Does the Bible really prohibit sex before marriage?

Question:  Is sex before marriage a sinful act? Is there such a verse in the Bible? My friend once told me that sexual immorality is having slept with two or more people and that if you date and engage sexually for the very first time with one person until marriage, then that’s not sexual immorality or a sin. Is this true?

Answer:  There is no specific passage that says sex before marriage is sinful.  However, there is indication that this is assumed and there are reasons why it is harmful to a relationship and God would not condone something that is harmful to us.

Exodus 22:16,17 says,

16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.

The implication is that an injustice has been done to this woman and her family.  She has been treated as a wife, introduced to an act that inevitably suggests that the man is in love with her, has been induced to give of the most private and safeguarded portion of her life, only to consider the possibility of him not marrying her.  This is considered so shameful that he must marry her or, if her father prohibits it (because he knows it is destructive or has some other serious reservation) the bride price must still be paid.

Even when people say they are just wanting to have casual or recreational sex, it is still true that this bonding experience affects them in ways they are not paying attention to.  This is the way God created us.  We are body/soul people and what affects our bodies affects our souls and vice versa.  We cannot escape the claim such intimate contact makes on our souls.  But that is why there is a need for a lifelong commitment to be in place, that is, marriage, for there to be safety in giving this most precious part of ourselves.  It is the only safe foundation for sex.  God knows this and set the boundaries for us because He cares for us.

Are we really loving someone if we want and get sex from them without giving them the appropriate commitment?  If not, then it is a way of sinning against them and when we sin against them we sin against the God who loves them.