What does the Bible say about dating?
Examples of dating in the Bible
No one in the Bible dated- ever. Unfortunately, the Bible has nothing to say about dating because dating has only been around for about 100 years. The individual books that make up the Bible were written during the ancient times when marriages were arranged and people didn’t have the kind of society that we have today. So neither the Jews, nor the Greeks, nor the Romans, nor the early Christians had any idea about modern dating.
Nevertheless, we can take a guess based on the Bible that Jews and Christians of the ancient world would not have liked modern dating. This is because dating goes completely against their priorities. In the ancient world, people were very much concerned with faith, family life, and traditions. They would not leave their children’s future to random emotions the way those who date do today. That is because, in the ancient world, parents tried to make the best practical match they could for their children and the parents were considered wiser and more experienced at making such decisions than the children themselves, who were often married before the age of 21.
However, we live in the modern world where arranged marriage is gone and most people pursue relationships through dating. While the Bible doesn’t directly deal with dating, it does deal with character, wisdom, and relationships, so we can use the principles of the Bible to make our best guess as to what the Bible would say about dating if the Bible were being written today.
Bible verses about sex and dating
One of the key differences between the Bible and modern dating concerns sex before marriage. Whereas in the modern world, sex before marriage is considered normal, even preferable to abstinence, in the Bible it is absolutely forbidden. The Bible’s stringent rules against sex before marriage is one of the most difficult things for modern people to accept. There are several passages in the Bible that talk about premarital sex and Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church is perhaps the clearest discussion:
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Verse 3 explanation
This passage makes it clear that God wants people to avoid sexual immorality and that includes any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage. On the positive side, God wants people to be sanctified, which means holy and pure. From the Bible’s point of view, a person dating has two choices: they can be sanctified or they can be sexually immoral. Dating cannot please God if you have sex before marriage. But dating can please God if you avoid sexual immorality.
Verse 4 explanation
One reason for you to avoid sexual immorality is so that you can learn self-discipline. You must learn to control your body, and this discipline will be useful, not just in terms of sexual immorality but in avoiding all kinds of sins.
Throughout history, success in life has been largely influenced by self-discipline. Often, those who have great talent and great opportunity, throw them away because they lack the discipline necessary to control themselves. So learning to control yourself sexually is a part of learning to control yourself in all ways. This discipline not only pleases God, but it also leads to worldly success.
Verse 5 explanation
All throughout history, the people who don’t know God have been controlled by their lust and immorality. God commands his people to separate themselves from the actions of unbelievers and not join in their unholy behavior. This is still true today. God does not want Christians to copy the modern culture of sex before marriage or sex outside of marriage. So if you’re going to date, you need to make sure that you keep yourself pure in spite of all the temptations and bad advice of the world.
Verse 6 explanation
Even though you and the person you’re dating may both desire to have sex, God still considers consensual premarital sex wrong: it is taking advantage of a brother or sister in Christ (assuming that you are dating another Christian). It’s not a matter of mutual desire, it is a matter of obedience. Are you going to honor God or not?
In fact, God says that he will punish people who act like passionate pagans. And if you, as a believer, are dating an unbeliever, you still have to remain pure even your partner pressures you otherwise. Of course, as Christians, we believe in God’s mercy and forgiveness; but that forgiveness is extended to those who repent and who ask for forgiveness, not for those who stand in rebellion against God.
Verse 7 explanation
There’s verse reminds us again that there is something more important than your sexual satisfaction. When you’re dating, God wants you to be holy and not act on your sexual desires. That doesn’t mean that God says you can never satisfy your sexual desires. That’s what marriage is for. Once you’re married, then God is very happy for you to act on your sexual desires. (Also, the Bible does not encourage marriage between believers and unbelievers, but it clearly states that such marriages are holy in God’s sight, just as marriages between believers are.)
Verse 8 explanation
Of course, we expect those who do not know God to reject this instruction to avoid sexual immorality marriage. However, any Christian who rejects this message is rejecting the word of God. Such a person is foolish and is headed for punishment from God. Do not listen to any advice that says it is OK in God’s eyes to have sex before marriage.
Consequently, if you have had sex outside of marriage, God is calling you to repent and return to a holy life. Talk with a pastor or Christian counselor who can guide you into practical steps of living a holy life which pleases God. You may need to take a break from dating in order to help cleanse yourself from improper sexual habits and attitudes. Only after you can maintain your self0discipline should you return to dating.
Bible Verses related to dating relationships
1. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
As a Christian, our highest loyalty is to God and our highest love must be for God. God wants us to use our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength – all of ourselves – to love him. That means everything and everyone else we love must be in agreement with our greatest love. God does not want us to have any idols, anything that competes with our love for God. If you love a human being as much or more than you love God, that is considered a sin and this will displease God. So always keep your priorities straight: love God above all else.
2. “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15
In the English language, love has many different meanings and so when we say love God it can be a vague and nebulous statement. But when the Bible uses the word love, it is more than just a warm feeling; love implies a commitment, action, and obedience. In the way, the kind of love that God wants is obedience: if we love God, we will obey God; and if we don’t obey God, that shows our hearts don’t really love God no matter what our mouth says. Actions speak louder than words. So, if you say that you love God but you have sex before marriage, then you’re not obeying God and thus prove you don’t love God above all others.
3. “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
Jesus called this the second greatest commandment. If you really love your neighbor then you will want good things for your neighbor and you will want your neighbor to love God to obey God and be close to God just as you as a Christian want that for yourself. Therefore when you are dating you and the person you’re dating need to help each other be close to God and this is another reason why sexual immorality is dangerous for Christians because it hurts both people it takes both people away from God it creates an idol out of sex that becomes something we worship more than we worship God in reality.
4. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
The kind of love we should have for each other is not one where each person is a king and we must all obey each other that doesn’t work. The kind of love God wants is that we sacrifice for each other just as Christ sacrifice himself for us. When you are dating you need to learn to have a sacrificial love for your date the man needs to learn to sacrifice for the woman and the woman needs to learn to sacrifice for the man. If they will learn this then they could have a very powerful and strong relationship. If they can’t learn this then their relationship is going to be filled with drama and happiness.
5. “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33
Dating is like a preparation for marriage or even a mini-marriage and so just as God’s rules for relationships in a marriage are similar to but less intense than the guidelines for dating. As a husband must love and sacrifice for his wife, the man in a dating relationship should care for and take care of his date. The Bible also says that the wife must respect and obey her husband. In the same way, but to a lesser extent, a woman who is dating needs to learn to honor and follow the man that she’s dating.
The main difference between dating and marriage is the level of intimacy and commitment. In the Bible, commitment always comes before intimacy. So, at the beginning of a dating relationship when you don’t have a lot of commitment to each other, you don’t need a lot of sacrifice and obedience in the relationship. But the more committed you get and the more intimate you get, the more God expects you to fulfill these roles of sacrifice and obedience.
6. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
The Book of Micah comes from the Old Testament and so it is very old advice about what God wants from us. When you are dating, God wants you to treat your date justly. He wants you to treat them rightly. Don’t ever take advantage of them. Instead, always treat them as you wish to be treated.
Also, give them mercy when they fail. Forgive them when they sin against you, when they are wrong, and when they do stupid things. God wants you to cover people’s mistakes and sins and not bring them up again and again.
Above all, God wants each person in the relationship to be humble. God is the King and Lord of your relationship. Each of you has a role in the relationship, but none of you the master. You are both servants together under the authority of God.
Kinds of Love in the Bible
1. Erotic love (Eros)
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.” Song of Songs 1:2
Some people think that Christians are against all sex, all romance, and all erotic ideas. Of course, that’s not true. The point is that Christian aim to discipline themselves and keep all erotic love contained within marriage. It can be very difficult when you’re dating to discipline yourself because you will feel erotic love for the person that you are dating if you are attracted to them. That’s what “chemistry” is all about.
And as a Christian, while you’re dating, God expects you and commands you to discipline yourself and say no to your sexual desires until you have proven you have the commitment of marriage. But once you are married, God endorses your sexuality and wants you to enjoy your sexual and erotic love for each other, and only for each other.
2. Brotherly love (Philia)
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 13:1
The second kind of love from the Bible is brotherly love also called fellowship. Note that the word brotherly is generic; women can have brotherly love, too. True fellowship is a deep form of non-sexual love based on a common way of thinking and a shared way of living. Biblical dating requires fellowship and commitment before sex.
As you are dating, God expects you to grow in your fellowship together, so that you share your ideas and lives as you become closer and closer. This Union is not finalized in marriage, but you can continue to grow together for the rest of your earthly lives.
Growing in unity doesn’t mean that you must give up your individuality. Instead, you learn to work together and be together as you become stronger together then you are apart. One of the reasons why most modern dating fails is because people rush into sexual love without ever developing fellowship. But if you will focus on developing fellowship first when the right time comes for sexual love it will lead to lasting unity rather than the fragile alliances that are common today.
3. Sacrificial love (Agape)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
The highest form of love is agape love. This is a love where you are willing to sacrifice what you want for someone else’s benefit. In a dating scenario, nobody expects such commitment in the beginning. But as your love grows deeper and deeper, more and more mature, Christians should be willing to sacrifice for the person whom they love, just as Christ sacrificed himself for us.
Ultimately, marriage is all about it is sacrificing your freedom to bond with another, giving up all of their bonds, even the closest of relationship with your parents in order to form “one flesh”, that is one unique bond for life. That takes discipline and sacrifice. The process begins as a small seed on the first date and grows throughout your dating. When you begin dating someone else, you must start the process all over again.
You will know if your dating relationship should become a marriage when you are willing to commit to honoring your partner above all others and sacrificing your interests for their benefit.