Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Honest Work and Theft

Q. 73: Which is the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Q. 74: What is required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Q. 75: What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbour's, wealth or outward estate. (WCF)

Near the beginning of the book of Proverbs, the reader is warned to hold back his foot from the way of robbery. Robbery promises quick rewards and an easy life, but in fact robbers “set an ambush for their own lives” (1:18). Mankind was created to work in order to help each other and to exercise dominion over the earth and make it fruitful (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15, 3:16-19). But we are tempted to be slothful and take a short cut, being pseudo-productive by stealing, robbing, cheating, and defrauding others. But “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit” (Prov. 10:2) and “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (Prov. 21:6). Another way a person might defraud others is by failing to fulfill his obligations to them through idleness. But this way also leads downward, since “a slack hand causes poverty” (Prov. 10:4) and “he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Prov. 10:5) and “the slothful will be put to forced labor” (Prov. 12:24).

Stealing is foolish, as the true way to prosperity is through diligent and wise work, not through violence or greedy schemes. Furthermore, stealing and fraudulent dealing is “an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 11:1). Stealing violates the stewardship God has given each man over his own property. Those who have stolen ought to give appropriate restitution (Lev. 6:1-5, Luke 19:8). If you find lost property, you ought to return it to its owner (Deut. 22:1-4). You are called to seek the good of others and to promote the common good. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Rather than seeking unjust gain, you ought to be engaged in honest labor, for your own good and also for the good of others (1 Thess. 4:11-12, 2 Thess. 3:6-12, 1 Tim. 5:4-8, Col. 3:22-25). Scripture exhorts us to work with diligence, wisdom, skillfulness (Prov. 10:4-5, 22:29), as well as with faith in God for his provision (Matt. 6).

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Sex, Marriage, and God's Design

Q. 70: Which is the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71: What is required in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbour's chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Q. 72: What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. (WSC)

As we work our way through the Shorter Catechism, we come to the seventh commandment. The seventh commandment forbids violating the marriage covenant in which husband and wife are bound to be sexually intimate only with each other, being loving and faithful to each other until death parts them (Lev. 20:10, 1 Cor. 7:4). Nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church or civil magistrate, can give grounds for a legitimate divorce (Matt. 19:3-9, 1 Cor. 7:15, WCF 24.6). God created marriage as a one-flesh union of a man and a woman and he designed sexual union for marriage alone (Gen. 2, 1 Cor. 6-7). Thus, by extension, this commandment forbids all sexual immorality, all sexual activity outside God’s ordinance of marriage. In case there is any doubt, Scripture is pretty clear on the specifics (Lev. 18, 20:10-21, Deut. 22:13-30, 1 Cor. 6:9, 15).

God has made us and our bodies and tells us how to use them. Sexual immorality is a rebellion against his design. Consequently, it also causes great damage to others and to society. And as Christians we have even more reasons to keep this commandment. We are not our own, for Christ has bought us and made our bodies members of his body, therefore we ought to glorify him with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15-20). Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we ought to flee from sexual immorality, for the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18-19).

As the catechism says, our goal ought to be to preserve our own and our neighbor’s chastity and to avoid all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. Questions 138-139 of the Larger Catechism provide an excellent summary of how the Bible teaches us to do this. As Jesus taught, we must keep watch over our thoughts and desires, lest we commit adultery in our hearts (Matt. 5:27-30). In the language of the Larger Catechism, we should also avoid “all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel, … lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays [e.g. movies]” (Eph. 5:3-4, Prov. 7, Is. 3:16-17, 1 Peter 3:2-4, 1 Tim. 2:9, 5:2).

Positively, we should all hold marriage in honor (Heb. 13:4), as a good and wise ordinance of God for his glory and our good (Gen. 2, Mal. 2:13-16). The one who is married should love and delight in his or her spouse (Prov. 5:15-19, 1 Cor. 7:2-5, Song of Solomon 1-8). The one who is unmarried ought to prepare for and (when ready, with wisdom) seek marriage, unless given the gift of continency (1 Cor. 7:2, 9, 1 Tim. 5:14, Matt. 19:10-12). Marriage is not fool-proof, nor does it elevate one in the kingdom of God, but it is a blessing and provision of God to be treasured and carefully preserved.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

On the Destiny of the Earth

Here are several quotes spanning the centuries concerning the destiny of the earth at the end of the age. Bede is a bit of an outlier thinking that water and fire will be consumed entirely, but all of them assert that the earth will be renovated and changed, not annihilated and/or replaced. The Bible does not teach the annihilation, abandonment, and discarding of the earth, but rather the restoration, purification, and glorification of the earth. As the mortal body of believers will be raised incorruptible, so this earth shall be freed from corruption and made new, the inheritance of those who have been saved through faith in Christ.  

Bede, Commentary on 2 Peter (c. 710):
“That very great fire ... will consume two [elements, i.e. water and fire] entirely, but two [air and earth] in fact it will restore to a better appearance… For he did not say other heavens and another earth, but the old and ancient one to be changed for the better, according to what David said, 'In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish, but you will remain, and they will all grow old as a garment, and you will change them as a piece of clothing, and they shall be changed' [Ps. 102:25-26]. As for the things, therefore that will perish, grow old and be changed, it is definitely clear that once they have been consumed by the fire they resume a more pleasing appearance as soon as the fire goes out. For ‘the shape of this world passes away’ [1 Cor. 7:31] not its substance, just as with our bodies too, the shape will be changed, the substance does not perish when what ‘is sowed as a physical body rises as a spiritual body’ [1 Cor. 15:44].”

John Calvin, Commentary on 2 Peter (1551):
“For he thus reasons, that as heaven and earth are to be purged by fire, that they may correspond with the kingdom of Christ, hence the renovation of men is much more necessary.”
“Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as may be easily gathered from Rom. 8:21, and from other passages.”

A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (1860):
“The phrases ‘new heaven,’ and ‘new earth,’ in contrast with ‘first heavens’ and ‘first earth,’ (2 Peter 3:7, 13, Rev. 21:1) refer to some unexplained change which will take place in the final catastrophe, by which God will revolutionize our portion of the physical universe, cleansing it from the stain of sin, and qualifying it to be the abode of blessedness.”

R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (1871):
“This planet was fashioned to be man’s heritage; and a part of it, at least, adorned with the beauties of a paradise, for his home. Satan sought to mar the divine plan, by the seduction of our first parents. For long ages he has seemed to triumph, and has filled His usurped dominion with crime and misery. But his insolent invasion is not to be destined to obstruct the Almighty’s beneficent design. The intrusion will be in vain. God’s purpose shall be executed. Messiah will come and reestablish His throne in the midst of His scarred and ravaged realm; He will cleanse away every stain of sin and death, and make this earth bloom forever with more than its pristine splendour; so that the very plan which was initiated when ‘the morning stars sang to gather and the sons of God shouted for joy,’ will stand to everlasting ages.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

A Mother's Love and Duty

“They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…”
(Titus 2:3–4)

Do young women really need to be taught to love their children? Isn’t a mother’s love proverbial for its constancy, protectiveness, and warmth? Nevertheless, it is clear that this love does need to be taught and encouraged in this fallen world.

It is a mother’s duty to care for the helpless infant entrusted to her womb, just as it is likewise a father’s duty to care for the infant he has begotten. This parental responsibility of care and protection begins at conception. Often these duties are made easy by the parental affection and fulfillment which often accompanies this work. But since things can get difficult, these duties ought to be reinforced by encouragement, support, and praise, as well as by custom, education, and law.

When things break down to such an extent that a mother begins to plan the destruction of her child, the government has a duty to defend the life of the innocent and protect the unborn child from abortion. I pray that the Supreme Court follows through in overruling Roe and Casey, and also that our society turns unto the mercy of God in Christ and his ways of faithfulness and love.