Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
The man and maid who have been led to one another covenantally, in the context of family and church, and hitherto trusting the guiding hand of God, can know for sure very simply if they are meant to be married. This is the ninth thesis of covenant marrying (cf. the April 1, 2003 issue of the Standard Bearer).
These two can have such certainty because their way toward marriage together has been principled. The couple has been graced to follow God’s way of covenant marrying as revealed in Holy Writ. They have kept themselves, and their parents have kept them, from the wiles, the passions, and the pitfalls of the Dating Thing. Their wonderful way together has been the way of Christ and His beloved church.
One thing remains to be done. There needs to be confirmation of faith. The couple at this point are confident. They do not doubt the good thing God has done in their lives to lead them together thus far. They would only now confirm their faith that God would have them married.
Basic to this “confirmation process” is the couple’s reflection together on how God has led them thus far according to the truth of His covenant. Abraham’s servant was given divine leading, and then a sign that Rebekah was the one for Isaac. He then, before Laban and Rebekah, related this leading of God, and they all were confirmed, in the telling of it, in God’s will for Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 24). Joseph, betrothed to Mary, was told not to put away Mary, but confirmed by the angel of the Lord in his original intention to marry her.
We need neither signs nor angels. We have the Word of God. That Word directs the way of the covenant man and maid. According to the faith which comes by hearing that Word, the way proceeds, and men and maids proceed, along that way. And the godly couple then will remember that Word, and that Way, and be directed in their conversation and activity with Truth and the faithfulness of God in mind and heart.
This cannot, seems to me, be stressed enough. The godly couple will be confirmed in their faith that God has led them together by continually reflecting, now together, upon God’s covenant and promises, and upon how God’s hand has led them hitherto. They will be focusing still and ever on God! They will in prayer and conversation express their thanks to God. They will show their commitment to yield to God’s will. They will be, be-lievingly, not looking around anymore, but humbly receiving this one, as from the hand of God. Their time together will be this simple and joyful verifying of what they have been led, clearly, to believe all along in the covenant, familial preparation for marrying. They believe that their heavenly Father is blessing their way, His way.
This believing couple continues to talk of other and many things in that light of the Word of their covenanting and covenant God. They talk to each other of God, and Christ, and salvation, and their views of marriage—views known already as believers who know each other in Christ, but now heard from the horses’ mouths, as it were, and in the pursuit, together, of marriage with each other. They also talk of hunting, the weather, Iraq, terrorism, work, card playing, Sabbath keeping, money, children, the woman’s place, and the man’s responsibilities. Yes, they talk, and talk, and listen and listen, confirming with their mouths and by their hearing the will of their Father. Their talk, a prayer. Their time, a song. Their communion, the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. Their way, the way of God’s man with maid. Who can know it? They can!
They can also go bowling, of course. And this, in order to be assured of what they have believed all along, and now that they are thinking of a life of bowling together!, that indeed this man’s theology reaches down to his bowling shoes (and his attitudes towards his or her scores!). Bowling, O.K. And they should do other things too….
But all of this—this talking, these activities, should be in a family and/or church setting, and with parental supervision. It will not be alone. Nor will it be in a group that just has to be without parents at the convention when the lights are out and curfew is on, or at the campfire when the moon is out, and the love songs are on. A godly couple will not balk at this, the parenting of their way, but they will be glad for this. Little will be, and little needs be, the time alone, or at least altogether alone. Certainly unnecessary are nights out till the wee hours of the morning, spring breaks together with a bunch of friends sans mom and dad, and having to see her, all by herself (or even with her parents, for that matter!), in her summer loin cloth (aka bikini). Covenant is family. Covenant goes from family to family. It recognizes no independent, isolated duo which craves for time alone and needs it to figure out God’s will. The great secrets of daters and Dating separate friends (e.g., especially children and their parents); the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him—to them, together as family!, He will show His covenant (Ps. 25:14). In all things, also in our marrying, we must focus on Jehovah’s friendship-secrets. And these, who would want to hide?
To be sure, the man and woman are not marrying a family, but only into one. And, therefore, “space” and “time” ought to be granted for the two to talk in relative privacy. But highly dubious is what more a single man with maid who are altogether and repeatedly alone can and will find out about one another with a view to marriage than if they are supervised and even chaperoned by parents. Highly tempting is it, as well, when on your own and going nowhere fast, to dream up a silly and even dangerous conversation, or to want to know more about a person than one needs, or can know, before one is married to that person. Besides, a couple’s trying to “get to know” one another independent of parental supervision is a great, no a GREAT threat to emotional and physical chastity.
Which leads me to this: biblical marrying knows of no “romantic” touching of a single godly man with a maid. This is the reading of I Corinthians 7:1, or I am blind. “Pecking” (and then some, always then some!) goodnight at the door, playing around in the car or in the basement or behind the barn (and parents letting them), is not good. It is not just a bad idea; it is not good. It is sin. It is sin for what it is. It is sin for what it leads to. It is sin because such touching is meant for the sanctified love-relationship of marriage. Romantic touching (let us define it this way: all kissing of a man and a woman other than the “holy kiss” of believers, which kiss is not just for one “special” person, but for all in the body of Christ (II Cor. 13:12); all touching which is more sensually suggestive and stimulating than the extension of the right hand of fellowship, or the embrace of those who are grieving or rejoicing in the Lord together…) is the prelude to Solomon’s Song. That Song, you recall, is for two lovers who belong to each other (Song of Solomon 6:3a), and who not only kiss, but who feed between the lilies (Song of Solomon 6:3b). It is the Song, as well, which invariably and inexorably moves along from adagio to allegro (Song of Solomon 8:14). May married folk sing that Song, and often! May those who are not, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and no other.
Romantic touching is not meant for the pleasure of two who have no intentions of marrying. Nor is it meant to further the commitment of two who are on the way to marriage, or even engaged to be married. Such touching, in fact, is always the way of miserable emotional confusion, carnal lust, and unholy defilement and conception (cf. Heb. 13:4; James 1:13-15). Only “not touching,” and therefore not drawing lines as to how far one will go! is what God says is “good”—for God’s glory, for a person’s purity, and for the honor of marriage. To fornicate, step by step, down down down we go, a man will peck and pet and pervert hismaid, and the maid will let him. To avoid fornication let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband (I Cor. 7:2)! To flee fornication (I Cor. 6:18) and youthful lusts (II Tim. 2:22), and to abstain from all appearance of evil (I Thess. 5:22), and for positively godly confirmation of God’s will, couples must keep their hands at their sides, their feet on the floor, minds on the Word, parents close by.
Finally this: believing marrying does not drag its feet— either prior to engagement or afterwards. In the biblical way of a man with a maid, so much of the ascertaining of God’s will for a mate is done before there is the coupling of a man with a maid. And then, when the godly covenanting couple is seeking to confirm God’s will, the conversations, the activities, the time together in family and church settings — is all full of faith and singular of purpose! In this way the will of God is surely known, and in good time! In the time of love Rebekah would not wait ten days! Isaac was waiting! Trusting God, we will be as wise and deliberate as we ought, and as delightfully quick as we can … to covenant!
Explanation: It is understood that what I have outlined and presented as the “covenant way” of a man with a maid is ideal. I believe it is real. But nevertheless it is the covenant high-way, the way of Christ for sacred marrying. It is impossible with men. It is only possible with God. Just like salvation. And blessedness. And marriage (Matt. 19:11).
Many in God’s church cannot even begin, I realize, to proceed strictly and literally to marry along this way. Many, for example, have no believing fathers or homes. And even Christian fathers are sinful—so terribly much so that children are loath to trust them. But godly fatherhood, as I have set forth, is the key for biblical marrying! Others, even of the Grace Life readers, may be in the middle of a relationship which has not at all proceeded covenantally, that is, biblically, and are thinking there is and can be no turning back and/or significant alteration of their “dating” without having to bear great and impossible pain. And others are crying bitter tears. They “dated” for fun. Things got “funnier.” And now they know why their marriage is seriously hurting, their spiritual life together, a mirage, and their children gone astray….
Well, you know the first thing we should remind ourselves of is that God knows. He knows the hurt that might have been done by godless Dating. He will give grace and the strength of faith even for you to stop Dating dead in her tracks, and to pursue a more righteous Way. He will provide, as well, I believe, a “surrogate” father (maybe even a Pastor!) and home to all those from unbelieving homes who desire to marry honorably. God, after all, is our first Father! He will provide a church to support, and good Christian “connections” with churches where families can pursue families, friends, and mates. He will surely provide—for all our needs, to take care of all the “exceptions,” and the particular circumstances in which He has placed us, and to mop up, forgive, and forget (so gracefully and graciously!) the messes we have made! Let us trust Him, as we walk now, and covenant now, by the light of the Word!
Explanation: Covenant marrying is true freedom for the men with maidens fair. We must reflect on that. Though it be not natural, though it go against the grain of an ungodly culture, though it require godly discipline and sacrifice, the good way of covenant marrying is the life in the Spirit, and according to the Truth which sets us free. It is also for family peace. It is the way of honor and holiness. It is for church. It is for lifelong, lovely marriage. It makes for good men, faithful husbands, and noble, righteous, loving, and caring fathers. It is for true godliness in our young people, and for their timely confession of their faith, and marrying by faith. It is so the strong godly man wins. It is so the beautiful godly woman is prized. These blessings, these prizes, are, by the grace of God, for all who marry and give in marriage covenantally in the covenant of grace!
But best of all, such godly covenant marrying is for the picture we who will be married are here by grace and through faith to paint. It is the picture of God the Father, sending God the Son, in the communion of the Holy Ghost, pursuing a church chosen to everlasting life. It is the picture of the Bride prepared for her Groom by her Father to receive that Groom. It is the Son and the church communing with one another in blessed anticipation of the wedding day, the consummation, and the glory they will share together. The way of the godly man with the graceful maid. It is the way of Christ.
Explanation: So here ends (methinks) what I have to say to you Grace Life readers about a certain ugly Thing, and an altogether lovely Way. The ugly Thing should be… drowned. The lovely Way should be followed. Grace Life requires it, and desires it. God’s glory is bound up in it. At the cliff, and at the cross, and on the solid Rock I stand. And I would hope many would count it their privilege and pleasure to stand together in these matters.
That’s it—let us live Grace Life together in our marrying, and in the marrying of our children! No doubt, there will be, and ought to be variations among us, differences of application. Acknowledged is that there are different kinds of fathers, gifted mothers, and “special needs” children and young people, special situations also of isolated and/or tiny churches (Lacombe, do you hear me?!). And some single men or women are forty-nine, or seventy…. But midst the many variations there will be in our marrying, and in the marrying of our children, let these be variations on a theme, even on the theme of the covenant of grace with us and our children. Then the way of our men with maids will be our way together, and in faith-harmony, not cacophony. Then in our way of men and maids we shall be singing together beautifully, the covenant song.
Much more could be said of the biblical way of men with maids, and much more has been said by others (anyone desiring some good reading on this subject, just ask!). Appreciated the many responses I have received expressing appreciation for these articles, and also the ones which have been critical. We learn, are encouraged, or humbled, all of us together, one family, for family.
Now then, who shall go forward, along God’s way, of marrying? Where are those fathers who will take this seriously, covenantally, fearing God, and fearing lest they be the cause of the compromise of the covenant in their family? Where are the men who will be the King’s men, and the daughters who will be wise virgins? For you all, no, for one of you, I have a son. When he’s ready, and I know it. And a daughter. When I’m ready, and she knows it….
Looking forward, I am, to learning many more things together with you, through these pages, and from your thoughtful comments, and from God’s Word. For Grace Life then, let us press on!