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August 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 16

Virgins and Widows (1)

I Corinthians 7 is the great chapter in the Bible on Christian singleness and marriage. But who is to decide whether a single person or a widow or a widower should marry or not?

For a widower (a man whose wife has died), the decision lies with him. It is likewise for a single, young man, though, of course, he needs advice. Our heavenly Father teaches us that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife (Gen. 2:24). Thus leaving and cleaving, that is, marrying, is an act of his determination and will, under Almighty God. And so parents must train their sons for leaving home one day and leading a godly wife.

But what about women? Who has the final decision whether virgins or widows marry or not? I Corinthians 7:36-38 address the case of virgins and verses 39-40 deal with widows. I Corinthians 7:39 also provides us with the key criterion for choosing a spouse: marry "only in the Lord." This is a very brief saying but it contains a lot, as we shall see in a later issue of the News.

The Bible gives us instruction concerning a father’s authority over his daughter. Numbers 30:3-16 teaches that a father can annul his daughter’s vow (when he first hears of it). According to Deuteronomy 22:13-21, if a husband in Israel accused his wife of fornicating with another man prior to their marriage, her father was to "bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city" (15). Thus it was the father’s calling to ensure that his daughter remained a virgin prior to marriage. If his daughter had "played the whore," she would be stoned by the door of her father’s house (21), thus indicating his guilt and shame also. Exodus 22:16 tells us that a man who seduces an unmarried girl is bound to offer to marry her. But her father has the right to refuse to give her away (17) and no one can stop him from doing this. Why? Because he has this authority from God. This instruction from Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 22 and Exodus 22 on the father’s authority is presupposed in I Corinthians 7:36-38.

The father, as the head of the house, has the say-so whether his daughter may or may not marry. It is not simply a matter of romance or of his daughter’s decision or of her boyfriend’s insistence. Her father’s approval is required, for he has the God-given authority, and hence the responsibility, for his daughter’s marrying or not. Thus the Scriptures speak of sons as marrying but of daughters as being given in marriage (e.g., Ps. 78:63; Matt. 24:38; Luke 20:34). Accordingly, in the marriage ceremony, the minister asks, "Who gives this woman to this man in marriage?" "Her mother and I," replies her father. There is no such question nor answer concerning the groom. A father’s giving of his daughter to the groom at a wedding is a transfer of authority. Her husband is now her head; her father no longer possesses this authority over her. Thus Numbers 30 teaches that just as a father has the authority to disannul his daughter’s vow, so a husband has the authority to disannul his wife’s vow.

Moreover, the father also has authority over his daughter’s courtship. Imagine the ludicrous situation in which a father has no say over whom his daughter may date, but he has authority only over marriage, and so he steps in to stop the wedding after they had been courting for, say, two years! Deuteronomy 22:13-21, in referring to a father’s bringing the tokens of his daughter’s virginity, indicates his authority over her courtship. What does such fatherly authority involve? Whom she may court—this man but not that one. When she may court—when her father believes her to be ready. The father should also see to it to that she dresses modestly, as God’s Word requires (Isa. 3:16-23; I Peter 3:3-5). Father’s role is not merely sitting at home with Mum, worried and fretting and praying about what their daughter and her boyfriend will get up to on their date.

The ungodly world, the evil demons and the raging feminists hate the biblical truth of the spiritual authority of faithful fathers over their daughters—as do some immature daughters. "Father is an idiot. What would he know?" "Romance and wisdom in courtship lie with the young." So many think. Thus there is the strong tendency to rebellion or foolishly sneaking out with some good-for-nothing on a date without parental consent. Your parents could have saved you from the heartache which is coming, but you wouldn’t listen!

This opposition to parental (especially father’s) supervision is probably stronger in our modern, western world than ever before. The sexual revolution in the 1960s made promiscuity and rebellion more widespread and "normal." The vast proliferation of foolish books and girls’ magazines on male-female relationships teach a "love" from below which is thoroughly earthly, sensual and devilish (cf. James 3:15). TV, movies, popular songs and chat shows promote this way of thinking and living. "Recreational dating is the norm. Why not date merely for fun? Everyone else does." This can be a serious temptation for Christian girls: conforming to the ungodly world with its lascivious and foolish ideas of dating and "love" … and rebelling against their father’s authority and protection, contrary to the fifth commandment and the holy life of gratitude required of all those redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rev. Stewart

Sin’s Appearance in a Perfect Creation

 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31).

A reader asks, "If God’s creation was perfect, how did pride appear in Lucifer, if this quality was not in his nature originally?"

The question is not an easy one and theologians have struggled with it, especially since the time of Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (354-430).

Although the question asks specifically about the fall of Lucifer in heaven, along with many angels, the same question can be asked concerning Adam and Eve in Paradise. And the same answer applies to both equally.

In dealing with the problem, we must first of all ask what it means that God Himself pronounced His entire creation "good." An answer most frequently given is that the creation was morally perfect, that is, that there was no sin in heaven or on earth.

However, while that is true in itself, it is obvious, I think, that the word "good" in the moral sense cannot be applied to horses and galaxies, for neither the living creation (other than men and angels) nor the non-living creation had the ability to do good or evil.

When God pronounced the creation "good," He meant that the entire creation was so formed that it was perfectly adapted to serve the purpose He had in mind for it. For example, a machine is "good" when it serves the purpose for which it was made.

But it must be remembered that God’s purpose in the creation was never intended to be accomplished in the first Paradise in which Adam and Eve were placed. The fall of our first parents did not necessitate a change in God’s plan. God’s purpose from the first moment of creation was to glorify Himself through Jesus Christ and the redemption of the elect and the whole creation by the cross on which our Saviour died. Adam was the first Adam from the moment of his creation; the second Adam had yet to come (Rom. 5:12-14; I Cor. 15:45-47).

Thus, also sin was determined by God as the way in which He would glorify Himself through Christ who redeems from sin. The Most High is sovereign over sin, as well as over everything that happens in heaven and on earth. The fall of Satan in heaven and the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise did not catch God by surprise nor come unexpectedly.

While we must (and do) maintain man’s accountability for his own sin, God remains sovereign. This insistence on God’s sovereignty lies at the foundation of the solution to the problem. Reprobation, the negative part of the decree of predestination, is sovereign. God determined to reveal His justice, holiness and righteous hatred of sin through His unconditional decree of reprobation, that is, He eternally wills the just punishment of the reprobate wicked in hell in the way of their sin.

Already in his day, Augustine dealt with the problem posed at the beginning of this article. Even then the subject touched on the issue of whether man’s accountability did not necessarily imply man’s free will (understood as an ability in fallen man to repent and believe in Christ). Augustine (and all orthodox theologians after him) emphatically denied fallen and depraved man’s ability to choose spiritual good and taught God’s sovereignty also in reprobation.

In developing these ideas from the Scriptures, especially from Genesis 1-3 and Romans 5, Augustine pointed out that freedom can be considered from different viewpoints. Adam’s freedom in Paradise before the fall was the freedom to do good but with the possibility of sinning. His sinless nature was so created that sin was possible. Adam’s freedom was true freedom, for he possessed the ability to do all God commanded him to do. This was freedom indeed, but not the freedom God has determined for His people in Christ. Our freedom is higher, better, and more wonderful. The freedom the believer has in Christ is the freedom to keep all God’s commandments without the possibility of ever sinning again. Adam could (and did) fall; the redeemed believer cannot fall. Adam could (and did) choose to disobey God; the believer, united to Christ, can never choose for anything but Christ Himself. The first Adam could (and did) plunge the whole human race into misery by his sin; the second Adam preserves His elect forever and ever in holiness and true righteousness.

That inability of the believer ever to sin is not given perfectly till heaven. In this life, the new man in Christ, created through the wonder of regeneration, must still do battle with the old man of sin. But even now the victory of the perfect freedom of heaven is the possession of those who belong to Christ. This freedom is found in the great doctrine of the preservation of the saints.

In glory, when the believer is made new in body and in soul, he shall never sin again into all eternity, for the power of sin is completely broken and destroyed. This is true of elect men and of elect angels.

If the reader desires a further treatment of this subject, he is urged to read Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics. In the old, single-volume edition (1966), consult pages 245-254. In the new, two-volume edition (2004-2005), read volume 1, pages 348-376. Prof. Hanko

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