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Dating and Preparing for Marriage (Part 1) - Who Can Date, Dating vs Courting

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For a master copy of the outline, click here: Dating and Preparing For Marriage

To listen to the next sermon in the series, click here: Part 2

I. The topic of dating is important for all of us, regardless of our marital status.
1. This is a topic that we most often associate with teenagers and young men and women, but it is not limited to them.
2. Older people sometimes find themselves in a position of being single and available due to the death of a spouse, or divorce caused by adultery, both of which free them to remarry.
3. Some older people find themselves in a position of being single and NOT available to remarry.
4. People with kids need to teach their children how to choose someone to date, and how to behave themselves when dating.
5. Grandparents may even have opportunity to give their two-cents to their grandchildren or adult children who are in the dating arena.
6. There is much instruction in this study concerning what constitutes good character in husbands and wives.
7. Therefore, this study is important for every member of this church.
8. This study is only directed at believers, not unbelievers.
II. "Success in marriage is much more than a matter of finding the right person; it is also a matter of being the right person." - Leland Foster Wood, Growing Together in the Family
III. Marriage is for most people.
1. For most people, it is not good for them to be alone, which is why God designed marriage (Gen 2:18-24).
A. This is why in general, every man should have his own wife and every woman should have her own husband (1Co 7:1-2).
B. "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD." (Pro 18:22)
2. Though marriage is for most people, there are those who have the gift of celibacy and it is good for those fitted for it (1Co 7:7-8).
A. A Christian should consider the merits of remaining single before seeking a spouse.
B. One can attend upon the Lord without distraction if unmarried (1Co 7:32-35).
C. But if you find that you don't have the gift, it is better to marry (1Co 7:9).
IV. Who is able to date?
1. The purpose of dating is to find a spouse, which will be covered later in the outline.
2. In that the purpose of dating is to find a spouse, only those who are able to be married are able to date.
3. Put another way: if you are not able to marry, you should not be dating.
4. This means that the following people should NOT date:
A. Anyone who is married (this should go without saying).
i. Married people are not even to look upon another person other than their spouse (Job 31:1).
ii. A husband is a covering of the eyes to his wife (Gen 20:16).
iii. To look upon a woman to lust after her is to commit adultery in one's heart (Mat 5:28; Pro 6:25).
iv. Therefore, for a married person to go on a date with a person who is not their spouse would be for them to commit adultery in their heart, or at least facilitate doing so.
B. Anyone who is divorced for reasons other than their spouse committing adultery.
i. Marriage is a life long covenant to which God holds people (Rom 7:2; Mat 19:6).
ii. For a man to divorce his wife and marry another is for him to commit adultery (Mar 10:11-12).
iii. The only exceptions to this rule are:
a. If the man's wife commits fornication/adultery he is free to put her away and marry another (Mat 19:9).
b. If a believer is married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever abandons him/her (1Co 7:15).
iv. Since it would be adultery for a man who is divorced to remarry (Luk 16:18), then it would likewise be adultery in the heart for that man to date.
5. The following people are able to date.
A. Single people who were never married.
B. Widows and widowers (Rom 7:3; 1Co 7:39).
C. Single people who were divorced for reasons of adultery (Mat 19:9) or the abandonment of an unbeliever (1Co 7:15).
V. Dating vs. courting
1. Definitions:
A. Date n. - An appointment or engagement at a particular time, freq. with a person of the opposite sex; a social activity engaged in by two persons of opposite sex.
B. Court v. - II. 3. trans. To pay court to, pay courteous attention to; to try to win favour with. 4. To pay amorous attention to, seek to gain the affections of, make love to (with a view to marriage), pay addresses to, woo. 5. To seek to win or attract (any one) to do something; to invite, allure, entice into, to, from, out of, etc. Cf. to woo.
C. Courting, as it is defined here, often occurs on a date (except the love-making part!).
D. There is a more specific definition of courting that is used in the "Christian" world which is made reference to below.
2. We do not live in a culture where marriages are arranged.
3. Nor do we live in a Vision Forum (which is no more) utopia where the norm is for a young man to see a young lady he likes and approach her father for permission to spend time getting to know her among her family prior to entering into a completely adult supervised relationship where the two young people never spend any time alone, nor have any physical contact until they are married.
4. The scripture (specifically the NT) doesn't specify a particular manner for finding a spouse, including the two above mentioned ideas, so therefore this is an area of liberty for Christians.
5. The Bible nowhere forbids "a social activity engaged in by two persons of opposite sex" who are both unmarried; therefore the Bible doesn't forbid dating.
6. In that arranged marriages and Vision-Forum-style courtship are not practical in our time and culture (nor are they commanded in the NT), dating (a social activity engaged in by two persons of opposite sex) is a reasonable and virtually unavoidable method of finding a spouse.
VI. The purpose and end of dating.
1. In a loose, general sense, a person can go on a date with another person for social enjoyment; in other words for friendship.
A. This should only be done when the person with whom you are going on a date is not married and is Biblically available.
i. At a minimum, going on a date with a married person or a divorced person who is not free to remarry would be an appearance of evil, which must be abstained from (1Th 5:22).
ii. If you are engaging in a "dating" type of friendship, the person you are "dating" should be available to marry (even if that isn't your intention) because, 1) the friendship could lead to a romantic relationship, and 2) to the outside observer it likely looks like a romantic dating relationship which would be an appearance of evil if the person is not free to remarry in the eyes of God.
iii. Even if there was not actual evil happening on the date (fornication, lust, etc.), it could lead to that, and the prudent man should foresee that evil and hide himself from it (Pro 22:3).
B. If the person is single and Biblically available, then a "dating" friendship is permissible.
i. Make sure to be up front with the person and let them know that your intention is only friendship.
ii. Friendship can turn into romance, which isn't a bad thing if it's a mutual feeling.
iii. Every good marriage is built on a solid friendship (Son 5:16).
iv. Be aware that the friendship could end sadly if one person becomes romantically attracted and the other person doesn't.
v. All relationships involve risk; if you are not willing to risk being hurt, you will likely never have a close friend or a spouse.

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