Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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December 2005, Volume X, Issue 20


The Duty of Sex in Marriage (4)

There is an exception to the duty of sex in marriage (besides that of physical impossibility) if three conditions are met. First, it must be "with consent" (I Cor. 7:5)—not a unilateral decision of the husband or of the wife but of both together. Second, it must "for a time" (5)—not for the rest of their lives or for years but for a specified period. Afterwards they must "come together again" sexually (5). Third, the sexual abstention must be "that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer" (5)—not because they simply don’t feel like it. God has laid some burden upon their hearts and so the pleasures of eating and sex are laid aside for a time in order to focus better on seeking God. All three conditions must be met—mutual consent, short duration and religious purpose (for prayer and fasting)—for a period of sexual abstinence. Where all three conditions are not met, the "due benevolence" of sexual intercourse remains.

I Corinthians 7:3-5 contains several vital lessons. First, sexual intercourse is the rule in marriage (and the exception is rare and short). Second, Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Rome’s Council of Trent anathematises all who deny that Mary never had intercourse with her husband, Joseph, after Christ’s birth, but God requires wives to render "due benevolence" to their husbands (3-5). Third, it assumes that a Christian couple may choose to fast and pray together. Have we ever desisted from food and sex in order to seek God’s face more fervently? Fourth, there is nothing shameful or unclean about sexual intercourse. Apparently, some at Corinth lauded virginity to the sky and/or urged celibacy in marriage, since intercourse was somehow of questionable holiness or cleanness. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" (Heb. 13:4). This question mark over marriage and sex is not only found in Romanism. John Wesley taught the superiority of virginity over marriage and generally advised against marriage. He was unduly influenced by his reading of the early church fathers and Roman Catholic authors (who cast doubts on the goodness of marriage and sex). Even when Wesley did marry, he set a bad example, for, in general, he neglected his wife and their relationship was "distant and unhappy" (Stephen Tomkins, John Wesley, p. 167). Fifth, I Corinthians 7 implies that husbands and wives talk about sexual matters together, for they "consent" to abstain for a time for religious reasons (5). In general, Christian husbands and wives must seek to please one another and live under the lordship of Christ in marriage and sex. Rev. Stewart

Love Your Neighbour

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Gal. 5:14).

A reader asks, "Who is my neighbour? Is [it] our fellow believer? God does not love all people; only His elect. Is this what is meant by ‘love your neighbour as yourself?’ Or does it mean to show affection for [everyone]?"

These questions are frequently perplexing questions to those who believe firmly that God’s love is particular, that is, for the elect only; for we are to be children of our Father in heaven and imitate Him also in this matter of love (Matt. 5:43-48). However, the question is not really such a difficult one; it has been made difficult by those who promote the heresy of a universal love of God.

It is clear from Scripture, especially the parable of the good Samaritan (to which parable the reader also refers), that our neighbour is any one who "rubs shoulders" with us in our walk in this world. Our neighbour is the one with whom we come into contact. Our neighbour is the one who lives, even for a short time, near us. Our neighbour is our acquaintance. As my now dead pastor used to say from the pulpit, "Our neighbour is frequently one who gets in our way, requires something from us, is an obstacle to our pursuit of self-seeking." Whoever that may be, believer or unbeliever, acquaintance or stranger, young or old, pious or blasphemous, upright or crooked—it makes no difference. That person whose life touches mine is my neighbour.

Let us be clear on this. My neighbour is, first of all, my own wife, my children, my grandchildren, my fellow believers. But my neighbour is also the man alongside of whom I work, the man who comes to my door for a can of petrol because he ran out, the person in the ditch on the side of the road, the one who lies alongside me in the hospital ...

Usually, my neighbour is one who needs me for some reason or other. There are many people we pass on the footpath who are not our neighbours. There are many cars on the road filled with people who whiz by. These people are hardly our neighbours. And, I might add, if I am commanded to love them, this is the easiest things in the world to do. I can really love them, just as I can love unknown folk in the jungles of the South Pacific of whom I know nothing. One of the easiest callings to fulfil is to love someone half a world away.

But there is the man down the street who is out of work and whose family is not being fed. There is my wife who is in the same house with me and who may have some annoying habits that get under my skin. There is that stubborn member of the church who always thinks he knows best about everything. These are the ones whom it is so very difficult to love. Yet God commands us to do this; and, indeed, if we do not do this, we do not keep the law at all.

There are those who are always prating about our need to show love to people 10,000 miles away, but who divorce their wives. Some send "care" packages to distant lands, but do not teach their children the way of the Lord.

Understanding who our neighbour is, we may go on to the next question: What does it mean to love our neighbour? Well, it means the same thing as it means that God loves us. God loves us so much that He pays any price to secure our salvation—even, mind you, the price of His own Son!

To love our neighbour is to do all we can to secure his or her salvation—our wives, our children, our fellow believers, the blasphemously wicked man with whom I have to work. This is how God loves us. This is how we must love our neighbour. This is easy to understand, but desperately difficult to do.

We love our neighbour, therefore, by speaking to him or her about God and His Christ, rebuking his sin, pointing him or her to the great wonder of the cross in which alone is found salvation, urging such a one to repent and believe in Jesus. Seeking a neighbour’s salvation is seeking his good in the highest way, for a bag of groceries without the gospel means nothing.

But James reminds us that we do not and may not mouth words about salvation, but we must also give the hungry food and the coatless person a coat (James 2:15-17). It is true that James is speaking of our fellow believers, but that is where it all starts. If I will not clothe a fellow saint, how am I going to fulfil the law by clothing a man to whom I send a box with a coat in it?

You say, "But God loves only His people and seeks only their salvation." True, this is a bedrock truth on which all our calling rests. But it is impossible for us to love only God’s elect, for we do not know who they are. We do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith, for we start with believers. And if we do not love these neighbours, we will never get any further with our love.

Because we do not know who God’s elect are, we love whomever God, in His all-wise providence, puts on our pathway. We love that one by seeking the salvation of that person—with disregard for our own personal comfort, but for God’s sake. If that person is an elect, God will use our love for that person to bring such a one into the radiant beams of God’s own love. That blasphemer may be an elect, for Paul blasphemed. That adulterer may be elect, for God loved Rahab.

If they are not elect, our love for them will arouse in them a hatred which will become increasingly furious. Then too God will accomplish His purpose, for the very gospel itself is a savour of life unto life and a savour of death unto death (II Cor. 2:14-17). Their very hatred will make it impossible to help them any more, for they will reject every word of the gospel which we bring to them.

Love God! Love your neighbour for God’s sake! Therein lies the key. Love your neighbour because you love God. Show your love for God by loving your neighbour. Then you fulfil the whole law of God. Prof. Hanko

The Lord's Day and the Day of the Lord (4)

The various manifestations of the day of the Lord in the OT and especially their universal aspects (see the last News) are preparatory for the fuller NT teaching about the day of the Lord at the end of the age. The heaven and earth will shake and "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come" (Acts 2:20; Joel 2:31). In II Peter 3, "the day of the Lord" (10) is also called "the day of judgment" (7) and "the day of God" (12). Paul calls it "the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 1:14; cf. I Thess. 5:2) when He comes bodily in great glory to raise the dead, judge all men, cast the wicked into hell and bring in the new heavens and the new earth.

Both OT and NT teach that the day of the Lord is "near" (Eze. 30:3; Joel 2:1; 3:14; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; James 5:8). On that day, God "shall destroy [all] sinners" (Isa. 13:9) for "they shall not escape" (I Thess. 5:3; Lam. 2:2) and "Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them" (Zeph. 1:18). At this terrible "woe" (Eze. 30:2), the wicked will "tremble" (Joel 2:1), "wail" (Amos 5:17), "howl" (Isa. 13:6; Eze. 30:2), "cry … bitterly" (Zeph. 1:14) and "mourn" (Matt. 24:30). God’s punishment of the ungodly rests upon His just judgment of them (II Peter 3:7), presented in picture form in Joel 3 when God gathers "all nations" (2). "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near" (14). The "decision" here is a verdict, God’s verdict upon the transgressors on the judgment day. In the light of the soon coming day of the Lord, our calling is clear: "Seek ye the Lord … seek righteousness, seek meekness" (Zeph. 2:3), repent (Joel 2:12-13) and walk in good works (Amos 5:14-15), or, as Peter exhorts us, "be diligent that ye may be found of [God] in peace, without spot, and blameless" (II Peter 3:14). The NT emphasises that the day of the Lord comes suddenly and unexpectedly—"as a thief in the night" (I Thess. 5:2)—and that the day of the Lord is also one of salvation (I Cor. 5:5) and "rejoicing" (II Cor. 1:14).

Even this brief examination of the day of the Lord and the Lord’s day in the last few issues of the News is enough to show the radical difference between the two. They differ in nature and in frequency, and so our calling as regards each also differs. Thus on the first day of the week on a particular "Lord’s day" (Rev. 1:10) some 1900 years ago, John saw visions of the day of the Lord—the day of Christ’s return, the general resurrection and the final judgment—and the NT days preceding it and the eternal state which it brings in. Rev. Stewart

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