Updated: May 5
Excerpts of this post have been pulled from my previous discussion on intimacy and the LGBTQ community. You can view that post here.
Before I say a single word about sex... let me first tell you that I am a sinner. I make mistakes. There are things I am going to discuss in this section that even I am guilty of. The purpose of this article isn't for me to tell you my opinions or cast my judgment. We've all had our low moments. We've all done something we knew we shouldn't. If we didn't mess up, we wouldn't need God's forgiveness. Doing something wrong doesn't make you any less valuable to God, it simply reminds you that you are human and you need to stay close to Jesus. The purpose of this article is to answer your questions about sex and what the Bible says about it. As with anything I ever write, I urge you to fact check my statements with scripture.
There is something else I want to say... and that is this: sex is good. Sex is a good thing. Having sex is a good thing. If you were raised in the church or if you are familiar with religious people, sex often gets attached to a long list of negative, taboo words. Somehow the pastor loves to list sex, drugs, and alcohol as if they are the world's deadliest sins. Growing up I was terrified of having sex. I was terrified to even want to have sex because I had been told for so long to flee from it. I really hate that pastors take this approach, even though I understand that it comes from a well-intending place.
The truth is, sex should be embraced. Sex should be promoted. This is a Biblical suggestion- simply take a look at the book Songs of Solomon in the Bible. People were designed to have sex. There are significant health benefits to having sex such as longer lifespan, lower blood pressure, lower heart attack risk, lower stress, and better sleep. Best of all, sex is how we have so many people in the world in the first place! Without sex, you wouldn't be here to read this and I wouldn't be here to write it. Sex isn't something to be afraid of. Sex is actually a gift... but it is a gift from God to people who are ready for a lifelong commitment. This is where we run into problems.
Imagine you went to a birthday party for a 7-year-old. Among the gifts were stuffed animals, toys, books, and maybe a new pair of shoes. All of a sudden, a guest comes into the party with the keys to a brand new motorcycle. He is giving the motorcycle to the birthday kid. Naturally, everyone is shocked. That is not a good child's gift at all! Yet the guest insists the kid accept it, maybe even take it out for a drive that very afternoon! The guests think he is crazy. How could a kid drive a motorcycle? But the kid likes the motorcycle. He's always wanted a motorcycle. He likes the shiny paint and all the buttons. He has seen other people around town with motorcycles. He's heard about how nice it is to have one. He's seen the advertisements pointing out the special features of the bike. Do you get where I am going with this? There isn't actually anything wrong with the motorcylce itself, it's the fact that the little boy isn't ready for it yet. The motorcycle was designed and intended for someone much older, more mature, and more responsible. Not only that, but think about the risks of a child climbing on a motorcycle, and trying to drive it all by himself. This would be a huge risk not only for the little boy, but also for everyone around him.
It's the same with sex. People who have no plans of being committed or responsible for their sexual activity should not be having sex. This especially applies to teens. A 14-year-old isn't ready to have a house or a family or even a car, but they somehow think they are ready to have sex. They like sex, they see other people are having sex, so even though sex wasn't designed for them, they have it anyways.
The reality is, the majority of people in the United States, regardless of age, are misusing the ability to have sex. A quick google search tells us that 77% of Americans have sex by age 20, and of that percent, 75% had premarital sex. Women have an average of four sex partners during their lifetime; men have an average of seven. Celebrities sometimes have sexual intercourse with hundreds of different people. They aren't afraid to boast about it either.
Statistics state that 80% (a higher percentage than secular adults) of unmarried evangelical Christian young adults (18 to 29) say they are actively having sex. The average age for marriage for women in the 90’s used to be 24 now, according to the U.S Census Bureau that same age has climbed up to 27 and for men 29.
Hold up. Let's just take that in. Within the Christian world, a higher percentage of people are having sex than in the secular world.
What? Uh, guys... what is wrong with us? I had to ask myself that very question when I entered in to my college years. What was wrong with me? I went from being terrified of having sex, to thinking it didn't matter at all. Why was the idea of having sex outside of marriage suddenly a non-issue? I think we have the media (aka. the devil in this case) to blame.
In the secular world, dating is the new married. First off, the majority of all dating couples are having sex within the first three months of the relationship. Biblically, it is established that in God's eyes sex is the sign of a marriage commitment. Second of all, 7.8 million couples are living together across the world without being legally married. That means they are cooking and cleaning together, getting pets together, and even having children together. Ah, but don't call them husband and wife! They are still only dating!
The music we listen to, the movies we watch, and even some of the books we read are telling us to have sex. They're telling us to ride the motorcycle even though we can't reach the pedals or don't know how to balance the bike. They're blurring the lines between sex and love. Somehow they've convinced us that the two terms are interchangeable. If you love me, you will have sex with me. Even though we follow Jesus, we've totally bought into the world's lies about sex.
What does the Bible say about having sex before marriage?
1 Corinthians 7:1-3 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
Exodus 22:16 If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry.
Perhaps this doesn't seem very straightforward. We must keep in mind the context. Sexual immorality was a phrase referred to as sex outside of marriage in Biblical times. In society today sexual immorality is not defined as sex outside of marriage but that does not change how it was defined by God originally. Since that still may not convince you that sex outside of marriage is wrong, lets study the texts.
In Exodus, we see that once a man slept with a woman he was expected to make her his wife. Maybe you don't like Old Testament examples because of the confusion about Jesus doing away with certain laws. If that is the case lets look at the Corinthians texts. Why would the New Testament (a time after Levitical and Mosaic law) tell us a man must marry to avoid sexual immorality? If sex with anyone he wanted was acceptable, what would marriage with "one wife" allow him to do that he wouldn't already be doing? It is so he can act on his sexual desires without going against God's wishes. Both of the texts found in Exodus and Corinthians put an emphasis on having one sexual partner or on marrying in order to act on sexual needs.
Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
In the Bible sex and marriage are a pair. You can't have one without the other. Adam and Eve didn't have a wedding ceremony, instead they "knew" or "went into" each other. There are many couples in the Bible who become "married" when they have sex. I think of Jacob with Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29). Jacob marries Leah by accident because he has sex with her before realizing that she isn't Rachel (Genesis 29:23-25). The traditions of marriage feasts and ceremonies are all man-made celebrations. God's view of marriage is not a wedding or even a legal document. Marriage is established by having sex. We even see this in our modern day terminology with phrases such as, "he consummated the marriage" which is saying he had sex with her.
When you understand this concept, the rest of what the Bible says about sexual immorality makes a lot more sense. It also suddenly makes more sense as to why it is a sin to "sleep around" or have sex with multiple people (breaking commandment 7 Exodus 20:14). It is wrong because in God's eyes, the first person you slept with was who you married and then you proceeded to cheat on them (again, commandment number 7 Exodus 20:14) with every person you slept with afterwards.
We need to keep in mind that God takes us where we are at. If you didn't realize you were breaking God's commandments you can't expect God to judge you as if you did. Even if you did realize what you were doing, you're not out of God's favor forever. No sin is greater than any other sin and God is a loving and forgiving God.
The relationships highlighted in the Bible are beautiful testimonies of God's grace. For example, God is telling people to have one wife and one husband yet polygamy is everywhere among popular Bible characters. King Solomon had 700 wives! Does this make polygamy okay? No. But God still used King Solomon and others for great things. This shows that people have made mistakes from the very beginning. There are many wonderful, faithful people in the world who have sinned against God but God has not forsaken them. You can move forward from your mistakes both sexually and otherwise. The Bible says:
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When we understand the Bible and what sex actually means to God, we can better understand the sorts of acts we should and should not be carrying out. These guidelines about sex aren't meant to take away our fun or pleasure but rather protect us from bigger problems.
Think of all the unwanted babies we see in the world. Think of all the abortions and accidental pregnancies that occur. Think of all the sexually transmitted diseases we have. Think of all the broken families. Think of all the people suffering emotional damage and psychological trauma because of their sexual promiscuity. God never comes up with rules or regulations to make us miserable... he is trying to protect us and give us the best chance at a happy, healthy life.
Remaining a virgin isn't about the title, it isn't about God loving you "more" than someone who is sleeping around. Remaining a virgin until marriage is about lowering your risks. It is about offering your future spouse a more intimate connection with you, one that you've never had with anyone else. If you aren't married yet, I would encourage you to save the sex for later, and focus on preparing yourself to be the best future husband or wife you can be.
Ask God to help you remember that it will be worth the wait!
Do you struggle with knowing how or being able to remain pure until marriage? Make sure you bookmark my blog and stay tuned for an article addressing this issue in the near future.