4 Myths about “Saving Sex for Marriage”

Congratulations! If you are following my “Planning a Christ-Centered Wedding“, it probably means you are engaged (or would like to be). I am adding a few posts to this series to look at the engagement time! Brace yourself for our first (and potentially button-pushing) topic: why Christians should save sex for marriage.  

Does the Bible really say “no sex before marriage”?

Yes, the Bible forbids it in several places. Here are 3:
  • Exodus 20:14 “You must not commit adultery.” (part of the 10 commandments)
    • A person who is married and has voluntary* sex with someone other than his/her spouse, is committing adultery.
    • A single person who has voluntary sex with a married person is also committing adultery.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (NASB)
    • A single person having voluntary sex** with another single person is committing “fornication” or is being sexually immoral.
    • Dictionary.com defines “fornication” as “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.”
      So anytime we see the words “fornicator” or “sexually immoral,” we know the Bible is referring to voluntary sex before marriage.
  • Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (ESV)

*From now on, let us assume the sexual-acts-before-marriage I will refer to are voluntary. (If you have experienced involuntary sexual acts done against you [rape, groping, sexual harassment], please know you have not committed a sin. God will judge the individual who has sinned against you. However, these experiences can still affect your perception of purity and wholeness. I am praying for healing and restoration in your heart.)

**Also, I am taking the liberty to define “sex before marriage” as any sexually arousing, physical activity, alone or with your fiancé, that does not bring honor to God.
Now that we’ve clarified God’s expectations in the Bible, I’d like to uncover 4 myths regarding sex before marriage, according to what I’ve been studying in 1 Corinthians 5-7, Galatians 5, and Ephesians 5:
Shane and I circa 2008, aiming for purity in our dating relationship.

Myth 1: Christians who have sex outside of marriage are “bad”

For most of us, it’s just a given “rule” of Christianity: “Those who save sex for marriage are good Christians, and those who don’t are bad.” I don’t agree with this mentality at all.

Truth: all Christians are pure in Christ

I do not believe a person who “does the deed” outside of marriage is a bad Christian. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you are covered in the grace and righteousness of our perfect Jesus. Whether you gossiped about your co-worker or had sex with your boyfriend, you are still pure in Christ.

“Some of you were once like that [immoral]. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11

However, there are still earthly consequences to sin. When a person has sex with someone other than the spouse she is married to, she is breaking God’s commandment. The consequence of sin is death: either yours or Christ’s. Again, if you have trusted Christ as your Savior, He paid the penalty for you. Although eternal separation from God is no longer a consequence, we risk several other consequences when we choose to sin:

  • losing intimate closeness with God today
  • experiencing less than God’s best for our bodies, purpose, and relationships
  • Feelings of guilt, insecurity, loss of self-respect
  • Loss of trust with one’s fiancé, resentment, jealousy
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Loss of trust with our families/church (see 1 Corinthians 5:6-9)
  • Unplanned pregnancy (which is an unparalleled joy, but also meant to be experienced within marriage)

Thankfully, there is healing and restoration in store for all sin! (See the tips below)

Myth 2: Sex (in general) is bad

Have you ever heard this verse and assumed it means God thinks sex is bad?

“Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations.” 1 Cor. 7:1

I used to believe it meant sex is bad… or somehow for “lesser Christians” (as if we are on a scale of good, better, best? NOT). We MUST understand the context of the Corinthian-culture that Paul, the author, was writing to. I just watched the film Gladiator, and I think it portrays a good example of the culture at the time: full of lust, free-sexuality, and thirst for entertainment. When people became Christ-followers, they didn’t have a model-behavior blueprint to follow. So they kept doing what they did before: visiting prostitutes, “swapping spouses”, etc. The Corinthians must have written Paul to ask about what changes should be made on the outside, now that Jesus changed them on the inside. Paul responds with a large portion of his letter (all of chapter 7) giving helpful guidelines.

But does this mean God thinks sex is bad? Um… no.

Truth: Sex rocks!

God created sex! And everything God created, he labeled “good” (when enjoyed as intended).

God celebrates sex in an entire book devoted to married romance and sexual pleasure (Song of Solomon).

God encourages married couples to have sex regularly in 1 Corinthians 7:5.

Myth 3: God doesn’t want us to have any fun.

Many people have a perception of God that doesn’t match what God says about Himself in the Bible. Did you know the word Fun is actually in the Bible?

Hollywood tends to glorify romance, sexual tension, and love-making outside of marriage. When I think of movies about married couples… healthy and romantic sex is rarely a factor. Having fun in the bedroom was a pre-marriage activity. Since movies, books, and TV often shape our perceived reality, it can be easy to see sex-before-marriage as normal.

Because of these cultural norms, God’s boundaries can appear to be fun-suckers when we don’t understand them.

Truth: God want’s your marriage to be so secure, that the fun lasts till you’re 80 and beyond!

Paul clarifies this well:

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. (1 Cor. 6:12)

First of all, sex is great; but it is not good for us outside of God’s design of marriage. Some engaged couples reason that “we are going to marry each other anyway, so it’s not really that bad.”  In addition to the consequences listed above, another reason sex-outside-of-marriage is not good for us is the potential loss of trust. If you or your fiancé is willing to have sex outside of marriage now (fornication), how difficult will it be to say no to sex outside of your own marriage later, with someone else (adultery)? Not having sex before the wedding is good practice for KEEPING sex within marriage after the wedding.

God’s plan is for His people to exercise self-control regarding sex before marriage. Our relationship with God is self-evident when we produce the fruit of the Spirit, one being self-control. When we are not walking by the Spirit, our default “fruit” will be immorality, the fruit of the flesh. (See Galatians 5)
Secondly, Christ-followers must remember that God created fun. Therefore, He knows how to have the MOST, the BEST, the LONGEST-LASTING fun! Christians should be the most trusting of God’s design for sex, because we KNOW it is going to provide the greatest joy. A person who falls into sex before marriage might believe that God is holding out on him/her. I would advise that individual to get to know the God of the Bible, not just the God of your own personal perception.

What Now?

I realize the above truths are not extensive. More importantly, I would like to equip you with a few helpful resources to guard your purity and maintain God’s standard of saving sex (and sexual acts!) until you celebrate your wedding day:

1. Repent

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there…” Galatians 5:24

  • If you have already engaged in sexual activity that doesn’t honor God, confess it to your Savior.
  • Don’t just live with the secret. Confess your sin to a trustworthy Christian mentor or friend:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

  • Set up a plan, not just to STOP engaging in sexual activity, but more importantly to run in the other direction (see step 2)

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13

  • If you are living with your fiancé, move out. (more on this in the next post)
    • I have met so many couples who agree with God, that sex outside of marriage is not honorable, but they don’t stop.
    • No excuse (money, living situations, “the wedding is so close”) is worth true repentance and freedom from sin.

2. Walk in step with God.

“… Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:25

  • Study your Bible
  • Pray (talk to God and listen to Him)
  • Worship your way out of temptation: instead of trying to have less sexual encounters, try having MORE Jesus encounters. Make much of Jesus, and your temptation to sin will become less.
  • Feed your heart and mind with Biblical perceptions of marriage and sex, and avoid consuming worldly ideas that become distractions from God’s plan.

3. Spend time with other Christ-followers

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

  • Boldly ask for someone you trust to be your accountability partner
  • Generate a godly perspective of marriage by spending time with married couples who are following Christ
  • Mentor someone younger than you. Chances are, if you are encouraging that person to be pure, you will want to lead by example.

4. Talk with your fiancé

Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2

  • Set up clear verbal and maybe even written boundaries regarding physical touch
  • Be cautious with these “talks” as conversation can lead to curiosity and arousal.
  • Pray with your fiancé
  • If your fiancé is the “fool” in Proverbs 18:2 above, and doesn’t want to change, I encourage you to pursue godly counsel regarding continuing your engagement to this individual.

For the Support Team:

We should be eager to encourage our fellow Christ-following friends to stay sexually pure. 1 Corinthians gives us permission to be adamant about maintaining purity within the church. However, we should not expect the same integrity from someone who does not know Christ:

“I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people.” (verses 10-11)

Christians should pursue friendships with people who don’t know Christ, in order to facilitate an introduction to Jesus, not to “fix the impure behaviors.” Jesus is in charge of that job.

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