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
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"
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
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.