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.


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