Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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October 2005, Volume X, Issue 18


The Duty of Sex in Marriage (2)

Married persons owe for the clothes or food that they buy and they also owe their spouse sexual intercourse: "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (4). Your spouse has authority over your body sexually; not you.

Some might object that they do not remember giving away authority over their body in their marriage vows. Probably this was not mentioned in so many words, but the nature of marriage as an "one flesh" union implies that your spouse has authority over your body sexually and not yourself. This is sober, believing, Christian thinking. Of course, this also reflects the one great marriage that our marriages are to reflect. Does the church, Christ’s bride, own her own body? No, Christ’s bride is under the ownership and authority of Christ, her husband.

We are now in a position more fully to analyse the sin of a sexless marriage (assuming that sex is physically possible). It is theft, not rendering what is due. It is theft from one’s nearest neighbour, one’s spouse. It is defrauding him or her (5). This introduces the idea of cheating or tricking. Marriage, by definition, includes giving yourself to your spouse. By refusing to give yourself sexually, as you promised, you commit treachery. This is rooted in selfishness, the desire to do with your body what you want and not what your spouse wants. This selfishness flows from unbelief, unbelief of the vital, spiritual union between Christ and His church which your marriage and sexual intercourse ought to picture.

This sin has consequences. God will judge and chastise you for it. Your spouse will be hurt, seriously hurt. Refusing his or her sexual advances is cruel. Ignoring or giving him or her the cold shoulder is wicked. Christ does not so treat His wife! Your spouse will feel unsatisfied and cheated and probably will (sinfully) become bitter and resentful. Thus your marriage will suffer. Physical intimacy of all sorts will dry up and you will lose emotional and spiritual intimacy too.

Marital sins hinder your prayers (I Peter 3:7). Prayer at family devotions becomes difficult; prayers go unanswered. Scripture reading too becomes a chore. Eventually this may lead to infrequent family devotions or complete neglect.

No intercourse in marriage also renders both spouses more vulnerable to the sin of adultery. Remember, one purpose of marriage is to avoid fornication (2; cf. Prov. 5:18-20). Satan has an interest in your marriage bed. He goes around "seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). Defraud not one another! Rev. Stewart

God's Just Punishment of the Wicked (1)

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones (Ps. 137:8-9).

A reader asks, "What would you say if somebody claimed that Psalm 137:9 was ‘the most horrible verse in the Bible?’ What does Psalm 137:9 mean apart from the obvious?" This passage, along with the so-called "imprecatory Psalms," has always been a stumbling block to many interpreters of Scripture. C. S. Lewis, in his book on the Psalms, refers to this passage and others like it as humorous if they were not so dreadful. The implication of such objections is, of course, that these passages are not divinely inspired.

Because all Scripture is God-breathed (II Tim. 3:16), our first answer to one who calls this passage "the most horrible verse in the Bible" must be: "You may not call the passage horrible, for God Himself says this, and you are then saying that God is horrible." Whatever else may be said about the passage, a believer must never permit anyone to slander Scripture in his presence. He must defend Scripture as the Word of his God.

But this does not mean that we may not explain the text and show the many truths which the text implies. It is probably worth our while to point out that the slaughter of the Babylonians, of whom this Psalm is written, was not a slaughter performed by the Israelites. The Israelites did not take Babylon’s children and smash them against the stones. The Medes and the Persians were guilty of these atrocities. Under Belshazzar, Babylon was captured and destroyed and the Medo-Persian Empire took the place of the Babylonian Empire as the great world power pictured in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2; 5:30-31).

This is also important and helpful to understand the text. Psalm 137 was sung by the people of Judah in Babylon where they were captives. The nation of Judah had been taken into captivity as God’s just judgment on the nation for its grievous sins. But in Judah was an elect remnant who were faithful to their God. Among them were Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They too went into captivity along with the wicked in the nation. This elect remnant speaks in Psalm 137:8: "happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us."

God had used Babylon, as the prophets pointed out, for two purposes: one was to bring judgment upon an apostate nation; the other was to chastise the elect remnant. This latter purpose of God was accomplished in two ways. (1) The elect remnant were by no means free from the sins of the nation as a whole and were also led into idolatry by the influence of their compatriots. These were delivered from their own sin of participation in the sins of the nation. (2) The elect remnant was delivered from the reprobate in the nation who were chiefly responsible for the nation’s terrible sins and for leading the faithful away from God. The remnant returned after seventy years, purged, chastened, and purified.

Babylon was therefore, as the prophets explained to Judah, the scourge in God’s hand by which Judah was chastened. But, the amazing truth of the matter was (and this also was made clear by the prophets) that Babylon did not acknowledge that it was Jehovah’s scourge, but Babylon destroyed Judah out of hatred and out of the terrible determination to subject all nations to its cruel control. Because Babylon destroyed Judah out of wickedness, Babylon also was punished by God for its sin of destroying God’s people. This truth is literally set forth in Isaiah 10, although the reference there is to Assyria, and not to Babylon. (The reader is urged to read the chapter, especially verses 5-25.)

This may be difficult to understand, but it will help to remember that something very similar happened on Calvary when our Lord was crucified. The crucifixion of Christ was God’s way of accomplishing redemption for the church. That crucifixion took place through the wickedness of Herod, Pilate, the leaders of the Jews and the people of Israel. They were accountable for the worst crime committed in the history of the world. They accomplished God’s purpose, but they were destroyed for their sin. This truth is literally stated in Acts 2:23 and Acts 4:27-28.

God accomplishes His purpose through wicked men, but that does not mean that wicked men are not accountable before God for the sin they commit, even when God works His purpose through their sin. Babylon, the rod in God’s hand to chastise His people, is to be judged and destroyed.

However, this truth, so important for the text, does not yet explain the language of Psalm 137. True, the Medes and the Persians (and not Judah) smashed Babylon’s children on the rocks, but the people of God were themselves happy about this. The happiness of the people of God is not directly expressed in the Psalm, for those who destroy Babylon are said to be happy. But the fact that it is included in the Psalm, sung by God’s people, is itself proof that they too rejoice in these judgments.

The question which needs answering is: How is this possible? It is possible because the text says something about God. To deny the power and force of the text is ultimately to deny who God is. But we must wait with that. Prof. Hanko

The Lord's Day and the Day of the Lord (2)

As a Jew brought up with the Old Testament, the apostle John was familiar with the weekly cycle of seven days. In Revelation, he writes of many sevens: seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven churches, seven angels, etc. Of the seven day cycle, one day stood out in his mind as the "Lord’s day" (Rev. 1:10). Last time we demonstrated that the "Lord’s day" is the first day of the week, our Sunday.

The early church recognised the Lord’s day. In biblical times we read of the church worshipping on the first day of the week at Troas (Acts 20:7f.) and at Corinth (I Cor. 16:1-2). Listen to the following quotes from several early church fathers in post-biblical times. Ignatius (d. 98/117): "Let everyone that loveth Christ observe the Lord’s Day, the queen and first of days on which also our Life arose." Irenaeus (fl. c.175-c.195): "The mystery of our Lord’s resurrection ought to be kept only on the Lord’s Day." Clement of Alexandria (c.155-c.220): "The enlightened Christian, when he has fully observed that which is the Lord’s Day according to the gospel, keeps that day the commandment when he casts away low worldly thoughts and lays hold of that which is spiritual and enlightened, glorying in the resurrection of the Lord." All three quotations identify the "Lord’s day" as the day on which Christ arose, the first day of the week. Clement of Alexandria even speaks of the Lord’s day as included in the (ten) commandments (as the fourth commandment). Origen (c.185-c.254), Athanasius (c.296-373) and others could also have been quoted. So well established was the church’s observance of the Lord’s day on the first day of the week (even by the end of the first century, when John was writing) that John simply speaks of the "Lord’s day" (Rev. 1:10) and assumes that his readers all know to what he is referring.

Keeping the Lord’s day holy especially involves the hearing of Christ’s Word. The apostle John heard Christ’s Word on the Lord’s day: "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" (1:11; see also 1:8, 17-20; 2:1-3:22). Today on the Lord’s day we hear Christ speaking to us in the preaching of the gospel and we see Him by faith in all His majesty, as did John (1:13-16). Moreover, like John, we hear Christ in the preaching on the Lord’s day when we are "in the Spirit" (10).

Where did John see and hear Christ on that famous Lord’s day? In "the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" (13), that is, in the churches (20). Similarly, we hear Christ on the Lord’s day in church! Thus the fourth commandment, as explained by the Heidelberg Catechism, requires that we "diligently frequent the church of God, to hear his word" (A. 103). Don’t merely attend one service, but go to both the morning and evening services (where this is possible) to hear the voice of Christ and to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. For it is not merely our physical presence in the worship service that is required. We must be "in the Spirit on the Lord’s day" (Rev. 1:10). Next time (DV), we will identify the "day of the Lord" and contrast it with the Lord’s day. Rev. Stewart

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