Saturday, October 31, 2009

Basic characteristics for a husband - Purposeful Procession towards Marriage pt. 3

The very basic, minimal requirements of a young man who is interested in showing his interest in or inquiring of courting a young woman are as follows:

  1. He must be a Christian (2 Cor. 6:14)

  2. He must be committed to biblical headship (Eph. 5:23ff)

  3. He must welcome children (Ps. 127:3-5)

  4. He must be a suitable priest (Josh. 24:15)

  5. He must be a prophet (Eph. 6:4)

  6. He must be a protector (Neh. 4:13-14)

  7. He must be a provider (1 Tim. 5:18; Titus 2:5; 2 Thess. 3:10)

This list comes from Voddie Baucom in his book titled, "What he must be...if he wants to marry my daughter." I would assert that this is the bare minimum for a young man to attain if he wishes to seek out a young woman for a bride. you may look at the list and say, "Wow! You're asking for a lot there. You need to be more reasonable. You'll never find someone like that." Well, if you are ok with something less for your daughter gentlemen, then you will answer to God for not holding to a high standard of a man to entrust your daughter to. The life she leads will largely depend upon the father's evaluation of the young man who might seek her hand in marriage. We must be wise father's and sober minded in this area.

Now, let me say this: if we see a young man that has potential who may have inquired of us of our daughters, but has not quite attained these things, we should not totally dismiss him. By this, I mean that we should be those who graciously become mentors for them to help shape and mold them into mighty men of God that we will accept as son-in-laws. However, even in doing that, it must be made clear that they are not to pursue a relationship with our daughters unless we have given our permission. By pursuing a relationship, I mean that they are not to develop an emotional relationship whereby there is a seeking of a physical type relationship and showing of interest in a romantic way. Of course they may be friends, but that should be the extent of it. In my next post I will be linking to a short article on betrothal and find that it is more in line with how my mind set is. It's just that I have never actually had someone say this, so thought it would be something good for others to read.

I'll be going through these qualifications one by one over the next few posts. So stay tuned.

Beginning a Family - Purposeful Procession towards Marriage pt. 2

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Gen. 2:24

Before looking at the biblical presentation of how a family begins, I think it is important to look at authority structure. The Bible is very clear on how authority is to be understood. We read of a certain Centurion in the gospels who knew authority well, as he was both under authority and also in a place of authority. In Matthew 8 we read of this man,

8 The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
9 "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, `Go,' and he goes; and to another, `Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, `Do this,' and he does it."

Authority, however, does not exist only in the military. It exists in every facet of life and the Bible speaks to each of those instances. It exists in government (Rom. 13:1-7), employer/employee(master/slave) relationships (Eph. 6:5-9), God and man (1 Cor. 11:3), man and woman (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22), parents and children (Eph. 6:1-3). If we fail to understand authority and how God has structured it both for His glory and our good, then we will inevitably be in error at many points of our theology and practice. I think the easiest understanding of the authority in regards to the family structure is to see how the "chain of command" is laid out in Scripture and I believe the simplest format that we see is found in 1 Corinthians 11. We read there in verse 3,

3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

The term "head" here is the Greek word kephale and it speak not to a physical head attached to the body but metaphorically of the one who has authority. Just as the head of the body controls the movements of the body and is in authority over it, the heads referred to in this text also are in authority over those under them. Notice the flow of authority: God is head of Christ, Christ is head of man, man is head of woman. There is a clear line of authority seen here. Ephesians then expresses the authority of the parents over the children as well, as children are commanded to obey their parents in the Lord.
From this basic structure it appears that men are either in authority or under authority, or both. Thus, we do not see that men are an authority unto themselves. This should be useful to us in understanding roles of fathers with both their sons and daughters in regards to marriage. Authority has to do with one who governs and rules, who sets the boundaries and enacts discipline and/or reward. With that authority structure in place, let's get to the issue of who is the determiner of when a young man becomes an authority for a family of his own, or to put it simply, who determines when the young man is ready to pursue marriage. Let's ask how a family starts. The answer is found in the first family of the human race that was brought about: Adam & Eve. In Genesis 2 we read,

21 ¶ And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He
took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.
22 Then the rib
which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her
to the man.
23 And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my
flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."

So, God made a woman just for Adam, a suitable helper. Did you get that? God made a woman to be the perfect companion for Adam. The Hebrew word is explicit in this. The word for made is banah and literally it means "build". God built Eve especially for Adam to be his suitable helper. Now there is no doubt that both Adam and his wife were equals before God. They were both a part of mankind. They were obviously different in that one was a man and the other a woman, and yet they were both made for specific roles and were equipped physically for those roles. I won't get into all the details of the roles here, since that will be for another post, however, we know that physically the man is structured for work and endurance in order that he can provide and protect and the woman is built in such a way as to conceive, bare and nurture children. These things are simply obvious, and yet one is to be in authority and the other under that
authority. It is not a dictatorship that is to be ruled heavy handed and tyrannically, but rather men are commanded to "love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her(Eph. 5:25). So we notice that the first Father, God, was directly involved in the selection, even the building of the wife of the first Adam and that He brought her unto Adam. Luke even says that Adam was the son of God (3:37). Adam was God's son, not divinely, but because of creation. Therefore in the very first marriage we see the father intimately involved in the selection of the wife for his son.
Next we notice the statement, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." We see that a man leaves out from under the authority, protection and provision of the home of his parents and comes directly under the authority of Jesus Christ as a new home is formed with his wife. This is a complete break with the authority of the home of his parents, though as their child he is still to honor them.
So the question comes, "Can a man leave the home before he takes a wife?" Well, the Lord Jesus, in quoting this passage on the subject of divorce, says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." What is the reason a man leaves his father and mother, and likewise a daughter her mother and father? The only reason stated is to be joined to his wife. We might immediately ask, "What about to join the military?" or "What about going to college?" or other such questions. Well the one thing that is specific is that they are to leave their mother and father to be joined to a wife. The woman does the same thing. She is passed from the authority, protection and provision of her father to the authority, protection and provision of her husband. Thus he becomes head of her under the headship of Christ.
This is an important point. For both the young man and the young woman, the father represented God to them and they were to honor and obey him, but now that they are in a new authority structure, the husband is now directly under the headship of Christ and the wife under the headship of her husband. She is to seek the instruction of her husband (1 Tim. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 14:34-35) and he is to wash her with the water of the word (Eph. 5:26). Once the son followed the voice of his father as he represented God to him and now he is to follow the voice of God as found in the Scriptures on his own.

With this in mind, I am to prepare my sons for leading in this manner. It requires diligently teaching our children when they are younger (Deut. 6:7) the commands of God and then as our sons grow older giving them more and more responsibility, trusting them to make more and more decisions on their own, the more we see them growing in accordance with the will of the father. Thus sons should exhibit these kinds of leadership abilities and qualities long before they leave the home and begin a family of their own. They must not simply be cast out into an authoritative headship directly under Jesus Christ without first experiencing something of it themselves, though it is under the authority of their father. This is why it is needful that our sons have boundaries and their freedoms limited until they begin to learn and do their father's will (to think as their fathers do, which should be in accordance with the will of God).

So, another question arises from this: Who determines when a son is ready for marriage? the son or the father? Obviously the father teaches and trains his son, but does the son set out on his own apart from the father to find a wife and then make all those decisions on his own? Well first remember how we saw God the Father intimately involved in the marriage of the first Adam. you might be inclined to say, "Well yeah, but that was because there was no one else around. It was the first family." I admit with a smile that is correct, but remember that God built Eve specifically to be Adam's helpmate. She was made for him and brought to him by the Father.

Now when the second Adam came, He came in search of a bride, did He not? The church is referred to as the bride of Christ. The apostle Paul speaks of the marriage of a husband and wife being a picture of Christ and His church and yet, did Christ go out seeking to do His own will in finding His bride? No. First he was commended to begin to do so by His Father. He was evaluated by the Father and declared to be well pleasing to the Father (Mark 1:11). It was then that He set out to do the Father's will and only the Father's will and that included pursuing those who would be His bride, whom the Father had chosen from all eternity (Eph. 1:3-6; Matt. 11:27; Jn. 5:30). So must a son seek his father's blessing, not only for the woman he marries, but also in determining his own readiness to pursue a bride and marriage, in the same respect that Jesus did nothing apart from the Father.

When a son is ready for marriage, his father should let him know and it will become more and more evident as the son has the desire and learned to do his father's will. However, according to the reason Jesus made, we might understand that single sons and daughters are to remain under the authority, provision and protection of the father until they are married.

Purposeful Procession towards marriage

I admit that I have several thoughts in regards to what should take place before a man and woman enter into a marriage. It seems that in my day that dating is the acceptable means of obtaining a mate, if indeed that is even the desire. In most cases, dating is preferable to marriage because it seems that many are happy to have the physical and emotional relationship that should only be reserved for marriage in dating without the covenant of marriage and the obligations that are intrinsic to it. However, having gone that way myself as someone who was not a believer, I am interested in how to guide my boys into marriage and how to prepare them as well as preparing my daughters and deal with possible suitors for them. So my aim here is to lay out thoughts and presuppositions and then see if they are biblical or not.

Before I begin, I want this to be clear: my aim is not to condemn people who are doing something different. If you feel intimidated or easily offended, then you may not want to read further. My aim is to simply lay out either what the Scripture says regarding this issue as the bull's eye, if you will. It is where we aim......the glory of God. If we don't have a target we can simply hit anything and then sort of move the bull's eye over where our arrow has struck and say, "it's ok". That is not what these posts will be about. I simply want to map out as clearly as I can what my role as a father is, my wife's role, and the boys and girls under our authorities roles are. So please keep this in mind, in the even that you might want to ask, "Well what if such and such?" and your question is pointed towards something that deviates from the specifics. I will try and deal with things that may arise from a failure to hit the mark.

With this said, I want for anyone to understand something, if my children turn out bad then that is simply on me. Let's put aside the notion that I am the authority and can do no wrong. We must keep in mind the issue of total depravity that works in men. My ego is not at stake here. The glory of God is, for our chief end is to glorify Him. Therefore, if my children turn out to honor Him and follow Him then it is all due to His grace and mercy. That doesn't mean it has nothing to do with our teaching, it just simply points to who is the potter and that is God.

Now, first I start with the sovereignty of God. I know that no man and woman come together apart from the eternal decree and providence of God. this is true whether they are believers or not. In marriage they are no less "one flesh" because of believing or not believing, and ultimately we can say they were brought together by Him. However, let's be clear: we are not to use the Providence of God to somehow justify our wrong actions. In other words, I don't say, "Well God brought me and my wife together and if i hadn't dated her the way we did then we would't be together and so we are thankful for God's providence" as though we simply throw our disobedience upon the providence of God and that makes everything ok. Of course God's providence is at work. Nothing happens that is not a part of that, but we are talking about using His providence as an excuse for our disobedience. I do not advocate that.

As believers we are called to, "do all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). This includes preparing for marriage and what type of mate one should be seeking and even how that process should be accomplished. So, while we have some idea of at least a framework of how marriage is spoken of in Scripture, we are very ignorant in how to prepare and lead the young men and women in our own homes in the process of joining themselves to a mate for life. I will attempt to use a phrase that will try and shy away from courting, though I believe this to be a more historic definition that I will seek to use. The phrase I will be using is "a purposeful procession towards marriage". This way much of what we will say will be bound up in the phrase itself. It is not dating, going out with whomever and attaching emotional feeling and touching and such out from under parental authority and it is not a myriad of courting opinions, but simply it is the process of being prepared for marriage and the logical and biblical progression from preparation to selection to marriage.

To begin with I have a few questions of my own to ask and hopefully in my study, by God's grace, I shall find the answers to these along the way. Here they are:

  1. How do we prepare boys and girls minds to think biblically about marriage and the "purposeful procession toward marriage"? (orthodoxy-sound doctrine)

  2. How do we prepare them practically? (orthopraxy-things pertaining to sound doctrine)

  3. What is the role of the father in working with his son in preparing him for marriage and selecting a wife?

  4. What is the role of the father in working with his daughter in preparing her for marriage and dealing with possible suitors?

  5. What is the role of the mother in each?

  6. Are arranged marriages biblical?

  7. Is a son going out on his own to find a wife biblical?

  8. Is a daughter going out on her own to find a husband biblical?

  9. What should a yound man possess and know before making any interest in a young woman known? Likewise, a young woman?

  10. Is a youjnd man's relationship with his mother an indication of how he will treat his wife? Likewise, a young woman with her father. Both with their parents and other siblings.

  11. Is the young man's/woman's view of God, his doctrine and practice important? this may seem to be a given, but sadly doesn't always take precidence.

  12. What is the testimony he/she bears both with his mouth and actions?

  13. Do particular struggles that a young man or woman are currently having hinder them from being ready for marriage?

  14. What is the young man's vision? Likewise the young woman?

  15. Should a possible suitor be left alone with my daughter? Likewise, should my son be alone with a young woman of interest?

  16. Are chaperones necessary if a young man and woman should go some place together? Are older siblings suitable chaperones?

  17. How much time should be given to courting (limited interaction in company)? How much time should be given to engagement (the time of pledging to marry till the wedding day)?

  18. Should a young man already have means of providing before making his interest know to a young woman?

  19. Should a young man ask permission of her father before making his interest known?

  20. Should physical contact be encouraged at all? during courtship? during engagement?

  21. If the young lady doesn't have a father around, should the young man ask permission of the mother? If no parents are around, then what?

  22. What should a young man desire in a wife? Likewise, a young woman in a husband?

  23. Should they both know and understand their roles biblically?

  24. Should they both have positive views of children and welcome them?

These are not all the questions by all means and i certainly may ask many more and hopefully answer them with God's wisdom which comes from His Word. Hopefully though, me being able to write these down I will be able to gain a more solid understanding both of my role as a father in this aspect and also a vision of where I want my children to be at when the time is right to leave the home and exactly how to get them there.