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With regard to the cursing of the fig tree by the Lord in Mark 11 14, does not the act seem out of character with the Lord's gracious ministry? Why did He curse this tree?

There is one thing sure and that is that our Lord Jesus never acted out of character in all that He did in His ministry. It may seem so unlike Christ, but there was always a reason for every act of the Lord. The stamp of perfection was upon His every action. The cursing of the fig tree may appear to be a contrast to the Lord's usual gracious ministry, but the question is easily answered by understanding that the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. The cursing of the fig tree may be described as a parable in action. Just as the tree yielded no fruit, so the nation of Israel had failed to produce fruit for God. This act was also an exception in the Lord's ministry as He was always concerned to preserve life.

Some have even questioned the legality of this miracle of judgment, but it needs to be pointed out that the fig tree was "in the way" (see Mt 21.19). It did not have an owner and it was there for anyone passing by to pick some of its fruit. The tree belonged to Him anyway. He was the true owner, and He made it. The Lord fully expected to find fruit on the tree, but, alas, instead He only found leaves of profession. The nation of Israel had become dead and fruitless. For the present, Israel nationally has been set aside. God's solemn judgment fell upon that generation. Their city was captured, their temple was destroyed, and those Jews who escaped the sword were scattered to the ends of the earth. The Lord will yet deal with His earthly people and this will lead to their future restoration. The practical lesson from this incident for believers today is to make sure there is fruit in our lives for God.

John J Stubbs

"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband" (1 Cor 7.14). In what way is "sanctified" used and what is the spiritual benefit to the unbeliever?

Verses 12-16 of 1 Corinthians 7 are addressed "to the rest" - those who had married before their conversion and who now had an unconverted husband or wife. Says Paul, "…speak I, not the Lord"; the apostle is indicating that whereas the Lord Jesus in His ministry had given clear commandment on the subject of divorce, He had said nothing in His teaching which took in the wider issues which had evidently been raised by the Corinthians in the letter written to the apostle. Paul now gives his judgment, but he is writing under divine inspiration.

The situation in these verses is dependent upon the attitude of the unbelieving partner: "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased (consent) to dwell with him, let him not put her away (or leave her)" (v.12). The conversion of either husband or wife does not nullify the marriage. Verse 13 presents the reverse situation of a believing wife and an unbelieving husband.

Paul then gives his reasons: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by (in) the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband (or, in the brother)" (v.14). This is sanctification by association, or relative sanctification.

This shows the disastrous consequences if the idea were entertained that the conversion of husband or wife makes the marriage void. The word "sanctified" has no reference to moral or spiritual status, but in God's sight the husband and wife are still "one flesh" and by continuing in the marriage relationship, it is sanctified to them. Thus, for example, the husband, though an unbeliever, is sanctified in the person of his wife for the lawful enjoyment of marital privileges, "else were your children unclean". To leave the unconverted spouse would be tantamount to saying that the marriage was no longer valid, and this would expose the children to the stigma of being regarded as unclean or illegitimate. But that is not the case -"now are they holy" i.e. the children are legitimate offspring, being born in lawful wedlock.

The converted mother can look to God for the conversion of her children, as she can her unconverted husband.

David E West


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