What Does the Bible Say about Sex before Marriage?

Published: Mar 07, 2023
What Does the Bible Say about Sex before Marriage?

Love has many types of expressions, designed by God to be wonderful, to create bonds, and to be outward demonstrations about the depth of His love. Even romantic love is a mechanism for the world to get a vision of the relationship between God and the church. One of the ways that romantic love is expressed between men and women is sex. It is a part of God’s design for the world. It is how people show love and engage in the act of creating new life, according to the Lord’s purpose.

Because it is a pleasurable experience, it is good to indulge within the boundaries ordained by the Creator, but the Bible is clear about what healthy, Biblical sexual relationships look like, their benefits, and the dangers of straying outside those boundaries.

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Wedding rings on Bible

Does the Bible Address the Issue of Sex before Marriage?

The Bible addresses several topics related to sex including:

Healthy Sexuality

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

“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).

“My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag on cleft mountains” (Song of Solomon 2:16-17).

“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 8:4).


“And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’” (Genesis 2:22-23).

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

“The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.….” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

Sinful Sexuality

“He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32).

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality” (Galatians 5:9).

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Groom and Bride pinkies linked with wedding rings

Why Is It So Important to Keep Sex within the Confines of Marriage?

When God creates boundaries for people, He doesn't do it because He is a cruel tyrant who wants to deny people things that will bring them happiness and satisfaction. He does it for these good reasons:

1. God-ordained boundaries reveal God’s will and His design. God intended for families to be the foundation of human civilization, with husbands and wives being an embodiment of the loving and sacrificial relationship between Christ and the church.

2. God-ordained boundaries help believers pursue righteousness and are part of them becoming more Christ-like. Boundaries foster sanctification. If someone is doing things that are sinful, they cannot grow closer to God.

3. God ordained boundaries protect individuals. Sometimes a boundary exists to stop bad things from happening. For example, sex outside of marriage can lead to sickness and disease. It can also lead to bonding chemicals being released, creating a permanent bond between two individuals who then separate, making breakups more painful.

Spiritually, the Bible also says that when two people have sex they become one flesh. Joining one’s body with another should be taken seriously, as it is a union with lifelong ramifications. Though it may be a kind of mystery, sexual intercourse makes people spiritually one, not just physically. People should be serious about becoming one with someone else.

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What Does the Bible Actually Teach about Sex?
Is Concupiscence, a Strong Sexual Desire, a Sin?
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Confused woman looking at a jumble of lines on a chalkboard

Addressing Different Questions about Sex and Marriage

Many Christians understand that indulging in sex outside of marriage is wrong, but once they fall in love, it can be tempting to begin indulging in sexual behavior. If they’re engaged and are struggling with the temptation to be physically intimate, it can be easy to justify the indulgence: “we’re going to be married,” “we’re engaged, that’s practically married,” or “we need to start experimenting now so our sex life is good once we’re married.” However, there is a great example in the Bible that demonstrates God’s expectation that sex is not for the period of engagement.

hen God was ready to bring forth His plan to redeem humanity, He ordained to send the Son from heaven to earth.

The woman who would become the mother of the Lord needed to be: 

1. A Hebrew to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham to bless all the nations through Him (Genesis 22:18)

2. A descendent of King David to fulfill the promise that his kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:11b-16)

3. A virgin to fulfill God’s declaration promising a miracle to prove His power to the doubting King Ahaz (Isaiah 7:10-14)

4. A righteous woman who loved God, pursued His will, and would submit to Him (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary fulfilled all these requirements. When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive and bear a son, she was confused, since she was a virgin. When she submitted to God’s will, she was taking a risk, because women who had sex outside of marriage would have been shamed in her culture. Moreover, she was betrothed to Joseph, whom the Bible also describes as a righteous person. In their culture, if she had sex outside the boundaries of her betrothal, it would have been treated as adultery, and she could have been stoned for it. Joseph was not going to do that to her, but God sent His angel to assure Joseph of Mary’s purity. Living righteously meant waiting for marriage, not engagement.

Over time, cultures have placed too strong an emphasis on preserving virginity as the purpose of abstaining from sex outside of marriage. This presents problems within church culture, including young people feeling guilty and sinful for having sex after they get married, developing obsessive thoughts about sex leading to unhealthy habits and perspectives, and sending the wrong message about God and the church’s priorities.

For some who waited, were married, and then were widowed, they can feel liberated to pursue sexual relationships without getting married again. The purpose of sex within the confines of marriage is not just to preserve virginity as the pinnacle of sexual purity; in fact, sex within marriage is considered pure, “ Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). Therefore, widows and widowers should restrain from sexual activity unless they remarry. Paul encouraged younger widows to remarry, and older widows (and both of these would apply to widowers) to be seen devoting themselves to the care of others.

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Silhouette of couple hugging

If a Couple Has Sex, Does That Mean They Are "Married in the Eyes of God"?

There are some who believe that the act of sex is the thing that marries two people. Even some Christians will engage in sex outside of marriage and say that makes them married in God’s eyes. Jesus contradicted this idea when he spoke to the Samaritan woman.

Samaritans were distantly related to the Hebrew people, but they married outside their religion and culture, and incorporated some false practices into their worship. During His ministry, Jesus would pass through Samaritan areas. In one case, a Samaritan woman approached Him at a well, and He began to speak to her. This surprised her because Jews usually looked down on Samaritans. However, He introduced her to the concept of living water.

To show her that He was more than just an itinerant Rabbi, He revealed, “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;  for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true’” (John 4:16-18). This woman believed what Jesus said, and so did many in her town, and were saved. Crucially, Jesus identifies the woman was in a sexual relationship with a man to whom she was not married. He also does not identify her as a bigamist. Jesus did not consider her married to this man, even though they had engaged in sex.

So, what is marriage?

To a certain extent, God allows that to be defined culturally. However, the Bible does give some indications of what it should be. First, it is a covenant (Malachi 2:14 & Matthew 19:6). Second, it is between a man and a woman, as illustrated in Genesis 2. It is for the life of both parties, because it is a covenant, which are lifelong assurances. Whatever a culture designates to be a binding marriage covenant is accepted by God. Even marriage covenants made by unbelievers are acknowledged by God, as explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, where he clarifies a recent convert can only leave their non-believing spouse if the spouse leaves them first. These are just the broad guidelines of how to identify marriage as opposed to living with another person.

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Couple praying together over Bible

Is There Grace for Those Who Engage in Sex outside of Marriage?

Some people engaged in sexual relationships outside of marriage before they were believers, or someone has a mistake or a slip-up. People cave into lust because they are weak and sinful. Even Christians can succumb to temptation because until they are with Christ forever, they will be subject to the weakness of the flesh.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God promised that He is faithful to forgive for those who repent and have faith in Him. Through the prophet Isaiah, He declared, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Scripture also promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God can and does forgive those who have sex outside of marriage, if they repent of their sin and turn to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness.

A Prayer for Those Waiting until Marriage to Have Sex

Holy Father,

I thank You that You invited men and women to be a part of creation through the gift of sexuality and sex within marriage. Thank you for blessing humanity with Your love, Your grace, and the blood of Jesus Christ, which paid the price for my sins. Lord, please be with me as I pursue Your will for my life, whether that is through singleness or marriage. Either way, Lord, please strengthen me through the Holy Spirit to resist the desire to look lustfully, to meditate on sexual things, or to engage in sexual activity outside the healthy boundaries You set. Help me to focus on what is pure, good, and noble like it says in Your Word, and give me the strength to wait.

In the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, I pray,


Sex and sexuality is a gift from the Lord, which is why He dedicated a whole book of the Bible to it, which highlights the ups and downs of marriage, with an emphasis on the joys of physical intimacy. Christians should pursue sex in God’s boundaries, because it honors Him, and it is where they will find true satisfaction.

“As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women… My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,... My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:2, 10, 16).


Driscoll, Mark and Grace. Real Romance Sex in the Song of Songs. XO Publishing, eBook, 2023.

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Old Testament and New Testament. United States of America: Victor Books, 1987.

Wilmington, H.L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.

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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.

Originally published Tuesday, 07 March 2023.