Dating and Sexual Immorality

There are several Scriptural references which directly address sexual intimacy in dating. One of these would be Exodus 20:14, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Deut. 5:18; Luke 18:20; James 2:11), and its corollary, Matthew 5:27-28:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say to you
That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

A second Scriptural reference addressing sexual intimacy in dating is Ex. 22:16-17:

“And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surety endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”

We can see from this Old Testament case law that sexual intimacy before marriage is illegal in God’s economy. Although the penalty for this violation is not death, as in the case of adultery, it is a crime that exacts a monetary penalty. The difference in the penalty is because the seduction of a virgin does not involve the breaking of a vow (North, 1990). Fornication by unmarried partners was a crime in the Old Testament. In the New Testament era, seduction remains an attack on the authority structure of the girl’s family (North, 1990).

A third Scriptural principle involving sexual intimacy in dating would be the general prohibition against any type of sexual impurity such as sodomy (homosexual activity – Lev. 18:22), prostitution (Lev. 19:29), bestiality (Ex. 22:19), incest (Lev. 20:11), and fornication (I Cor. 6:9-20; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3) (North, 1983).

Finally, in Heb. 13:4, God says that sexual intimacy is to be reserved for the marriage bed:

“Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers [fornicators] and adulterers God will judge.”

It is left now for us to define sexual intimacy. Acts 15:29 says that as Christians we must restrain from sexual immorality. The Greek word used is porneia, which has been variously interpreted to mean anything from strictly sexual intercourse (Vine’s Expository Dictionary) to uncleanness as it is used by Moses in Deut. 24:1 (Sutton, 1988). I believe it to mean any kind of moral impurity including sexual impurity. If this is so, then any activity that would result in sexual impurity is prohibited before marriage. This would include fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, and bestiality.



Going Steady



L & T

L,T, & h

L,T, h, & H

L,T, h, H & k

L,T, h, H, k, K, fk, B, SO, & SI


L – look
T – touch
h – holding hands lightly
H – constant holding hands
k – light kiss
K – strong kiss
fk – french kiss
B – fondling breasts
SO – sexual organs
SI – sexual intercourse

Sexual Intimacy Before Marriage

“That which has its natural end in sexual intercourse should be held to your wedding night….” (Wright, 1977:197)

This chart of sexual intimacy permitted before and after marriage reflects my understanding of the Greek word porneia. When comparing Matthew 5:31-32 with Deuteronomy 24:1, Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were distorting what Moses had taught. They had twisted Deuteronomy 24:1 so that all a man had to do in order to be rid of his wife was to write out a certificate of divorce. They had left out the requirement of finding the “unclean thing” in her, a specific offense (Sutton, 1988). Jesus supported Moses when He said that divorce requires porneia, “fornication.” Moses’ use of “uncleanness” and Jesus’ use of “fornication” was the same. Both these words generally refer to the same thing.

The original words for “indecent thing” (uncleanness) and “fornication” are coextensive in their meanings in the Hebrew Old Testament, the LXX, and the Greek New Testament (Bahnsen, 1984).  According to Dr. Greg Bahnsen, they both speak of “generic, ethically abhorrent misbehavior with the focus on sexual immorality” (Bahnsen, 1984:106).  In Exodus 22:27 and Isaiah 20:2, the “unclean thing” refers to nakedness, and in Exodus 20:26, 1 Corinthians 12:23, and Revelation 16:15 to the genital organ. In a broad sense, sexual immorality includes incest (Lev. 18:6; Acts 15:29; 1 Cor. 5:1), whoredom (Ez. 23:18; Gen. 38:24; 1 Cor. 6:15-16; 7:2), and homosexuality (Gen. 9:22; Ez. 22:10; Rom. 1:27; Jude 7).

The Greek word for fornication, porneia, is also used in a general sense for morally shameful behavior. In the LXX it is used for Numbers 14:33, Jeremiah 2:20; 3:9, and Hosea 5:4; 9:1 describing murmuring, arrogance, no fear of God, and idolatry. It is also used to denote witchcraft in 2 Kings 9:22 (Bahnsen, 1984). The Biblical concepts of “uncleanness” and “fornication” are virtually identical in Biblical writings. So, any sexual activity, and not just sexual intercourse, that is morally shameful, arrogant, selfish, or idolatrous would fall into the same category as adultery, fornication, bestiality, and homosexuality as being contrary to the will of God.

The unsaved world views these things to be deeply sexual (even touching of the female breasts). Christians, with their Biblical ethics and laws, should set the standard of sexual behavior in the world. Christians, when they are dating, should witness to these standards even as they witness of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Bahnsen, Greg L.
1984 Theonomy and Christian Ethics. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed.
North, Gary
1983 Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory. Tyler, Texas: Geneva Divinity School Press.

1990 Tools of Dominion. Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics.
Sutton, Ray
1988 Second Chance. Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press.
Wright, H. Norman
1977 Premarital Counseling. Chicago: Moody.


A Brief Argument for Baptism by Pouring

The Greek word that must be dealt with in the New Testament and in the LXX is baptizw (baptize). Many have said in the past that this word, by its very nature, means to immerse. This is simply not so. The root to this word, bapto, means to dip. The context must determine whether this is dipped under or into (immerse or pour). So, we must see how Scripture uses this very important word.

The most telling Biblical argument for pouring is that the only actual description of a baptism found in the New Testament describes it as a pouring. This baptism is prophesied by John the Baptizer in Matthew 3.11,

  • I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire:

We also read of this coming baptism in Acts 1.4-5,

  • And, being assembled together with [them], commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, [saith he], ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

When dealing with the new Gentile converts, Peter refers to this baptism in Acts 11.16,

  • Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

This prophecy of Christ baptizing His Church with the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in Acts 2 and 10. In each case we are told that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the people.

  • And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? . . . And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: . . . Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth [poured out – ed.] this, which ye now see and hear.
    Acts 2.7,17-18, & 33
  • While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    Acts 10.45

It is possible that Paul is alluding to this baptism in Titus 3.5-6 where he says,

  • Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us [poured out upon us – ed.] abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Another argument for Biblical baptism as pouring or sprinkling rather than immersion is the use of the Greek words formed from the root baptw in the LXX to refer to the ceremonial pouring and sprinklings of the Old Testament. Even in the New Testament the English translators render the words formed from the root baptw as wash rather than immerse, and the Old Testament ceremonial washings done by sprinkling or pouring are referred to as baptisms.

In Mark 7.4 baptiswntai is translated wash,

  • And [when they come] from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, [as] the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.

These tables certainly were not immersed, but were just as certainly baptized – that is, washed.

One of the most telling uses of baptize (baptismois) rendered as washing is Hebrews 9.10 where the baptisms mentioned refer to the ceremonial washings found in Exodus and Leviticus, which were sprinklings or pourings. These washings in Exodus and Leviticus are translated from the Hebrew into the Greek LXX as baptisms.

  • [Which stood] only in meats and drinks, and divers washings [baptisms], and carnal ordinances, imposed [on them] until the time of reformation. . . . For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
    Hebrews 9.10, 13-14
  • And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash [baptize – ed.] them with water. . . . Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put [it] upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take of the blood that [is] upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle [it] upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him.
    Exodus 29.4, 20-21
  • And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. . . . And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times:
    Leviticus 7, 51

For a more detailed and certainly more scholarly article on this subject,
see RL Dabney’s writings taken from his Systematic Theology.