I know I’m not the first and won’t be the last to write about this topic, but it’s been on my heart to figure out for myself and I wanted to share with you what I have learned. At the end of this post I will include links of sites I found extremely useful in helping me find verses and understand them.
I want to let you guys know what I write in this post is coming from a place of me trying to discover the truth. Know that I am writing this from a heart that longs for wholeness, not just for myself but for you as well. I am not writing this as a way to pass any condemnation or judgement, as I hope you see as you read on. I hope this post is able to answer a lot of your questions as well as mine. If you have a moment after reading this post to give your own thoughts on the subject, I would love to hear what you have to say.
So… what does the Bible say about sex before marriage?
I’m not entirely sure when this question officially popped in my head, but I will say I haven’t been able to get rid of it since. I’m one of those people that once I want to know something I HAVE to know the answer. I of course, also have to share with you as well, since I have a hard time keeping lessons I learn to myself. 😉
Before I begin sharing what I’ve learned, I think it’s important to take a little detour to talk about marriage first.
To truly understand WHY we’re “saving ourselves for marriage,” I believe it’s important to understand WHAT we’re “saving ourselves” for.
I recently got this Archaeological Study Bible Notes commentary that I have been using religiously (no pun intended) as I process this whole idea of what the Bible says about this topic. In Proverbs 2:17, the author of the book describes marriage as a “covenant before God.” In this Archaeological commentary, a Covenant is described as “a legally binding agreement with spiritual and emotional ramifications.” In this commentary the author also states, “God serves as witness to the marriage covenant, blessing its faithfulness” (c). It then goes on to say, “The purpose of marriage as articulated in the Bible is to find true companionship (Ge 2:18; Pr 18:22), produce godly offspring (Mal 2:15; 1 Co 7:14) and fulfill God’s calling upon an individual’s life (Ge 1:28).” And later, “Marriage binds husband and wife together into an entity greater than either partner as an individual…”
Marriage should not be about our individual self. It’s a partnership. The part about God being a part of the marriage the covenant reminds me of that “over-used” (but still good) marriage analogy that comes from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 about how two are better than one, but three (with God) is even better because “a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
Also, in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, marriage is compared to our relationship with God. We should carry the same reverence towards marriage as we should towards our relationship with God.
I grew up being told sex before marriage is damaging; that it wasn’t God’s original design. I just had never really taken time to look it up for myself. I only took my parents’, teachers’, and pastor’s word for it. They were older than me, so they must know all! – right?
But then I went to college and into the real world. Since then, I’ve heard countless points from people who are okay with having sex before marriage(f) (p.s. I respond so some of these near the end of this post):
“Those [Scripture] passages are outdated.”
“Everyone was in their teens when they got married back then. They didn’t have to worry about temptations like we do now.”
“Why would a God who created sex not want you to enjoy it?”
“But we love each other. When we love each other, this is the best way to express it.”
“It’s okay because we’re going to get married.”
“How do you even know if you’ll be compatible? What if he doesn’t fit? How else would you know if you didn’t do a test run? Would you buy a car before making sure it runs correctly?”
Each one of those points sound legit, making complete sense. Each one of them has caused me to second guess myself and what I had been taught. These ideas offer an ability for us to believe we can control our future: we have a say over who we want to spend our lives with – someone who we’re compatible with and can enjoy having sex with.
As much as these questions and thought process appear to bring order in my life towards my future spouse, I’m not interested in living based off of human logic. I want to know what GOD says. (Not the church. I mean God.) – God who I know has the best in store for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).
So… I prayed for wisdom from the Holy Spirit, then took to a concordance (and Google) and set out to learn what God says in regards to sex before marriage.
I want to take a moment to review a few important points we need to keep in mind when searching for answers to questions that may not be as entirely clear in the Bible as we would like.
- Before you go searching for answers, make sure you’re going through God’s Word with “lens of spirit-illuminated Scripture,”(a) not a lens of human understanding, or the lens of the world. This makes a huge difference! Instead of trying to make culture fit into God’s Word, we go from God’s Word and see if the culture can fit what He says is right. When we strive to live a life that honors God, this should be our first priority.
- When we live our lives led by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17), which everyone who is a believer should strive to live this way, we see 9 different fruits in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). There are a few “fruits” the Holy Spirit produces in us that the Bible mentions throughout the New Testament, but those are the main 9 I want to park on
- For this specific question about sex before marriage, I think it’s important to remember how God defines love: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps not record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
What exactly does the Bible say?
Well, it never actually flat out says, “Don’t have sex before marriage!” BUT, there are still verses that talk about sexual immorality that I believe are crucially important.
There are plenty of verses throughout the Bible that use this terminology. Sexual Immorality is an English translation of the Greek word:
Porneia(b) which means: fornication; voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried people or two people not married to each other; every kind of extramarital (outside of marriage), unlawful, or unnatural intercourse.
With this definition, we have a better understanding of what certain scripture passages say:
“For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
1 Corinthians 6:13
“You say, ‘Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for the food.’ (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.”
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
1 Corinthians 7:1-2
“Now regarding the question you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to live a celibate life. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.”
“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.”
Colossians 3:5, 10
“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping things of this world. … Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.”
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
“God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor – not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and His ways.”
“Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and commit adultery.”
“Drink water from your own well – share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.”
Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4
Three times, the woman urges the women in the town to not awaken love until the time is right.
With all of that being said…
It’s still easy to look at these passages and think they’re outdated; they don’t apply to us anymore because people got married earlier in those days. Yes, that may be true- them getting married earlier. But in the New Testament time, it was still extremely uncommon for people to wait to have sex before marriage. In fact, those who were Jews and/or Christians were the only ones known to abstained from it (a).
Yes, marriages existed outside of the Jewish and Christian community (I wasted 15ish minutes looking up marriage’s origin online before it dawned on me that it all started with Adam and Eve), but it was the Jews/Christians who were taught the sanctity of marriage.
In response to some points made earlier in this post:
- Of course God wants us to enjoy sex. Check out Proverbs 5 and Song of Solomon! But here’s another idea: I’ve heard from so many people that sex after marriage is way more fulfilling than when you enjoy it outside of marriage. If sex is way better AFTER getting married, why not wait for the gold instead of settling for silver?
- Love. This point noted is tricky. My question in response would be, is it an honoring kind of love? Are we honoring each other as the temple of Christ that we are designed to be? Are we being led by the Holy Spirit (who has the best in store for us) in our relationship? Or are we jumping to the chase because we feel it’s ok to? Like I wrote in the point above this, I’ve heard from (healthy) married couples that there’s love before marriage, one that can easily dissolve (Eros and Ludus love (d)), and then there’s one that develops that is just like 1 Corinthians 13 describes, the Agape and Pragma kind of love. Are you going to settle for the first two, or wait until you can have the deeper kind of love? (Side note: all four are important in a healthy marriage, as well as the Phila kind of love and usually present in said healthy marriages))
- What if he/she isn’t compatible? – Well, if that person is the only one we’ve been with, how would we know there’s better out there? If we’ve only driven one car in our life, how would we know if there was something off about it?
- Edit: I was talking with a friend today about this post and she said something that I had wanted to say, but I forgot to mention in the bustle of getting everything I wanted to in here: If our marriages are based solely on sex being great, then our marriages aren’t set on a solid foundation. There will be dry spells in marriage; there will be times where sex won’t be an option (i.e. surgeries, accident, cancer, postpartum…). When you get married, there’s a special emotional connection. You get to know each other and figure out what you like or don’t like. Practice makes perfect, right? 😉
- If he doesn’t fit? I honestly don’t know how to answer this question well. That thought has crossed my mind since someone brought it up… but then again, at the same time, I believe God has the best in store for us, so when we trust Him with our love life, He won’t disappoint.
On a more practical side of things, there are a few reasons why sex before marriage could be dangerous:
- Sexually Transmitted Infections – imagine if everyone only had sex with one person how quickly this would disappear in a generation or two.
- More heart ache – you leave a piece of your heart with each person you connect with on that level.
- Aka – the emotional issues that sexually active teens struggle with and take into their marriage (g).
Again, on a practical side of things, there are a few things we would see change if sex inside of marriage was honored (e):
- Less abortions/unwanted pregnancies
- Less children growing up with only one parent
I have one more important thought to share:
I have also heard the question asked: Can I still be a Christian and continue having sex before marriage?
Keep in mind: by asking this question, we’re basically asking, “How much can I get away with and still be a Christian?” I do believe the apostles warn against this mentality in the New Testament. We should, as believers, desire to live clean, holy, innocent lives. Basically, as I tell people often, draw a line and live above it.
Who is our #1 priority in life? Is it God? If we answer yes to that question, we need to ask ourselves this: “Do I live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or do I live based on what I think is right?”
1 John 2:4-6 says, “If someone claims, ‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living the truth. But those who obey God’s Word truly show how completely they love Him. That is how we know we are living in Him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
I hope all of what I wrote down has been helpful for you. Let me know your thoughts. I’d love to have conversations about this as I’m sure there’s still questions that need answers that I haven’t been able to provide.
I hope you all have a blessed day,
Woman of Purity~
(a) – How Can I Convince My Boyfriend That Sex Before Marriage Is A Sin?
(b) – What Does The Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage?
(c) – Archaelogical Study Bible Notes – by Garrett, Duane and Kaiser, Walter C. Jr.
(d) – The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love
(e) – What Does The Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage?
(f) – Three Lies About Premarital Sex
(g) – What Does the Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage?