The Bible speaks clearly about sex being reserved for marriage. Sex before marriage is considered sexually immoral and a sin according to God’s commands. The Bible promotes abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage between one man and one woman.
Here is an overview of what the Bible says about sex before marriage:
- Sex is a gift from God meant for marriage (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6).
- Sexual immorality is sinful and to be avoided (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Galatians 5:19).
- God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman becoming “one flesh” through sex (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:6-9).
- God commands abstinence before marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-9).
- Sex before marriage can damage people emotionally and relationally (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
- Faithfulness within marriage is emphasized (Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 5).
- Waiting until marriage for sex is wise, healthy and honors God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Timothy 2:22).
The Bible consistently teaches that God designed sex to be enjoyed within the covenant commitment of marriage between a man and woman. Sex before marriage does not honor God’s commands for purity, self-control and holiness. Those who engage in sexual immorality before marriage must repent and trust in Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.
1. Sex is a gift from God meant for marriage
The Bible teaches that sex is a beautiful gift of intimacy created by God for marriage. In Genesis 2:24, Scripture describes how in marriage “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This “one flesh” union includes the physical intimacy of sex. Jesus also quotes Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-6, affirming God’s plan for sex within marriage between husband and wife.
Hebrews 13:4 declares “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” The marriage bed is the place where intimate sexual activity is pure, undefiled and blessed by God. Sexual activity outside of this God-ordained marriage covenant is considered immoral.
The Bible warns against the perversion and misuse of sex. But it never condemns sex within marriage. Rather, Scripture celebrates marital intimacy. The Song of Solomon beautifully portrays the delight, joy and celebration of sex within marriage. Proverbs 5:18-19 instructs to “rejoice in the wife of your youth” and to “be intoxicated always in her love.” God designed the gift of sex to be honored and cherished within the safety, care and commitment of marriage.
2. Sexual immorality is sinful and to be avoided
The Bible consistently condemns sexual activity outside of marriage (commonly called “fornication” or “sexual immorality”). Sex before or outside of marriage is always portrayed as sinful and against God’s commands for holiness.
1 Corinthians 6:18 instructs believers to “flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Fleeing sexual immorality entails running from and avoiding any sexual activity outside of marriage at all costs. These acts of sin defile the body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 believers are urged to “abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” Controlling the body means actively avoiding sexual impurity.
Galatians 5:19 lists sexually immoral acts among the deeds of the flesh which are in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:3 declares that sexual immorality must not even be named among believers. The will of God is for His people to avoid all sexual impurity and temptation (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).
3. God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman becoming “one flesh” through sex
As mentioned above, Genesis 2:24 establishes God’s pattern for marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This foundational verse teaches that God’s design for marriage is between one man and one woman. The “one flesh” union pointed to here includes sex.
Jesus affirms this creation order design for marriage in Mark 10:6-9. He appeals to the account of Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to demonstrate God’s intent for marriage from the beginning:
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
The sexual union consummates the “one flesh” marriage bond. Sexual intimacy is intended by God to unite husband and wife in a profoundly deep way as they leave their own families, join together and build a new family (Genesis 2:24).
Any sexual activity outside of this God-ordained marriage covenant deviates from God’s loving design. Sex is meant to be the unique way a husband and wife seal their love and covenant commitment. Hebrews 13:4 calls the marriage bed “undefiled” pointing to the purity and goodness of marital sexual intimacy.
4. God commands abstinence before marriage
If sex is reserved for marriage as God intends, it follows that He commands abstinence from sex before marriage. This principle is explicitly and implicitly taught throughout Scripture.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2 encourages unmarried believers to remain sexually abstinent: “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Then verse 8-9 exhorts, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Abstinence means deliberately refraining from sexual intimacy before marriage even if strong desires make it difficult. Giving in to temptation provides no excuse for sin (James 1:14-15). Single believers are encouraged to fully devote themselves to the Lord and not be distracted by seeking to fulfill sexual passions (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). If struggling with self-control, the solution presented is faithful marriage not sexual immorality.
1 Timothy 4:3 warns against false teachers who will try to forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods. This indicates that mandatory celibacy is unbiblical and that marriage with sexual intimacy is expected. But never does Scripture encourage satisfying sexual appetites before marriage.
God commands sexual purity and holiness while waiting for the blessings of marriage. As 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 exhorts: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor…”
5. Sex before marriage can damage people emotionally and relationally
The Bible warns that sex before marriage has consequences. It creates soul ties and emotional trauma that damage people’s hearts and ability to form healthy relationships.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20 asserts that sexual immorality joins Christ’s body to the body of the prostitute. This passage discourages sexual sin partly because of the lasting scars it leaves on the souls of individuals engaging in it. Soul ties formed with sexual partners outside of marriage create confusion, hurt and obscured identities which damage present and future relationships.
Proverbs 6:27 asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” Just as playing with fire gets you burned, sex outside of God’s boundaries brings pain. Proverbs 6:32 states that the adulterer “who does it destroys himself.” The wounds, regret, memories and shame that follow sexual sin impact lives long term.
Even sex before marriage between two dating people deeply in love can be harmful emotionally and spiritually. The vulnerability and exposure of sexual intimacy easily creates unhealthy soul ties and emotional dependency. If the relationship ends, the bonding effects of premarital sex most often lead to painful brokenness and disillusionment.
God warns against sex before marriage because He wants to protect people from exploitation and the inevitable damage caused by intimate relationships apart from His design. Obedience to God’s Word protects human hearts from unnecessary pain and brokenness.
6. Faithfulness within marriage is emphasized
Sex within marriage is blessed and celebrated in Scripture. But boundaries are given to protect the marriage bed. Absolute faithfulness to one’s spouse is commanded.
Hebrews 13:4 honors marriage and calls for purity: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Adultery breaks trust and defiles the sacredness of matrimony.
Exodus 20:14 simply declares one of God’s Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery.” This command from God forbids any sexual infidelity within marriage.
Proverbs 5 vividly warns against adultery and encourages faithfulness to one’s own spouse. “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). Adultery is strongly condemned as sin that destroys people and relationships (Proverbs 5:3-14). Instead, faithful marital intimacy is graphically celebrated (Proverbs 5:15-20).
Song of Solomon likewise extols the beauty of marital lovemaking between husband and wife. The book portrays a couple growing in intimate knowledge, care and delight in each other. They pledge faithfulness and celebrate the joy of sexual love only with each other within marriage.
So Scripture upholds faithfulness in marriage and condemns any sexual activity with someone besides one’s spouse. God wants marriage relationships protected and strengthened for life.
7. Waiting until marriage for sex is wise, healthy and honors God
As has been demonstrated, the consistent message of the Bible is that waiting until marriage for sex is right according to God’s design. Chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage honors the Lord and leads to healthy thriving relationships.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds believers of the motivation for sexual purity: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Honoring the Lord with your body means waiting for sex until marriage.
2 Timothy 2:22 admonishes “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Controlling desires and pursuing purity pleases God and leads to a clean conscience and flourishing life before Him.
There are practical reasons why waiting for marriage can lead to greater sexual satisfaction and intimacy within marriage. Virgins are less likely to struggle with comparisons to past partners or sexual baggage. Newlyweds who have never been sexually active with anyone else can learn and grow together exclusively in their marriage relationship.
God’s boundaries around sex provide protection too. The CDC reports that condom use does not fully protect against most STDs like HPV, genital herpes, syphilis, etc. Abstaining from sex altogether outside of faithful marriage is the surest way to prevent exposure.
Research also shows that delaying sexual activity in adolescence leads to long term physical and mental health benefits. Teens who abstain from sex have reduced risk of sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies and emotional problems later on.
Obeying God’s Word leads to the fullest thriving and removes many potential heartaches and consequences that sexual sin brings. When sex is contained exclusively within marriage as God intends, true intimacy, trust, faithfulness and satisfaction grow.
The consistent sexual ethic presented all throughout Scripture is that God designed sex as a beautiful act of love, intimacy and pleasure to be enjoyed exclusively within marriage between one man and one woman. The Bible celebrates sex within marriage as holy while clearly prohibiting sexual immorality of any kind outside the marriage covenant. God has good purposes for restricting sex to marriage – to protect, honor and unite husband and wife for life.
Waiting until the wedding night maintains greater purity, protects people emotionally and relationally, and glorifies God with your body. Wise and loving obedience to God’s commands will lead to the greatest thriving.