Living Antithetically in a Technological Age
Rev. Daniel Kleyn
The subject before us is both an important and timely one. One reason for this is because the word “antithesis” itself has in many ways fallen into disuse. As a result, there is a measure of ignorance today concerning what exactly the antithesis is. It is good, therefore, that we take the time to look at and set forth the meaning of this term.
It is also an important and timely subject because the truth of the antithesis is very practical. That is expressed in the subtitle for this pamphlet, “Godly Living in Ungodly Times.” The antithesis, you see, has to do with how we live, and more specifically, with how we do so in relation to the world in which God has placed us. We realize that the world we live in is not a godly world. Society is not Christian. Rather, we live in very ungodly times. And that in itself makes this subject very timely and crucially important to every one of us.
However, what especially makes it important and timely is the fact that things are not improving in this world, but rapidly getting worse. As the end of time approaches, wickedness abounds, temptations get stronger, and Satan puts greater pressure upon the people of God to conform to the world. And as regards the specific subject we are now considering, namely, technology, the attacks of Satan in our day come especially against our children and young people. That makes the subject all the more urgent and all the more important, for the children and youth of the people of God are, the Lord willing, the future leaders in the church of Christ in this world.
We need, therefore, to be reminded of this important truth, and to be instructed concerning our calling as God’s people in the midst of an evil world.
My subject is, “Living Antithetically in a Technological Age.” Before specifically looking at this, however, we need first of all to consider what the antithesis itself is.
The Idea of the Antithesis
As already stated, the word “antithesis” is not one that all are familiar with. Perhaps some have not heard it before. As far as the English word itself is concerned it is made up of two words, “anti” and “thesis.” The word anti means “against.” The word “thesis” is often used in reference to a position paper that a student must write. In that paper, the student presents a certain position or viewpoint on a subject. Thus the word “antithesis” literally means to be against a certain position, or a certain viewpoint.
What helps further in understanding this term is to realize that it comes from a Greek word that means literally, “to set or to place against.” And thus the antithesis can be defined, as far as the word itself is concerned, as something that is the direct opposite of something else, a person or a thing that stands in contrast, or in opposition to something else.
The Scriptures themselves, however, are most helpful in explaining what exactly is meant by this term. And in seeking to know what the Scriptures teach concerning it, we must look first of all at the passage in God’s Word where the whole idea and thought of the antithesis is first mentioned. That passage is Genesis 3:15. In that verse, God is speaking to the devil after man has fallen into sin. God says to the devil, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
That verse is the antithesis in a nutshell. That verse gives us the definition of the antithesis. God says to the devil, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” Enmity between the seed of Satan and the seed of Christ. Enmity between the children of the devil and the children of God, between the ungodly and the righteous, between the church and the world. That is the antithesis.
There are a few important points that must be noted from Genesis 3:15. First of all, as we have already said, enmity is at the heart of it. Enmity as you know is hatred, war, hostility, conflict. And God says, “That is what exists between Satan and Christ, and that is what exists between their seeds.” Not friendship, not fellowship, not love (under any circumstances), but enmity. There are these two seeds in the world: the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. And because of the antithesis that God puts in place, these two seeds do not get on together, and may not get on together. They are radically different – radically different spiritually. There must therefore be separation between them.
Notice, secondly, that this enmity is put in place by God. God says, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” It is not you and I that create this enmity. It is not you and I who decide that we must be the enemies of the devil and the wicked world. It is not you and I that decide that there should be separation between the godly and the ungodly. God puts it there. It is God Who puts in place enmity, hatred, opposition, and warfare between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
God does that in three very significant ways. First of all, God does that in the decree of predestination in eternity, in the decree of election and reprobation. God determined in eternity, before He even created man, and before man fell into sin, and before God spoke these words to the devil, that the human race would be made up of two completely different people, the elect and the reprobate. That is where the antithesis originates – in God’s decree of predestination.
In the second place, God puts the enmity between the two seeds in place and makes it a reality through the work of Christ on the cross. On the cross the Lord Jesus Christ died, shed His blood, and laid down His life to redeem. But He did not redeem everyone. His sacrifice on the cross was not universal. But Christ died on the cross for His sheep, for His people. And that, you realize, was a death of Christ and a work of Christ in order to redeem the people of God from him who was their natural father, the devil. And by being redeemed from the devil they now belong to Christ, and to God. The fact that Christ died only for some makes the antithesis a reality. If the Lord Jesus Christ had died to save all men, then the antithesis would not exist.
In the third place, God sees to it that this enmity exists through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished through the Spirit’s work of regenerating those for whom Christ died. This work radically changes us, making us very different from the ungodly. And thus it is a work that results in enmity and conflict existing between us and the ungodly. Thus the Spirit’s work of regeneration is a means by which God sees to it that the antithesis exists in the world.
The Spiritual Character of the Antithesis
When we speak of the antithesis, it is very important that we understand that this separation between the godly and the ungodly is a spiritual separation. It is true that sometimes, out of necessity, it takes physical form. But essentially the separation between the church and the world is spiritual.
The antithesis does not mean world flight. It is not the people of God turning their backs on the world, organizing themselves into separate communities, and isolating themselves from the ungodly. That was what the Anabaptists taught and practiced at the time of the Reformation in the 15th and 16thcenturies. And it is really what the Anabaptists still practice today, as seen for example in the Amish, who refuse to use technology, electricity, automobiles, and so on.
The reason some advocate such physical separation is because as they look at the world and the things that it does and produces, they notice much evil. They therefore reject all that is in the world, saying (wrongly) that evil is in the things themselves. We know from the Word of God, however, that that is not the case. I Timothy 4:4-5 tells us, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” It is not the things themselves that are evil.
Something very important is forgotten by those who think that the calling of Christians is to isolate themselves physically from the world. What I refer to is the fact that even the child of God has the world within his own heart. Every person in the world, even the regenerated believer, takes the world with him wherever he goes, within his own heart, and in his sinful flesh. It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to isolate himself from the world and all its sin.
Clearly, therefore, the antithesis is to be understood as being spiritual enmity, and therefore spiritual separation from the world. We could put it this way: not world flight, but world fight. That is the antithesis.
The Scriptures speak of that not only in Genesis 3:15, but throughout. The antithesis is expressed, for example, in II Corinthians 6:14 & 17: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? ... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” And in Revelation 18:4 we are commanded, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
When by the grace of God we obey His Word and are spiritually separate, then we and our children are spiritually safe. The Scriptures tell us that “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone” (Deuteronomy 33:28).
The Calling With Regard To Technology
As is clear from what has been said thus far, and as is especially clear from the Scriptures just quoted, the antithesis is not just an idea or theory, but it is also a calling. And that calling is the command that comes to the people of God to live antithetically, to live a life of spiritual separation from the world. That is really the whole of the Christian life. It is a life of spiritual separation and spiritual contrast. It is a life in which we may not be friends with the world. It is a life of being pilgrims and strangers on this earth.
We may not be those whose lives are characterized by synthesis with the world. Such synthesis is very popular today. There is the push for cooperation between the church and the world. It is said that the church and the world should join forces in order to accomplish common goals. But such synthesis amounts to trying to unite light and darkness, truth and the lie, Christ and the devil. Not synthesis, but the antithesis. That is our calling.
Those who are the friends of God may not be friends with those who are the enemies of God. We are commanded (I John 2:15), “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” And what are those things that are in the world that we may not love? They are (I John 2:16) “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Love not the world, and love not these things of the world. That is our calling as the people of God in this evil world. And that is also our calling specifically with regard to the world’s technology.
I am sure we are all well aware of the fact that we live in a technologically advanced age. Technology is all around us. Technology is very much a part of our every day life, through such things as televisions, radios, sound systems, computers, cell phones, ipods, MP3 players, PDAs, digital cameras, CD players, DVD players, video games, and much, much more. Technology is used today for every possible purpose and in every possible area of life – for communications, for education, for farming, for surveillance, for tracking down criminals, in tools, in appliances, in the entertainment field, in predicting the weather, in fighting wars, in discovering and curing sickness and disease, etcetera. And none of this stands still, for all the technology that is available to us keeps advancing and that quite often at an astounding and mind-boggling pace.
The child of God is called to live antithetically in relation to all this. What does that mean? What does that involve?
Obviously one aspect of our calling is this: we may not view technology as or make technology a god. I trust you understand that there is nothing wrong with technology itself. Technology has many positive uses. Consider how it can be used, especially the internet, for the spread of the gospel, for missions and evangelism. It is a useful means to get the Word of God to places where otherwise we could not get it. Because of it people all over the world have the ability to discover the truth that has been entrusted to us and that we hold to and believe. Think too of what technology is able to accomplish in wars, and in the field of education, and in the medical world. Astounding things!
The temptation we face because of all this is to replace God with technology. As we consider technology and all the things it can accomplish and provide, we think to ourselves, perhaps unwittingly, that technology has attributes that God has: it is all-powerful; it enables us to be all-knowing; it is able to perform miracles.
Ungodly men and women worship technology, and the men who produce it. They praise these. They look to them for the answers. They trust in them for cures. The child of God, however, must trust in and worship God alone. We may not, as the world does, make technology a god.
Another aspect of living antithetically with regard to technology is that we keep ourselves separate, not from technology itself, but from its misuse, from its abuse. The world itself abuses technology, using it for humanistic goals, using it to try to rid the world of the effects of the curse, and using it to commit and to promote sin, cursing, violence, sex, homosexuality, drug use, drunkenness, and so on. And even in the medical field the world abuses technology, as for example in its attempts to clone human beings. The devil is behind it. And the devil and the world are using technology to tempt the people of God to commit sin. Satan has all of this technology at his disposal, and he is focused upon using it against the people of God and against thechurch of Christ. He uses whatever technology he can to get us and our children to sin and to go astray. We need to be aware of this very real danger.
As already stated, there is nothing wrong with technology itself. But it used to be the case that the world was more “out there.” In the past God’s people could be more isolated from ungodliness, and less exposed to the world. It used to be easier for parents to guard and shelter their children from the filth and garbage and uncleanness of the ungodly world. However, that has now changed. Technology has changed it. Technology now enables the world to have much easier access into our lives and homes. Technology enables the world to appear in our living rooms, in our dens, in our offices, in our bedrooms. We can tune in to the world in our cars. We can carry around access to the world in our pockets. We are now living in a time when every possible evil can be placed before our very eyes, within the confines of our homes, cars, etcetera. It is all available at the press of a button, or at the click of a computer mouse.
Let us not be blind to all this and kid ourselves concerning the dangers. We and our children live in evil times. We face great pressure. It is therefore urgent that we take seriously our antithetical calling to oppose this ungodliness that would creep into our homes and lives through the means of technology.
The Dangers of the Internet
That leads me to speak for a little while about what I consider to be a very serious danger in and threat to the lives of the people of God. What I have in mind is the internet. Computer and communication technology enables the internet to be with us wherever we go. It is possible to have free and open access to it from desktops, as well as wirelessly through laptops and even cell phones. This is a grave danger, not because of the internet itself, but because of how the internet can be and is used by the world and by the devil. It is a grave danger because of the wickedness on the internet, which wickedness can then easily enter our homes and lives.
What makes it a grave danger is that it is very easy to use as a means to commit grievous sins. In the confines and privacy of your home you are able to gamble, you are able to listen to the world’s songs, you are able to participate in ungodly humor, you are able to desecrate the Sabbath day. Through the use of the internet, emailing, and blogs, you are able to slander others, to pass on filth to your friends, and to establish friendships and unequal yokes with ungodly people. And (perhaps worst of all) one is able, through the internet, to view pornography. A link that you receive in an email can get it in front of you. An unwanted pop-up puts it before your eyes. Or else your own active searching for it exposes you to this great evil. And one who heads down this path becomes addicted and gets caught up in the terrible cycle of fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes. In the course of time, he or she also becomes desensitized to the sin, and thus looks for something more explicit, something more filthy, something more vile.
These are sins that bring grievous consequences. They can have a permanent affect on a single person who has participated in them. And with regard to the married, they are sins that pull threads out of the fabric of marriage. Damage is caused that can only be repaired by the almighty grace of God.
What makes all of this so dangerous is not only its availability, but also the fact that it is so easy to commit these sins and to get away with them. You can do it all in private. You do not have to go out of your home looking for these sins and for places to commit these sins. In fact, you don’t even need a computer anymore. Now one is able to access all this trash with a cell phone. It is all very convenient, very easy, and very private. No one needs to know or find out – not parents, or siblings, or a fellow church member, or even a spouse. Yet a person pursues all this to the ruin of his or her life, and his or her soul.
The main reason why the filth that is on the internet is so dangerous to the people of God is because there is a strong point of contact between us and what the world presents – our sinful flesh. We still have a sinful nature. Because of it, we are attracted to all the sin that the world offers on the internet. It is pleasing and pleasurable to our flesh. We are strongly tempted to take a look, or to listen to it for a moment. And gradually one can be sucked in. It begins with a quick look. It is justified with the excuse that something just “popped up” on the screen. Gradually, a small step at a time, the antithesis that ought to characterize the life of the believer is broken down. There is not enmity and fighting and separation, but instead love and friendship and fellowship in relation to the world. One loves the world and the things of the world. One is captivated by the things that appeal to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Indeed the internet has the potential of snaring and leading one into great sin.
The Calling to Fight
In light of all this, the calling of the Christian is, in one word, to fight!
The fight is first of all against your own sinful flesh. It is true that we must not be ignorant of the world itself, and of how evil it is. We need to be aware of the dangers of technology. We must fight all this. But especially we must not be ignorant of ourselves. Do not be ignorant of the fact that you are attracted to what the world offers. Do not deny that you are tempted by it. Admit that there are specific sins you are attracted to. Be aware of them, and fight!
The Word of God gives good instruction concerning this fight, and does so specifically with regard to the wickedness that can be viewed through today’s technology. I have in mind two passages.
First of all there are the striking words of Job – striking because of how directly they apply to us today. Job stated (Job 31:1): “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” You and I do well to say and do the same. Make a covenant with your eyes to behold no evil thing!
The other passage is Psalm 101:3. We ought to make the same resolve the psalmist did: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.”
Another necessary part of this spiritual fight is that it must be done for the sake of our children. A parent fights for his or her children by realizing, and not being ignorant of or turning a blind eye to, the dangers that exist. Parents fight for their children by taking oversight and control of what their children do, whether they are young children or teenagers. They talk with their children often about what they do online, what they do with their cell phones, and what they do with their friends. Out of loving concern for them, they seek to discover whether their children are forgetting the antithesis and establishing instead an unbiblical relationship with the world.
From a very practical point of view, that means supervising your children’s use of the computer. It means you need to have your computer in a visible place in the home. And it means that if you have a wireless network and laptop computers, you need to give special attention to these things.
There is also the need for parents to use monitoring and protection software. Regardless of what anyone else might say, you have a right as a parent to monitor your children. You have a right to know everything that they do, and to let them know that you may at any time check what they are doing on the internet, and what sites they are visiting. And this is not only a right, but also a responsibility. Because you are parents you have the calling to protect your children from the filth of the world, from exposure to evil, as well as from predators who are on the internet. If you love your children, and that means having a love for their souls and a concern for their salvation, you will put much effort into monitoring and protecting them.
I certainly do not know what goes on in your home and in your life. I have no idea how you might be using the technology which God enables us to have. I have no clue as to what you watch, what you search for, and what you see. But remember this, God knows it all. And one day you will have to give an account to Him.
I trust that you will use wisdom to apply what has been said to all of the other areas of life in which technology is abused. May we all seek Christ for forgiveness for the sins that we commit with technology, and for grace to fight against the sins and dangers that technology poses.
In fulfilling your calling not to love the world, remember the positive – to love the Lord your God. Love Him Who is your faithful Friend. Instead of loving the things of the world, love the things of God. Instead of occupying your time with pursuing the things here below, use your time to seek the things that are above.
Remember that we have an incentive. That incentive is given us also in Genesis 3:15, in these words: “It (i.e., the enmity between the two seeds) shall bruise thy (Satan’s) head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” God tells us there of victory, the victory of Christ and of the cross of Christ. At the cross, Christ overcame and crushed the devil and all his hosts. And the victory of Christ is our victory. Because of Him, we never lose. Because of Him, we will never go lost, no matter how fierce the enemy. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). May God grant that to us all.
Living Antithetically in an Age of Covetousness
Rev. Garry Eriks
The antithesis is a fundamental aspect of a Reformed Christian’s worldview. Although the term “worldview” is of fairly recent origin, the concept is not new for the Reformed Christian. Worldview is simply an understanding from Scripture of the Christian’s place and calling in this world. For the Reformed Christian this worldview is based upon the doctrines of God’s Word. There is much discussion today about a Christian worldview, and even a Reformed worldview at conferences and in print. It is not my intention to treat worldview as such. But I call to your attention, that when we treat the antithesis we are considering a vital aspect of the Christian’s worldview.
Much of what is said about worldview today purposely excludes the antithesis. Instead, much of what you read and hear of worldview in the church world today speaks of engaging culture and reforming and changing the world and the culture in which we live. This is the worldview of common grace.
The antithesis is an essential element of the Reformed worldview, because it is a truth that is taught throughout Scripture. The antithesis is that spiritual separation God has created by saving His people, the children of light, out of the world of darkness. God separates His people from the world by saving them. He elects His people from before the foundation of the world, redeems them from their sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, regenerates them through the working of the Holy Spirit, and calls them out of the world of darkness into His marvelous light. God calls His separate, redeemed people to live antithetically in this world. This antithetical life is not a life of physical separation, but a life of spiritual separation. Essentially, when you boil it all down, the antithetical life is saying “no” to sin, and “yes” to God.
It is my contention that a consideration of covetousness and its opposite, contentment, lie at the very heart of the antithesis. This is true, first, because a consideration of covetousness and contentment force us to face this question: who or what is your God? And along with that then, where is your heart? What is the focus of your life? Or, who is the focus of your life? Those who are covetous are not focused on God, but they are focused on the things of this earth. But those who are content are focused upon God. They know that the one, true and living God is their God, Whom they love and serve.
If a man’s life reflects that his god is money then that man will do whatever he can to obtain riches. This pursuit then controls his life. But if a man’s life reflects that Jehovah is his God then the pursuit and goal of his life is living to glorify the God of his salvation.
Secondly, the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of the tenth commandment of God’s law, which is, “Thou shalt not covet…”, shows that covetousness and contentment are the very core of the antithetical life. Answer 113 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains the requirement of the tenth commandment this way: “That even the smallest inclination or thought contrary to any of God’s commandments never arise in our hearts; but that all times we hate all sin with our whole heart, and delight in all righteousness.”
Thirdly, covetousness and contentment are the core of the antithesis because they are two responses to the truth of God’s sovereignty. The Reformed Christian confesses the truth of the sovereignty of God. This means God reigns over all. He rules over all things. God is the One Who sovereignly saves. Sovereignly He chose His people. Sovereignly He redeemed them. Sovereignly He works in them the blessings of salvation through the Spirit of Christ. Covetousness and contentment are two opposite responses to the truth of God’s sovereignty. Covetousness is the unbelieving, disobedient response to God’s sovereignty. Those who are covetous, say, by their covetousness, that they are not pleased with what God has given to them. They want more of things. Or they want different circumstances in their lives. But contentment is the believing response, the obedient response to God’s sovereignty. It is to say, “Have Thine own way, Lord. Not my way. Have Thine own way.”
As we develop living antithetically in an age of covetousness, we have to look at these opposites: covetousness and contentment.
Living spiritually separate from the world in this age of covetousness in which we find ourselves is of utmost importance. This is of utmost importance, first of all, because of what the Scriptures say in Ephesians 5:5. There we read, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Those who continue living in covetousness have no place in the kingdom of God. So we must be aware of the importance of our consideration of covetousness. It is a matter of life and death.
Secondly, this is important because the Scriptures tell us in II Timothy 3:2 that in the perilous and last days in which the church lives the world is characterized by covetousness. The people of the world are covetous. And so is vital right now that the church lives a life of spiritual separation from the world. We must not be covetous, but content.
Finally it is important that we consider this subject because covetousness is one of the great struggles of the Christian life, as we live in an age of covetousness. Contentment is not something that comes naturally to us. What does come naturally to our sinful natures is complaining and covetousness. What comes naturally is seeking happiness and joy and fulfillment in an abundance of things. The Word of God calls God’s people to live antithetically by rejecting covetousness and walking in contentment.
The Sin of Covetousness
Covetousness is the sin of desiring what God has not been pleased to give. It is disagreement with God concerning what He has willed for us. Those who covet foolishly think that their lives would be happier and more fulfilling if the circumstances of their lives were different. They think that they know better than God what they need to have a good life on this earth.
The Scriptures expose the awfulness of the sin of covetousness: at bottom covetousness is idolatry. Ephesians 5:5 makes this connection when it says the “covetous man…is an idolater.” Covetousness is the sin of setting one’s heart on something other than God. This is the awful sin of thinking that there is something bigger and greater than God. This object of coveting controls that person. It is what he thinks about, desires more than anything else, and pursues in life. Covetousness is the sin of having something other than God at the heart and center of life.
There are many things in this world that wicked man sets his heart on so that they become his idols. Men think that if they have this certain dream job they will discover great happiness and fulfillment in life. If he has this certain woman to be his wife, then he will be happy. It doesn’t matter that he already has a wife and a family. He says, “I don’t love her anymore. But I do love this other woman and she makes me happy so I should be with her.” I read on the Internet a story in which psychologists now believe that playing video games fulfills a “need.” Not only is not bad to play video games, but also it is a need. Playing such games fulfills a certain need so that a man can find fulfillment and joy in life. When we begin looking around we see that virtually anything in this earth can become a god and an object of covetousness.
Money, according to Scripture, often becomes the idol god of covetousness. I Timothy 6:10 speaks of “The love of money.” The sin identified in this passage is covetousness. The object identified is money. One of the words that is translated covetousness in the New Testament, means literally, “money loving,” or “silver loving.” That is the term that you find in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation be without covetousness.” Scripture identifies money especially as something that becomes a man’s idol god.
I Timothy 6:10 is not teaching that money, possessions, or riches, are wrong of themselves. The remedy for money-love is not getting rid of everything that you have. You can sell all you have and empty your bank accounts and still be covetous. Covetousness is a sin of the heart. Covetousness is often manifest as a desire for the money or possessions that God is not pleased to give. It is really a denial of God’s sovereignty and His ownership of all things. The answer is a change of heart!
The covetous man foolishly places a very high value on the things of this life. This is a driving force in the world of today. The thinking today is that money can provide happiness. Many in the world today would protest saying, “No, we’ve come to the understanding that you cannot buy happiness.” They say it with their mouths, but their conduct says otherwise. The thinking today of the world is that if you have much of the things of this earth, that you will find happiness and fulfillment in life. If you have a nice fancy car that others notice and talk about, that will bring fulfillment. If you have a new, large house, that will bring happiness and joy in life. If you have big bank accounts and plush 401K plans that will bring joy. And so that becomes the pursuit of the men of this world.
This is the covetousness, which we find in the world today. But the question when we are considering living antithetically in this covetous age is “what does the Word of God call the child of God to do? What does the Word of God call us, as Reformed Christians, to do?” The antithetical life of the Reformed Christian demands that we remove from our lives all covetousness. That comes out in Hebrews 13:5. “Let your conversation [let your life] be without covetousness.” At every moment of our lives we must spurn covetousness. Ounce of covetousness must not remain in our lives. We must rid our marriages, our homes, the church, and every part of our lives of all covetousness. This covetousness is not just found in the world, but it is the bitter struggle of the child of God who wants to live antithetically in the world.
Jesus sounds the warning against the sin of covetousness in Luke 12:15, when He commands, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” That was not just something that Jesus was throwing out there. He was teaching this because there was this sin in the world at that time, in Israel. This sin was found among the leaders of the Jews who sold animals in the temple at the time of the Passover. Not only was this convenient for Jews traveling from all over the world so that they did not have to take their own animals to sacrifice, but the Jews made a large profit from exchanging money and from the sale of these animals. Certainly there was the thinking among the people of that day, that there was joy and happiness in riches.
Jesus spoke of covetousness when He addressed the rich young ruler, whom He told to go and sell everything that he had. Jesus put his finger on this man’s great sin: he loved his money and possessions more than God. Is there anything in our lives that we love more than God?
That is a struggle that we have as well. Easily it happens for us that we go to work for a paycheck, so that we can buy the things that we want. Now there is nothing wrong with that in itself. But our hearts can be so focused on this that the pursuit of money and possessions becomes the chief goal, aim, and desire of life instead of working to serve God and to do all things to the glory of His name. Then we begin to think it is a burden to pay Christian school tuition, the budget of the church, and then put a little in the collection plate for the other causes. Or we think of all the things that we could possibly buy with that money.
We live in an affluent society. But yet for a young family it is a struggle to pay the bills. The bills add up and we begin to think, “If we just had a little bit more all of our problems would be solved. Then it would be so much easier. That is what we really need.”
We must be extremely sensitive to this sin because we can so easily twist what the Word of God says. We can easily convince ourselves that it is good for us to pursue riches because we want more to give to the church and to the schools. Giving cheerfully for the causes of the kingdom is good. But we must not use this good goal to mask a carnal lust, thinking that both may exist in us. The truth of the antithesis does not allow for being two-faced. We are called to flee from sin and obey God!
There is another popular error that is worthy of mention in this connection. Churches today feed people’s greed and use it for their own advantage. This is what the health and wealth gospel is all about. There are many preachers today promising untold riches from God’s hand if they will just contribute to their ministry. They encourage people to write out checks for more money than they have, trusting that God will provide that amount and much more. God’s Word in II Corinthians 9:6 does say, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” This does not mean that God blesses liberal contributions with riches. God’s Word makes clear that He will take care of those who seek first the kingdom. But nowhere does God promise riches. What men today are doing is using greed and covetousness as a motive for giving. “Give and you will be come rich,” they say. This cannot be right because God demands that we put away all covetousness.
The Grace of Contentment
When the Word of God calls us to put off all covetousness, it demands positively, “Be content.” If the antithetical life is saying “no” to sin and “yes” to God, we must say “no” to covetousness and “yes” to contentment.
What is contentment? The word contentment literally means, “to be satisfied,” or “to be sufficient.” To be content is to know that we lack nothing. It is to say, “I have everything that I need.” It is to confess with David, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Contentment has nothing to do with how much or how little of the things of this earth that we have. Paul says in Philippians 4:11, 12: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” The child of God can and does confess contentment no matter what the circumstances of life may be.
If a man owns nothing he can still be content. If a man lives in an apartment, has little furniture, and lives month-to-month, or even day-to-day, he can still be content. He can still confess, “I am content. I have everything that I need. I have sufficient.” This is true because contentment is not based on how much of the things of this earth we have. Contentment is a spiritual gift of God’s grace, in which we understand that in Jesus Christ we have everything that we need. This is why I lack nothing. God’s grace is sufficient for me. That is enough. In His grace and in His work through Jesus Christ, I have everything I need.
The Word of God comes to the people of God and says, “Be content with such things as ye have.” Sometimes when people ask us how we are doing, we think (we don’t say it), “Things aren’t so great. I don’t have enough money. My house isn’t big enough. My children are naughty. I’m behind in my work. I’m overburdened with all of these things. If some of these cares and concerns could be taken away, that is what I need.” We think, “If only I had this, or if only I had that, or if only this were different in my life, I would be so much happier.”
In Jesus Christ we have everything that we need. We are satisfied because the Bread of Life has satisfied for all of our sins. The Word of God reminds to be satisfied with Christ’s work, the knowledge of God, and the treasures of salvation in Jesus Christ. Be satisfied with God’s sovereign rule over your life. This is essentially what God said to Paul when he prayed for the removal of his thorn in the flesh (II Corinthians 12:9). Paul asked God three times to remove that thorn in the flesh. What was God’s answer? “My grace is sufficient for thee. You don’t need that thorn removed. My grace is what you need.” This grace is what we need.
As we look at this calling to live antithetically in this age of covetousness, we must understand why we are not to be covetous, and why we must be content. Scripture does not simply calls us to put away covetousness and be content. God teaches us why we must do this.
Why must we put away covetousness? First, coveting riches is vanity. Many today imagine that happiness, good self-esteem, and success are found in proportion to one’s possessions, bank accounts, house, and dress. They try to find happiness in things: in buying and hoarding to themselves the things of this earth. This is why gambling prospers today. People play the lottery, play the slots, and journey to the Mecca of gambling, Las Vegas, to strike it rich and solve all their problems. Others rack up credit card debt into the tens of thousands of dollars, thinking that buying the things their hearts desire, even though they do not have the resources, will solve all their problems and provide them happiness.
The Word of God exposes this thinking for what it is: vanity. I Timothy 6:7 says, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Jesus makes that same point in Luke 12 in the parable of the rich man, who tore down his barns to build bigger barns, so that he could fill those barns with the harvest that he had taken in. This man thought he should rest, be merry, and enjoy the good things of this earth. But that man’s life was taken. What was the profit of all those things that he had?
There is nothing like death to expose the vanity of the things of this earth, because we leave them all behind. We do not take any of these things with us. Yet is it not striking that after a person dies some families fight over the possessions that remain? Death reminds that these things cannot provide any eternal happiness. They are all vanity. One day they will melt with a fervent heat. Why would we set our hearts upon the things that moth and rust corrupt?
Covetousness in the end really makes man no different than an animal that only thinks about his next meal, and the next thing that he can have. And so man becomes that very same thing in covetousness.
Secondly, we must not walk in covetousness because it leads to all kinds of sin. I Timothy 6:10 makes this point: “The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” The idea is not that every single evil we find in this earth can be traced to the love of money. The idea is that the love of money leads to all kinds of different sins. For example, if a man loves money, he will do whatever he can to obtain that money. He may even resort to stealing from his employer or clients in his work. Covetousness leads to all kinds of sin.
In covetousness we will not find happiness. I Timothy 6: 10 says, “and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” There is no happiness to be found in money-love. Instead, there is only sorrow, pain, and suffering. This is true because those who live covetously without turning from that sin will face Almighty God, the Judge of all. Jesus said, “What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” The love of money is spiritually bankrupt.
We must also consider the Biblical reasons for walking in contentment. We must be content in life because, as Reformed Christians, we believe the Word of God. The Reformed Christian believes everything that is found in the Word of God from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation 22 because it is all the inspired Word of God. It is completely without error. The Word of God is full of God’s promises to His people. In that Word God declares to His people what He has done for them. The word of man cannot bring contentment. There are bookstores and libraries filled with books about how you can find happiness. But they are all vanity and they are all wrong, unless they point us to the Word of God. We must listen to what the Word of God says. The Word of God is the basis for contentment. We believe what He says about sufficiency and that in Him is found everything that we need.
God’s Word teaches us that there are two truths that are the basis of contentment. First, God has met our greatest need in Jesus Christ. What is our greatest need? Our greatest need is deliverance from punishment and power of sin. We need to know that in God’s eyes we are whiter than snow. We need to know that in Jesus Christ we have the forgiveness of our sins. God met our greatest need, by sending the Son of His love to die on the cross for our sins. He met our greatest need by pouring out His Spirit upon the church and working in His people the blessings of salvation that Jesus Christ earned for them. God has given to us everlasting life through the finished work of Jesus Christ. We cannot find the joy and happiness of that knowledge in any of the things of this earth.
Second, God’s Word tells us that the sovereign God of our salvation will not leave us or forsake us. God sovereignly and constantly cares for us. He will not abandon us, but continues to be present with us. He controls all things and He works them all for our good. He does not abandon us in our time of need, but instead gives grace and strength to bear the burdens that we face. His grace is sufficient for us. His promise to us is, “I am with you.”
Because God is with us, we have nothing to fear or worry about. What are the things that you worry about? Do you worry about making ends meet? Do you worry about rearing your covenant children, or your covenant grandchildren? What are the fears that you have hidden in the recesses of your heart? A child of God who is content and clings to the promises of God, knows that there is nothing to fear. The child of God then confesses with David in Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” There is no one to fear. There is nothing to be afraid of because God is our God. He is the One Who has done everything necessary for our salvation. It is not God and man working together. Man does not do anything to make that salvation apply to himself. God has done it all. And in the consciousness of that, we know He continues to be with us and care for us.
That is so important in life. That is so important when we face death. That is so important for young fathers and mothers who feel the heavy weight of the responsibility of training their children in the fear of the Lord. We feel the weight of the other responsibilities God has placed upon us in this world. Sometimes it seems like it is too much so that we are ready to collapse. The fears that we have in life are real fears, even for those who know and understand the sovereignty of God. But the Word of God says there is no reason to worry about any of those things because God will give to us everything that we need.
When we live antithetically in an age of covetousness there will be the experience of joy and peace. This is the fruit of contentment. Covetousness can never bear such fruit. It only bears the fruit of more covetousness, sin, and unhappiness. Riches can never satisfy. The reality is that no matter how much of the things of this earth we have our appetite for those things is insatiable. The richest of men in the world, who have more of the things of this world than most others still do not have enough. That is the way covetousness is. It is never enough. But knowing God’s grace we say, “It is enough. I have everything that I need.” The way of contentment is the way of peace and joy.
This peace and joy is evident in the confession of contentment found in Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Because the LORD is our Shepherd we lie down in green pastures. Sheep do not easily lie down and rest. A sheep will lie down only when he has everything that he needs and has no fears. The same is true for us. We have everything we need and we have no fears because Jehovah is our faithful Shepherd.
As we live antithetically in this world, let us not walk in the way of covetousness. Instead, may we be reminded that part of the Reformed worldview of the antithesis is that we be content in all of life.
Living Antithetically in an Age of Immorality
Prof. Herman Hanko
The antithesis, as the previous speakers made clear, is that work of God, sovereignly executed, by means of which God reaches down into this world of sin and darkness, seemingly under the control and power of Satan, and, through the salvation of His people, causes the light of His truth and holiness to shine. Satan has made his attempt to seize control of this creation and of the human race, but God does not relinquish His world to Satan. God stakes His claim to the world by the testimony and lives of His people. The world says, “We serve Satan. We will take God’s world from Him and make it ours to do with it as we please.” Over against that loud boast, God says, through His people, “This creation is mine. I made it. I will redeem it. I will glorify it and accomplish my own eternal purpose in making it. I will punish with everlasting destruction those who claim it for their own.”
The antithesis, therefore, has its deepest cause in the eternal counsel of God, specifically in the decree of election and reprobation. The antithesis has its power in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, by which sacrifice Christ paid for the sins of His people and earned the right for them to represent God’s cause in the world. The antithesis has its reality in the work of grace in the hearts of those for whom Christ died. The ascended Christ sends His Spirit into the hearts of His people to regenerate, convert and sanctify them. By this work of grace, Christ’s people are enabled to live the life of the antithesis here in this sorry world.
Christ’s rule is universal, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. In the Father’s name, Christ rules over the entire creation of God – over heaven and the angels and over earth and all men in it. Christ’s rule is, however, sharply antithetical. He rules over the wicked sovereignly so that the wicked in all their rebellion serve the cause of God. The kings of the earth may take counsel against Christ to cast His yoke from them, but He that sits in the heavens laughs, for God has set His King on the holy hill of Zion ( Psalm 2). But Christ rules His people by His Spirit, by whose work He sets up the throne of His kingdom in their hearts and sways the sovereign scepter of His rule over their lives. By that rule, Christ’s people become willing, joyful and obedient servants of Christ, bowing before Him as their Lord and Master to whom they belong. When Christ’s rule is sovereignly exercised in the hearts of His people, that rule of Christ is of such a kind that it cuts through their entire lives. Nothing in their life is untouched; nothing remains unchanged. These people are now His subjects in the whole of their life. They are obedient and willing subjects who love their Lord. While the lives of Christ’s servants are still sinful in many respects, and while the battle which God’s people wage begins in their own sinful flesh, yet they are different, strangely changed, marvelously renewed, so that Christ’s work touches everything they do.
Both wicked and righteous laugh; but in entirely different ways and for entirely different reasons. Both the wicked and the righteous weep, but no similarity exists between the righteous who weep, but not without hope, and the wicked who weep with despair. Both marry, but the wicked marry to satisfy their own personal urges, while the righteous marry to enjoy the intimacy of an institution which points to Christ and His church, and in that intimacy, to bring forth the seed of the covenant. You will find wicked and righteous in the shop, both operating a drill press, both changing tires on a truck. But the antithesis is present in the shop. The wicked work to use the fruit of their labor for pleasure; the righteous use the fruit of their labor for the support of the causes of God’s kingdom. And so it is in the whole of their life.
The Antithesis and the Covenant
The subject we discuss is living antithetically in an age of immorality. Immorality is sexual perversion of all kinds. Sex has to do with marriage. It is a part of it and limited to it. The subject with which we deal, therefore, has to do with marriage and its important sexual aspect. Because marriage is an institution of God which, purified and sanctified by grace, pictures the heavenly relation of Christ and His church, marriage has to do with God’s covenant. Perhaps the antithesis shines more brightly at this point, and the lines of the antithesis appear more sharply in this part of life than anywhere else in all man’s activities. At this point especially the relation between the antithesis and God’s covenant comes sharply into focus.
The relation between God’s covenant and the antithesis is taught clearly in II Corinthians 6:14 through II Corinthians 7:1. In that passage Scripture exhorts us to live antithetically, but does so on the basis of God’s covenant with His people.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath thetemple of God with idols?
Then comes the covenantal description of God’s relation of fellowship with His people.
For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Then the admonition to covenant people to live antithetically.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.
Again, the promise of the covenant.
And I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Again the admonition.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The antithesis means that God’s people are a covenant people. As a covenant people they walk in this world as members of the family of God. They walk as sons and daughters of their Father in heaven – in a world in which most walk as children of their father, the devil (John 8:44). Having fellowship with God and confessing that God is their God and they are His people, they represent God’s covenant in the world. When the world hates God and the cause of Christ, they proclaim in their words and life that Christ is their King and that God’s cause in their cause. Nothing in all life expresses this as clearly as marriage. God’s covenant with His people in Christ is a spiritual marriage consummated in Christ with whose body the people of God become one flesh. Our marriages are pictures of that heavenly marriage (Eph. 5:22-33).
An important part of marriage is sexual activity. This activity is touched, sanctified and made holy by God’s grace. This activity is a covenantal activity. This activity has been brutally corrupted by the world in which we live.
The World’s Immorality
It is better not to sing the exceedingly sad song of the terrible sins of immorality in our world today. It is better to heed the warning of Paul in Ephesians 5:12: “It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” We ought to take that warning seriously. Nevertheless, some aspects of the present immorality of are age must be noticed.
One hundred years ago or so divorce was a shame and was discouraged by the laws of the land and the courts. Even in a wicked world where marital problems abounded, wicked people rarely sought escape from marriage in divorce. Today divorce is common. Over half the married population in our country has been divorced and remarried at least once and many have been divorced and remarried frequently. Divorce and remarriage is immorality, for our Lord makes clear that one who is separated from his/her spouse and marries again commits adultery. Adultery is immorality.
One can see how closely this sin relates to God’s covenant. Scripture teaches that the covenant which God establishes with His people in Christ is an unbroken covenant which endures into eternity. Marriage is also an unbreakable covenant which only death can dissolve. Covenant conscious people, out of gratitude to God for His covenant mercies, maintain the earthly picture of that covenant in their married life.
Yet, not only has the world so loosened the laws concerning marriage that any book, newspaper column or marriage counselor quickly advises divorce and remarriage as the solution to any problems which people think they face in the marriage state, but the evangelical church joins with the world. The church approves divorce; the church approves remarriage. It is a rarity in any church circles to find anyone who still holds sacred the God-instituted bond of marriage. The Protestant Reformed Churches have become the objects of ridicule and scorn because of their stand opposing divorce (except for fornication) and remarriage. Our churches have been accused of lack of sympathy for people in bad marriages, lack of love to those who are unhappy, lack of willingness to help those who encounter serious and difficult marital problems. This almost universal approval of immorality is new.
It is also new that marriage is no longer considered necessary for two people who live together in the intimacies of marriage. Fifty years ago such a practice was called “shacking up.” Today it is approved and encouraged. The argument is even made that it is good for people to experiment with marriage and with living together before finally entering the marriage state. Even to have children is not considered wrong. The Grand Rapids Pressrecently carried an article in which, to my astonishment, current figures showed that slightly over half of couples living together were not married. This practice is gross fornication and dreadful immorality. How can such a practice reflect God’s covenant?
The law of this “Christian” nation promotes divorce and remarriage not only, but increasingly, under the pressures of feminism and the homosexual lobby, supports open homosexuality. Laws are being passed sanctioning homosexual marriages and the raising of children by homosexual people. Not only does the law promote these terrible sins, but builds a wall of protection around them to prevent anyone from condemning this heinous crime. In other countries, and increasingly in our own, criticism of homosexual practices is labeled a hate crime and makes the one who witnesses to the truth liable to punishment. One can be put in jail for saying what the Scriptures say. And, if that all were not bad enough, churches throughout the country approve homosexual practices not only but ordain into Christ’s sacred offices in the church those who commit such dreadful sins.
While once sexual perversion was kept secret, today every form of sexuality is openly discussed and frequently taught children from early years in the schools. All this is done under the guise of teaching children to use the gift of sex properly and wisely; but sex education is only an excuse for sex-crazed teachers and sexual perverts burning with lust to drag young children into the net of fornication.
We are bombarded with sex on every side. If one turns off his TV because it makes him gag at the foul debauchery found even in advertisements, one must be on guard when turning on the computer. If one’s spam detectors and filters screen out pornography, one must cautiously go through almost every secular and news magazine that comes into the home to see whether it is fit for the children to page through. The news tells us that over eight million pornographic sites can be accessed on the web, and that pornography is readily available in public libraries to anyone who wants such material.
That which is most holy, most sacred, almost of sacramental importance within the God-ordained bonds of marriage is made vile, filthy, corrupt to an extent unimaginable in past centuries. The picture of Christ and His church has become a toy, a plaything, an instrument for self-seeking pleasure, a recreation used freely. The perversion of sexual practices is beyond belief. No judgments of God upon man of sexually transmitted diseases has the least impact on man’s degradation, and one who dares to say that AIDS is God’s judgment upon the sinner runs the risk of public condemnation. Paul, inRomans 1, calls homosexuality the punishment of God upon man for the sin of idolatry. Man calls homosexuality his right and punishes the one who dares speak of God’s judgment upon the sin. The Dutch have an expression (zo’n groot geest, zo’n groot beest.), which translated means, “The greater the spirit, the greater the beast.” Even animals are not guilty of the perversions common among men.
It has become literally impossible for a godly person to escape the perversion of sex. The whole world has become a sewer, filled with filth and excrement, in which today’s generation delight to swim. The world has found its pleasure in drinking the water in a septic tank. How does this sad state of affairs call upon the people of God to live antithetically in such a world! Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy! (I Peter 1:16).
The theory of common grace has done more to destroy the antithesis than any other single doctrine in the history of the church. Common grace insists that the wicked world is capable, by the grace of God, to produce good people who do good deeds. Common grace finds “redeeming elements” in everything man does. Common grace tells us that there are broad areas of life in which, because of the good found in all men, there is much room for cooperation between Christ and Belial, between righteousness and unrighteousness. And, with regard to the subject of marriage and sex, common grace would have us believe that a cup of water taken from the wrong side of a filtration plant is good to drink. Or, if I may change the figure, common grace says that although there is a certain bad smell to the river of life which flows through the world, one finds also a delightful perfume.
The Antithesis in Marriage
To live an antithetical life requires that we live in two dimensions as it were. The one dimension is life in this present evil world; the other dimension is the life of heaven, firmly planted in our hearts, which is a principle of our calling and life as citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Such being the nature of the antithesis, the child of God is called by His heavenly Father to live a no/yes life: that is, to live a life in which he must say No! to sin and Yes! to God. It is quite impossible to say Yes to God without saying No to sin. It is equally impossible to say No to sin without saying Yes to God. Already in Paradise Adam was called to say No to the forbidden tree and Yes to the tree of life.
The servant of Jesus Christ says his loud No to all the corruption in marriage and sex. But he must say Yes to God. Marriage is wonderful institution of God. It is a relationship of life where man and woman become one flesh in a very real, but also profoundly spiritual sense. Becoming one flesh is so sublime, so pure, so beautiful that God has said it is a picture of the transcendent relation of Christ and His church. In the heavenly marriage, as well as in our earthly marriages, Christ and his people become one flesh; we are the body of Christ, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, very really, more fully than the earthly can imagine. God made woman from the flesh of man; in marriage they once again become one flesh. Such great blessedness belongs to those who marry in the Lord and live holily in the marriage state.
Marriage is the fundamental institution of society. God married Adam and Eve and thus created the institution of marriage. It is the only institution of life God created with the original creation. The rest of life’s institutions develop organically from marriage: the home with children, the church, the school, the shop, government, and the public square. Marriage, after the pattern laid down by God in society, produces a well-regulated, crime-free, holy society with holy institutions. When marriage is corrupted, the home is corrupted, schools are failures, government becomes itself a decayed institution from which little good can come, disorder reigns in society at large. Governments appoint blue-ribboned committees who spend millions studying how crime in society, deterioration of education, and sexually-transmitted disease can be overcome. Usually the answer from committee after committee is: More money needs to be spent. No one mentions that the home is to blame for all society’s ills and no improvement anywhere will be made until marriages are reformed.
One has some trouble understanding Satan’s strategies. He is not stupid. He knows, perhaps better than we do, that the home is fundamental to society and that if the home is wrecked, society will be destroyed. Yet he and his fellow demons have launched an unprecedented attack against the home and have enlisted the aid of sinful men in their determination to destroy the home. These demons, under Satanic leadership, are committing suicide. They are destroying the very world they want to steal from God. They want to drive the owner from his premises (so they can live there); but in doing so, they burn down the house to attain their goals.
Is this stupidity on Satan’s part? Does he not know what he is doing? Do not the wicked with him sense the futility of their plots? Yes, they really do. The trouble is not ignorance; the trouble is hatred of God and His creation. The wicked are bent on destroying marriage (though through success they destroy society) because marriage is an institution of God and their hatred against God is so intense that they will destroy themselves in order to destroy God.
To live the antithesis means that the believer says in word and deed: “No. We understand you, Satan. We know what you are up to. We want no part of your plots.” It also means that we say, “Yes, Lord. We will be faithful to Thy covenant in the world no matter what the cost to us, and no matter what suffering may be our lot. We will maintain our marriages and build our homes upon the foundation of Thy Word. We will fight to maintain the sanctity of Thy glorious institution, made heavenly in Christ. We will live in holiness and purity.”
To live the antithesis means that we continue to condemn divorce and remarriage. We continue to warn against its evils and its evil consequences. We continue to strive to maintain our marriages as pictures of Christ and His church.
To live the antithesis means that we understand that marriage is a union of love, of life and of joy. Husband and wife love each other not only when a handsome and strong man stands with his beautiful wife before the minister in marriage, but also when each of them has become old and decrepit, wrinkled and disabled, worn and dying. Love for each other within marriage reflects the love of God that pervades all of married life. Husbands and wives are gifts of God to each other, for they are not only husband and wife, but brother and sister in Christ. They are given the blessedness of spending their earthly years in the joys of marriage, and they will spend eternity in the joys of a greater, higher, more blessed marriage when they are with Christ.
To live the antithesis means to thank God for the privilege of having children. It is to use the sanctity of that mysterious wonder of sex, that marvelous gift of God, to bring forth the seed of the covenant. It is to believe that God will be our God and the God of our children through all the generations of time. It is to lay hold on God’s promises that God in mercy uses us to bring forth those whom He has elected from eternity and redeemed with the great price of His own Son.
When children come in a home, to live the antithesis is to protect, as much as possible, the home from the attacks of Satan. It is to make the home a harbor of safety, of peace, of love, a place of tranquility and serenity, a place to flee from the terrors and horrors of the world. No longer can the home be protected from the perversity of fornication and moral degradation. To live the antithesis is to show children their calling before God to live lives of purity. This can only be taught children when husband and wife are joined in a common effort to live lives of purity themselves. Then homes, too, will be reflections in this life of the family of God’s everlasting covenant of grace.
Our Bodies, Temples of the Holy Spirit
We are told that marriage is a picture of the heavenly and covenantal relation between Christ and His church. The question is: How does the earthly picture become a reality in the profoundly spiritual sense of the word? How do we and Christ become one flesh?
Christ Himself works this by His Spirit when He sends His Spirit into the hearts of His people. By the in-dwelling of the Spirit, we are united to the body of Christ. In its discussion of the Lord’s Supper and the mysterious spirituality of eating and drinking Christ, the Heidelberg Catechism (question and answer 76) tells us that to eat the body of Christ and to drink His blood means “not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, . . . but also . . . to become more and more united to his sacred body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding ‘flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone’; and that we live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.”
It is because we are united to Christ that our bodies are, as Paul expresses it in I Corinthians 6:16, where he warns against fornication, the temples of the Holy Spirit. It is terribly wrong to become one flesh with a harlot when the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies.
The meaning is this. First, although the apostle speaks only of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, he does not mean to exclude our souls. Our souls (our minds, wills, emotions) are also part of the Temple of the Spirit. Paul emphasizes the body especially because it is with our bodies that we commit fornication. And so, with respect to the matter of fornication, we must be especially careful of our bodies. How we use our bodies will be determined by how we use our minds and wills. If our wills burn with an unquenchable fire of lust, we will use our bodies to fulfill our lusts. If our minds are filled with pornography and all sorts of sordid sexual corruption, our bodies will become instruments of fornication. But if our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, this will be because our minds are filled with the Word of God and our wills made obedient to the will of Christ.
Second, when our bodies are the temples of the Spirit, Christ dwells in us, for the Spirit unites us to Christ and makes us one with Him. When Christ dwells in us, we have fellowship with Christ and through Christ, with God. We are, in other words, brought into fellowship with God through the indwelling of the Spirit. The apostle uses the word “temple” to describe our bodies. The temple was the place where God dwelt with Israel in covenant fellowship.
Third, to use our bodies for perverse sexual behavior is to make the temples of the Holy Spirit whorehouses. When we use our tongues for dirty jokes and sexual innuendo, we use part of the Spirit’s temple as a house of prostitution. When we engage in sex outside of marriage, we use our bodies to commit whoredom. And activity with perverse sexual implications is tantamount to turning the Spirit’s temple into a place for all the sexual sins associated with heathen idolatry to be practiced.
But our bodies will be used as temples of the Holy Spirit when our minds and hearts are filled with thoughts of God.
Jesus taught a parable once. It is not usually considered to be a parable, and perhaps is not according to the precise definition of parable. But in it Jesus illustrates what I have in mind. He speaks of a man who owned a house which was filled with an unclean spirit. He expelled the unclean sprit and cleaned up the house. He remodeled, refurbished, scrubbed and polished until the house looked like new. But he made a mistake. He left it empty. And the result was that the evil spirit which had been expelled could find no rest. And so he returned to the house from which he had been expelled, found it empty and moved in. But he took seven other unclean spirits with him, and so the house was in worse shape than it had ever been.
The meaning is clear. If you are weary of fornication, you may expel the devil of lust and try to be done with it. You may say, “I am not going to have anything to do any more with pornography. I am not going to let my body be used for such evil.” But what if you leave your mind and body empty? When our whole being is filled with the things of God and of His Word, then there is no room for the devil of immorality. That is the antithesis. That is saying No to Satan and Yes to God. A No, no matter how emphatic, is not enough. A Yes to God is essential.
The battle against immorality starts therefore, in our own sinful natures. It starts in that fierce battle to make our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit. It starts with the fight against the power of sin within us. And from our own struggle with sin and the conquest of sin within us, the battle spreads to our marriages, then to our homes; and, by God’s grace, to our churches, our schools, our whole lives in the world. The festering wound of immorality will prove fatal in us, in our marriages, in our homes, schools and churches unless we fight against the swelling tide of immorality around us.
Antithesis Means Warfare and a Pilgrimage
Scripture uses different ways to describe the life of the antithesis. Sometimes Scripture defines this life in terms of warfare. The people of God are an army. We have spiritual armor and spiritual weapons. Jesus Christ is the Captain of our salvation. We are therefore in this world to fight. Most of us, it seems, think that this world is a playground, with sex as one of our toys. But it is a battle, a fierce battle, a battle to the death. It is a battle that from every earthly point of view is hopeless, for the powers of evil are strong. But it is a battle in which the victory is certain. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world, for faith puts us in union with Christ and Christ has overcome the world for us. Our strength is in His cross and our victory in His rule at God’s right hand. Let us then fight; fight for our marriages, for our homes, for sanctity in our own lives. Let us not lack courage, for we shall be victorious.
Sometimes Scripture speaks of the antithesis in terms of a pilgrimage. Peter does this in his first epistle. It is a marvelous epistle and no minister could do better in this evil day than preach a series on this book. There are two ways, two roads on which one may walk. There is a wide, double-laned, divided highway that is smooth and broad, easy to travel, crowded with people who are laughing and joking. They are enamored with pleasure, earthly pleasure, pleasure that satisfies the yearning of sinful hearts. But the way leads to hell. The child of God, because of his sinful nature, is never out of sight of that easy way. On it there is no suffering to speak of, no difficulty on the journey, no loneliness, for many people travel it.
But the other way is quite different. It is a dirt, rocky, narrow trail. It is rugged and steep and requires constant exertion. It is a trail on which are a few people, and for the most part, they are weeping. It sometimes leads through dark and swampy ways, but sometimes over cold snowy peaks where icy winds blow. On each side lurk ogres and strange creatures bent on devouring the few travelers that pass. It is a way that Jesus characterizes as one of self-denial and cross-bearing, a way of suffering and pain, a way of persecution and affliction, a way in which the joys are not earthly pleasures but simply obedience – obedience to God.
This road goes to heaven. The difficulties of that way are enormous, but the end of it is what John Bunyan called “The Celestial City.” It is the way of the fulfillment of all God’s covenant promises. It is the way to that heavenly city where we shall see Jesus face to face. It is the way to the home of that host of elect who are now in the company of just men made perfect, and to the home of the angels.
What road are you on? What road do you want to be on? I know everything in our flesh says, “Not the hard way. I want to enjoy life. I want the treasures and pleasures of this present time. I fear self-denial and cross-bearing.” But by the grace of God we do not want that way at all, though our flesh craves it. We want the way to glory, no matter how difficult.
I am on that way. Come with me. We will travel together. We will face the cruel jeering of the world and the hatred of the ungodly. There is pleasure on this way, though it be difficult to walk. It is the pleasure of God’s favor and love. We will stumble on that way and sometimes fall. We will grow desperately weary on that way and think sometimes that we cannot go on. But, though we bear a cross, it will remind us of the cross of our Savior on which He earned for us everlasting salvation. And to His cross we will run with haste to find forgiveness for our sins and strength to go on. By the power of His cross we will stagger forward and onward as we wend our way home. There will be blessedness forever, rest from our labors, joy unspeakable. There the battle is over and the journey completed. There we will be with Christ. It is the Celestial City.