Why Does God Hate Divorce

Malachi 2:16  is the quoted passage that tells how God feels about divorce. “’I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel.”
But this passage says much more than that. If we back up to verse 13, we read: “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does He not?’ “
“Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”
Don’t let your prayers be hindered
We learn several things from this passage. First, God does not listen to the pleas for blessing from those who have broken the covenant of marriage. 1Peter 3:7 says: “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.”
Marriage is God’s design
God clearly explains His reasons for esteeming marriage so highly. He says it was He who “made them one.” Mal 2:15.
Marriage was God’s idea. If He designed it, then He gets to define it. Any deviation from His design is abhorrent to Him. Marriage is not a contract; it is a covenant. Divorce destroys the whole concept of covenant that is so important to God.
The perfect covenant
In the Bible, God often provides illustrations to teach spiritual realities. When Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar, it was a picture of the day, hundreds of years later, that the Lord God would offer His only Son on that same mountain (Gen 22:9; Rom 8:32). When God required blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin, He was painting a picture of the perfect sacrifice He Himself would make on the Cross (Heb 10:10).
The greatest example
Marriage is a picture of the covenant God has with His people (Heb 9:15). A covenant is an unbreakable commitment, and He wants us to understand how serious it is. When we divorce someone with whom we made a covenant, it makes a mockery of the God-created concept of covenant relationship.
The Church is presented in Scripture as the “Bride of Christ” (2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:7-9).
We, as His people, are “married” to Him through a covenant that He established. A similar illustration is used in Isaiah 54:5 of God and Israel.
Making a mockery
When God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, He created it as a picture of the greatest unity human beings can know (Gen 2:24). He wanted us to understand the unity we can have with Him through Redemption (1 Cor 6:17). When a husband or wife chooses to violate that covenant of marriage, it mars the picture of God’s
covenant with us.
Godly offspring
Malachi 2:15 gives us another reason that God hates divorce. He says He is “seeking godly offspring.” God’s design for the family was that one man and one woman commit themselves to each other for life and rear children to understand the concept of covenant as well.
Children reared in a healthy, two-parent home have a far greater likelihood of establishing successful marriages themselves, later in life.
Hardened hearts
When Jesus was asked why the Law permitted divorce, He responded that God had only allowed it “because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matt 19:8.
God never intended divorce to be a part of human experience, and it grieves Him when we harden our hearts and break a covenant that He created.
The Bible gives two clear grounds for
Sexual immorality (Matt 5:32;19:9)
Abandonment (1 Cor 7:15)
A last resort, not a requirement
Even in these two instances, though, divorce is not required or even encouraged. The most that can be said is that sexual immorality and abandonment are grounds (an allowance) for divorce. Confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are always the first steps. Divorce should only be viewed as a last resort.
Are there grounds for divorce beyond what the Bible says?
Perhaps, but we do not presume upon the Word of God. It is very dangerous to go beyond what the Bible says (1 Cor 4:6).
The most frequent additional grounds for divorce that people inquire about are spousal abuse (emotional or physical), child abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), addiction to pornography, drug/alcohol use, crime/imprisonment, and mismanagement of finances (such as through a gambling addiction.)
Have a goal of restoration
That does not necessarily mean, though, that none of them are grounds for divorce of which God would not approve. For example, we cannot imagine that it would be God’s desire for a wife to remain with a husband who physically abuses her and/or their children.
In such an instance, the wife should definitely separate herself and the children from the abusive husband. However, even in such a situation, a time of separation with the goal of repentance and restoration should be the ideal, not necessarily immediately beginning divorce proceedings.

Please understand, we are definitely not saying that a man/woman whose spouse is engaging in such activities should remain in the situation. If there is any risk to self or children, separation is a good and appropriate step.
How do I know divorce is right?
Another way to look at this issue is to differentiate between Biblical grounds for divorce and grounds for divorce and remarriage.
Some interpret the two Biblical grounds for divorce mentioned above as the only grounds for remarriage after a divorce, but allow for divorce with no remarriage in other instances. While this is a plausible interpretation, it seems to come too close to presuming upon the Word of God.
God brings healing
In summary, what are the Biblical grounds for divorce? The answer is sexual immorality and abandonment. Are there additional grounds for divorce beyond these two? Possibly. Is divorce ever to be treated lightly or employed as the first recourse? Absolutely not.
Our God is capable of changing and reforming any person. The Lord is capable of healing and renewing any marriage. Divorce should only occur in instances of repeated and unrepentant heinous sin.
Rather than asking “is ______ a grounds for divorce,” often the question should be “is _______ grounds for forgiveness, restoration, or counselling?”
Is abuse forgivable?
The Bible is silent on the issue of spousal abuse as a reason for divorce, although it is obvious that God expects us to love one another and to submit to one another in love (John 13:34, Eph 5:21).
Physical violence is illegal and should not be tolerated. No one should have to live in an unsafe environment, whether it involves a family member, friend, employer, caregiver, or stranger. Physical abuse is against the law, and the authorities should be the first ones contacted if this occurs.
A spouse who is being abused should seek a safe place. If there are children involved, they should be protected and removed from the situation immediately. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that separation (not divorce) in this instance would be wrong. Although friends and family will likely suggest divorce as the only answer, God places a much higher value on marriage, so reconciliation should be the goal.
Seek help and repent
Once a separation has been enforced, the abuser has the responsibility to seek help. First and foremost, he should seek God. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks” Matt 7:8.
No one has more power to heal individuals and relationships than God. He must be the Lord of our lives, the Master of our assets, and the Head of our households.
Both husband and wife must commit themselves to God and then develop a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“And this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth.” John 17:3. This commitment to God should be accompanied by intensive Biblical counselling from a trusted pastor or equipped believer, first individually, then as a couple, and finally for the entire family to help heal the trauma all have endured.
Change is possible for people who truly repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18).

Obey the Lord always
Divorce is not the only option for a happy ending if both spouses are seeking the Lord. Together, the couple should then commit to serving and obeying God. They should spend individual time with God daily, attend a Bible-believing church, begin serving God through a ministry, and get involved in small Bible study groups.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
2 Cor 5:17.
Choose wisely
The best way to prevent an abusive marriage is to get to know a potential spouse before making the commitment to marry. The “red flags” are always there, but are often overlooked when attraction and infatuation take over.
These signs can include: irrational jealousy, the need to be in control, a quick temper, attempts to isolate the other person from friends and family, drug/alcohol abuse, and disrespect for boundaries, privacy, personal space, or moral values.
God realises that since marriages involve two sinful human beings, divorces are going to occur. In the Old Testament, He laid down some laws in order to protect the rights of divorcees, especially women (Deut 24:1-4).
Jesus pointed out that these laws were given because of the hardness of people’s hearts, not because they were God’s desire (Matt 19:8).
The exception clause
The controversy over whether divorce and remarriage is allowed according to the Bible revolves primarily around Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. The phrase “except for marital unfaithfulness” is the only thing in Scripture that possibly gives God’s permission for divorce and remarriage. This is often referred to as the ‘exception’ clause.
It gives an “exception” for remarriage after a divorce being considered as adultery. Matthew 5:32 reads: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
Similarly, Matthew 19:9 reads: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

So, what precisely is “marital unfaithfulness,” and   why is it an exception to Jesus’ statement that remarriage after a divorce is adultery?
The meaning of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is clear. If a person gets a divorce and then remarries, it is considered adultery unless the exception clause is in effect.
The phrase “marital unfaithfulness” is a translation of the Greek word ‘porneia’, the word from which we get our modern word “pornography.” (The essential meaning of porneia is “sexual perversion.” In Greek literature around the same time as the New Testament, porneia was used to refer to adultery, fornication, prostitution, incest, and idolatry. It is used 25 times in the New Testament, most often translated “fornication.”)

Other Greek words are used to refer to specific forms of sexual perversion, such as adultery.
With this meaning in mind, according to the exception clause, any participation in sexual perversion/misconduct is an exception to Jesus’ statement that remarriage after a divorce is adultery.
If one spouse commits adultery, or any act of sexual perversion, and a divorce results, the “innocent” spouse is free to remarry without it being considered adulterous.
God can heal our damaged union
Please understand, though, that the exception clause is not a command for divorce and/or remarriage. Jesus is not saying that if marital unfaithfulness occurs a couple should divorce. Jesus is not saying that if a divorce occurs due to marital unfaithfulness, the innocent spouse should remarry.
At most, Jesus is giving allowance for divorce and remarriage to occur. In no sense is Jesus declaring divorce and remarriage to be the best, or only, option.
God can, and will, heal any marriage in which both spouses are committed to Him and willing to follow His Word.
An unbelieving spouse
Some understand 1 Corinthians 7:15 as another “exception,” allowing remarriage if an unbelieving spouse divorces a believer.
However, the context does not mention remarriage, but only says a believer is not bound to continue a marriage if an unbelieving spouse wants to leave. Others would say that abuse (spousal or child) is covered by unfaithfulness and abandonment.
Forgiving adultery
Sometimes lost in the debate over the exception clause is the fact that whatever “marital unfaithfulness” means, it is an allowance for divorce, not a requirement for it.
Even when adultery is committed, a couple can, through God’s grace, learn to forgive and begin rebuilding their marriage. God has  forgiven us of so much more. Surely we can follow His example and even forgive the sin of adultery (Eph 4:32). However, in many instances, a spouse is unrepentant and continues in sexual immorality. That is where Matthew 19:9 can possibly be applied. Many also look to quickly remarry after a divorce, when God might desire them to remain single.
God sometimes calls people to be single so that their attention is not divided (1 Cor 7:32-35). Remarriage after a divorce may be an option in some circumstances, but that does not mean it is the only option.
God recognises that divorce will occur and seeks to help and heal us fully
It is distressing that the divorce rate among professing Christians is nearly as high as that of the unbelieving world. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and that reconciliation and forgiveness should be the marks of a believer’s life (Luke 11:4; Eph 4:32).
However, God recognises that divorce will occur, even among His children. A divorced or remarried believer should not feel any less loved by God, even if the divorce or remarriage is not covered under the possible exception clause of Matthew 19:9.
God often uses even the sinful disobedience of Christians to accomplish some good.
GOT QUESTIONS seeks to glorify God by providing Biblical and applicable answers to spiritually related questions. For more info: www. gotquestions.org

Can Someone Be Saved Without A Commitment

Imagine a man and woman getting married, but not having vows where they state their commitment to one another. Or imagine them stating their vows but not really meaning it.
That ‘marriage’ would be a sham. Without genuine commitment, how can you call it a real marriage?
So which is more important-faith or commitment?
Some Christians in their witness consistently invite unbelievers to “make a commitment to Christ.” Other Christians seem to mainly invite people to “believe in Christ.” Which approach is correct?
It is important to say here that both faith and commitment are part of what it means to become a disciple of Jesus. Without faith in Christ, you cannot be His disciple. Without a commitment to Christ, you likewise cannot be His disciple.
Both are essential. Both faith and commitment go into what it means to have a
relationship with our Saviour.
Who are His disciples?
Christ followers want to live for Jesus. They want to commit their bodies and their minds and their speech to doing His Will. They want to obey the Ten Commandments, as well as all of God’s instructions for holy living.
Disciples are committed to doing what the Lord wants them to do. And disciples know they are saved by grace through faith in Christ. (Eph 2:8-9) Disciples do not attempt to earn their salvation.
That “works-righteous” approach would actually keep them outside of the family of God (Gal 5:4).
What is in your heart?
So should we invite people to make a commitment to Christ, or to believe in Christ? Yes. Do both. Explain both. Don’t sell anyone a bill of goods. Don’t lead them to think that Biblical faith can actually exist without genuine commitment to the Lord.
And don’t lead them to think that genuine commitment to Christ can exist without saving faith in the Cross where Jesus died to redeem us. You cannot have one without the other. If you do, you are not a disciple.
It’s not “true faith” if commitment is not also in the heart, and it’s not “true commitment” if faith is not also in the heart. These two always go together. You have both, or neither.
A genuine unity
Are we saved by our works and by our commitment? No. We are saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7) We are saved by what Christ did for us and not what we do for Him.
Salvation cannot be earned. It can only be received. (John 1:12) Like marriage, it produces a very serious relationship. It involves more than just an easy “profession of faith,” or a simple “walk down the aisle.” It involves a genuine commitment to the Gospel message and a genuine commitment to the Gospel Man, Jesus Christ.
This union is God’s idea
So can someone be saved without a commitment? Not any more than someone can be saved by trusting in their works for salvation. The Holy Spirit works in us to believe the good news and to commit our lives to following the Lord.
It is a miraculous relationship that gets established by the power of God. He is the author of the new birth. (1 Cor 12:3, John 1:12) He works through His Word. “Faith comes from hearing the message.” Rom 10:17.
Don’t be hypocritical
We are saved through faith alone, but genuine faith is never alone. It is always accompanied by an authentic commitment to live for Christ. It is heartfelt and sincere.
It is not hypocritical. In fact, the Bible never uses the word “hypocrite” to describe a believer in Christ. A hypocrite is one who pretends to be connected to Christ, but whose heart is not in it and therefore not sincere about it.
Judas was a hypocrite. Peter was not. Judas betrayed the Lord. Peter denied the Lord three times. Judas did not give the Lord his heart. Peter did give the Lord his heart, and in some moments of weakness he went against his heart and his intentions. Judas, on the other hand, went through with his premeditated plan to betray Christ.
One of those men had faith and commitment. The other had neither. Peter was a true follower of Jesus. Judas was a “disciple” in name only.
What is your motivation?
One who is committed to Christ is one who wants to do the Lord’s Will in all things. That is his motive. That is his heart’s desire.
His faith in Christ and his desire for holy living are consistent with each other. Even though he falls short of God’s perfect mark, he nevertheless presses on in following the One who saved Him (Phil 3:13-14).
That is what a Christian does because that is what God works within us. His love. His forgiveness. His Will. That is what drives the Christian to keep going.
One with Christ
Are you one? Would you like to be? The risen Christ is “standing at the altar” so to speak. “Will you take this Man to be your Lord and Saviour, to trust and to follow, until death brings you home to Heaven?”
You cannot split up “Lord” and “Saviour.”
He will be both of them for you, or neither. I guess those Christians who focus more on inviting people to “make a commitment” to Christ would be wise to always include that bit about believing.
And I guess those Christians who always emphasise “believe in Jesus” would be wise to always include the necessity to commit your life to Christ. If we leave one of those two things out of the equation, we are
simply selling someone a bill of goods.
Be honest, this is a battle, don’t sell a puny gospel
Nobody likes a bait and switch. It’s much better to hear the real deal on the front end. That way, there won’t be any confusion when you start to run into some challenges in your Christian life. And those challenges will come. Make no mistake about it. That too is just part of the package.
If only Christianity were as easy as “just believing a few things,” or just “doing some religious stuff,” with no crosses to carry and no burdens to bear.

Make it real
The real thing is often different than what our preconceived ideas led us to assume. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing in the end.
After all, why should Jesus fit nicely into our little preconceived religious box? I am glad He is a lot bigger than our little boxes and our puny thinking. Aren’t you? 

Dan Delzell  is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. For more info see: www.wellspringlutheran.org or dandelzell@cox.net

Bruce Wilkinson – Teaching the Nations

Dr. Bruce Wilkinson is known to millions of people all around the world as a dynamic and anointed speaker and author. His heart is touched by the needy of the world, and he has been involved in pioneering many organisations that increase the level of Biblical teaching and giving exponentially.
We got to chat to Bruce and find out more about what enriches his life, and his upcoming plans…

Bruce, what a pleasant surprise to hear you are engaging with
Africa again. What has kept you busy since your last ministry season in Africa?
In addition to lots of time with family and friends, I’ve focused on four different areas of ministry. Firstly, writing new books (such as ‘You Were Born for This!’) and developing new Bible teaching courses. Secondly, I’ve continued ministering at local churches, pastor conferences, business, leadership conferences and universities etc.
Thirdly, I’ve been helping to raise funds for Christian organisations, churches, colleges, seminaries and humanitarian groups. Fourthly I’ve been conducting training for the Board of Directors of over 100 Christian organisations.

Over twenty years through books, videos, seminars and simulcasts, you have taught millions of people the Bible. What do you wish to tell the people who read ‘The Prayer Of Jabez’, or did the ‘Biblical Portrait of Marriage’ or ‘7 Laws of the Learner’?
I cannot adequately communicate the joy it brings to my wife’s and my heart when we hear of the life-changes the various courses, books and videos have brought, and do bring, to people. 
Biblical Truth set us free. That’s why the books, courses and videos affect people so deeply.  To Him be all the credit!

You are most famous for your best-selling book, ‘The Prayer of Jabez’. Do you still pray that over your life?
Does the sun still rise? Does the moon still shine? Does Nando’s still serve amazing peri-peri chicken?

What memories do you have of your three years living in Africa?
Darlene and I have not spoken publicly about our three years living in Africa—but they were among the most joyful and productive of our entire lives. That is because we were so involved in various types of ministry and leadership in South Africa and other African nations.
It’s difficult to select only a handful of enduring memories. Our son and his family, our daughter and her family, and our youngest daughter – all lived and served in South Africa at various times. Here are some highlights.

Celebrating the planting of our millionth never-ending vegetable gardens for orphans and those struggling with food supply.
Enjoying a cup of tea with President Nelson Mandela in his private residence and responding to his request that we plant vegetable gardens for “his people” in the most difficult economic parts of the Eastern Cape Leading the largest week-long tribal reconciliation event in the history of Uganda with over 5 000 leaders and pastors participating.
We also led a major three-day national reconciliation of 2 000 people from across another country between the “white farmers” and “black workers” in one of the African nations. We spent time with the nation’s president after the historic breakthroughs and appeared on national TV and radio stating that a major work of God had been achieved and the nation was once again at peace.
I remember meeting with eight different African presidents in their palaces, or offices, and sharing with them the power of God to transform their nation. One of those meetings led to President Moi of Kenya asking if I would produce a “Hollywood dramatic motion picture” on the misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS. The movie we produced, ‘Beat the Drum’, has now won over thirty international awards and was premiered in 150 nations. Based upon that movie, a South African group of leaders helped to produce an entire HIV/AIDS youth curriculum which 1 200 college students from eleven different countries convened in Swaziland for a month and taught the week-long curriculum in every single high school in the nation on multinational teams with stunning results.
We worked with our “Dream for Africa” team in South Africa and United States to recruit 3 500 Americans to come down to southern Africa during those three years and serve in short-term missions with us, in evangelism, orphan work, feeding the hungry, training pastors, etc. As a result, one ministry now feeds over 5 000 orphans each day.
We witnessed the life change at the four-day DOME event in 2001 when ‘Turn the Tide’ hosted the Jabez seminar with 100 000 believers in 300 churches connected via satellite. That week the TTT audience gave 200 tents to Judea Harvest. It was that week God called us to move to Africa.

Life in Africa has been remarkable, rewarding, and refreshing. We have so many wonderful friends and partnerships among the pastors, denominations, business leaders, and governmental officials.

I heard you are giving yourself to a new initiative called TEN. Why TEN?
TEN stands for “Teach Every Nation”. It is a new ministry that we have committed to lead and serve for the next five years.
Why TEN? In simplest terms-because Jesus’ Great Commission instructed us to go into all the nations and teach everyone the Bible so that they would become His disciples. 
What does TEN hope to accomplish?
TEN seeks to train pastors, businesspersons, teachers, and Church leaders across the world (in every nation) with a new and revolutionary curriculum that will better equip them to grow their church, plant new churches, and transform their communities.
Personally, I’m convinced that the greatest leveraged and strategic opportunity to impact the world for Christ—is through the more than 1 000 000 Global South pastors of the world. These pastors are God’s chosen servants, who serve Him and who are deeply desirous to become more like Christ and become more effective for Christ.
Now, after more than forty years of intense ministry around the world, I am thrilled at the opportunity to share with others some of the valuable lessons I have paid so dearly to learn!
People want authenticity – they want proven methods that really work in the marketplace. TEN is a huge step backwards in order to be able to successfully take a giant leap forward. We are returning to the profound simplicity, principles and power of the New Testament and its timeless truths to proven contemporary methods and approaches. 

You have many friends in Africa – who are you partnering with?
Friends like Dawie and Chrisna Fourie, Graham Power, Stephan Spies and Maurice Radebe and many more are all dear to me.
The older I become, the more I value enduring and effective partnerships! The New Testament is clear that we are all One Body and are to work together, honouring each other’s gifts and callings.
Whenever unity, humility, and mutual respect operate, the power of the Spirit is unleashed.
TEN has numerous partners of various kinds with pastors, denominations, ministries, NGO’s, Bible colleges and seminaries—but the primary partners who are behind the launch of TEN in September 2013 are Judea Harvest under the leadership of Dr. Louis Blom, Dr. Danie Reyneke and Kola se Klerk and Turn the Tide under Rev. Martin Deacon, Lee Helling, and Rev. Elvis Mvulane.

How far is the influence of TEN?
Judea Harvest and Turn the Tide are doing an excellent job sharing the TEN Vision throughout South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Because of their long-standing and sterling reputations, the doors to TEN are swinging wide open including various denominations, churches, schools, and other Christian ministries.

Tell us briefly what new courses you are teaching in your September simulcast in SA
All of the live courses are one-day in length – each having eight sessions. The Simulcasts are three days in length to enable everyone who so desires to participate. We are launching with Leadership, Christian Living, and Communication.
The Leadership Course is entitled, “How to Double Your Church, Business, and Personal Productivity”. It is one of the most revolutionary courses that I have ever developed. Over 80% of all churches and businesses unfortunately have plateaued and have stopped growing. They stopped growing because they don’t know the powerful secrets that can assist them to flourish and expand. This course has the potential to radically release people, churches, and companies to experience growth that they only ever dreamed of.
The Christian Living Course is entitled, “Releasing God’s Abundant Blessings” and pulls back the veil so we can finally understand what really has to happen for God to release His full and abundant blessings on our lives, marriages, families, ministry, work, and finances.
When you learn God’s Protocols to Release His Blessings, you can follow them and experience abundant victory and joy. One of our primary goals at TEN is to equip pastors and Bible teachers to teach life changing courses to their churches and communities. This course will be the course that we pray 1 000s of pastors will preach in the months following the September Simulcast.

Tell us more about the Communication Course
The Communication Course is entitled, “Anyone can become a Great Communicator” and builds upon the 7 Laws of the Learner, Teaching with Style, and new material which reveals Christ’s revelation regarding why students respond the way that they do – and what to do to help them become everything that they deeply desire to be.
All of us communicate and teach all day long – whether to our children or family or in business or ministry. If you wish you could communicate more powerfully and effectively, then this course is for you.
The simulcasts are scheduled twice a year in March and September. Darlene and I will be returning for four to eight weeks each of those times and hopefully will enjoy seeing many of our friends and ministry partners.

Finally, are you optimistic about Africa’s future?
I’m a very strong Afro Optimist. All the reports regarding the economic growth of Africa demonstrates that Africa will outshine both United States and China on the rate of growth in the next decade.
Personally, I’m convinced that this is Africa’s greatest season in modern history – and her soon arriving destiny will astound the world.
Key to this vision, however, is that the Church must become the leading influence in the lives of the African people. 

Compelling Reasons To Learn Church History

Why would twenty-first century Christians, who can read the Bible for themselves and attend Bible-believing churches, need to study Church History?”
I’ve heard this kind of question phrased a number of ways over the years. Sometimes people ask it with a tone of sincere curiosity: “Isn’t the Bible sufficient for all matters of faith and practice? Are those people from Church history even relevant to our modern world? What can they tell us that isn’t already in the Bible for anybody with eyes to see and ears to hear?”
Other times people ask with a tone of incredulity, even hostility: “Won’t dwelling in the past keep us from looking to the future? Isn’t it dangerous to read all those Roman Catholics? Didn’t the Church fall away from the Bible soon after the apostles? Don’t we believe in Scripture alone as the source of our theology?”

Embracing Church history
As a professor of theology who has consciously injected a large dose of historical reflection into my Biblical, doctrinal, and practical instruction, I’ve found it necessary to ready myself with a number of important reasons for looking into the rear-view mirror of Church history as we seek to drive forward into the future.
I’d like to share with you three reasons why every Bible-believing Christian should not merely give Church history an occasional nod of respect, but embrace it as a critical component of a wise, balanced Christian life and ministry.

1. Learning Church history will cure our ignorance of the past
Too many evangelicals are walking around in a constant state of what we might call ‘duja vé’. No, not ‘déja vu’—you know what that is: the odd feeling that this has happened before. ‘Duja vé’, on the other hand, is just the opposite: it’s that nagging feeling that none of this has ever happened before.
The truth is, throughout the Church’s history Christians have pretty much dealt with every kind of doctrinal and practical challenge you can imagine.
Ecclesiastes 1:9–10 puts it this way: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us.”
Historical perspective helps
Let me give an illustration. As a young believer, I was a member of a small church in northern Minnesota. As you might expect,  conflict sometimes flared up in such a small community. On one occasion the subject of church music came up, centred on the question of the use of various instruments like guitars and drums.
In our church only the piano was used in Sunday morning worship. One older man in the class spoke up in a deep, gruff voice, ranting against the use of anything but the piano in worship and complaining about “that satanic beat” of modern music using drums.
In his mind, using instruments associated with contemporary secular music would be selling out to “the culture.” But a little historical perspective would have helped.

Ignorance causes disputes
Most people who resist musical changes to the worship service fail to acknowledge that every style of music and musical instrument has, at some point, been adapted from the surrounding culture.
When great hymn writers like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley wrote their now classic hymns, many church leaders rejected their songs because they believed Christians should sing only the inspired and inerrant Psalms. Instruments like the piano, violin, and even the organ were all initially rejected for Christian worship because of their associations with secular music.
In order for Christians to make wise decisions, they must be able to draw from a depth of historical knowledge. In short, learning Church history will cure our ignorance of the past.

2. Learning church history will curb the arrogance of  our present
Some evangelicals could very well define “Church history” as “the study of how everybody misinterpreted the Bible until we came along.”
On several occasions I’ve heard people actually say: “I don’t care if I’m the first person in history to read the Bible this way. If that’s what Scripture says, then I’m going to accept it.” We should admire this confidence in Scripture, but that statement places a lot of unquestioned confidence in one’s own abilities to properly interpret the Bible.
Snobbery of the Scriptures
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, but I don’t believe in the sufficiency of self.
The kind of arrogance that makes a person completely abandon the contributions from the past is what CS Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” which he defined as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. “
“You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood.”

Don’t blindly reject history
Men often look back over their lives and reflect on how far they’ve come and the progress they’ve made. But poet Thomas S. Jones presents the opposite perspective: “What if the younger version of me were to peer forward and see what kind of person I have become?” He mused:
“Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me,
A little lad just back from play,
The lad I used to be.
And yet he smiles so wistfully
Once he has crept within,
I wonder he still hopes to see
The man I might have been.”
Those words haunt me. I often wonder what the bygone generations of Christianity might think if they could peer “across the fields of yesterday” and see what had become of the faith for which they lived and died.
I constantly ask myself: “If the Church fathers or Protestant Reformers were to show up at my church, would they worship…or run?” Sometimes I see such a pitch of “chronological snobbery” in many of our avant-garde churches that I wonder if we would purposely drive them off…then brag about having done so.
Understanding the present
Studying Church history will help evangelicals understand their place in that history. It will help them see that their particular church tradition (with all its idiosyncrasies) is a flawed but valid part of something much bigger than themselves.
They will realise that their present form of Christianity is itself a period that will one day be left in the past. They will be humbled by the moving testimonies, passionate ministries, and sacrificial devotion of the saints of old. The result? Church history will curb the arrogance of our present.
3. Learning Church history will conserve the faith for the future
The Lord’s brother, Jude, urged Christians “to contend for the Faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3.
The Greek verb translated “delivered” refers to a sacred trust or tradition. Paul described this tradition as he handed it down to the Corinthians: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” 1 Cor 15:1,3.
Jude used the same language as Paul did for receiving the tradition and sending it forward to the future. In this case the things “received” and “handed down” were the central truths of the Christian Faith.

Conveying the timeless Message
Paul also wrote letters to his younger disciple, Timothy, for the purpose of
encouraging the next generation to faithfully convey the core Christian tradition into the future.
Paul wrote, “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” 2 Tim 3:14. He also said, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Tim 2:2.
By observing what our spiritual forefathers fought to preserve and pass on, we come to understand and appreciate the need to continue the pattern established by 2 Timothy 2:2. By looking back, Christ-ians today can learn how to conserve and convey the timeless message through time-tested methods.

Make disciples
Today the Christian Church is facing numerous serious crises directly related to their inability to make disciples who are passing the Faith on to the next generation.
To put it bluntly: Christians today are dropping the baton, but still running the race! According to a 2006 Barna Group study, 40-50% of kids who were “equipped” in church youth groups walk away from the faith or the church in their college years. Study after study shows that evangelicalism itself is shrinking in America.
Mega church and multi-site ministries mask the problem, as far too many of those big box churches grow in number by primarily syphoning believers from elsewhere and systematically weakening smaller churches…not by converting the lost or restoring the un-churched.
This kind of model of ministry is simply unsustainable. In many respects, American Christians are simply failing to pass the Faith on to the next generation. Unless this trend is halted, the disaster could be epic.

Church history
The incredible challenges we’re facing today aren’t new. Pluralism, cynicism, paganism, immorality, political corruption, war, persecution, social unrest, atheism, scepticism, and me-theism—the early church thrived in that kind of culture. But today we’re doing all we can to simply survive.
As we look back at the history of the Church, the pre-modern models and methods of evangelism, catechetical instruction, initiation, and life-long discipleship can help us
re-think how we face the current challenges in our increasingly post-modern, post-Christian world. It’s not too late. By learning Church history we can rediscover and restore wise and effective ways to conserve the Faith for the future. 

Michael J. Svigel has written or co-authored numerous resources targeting a Christian lay audience. For more info see: www.bible.org or www.retrochristianity.com