Convention Speech delivered at Redland, California for the1969 Y.P.’s Convention
What follows is a condensation of the speech delivered by the undersigned at the young people’s convention this past summer in Redlands. If memory serves me correctly, the speech was of approximately 45-50 minutes in length. Hence the condensing of it now.
Covenant youth, we are worried about you! By “we” I mean your parents, teachers, elders and pastors. We spend much time discussing you and your problems searching for ways to “get through to you”. We are worried not because we do not see much evidence of the grace of God in you, we do and we are thankful for that. But we worry because we see you coming to maturity in a world which is unbelievably wicked. The temptations you face are tremendous and your flesh (and ours!) is so weak. Often we yield and compromise with the world without even realizing what is happening. Of the many areas in life in which we have been influenced by the world I am only going to speak to you about one, dating and marriage.
We are worried too, because we love you so much. Believe it or not we are deeply concerned about you. We want you to be happy—in one word we simply want the best for you. And the best you can possibly have is the love and favor of God!
Out of that deep concern and love I address you tonight. My assigned subject is “Love, the Strongest Bond.” I am going to emphasize the practical side of that, applying it to dating and marriage. Some of the questions we shall attempt to answer are: What is love? What is marriage? And what is dating? Let me say, I am going to “tell it like it is,” straight from the shoulder. And what I am going to say will not be some “preacher talk” but it will be the Word of God! God’s Word, you know, bridges that generation gap the world is so fond of speaking about today. And God has a good deal to say to us in the Bible precisely on this subject.
Let’s consider first two basic principles of Love, the Strongest Bond.
The first principle of love is this: LOVE IS OF GOD! That is literally what the Bible says in I John 4:7 and 8. We find two statements in that passage about love: John says, “Love is of God” and that means God is the subject or source of love, and more profoundly Scripture says, “God is love.” Now that is a tremendously significant statement. God has many virtues in addition to love—grace, mercy, goodness, longsuffering, etc. But one never reads in the Bible that God IS these. We read that God is the God of all grace, that He is merciful or that He is longsuffering toward us, but certainly it is striking that only of love do we read God IS love.
This can only mean that love is THE CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD! Love belongs to the very essence of God’s Being, it is His cardinal virtue. To sum up this first principle we understand that God is love. The implication is clear: all love is from Him, love for one another as friends in Christ, love for boy friend or girl friend, love for parents, love in marriage—it is all the love of God.
The second principle is that love operates within the sphere of God’s Holy Law. In this connection, Col. 3:14 is crucial to our understanding of love. There we read that love is “the bond of perfectness”. That term “perfectness” refers to moral, ethical perfection, the ethical perfection of God Himself first of all. God lives a life of intimate love within the perfection of His Own Being.
Among other things, what this means very simply is this: love cannot exist or operate within the sphere of the darkness of sin. Listen to what the Bible says on this score: I John 3:14, 15, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death…and is a murderer with no eternal life abiding in him”. I Cor. 13:4 tells us love envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; all these are manifestations of pride which rises out of hatred against God. I Cor. 13:5 and 6: love “doth not behave itself unseemly” (immorally, indecently). In Rev. 16:15 we find that term “unseemly” used to refer to the shame of nakedness. Love is holy, pure as God. Love “seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked”—that’s pride again; self-seeking and anger are the evil fruits of hatred not love. Love “rejoiceth not in iniquity”, that is, love has no delight in unrighteousness, but “rejoiceth in the truth”!
All this means love exists only in the sphere of the Law of God. In His law, God lays down the standard, the criterion for what is good and pure and righteous. Love is the fulfillment of that law; it meets the standard. The entire law comes down to this: love God with all your being and the neighbor for God’s sake!
Love is not the silly, sloppy sentimentalism that the world talks about. Nor is it a mere feeling or emotion. It is the bond of perfectness, a union of intimate fellowship based on the moral perfection of God’s Law. It is found ONLY in God. It is found only in our hearts when God sheds it abroad by the Holy Spirit. Only then do we love God and one another.
This has serious implications for dating and marriage. Marriage is a beautiful picture of that love of God. From its very institution recorded in Genesis 2:18ff we understand that it is the highest relation among men. Man and woman are one in their very origin for the woman was created from the rib of man. And God said “therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and they shall be ONE flesh.” Adam recognized this clearly when, awaking from the deep sleep, he exclaimed concerning Eve, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” There is a union of being between man and wife that is absolutely unique among human relationships.
As such, marriage is a beautiful symbol in Scripture. From the Old Testament we learn that it was an earthly reflection of God’s Covenant with His people. Frequently, the Old Testament Scriptures speak of the relation between Jehovah and His people Israel as a marriage relation. Hosea 2:19 records the Word of God: “I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in judgment and in lovingkindnesses and in mercies.” We find the same idea in Ezekiel 16. The real marriage is between God and His people, the marriage of man and wife was instituted to be a picture of that. This finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The Church through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross becomes His Bride and in Christ is united in love, the bond of perfectness, to God. That is the beautiful truth of Ephesians 5, where Paul speaks of the callings of husbands and wives. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and wives are to be in subjection to their own husbands because the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church. And all this is based on the fact that Christ and the Church are united in a bond of intimate love and fellowship. The Apostle concludes: “This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”
Marriage, therefore, is a union of one man and one woman, a communion of love that reflects the Covenant established by God with His elect in Christ. In the marriage bond husband and wife live one life together in the closest communion of the love of God. That means, too, that marriage is an exclusive union which cannot be broken—no more than the union between Christ and the Church can be broken.
In that light dating takes on tremendous significance. Dating, then, is NOT an end in itself. We do not date just for the sake of dating. In other words, we do not go out merely for a good time, for fun. That does not mean we cannot have good, clean, wholesome fun, or that we cannot enjoy Christian fellowship with members of the opposite sex. We can and we should. Our conventions, outings, banquets, singspirations and other group activities serve exactly that purpose. But it does mean that a “good time” or “fun” is not the prime or sole purpose of our dating.
Nor do we date for the satisfaction of the carnal lusts of the flesh. That is precisely the world’s attitude toward dating. This is what is called by the world “the new morality.” The world, because it refuses to recognize marriage as a union in the love of God and a reflection of Christ and the Church, regards dating as an entity in itself. It’s for fun, relaxation and, quite frankly, for sexual gratification. The world at best takes a very flippant, casual attitude towards dating (and altogether too much of this pernicious notion has rubbed off on us!). Says the new morality: there are no standards. What we call moral standards are only customs with which we do not have to comply. We can have, and some go so far as to say even should have, sexual relations before marriage. As long as a young man and girl love each other and their actions do not interfere with the rights of others, pre-marital relations are condoned. So we find the advent of co-ed dorms on the university campuses.
Now we ought to call that exactly what it is! That is not morality; it is a rejection of God’s law of love which is born out of hatred against God! Nor is that “new”. It’s as old as the fall of our first parents and it became manifest very early in the history of mankind. Lamech, the seventh from Adam in the murderous line of Cain, together with his sensuous wives, Adah and Zillah, was a proponent of the “new morality”. The Bible calls it: lust, adultery, fornication, vile affections, lasciviousness, in one word S I N! It is simply a fact; one does not find true love in the world. Remember the two principles: love is from God and operates within the bounds of His Holy Law!
Dating is a prelude to marriage, real marriage, not the adulterous unions of the world. When we date it means we are searching for a marriage partner. We are looking for a fellow believer, to love and be loved in the love of God, to reflect God’s love and bring forth the children of God’s covenant! Also, and emphatically, in dating it is our purpose to fulfill our calling as God’s “elect strangers” in the world.
Is that what we are looking for and striving after as Protestant Reformed young people? With that as their purpose our young men will not look at the outward appearance of a girl. They will not have as their criteria mere physical beauty, a cute face and a nice figure. They will not look for young women whose adornment consists in the outward adorning; the plaiting of hair, the putting on of apparel, make-up and enticing dress (cf. I Peter 3). But they will look for a woman whose adornment is a meek and quiet spirit; they will look for a true daughter of Sarah! And our young women will look for sons of Abraham. They will search for one with whom they can live together in the bond of perfectness as “heirs together of the grace of life” (I Peter 3:7).
That purpose will greatly affect our entire attitude toward dating. It will have something to do with the age at which we begin to date, the things we do on a date and the places we go on a date. It will have something to do with the young men and women we date—certainly we will not seek them among the sons and daughters of the Edomites of this world. It means, too, that our dating will be done in PRAYER. And we will be very specific in our petitions, too. We will pray: “Lord, lead me not into temptation, keep my thoughts and desires pure, remove all uncleanness from me and lead me to the man or woman of thy choosing.” We will date because we want to be married in the Lord, united in the bond of perfectness, as heirs of the covenant to His glory!
In that way we shall be richly blessed for time and for eternity. Verse 8 of I Cor. 13 says: “Charity (love) never faileth.” That marriage will not end in divorce, love will deepen and grow and those so united in the love of God will have the assurance of His blessed favor. So it will be in the Church. Motivated by the love of God, our congregations will not be torn by what James in chapter four of his Epistle calls “wars and fightings”, but they will be united in the communion of saints.
Everything else fails. I Cor. 13 says even prophecies, tongues, knowledge, all that which is now in part will be done away with at the coming of the Lord—even all our sermons and theology, this speech, too. But the love of God never fails! It endures to all eternity. In heaven, in the new creation that bond of perfectness of which our earthly marriages are just a faint reflection will be realized and we shall be drawn into the intimate fellowship of our God in Christ. We often sing of that: “They that walk in love shall share in life that never ends.”
That you may walk in that love of God in obedience to His Law and Will in dating, marriage and in the church with your fellow saints is my prayer.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 6 October 1969