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Why Should Christians Wait for Marriage to Have Sex?

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?

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Does the Bible Imply That Sex Is Wrong?

It is easy to read the biblical prohibitions against having sexual relations outside of marriage and conclude that God is against sex and any form of sexual pleasure ( Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 5:1-6;6:23-29; Matthew 5:27-28;15:16-20; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Colossians 3:5-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7; Hebrews 13:4 ). Further, many sermons on the topic of sex inevitably focus exclusively on the “don’ts” of sexuality. From these sources, we might get the impression that sex is an evil passion that God hates and that Christians must avoid. But this is not the case.

God is not against sex. He doesn’t view sexual desire as an unhealthy passion that Christians must despise, disable, or deny. In fact, He sees it as a healthy passion to be honored and enjoyed. In the right context, sex is delightful, desirable, and pleasing to God. After all, sex was His idea in the first place. It’s His design.

Genesis 1-3 records God’s creation of people. In 1:27 it says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It was after He made man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden that He proclaimed all He had made as being “very good” ( Genesis 1:31 ).

God designed sexual intercourse to be a dynamic part of a man’s and woman’s ability to express intimacy and love. Physical pleasure is an important part of God’s gift of human sexuality to mankind. From the very beginning of creation, God invented human sexuality and gave us our capacity to enjoy expressing ourselves through sexual intimacy. He proclaimed our sexuality “very good” as a part of expressing His creative genius.

Sex should never be viewed as something evil or dirty that must be denied. Rather, it is exquisite and delicate and must be honored and protected. If God invented sex and called it good, we dare not call it evil. Since sex and sexuality were born out of the mind and heart of God, He also has the best idea about how we can most fully enjoy it.

Jesus told His followers that God the Father delights in giving good gifts to His children ( Matthew 7:11 ; James 1:16-17 ). Sex needs to be viewed as one of those good gifts.

In the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, the first husband and wife “were both naked, and they felt no shame” ( Genesis 2:25 ). Anything wrong with that? No. And that’s how God intended it to be. The first married couple enjoyed uninhibited freedom in a perfect “one flesh” union that honored each other as well as the One who made them ( Genesis 2:24 ). They simply lived out who they were made to be as a man and a woman with each other.

Although this perfect relationship was soon marred by sin ( Genesis 3:7-10 ), the opportunity for healthy sexual expression within marriage was not destroyed in the Fall. God still intends for shared sexual pleasure to be an essential facet of a healthy marriage ( 1 Corinthians 7:2-7 ; Hebrews 13:4 ).

In our post-Fall experience, we all have been exposed to or have experienced perverse and immoral distortions of our sexuality in a variety of contexts. From the media and personal experiences in destructive relationships, to sexual abuse and sexual violence, to the secret inner world of sexual fantasies, Satan is working overtime to mar the delicious taste of sexual intimacy with our spouse. Nevertheless, these distortions don’t nullify God’s original design, intent, or purpose for human sexual expression. God still wants us to delight in our sexuality as an exquisite gift from Him to us. How we handle our gift determines the depth of our enjoyment ( 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 ).

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What’s the Purpose of Sex?

Of course, sex is necessary for the propagation of the race. But while we are to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28), sex is not merely limited to the procreation of the human species.

Sexual intimacy is designed to reflect the beautiful mystery and intimate union between God and His people ( Ephesians 5:25 ). God gave us sex to arouse and satisfy our innate craving for intimacy, for union ( Genesis 1:24-25 ). A couple who enjoys emotional, relational, and spiritual intercourse with one another will be drawn to celebrate their love through sexual intimacy. That’s why sexual intimacy is exclusively reserved for marriage. Sexual experiences outside of marriage mar our enjoyment of the beauty of sexual intimacy in its proper context as God intended.

The Bible describes the sexual experience within marriage as honorable ( Hebrews 13:4 ). Some of the most beautiful erotic literature ever composed is found in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. For some, the idea of verbally inspired erotic literature is difficult to accept. Yet God has frankly recorded for us His view of the delights of sexual intimacy between a married couple in poetic verse:

Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love ( Proverbs 5:15-19 ).

In the Song of Solomon, the husband’s description of his bride’s body ( Song of Solomon 4:1-15 ) and her description of his ( Song of Solomon 5:10-16 ) reveals the joy of love and sexual intimacy that God extols for a married couple. While sexual intimacy between a couple is not to be observed by anyone outside of the relationship, God, the One who sees and knows all, must smile with delight when He sees two of His children enjoying the good gift of sex He has given to them.

God intended sex to be far more than mere pleasurable sensations. He designed it as the intimate union of body, soul, mind, and spirit exclusively shared between a husband and wife. It’s about being open, exposed, naked, and unashamed in the presence of our spouse who finds us desirable and yearns to draw close to us. That’s how God captures our hearts. Being captured by our lover will give us a taste of being caught up in Christ’s love in a way that we feel deeply enjoyed without shame. In essence, sexual intimacy within marriage should draw us to deeper worship of God who initiated sexuality for His glory and our delight.

Enjoying sex with one’s spouse is always to be viewed as a part of the whole marriage relationship. Sex is never to be singled out as some isolated aspect of our being that is disconnected from the rest of the relationship. Rather, sexuality is a vehicle for expressing our identity as a man or a woman made in the image of God. Sexuality pulsates throughout a godly marriage and is not exclusively reserved for the bedroom experience.

A devastating assault on our ability to enjoy sexuality is the perpetuation of the myth, “Sex is just sex. It’s just another biological urge demanding satisfaction.” But that’s not true. God didn’t make sex as a mere physical act. Whether we’re willing to acknowledge it now, or we face the pain of admitting it after the fact, sex is always woven into our view of ourselves, one another, and God. Each of us distinctly reflects the image of God through the lens of our sexuality as either male or female. How we handle this good gift of sex will either enhance the glory of God’s image in us or will mar that glory.

If anyone should be enjoying sexuality, Christians should. We should know better than anyone else that sex was never intended to be an end in itself. It is intended to be a joyous celebration of the intimate love that a man and woman share together in the covenant relationship called marriage. It is designed to be a reflection of the intimate love relationship between Christ and His church ( Ephesians 5:25-33 ).

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