Is It Okay to Have Sex Outside of Marriage?

If someone came up to you right now and asked you, "What's wrong with having sex when you're not married?", what would you say?

Our culture has been changing its attitudes about sex for the last 50 years.

According to one poll, only 49% of American women believe sex before marriage is immoral, and that's down from 65% who believed that in 1970.

According to another poll, 47% of Americans say that it’s wrong to have children outside of marriage but 50% responded that it is not wrong.

Other surveys tell us that 80% of Americans name the Bible as the most influential book in human history and 58% believe the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.

If most people believe in the Bible, then how can more than half of the people in this country think that sex outside of marriage is okay?

Could it be that people are not being influenced by the Bible but rather they're being influenced by other things?

Is it okay with God that we have sex before marriage? God has provided us clear instruction on the proper use of sex and the improper use of sex and we should be aware of God's instruction on the issue of sex so that we will not fall prey to the false teaching that it's okay to have sex outside of marriage. The Apostle Paul directly addressed this issue to the church in Corinth.

Corinth was a city which was given over to the worship of sex. A thousand priestesses from the temple of Aphrodite that stood on the little hill behind the city would come down into the streets at night and ply their trade. Sexual immorality was accepted and highly regarded in that culture and some of the Christians in Corinth were trying to justify sexual immorality by their freedom in Christ and so Paul addressed the issue of sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6:9-20.
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.  (NKJV)
So what's wrong with sex outside of marriage? In this passage, Paul gives four reasons why a Christian should not have sex outside of marriage.

Reason 1: Sex outside of marriage is sinful.

In verse 9, Paul provides a list of examples of the sexually unrighteous.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites"
This is a representative list, not an all inclusive list. Anytime Paul gives a list in his writings, it's always a representative list. It's the character of the list that's important, not whether or not a specific thing is on the list. Someone might try to justify their perversions by saying that what they do isn't on Paul's list of sexually immoral acts. Paul is listing examples of sexually immoral acts, and just because a certain act is not on the list, does not necessarily mean that it is not immoral.

Now let's look at the character of this list. The first example listed by Paul is translated in the NKJV as “fornicators.” The NIV translates this word as the "sexually immoral." But what does Paul mean when he refers to a fornicator or the sexually immoral? The literal definition of this word is “an unmarried person who has sexual relations.” This would include anyone who isn't married, whether they have never been married, or whether they're divorced, or widowed. By definition, this word includes anyone having sex outside of the God-given institution of marriage.

The next example of the sexually immoral are the idolaters. How could idol worship be construed as a sexually immoral act? Let's not forget the fact that the city of Corinth practiced illicit sex in their worship of Aphrodite. And so in this context, Paul was pointing to the immorality of the heathen worship.

The third example in the list are the adulterers. The definition of an adulterer is one who is married and has sex with someone other than their spouse. Paul includes in his examples of sexually immoral behavior, those who are not married, those who are married, and those who would use religion as an excuse for sexual immorality.

And last, but certainly not least, Paul includes in his list of the sexually unrighteous, references to very specific behavior regarding homosexuality. God's word is crystal clear about the sinfulness of homosexuality.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." Romans 1:24-27
"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." Leviticus 18:22
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 9, Paul is very specific in that he includes two separate words for homosexual acts in his list. These two words, which are translated as “homosexual” and “sodomites” in the NKJV, describe BOTH partners in a homosexual relationship. Therefore, Scripture is clear in its denouncement of homosexuality, as well as all other sexually related immoralities.

Scripture is clear but there are other Christian denominations who say that it's okay to be a homosexual. If those other Christian denominations who say that homosexuality is okay and ordain homosexual ministers, can't understand the Bible any better than that, then I sure don't want them interpreting any part of God's word for me because it's obvious to me that they're not drawing the truth of God's Word FROM the text, but they're placing their opinion of truth ONTO the text. That's not the way to rightly divide the word of God.

Paul does not suggest that those who commit these acts cannot repent and receive God's forgiveness. He makes it clear in verse 11, that salvation is available for all who trust in Jesus. Paul names those who pursue the kind of life described and who have NO DESIRE for change from their degradation. Those people who are satisfied to continue such a life will not inherit the kingdom of God because such a life is not the mark of the redeemed. And so the first reason we should not have sex outside of marriage is that it is sinful.

Reason 2: Christian liberty does not grant the right to be sexually immoral. 

In verses 12 and 13, Paul addressed two slogans, or phrases, which the Corinthian Christians were using to justify their sexual immorality. These slogans or phrases, were used in a way that would be similar to the way people today use slogans to verbalize a viewpoint such as, "If it feels good, do it."

In verse 12, Paul begins a pattern that he will use frequently throughout the rest of the letter, that is, he quotes a Corinthian slogan, and thereby giving it a limited endorsement, but then at once he substantially qualifies it.

The first slogan that Paul addressed was in verse 12: "All things are lawful for me."

This slogan was allegedly in support of Christian freedom, in that in Christ we are free from a set of rules. In Christ, we’re not bound by legalism. We are not constrained by rules. By repeating this phrase, Paul agrees with the inherent truth of it, but notice that he immediately qualifies it by saying that although all things are lawful for me, not all things are helpful.

Some church members in Corinth apparently viewed the doctrine of grace as a license to do anything they wanted to do. To reject legalism doesn't mean that we embrace unrestraint. Our liberty in Christ does not imply license. We are constrained by our love for Christ and our desire to serve Him and represent Him faithfully to a fallen world.

The second quotation of the Corinthians is, "Food for the stomach and the stomach for foods."
Paul agrees with the basic affirmation of this quotation that food does not defile a man. Although, he’s in agreement with the basic affirmation of the second quotation, he strongly disagrees with the way the Corinthians have been applying it.

The Corinthians were using this slogan to justify sexual immorality by saying that food and sex are simply physical desires that should be satisfied. Paul's immediate response to the quotation was to appeal to personal responsibility.

The Christian is a truly free man, not an enslaved man. His bondage to Christ is freedom because it allows him to fulfill God's intention for man. But what some of the Corinthians were teaching was not freedom but license. "The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord" is Paul’s way of saying that the body is not meant in the design of God's creation and redemption to be used as an instrument of immoral sexual gratification but is to be treated as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Christian liberty does not give us the right to be sexually immoral.

Reason 3: Our bodies are members of the body of Christ.

In verses 15-17, Paul reminds the Corinthians that their bodies are members of the body of Christ and he uses the example of having sexual relations with a prostitute to make his point.

Christ is the body of which individual Christians are members. Since God will raise our bodies at the resurrection and since our bodies are parts of the Lord's body at the present time, it's unthinkable that a Christian would join part of the body of Christ to the body of a prostitute.

Sexual relations means, in a sense, that two people become one physically and mentally.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Gen. 2:24
A person who joins his body to a prostitute becomes physically and mentally one with her in a life of "flesh," or sin-centered existence. But a person who joins his body to the Lord becomes spiritually one with him in a life of spiritual union. Paul expressed the horror of associating something as impure as prostitution with the perfect holiness of Christ.

Sexual immorality creates the grotesque connection of Jesus Christ, who is the One who represents ultimate commitment with an act that represents the most casual of relationships.

Our bodies are members of the body of Christ, which is pure and holy. It’s our responsibility to keep our member of the body of Christ pure and holy.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." Rom. 12:1

Reason 4: Our bodies are not our own. We belong to Christ.

The temptation to have illicit sex in Corinth was so strong that Paul apparently felt the need to emphatically warn them by advising them to "flee sexual immorality.”(v18) Running away from temptation is to be preferred to the risk of yielding to it.

Paul states that sexual immorality is a sin against our own body.

Scholars also point out that gluttony and drunkenness are also sins against a man's personality and his physical body. This may be true but even so, no sin other than sexual immorality involves so much giving of the total personality---emotion, mind, and will---in violation of God's revealed intention.

Sexual immorality involves a degradation of the sexual relationship, an indifference to the claim of Christ over our total personality, and a denial of the sanctity of the body for future fellowship with God. The sole purpose of this sin is the gratification of lust; and therefore, it is probably the most selfish of all sins.

Paul tells us in verse 19, that the Christian should honor and care for his body as the very sanctuary of God. We no longer belong to ourselves, but to God, who purchased us as a prized possession through the gracious giving of His Son. You are not your own because you belong to Christ. You are not your own so your selfish interests must not claim your life. It’s because we belong to God through redemption that we make it our goal to use our bodies to glorify God.

Since we belong to God, our bodies belong to His service. When we live for God and thereby praise him with our bodies, we do so in joyful obedience.

The command in verse 20, to "glorify God in your body and in your Spirit,” becomes a source of joy because it's the fulfillment of His purpose for our bodies, without which we cannot fulfill his purpose for our lives on earth or in heaven.”

When Paul says "You are not your own," this is the most sufficient answer to all the argument about “All things are lawful for me," which is nothing more than the idea that “I can do as I please.”

As God's own people, the Christian is free. Free to do what God pleases. Christian freedom is in God and under God; It is not freedom FROM God.

And so if we’re to glorify God in our body and spirit, we must flee sexual immorality.

When a Christian engages in sexual relations outside of marriage, he or she profanes the holiness of the body of Christ.

When a Christian engages in sexual relations outside of marriage, he or she distorts and perverts the purposes of their own body in God's plan.
"Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Hebrews 13:4
When a Christian engages in sexual relations outside of marriage, he or she places their own selfish desires above the desires of God.

Sexual immorality is sinful in the eyes of Almighty God.

If you're bogged down in this sin, let me tell you that there is hope for you. That hope resides in the person of Jesus Christ.

There is no sin that Jesus cannot cleanse. There is no sinful desire that Jesus cannot take away. But you can't do it alone. You must turn to Jesus.

Turn to Jesus and lay your weaknesses at His feet and surrender to His will. He will give you the peace you've been searching for. He will give you the rest that you've been longing for. He will give you the joy that you've been hoping for. Jesus is able to cleanse you today if you will confess your sin, turn away from it, and turn to Him.


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