Before we can get around to the practical “how to” of dating we have to first understand exactly what dating is. That may sound strange to you. It appears self-evident what dating is all about. We know what dating is….right? I’m not so sure. Dating is the process of seeing if the Lord would have you and the other person married. Put another way, dating is for marriage.

We’ll see that this perspective will change everything about the way we date. The Bible always tells us what God had done before it tells us what to do.Indicatives (what God has done/what is objectively true) fuel imperatives (what we do/how we subjectively appropriate truths). What dating is will have an unmistakable effect on what is done while dating. Where a dating relationship starts will determine, in large part, where it will end up.

So what is the purpose of dating? First we must answer the question: “What is the purpose of marriage?” Marriage is a divine institution, meaning that it is God’s idea and creation. We are not allowed to do with this gift what we will. Our gracious and all-wise Father has a design in marriage – a man and a woman coming together in an one-flesh union that depicts the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is a parable. Marriage tells the heavenly story. Like our Lord Jesus, husbands lay down their lives for his bride. Like the church, wives joyfully submit to and flourish under their husbands godly leadership. In this union the free grace of God is displayed to the world. Marriage is a matrix in which we have the opportunity to show forth the sufficiency and glory of our great God in an unique way. Marriage is for holiness as well as happiness. Marriage is for God.

Dating is for marriage. The goal of dating, if the Lord wills, is marriage. That means a few things for us. First, if you are not ready to be married then you should not date. Practically if you could not see yourself happily married within about a year then you should ask yourself why. Are you too immature? Do you continually give in to sexual sin? Such things are not reasons to get married but are reasons to put off marriage under God gives more spiritual growth. Are you not ready to be married because you are scared or don’t want to be tied down yet? Are you pursuing your career right now and feel like a wife would just slow you down? Check you heart, brother. The normal expectation for the Christian life is that we would be married. Consider this a plea for young men; In the most gospel-centered way possible, grow up. If you are not ready for marriage then you have no business dating.

This also means that you should have a pretty good idea about the girl you want to ask out before you do. I am not saying that asking a girl out is to effectively “pop the question.” But I am saying that you should try to get as much information about the other person beforehand so that you could see, all things considered, yourself being fine to marry that person. How can you get to know these things without dating first? Ask about them from people that you know. Observe them (not in a creepy way) from afar. How do they serve the people of God? What do they obviously love? Is Christ fresh on her lips? This is a good time to make a plug for trying to date within the local church. It is easier to know what someone is about when you have already covenanted together in membership based on a common confession of faith and church covenant. You can ask other women in your church about her. Ladies you can ask elders if they know anything about the guy. Long story short, if you cannot see yourself potentially being married to a person then you should not date them.

You want to date in such a way that will maximize your time if the Lord would have you be marriage. Remember the end influences the means. If we are trying to show forth the glory of our Triune God in the one flesh union of marriage in the ways that God has ordained for us to do so, that will necessarily have an effect on how we spend that wonderful time called dating. If you don’t have marriage in your sights you will almost inevitably use dating in a way that dishonors God and hurts whoever you are dating. Don’t do it. But if you think you are ready, and others in your church affirm that, go for it.

Next time we’ll start getting into how that might look.