As I mentioned in part 4, DOCTRINE should define the shape of the pre-marital relationship. Two of those doctrines are 1) Biblical manhood and womanhood (see introduction) and 2) The doctrine of singleness (see part 2 and part 3). As a follow-on to that discussion, here is an outline of two more factors that should mould the pre-marital relationship:
3) Considering it is pre-marital, it should start resembling the characteristics of marriage.
The supreme picture of marriage is the relationship between Christ and His Church (Eph 5:22-33)
- Husbands should imitate Christ:
- Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Men are to love their wives with a sacrificial, agape love – willing to “give oneself for her”
- Christ loved and died for the Church “that he might sanctify her” and “that he might present the church to himself in splendor” and “that she might be holy and without blemish.” So too, men are to love their wives with the love that says to her, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” (1 Thes 3:8)
- Christ loves the church as His own body, as His own flesh. So too, the husband is to “love his wife as himself.” Spiritually, materially, physically, emotionally, sexually, etc. For Christ “nourishes and cherishes” the Church because “we are members of His body.”
- Wives should imitate the Church:
- “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (v. 24)
- “…let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (v. 33)
Contrast modern dating with this biblical picture of husband-wife relations. If the highest duty for a husband is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church,” then see how totally unloving it is to semi-commit in a dating relationship, or even in a half-baked courtship (in which there can be no definite committment for a few years)! How can a woman submit properly to her husband “as the Church submits to Christ” if she has such a poor relationship in which to submit? Conversely, notice how beautiful, rich, deep, committed, clearly defined, edifying, loving and delightful a pre-marital relationship can be when it is moulded by the glorious doctrine of marriage, represented by Christ and the Church!
4) Considering it is a relationship between two sinners, it should be moulded by the Gospel and the doctrines of indwelling sin, demonic powers and the world.
- Indwelling sin:
- “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Gal 5:17).
- Because of indwelling sin, we are required to constantly mortify sin by the power of the Spirit: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13)
- Sexual sin is a major issue in our culture. God has major issues with sexual sin (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21). Sexual sin is a big temptation in intimate pre-marital relationships. Therefore, some serious mortification needs to take place to avoid these soul-destroying sins.
- Temptation, demonic powers and the world:
- In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul was recounting the idolatry, sexual immorality and departure from God that the Israelites fell into. He ends off by exhorting them: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” So it is desirable to escape temptation. Therefore if one is unnecessarily exposed to temptation, remains within the influence of the temptation while not using the “way of escape,” and proudly assumes that “I think I stand,” this is to tempt God. (See 1 Cor 10:9; Proverbs 7:6ff)
- We “…do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
- We are also exhorted by Paul in 1 Thes 4 to live in contrast to the sexually perverted world around us: “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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5)
- The kind of intimacy that comes with a rich, God-glorifying, Christ-centered marriage makes for the most intense and erotic sexual union between husband and wife (see Song of Solomon and Prov 5:15-23). If a pre-marital relationship is being conducted biblically, the temptations to sexual intimacy are going to be strong. At all costs, the attitude of a Joseph (Gen 39) needs to be desperately maintained in order to avoid places and circumstances etc that will tempt beyond the point of no-return. How does a long-term, uncommitted, unprincipled dating relationship or pseudo-courtship accomplish this?
- The Gospel
- A nutshell verse which describes the exceedingly great power that God has to mould a pre-marital relationship is Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The rest of Romans (ch 1-16) describes this inexpressible power available through Jesus Christ, and its effects. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our LORD! “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
So the pre-marital relationship must only be commenced:
- When the time is right to be exposed to the temptations that naturally accompany that kind of relationship.
- When the time is right to wage war with the demonic powers in a new arena.
- When the time is right to start a relationship which is not conformed to the pattern of the world.
“The grace of God will not keep you where the will of God does not send you.” –Conrad Mbewe.