The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
T. T. Eaton
From Talks on Getting Married, 1891
"Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3)
This is one of the proverbial expressions which Amos uses to enforce the threatenings of God toward His disobedient people. They had sinned against Him vilely and ungratefully, and the record of their sins, as given in the stern words of the prophet, is shameful. Idolatry, covetousness, immorality, defiance, and forgetfulness of God are all here in their worst forms. They sold the righteous for silver, the poor for a pair of shoes, and such sins were common among them as were not named among the Gentiles. "You only have I known among all the nations of the earth."
And to learn all the deep meaning of that reproach, we must turn to the song of Moses, which he spoke in the ears of all the congregation of Israel. “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of children of Israel." (Deut. 32:8) Think of it! The very bounds of the earth's great empires were assigned with reference to the welfare of that one small people. Such are the love, and kindness of the God of all the earth to this one nation, and such is the return they make for that love!
Nor was that all. When the prophets warned them of God's wrath and the punishment which would surely follow, they laughed the message to scorn. They referred the evils which had befallen them to natural causes, and refused to see God in them at all. They imagined that be-cause they were the chosen people, God would not punish them for their sins. Such stern words as the prophet spoke might apply to Edom and Ammon, but not to Israel. It is an old delusion that God can be mocked by his people's sowing one thing and reaping another, by disobeying the law and avoiding the penalty.
It is this flattering lie of the tempter which Amos is combatting, "You only have I known among all the families of the earth." (Amos 3:2) But that is far from being a reason why they could trample upon God's commands with impunity. The Judge of all the earth must do right. He is no weak, earthly father, at whose authority spoiled children can laugh. Where great blessings are given, there great responsibility is added, and to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.
Because they have been thus chosen, "Therefore," God says, “I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:2) Divine favor is not a thing to be presumed upon. He that has five talents must bring five more. It is true his reward will be in proportion, but so would his punishment have been had he been faithless to his trust.
Because God has loved and blessed you greatly is no reason why he will look complacently upon your sin; it is rather a reason for holding you to a stricter account. God's special favor upon you, so far from diminishing, greatly increases the guilt of your sin. Israel thought they could go on with their idolatries and uncleanness, and that God would still be their God and they would still be His people. If He would only be complacent and good-naturedly indifferent, there would be no trouble. They could still walk with Him, acknowledging Him as God of Israel and keeping up His worship with all possible grandeur of priestly robes and all possible abundance of sacrifice. To them, in their desire to accommodate God's worship and their own sins, comes the keen sarcasm of the question—"Can two walk together except they be agreed?"
There is solemn warning here to those who live in known sin, who do in their business or pleasure what they know the Bible condemns, and yet imagine they will not be held to a strict accountability because they are church members, or because they do good or refrain from evil in other directions. God is holy and will not walk with those who are unholy, no matter if they are numbered among His people.
The very idea is absurd. How can two walk together except they be agreed? It is only those who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honor and immortality, who shall receive eternal life. Such is the immediate lesson Amos teaches. God will not be our God, nor will we be His people unless we be agreed—agreed in the end we strive for, his glory; and agreed in the character we seek to attain—the character of holiness. The only way to agree with Him, so that we may walk together, is by being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and surrendering our will to His.
But I desire to speak more particularly of these words as applied to our relations to our fellowmen.
How to avoid friction is the great question in all machinery. All sorts of lubricators are tried, and all sorts of material used to reduce the wear and tear caused by friction. Nor is there freedom from danger in this thing. Not long ago I read in the papers that the box to the wheel of a sleeping car took fire from friction as the train was moving rapidly over the road, making stops only at the large cities. The fire was not discovered till the flames reached the body of the car where the passengers were sleeping, and as a result, several of them were badly burned.
Many a destructive fire has been started by friction, and that man will be hailed as the benefactor of the age who shall discover some lubricator which will prevent all friction, or better still, find two metals which will work on each other smoothly with no friction. Yet, in its place, friction is useful. We could not walk and teams could not draw and wheels could not run without it. It is the friction between the engine wheel and the track that sends the train thundering along. Did you ever try to walk upon very slippery ice? The only difficulty was a lack of friction between your foot and the smooth surface. Then it is by friction that we sharpen all tools.
The friction between mind and nerve, between opinions and ideas, between wills and hopes is as wearing on mind and spirit as is friction on material things. And it is dangerous, also, lighting more terrible fires than ever raged in factory or mill. There is nothing more wasteful of spiritual and intellectual power than this continual strain to overcome resistance. The friction may seem slight, but it wears and exhausts the powers of mind and soul. Watch the whirling wheels and bands in a great factory. To you all seems to move smoothly, and yet, ere long, ponderous steel bars are worn thin by the constant friction. It is the regular and unceasing loss, hour by hour, and day by day, which tells.
The skilled workman will tell you that they use lubricators most and strive hardest to avoid all cause of friction in those parts of the machinery which come into closest and most constant contact. It makes little difference if two beams rub each other once a month, but if they rub daily and hourly, everything possible must be done to lessen the friction.
HOW TO REGULATE THE FRICTION
There is in the text the wisdom which sees and avoids all occasion for mental friction. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" How can two walk together who are going in different directions? One or the other or both must go out of their course and so fail to reach their goal. God makes no allowance in his requirements, for time and strength wasted in trying to keep in the company of those who are not walking in the path marked out for us. The man who received ten talents would not have been excused, had he failed to bring the full amount of interest, because part of the money had been used in making and keeping peace with those who cared nothing for his Lord.
Two cannot walk together unless they be agreed as to the direction they will go. Nor can they walk together unless they be agreed as to the rate they will travel. If one walks rapidly, while the other loiters and stops continually to sit in the shade; or if one goes a steady gait which he can maintain, while the other runs with all his strength and then sleeps till he is rested from the great exertion—can they walk together?
How can two walk together if they do not trust each other, or if one has no confidence in the integrity or the kindness or the courage of his companion? His mind will be distracted from the obstacles and dangers in the way, and his spirits dampened by a sense of the need of constantly guarding against the untrustworthiness of his companion.
There can be no satisfaction in walking together unless there be similar tastes as well. If one likes what the other dislike; if one is interested in what the other finds a weariness; if one is bright and hopeful while the other is morose and despondent, there can be no pleasure in walking together. But two cannot walk together who are going in different directions; or who, if going in the same direction, walk at different rates of speed. These two conditions are indispensable.
Walking together implies companionship. It makes little difference whether you agree with a man who sells you goods over a counter — it is necessary that you agree only about the price. And so your agreement with those with whom you have little to do is a matter of small consequence.
But the longer the walk you are to take together, the more intimate the companionship and the greater the interest you have in common, the more impossible it is that you should walk together except you be agreed. And the more points to which the agreement extends the better. It is, however, essential in all important points, and most essential of all in the aim of your lives. There must be complete accord on this chief point, or the friction will be terrible and the burden of life too heavy to be borne.
It is this necessity of agreement between those who walk together which has occasioned the proverb, “A man is known by the company he keeps." It is not only that his choice of company reveals his true character, but because unconsciously he becomes like the company he keeps. This association is more powerful for evil than for good—alas! For our fallen nature that it is so! It has been well said that medicine often fails of its effect, but poison never.
Soot is not made any whiter by contact with a white garment, but the garment is fouled. Now these great truths are first to be recognized and accepted, and then we must inquire what is our duty concerning them. Faith and obedience God hath joined together, and woe to the man who puts them asunder!
LOVE THE GREAT EMOLLIENT
The longest and closest companionship known to man is that of husband and wife in marriage. Therefore it is of the highest importance that those who walk together "till death do them part" should be agreed. The greater the agreement the more harmony and peace will there be in the home. Some friction there will be, for two human beings will never be in such accord as angels would have; hence the necessity for securing the greatest amount of agreement possible.
Love is the great lubricator. Love is essential to the smooth working of mental and moral machinery everywhere, and it is needed most of all in the family. Yet no amount of love between husband and wife can make up for the want of harmony in character and in the purposes of life. In choosing a companion regard must be paid chiefly to these points, and woe to whoever neglects them.
RECKLESSNESS OF WOMEN
In this thing of being "unequally yoked together with unbelievers," in marriage, it is sadly true that women are more reckless than men. One hundred Christian women can be found willing to marry dissipated and impure men, to where one Christian man can be found willing to marry a dissipated, impure woman. It speaks badly for the piety of a Christian that he or she is willing to marry one who is not a Christian.
The best and most amiable of the unconverted are enemies of God; and how can the child of such a Father desire to be yoked in intimate, life-long companionship with one who is at enmity with Him? It is plain that piety is not the controlling life principle of such a Christian. If God were indeed the chief object of his affection, he would delight most in those who loved God, and seek the companionship of those who would sympathize with his fondness of holy things.
It shows a lack of humility, and excess of conceit in one who thinks he or she is strong enough to stand against the constant influence of an ungodly husband or wife, and to be an efficient worker in the Lord's vineyard, as if his or her companion were forward in every good word and work. Are you vain enough to imagine that you can influence your partner for good more than he can influence you for evil?
Do not deceive yourselves. Come out fairly and say, "I am so strong and great that no external influence, however near and powerful, can hinder my growth in grace. To be sure Paul felt the need of Christian companionship, and found no rest in spirit when deprived of it, but I am stronger than he."
But you love someone who is ungodly? Is your love anything more than fondness for a pretty face and a handsome form? Is it founded upon the rock of a noble character? Then it is strange you desire the permanent companionship of one who is irreligious; strange that beneath all that brightness and beauty, the worldliness and selfishness, the ignoring of God and lack of love for Him who died for you, should not repel you. If you love God you will be attracted only by a Godlike character. You will be very tender and compassionate for those who are under condemnation, but you will desire most association with those who love the Lord.
But does not the Bible say, "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" (1 Cor. 7:16) Yes, but it is speaking of those converted after marriage. When one of a couple became a Christian while the other remained impenitent, there must not be a separation. It shows the conviction of the early Christians of the necessity that two walking together should be agreed, that this question of separation was raised among them. These words of Paul are no warrant for marrying an unbeliever, for it is to these same Corinthians that the apostle writes, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." (2 Cor. 6:14)
Of course, the marriage of saved persons of different denominations is on a very different footing, since both parties are children of God. And while I cannot say that such marriages are always necessarily wrong, I do not hesitate to say that, as a rule, they are inexpedient. One may be so namby-pamby in belief as to have no decided convictions on the points which separate the denominations, and so would as soon belong to one church as another. Such a one would not be a good companion for any really earnest soul. But decided convictions, if they differ, are sure to increase the friction of domestic machinery. Even if there is no arguing, there is a constant sense of lack of sympathy, a constant constraint in talking of your belief, and holding back the frank giving a reason for the faith that is in you.
The difficulty is greater where there are children to be trained. A brother will often refrain from teaching his children their full duty to God, because he wishes to keep peace at home as though our Lord considered keeping peace at home better than obedience to His commandments. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword… And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matt. 10:34, 36)
If husband and wife do argue, then peace and harmony are gone. Persons cannot argue day after day with the same ones about a thing which they feel so deeply as their religious belief without bitterness. Constant clashing of opinions may sharpen intellects as the grindstone sharpens the ax, but it is not pleasant to have one's mind continually on the grindstone.
There is danger you will not be half so effective in your church work if married to one of another denomination. Often, both parties become but indifferent Christians and the children do not become Christians at all. Nay, if you wish to be strong men and women in Christ Jesus, giving your whole force to the contest with the dragon, choose for a life-partner one who will stand shoulder to shoulder in all things, who will sympathize with you in your church work as in all else. How it cheers and strengthens to have a companion whose hopes, wishes, and purposes are the same as ours! Leave as few points of friction as you can. While godliness and identity of faith are most important, yet will your life be more useful and happy if you choose one whose tastes and ideas are like your own.
The more points of harmony —the more things in which you can heartily unite, the happier will be your home and the greater will be your strength for your work in the world. Two creatures yoked together will accomplish more if they keep step, going steadily forward, side by side, along the same path. If one lags or lies down, or tries to go in another direction, he hinders sorely his yoke-fellow, who would fain press forward.
The contest is sore enough with the foe before us; the friction is wearing out the nervous and spiritual machinery too rapidly at best. It behooves us then to secure partners with whom we can agree, being more careful to secure complete agreement as the partnership is closer and more lasting.
NEVER SACRIFICE PRINCIPLE FOR EXPEDIENCY
But when husband and wife are already members of different denominations how then? I warn you against changing the faith you profess simply for the sake of being together. Bad as difference of this sort is, it is far better than a selfish disregard of God's authority. You must not join a church with respect of persons, because someone else is a member there, for that is putting contempt upon the Bible.
Neither would I have you dispute with your husband or wife. The thing to do is this: get brief statements, the briefer the better, of the faith of the different denominations, and then open your Bible with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide you, resolved to do exactly what God's Word teaches.
Earnestly and prayerfully go over all the points involved, and then join the church whose doctrines and practices come nearest to what you find in the Scriptures. If the result is that you are confirmed in your present faith, then you will be greatly benefitted, for your convictions will rest, not upon family tradition or personal relations, but upon the sure foundation of God's Word.
If either party shall join the church of the other, the same thing will be true, and if they both are led to join a third denomination, they will ever be ready with an intelligent reason for the faith that is in them.
Only be sure you are following the Bible, and are asking only what God would have you do. So shall you be blessed and useful here, and so shall you receive the glad welcome when life's struggles are over— "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." (Matt. 25:21)
"Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Losing sight of all human relationships, which at longest will vanish in a few years; fix your thoughts on the great question: How can I walk with God? If you do not, if you walk contrary to Him, He has said He will walk contrary to you. Think what that means. You cannot walk with God in glory hereafter unless you walk with Him in loving obedience here.
You must agree with Him, and this means that you must give up your enmity against Him and your love of sin, and be regenerated by the Holy Ghost. I beseech you in Christ's stead, "Be ye reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20) "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Act. 16:31) Think of the peace, joy, and security here and hereafter promised to those who "walk with God."