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January 2006, Volume X, Issue 21


Let Them Not Divorce (1)

We have seen in recent issues of the News that I Corinthians 7:1-9 teaches: (1) if you have the gift of sexual self-control, you should remain single; (2) if you have not—the position of the vast majority—you should get married; (3) if you are married, sexual intercourse is a debt you owe your spouse.

Divorce is spoken of five times in verses 10-13 with three different English words (and two different Greek words). "Depart" occurs in verses 10 and 11, "put away" in verses 11 and 12, and "leave" in verse 13. In these verses, divorce is opposed in Christian marriages (10-11) and in mixed marriages between a believer and an unbeliever (12-13).

Many abuse verses 10-12 to deny parts of the Bible as God’s Word: "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away." "You see," they say, "the Lord speaks some things and Paul merely (and not the Lord) says others." Thus verses 12 and following are not inspired; they are merely Paul’s personal opinion: "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." If this is granted, maybe there are other uninspired bits in Paul’s writings. What about a wife’s submission to her husband or "I suffer not a woman to teach" (I Tim. 2:12) or Paul’s teaching on creation (which excludes evolution) or Romans 9 on unconditional election and reprobation? Maybe, then, there are uninspired bits in the writing of John or Isaiah or Matthew, etc.?

Such views are contradicted even by Paul’s testimony in I Corinthians. He is a God appointed teacher writing by the Spirit of God (7:17, 40). "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14:37). Moreover, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16). Since I Corinthians is Scripture, I Corinthians is given by inspiration of God.

Here is the true explanation. In I Corinthians 7:10-11, the apostle is summarizing the teaching of the Lord Jesus while He was on earth: "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." In other words, this is what Jesus taught in His public ministry concerning marriage between professing believers.

In I Corinthians 7:12-13, Paul addresses a situation which did not arise during Christ’s ministry in Palestine. What about a mixed marriage (in the Gentile world)? By now the gospel had gone out to many Gentile nations, and sometimes one spouse was converted but not the other. Jesus did not have occasion to speak to this subject during His earthly ministry. Thus the apostle writes, "But to the rest [i.e., Gentile believers married to unbelievers] speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away" (12).

It is not just in I Corinthians 7:10-11 that Paul cites Christ’s teaching during His public ministry. The apostle writes, "The labourer is worthy of his reward" (I Tim. 5:18) citing Luke 10:7. In Acts 20:35, Paul urges the Ephesian elders "to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." In I Corinthians 9:14, Paul summarizes Christ’s teaching: "Even so hath the Lord ordained [i.e., commanded] that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." Strikingly in all three places, Paul refers to Christ’s teaching on giving to help gospel ministers and needy believers.

Below are three quotations from our Lord on divorce, one from each of the first three gospel accounts: "I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (Matt. 5:32). "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery" (Mark 10:11-12). "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery" (Luke 16:18).

The apostle summarizes Christ’s teachings. First, do not divorce: "Let not the wife depart from her husband … and let not the husband put away his wife" (I Cor. 7:10-11). Second, what if your spouse leaves you and obtains a divorce (on the biblical ground of fornication [Matt. 5:32] or otherwise)? The Word of God gives you two options: either "remain unmarried" (legally before the civil magistrate) or "be reconciled" to your husband or wife (for you are still "one flesh" with him or her). Sacred Scripture does not permit a third option. "But and if she depart," either "let her remain unmarried" or "be reconciled to her husband" (11). Remarriage while one’s spouse is living is not an option. Rev. Stewart

The Day of the Last Supper

Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him ... (John 13:1-2).

A reader asks, "Did Jesus die on Thursday or Friday? That is, was it the 14th of Nisan when the lambs were slain or the second day of unleavened bread?" The question involves many more texts than the one quoted above (including Matt. 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:14-15, 24-27; John 18:2; 19:14, 31, 42).

There are two main, related questions. First, what was the day on which Jesus ate the last Passover with His disciples? Second, what was the day on which He was crucified? Commentators, students of Scripture and higher critics have written tomes on these questions and have argued endlessly over them. (For a helpful summary of the arguments, one can consult William Hendriksen’s Exposition of the Gospel According to John, vol. 2, pp. 221-227.)

The problem revolves around a question of harmonization between the narratives of Matthew, Mark and Luke on the one hand and the narrative of John on the other. They seem to contradict each other, and many commentaries are all too willing to concede that they do contradict each other.

I see no purpose in going into all the arguments, laying out the different interpretations, and giving exegesis of all the pertinent texts. I intend to give my judgment on the matter, and the interested reader can enter into the question in detail by consulting the commentaries.

It is necessary in a day when the sacred Scriptures are under relentless attack to state the truth that the Bible is infallibly inspired and is, therefore, without error. Hence, whether we can find the solution or not, we hold to the truth that the so-called "synoptics" (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not contradict the gospel according to John. There is harmony whether we see it or not. Our faith in the errorless character of the Bible is not based on inductive evidence but on the testimony of Scripture itself and on the testimony of the Spirit in our hearts.

Scripture was not written to be presented in a court of law for a panel of judges to consider all the evidence and decide whether Scripture is credible. God, on the pages of the book itself, says, in so many words, and throughout all the Bible, "I wrote this book; you must believe what it says because I speak truth. If you believe, you will be saved. If you reject what I say, you will be damned."

This is not, as the critics claim, arguing in a circle. If I pick up for the first time a first edition copy of Institutes of the Christian Religion and see on the title page the name "John Calvin" as the author, then I assume that this is true. When Scripture says, on nearly every page, that God wrote this book, then faith assumes this to be true. This is not circular reasoning.

Thus it is my conviction that there is perfect harmony between the "synoptics" and John’s gospel narrative. If all the narratives are understood correctly, we actually have a very beautiful account of the relation between type and reality.

The Passover lamb was killed on the 14th of Nisan, a Thursday. It was eaten that same day by Jesus and His disciples. At this last feast our Lord changed the Old Testament Passover feast into the new dispensation’s Lord’s Supper. The true Passover Lamb, Christ Himself, died the next day, the 15th of Nisan, on Friday. This was also the great day of the feast. Christ died, therefore, as the perfect fulfilment of the type, the Passover lamb.

The firstfruits of the harvest in Canaan were waved before the Lord as a wave offering on the 16th of Nisan. This wave offering signified the beginning of the harvest. On this day our Lord was in the grave in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea. That day was the Jewish Sabbath. Our Lord rose on the 17th of Nisan, the day after the feast of firstfruits (as the firstfruits of them that sleep; I Cor. 15:20, 23). He arose as the perfect fulfilment of the firstfruits of the harvest in Canaan, for He is the firstfruits of the harvest of the bodies of the redeemed.

On the 50th day after the feast of the firstfruits (on the 16th of Nisan), the feast of Pentecost was celebrated when Israel brought the sheaf of the completed harvest to God as a thank offering. On the next day, the Holy Spirit was poured out as the firstfruits of the finished harvest (Rom. 8:23). Acts 2:1 reads: "When the day of Pentecost was fully come ...," that is, when the day of Pentecost had been completed, that is the day after Pentecost, the 50th day after the resurrection of Christ. Those gathered by the Spirit on Pentecost were the firstfruits of that finished harvest of the new dispensation which shall be completed when the last elect is born and brought to faith in Christ. Then Christ will come again.

Hence, we have the following scheme in which our Saviour is set forth as the fulfilment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament.

14th of Nisan - Thursday - Passover - the Last Supper.

15th of Nisan - Friday - the great day of the feast - the crucifixion of the Lord as the true Lamb of God.

16th of Nisan - Saturday - offering of the first sheaf - our Lord in the tomb.

17th of Nisan - Sunday - the resurrection of the Lord as the firstfruits from the dead and the fulfilment of the wave offering.

50 days after the 16th of Nisan - Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath - Jewish feast of Pentecost and the first sheaf of the completed harvest.

50 days after the resurrection of Christ - Sunday - the outpouring of the Spirit - the firstfruits of the finished harvest of the gathering of the elect.

God’s ways are wise and perfect. His Son came as foreshadowed by the Old Testament types. We can only marvel—and humbly give thanks! Prof. Hanko

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