Sex is not only a hot topic in our culture, it’s also on the minds of most couples in love. It’s a natural, God-given desire — a gift intended to give us pleasure and express our intimacy.
But did God have a plan in mind for sex? What are the freedoms and guidelines? Let’s look at Scripture to find some answers to these questions.
First, God intended sex to be enjoyed between a man and a woman in marriage. God created Eve for Adam because Adam needed a mate comparable to him. He needed companionship, relationship, and intimacy. So God chose marriage as a sacred and honorable relationship in which to meet those needs ( Genesis 2:23-25 ).
Second, throughout Scripture we are commanded to avoid all forms of sexual immorality ( Acts 15:29 ; Romans 1:29 ; 1 Corinthians 6:13-18 ; Galatians 5:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ). That God is concerned about sexual purity is clear in the Old Testament ( Deuteronomy 22 ). In the New Testament, Paul said that satisfying one’s burning passions before marriage is not an option for the believer ( 1 Corinthians 7:2,8-9 ).
Third, when we enjoy another’s body (physically or mentally) for sexual pleasure outside of marriage, we are guilty of covetousness. Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” To covet means “to desire, take pleasure in, and delight in.” The point is that you may not take what is not yours. You may not take illegitimate delight in what does not belong to you. One must ask, “Am I selfishly delighting in (coveting) what is not mine?” Our bodies belong only to God and to our spouse ( 1 Corinthians 6:19; 7:4 ).
Last, as followers of Christ, we must govern all of our behavior, decisions, and thoughts with the principle of love ( Matthew 22:37-40 ). What does it mean to love your date? Loving means to put your date’s welfare, both short-term and long-term, above your own desires. To love is to respect and protect ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ). We should test our intentions and actions by asking ourselves some questions: “Am I really seeking to do what God wants me to do?” “Am I placing my date’s welfare above my desires, thus loving that person?” “How does my dating life stand up to the test of love?”
The world wants us to believe that sex outside of marriage is okay. But without the commitment of marriage, sex is a shallow illusion of intimacy. It is nothing more than erotic stimulation and/or a temporary escape from loneliness. It is basically selfish. Consequently, it often becomes a means to manipulate and control others. This easily leads into the strange perversions of sexuality to which we as a sinful, desperate people are prone.
This is far from what God intended for His children. God loves us and wants only the best for us. God has given us all good things to enjoy, sex included (John 13:34 ;James 1:17 ). So how will we best enjoy our sexuality? Within the security of a committed marital relationship. Within a loving marriage there is assurance, accountability, and a commitment to work on the relationship when times are difficult.
You may wonder, “How far can I go before marriage?” Except for intercourse, Scripture does not specifically outline what is and what is not forbidden. God leaves that up to us to decide, keeping in mind the principles above. However, it is wise to prepare ourselves before we enter into a romantic relationship.
First, set your standards now! Don’t wait for a passionate moment to decide what is off limits. Holding hands, warm hugs, and kissing are all natural expressions of true love and genuine care for a person. If a touch like this does not cause you to lust and it is done out of respect for another, it can be considered an appropriate touch. There are, however, more intimate physical expressions that should be reserved for a married couple. They are designed to stimulate and excite and to culminate in sexual intercourse. These activities should be avoided by a dating couple because their purpose is to prepare the body for sex. Examples of these activities are fondling of breasts or genitals, heavy and passionate kissing, necking, petting, and oral sex. This list is not conclusive, however. If touching another causes you to lust, or if it defrauds that person, it’s time to back off.
Second, listen to the little voice inside! If you are doing something or are in a situation that is causing you to feel uncomfortable, guilty, or violated, listen to those feelings. They are there for a reason. Because there is a natural drive within each of us to protect ourselves, the feelings we have are “early warning” indicators that we may be experiencing personal harm. We need to trust our feelings, speak up, and exercise listening to that “little voice.”
Third, picture it! Imagine that the person you are dating is your future mate. That’s not so difficult. But now picture that person with someone else on a date. How would you want that date to go? How far would you want that sexual relationship proceed? What kind of activities would be off limits then? Now think of the person you are with as someone else’s future mate. How are you going to leave this person? A little used? Is that how you want your potential mate? How do you want your sister to be treated on a date? How do you want your brother to act? This little exercise puts our dating life in perspective, because we all have people so special to us that we want to love and protect them. This is how we should approach the person we are dating — as someone special to be loved and honored.
Waiting for sex until marriage can be difficult. We’re often tempted to choose what will give us instant pleasure. A man and a woman who are tempted to give in to their strong sexual desires will do well to admit their struggle before God, trust Him that He will meet their needs, and use wisdom and self-control to avoid falling into the trap of premarital sex.
Will God still love us if we choose the path that leads away from Him? Will He forgive us if we have not lived up to His standard of purity? Of course — we all struggle with living up to God’s standards. David is a good example of a man who gave in to the temptation of sex outside of marriage ( 2 Samuel 11:3-12:20 ). He and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, had sex. David lied and committed murder to try to cover his tracks. After he was confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, he repented and God forgave him. However, David still had to live with the consequences of his choices. He had to live with the fact that he had a man murdered. David’s reputation was irreparably marred, his son died, and his household was thrown into disarray. David suffered greatly because of his choice to have sex with Bathsheba. How will you choose to live?