LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 208

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 1b: “…neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.”
Marriage is sacred. It’s not a secular subject. It’s primarily a religious subject. It’s holy. It’s pure. It’s humbling. It’s sanctifying. It’s honorable. It’s blessed. It’s heavenly. It’s saintly. I multiply these titles because I don’t hear them used to describe it very much. God unifying man and woman forms the basis for life and its sustentation. Throughout the history of the world marriage has been forgotten, abused, marginalized and even despised. Even in Israel this was the case. People today in modern western culture are no different. I’ve heard people in my day in many ways refer to it as, “The death of the individual.” And in many ways, it is. That death, however, in God’s unique manner of doing so, produces life. New life together for the man and woman, and new life for new little human being(s). And it’s always based on the 1+1=X model.

In part 207, I talked about polygamy as we saw it in the Old Covenant (OC). That by the time of the New Covenant (NC) it was clear that polygamy was not permissible. Expressly forbidden for servant leaders in the Faith, but similarly unholy for anyone loving Christ.
In the patriarchal way God set up the world (yep) it wasn’t often seen that women had multiple husbands. Multiple lovers perhaps, as with men, but especially in ancient Israel, women didn’t marry more than one guy. But as it’s mentioned here, this too would not be okay.

It was good to leave off this part of the confession’s sentence until this week to talk about one other aspect of why I believe what’s here is here. Namely that it is lawful to re-marry. There are several circumstances where this is true for both men and women. Death, abandonment, an unwillingness for a spouse to tolerate the Faith, and infidelity are all legitimate causes for divorce and/or subsequent re-marriage (Romans 7:3; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Corinthians 7:12; Matthew 19:9). Now, this isn’t about the church or the state weighing in. I don’t care what hell-bound pagans think about it! This is about each individual’s accountability to God in life regarding the beautiful and weighty gift of sex/marriage. The part here where polygamy is denied also contains the phrase, “…at the same time” at the end. I believe there’s a good point to be made here. If a marriage is unfortunately but yet legitimately put to death, a man or woman can re-marry another lawful spouse. This does not disqualify them for ministry, or from the blessings of marriage itself. Paul even uses the imagery of a lawful remarriage as a picture of the Gospel itself in Romans 7:1-6. Vs. four there states it plainly: “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in regard to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead…” There is lawful remarriage.

This is not to say that all re-marriage is lawful. Many re-marriages are adulterous (Matthew 5:32) because a previous marriage was either not lawful in the first place, or was put to death unlawfully. Hence every relationship after may be defiled. God doesn’t play around with marriage, folks. I’m sorry if you think he does, but he doesn’t. And he takes our vows far more seriously than many of us care to remember (Cf. LBCF paragraph 23). If a person comes to faith after a sinful divorce, I thank God, but direct repentance is needed to address it with God, or I’d hesitate to say that any future relationships can be blessed. (Repentance from sin, not the avoidance of it, is a fruit of faith). In this, the church (writ large) has clearly been judged by God as evident in the loss of its witness in the world on marriage because inside the church we’ve made a mockery of marriage by divorce. I mean, for example, that we can’t talk straightfacedly about the sin of homosexuality profaning marriage while we heterosexuals divorce at the same rates as the pagans! God won’t honor hypocrisy. He puts on no shows. Our witness about marriage can’t just be words. It’s about covenant.

Polygamy is forbidden, but some re-marriage is perfectly lawful and blessed. In all things, Jesus picks up the broken pieces of our lives in restorative graces as we learn to come to him in repentance and petition. Ask…receive. I believe that in the church God not only wants to forgive sins in his people, but that he wants to restore what sin has taken, lift up sinners in his monumental grace, and take away all the shame of our sinful dealings! Like women from wells, we’ll then tell everyone about Jesus after he tells us what he always knew yet pardons and what everyone else saw only the surface of, without shame. Persecutors and evil men like Saul can then look back on their lives, knowing full well where God found them, and honestly declare, “Make room for us in your hearts; we have wronged no one, we corrupted no one” not hypocritically, but literally. 2 Corinthians 7:2. Saul…new Saul…hadn’t done those things! Only the old one had. We actually do, like him, become new creatures if in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17. New creatures repent of their sin and when able to, repent very specifically! So, come to him if that’s you. Repent. Be restored. As it’s written: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10. This is entirely true in our marriages when God restores us from sinful sex and/or divorce. Jesus gives life where our sins brought death. Our repentance is a key part to just how he does that.

Before I was married, I was a fornicator. My wife and I built our marriage on Jesus, however. The very first night we ever slept together was the night we were married. What this does in my soul (I’m sure even in many intangibles) in love and respect for her is immeasurable! Sexual honor before we say “I do” isn’t all that’s needed in a godly marriage for success, but it’s a huge part (in the top needs) in the rock for God’s blessing on a marriage. Without sexual morality before marriage, marriages are not blessed. Not without repentance. And marriage, biblically, isn’t about a state’s formal recognition of it. When two willing opposite gender Christians keep themselves from sex, profess their commitment to each other in the presence of God, a religious leader, and perhaps other witnesses, a marriage is blessed. It’s lawful in the Lord. And I don’t care if a marriage occurs at a Burger King under such circumstances, God will honor it forever. Without purity and such God-centered covenant, marriage itself “fixes” nothing regarding sin. Repentance can restore us, but hypocrisy never will. Fornication is evil and the Cross, not a marriage, is its source of forgiveness. There should be time to reflect prior, but I also don’t care if two believers keep themselves pure sexually and after a month want to marry. I’d advise waiting for a lot of reasons, but who am I but one called upon to witness a godly marriage in God’s world that only begins that first day?! Without such foundations as mutual faith and sexual honor, marriages are at best shaky, and divorces usually result. We’re in the defiled boat we’re in in marital degradation as an American church culture I’d say almost exclusively because of pre-marital sex, AKA fornication, AKA sexual immorality, AKA soul-damning, temple destroying, God-hating, wickedness. Two years before I was married, and right on up through the day of my marriage, there was repentance from me for my perversions. My believing wife was not defiled by sexual immorality, but through God’s grace to me, and her grace toward me knowing who I was, our marital blessings have come. We now nearing 17 years later have four kids and every moment is pure bliss! Sorry about that last part. The Bible says don’t lie. It’s not all pure bliss, but it is all sanctifying and something I’ll sit on the porch in thanks to God for for as long as he lets me breathe his air on his earth.

And if a marriage was unlawfully ended the partners shouldn’t remarry anyone else if they later come to faith and can get back together. That previous marriage should be sought again if the other partner is not already (likely sinfully) re-married. They should go back to their previous relationship and re-marry first if at all possible. This is what it means when Jesus said, “…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32. The assumption here is that an unlawful (ungodly) divorce had gone before. This would not be said of a woman or man lawfully divorced.

Remarriage is possible. And in all things, God is so very gracious to those who seek him!
Lastly. Christian, I said this last time, but I’ll recommend it again.  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. Just wonderful! If you’re a Christian, get it. Read it prayerfully. Single, married, whatever. If you’re thinking about marriage, read it. If you’re married, read it together if you can. It’ll take your 4:3 or 16:9 view of marriage and make it a panoramic photo.

Joseph Pittano

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