October 2006 • Volume XI, Issue 6
Abiding in Our Calling (1)
The key idea in I Corinthians 7:17-24 is that of
calling. Forms of the verb "call" are used here eight times and the
noun "calling" occurs once: "Let every man abide in the same calling
wherein he was called" (20). There are two meanings of "call" or
"calling," both in English and in Greek. One is the "effectual call," a
work of God’s grace. The other is one’s "vocation," a work of God’s
providence. Both of these calls—the effectual call and our vocation—come
to the elect in God’s love in Christ Jesus. But which of these is spoken
of in the nine instances in our text? Both are included in verse 20: "Let
every man abide in the same calling [vocation] wherein he was called
[effectual call]." Sometimes it is vocation; sometimes it is the effectual
call; sometimes it is not that clear, for the two ideas here are closely
related. This is indicated by the same word "call" being used for both
meanings. Also both words, in different ways, express God’s sovereignty
over and love for us. Thus both our effectual call and our vocation serve
We ought to note the basic structure of I Corinthians
7:17-24. You will need your Bible open here. The principle is stated: "But
as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one,
so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches" (17). The principle is
applied to situation 1: circumcision or uncircumcision (18-19). The
principle is restated in different words (20) and applied to situation 2:
slaves or free (21-23). Finally, the principle is again laid down:
"Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God"
Let us consider, in turn, the effectual call (this
month) and then vocation (next month, DV). The effectual call is God’s
powerful speech to the heart of the elect sinner translating him out of
darkness into His marvellous light. The effectual call has two aspects:
the external proclamation of the true gospel of God’s grace and the
internal operation of the Holy Spirit, working powerfully by the preached
word so that the elect sinner comes to Christ in faith.
The effectual call is one, for the external
preaching and the internal operation of the Spirit are two aspects of one
call of the elect. We distinguish the two elements but we do not separate
them. It is gracious, springing from God’s eternal love earnestly
desiring our salvation. It is particular for it comes to the elect
alone, for "whom he did predestinate, them he also called" (Rom. 8:30). It
is also irresistible, effecting the salvation of all those "chosen" in
Christ "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4), infallibly
bringing us to glory. Rev. Stewart
Matthew 19:9 on Divorce &
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his
wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commiteth
adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery
A reader asks, "May a divorced Christian marry another
Christian again?" The questioner asks about Christians and not people in
general, although what is true for Christians in this regard is true for
all men. If Christians may divorce their spouses and remarry, unbelievers
may too. The opposite is also true. If an unbeliever may divorce his or
her spouse and remarry, a Christian may do the same. What applies to one,
applies to all.
That this rule of God is equally applicable to believer
and unbeliever is true because in discussing divorce and remarriage,
Scripture is discussing a creation ordinance. Jesus makes this very
clear in Matthew 19:4-6 in answer to the Pharisees’ question concerning
divorce and remarriage: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the
beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man
leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain
shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What
therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Marriage was
instituted by God at creation and He laid down ordinances which apply to
the whole human race created in Adam.
The argument concerning divorce and remarriage (some
favouring it and others opposing it) hinges on the interpretation of the
verse quoted above, Matthew 19:9. The specific question is: Does the
clause "except it be for fornication" modify what precedes it ("Whosoever
shall put away his wife") or does it modify what follows ("and shall marry
If the clause "except it be for fornication" modifies
"and shall marry another," then, if the original ground of divorce is
fornication, it is permissible to remarry. If, however, the clause "except
it be for fornication" modifies the preceding clause, then remarriage is
wrong, even after divorce.
To put the argument as precisely as possible: If a
husband and wife are divorced because one party or the other has committed
fornication, then the question is: May the innocent party remarry? (In
passing, it is well to note that nobody asks concerning the guilty party:
May the guilty party remarry?)
The remarriage of the innocent party is a position held
by many and adopted by the Westminster Assembly. I am convinced, however,
that it is a wrong position. I am convinced that, while the words of Jesus
clearly permit divorce on the grounds of fornication, any remarriage,
whether by the innocent or the guilty party, is forbidden (Matt. 5:32).
While Matthew 19:9 may be ambiguous, other passages in
Scripture are so clear on the matter that Matthew 19:9 must be interpreted
in their light. I cannot quote these passages here, but I would ask the
reader to look up and prayerfully consider Matthew 5:32, Mark 10:11-12,
Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-3, Malachi 2:16, and I Corinthians 7:10-11.
When instituting marriage and marrying Adam and Eve,
God described marriage as two becoming "one flesh." It is not possible to
separate two parts of one flesh without killing the one divided. Husband
and wife are one flesh and cannot be separated. Not only may
they not be separated; they cannot be separated.
We must note therefore that divorce on the grounds of
fornication is not a destruction or dissolution of the marriage; the two
divorced continue to be one flesh. But it is a separation from living
together because of the unfaithfulness of one partner, who, through
fornication, becomes "one body" with someone else (I Cor. 6:16). Because
the marriage remains, remarriage is adultery, and even polygamy or
polyandry, and is condemned by God (Matt. 5:32).
If one of the partners in a marriage divorces and
remarries, the way to reconciliation through repentance is closed. Yet,
within the relationships between Christians one must always leave the door
open to repentance and reconciliation in all estrangements and above all
Marriage between Christians is, according to Paul in
Ephesians 5:22-33, a picture of the relation between Christ and His
church. This relation between Christ and His church is so intimate that
Christ and His people become one flesh. They cannot be torn asunder. The
marriage is eternal and forever.
It is true that we, who are so frequently unfaithful,
commit grave sins of spiritual fornication that would, in themselves,
dissolve the marriage bond between Christ and His people—if it were
capable of being dissolved. James calls the people to whom he writes his
epistle "adulterers and adulteresses" (4:4). But, thanks be to God, Christ
never divorces His people. He maintains the marriage bond and will never
let that bond be dissolved, no, not even by all our sins.
Ezekiel 16 paints a most graphic picture of this. After
describing Judah’s adulteries, God says, "Nevertheless I will remember my
covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto
thee an everlasting covenant" (60).
Marriages between Christians are to represent that heavenly
relationship between God and His people in Christ. Thank God that He will
never divorce us, for the bond of the covenant He establishes is an
everlasting bond and He is faithful. Let us then also be faithful in our
marriages. If the tragedy of divorce overtake us because of the
unfaithfulness of our spouse, let us preserve, insofar as we are able, the
permanency of marriage, for we must not remarry. Prof. Hanko
Click here for
"God's Will Concerning Remarriage"
by Rev. B. Gritters, which includes a further explanation of Matthew 19:9
Christ, the Image of the Invisible
Basil the Great rightly referred to Jesus as the "living
image" of God. Christ walked on water; God is the One who treads on the
waves of the sea. Christ stilled the storm; God silences the winds and the
breakers. Christ raised the dead; Jehovah "bringeth down to the grave, and
bringeth up" (I Sam. 2:6). Christ healed the sick; Jehovah declares, "I am
the Lord that healeth thee" (Ex. 15:26).
As the visible, living image of the invisible God,
Christ is the glory of God. Before declaring that Jesus is "the express
image of God," Hebrews 1:3 states that He is "the brightness of [God’s]
glory." Similarly, II Corinthians 4 teaches that the "glory of God" comes
through Jesus Christ, the "image of God" (4, 6). The reason is simple: God
is glorious and so the image of God must be glorious. This overpowering
brilliance of Jesus Christ leads us to worship Him as God manifest in the
flesh (I Tim. 3:16), the revelation of the Holy Trinity. This effulgence
was veiled in His humiliation and is now unveiled in His exaltation.
We should also add that Christ is the image of God
by His sonship. Sons look like or image their fathers. God the Son,
eternally begotten of the Father, images the Father. The incarnate Son,
God’s "dear Son" (Col. 1:13), images His Father. As the One who images the
Father perfectly, He reveals the Father perfectly.
Jesus Christ, "the image of the invisible God," is only
known by faith. Some unbelievers often simply refer to Him as a great man.
Arians, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, say that He is merely "like" God but
not truly God, as the absolutely perfect image of God. But God’s children,
by the illumination of the Spirit, believe in Christ, the express image of
God, who is set forth in the sacred Scriptures as the revelation of the
Father and thus the object of faith.
Though the invisible God became visible in Jesus
Christ, many who saw Him in the flesh did not behold the glory of God in
Him. To them He had "no form nor comeliness," being more like a wizened
"root out of a dry ground" (Isa. 53:2) than "the glory of the Lord"
(40:5). Though they saw Him who was the image of God, Satan "blinded"
their minds so that they did not believe (II Cor. 4:4).
Others, though they lived before the days in which God
imaged Himself visibly in the incarnation of the Son of God, did behold
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. "Abraham," Christ assures
us, "rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56).
Moreover, all the spiritual sons of Abraham in the Old Testament saw or
knew God by faith in the coming Saviour.
Even those saints who saw Christ in the flesh only knew Him as the
image of God by faith (cf. John 14:9-11). Believers today have not seen
Christ in the flesh and yet we love Him (I Peter 1:8) and are blessed, for
"blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
What about you? Have you seen Christ’s glory as the image of the invisible
God? For those from "all the ends of the earth" who "look" unto Him by
faith are "saved" (Isa. 45:22).
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.