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October 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 18


Marrying in the Lord

I Corinthians 7:39 requires that if a Christian marries it must be "only in the Lord." Most obviously this forbids marrying unbelievers and therefore dating them, because the purpose of courtship is to ascertain if it is God’s will that you marry that person. The sin of professing believers dating and marrying unbelievers led to the apostasy of the antediluvian church and the destruction of the old world by the flood (Gen. 6:1-2)! Disobeying the command of God by marrying (or courting) a non-Christian is one of several ways in which a child of God foolishly places upon his shoulders a (very painful) unequal yoke: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Cor. 6:14). Thus the Westminster Confession states, "It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry [including priests, monks and nuns!], who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies" (24:3).

But what if someone is saved after they are married and God has not converted his or her spouse or what if a Christian has sinfully married an unbeliever? Does this mean that they should divorce? No! "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). (For more, see "Married to an Unbeliever;" CR News X:23-24.)

Christians ought only marry godly, orthodox believers. Moreover, if Paul solemnly entreated his Corinthian brethren, "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," that they all speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment so that there may be no divisions among them (I Cor. 1:10), how much more does this apply to two believers who are considering becoming one flesh in marriage? Surely, there must be no divisions among them! Surely, they ought to speak the same thing and be of the same mind and the same judgment!

Two believers contemplating wedlock ought to be of one mind and one judgment about the nature of marriage itself (a one flesh union "till death us do part"), the roles in marriage (husband as loving head and wife as submissive helper thus mirroring Christ’s relationship with His church) and the purposes of marriage (intimate companionship and mutual help, rearing godly children, and avoiding fornication). They must also, of course, be of one mind and one judgment as regards biblical doctrine, as faithfully summed in the Reformed confessions.

But there is another way of considering the unity required by the calling to marry "only in the Lord" (7:39). We are hereby taught that we ought only marry one who confesses and lives according to the lordship of Jesus Christ—His sovereign ownership and government of all things.

Christ is Lord of creation. Is it marrying "in the Lord" to wed a "theistic evolutionist" or a "progressive creationist"? Such a person denies Christ’s lordship, as the One who made all things in heaven and on earth in six days, by compromising with evolutionism. Christ is Lord of history, as the sovereign ruler over all things, including sin and catastrophes and Antichrist, according to God’s eternal decree (Eph. 1:11). Does your boyfriend or girlfriend believe this? Christ is Lord of redemption, dying on the cross to blot out the sins of His people (Matt. 1:21), His sheep (John 10:15), His seed (Isa. 53:10) and His church (Eph. 5:25)—and not the goats (Matt. 25:33) nor the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) nor the "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 3:9). Christ is Lord of election and reprobation (Rom. 9), regeneration (John 3:8; James 1:18), calling, justification, adoption and glorification (Rom. 8:30). How can someone who has received the truth of sovereign grace be "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Cor. 1:10) with one who suspends God’s salvation on the "free will" of the sinner? Christ is Lord of the church, as its only redeemer, head and king. His will in Scripture must determine the church’s doctrine, sacraments, discipline, worship and government, and not man’s feelings or modern culture or ancient tradition. Christ is Lord of the covenant, establishing it not only with believers but also with their elect seed (Rom. 9:6-13), and requiring baptism for the children of believers (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 16:14-15; Col. 2:11-12).

Christ is Lord also of the whole of our lives: body and soul; work and rest; family, home, children and friendships, etc. He is our master and we are His property, so that all our abilities and time and possessions stand in His service—in courtship and marriage too!

Thus Christians ought to marry (and date) orthodox believers in the fear of Jehovah, seeking to please Christ and at all times submit to and honour His lordship. Such marriages glorify God, strengthen the church and result in solid Christian homes … and happy and contented spouses (Ps. 127-128)! Rev. Stewart

The Salvation of Baptized Infants (2)

In the last News, I argued that elect children from believing parents are typically saved in infancy or even prior to birth. The reader who sent in the question also asked, "Can an infant baptized into the true church not reach the point of true salvation?" Answering this will also give opportunity to add an important teaching of Scripture to what I wrote in my last article.

First, I assume that the questioner writes of baptism "into the true church," because only baptism performed by a true church is a means of grace. If this is the meaning, he is certainly correct, for one of the marks of the true church is that the sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ. This point is an important one and worth noting.

The answer to the question, "Can an infant baptized into the true church not reach the point of true salvation?" is emphatically, "Yes! Yes, it is possible that a child of believing parents, baptized into a true church, not reach the point of true salvation?" That is, not all baptized infants are saved; many are lost.

Before I explain this further, I want to make a caveat regarding the question’s suggestion that usually salvation comes in later life to a baptized child. This is not correct when one is speaking of the children of believers. As I explained in the last News, the children of believers are usually saved either before birth, perhaps at the time of conception, or very shortly after birth. Scripture seems to suggest the former, as in the cases of Jeremiah and John the Baptist (cf. "Covenant Children and Infant Baptism;"

Not all children of believing parents are saved. We must reckon here with the truth of predestination, including both election and reprobation. Sovereign election determines those who are saved, and sovereign reprobation determines those who are not saved. As the Canons of Dordt put it, "That some receive the gift of faith from God and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree ... According to which decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy" (1:6).

God’s sovereign and eternal decree of election and reprobation not only determines who will be saved and who will not be saved on the mission field, but it also determines who will be saved and who will not be saved in the covenant lines of believers and their seed. The elect children of the covenant are saved; the reprobate children of the covenant are not saved.

This divine distinction was already true in the home of Isaac and Rebekah. Although Esau was the firstborn and the heir of the birthright, he was reprobate. Though Jacob showed in much of his life that he was no better than Esau, he was elect. Esau was not saved; Jacob was (Gen. 25:19-26; Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:10-13). Election and reprobation ruled throughout the nation of Israel. Many, usually the majority, in Israel, though born in the line of the generations of believers, were reprobate (Isa. 1:8-9; Rom. 9:6-8; 11:5).

What was true in the old dispensation is also true in the new. Throughout the history of the church, the divine distinction within the lines of the covenant was carried out: not all the children of believers are saved. Believing parents, while they joyfully receive their children from God as children of God’s covenant, know that not all their children are saved. They know that the decision as to the salvation of their children rests with God. They bow before His sovereign will. They rejoice that God is so merciful that He gathers His church from the children they bring forth.

Some charge the Protestant Reformed Churches with teaching "baptismal regeneration," that is regeneration by means of baptism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Others charge the Protestant Reformed Churches with teaching "presupposed regeneration," that is, that the churches teach that believers presuppose the regeneration of all their children. But this is also a slander and a lie. Believers know that God saves according to His good pleasure and that God has not promised to save all their children.

Some argue against the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches (and all Reformed churches) by asking the question: Why then do believers baptize all their children, when they know that not all are saved? I have a great deal of difficulty understanding the force of this objection. Why does every church that preaches the gospel preach to all without distinction when they know and believe that God saves only some? If these churches are not Arminian (preaching a gospel that God loves every one and is gracious to every one), they will have to admit that it is wrong and contrary to God’s will to preach only to the elect. They preach to elect and reprobate—as well they should.

Baptism is a sacrament that is added to the preaching to signify by an outward sign the truth of the gospel. It ought not to strike us as strange that the sacrament of baptism is also administered to all the children of believers. But this fact does not deny that baptism is a sign and a seal of the washing away of sin in the blood of Christ. And that which baptism signifies and seals is that only the elect are saved by the blood of Christ. Prof. Hanko

Prof. Hanko will preach for the CPRC in Ballymena at all services on Lord’s Days 18 & 25 November and 2 December, and lecture on "The Reformation’s Emphasis on Piety" in Porthcawl, S. Wales (7:15 pm, 30 November)—DV.

A DVD of a 2-hour debate on "The Charismatic Gifts and Cessationism" (Rev. Stewart v. Rev. Antwi) is available from the CPRC for £2 or can be seen on-line at cessationismresources.htm

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.