Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 6

fruitfulness

Part 6 “Multiply and Fill the Earth: The Extraordinary Sense”

If the only way to obey the “Creation Mandate” to “multiply and fill the earth” is to marry, and then to have children, there would be several categories of disciples that would be unable to practically obey it. Children are not emotionally or sexually mature, and so cannot engage in marriage and procreation. Single persons may have a desire for both marriage and children, but may have not yet found a suitable person to enter into a covenant of such a magnitude as marriage. And without the covenant of marriage the practice of sex is referred to in the Bible as “sexual immorality”, and is prohibited as sinful. Then there are those who have chosen celibacy as a way of life in order to serve the King of Kings without earthly distraction or worldly obligation. Jesus calls these people “eunuchs… for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 19:12

12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

 In my experience as a reformed Protestant Christian in the U.S., we tend to be reactionary people. We are often not taking a Biblical action, but responding to past errors in Roman Catholicism or the excesses of American Evangelicalism. We are trying so hard “not to be something” that we don’t declare well who we really are and what we really believe. I could write several blogs on this subject. But a single denominational example will help.

I served in a Baptist church for many years as an associate pastor. I have seen myriads of children and adults baptized in the Baptist church. I in fact grew up Baptist, and became a Christian later, in a Baptist church. In all those years, and in all the baptisms I witnessed throughout the years, until I read the Reformers at least, I never once heard anyone coherently explain what baptism actually was. I only heard explained what it was not, and what it did not do. It was not the blood. Which is true, and is said in response to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. It does not save you. Which is also true, and is said in response to both Roman Catholicism (and other traditions too) and in the southern U.S. at least, to refute the indigenous members of the Churches of Christ. But what is baptism. What I found was that Baptists were generally anti-Catholic and reactionary, defining the very sacrament from which they take their name only in negative terms. They were virtually devoid of positive statements as to what baptism really is. I am not referring to their ancient doctrinal statements, which were generally clear. I am referring to the average church members experience. Compounding this problem was also the reactionary idea that there was “no creed but Christ.” This caused most Baptists to (again reacting to Roman Catholicism) not even know what their own church believed prior to the  1920s.

I came to understand, through my own experiencing of sharing Christ with a perishing world, that almost everyone knew what I, as a Christian was against, but almost no one knew what I, as Christian was for. I came to be convinced that many Protestants never moved beyond the act of protesting, and that it was time for me personally to do so. I encourage you as well to consider how to discuss the difficult subjects of the day in positive terms by starting with what God is for, rather than what He is against. It helps you to frame the actual reasons He is against a thing, rather than just blindly stating that this or that is sin. It helps us deepen our own knowledge of how to take positive action in life, rather than always sitting around trying NOT to do some sin or another. Again most Protestants nowadays are trying not to sin, but if you encourage them to do good works, they throw “justification by faith” apart from the works of the Law at you. Which is a Majestic Truth! Amen and Amen! But if the only truth you really understand is “Justification by Faith Alone”, it is like having a single tool that is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. Most people who are struggling in sin in the Protestant Church today, if you encourage them to commune with God more in prayer and fasting, and to consecrate themselves to the Lord, they will just retort that you are a “legalist” and go back to white-knuckling their way through life, attempting to believe more or harder. This is the contradiction that a reactionary Faith that is almost purely against things causes. The reactionary nature then of the Protestant church has caused us to neglect in meaningful ways categories of singleness and the infertile.

Surrendering to a call to celibacy is an area of practice virtually unheard of in the modern Protestant Church…. but not in the early Church. Here is Justin Martyr (100 AD to 165 AD) born within a decade of the Apostle John’s death, writing in his “First Apology”, around 130 AD, which you can find here.

“”And, there are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but all cannot receive this saying.” Matthew 19:12 So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. And many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men”( Justin Martyr’s First Apology Chapter 14 “Demons Misrepresent Christian Doctrine)

 Justin Martyr is clearly saying that wherever you find the church in his day, you also find some who have chosen to be “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” I could multiply this witness many times, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t. The point that I am making here is to demonstrate that both in Scripture and in early church history there is the idea that there are some who make a conscious choice to not engage in marriage in order to dedicate themselves to Christ and the churches service as a way of life.

One of my modern heroes in the faith, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), was such a person. She had the opportunity to marry in the early years of her mission work. I believe she was still in the Orient during that time, before she relocated to India, where the bulk of her work was done. Both her and the gentleman had obvious feelings and leanings towards one another, working closely together in mission. In the end they both declined to act on them, choosing the path of singleness, dying as Eunuch’s for Christ. Did Amy Carmichael not “multiply and fill the earth?” Of course she did. She saw women and children saved from temple slavery, gave them new names, and she taught them a pattern of life to follow. She still teaches us today if we will listen. For a good book on her life see Elizabeth Elliot’s “A Chance to Die.”

These same things can be said about children and married couple who are infertile. Sharing the Gospel and our whole way of life with others is also “multiplying and filling the earth” with the “seed” of God. Infertile couples who desire children are called to adoption as a way of extending the Kingdom of God. They in fact are mimicking God’s personal actions toward us, His elect people, who are his own adopted children. While “multiplying and filling the earth” has an ordinary sense, it also has an extraordinary one too. And in some ways children, the infertile, and the single can excel their married and fertile counterparts in “multiplying and filling the earth.”

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 3

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 4

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 5

fruitfulness


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