By Carol R. Lumpkin
We read in the newspapers and hear over television and radio about “peoples rights.” I readily agree that each of us have certain rights. We need to be aware of what our rights really are before we make such a fuss over “my rights and your rights.” We all must agree that, in the business world, the employer and the employee both have rights. When each understands the rights of the other, a pleasant working condition prevails.
The Bible teaches us that men, women, boys and girls have rights. When such rights are governed by what God’s word teaches, proper respect for others is certain. I have no right to demand that you respect my rights, so long as I disrespect your rights. My rights end where your rights begin; your rights end where my rights begin. I believe if this principle was practiced by all people, it would make a better lot out of all of us.
A man and woman may choose either to marry or not to marry. While single, each has rights which are not present after marriage. Before marriage, each may date others, spend their own money without consideration of the other, make their own decisions, etc. After marriage each must then consider the other. Their rights are now different. The joining together of man and woman in marriage (never man to man or woman to woman – Rom. 1:24-27) is God’s ordained law (Gen. 2:24). “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). When two people marry, they must readjust their rights to be compatible with each other. “Let the husband render unto his 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” (1 Cor. 7:3-4). After marriage, the husband has the right to expect his wife to submit unto him (Eph. 5:22). The husband has the right to be head over the wife (Eph. 5:23). The husband has the right to have his wife reverence him (Eph. 5:33). The wife has the right to have her husband love her and not be bitter against her (Col. 3:19). The wife has the right to expect honor as the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). Yes, the husband and wife have rights, but neither has the right to infringe upon the rights of the other.
God said to the first man and woman, “Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth . . .” (Gen. 1:28). When children are born the parents must sacrifice their rights so as to consider the rights of the child. The child must be loved and provided for. The mother does not have the right to forsake her child (Tit. 2:4-5). Such is not the mother’s right. The father is charged with the proper training of the child (Eph. 6:4); he does not have the right to neglect this responsibility. Each parent is required to sacrifice his rights if they conflict with the rights of their child. Children do not have the right to disobey or disrespect their parents (Gal. 6:1). “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20).
We each should be aware that an alien sinner is lost and without hope while in sin. Paul declared that all were sinners (Rom. 3:23). Isaiah said that iniquities (the condition of one without law . . . either because of ignorance of it or in violation of it) and sins separates man from God (Isa. 59:2). Paul wrote that the wages of sin is (spiritual) death (Rom. 6:23). God has made provisions for the sinner to remove himself from sin and enter into the church (Col. 1:13; Acts 2:47). In order for sins to be forgiven, the practice must be stopped. He does not, after he has obeyed the plan of salvation, have the right to continue in sin (read Col. 3:1-11; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
The command to “repent” (Lk. 13:3) means that one has a change of heart which leads to a change of life. If one stole before, he steals no longer (Eph. 4:28). If one lied before, he no longer lies (Eph. 4:25). If one was a fornicator before, he no longer engages in such lust (Col. 3:5). So the person who truly repents of his sins, no longer has the right to continue in sin.
Before the sinner obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, he walks in sin while he serves Satan. After his conversion, he no longer has the right to serve Satan. Before the sinner obeys the gospel, he does not have the privilege of prayer (Jno. 9:31; 1 Pet, 3:12) nor can he enjoy any of the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). Every right the sinner thought he had to pursue his own selfish pleasures and lustful desires must be given up in order to please God.
Once the sinner obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, God has the right to demand obedience (read Mt. 7:21; Rev. 2:10; 2 Jn. 9). If God’s requirements are not met, then God has the right to punish that person and He surely will (read Rom. 11:22; 2 Pet. 20:22; Lk. 9:62). When the sinner obeys the plan of salvation, which consist of faith (Jn. 8:24), repentance (Lk. 13:3), confession (Acts 8:37) and baptism (Acts 2:38), his rights are then different from what they were before his conversion. This saved person has the right to worship God in song (Eph. 5:19), prayer (Acts 2:42), preaching (Acts 20:7), giving (1 Cor. 16:2), and observing the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). Not only does he have this right to worship, but he has no right to forsake the worship.
The child of God has the right to contend for the truth (Jude 3), to bear fruit for Christ (Jn. 15:1-6), to add the graces (2 Pet. 1:5-11), to let his light shine for Christ (Mt. 5:16), to abstain from all works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Jn. 2:15-17), to practice pure religion (Jas. 1:27), to control his tongue (Jas. 1:26), to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33), etc. Not only does the child of God have this right, but he does not have the right to neglect these things.
God has assigned each of us rights, but our rights are to be regulated by the word, the New Testament law of Christ (2 Pet. 1:3; 1 Cor. 4:6). What a person may consider to be his rights may or may not be his rights. The rights of husband and wife, parents and children, and Christians, when governed by divine instructions, will make for peace, unity, happiness; they will bring glory to God, honor and respect to Christ, and help the Lord’s church be what God wants it to be.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 12, pp. 185-186
March 19, 1981