Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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April 2006, Volume X, Issue 24


Married to an Unbeliever (2)

There is another argument, not mentioned in the last News, which is used by some professing Christians in favour of remarriage. "But when I divorced, I was an unbeliever," they protest, or, "But when I remarried, I was an unbeliever," as if their unbelief at that time enabled them to remarry while their spouse is living. However, marriage is a creation ordinance; it is not a sacrament, something only for the church. Marriage was in the world before the fall and before the gathering of the church. Through this creation ordinance, God makes two believers or two unbelievers or a believer and an unbeliever one flesh. This is a vital point for professing Christians who are divorced and remarried. Marriage is an unbreakable bond for believers and for unbelievers, as a divine creation ordinance. Thus remarriage while your husband or wife is living—whether or not you were a believer on the day of your remarriage—is continuous adultery (Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3). Thus the Scriptures command all divorced people to "remain unmarried, or be reconciled to [their spouse]" (I Cor. 7:11). Christ calls this making yourself a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven’s sake" (Matt. 19:12). The disciples, like many today, staggered at this (10). Jesus responded, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given … He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (11-12). God’s elect are "given" this grace and so are able to "receive" "this saying." However, "All men cannot receive this saying," and so they foolishly remarry and commit the sin of continuous adultery (Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3).

I Corinthians 7:14 provides an additional consideration why a Christian should not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." That is, don’t divorce your unbelieving spouse (12-13) for he or she is sanctified by you, the believing spouse (14).

But what does "sanctified" mean here? Sanctified here does not mean true, inward sanctification wrought by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. For the spouse is spoken of as "unbelieving" (14) and not saved (16). Sanctified here does not mean either that the unbelieving spouse has more respect for the Christian faith than most unbelievers. This may or may not be his or her attitude, but it is not the meaning of "sanctified." Sanctified here does not even mean that the unbelieving spouse is more likely to be saved than other unbelievers. Humanly speaking, this may be the case, but the text says that the unbelieving spouse "is sanctified," not "may well become (inwardly and spiritually) sanctified" (in the future).

So what does it mean? It is obviously not full biblical salvation, or even some partial salvation, for there is no such thing. The key to the interpretation comes from the context. An unbeliever and a believer are married to each other, so the question is: Is the unbeliever going to pollute the believer? In the Old Testament ceremonial law, if that which is clean comes into contact with that which is unclean, the clean does not make the unclean clean. Instead, the unclean makes the clean unclean. Well, the unbeliever is unclean, totally depraved, but he is joined in the most intimate union of marriage with a believer, who is clean. Surely then this union makes the believer unclean? Certainly in any other union or friendship with an unbeliever, the believer is corrupted by the unbeliever. But in a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever, the unbeliever is not unclean to the Christian spouse. The child of God can live, eat, drink, commune, sleep and rear children with his or her unbelieving spouse with a good conscience and not be defiled. (Remember, I’m speaking of an already existing mixed marriage; I’m not saying that believers should marry unbelievers [39].) The Christian must know that the Triune God does not view his or her married life with an unbeliever as impure or shameful. Jehovah approves of the believer’s continuing to live with his or her unbelieving spouse in marriage. Thus a Christian must not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse (12-13), "For the unbelieving [spouse] is sanctified by the [believing spouse]" (14).

I Corinthians 7:16 supplies another consideration why a Christian should not divorce his or her unbelieving spouse: "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" You say, "We’ve been married for many years and I’ve prayed so often, but my spouse is still not converted." God raised you from the dead spiritually; He can do the same for your spouse. You don’t know what it is God’s purpose to do, so don’t give up praying! God ordinarily uses the godly life of the believing spouse to convert the unbelieving, but elect, spouse (I Peter 3:1-2). So don’t give up hope! Pray and walk closely with the Lord, for God may use your prayers and life to convert your husband or wife! Rev. Stewart

The Purpose of Creation (2)

In the last News, I began answering a reader’s question, "Why did God bring the universe into being?" by affirming the truth of the miracle of the creation of all things in heaven and on earth in six days of twenty-four hours. I explained that the biblical and confessional doctrine of creation was contrary to and a condemnation of all evolutionism. I also explained that God’s purpose in creating all things was one purpose. That is, God did not have one purpose in creating a perfect creation which purpose was defeated by Adam’s fall, and another purpose which is a sort of rescue operation to retrieve something of what Adam spoiled.

God’s eternal purpose was to glorify His own great and holy name in the highest and best possible way. That purpose was begun in the creation of the first paradise and is attained in the second paradise, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to make all things new (Luke 23:43; Rev. 2:7).

I pointed out in my last article that the theory of evolutionism not only denies creation, but it also denies God’s providence. God’s providence means that the God who created all things by the Word of His mouth (Ps. 33:6) also continues to give each creature its existence by the same Word, which He continues to speak (Ps. 29:3-9). Providence means that God sovereignly controls all creatures, including angels, devils and men (righteous and wicked) so that His purpose is realized in all things He has made.

All this means that God’s purpose from the very beginning of His work of creation was to glorify Himself in Christ Jesus. But just as soon as one says, "Christ Jesus," one also says, "the church;" for there is no Christ Jesus without the church and there is no church without Christ Jesus. This is Paul’s point in the entire books of Ephesians and Colossians. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:3-4). "By [Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth ... and he is the head of the body, the church" (Col. 1:16, 18).

So God already had Christ and His church, redeemed in Christ’s blood, in mind when He spoke those first words, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3).

There are many evidences of this in Scripture found in the nature of the creation. The whole area in which Adam and Eve lived was formed by God after the same pattern as was commanded in the building of the tabernacle and the temple, which were pictures of Christ (John 2:18-22). The outer court of the temple was pictured in the land of Eden; the inner sanctuary was pictured in the garden of paradise to the east of Eden; and the most holy place was pictured in the tree of life, at the foot of which God met with Adam in covenant fellowship.

God created the heavenly lights on the fourth day, and, we are told, God created them for "signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (Gen. 1:14). Yet, in fact, seasons were not created until during or after the flood (Gen. 8:22). A sign is an earthly creature or event which signifies a heavenly reality, something which could not be true until after the fall. For this reason, Malachi calls Christ "the Sun of righteousness" who arises "with healing in his wings" (Mal. 4:2).

From another point of view, God created many creatures in such a way that the fall was anticipated. Carnivorous animals were created with jaws and digestive systems formed to eat meat, even though before the fall there was no death. Man himself was created with an immune system, which he did not need prior to the fall. Hence, when God "saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31), God did not merely mean that He found the creation morally perfect and free from sin and the curse. This was obvious. But He means that He saw all things He had made as perfectly adapted to the purpose for which He had created all things: to glorify His great name through redemption in Christ.

God is sovereign in all He does. Nothing happens outside His will. All things come to pass by His determination and according to His purpose. We may, therefore, describe the original creation in its relation to all history and the world to come as the creation of the stage on which would be enacted the great drama of sin and grace, election and reprobation, salvation in Christ and damnation—all in order that God’s great glory might be revealed. Why did God create all things? Creation was the building of the stage on which would be enacted the great drama of God’s purpose attained in Christ.

There is more to this whole question, however. Colossians 1:20 points us in yet another direction: "having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him [Christ] to reconcile all things unto himself [God]; by him [Christ], I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."

This text, which speaks of reconciliation through the cross of Christ, speaks of that reconciliation in terms of "all things." And then, as if the apostle wanted us to be sure that he had not misspoken himself, he repeats, "by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." It is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the text refers to the great act of reconciliation including both heaven and earth.

We are not accustomed to thinking of God’s work of salvation, of which reconciliation is a part, in terms of embracing both heaven and earth, but the Scriptures very emphatically point us in that direction, even speaking of the end of all things in the coming of Christ resulting in "a new heaven and a new earth," which takes the place of "the first heaven and the first earth" which "were passed away" (Rev. 21:1). We must say more about this in a later article. Prof. H. Hanko

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