The question that we consider this time is a rather broad question, and one to which we shall try to give some basic principles from the Scripture to be a guide for its answer. The question is set forth by the Senior PRYP Society of the Hudsonville Church. The question asks for a proper Scriptural view of “birth control” especially in light of all the attention given this topic by the world and worldly institutions.
At the outset, I receive this question as a concern of covenant youth who are looking forward to being led by the Spirit of Christ to God given husbands and wives. By this I take it that as covenant youth your concern is for a sanctified walk in thanksgiving unto God within the blessed bond of marriage in which, the Lord willing, you shall soon enter. The reason that I mention this is that Scripture clearly sets forth the truth that all sexual contact outside the bond of marriage is abominable to God, and thus terrible sin.
For example, we read in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” And another, “But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks.” Ephesians 5:3, 4.
The elect, redeemed, and called child of God is filled with Christ’s Spirit and Word, and he flees sin and seeks His God by the grace that abideth in Him. Thus, outside of marriage, this question is not one that we entertain as covenant youth. But we flee fornication which is abominable to our covenant Father!
But now concerning the question of “birth control” within the bond of marriage, let us consider the following.
In the first place, the term “birth control” is not a good one, as I am sure you all realize. We confess by faith that our God upholds and governs all things by the Word of His power. We confess that God alone is sovereign, and that He determines all things that come to pass. So much so that a sparrow may not fall to the ground without His will, and all the hairs of my head are numbered, cf. Matthew 10:29-30. Thus, in the deepest and ultimate sense, God controls birth, all birth. He brings forth the elect church in time, as well as the reprobate shell. And man does not really control birth at all. Though, it is often true, that he foolishly thinks that he can. Remember that even in wicked unbelief, man can but do the will of God Almighty. And when the wicked foolishly think they can plan families to make this world more livable, etc., we must remember it is but a fulfilling of the Scriptural truth, that God gives them over to a reprobate mind. And they sin unto sin, following that pathway to hell! (Romans 1: 18 to the end.)
Thus, if we entertain the idea that it is our right and prerogative to determine the size of our family, or to determine when we will have children, that we are the authors of our own destiny with respect to our families, then we sin against the sovereign God. And we would make ourselves to be gods. Any so-called “birth control”, practiced under this supposition by us, is nothing more than wicked unbelief and sin. The result of this course is that we too would determine by pure natural reason, how many children we can afford, or have talent to raise, etc. If I and my wife did this there is no way that we would have ten children today! And it is only by God’s grace that we have the blessing of many children.
Our God does not give to His people children without also giving His people the grace and the means for their care according to His perfect wisdom. And when our God gives us His Spirit and Word, and applies that Word to our hearts, then in perfect confidence as we marry, we look forward to the children God is pleased to give into our care. And it is by the sovereign grace of God given to the elect in Christ that with joy we hear the Lord’s command of blessing, saying to us, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it,” Genesis 1:28. Indeed God’s children view the bringing forth of children as a blessing of God. And they rejoice in God’s Word, “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.” Psalms 128:3, 4. As God hath chosen His church in Christ, and redeems them unto the adoption of children, as heirs of righteousness, He gives us grace to fear Him. Then our joy is not in how few children we have, or for that matter how many children, but our joy is in God’s will with us, also as He is pleased to bring forth the children of the covenant, through the means of our union in the Lord in Marriage.
Thus, we do not practice any “birth control” with a view to determining the size of our family, but bring forth children in gladness and rejoicing. Knowing and confessing the Scripture as recorded in Psalms 127: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Psalms 127:3-5.
Natural man when he views the bringing forth of children can only see them as a burden. He says if we have too many children we won’t be able to have the kind of house that we desire, we won’t be able to have the kind of transportation we want, we won’t be able to enjoy the love and freedom that we have before we receive children. If we have too many children, we will not be able to educate them the way we would like to, etc. The list can go on to infinity.
But Scripture says to us, happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them (and God determines the full quiver); God says of such, they shall not be ashamed. When our God gives to us His covenant people, children (His heritage), to care for, He shall provide us the riches of grace and the means to care for them, in the fear of His name.
We conclude by repeating again, we by grace then practice no birth control from the viewpoint of attempting to determine the size of our family, or with a view of choosing the time that we feel is right to have our children, the heritage of the Lord. But with gladness and in the fear of His Holy Name we receive our children as the blessing of our God. And this in the complete confidence that God shall give us exactly at the proper time and in perfect measure children to care for. And He will sustain us in all ways as Godly parents in Christ. Hence for the large part our question is answered. The general rule is that we are not filled with care by this question. But in faith enjoy the bond whereby God has set us in, knowing that as the Lord has united us together in Christ, so He will in perfect wisdom provide our portion perfectly, also in the children and the means of grace to care for them.
The above the world knows nothing of, and counts it foolishness. But, remember the fruit of the world’s attitude is eternal desolation!
But is there not any time or occasion for the Christian parents to practice certain measures of sanctified wisdom concerning the matter of child-bearing in their life together as husband and wife? I believe that there is such a need, but it is with much spiritual caution that we should approach any attempt to explain such practice.
In this article, we have not the space to speak concerning all the various means that are available that allows intercourse without pregnancy. This could be included in a carefully worked out lecture on this topic. Maybe even you should arrange for such a lecture by one of God’s servants. But for now, let me just say that there are many means that the world uses, which God’s children can have no part of! Devices that kill the fetus after it begins its development, pills that change the whole natural condition of the body, etc. We will not use such!
However, there are occasions when God’s children come to a time in their life that they face an operation which will render future pregnancy impossible. And this too has caused serious soul searching and even certain sadness, I refer, for example, to a hysterectomy or certain cancer related treatments. These may become necessary for health reasons. But even these extreme cases of “birth control” should be followed only under certified advice of the medical profession. And I believe only when there is more than one opinion as to its necessity. One must with good conscience be able to say that this is the will of my God.
This leads to the position that the only valid reason for practicing any birth control (And there is as Christ’s children a need for sanctified wisdom in the use of anything God has given us) is basically for health reasons. And this that we are able to say before God’s Word, this is what Christ would have me do. But even here much caution must be used. Even here we must understand that we but have a beginning of new obedience, and that the old man of sin still cleaves to us. Our reasoning can easily be used in sin’s service. We might reason for our wife to have another child would be too much for her physical wellbeing. But in fact, through this rationalization only exalt our own will against God’s. Before God we stand and are judged, and before Him we all also stand in this matter. Only by grace shall we rightly stand.
Certainly our God calls us to walk in sanctified wisdom. He calls us to be stewards over all things. “For this is the will of God even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess your vessel in sanctification and honor”, I Thessalonians 4:3, 4. Not only does this refer to holiness in our marriage, but calls us to walk wisely before God in our married life. The Christian husband and wife may not be careless in bringing forth the covenant seed; so that the mother immediately after bearing a child should not become pregnant without a reasonable time of recuperation. Thus God’s children who in the intimate union of marriage express their love together also sexually, will practice a sanctified wisdom in this relationship together. This means for most of us, that for a few days a month that we abstain from intercourse, or if in good conscience one may use a condom, he may do so for this time alone. God gives us the grace to see this as necessary for mother’s health. But normally this is but a matter of a couple of months. Beware that it is before God that we say there is a need for any restraint. And further realize that even if we would have intercourse only once in a month and far from the time of normal days in which pregnancy might occur, God in His good pleasure may still give you a child. And He also then makes His will known unto us, and we pray for grace to receive all things in thanksgiving. And remember that our wisdom even as sanctified by Christ is still far from perfect, because of the flesh, so we must be extremely suspect of our own reasoning. Rather, give it into the hand of the Lord our God, knowing that His pleasure is done, and He shall provide for all your needs, also in bearing the covenant seed!
I think that it is obvious from the length of this answer, that the topic is really too large for the Mail Box. I would rather be able to speak to you about these things with the Scripture as our guide, then your concrete questions could be answered very specifically. But perhaps these principles can be a basis for your further study. May God give you grace to search out His Word for all the questions that arise in your souls.