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.

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5 thoughts on “Does the Bible really prohibit sex before marriage?

  1. Answer: There is no specific passage that says sex before marriage is sinful.
    I suppose several scripture references were overlooked on this subject matter. There are actually a multitude of verses in the N.T. that condemns sex before marriage unless fornication has lost its meaning along the way.

    Matthew Chapter 15
    15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
    Acts Chapter 15
    15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
    15:29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

    Romans chapter 1
    1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers

    1st Corinthians alone addresses this often:
    Chapter 5
    5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
    5:9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
    5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
    5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
    5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
    5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
    Chapter 6
    6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate,…
    6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
    6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
    And again in Chapter 7
    7:1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
    7:2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
    Corinthians 12:21
    And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness.
    With a little study time you’ll find the list goes on.

    • The only problem with using these passages with the word “fornication” as evidence is that there is a question as to whether the English word “fornication” (which in our usage has come to include sex by two unbetrothed people before marriage) is an accurate meaning for the Hebrew and Greek words translated here by the English word “fornication.”

      Deuteronomy 22:13-21 can be argued this way, for sure. Here if a woman is married and does not bleed on the cloth placed beneath her on her wedding night it indicates that she has had sex prior to this and her husband had been led to believe she was a virgin. She is to be executed. She has “played the harlot (fornicator).” It does not say she was involved in prostitution (though that could be the case) or has married someone out of the bounds of Leviticus 18, the normal meaning of “fornication” in the Old and New Testaments. But we have some license in this passage to read our meaning of “fornication” into this word’s usage.

      If this is the case, then there is likelihood that all the passages you cited might indeed refer to or include the idea of premarital sex between single people, whether they are engaged to be married or not.

    • It seems to me that marriage approved by God would normally be also in line with state legality, and for certain, state licensed marriages carry all the legal protections that are important to marriages and the protection of the people in them. Please explain how legal marriage would cause you to forfeit your income.

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