What does the bible say? – sex before marriage
Sex before marriage is commonly taught as being a sin in the vast majority of the Christian world today. However you only have to do a quick search online and you will be bombarded by statistics that claim up to 80% of Christians are engaging in sex before they are married many with partners they do not consider to be their life partner or husband/wife. But is sex before marriage actually a sin? Is sex such only reserved for a legally married couple?
The average cost of a wedding (USA 2017) is $35,329 * fortune.comalthough this figure may be slightly over exaggerated costofwedding.comhas the figure at $26720.
Whatever the true cost is a wedding does not come cheap. Even if you forget all the exstravigants a legal marriage is still going to cost in the region of $1000.
What happens if this simply is beyond a couples financial ability? Are they destined to a life of a sexless relationship based on their financial limitations?
It is legally acceptable for a couple to get married having NEVER met each other previously with simply the declaration of “I do”.
You can go to vegas and get married with NO waiting period, and people do, to people that they have literally just met.
Marriages that take place in Vegas are 100% legal.
So that couple who have been together for 3 years are madly in love and want to commit their lives to one another yet are financial unable to get married but are saving really hard to one day be able to tie the knot are prevented from having sex by God but the drunk couple who just met but are now legally married, God gives his blessing to? This seems a little strange.
As with all matters it is important to find out what the bible has to say about the subject. It is very important not to force a preconceived idea into the bible but to let the bible itself give us the answer. Also in order to understand what sex before marriage means we must also decipher what constitutes as a “marriage”.
It may be surprising to find that there is not one single passage in the whole bible that directly condemns sex before marriage. If there is no passage that directly condemns it why is sex before marriage considered a sin, where did the idea that it is a sin actually come from.
Although not specifically condemning sex before marriage there are passages that are used in modern bibles to show that sex before marriage is included in sexual immorality and that immorality including sexual immorality is a sin and if sex before marriage is sexual immorality then it also must be a sin.
We need to note that Sexual immorality and immorality only appear in some of the modern day versions of the bible such as the NIV and ESV in such verses as
1 corinthians 6-18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. NIV
1 thessalonians 4-3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; NIV For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; ESV
1 corinthians 5-1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. NIV It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. ESV
Colossians 3-5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Galatians 5-19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
We can clearly see that in these versions of the bible sexual immorality is condemned but this does not tell us what constitutes as sexual immorality so, these verses need to be linked with other verses in order to define what is construed as sexual immorality. Common verses used to show that sex before marriage is included are
hebrews 13-4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. NIV 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
1 corinthians 7-2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. NIV version But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. ESV
So if we say that these 2 verses show that sex before marriage is included in sexual immorality then we can now show that sex before marriage is included in the condemnation of sexual immorality .
There are a few problems with this conclusion though.
Firstly Sexual immorality or immorality in these versions is the translation of the Greek word Porneia. Older versions like the KJV and even some modern versions such as (need versions) translate Porneia as fornication. Porneia occurs 26 times in the new testament. The KJV translates the word into fornicate/ fornication every time which means that the terms sexual immorality or immorality never occur in this version. Fornication and sexual immorality are very different things and give completely different meanings to the verses.
Let’s take those same verses but from the KJV
1 Corinthians 6-18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. KJV
Thessalonians 4-3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: KJV
1corinthians 5-1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. KJV
Colossians 3-5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Galatians 5-19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Now in these verses in the KJV, ONLY the particular named action of fornication is being condemned whereas in the NIV, ESV all sexual immorality and immorality is being condemned. The KJV is straight forward as to what God is condemning but with the NIV and ESV we need to work out what is included in sexual immorality before we can fully understand the passages. Also when God wants to condemn more than one action he doesn’t combine them together he actually lists them so there is no mistake on what he is talking about as in 1 Corinthians 6-9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. KJV
Now if we look at those same passages in the NIV the translation doesn’t work. 1Corinthians 6-9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men. 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. NIV
it would seem that in this version God doesn’t consider adulterers nor men who have sex with men as sexually immoral as he lists them separately from the sexually immoral which is also included in the list, yet adultery and homosexuality would be included in what is considered sexually immoral by the same vast majority of the Christian world who believe that sex before marriage is sexually immoral. So either God needs to over emphasise adulterers and homosexuals by technically listing them twice or the Christian world has wrongly put adultery and homosexuality into sexual immorality.
So what is the correct translation of the word Porneia, fornication or immoral/immorality. Strongs defines the word as meaning a fornicator
We only need to find a English /Greek translator. The translation of the word Fornication is Porneia. Immorality- anethikotees and immoral aneethikos have their own completely different words.
From this simple research, Fornication would seem the more legitimate translation
If these verses are actually condemning the specific act of fornication, it is important to ascertain exactly what is fornication?
Modern day definitions
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “fornication” as – “Sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other.”
Collins English Dictionary defines fornication as – “voluntary sexual intercourse outside marriage”
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary 11th Edition defines “fornication” as – “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other.”
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines fornication as “to have sex with someone who you are not married to.”
And Wordsmyth English Dictionary defines “fornication” as “voluntary sexual relations between a man and woman not married to each other.”
So it would seem that God is clearly condemning sex outside of marriage which obviously would include sex before marriage. There is another problem here. The KJV was written in 1611 and therefore we cannot impose a modern day definition of the word into a word used in 1611, we need to find what the definition of the word meant at the time of translation.
1611 definition of fornication
1. An unmarried person, male or female, who has criminal conversation with the other sex also, a married man who has sexual commerce with an unmarried woman.
2. A lewd person.
3. An idolater.
Criminal conversation – At common law, criminal conversation, commonly known as crim. con., is a tort arising from adultery
1 the unlawful indulgence of lust, fornication or adultery
2 in scripture, it generally denotes idolatry
3 licentiousness, shamelessness
So we can see here that at the time the KJV was written fornication did not mean to have sex outside marriage so clearly the translation did not forbid sex before marriage where fornication was forbidden but promiscuous sex.
Secondly the 2 verses used to show sex before marriage is included in sexual immorality don’t actually do this when we scrutinize them.
If we take a closer look at Hebrews 13-4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. NIV 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
Hebrews 13-4 Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. KJV
Again in the NIV and ESV versions adulterers are separated from the sexually immoral. In the KJV we have whoremongers and adulterers specifically stated, and there is a very good reason for this. Marriage should be honored and the bed should be undefiled. This is wrongly interpreted as sex before marriage would defile the marriage bed, what it actually means is that the bed in marriage should be undefiled.
Undefiled definition- not defiled, not polluted, not vitiated
God then tells us what defiles the bed, adulterers and whoremongers.
Adultery- Violation of the marriage bed, a crime or a civil injury, which introduces, or may introduce, into a family, a spurious offspring.
Whoremonger – a person who has dealings with prostitutes, especially a sexually promiscuous man.
So we can see that this does not mean the wedding night bed but the marriage bed and that for it to be undefiled a married couple cannot have sex with anyone other than their husband or wife and therefore not being a whoremonger or adulterer.
If we look at Deuteronomy 22-28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. We can see here that a woman who has sex before marriage has been humbled and NOT defiled a clear distinction between the two. We see this in genesis 34-2 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. 3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. 4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.
We can see that Shecham and Dinah had premarital sex and that Dinah was defiled BUT we find out later in 34-13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: 14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: that it was the fact that Shecham was uncircumcised as in not one of the Israelites that had defiled Dinah and not the premarital sex
So if the woman is not defiled having premarital sex then this would not defile the marriage bed. We also can see that the couple are not condemned for their premarital sex, in fact the only instruction is that they should indeed get married. If we then compare these verses with Deuteronomy 22-13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, 14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: 15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: 16 And the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; 19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. 20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: 21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
We can see that the woman is condemned in these passages but it can’t be for premarital sex as already shown in the previous passages, her crime can only then be A) she is marrying someone other than the person she has had premarital sex with or B) she has had sex with someone other than the person who she was betrothed to and therefore committed adultery. As there is no mention of adultery it would be more reasonable to assume that it is option A)
Now if it is option A) that premarital sex is not the crime but marrying someone other than the person she has that premarital sex with and that a couple involved in premarital sex are instructed to get married. then it would be reasonable to conclude that it is promiscuous sex that is what is actually being condemned. From this we can deduce that God considers sex as something only a couple who are committed to one another and are going to spend the rest of their lives together should engage in. This is further backed up in the other passage used to show that sex before marriage is condemned 1 Corinthians 7-2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. We can see God does expect people not to engage in the act of sex with someone other than a life partner and therefore although the sex before marriage is not specifically condemned sex with someone who isn’t a life partner and adultery are and so to avoid having sex with someone other than the person that you are going to be together with let each person be married to just one person.
Jesus condemns divorce Matthew 19-6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
It would seem that God is more interested in the relationship that involves sex being a lasting relationship than if the couple engage in sex before the wedding, but it is clearly advisable that a couple do not rush into sex with just anyone as that has to lead to marriage or in fact marriage itself as once they do they will then be committed forever or otherwise they will be guilty of adultery. If the sex is based around the relationship rather than the relation based around the sex then the relationship has a much better chance of succeeding.
What does actually constitute as being married anyway?
Is there a difference between a legal and a biblical marriage?
It is only since the introduction of the marriage act in 1753 that all marriages in England had to be performed in an official and religious setting in order to be valid and recognised by the state.
Before this time marriage was governed by canon law which recognised marriages where both parties had confirmed that they had taken each other as husband and wife regardless of the presence of any witnesses.
If we look at the “marriage” of Isaac and Rebekah Genesis 24 tells of the story of how Isaac and Rebekah became Husband and wife. Genesis 24-4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. 24-53 And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.24-58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go. 4-67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death
We can see that this biblical marriage was simply a mutual agreement to be husband and wife.. God clearly made men and women for each other It is clear from the bible that God intended men and woman to be together from the start genesis 2-18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
The first biblical “marriage” was Adam and Eve Genesis 2-22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.23 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. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
There is no mention of a marriage or wedding just that the 2 were husband and wife.
We also see in Genesis 4-17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.
Again there is no mention of a marriage or wedding. In Genesis 12-5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. Again we see a husband and wife but no mention of marriage. the first mention of someone being given to wife is in Genesis 16-3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
A biblical marriage would appear to be when two people agree to be husband and wife. Now as we have already discovered once a couple reach this point God expects them to stay together.
It can be taught that a biblical marriage is the same as a legal one, it is only a biblical marriage when it has been sanctioned by the church or state. This teaching as the marriages of Adam and Eve, Cain and his wife and Isaac and Rebekah prove cannot be the case. There are people that say when a couple have sex they have entered into a biblical marriage, but as we saw in the passage in Deuteronomy the couple engaging in premarital sex were instructed to get married which plainly shows that the sex did not marry them. Furthermore if sex was the marriage component then two people engaging in it would become married and therefore could not commit fornication as fornication is promiscuous sex that doesn’t lead to marriage. Being biblically married the couple would only be able to commit adultery clearly contradicting the teachings of 1-corinthians 7-2.
There are those that say that biblical marriage is the same as when we are legally married. But we can see many occasions throughout the bible where 2 people are husband and wife and no legal marriage has taken place. Adam and Eve, Abraham and sarah, isaac and Rebekah. So how do we deal with the fact that God himself tells us to follow authority, romans 13-1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Its pretty simple, this does not mean that the ruling authorities have a higher power than God. The laws of the land cannot supersede the laws of God. What this means is that we should not break the laws of the land unless of course those laws contradict God’s laws. Jesus uses paying tax as an example mark 21-17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. God expects us to keep the law and not to go against it, so paying tax is lawful and God would expect us to pay the tax we owe.
The authorities state that a marriage is when 2 people contractually become husband and wife. Legal documents joining the couple together are signed by both parties. Now does this contradict God’s law of marriage. Of course not, but it does not mean that it superseeds God’s law. Just because you need to get legally married to be married in the eyes of the authorities does not mean that you were not or could not be already married in the eyes of God. It also doesnt mean that a couple who get legally married are in fact married in the eyes of God as a marriage in God is when 2 people agree to be together in God. So God tells us not to break the laws but there is no legal law that says a couple have to get legally married in order to have sex. So by not getting legally married you would not have broken the legal law and therefore have not gone against the authorities , but you can still be biblically married if you have committed yourselves to one another in God.
There are people who say what i teach allows people to believe they are not sinning if they have sex before marriage. And I will agree. They are not sinning until they have sex with someone else, then that first sex would become promiscuous sex. Or if they had been Biblically married they would then commit adultery if they had sex with someone else. I actually believe that what is taught by the church actually causes people to commit both promiscuous sex and adultery. The church teaches that 2 people are married when they are LEGALLY married. Which actually means that a couple who have been together for 1,2,5,10 years (or however long), have committed their lives to one another but have not yet got legally married and then separate that they are perfectly OK to do so. They would not be commiting adultery by then being with someone else. They were never “married”. However they may very well have been in the eyes of God. far from my teaching causing people to sin it actually clarifies what a
a”marriage” really is. It actually accentuates marriage, making it far more important making it far more biblical and far more Godly. Just because a couple have not legally married does not mean that they are not married.
Divorce however is a totally different thing. It is legally acceptable to get a divorce. The authorities have made in law that a couple can file for divorce and they do not have to have any other reason than they wish to do so. Jesus however says matthew 19-9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. So who is correct do we follow the law of the land or the law of God. Well the law of the land does not supersede the law of God and it also cannot contradict the law of God so on both counts God’s law overrules the law of the land and therefore except for fornication divorce cannot be permitted. A couple that gets divorced legally may legally be divorced but that does not mean that they are biblically divorced.
So the biblical marriage is different from a modern day legal one. Does this mean that the wedding day or legal marriage is wrong. Well actually no. It simply means that this is the way the state recognises the marriage. Jesus himself clearly did not disapprove of a celebration of a marriage as this is where he performed the water into wine miracle. Although God does not require a couple to partake in a wedding day as we know it today and a couple are married in God when they announce to one another that they will commit to each other for life. The celebration at least is obviously something that he is ok to go along with. ( there is no reason to believe a priest the church, or the state needs to validate it apart from for humanistic and legal reasons)
John 2-1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2-2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine john 2-6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim 8 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
God’s original plan for marriage was that it would be a lifetime commitment.
The law of Moses made it possible for a couple to get a divorce. So marriage was not always forever so people took less time picking and often it was used as a mutually beneficial act between two families. However the divorce system was abused and totally misunderstood, people would get divorced because they believed that they could, when Jesus came he explained the truth about divorcement. The Pharisees came to Test/Tempt Jesus trying to make him say something wrong which we know Jesus would not do. They asked Jesus was it lawful for a man to divorce a woman for ANY reason
Matthew 19- 3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
But that’s NOT what the law actually states.
Deuteronomy 24- 1When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
It states that he must have found some UNCLEANNESS in her. The LAW did not state that a man can divorce for ANY reason as what the Jews were actually practicing.
Jesus explained that what God had joined no man should separate.
It was THIS that surprised the pharisees as they believed they could divorce for any reason as long as they gave the bill of divorcement. So they asked WHY Moses COMMANDED that they do so
Matthew 19-7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
Jesus corrects them (moses did not command but he ALLOWED) because of the hardness of their hearts
Matthew 19- 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Divorce wasn’t meant to be from the start but because of the hardness of the hearts (and this is a reference to the willingness to commit adultery) that divorce was ALLOWED , BUT ONLY for adultery
Jesus explained that the ONLY reason that a man could put away his wife was for the act of fornication or in other words the man finding her UNCLEAN as the LAW stated.
Matthew 19- 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
It is not sex before a legal marriage that is a sin. It is actually sex with someone AFTER the sex with someone that did not result in a Biblical marriage meaning the initial sex became promiscuous sex or sex after a Biblical marriage that would mean adultery that are sins.