Free Moral Agency and the Word
1. How has God left us as free moral agents concerning his Word, and so to whom are we to ascribe blessings and to whom our troubles?
GOD recognizes us as free moral agents and lets us choose to take his Word or leave it. If we keep his Word and meet up with great blessings for this, then we can ascribe those blessings to God. “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (Jas. 1:17, NW) But if we take no heed to his Word and follow our selfish desire or some creature’s word because it agrees with our selfish desire and then we get into trouble, we may incline to say, “The Devil did that!” Yes, the Devil did that, but remember that he did it through you, through your yielding to him. You played into his hands. It did not necessarily have to be that way.
2. From what features about God’s Word does our difficulty often arise in determining our problem? What does this let us prove?
2 Our difficulty in determining God’s will in our personal matters arises often because his Word was not written for each of us individually, but was written for the organization of his people. The advice and instructions in his Word apply, therefore, to all individuals in the organization or associated with it. It does not say one thing to one person and another thing to another person so as to please each one according to his individual likes. God does not bend or alter his law just to suit the selfish desires or inclinations of some individual. His law is theocratic and according to his will and rule of action. It is not determined by the selfish will of any individual creature. So the advice and instructions given are often general, setting out the principle to follow but leaving each individual a free moral agent to choose to follow the faithful principle set forth or to follow his selfish desire. In that way God allows each individual the opportunity to prove how much love and confidence he has toward God the Giver of the Word, and how eager he is to do the divine will. God does not force his will upon any creature. He wants loving obedience.
3. What does the apostle Paul say on marriage, and what question is left open to each individual Christian?
3 For instance, the Bible gives a great deal of advice on marriage and the relationship between the sexes. The apostle Paul advises that where immorality is prevalent and a Christian person is sexually sensitive and is inclined to be inflamed with passion he might well marry and have his own legal wife. He also says: “Are you loosed from a wife? Stop seeking a wife. But even if you did marry, you would commit no sin. And if a virgin married, such one would commit no sin. However, those who do will have tribulation in their flesh.” Besides tribulation, their freedom of choice and movement will be curtailed. Husband will try to please wife, and wife husband. Both will be somewhat anxious therefore concerning things of this world, to gain each other’s approval. But “the single woman, and the virgin, is anxious for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy [fully set apart] both in her body and in her spirit”. There is no sin in legally marrying. Each Christian is free to marry, but “only in the Lord”, that is, only if the mate is in union with the Lord. So the question is one of the state which is preferable, singleness or marriage. Paul answers the question as a man who has God’s spirit: “He also that gives his virginity in marriage does well, but he that does not give it in marriage will do better.”—1 Corinthians, chapter 7, NW.
4. If a Christian prays about marriage or consults a brother about it, what may he expect or not expect?
4 Marriage will sometimes disqualify a person for a particular place of service in connection with God’s visible organization, because there a single man is needed. Despite that, a single man takes a liking to a girl and the desire to marry her wells up in him. Shall he carry out that desire or not? He asks himself, What is God’s will? Then he says, I will pray God to show me his will. But God gives him no direct personal answer for his own particular case. He consults a brother Christian. But God does not inspire this brother to be a prophet and give him a specific message to tell the inquirer that he should or should not get married. All the brother can advise him is to consult God’s written Word, or he can tell the perplexed brother what it says. The brother is disappointed and goes away dissatisfied and hurt. But he would not feel that way if he were not letting his selfish desire get the better of him.
5. Does God advise any Christian to marry, and what is the idea of some in seeking advice from others to marry?
5 God is not going to tell any individual Christian whether to get married or not. He lets each one make his own decision and take the consequences. But the idea of some person who wants to marry is this: In view of the poor way many marriages turn out these days he wants somebody else to assure him everything will be or will turn out all right if he gets married, and so to take the responsibility for advising him to get married. If the marriage does not turn out well, then he does not have to blame himself for getting married; he was not doing his own will in taking this step, oh no! but was following the other person’s advice and he is to blame.
6. Was it God’s will for Isaac to marry? How was his wife obtained?
6 God will not take the responsibility of advising us directly to marry and so be chargeable with the consequences. We must bear in mind we are not Isaacs and Rebekahs. Isaac was not the one that decided upon marriage. Abraham his father did so and sent an agent or go-between to procure a wife for Isaac from his brother’s family relationship. Was it God’s will for Isaac to marry? Yes; because Abraham’s seed or offspring was to be called in Isaac’s line and hence Isaac must raise a child or children and have a legal wife for this. But she had to be a wife from his own Shemite relations. Isaac did not choose his bride. He had never seen her before the go-between finally presented her to him. To determine upon the unknown girl, the go-between while at the well where he met her proposed a sign to God. By fulfilling this God indicated who the girl to be chosen was. The girl turned out to be a second cousin of Isaac.
7. What Biblical procedure is open for a Christian not wanting to make up his own mind on marriage? What did Rebekah’s selection picture?
7 Today, however, we are not subject to any such marriage arrangements in Western democratic lands. We are not Isaacs who are obliged to marry and raise children in order to keep the line of descent unbroken until Christ the Promised Seed of Abraham arrives. Marriage is a personal item upon which each Christian must decide for himself. There is no divine obligation upon him to do so. If he does not want to take the responsibility of making up his own mind on whether to marry, then let him do as they did in Bible times and have his parents or guardians decide for him. If they decide he should marry, then let them pick the girl for him, even if he has never seen the girl before, and let them draw up the contract binding the girl to him. Oh, but that would curtail his liberty of picking his own girl! He does not like that! Then let him shoulder his responsibility and decide whether to marry and decide on the girl he wants. God’s directing in the procuring of a wife for Isaac was not a picture of how God selects a bride for each individual Christian who wants to marry. It is a picture of how God selects a bride for the great Bridegroom, his Son Jesus Christ, and how he sends his angel and selects those who are to be members in the bride class.—Gen. 24:1-67.
8. What pointed information does God give respecting singleness and marriage, and what is God’s will for those who do marry?
8 Hence, except that a Christian is to marry “in the Lord”, God exercises no will to decide, but lets each Christian have full freedom of will on the matter. God assures him he does not sin if he marries “in the Lord”, but he tells him what will be his portion if he stays single and what if he marries. He is free to stay single and enjoy the larger sphere of service and the special privileges for which his singleness adapts him. He is free to marry, without thus sinning, to enjoy the pleasures, blessings and privileges of wedlock. But he must part thereby with some control over his own body and must expect “tribulation in the flesh”. There is no sin in exercising his wish in this case. What does he wish? God’s will only is that, if he does marry, he must love his wife, keep the marriage bed undefiled by committing no adultery, and bring up his children in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah and prove his integrity toward God in payment of his vows to God.—Eph. 5:22-33; Heb. 13:4; Eph. 6:4, NW.