LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 207

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 25. Of Marriage. Paragraph 1a: “Marriage is to be between one man and one woman…”

From Moses to Jesus, we have the perfect bridge reference the design of marriage from its maker. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24, quoted in Matthew 19:5. Adam received the knowledge of marriage from God in his creation. We see that story clearly. He said the quote above, with remarkable insight prior to the Fall considering he didn’t have a belly button, regarding his lady, Eve. Jesus, in a separate question about marriage, quotes Moses who’s by inspiration in Genesis 2 quoting Adam on the matter to affirm God’s pattern in his own day. God designed marriage in all its beauty. A man (one) fits perfectly with a woman (one)! God is that designer. In the Fall, there is increased tension in marriage as a result (Genesis 3:16) and so it’s often hard, but no one with a godly marriage can deny its wonder. The Bible is filled with wonderful language about how God designed for mankind to participate in life through having kids in marriage. The two “becoming one flesh,” though it includes marital/sexual unity, talks about having kids. I have four kids. They are a mix of 1) my wife and 2) me. This is amazing whenever I consider it and God designed it. God loves marriage. He blesses marriage. He honors marriage. Christians are commanded to be celibate together until they’re married and then the marriage bed is undefiled. Sexual immorality is condemned by God. If this is in your life and you haven’t, you had better repent. Marriage doesn’t “fix” pre-marital immorality. Repentance alone can.

Side note: I’d like to recommend to you the single greatest book on marriage I’ve ever read. It’s called This Momentary Marriage by Pastor John Piper. If you’re a Christian, get it. Read it. It’ll take your 4:3 or 16:9 view of marriage and make it a panoramic photo.

Now, in the Old Covenant (OC) we see polygamous marriages with many of its key figures. We do not see this in the New Covenant (NC). What are we to do with this in the OC? They too (since at least 1450 BC) knew plainly that God made Adam and Eve as the pattern. They had the Torah. Especially by the time of the destructions in 722 or 586 BC, they had seen or heard of the problems that came into lives as a direct result of having more than one wife. So, what’s up with this? We’re not Mormons so we have to have a good answer. Other key figures like Noah (clearly a chief one) did not have more than one wife and no woman ever has more than one husband, but God allowed polygamy among the men. There is no denying it.

God outlined many things for the later kings of Israel. The kings in Israel were forbidden to multiply wives to themselves. Deuteronomy was completed no later than 1400 BC. That’s roughly five-hundred years before David was king. Consider this in Deuteronomy 17:14-17:
“When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.”

There are great parallels here for the pastorate and deaconate and the reasons we’re to be, “…not greedy for money” 1 Timothy 3:8.

Two wives are twice as many as any king should’ve had. Yet God permitted it for a time. Things have indeed ratcheted up on marital morality in the NC. Deacons and pastors are disqualified entirely if they’re more than a one-woman man. See 1 Timothy 3:2 & 12 for mentions of both. I agree with Calvin (see his commentary on 1 Timothy 3 here) that these passages clearly speak of polygamy. They also apply, I’d say secondarily, to the issue of a man who’s been married before, but the primary meaning prohibits polygamy…something still present in the first century as the salty NC began to permeate the world. So, think about it- by NC standards Abraham, David, Solomon, Samuel etc., would not be qualified to serve as deacons or elders in the church if they were alive today. This isn’t because we’re better it’s just that in Christ God has given us this more clearly. God has defined marriage more explicitly as a matter between two people in the NC. There is the imagery in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33) of Christ and his church. He has only one. Like the prescription against incest that came in Moses’ day long after God’s design of populating the planet through marriage from one grafted blood had begun (see Leviticus 20:12) in the NC, marriage is clearly outlined as one man and one woman for life. We in Christ today are under that NC. Not a single polygamist is mentioned as such in its pages explicitly. No polygamist would be able to teach in our churches, or even be a member in a typical church barring perhaps a young church plant in a polygamist culture as a polygamist. When we think of someone like a David or Solomon, we aren’t to see their relationships as something of wild sexual fantasy. It was much more about being a king and having multiple heirs, etc. The Song of Solomon was written about his young first wife. God was so close to these men and had said in the Law that there were not to multiply wives yet we read things like, “He had seven hundred wives, who were princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.” 1 Kings 11:3. They turned his heart away. What could be worse than this?! I conclude that the lesson of polygamy was something God taught the NC church through the failures of it from many leaders in the OC. That this was the best way for him to teach it. It was allowed for a time due to the hardness of their hearts. We in the NC now are not to repeat their actions in this matter. For us it would show us condemned. It clearly did not do so under the OC. We have a higher standard. Nonetheless, polygamy was not something God called his leaders out on in the OC and I struggle a bit with that.

I must mention homosexuality in our day. Homosexuality is a sin. There is no such thing as “homosexual marriage.” It’s a perversion. It is not merely an orientation. The world may call it that, but the church has a different word for it. It is a sin. It condemns the soul. It is unequivocally condemned everywhere by God, utterly incompatible with the Christian life, and marks any church leader who says God’s okay with it as a damnable and false heretic who neither knows Christ nor the Gospel.

Joseph Pittano

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