We have reaped the results of the sexual revolution that was encouraged by easy birth control, including elective abortion. The fruit of this revolution has been marriage and family breakdown, to the point that roughly half of all marriages end in divorce and 42% of children have no father in the home. This breakdown has and will have devastating consequences for society. As in a typical downward spiral, this bad experience with marriage has resulted in an increasing unwillingness to marry, further encouraging people to be sexually active outside marriage.
What does God say about sex outside marriage? How should Christians respond to non-Christians who ask the common question, “What’s wrong with sex before marriage?” We have to make it clear from the start that God, in love, has given us a good plan to enjoy sex. Unfortunately, some Christians have given the impression that all sex or any physical enjoyment is evil. We have to belay that notion, which really has more to do with early Greek pagan dualism than what God reveals in his Word, the Bible. The physical body is not evil. In fact, God says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Ps. 139:14) God created a physical universe, including sex, and He said it was all good. Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. They had no guilt attached to their sexuality. Jesus took upon Himself a physical body, thus revealing God’s plan to redeem the physical universe. The “kingdom to come” is not in heaven, but will be here on earth! The sexual urge is God-given. Pleasure is God’s idea, not the devil’s. One writer has likened sex to fire: it’s a very pleasing thing in the fireplace, but if you start a fire in the middle of the living room, you may burn the house down.
The Bible teaches that sexual intimacy should take place within the bounds of a covenant marriage. In fact, in the Bible, sexual intimacy is revealed as a form of communication. When referring to married people having sex, it will often say that so and so “knew” their spouse. The Bible teaches that sex is much more than just a physical act.
Being equipped to answer someone about this question requires an understanding of what sex really is. Sex is not just a bodily function as with animals. Do you know what is wrong with most public school sex education programs? They start in science class by teaching that we are just animals that evolved, that we are not specially created in the image of God, with a spirit and that we are intended to be a reflection of our Creator. Once they have the children convinced that they are just animals whose lives have no special purpose, then they teach them all about sex as just another “natural” bodily function. So, why not indulge?
We are not like the animals. We are made in the image of God. We are spiritual creatures. We have a soul. Sex is not just a physical act, but a life uniting act. 1Cor 6:16 says, “Do you not know that he who is joined to an harlot is one with her? For the two shall become one flesh, says the Lord.” God knows that sex must involve commitment to work properly. Therefore, His plan is that sex take place only in marriage.
That leads to the question of what is a marriage in God’s eyes. As described in God’s word, marriage is intended to be a life long covenant. A true biblical covenant is witnessed and confirmed in submission to God ordained authority, that is, the church and the state. A wedding is a public expression of commitment. Marriage is intended to be a reflection of God’s relationship with His people. It should be public and permanent. When Jesus spoke on marriage, He referred back to the creation account: “A man will leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) This creation account reveals an intended progression. Leaving comes first. It implies a public act of commitment first. Then there is uniting. This is more than just sex. It involves communion. Only then do the two become one. Marriage is God’s plan for commitment. It is not just a piece of paper as some so glibly state in seeking to dodge commitment. Life uniting intent is evidenced by marriage, not engagement.
God warns against distortions of His plan. God’s plan was distorted by sin, which affects every area of our lives, including sex. Adultery includes all rebellion against God. Spiritual adultery is the root of all sin. As the heart wanders from God, it will surely wander from the mate. Sinful sex is just a symptom of an adulteress heart. As the heart grows cold towards God, there remains a void which leads the sinner to start looking for something to replace God. This cycle leads to compulsions, addictions, and even demonic control.
What’s wrong with premarital sex between singles? The answer requires an understanding of what sex really is. Sex is a life uniting act. It unites body, soul and spirit. Without life uniting commitment, both parties get injured. Any dissociation of the physical from the spiritual aspects of sexual activity invariably leads to dissociation of sex and commitment. Sex outside of God’s plan in marriage brings physical and spiritual death. God is not a kill joy. He warns against premarital sex because it hurts people. People hurt themselves. Premarital sex destroys a person’s understanding of who they are. 1Cor. 6:18 says that a person who commits sexual immorality sins against their own body. Illicit sex destroys one’s understanding of what we are created for, to be the temple of God.
Unfortunately, many people have already made the mistake of not following God’s plan and have been hurt. As believers, we need to make sure that people understand that the good news is that God has sent Jesus to restore us. He came to save us from sin. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but He brought forgiveness and healing, and the power to resist temptation.
We are not called as Christians to go about condemning pagans for their sins. As unbelievers come to know us and desire to have the spiritual peace that we know, they will ask about these difficult topics, such as pre-marital sex. When they ask, speak the truth in love. You must present both the law and the gospel. The good news is not good news until people know the truth and recognize their sinful condition. Only then can we offer forgiveness and grace.