Marshall Segal – Does Dating Prepare Us for Marriage – or Divorce?

The common trends in dating today are more likely to prepare you to get divorced than to enjoy and persevere in marriage.

Dating is an intentional pursuit of marriage, not casual preparation for it. Unfortunately, many of us are being told we must date early and often if we ever want to be ready for marriage. For instance, one popular Christian dating book reads, “Dating is an incubator time of discovering the opposite sex, one’s own sexual feelings, moral limits, one’s need for relationship skills, and one’s tastes for people.” Sounds practical and reasonable on the surface. Until you think about putting yourself (or your daughter) into someone else’s “incubator” for a few months, or years, while he or she tries out their “sexual feelings” and “moral limits.” We put too much of ourselves at risk in dating to donate our hearts to someone’s romantic experiment.

The truth is we have given dating far too much credit, and far too much power in our pursuit of marriage. And because we misunderstand and misuse dating, we end up making more and greater mistakes in our search for love.

Wait to Date?

Wait to date until you can marry. That’s my advice for the not-yet-married, reflecting on my personal experience (and failures) in dating and on years of walking with others falling in love (and often falling harder out of love). In short, if we are dating in order to marry, we need to be ready to marry before we begin dating.

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Joel Beeke – Marital Love Must Be Sexual

As we’ve seen, the Puritans had a rich understanding of Christian marriage (part 1, part 2, part 3). In this final post, I’d like to show that they also believed marital love must be sexual. Both marital partners should give themselves fully to each other with joy and exuberance in a healthy sexual relationship marked by fidelity. Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin re-established this aspect of marriage by abandoning medieval Roman Catholic notions that marriage was inferior to celibacy leading to “religious” (clergy, monks, nuns) and “profane” (laity) classes of Christians, that all sexual contact between marital partners was only a necessary evil to propagate the human race, and that any procreative act that involved passion was inherently sinful. This negative view was rooted in the writings of the ancient church fathers, such as Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome, all of whom believed that, even within marriage, sexual intercourse necessarily involved sin (see Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 261).

Puritans preachers taught that the Roman Catholic view was unbiblical, even satanic. They cited Paul, who said that prohibition of marriage is a “doctrine of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Puritan definitions of marriage implied the conjugal act. For example, William Perkins (1558-1602) defines marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh” (“Christian Oeconomy,” 419). The Puritans viewed sex within marriage as a gift of God and as an essential, enjoyable part of marriage. William Gouge (1575-1653) said that husbands and wives should cohabit “with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully” (Quoted in Ryken, Worldly Saints, 44). “They do err,” added Perkins, “who hold that the secret coming together of man and wife cannot be without sin unless it be done for the procreation of children” (“Christian Oeconomy,” 423).

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Nick Batzig – 7 Ways to Care for Your Wife

In that extremely complex and, at times, hard to understand section of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we come across the comparison between the married and the unmarried (1 Cor. 7). In short, the Apostle insists that marriage is good (and the norm) but that it brings with it a division of attention. Those who are married have a preoccupation with their spouse. Those who are unmarried are free to more fully “care about the things of the Lord” while “the married man cares about…how to please his wife” and “the married woman cares about…how to please her husband.” This forces us to ask question, “What does it look like to biblically care about the needs of my wife?” That is a question that I feel as though I am just beginning to learn how to answer 11 years into marriage. While there is no silver bullet, there are many things that the Scriptures teach us in order to help guide the process of learning to love your spouse. Here are 7 basic, biblical ways that the married man can seek to please his wife:

1. Lead Her in Worship. Whether this occurs one on one or in the context of family worship, a godly husband will seek to “wash his wife with the water of the word” and to lead her “to the throne of grace” that they might together receive grace and mercy to help in time of need. A man who truly loves his wife will want to sing God’s praises with his wife and to encourage her with God’s word. This is the most foundational way that a godly husband can love and serve his wife. Everything else in the marriage is secondary to and will necessary wax and wane commensurate with this all important calling. God has given a believing husband his wife so that he might shepherd her soul to glory.

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Joel Beeke – Marital Love Must Be Spiritual

Continuing with our series on the Puritans’ views of marital love (see introduction) we come to the theme of the spirituality of marital love, that is, that is must be in Christ and in accord with God’s commandments. Love must be rooted in the experience of being equally yoked together spiritually as believers. Richard Baxter (1615–1691) said that husbands and wives have the responsibility “especially to be helpers of each other’s salvation: to stir up each other to faith, love, and obedience, and good works: to warn and help each other against sin, and all temptations: to join in God’s worship in the family, and in private: to prepare each other for the approach of death, and comfort each other in the hopes of life eternal” (Practical Works, 4:234).

Although marriage is a universal institution ordained by God for the whole human race regardless of whether they are saved or not, marriage fulfils its deepest purpose and achieves its greatest stability only when grounded in Christian faith and the fear of God. If built on the sandy foundation of physical beauty or exceptional gifts and talents, it can easily be blown away by some storm.

The Spiritual Duties of the Husband

Marital love should be profoundly spiritual because, as William Gouge (1575-1653) observed, Christian marriage should conform to the pattern of Christ and His church. As Christ loves His church, so the husband must love his wife. He is to love her absolutely (v. 25), purposefully (v. 26), realistically (v. 27), and sacrificially (vv. 28–29). He must exercise a “true, free, pure, exceeding, constant love” to his wife, nourishing and cherishing her as Christ does His gathered people (v. 29) (Of Domestical Duties, 31).

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Raymond Ortlund, Jr. – The Sacredness of Sexual Intimacy

More Than Allowable

Sexual intimacy in marriage is not only allowable, it is sacred. The Bible says in chapter eight of the Song of Solomon that the passion, intensity, and intimacy in marriage is the very flame of the Lord.

God is not embarrassed by this. God is not ashamed of this. God is not feeling regret about this. It is a gift from above, and greatly sweetens and refreshes a marriage.

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Richard Steele – The Duties of Husbands and Wives

THE DUTIES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” — Ephesians 5:33

I. Introduction

Marriage is the foundation of all society, and so this topic is very important. Explaining marital duties to you is much easier than persuading you to do them. Conform your will to Scripture, not vice versa. Take Ephesians 5:33 to heart.

1. The Connection

“Nevertheless” is a transition from the spiritual reality of Christ’s relationship to the church. It either means that in spite of the unattainable ideal, strive to attain it, or because of the noble example, imitate it, in your relationship with your spouse.

2. The Direction

A. The universal obligation of it

“Let every one of you,” no matter how good you are or how bad your spouse. All husbands are entitled to their wives’ respect, whether they are wise or foolish, intelligent or slow, skillful or clumsy. All wives are entitled to their husbands’ love, whether beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, submissive or rebellious.

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Joel Beeke – The Puritans on Marital Love: Introduction

Edward Taylor (c. 1642–1729), a pastor, physician, and poet of Puritan New England, wrote, “A curious knot God made in Paradise…. It was the true-love knot, more sweet than spice” (“Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children,” in The Poems of Edward Taylor, ed. Donald E. Stanford, abridged ed. [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963], 344). The writings of the Puritans are sprinkled with declarations of the sweetness of marital love. By “sweet” and “sweetness” they meant to describe “a pleasant or gratifying experience, possession or state; something that delights or deeply satisfies” (Webster’s Dictionary). They delighted in the love of God and in every form of love commanded by God among mankind. In particular, they rejoiced in the love shared by husband and wife, and called married couples to love each other romantically, wholeheartedly, and perseveringly.

This may come as a shock to twenty-first-century minds; not many people today would use “Puritan” and “love” in the same sentence. Though evangelicals have become much more aware of the positive heritage of the Puritans, thanks to scholars such as J. I. Packer and his book, A Quest for Godliness, and literature produced by publishing houses such as Banner of Truth Trust and Reformation Heritage Books, the common cultural perception of the Puritans remains negative, a perception informed only by what the Puritans opposed. One prominent dictionary defines the noun “Puritan” first as “a member of a Protestant group in England and New England in the 16th and 17th centuries that opposed many customs of the Church of England,” and second, “a person who follows strict moral rules and who believes that pleasure is wrong.” We are quick to overlook that fact that perhaps the most well-known sentence ever written by the Puritans is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1).

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Ray Ortlund, Jr. – How the Bible Is One Big, Divine, Holy Story of Marriage

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Eternity in the New City

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:1–5a

One of the amazing things about the Bible is the grand scope of its vision. It begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and it ends here with the re-creation of it all as a new heavens and a new earth. The Bible is nothing less than a history of the entire cosmos. And at each horizon of this grandeur is marriage: first the marriage of Adam and Eve, and now the wedding of the Lamb with his bride (Rev. 21:9).

Now the conflict is finally past, the victory is won, and peace descends. The sea disappears from view, for “the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt” (Isa. 57:20). It was from this seething mass of restless mankind that the beast arose (Rev. 13:1). And the angel said to John, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Rev. 17:15). But now the people of God need no longer brace themselves against the buffeting waves of this sea of human hostility, for the danger simply is not there anymore. A settled order of human shalom finally reigns.

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John Piper – Love Her More, Love Her Less: Living for God’s Glory in Marriage

My main point is simple: If your marriage is going to make God look glorious, then you must find more satisfaction in God than in your marriage.

The assumption behind the topic and behind the main point is that God is ultimate and marriage is not. God is the most important reality in the universe. Marriage is less important — far less important, infinitely less important. God is unimaginably great and infinitely valuable and unsurpassed in beauty. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).

Therefore, God is absolute reality. We are not. The universe is not. Marriage is not. We are derivative. The universe is of secondary importance, along with everything in it. The human race is not the ultimate reality nor the ultimate value nor the ultimate measuring rod of what is good or what is true or what is beautiful. God is. God is the one ultimate absolute in existence. Everything else exists by him and for him.

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