[From Noel] If you have ever gone looking for a Bible verse on whether or not you can have sex before marriage (or, God forbid, done a Google search) you might be surprised to find the Bible’s instruction indirect and vague. The Bible assumes that sex only happens within the covenant of marriage so most of the time, sex before marriage is not addressed directly. It would be like me calling you this morning and starting the conversation with the statement that, “my house didn’t burn down last night.” Of course it didn’t! It would hardly be worth mentioning unless you had asked about my house in the first place. My house likely wouldn’t come up in our conversation at all. In the same way, the Bible talks about sex, and assumes it is within marriage. It often doesn’t even bring up sex outside of marriage. With that in mind, here is a (very brief) summary of how sex is talked about in the Bible:
In Genesis 2:18-25 we read that Adam is single and it’s not good. God creates a woman from Adam’s side (deep symbolism here) and Adam sings the first love song (see v. 23). God invents marriage in v. 24, “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Sex is a symbolic union. In the same way that two bodies are connected, two people are bound together on multiple levels; body and soul.
Sex and marriage have been assumed to be connected ever since. That is why in ancient cultures (and some cultures today) the husband and wife are married and the marriage is ‘consummated’ (started) by the act of intercourse. Even in the province of Ontario a marriage is not fully legal until intercourse has taken place (look it up here). Sex is legally assumed to be a result of a marriage union.
A biblical understanding of sex is this: Sex is a sign. It is not just an exchange of fluids or a recreational activity. There is more going on there than that. Sex is becoming vulnerable (naked) and giving yourself physically to someone else and the Bible says that you shouldn’t do that physically unless you are willing to give yourself to them in every other way too: emotionally, spiritually, and physically. That’s what marriage means! You are completely given over to your spouse. You love them no matter what. You are putting their needs before your own. You’ve ultimately given up your personal choice to your beloved. When that happens, sex becomes a symbol and a renewal of that vow. In this intimate act you are saying, “Yes, I give myself wholly to you, again! In every single way.”
If you take God at his word, you believe that no command of His is just busy work. You don’t believe that God is trying to keep you from having too much pleasure, or too much joy. You believe rather that God is leading you into even greater joy. This is likely where I am going to lose some readers. You don’t trust God with your sex life. Keep reading though, right to the end.
There is a lot more to say about sex in the Bible. I’ll write more about it later, but in summary, the Bible says that sex outside a committed married relationship is destructive: it wounds both partners because it was meant to be part of a permanent relationship. Healthy sexuality is about two people finding exquisite pleasure in serving each other, totally.
I think if they are honest, most people who are having sex with a regular or semi-regular partner will agree that on some level they do want the other person to be utterly committed to them. That’s why people who are intimate say things like, “I always want to be with you.” I think deep in our souls we know that sex was supposed to go with a lifetime commitment. It’s meant to be that deep!
The only way you can get to a place where you can have sex outside of marriage is you have to be willing to cut the connection that God put there between sexual intimacy and lifetime commitment. Giving yourself sexually to another while keeping yourself from them in ever other way ultimately hurts you and it hurts them too. It’s saying, “I don’t want all of you, I just want this part.”
God is not trying to keep you from having fun, he is trying to deliver you into the most satisfying relationship you will have in your life. God is inviting you to a banquet and you are pushing away from the table before the main course is served.
The truth is that all relationships this side of the grass are not all they could be. We make mistakes with our friends, with our families and with our lovers. The Bible teaches that there is grace when we are faithless. God is good and blesses us with far better than we deserve. Jesus died so we could be forgiven when we sin and that includes sexual sins. The sooner we embrace God in all parts of our life the better it will go for us but it’s never to late to take God at his word.