What does it mean to be pro-marriage or pro-family, or pro-life? In common parlance, we know what such phrases refer to but even here we must be careful. The basic Christian duty is to be pro-God, and align everything else in accordance with this. When we absolutize things like “life,” “marriage,” or “family,” we get into trouble. But when John the Baptist confronted Herod, he was not being pro-marriage, but rather anti-marriage.
And did not he make one? Yet had the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth (Mal. 2:15).
What was God looking for when He made man and woman one? In addressing this question, we want to make sure that we do not fall into the trap of thinking that a correct answer to this question is the only possible correct answer. Marriage is not a little simple thing, and the Scriptures teach that marriage applies to all the circumstances of life. Marriage goes wherever people do, and is involved in whatever people are involved in. This said, God made man and woman one because He was seeking godly seed. One of the purposes of godly marriage is godly offspring. But as we shall see, more is involved in this than simply begetting them.
The Vexed Question of Family Planning:
The questions surrounding family planning are nuts and bolts questions indeed. But if we want to live as faithful Christians, it is most necessary to address them straight up. It is important for all of us, but it is particularly important for engaged and newly-married couples. What are the biblical principles we are committed to then?
· Children are a blessing from God (Ps. 127). Consequently, it is the responsibility of the church to create a community where couples feel free to receive this blessing from the hand of God, whether in large or small doses.
· The Bible says nothing about birth control considered as such (I would put a reference here, but there aren’t any). Where the Bible is silent, we must be silent. To legislate where God has not spoken is really perilous (Dt. 4:2).
· We are surrounded by an unbelieving culture that is hostile to the biblical vision for fruitfulness. As we make the decisions we have the liberty to make, we must take care that our motives are right, and that we are not being shaped by the secular world around us (Rom. 12:1-2).
· Children are not an automatic blessing from God. Samuel would not have been more greatly blessed if he had seven sons who took bribes instead of two who did. In our text, God was seeking godly seed. And, as it turns out, there is a particular kind of legalistic melon-headedness that refuses to see that God has not spoken about something. And this mentality is usually ill-suited to the task of rearing godly children in wisdom. But God did not call us to be mere breeders of covenant-breakers, but rather godly mothers and fathers of godly seed.
· We are called to mind our own business (Rom. 14:12-13). If another couple is childless, you do not know if they are using birth control or not. You do not usually have the right to care. And if another couple is having lots of children, you don’t know the circumstances there either. The Pauline principle is one for the ages—mind thine own beeswax.
When we plan, the question we must ask and answer constantly is this one: by what standard? We make decisions within the boundaries of God’s express word, but within those boundaries, there are two great operative principles.
The first is that we do not know the decrees of God. Therefore, all our plans and planning must be surrendered to Him at the foundational level, constantly. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (Jas. 4:14-15).
The second is that “if the Lord wills” is not the same as a que sera sera fatalism. The triune God who predestines all things has commanded us to order our lives in accordance with the principles of means and ends, sowing and reaping, planning and executing. Because God is sovereign, our work is not absolute, but God regularly and routinely condescends to use it. There is foolish planning (Prov. 14:12), and there is wise planning. “Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established” (Prov. 24:3). “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds” (Prov. 27:23).
Questions to Ask:
As you seek to be faithful stewards in bringing up godly seed, there has to be a fundamental openness to God’s veto. If you are using birth control, are you open to the gift of a new life? If you are not using birth control, are you open to God not giving children? Make your determinations in the palm of an open hand—so the Lord can give, the Lord can take away, blessed be the name of the Lord. If you have the same thing in your hand, but you are clutching it, then God needs to break your fingers to get at it.
That said, what are some questions to ask? What are your gifts? What are your abilities? What are your financial resources? What are your financial resources likely to be ten years from now? What is your level of education? How old are you? How expensive is Christian school? How expensive is homeschooling? Have you received wise counsel from outsiders who know you on all these questions (2 Cor. 10:12)?
The Blessing of Children:
God does not dispense His blessings from a vending machine, an operation simple enough to understand. Wealth is a blessing, but God can bless by withholding it. Long life is a blessing, but God can bless by shortening life. Food is a blessing, but Paul learned the secret of contentment when he had none. Considering all this, we see that the only unqualified, unmixed blessing is Calvinism. Never forget the Godness of God.
This said, children received from the Lord in faith and by faith are a wonderful, textured way to exhibit how triune living goes deeper and deeper, beyond our ability to reckon. Most of you here are ancestors, in the determination of God, to hundreds of thousands of souls yet unborn. Now there is a head-bender.