November 2005, Volume X,
The Duty of Sex in Marriage (3)
I Corinthians 7:3-5 teaches part of the calling of husbands
and wives. They must not allow themselves to become sexually indifferent to
their spouses. There is no room for lying excuses: "I’ve got a headache." This
is not a license to exploit or abuse one’s spouse. Nor is it an incitement to
male tyranny. The husband is, the head who must "nourish" and "cherish" his wife
(Eph. 5:29). I Corinthians 7:3-4 emphasises equality between husband and wife:
the husband must render "due benevolence" to his wife and "likewise" the wife to
her husband (3), and the husband has authority over his wife’s body "and
likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (4).
Thus in sex—as in all things, excepting sin—the Christian husband and the
Christian wife must seek to please each other and not themselves for love
"seeketh not her own" (I Cor. 13:5).
What then is the role of sex in marriage? First, sex is not
the only thing in marriage. Exodus 21:10, a law regulating (though not requiring
or condoning) polygamy, states, "If he take him another wife; her food, her
raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." The "duty of
marriage" (Ex. 21:10) is "due benevolence" (I Cor. 7:3), or sexual intercourse.
Providing for food and clothing for one’s wife is also mentioned. (Incidentally,
why should young Christian men be dating/courting if they are in no position to
provide for a wife, even in the foreseeable future?) Even more fundamental,
husbands must love their wives and wives must submit to their husbands (Eph.
5:22-33). Moreover, husbands must rule their wives in love and wives must be
help-meets to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-33; Gen. 2:20f.). This involves 101
duties to each other.
Second, sex is not the main thing in marriage. The main thing
is covenant companionship in the Lord (Mal. 2:14). Those who make sex the main
thing in marriage will be sorely disappointed.
Third, sex is not the basis for marriage. The truth of the
Word of God is the foundation of Christian wedlock. Covenant friendship for each
other is based upon this unity in the doctrine of God’s Word in Christ.
Where then does sex come in marriage? First, there must be
the love of God in your heart for your spouse. Flowing from that love, and as an
expression of that love, is the blessedness of Christian intercourse. Thus
though sex in marriage is a calling and duty, it is more than a duty. It is a
joyous and pleasurable thing, a willing and natural thing, an expression of
mutual love and a picture of Christ’s union with His bride, the church. Rev.
God's Just Punishment of the Wicked (2)
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy
shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that
taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones (Ps. 137:8-9).
A reader asks "What would you say if somebody claimed that
Psalm 137:9 was the ‘most horrible verse in the Bible?’ What does Psalm 137:9
mean apart from the obvious?"
The text, one of many to be found in the so-called
imprecatory Psalms, is often referred to as proof that Scripture cannot be
infallibly inspired. God, so it is said, would never want little children to be
smashed against rocks, and anyone who is happy when this happens is cruel and
heartless, less than human, and not worthy of being in any way associated with
God. God is loving and kind, tender and merciful, and not given to such dreadful
thoughts as are described here.
Now this sort of reasoning is dreadfully wrong and a slander
of God. When such criticisms are made of this passage, criticisms are being made
of God Himself. We believe that God Himself infallibly inspired every word of
Scripture as part of His own self-revelation. In this passage, God is expressing
His own thoughts about judgments which will come on the Babylonians.
First, the text says something about God’s holiness. It is
very difficult to describe God’s holiness, for God is a God of infinite
perfections. Something of His holiness is told us in the unforgettable words of
Isaiah 6, which we do well to read. But it is sufficient for our present
purposes to remember that God’s holiness is so great that sin is a total
abomination to Him. He cannot tolerate or overlook sin as if it is something of
little account. Sin is against the most high majesty of God and deserves God’s
judgment in this life and in hell forever. Not the multitude of the sins of
which we are guilty finally add up to hell, but just one sin is sufficient to
put us in hell. God’s great holiness requires this.
Those who find God’s judgments against sin to be too great
are those who have no conception of what God’s holiness is all about. By
minimizing God’s righteous judgment against sin, men minimize God and make Him
after their own image. To speak of God as kind, gentle, merciful, and gracious
in the sense that He overlooks sin and tolerates man’s evil is to create an idol
in the place of God. Let anyone who takes God’s holiness lightly recall to mind
that the integrity of God’s holiness could only be preserved through the death
of His only begotten Son on the cross for our sins.
Second, in close connection with God’s holiness stands a
proper, biblical evaluation of sin. It is not popular to speak of sin in our
day. Sin is minimized, overlooked, excused, tolerated and even approved. Talking
of sin, so it is said, puts people on a guilt trip when they ought to have a
positive self-image. People ought to have a good opinion of themselves, and not
have negative feelings about themselves. Psalm 137:8-9 presupposes both God’s
holiness and man’s depravity.
Consider the sins of which Babylon was guilty when Babylon
took Judah captive. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and Judah,
murdered the people, cut open the wombs of pregnant mothers to rip out their
children and kill them, cruelly carried away the strength of the nation in irons
to be slaves in Babylon, and literally attempted to commit genocide.
Worse than all this—Judah was the people of God, Canaan the
OT picture of heaven, Jerusalem the OT type of the church of all ages, and the
temple the place where God dwelt with His people. You say, "Yes, but Judah was
wicked." Indeed it was; but the fact is that the church was there, and where the
church was, there also was Christ. Christ was in the loins of Judah and Babylon
was desperately trying to kill Christ, for the devil, who understood it all, was
determined to prevent Christ from being born (Rev. 12:1-5).
This is the reason why the captives could not sing the songs
of Zion in a strange land (Ps. 137:1-2). All the songs of Zion spoke of Christ,
and Christ could not be born in Babylon. The captivity meant the end of Christ!
Babylon’s sin was gigantic. God’s fury against Babylon must be poured out on
that wicked nation.
The objection is still raised that the Psalm speaks of
Babylon’s "little ones." Is not that cruel and heartless and beyond the bounds
of decency that little ones were smashed against the stones? Again, such an
objection is really made against God. I have difficulty understanding why people
find this incomprehensible. While I write this the dead bodies of babies are
being dug out of the ruins left from a terrible earthquake in Pakistan, and many
babies were recently buried beneath a mudslide in Guatemala. Earthquakes and
mudslides are God’s judgment. God is angry with the sins of this world. He comes
in judgment to avenge His own holiness.
We ought to remember that all are guilty of Adam’s sin,
including babies who are conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5). We all, including
our children, deserve God’s judgments. God Himself has said in His holy law that
He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children (Ex. 20:5). God executes
His own judgments against the wicked and their seed. Is it worse when God uses
the Medes to dash Babylon’s little children against a stone than that God uses a
hurricane to kill little children in New Orleans? How can that be?
But let us who know God remember His holiness and bow in fear
and awe before Him who always judges righteously. And let us remember that we
and our children deserve such judgments ourselves, for such self-knowledge will
bring us to our knees in repentance and confession. And let us remember the
riches of God’s mercy in delivering us and our children from such awful
judgments, for what we deserve Christ bore in our place. That will put in our
hearts the fear and praise of the God who has graciously delivered us. Prof.
The Lord's Day and the Day of the Lord (3)
Having identified the Lord’s day and (briefly) set forth
our calling with respect to it, we now must consider the day of the Lord. The
day of the Lord could be described, as the questioner puts it, as "a dreadful
day of judgment" in which God comes in His wrath. "Alas for the day! for the
day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it
come … A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick
darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains" (Joel 1:15; 2:2).
The day of the Lord came upon the N. Kingdom, when it was
destroyed by the Assyrians (Amos 5:18, 20). Joel describes the day of the Lord
upon the S. Kingdom in terms of a terrible plague of locusts (Joel 1:15)
and/or a military attack (Joel 2:1, 11). The day of the Lord came upon Judah
in 587/586bc (Isa. 2:12; Lam. 2:22; Eze. 13:5; Zeph. 1:7, 8, 14, 18; 2:2, 3),
Edom (Isa. 34:8; Obad. 15) and Egypt (Jer. 46:10; Eze. 30:3) at the hands of
the Babylonians. Babylon itself experienced the day of the Lord at the hands
of the Medes and Persians (Isa. 13:6, 9). (The texts cited should be examined
in their contexts.)
There are also universal aspects to the day of the Lord in
the OT. The destruction of the day of the Lord comes upon "all the ships of
Tarshish" (Isa. 2:16). "All the heathen" (Obad. 15) and "all nations" (Isa.
34:2; Joel 3:2, cf. v. 14) will experience the Lord’s indignation. The earth
itself is affected by the day of the Lord. The earth will shake terribly (Isa.
2:19, 21; 13:13; Joel 3:16) and "shall remove out of her place" (Isa. 13:13).
The heavens also "will shake … in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the
day of his fierce anger" (Isa. 13:13; Joel 3:16). So great is this shaking
that the heavens shall be rolled up and the stars will fall: "all the host of
heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a
scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the
vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree" (Isa. 34:4). The other
astronomical bodies—the sun and the moon—shall no longer shine but be darkened
(Isa. 13:10; Joel 3:15).
The day of the Lord not only falls upon the ungodly world
(Isa. 13; 34; Eze. 30), but also upon the apostate church in the N. Kingdom
(Amos 5:21-27) and in the S. Kingdom (Lam. 2; Zeph. 1), including the false
prophets (Eze. 13). Thus the Almighty avenges His true church (Isa. 34:8; Joel
3:1-8; Obad. 10-16) and delivers her (Isa. 14:1-3; Joel 3:16-17; Obad. 17-21)
on the day of the Lord. Rev. Stewart
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