Christian couple questions value of abstaining

couple picture“Pastor Cor,

I know you’re really busy but we have a question for you. My girlfriend and I are Christians. We love each other so much and we intend to get married after graduation, or graduate school. But we have heard from other people that we should not be sleeping together. We can understand why this might be important for people who do not have plans to get married. But, like I said, we really love each other and plan to get married. Are there any good reasons why we should not be having sex? We’ve both prayed about it and we haven’t experienced any conviction. And we don’t really see where in the Bible it says to not have premarital sex. What do you think? Is there any value to abstaining from sex before marriage? Thanks for your time.

Sincerely, Brad and Jenny (names changed)”

Brad and Jenny,

Thanks for having the courage to write this note. I appreciate your willingness to seek out others for advice. The questions you raise are good ones and extremely important.

To more effectively answer your questions, I might need to ask a couple of my own. For example, you said you “don’t really see where in the Bible it says to not have premarital sex.”

What is your familiarity with the Bible? When you say that you and your girlfriend are Christians, what does that mean to you and how do you believe one becomes a Christian? And as it relates to your questions, if the Bible said that premarital sex was outside God’s desires, would you stop?

The reason I ask these questions is to gauge our starting point. How I speak to someone where God holds a lot of sway might be different than if God matters very little to them. In what follows, I will assume that God matters in your life and that you sought out me – a pastor – intentionally so.

  • First, does the Bible tell us so? I believe it does. But I’d really encourage you to consider these Scriptures yourself. Because if we believe the Bible to be God’s Word and it says “Do ‘X'” or “Don’t do ‘Y'”, we need to heed his instruction. We do this both because God’s Word is right (it’s Truth) and it’s good (it’s Life-giving). To believe that we can do something contrary to God’s Word without consequence is false. There is always consequences to sin, even though they may not come to light for some time.

Here are two verses for your consideration (though I could find more):

1. Genesis 2:24-25 – 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. *Here we see the order is marriage (v. 24) and then sex (v. 25).

2. 1 Corinthians 7:2 – But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. *The teaching is Paul’s response to the suspected claim that it is better for a married couple not to have sex. So, Paul is saying both to have sex and to so with your spouse.

 If the Bible doesn’t hold sway in your life, what does? What is your “True North”?

  •  Second, what is your understanding of covenant? Entering into covenant (or solemn agreement) with another person comes at the wedding ceremony through the exchanging of vows before God and human witnesses.

I believe that the covenant of marriage provides the most secure, safe, intimate, and loving environment possible. It’s in this environment that I believe sex can be most fully enjoyed.

  • Third, each of you will need to learn self control. Some mistakenly believe that crossing the engagement line or marriage line means the end of practicing self control. It doesn’t. You will need to exercise self control prior to marriage and after marriage.

Sadly, this lack of self control prior to marriage often gets manifested in marriage. This can result in all sorts of chaos, including infidelity. So it is critically important for both of you to be able to demonstrate to one another control over your own bodies.

I could share much more but that’s enough for me. I really want to open it up to the community here for their thoughts and wisdom.

QUESTION: How would you respond to Brad and Jenny’s question, “Is there any value to abstaining from sex before marriage?”

Posted on by Cor in Sex and Relationships

9 Responses to Christian couple questions value of abstaining

  1. Steve Douglas

    Pastor Cor,

    I found your approach to the topic refreshing. Going past what you already mentioned, I would also ask why they feel they need to wait to get married. They said that they are committed to getting married in the future, what is preventing them from marrying now? If it is a matter of practicality, like their readiness or finances, how do they know that will change? And could changes actually force them apart?

    There are numerous portions of Scripture that describe premarital or extramarital sex as adultery, immorality, and fornication, and Scripture always condemns it. Even if one were to take the view of sex as the “seal” of marriage, making the man and woman one flesh – which many do, but also has its own troubles because it confuses the outward seal for the covenant iself – then texts like Matthew 5:32 (“Anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her a victim of adultery, and anyone who marries her commits adultery”) would apply if there is a break-up.

    Extramarital sex is selfish, even if the other person is a willing participant, because you are not taking into account the person you may marry if you don’t marry this person, nor are you considering what you will be teaching your children through the legacy of your life, and you are not taking into account the protections for the person with whom you are having sex that are only provided with marriage – even if it is only honor/righteousness before God and man.

    As someone who made that mistake myself prior to meeting and marrying my wife, I know the painful result of my selfishness. But I also know the redemption from depravity I have experienced through Christ. That redemption does not erase the pain I have caused others, and it is not a license to sin, but it means I can move forward in faith without being disabled by guilt.

    My prayer for these people is that they will reject their own desires in favor of Christ’s desire for their lives, that they will experience redemption in a deep and meaningful way, and walk in righteous relationship with each other and God.

  2. CW

    Good stuff Cor. I’d add: marriage isn’t about us, it’s about God and more specifically his gospel. With this in mind, the Bible says a ton about how the people of God are people who wait on him. Waiting is a big part of being human and a bigger part of being a Christian. We wait for God to answer prayer, for example. Even more, Israel (and the world with them) waited for the “appointed time” (Gal 4) when God would send his Son to deliver them from their sins. We are called to wait patiently for Jesus’ second coming as well (Rom 8:25).

    Marriage (and a period of engagement prior to marriage where the couple is abstinent) is a type or glimpse of this. Jesus is the true bridegroom and we are the true bride. Salvation “weds” us to him, but the salvation came after millennia of “waiting.” So, it follows that waiting to have sex during a period of engagement, no matter how brief, would be an integral part of our experience getting to know our future spouse.

    Lastly, marriage/sex/union comes with commitment. There’s technically no formal commitment to another person without marriage (at least, less). And it’s easy to just walk away. Marriage (and love) is a choice. Like Christ “married” and committed to us and became one flesh with us through his death and resurrection, so should our love for another come with formal commitment, a choice to love, sacrifice, and wait to consummate.

    Again, as I began above, if we start with a “marriage is about me” starting point, this will all sound rather silly. But if we start with a “marriage is about Jesus and his gospel,” then it’s much easier to see the relationship between waiting on him and waiting to have sex with your fiancee. And in the end, when we do it God’s way, we find that waiting has so many positive benefits — too many to list here. But again, it makes biblical sense that this is the case. If waiting on the salvation of God is a good thing, then waiting to have sex, relatedly, is a good thing too.

    • Anon

      This is a really beautiful way of looking at it, CW. I hadn’t ever really thought about the waiting and how it compares to other waiting that happens in God’s kingdom…really cool thoughts! Thanks for sharing!

    • Steve Douglas

      Beautifully put.

  3. Anon

    I’d like to think a little further on this before I type up a long response, but my initial response is that “Brad and Jenny” say they aren’t feeling convicted in response to their prayer. But I would say the fact that one, or both, of them felt compelled to seek a Pastor’s input says that they ARE in fact feeling convicted, even if only a small amount of conviction. Typically, if you know with 100% certainty that you are doing something right, you don’t seek advice from others, and you especially don’t go out of your way to email a Pastor.

  4. zack b

    Well said Cor and others. Adding on to what has already been addressed, I would show them the life of David. Of course there was a lot more to what he did then that, but I digress.
    David committed adultery with a married woman. And I think two of his sons rapped someone too. Sex outside of the marriage covenant always leads to disaster.

  5. Matt

    When I was in middle school, and high school they scared us into not having sex. My parents got pregnant out of wed-lock, and then, I was conceived accidentally and born 16 months after my older sister.

    But, I think a fairer way was the way Cor brought it up, and that its about fidelity to God.

    New reasons not to engage in pre-marital sex always came up when the scare from the old ones wore off. If I have kids, I don’t think I’ll tell them that its all about benefiting themselves, as especially for men, I’m not sure that pre-marital sex fully catches up with you in this lifetime.

    For this couple, and it seems like so many, I always bring up the marriage after college/grad school thing. I don’t understand why a degree is a pre-requisite for marriage if you’re already committed to marriage. Some of the best marriages I know where against parents’ wishes when college aged.

    My mother was 22 when she got married and told us kids to not think about it until age 30, and after having a bachelor’s degree. Now that I’m 34, I don’t know why anyone would give that advice. I think previous generations confuse the struggles of being young with the struggles of being newly wed, because they were both at the same time. And, incorrectly think that people who get married in their 30s have a wonderful 20s, and then, easily find a mate and have a wonderful, easy 30s.

    You don’t need a $40K wedding. If you wait until all of the challenges of life pass before you get married, you’ll never get married. I think part of God’s design of a sex drive (which is good, and we should be glad these two want to have sex with each other)is to push us towards marriage.

  6. Faith

    Hi y’all. I believe the. Bible does tell us so. When I was struggling with my own sin int this area, your sermon series on false intimacy and pastor Joel Johnson’s (Westwood community Church) sermon on sex further helped my understanding of this plus conviction from the Holy Spirit .
    Quotes from Joel’s sermon that stuck with me:
    God made the body to feel good in sexual expression. Your body is connected to your soul. When you touch someone’s body, you touch their soul.
    1. So sex is inevitably a spiritual experience.
    2. As body is being satisfied, soul is being emptied.
    3. Most people who seek sexual gratification outside of marriage aren’t doing it because they want to be promiscuous ; I think they do it because they are deeply lonely.
    4. There is deep longing in the soul for touch of acceptance and love and value from another human being.
    5. 1 Cor 6:20 because sex is such an explosively powerful experience, people mistakenly beleive that it will take away the aloneness when in fact it exasperates it.

    So God intended sexual intimacy where soul can be nourished and oneness can be deepened and not simply the body satisfied.

    My personal thoughts are covenant is a sacrificial commitment before God. Self control is a fruit of the spirit. Our God is a patient God. So we too should be patient. “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Songs 8:4

    I also see Christians (and this doesn’t apply to everyone!) seeing how close to the “line” they can get when really we should be setting the boundaries and asking ourselves is this glorifying to Him?

  7. Dave Nelson

    Hi Cor,
    This is a bit late on this topic, but I just came across two great references on this. First, a 2-minute video answer from Tim Keller:
    http://www.biblemesh.com/blog/selected-news-stories-from-around-the-world-saturday-december-21/

    Second, a longer meditation from someone in an Orthodox Christian church: http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-lawrence-farley/meditation-on-fornication?utm_content=bufferc2dac&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

    Have a great day!

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