“As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.”
“If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.”
The texts quoted above, as well as others that we consider in this article, form the Scriptural basis for our activity of dating. The question concerning dating came up during the past year in one of the letters that I received for my articles in the Beacon Lights.However, due to circumstances I did not answer this particular question before. I believe that the topic is worthy of an article in our Standard Bearer. Thus, this article.
The question or topic for this article arises out of the fact that there is a growing tendency for covenant youth of our churches to date young people from outside the sphere of our own denomination, and even outside the sphere of faith altogether. Further, this is sometimes done with very little concern for the spiritual things of God’s kingdom—and sometimes with the idea that it does not really make so much difference to which church one belongs as long as I believe. This attitude has caused parents and friends of those so dating to be filled with concern for their very spiritual welfare. And this too for good reason. Certainly this is the implication of the texts quoted above.
We will entertain our topic by turning to the Scripture for guidance and directives concerning this important aspect of our life as strangers and pilgrims in the midst of this world.
“Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee. Selah” (Psalm 84:4).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. . . . To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:3-6).
It is evident from these texts that here we have our starting point. As children of God, we believe that the purpose of our being is for the praise of God and His grace. Unto this end we were chosen in Christ; unto this end have we been predestined unto the adoption of children; unto this end have we been redeemed by the blood of Christ; unto this end are we called by Christ’s Word and Spirit. It is God’s good pleasure that we glorify Him. And further, it is exactly as we dwell in His house, and glorify Him that we are counted blessed. This means in all of our life, and it is certainly true also of our dating.
And all of life, all relationships in life, all activity in the lives of God’s children must reflect this blessed purpose. However, because we still dwell in a flesh that opposes this purpose it is needful that we hear Christ as He calls us unto faithfulness to this end. Also this when as covenant youth we go about our dating.
Jesus exhorts us, “as the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love” (John 15:9). The Scripture ever calls us to continue in the love of Christ, to serve God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This is the high calling of our God.
By nature we will not keep this word, nor respond to it. Nor is it so that we must continue in Jesus’ love in order to be saved. For then salvation would be impossible. But we who are Christ’s are saved, and our calling is to serve God in the strength of His grace. Thus we hear God’s Word speak: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And further, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (I John 4:10-11).
The fruit of God’s love is that He has sent His Son to cleanse His elect from sin, and by His Spirit to break the bondage of sin in us. He dwells by His Spirit and word in us on the basis of that redeeming work. The fruit of which, further, is that God’s covenant children love God and one another in the Lord.
Hence, as children of God, in principle we continue in the love of Christ also in our relationships of dating. For this reason also the covenant youth will have ears for the word of Christ; and because our natural inclination is to darkness, we must be instructed of our Lord, “If you keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love.” To abide in Christ’s commandments is to live in conscious harmony with His Word. And Jesus tells us to seek “first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). This must be true of us also in our dating, if we are to be blessed in this aspect of our life. When we put our faith before all else, and by grace are guided by the Word, indeed shall our dating also be well pleasing unto our covenant God.
The question for our covenant youth then is, Does my dating stand in the service of the glorying of God’s name, and in the continuing in the love of Christ? This question was not found to be significant to many in the days of Noah. We read: “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. . . . And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart” (Gen. 6:2-6).
From the above texts we are instructed negatively—that is, from the point of view of dating and marriage that are an abomination before the Lord. From such we should flee, and if so walking, repent and turn from these ways. For that which determined the choice of life’s partner was all wrong. In the first place, in the days of Noah, they looked upon their future prospects for marriage on the basis that they were “fair.” There was an attention given only to the outward appearances. They looked upon their future spouses and to dating only from the view of that which would satisfy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And in that light the worldly had much to offer. For they were not concerned with the type of clothes they wore or the lack of them! They had no scruples nor concerns for how they obtained their money of things. Of course, if this becomes our criterion for dating, then the worldly have all the advantages in displaying their wares. For they set their goals upon earthly splendor, and stand in enmity to God and His Word. They looked for the “fair” and thus sought the antithesis of what the child of God should look for in seeking his fellowship and spouse. This may not be the basis for our dating, covenant youth.
This brings us to a second aspect of the sin found within the church in the days of Noah. This same sin is often, all too often, being manifest in our day also by those within the church. It is the sin of saying we will do what we choose. We know what is best for us. We can do what we choose and still be blessed. In the days of Noah it is said “and they took them wives of all them which they chose.” In effect they said, “I have the right to choose what is pleasing to me.” They did not seek to know the Lord’s will concerning the seeking of a godly wife or husband. It did not matter to them that God directs His people to have no fellowship with darkness. The love of God was not the motivation of their seeking a spouse, or the basis for their fellowship in dating.
But rather the philosophy that I am the sole determiner of my own destiny guided their dating and selection of spouses. They did not go to their parents for advice. They said, “I am old enough to find my own way.” They would not listen to the Word as proclaimed. Their desires, their natural likes and dislikes and preferences ruled the day. And the calling of God, “be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy,” was considered unimportant.
The fruit of such indiscriminate and self-centered dating and marrying is to incur the great displeasure and wrath of the living God. That is evident in the text we quoted above. May God give us grace to flee this abominable reasoning and philosophy.
Rather, the principle ,that underlined the marriage of Isaac ought to be our guide in our dating and marrying. Isaac’s wife was not taken from among the unbelievers, but from one of like faith. This was the important matter, the only important ground for his marriage. This is evident from the word of Abraham to his servant as he sent the servant to. take a wife for Isaac: “I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (Gen. 24:3-4).
Isaac as a believing son also desired this, as is evident from the fact that he waited for the return of the servant with the woman who would be given him of God. He awaited the wife who as one in faith, would be the godly mother of the covenant seed. In this connection we read: “And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Gen. 24:66-67). For being joined together in the Lord, Isaac was indeed comforted. Rebekah was a believing, covenant helpmeet. Now, while our tradition is not that our father finds us our wife or husband, nevertheless the same principles apply—we make spiritual virtues the determining factor in our dating and marrying. Indeed, then too we shall be comforted.
So in faith we ought to date and to seek husbands or wives that are one in faith. This is just as important in the new dispensation as it was in the old, for God’s Word still comes to us: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (II Cor. 6:14-15).
This means that also in our marrying we may not marry those not one in faith with us. And because our dating ought to be a servant of marriage, it also should be very antithetically conducted. Especially is this true because of the fact that dating is to engage in fellowship and communion. Doing this as God gives us strength we shall surely be blessed. And in this light he who finds a wife (or husband) finds a good thing.
This also means that in our dating we have the calling of Christ to discern the spirit. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God,” says our Lord through the apostle (Cf. I John 4:1ff .). The confession spoken of in this passage of Scripture is not general, but very particular. The confession of the believer is the confession of the Christ of, the Scripture, and in the sovereign God of our salvation in every sense. When united by true confession, most blessed shall be our dating and marriages. For our God promises us that in Christ we shall enjoy the covenant fellowship of our God and have true joy together until death us do part.
Practically these principles mean, in the first place, that we should seek our dates from the midst of God’s children. This means we should look first to our own congregation, and secondly to our denomination where the truth is by the grace of God maintained and upheld from the pulpits and in the congregations. This is one distinct advantage of our Young People’s Conventions each year. In the second place, when the Lord leads you into an encounter with one outside of our churches, immediately you must begin the establishment of a spiritual basis for the dating. If this is impossible, then we cease to carry such a relationship even a step further. In other words we ought with much care to entertain activity of dating outside of the sphere of our own faith, which we know to be the Scriptural faith. However, we do know from the Scripture there are occasions when the Lord may lead one from unbelief to the faith who has been raised outside of the covenant line. Ruth is an example from Scripture. She became a mother of Christ. However, Boaz knew and was assured by the knowledge that Ruth had been led by God to the truth faith, that she was one in the faith with him. He then, after being made aware of her faith, was able seriously to consider Ruth a proper prospect for marriage. The whole history as recorded in the book of Ruth makes this plain. The Lord certainly also blessed this union.
The question may be at this point, how do we know that the one we are dating has that faith? Or that he or she is a child of God. In the first place, it is evident from the Word of God which we have quoted in this article, that if there is no evidence of faith, then we have no right to continue dating such a one. In the second place, then, it is evident that we must work at determining whether we are able to be one in faith. This means, covenant youth, that your first dates are given over to a large extent to making this determination. The way to do this is to talk much of the meaning of the faith God has given to you, to speak of its absolute importance in your life, and why it is necessary even in your dating that faith in the Scriptures be the foundation of your relationship. Further, that in order to continue dating there must be evidence that this be important to the one that you date. Practically, this means you invite him to church, you go to catechism together, or to Bible Study Society together. Further, if the one you are dating comes from outside your denomination, encourage the one you are dating to visit your pastor with you for instruction, etc.
Do the above before you get involved emotionally. This means that these things of the kingdom of your God are placed strictly first. I can hear you say to me, but Rev. Moore, if I do this I will never have a steady boy or girlfriend. Even if that were the case, I can answer, then so be it. Jesus says, “continue ye in My love.” Furthermore Jesus even says: “He that loveth father or mother more than, Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). However, while it is true that many of your dates, when confronted by your faith, may beat a hasty retreat, nevertheless God does not forsake His covenant children. He will lead you to a God-fearing mate. And He will richly bless you as you are united in the Lord. It is a blessing beyond our greatest expectation, to be so married in the Lord.
And while we are weak, and have not the strength in ourselves so to live as covenant youth in our dating, God will give to His own grace abundant so to seek a godly mate. He will sustain you and will guide you and bless you. For God knows you in Christ, and in Fatherly care He will keep you as His covenant child as you continue in the love of Christ, seeking first and only His kingdom and its righteousness. Beloved youth, by the grace of God so live as God’s covenant seed.