Last Will Be First

First Will Be Last

    Smead's knock, as usual, brought no response. A waste. The man inside, he knew, wanted him to be seen going in the front door. Frequent visits by the parish priest meant status in these old Polish districts. Smead swore under his breath and went out to the sidewalk, waiting for Dizak to answer his knock, dreading the stifling smells of the dark and airless room to which the door now opened.
    Dizak, a hulking, muscular figure in his sixties, talked steadily for half an hour. Five more minutes, Smead decided. As the man in the musty bathrobe rambled on, the priest glanced at the wallet on the sideboard. Good. They would not have to hunt for it this time. He could see the edges of several bills peeking out. Smead was sure one of them was a ten.
    Dizak's story had not changed for the past three years.
    “You'll speak to her then, Father?”
    “Of course, Karl.”
    “I know she hasn't been well, but you must make clear to her that Holy Mother Church gives wives certain duties.”
    “Yes, I understand.”
    “There's that look of yours again. I can't stand that look, Father. Ah, but you're a priest. You don't feel the needs of a man.”
    At these words Smead decided to take an extra five dollars from Dizak. In the days before his priesthood, he had tumbled more girls than the old bastard had hairs left on his head. “Christ be thanked for that,” Smead said.
    “Danya still has wonderful breasts, Father. She's thirteen years younger than I am. Her legs are so soft. And she was always wet. As wet as a fifteen year old.”
    Smead squirmed uncomfortably. “These things were given to you as God's gift. They brought you your lovely children and your grandchild. Now the days of bearing fruit are over. God wishes you to begin thinking of a higher world. Mercifully, our bodies begin to grow away from the cares of the flesh. That, too, is God's gift.”
    “It's no gift to me,” Dizak said. “My wants are still the same. But that damned disease makes her crazy. She won't let me near her. You've got to talk to her, Father.”
    “I will.”
First love     “She just lies up there with all those damned holy pictures and statues of Our Virgin Lady around her. But let me tell you, the same fingers that are feeling those rosary beads have other skills, if you'll excuse me. And there were times, not too long ago, when she'd forget those statues and take me with her lips.”
    Dizak looked toward the stairs. Tears suddenly filled his eyes. “Doc Wallinski says she'll just keep getting worse. Pretty soon she won't even know who I am, he says.” He turned to Smead, his voice very soft. “I want my wife, Father. I want to be with her again. Make her understand, will you?”
    “I can only try,” Smead said.
    Dizak's eyes turned cold. “Look, I need help! And you owe me. All the time you suck away my money and give me nothing.”
    “I give you my prayers, Karl. Day after day.”
    “Screw prayers. I just want to be inside my wife again.” Dizak looked toward the wallet on the sideboard. “Fifty dollars. It will starve me, but I'll give you fifty dollars if you can get her to lie with me again.”
    Smead knew that for fifty dollars he would hold the woman down while Dizak mounted her. “Our gifts to God can only purchase grace,” he said. “But I'll try.”
--Norman Stahl and Don Horan, The Buried Man531

Actually I don't mind mundane material in a sermon so much; I can usually stay awake just as easily as in a fiery sermon. My own life has its share of the ordinary: bus ride home after dinner on Thursday, shopping and then a movie on Friday. I think the preacher said being in God's will was the important thing. Yes.

So I was riding home on the bus. It was one of the articulated buses and I'd taken a seat on one of the high benches in the joint area. As we were getting closer to my stop I was eying an empty seat near the rear door which would let me off closer to home. There was a clutch of young adults standing in the doorwell conversing about their important lives. I'd have to get around them.

The bus stopped to pick up a couple fellows, one with a backpack. I used that as an opportunity to move back to the seat I wanted. The guy with the backpack thanked me and took the bench seat on which he could rest his pack behind him. His friend sat next to him.

Then came my stop. Those beautiful people moved aside so I could get to the door. When I pushed on the door it opened automatically sliding into the space occupied by the one girl who got unceremoniously pushed back, vocalizing her complaint.

Isn't that just as the Bible says, the first will be last and the last will be first? A guy carrying his house on his back is looked down on, the lowest rung of the bus's social order. Yet he got the throne seat. But one of the beautiful people got pushed aside.

I picked up some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide at the store to clean my teeth according to my dentist's prescription. Then I went to take in a movie. The ticket taker asked to check my bag to make sure I wasn't carrying any food into the theater. She happily and courteously passed my supplies. Not like when I tried to bring a hamburger and soda into the place. I had to eat those outside.

Again, the first things last. The first food one can eat when hungry is fast food. But no, that is forbidden to bring into the theater. It's competition. No, no, no. First things last.

The last thing one puts in his mouth at night is what cleans his teeth. I feel like I'm in chemistry lab mixing H2O + H2O2 + NaHCO3 to get 'em clean. It's a necessary task. I'm not going to be munching on baking soda and washing it down with hydrogen peroxide in the theater. They know those supplies are not competition with their own sales. No, I bought them at the same mall which proceeds pay part of the overhead. I can bring them in. They want people to have clean teeth, fresh breath.

Now we are following Paul in Acts and see a list of blah events. Since we are going through the whole book we have to take them in. Is there any way we can apply the first being last, the last being first? Well, we see Priscilla and Aquila mentioned again as Paul's traveling companions. You know, the Apostle spending so much time with them gives them a lot of status. "Frequent visits by the parish priest meant status in these old Polish districts." And indeed, (Rom. 16:3-5a) "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house."

Paul is Mr. Celibacy as in “Ah, but you're a priest. You don't feel the needs of a man.” And yet while the parish priest has laded out marital advice, Paul doesn't seem to use the marriage of Priscilla and Aquila as any example at all.

I'm just a guy who rides the bus, does some shopping, goes to movies. My life is filled with the mundane, and there is mundane in the Bible too. But I've heard my share of sermons. I once went to a church that catered to college students who were of an age to consider marriage. The pastor preached a whole sermon on seeking first God's kingdom, and then a wife would be added unto you. He gave as an example a guy and a girl whose ministry it was to prepare the youth fellowship every week. This they did faithfully week after week. Then one day the guy looked over at the girl and got an idea. He thought maybe they should get married. She agreed and that was that.

At another church they used to teach (I don't know what they teach now) that physical compatibility was not going to be a problem; so long as it was a boy and a girl, they would do fine, no need to explore compatibility. They took this to the extreme of discouraging kissing and the like before marriage.

I find such setups in gospel literature:

Why I Married Cindy532

the last word     Since Cindy and I had the same call and vision for the ministry, possible family distractions seemed likely to be minimal and were outweighed by the benefit of a life-long, holy alliance to advance the cause of Christ.

Brother Jed is a great campus preacher; so is sister Cindy for that matter. I've helped work the crowds where they preach. I even preached with brother Jed on one occasion. More power to them for getting married to form a team! Such teams sure are promoted by some churches. I just wonder why God in the Bible didn't promote the team of Priscilla and Aquila as a prime example of a marriage ideal. God got first things last as usual.

Let's look at how Jesus set it up. (Matt. 19:27-30) "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." This is the lead-in to the parable of the laborers. Everything else being equal, let's look at the leaving of wife. The assistant minister's Bible conveniently left that one out, or maybe he just skipped over it in his sermon. Christians are understandably against divorce, but a sacrifice of wife can apply to not looking for one in the flesh but accepting the one that will complement one's Christian ministry. At least the preacher at the one church, and the one at the other, and brother Jed will all see it that way. He takes in the Lord only one with "the same call and vision for the ministry, possible family distractions be[ing] minimal and outweighed by the benefit of a life-long, holy alliance to advance the cause of Christ". A brother Jed marries a sister Cindy to labor a day in the vineyard for a penny's wage being an hundredfold of fellowship and then everlasting life. They work the whole day, "possible family distractions be[ing] minimal and outweighed by the benefit of a life-long, holy alliance to advance the cause of Christ."

Okay, then come the laborers hired in the third hour. These are where one has a certain gift ministry and the other a supporting role but not the same ministry, and they marry in the Lord.

The ones hired the sixth and the ninth hour are where their ministries are not the same or complementary, but they incorporate the parallels between Christ and the church in their marriage in the Lord to one degree or another--6th or 9th hr.

Finally those hired in the eleventh hour are the Christians who marry in the Lord to nonbelievers. They can't work together in Christian ministry because a Christian is not to be unequally yoked. The unbeliever won't necessarily be even interested in supporting the other's ministry. And the nonchristian won't even understand what the relationship between Christ and the church is to live it out. The only labor God can ask of that Christian in the eleventh hour as regards his marriage is to live out his life as a witness to his spouse. (I Cor. 7:16) "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"

Okay, come the rewards. The first one to get rewarded in scripture is the mixed marriage Christian as Paul goes to lengths to show that such a marriage is sanctified (I Cor. 7:12-17). Having a sanctified marriage (whether married before or after conversion--I Cor. 3:22), other things being equal, they get a hundredfold of fellowship and inherit eternal life. After that come the other three categories who are given no extra boost of sanctification, only told that they are properly allowable: (I Cor. 9:5) "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?"

The "other apostles," we won't figure out except by process of elimination, how they differ from Cephas (Peter), so that group gets paid out in the scriptures last. The next category implicitly sanctified is "the brethren of the Lord." Well, husbands are being brothers to the Lord when they love their wives as Christ loves the church, and so forth. So such marriages are sanctified just as are mixed marriages.

Next on the list is Cephas. What little we know of his marital status is, (Matt 8:14-15) "And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them." Evidently Mrs. Peter was not an apostle, and yet such a marriage is acceptable enough for Paul's example, so we conclude that after mixed marriages, and Christian marriages, a marriage of a Christian supporter to a minister is also sanctified.

That leaves us to figure out what other apostles have a marriage representation? We do have some foundation in this book, (I Cor. 1:12) "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." If we take time to differentiate the unity of the body of Christ--guided by love, all members needed, honor given to uncomely, gifts used for edification--from the differences in marital statuses--every man according to his gift of God, with different principles guiding the different statuses (e.g. good for the eunuch not to even touch a woman, while the married must render due benevolence)--then we can take Paul's earlier categories in a more definitive sense. "I am of Paul," would represent the eunuch. "And I of Apollos," would represent, what? Well, Apollos was discipled by the married gospel team of Priscilla and Aquila, so unless we find a better candidate, we would let this one represent the married couple gospel team. "And I of Cephas," would, of course, be a Christian in the ministry married to one who is not. "And I of Christ," would be the Christian couple under the condition of working out their relationship as Christ does with the church.

Now, would Apollos be one of the "other apostles" to whom Paul could have been referring? Well, a certain radio preacher considers him an apostle--with a small "a." There are more apostles than just the twelve + Paul, so I am told. Furthermore, they seem to be treated as a pair in Paul's thinking, of which Apollos would be the other apostle. (I Cor. 3:5-9) "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."

Then we get to the crucial statement, (I Cor. 3:21-22) "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your's." All things being ours, whether Paul, if we are called to be a eunuch. "Or Apollos," if we are called to be a married gospel team. "Or Cephas," if we are called to the ministry married to someone who is merely supportive. "Or the world," if we are called to a marriage with an unbeliever. "Or life, or death," as one might wish to apply the parallel of Christ to the church using his death and resurrection establishing the new covenant. "Or things present," abiding in the calling wherein one was called. "Or things to come," if one wants to get married later. "All are your's."

The married gospel team, equally yoked together, complains that those working just one hour--mixed marriage where all the believer is required to do is live out his Christian life before the unbeliever--get the same sanctification as they did who bore the heat of the day. That heat of the day represents the trouble in the flesh married couples encounter. Picking a mate for compatible Christian ministries to work together might easily mean picking one with severe incompatibilities in the flesh. If one is not limited to choosing a mate with the same or similar ministry, or one whose ministry the other can offer needed support to, or even just another Christian, but if he can choose a mate who is a good match in the flesh, then he is likely to have less trouble along those lines. I don't know if this is real or actual, but from the perspective of the married-gospel-team who is having all kinds of trouble in the flesh, it could sure look that way, and they are the ones complaining, so we have to take their perspective whether it is real or imagined.

Anyway, they are supposed to get out of here with their complaints as they got their penny sanctification agreed upon, and it's God's money to distribute sanctification to all four marriage types alike where the believers are doing their parts according to the time-of-labor/ callings-in-Christ they had to work with. The interesting principle of many-called/but few-chosen is directly applicable to partner selection as one has fewer picks when restricting himself to other believers (few chosen), but a larger pick if he allows unbelievers whom he would then live out his Christian life before (the many called).

Now let's look at that gospel team. Say they got married to serve the Lord with compatible ministries, figuring that being male and female, physical compatibility would take care of itself. By and by they grew older. “My wants are still the same. But that damned disease makes her crazy. She won't let me near her. You've got to talk to her, Father.” Since all they had going was the ordinary physical attraction for the opposite sex in its youth, there was no special magic to last through changes due to age. I'm just using that as an example.

    As we have repeatedly maintained, sex is not the most important part of life. But it is as good a representative as any other of the larger context of our lives. The hopes and fears and problems that affect us elsewhere usually also show up in sex.
--Bernie Zilbergeld, Ph.D., Male Sexuality533

The analogy of such troubles to a laborer enduring the heat of the day is given in scripture, (Job 7:1-3) "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling? As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work: So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me." A marriage of convenience to serve the Lord together which isn't at all fulfilling either in bed or out ("months of vanity, and wearisome nights") is quite analogous to a laborer bearing the heat of the day ("As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:") which the one-hour laborers who married someone physically compatible do not have to endure so much. God's answer to their complaint is that he gave them what they bargained for, a hundredfold of fellowship and such plus eternal life. It's not their concern if God similarly rewards Christians in a mixed marriage who do work the one hour of being a witness to their spouse. (Matt. 20:14-15) "Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"

But the translators of the NIV have not gone their way satisfied, but have restated Paul as saying a widow must only remarry to someone who "belongs to the Lord" (I Cor. 7:39b), when Paul allows that she must do so "only in the Lord," be it marrying in the Lord to a nonbeliever to be a witness unto him or to someone else, marrying in the Lord. The NIV translators are trying to take the sanctification away from a Christian who marries in the Lord to a nonbeliever, which is to diminish their reward and make the reward of the married gospel team greater by comparison.

As such they have tried to change the rules, (Isaiah 24:5) "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." They have become false witnesses to Paul's message, and by the law of Moses false witnesses were to suffer the same fate of the falsely accused should he have been found guilty. I.e. (Susanna 1:19-21, 61-62) "Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders rose up, and ran unto her, saying, Behold, the garden doors are shut, that no man can see us, and we are in love with thee; therefore consent unto us, and lie with us. If thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee: and therefore thou didst send away thy maids from thee.


¶"And they arose against the two elders, for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth: And according to the law of Moses they did unto them in such sort as they maliciously intended to do to their neighbour: and they put them to death. Thus the innocent blood was saved the same day." That means that as the translators were to have considered a perfectly sanctified marriage unclean, so they are to be considered as having problematic marriages themselves. The repercussion is per (I Timothy 3:5) "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" We can't count them to be authoritative in anything spiritual concerning the NIV that they translated. It's not like they missed something about prayer and we can preach out of an older version (as, in fact, the preacher had done) and then go back to the NIV later. No, we must set aside the whole NIV.

This is also according to (Romans 16:17-18) "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." The minister seems to have found that as there are plenty of simple minded brethren with the NIV that he should preach from it, but according to this, that is just the reason he should not. Remember, "you could always judge the size of a man's feelings on any subject by the size of the lies he told."534 They told a big lie, so the size of their feelings, their belly, must be great. They are translating by their feelings, not the Holy Spirit.

Technically we should not be using the NIV in any service traditional or contemporary, but since I don't even go to the contemporary service, I thought I'd confine my request to the traditional service, to use a traditional (KJV) version in it.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

Any particular questions or requests for permissions may be addressed to me, the author.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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