Thursday, July 23, 2015

Four Lessons from One Year of Marriage

A few weeks ago, on the 5th of July 2015, my lovely wife and I celebrated our very first wedding anniversary. I had been looking forward to that day for weeks if not months before it arrived, obviously because it has significance to our lives, but also because I had some surprise plans for my wife and I that I was just aching to reveal. One of the many things that came to my mind and that both my wife and I kept recapitulating as we spoke about the past year is that it went by like a wind, it was coming and it was gone. (I hope that’s a good thing.) As quickly as it went it did not go by without reminding us of certain truths that we were already forgetting, teaching us some new ones and showing us a few experiences that we simply could not have had by any other means. I want to share here just four of the things that I have learnt from one year of marriage for the benefit of some youth out there preparing for marriage or just the entertainment of an addicted haphazard blog-reader.

1.      Marriage Sanctifies   

One of my primary responsibilities as a husband according to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 5:25-26) is to set aside my needs for the promotion of my wife’s growth in Christ. I am to play a positive role alongside the Holy Spirit in my wife’s sanctification. Both in this text and in Jesus’ priestly prayer of John 17 (Jn. 17:17), the means given to husbands to carry this out is God’s own Word. This has certainly been one of the greatest pleasures of married life for me, spending time every morning reading the Word of God with my wife, discussing it and praying from it. I know that it has had a sanctifying effect on her, whether we can both see immediate results or not, because it is God’s Word, it shall not return void, but it shall accomplish that which God has purposed, and shall succeed in the thing for which He sent it. (Isa. 55:11). Secondly because God says that he will reward and show himself to those that seek him (Mat. 7:7-11, Heb. 11:6, Jer. 29:13-14, Pro. 8:17). And finally, I know because I have seen it and heard it in my wife, she is a better Christian than the one I married.

It has also been sanctifying to me because every time I would read to her; preach to her and pray with her I would be simultaneously exercising all these graces to myself as well. It has been sanctifying to me because if I have been ready to preach to her, I have also had to be ready to say, as Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ”. I have had a far greater compulsion than before to live what I preach lest I undo all my preaching to her.

I have had countless opportunities to exercise this in some really practical ways during the past year and one interesting one was that, I had to take a few exams that our school allowed us to take from home on vow of honesty, with a family member signing as an invigilator. It was an interesting opportunity because it wasn’t just an opportunity for me to show Christ to my wife in my integrity and honesty and thereby working with the Holy Spirit to be sanctifying to her as she saw Christ at work in her husband. But the situation had potential to be devastating as well, I could have cheated and not only lost the opportunity of witness, but also made my wife accomplice with me in my sin as she signed as my invigilator, which is far worse than just cheating by myself (Luk. 17:1-2). I am sure that she also feels this godly compulsion to Christlikeness because of my presence, which can only be good for both our walk with the Lord and our marriage.

2.     Marriage Covers a Multitude of Sins

Of course with sanctification does not come sinlessness, so married couples who are being sanctified in marriage continue to sin even as they are being sanctified. That is why the Bible is awash with verses about forgiveness. Being the good Calvinist that I am, I got married knowing that I am a sinner marrying another sinner, who will bear me even more wretched sinners. But what the Arminian in me had never realised is just how wretched I truly am. Marriage revealed this to me. I do not think that my poor wife has ever had to forgive as many times in her entire life as she has forgiven me in the past twelve months alone. (maybe a bit of exaggeration there). Being forgiven is a present, sweet reality for those of us who are in Christ. Our appreciation for what it is that God did for us through Christ when he once-for-all forgave our sins grows with our theological understanding of ourselves and of Christ himself. Paul says that as we extend forgiveness to each other it should point us to what God has done for us through his Son (Eph. 4:32). As I have dismally failed not to offend my wife and have constantly needed her forgiveness, I have more and more appreciated what Christ has done for me because the helplessness of my estate (WSC. 17-19) has continued to be clearer to me with every instance I have had to say “I am sorry”.  Though the joy of hearing the words, “I forgive you” from the lips of my wife cannot be compared to Christ’s work of forgiveness, but it is a sweet reminder and pointer and that is exactly what it should do. O! What an awesome thing forgiveness is.

Essentially and functionally all of this applies to all acts of forgiveness between any two Christians. Paul was after all not only speaking to married people in Ephesians 4, he was speaking to the whole church. So what is the big deal about forgiveness between two married people? Well, there is a significant difference and it lies in the uniqueness of marriage to all other human relationships. The Bible has made it very difficult for us to come out of a marriage relationship, more difficult than coming out of any other relationship. So again . . . yes as Calvinists we know that we will offend one another in marriage, as we offend one another in all other relationships, but in marriage God has said, “whatever the offense, stay together” (depending on your views on biblical divorce). One can resign from their job if they quarrel with their boss or colleague, they can part ways with a friend if they don’t see eye to eye, and they can even amicably leave a church over doctrinal differences. And the Bible actual affords us the freedom to come out of all these and many other relationships as long as we retain the biblical ethic on the dispute. But in Christian marriages we have to resolve every single dispute, offering continuous repentance and forgiveness and often overlooking one another’s sins in love (1 Cor. 13:7, 1 Pet. 4:8, Pro. 10:12), following the pattern of God who does not deal with us according to our sins (Ps. 103:10). If we have to live with one another until death do us part our relationship has to be characterised by daily covering, repentance and forgiveness, otherwise death will be too far.

3.     Marriage is About Serving the Other

I remember three weeks after we got married, I wrote something to this effect on Facebook “Lessons from 3 weeks of marriage: Love is done not said.” As early as then I was already learning the very subject of this third point and God has continued hammering me on this. It is just simply amazing how true God’s Word is at every single point. It has simply blown my mind how most of my happiest moments in my one year of marriage have been the moments where I was serving my wife in one way or another in a real practical way. I am a selfish human being and my default setting is that of wanting to be served, and since I realised how pleasant it is to serve my wife, I constantly have to remind myself that it is not about receiving, but about giving.

Gal. 6:9-10 which basically says that we must never give up doing good because we will be rewarded tells no lie, and marriage has convinced me that not every aspect of these rewards is in the future. The first and immediate reward is the joy we derive from serving one another in the “household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), which is the church. A body of Christians. And which better Christian than the one that God has put closest to you than all others to be the first to receive “good” from you?

The sad irony is that as I have heard people, even Christian people (including me) complain about their spouses, they would say “he doesn’t do this for me; she doesn’t do that for me”, not realising that most of the joy of marriage does not lie there in the first place. It lies in serving. Rather than seeing ourselves as victims in marriage, we actually do better to overcome whatever evil we perceive with good (Rom. 10:21). Our burden should always be to begin a new cycle, that of outdoing one another in doing good (Rom. 12:10), and never becoming weary (Gal. 6:9) because the reward is always worth it.

4.     Marriage Gets Better

People used to ask me a lot a few days to a few months after we got married, “So how’s married life?” and of course I would genuinely give an affirmative response. Many of them would say, “Just wait until you go past the honeymoon phase, it’ll all be downhill from then on my friend.” Some would be obviously joking, but sadly there are also many who truly believed what they were saying. This is the world’s view of marriage, that it is a kind of a necessary evil that cannot be truly enjoyed. Unfortunately I have to agree with them, they are right, a worldly marriage is a misery – it is like a dripping roof on a rainy day (Pro. 21:19).

Of course this is not to say that God in his goodness and common grace has not allowed multitudes of non-Christian marriages to flourish, as he has allowed the wicked to prosper. But besides that they could have been even better as Christian marriages, these marriage have worked because marriage is a creation ordinance. Man can simply not escape it, man can violate it, and he has, but he can never erase the longing within himself to be with a spouse (Gen. 2:18) and to procreate. It is no more possible than erasing the image and likeness of God in himself.

But this is not the fate of a Christian marriage, I have to strongly disagree with the jesters. In a certain way I have already proven this with the first three points. As two people become more Christ-like it is only inevitable that their relationship will become more pleasant because as they both become like Christ they become more and more of one mind with one another, which really is the key to all relationships. My wife and I have already enjoyed this grace, yet we are less sanctified now than we will be 50 years into our marriage – need I say more? So there really is nothing for me to labour here, only simply to dispel the myth in the case of Christian marriages. The unsaved on the other hand only become more hardened and only seek to overcome evil with evil and that is why their marriages become worse and worse. The fact is the sins of a 16 year old are worse than the sins of a 4 year old because the older conscience has had more time to be calloused. Bishop Ryle put it best when he said:

“I say it because of the force of habit. I say it because experience tells me that people's hearts are seldom changed if they are not changed when young. Seldom indeed are men converted when they are old. Habits have deep roots. Once sin is allowed to settle in your heart, it will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are not easily broken. . . . Custom is the nurse of sin. Every fresh act of sin lessens fear and remorse, hardens our hearts, blunts the edge of our conscience, and increases our evil inclination.”

What Bishop Ryle describes here can only be referred to a downward spiral, a vicious cycle, and a marriage of two people who are in this condition can only follow the path of the spiral. Praise the Lord that this is not the Christian condition, that we can prayerfully expect our marriages to become sweeter and sweeter as they more and more resemble the relationship of Christ and his Church. Be encouraged young Christian!
by Sinenkosi Dlamini

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


The statistics of cohabitation in South Africa are staggering, more and more young people are opting for cohabitation rather than commitment to marriage. “The census of 1996 found that 1, 268,964 people described themselves as living together with a partner while the 2001 Census estimated that nearly 2.4 million individuals were living in domestic partnerships, almost doubling the figures of 1996” (Divorce and Family Law Attorney, 2011). This culture of cohabitation is on the rise and it is fast becoming a norm in the world and South Africa is no exception to the rule. Shockingly this practice is also becoming prevalent in the church, and this has become an area of crucial concern mainly because cohabitation undermines marriage as an institution from God. Although the practice is prevalent, there is little response from the church against the act of cohabitation. Pastors are getting cold feet when it comes to addressing issues like cohabitation, marriage and sex. This results in many professing believers being informed by secular thinking in issues that should be addressed from the Scriptures by the church. How does the church address such thinking and behaviour in a biblically sober manner? The purpose of this paper is to come to a biblical solution of dealing with the issue of cohabitation in the church.

Towards a working definition of cohabitation
Before we proceed with the issue it is vitally important that we define the word cohabitation in order to come to an understanding of what is meant as the word is used in the course of the paper: “This term traditionally describes the dwelling together under one roof and sharing life together of husband and wife. In recent times the word has been enlarged in scope to cover any couple...who choose to live together in one place. Thus cohabitation now has the common meaning of the act of living with, and in particular sleeping with, another person of the same sex or opposite sex in a permanent or semi-permanent relationship” (Harrison, 1992:76), the later sense of the definition would be how it is employed in this paper.
In this paper the term ‘cohabitation’ is used to refer to an unmarried man and woman who are living together in an intimate relationship; this excludes a man and woman who have been recognised by both their families as husband and wife even though the state hasn’t recognised that union yet.

Cohabitation versus Marriage
Cohabitation is an antithesis of marriage while displaying elements of marriage in and of itself. To illustrate that point, if one were walking in a shopping mall and were to see a man and a woman in their ripe age walking hand in hand with a baby, even if they are not wearing rings on their left hands, the basic assumption would be that they are married even if one does not probe to find out from the horse’s mouth. The possibilities of that man and woman being not married are surprisingly high.
Upon a perusal of statistics of people of the opposite sex who are just living together it is clear that cohabitation is seriously becoming a problem to say the least. In order to see cohabitation as an antithesis of marriage it is important to define what marriage is; by marriage I mean ‘a union of a man and a woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.’ Cohabitation lacks both ‘union’ and ‘lifetime covenant commitment.’ When we compare cohabitation with marriage we discover that they are diametrically opposed. Below is a table to demonstrate that point:

ORDAINED BY GOD: In the second chapter of Genesis God ordains marriage. After God created man and woman in His image, He commanded them to “…be fruitful and multiply…” (Gen.1:26-28). “This mandate is closely associated with the other institution which is the ordained means through which the command to procreate is brought to effect, namely, the ordinance of marriage” (Murray, 1994:45). God’s plan from the beginning for man and woman’s relationship has been marriage, and He purposefully created them differently (male and female):

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen.2:28).
A LIFESTYLE CHOICE: Cohabitation is a deviation from God’s creation “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29), secular thinking finds it a convenient lifestyle choice to just live together without getting married. Cohabiters want to engage in a sexual relationship without the responsibility that goes with it; they want the privilege that goes with marriage but not the commitment. Some see it as a stepping stone towards marriage.
PERMANENT UNION: Marriage is a ‘lifetime covenant commitment.’ God’s plan for marriage is that it must be a permanent union, when man leaves his father and mother to be joined to his wife they become “…one flesh” (Gen.2:28). Jesus Christ refers to this in answering the Pharisees in matters of divorce, and concludes by saying “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate ” (Matthew 19:6). With this statement Jesus affirms the permanence of marriage. A marriage cannot be dissolved inasmuch flesh should not be torn apart.
TEMPORARY RELATIONSHIP: There is no commitment in cohabitation. The great fault of cohabitation is that it wants to resemble marriage without any lifetime commitment. It is a sexual relationship of a temporary nature. When problems arise in cohabitation, instead of a determined effort to deal with the problems they see it as easy to go their separate ways. They will stay in the relationship as long as they feel that their needs are fulfilled.
HUSBAND AND WIFE: When man and woman are joined together in lifetime covenant commitment they become husband and wife before God.
“True love between a man and a woman finds its ultimate expression in that man and woman coming together and dedicating themselves exclusively to one another for the rest of their lives.” (Miller, 2007:23)
SEXUAL PARTNERS: When man and woman cohabit they are nothing more than sexual partners. Individual centered values often contribute to people choosing cohabitation in place of marriage. In the eyes of God they are seen as ‘sexually immoral’ and ‘fornicators’ (1 Cor.6:9), because they engage in sex outside marriage.
WELCOMES CHILDREN: When God created man and woman in Genesis 1, He commanded them to “…be fruitful and multiply…” (v.28). The husband and the wife anticipate having children in their marriage. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5). Marriage is a stable home in which children are able to grow and thrive. For a married couple that is infertile the decision to adopt is something that can be welcomed by both of them.
DOES NOT WELCOME CHILDREN: Sexual partners in most cases do not prepare for children. Children are brought in an environment that is unstable, with a mother and father who are not committed to each other and not willing to take the responsibility to care for the children. In cohabitation abortion is mostly seen as solution of escaping the responsibility of taking children. Cohabitation has no place for children.
UPHOLDS GOD’S MORAL LAW: Marriage upholds God’s moral law. God does not approve of sexual intimacy outside of marriage, the Bible encourages man and woman who are matured to enter marriage to marry “…because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor.7:2). God encourages sexual relations between married man and woman “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, and a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19)
UNDERMINES GOD’S MORAL LAW: Living together outside of marriage violates biblical commands. At the beginning I gave a definition of Cohabitation as “…the act of living with, and in particular sleeping with, another person of the same sex or opposite sex in a permanent or semi-permanent relationship” (Harrison, 1992:79). Cohabiters engage in sex outside of marriage which is forbidden according to the Scriptures, the Bible refers to that as ‘sexual immorality’ and ‘fornication’ (Acts 15:29; 2 Corinthians 12:21; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Eph. 5:3-5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:11 etc.)

Upon examining the difference between marriage and cohabitation there remains no doubt that they are not the same. The latter is an awful distortion of the former. Even though it is clear that cohabitation is not the same as marriage there are still people who argue for cohabitations. Next I examine the reasons that people give in favour of cohabitation:

Reasons that are given in favour of cohabitation:

Trial Marriage/ Preparation for marriage
The reasoning here is that before a couple could marry they must first see whether they are compatible by living together before they get married, a case of  ‘conjoining with each other before sharing a bathroom’. An astounding number of individuals view cohabitation as a trial test for future marriage. “Individuals agree to cohabitate, enjoying personal and sexual intimacy, without making the final commitment of marriage. The period of cohabitation amounts to a test-run for marriage. The logic is simple--couples believe that living together will allow them to make an informed and reasonable decision about marriage” (Mohler, 2005). This is the thinking of most individuals concerning the whole idea of cohabitation; they see it as absurd to marry an individual that you have not lived with as a roommate to see whether you can tolerate them for life.

High Lobola Charges:
Lobola is “ age-old African custom that is as alive today as it was 100 years ago. Both the families of the bride and groom would be scandalized if they did not adhere to this custom. On the surface, Lobola is a complex and very formal process of negotiation between the two families to come to a mutual agreement of the price that the groom has to pay in order to marry the bride” (Essortment, 2011). The modern practice of lobola is at most times incompatible with the way it was done culturally in the past, from a simple cultural practice to a money making project.

During these lobola negotiations large sums of money are demanded which in many cases the groom is unable to pay, for example the process of the lobola in the Zulu culture is one that burns a hole in the grooms pocket: First he must pay ‘Ukangazi’ meaning “now you know me” this is money that is requested at the meeting of the groom and the bride’s family as a formal way of introducing himself, and he must make sure that he has enough money else the bride’s family will not acknowledge him; then he has to buy a list of lobola items – first a cow or the money equivalent of a cow, then he must buy the mother in law a cow to show her gratitude for the bride.

Lastly he has to buy ‘Impahla’ which are items of clothing for the father and the mother in law and pay the full lobola, then they’ll be considered married. In light of this the man and the woman will often decide to defy the demands of culture by moving in together. The reason they give for their cohabitation is that they cannot afford the price.

Everyone is doing it:
This argument is a versatile one. It is used to argue for a lot of things that are morally wrong on the basis of its popularity. Because most people are involved in a particular practice, then it must be right. Cohabiters usually employ this type of reasoning, from their stand point it is not wrong to cohabitate anymore because many people are doing it. “Times have changed, we are no longer living according to primitive laws anymore” they protest. 

Biblical response on cohabitation:
I.        Cohabitation accentuates the fall of man: In Genesis 3 we see mankind’s relationship with God and each other being severely damaged by sin (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23). The materialization of this fall was demonstrated in a variety of ways. “The distortion of the image of God and the resulting impact on identity of man and woman was immediate. This distortion caused their eyes to be opened to themselves and to change their view of their own self-image. They made clothes to cover their nakedness in a feeble attempt to restore the loss of relationship to God and its associated sense of inward identity. In essence, man and woman manufactured an identity on their own that was less than they were created to be” (Tillman, 1988:188). This ‘identity’ that man manufactures for himself is also be seen by his choice of cohabitation, sin has so blinded mankind that they no longer want to live according to the commands of God. The only way that mankind’s lost relationship with God can be restored is through the gospel. All mankind has sinned against a holy and righteous God (Rom.3:23), and therefore deserves the just penalty of eternal death (Rom.6:23). Before God there is no forgiveness of sin without satisfaction of His wrath, since mankind is unable to save themselves (Isa.64:6) God sent a Saviour (Jesus Christ Jn.3:16) who takes God’s wrath upon Himself and provides His righteousness to sinful man who believes in Him (2 Cor.5:21) so that we can stand justified before God (Rom.3:21-25). The gospel addresses the heart of cohabitation, which is sin.

II.      Cohabitation undermines the sanctity of marriage: God’s design for male and female relationships was clear when He created the first man and woman “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen.2:18-24). These verses elucidate clearly what God’s plan is for male and female relationships. Jeffrey S. Miller comments on the passage saying “The first institution God gave mankind, the first model of any earthly relationship, was established with Adam and Eve in marriage” (Miller, 2007:11). On the other hand, it is not so with cohabitation. Cohabiters are not joined together as husband and wife, and they are not one flesh. Christians who engage in cohabitation trivialize marriage and tarnish the testimony of Christ to the watching world. William Barclay rightly points out that “There is something tragic in making that which is sacred commonplace, and that which is unique ordinary. There are things – and these the greatest things – whose value only fully comes when we do not take them until the time to take them has fully come” (1971:211).

III.   Cohabitation undermines the lordship of christ: There are people who insist that they are saved but their lives sing a different tune than the one they voice out, undermining Christ as Lord. One cannot claim to love Christ and not submit to Him “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). The life of a true believer is demonstrated by his/her submission to Christ, by seeking God’s will above their own. Cohabitation is inherently sexual promiscuity, and the Bible calls believers to sexual purity “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thes. 3:3-5, 7-8). Believers do not live their lives according to popular opinion (Rom.12:2), although the world says “everyone is doing it” their response must always be “But God’s word is authority.” When believers submit to the authority of God’s word they are invariably submitting to Christ.

The church’s response:

How should the church address the issue of cohabitation?

                    I.           A call to repentance: Since we have discussed the fact that cohabitation is essentially sexual promiscuity. The church must call those who are involved in such types of relationship to repentance. Pastors must boldly preach the whole counsel of God and that includes preaching against sexual immorality in the church, calling God’s people to submission to God’s word “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Tim.2:19). If a call to repentance is not heeded by people who claim to be Christians they must be held under church discipline: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him and alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two other along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
The purpose of church discipline is not to remove people from the church but to restore them to fruitful relationship with Christ “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

                  II.            Teach on the sanctity of marriage: The Bible says “Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrew 13:4). Marriage is God’s ideal for man and woman relationships, anything that deviates from that violates the sanctity of marriage. The church needs to encourage and teach young people about marriage to prepare wisely. Marriage is not license to legal sexual gratification, although sexual relation is part of marriage it is not all that marriage is. God ordained marriage as an essential institution of the society when He created Adam and Eve. In marriage, the man and the woman leave the families of their origins to and become united as “…one flesh…” (Gen. 2:24). “Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman and between the participants and God (Malachi 2:14-16).  It is therefore more than a temporary agreement of convenience, a contract or a well-intentioned promise.  As a binding relationship established by promises, the marriage covenant is solemnly sealed by a ceremony witnessed by family and friends and regulated by the state” (EPC, 2004). God has created marriage for the purpose of His glory, companionship, mutual assistance, the bearing and raising and teaching of children, to promote the stability of the community and establishing the proper context of human sexuality.

                III.            Teach on lobola: Christian parents must not be a stumbling block to their children when they want to get married by demanding unreasonable lobola prices. This will lead to delayed marriages. “Delaying marriage for such reasons often leads to long engagements. In such cases the engaged couple may be tempted to have sex (or cohabit) with each other before marriage because their desires are so strong” (O’Donovan, 2000:81).

                IV.            Provide counselling to cohabiters and those who are considering cohabitation: Usually in the church people who are in cohabitation relationships are new believers, the pastor must bring the truth of the Bible to their attention. That God’s word is against cohabitation. And the church must come along these believers by encouraging them to get married, and in the mean time to live in separate places as they go through premarital counselling, not engaging in a sexual relationship. To young people who are thinking of cohabitation, the church should come along side them to warn them of the consequences of their decision, and above all dishonouring God. If they persist after much pleading with them, church discipline must be implemented.

We need to recognise that cohabitation is not a functional equivalent of marriage; it is in contrast with God’s plan for marriage from the beginning.  Albert Mohler points of that “We know that cohabitation is injurious to marriage precisely because it violates God's command that sex and marriage are never to be separated” (Mohler, 2005). Cohabitation exalts one facet of marriage (sexual intercourse) while undermining or neglecting the whole aspect of marriage. “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union” (Lewis, 2009:1191-1192).

Article By

Karabo Samuel Msiza

Monday, January 26, 2015

These Foreigners Must Go Home

It has happened again, the ever-active volcano of xenophobic attacks in South African townships erupted this past week. 

There is a wide range of issues to be thought and talked about when it comes to the problem of xenophobia in South Africa.  Should we tighten up immigration laws to limit the torrential influx of foreigners in our country? Do we have enough economic resources to accommodate our own local citizens as well as our visitors? Are these foreign-owned shops good or bad for our economy?  Should these foreigners be viewed and received the same way our freedom fighters were sheltered in foreign countries during the dark days of Apartheid?  Is this another struggle-debt we have to pay?

In God’s common grace, there are many politicians, economists and sociologists who are much better qualified to shed light on these issues than I am.  My contention in this article is a simple one.  These foreigners must go home. 

Allow me to elucidate.

The God who Causes Calamities

Ultimately who is behind the poverty, the political and economical instabilities in the countries where these foreigners come from?  We can blame the international ‘looters’ who plundered the Somalian coastline in the wake of the civil war for the poverty that has led many Somalians to seek refuge in our country. We can blame the Bangladeshi and Pakistani governments for the poverty and political instabilities that have made South Africa to be one of the destinations of choice for thousands of Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants.

Yes, all these factors have been instrumental in leading many foreigners to seek shelter within our borders. But ultimately it is God who reigns supreme over all these circumstances.  He is ultimately behind the calamities that have devastated the countries from which our visitors have come.

In Isaiah 45:7 we read“I form light and I create darkness, I make well-being and create calamities.  I am the LORD, who does all these things."

Why God Causes Calamities

Is God then some heartless monarch who derives pleasure from seeing His subjects agonize and grieve?  My intention is not to defend and justify God, as if I was some kind theological spin-doctor.  God does not need to defend Himself or answer to anyone.  As the potter, He has every right to do whatever He pleases with his clay.

However I am moved to share, from my limited understanding, that God often has gloriously salvific intentions in His causing of calamities.

Enter Ruth: A Moabite woman through whom Obed the grandfather of King David was born.  So how did a Moabite, pagan woman come to be great grandmother to one of the greatest Kings in Israel?  Famine!
In the Old Testament book named after her, Ruth came to be one of the people God as a result of a famine that had devastated the land of the Israelites.  In short, the famine drove Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, to sojourn in Moab with his family.  Elimelech and Naomi’s sons took Moabite wives. Ruth was one of them.   Elimelech and His sons died. More calamities! So Naomi had to return home to Israel, and she took Ruth with her. This is how Ruth, a Moabite pagan, became one of the people of God, and great grandmother to King David, from whose line our Lord Jesus was born.  So God caused the calamity of famine in the land of the Israelites in order to redeem Ruth, and through her, in the fullness of time, to bring us our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Again, consider the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts.  Were it not for this calamitous persecution, the Christians would not have fled in all directions to other parts of the world.  And had they not fled, the gospel would not have spread as widely as it did through their witness in all the places to which they had been dispersed.

God uses calamities, partly, to accomplish His salvific purposes to save a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue and nation, including Somalians and Bangladeshis.

We Must Show these Foreigners the Way Home

Could it be then, that God is using the calamities in the countries of our visitors, where the proclamation of the gospel is little to non-existent, in order to drive them to our country, so that those among them whom He has foreknown may hear the gospel and be saved.

Could it be that God is using the poverty and political unrest in their countries the same way that He used the famine in the land of Israel and the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire?

Could it be that He is calling some of these foreigners home? Home to Himself. Home to the new heavens and the new earth.  I believe He is.  Which means that we as Christians in South Africa have a duty and a privilege to be the instruments by which the Lord will save His elect among the foreigners He has sent to us.  These foreigners must go home, and we must be the ones to show them that the way home to the Father is through Jesus!

This is why it is imperative that gospel-centered churches be planted and strengthened in our townships.

We might raise objections if we were called to go on a gospel mission to Bangladesh or Pakistan.  Our fears might be justifiable if we declined a call to minister in Somalia.  But see now what the Lord has done! Through calamity He has brought the mission field to our doorsteps.  What objections or fears prevent us from going forth and telling, especially since we do not have to go further than the nearest Spaza to do so?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Incorrectness of Corrective Rape

The Incorrectness of Corrective Rape

Eudy Simelane. Zoliswa Nkonyana. Salome Masooa. Sizakele Sigasa. Thokozane Qwabe. Funeka Soldaat. Duduzile Zozo. These are just a few of the many lesbians who have allegedly been raped and or murdered in townships around South Africa in attempts to ‘cure’ them of their sexual orientation.

Corrective rape is the violent act of raping a homosexual person (usually a lesbian) with the intention of converting them to heterosexuality.

“They tell me that they will kill me, they will rape me and after raping me I will become a girl. I will become a straight girl.” - Zakhe, 23, Soweto.

There are no official statistics for corrective rape in South Africa, but according to Luleki Sizwe, an organization which helps rape victims in the Western Cape, more than 10 lesbians are raped or gang-raped per week in Cape Town alone.

In this article, I will attempt to show that corrective rape is incorrect for at least two reasons.  (1) It is inconsistent, (2) It is incompetent.

The Inconsistency of Corrective Rape

The apostle Paul, in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, writes about the wrath of God being revealed against all ungodliness.  He argues that God shows His wrath by giving people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness over to their sinful desires:

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions.
For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 
27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women
and were consumed with passion for one another,
men committing shameless acts with men
and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

If Paul had stopped writing at these verses; we might be excused for concluding that sins of a homosexual nature are the only sins that are abominable in God’s eyes, but the apostle does not give us that liberty.  He continues:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God,
God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Paul declares that ‘all manner of unrighteousness’, not just homosexual sin, is as sign of God’s wrath being revealed.

If corrective rapists were consistent in their hatred of sin, they would be just as vehement against gossiping, faithlessness and disobedience to parents as they are against homosexual sin.  I have never heard of any corrective punishment being administered to polygamists or heterosexual fornicators.  Instead, those who commit such sins are praised and encouraged by the same people who condemn homosexual sins.

This is because instead of viewing sin from the consistent lens of God’s word, the corrective rapists view sin from the inconsistent lens of African Traditionalism.  Instead of consistently defining sin as all that is ungodly, they inconsistently define it as all that is ‘un-African’.

The Incompetence of Corrective Rape

Not only is the practice of corrective rape inconsistent, it is also incompetent.  That is, it is utterly powerless to cure its patients.

Those who attempt to correct sinful homosexual behaviour through corrective rape are attempting to accomplish what only Jesus, through the gospel, can accomplish.  “… [the gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Romans 1:17

It is the violence of the cross, not the violence of corrective rape that has the power to change the hearts for homosexual and heterosexual sinners.
It is the meek strength of the dying God-man, Jesus Christ, not the masculine strength of the killing men, which can subdue sinful hearts.
These men can murder lesbians all the daylong but no amount of lesbian blood can purify anyone’s heart.  Only the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, can purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Furthermore, through corrective rape, some of these men attempt to give sexual pleasure to lesbians, believing that upon realising what they have been missing, the lesbians will turn away from a life of homosexual attraction.

But it is only those pleasures that are found in God through Jesus, not the pleasures of heterosexual intercourse, which can ravish, satisfy and wean souls away from sinful behaviours, homosexual or otherwise.  Whatever pleasures can be derived from sin are fleeting and unsatisfactory at best. Only in God is there fullness of joy and pleasures forever more.

In conclusion, allow me to reiterate that I do not believe that homosexual sinners are worse than heterosexual sinners.  Scripture’s testimony is consistent.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!  Only the gospel is powerful and competent to save all who believe; homosexuals and corrective rapists, this writer and his readers.

Mandla Gqada

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

God’s reintroduction of Himself?

After having so many various opportunities to share the Gospel in the townships of Tembisa, there are a number of things that become acutely clearer to me that wouldn’t have been if I had not undertaken to serve the Lord by presenting the Gospel to unbelievers - things like the spiritual deadness of man, his hardness of heart, the seriousness and degree of man’s unbelief towards God and man’s disregard for the person and Godhood of Jesus Christ are inescapable when sharing the Gospel. 

These sad realities lead to a growing desire on my side to present the Gospel with much clarity. But even after presenting the Gospel one is always faced with a sense of the inevitable, and that is, unless God reveals Himself in a special way to a person he or she will remain in a state of unbelief towards God.

The fact of the matter is this, God is Holy (pure and set apart) both as Spirit and Person, and as a result of our sinfulness and corruption we cannot come to know Him unless He reveals and reintroduces Himself to us in a special way.

God has and does reveal himself to us in a number of ways. For instance He has shown Himself to us through His Handiwork in creation. This act of God revealing Who He is to us in creation is termed as His general revelation by theologians. It is considered to be general because it involves and includes all of mankind who are born into this world - mankind also bearing the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) reflects and resembles who God is in their conscience as well (Romans 2:14-15). God created us to be like Him in a restricted and finite way, though God Himself is transcendent and infinite. This general revelation is also God’s revelation because God and not man does the disclosing of who God is, in and by using providentially the things He has made. We however can point each other to such evidences in order to try convince each other about the existence of God. God’s general revelation is a fact that the apostle Paul brings up in his letter to the Romans when he writes:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:19,20).

Though what we can see of God in ourselves and others is very limited in every way possible because we are not God, it is general revelation of God that leaves us without excuse when it comes to knowing God while disobeying His laws. It also shows that any person who lives in continual disregard of God, both in action and moral thinking is in actual fact supressing the truth they know about God (Romans 1:18). Such can be the extent of man’s hatred toward God.

It is God revealing Himself in a special way that can keep a person from remaining at enmity with God. It is also this process of God revealing Himself afresh to sinners in a fallen world that theologians term as God’s special revelation, that I sometimes choose to call God’s reintroduction of Himself.

The means by which God has purposed to carry out His special revelation of Himself to man is the Holy Bible. The Holy Bible is perfect and authoritative in all its parts and contains details of what needs to be known and believed about God in order to be saved from sin, Satan and eternal death. The Scriptures tell us about who God is and even reveal to us things about Him that we cannot make any sense of or even explain in human terms e.g. God being man while remaining God - things we just have to believe and live out by the faith that God gives us. It is in the Holy bible where we come to learn that God went a step further in revealing Himself than just what we can see of Him in creation. We come to see that to some past generations of a particular nation God spoke at many times and in many ways by a number of men whom He appointed across a certain time period, men whom the Bible refers to as the prophets (see Hebrews 1:1). It is these men, that the Bible teaches us, that God spoke to through visions, dreams, stormy winds, fires and clouds. God even spoke to them in personal appearances as an Angel of the Lord (see Genesis 15, Isaiah 6, Genesis 28:17, Genesis 12:1-3, Exodus 34:5-7, Numbers 12:5-8, Job 38, 1 Kings19:12, Exodus 3:2, Genesis 16:13).

From the prophet Moses onward the revelations of God have been preserved in written form, writing that ended with a group of men that the Bible refers to as the Apostles, men whom Jesus Christ being God appointed to complete in writing all that is needed to be written about God as authoritative and directly from Him with regard to our redemption (2Timothy 3:16-17).

Special revelation is also different in that it points us to Christ who is the Son of God. He is also the very reason why God did not cast man into eternal ruin at man’s first sin, a reason that God the Father wanted to show off to His creatures and not just keep to Himself. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians1:15), the centre and purpose of all creation (Romans 11:36). It is God’s Holy Spirit that convicts and enables us to believe these truths about God and the Godhood of Jesus Christ that we find in the Scriptures (1Corinthians 12:3, Romans 8:16).

It is in Christ that we see God taking time and care to reintroduce Himself to His fallen creatures that are too caught up in rebelling against Him. In Christ we learn afresh what it was that God intended for our good in creating us, that is for us to be with Him and glorify and enjoy Him forever. Jesus is the aim and pinnacle of all revelation. This means that any revelation regarding man’s salvation from sin, Satan and death that points to anything but Him should be avoided and regarded as being false. 

By Thembela Matthews Nkuna