Spiritual Youth in a Carnal World: In Dating

What is dating?  Why date?  What are some of the reasons for dating?

What should we do on a date?  How far may we go in our touching and kissing?  Where do we draw the line?  How do we know where to draw the line?

The theme for this Young People’s Convention declares the fact that you are spiritual and that the world is carnal.  Do you realize that the future of the Reformed faith depends, to some extent, on your living in the awareness of the difference between yourselves as “spiritual” and the world as “carnal”?  This difference is called the “antithesis.”

Therefore, a discussion of who to date and how to date is really an application of the antithesis.  That means that we, the “spiritual”, may not unite with the “carnal” in our marriages, and therefore in our dating.  And it means that we do not unite ourselves to carnality.  The carnal world has greatly influenced the church concerning sex, dating and marriage.



Who do we date?

Dating is of recent origin.  Nobody “dated” as we know it.  It is a relatively recent, Western cultural development.  That is why the Bible says nothing specifically about dating.  That does not keep us from using Scripture, for there are several general principles we find in the Bible which do apply to dating.

I would describe dating as the middle ground in the process of finding a suitable mate.  It comes between fellowship and engagement.

It is my experience that you young people send conflicting signals about the seriousness of dating.  One signal is that dating is just “for fun,” and the other signal is that it is pretty serious.  Sometimes you determine which signal to send by what can be used for your advantage at the moment and which will confuse your parents the most. The first signal is usually sent with the mouth.  Other times, it is very evident that even while you say one thing with your mouth (“just fun”), you act quite differently and treat the whole matter as very serious.  For example, if Bill had just one date with Josephine, then they are “going together,” and no one else should dare ask Josephine, because she is “going” with Bill.  Another example is the tears that are shed and the feelings that are hurt.

I and your parents want to respond to both signals you send our way.  It may sound like we are contradicting ourselves because you will hear us say that dating is serious business and that it should be for fun.  We mean both.  And we are not really contradicting ourselves because we are only responding to the two different signals you send.  When you act as if dating is pretty serious and sometimes “fall” head over heels in “love”, then we say, “Take it easy;” “don’t get so involved in just one, look around;” “date in groups;” “don’t be alone.” But when you say that dating is just for fun, then we say, “Be careful because dating does lead to marriage.”  When I hear, “O Dad, it’s just for fun,” then I say, “But dating is the only thing that leads to marriage.”

Because marriage is the goal of dating, you may not date a person who cannot be a life-long mate.  Why do you want to go out with an unbeliever, or with someone whom you know you could and never would marry?  Date any personally suitable church-going member of the opposite sex who is in the covenant of grace and is growing in that grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How ought we to date?

A wrong view of dating is to consider dating individualistically or selfishly.  If dating is simply and only a means to personal fulfillment and romance, then dating itself is sin.  If the idea is, I spent a lot of money on her, so I have the right to…then dating is sin!

Another wrong view of dating is to see it romantically.  “Romance” is defined as that which is without basis in fact, fanciful, not practical, dominated by thoughts and feelings of idealistic love and courting.  If the guys are more inclined to view dating individualistically, then girls have the tendency to see dating through “romantic eyes.”  This is opposed to spirituality, which is objective (while certainly includes feeling) and God-centered.

If dating is romantic and individualistic, then God’s Word is placed under feelings.  But God’s Word must govern our feelings and emotions.  The bed and dating are not to be separated from Christ’s dominion in your life.

They are to be under His dominion.

Do not quickly conclude that there is no romance in being spiritual.  Take the time to read the following passages to learn that the opposite is true: Song of Solomon 1:2b-4a,10,11,15a; Gen. 29:31, 35 ); romantic love does not justify everything.



We must have a Biblical view of dating, of sex and marriage, and a Biblical view of purity.

Human sexuality is a wonderful part of God’s creation of man.  Consider the fact that Adam and Eve’s sinless holiness is described as an unashamed nakedness (Gen. 2:25).  This clearly implies that no part of God’s creation is to be considered sinful, bad and dirty.  Human sexuality has been created by God to be a powerful and mysterious force (Song of Solomon 8:6,7).  Sexual desires are one of the strongest desires God has created (Prov. 6:25ff).  While these desires are strong enough in themselves, their intensity is increased by the prevalence and popularity of the sin (“everyone is doing it”), especially today!

Man’s fall into sin greatly affected also this aspect of God’s beautiful creation.  Just as Adam and Eve’s sinlessness is described as unashamed nakedness, so the consciousness of sin came for them through the awareness of their nakedness (Gen. 3:7).  Their beautiful sexual powers were subject to sin and were now “lusts of the flesh” (Rom. 13:14).  “Lust” is the wages of sin (God’s sentence): cf. the gross sins into which God pushes the willful sinner (Romans 1).  Now sexual desires, while in themselves good, are often expressed in perverse and sinful ways.  Now sexual sins reveal the deceit and irrationality of sin in a powerful and unique way.  And now these sins show great weakness of even regenerated hearts.

God has redeemed sexual desires from shame, but only in the union of those who marry in the Lord.  Sex is only allowed in marriage: Heb. 13:4; I Cor. 7:2,7; Matt. 5:27-30.  Then sex is most beautiful and wonderful, especially when scars from the past do not come into the bedroom.  The seventh commandment is not “dated.”  It is as relevant today as it was 3000 years ago.  You see, God does not change.

The issue is really not only sexual purity, but also that of the Lordship of Jesus Christ”.  The question to be answered is not, “Who am I?”, but “Whose am I?” I Cor. 6:19b,20 teaches that we are not our own; therefore glorify God in your body.

Sexuality is a gift of God, a good gift.  He has given you this gift not to be used selfishly or romantically.  Body and soul, you are not your own.  So use this gift for Him.  First and foremost we must save ourselves for God.



            It is beneficial if we consider what happens if we disobey God.  If we misuse His good gift of sexuality, are there consequences?

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

The girl feels used and cheated, for she has “lost” a most precious possession: her virginity.  “Lost” is not the right word, because she gave it away cheaply.  Virginity is a gift God gave her and she can only give it away ONCE.  After that she can never get it back, and she can never give it to anyone else.  Today very little is said about the pricelessness of virginity.  To the contrary, TV, movies, romances make virginity cheap.  However, I am convinced that girls do prize it, but they give it away out of pride.  They do not want to be “odd,” or they want the feeling NOW, or they use sex to get love.

The “man” (I put that word in quotes because such a male is not a real man) too “loses” something.  He gives away cheaply a priceless gift.  He loses the gift of a proper understanding of the holiness and mystery of sexuality (a matter “too wonderful” – Prov. 30:18,19).  When he uses a girl as a sex object (no matter how much he tells her that he “loves” her), then he has lost a sense of that mystery and glory which is meant to be highly prized.  Premarital sex is entering into a holy of holies in a degrading and profane manner, violating the will of God.  And the only reason for rushing in is so terribly selfish!

I have been asked, “But what if we are engaged to be married?  Is it not alright then?  We are really committed to each other.”  All reasons for premarital sex are selfish: for fun or self-gratification, the desire to be loved (a most powerful force), the fear of what the other party will think.  To those who have asked me this question, my answer is in the form of a question: Can you justify it with an open Bible?  Do it, if you can do so to the glory of God.  Besides, early sex steals from the intensity and wonder of the act (as we save dessert for last and we save presents for Christmas Day).  In addition, do not forget that not all who are engaged to be married get married.  Then if you fulfill your selfish desires together before God says it is alright, you will later enter into marriage with scars.  Remember, God will not be mocked.  Do not be deceived.



            What is to be our motivation?

Our motivation may not be one of fear: fear of being found out, fear of pregnancy, fear of a disease, fear of the opinions of others.

A proper motivation is that of love of our neighbor: my neighbor’s wife or daughter.  Also my neighbor whom I must love can be my future wife, or my parents, or my future wife’s parents, both of whom I would hurt terribly when my sins were discovered.

However, the main motivation is to be that of love of God and the salvation He freely has given.  Loving God out of gratitude for all He has done for me, drives me to strive to please Him in all of my conduct, including my conduct with my date.

If God created the sexual desires and they have now become powerful lusts, are they controllable?  God has provided an escape from the tyranny of lust.  There is hope for both those who desire to maintain the gift of the purity He gave.  And there is hope for those who have already violated God’s pure gift of virginity.  First, the power of God’s sovereign grace removes the guilt of all sin, and it delivers us from the filth of sinful flesh.  We can no more get our virginity back (even though we shower and dress) than we can remove a hole after pulling out the nail.  But God graciously cleanses.  This is not a sin which cannot be forgiven.  Sexual sins and temptations must be treated like all other sins and temptations.  They are part of the normal, sinful Christian life.  Where there is sin, there must be repentance accompanied with the prayer for forgiveness and for God’s grace to pursue holiness.  Then there may be the assurance of God’s gracious forgiveness, and the assurance that He will give us the grace to walk in holiness.  We cannot retrieve our virginity, but we can retrieve our chastity and purity before God.

Secondly, the Spirit of Christ brings with salvation deliverance from sin’s power and the gift of self-control (called “temperance” in Gal. 5:23).  Sexual energies and desires are controllable.  As powerful as they may be, they can be controlled.  The Bible teaches that we are not helpless before these lusts, for “Christ strengtheneth us” (Phil. 4:13).  We can break with sinful self-indulgence.  And we are called to move progressively toward Spirit-filled self-control.  Jesus spoke of some who were eunuchs for the kingdom’s sake (Matt. 19:12).  We must practice self-denial, just like our Master.

The way to fight this sin and temptation is to “flee” it (I Cor. 6:18), just as Joseph did.  This temptation cannot be met with firm resistance.  To be “brave” before this sin is to be a fool.  The only way to be faithful to God in regard to this sin is to flee.  To control sexual desires, realize that you need more wisdom than Solomon had as well as more wisdom than he used.  This admonition has the clear implication that we must be very careful not to overestimate our self-control or spirituality.  Rather we are admonished to “make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”  One of the best ways not to make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts is to “be alone with others, never all alone.”  Another way is not to date so frequently.

We fight the temptations of this sin by making a conviction to be pure before we date.  This means that you must draw a line as to how far you will go.

Ì would not say this except I have seen how fast some of you “operate” and I have heard how some of you talk about those of the opposite sex.  For many of you it does not seem to take very long to get from learning each other’s names to the giving and receiving of hickeys.

We need to draw a line because the Bible attaches physical attraction and intimacy with romantic love between a man and a woman (read the Song of Solomon).  We cannot have developing romantic love without having increased pressure toward consummation.  It is abnormal to become more and more intimate mentally and emotionally, and not want to consummate that union.  We are walking on hot coals if we keep getting closer and closer together when not ready to marry.

We need to draw the line before we date because wavering at the outset often results with falling in the end.  In obedience to your Saviour and Lord, draw the line and make a commitment not to go over it.

Finally, realize that you can stop what you are doing.  If what has been said earlier pricks you, then realize that you can stop what you are doing, by putting the relationship in submission to the will of God.  It is not that God wants to deprive you of something that is good for you.  Real love will say, “No!  I will not go further.” Real love is restrained and controlled until God says, “Yes.”  Besides, it can be argued that it is better (more powerful and beautiful) when it is restrained.



I am not going to set forth rule upon rule.  Rather it is my intention to leave you in the custody of your conscience as awakened by the Word of God.  You must judge whether you are aroused, whether you are committing adultery in your heart.

Do not forget that the woman at whom you look to lust after in your heart (which is adultery) can be your girlfriend – cf. Matthew 5:28).

Consider that you can come to wedding night without ever having kissed and not lost anything.  Many have lost much who kissed on the first date and kept going from there.

By the grace of God, hold fast to God’s Word, striving to be pure as the Lord our God is pure.  Purity or chastity is losing your life (your desires) for Jesus and having the promise of finding it (Matthew 16:25).  Be willing to lose your life (of sexual satisfaction) for the sake of Christ.  It is worth saving yourself.  And He gave you His Son to redeem your soul and body, both of which are His (I Cor. 6:19,20).  God’s gift of virginity you can give away only once.  Keep it for your God-given mate.

Believe God’s promise of joy and fulfillment.  Great shall your reward be in heaven.