Intimacy in a Courting Relationship

Is your relationship with the one whom you are courting carrying you away or towards your covenant God? Are your hearts pushing forward into the open seas of a godly life? This article will focus on how we should be intimate with the person whom we are courting. First, we will focus on the heart because out of it flows every aspect of our relationships. Second, we will examine the great snare that has destroyed true intimacy with those we are courting – sinful intimacy. Last, we shall examine the true intimacy that follows out of the new heart that God has given us.

In this article, we must be very honest and acknowledge that in the relationship there are always two principles inside of us. They are diametrically opposed to each other. The one desires Jesus Christ while the other desires sin. The new man desires Christ to be at the heart of every thought, deed and word in the courting relationship. The old man desires only sin and deception in the relationship. Therefore, we must not be surprised at the real threat of lust when courting. Although we badly wish to impress our partner, we must be downright honest. Our hearts desire Jesus Christ alone, but our depraved old man desires lust and pride. Discussing our temptation to sin and how to battle against it is important. Spiritual wisdom will guide us as to when and how to do this with our partner. “Perfect” as your partner may seem, he or she still has to daily wrestle with the old man of sin, and we must not ignore but live wisely in light of this truth.

The heart

The heart is the key issue in every relationship. It is the spiritual centre, the deepest core of man. Proverbs 4:23 reveals to us that “out of the heart proceeds all our thinking and willing, our loving and hating, and our desires and inclinations” (Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, Chapter 27, Reformed Free Publishing Association, under the section: the “seat of faith” E-book). Therefore, all decisions and emotions with respect to relationships flow out of the spiritual character of our heart. When our heart is truly, wholly, undeniably set on Jehovah, the streams of our relationship will be filled with living waters (Jn. 7:38). When our hearts are set on God, lust will is violently pushed out. When our hearts are set on God, we will humbly use the whole relationship for the glory of God and the service of His church. But when own our heart is not wholly set on God, we can expect our relationships to fall apart spiritually. May God work in us to desire Him more and more, so that every precious second we spend with our partner be in the fear of God. May every date be characterized by the mesmerisation of the loveliness of God.

Beloved, we must fight against the constant bombardment of the world that tries to define for us Christians what true and holy intimacy is in a relationship. Instagram cannot capture a Christ-centred date. What it can and does capture is the good food in a nice restaurant. Facebook cannot capture the spiritual closeness of the couple. But Facebook can and does capture how physically close the two are with a background of a beautiful location. When we are repeatedly shown the physical details of relationships, we deceive ourselves that these are what define a relationship. We forget how our relationships are to be defined in Jesus Christ alone.

Couples that press themselves to improve their courting relationship spiritually should not simply focus on modifying behaviours in the relationship. Do not start first by planning more devotions together or attending more church activities, as these should bear fruit naturally. Start first by seating together under the cross of Jesus Christ. Know your complete inability to have a godly relationship and at the same time behold the power of Christ. Ask God to work in the depths of your being to long for Him. A greater desire for Jesus Christ is central in the relationship. Pray and ask God for your heart to be fixed on Jehovah, the Alpha and the Omega, the God most High. Satan, the world, and our flesh immediately cry out: “being fixed on God in our relationship is ridiculous”. However, what is truly ridiculous in relationships is the obsession with things that are vain and unholy, ignoring the matters that are of true and weighty importance. Let the others mock your relationship as being “God-intoxicated” as the world mocked the Reformer John Calvin. Let your hearts be filled with the Word and Spirit. Set the heart of your relationship on the things above, not on things on the earth. Be fixed on God, not with each other and you will experience the sweetest date – the sweet communion with God and each other.

The snares of the heart in a relationship

One of the greatest dangers that flows from our hearts that threatens courting relationships is sexual sin. God hates sexual sins that arise from our hearts. Now that you are courting, consider what ways the sexual temptation you face will be different and similar as compared to when you were single. Sexual sins range from the inappropriate   physical   closeness   of the couple to sexual intercourse before marriage. Yet, the heart of the matter is the ensnaring temptation of lust, from which no one is spared. I met a young man once, studying to become a pastor in a conservative church. He mentioned that he enjoyed watching a fantasy show of kingdoms warring against each other. When his friend accusingly asked whether that show contained nudity, he defended himself by saying, “yes, that is true, but the girls are so ugly that I am not tempted by the sexual scenes”. Who is spared from the temptation of lust? A seminarian? A pastor? A professor of theology? You and I? Even the wise King Solomon caved in to gross sexual sins and fell into idolatry. King David, the man after God’s own heart, stole another man’s wife for his own lust and committed adultery. When I glance into my own heart I confess, “oh wretched man that I am”! Before God’s holy throne, relationships are not a game. To live in sexual purity is to seek your and your partner’s salvation. To live in sexual sin is to seek your and your partner’s damnation.

Now let us discuss some excuses our old man of sin by instigation of the devil might come up with. The young man watching “mild nudity” may think that he is not committing any sexual sin before God just because the main plot of the show is not sexuality but the drama and violence. Therefore, he tries to ease his conscience. Similarly, couples may try to reason that the main purpose of touching one another has nothing to do with intercourse. Besides, although the plan was to meet in a place where no one else is, they may claim that sexual immorality was never part of the agenda in the date. They may say, “In fact, I am strongly against intercourse! The old man of sin may go so far as to say, “Touching the one I am dating is right and glorifying before the thrice holy God!” The Scriptures, as it were, looks at us in the eye … and yells: “flee fornication for your lives!” (1 Cor. 6:18, 1 Thess. 4:3-5, 2 Tim. 2:22, Pro. 5, 6:25, Gal. 5:16, Js. 1:14-15, Col. 3:5, Job 31:1 – It may be a good idea to discuss these passages with the one you are courting. Brothers and sisters, let us not flirt with any form of sexual sin, not experiment with it, but absolutely, and categorically flee from it. For the fruit of any lust is always the grieving of the Spirit and deep anguish in one’s soul. All it took for David was a quick glance at Bathsheba from a distance and lust burned in his heart. If you are the slightest bit uncertain if your gesture will stir lust in the heart of your partner, leave it far away, be humble and tell your partner, “I am not greater than David, Solomon or Samson”. The call to flee sinful physical intimacy is a divine warning. Sexual sins are a most deadly snare of the heart.

To return to the young man that had an excuse to watch “mature” content, his answer was given with great confidence, and even a boasting of sorts. As if to say, “Come on, I am above that! I am a strong Christian; see how I can flex my Christian liberty”. The world equates violence and sexual explicitness with maturity. The label for movies with fornication is not “wicked before the eyes of God” but instead, “mature content”. It is as if the mark of maturity is the ability to flirt with sin. But how can flirting with that which is from the pits of hell demonstrate that we are spiritually strong? One thing is certain: God did not save us with the blood of Christ so that we may flirt with the lusts of the heart. Prove to your partner that God has given you spiritual wisdom, that you understand thoroughly the nature of sexual sin. Show your partner your spiritual strength by sprinting away from sexual sin. Glow as children of light if your partner as fallen into the darkness of lust. Display your understanding of true love. Loving God in your relationship means seeking holy intimacy, not the intimacy between you and your partner’s depraved old men of sin.

Unchaste physical intimacy outside the marriage always gives the illusion of closeness. In a certain sense, an unmarried Christian couple that ventures physically where they should not be will experience a kind of closeness than if they did not. That is the closeness when the old man of sin unites with another. They unite for a moment against God’s laws and therefore against God Himself. They share and assist each other in the works of the Devil. It is the closeness that Solomon experienced with his heathen wives when he worshipped their gods instead of Jehovah. It is the clossness of Ananias and Sapphira when they shared the secret of their hypocrisy, right before they were slain by the Spirit. But sinful physical closeness is spiritual distancing from the God we love. A life of sin is coldness and isolation from God. Others may buy into this illusion the couple creates. The relationship looks perfect from the outside, but what is inside, behind the closed doors, is a rotting corpse. Let us seek true closeness with our partners and repent when we have chased after sin and illusions of intimacy.

A New Heart, A real intimacy

Thankfully, we come to the realization that we cannot depend on ourselves to develop a desire to love and not lust after the one we are courting. The Spirit of God reveals to our spirit that only God can give us such a desire and save us poor sinners. Relationships are spiritually difficult with the many new responsibilities and temptations, but we must remember that the beating inside of us is not a heart of stone. It is a new heart that God has given us. The giving of this precious new heart is rooted in eternal election. He gives us a new and holy heart because He has established His unbreakable covenant of love and friendship with you and me. God swore by Himself that your heart and mine will be His own personal workmanship. True intimacy is a giving of oneself to the spiritual edification of another. True intimacy is what Jesus Christ did for us, while we were yet sinners, living a life of lust and pride. Christ gave us life for us, that we might spiritually live. While we foolishly turn again in to our sin, and committed spiritual adultery, God still maintained His unbreakable covenant with us. He chastens us, lovingly brings us to our knees in repentance, that we may once again enjoy spiritual intimacy with God. Therefore true intimacy in the relationship is when a couple seeks every way possible to show not lust but Christ’s true love to each other. This is the covanant view of a relationship. This is the secret to true intimacy which the world has no clue about. I close with this verse hoping you may reflect on it with the one you are courting – “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” (Ps. 25:14).

Written by: Josiah Tan | Issue 40

A Proper Perspective on Christian Courtship: Godliness in Courtship and The Head of the Woman

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

Christian Courtship III: Spiritual Unity & Surrendering

“God in His wisdom brings together two young people who are sufficiently alike, yet also sufficiently different, that they complement each other, forming one whole, forming a balance wheel for each other as well”. Rev. Cornelius Hanko

The covenant of God is unity. It is the unity between the perfectly righteous One and fallen, elect sinners in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a unity of extreme opposites, the reconciliation of enemies by the atoning blood of the Saviour. Precious is that blood and powerful is that work of reconciliation to transform enemies into eternal friends. Fallen man called into covenant friendship with the living God. What blessed unity!

As the covenant is unity, so covenant courtship demands unity. The God who calls His people into unity with Him likewise demands unity amongst them. The relationship between two young believers must be established on the basis of their common unity in Christ. This is important because all other basis for unity is false and can only lead to spiritual destruction in any relationship.

Spiritual unity in courtship means that a Reformed believer seeks to find a partner who is of the same mind of Christ as he is (Php 2:5). He is deeply attracted to one who shares the same spiritual mindset and convictions that he   does. Covenant courtship insists that we be “likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Php 2:2).   The common knowledge and love for God grips two believers so strongly that it is often the manner in which godly relationships begin.

Of utmost importance is to understand that spiritual unity means unity in the Word of God. A couple that is to grow in Christ must firstly be grounded in a common conviction concerning what the Word teaches. The cardinal truths of Scripture must be deeply impressed upon their souls to the extent that it is the foundation for a couple’s relationship. Since the confessions of the Reformed church are the expression of unity amongst members, they also ought to be the expression of unity in courtship. As a general rule I believe that covenant relationships must be established upon a common conviction on the 5 points of Calvinism and the Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordrecht). These are strong foundations for unity in a relationship and we may only be deeply thankful to our Reformed fathers for establishing such strong foundations for us today.

A couple who establish their relationship on strong foundations in the Word will enjoy a strong relationship. Like the wise man   who built his house upon the rock, their relationship will not be easily swayed because of its sure foundations. Consequently they will be able to prosper in godliness and service to God who unites them in the same knowledge of His Word.

When a covenant couple love each other in the LORD, they express spiritual unity. The common knowledge of their sinfulness and salvation in Christ alone provokes them to love each other in the love of God. They seek to out-please each other because they are precious in each other’s eyes. They are brothers and sisters in the household of God and fellow members of the body of Christ. Marriage counsellor Dr. Ed Wheat writes that love is always doing the very best for the object of one’s love. Covenant courtship raises this love to a higher level because love is deeply exclusive in courtship, given only to a specific person.

Being spiritually united also implies possessing the same hope for their lives together. As pilgrims on this earth they seek the blessed hope of the new heavens and the new earth together. Their affections are not set on the things in this world, whether it be their studies, careers or achievements, but are set on the things of the heavenly kingdom. Unlike the people of this world, they seek for the blessed coming of their Lord and Saviour who has prepared a place for them in glory.

Service to God in the church is another expression of a couple’s spiritual unity. When the Lord brings two individuals together in courtship, He desires their united worship and service to Him as a spiritually united couple. Together they learn to function as one in reverential worship and service to God. In their own specific place and calling in the church they serve the Lord God with a profound knowledge of their unity. As they do this they will be a tremendous source of blessing to their brethren in the church. Their loving and happy relationship is an example for other godly couples to follow because Christ is powerfully displayed in it. Such unity in courtship also serves to promote the greater unity of the church as Christ calls it to.

Finally their unity is demonstrated in the couple’s totally selfless love for each other. In heart, mind and soul they surrender to each other as God calls them to. They care for the other’s good more than their own. When they surrender to each   other their wills merge as one. This is where they experience the miracle of growing to be one flesh in the Lord. Rev. Cornelius Hanko writes that “their life is a giving to each other, even as God gives Himself to us, to the extent that He brings us into His very heart, into His fellowship, into the intimate communion of life with Him, reflecting His glory”. Bound by the same truth, love, service, hope and mutual submission, there is indeed true spiritual unity.

CERC is placed in a unique position in Singapore, where the Reformed community is relatively small in number. Our young people face the temptation of indiscriminately dating professing Christians from other denominations. We thread dangerous waters when we do this because we may be tempted to sacrifice the distinctive edges of the faith that we possess. A relationship built with Christians of other faiths is a compromise to our Reformed faith. Our faith is a biblically distinctive faith, built by our fathers with sweat and blood. The truths that they have delivered to us must be carried on with all their power and sharpness even as we engage in courtship. How else are the Reformed truths of sovereign predestination and particular grace to be passed on to our children and their generations if couples are not doctrinally united? How else is the church to grow as the pillar and ground of the truth if covenant couples are not united in faith?

May the Lord so grant that we strive for spiritual unity in our relationships to the end that they may be powerful expressions of our unity with Christ!

In the covenant of grace, God extends His friendship to sinners who are by nature totally depraved. He does so by His Spirit, accompanied by the preaching of His Word, drawing His elect people out of darkness into the marvellous light of His fellowship. And although the hearts of His people have been transformed to the image of His Son who died for them, yet while on earth they still retain their sinful natures. Throughout their entire lives the people of God struggle with their sinful natures which are at enmity against Him, crying for deliverance. In earnest expectation they seek the blessed hope of Christ’s coming where their sinful natures will be fully destroyed and transformed into perfectly glorious bodies.

As much as courtship is a time of great excitement, it is also a time of profound humility. This is because the two young believers who are brought together in the providence of God realize that they are ultimately nothing but sinners saved by grace. They understand that they still retain their distinctively sinful natures and are prone to sin against God and each other. They know that only the grace of God could have brought them together in covenant courtship and that it is the only thing that will sustain their relationship.

Sin is present in any relationship, be it in the home, with our colleagues or friends. When we approach courtship with a spiritual frame of mind, we see the motions   of sin working in the relationship. We see sin working powerfully and expressing itself in the form of pride, lust, jealousy, anger and self-centeredness amongst other sins. A covenant couple may not be guilty of all of those sins but they carry with them specific   sins according to their characters. This struggle with sin carries on not only in courtship but also in marriage and all through their lives as one flesh. The Form of Marriage at the back of the Psalter confesses accurately that “married persons are generally, by reason of sin, subject to many troubles and afflictions”.

Sin has the potential to destroy a couple’s relationship. When sins are committed in the process of courtship and are not repented of, they grieve the Spirit that unites both believers in the bond of love. This grieving draws the couple away from each other, and consequently their personal relationship with God is also affected. They are unable to enjoy God’s favour and each other’s love for a season because sin has separated them.

The tendency to sin against each other in courtship is far greater than in normal friendships because of the closeness that the couple shares. Ironic as it may be, this closeness can sometimes have a contradictory effect. On the one hand it is the cause by which a couple devote themselves to each other, care for and love each other deeply. Yet on the other hand, this closeness makes them deeply aware of each other’s flaws and sinful tendencies. This awareness may sometimes cause a couple to sin against each other wilfully or to tempt the other to sin.

A couple’s knowledge and experience of sin in their courtship must finally bring them to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. Above all things, they must acknowledge their sinfulness which provokes the holy God to wrath and anger. As they pray for forgiveness and submit themselves to Him in repentance, they     understand that they need God every moment of their relationship. God must reconcile them to Him and to each other. Only then will they experience His favour again and enjoy the blessings of His friendship with each other.

When a couple submit themselves to God, then they will be able to submit to each other. The ability to confess individual faults to each other, to seek each other’s forgiveness is evidence of the Spirit’s work in their hearts. Pride hinders us from confessing our faults, and the devil is ever quick to stroke that pride when believers sin against each other in a relationship. Sometimes the hardened heart finds it agonisingly painful to humble itself in repentance.

Nevertheless, the powerful grace of God, working in the lives of His covenant children, will break down that sinful pride, enabling the couple to surrender themselves fully to each other. As they are reunited to each other in humility they experience the peace of God which passes understanding. This peace gives them the assurance of their covenant friendship with God who alone works out all things for the good of His people.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God”. James 4:7a

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 9

A Proper Perspective on Christian Courtship: Choosing Wisely

“god-fearing men seek god-fearing wives.” -Prof. Hanko

In God’s counsel of election, He chose a specific group of people to be His own. Leaving the rest of mankind to perish in the way of their sin, God chose a group of people unto salvation in Christ. Upon them He sets His favour and love, and reveals to them His ways of eternal blessedness and happiness. These chosen ones enjoy God’s covenant friendship only because the face of Christ is ever set before them. God sees them as a group of sinners redeemed by the accursed death of His beloved Son.

Although God in eternity has determined whom we shall marry, yet in time He leaves some room in our wills to seek that person that He has prepared for us. How God does this is a deep and profound mystery. We may only respond that God in His sovereignty is able to do this, although we never know precisely how. Nevertheless, the small room that God allows in our wills makes us responsible for the decision of who to marry. It is necessary to discuss this responsibility because we are, in the final judgment, accountable before God for whom we choose to be our spouse. Our salvation, in a very great measure, is involved in this choice.

God wills the process of courtship to be the platform for marriage. Since the covenant God is so central in the life of courtship, it is desperately important that the one whom we choose to be our boy or girlfriend is the man or woman of God’s choice. Our duty is to determine God’s will for us when making this choice. His Word must instruct us and His Spirit must guide our hearts to make the right choice. Our prayers ought to echo the plea of the psalmist, “Shew me thy ways, O LORD, teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4).

Choosing a spouse is perhaps one of the greatest decisions we will make in our lifetime. Choosing a boy or girlfriend is therefore equally important since courtship is the necessary platform for marriage. All too often, young people are concerned only about the outward beauty, physical attraction, talents, charisma, wealth, social status and personality of a person. Consequently they place these things as necessary qualities for an ideal boy or girlfriend to the injury of their souls.

Covenant young people ought not to be so. They are the people of God, the citizens of the heavenly kingdom, called out of darkness into the marvellous light of God’s fellowship. For this reason they must seek the things of God in courtship. “The child of God”, says Rev. Cornelius Hanko, “is drawn to one who speaks his language in spiritual matters, who enjoys with him the things of God’s kingdom.” As a young person understands the truth that God has chosen him in Christ, so he will seek to find a spouse who, like him, is also a member of the body of Christ. He will desire a girl who by her confession and life demonstrates true membership in the Church of God.

A covenant young man is attracted to the spirituality of a girl. He is not so much concerned about the outward beauty or personality of a girl but her spiritual-mindedness. How much she loves God and values things of spiritual worth are of chief concern to him. He is concerned about these characteristics because the Scriptures dictate that they are of a great price in the sight of God. A girl who fears God and desires to grow in grace is a virtuous woman whose price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10). Rev. Steven Key writes correctly that “the fear of Jehovah is what young men must require in the young women they marry, and therefore in any women they date” (Far Above Rubies).

Such is the unique character of a godly person that it is attractive to another. This spiritual attraction is the means by which a godly young man is drawn towards a godly young woman. He finds her attractive because He sees God in her. On the other hand she is drawn to him because she knows that he is a man of God. This is the power that not only draws two young believers together but more importantly sustains their relationship. Ungodly relationships with unbelievers are destructive to the believer because God is not in them. Covenant relationships prosper because God upholds them by His almighty power, keeping and blessing them in His grace.

Scripture is emphatic in its warning against making wrong choices where it comes to relationships. God expressly warns against choosing unbelievers in relationships. The consequences for choosing unbelieving partners in courtship ought to be crystal clear to all covenant young people. There is nothing but spiritual devastation and misery to the soul that chooses an unbelieving partner.

The truth is that courtship is an important process of a covenant young person’s life because it shapes his spiritual character. In many ways, his thinking and personality are dictated by his future spouse. The bishop J.C. Ryle offers his penetrating words, “Your wife must either help your soul or harm it: there is no neutral. She will either fan the flame of religion in your heart, or throw cold water upon it, and make it burn low. She will either be wings or fetters, a rein or a spur to your Christianity, according to her character.” (Thoughts for Young Men) So we see that a young man’s relationship with God is profoundly related to the character of his partner. A girl who loves God will inevitably draw him closer to God as they engage in an intimate bond of friendship.

Such ought to be our choice when choosing partners in relationships. The man or woman whom we date must bring us closer to God in courtship. We must be able to know and enjoy God in fresh and deeper ways. We must be able to grow in the fruits of the Spirit. In a godly relationship, we grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord, increasing in our love for Him because of the new love He gives to us in our lives.

Only by godly wisdom as derived from the Holy Scriptures and habitual prayer with our covenant God may we make that right choice. This is a choice with eternal consequences upon our soul. This is a choice that will either bring to us joys of salvation or spiritual misery with the one we choose to spend our life with. In the following parts, we shall devote more time to discuss some of the specific qualities that young covenant people ought to pursue and what to be concerned about in the process of courtship.

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 8

A Proper Perspective on Christian Courtship I

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6

If Christian courtship is to be properly approached, then it demands first of all a proper definition. Our young people and their parents must know what Christian courtship involves. They must believe in their hearts the spiritual nature of a covenant relationship and seek to apply Scripture’s principles in their relationships. Only then will their relationships and marriages be strong. Only then will their families be spiritually happy ones. Only then will the Church grow in true spiritual strength and unity. Only then will the cause of God’s Covenant be established and promoted in the midst of this world.

Far too little instruction has been given on this subject. It appears that most churches, paralyzed by the ignorance of the Covenant doctrine, fail to treat courtship with its due importance. Without a biblical understanding of God’s covenant and its sacred implications, these churches flippantly allow their young people to date and marry whoever they will. All that these churches care for is that their marriage partners be professing Christians. Naturally the young people of these churches intermarry with other denominations. Some even forsake the Reformed faith to be joined in holy union with their non-Reformed spouses.

What results from this culture of intermarriage is a weakening of the Reformed faith. Those who leave the Reformed church sell the Reformed faith away. They show very little regard for the Reformed heritage that our spiritual fathers gave their sweat and blood for. Consequently the Reformed faith is lost in the lines of their generations. Their children grow up ignorant of the Reformed faith.

The Reformed Church must never be guilty of allowing her young people to fall into this deadly trap. The Reformed faith is too precious to let the devil ruin it. The Reformed Church holds with high esteem the truth that Jehovah establishes His Covenant with believers and their seed. She is deeply aware that a failure to teach her young people the covenant ways will result in destruction. To neglect the duty to impart the Reformed faith to the next generation will have far-reaching consequences.

Fearful of this threat and motivated by love for her covenant God, the Reformed church will teach her children faithfully. She will preach the truth of Jehovah’s Covenant distinctively and apply those lessons in the lives of her covenant young.

During Christian courtship, the most important thing is that the relationship between the   two individuals   has God at its centre. In His sovereign providence, God brings a young man and a young woman together. Whether they are in the same locality, church or denomination, the covenant God in His wisdom causes their individual paths to cross. It is important to know that God does this in eternity. According to His eternal counsel He has   purposed the   specific   young man and woman to meet, engage in courtship and then marry. The sovereign God does not simply leave it to the will of His children to decide by themselves whom they will marry, but leads them by His hand each step of the way. Christian courtship is, and must be, essentially covenantal in nature because God is the source of the couple’s life and journey together. This is a profound truth which deeply humbles the child of God as he considers the extensive power of God’s providence.

Christian courtship is essentially covenantal because these two individuals are friends of the living God. They delight to be intimate friends   with each   other   because they   share a common, intimate Friend.

Courtship with unbelievers is not covenantal because they are the enemies of God.

This is why the apostle sternly warns believers against being unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14-17). Only a couple who are equally yoked together will grow in true love because that love is rooted in God. God binds them in holy union as members of His covenant.

In Christian courtship, God is the Head of the couple. He governs the couple’s way of thinking, feeling and deciding on issues during the course of their relationship. He rules by leading them according to His Word and Spirit. He directs their minds to the Holy Scriptures and governs their relationship by His revealed will. A godly couple thirsts for the Spirit’s guidance and instruction. No wonder a couple that prays together stays together!

Christian   courtship prepares a young person to leave his father and mother and to cleave inseparably to his wife. It must be approached with all   seriousness   because   it must always be done with a view to marriage – a lifelong commitment. Relationships are not playthings. They involve a great degree of emotional attachment, often   leaving   painful scars when not properly handled. Far too often   these relationships end in breakups because they were not given due seriousness when they were established.

What beautifully characterizes Christian courtship is the spiritual unity   established and growing between both   believers. Together they are bound by the same faith, truth and love for each other and for the God who has first united them in His eternal love. This unity is an expression of the unity that Christ shares with His Bride, the Church. As the couple grows in their love for God, for His covenant, His truth and His kingdom, so do they grow united in their love for each other. Together they become one as this unity finally reaches its strongest manifestation in marriage.

Covenant parents play a crucial role in the way their children engage in courtship. What kind of partners their children choose is strongly dependent on the instruction given by them and the way they live with each other in the   home. Indeed Scripture insists on training up a child to prepare him for covenant courtship and marriage. Covenant instruction is the instrument that God uses to save His people and their seed.

Christian courtship may therefore be defined as an exclusive friendship between two believers, with God as their common, intimate   Friend for the purpose of marriage. So then we shall proceed in further depth what   Christian   courtship entails. May our covenant God establish our minds and teach our willful hearts His truth on this subject, so that we may humbly obey to His glory and our eternal good.

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 7

Book Review: Leaving Father and Mother

Author: Cornelius Hanko
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Paperback, 64pp

This book is an exposition on the biblical teachings of courtship and marriage and though written more than 30 years ago, is perhaps even more relevant in this day and age. In this modern era, the church is being exposed to the increasingly sinful and less conservative views on, methods of and approaches to dating and marriage. Couples date for the fun and thrill of it, without any intention of marriage. New partners are found once there is no more excitement in the old. Even marriage and its vows are taken lightly, with divorce viewed as a “backdoor” escape from marriage.

In his book, the author expounds on the many aspects of dating and marriage, instituted by God in Genesis 2:24, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. The author begins by explaining the reasons a man has to leave his parents and how it is not good for him to be alone. He then rightly points out that those who marry in the Lord are united by a spiritual bond over and above the physical and psychological bonds. Indeed, children of God will only love those that love the Lord.

This book is also immensely practical, teaching youths the “Do’s & Don’ts” of dating, including the interesting question of who should make the approach. The author further introduces 4 rules for courtship, emphasizing the need to get to know and respect each other, and warning against “hastily plunging into marriage” (p14). Using biblical principles, the author distinguishes the godly couple’s engagement and wedding from the worldly one. As with Christ and His bride, earthly engagement has binding power and should not be broken unless “we would sin against our God by carrying it out” (p28). The author touches on life during the engagement period; clearing of differences, compatibility, fears and assurances, devotions, children and sexual restraint. He also raises and supports a notion that is rather unfamiliar to us Singaporeans: that weddings be held on the Sabbath. A chapter has also been set aside to discuss the case of singles who do not marry.

In the concluding two chapters, the author explains the need for the marriage license, the marriage vow along with its implications and what it means to be “one flesh”. God is our witness when we make the marriage vows and truly man has no right to put asunder what God has joined together. Being “one flesh” is a “complete union of body, soul, and spirit” (p47) and this relationship is a picture of Christ and His Church. We can certainly be thankful to God who through Christ has restored the spiritual bond among believers that was damaged in paradise.

This short book is an easy read and strongly grounded upon Scripture’s teachings. I highly recommend the youths of the church to read it, especially those who have come of age.

Written by: Cheryl Lim | Issue 3