Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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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 our salvation.

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" (24).

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 & Remarriage

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 (Matt. 19:9).

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 another").

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 in marriage.

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 God (2)

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). Rev. Stewart

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