Biblical Foundation or Framework for Relationship and Dating
“WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY about dating?”
It’s a good question. It’s the right question.
There are two ways to answer the question. The first is, “Nothing.” Paul never wrote a word about what to do on a first date. The Bible is not going to give you a direct answer about whom to ask out or to whom to say “yes”.
People in the Bible didn’t date.
Adam didn’t notice Eve on Tinder or Shaadi.com
Joseph didn’t notice Mary, go home, and start stalking her on
Instagram and liking her pictures.
Dating is, in fact, a relatively modern invention--really only going
back the last 70 or 80 years.
By the way, I see a lot of people get hurt by it, and do long-term damage
both to themselves and others, and
Honestly, I want to keep or protect you from that if I can.
I want you to look back on this chapter of your life without regret,
which very few people can do
By the way, if you’re already married, I want to equip you to better
support the single people as they pursue healthy relationships. As we will see, dating should happen in the context of supporting community.
Dating is essentially a twentieth-century invention. But whether we like it or not, most of us who want to get married have to figure out how to date successfully. Even if dating is a recent notion with which some Christians will be uncomfortable, it is nonetheless something that most of us can’t simply kiss goodbye.
So, the challenge before us is to think biblically about an activity that isn’t in the Bible and that may expose us to worldly attitudes and behaviors. This, by the way, is true not just of dating but also of work, families, and a whole host of other issues. This is where our second answer comes in. “What does the Bible say about dating?” Previously, we said, “Nothing.” There is no direct teaching on dating. But now we must answer the question by saying, “Everything!” That is, everything we read from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is of vital relevance to dating, as to all of life. We hope to show in this series that the Bible presents profound instruction and wisdom that may be directly applied to dating and that will help us to be blessed in dating relationships.
1. God’s Design in Creation
IT WAS ALL SO GOOD. That’s what the Bible says: good, good, good in Genesis 1. The light was good. The plants were good. The water was good. But then, in Genesis 2:18, all that changes. Suddenly we read the words, “not good.”
You hear this from guys all the time:
“Everything was great until the girls got involved!”
“Everything was going well, and then he got a girlfriend.”
To so many men today including Christian men-women are the problem. But that isn’t what God says in the Bible. When Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good,” God is talking about a man without a woman. The verse says and this is where our biblical tour of dating begins- “ Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” This is where we start, with a man’s need for a woman and with God’s provision of a woman for the well-being of the man.
This brings us to a first important point when it comes to dating and relationships: God’s regular intention for mankind is marriage. Under anything like typical circumstances, an adult man ought to be married. Given the way things are today, he probably needs to date someone. And it also means that when he dates, it should be with an eye toward marriage.
It is commonly accepted among men today that the great danger is to get married too early. The thought of marriage is approached with fear and apprehension, with the threat of what the man will lose mainly in mind. But in the view of Genesis 2 and in my experience in ministering to singles, the greater danger is what will happen to the man if he doesn’t marry.
It is not good for a single man to develop selfish and otherwise sinful habits.
It is not good for a man to grow older without the sanctifying influences of a wife and children.
It is not good for a man to battle with sexual frustrations. (The same things might be said about a woman, too, but the Bible is specifically talking here about the man.)
What is good for a man is to seek a relationship that will blossom into marriage, the sooner in adult life, the better.
The purpose had been to find a mate and companion for Adam, and none of all the animals that God had so far made fit the bill. Verse 20: “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.”
If that was true, then the Lord would just have to create something new, and this is what the Bible says happened: “21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” (Gen. 2:21-22).
Adam’s opinion of God’s handiwork is recorded in verse 23. Here, when the eyes of man were first laid upon a woman, out of his mouth came a great, resounding “Wow!” Here is the full quote: “The man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
This is how the relationship between a man and a woman first began, and it wasn’t a bad start.
The result of God’s design was perfect companionship. Adam and Eve were like two sides of the same coin. She really was exactly what he needed, a suitable helper. People talk about a dog being “man’s best friend.” But a dog:
cannot share a man’s dreams,
cannot kneel beside him in prayer,
cannot exhort and encourage him with God's Word, and
cannot inspire in him the self-sacrificing love that makes him godly.
The same might be said of male friendships. Too many Christian men rely on their male relationships for spiritual support, when what they most need is a godly woman. A woman was made to fit with a man:
to match his strength with her resilience,
to minister to his heart with the power given to her by God.
Only a woman is a suitable helper for a man.
Without her, things are “not good” for man; without him, she loses an important part of her identity and calling. Only after the woman had been made from the man and given into Adam’s waiting arms could the Bible finally say, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31).
But, why is love so hard between a man and a woman today? The answer is found in Genesis 3. The problem with our relationships is sin.
2. The Relationship Fallen in Sin
Genesis 3, one of the darkest chapters in all the Bible, tells the story of how the devil brought sin into the relationship. The devil’s offensive was cleverly conceived. The way to destroy Adam and Eve, he realized, was to turn their hearts away from God. He did so by first deceiving the woman, persuading her to desire and then to eat from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now he had Adam in a dilemma. Adam was faced with a choice possible only in a world where sin has entered. He must, he thinks, either obey God and lose his beloved Eve or enter with her into rebellion and lose his own standing before God. The choice was between the gift and the Giver, between Eve and the blessed Creator. “And he ate” Genesis 3:6 tells us of the fruit held forth by the hand of Eve, Adam’s helper, and his choice was irrevocably made.
Adam was wrong, of course. We do not have to choose between the gift and the Giver. Satan had been using Eve to get at Adam. Instead of turning in faith to God for help, Adam turned away from God, and that is why he fell into sin.
Some important points can be made here regarding the nature of sin.
Sin is the rejection of God’s authority.
Sin is based on a denial of God’s goodness and truth.
Sin involves idolatry.
In this case, Adam gave Eve the place in his life reserved for God alone. He made her the ultimate object of his worship; now that Adam had turned from God, she would have to be the source for blessing in his life. Eve was not designed to do this. She was made to be a suitable helper for him, not a goddess.
By turning Adam and Eve away from God, Satan undermined the foundation of their relationship to each other. God was the true foundation for their love, and now they had rebelled against the Lord. The devil had promised them, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). But that was a lie, and they, like so many others after them, would find that no human being is able to meet our needs and make us happy. We may play at God, and we may look to one another to provide blessings that only God can give. But as the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin shows, their rebellion against God ruined the love that God had intended them to enjoy.
Fig Leaves and Pointed Fingers
Adam and Eve’s fall into sin is a great turning point in the Bible and in the history of our race. It is also a significant turning point in terms of understanding the relationship between men and women. So much of what men and women struggle with today can be seen right here in Genesis 3; indeed, to biblically understand the problems that sin brings into our relationships, we need to pay careful attention to what happened next.
The first effect of sin was alienation. The man and the woman could no longer be in fellowship with God. Furthermore and this might have come as a surprise to them, they could no longer enjoy their previous fellowship with each other. They were no longer pure, no longer innocent. Genesis 3:7 tells the tale: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Gone were the days of shameless and open disclosure; Adam and Eve now had something to hide, something to cover up, something wrong at the core of their beings. They were no longer right with God and so they could no longer enjoy the same kind of intimate love for each other.
Now, in sin, nakedness was a source of shame and the presence of the holy God was a threat to him.
Adam was no longer at peace with himself and no longer at peace with God. But at least he had Eve. That is the attitude of so many today: “I don't need God and I don’t need to be made whole - all I need is someone to love.” The problem is that this, too, was lost. God inquired, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen. 3:11). Notice Adam’s tragic reply: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (v. 12). This was true, of course, but that is not the point. Adam was the first blame-shifter, and the first of a long, long line of men to put down his wife for his own sin. Given two hands by God, Adam used each of them to point a finger. “The woman,” he cried, pointing at Eve, “you gave to be with me,” pointing the other at God.
If the problem is this bad, who can fix it? The answer is that God can fix the problem of our sin, and he does so through the redeeming work of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
3. The Relationship Redeemed in Christ
This is the glory of Christianity: that we are saved not just from our sin but also to the blessings for which God first created us and now has redeemed us through the blood of his only Son. This means that we can share and enjoy blessings together as man and woman.
The greatest problem of our lives is that we are alienated from God and out of step with his ways. This is the core issue of sin; everything else is a symptom of this crucial problem. Therefore, redemption starts by restoring us to our relationship with God. This is how Genesis 3 ended and why there was hope for our first parents. God promised a Savior. Verse 15 says:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
He slew an innocent animal in their place and clothed them in its skin to cover their sin. Verse “21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them”. This pointed forward to Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins; when we trust in Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we are clothed in his perfect righteousness before God.
Instead of hiding from God and covering our sins with the fig leaves of good works or mere outward religion, God himself provides us with a spotless robe purchased with the blood of Christ.
This is where a redeemed love relationship begins between a man and a woman. The problems arose from sin, and the solutions flow from God’s remedy for sin. It is only as a man and woman come in faith before the cross of Jesus and find themselves restored to God that their own relationship can be redeemed from the guilt and the power of sin. We find the ability to love one another rather than using one another to meet our needs and desires.
This alone should make it abundantly clear that a Christian has no business dating someone who has not come to faith in Christ. A relationship between a Christian and an unbeliever is powerless to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s redeeming work, for the simple reason that it is based on unbelief and rebellion rather than faith in God’s Word. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 warns,
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
This, like all of God’s other commands, is not a cruel barrier to our happiness, but a loving restriction that preserves us for God’s blessing. The blessings that we are hoping for - come from God alone. Therefore, we must start with obedience to his Word. Only a relationship in which both partners are Christians can possibly result in the kind of love that only God can give.
A redeemed relationship begins with the man and the woman individually coming to God and turning to him as the Lord and Savior of their lives. Whereas sin sought to dethrone God, redemption submits to him and seeks his glory in all things. Turning to God means that we ultimately seek our satisfaction in him, and that we acknowledge and completely trust him to fulfill us, apart from anything or anyone else. It means making God our God, and repenting of all the idols that previously dominated our lives.