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What Does The Bible Say About Sex Outside Of Marriage

Dr Lawson Stone Responds:

Does the Bible Say Sex Outside of Marriage Is Okay?

The students claim that in the Old Testament it appears that, rather than sex being confined to marriage, it leads to marriage involves a number of errors, misinterpretations, and blind spots resulting from not hearing the OT in its own setting and voice. The fact in the OT is that a marriage was seen as naturally being real when sexual intercourse took place because sexual intercourse is the actual physical and emotional uniting of the man and woman. This is the origin of the tradition in the Roman Catholic church that a wedding not followed by sexual intercourse, i.e. not consummated, is incomplete and may be annulled. But this proposition is not reversible, that one can have sex and consider oneself married! The union created by sexual intercourse is real, and happens regardless of ones legal state or even feelings of intimacy. This is why St. Paul warns that sex even with a prostitute still fuses the john to the prostitute as one flesh, and for a believer, implicates the Holy Spirit in an unholy union. The Bible sees sexual union as the vital core of marriage, but this in no way implies that no concern existed for making sure such a union was lawful, sanctioned and blessed by God.

Used by permission.

Dr. Jerry Walls, Ph.D., Notre Dame. Author, speaker, and professor of Philosophy.

Dr. Ben Witherington III, Ph.D., University of Durham in England. Author, speaker, and professor of New Testament and Biblical Studies.

Multiple Partners Or Faithfulness To One Partner

Despite todays freer sexual atmosphere, the Biblical and spiritual ideal is still a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship. Most commonly, this means committed and faithful For more on marriage and its spiritual source and foundation, see the article, How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?

Its just as true as it ever was that if you sleep around and engage in promiscuous sex with many partners, youre heading for trouble both spiritually and in your prospects for genuine romantic and marital relationships. Marriage is based on mutual love, commitment, and trust between two people. It cannot coexist with promiscuity and casual sex with multiple partners.

In other words, as I said earlier, if you think there is nothing wrong with promiscuous and even adulterous relationships, and just want to sleep around with no restrictions or boundaries, thats a serious issue. It will ultimately destroy your prospects for a real marriage.

However, as I also said earlier, if you value marriage and want to be in a committed, monogamous relationship, sex before marriage is not such a serious issue. Your longing for a real marriage relationship will move you in that direction if you remain committed to it.

Does this mean that theres no problem at all with premarital sex from a spiritual perspective?

No, it doesnt mean that.

Both spiritually and socially, premarital sex still carries risks.

Knowing God Guides And Guards Our Spirituality

Piper and Taylor do such an amazing job describing this in their book. I will again include their point here. The knowing we wrote about above is the foundation God uses to guard our sexual choices and to guide our sexual lives. When we have that deep, intimate connection with our Father, he directs us in how we should live our lives overall and in the sexual arena. When we do not retain our knowledge for God, this disorders our sexual lives. “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie… Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” . When we do not retain, when we do not nurture, our knowledge, our knowing of God, it messes us up sexually.

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The Bible Forbids Adultery And Values Marriage

The Bible simply doesnt say much specifically about premarital sex. And some of what has been interpreted as applying to premarital sex doesnt really apply to it.

What the Bible does condemn in no uncertain terms is adultery. However, even though premarital sex is traditionally considered fornication, it is not adultery. Adultery is when one or both of the people engaging in sex with one another is married to someone else. Strictly speaking, the commandment Thou shalt not commit adultery does not apply to sex before marriage.

The Bible presents marriage as a relationship that is sacred because from the beginning God created two human beings to be united into one. Based on this, we can conclude that:

  • If the people engaging in premarital sex think there is nothing wrong with promiscuous and adulterous relationships, and just want to sleep around with no restrictions or boundaries, it is a serious issue.
  • But if the people engaging in premarital sex value marriage and want to be in a committed, monogamous relationship, it is not such a serious issue.

Does the Bible give a green light to premarital sex, then?

No, it doesnt.

But it doesnt give a red light either.

Lets take a closer look at the Bibles yellow light on sex before marriage. Then well look at some issues that are worth considering in making decisions about engaging in sex outside of marriage.

The Link Between Sexual Immorality And Sex Before Marriage

Top 7 Bible Verses About Sex

If you search the Bible for the phrases premarital sex or sex before marriage, you wont find any verses.

However, that does not mean Scripture doesnt say anything about it.

In fact, Scripture is clear on the topic if you understand the link between sexual immortality and sex before marriage.

Often, people lump things like adultery, pornography, and homosexuality under the umbrella of sexual immorality. But, sex before marriage also falls under this umbrella.

1 Corinthians 7:2 says, But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.

Got Questions explains, Since 1 Corinthians 7:2 clearly includes sex before marriage in the definition of sexual immorality, all of the Bible verses that condemn sexual immorality as being sinful also condemn sex before marriage as sinful.

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Husbands Owe It To Wives

Many historians think that the most surprising thing the Bible says about sex is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4:

the husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

One scholar, for example, puts it this way:

The marked mutuality of Pauls comments was, however, revolutionary in the ancient world where patriarchy was the norm. For the husband to have authority over his wifes body was nothing special. Pauls following statement affirming the reverse, that the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does, clearly pointed to a radical and unprecedented restriction on the husbands sexual freedom. It communicates, negatively, his obligation to refrain from engaging in sexual relations with anyone other than his wife and, positively, his obligation to fulfill his marital duty to provide her with sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

The idea that sex was to be mutual and that the husband owed it to his wife and that the wife had a right to claim it from the husband was revolutionary! It was unprecedented! No one had ever said anything like this, anywhere else in the ancient world.

What Does The Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage

I am a Christian and I have sex with my girlfriend. I believe I’m going to marry her, but I want to know where in the Bible it says not to have sex before marriage.The Bible is filled with lots of info about sex, and believe it or not, God thinks it’s a great idea! And why shouldn’t He, He invented it. But, just as it would be unwise to ice skate on a lake in the middle of summer, it’s also unwise to have sex with anyone who’s not your wife.Why? There are tons of practical, common-sense reasons that have significant consequences. Some consequences include dealing with the possibility of pregnancy, acquiring or sharing a sexually transmitted disease, and the most underrated — but possibly most impacting — are the emotional issues that sexually active teens struggle with and take into their marriage.But you asked for biblical evidence, so let’s look at the following verses, along with some questions to consider:

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Is There Any Harm To Have Casual Sex Between Two Responsible Adults

Sexual immorality, even between consenting adults, is harmful to ones own body . A good example is the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. If someone is promiscuous they can become infected and then bring a disease into the marriage, even infecting their partner and risking the health of any subsequent children. The HIV virus, Herpes Simplex, and, AIDS are permanent and those infected may pay an enormous cost for the rest of their lives. Some diseases can be fatal.

Pauls advice nearly two thousand years ago is still as relevant today as it was the day it was written in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5: Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

If you are married, it is your God-given responsibility to fulfill your mates sexual desires. In I Corinthians 7, Paul says:

Traditional Sources On Sex Outside Marriage

What Does the Bible Say About Sex Before Marriage? | Answers to Common Questions

While the Torah does not forbid premarital sex, the rabbis of the talmudic era prohibited it–but one modern authority proposed a sanctioned form of exclusive sexual relationship outside of marriage.

The following is adapted and reprinted with permission of the author from Does God Belong in the Bedroom?. One note of clarification: regarding contemporary authorities, the author writes that the rabbis of all movements forbid sex outside marriage. This is imprecise. While most Orthodox and Conservative rabbis do consider sex outside marriage inappropriate, most Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis are less severe in their language. The official position of the Reform movement is that sex outside of marriage is not ideal, but it is not considered forbidden. Few Reconstructionist rabbis would disapprove of all sex outside mar.

It was the rabbis of the talmudic period who explicitly outlawed sexual relations outside marriage. One fascinating passage articulates the rabbinic attitude:

The rabbis forbid this man to have sexual relations or even converse in private with this woman even though she is single and doing so would save his life. They give two reasons: protecting her family name and preventing the daughters of Israel from being morally dissolute. We see here evidence of a rabbinic morality which has developed beyond strict biblical law.


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Dr Bill Arnold Responds:

For the Old Testament side of things, its interesting that the only text your student interlocutor mentions is the Book of the Covenant stipulation that a man who seduces a virgin should pay her bride-price and make her his wife . What the student fails to observe is that the premise of this legal stipulation is that the man has, in fact, gotten the process reversed. He should have negotiated the bride-price, then married her, then had intercourse. The point of the law, as with many other laws in the Book of the Covenant, is that he has willfully done something wrong and must now make amends. The text the student is citing in your discussion actually supports your position, and not his.

Also, although perhaps not directly related to the question of premarital sex, the single most neglected datum from the OT related to marriage is Gen. 2:24-25. I never thought in my wildest dreams that this text would become controversial in our day, but it elevates the idea of heterogeneous marriage between one male and one female, regardless of how we conceptualize a state-defined and sanctioned certificate of marriage. The biblical concept is clear enough.

God Desires His Best For You

Waiting can be really hard, but it is so worth it.

God is not withholding His best for you by telling you not to have sex before marriage. He is actually protecting you from getting hurt and experiencing deep pain, sorrow, and grief.

God desires people to get married and enjoy the gift of sex within marriage. He gave both Adam and Eve the command to multiply His image by having children.

God has your best interests at heart. While married life is not all about having sex, it is one of the fun parts that God has given His image-bearers to enjoy.

Waiting until you are married to your spouse is going to be more meaningful and special than if you decide to give in to instant gratification now.

God is in the business of wedding planning too, and He knows that if you honor Him and honor each other by waiting to have sex until you are married, it is going to be really great.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

Song of Solomon 2:7 3:5 8:4 ESV

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The Bible On Premarital Sex And Sexual Morality


Its easy to think that the Bible doesnt say anything about premarital sex. But thats because people usually look for negative statements: a condemnation or thou shalt not. But the Bible expresses Gods perspective mainly in positive terms. And Scripture clearly states that sex belongs in marriage, between one man and one woman.

Does The Bible Really Prohibit Sex Before Marriage

Edexcel Religious Studies Unit 1

God loves sex. The first two commands recorded in the Bible are have dominion over creation, and then be fruitful and multiply . In other words, rule the world and have lots of sex. Not a bad day at the office.

Whoever said God was some cosmic killjoy? God created sex and declared it to be good.

Within Christian circles, its assumed God only wants us to have sex if were married. Sex outside of marriage is one of the clearest, unquestionable prohibitions in Christianity. But where does the Bible teach this? Can you name a verse?

Many will race to the Ten Commandments: You shall not commit adultery . But adultery means having sex with someone elses spouse it doesnt refer to an unmarried couple sleeping together. Likewise, when Jesus condemns lust in Matthew 5, He does so in the context of adultery. In other words, we should not sexually desire another persons spouse as our own.

God loves sex. But Hes designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant.

Others might turn to Leviticus 18. This sex chapter lists all sorts of sexual prohibitions including incest, bestiality, adultery and other sexual sins. Its fascinating, though, that nowhere in Leviticus 18 is sex before marriage condemned.

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Thoughts On Does The Bible Prohibit Sex Before Marriage

  • Colin Hamer

    I think for this blog to make any sense we need to be clear that we are defining marriage as the registration of the relationship with the statea modern phenomenon.

    In ancient Israel marriage was a matter between the families involvedno priest, elder, or temple involvement. This is not my area of expertise, but it seems that this concept carried through to the early church until the Middle Agesit was not finally brought into church until the Council of Trent as I understand it. Subsequently, many countries brought it into the statebut not until 19th century in the UK.

    As regards, In biblical times, a man was not prohibited from having sexual relations with a woman, as long as it led to marriage I am not convinced by this. The mohar was dependent on virginity on a first marriageand was a big deal, as Deuteronomy 22 indicates. It was the fathers responsibility to ensure her virginity until marriagewithout that her subsequent marital prospects were considerably diminished.

  • Maybe that explains why adultery is seen as the major category rather than one sexual sin among many.

  • Geoff
  • Colin Hamer

    Hi Paul,

    You say in the link that marriage is a Legal/Social bond = The public ceremony that was officiated by community elders/certified licensed officials.

    Where in the Bible does it say that?

  • Steven Robinson
  • John 4.3942 rather strongly suggests reconciliation doesnt it?

  • 50-60 years is of course common but depends on lifespans, so we could say lifelong.

  • The Communal Aspect Of Marriage

    Different cultures have different ways of arranging marriage and marking the marital bond. Not surprisingly, then, the Bible doesnt require all marriages to be sealed in a church ceremony or with a state-authorized license.

    Still, whatever the time and place, biblical marriage always includes a distinctly communal aspect. Its first understood in a couples decision to leave their parents and cleave to one another. With that step, they start a new family unit as a part of general human society.

    In other words, marriage involves a couples public commitment to build a strong and lasting relationship. That relationship isnt only a foundation for the nurturing of their own children its also a building block of social stability and a contribution to the well-being of the broader community.

    In Bible times, that communal part of marriage was overseen almost exclusively by the family. However, in 21st-century America, it also involves the state and for serious believers, the Church.

    What about Mary and Joseph? Well, betrothals in ancient Judaism werent like modern engagements. A betrothal did require that the couple not have sex until after the wedding ceremony. But aside from this, the relationship a betrothal established was every bit as binding and permanent as what we normally think of as marriage.

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