Biblical Guidelines for Dating
The Bible gives only one reason for dating. Do you know what it is?

deanna asks: what does the bible say about dating im 16 years old i want to make right choices
Question about Right and Wrong in the Bible: Dating
Motivation - Curiosity: Sincere curiosity
Bible view - The Word of God - [question 27, Sunday, 14-Aug-2011]

Young couple of dating age
Successful biblical dating involves seeking a spouse, same-faith relationships, and working out sanctity of labor, sex, and marriage

Isaac was getting older and his father, a famous and wealthy man named Abraham, decided it was time for him to get married. Abraham commissioned his most trusted servant to travel to a far-off country to seek a wife for Isaac. Charming Rebekah was the result. After her father and brother approved, Rebekah and Isaac were married inside Isaac's mother's tent.

That is pretty much how it went in Bible times. Marriages were arranged by the parents, and children had little to say about it. Happily, dating has replaced such old-fashioned practice. Nevertheless, you can think of Abraham's servant's quest for Rebekah as a kind of dating model. What, precisely, was the servant looking for in a wife for Isaac? The answer appears below in the section titled Date Only Within Your Faith.

Reasons for Dating

Here is a list of possible motivations for young people to date. You won't find these in the Bible:

  • To have fun
  • To experiment with sex
  • To get out of the house
  • To become more 'grown up'
  • To participate in adult social activities
  • To be seen as a couple instead of an individual
  • To give in to peer pressure
  • To flirt with, or try to conquer, the other person
  • To make it easier to communicate
  • To attain higher social status
  • To learn about the opposite sex
  • To learn how to kiss

There are, no doubt, many more similar reasons. You should ask yourself honestly 'why do I want to date?' If your answer involves fun and pleasure, the Bible warns against it:

He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.
- Proverbs 21:17 [NASB]

Or, if you are looking for sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, or similar trouble makers, the Bible posts clear warnings:

do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9ff [NASB]

The Bible gives only one reason to date:

  • To find a spouse

If this is not your reason, you are outside biblical guidelines for dating.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
- Proverbs 12:4 [NASB]

At 16 years old, Deanna, you are probably not looking for a husband and are biblically too young to date by yourself. This is really up to your parents more than you, but talk about dating with your parents and especially discuss your motivations (i.e., reasons for wanting to date). If you are motivated by husband-seeking, proceed very slowly and with great caution. If you are motivated by anything else, don't date individually, but participate in social programs at your church, synagogue, or school that involve boys, but not on a one-on-one basis. God willing, you will have plenty of time for individual dating and you will be wise and happy to proceed slowly.

The decision about who to marry is tremendously important. Be sure to take your time and explore all the possibilities. Modern institutions are filled with women battered at the hand of their husbands. More often the battering is emotional rather than physical, but it is just as devastating, or even more devastating. The Bible says this is true of husbands as well as wives, so if you are a young man, you, like Deanna, must proceed with great caution. Check out this Bible verse about good and bad wives:

The days of wives bought and sold (Genesis 29:20) and of daughters given as rewards (Judges 1:12) are over. Dating today has taken the place of such arrangements. Even so, the Bible makes clear several important considerations for dating to seek a spouse.

Date Only Within Your Faith

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
- 2 Corinthians 6:14ff [NASB]

Perhaps the most important Bible guideline for dating is to stay within your faith. That is, date only people who share your same beliefs. There must be a spiritual attraction as there is a physical attraction.

If you are a Jew, don't date Gentiles. If you are a Christian, date only other Christians, with preference within your denomination. By extension, if you are an atheist, marginal church-goer, or practice other religions, stay within those boundaries. According to the Bible, harmony in spiritual matters is of utmost importance, as shown in the passage from 2 Corinthians (box at right). It might not seem important at first, but down the road your spiritual beliefs will surface and, if they clash with your mate, trouble will surely follow.

One biblical reason for dating is to find out if you are spiritually compatible with a potential mate. Discuss it, practice it, and live out real-life situations during your dating time together. If there is friction, 'bad vibes,' or doubt, break off the relationship. Most times breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes it is scary and excruciating. But for your sake, and the sake of your dating partner, it is often very necessary. Breaking up goes with the territory of dating.

When Abraham sent out his servant to find a wife for Isaac, a same-faith relationship was his top priority:

Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, 'Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.'
- Genesis 24:2 [NASB]

The Canaanites were non-believers and Abraham demanded a wife from 'my country' and 'my relatives' who were believers. This is the only constraint Abraham placed on the servant, so you can see how important same-faith dating truly is.

Date to Settle Sanctity Issues

To sanctify means to set apart or make special for God. When you are dating to find the right spouse, use the opportunity to explore and settle matters of biblical sanctification. Here again, as in same-faith dating, if you cannot agree about sanctification, it is time to break off the relationship and look elsewhere.

The three areas we believe are most important when it comes to sanctification and dating are:

  • The Sanctity of Labor
  • The Sanctity of Sex
  • The Sanctity of Marriage

We will outline these briefly for you, but it is up to you to figure them out for yourself and with your potential mate.

Sanctity of Labor

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
- 1 Timothy 5:8 [NASB]

There is no room in the Bible for female breadwinners, that is, women who provide the finances for the family. Women in the Bible do amazing and wonderful things, including making money, investing, crafting, and trading (Psalms 31:13ff) and running a nation (Judges 4:4). But it is a man's job to bring home the bacon. The man is held responsible by God for the financial well being of the family. See the verse from 1 Timothy in the box above which, by the way, does not mean that the man should be the one who signs up for welfare (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

The human family is God's foundational institution, established at creation and absolutely necessary for human society to operate. The biblical pattern is set forth at creation:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. [Genesis 2:15, NASB]

Adam was to work the garden, and that precept continues through the New Testament (verse in box above).

If you are a woman dating a man who does not subscribe to the sanctity of his labor to provide for you, your children, and your household, get out of there!

Sanctity of Sex

Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her
- Genesis 24:67(a) [NASB]

This is usually called the Sanctity of Life, but, since human sex produces human life, we will call it the Sanctity of Sex for dating purposes.

Sex before marriage is ruled out by the Bible. In modern terminology, we usually call this fornication and it is condemned by the Bible for good reason. There are multitudes of physical and emotional problems caused by illicit sex, and there are multitudes of physical and emotional joys that come from abstinence and waiting for the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).

Couple at table
God requires only one thing to be married. Do you know what it is?

In addition, there is an important aspect of sex in dating that is often overlooked. It is brought out in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. Read the verse from Genesis 24 in the box at the right. Isaac and Rebekah entered Sarah's tent together. It does not take much imagination to figure out what happened inside that tent! Isaac and Rebekah had sexual intercourse, and they left Sarah's tent married in the sight of God.

To be married in the sight of the State, it takes a marriage contract duly executed. To be married in the sight of the Church, it takes a solemn ceremony and exchanged vows. But to be married in the sight of God, it takes only one thing: sexual intercourse. God values human life so highly, He demands a family unit be formed at the moment of human conception. With that family unit comes all the joys of marriage, but all the responsibilities also. Our American welfare state supports and even encourages 'single Moms' and 'single Dads', but God does not. Do not mess up your life, the life of your date, and the life of a potential child by experimenting with sex. Abstain from sex until after marriage. That is the biblical model.

Sanctity of Marriage

be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her
- Ephesians 5:21 [NASB]

The husband-wife relationship is meant to be a reflection of Jesus Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:32). If you are dating someone, use the dating experience to determine if your potential marriage would follow the Jesus/Church model. This is not easy, and you will need plenty of dating time to work on it. Again, if it does not work, leave!

In the Bible model for marriage, Jesus is the husband and the Church is the wife (the Church is sometimes called the Bride of Christ). Jesus loves the Church, and the Church loves Jesus. But, more importantly, Jesus dies for the Church (on the cross), and the Church obeys Jesus.

The somewhat infamous passage in Ephesians about husbands and wives (box at right) is introduced by the idea of mutual submission. Wives are to submit to husbands, and husbands are to submit to wives. If you are in harmony, this mutual respect presents no problems at all. But when disagreements arise and emotions heighten, the biblical model should kick in. Does it? Does this work when you are on a date? Be sure to find out. Not just once, but many times.

There are plenty of details on the husband-wife relationship that must be reserved for husband-wife questions, but, for dating, this summary may help:

(1) Apply the idea of mutual submission continuously, always respecting one another and bending over backwards to see things the way the other sees them. Be the first to modify your position when disagreements arise. Love does not seek its own [1 Corinthians 13:5, NASB]

(2) If there is absolutely no way to work out a disagreement, the woman should back off and do things the man's way. This holds the man completely responsible for the results. If things go South, maybe he will get it right the next time!

(3) If the couple is confronted with outside intrusions, bad influences, or outright attacks, the man must take every initiative to protect the woman at all cost, literally giving up his life willingly, for her well being. This is what Jesus Christ did for the Church on the cross.

Be sure to date long enough to encounter several episodes of (1), (2), and (3). If you adhere to the Jesus/Church model, all is well.

by Paul Richards

Mon, 26-Jun-2017 22:32:55 GMT, unknown: 642726 ABJqYjUq4hveI