2005, Volume X, Issue 16
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
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
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?"
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
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
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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