Recently our teenage son asked us about the biblical reasons to refrain from premarital sexual intercourse. Can you help us?
Premarital sex has become an accepted way of life in most Western ("Christian") countries—promoted as the norm in most movies and television programs. Who, then, has the courage (some may say, the stupidity) to talk against it? God does, and so should we.
In discussing this subject we have to examine the biblical teachings about virginity, sexual promiscuity, marriage, and sex. Here are some things to consider:
1. Regulations on Virginity: Female virginity was highly valued in the Old Testament, as evidenced in its laws. Loss of virginity could, in some cases, result in capital punishment (Deut. 22:20, 21); while in others, marriage was required (verses 28, 29). Sex outside of marriage was a social, moral, and spiritual evil that was unacceptable to the Lord. With respect to male virginity, there is no biblical law that specifically deals with it, making it necessary to look for other evidence.
2. Regulations on Sexual Promiscuity and Adultery: We find specific legislation condemning male sexual promiscuity through prostitution and/or adultery. Satisfying one's sexual desires with a prostitute was not an acceptable practice in Israel (Lev. 19:29; Prov. 5; 7:10-27). In the New Testament, prostitution was also clearly rejected and condemned (1 Cor. 6:15, 16). In the Old Testament adultery was a capital crime, resulting in the execution of both individuals (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). This simply emphasizes the seriousness with which God took this aspect of the social and religious life of His people.
In the New Testament adultery and fornication are considered incompatible with Christian life and doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 13:4; Eph. 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3). Hence, the evidence points to the fact that virginity was expected from men in Israel and the Christian church.
3. Biblical View of Marriage and Sex: The biblical indictment against sexual promiscuity is based on the Bible's view of the dignity of the person and on the holy nature of marriage. The Lord rejects any activity that degrades those two principles. According to Genesis 2:18, 21-24 man and woman were created for companionship, to establish a permanent commitment to each other in love. The physical unity of their bodies was possible and meaningful in a setting of permanency and love.
In the Scripture, a person is not just a body that can be detached from the totality of his or her being, to function simply as an object of pleasure by another for personal sexual satisfaction. Since one's personal value cannot be separated from one's body, a dehumanization of the body has a direct impact on our self-image, leaving behind permanent scars in the soul. Sex without love and permanent commitment bypasses personhood and drags the individual to a lower status of existence.
Marriage, instituted by God, provides the existential ambience within which each of the partners finds self-realization, permanent companionship, respect, and expressions of loving concern for the other (1 Cor. 7:10). The mutuality of the public commitment and its dimension of permanency make it safe for both individuals to fully surrender their whole person—not just the physical body—in love to each other. Consequently, the couple comes out of the sexual relationship—the most pro-found human expression of love—enriched and with a deep feeling of self-realization; they become one (Gen. 2:24). It is only in mutual trust and love that we surrender ourselves to another person. Physical pleasure separated from soul commitment in love, even if enjoyed by consenting adults, splits that which God united.
The Scriptures reject premarital sex because sex without love (agape), commitment, and the permanency explicit in a marriage relationship is spiritually, morally, and emotionally degrading. But God's grace, through Christ, knows no limits; it offers those who have fallen short of the divine expectation healing through divine forgiving love. Those who accept it will be re-created in God's image. To them Jesus' merciful voice says: "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).