Courtship by Biblical Example

Pedro Gelabert

Most of us who live in America have a "western" tradition of dating; very different from the biblical tradition that reflects "eastern" values and traditions. In Christ, since we are a new creation (dead to the ideas and ways of thinking we learned in the world (flesh)) we have to realize that our concept of "dating", "going steady" or courtship, may be filled with many worldly values that are not holy and do not sanctify the types of relationships we want to foster in the Kingdom of God. Therefore it is necessary for us to re-evaluate our habits and ways of thinking in this area and let the Holy Spirit convict us and re-create in us a pure heart according to these things, in the Spirit of Romans 12:1-3. A heart that reflects God’s holiness.

From Christ and the Church—a look at marriage.

(Ephesians 5:22-32 NIV) Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. {23} For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. {24} Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. {25} Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her {26} to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, {27} and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. {28} In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. {29} After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– {30} for we are members of his body. {31} "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." {32} This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:22: In Greek "wives" is in the vocative case, yet with the definite article. Used in a general sense, it binds all wives into one class for this assignment. Wives are asked to submit to husbands. Husbands are asked to love their wives (v. 25). "Submit" translates a military term (hupotasso, Gk.), which means "to place under" or "to subordinate" (1 Peter 3:1). This is not because of essential feminine inferiority but because God has placed the husband first in order of creation as head of the home, just as Christ is the Head of the church. While submission is in one sense limitless, i.e., wives are to submit "in everything" (v. 24), in another sense this submission is not to exceed the parameters of the will of God (v. 22). The directive to husbands is even more imposing. The mandate to love employs agapete (Gk.) and hence must be a command for the husband to exhibit thoroughly all the qualities delineated in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in his relationship with his wife. The verb indicates continuous, habitual action (v. 25). Christ loved the church not because it was holy, but in order to make it holy (v. 26).

One of the reasons for the importance of lifelong, monogamous marriage is that the relationship of the home is one of the analogies employed to describe the even more crucial relationship between Christ and the church. The church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2). As you can see, holiness is a concept that permeates the relations in a marriage. Remember that "holy" means "different", set apart.

From SONG OF SONGS (SOLOMON)

The theme of this book is The Blessedness of Conjugal Love.

There is a threefold purpose to the book:

(1) To honor the divine institution uniting one man and one woman, and to portray within that marriage conjugal love, especially in its romantic expression; and by analogy.

(2) To show God's love for Israel

(3) To illustrate the love of Christ for the church, i.e., that scarlet thread of redemption which runs through Scripture and which is illustrated most perfectly in the relationship between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:25-33).

The book of Song of Solomon expresses the attitude between two lovers—a married couple. It also shows the kind of romance and behaviors in which married couples engage. In today’s culture it is often the case where two people who are "going steady" engage in this kind of romantic behavior commonly ascribed to married couples. In the eastern tradition "dating" doesn’t really exist, as some of us know it. When a couple is engaged, or betrothed, the only thing they can do together is look at each other and perhaps speak to each other. There is no romantic behavior as we know of it in the western culture.

(Hebrews 13:4 NIV) Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

The statement becomes a call to purity within marriage. Nowhere is the purity and wholesomeness of the physical relationship within marriage more clearly presented. God is the author of sexuality. As long as the expression of intimacy exists exclusively between husband and wife, it is undefiled and honorable (Song 3:4). Adultery, on the other hand, stands under God's judgment.

A particular verse in the Song, which alludes to the "double-edgedness" of physical intimacy, is:

(Song 3:5 NIV) Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse love or awaken love until its proper time.

Sex, as God designed in proper place and time, is good, powerful, living and unifying. Outside of God's design it becomes evil, cruel, perverted and divisive. Whereas humanism overemphasizes the flesh and denies the spiritual, asceticism overemphasizes the spirit and tends to ignore the importance of the physical. God, however, in His plan for Christian marriage unites both spirit and flesh in the "one-flesh" intimacy to unite two people totally (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5). Though the Bible is not a book on sex, it does contain a complete theology of sexuality, i.e., purposes for sex, warnings against its misuse, and a beautiful picture of the ideal physical intimacy as set forth in the beautiful and holy Song. The "one-flesh" relationship (Genesis 2:24) is a reference to the most intense physical intimacy and the deepest spiritual unity between husband and wife. God is always approving this relationship (Proverbs 5:21) in which husband and wife meet their physical needs in sexual intercourse (Proverbs 5:15, 18, 19). The author of Hebrews adds his sanction to the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4). In fact, Paul indicates that sexual adjustment in marriage affects the Christian life, especially prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). Both husband and wife have definite and equal sexual needs which are to be met in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:3), and each is to meet the needs of the other and not his own. The sexual instinct is given to man as a means of communication. To satisfy that instinct selfishly by oneself (masturbation) is to abuse the gift because it is the seeking of a satisfaction that is to be received in fellowship between the husband and wife.

"FELLOWSHIP": fellowship — "koinonia"– partnership, i.e. (lit.) participation, or (social) intercourse [Social interchange; communication. Latin intercurrere, to mingle with.], or (pecuniary) benefaction:–(to) communicate (-ation), communion, (contri-), distribution, fellowship. Denotes our partnership in Christ, our communion with Him, as well as with each other through the Spirit.

These purposes are assigned to physical intimacy:

  1. Knowledge; yada, Hebrew "to lay; to know" (Genesis 4:1).
  2. Unity (Genesis 2:24).
  3. Comfort (Genesis 24:67).
  4. Procreation (Genesis 1:28).
  5. Relaxation and play ( Song 2:8-17; 4:1-16).
  6. Avoiding temptation (1 Corinthians 7:2-5).

A husband is commanded to find satisfaction (Proverbs 5:19) and joy (Ecclesiastes 9:9) in his wife, and to concern himself with meeting her unique needs (Deuteronomy 24:5; 1 Peter 3:7). A wife also has responsibilities:

  1. Availability (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
  2. Preparation and planning (Song 4:9ff.).
  3. Interest (Song 4:16; 5:2),
  4. Sensitivity to unique masculine needs (Genesis 24:67).

The feeling of oneness experienced by husband and wife in the physical union should remind both partners of the even more remarkable oneness which the spirit of a man experiences with God in regeneration (See note on fellowship above).

So, how am I to treat a sister I want to make my wife and what is the appropriate attitude and behavior I should have and should look for when searching for a mate?

FROM RUTH & BOAZ

BOAZ represents the Kinsman-Redeemer. Ruth 2:20

(Ruth 2:20 NIV) "The LORD bless him!" Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. "He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." She added, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers."

Boaz did not take advantage of Ruth, he protected her and looked after her interests. He made it easy for her by not concerning himself with his own comforts.

"Close relative" translates a technical word (go^el, Hebrew) referring to a kinsman who came to the aid of a family member. Also called "deliverer" or "redeemer," the go^el was responsible for recovering or retaining the family property of his dead relative when the property was offered for public sale (Leviticus 25:25-34; 27:9-33), or even for purchasing his kinsman's freedom from voluntary servitude resulting from poverty. Here’s a table illustrating the analogy of this Kinsman-Redeemer to Christ:

The "redeemer," then, functioned in behalf of another person and his property within the family circle. Israel could easily picture Yahweh as "Redeemer," especially as He delivered them again and again from the bondage of servitude. God's future redemption of His creation is through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is in every respect qualified to be man's Kinsman-Redeemer:

(1) The kinsman relationship is necessary for redemption.

(2) Only God is able to effect redemption.

(3) For redemption the kinsman pays the just demand in full. No self-

preservation interests are expressed.

(4) Redemption is from death to a rich inheritance.

Ruth and Naomi are attracted to the kindness and holiness in which Boaz treated them both:

(Ruth 3:10-11 NIV) "The LORD bless you, my daughter," he replied. "This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. {11} And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character."

Ruth had showed her nobility by not abandoning her mother-in-law, and even caring for her by doing the work of a man to provide for her mother-in-law. Boaz was probably attracted to this humility and nobility (See Proverbs 31:10-31). Boaz shows the same dignified behavior towards Ruth by making his claim on Ruth right with the Lord. He desires for his relationship with Ruth to be holy and sanctified by God.

Plea for Purity (Please refer to Introduction to Biblical Courtship essay for a complete exposition on the topic of purity in courtship)

(1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 NASB) Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. {2} For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. {3} It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; {4} that each of you should learn to acquire his own vessel in a way that is holy and honorable, [{5} not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; {6} and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. {7} For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. {8} Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

The theme of holiness or sanctification (1 Thessalonians 3:13) includes family life and sexual habits both before and in marriage (above vv. 1-8).

Paul gives three motivations for holy living:

  1. Fulfilling the will of God (v. 3).
  2. Honoring the gift of one's mate (v. 4).
  3. Avoiding sin against one's brother (or sister) (v. 6).

Thessalonica was well known for its variety in sexual appetites. Believers who came from this background could experience problems. "Sexual immorality" translates a Greek word that speaks about a broad spectrum of sexual indulgence, both illicit and unnatural. The term would include practices such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, lesbianism, sodomy, incest, and bestiality. God's plan of one man and one woman united for a lifetime in marriage has never changed (Matthew 19:4-8). Any deviation from this pattern (excluding the gift of celibacy) constitutes sin.

Sanctification extends to the sphere of sex and marriage as indicated in Paul's exhortation concerning the believer's conduct in marriage (vv. 1-8).

This text suggests three admonitions to safeguard the purity of sex within the marital relationship and to insure the believer's sanctification:

  1. The command to "abstain from sexual immorality" (v. 3).
  2. The encouragement "to control/possess his own body/vessel" (v. 4).
  3. The warning to avoid defrauding his brother (v. 6).

The word "vessel" (skeuei, Gk.) may mean "body," suggesting that the believer's body is to be controlled, i.e., "set apart" to holiness, and to be "honored"; or it may refer to the believer's wife. The Hebrew equivalent of skeuei is keli, which has multiple choices for translation, e.g., "vessel," "boat," "musical instrument." However, there is some evidence that keli is used in rabbinic writings to refer to the wife. In fact, "to use a vessel" seems to be one of the euphemisms that the Talmud uses in describing the sexual relationship in marriage. The latter interpretation, i.e., "vessel" as "wife," is further substantiated by a similar passage (1 Peter 3:7) in which the wife is called the weaker "vessel" (skeuei, Gk.), and the command to give "honor" (timen, Gk.) parallels the structure here, "in honor" (time, Gk.). Also, the same word (timios, Gk.) is used to describe marriage (Hebrews 13:4). The word "possess" (ktasthai, Gk.) may also be rendered "take," "procure," "provide," "win," "acquire." This word is used in the Mishnah to describe the betrothal or kiddushin(Heb.), i.e., the man "acquires" a woman to be his wife. In the LXX this verb (kektemai, Gk.) is used in reference to marrying a wife (Ruth 4:10).

Believer’s Study Bible

 

Sanctification extends beyond the sphere of marriage and needs to envelop our every action especially when concerning the treatment of your sister or brother in "acquiring your own vessel"/dating. Whether you are married, single or in the process of looking for a wife or getting married; sanctification will proceed everything you do if you truly love your wife as your sister; as Christ loves the Church and honors her.

Even though it is a very difficult thing to do, because of the way our flesh has been trained by its passions, I am convicted and determined to be sanctified and therefore not engage in any physically stimulating behavior because I treasure and honor my sister in Christ:

(Ephesians 5:3 NIV) But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Living a redeemed life is about seeking the Lord’s will and seeking to please the Lord:

(Colossians 1:10 NIV) And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…

(1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 NIV) Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. {2} For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

And I leave you with this final passage:

(2 Corinthians 5:9-11 NIV) So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. {10} For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. {11} Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

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