Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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March 2006, Volume X, Issue 23

Married to an Unbeliever (1)

I Corinthians 7:12-16 speaks of a situation Christ did not address in His public ministry (10-11), a mixed marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. Is divorce more easily obtainable here? How is one to view his or her unbelieving spouse? How is one to view his or her children produced from this union?

Some mixed marriages occur when a believer sinfully marries an unbeliever. The believer disobeyed God’s command to marry "only in the Lord" (39) and took upon his or her shoulders an unequal yoke (II Cor. 6:14). The Westminster Confession forbids saints marrying "infidels, Papists, or other idolaters … [or] such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies" (24:3). Sometimes Christians marry an unbeliever because they were young and foolish (or not so young and foolish). They were "swept off their feet" by a "nice" unbeliever. Perhaps they were poorly taught in a weak church or they were pressurised by their unbelieving parents into marriage for worldly reasons.

Sometimes two professed Christians marry and later one apostatises, showing that he or she never truly was a child of God. Unbelievers have been known to pretend to be believers in order to marry a Christian and then, when the knot is tied, revealed that they only behaved as they did in order to marry. This is a double treachery: treachery against God and treachery against one’s spouse.

However, sometimes two unbelievers marry and later one is converted but the other is not. This is more frequent in a mission scenario or in a relatively new church, such as that at Corinth.

There are many factors which might suggest it is easier to obtain a divorce in a mixed marriage. Some have argued, "My spouse is ungodly, totally depraved in intellect and will, sinning always in body and in soul, and transgressing with mouth, hands and feet (Rom. 3:10-18). He is an enemy of God and hates Him. And what about the antithesis between righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, and the temple of God and idols (II Cor. 6:14-16)? James says that ‘friendship [with] the world is enmity with God’ (James 4:4). Am I to remain married to a worldly and ungodly spouse?"

Think too of the nature of marriage as a one-flesh bond, the most intimate union between two human beings! Ought the child of God live, dwell, eat and drink, take holidays, talk, share one’s bed, and have and rear children with an unbeliever? The husband, as the head of his wife, must love her as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25-29, 33). The wife is to submit herself unto her husband as unto the Lord (22-24, 33). "How can this be obeyed in our mixed marriage? Should I not simply divorce?" some have asked.

There are further practical difficulties. What if you’re married to a Buddhist or a Satanist or a Roman Catholic or a liberal or an ecumenist or an Arminian? Or, your spouse simply despises all "religion"? What do you do on the Lord’s Day? Do you go to his departing or apostate church? Your unbelieving wife may want the family to go to the beach or to visit her relatives. Your unbelieving spouse may oppose your attending divine worship services, especially if you want to bring your children. To him (or her), you are merely a religious fanatic.

What about friends? His friends are ungodly; yours are believers. Your friends and his friends don’t get on. There may be some differences in preferences in social activities amongst a believing husband and his believing wife, but the differences are much bigger in mixed marriages, especially if the unbelieving spouse wants to do things which are in themselves sinful.

Then what about the use of the TV, or prayers at meal times, or disciplining your children, and so on? Often, and understandably so, the believer in a mixed marriage will groan, "Everything is a battle!" And you feel that your unbelieving spouse is very quick to accuse you of hypocrisy (which sadly may be the case) or of "preaching" at him or her.

"Surely, in all of this," the weary believer might think, "I have grounds for divorce! One of these things or, at very least, all of them together must constitute a valid reason. Besides, I don’t think I can cope any more. Surely God cannot be that cruel and the Christian life cannot be that hard! And there are many churches which would allow me to get a divorce …"

But what does sacred Scripture say? "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him" (I Cor. 7:12-13). God knows all the difficulties (and doubtless Paul had heard these complaints too), yet none of these things, and not even all of them together, constitute grounds for divorce. The only ground for divorce is fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).

This rules out various alleged grounds for divorce. Unbelief, apostasy, "incompatibility" and "irreconcilable differences" are not grounds for divorce. Why? Because marriage is an unbreakable bond, whether it is between two believers or between two unbelievers or between a believer and an unbeliever. Apostasy, unbelief, etc., do not break the bond; even fornication does not break the bond, though it gives a ground for legal divorce. A man and a woman joined in one flesh are married until death them do part (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). Rev. Stewart

The Purpose of Creation (1)

A reader asks, "Why did God bring the universe into being?" Not only is this an interesting and important question, but also the answer to it happens to be one of my favourite topics on which to preach and lecture. In fact, I recently delivered a sermon on Colossians 1:20, in which verse Paul speaks of the reconciliation of the entire heavenly and earthly creation to God through the cross of Christ. This passage too concerns God’s reason for creating all things.

In this day of modern scientism, when the world and a large part of the church teaches the evil doctrine of evolution, we are compelled to begin our discussion with the affirmation that God brought the universe into being by the Word of His power in six normal days, that is, in six days of twenty-four hours.

If evolutionism is true, whether it be atheistic or "theistic" evolutionism, we have nothing to discuss and no answer to give to the question: Why did God bring the universe into being? I firmly believe there is no such thing as theistic evolutionism, for all evolutionism, even the kind the departing church promotes—attempting to drag God into the creation by the back door—is atheistic evolutionism, no matter what form its denial of God’s creative act and God’s providence takes. Denying God’s creative act and His providence, all an evolutionist can say is that He did not bring the universe into being, for it developed of itself over billions of years; and it has no real purpose because it operates exclusively according to natural law, and, therefore, in a purely mechanical way.

We affirm, first of all, the truth of creation. God created, not only the universe, but also heaven, where angels and the spirits of just men made perfect dwell, in six days of twenty-four hours, exactly as described in Genesis 1 and 2.

We affirm, furthermore, that this act of creation by which God formed the universe is creatio ex nihilo, that is, creation out of nothing. Belgic Confession 12 says, "We believe that the Father, by the Word, that is, by his Son, hath created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures as it seemed good unto him ..."

Objections have been raised on philosophical grounds against the statement that God created all things "out of nothing:" "How can something be made out of nothing?" We are not disturbed by this philosophical objection, for the truth of our creed emphasizes that all things came into being by a miracle.

Lee Irons and others who hold to the "Framework Hypothesis" attempt to explain Genesis 1 and 2 in evolutionary ways by saying that the creation took place by "ordinary providence." One is compelled to ask: What is ordinary providence? Is there such a thing as extraordinary providence? Lee Irons obviously means that the creation came into existence according to the laws of nature which still control the universe; that is, all things came into existence by evolutionary processes. This is a denial of the fact that creation is a miracle.

It is an assault on Scripture to explain creation as taking place by "ordinary providence." How can one explain that "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Ps. 33:6)—in terms of "ordinary providence?"

Creatio ex nihilo defines creation as that act of God by which He gave existence to heaven and earth and all that is in them in such a way that all the creation is separate from His divine being, but absolutely contingent upon Him. To say that the creation is not separate from the divine being is to fall into Pantheism—that all the creation is God. To deny that the creation is absolutely contingent on God is to be a Deist, one who holds that all events take place by natural law.

Creatio ex nihilo avoids Pantheism and Deism by asserting (1) that God gave existence to the creation distinct and separate from His own infinite being and (2) that the distinct and separately existing creation is absolutely dependent upon God for its continued existence and for its history.

The child of God believes this truth of creation. In fact, it is possible only to accept the truth of creation by faith, for "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Heb. 11:3).

We may note in parentheses that the description of creation which God provides in this text ("things which are seen were not made of things which do appear") is a fatal blow to all evolutionism, whether "theistic" or atheistic.

I make a great deal of this truth concerning creation because it is impossible to answer the question why God created all things without affirming, first, that God did create all things; and, second, that He created all things by a miracle.

The God who never does anything arbitrarily had a purpose, one purpose, in creating heaven and earth and all that is in them. That purpose is the glory of His own name. He eternally determined to glorify His great and holy name, and He does this in all His works. God wills to glorify Himself through Jesus Christ in the salvation of His church! And by grace we are included in God’s eternal purpose! No wonder the glorified church confesses, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11).

Sadly, this is denied by some who say that God’s original purpose was to glorify His name through the first Adam; but this purpose was defeated by Adam’s fall. The result was that God adopted a new purpose to repair what Adam had spoiled. That purpose was salvation in Christ. It was, so to speak, Plan B. I deny this. Scripture teaches us very clearly that God’s purpose is one; that is, to glorify Himself through Christ, the head of His elect church. Prof. H. Hanko

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