kissA few years ago a friend wrote to me and asked an important question. What does the Bible say about sex before marriage? He was an 18-year-old, and was no doubt struggling with this issue as he got more serious with his girlfriend.

The topic of sex before marriage is a difficult one for many in our day. Teenagers and singles in their 20s and beyond face sexual pressures undreamed of a century ago. Many consider premarital sex to be fine as long as it is consensual, and some believers go along with this mentality. But it is important for the believer to consider all that God has said on the matter and all that is relevant before deciding what to do and how to behave in regards to this important issue. I have written this message to help those singles like my friend who may be struggling with this issue and desiring to know what the Lord would say on the matter, as well as what would really be best for them to do.

What’s Wrong with Sex Before Marriage?

I. What the Bible has to say.

1. What is the purpose of sex and marriage? Genesis 2:18, 20-24.

“And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’

“So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

“And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Here we see the origin of marriage. Man (Adam) was first created as a totally self-sufficient, individual being, capable of living and reproducing alone. God, however, looked upon this and, first of anything in His creation, said, “It is not good.” Therefore He put Adam to sleep and took a “rib” out of him. This might be better translated as “side,” however, for this is what God actually took out of Adam…his female “side.” Thus the female side of Adam was now manifested in a different being, called Woman. This division split into two what was once one. Now, however, God did not leave the two separate, but declared that they should cleave unto one another as one. The great plan of God was to take what was one, split it into two, and then, through the bond of the marriage commitment, bind it back into one again. This, unlike Man being alone, was now “very good,” as was all the rest of God’s creation up to this time.

Therefore, the primary purpose of marriage was not childbirth, as some claim. Rather it was to produce a good thing…not two independent individuals, but two inter-dependent individuals who “cleave” to each other. Thus marriage is a commitment to make back into one what God had separated. Sex is the physical working out of this reunion and one of the highest acts of it, as it produces perhaps its greatest miracle: a new life. And this new life contains half the genes of the father and half the genes of the mother, thus fusing the two back into one just as it was in the beginning. However, the child also manifests the division God had made, as he or she bares either one sex or the other, either male or female, and thus must himself or herself be joined together in a marriage commitment to again become one and continue the cycle. This is the wonder of God’s plan.

2. Does this mean that ANY sex at all produces this union? I Corinthians 6:16.

“Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘The two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’”

Yes! Any act of sex is sufficient to join two together as one, even sex with a prostitute. This is why sex should not be done outside of a permanent union.

3. What does the law have to say about sex before marriage? Exodus 22:16-17.

“And if a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.”

We are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). Nevertheless, the law gives us a standard of what is right and what is wrong. God makes it clear here that a man who lies with a woman should immediately make her his wife, as he has been joined to her. If he is unable to do so, he is still financially responsible to her as if he had married her. Often in our day “shotgun weddings” do not work, as either partner can opt out of the marriage at the drop of a hat if he so desires. But in God’s original plan sex immediately results in a permanent union. Thus the best idea would be not to have sex at all without a marriage commitment.

4. Why was God so particular about wanting one woman and one man to be joined in eternal union, rather than making it so that people could have multiple partners? Malachi 2:15.

“But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring.”

Why did God want man to have one partner and no more? If being joined to one woman was a good thing, why wouldn’t being joined to two be even better? This is the question the prophet is asking here. God didn’t finish creating Eve, get all ready to create another partner for Adam, and then find out that He had run out of spirit so that He could not do so. He certainly had “a remnant of the spirit.” He could have created more partners for Adam if He had so desired.

God reveals here that the reason He did not create multiple partners for Adam was that He sought a godly seed. A man who has one woman and one woman only with whom he has ever had sex will look very much to the good of the children of that woman. A man who has multiple partners, however, may not have the desire or even the ability to seek the godly bringing up of the children of his earlier partners. God wants each person to only be joined with one other person in the whole world through sexual union so that their children will have a father to teach them how to grow up and live in a godly way.

5. If God made our bodies to have sex, how can it be wrong? I Corinthians 6:13-18

“Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘The two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body; but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”

The Corinthians were very used to sexual freedom. Some among the Corinthian believers were arguing that this was okay. Their argument ran along these lines:

Look at the stomach. God made the stomach for foods and foods for the stomach. Therefore, what should we do for the stomach? Give it foods! It is not wrong to eat food. Indeed, it is natural because that is what the stomach was made to have. In the same way God created the sexual organs for sex and sex for the sexual organs. Therefore, what should we do with the sexual organs? Give them sex! From this we can conclude that it is not wrong to have sex with whomever we want, even with a prostitute!

Paul does not accept this argument for a moment. They may have been correct about the stomach and foods, but both of these are going to be destroyed because they are tainted by sin. Not everything I desire to eat is good for me or for my stomach, even though I desire it. My new body will not be like this, but rather it will crave only the food that is good for it. In the same way my body may now crave sex that is not good for it. My future body when I am raised up will not be so, but will only crave sex with the partner to whom I am permanently joined. In that life a woman could stand before me naked and I could have a conversation with her and yet not be in the slightest bit stimulated or attracted to her, unless I purposely willed myself to do so. Yet, if my wife stood before me naked, I would be just as attracted to her as I would be now, if not moreso. This is the way our bodies should be and would be if it were not for sin.

In our society, many people proceed from the assumption that “if it feels good, do it.” Many believers faced with this issue may be sucked into this mindset, and think “how can something that feels so right be wrong?” Yet of course sex feels right, for it is something that God gave us to do. Yet He also gave us rules that we are to follow in having sex. We cannot ignore these rules and get by with it. Our bodies are fallen, and they cannot be trusted in telling us what is right. We must pattern our lives after God’s Word, and its commands concerning sex are clear.

We must not indulge our bodies in having sex for this means joining Christ Himself to that person. If that person is a prostitute or an unbeliever, I am joining Christ to her, which is dishonoring and blasphemous to Him. But what if the person I am having sex with is not a prostitute or an unbeliever, but is a believer? In that case I am still dishonoring Christ, for I am joining my body that belongs to Him with another of His children to whom I have not committed myself in a lifelong way. If I am divided from her, as will very likely be the case eventually, I have then divided Christ in half by my actions and thus have dishonored and blasphemed Him just as much by my actions.

6. But what if we are committed in our hearts even if we aren’t married? I Thessalonians 4:3-6.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.”

Sexual immorality (or fornication) means sex in trade for something rather than sex in a committed relationship. We might say that it is prostituting yourself, although not necessarily for money. There are many things that women (or men, for that matter) may give their bodies in trade for…whether it be the satisfaction of physical desire, or an emotional longing for love, or an answer to loneliness, or a desire to feel attractive, or even as a boost in self-confidence. But all these “currencies” are fornication as much as actually prostituting yourself for money, for they are trading your body for something you want, rather than giving yourself in a permanent union to a committed partner.

But why should God’s children not satisfy such desires, as long as they are satisfying them with a partner whom they are planning to eventually marry anyway? The answer is that such a union can result in defrauding your “brother” Christian. It is easy to SAY you are going to commit yourself when all it is is words that you say to get your girlfriend to take her skirt off. But often the actual acting out of such promises can cause you to balk, for they were made in the heat of the moment and not before God, His people, and both your and your partner’s family and friends. Thus you have actually defrauded your “brother” believer by promising him or her a commitment that you were not actually prepared to make. This sort of defrauding should not be done by a believer, particularly not to another believer, and avoiding such a thing is why we should not depend on mere promises of a future union and commitment but actually make that union and commitment before we indulge our bodies in sexual union. Once we have actually given our lives to the other person is the time to satisfy any needs or desires we may have, not before when our promises may turn out to be meaningless or merely a fraud.

7. So what if we do break up? What is the worst that can happen? Ephesians 6:4.

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Having sex is inviting a child into the lives of yourself and your partner. Even birth control is never a guarantee, and often fails. And when relationships break up and children are left in the aftermath, the results for them are often the most catastrophic thing to happen.

Here God commands fathers not to provoke children to wrath. I can think of few things that could provoke a child to wrath more than being denied a father and mother who live together and love each other. Statistics show that the vast majority of criminals came from single parent homes. There isn’t a child out there who has suffered through a divorce or break-up of two at least semi-descent parents who doesn’t wish it had never happened and that “mommy and daddy still loved each other.” The act of bringing a child into the world without a stable family is really an indirect form of emotional child abuse, as it strips the child of stability, love, attention, and a relationship that is so important and so vital to them. Moreover it makes it much less likely for them to grow up loving and serving the Lord, as I noted in point 4 above.

Now I am not saying that a child of divorce or a premarital union cannot grow up to love and serve God. What I am saying is that this makes it harder…much harder. I don’t need to tell the children of such a relationship the problems that go along with it, and how painful it is for them. They know this all too well, having gone through it themselves! I do not have to tell them how hard it is. But I would challenge them with this: don’t you want something better for your own children?

The affect an aborted sexual union can have on any children that union produced cannot be underestimated. This is a terrible “provoking to wrath,” and should be avoided at all costs. No good father or mother would dare risk bringing a child into the world without as close to a guarantee as he or she could get that that child will have a loving and stable home. The neglect of consideration for children in our “free love” society is a terrible mark against it, and a sure sign that we are slipping back into barbarism. Children are one of the most important aspects of the physical union, yet they are not even considered or thought to be of minimal importance in many relationships today. Yet God’s eyes are ever on the children, and it is His desire that no father who is a child of His should create a child without having first been assured that he would be able to give that child the training and admonition he deserves. Yet having sex without first binding yourself to that person in marriage is taking a terrible risk that you will produce a child who will grow up without a father there to raise him. How then can you obey this command of God? This command is made directly to believers today, and should be a major driving force in the kinds of sexual decisions we make. Be sure you can provide a good nest for your children before you ever risk having them!

So we have seen that the purpose of sex is the physical acting out of the rejoining in one of the two individuals God created out of Adam. The bearing of children is the proof of that union. Sex with any member of the opposite sex is enough to produce such a union no matter who she is, and in a perfect world a marriage should follow immediately upon such a union, although it often does not work out this way. The reason why one partner is better than many is because that provides the best scenario for the training up of children in the Lord, whereas multiple partners can lead to children without fathers, without a proper instruction in the Lord, and a father who provokes his children to wrath. Sex is not right even though we desire it, for our bodies are in a fallen state and not as they will be when God raises them up. Joining ourselves in any sexual union joins God to the other person, which is blasphemous to Him if it is not a permanent union with another believer. Commitments between two believers are not sufficient, for often they result in one member having second thoughts and thus defrauding the other, whereas a marriage makes such defrauding impossible for it is made before God, family, and friends. Thus the clear witness of the Bible is that God’s plan is for sex in marriage and in marriage only.

But what about sex itself? Is sex better before marriage or after marriage? Can sex before marriage affect or damage my sexual fulfillment after marriage? Is there any way that ignoring God’s commands about marriage can ruin my chances to have a happy and fulfilled sex life after marriage and for the rest of my life? I will examine these questions in part II of my message.