This post is a follow-on to Part 4 and Part 5 which began to outline the engines that drive, and give shape to a pre-marital relationship. It is a further examination of an aspect of marriage which should mould a courtship–namely, fidelity:
- He loved the church - not everyone – from before the foundation of the WORLD! ”…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…” (Rom 5:8). Who are “we”? Answer: ”To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (1:7). And these loved saints are those whose names have been “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” (Rev 13:8)
- He came into the world to die for and save the church – not all mankind! ”I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).
- The prayers and intercessions of Christ are only for the church - not the world! ”I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9) Also: ”…Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25) Who are the “them”? Answer: ”those who draw near to God through Him.” The church alone draws near to God. The rest are alienated and hostile in mind.
- Christ sent the Spirit to the church – not the world! ”And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” (Luke 24:49). The “you” is explained by Paul in Rom 4:16, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” So the promise (i.e. of the Spirit) is sent to all Abraham’s offspring – i.e. the children of promise, those who exercise faith.
See how glorious the connection is then with marriage! The husband has a high and deep and rich calling to imitate Christ: as Christ has a special and supreme and exclusive love for the church, so the husband is to have a special and supreme and exclusive love for his wife. This love is for nobody else. Yes, of course the husband is to love all men and especially the church (1 Cor 13), but there is a unique way in which a husband needs to “nourish and cherish” his wife and “give himself up for her” in a way in which he cannot and must not do for anyone else. A man whose desires are being moulded by the Word desires to be and do these things.
Conversely, a godly woman whose desires are being moulded by the Word, desires to be “nourished and cherished” and loved with this sacrificial love by her husband alone (not any other man). She desires to love her own husband and to submit to him alone “in everything”. She desires to sit in the shade of one man and one man alone: her husband.
The application is this: a godly man can only give shade to one woman: his wife. Therefore, in order to treat the “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim 5:2), he needs to make sure that he not only treats them with sexual purity, but also emotional and spiritual purity. Women were made with an innate desire to be led and to sit in the shade of a man. How can a man then treat a woman with integrity if he is giving her something which ought to be reserved for marriage? How can a man treat a woman with integrity if he is giving her something when marriage is not even a consideration for 3 or 4 years to come? He cannot and must not give her the degree of emotional support or spiritual guidance and authority that a husband alone should provide. That’s probably the main reason why the Holy Spirit in infinite wisdom instructed the “older women (not men) … to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” (2 Tim 2:3-4).
By the same token, because a courtship is a relationship which is meant to provide an environment in which marriage can be seriously investigated from the beginning, it should have the level of committment, seriousness, love and selflessness which starts resembling the supreme fidelity of marriage. As marriage is a relationship of supreme fidelity, so the pre-marital relationship should be a relationship of great fidelity (not supreme fidelity–because they are not “one flesh” yet. She/he can still end the relationship). Otherwise, it’s just one big emotional game and roller-coaster ride.