By Marshall E. Patton
The issue of morality under study in this special series of articles is such as to cause every sincere Christian to cry out, “Why Ate So Many Falling?” Both the gravity and the magnitude of the problem demand a Bible answer. One man’s opinion is as good as another. Our answer must be found in the word of God.
While the cause of immorality may vary (at least in degree) from one case to another, a study of the causes set forth in the Scriptures will help us to both pin point the trouble and correct it.
The Bible teaches that the heart is the fountain of all our outward activity: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for, out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Again, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Jesus said, “. . . whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). If the fountain be poisoned, the stream that flows from it will be impure. When the lawyer asked, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? ” Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40).
Since the whole of God’s law hangs on these two commands, it follows that every command is expressive of either love for God or love for man, and of the two the former is greater than the latter. Why is this so? Because one may love his neighbor and not love God – many do, including infidels. However, it is impossible for one to love God and not love his neighbor. Since God commands us to love our fellow man, we cannot love Him and do otherwise. Hence, love for God is the greater command. Love in the heart for God will regulate our every action toward our fellow man so that our every deed is right. The need of the hour is to get man’s heart right with God!
When Potiphar’s wife enticed Joseph, the motivating power that enabled.him to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18) was his love for God. He said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). True, Joseph had regard for Potiphar and did not want to .sin against him, but this was not the motivating force that gave him the victory. I am sure he did not want to sin against Potphar’s wife, but, again, this was not the consideration that enabled him to withstand the temptation. He perhaps had little respect for women of her stripe. That which gave him power to overcome was the reverence in his heart for God.
The prodigal son came home after “he came to himself” (Lk. 15:17). This he did when he realized his sin was “against heaven” (Lk. 15:18). Primarily, his attitude of heart toward God accounts for his restoration. Love for God – “with all the heart” – will not only prevent immorality, it will also effect a cure.
Brethren need to remember that though one may be as “sharp as a briar” intellectually, and though he speak with eloquence in proclaiming the truth, such is no guarantee that he loves God with all the heart. Jesus said of some in His day, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). The praise of men and the honor and glory that rightfully attaches itself to such teaching presents a strong temptation, especially to youth. I would say to all who would teach the word of God, if you do not “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” then do not teach! The responsibility is too great, the impact of failure too far reaching, and the condemnation too fearful (Jas. 3: 1).
Self-Confidence Vs. Humility
When Jesus said to the apostles, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night,” impulsive Peter responded, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matt. 26:31,33). Peter even boasted of his loyalty above that of his fellows. Jesus said further, “That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matt. 26:34). Peter, as though the Lord did not know him, replied, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (Matt. 26:35). 0, what confidence Peter had in himself! Yet, a few hours later, when “the cock crew,” Peter had already denied the Lord three times. Then remembering the words of Jesus, “he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:69-75).
I can well understand Peter’s embarrassment, humiliation, and evasiveness when our Lord, after His resurrection, asked him, “. . lovest thou me . . .?” (Jn. 21:15). The Greek word for love in this question is agapao which means love in the sense of loyalty. It never fails – it does what is right regardless. Peter replied, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Peter used the Greek word Phileo for love which means affection. While this is love that is sweet, beautiful, and precious, it will sometimes fail in the face of duty. Peter is an example. This experience presents quite a contrast to the one on the night of our Lord’s betrayal. In the former Peter is self-confident. In the latter he is humble to perhaps the greatest degree humanly possible.
There are many today who have fallen and who now look back with humiliation to a point in their life when they needlessly subjected themselves to temptation on the basis of self-confidence. Like Peter, they found that they were not as strong as they thought.
Brethren, we need to remember:
“. . our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
“Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18): “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22).
Elsewhere in this series is an article on “Avoiding The Pitfalls” – read it carefully.
Defrauding One Another
Among other things, marriage is set forth in the Scriptures as a means of avoiding fornication:
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency (1 Cor. 7:2-5).
However, it is obvious from these verses that marriage of itself w ill not suffice. The marriage must be maintained according to God’s pattern. This demands that husband and wife render to each other “due benevolence.” Neither “have power of his (her) own body” for sexual fulfillment. In marriage each surrenders his (her) body to the other that one of the strongest desires implanted in man may have honorable fulfillment. “Defrauding” one another is obviously one cause of fornication. Counselors have long since learned that tension, pouting, frustration, irritability, outburst of uncontrolled temper, and a host of other ills may be attributed to one’s being “defrauded.” Temptation presents itself with almost irresistible force to one thus deprived.
While incompatibility in this matter may present a problem, still with prayer and a sincere, honest objective effort, it can be resolved. Husband and wife must resolve the problem and live together according to God’s pattern.
The influence and pressures of an immoral society have a tremendous impact upon all. The “Sexual Revolution” and the craze for “sexual freedom” have utilized every conceivable means – printed page, radio, TV, school room, and public entertainment activities – so as to make everyone sex conscious every hour of the day. Christians must remember that sin is sin no matter how many people are doing it and no matter how accustomed we become to seeing it. Differentiating between that endorsed, accepted, and practiced by nearly all of our modern society and that governed by the principles of a kingdom bound for eternal glory is the failure of many. John said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
While we live in the world, we are not of it (1 Jn. 15:19). The “pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25) are on every hand. They allure and entice so as to make one feel that he just must partake or miss something very good. Such is the deceitfulness of sin-against which we are so often warned (Heb. 3:13; Eph. 4:22; Gal. 6:7,8). Such pleasures are “only for a season” (Heb. 11:25). They cannot abide. They never satisfy. After such deeds are done, the heart is filled with remorse. The fruits of such pleasures are suffering, sorrow, pain, remorse, and all the ills of time – then an eternal hell!
Jesus prayed not that we be taken out of such a society and transplanted into a utopian world, but rather that we be kept from such evil (Jn. 17:15). “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). A more literal translation of the last phrase is “for this is the whole of living.” Here is fulfillment both for time and eternity!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 7-9
January 5, 1984