Cutting through Church and Western traditions
to expose mind-blowing, little-known Bible
facts about the mystery of sex
Sex without a piece of paper? Sex when engaged? Fornication? De facto marriage?
A church wedding? A one night stand? Casual sex? Everything but intercourse? Common law marriage?
Did you know? A conservative Christian reveals:
The Bible word sometimes translated fornication does not mean ‘sex before marriage.’
In the Bible, weddings were purely secular.
Under Old Testament law, casual sex was impossible. For an unmarried man to have sex with an unmarried woman was to make an even more binding commitment than normal marriage.
In God’s eyes, a one night stand makes two people one.
There is a deep spiritual significance in a virgin bride shedding blood on her wedding night.
Christians are free to break many Church and Western traditions.
Despite all the talk, the power and mystery of sex is even less understood in our era.
The only way we can truly understand our sexuality is to learn from the Creator of sex. If you believe you have greater access to the mind of the Creator than Jesus, I’m intrigued as to why someone of your infinite knowledge bothers to surf the Internet. Jesus, the authority on spiritual matters, regarded the Bible in a way that staggers even many Christians. For a glimpse at this, consider how Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24. We will see later that this is a key Scripture for a true understanding of sex, but for the moment note the original context of the verse Jesus cited. Genesis doesn’t introduce this verse with anything remotely like, “God said.” It reads like a comment from the human author. And yet in quoting this passage, Jesus said these were the very words of the Creator. (Scriptures) This is typical of how Jesus revered Scripture. He constantly treated the Bible as the very word of God. That boggles the mind, but to reject this attitude to Scripture is to claim to know God better than the world’s greatest Teacher and to pronounce Jesus Christ a deluded fool. Hopefully, I am not so vain as to consider myself a greater moral authority than Jesus. My goal is to have Jesus’ attitude to the accuracy and supreme authority of the Bible.
Let’s start with the Old Testament foundation on which the Son of God built his teaching.
Under the Old Covenant, parents kept as proof of their daughter’s virginity the blood-stained garment or sheet from the wedding night. If the husband ever accused his wife of not being a virgin when he married her, the bride’s parents would produce the stained cloth. From this the man would be proved guilty of slandering his wife. So seriously is virginity taken that the prescribed punishment for making such a scandalous false accusation was for him to be physically whipped, severely fined and by law forbidden to ever divorce his wife as long as she lived. If, however, the bride had not been a virgin upon marrying, she would receive the same penalty as any man or woman guilty of adultery (Leviticus 20:10), that is:
Note how it is assumed the girl went straight from her father’s care to marriage. People probably married so young in those days that sex before marriage was a less prevalent temptation than adultery. This would explain why the Bible mentions adultery more often than fornication (sex between unmarried people).
The emphasis is on the woman’s virginity, simply because there is no corresponding way to determine physically (and hence legally) that a man is a virgin. Not even an intact hymen proves a woman has maintained God’s standard of sexual purity; it is simply suggestive of the purity God looks for. The biblical principle that premarital sex is wrong, applies equally to both sexes. (For confirmation of this fact, click here.)
The penalty for adultery applied because any unmarried woman who kept quiet about her lost virginity, can be presumed to have voluntarily had sex with a married man. This presumption is reasonable because under God’s law if an unmarried man had sex with an unmarried woman she could have safely blown the whistle on him. If she wanted to marry him, he would be forced to do so regardless of his wishes and he could never, ever divorce her. This applied regardless of whether pregnancy was involved. The man’s only escape from life-long marital commitment was if the woman refused to marry him, in which case the man still had to pay her full dowry and suffer public shame. What he did was wrong – so wrong that it exposed him to life-long obligations.
Does the New Testament maintain this strong stance against premarital sex? Is the power of sexual union an unalterable fact built into the very fabric of creation? We can answer with absolute certainty, but to do so we must dig deeper into Scripture than some people might have thought necessary.
This is because the Greek word translated fornication in some Bible versions is better translated sexual sin. Given the divinely inspired Old Testament attitude to premarital sex it is obvious that in Jewish culture – the background to virtually all the New Testament – sex before public marital commitment was regarded as sexual sin. It might possibly be argued, however, that the Greek word is a little too broad to prove emphatically from this word alone that the New Testament strongly forbids sex before marriage. For the hard to convince, we’ll delve deeper and make some fascinating discoveries.
When speaking against divorce and the sin of adultery (Matthew 19:3-6), Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and said that what God has fused together, no one should try to sever. But who is it that God declares to be so inextricably joined? Is it only those who have had a church wedding? The Bible never even speaks of a church wedding. The Old Testament prescribes sacred rites for the birth of a child, for determining marital unfaithfulness, even regulations for cleansing after sexual relations, but nothing for a marriage ceremony. In the words of the Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia “ . . . marriage was a purely civil contract, not formalized by any religious ceremony.” (Reference)
Does God only join those who first seek his will about their relationship? Any Christian who is still free to make the decision (that is, not already bound to a non-Christian) should only marry a true Christian. Other than that, the Bible doesn’t even say we should consult God as to who we marry – although it would be the height of stupidity to deny ourselves access to his wisdom by not fervently seeking his guidance, and to neglect seeking his guidance is hardly living in submission to Christ.
Scripture is emphatic that it is a gross spiritual perversion for a born again Christian to be sexually intimate with a non-Christian. If it were possible to defile the Holy Lord, this act would do it. The matter is that grave. And yet God takes sexual union so seriously that for Christians who find themselves one flesh with a non-Christian, the Faithful One goes to the extreme of making the non-Christian physically (not spiritually) holy in order to maintain a bond that turns God’s stomach. (Scriptures)
So what is it that creates this bond – the two becoming one – that Jesus declared no one should rip apart? Does an official piece of paper cause this bond? A solemn ceremony? No. The bond that no one should break is created by the most intimate of human commitments. Scripture reveals that a single act of sexual intercourse – no matter how brief or superficial – makes two people one in God’s sight.
A man using a prostitute is not only not married to her, they clearly have no thought of commitment to each other and yet Scripture declares them one.
This critical piece fits the jigsaw. Adam and Eve experienced this special union, and yet there would have been virtually no similarity between their ‘wedding’ and modern Western weddings or legal arrangements. What God saw as binding was the act of intercourse itself. If we are to have God’s attitude, the act of sex should therefore be as binding as marriage and should be associated with lifelong commitment. This, too, fits what we saw in the Old Testament, that an unmarried man who seduces an unmarried girl is compelled by law to marry her. If there is doubt that she consented to the act, the woman has the right of refusal, but because he initiated sexual union the man loses all rights to choose independence. He is bound to her through a single sexual act.
This might also explain the rather startling omission of any divinely-ordained wedding rituals. The most sacred aspect of entering marriage is not some religious ceremony but the act of sexual union, which should ideally involve the shedding of virgin blood. God’s Word could have instituted religious rituals associated with a couple’s first sexual experience, but that would suggest that only if those rituals occurred is sexual union binding, whereas it would seem that in God’s eyes any initial act of sexual union is sacred, and is equivalent to vowing a lifelong commitment.
As I counsel people who have suffered sexual abuse I am continually astounded by how extensively it has affected them. Decades after the event they are usually still plagued with devastating health, relationship, spiritual and psychological problems. This merely highlights how highly damaging any wrong sex is.
I doubt that any of us can fully get our head around it, but divine revelation exposes the frightening fact that sex affects us so deeply that when indulged in outside of a holy covenant of lifelong commitment, the result is uniquely damaging.
We puzzle over the mystery this verse hides, because it is obvious that other sins can grossly affect the body. Elsewhere the writer himself acknowledges that the profound way sex affects the body – making two people one flesh – is a mystery.
Whereas the weakest Christian is one with Christ, the nicest non-believer belongs to the devil and as such is evil and profane. So if a Christian has even the briefest sexual encounter with a non-believer, the resulting union is a spiritual perversion on the level of bestiality. And if the partner is a Christian, the result is akin to the terrifying sin of profaning the holy of holies. These two mind-boggling statements are carefully explained in links at the end of this webpage.
If we would not marry without total commitment to a person, how much more should we wait for total commitment before engaging in the act that by divine plan is intended to be the consummation of life-long commitment? If we would not be so irresponsible as to flippantly rush into a wedding ceremony without solemn expectations of a lifetime of commitment, should we treat with less respect that which is even more sacred? Sexual union is of such mind-boggling significance that to have sexual relations outside of marriage is equivalent to defiling that which is holy, and we cannot do that without defiling ourselves and offending the God who made us. It would be to our shame, and with terrifying consequences, to treat our Creator and Judge with such disdain. We rightly recognize the gravity of the sin of rape – sex against a person’s will – but what about sex against God’s will?
A marriage license is a piece of paper that gift-wraps the sacred treasure of sexual union. How dare any of us imagine we are honoring God by valuing the paper if we have been trashing the priceless gift! It is the height of hypocrisy to make a show of reverencing a man-made ceremony if we have no remorse about having trampled underfoot that which comes from God himself – sexual union. I’m not for a moment suggesting we should not respect the piece of paper, but for us to take care to avoid foolishly rushing into marriage is a sham if we don’t treat sexual union with equal care.
Note that in God’s revelation about sexual morality there is no mention of pregnancy. The sin is not in letting a baby be born out of wedlock. The sin is in relating sexually before marriage, irrespective of whether conception occurs.
And God is not talking merely about sexual intercourse. In his eyes, unmarried couples can sin sexually without ever getting close to what the world regards as “going all the way.” We know from our own feelings that what bonds two people together is not primarily the positioning of body parts, but the sharing of sexual pleasure. The notion that only sexual intercourse is sinful is so far off course, that in reality, most sexual sin occurs between strangers who never even touch. Jesus brought to this sin-ravished planet the startling revelation that even looking sexually at a stranger is a sexual offense as serious as adultery or fornication. The morality by which God will judge us is so much more sophisticated than that of western society that many of us cannot even grasp the concept. If you need an explanation as to why the cherished daydream is as immoral as the act, click here.
Deliberately indulging in mental sex corrupts you, whereas deliberately inciting mental sex in others – by petting, for instance – corrupts both them and you, because it makes you the tempter and a willing partner in their sin.
How far can a dating couple go? All I know is that petting and sex talk are playing with nitroglycerine and that what is safe for one person might not be safe for another. Like fingerprints, each person’s sexuality and vulnerability is unique.
Other than the decision to become a true Christian, it is hard to conceive of a decision that will shape your entire character and future as profoundly as your choice of marriage partner. By that choice you are sentencing yourself and setting in concrete more things than our mind can cope with. Even your children’s genetic makeup is at stake. To abandon careful thought and prolonged prayer and reduce your choice of marriage partner to a few minutes’ lack of self-control is one of the most foolish and irresponsible things anyone could ever do.
If satisfying your lust is a more urgent need that honoring God by waiting until marriage, then God is not the God of your life. Whatever you have made your god – be it self, lust, or something else – it certainly is not the One before whose throne you will one day stand naked and defenseless.
To indulge in sex outside of marriage is even to sin against yourself and your partner. How can you possibly trust yourself or your partner to be faithful to each other for life if you can’t even control yourself for a year or so? Be assured that the enemy of your soul knows your weakness and will delight in pouring on the pressure after marriage; arranging things so that your partner is unable to meet your cravings for an extended time and providing you with someone who seems ideally suited to fulfilling your every fantasy.
It is sex, not a piece of paper, that ties the knot. In God’s sight, any couple who have had sexual relations are no longer independent entities. They are ‘one flesh.’ Their lives are as bound together as Siamese twins. To separate that which God has declared to be one is clearly contrary to God’s ways. ‘Uncommitted sex’ is like an ‘uncommitted’ leap off a cliff – once you jump you are committed to the consequences whether you like it or not. I won’t hazard a guess as to the implications for someone who has already engaged in sex outside marriage, but it is very obvious that we should do everything to avoid getting ourselves into the bind resulting from having sexual relations with someone we later find we don’t want to be bound to for life.
People engaged to be married usually expect in every fiber of their being to be bound to each other for life. Most are so serious about their commitment that they cannot imagine not marrying. And yet the fact remains that despite their certainty, some engaged couples discover that it would be a tragic mistake to marry. They break the engagement, heartbroken but relieved that they discovered their incompatibility before it was too late. In other words, although they feel absolutely committed to each other, when it comes to the crunch they discover they do not regard themselves as bound together for life. They believe they can break their commitment without it being as serious in God’s eyes as divorce. This confirms that engagement is not an acceptable time for sexual relations. Sex is more binding, in God’s eyes, than we regard an engagement.
To have sex before being publicly married, you would not be cheating on your partner; you would be cheating everyone who knows you. You would be asserting to everyone that you are not married and secretly acting as if you were.
Christians are free to be creative and break with Western traditions. One must be mindful of the wisdom, “Marry in haste, repent in leisure.” Morally, however, it is acceptable to marry:
long before you can afford an engagement ring
long before you obtain a wedding dress
long before you live together
long before you have a honeymoon
long before you have a flashy wedding
(You could, if you choose, have the simplest wedding with a pastor and a couple of witnesses and much later celebrate your marriage with a re-enactment replete with traditional trimmings.)
All we need do is ensure our actions are Scriptural, and comply with civil law, and that our actions do not become a source of temptation to weaker Christians (this latter vital principle is expounded in Romans 14:1-15:5; 1 Corinthians 8).
Besides providing a valuable incentive to ensure the relationship is for life, there is a sound scriptural basis for saying sexual relations should only commence after a marriage that is both legal and publicly announced.
2 Corinthians 8:21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.
1 Thessalonians 4:12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders . . .
1 Timothy 5:14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.(emphasis mine)
Although most of these Scriptures do not refer specifically to marriage, they underline a divine moral principle highly applicable to one’s sexual union. We are ‘our brother’s keeper.’ Our inescapable moral obligation to everyone who sees us is to take “pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
If a ‘marriage’ is not legal, why not? It’s almost always because one or both partners think they can opt out of the relationship at some later date. This concept is totally contrary to God’s ways.
At the very least, if a couple want sex before the big wedding that they do not yet have finances for, they should legally marry before the big wedding and announce this to the world. Otherwise, they are exalting pride or extravagance above God and morality. Neither is it acceptable to compromise morality because of relatives. In the words of Jesus, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). If any reason for deferring being legally married is important, it is important enough to also defer marital relations.
Like it or not, to have ‘marital relations’ without marriage is to tell the world that it is acceptable to stretch the boundaries. In practice, this usually has the effect of encouraging observers to take even greater liberties than you had taken. The great spiritual hazard in trying to push the limits of what is acceptable is that it is not only questionable in itself but most observers would be unable to tell the difference between your actions and immorality, and so some would be tempted to follow what they consider to be your example and commit blatant immorality. If so, God would hold them responsible for yielding to the temptation, but he would hold you responsible for causing the temptation.
We commenced by looking at the Old Testament emphasis upon the shedding of a virgin’s blood when consummating marriage. Having given highest priority to what is indisputable, let’s return for a deeper exploration. I think you will find it fascinating and powerful.
Scripture calls marriage a covenant. This term is highly applicable because the couple enter into a very deep and binding agreement. In biblical thought, covenants are sealed by the shedding of blood. We often think in terms of animal blood, but the ultimate covenant was sealed by human blood (that of our precious Lord) and all divinely ordained covenants and sacrifices point symbolically to this, the greatest of covenants and sacrifices. So it is not surprising that human blood had a role in some other biblical covenants. The Abrahamic covenant, which all Jews entered into, was sealed by male circumcision. Like a virgin at the consummation of her marriage, circumcision involved the shedding of human blood from the organ of marital union. Ideally, boys were circumcised just days after birth – the closest fallen humanity can get to innocence – and a bride’s blood as the hymen is broken suggests her sexual purity. Both of these events seem to point symbolically to the far greater purity of our Savior, whose loss of blood was far greater, in order to seal a far greater covenant that makes him one with you. (Scriptures relevant to this paragraph)
Although Scripture does not specifically state that the shedding of virgin blood seals the marriage covenant, it fits the divine scheme so perfectly that it is hard to imagine it not being in God’s mind when he created our bodies and instituted marriage.
To be the acceptable sacrifice for our sins, Jesus had to be sinless. (The debt we owe justice is death, declares Scripture. After paying the death penalty for our own sin, we sinners would have nothing left to pay for anyone else’s sins.) Christ preserved his moral purity to consummate his relationship with us. Similarly, singles should preserve their sexual purity in order to consummate marital union with their life’s partner.
Significantly, Christ’s union with us, which his shed blood instigated, is seen by Scripture as being marriage-like. This is taught throughout the Bible. Consider, for example, Ezekiel 16, which speaks of God’s covenant with his people as being like a marriage covenant:
(7) . . . Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare. (8) Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you [a symbolic act that in biblical times was associated with a marriage proposal – compare Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 3:9)] and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
The interconnection between union with a human through physical intimacy, and union with Christ through his shed blood is most clearly spelt out in Ephesians 5:
(31) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (32) This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.
This Scripture reveals that the mystery of sex is intertwined with a spiritual mystery. It would seem that the Creator has built “laws of nature” into the very core of our being – our sexuality – that parallel and point to the most intimate and most vital of all unions – that between God and us. Scripture is emphatic that before planet earth existed, God had already planned that his eternal Son would pour out his life-blood in order to be intimately and permanently committed to us. It seems that Creator God had this in focus when designing the human body, intending that the covenant of life-long marriage be sealed by the shedding of virgin blood, just like our never-ending union with him was sealed by the shedding of his Son’s sinless blood.
Although the physical sign of virginity is placed within the woman, the Holy Lord is not party to double standards. He expects the same degree of consecration in men, as typified by our Lord instituting circumcision whereby males belonging to him bore on the organ of sexual union the mark of consecration to God and of commitment to God’s morality.
The profound similarity between sexual union with a human and spiritual union with God is hinted at in yet another Scripture:
1 Corinthians 6:16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (17) But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (18) Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (19) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own
Note how in this passage, as in the former, Scripture moves immediately from referring to physical union to spiritual union.
“The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
This connection between the two types of union is not merely symbolic, it is built so deeply into our very being that wrong sexual union affects us more profoundly than any other violation of God’s law:
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
And just as our Savior’s shed blood consummated his union with us and initiated a covenant we should never break, so the covenant between humans initiated by intercourse should never be broken.
If, like so many of us, you have already lost your physical virginity, do not imagine you have nothing left to preserve. Even without the shedding of blood, sexual union is just as real and as binding as ever. Consider the prostitute Scripture warns against becoming one with. Is she likely to be a virgin? And yet sex with this non-virgin still makes a person one with her.
Be it through thoughts or whatever, all of us have tragically lost our virginity, but our past is not a valid reason for repeating a sin. In the words of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
And the most exciting incentive for acting like a virgin is about to unfold. If you let him, God will wipe out your previous offense, making you a virgin again. Despite its initial appearance, the concluding part of this webpage, is equally relevant to both genders.
Don’t miss the short but thrilling conclusion to this webpage:
Another Webpage About the Gravity of Sexual Intercourse:
Sex Secrets: The Horror & Joy of Sex
When Christians Date Why sexual sin with a Christian is like defiling the Holy of Holies
Choosing a Partner Why outside of marriage sex with an non-believer is as perverted as bestiality
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