What does the Bible say about dating? How can you as a young Christian man or woman date in a way that pleases God? Are their Biblical principles that can help young people find the right spouse?
Before we seek to answer these questions we need to look at how young men and women used to enter into relationships.
“Dating” as we know it today did not exist before the last century. Men did not have to romance women to get women to marry them. Men did not need pickup lines or any of the other tricks of getting women to show interest in them. Women did not need to “put out” before marriage to give the man a “taste of the goods”.
The two ways men acquired wives in pre-modern times
First let me address the word “acquired” which is a word usually associated with getting property. It is a well-known fact of history that women were considered the property of their fathers (or other male relative if the father was dead) and these property rights were transferred to husbands in marriage.
So it is historically correct to say that in the vast majority of cases men did not “win” their wives (by romancing them) but rather they acquired them by purchasing them from their male relatives.
The first way was the marriage was arranged by the parents when the man and woman were children and they were betrothed but the marriage was not consummated until the man had the ability to support the woman and had a home established for her. Sometimes the arranged marriage was not from the time of the man and woman being children but was a quick arrangement when two sets of parents realized they had two adult children who were not yet married and they would have them to marry.
The second way was if a man found a woman attractive he would NOT approach the woman directly – instead he would approach her father, her brother or other male relative who was responsible for her. He would then demonstrate his ability to provide for the woman and then these two men would agree upon a bride price.
While a woman’s male relative might take her opinion into account of whether she wanted to marry a man often time’s women had little say in whom they married.
A third but rare way that men acquired wives
A third and very rare case would be if a woman had no male relatives in charge of her (no father, grandfather, brother or uncles). Only in this rare condition would a man have to deal directly with the woman herself to see if she would be interested in marrying him.
Even in this last rare case – the idea of dating did not typically happen because it was socially unacceptable for single women to entertain men who were not their husbands. If they did they might be seen as a prostitute or a whore.
There often was little to no romance involved even in the case of a man approaching a woman directly who had no male relatives in charge of her. He simply demonstrated his ability to provide for her and she would decide if she wanted to marry him.
My point in all this is, before the last century the vast majority of marriages were formed because of economic and political necessity – they were not formed based on men romantically pursing women as we see is the case today.
For these reasons you won’t find any reference to anything close to what we call dating in the Bible – it simply did not exist in pre-modern times.
The randomness and chaos of modern dating
As I have previously shown, in times past marriage was a very ordered ordeal. Parents or others elders that were looked up to often helped young people to find suitable spouses that would benefit one another economically or politically.
Today however, instead of marriages coming together on the grounds of spiritual, economic or political reasons – most marriages in the Western world come together because of pre-marital romantic feelings that a man and a woman share for one another.
Most young people enter what we now call “the dating world” without a clue of how to find a prospective spouse. They wonder aimlessly at school, college, work, church or other social functions hoping to bump into that right person.
Even when a person does “bump into the right person” or so they think – dating itself today is far from how God’s Word would have it to be.
Men pursue women by buying them gifts and make all kinds of romantic gestures to show their affection for the women they are with. They continually have to come up with romantic words to flatter the women they are with.
Women often feel pressured to give sex not long after dating to “keep him hooked” on them.
In many ways modern dating and romance has become a form of idolatry. Listen to romance songs on the radio or watch romance movies. Are the things that these people say to each other often times not a form of worship and idolatry toward one another?
Even if a Christian couple has committed to not having sex before marriage often times our ideas of modern dating put Christian couples in very tempting positions with little to no safe guards against sex before marriage.
But there is a way to bring order to the chaos of modern dating and the answer is found in God’s Word.
12 ways to transform modern dating into Biblical dating
Here are several ways to apply Biblical principles to the modern concept of dating to bring it into line with God’s Word and it may also help you to find the right spouse that God has for you.
Dating is for marriage – not for sex or fun
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” – Psalm 25:7 (KJV)
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” – Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” – I Corinthians 7:2 (KJV)
It is not wrong for a young person to desire to find a spouse and be married one day. In fact this is a noble and right desire and should be encouraged by all parents. When you as a young person desire to be with someone whom you know you would never marry – that is by definition a “youthful lust”. When you desire to possess something that God did not intend for you to have that is lust.
So unless you see someone as a potential spouse – you have no business seeking an intimate (emotional or physical) relationship with them.
Follow your spirit not your heart
The world will tell you the very opposite thing – “listen to your heart” is the theme of many romance songs and movies. But it has no basis in Bible.
Yes – God tell us to love him with all our heart:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” – Matthew 22:37 (KJV)
But God also tells us that our hearts can deceive us:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)
So instead of going with your heart which can lead you astray, instead you need to follow the spirit of God in your dating.
Test the Spirit by the Word
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit of God will lead us in “all the truth” and that includes who we should date.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” – John 16:13a (KJV)
But just as we can be lead astray by our hearts, we can also be lead astray by false spirits.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world…We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” – I John 4:1 & 6 (KJV)
When the Bible refers to “false spirits” it is not restricted only to evil and demonic spirits. It is also referring to false teachers and those who would give us bad advice or advice that does not line up with God’s Word.
So how do we know if it the Holy Spirit leading us or some other false spirit or bad influence? It is by listening to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit of God will never lead us in a direction that is contrary to God’s Word.
It is amazing to me how many people, whether it is in dating or even religious practices who are doing things that are completely contrary to the Word of God and then claim “but the Spirit of God lead me to do this and gave me peace about it so it must be right”.
My response to these folks is – “Yes you were led by “A spririt”, but not “THE Spirit”.”
Young people you need the follow THE Spirit of God as you seek the spouse God would have for you.
Only date Christians
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” – II Corinthians 6:14-16 (KJV)
Contrary to popular belief – the Bible does NOT teach the concept of evangelistic dating. We are not to date or marry unbelievers.
This goes back to the previous points about not following your heart and testing the spirits. You heart and other false spirits will tell you – “It’s ok if they are not a believer in Christ, you can help them to be one”. Other false feelings you may have are “but they are such a good and kind person, surely God wants me to be such a good person”.
But the truth is the Bible says “what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
Prove that they are indeed a Christian
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)
I tell my children the first two things they should ask about a person before they would ever consider dating them should be – “Are you a Christian?” and “Where do you go to Church?”.
Obviously each one of those questions needs more detail.
Does the person really understand what it means to be a believer?
Do you sense the Spirit of God upon their life?
Are they a faithful member of their church or do they only attend a few times a year around the holidays?
Guard your heart
So up to this point you if you have followed the previous steps you placed boundaries on yourself and made yourself accountable to your parents or other godly Christians in this dating process. You have determined that dating is for marriage, not for fun. You have sought to be led by the Spirit and not by your sinful heart. You have a found a person who claims Christ and faithfully attends Church.
But it is not yet time to let yourself “fall” for this person, or let your guard down.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23 (KJV)
The phrase “keep thy heart” could also be translated as “guard your heart” as the NIV translates it. We need to be careful of whom we allow into our hearts. When we open our hearts to someone we can make rash decisions that we later come to regret.
The young woman who gives her virginity away to the man with flattering lips who promised to marry her but later leaves her after he gets what he wants will have many sorrows.
The young man who overlooked the fact that a young lady did not believe in God’s roles for Christian women but was simply captivated by her beauty will one day come to regret his decision.
Once a person passes the initial screening processes you need to truly investigate them. There is an old saying that “A man is known by the company he keeps” and the Bible has a similar statement to this:
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” – Proverbs 13:20 (KJV)
Does he or she have wise and godly friends? When you talk to their friends what do they reveal about the character of this person you are dating?
Guard your body
Ok the cat is really out of the bag now. When I say “dating”, I am referring to a relationship between a man and woman that could potentially lead to marriage and I am referring to what is known as courtship. Now this is one even my teens have a very hard time swallowing because of the culture we live in.
Those who have read any of my posts on Biblical sexuality know that I do NOT believe we must suppress our sexuality even before marriage. Our sexuality is a gift from God meant to be experienced and enjoyed before marriage and after marriage.
I just read on another Christian site that young Christian men should avoid learning too many details about sex until just a few days before they are married for fear that they might have sexual fantasies about their wives to be.
What a ludicrous statement to make!
Yet many Churches all across America and the world teach this unbiblical philosophy of about sexual fantasy and sexual imagination.
HOWEVER – while we might be able to enjoy our sexuality before marriage through sexual imagination and even masturbation (which the Bible does NOT condemn) we are forbidden from pursing any kind of sexual relationship with a person before we have entered into a covenant of marriage with them. That includes cybersex, phone sex or any other kind of sexual activity.
People such as myself and others that embrace the idea of courtship believe that young people should not be allowed by their parents or themselves to be put in a position where they might sin sexually with one another.
I can hear all the teens and young college students yelling at me at this point.
But the Bible says we should not put ourselves in a position where we know we could possibly be tempted to sin:
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” – Romans 13:14 (KJV)
“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” – I Corinthians 6:18 (KJV)
I think the best policy is for parents and young people to agree that they will always be in a group setting, whether it is with a church youth group or college and career group or a least around a larger group of Christian friends or relatives at all times.
Agree on Biblical marriage roles
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:22-27 (KJV)
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” – I Timothy 5:14 (KJV)
There are many people who truly believe in Jesus Christ and are saved and regularly attend their churches but reject all the Bible’s teachings on God design of gender roles. They believe these teachings are outdated and were not meant for all time.
Listen to me young man. Listen to me young lady.
You can find the nicest person in the world, even a Christian who regularly attends church.
But if you do not agree on the doctrines of Gender roles as taught in Scripture you will be in for a lot of heart ache!
Seek your parents blessing
“Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” – Proverbs 23:22 (KJV)
If your parents are believers – you should have their blessing before proceeding in marriage. Even if they are not believers – they may still have some helpful advice.
In most cases your parents are the ones who know you better than anyone else in this world. Even if everything seems to match up – your father and mother may see some incapability between the two of you that you did not notice.
In fact because Samson did not listen to his parents advice about a woman it ended up costing him his life in the end (Judges 14:3).
Now there are some cases where parents are wicked and unbelieving people. So please don’t think I am saying parents ALWAYS have to give their blessing. But I do think in most cases you should have your parents blessing before marrying someone.
Seek other Godly counsel
Before agreeing to marriage with this person seek wise and spiritual advice from those around you.
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14 (KJV)
Bring the person you are dating around your Christian friends and then ask them afterwards privately what they thought of the person.
Pray and ask God to show you the right spouse
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” – Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
Last but certainly not least you need to pray! This should be the first thing you do before you set out to date and it should be the last thing you to do before you open your heart to a person and let them in.
Even if you apply all these other Biblical principles there are so many variables when it comes to choosing the right spouse that God has for you. There are different types of personalities and differences in preferences. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you to that right person.
Premarital counseling with a Pastor is CRITICAL!
I know this is really tough – but even up this point you must still continue to guard your heart. I know of many Christian men and women who discovered things about their soon to be spouse in pre-marital counseling but they felt they were too invested with a wedding planned and the time they had spent with this person.
Please listen to me young person. It is NEVER too late to back out of an engagement. You may find in pre-marital counseling that your spouse does not really believe in Biblical gender roles. You may find out that they do not have a Biblical philosophy of sex in marriage. These are critical things that will affect you for the rest of your life.
So after reading all these 12 ways to transform the chaos of modern dating into Biblical dating the question you are probably asking is “When can I stop guarding my heart?” I believe the answer to that question is after you have completed premarital counseling and have determined that this person is a spiritual match for you in all the important ways I have mentioned here then you can begin to let your guard down.
But really I think until the day you are married and have entered in the covenant of marriage with this person – you need to be careful with your heart.
Even after marriage – do you realize how many people have allowed their spouses to lead their hearts astray from God? We must never allow that.
But after we are married that is when we can fully give our hearts and bodies to our spouses while still remembering that God must always be first in our marriage.
Please don’t misunderstand me. There is no perfect person out there. There is no person with whom you will agree on all things. There is no such thing as your “soul mate” – sorry to burst your bubble. But there are good Christian people out there who love the Lord more than anything including you and that is why they will always love you because of their commitment to God.
There are no perfect people, but there are men and women who truly believe in Christ and his Word and they embrace Biblical gender roles and want to live their life by the God’s Word. If you can find a person like that – this is the person you want to marry.
In some upcoming articles I will give some more gender specific things to look for in Biblical dating. But everything I have said here I think Biblically speaking applies to both men and women.