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Marrying in the Lord

I Corinthians 7:39 requires that if a Christian marries it must be "only in the Lord." Most obviously this forbids marrying unbelievers and therefore dating them, because the purpose of courtship is to ascertain if it is God’s will that you marry that person. The sin of professing believers dating and marrying unbelievers led to the apostasy of the antediluvian church and the destruction of the old world by the flood (Gen. 6:1-2)! Disobeying the command of God by marrying (or courting) a non-Christian is one of several ways in which a child of God foolishly places upon his shoulders a (very painful) unequal yoke: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Cor. 6:14). Thus the Westminster Confession states, "It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry [including priests, monks and nuns!], who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies" (24:3).

But what if someone is saved after they are married and God has not converted his or her spouse or what if a Christian has sinfully married an unbeliever? Does this mean that they should divorce? No! "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him" (I Cor. 7:12-13). (For more, see "Married to an Unbeliever;" CR News X:23-24.)

  1. ought only marry godly, orthodox believers. Moreover, if Paul solemnly entreated his Corinthian brethren, "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," that they all speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment so that there may be no divisions among them (I Cor. 1:10), how much more does this apply to two believers who are considering becoming one flesh in marriage? Surely, there must be no divisions among them! Surely, they ought to speak the same thing and be of the same mind and the same judgment!

Two believers contemplating wedlock ought to be of one mind and one judgment about the nature of marriage itself (a one flesh union "till death us do part"), the roles in marriage (husband as loving head and wife as submissive helper thus mirroring Christ’s relationship with His church) and the purposes of marriage (intimate companionship and mutual help, rearing godly children, and avoiding fornication). They must also, of course, be of one mind and one judgment as regards biblical doctrine, as faithfully summed in the Reformed confessions.

But there is another way of considering the unity required by the calling to marry "only in the Lord" (7:39). We are hereby taught that we ought only marry one who confesses and lives according to the lordship of Jesus Christ—His sovereign ownership and government of all things.

Christ is Lord of creation. Is it marrying "in the Lord" to wed a "theistic evolutionist" or a "progressive creationist"? Such a person denies Christ’s lordship, as the One who made all things in heaven and on earth in six days, by compromising with evolutionism. Christ is Lord of history, as the sovereign ruler over all things, including sin and catastrophes and Antichrist, according to God’s eternal decree (Eph. 1:11). Does your boyfriend or girlfriend believe this? Christ is Lord of redemption, dying on the cross to blot out the sins of His people (Matt. 1:21), His sheep (John 10:15), His seed (Isa. 53:10) and His church (Eph. 5:25) —and not the goats (Matt. 25:33) nor the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) nor the "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 3:9). Christ is Lord of election and reprobation ( Rom. 9), regeneration (John 3:8James 1:18), calling, justification, adoption and glorification (Rom. 8:30). How can someone who has received the truth of sovereign grace be "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Cor. 1:10) with one who suspends God’s salvation on the "free will" of the sinner? Christ is Lord of the church, as its only redeemer, head and king. His will in Scripture must determine the church’s doctrine, sacraments, discipline, worship and government, and not man’s feelings or modern culture or ancient tradition. Christ is Lord of the covenant, establishing it not only with believers but also with their elect seed (Rom. 9:6-13), and requiring baptism for the children of believers (Gen. 17:7Acts 2:39; 16:14-15; Col. 2:11-12).

Christ is Lord also of the whole of our lives: body and soul; work and rest; family, home, children and friendships, etc. He is our master and we are His property, so that all our abilities and time and possessions stand in His service—in courtship and marriage too!

Thus Christians ought to marry (and date) orthodox believers in the fear of Jehovah, seeking to please Christ and at all times submit to and honour His lordship. Such marriages glorify God, strengthen the church and result in solid Christian homes … and happy and contented spouses (Ps. 127-128)!

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 24
Stewart, Angus

Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)

Ordained - 2001

Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001


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