Waiting until marriage for sex – why it matters to God
Final thoughts from a newlywed on saving sex for marriage.
In the first article of this series, we saw that God designed sex as an expression of total vulnerability, intimacy and acceptance, which is why he placed it only in the security of lifelong marriage. The world turns this act of intimacy into a test of performance: people self-centredly judge their partners for their “sexual compatibility” - “Does this person fulfil my wants?” - or they anxiously judge themselves - “I need to be good enough to fulfil my partner’s wants.” These myths ruin intimacy and undermine God’s good gift of sex. We should reject these lies and enjoy sex as God intended: in marriage.
In the second article, we saw that God has commanded sex to be within marriage only, because it involves giving a deep, intimate part of yourself to another person. This means that having sex outside of marriage involves one person taking from another, using that other person to selfishly gratify their own desires - against God’s law and against the other’s good. Their future partner will almost inevitably have questions and doubts about it - a tiny bit like someone who was cheated-on - which will hurt their enjoyment of it. So we should guard ourselves until we’re ready to give 100% of our self, and receive 100% of our partner, exclusively and forever: in marriage.
Grace: washed, sanctified, justified
Perhaps this has come “too late.” You’ve already had sex - maybe many times - without being married. Maybe reading this has felt awful; maybe you’re feeling like you’re forever dirty, impure and wrong.
If so, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 was written for you:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Sexual sin is sin. It will have an impact on a person in this life. And it, like all sins, can disqualify us from the kingdom of God, which is why it is listed in the verse above.
But it, like all sins, can and is forgiven by God, through Jesus Christ. Christ died for sins - all sins, even sexual sins - to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18.)
You may feel dirty, but that’s not true: you have been washed by the blood of Christ.
You may feel impure, but that’s not true: you have been sanctified, set apart as one of God’s chosen people, by being united with Christ.
You may feel wrong, but that’s not true: you have been justified, declared “right with God” by Jesus Christ, the righteous judge of all.
Grace means we get from God what we don’t deserve. To accept God’s grace is to accept that you have failed, but that it’s okay. No matter your sexual past, you can still be a child of God and a part of God’s kingdom, because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
We Christians are also called to be a community of grace. Jesus had very strong warnings for those who counted on God’s grace, but refused to give it to others (Matthew 18:23-35.) If and when we learn of the sexual sins of other Christians, we should still recognise it as sin that requires repentance (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.) But we must not hold it over them; instead, we must extend to them the same forgiveness, love and kindness that we have received from God.
Gospel: the best motivation of all
Perhaps you haven’t been convinced by all the arguments so far. Maybe you’re still thinking about having sex before marriage.
Whether or not you’re already convinced, here is the strongest motivation to save sex for marriage:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32)
Jesus Christ, God’s Son, loved us to the point of dying for us, even while we were his enemies, even while we were spiritually dead. Even though he is God, he humbled himself and chose to serve us and give his life for our ransom (Romans 5:6-8, Ephesians 2:1-8, Philippians 2:6-8, Mark 10:45, etc.)
As we read in Ephesians 5 above: in love, Jesus gave his life to set us apart as a holy people for God. This is the greatest love that the world has ever seen. And in verse 31-32, we see that Genesis 2:24 quoted and applied: That famous verse about sex in marriage, is actually a picture of Jesus’ love for us, his church. Marriage and sex are designed to be a reflection of Jesus’ love for us.
This might seem shocking, even blasphemous. But it only seems that way because we’ve absorbed too much of the world’s thinking about sex. If we look back on what we’ve already seen, it’s clear that God designed sex to be about total mutual knowledge, intimacy, trust, love, security, self-sharing and other-person-centredness. This is exactly what faith in Jesus Christ is, and what it gives us. Jesus, being God, knows us completely and intimately. We are called to trust in him wholeheartedly, because of his incredible love for us. We are totally secure in Christ - nothing can take us from his hand. And just as he was willing to give his all for us, we are called to give our all in serving him. In the final analysis, sex is designed by God to be a miniature picture of marriage, and marriage is designed to be a miniature picture of Jesus’ relationship with us.
This makes sense of the Bible’s consistent commands to keep sex within marriage only (see e.g. Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, 1 Timothy 5:1-2.) Sex is God’s gift for us to enjoy, because it is a reflection of the greatest relationship of all - God’s love for us, and our response of love to him.
Live a life of thankfulness
Over these articles, I’ve given many practical and pragmatic reasons why my wife and I are so glad that we saved sex for marriage. But in the end, this was always the greatest motivation: We know how God has loved us, and we are glad to love him back. One small way of doing that has always been to respect what God made sex for: marriage.
If you love God, then I urge you with all my heart to do the same. Abstaining from sex before marriage is not just good for you, and for others - it’s pleasing to God, and a way of thanking him for his love.