LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 210

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 3: “It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent; yet it is the duty of Christians to marry in the Lord; and therefore such as profess the true religion, should not marry with infidels, or idolaters; neither should such as are godly, be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresy.”

Black, white, red, Jew, Samaritan, Gentile, older, younger- it’s lawful for all kinds of opposite sex people to marry. Maximum of two people. This is a great reminder. We don’t often think of it today, but history has presented numerous unnecessary divisions (there were necessary ones) for marriage that Jesus clarifies for us now. There are zero (no) ethnic restrictions today on marriage. The Old Covenant, however, literally closes (~424-400 BC) with curses, swearings, hair pulling quarrels and a clear prohibition against ethnically-mixed marriages between Jewish men and women from the Horonites, Ashdod, Ammon and Moab (fascinating when we consider Ruth and Jesus’ genealogy). See Nehemiah 13:23-31. Nehemiah, in the repatriation of Israel from Babylon, was restoring a lot more than just this in Jerusalem mentioning even the many sins of Solomon in this. He wasn’t alone in dealing with mixed marriages. This was more of an issue regarding the Hebrew religion than anything else. That religion centered on ethnic Israel. It shows up understandably then in the diverse languages and customs of the many people in the Mediterranean world, but it’s a religious problem at its core. God made a covenant with the bloodline of Abraham that called, in the Old Testament as a general rule, for them to marry within that Hebrew line. This has been true since about 2000 BC.

In the New Covenant, Paul addresses the issue of marriage composition in 1 Corinthians 7 for Christians. It is still centered in religion, but the restrictions are no longer ethnically tied. God has gone out to all the Gentiles now in the New Covenant. Hence the Christian Religion is not ethnically focused on any one group any longer. See Revelation 5:9 & 7:9 for a preview of coming attractions. Believing Jews and Gentiles, by virtue of the Cross, are all made partakers of the same hope given to Abraham. Ephesians 2:15, etc. Hence all lawful marriages are possible for all ethnicities in our one human race. It seems that believers in the first century were asking about marriages with non-believers? Should they remain married to a non-believer if one in the marriage covenant had become a Christian after marriage? It is, of course, a very relevant question. Paul’s inspired guidance there in Corinth is that they’re not to divorce even a non-believer if at all possible. That believers should remain married even to non-believers if able. I hold marriage as never to be dissolved as much as it ever depends on the believer, but there are legitimate grounds for divorce and re-marriage that do occur.

Of course, consent to marriage is important as they mention here. Though they were much younger, even in the arranged marriages of Jesus’ day they were always of consenting age. Men and women were arranged to be married in wider cultural consent. Even as far back and Eliezer seeking a bride for my father Isaac, Rebekah’s consent was required. See Genesis 24:58.

I give two main pieces of advice to Christians seeking to marry: 1. Does he or she love Jesus and serve him like you do? 2. Is he or she attractive to you? If so, you’ve found the one. Marry them well. Marry them soon. Christians should only seek a Christian spouse. A Christian man marries a Christian woman. A Christian woman marries a Christian man. As going into marriage, this is our duty if we’re wise and in covenant with God. What happens after marriage cannot always be known, of course, but going into it, these things should be known and actively sought out as the basis for our love. This creates zero (no) ethnic barriers to marriage at all. All things being equal, there are barriers today only in the realms of the Faith, one’s age, and of course, sex. In this, a Christian is free to marry any Christian on earth.

I enjoy providing this list of questions for Christians to ask of each other before or while considering marriage.

The confession closes the paragraph addressing not just how one lives, but also what one believes. Reader, it must be both. And in this order: 1. What you believe? 2. How you then live according? This is how we establish who we should marry. There is given in the confession, “…such as are wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresy.” It’s an either/or kind of thing. If someone’s a heretic, even if they don’t get hammered on the weekends and prostitute themselves, they’re not to be considered a suitable spouse at the time.
It always evidences the weakness of one’s love for God when someone says something like, “I’m a Christian, but my wife is a Catholic.” I’ve heard such so many times! We are a re-paganized people. Or, “My dad was a Muslim and my mom was a Christian.” Huh? Or, “I’m a Christian, but my wife’s Jewish.” What?! Or, “My mom was Christian and my dad was a Mormon.” People say such things are then usually quick to say how these differing religions never seemed to create any problem in their homes when they were growing up. Amazing. If a Christian is married to a Catholic, for example, it shows that neither is likely either. These are two different religions, folks.

To me, the whole paragraph here just screams of the importance of living one’s life in a solid fellowship with other believers. To life under the watchful loving care of biblically qualified elders. Every area of what’s confirmed here is aided when godly elders and friends surround you in love and counsel. That’s how God best protects us.

Joseph Pittano

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