Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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September 2005, Volume X, Issue 17


The Duty of Sex in Marriage (1)

Sex outside marriage is sin; all Christians know this, and so do unbelievers. Not having sex in marriage (under ordinary circumstances) is also sin; maybe not all are aware of this. According to I Corinthians 7:3-5, sex in marriage is a debt owed. Neglect or refusal to have sex with your spouse is theft, a breaking of the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal."

The Bible has important things to say about singleness, marriage and sex. Thus the church must teach these subjects, as well as the truths of the Holy Trinity, the end times and irresistible grace. The church teaches these subjects in sermons, in catechism classes, in premarital classes and (as now) in writing. Wise parents will also speak to their children on these issues as did Solomon to his son in Proverbs (e.g., Prov. 2:16-19; 5:3-23; 6:24-35; 7:6-27; 9:13-18).

Of course, the manner, as well as the matter, of Christian teaching on marriage and sex is very different from that of the world. We do not aim to arouse or titillate the saints, nor yet are we prudish, simply ignoring the subject. Instead, we proclaim the biblical teaching on sexuality chastely and authoritatively.

Jesus Christ is Lord, and this means that He is Lord of marriage and the marriage bed too. He has things to say here. Thus our goal is the glory of God in Jesus Christ and the edification of the saints. Within this framework and with this spirit, let us consider the duty of sex in marriage.

I Corinthians 7:3 speaks of husband and wife rendering "due benevolence" to each other: "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband." "Due benevolence" here does not mean that husband and wife must merely show each other kindness in general. Consider the context. A purpose of marriage is to "avoid fornication" (2). In marriage, your spouse has authority over your body, especially in the marriage bed (4). The "incontinency" in verse 5 refers to lack of sexual self-control. Thus "due benevolence" in I Corinthians 7:3 refers specifically to the kindness due to one’s spouse in sexual intercourse.

This sexual "benevolence" is "due" to your spouse. It is a debt, something you owe your husband or wife. It is not merely a favour that you dispense if your spouse has been good. Obviously some, through old age or disability, etc., are unable to fulfil this debt, but ordinarily Christian spouses must pay this debt. Are you paying this debt to your husband or wife? Rev. Stewart

Does Matthew 18:23-35 Teach a Falling Away of Saints?

The questioner writes, "Does Matthew 18:23-35 teach that a person can be saved (have his debt paid) and then lose the salvation (be thrown into prison again)? How would you answer the Arminian on this passage?" I will not quote the entire passage as I usually do; it is too long. Let me encourage you to read it before studying this article. The passage records the parable of the wicked servant who was forgiven a large sum which he owed to his king. Rather than being thankful for the kindness of the king, he went to one of his fellow servants and compelled this man to pay him back a very small sum which his fellow servant owed. The basic meaning and point of the parable is stated by the Lord Himself: "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (35).

The servant owed his king an immense debt, which he could never pay back. Here the Lord gives a vivid picture of the enormous debt which we owe God because of our sin. We can never pay Him back.

The servant earnestly pleaded with the king to give him time to pay the debt, something the servant could never have done. The king’s great mercy in forgiving his servant depicts the infinite mercy of God towards undeserving sinners.

Yet the servant showed no mercy at all to a fellow servant who owed him only a few pennies. When his fellow servant asked for time, the forgiven servant refused to grant it. In this way Jesus teaches that, though we all sin against each other, in comparison with what we owe God, the debt we have towards our fellow saints is almost nothing. Yet when our fellow saints sin against us, we refuse to forgive them and harbour grudges and hard feelings towards them!

The Scriptures are very pointed and emphatic about the truth taught in this parable. Not only is the point Jesus is making spoken of time and again in sacred Writ, but Jesus underscores the point in His instruction concerning our prayers, when He gave us what has become known as the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). This prayer includes a petition for the forgiveness of sins, a most important petition that we must make. But even in the prayer, those who ask for forgiveness confess that they seek forgiveness from God "as we forgive our debtors."

In addition, this fifth petition is the only petition to which the Lord immediately calls specific attention afterwards: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15).

The question has to do with the Arminian interpretation of the parable. The Arminian argues that the servant was forgiven, but that forgiveness was revoked when he failed to forgive his fellow servant. Hence, a person may be forgiven by God, but lose that forgiveness if he fails to forgive his brother. This would imply the possibility of losing one’s salvation. Such is not, however, the case. This Arminian interpretation is superficial and erroneous.

We should note that Matthew 18:23-35 is a parable. In a parable not every point may be made to designate some heavenly or spiritual truth. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus speaks of a conversation between the rich man in hell and Abraham in whose bosom Lazarus has found rest. We may not deduce from this parable that the wicked in hell are able to converse with the saints in heaven. No more here may we press the point that the servant who was forgiven his huge debt was truly forgiven by God.

Nevertheless, an important point is made here, if only we remember that the Lord is speaking of our conscious experience of forgiveness. The fact is that the work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice was so perfect and complete that at the moment He died on the cross, all the sins of all the elect for whom He died were forgiven by God. A child of God who appropriates the great blessedness of forgiveness can confidently say, "2000 years ago, when my Saviour said, ‘It is finished,’ my sins were forgiven by God." Our sins were objectively blotted out.

One of the blessings of salvation is the conscious assurance of forgiveness which is given us by the Spirit of Christ. The believer sings Psalm 32:1: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." In the parable, the Lord is saying several things about that conscious assurance of forgiveness. First, He is saying that there are people who claim to be forgiven, but who, in fact, are not. They can be recognized by the fact that they will not forgive their brother. By their failure to forgive their brother, they show they are not really forgiven. Second, if they really knew the wonder of God’s forgiveness and the immensity of their own sin, they would easily forgive the minor and relatively insignificant sins their brother has committed against them. Third, we come to the assurance of forgiveness only in the way of forgiving our brother. If he sins against us, and we continue to hold our grudge—if we say, "I will forgive, but never forget"—we will never know forgiveness ourselves. We ask, according to the Lord’s Prayer, forgiveness for ourselves, as those conscious of having forgiven our brother.

The teaching of the parable is true in the absolute sense of hypocrites in the church who claim to be forgiven, but are not. In a relative sense, we must apply this parable to ourselves. How difficult it is for us to forgive our brother when we are the one sinned against! But God will have none of this! Prof. Hanko

(For a detailed discussion of the parable, see Prof. Hanko's Mysteries of the Kingdom, available from the CPRC Bookstore for £19 [hardback; inc. P&P].)

The Lord's Day and the Day of the Lord (1)

A reader asks, "Why do you use ‘Lord’s day’ for Sunday? It seems to me that the day of the Lord (or Lord’s day) is a dreadful day of judgment (Joel 2:31; Zeph. 1:14; II Peter 3:10), the day Jesus said is the worst there ever has been or shall be (Matt. 24:21)." The answer to this question lies in distinguishing between the Lord’s day and the day of the Lord, which differ both in the original and in English. First, we shall study the Lord’s day (and its observance), before considering the day of the Lord. Then we shall show how the two differ. This will take more than one issue of the News.

The phrase "Lord’s day" is only found once in Scripture. In Revelation 1:10, John writes, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day." Just about everybody agrees that the Lord referred to here is the Lord Jesus Christ and not the Triune God. Moreover, I will prove that the Lord’s day in our text refers to the first day of the week, the day on which Christ rose from the dead, the day we call Sunday.

Obviously, the "Lord’s day" (Rev. 1:10) is so named because it (above all other days) peculiarly pertains to the Lord in some special sense for certain reasons. It (presumably) is a day which commemorates some special event pertaining to Him, a day which He claimed as peculiarly His own, a day He set apart for His service, a day observed in honour of Him. Otherwise, why call it His (the Lord’s) day?

What do we find in Scripture? First, Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, our Sunday. Is this not a wonderful day worthy of being called the Lord’s day? Second, Christ met with His disciples on the first Sunday after His resurrection and on the following Sunday too (John 20:19, 26). As one of the disciples who fellowshipped with Christ on those two Sundays, is it surprising that the apostle John should refer to the first day of the week as the Lord’s day? Third, the Lord poured out His Holy Spirit upon His church on the first day of the week, for Pentecost, coming 50 days after a Saturday, was on a Sunday (Acts 2). What is more natural than to name that day of the week the "Lord’s day" on which Christ manifested Himself as Lord of His one, universal church? Fourth, the church met for public worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The saints assembled to hear a sermon delivered by a preacher (Paul) and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Similarly, we read of collections for the poor made on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2). This is the day the apostolic church observed in honour of the Lord and set apart for serving Him.

From the evidence of Scripture, the Lord’s day is—and can only be—the first day of the week, the day on which the Lord arose, the day on which He poured out His Spirit upon His church, the day on which He met with His disciples (John 20:19, 26) and the day on which He meets His saints in their public worship (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2). Rev. Stewart

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