Song of Songs tells us in numerous passages not to "stir up or awaken love until it pleases" (2:7, 3:5, etc.).The orthodox, uncontroversial interpretation of this language is that it instructs men and women not to relate in ways that arouse or encourage sexual desire or a high, unique level of intimacy until it is appropriate (i.e., within the context of marriage illustrated in the book).
Again, Romans 13 talks about doing no wrong to our neighbors and then names sexual sin as just such a wrong.If you are single and keep reading this piece, you may be tempted to think of what follows as principles that limit or restrict the way you act while dating.There may be some truth in that in some sense, but they are even more fundamentally about marriage relationship — and about positively loving our single brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that prioritizes one another's spiritual good (an ethic with which Scripture is deeply concerned).So to take one of my examples above, the story of Jacob and Rachel is found in Genesis, a historical narrative.The author's main point in that part of Genesis is to describe the story of Jacob and Rachel as part of a larger narrative about God and His plan of redemption, not to "prescribe" (to endorse or instruct) anything about their conduct. It means that even though Jacob ended up taking two wives, that fact in a historical narrative does not override Paul's direct teaching on marriage in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians and elsewhere that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 warns us that we are to abstain from sexual immorality and to use our bodies in holiness and honor rather than lust, and that we should not "transgress or wrong" one another in these matters.Other translations render that word "wrong" as "defraud" (see the old RSV, among others).The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture holds that the Bible guides and instructs us authoritatively in all areas of our faith and life, and that there is no area of life about which the Bible has no guidance for us.Second Timothy -17 teaches us that "[a]ll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." That teaching, reproof and correction may be only at the level of broad principles in some areas of life (like dating), but it will be there nonetheless.The idea that some levels of relationship are unique to marriage should get our attention as we engage in relationships that present a constant temptation to tread into "marriage" areas regarding emotional and physical intimacy, companionship, and the special status that dating partners tend to occupy in our lives.Once we acknowledge that dating is not an "anything goes" enterprise with regard to intimacy, we're in a better position to think through what a godly, responsible level of intimacy is.