I never did well with organized sports. The few times I played, I was frustrated with the coaches. I didn’t like them telling me what to do. I think that’s why I was so happy when I discovered nine ball when I was eleven years old. No one, other than myself, told me to practice. Plus, every loss or victory was mine alone.
This stubbornness causes me to need to know reasons behind instructions or commands. Fortunately, the Bible teaches that God’s commands aren’t based on a whim. Rather, biblical ethics reflect God’s nature.
For instance, why is murder wrong? It’s illegal, of course. But, God’s word gives us more insight than just “don’t do it.” We are told in Genesis 9:6 that murder is wrong because man is created in God’s image. The command not to kill is based on God’s character, which is displayed in the image of God in man.
Why is adultery wrong? Is it just because it’s a terrible thing to do? It certainly is terrible, but the reasons are deeper. Marriage, we are told in Ephesians 5, is a picture of Christ and the church. Adultery violates that picture. Jesus would never be unfaithful to His bride, the Church.
I’ve been trying to apply this thinking to the question of premarital sex. I’ve always been frustrated with the typical evangelic approach. It has always seemed to me that we only tell our kids not to have sex because it’s wrong, without giving the reason. We warn them against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. And, we have mistakenly equated self-worth and being a good marriage prospect with technical virginity. Of course, all of these things are a part of this question, but they are not the main issues.
If we are going to tell our teenagers, young twenty-somethings, or even adults facing a second marriage, that premarital sex is wrong, then we need a better reason that just “don’t do it because it’s bad.” We need to understand why it’s wrong theologically.
Ephesians 5:22-33 is the foundational passage for marriage. In this paragraph, Paul teaches that marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and the church. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (v. 25). Wives are to be subject to their husbands, just as the church is to Jesus (vs. 22-24).
In verses 5:28-31, Paul writes, “28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH (NASB).”
The church is the bride and body of Christ. We see Paul express this by quoting from Genesis 2:24, which records Moses’ commentary on Adam and Eve’s marriage. In both places, married couples are described as being one flesh. This bond pictures the union of Christ and the church, as Paul described 5:28-31.
We find guidance about the wrongness of premarital sex in the phrase “one flesh.” This phrase has many aspects, but one of those facets is the sexual union of husband and wife. Sex portrays the one flesh relationship. Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 6:16. “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh (NASB).’”
So, if marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, then what part of that picture does sex within marriage represent? It represents the church’s intimacy with Christ. The church is His body. He loves us and cherishes us. The church, made up of individual believers, has intimacy with Christ because we are His flesh, His body. Sex in marriage, therefore, symbolizes that intimacy.
Premarital sex, then, is seeking intimacy without the one flesh marriage relationship. It ruins the picture of Christ and the church. Instead, it represents a desire and searching for spiritual intimacy outside of God’s plan. That is, outside of Christ.
We call this false worship.
Or, if you prefer, idolatry.
This truth was regularly preached by the Old Testament prophets. They equated the sin and rebelliousness of Israel, God’s people, with spiritual adultery.
We would never encourage one another to participate in open idolatry. The idea of worshipping a statue or making a human sacrifice seems completely ridiculous. But how often do believers live out 21st century paganism through premarital sex?
This principle doesn’t just apply to teenagers dealing with raging hormones. It also applies to the young couple in their 20s, or the older couple about to undertake their second marriage.
Warnings against premarital sex aren’t just about keeping our daughters from becoming moms and our sons from becoming fathers. It is about faithfully worshipping God with our sexuality. If we participate in this behavior, we are participating in idolatry.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul wrote, “9 Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (NASB).”
Sexual sin, like any sin, is forgivable. As Christians, we understand that Christ died for all of our sins. Yet, we also know that sin can negatively impact our relationship with Jesus. When we confesses sin, we aren’t seeking to be saved from that sin. Jesus already paid the penalty. In confession, we acknowledging to God that our behavior has fallen short of His glory. We repent by stopping the sin. The confession breaks down sin’s wall of separation.
If you, a Christian, are guilty of the sin of premarital sex, then confess the sin to God and stop. The Holy Spirit lives in you, so you have the power to quit. In some cases, such as sex and pornography addictions, you may need further help. But generally, Christians have the spiritual ability to walk away from sin.
Your worth is determined by how God values you. If you have repented of this sexual sin, then don’t let guilt or stigma hold you back.
God loves you, despite your past.
His desire is for you to have great future.