Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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July 2005, Volume X, Issue 15


The Danger of Singleness (1)

Though singleness is good (as we saw in the last two issues of the News), there are also dangers associated with it (I Cor. 7:2, 9). First, it can be abused in a selfish way. It is true that single people avoid the cares of marriage (26, 28, 32), but they may then sinfully choose to live unto themselves. Instead of using their greater freedom as singles to serve the Lord, they may simply use it to please themselves. The single person is thus tempted to satisfy their every desire and become self-centred in the use of their money, time, leisure, holidays, etc. This sinful abuse of singleness disobeys God’s Word. Love "seeketh not her own" (I Cor. 13:5). "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:4). "Let everyone of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Rom. 15:2). Though there is ordinarily a greater occasion for selfishness in single life, it is, of course, common to all the fallen sons and daughters of Adam.

Second, the single person’s physical condition of aloneness may lead to feeling lonely. The single child of God misses having someone with whom to talk and share. Then one is prone to brood and to think that no one really cares, perhaps not even the Father in heaven. Loneliness is often linked with boredom. "It is no fun being here by myself. I wish I had someone to live with and live for." For some single people, this danger is mitigated by continuing to live with their parents. But living with your parents when you are older may generate friction, especially because there is a natural desire for greater independence. However, not only single people but even some married people feel lonely, such as some parents after their children have grown up and left home or spouses in a poor marriage or Christians who are married to unbelievers.

Third, single people may struggle with a sense of failure. "Other people (including most of my friends) are married and have families of their own by now, but what have I done?" The single man may complain, "No one whom I ask out ever accepts, or if they do it never works out." The single woman may feel undesirable and unattractive to men.

All of these things and others can lead to bitterness, and bitterness at one’s lot in life, is, at bottom, bitterness at Almighty God, the governor of the world.

However, the single biggest danger for single people is fornication. The dangers previously mentioned may also add to the temptation. A selfish desire for sheer physical gratification may lead to fornication. The desire of a lonely single person to be with a man or woman may also lead to unlawful intercourse. The single person may think that sleeping with another person will prove his or her masculinity or femininity. With others bitterness or discontentment with God’s way can lead to sex outside marriage.

I Corinthians 6 has a lot to say about fornication. Fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (9-10). Christians fornicating with prostitutes are making members of Christ the members of an harlot (15-16). All other sins are outside the body, "but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body" (18). Thus the child of God must "flee fornication" (18). This includes avoiding temptations to it such as lascivious books, magazines, pictures, television programmes, songs, music videos, etc. Fornication is a mortal danger! Flee it!

I Corinthians 7:2 speaks literally of "fornications" (plural): "Nevertheless, to avoid fornications, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." This forbids all forms of illicit sexual activity including sodomy, prostitution, pornography and sexual fantasies. Christian marriage is the God ordained way of avoiding fornication.

But why does the apostle identify fornication as the number 1 danger for single persons and marriage as the solution or "remedy" (as Calvin calls it)? First, he presupposes that men and women are naturally attracted to the opposite sex. This is part of the human make-up, for God created us "male and female" (Gen. 1:27). Second, he presupposes that the fall of man has disordered our sexual attractions. Thus man’s sexuality plus his total depravity issues in sexual lust. Sinful men and women with sexual appetites are best preserved from fornication not by monkish vows of continual chastity or by retiring to a monastery in the desert but by lawful Christian marriage. In marriage, God makes two "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). In marriage, sex is lawful and even required—a good gift from God! In marriage, satisfied with the love and lovemaking of his or her spouse, the Christian is guarded from the temptation to fornicate (Prov. 5:15-20).

Some might protest that this is a low view of marriage: Get married or you may fornicate. But consider apostolic teaching in I Corinthians. Christian marriage is a "one flesh" union (6:16), which brings forth "holy" children (7:14), in which the man "is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man" (11:3). In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul describes Christian marriage as a picture of the union between Christ and His church—the most glorious presentation anywhere of marriage—and commands husbands: "love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (25). Rev. Stewart

For additional resources on this subject, see Better to Marry, a 105-page book on I Corinthians 6 & 7, by Prof. David Engelsma (£8.80, inc. P&P) and a series of 11 sermons on I Corinthians 7 entitled "Christian Singleness and Marriage" by Rev. Stewart.

Calling on the Name of the Lord

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 apparent contradiction is resolved by considering the context in which the words were spoken and by recognizing that the meaning of the phrase "call on the name of the Lord" is different in both cases.

I will point out a few things concerning the context first of all. The words of our Saviour in Matthew 7:21-23 are part of the well-known Sermon on the Mount, also referred to as "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven." As a constitution, it contains a description of the citizens of the kingdom; a discussion of certain principles of the kingdom (notably how the King of the kingdom, our Lord Jesus Christ, has not established His kingdom to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them); and the laws of this spiritual kingdom which govern the lives of those who are its citizens (cf. Matt. 6:24-34).

The description of the citizens of the kingdom is of particular interest to us. They are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the persecuted; those who mourn and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; those who enter the low and narrow gate to travel a difficult and treacherous path and abandon the wide gate and the easily-travelled broad way, etc.

The Lord warns that there will be some in this world who claim to be citizens of the kingdom, but, in fact, are not. We must be careful that we know who they are, for to follow their example would be disastrous.

These false disciples say that they "call upon the name of the Lord." That is, they say that they belong to the kingdom of Christ and that they acknowledge Him as King. They even go so far as to claim to belong to that kingdom by pointing out many good works which they do in the name of Christ. They have the temerity to call attention to these good works in the judgment day when they stand before Christ’s judgment seat. Their reckless and bold claims sound uncomfortably like the claims of the charismatics: "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?" (Matt. 7:22).

They are like people described in Matthew 25 who say, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?" (Matt. 25:44).

The true citizens of the kingdom never say such things. They are the meek, the thirsty, the hungry, the persecuted. In the judgment they say, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?" (Matt. 25:37-39).

In other words, some people, trying to convince themselves and others that they are true citizens of the kingdom, boast, even before the judgment seat of Christ, of their good works. The true citizens of the kingdom never do this, for they are too overwhelmed by their sins, and they know that their own works are always despicable and displeasing to God. The people who claim to be citizens, but are not, call upon the Lord only to boast of their goodness.

These people lack the one important characteristic that, more than any other, defines them as citizens of the kingdom: They fail to do the will of the Father in heaven. They claim to cast out devils, but violate and desecrate the Sabbath. They claim to prophesy in Christ’s name, but they teach false doctrine. They claim to do many wonderful works for Christ, but they divorce their wives or husbands and marry others for whom they lust.

You will find them among professional sports figures who pray before football games and play on the Lord’s Day. You will find them among ministers who preach on Sunday morning, but then go to the golf course to play golf. You will find them "witnessing" on a street corner, and then going to movies. They are the ones who publicly protest against pornography, but use their computers to visit pornographic sites. They will use ugly tactics to protest outside abortion clinics, but will destroy their own children by neglect and failure to teach them the ways of the Lord. They tithe regularly, but buy mansions, boats, expensive cars to satisfy their craving for pleasure. Their number is legion. They are found on TV as preachers of the gospel, and in huge auditoriums where they do their miracles "in the name of the Lord." They are always "pious," always with the name of the Lord on their lips, but also having a wonderful time in this world in the pursuit of sin. The Lord will tell them that He never knew them. Prof. H. Hanko

If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please contact Rev. Stewart and we will gladly send it to you.