Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church is a Reformed pastor’s instruction and exhortation to married couples, especially young married couples, with the purpose that they glorify God in their marriages and enjoy the bliss of this blessed communion of life.
Recently I have come across some novel arguments to justify remarriage after divorce while the original spouse is still living. I will not name the advocate of remarriage on the blog: suffice to say that on social media he began commenting on a video link to Prof. David Engelsma’s lecture at the British Reformed Fellowship Conference (2018), “Unbiblical Divorce and Adulterous Remarriage: A Scandal.” He labeled it “proscribed heresy” and called those who agreed with the lecture “hypocritical legalists” who “damage the church and mock the grace of Christ,” adding that we were “perfect illustrations of the haughty Pharisees,” and called us to repent. Then he called our position “false, anti-Reformed, and unbiblical,” as well as “schismatic and destructive of true Christian compassion.” He argued (correctly) that neither Luther nor Calvin agreed with our position, which Prof. Engelsma fully admits in his book Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church. While we admire the Reformers, they were (sadly) not strong on the subject of divorce and remarriage. This is reflected in the otherwise excellent Westminster Confession of Faith.
Because I did not want my answer to be buried in a long Facebook thread where the advocate for remarriage made his novel arguments, I decided to make it public here. I hope it will serve as a witness to the truth of the unbreakable marriage bond. Some of the arguments from Greek grammar are quite involved, so I ask for the reader’s indulgence.
In addition, I am not interested in attacking personalities or churches. I am merely interested in the arguments, especially exegetical arguments, for God’s word is the final arbiter on this and all matters.
I should point out right at the beginning, however, that knowledge of Greek grammar is not necessary for the child of God. The King James Version of the Bible is an accurate translation of the original Greek and Hebrew, and no theologian or pastor should give the impression that the Bible cannot be comprehended without recourse to the original languages: we believe in the perspicuity of holy scripture, that is, we believe that the Bible is clear, so clear that, if a child of God has a good translation, he can understand the scriptures; yet the Bible is so profound and rich that the greatest theologian cannot plumb its depths. Moreover, we believe in the office of believer according to which every child of God has the blessed privilege of knowing and understanding God’s word without the need of “experts” or a “priestly class” in the church.
In addition, the main issue is clear. Marriage is a lifelong, unbreakable bond between one man and one woman, in which the two become one, enjoying intimate fellowship with one another, which fellowship, both in the Old Testament and New Testament reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. In scripture God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16); and even when he gives his adulterous, unfaithful wife a “bill of divorce” (Jer. 3:8), he still declares himself married to his people (v. 14), and he never takes another people (i.e., the Lord never remarries).
Click the PDF link to read the rest of the RFPA Update Winter newsletter.
[Best if opened in Internet Explorer or FireFox]
Articles in this Issue:
Looking for More Authors for Children's Books
The Bearer of the Standard: In the Age of Compromise
Come, Ye Children: A Bible Storybook for Young Children—Best Storybook I've Had
The Triple Knowledge Series
In Review: Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: An Examination of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel
Recap of the RFPA Annual Meeting
1834 Reviews & Feedback
The newly reprinted second edition Marriage the Mystery of Christ and the Church by David J. Engelsma, with a new cover design by Erika Kiel.
Order a copy today! Retail price is $17.95.
The book received a brand new interior design as well. Interior design by Katherine Lloyd, THE DESK.
Today I call your attention to this post written by Brittany Meng for Christianity Today’s blog called “Her - meneutics.” She opens by writing, “I’m pregnant with my fourth baby right now. Any mom who’s bore that many children—and even some with just two or three—knows what it's like to share the news of another pregnancy. People are quick to make comments…” I won’t repeat all of the comments Meng lists. Suffice it to say that they are all insulting comments that meet the news of another pregnancy with disbelief, dismay, and/or sarcasm.
Meng explains that such comments are to be expected from people in the world. She writes, “in a country where more women are delaying childbirth and having fewer children, “big” families are bound to face pushback. Parents are told that it’s not financially responsible. Or that it’s bad for the planet.” But Meng writes, “the comments I heard all came from faithful, Christian women.”
I do not agree with all of the logic Meng uses to reach her conclusion, but it is a correct conclusion: “No matter the context, the gift of a baby is always worth affirming—without judgment, without eye-rolling, rude comments, or snide remarks. Just celebration. Just ’Congratulations.’”
I also agree with Meng that Christmas time is an appropriate time for Christians to celebrate God’s gift of children. Mary was given a special and unique gift, the opportunity to give birth to Immanuel, God with us. God may not use other believing women to bring forth the Savior of the church. But he does use believing women to bring forth the elect children of God who are gathered into the church. Meng argues that every pregnancy should be celebrated as a life created by God. And I would not argue with that. I would only add that it is all the more appropriate for the pregnancy of a believing woman to be celebrated because the child is not only created by God but also incorporated by God the Father into his covenant and church, redeemed by God the Son, and sanctified by God the Holy Spirit.
This is not to say that God saves every child of believers. He saves only the elect, and he has promised to give elect children to believers. God uses believing families to build up the family of Christ! Is this not reason to want many children and to rejoice over the “big” families in the church? Prof. Engelsma comments on the fact that Christ uses Christian marriage to build his family (church) in Marriage the Mystery of Christ and the Church (the RFPA informs me that the reprint of the 2nd edition is due in about two weeks). In a section entitled “God’s Large Family” Prof. Engelsma writes,
Even the fruitfulness of the marriage of believers belongs to the symbolism of marriage as a picture of the marriage between Christ and the church. . . Christ begets many sons and daughters by his word and Spirit . . . Christ brings these children forth from, and rears them by, the church, his bride. The union of Christ and the church is fruitful in many children of God . . . So closely connected are the symbol, our marriages, and the reality, Christ’s union with the church, that God uses the symbol to bring forth those who participate in the reality (p. 73).
As Christians we need to be careful not to give women who bear children a special, sainted status above women who do not have that privilege. And those who have many children should not be viewed as more saintly than those who have fewer. But do we not also need to recognize the danger that also in our Reformed circles we begin to have a bad attitude about the “big” families in our churches? For some of the mothers in our churches the next pregnancy may be number 12, 13, 14, etc. Are you ready to thank God for another precious, covenantal gift? And are you ready to say to the mother and father, CONGRATULATIONS!?