radical uniqueness from this world is founded in Him – which in one sense is slavery (because his authority over us is absolute) but in another sense is glorious freedom (because He changed our hearts so that we love doing what He gives us to do). As Martin Luther said in his wonderful little treatise called “The Freedom of a Christian:”

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

The key to that paradox is God. Freed by God from slavery to all human institutions; and sent by God freely and submissively into those institutions – for his sake!

Submission in order to honour

Honour all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king.

Maybe there is a progression here. First give to all human beings (good and bad) a basic respect and honour. The way you respect a murderer and the way you respect a saint like Billy Graham will be different. But both need respect as people created by God.

Then beyond that common respect and honour of all humanity, there is a special love that is to be given to “the brotherhood,” that is, to fellow Christians.

Then beyond that common respect for all and that special love for Christians there is a special fear appropriate to God, and no one else. We are not slaves of men, and so we do not fear men. We give them honour freely. And we love Christians freely. And we bow to God’s absolute authority reverently.

Then, back to the basic honour — “Honour the king (include here in the honour and respect given to all). If the king is not a Christian, he is not to be feared and he need not be loved as Christians are loved. But he, or more so, his office must be honoured.

First comes our absolute allegiance to God. Next comes our affectionate love for other believers. Then comes our honour to the king and other unbelievers. The king is not God. Only God is God.

Respect and honour

What happened to respect in this world?  But more important than that:  Do Christians show respect?  Do Christian parents teach their children to respect their parents?  And their neighbours? And above all God?  Listen to the Word of God in this respect:

See if you can pick up the context in Leviticus 19:2-3:

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. ‘Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:2-3)

All respect and honour to all forms of authority begins with God:  He is holy, He is our God.  Then parents under God respect God by respecting their parents.  Parents need to set the example of respect and honour before their children in the way the honour and respect God.  Once children pick this up they will be able to honour God, respect their parents and honour all other forms of authority flowing from it:  this means that they will see other as created beings of God, including teachers, the police, governments who over us for our own good.  Children who grow up in this understanding that all authority begins with God who loves sinners to the point that He gave his Son to pay to forgive them, will ultimately understand that when earthly authority demands of them to love institutions and people more than Him, they will know to make the right choice:  they will obey God more than people.


Let’s sum it up:

  • The demand to to submit to worldly authority does not rule out exceptions, for God is the ultimate authority.
  • Believers should be inclined to obey and submit to, not disobey, rulers.
  • The authority of worldly rulers is not absolute.
  • We always need to distinguish between the office and the person holding the office. Even the police are under the law, and so is anyone in office:  all are under God.
  • Believers are to submit “for the Lord’s sake”; the Lord’s honour it always at stake.
  • Authorities should be resisted if commands were issued that violated the Lord’s will.
  • “Doing what is right” means that Christians behave as good citizens.
  • All believers should do what is right to strengthen the social fabric.  (Think for example of hospitals, care for the elderly, Christian schools, the involvement of Christians in benevolent societies, etc.)
  • The good behaviour of Christians will lessen slanderous attacks on believers, revealing for example that charges of moral failure have no basis.
  • Believers do not enjoy unrestricted freedom. Their freedom is exercised under God’s authority.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 6th September 2015

Holy Aliens (2)

Series:  Better things are coming

Scripture Readings

  • Exodus 19:1-9
  • 1Peter 2:11-12

Summary of the series so far:

  • Christians are people who once were lost, but:
  • who received a new life from God by grace
  • who come to Christ and honour Him
  • who obey the Gospel
  • who all have a part in priest-like service to God
  • who spiritually sacrifice praise to God
  • who draw from eternal hope to overcome present suffering

Main thoughts for this sermon

  • Who/what is “the world”?
  • Christians are sojourners/pilgrims
  • Why abstain from this world?
  • Why engage with this world


Florence Nightingalec, the Lady with the Lamp, was indeed a light on the dark pages of war history. She wrote in her diary,

God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.

In 1850 she visited a Lutheran religious community working for the sick and the deprived. She regarded the experience as a turning point in her life.  She gathered around her volunteer nurses who dedicated themselves to caring for British soldiers in the Crimean War.

During her first winter ten times more soldiers died from illnesses than from battle wounds. Although Florence’s immediate tasks was the care of sick, she understood that God called her to engage with all who were sick: when circumstances called for her to do so, she even cared for the wounded of the enemy.  Florence was in the war, but not of the war – she was engaged in the war.  She helped the sick, trying to eradicate the source of sickness.

Peter pleaded with the Christians he wrote to:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11–12, NIV)

If we listen carefully to this urgent call we hear two things:

  • You are foreigners – abstain
  • You are foreigners – engage

What/who is the “world”?

Christians are not from this world, but they are part of this world; this is the basis for the Bible to call us to abstain, but to also engage.  So what or who is the “world”? There is probably more uses of this term “world” in the Bible.  Let’s get three.

What God created

God created this world/universe and everything on/in/above it.  All things seen and unseen He made.  When Christ returns to give us a new heaven and new earth, God will demand from us accountability of how we cared for it.

The people

The nations, tongues and tribes living on earth are also referred to as the world.  They received their languages and their territories to live and have children from God.  If we do not have love and concern for their spiritual well-being, we do not understand the Gospel and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He sends us out to the ends of this world.

The evil/morally corrupt/those who oppose God

When Christians are called not to love this world, they should not identify with the enemy of God.  Sometimes the Bible uses another word within the same context:  it talks about the flesh, or things of the flesh.  Paul writes:

When we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. (Romans 7:5, NIV)

He also states:

The mind governed by the flesh is death… the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:6–7, NIV)

James  writes:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NIV)

John writes:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15–16, NIV)

Jesus prays for his disciples the night before He was arrested:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:14–19, NIV)

Not from this world

When Peter writes to the scattered Christians, he over and over again calls them strangers or aliens in this world. Our home, address, new nature because of our new birth by the Holy Spirit gives us a new identity.  The cross of our Lord is the place where it all changes.  Paul writes:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NIV)

So we ask ourselves, “Whose side am I on?  Where do I belong?  What is my hope?  Where is my home? Where do my priorities in life lead me?” The way we live is the telltale of where we come from and where we are going.  It was said of Richard Sibbes, one of the godly people of his time, “heaven was in him before he was in heaven.”

Abstain from this world

The text for today calls us to abstain from this world.  Why?

We are sojourners

We are from a foreign country, we live here temporarily, and here we don’t have citizenship rights; we are passing through.

What is it to “abstain”?

This is a very interesting Greek word.  It has in its root the word “to have”.  In some contexts it means to have enough.  When someone paid you for the debts he owed you, your account is settled – you have had enough; you should abstain from taking more of that person.  Mom taught us to say “no” when we had enough pudding; only gluttons would have more.

What is it that Christians already have in full so that they should say “no”, or refuse this world?  Let’s see.

“In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3–4, NIV)  

That’s not all.

“You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23, NIV)

More than that a Christian does not need.  In fact, anything of this world will tarnish and corrode that hope.  You’ve had enough!  Hands off!  Your satisfaction is the cross of Christ and his free offer of grace and salvation.  The Israelites looked for more that God.  Jeremiah cries out:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13, NIV)

It’s war!

This morally corrupt world has nothing to offer Christians.  This world is under the control of Satan, the prince of this world (John 14:30)  He is the father of the lie, he was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. (John 8:44, NIV).

The world’s friend is God’s enemy.  The spirit of this world opposes the Spirit of God.  There is the Kingdom of light, and the kingdom of darkness, complete opposites, ruled by opposite principles, practices and ends.  If we set our hearts on the things of this world we will necessarily find ourselves turing our back upon God and abandon his people.

Abstain from this world!  It will destroy you.

Engage with this world

Verse 12 of 1 Peter 2 continues:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12, NIV)

Yes, Christians find themselves in a hostile world.  But we can choose to lock ourselves up against the sin of this world to remain untouched by its sin, like those who lived in cloisters and monasteries – and have no impact on this world – and in the process be disobedient to the command of our Saviour to go into the world.  Or we can maintain a distant ignorance:  we would not bother you as long as you don’t bother us, and in the process disobey the command of our Lord to be light and salt of the world.  Or we can be so occupied with the world that we want to do everything the way they do, as long as we sugarcoat it with a Bible verse.  That way we have become worldly.  This not God’s plan for his church.

Like Florence Nightingale we need to be engaged, without becoming sick ourselves.  We need to serve this world by Christian and holy living so that they might see our good deeds and glorify God.

Yes, we might get the blame for every thing wrong in this world.  There are those who blame Christians for the wars in the worlds; other blame us for not being loving, hanging around us the tag of bigots and homophobes because we stand by the Word of God about sexuality;  they will blame us for all evil if stand on the Word and oppose same sex marriages or expose the evil of abortion.  In Caesar Nero’s time Christians even got the blame for the fire that destroyed Rome.

Christians are not called to go out and pick a fight with the world; they only need to keep doing what they are supposed to do and persecution will come.  If we proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, they will hate us for it.  If we proclaim that God is the creator of the world and that things did not happen by evolution, they will hate us for it.  If we proclaim that people are born sinful and need redemption, they will hate us for it.

But these things we need to do.  We are the priests between g\God and the lost.  We need to love with the love of Christ.  We need to engage in a world full of misunderstanding and opposition, because there are scores who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  They hurt, they search, they are alone.  If we shine the light of the Gospel in this dark world, the Bible says, they will glorify God the day He visits them.  This should be understood in a positive way:  when God reveals Himself in grace to the lost, there will be those who will thank God for the faithful witness of his people, who in spite of persecution and opposition did not compromise the Gospel – and that Gospel and witness will lead them to salvation.


Joseph understood something of this when he became ruler of Egypt:  he was never at home in the palace of the pharaoh, but he was a blessing to the Egyptians.

Daniel too understood this principle well; he served his God under the king of Babylon and was a blessing to them, but he never worshipped their gods – he was willing to spend time in the lion’s den to not compromise his principles.  In the end Nebuchadnezzar believed in his God.  Daniel’s friends did the same.

Through Jeremiah God commanded his people who were taken into captivity:

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. (Jeremiah 29:7–8, NIV)

May God help us to abstain from this – it’s war against our souls.  May He give us the grace to engage in this world, so He will receive the glory.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on 30 August 2015