Grace Notes – Pastoral Letter 6.28.22

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God”

2 Cor 7:1

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

I hope this note finds you well in both body and soul. I have been praying for you since we gathered to learn and worship together this past Lord’s Day – taking in the unchanging and abiding Word of our God, confessing our sins, hearing His assurance of pardon, singing His praises, confessing our shared faith, and communing with Him at His table. It was an especially sweet weekend, as our church not only had the awesome privilege of participating in the Lord’s weekly worship, but also of hosting the wedding of one of our long-standing members. Sharing in the wedding ceremony on Saturday and then gathering with Christ’s Bride to praise Him on Sunday left me full of gratitude for the Lord’s kindness in taking us to be His own forever, and a deep impression of the significance of HIs gift of marriage. Both of these are impressed upon us as the Apostle Paul writes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Ephesians 5.

First, we are taught about God’s good design in marriage. Wives, we’re told, are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord and as the head in the marriage relationship, and to see that they respect their husbands (cf. Eph 5:22-23, 33). It is about as counter-cultural a thing as can be said in our day. Who would have thought we would reach a point where the very definition of a woman would be hotly debated. Yet, here we are. And, if the very definition of a woman is contested, then the notion that a married woman is to submit to her husband has become, in our culture’s eyes, laughable and wicked. Yet, the Lord is unfazed and His Word is unchanged. In marriage, which is a monogamous covenant bond between one man and one woman, the woman is to lovingly, humbly, respectfully submit to her husband – recognizing the authority the Lord has vested in him, and thus honoring the Lord by honoring her husband. Husbands, the Apostle instructs us, are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (cf. Eph 5:25). As much as the charge given to wives is focused upon and berated today, the charge given to husbands is arguably the more difficult. A husband is given authority by God in the marriage relationship, but the manner of its exercise isn’t simply left to him to determine. Rather, he is to be sure to exercise it, not abrogating his authority because it is difficult to bear such responsibility. At the same time, he is to be sure not to abuse it. He isn’t to lord this power over his wife, he isn’t to run rough-shod over her wisdom and desires, and he isn’t to be harsh with her. Rather, he is to lead as Christ leads His people – with a clear insistence on leading the way in following the Lord at all times, and with a humble spirit that genuinely seeks his wife’s best interest in all things, especially her spiritual well-being. Again, it is entirely counter-cultural in a day when men are encouraged to be effeminate and to toss any notion of headship out the window. But, given the state of our culture, something countercultural is just the remedy we need. And, more importantly, counter-cultural or not, it is biblical wisdom that we need. Thus, in addressing marriage, we are first taught about God’s good design in marriage and encouraged to live it out.

But then, second, we are taught about an even higher purpose for marriage. Our Westminster Confession of Faith lays out several purposes for marriage, including, “for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness” (WCF 24.2). Here are several wonderful purposes for marriage – the mutual benefit of the man and woman, a legitimate way to have and raise children in general, a legitimate way for believers to have and raise children in the Lord, and a defense against sexual immorality as men and women come together in the manner ordained by the Lord. These are all soundly scriptural and wonderful blessings bound up in marriage. But, as he writes in Ephesians 5, Paul points to another, still greater, purpose for marriage. Having written all about husbands and wives, Paul says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32). In other words, everything he has been saying about the way men and women are to relate to one another in marriage has been designed by our God to be a living picture of the beautiful relationship that exists between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the church. The wife’s loving submission reflects the way the church is to honor and submit herself to Christ, her Head. The husband’s loving, self-sacrificial leadership reflects the sacrificial love of Christ in laying down His life to save and sanctify His Bride. Together, then, when they honor and strive to live according to the Lord’s design for marriage, they fulfill the high-calling of presenting the gospel in living color to the surrounding world – a light amidst the darkness of so much corruption and perversion – a beacon declaring that there is a better way to be found in humbling oneself before the Lord. What a blessing, then, to be taught about this glorious purpose for marriage.

And, what a reason to hold the Lord’s design for marriage in very high regard, especially in a day when so many are dogmatically devoted to undermining it at every turn. Many say marriage is a human institute to be used however we like, and cast aside whenever we like . Many say marriage need not be between a man and a woman, or even just two people. Many say marriage is no longer necessary at all. But, praise the Lord, because He has given us His Word we know better than all of this. Marriage is His gift. As such, it is His to define and its purpose is His to determine. And, He has given it a wonderful purpose indeed. He has attended it with numerous wonderful benefits for the man and woman involved, for the family they raise, Lord willing, and for society as a whole as a stable foundation is provided for the raising of one generation after another. But, greater still, He has made it a model of the covenant bond that exists between Christ and His Bride, and thus a continual pointer to that great marriage supper of the Lamb that is to come. Therefore, let us not cave to the ever-intensifying pressure to redefine or be rid of marriage (as if that were our right anyway!), but let us rather be faithful to announce the Lord’s design for marriage, to uphold it in our own lives, and to honor and be thankful for it in the lives of those around us. May the Lord make us stouthearted to declare it. May He enable us to live it out. May He use it to show HIs goodness and portray His gospel to a dark and dying culture. And, in all of this, may the glory be His both now and to the day of eternity!

In Christ,

Pastor Eric

P.S.

Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30. Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.

ANNOUNCEMENT: In addition to our weekly Wednesday evening prayer meeting, we have a new prayer meeting every Thursday at 10:30am in the Adult Sunday School room. We will read a brief portion of Scripture and pray together, ending at 11:00am. It is our hope that this will allow some of our members and other visitors to attend who are not able to make it on Wednesday evenings.

NOTE: Our men’s breakfast study — Joshua’s Men is now recorded and available on YouTube.
NOTE2: Our adult Sunday School lessons are now being recorded and are available on YouTube.
Just search for Covenant of Grace ARP Church to find the links.

· Daily devotions
I continue to encourage you to daily read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening as we seek to maintain a spirit of unity. It is widely available – here is one link:
https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/today