Apology XXIII.28-42, Of the Marriage of Priests (Continued)


“For Christ calls marriage a divine union, when He says, ‘What God hath joined together [let not man put asunder.’ Here Christ says that married people are joined together by God. Accordingly, it is a pure, holy, noble, praiseworthy work of God…”

Friday of Week 26

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28] But we shall reply in order to these figments. In the first place, it is necessary for the adversaries to acknowledge this, namely, that in believers marriage is pure because it has been sanctified by the Word of God, i.e., it is a matter that is permitted and approved by the Word of God, as Scripture abundantly testifies. 29] For Christ calls marriage a divine union, when He says, Matt. 19:6: What 30] God hath joined together [let not man put asunder. Here Christ says that married people are joined together by God. Accordingly, it is a pure, holy, noble, praiseworthy work of God]. And Paul says of marriage, of meats and similar things, 1 Tim. 4:5: It is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, i.e., by the Word, by which consciences become certain that God approves; and by prayer, i.e., by faith, which uses it with thanksgiving 31] as a gift of God. Likewise, 1 Cor. 7:14, The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, etc., i.e., the use of marriage is permitted and holy on account of faith in Christ, just as it is permitted to use meat, etc. Likewise, 32] 1 Tim. 2:15: She shall be saved in childbearing [if they continue in faith], etc. If the adversaries could produce such a passage concerning celibacy, then indeed they would celebrate a wonderful triumph. Paul says that woman is saved by childbearing. What more honorable could be said against the hypocrisy of celibacy than that woman is saved by the conjugal works themselves, by conjugal intercourse, by bearing children and the other duties? But what does St. Paul mean? Let the reader observe that faith is added, and that domestic duties without faith are not praised. If they continue, he says, in faith. For he speaks of the whole class of mothers. Therefore he requires especially faith [that they should have God’s Word and be believing], by which woman receives the remission of sins and justification. Then he adds a particular work of the calling, just as in every man a good work of a particular calling ought to follow faith. This work pleases God on account of faith. Thus the duties of the woman please God on account of faith, and the believing woman is saved who in such duties devoutly serves her calling.

33] These testimonies teach that marriage is a lawful [a holy and Christian] thing. If therefore purity signifies that which is allowed and approved before God, marriages are pure, because they have been approved by the Word of God. 34] And Paul says of lawful things, Titus 1:15: Unto the pure all things are pure, i.e., to those who believe in Christ and are righteous by faith. Therefore, as virginity is impure in the godless, so in the godly marriage is pure on account of the Word of God and faith.

35] Again, if purity is properly opposed to concupiscence, it signifies purity of heart, i.e., mortified concupiscence, because the Law does not prohibit marriage, but concupiscence, adultery, fornication. Therefore celibacy is not purity. For there may be greater purity of heart in a married man, as in Abraham or Jacob, than in most of those who are even truly continent [who even, according to bodily purity, really maintain their chastity].

36] Lastly, if they understand that celibacy is purity in the sense that it merits justification more than does marriage, we most emphatically contradict it. For we are justified neither on account of virginity nor on account of marriage, but freely for Christ’s sake, when we believe that for His sake 37] God is propitious to us. Here perhaps they will exclaim that, according to the manner of Jovinian, marriage is made equal to virginity. But, on account of such clamors we shall not reject the truth concerning the righteousness 38] of faith, which we have explained above. Nevertheless we do not make virginity and marriage equal. For just as one gift surpasses another, as prophecy surpasses eloquence, the science of military affairs surpasses agriculture, and eloquence surpasses architecture, so virginity is a more excellent gift than 39] marriage. And nevertheless, just as an orator is not more righteous before God because of his eloquence than an architect because of his skill in architecture, so a virgin does not merit justification by virginity more than a married person merits it by conjugal duties, but each one ought faithfully to serve in his own gift, and to believe that for Christ’s sake he receives the remission of sins and by faith is accounted righteous before God.

40] Neither does Christ or Paul praise virginity because it justifies, but because it is freer and less distracted with domestic occupations, in praying, teaching, [writing,] serving. For this reason Paul says, 1 Cor. 7:32: He that is unmarried careth for the things which belong to the Lord. Virginity, therefore, is praised on account of meditation and study. Thus Christ does not simply praise those who make themselves eunuchs, but adds, for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, i.e., that they may have leisure to learn or teach the Gospel; for He does not say that virginity merits the remission of sins or salvation.

41] To the examples of the Levitical priests we have replied that they do not establish the duty of imposing perpetual celibacy upon the priests. Furthermore, the Levitical impurities are not to be transferred to us. [The law of Moses, with the ceremonial statutes concerning what is clean or unclean, do not at all concern us Christians.] Then intercourse contrary to the Law was an impurity. Now it is not impurity, because Paul says, Titus 1:15: Unto the pure all things are pure. For the Gospel frees us from these 42] Levitical impurities [from all the ceremonies of Moses, and not alone from the laws concerning uncleanness]. And if any one defends the law of celibacy with the design to burden consciences by these Levitical observances, we must strive against this, just as the apostles in Acts 15:10sqq. strove against those who required circumcision and endeavored to impose the Law of Moses upon Christians.

(…to be continued)


  Today’s reader: Kenny Parnell

Kenny is a Christian by God’s grace, a husband to Lisa, a father to five children, a programmer by day, and a theology nerd by night. He lives and works in North Carolina. 

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