Godliness in Courtship
As God establishes His covenant friendship with His elect in Christ, He draws them closer to Himself in a spiritual bond of love. His love attracts and compels them to union with Him. He teaches them in His ways so that they know how to obey and love Him rightly. His Word instructs while His Spirit guides them along life’s journey. Covenant friendship with God is thus a perpetual process of uniting one’s heart, soul and mind to God until it reaches eternal perfection in glory.
Covenant courtship presents a time of growing in godliness. As two are better than one, so a good covenant partner spurs the other on to closeness with God. When God brings two believers together, they may be at different levels of spiritual maturity and thinking. God in His wisdom does this to the end that they may grow spiritually together. As a covenant couple become united in their affections for each other, they must provoke each other’s affections for God. This provocation must be active in covenant courtship if it is to be God-centered. Christ must be displayed in their own words and actions so that the other is edified and motivated in his love for God.
All too often, young people are concerned only about having fun and excitement in their courtship. Their dates are nothing more than frivolous activities and worldly amusement. Their conversations revolve around the affairs of this world more than spiritual matters. They prefer the movies, sports and all kinds of worldly entertainment to studying the Word and having discussions of spiritual worth together. Little time or effort is given to delight in the things of God, His Word, their spiritual health and the affairs of the church. The couple set their affections on things on this earth rather than those of heaven. Covenant courtship ought not to be so.
In a covenant relationship, a couple’s true happiness lies in their similar delight in the things of God. They are excited to understand each other’s unique spiritual struggles and are deeply concerned about each other’s spiritual welfare. Together they combat the lusts of the eyes and the lusts of the flesh, and battle against the pride of life by humbling themselves before God. Together they fight the good fight of faith, being convicted that they are in this world but not of it.
They are a help-meet to develop each other’s spiritual character, so that the one spurs the other to grow in the fruits of the Spirit. It is an amazing truth that godly relationships are a process in which we grow in a deeper knowledge of our sinfulness and our need for Christ. Such conviction causes a covenant couple to desire godliness in their relationship. In all of their conversation, conduct and activities, they strive to please Him who calls them into an intimate covenant friendship. As they mature as believers in Christ, so will their relationship be an increasingly powerful testimony of God’s love for them.
Godliness in courtship enables a couple to overcome all the troubles and differences that hinder their unity. This is because godliness implies love for God and the will to do all that He pleases. This is a love that provokes them to give Him their very best because it understands that God has given everything good. Sometimes the differences between a couple can be very significant and complicated. This is especially true because both individuals have been raised differently in their unique families. Although a couple, they still retain their individual mind and will. Sometimes differences of a spiritual nature arise and cause more complicated problems in the relationship. But when a couple’s relationship is controlled by such a love for God, they will be able to love each other sacrificially and resolve their differences. They will, as Charles Spurgeon wrote, be able to “yield in all things; but be firm where truth and holiness are concerned”.
Attaining growth in godliness requires diligent effort in covenant courtship. It requires a habitual study of the Word and prayer together as a couple. As a couple grows in their knowledge of God’s truth, they will be able to experience the immense joy of oneness in Christ. As God fellowships with a covenant couple, they realise that the chief purpose of their relationship is to glorify and to enjoy Him. Such is the blessedness of a godly courtship.
The Head of the Woman
“The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man”. 1 Cor 11:3
In the miracle of God’s work of salvation, He promises to save families and their generations after them. As He establishes His covenant with a man and a woman in marriage, He establishes a system in which husband and wife are to live in their state of marriage. To the man, He instructs to rule over his wife in love and to lead the home in the fear of Jehovah. To the woman, He instructs to submit to her husband, obey him and guide the household. When husband and wife faithfully submit to their covenant callings, they see a beautifully harmonized system through which God saves them and their families.
The world hates this system of harmony between husband and wife because it hates God. It rebels against Him by rejecting this order that God places in marriage and in the church. The wicked world does this by promoting feminism and all sorts of notions that insist women have equal standing with men. One can see this wicked phenomenon in apostate churches today which allow women into office. They usurp the authority that God gives to men, who alone are called to rule the church and their homes in obedience to Him.
The idea of a young man ruling over his girlfriend may not be so apparent in the early stages of their courtship when they are only getting to know each other better. Nevertheless, as they become more committed to each other in their courtship, a young man must prepare himself to lead and to rule over her as they prepare to be united in marriage. The responsibilities of being the head of the woman are not small because his headship is a reflection of Christ’s Headship over the Church. His rule over her must therefore be a faithful testimony to this truth.
Covenant courtship is a process in which a young man grows in an intimate knowledge of his girlfriend. It is striking how married couples can fail to meet each other’s expectations simply because they do not know each other sufficiently well. The common, frustrated expression from married individuals seems to be, “You just don’t know me well enough!” Emotional and spiritual closeness begins with knowledge. The Scriptures aptly instruct husbands to dwell with their wives according to knowledge (1 Pet 3:7). This has important implications for covenant courtship. It teaches the young man that he must strive to know his girlfriend as much as possible so that he knows how to lead her in a way that is glorifying to God. Knowing her unique individuality, character, mindset, personality, lifestyle, temperament, habits, preferences and dislikes are essential. Christ the Bridegroom knows His bride with a perfect knowledge. That is why He can lead her in the perfect way. Godly young men reflect this beautiful truth when they diligently seek to grow in a deeper knowledge of their girlfriends to rule over them with the rule of Christ.
The process of courtship also prepares a young man to love his girlfriend adequately because of the knowledge of Christ’s love for him. As he understands the truth that Christ condescended to save His people by the way of the cross, so the young man gives himself selflessly in love for his girlfriend. Quarrels and bickering are not uncommon in any relationship, but a godly young man covers himself with the cloak of humility and adorns himself with the wisdom of Christ to resolve those differences. He learns to love her in biblical ways that will meet her expectations.
He dwells with her as the weaker vessel, seeking her welfare and caring for her needs. The Scriptures are clear that God made the woman to be the weaker sex. This is especially true from a physical and emotional viewpoint. For this reason, God so ordained the man to make up for these weaknesses by ruling over her. Together, man and woman complement and make each other complete. A man of God understands and appreciates these weaknesses, and does not criticise them harshly. He bears patiently with his help-meet despite her weaknesses, knowing that God loves him in spite of his sinfulness.
The rule of Christ renders honour unto His Bride. He honours her because she is His prized possession, chosen in all eternity to be His. For her He bled and died to redeem from corruption. As His body, He cherishes and nurtures her until the final day of their consummation. So too, a godly young man must honour his girlfriend as his help-meet. He honours her by praising her qualities, appreciating her uniqueness and defending her from all criticism, harm and danger.
As the head of the woman, it is above all else necessary for the young man to be responsible for his girlfriend’s spiritual well-being. Her spiritual welfare is his responsibility. This means that he functions as her spiritual guide and counselor. He is responsible for creating and sustaining a spiritual and godly atmosphere in their relationship. Being entrusted as her head carries the heavy responsibility of ensuring that she is spiritually healthy. A spiritual relationship bears testimony to the truth that God is in and at the centre of it.
To rule well, a covenant young man must always be striving for spiritual excellence and desiring to develop his spiritual gifts. He must equip himself with the knowledge of God so that he can use that knowledge to lead his girlfriend in God’s covenant ways. It is extremely deplorable that the church world today is engulfed by spiritual ignorance. Our covenant young men must be men of knowledge, men who study the Word of God diligently. They must know the doctrines of the Reformed faith by heart and be skilled at dividing the Word of truth. With sound, spiritual knowledge they will then know how to lead their future spouses in covenant courtship.
At various points in a couple’s relationship, they meet with unique problems and difficulties. Only God’s Word is able to solve those problems. That is why our covenant young men and women must be thoroughly and deeply acquainted with the Word of God.
Service to God in the church should also be in the minds of young men who desire covenant courtship. God calls them to lead His church as much as He calls them to rule over their wives. The young men are the future leaders of the church. They are called to bear the offices that Christ has ordained for His Church.
True and biblical rule is always done in love for God and for the woman God places in a young man’s life. A godly young man acknowledges that he is sinful, and that his rule over his girlfriend is therefore sinful. He needs the grace and wisdom of God to execute this rule in love for God and his girlfriend. While this rule is never perfect because of our sinfulness, God nevertheless is pleased to bless a young man in the way of his faith and obedience.
Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 10