Sex Before Marriage -
Truth or Tradition?
Our answer to the age-old sex before marriage question lies in the book of 1 Corinthians, which is a letter written by Paul to the people living in Corinth at the time. (Corinth is present-day Greece.) To understand the info here, we need to know a few things about these people.
The Corinthians came from an extremely
hedonistic background. For example, “ritual sex” was a part of many professional societies and associations in Corinth, as well as in much of the Greco-Roman world at that time. For this reason, not
taking part in this type of sex could affect their standing amongst peers and in their careers.
There were almost no Jews living in Corinth; most of the people were Gentiles. When these Gentiles became believers (Christians), it was super hard for them to adjust to a Holy Spirit-filled lifestyle, since they were so used to temple prostitution, ritual sex, and sleeping with whomever they wanted, etc.
Even though they knew this was wrong after becoming believers, they would often slip back into that old hedonistic lifestyle. In a nutshell, sexual and marital issues were biggies for them!
The apostle Paul was the Corinthians’ “Father in their faith,” and the book of 1 Corinthians is Paul’s response to a letter they had written him about their “lifestyle issues.” Paul’s two big themes were a) propriety and order in worship, and b) admonition for their trashy lifestyle because it gave the church a bad reputation.
The sex theme is mainly addressed in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. Let’s start out by looking at an English version of the Bible which most of us are very familiar with, the NIV. In verse 1b Paul says, “It is good for a man not to marry.” The original Greek, however, reads, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” and the Hebrew translation reads, “It is good for a man not to know a woman.” Both the Greek and Hebrew, when translated into English mean “it is good for a man not to have sex with a woman.”
What Paul meant here was that if you don’t marry, you can be more effective and mobile for the Gospel because marriage brings with it many issues, distractions, and responsibilities. But he also realized that this wasn’t realistic for most people, so he said in verse 2 that it’s okay to marry. Basically there are pros and cons to either route. In verse 2, Paul advises marriage as a solution to sexual immorality (because hopefully they wouldn’t have sex outside of marriage, once married).
Now here's the kicker: the fact that Paul contrasts sexual immorality with marriage shows that when he uses the phrase “sexual immorality” he means sex outside of marriage. And over and over again throughout 1 Corinthians he says that sexual immorality is wrong. So basically Paul is saying that you shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage, (meaning before marriage, or after marriage with someone you’re not married to, ie- an affair).
Now, if this isn’t enough to prove that the Bible says that sex before marriage is wrong, we can also look at the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. For every “sexual immorality” phrase in the New International Version (NIV), the KJV uses the term “fornication,” which means any sex outside of marriage.
I know all this reasoning is a bit confusing. I too wish that God had been a whole lot clearer on this in the Bible rather than saying it so cryptically. Why could He not just have written, “Thou shall not have sex outside of marriage” right in there with all the other commandments? That’s what I would have preferred! (Keep in mind though, that to the people Paul was writing to, it wasn’t so cryptic because it made sense in the context of their culture.)
If you’re still not convinced that the Bible says that sex before marriage is wrong, then at least consider some of the negative consequences of it. In 1 Corinthians 6:16 it’s explained that when you have sex with someone you become “one flesh” with that person. And when you later go your separate ways, it hurts because of that “skin connection” being ripped apart.
Even if you’re engaged to the person (and having sex before marriage with him/her), it can rock the foundation of your marriage later on (and not in a good way!). Usually it results in trust issues for the wife (ie- not trusting her husband fully), and respect issues for the husband (ie- not respecting his wife completely).
This, by the way, is not written in the Bible, but has been proven over and over again in studies of couples who had sex before marriage. While they are not always massive issues, who wants any trust and respect issues in their marriage if it’s so preventable?
Many unmarried couples will use the line “but we’re so committed to each other, so it’s okay that we’re having sex before marriage.” But if you’re really that committed to each other, why not just make the commitment real and official and get married? And if you’re living together to “try it out,” then you’re not really that “committed,” are you? You’re just committed “for now,” which isn’t real commitment.
Not everyone is having sex before marriage, and you can stand out as one of the very few who are not doing it. Stand up for what you believe is right.
Return from Sex Before Marriage Part 2 to Part 1
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