Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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August 2005, Volume X, Issue 16


The Danger of Singleness (2)

Avoiding fornication (I Cor. 7:2) is not the only reason for marriage, never mind the chief reason for marriage. The first reason for marriage is companionship and covenant friendship with one’s spouse (Mal. 2:14) which is a picture of the marriage union between Christ and His bride, the church. A second reason for marriage is to bring forth covenant children. In marriage God makes a man and a woman "one flesh" (Matt. 19:6). "And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed" (Mal. 2:15). Avoiding fornication is a third reason for marriage (I Cor. 7:2). (Westminster Confession 24:2 sets forth these three reasons.) This third reason, unlike the other two, only entered in after the fall. Nevertheless it is a reason, a very practical reason. And is it not a good reason: to avoid the sin of fornication and destruction (if not repented of)?

A couple of other points must be made regarding the danger of singleness. First, inordinate sexual desire may lead one into a bad marriage. Consider a man who desperately wants to be married. He feels a burning lust inside him. To satisfy this lust, he rushes headlong into a foolish marriage. In this binding union he must remain until death parts him and his wife. Second, inordinate sexual desire can lead to sinful dating practices. Instead of courting in order to find a godly wife or husband (with sexual intercourse later as part of the marriage relationship), the courtship itself becomes an occasion to fulfil one’s sexual desires. Outright fornication may result or all sorts of fondling and caressing just short of it. These sins issue in guilty consciences, and, instead of strengthening the courtship, weaken and confuse the relationship. Thus (sadly) though marriage is the God-ordained remedy for sexual burning, unchaste dating may well stir up the desire to fornicate! Such is man’s depravity and the deceitfulness of sin!

In connection with the danger of fornication, I Corinthians 7:9 introduces the ideas of containing (controlling oneself sexually) and burning (with lust): "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." Clearly, the Bible is not only doctrinal but highly practical!

The biblical imagery of burning speaks of heat, an inner heat generated by fire, a fire within. Fire is hard to stop and destructive when not controlled. The people of God experience this and fight against this sinful passion by the power of the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ. Sometimes the saint feels this burning worse than others. Sometimes he (wrongly) thinks it is uncontrollable. Sometimes he even sinfully gives in and yields to his lust in various ways. If this describes you, you ought to get married "for it is better to marry than to burn [in lust]" (9). Scripture also says "to the unmarried and widows ... [that] if they cannot contain, let them marry" (8-9). "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (2). This is a command of the Most High: "let them marry." Such an one ought to seek marriage, according to God’s Word!

I Corinthians 7:7 also speaks of a divine "gift:" "For I would that all men were even as I myself [Paul was single]. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." This gift has two forms: singleness in the way of self-control and marriage for those who burn. Both singleness and marriage are good states and both are good gifts of God’s rich grace to His people. We often think, for example, of justification, adoption and heaven as purchased for us by Christ on the cross. Sanctification was purchased by Christ’s cross for us too, including sanctification in singleness (enabling us to control our sexual passions) and sanctification in marriage (including intercourse with one’s spouse as the remedy for burning).

All this is also good news for the single Christian who faces little or no struggle with sexual passions. There is nothing wrong with such people. Rather God has given them (at least for now) the gift of sexual self-control.

This gift of singleness is, however, given to few. Most of the believers recorded in the Bible are married. In history most Christians marry and this is also what we see today. Thus the general rule is that Christians marry (I Cor. 7:2, 9).

But some might say, "What about me? I’m single, I fight against burning, and I don’t seem to have the gift of self-control." The answer is that that you must seek to control yourself in the way of prayer and perseverance looking to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Purity, like all the other graces in the Christian life, comes in the way of asking. "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find" (Matt. 7:7). The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that "God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them" (A. 116).

Briefly, such an one should seek for a husband or wife through prayer and in the church of Christ, without desperation or reverting to worldly methods. And, of course, not just anybody is suitable for an husband or a wife. Such an one must be a believer (I Cor. 7:39) with whom you agree in the biblical and Reformed faith. Rev. Stewart

Calling on the Name of the Lord (2)

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23). And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21).

One of our readers writes, "Please explain fully the apparent inconsistency between [these two passages]." The word "fully" was emphasized in the original letter, so I shall provide a detailed answer.

In the last News, we described what the Lord meant in Matthew 7 by people who do wonders in His name, but do not the will of God. We also explained what Jesus means by the name "Lord." This time we shall consider what calling on the name of the Lord means in Acts 2:21.

In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit records the amazing sermon Peter preached at Pentecost. Prior to the outpouring of the Spirit the disciples had no clear conception of the meaning and significance of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. They were constantly thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom, as is evident from the question they put to Jesus just prior to His ascension: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).

But after the Spirit was given to them, they not only understood the work of Christ, but they could see also that what Christ did was in fulfilment of prophecy. This remarkable change in their understanding, worked by the Holy Spirit, led them to see, although somewhat dimly, the great work which the ascended Lord would perform here on earth in the gathering of the church for which He died.

In the Old Testament, before the Spirit was poured out, God limited His work of salvation to the Jewish nation. In fact, if any heathen were brought in (such as Ruth the Moabitess; Rahab, Jericho’s famous harlot; Araunah the Jebusite; Uriah the Hittite and many others) they had to become Israelites (for men this included the rite of circumcision). Only natural Jews and Gentiles who became Jews could be saved, for salvation was of the Jews (John 4:22).

But in the New Testament era, all this changes. The nation of Israel was rejected by God for its sin of crucifying Christ. The suffering, death and resurrection of Christ set aside the nation of Israel as a nation (for individuals and families of Jews are still saved) so that the gospel could be brought to the whole world and a church gathered from all nations and tribes and tongues.

Peter proclaims, in a nutshell, the marvellous doctrine of the salvation of a catholic church. No longer, says Peter, is it necessary to be a Jew to be saved. No longer must one be circumcised. (Note Paul’s controversy with the Judaizers in the Galatian churches, who insisted on circumcision for salvation.) The only characteristic of those who are saved is that they call on the name of the Lord.

They confess that the suffering, dead, and risen Christ is Lord. They confess that He ascended into heaven, sits at God’s right hand, and is Lord of all, ruling over all by His sovereign power. This is the one characteristic of the saved.

Whosoever he may be—Chinese, Korean, Nigerian, English, French, Russian; no matter who he may be—king, citizen, artisan, doctor, garbage collector; no matter who he may be—hobo, harlot, murderer, adulterer; no matter who he may be—rich, destitute, covetous, greedy, philanthropic for the praise of men, miserly; it makes no difference. If anyone at all, man or woman or child, calls upon the name of the Lord, such an one will be saved.

This marvellous truth shows the infinite riches of the mercy and grace of God who gathers a church from all kinds of people that He may be glorified in a diverse throng of unworthy people who are made saints, the bride of Christ.

The text emphasizes the responsibility and calling of those who hear the gospel. The "whosoever" is pointed and sharp. Peter himself makes that plain in the same sermon: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). Behind that call to repentance is the eternal decree of God who, through the work of the Spirit of the ascended Christ, gathers, defends and preserves unto Himself a church chosen unto everlasting life.

And, to return for a moment to Matthew 7:21-23, those who call upon the name of the Lord are not the loud boasters of their good works, but are the sorrowful who confess their sins, the meek, the lowly, those who flee to the cross to find their salvation only in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. They are those assured of salvation through faith in the Saviour. They are those who joyfully and eagerly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

And confessing that Christ is Lord, they gladly do the will of their Father in heaven (as Christ their Saviour commanded them), for they love Him and seek His approval. All the while, they know that their good works are the fruit of His Spirit in them and therefore a great privilege of grace. Prof. H. Hanko

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