Is Sex Outside of Marriage Okay for Christians Today?

5. Sex outside of marriage is an offense to Christian brethren and the world.

You can bet that if you have ever named the name of Christ, the world is watching you, and so are your brethren. And rightly so. You are an example. It is amazing but true, but the non-Christian world often seems to know the standards a Christian is to live by better than many Christians. They know that Christians are not to have any sexual intimacy outside marriage. That’s why they are so quick to come down on pastors and televangelists who are involved in sex scandals. Such scandals make Christianity stink in the nostrils of the world, and they turn people from Christ. These scandals cause people to see Christians as hypocrites. And your exploits into sex outside marriage will have the same results. You will offend them.

Remember that your brethren are also watching, especially your weaker brethren. If, by your poor example, you turn them from Christ or cause them to also sin, you are guilty of offending them. Jesus tells us that it is inevitable that offenses will come, but you had better make sure they do not happen because of you: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:6-8). In other words, it is better to cut out anything in your life rather than cause an offense that turns someone from Christ. Jesus is telling us that if we turn someone from Christ, we will regret it.

As out of step as it may seem in today’s world, the Bible tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). If you are spending a large amount of time with someone of the opposite sex, especially if you are ever alone together, others will assume a sexual relationship, even if there really isn’t one. In this way, even if you are not sinning sexually, by not making sure that you are not abstaining from the appearance of evil, you can be responsible for offending someone. It is of no use to blame them for being busybodies. The Bible places the responsibility on your shoulders to be careful not to offend anyone.

6. Sex outside of marriage dishonors the Christian parents of one or both of the partners.

Echoing the Fifth Commandment from the Old Covenant, Ephesians 6:2-3 commands, “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” It is the misunderstanding of many Christians today to think that just because someone is now an adult, the person no longer has the responsibility to honor his or her parents. The Bible says nothing of the kind. Nor does the Bible define “honoring” as merely sending a card on Mothers’ and Fathers’ days, birthdays, and Christmas. It means to live an exemplary life that will not bring shame on your Christian upbringing and will, in fact, bring honor to your parents: “A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1, New King James Version).

7. Sex outside of marriage risks a pregnancy which then forces you to make one of three poor choices.

No matter how careful you are, sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy, and any other sexual intimacy can lead to sexual intercourse as your passions cause you to put caution out of your mind. The choices are: a) Have the child out of wedlock and raise it as a single parent. This is tough on the mother and a tragedy for the child who will not have a committed, full-time father and a happy, whole family to grow up in simply because a man and woman were unwilling to control themselves. b) Terminate the pregnancy, which is a newspeak way of saying murder the baby. For a Christian, abortion should be an unthinkable option, and it says something about the perversity of our society that it is an available choice at all. c) Marry for the sake of the baby. Such a marriage may be a real struggle, but, in most cases, it is probably better than single parenting. But it is better not to have to face such a choice! Because of the possibility of pregnancy and the effect the above choices will have on the resulting child, sexual intimacy outside of marriage reveals itself as a supremely selfish act.

8. The Bible condemns even little sexual intimacies outside marriage.

How do I know? Because such intimacies are based on the carnal desire for someone. But if that person is not your spouse, you have no right to such a desire; it is what the King James Version calls covetousness, lust, inordinate affection, and evil concupiscence, all of which are clearly condemned (see, for example, Romans 1:29; Ephesians 5:3-5; and Colossians 3:5-6 in the King James Version). Matthew 5:28 says that even looking on a woman to lust after her is adultery: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” How much more sinful, then, is kissing, fondling, petting… someone whom God has not set apart in marriage to you?

9. Sex before marriage is sin; after marriage it is blessed.

This is really based on all we have already examined, but I say it because there are still some who will argue that there is really no such thing as marriage. But we have seen that God instituted marriage at Creation and He clearly defines fornication and adultery, sins which could not exist if there were no such thing as marriage. No doubt, someone will ask, What is marriage? Who has the right to perform marriage? the church or the state? What about common law marriage?

I’ll answer the last first. The question of common law marriage always comes up when it is of advantage to the person asking, and it is never asked when it is a disadvantage. That is, when he or she doesn’t want to be called a fornicator, he or she will say, We have been living together for a long time, and that is common law marriage, so we are married. But when the couple wants to dissolve the union, he or she will say, Oh, we were never married. We were just living together.

The following should not be taken as legal advice, but in the United States, only a few states recognize common law marriage. Of those that do, the law requires that the couples live together for a significant amount of time, use the same last name, call each other husband and wife, and file a joint tax return, and if they want to break up, they must get a divorce. This is not an acceptable choice for Christians because of the requirement that the couple live together for a significant amount of time before they are considered married. This means they would have to be committing fornication during that time.

Although wedding customs vary from culture to culture and age to age, there are two consistent characteristics in the Bible that make a relationship between a man and a woman a marriage: a) the union is covenanted before God, and b) the union is publicly witnessed. Many people today seem to have forgotten that marriage is a covenant (a formal, solemn, and binding agreement). The man and woman are to come before God and, at the very least, covenant that they will stay together for better or worse until they are parted by death. The Christian couple should also add that the husband will love his wife, the wife will submit to her husband, and they will raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They should also ask for God’s blessing on the marriage. And all of this (Adam and Eve and people on deserted islands excepted) must be witnessed by other people.

In the Old Testament, marriage covenants were probably made between the parents of the couple, perhaps years before the marriage took place. The covenant came into force when the man “went in unto” the woman or “took” her and “knew” her (e.g. Genesis 4:17; 24:67; 29:23; Ruth 4:13), meaning he had sexual relations with her.

The Bible says we are to obey the law as long as it does not conflict with God’s commands for us (Romans 13:1; Acts 5:29). Therefore, besides the criteria I have mentioned, a marriage should meet the legal requirements where you live. In the United States, weddings can usually be “performed” by judges, justices of the peace, and “licensed ministers.” The problem with the latter is that the Bible knows nothing of “licensed ministers,” and it never gives the state the power to license the servants of Jesus Christ. For that matter, the Bible never says that any particular kind of person must “perform” a wedding or even that weddings must be “performed.” That is, the Bible gives us no wedding ritual. In many cases, you can arrange to say your own Christian marriage vows in a civil ceremony. Check beforehand. But you can always opt to have a quick civil wedding to satisfy the state and then, if you wish, an exchange of vows before your Christian brethren.

Is sex outside marriage okay for Christians today? Without doubt, it is not. Christians should refrain from sex before marriage, get to know their future spouse in a pure relationship in which they see each other in the company of others or in public, and enjoy sex after being committed to each other before God as God intended from the beginning. For those who have already made a mistake, immediately take steps to make sure it does not happen again, and remember that the Lord is “very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11) and that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

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Copyright © 2009 Peter Ditzel