Covenant Courtship (8) With a View to Marriage

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph 5:31-32).

The covenant God who establishes the institution of marriage purposed it to be a reflection of the marriage between Christ and the church. As he binds two believers with body and soul in the union of marriage, he testifies to them of the unbreakable bond that he shares with them. His covenant with his people is unbreakable because he maintains it. He has given his only begotten Son as proof of his sovereign power and love for his church. He is her husband, a covenant friend who establishes, maintains and perfects her salvation in the cross of Christ.

As discussed in the early chapters, covenant courtship is to be approached with all seriousness because it is the necessary platform to marriage. It is oftentimes tempting to enter into relationships rashly with somebody we fancy. God made us as emotional beings with the desire to love and to be loved. Our emotions are powerful sources of energy that affect our thinking and actions. Courtship is a time where strong feelings and emotions are very active. Covenant young people risk bearing emotional scars and painful experiences when they treat courtship lightly. Without understanding the responsibilities and implications of courtship, those who rush into it do so to their hurt.

In truth covenant courtship prepares a couple to leave their parents and cleave to each other as one flesh. As they grow in an intimate knowledge and love for each other, they must prepare themselves for a lifelong commitment. God ordained marriage to cure man of his loneliness. He gave man a woman to make him complete. For this reason God demands an inseparable union between husband and wife throughout their lifetime.

The form for marriage insists that each spouse “faithfully assist the other in all things that belong to this life and a better”. Courtship demands responsibility. It demands faithfulness to care exclusively for each other’s needs as brother and sister in Christ. It is a constant giving of oneself for the other’s benefit as Christ gave himself for the church. A man of God promises, according to the form for marriage, “never to forsake her, to love her faithfully, to maintain her, as a faithful and pious husband is bound to do to his lawful wife.”

As covenant couples commit themselves to a lifelong bond, they must be profoundly aware of all the dangers that threaten this commitment. These dangers sometimes appear in the form of false doctrines that creep into the church. False doctrines have their source in the devil whose interest is to defile the institution of marriage and to hurt the cause of God’s covenant in this world. It is deeply grievous that even in Reformed circles there are churches who deny the lifelong permanency of the marriage bond. They falsely assert that the Scriptures allow divorce to destroy the marriage bond. This is nothing more than a sinful convenience out of a broken marriage. This evil doctrine cheapens the grace of God that always sustains a covenant couple’s relationship through all its ups and downs.

Another danger that threatens a couple’s lifelong commitment is the sinful tendency to take each other for granted. How often we fail to appreciate the friendships we have around us. It is all the more saddening that in marriage, the best of friends can fail to love and appreciate each other adequately. They are constantly arguing and picking on each other’s faults, refusing to surrender to each other as God calls them to. The lack of God’s love in their relationship becomes increasingly apparent.

A couple who is truly committed to the God-ordained institution of marriage will understand that God is the One who binds them in true love and faithfulness. Marriage counselor Dr. Ed Wheat writes accurately that “it is God’s will in every marriage that the couple love each other with an absorbing spiritual, emotional and physical attraction that continues to grow throughout their lifetime together”. It is nothing less than amazing that an old couple, having been together for so many years, can still find so much to be attracted to in each other. I think of Prof. and Mrs. Hanko, whose loving and godly marriage ought to be an example for our young people to follow.

A covenant couple prizes the grace of God because they know that without it, their relationship will give way to the dangers that threaten it. We need his grace to prepare for marriage. More so when we enter into marriage and live in it. Marriage implies faithfulness. Only a God who is faithful can enable his children to be faithful to each other. May the Lord help us to be faithful in our courtships and marriages.