Paul’s Instructions on Marriage

Paul's Instructions on Marriage

One reason some people do not accept Paul’s teachings is that they object to his teachings on marriage. In today’s world, there are many who disparage the institution of marriage altogether, “Who needs a piece of paper?”

According to studies by the U.S. Census Bureau, “co-habitation is up; marriage is down” among American young adults. Living together as couples without marriage is now considered “normative,” and is broadly accepted.

This is not to say that that living together without the commitment of marriage is happier or more fulfilling. The Institute for Family Studies at the University of Virginia reports that married couples in America are 12% more likely to report satisfaction in their relationship than those who live together without marriage. The same goes for levels of commitment (15%) and stability in the relationship (26%).

Co-habiting couples report lower levels of commitment, higher rates of infidelity and conflict, and they are more likely to end the relationship than married couples according to studies done by 

People are not behaving in their own self-interest. Rejecting marriage is not a formula for greater happiness. People behave this way because they disregard the ancient wisdom of the Word of God. I risk stating the obvious as I say that the trend to disregard marriage reveals a nation moving away from the moral standards of the Bible.

Paul spoke and wrote in Jesus’ name and by his delegated authority when he laid out guidelines for successful marriages. Paul knew he was bucking the culture of his day.  Marriage was threatened in the first century, as it is in the twenty-first. Paul’s teaching was as counter-cultural then as it is today.

The Greeks and the Romans encouraged sexual promiscuity. Wives were expected to be child-bearers and housekeepers, while their men were permitted to consort with prostitutes and concubines. Many of the great cities of the Roman empire were moral sewers. Even Jewish law, as interpreted by some, allowed husbands to divorce their wives for frivolous reasons while wives had no right to divorce at all. It was against this backdrop that Paul wrote about Christian marriage.


Paul’s teaching on the role of husbands, guides Christian men away from selfishness to service, away from coarse and sometimes abusive dictatorship in the home to servant-leadership, away from the example of culture to the example of Christ.

Many men have misunderstood and misapplied Paul’s teaching on headship in authoritarian and abusive ways. There is nothing in Paul’s writings on marriage to justify this distortion. Rather, he writes to husbands, “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).


Paul’s teaching on the role of wives is given in the context of Christian submission to God. All believers are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” and to “be filled with the Holy Spirit”  (Ephesians 5:18, 21). In this attitude, a Christian wife may find fulfillment in voluntary adaptation to her husband’s servant-leadership.

To be sure, there are those who accuse Paul of misogyny. They dismiss his teaching as endorsing the patriarchy so prevalent in Roman culture. But Paul is not teaching the slavish abasement of wives. Rather, a wife’s appropriate submission is an act of service to the Lord. It is voluntary cooperation with the husband’s God-given role as a leader in the home.

The mystery of marriage

In Paul’s classic treatise on Christian marriage (Ephesians 5:18-33), he begins by mentioning the Holy Spirit (v.18). This is because he knows that we are sinful and selfish. He knows that apart from the Spirit-given power to obey, we humans would not be able to live up to these high standards. But God provides the ability through his Spirit.

Another reason is that his teaching on marriage presents a picture to the world. It pictures a profound spiritual reality: the relationship Jesus Christ has with his bride, the church, which he purchased by his blood (Ephesians 1:7, 5:25-32).

Every Christian marriage is called to illustrate to a watching world an example of mutual submission and reciprocal love. Just as Jesus loves the church, the husband is to sacrificially love his wife. Just as the church is submissive to Jesus, the wife is to submit to her husband’s position as a leader in the home.

Paul’s teaching is universally binding because he spoke and wrote with the authority of Christ himself. Christians should accept his teaching and obey it, no matter how far our culture has drifted from these standards. To disobey the teaching of Paul is to disobey the revealed will of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). This is not only true of his gospel message but also true of his ethical instructions (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

This formula for marriage is validated further because it is consistent with Old Testament beliefs and practices, consistent with the express teaching of Christ, and consistent with the experience of those millions who have enjoyed the great benefit by following Paul’s instructions on marriage.

Those who reject Paul’s teachings are not acting in their own self-interest.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring




Reject Paul and You Reject Jesus

My friend the Rev. Michael Philliber recently stated that to be dismissive of an apostle of Jesus is to be dismissive of Jesus himself. That’s a bold assertion. He based it on the words of Jesus in John 13:20, “Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send, accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

In this text, Jesus was preparing his disciples for their ministry after his departure. He was connecting their mission to his. His mission would become their mission. They would carry it forward. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

This means that Jesus imparted to these disciples a special authority to speak and write in his name and to be His ambassadors. They would become “apostles,” those sent out with Christ’s message, the Word of God. That is why the New Testament refers to Paul’s writings as “scriptures,” equal in authority to the Old Testament scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Paul repeatedly said that he was an apostle “by the will of God.” He began most of his letters with some form of this claim because he knew there were those who denied his authority as an apostle of Jesus and as a spokesman for God. There are those who deny it today.

The call of Jesus

Is my friend Mike correct? is it true that to be dismissive of Paul is the same as being dismissive of Jesus himself? Let’s look at the evidence. The early church leaders in Jerusalem could not deny that a powerful intervention had changed Paul from a violent persecutor of Christians to a preacher of the gospel of Christ. That intervention was an appearance to Paul of the resurrected Jesus himself (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). Many times he spoke of his Damascus road conversion and the personal call of Jesus (Acts 22:1-21; 26: 9-23). The change in his character was undeniable.

Signs and wonders

Another set of facts, witnessed by many, were the miracles he did in the name and by the power of Jesus. “I ought to have been commended by you,” he wrote to some who doubted his authority, “for I am not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’ even though I am nothing. I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders, and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:11-12).

The reports of Paul’s ministry in the Book of the Acts indicate these were the same kinds of miracles performed by Jesus himself. These miracles validated his claim to be an apostle of the Lord. “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — by the power of signs and wonders through the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:18-19).

Changed lives

Perhaps the most convincing evidence for Paul’s apostleship is found in his ministry in the lives of people. He claimed to speak with the authority of Christ. “With the help of God, we dared to tell you this gospel. … We speak as those approved by God. … When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:2,4, 13).

His close relationship with the believers in Thessalonica testifies to the transformation of life they experienced when they believed Paul’s gospel proclamation. “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). 

He was satisfied that his ministry among them “was not without results.” (1 Thessalonians 2:1). The changed lives of these people proved the validity of his apostleship: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). 

Is it reasonable to say, then, that to be dismissive of Paul, is to be dismissive of Jesus? Paul would say so. “Anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8). 

The man who received his apostleship from Jesus, worked miracles in the name of Jesus and preached the gospel so that others could know Jesus, actually spoke and wrote with the authority of Jesus. We would do well to believe and obey what he says. He speaks for Jesus.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring


Think Again About Paul

Think Again About Paul

I have met folks who gave the impression that Paul the apostle made them uncomfortable. They disagreed with some or all of his writings. They felt free to reject them as anachronistic and irrelevant to modern (or postmodern) values. Opinions ranged from mildly critical to openly hostile.

Critics of Paul have referred to his unwillingness to oppose slavery, his teachings on the role of women, his teachings on sexual ethics, and what some observers consider to be an abrasive tone and authoritarian style. Some have even accused Paul, the Jewish rabbi, of being anti-Semitic.

No doubt he was controversial. He incurred opposition, sometimes violent opposition, everywhere he went. The apostle Peter wrote what many have thought: some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). If he is out of step with our culture, we must recognize that he was also out of step with his own culture. Paul was always, and he remains, counter-cultural.

Yet the church for almost two thousand years has recognized Paul’s authority as an apostle of (one sent by) Jesus Christ. He took Jesus seriously. His message was always Christ-centered. His writings exalted Jesus as “equal with God” (Philippians 2:6) and the very “fullness of deity in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

He took the gospel seriously, the message of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He said that those who believe this gospel are “saved” (1 Corinthians 15:2). They are “rescued from the dominion of darkness” and transferred into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12-14).

He took his mission seriously. Paul said that his apostleship was “by the will of God” (Colossians 1:1). He had no hesitation in making this claim because  Jesus himself had appeared to him and instructed him as to his calling. He affirmed that his message was not something he learned from other people, but was revealed to him directly by Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12).

He wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. This shows that the early believers accepted his writings as “scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Many of these first-generation Christians had known Paul and had been close enough to him to have observed his life and character (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2:5-8). They could see for themselves whether or not Christ was speaking through him (2 Corinthians 13:3).

Those who have qualms about accepting the teachings of Paul should think again. Jesus said that his apostles would speak for him and that any who received their message, received him (John 13:20; Matthew 10:40). It is a serious matter to reject the official representative of Jesus!

If Paul spoke and wrote with the authority of Jesus, it would be wise to (1) understand what he meant; (2) believe the good news of redemption that he preached; (3) put into practice his ethical and moral teachings; and (4) follow where he leads, into a new life “in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

There are indeed hard questions about Paul that deserve careful exploration. I plan to devote the next few entries on this site to an examination of some of the issues I raised in the opening paragraphs above. I appreciate your engagement with this discussion. If these writings are helpful, I invite you to forward them to others and to communicate with me.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



A Well-Regulated Morality

The moral sense shapes behavior. The recent tragic acts of domestic terrorism in Texas and Ohio remind us that among us there are young men without a moral sense, who possess weapons of murder, and who are willing to use them.

In El Paso, a young man obsessed by racist, anti-immigrant ideology murdered twenty shoppers in a Walmart store, wounding two dozen others. Not long after that, in Dayton, nine people were murdered and another sixteen were wounded, by a mass shooter who mowed down his victims in 60 seconds.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the number of mass shootings so far this year in the U.S. now totals 23, with 131 lives lost. This is almost as many incidents after seven months in 2019, as occurred throughout all of last year (25, with 140 lives lost). These acts of mass murder are carried out by young men without conscience or moral restraint.

The moral sense shapes behavior. What shapes the moral sense? Developmental psychology teaches that there are social and biological influences. Humans, we are told, are social creatures and the moral sense grows out of the social nature. Aristotle said, “It is the peculiarity of man, in comparison with the rest of the animal world, that he alone possesses a perception of good and evil.” It is the duty of society to exalt the good and restrain the evil.

Going deeper, it is the family, of all social structures, that has the most important role in shaping a moral sense in the young. “They are not born knowing the difference between right and wrong. … The transmission of virtues is one important reason for a home,” wrote William J. Bennett.

Finally, there are spiritual sources of morality. Russell Kirk said that “political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” There is in fact a transcendent moral law which should rule society and personal conscience. It is this natural law, with its absolute standards of right and wrong which makes justice a possibility.

When this law, God’s law, is ignored, denied or disobeyed, it becomes impossible to speak in any meaningful way of fairness, empathy or truth. If there is no rational foundation for morality, then kindness, bravery, generosity and love are no more virtuous than murder, torture, racism, or genocide. “If God does not exist, everything is permitted,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

What does this have to do with mass murder and domestic terrorism? When young men’s habits of thought are formed by hours spent reading hate-filled nationalist propaganda, or playing violent video games, or watching TV shows and movies promoting dystopian anarchy, their brains are hard-wired to devalue human life.

More importantly, when they are deprived of the knowledge of God through holy scripture and through the church, it is as though, to them, he does not exist. If he does not exist, for them, morality does not exist.

Wikipedia has comprehensive lists of all incidents of mass shootings and their perpetrators, going back many years. Most were young males. Almost all school shooters were children of divorce. Most mass murderers lacked strong social bonds and were isolated loners. Many had stored up years of anger and alienation. They collected grievances. Some were bullied. It is clear that someone failed these young men.

Young men’s moral development does not happen without purposeful guidance. Biologically, the moral sense of boys develops differently than that of girls. I have read that the part of the brain that governs self-control is actually smaller in boys and develops later. This is not to excuse bad behavior, but to emphasize the need for strong moral guidance from adults, especially parents, until boys become men.

This accentuates the role of the church in teaching biblical morality as the highest and best life, a life that is pleasing to God. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 says, “Brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.”

Notice the emphasis on “instruction,” “pleasing God,” and growth (“more and more”). This is not a picture of hyper-vigilant thought control. This is a model of the loving guidance of the Christian community, the church, regulated by the authoritative word of Christ.

It is only a step, then, from believing in God, and accepting his moral law, to recognizing one’s need of him and accountability to him. It is through faith in Jesus that young people may be given the knowledge of God and his will for their lives. These lives in Jesus Christ, regulated by holy scripture and God’s Holy Spirit, are offered the purpose in life for which they were created.

We are seeing what might happen when young men are deprived of the knowledge of God and a well-regulated morality.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Enjoying God

Enjoying God

“Man’s chief end (purpose) is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” That is the famous answer to the question posed by the catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” Here’s a question for you today: what does it mean to “enjoy” God?

“Delight yourself in the Lord,” is the way King David put it in Psalm 37:4. It means to be delighted in God. That requires a re-thinking of our relationship to him. David is telling us that praise flows out of a sense of pleasure in who God is and pleasure in knowing him.

C.S. Lewis illustrated this in Reflections on the Psalms. “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling each other how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed. It is frustrating to discover a new author and not be able to tell anybody how good he is; to come suddenly to a turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and there have to keep silent because the people with you care no more for it than for a tin can in a ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”

He points out that people praise spontaneously what they value, and urge other people to join them in praising it. “The worthier the object, the more intense the delight would be.”

Both the psalmist and the professor are pointing us to an underlying truth, that to enjoy God, and thus to praise him, we must know him. The better we know him as he really is, the more our pleasure in him will grow.

Our delight in God can grow as we learn to enjoy his gifts as coming from him: a good meal, a golden sunrise, the pleasure of physical exercise, marital love, meaningful work, the laughter of friends, joining God in acts of creation through the arts, and of course the communion of prayer and worship.

Our delight in God grows as we appreciate more and more the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring