Extra Virgin :: Questions About Premarital Sex
During the month of January, we’re going to try to answer one question, “Why doesn’t God want us to have sex outside of marriage?”
The first week I wrote about God’s vision for sex and last week listed the 4 Purpose of Sex, but even if you agree wholeheartedly with everything I’ve written so far, you may still have some burning questions when it comes to premarital sex. Hoping to address some of these, I’ll endeavor to answer 4 questions about premarital sex ::
“I understand that sex is best between two people who love God and have committed themselves to one another. So shouldn’t I be able to have sex with my fiancé in the days leading up to our wedding? After all, the only thing we’re waiting for is a piece of paper…”
This is an excellent question. You love God and are committed to glorifying him in your life. You want to engage in sex the way he wants you to, purposely including marriage, unity, procreation and pleasure in your plans for sex. And now you’re engaged, fully committed to your fiancé, and the days of your engagement drag on and on. What’s the point in waiting for the wedding day? It’s essentially just a big party celebrating your commitment and then signing a piece of paper stating so for the government…
In the end, this is a question about the value of marriage. Do you need to be married in order to fully love someone, to enter into God’s plan for ultimate unity between a man and a woman? Because if you don’t need the piece of paper, then why get married at all? (Please, please don’t say so that you can wear a pretty dress and have a party with all your friends!) Tim Keller writes that, “A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances…A wedding promise is proof that your love is actually at marriage level as well as a radical act of self-giving all by itself.”
As to the period of waiting before your marriage begins, this bears testament to Christ’s own engagement to his Bride, this period of time that the Church is in, waiting for him to burst through the sky and carry us off to our wedding. It’s a period of longing, frustration, and hope. We know that this waiting for heaven is so that more people may have the chance to come with us. Perhaps your personal faithfulness during your engagement could point to the joy of knowing God and living according to his created order. And perhaps your testimony will bring others into the family as well.
“Does sex have to be such a big deal? Isn’t it possible for me to have sex with someone and not have huge emotional, relational and spiritual consequences? It’s just a physical act anyway.”
It’s true that it’s possible to get to the point where sex is little more than a physical act…for you. (However, it takes time and effort to desensitize yourself to the emotional and mental effects of sex. Human bodies are meant to bond during sex.) This is accepting a very low view of the body. It’s a view that says that what you do with your body doesn’t matter, that’s it’s just flesh and blood that will one day decompose into dark soil. But this isn’t the Bible’s view…
The Bible actually exalts the physical body beyond that of any other religion or philosophy. God calls human bodies “good”, he himself became a body, and will resurrect us all into new, better bodies at the end of the world. In fact, our bodies are so important that God sees no distinction between the body and the soul. I Corinthians argues against prostitution by stating that a one-night stand is uniting not only yourself, but all of the Church and Christ himself to that prostitute! As Ann Voskamp puts it, “Your skin is the outer layer of your soul.” What you do with your body is profoundly important to God, even if you don’t feel like it is.
“Does the Bible actually say not to have sex outside of marriage? Where?”
No, the Bible never says, “God does not want you to have sex outside of marriage.” You won’t find that anywhere in the old or new testaments. However, I’m sure everyone would admit that such a demand is a bit simplistic considering the cultural, historical, and language differences between us and the biblical authors. What the Bible does speak to is something called porneia, a Greek word encompassing lust, adultery, incest, prostitution, and fornication. And the Bible does specifically address porneia numerous times, and in I Corinthians 6-7 porneia is discussed in the context of premarital sex. The logical understanding of the passage runs like this, “[Porneia] is sin; intercourse by unmarried people is [porneia], therefore intercourse by unmarried people is sin.” (Lewis Smedes quoted in Real Sex by Lauren F. Winner, page 40). So really, the Bible does say that sex outside of marriage is sin.
It can be really difficult to grapple with the strict boundaries of sex within God’s will. In fact, to do so is an almost universal human condition. Keller explains it this way, “Sex affects our heart, our inward being, not just our body. Sin, which is first and foremost a disorder of the heart, therefore has a big impact on sex. Our passions and desires for sex now are very distorted. Sex is for whole-life self-giving. However, the sinful heart wants to use sex for selfish reasons, not self-giving, and therefore the Bible puts many rules around it to direct us to use it in the right way.”
Next week, I’ll be giving some very practical advice for living according to those rules, ways to actually not have sex until you’re married.
(Image via Etlamore)