Premarital sex has become the norm in America. A study done by the National Survey of Family Growth found that almost all Americans have had sex before marriage. The report showed that by the age of 44, 95% of us will have engaged in premarital sex. Maybe it’s time to pull out the chastity belts!
However, this doesn’t have to be true in the church. Before my husband James and I met, I already set in my mind that I would not give in to premarital sex. I decided this long before I was even old enough to get married. I never second guessed that decision. Thankfully, when I met James, we were on the same page concerning our views. We wanted to honor God in our relationship. We started dating on January 1, 2003; by March of the same year we were engaged, and on August 4, 2003, we became man and wife. Did we stay true to our convictions on refraining from premarital sex? Yes, we did. That was not without temptation, I might add.
When James and I began dating, we sat down and wrote out a list of guidelines concerning our relationship. Side hugs, no kissing and never be alone in James’ apartment together are a few that stand out in my mind. Our intentions were good, but shortly into our relationship, they slowly got swept under the mat. Throughout our engagement, we had to keep pulling that list out to remind ourselves of the commitment we made to honor God in our relationship. The purpose of our list was not to test each other’s level of endurance, but rather to avoid the footpaths that lead to premarital sex.
Our Bodies are God’s Temple
As Christians, our bodies serve a purpose — to house the Holy Spirit while bringing glory to God. In the Old Testament, God’s dwelling place was in the temple. In the New Testament, we learn that God’s Spirit has found a new dwelling place—in those who are obedient to His word (John 14:23). Surrendering our lives to Him, is to walk in complete obedience to His word. It is no longer walking according to the lust of our flesh, doing what we please. We honor God with our bodies by living holy lives. Our bodies were created for none other than God. When we abuse them through sexual sin, we are dishonoring God’s dwelling place. Paul addressed the Corinthian church concerning this very issue. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, KJV). When the Holy Spirit is living inside us, our lives should reflect just that. Participating in premarital sex is forbidden by God. It is an abomination in His eyes.
The Bible refers to premarital sex as “fornication.” It comes from the Greek word porneia meaning “harlotry.” It is also used when condemning homosexuality, adultery and incest. All these are ways of dishonoring your body and equally sinful. We tend to put less enfaces on sins we deem less sinful due to the large number of partakers; unfortunately fornication has become one of those sins. The word of God speaks otherwise. Committing fornication is no different than coming together with a harlot. Paul stated, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” (1 Corinthians 6:15).
God doesn’t take sexual sin lightly. Paul tells us how to deal with church members that are engaging in such a sin. He says “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator … ” (1 Corinthians 5:11). As harsh as it may sound, we are not to fellowship with those who identify themselves as believers, and yet practice fornication. It’s a contradictory and needs to be dealt with.
Responding to Temptation
Joseph dealt with this very issue. He was a young, single and probably handsome man. He impressed Potiphar and became overseer of all Potiphar’s belongings. However, Potiphar wasn’t the only one to take notice of Joseph. Unknowing to Potiphar, his wife had her eye on Joseph as well. Before long, she tried to entice him to have sex with her. Yet he denied her advances. He knew it would be dishonoring to Potiphar as well as God. His response was quite remarkable, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). However, his pointed response didn’t stop her. Even though her lust driven desire persisted to badger him, Joseph didn’t waiver. Could she get any more desperate? Yes she could and she did. Finally, she found an opportune time when no one else was present. Although this time she went a bit further, grabbing his clothing she demanded “Lie with me” (v. 12). Joseph had a decision to make, although I believe he made it long ago. He could easily have gotten away with this sin, at least from the eyes of Potiphar. Nevertheless, Joseph feared God. He didn’t have to think too hard to muster a response as he fled the scene. Sinning against his God, by fornication, was not an option for him. What could easily have been an opportunity of pleasurable deceit became an opportunity to remain faithful to his God.
We learn, through Joseph’s response, how to deal with sexual temptation when it comes knocking: Flee from it! The reason many of us yield to premarital sex is because we take it entirely too lightly. We flirt around with the pleasures that lead up to sex seeing how far we can go without crossing the line. Over time this does not satisfy and the line is crossed. Then we have to deal with the guilt and shame that follows. We place ourselves in situations that make it too easy to fall. We must make up our minds to obey God’s word long before we come face to face with sexual temptation. Having our minds set will enable us to avoid the path that lead to premarital sex.
I learned a valuable lesson during those months, weeks and days leading up to our marriage. It doesn’t matter how godly we think we are, sexual temptation is real and it preys on us all.
We are Given Two Options
A few years ago, I bumped in to a friend that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. We had been best friends in high school after meeting in our church’s youth group. We had grown apart over the years. Despite her convictions as a teenager, she was now living with her boyfriend. Why get married before you test your compatibility, was her frame of mind. Although she became engaged to her boyfriend, shortly after, their relationship ended. She had given herself to a person she thought she was going to marry.
Many couples have this same mentality. Why not have sex if you plan on getting married? First of all, until the day that you slip a ring on each other’s fingers and say “I do” anything can happen. Breakups happen all the way up to the actual wedding day. Second of all, any kind of sex outside of marriage is sin. It doesn’t matter how much we are in love. The closer we get to our potential spouse, the harder it can be to refrain from sex. The Bible gives two options to those in this state, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). God doesn’t intend to deny us of our sexual desires, but rather manage them until the proper time, in the safe haven of marriage.
How we conduct ourselves, reflects a lot about what is inside our hearts. We honor God, in our bodies, by obeying His word. Jesus explained in Matthew 15, it’s not what goes into the body that defiles it, but what comes out. What we say and what we do is purely based on the state of our heart. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” (Matthew 15:18-19). What needs to take place in someone’s heart that is engaging in premarital sex is a heart change. Like any sin, it can be forgiven—when approached with a truly repentant heart. If we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
Marriage and sex go hand in hand. From the beginning of time, God orchestrated sex to take place in the confines of marriage. It is an intimacy that is intended to be shared with someone we intend to have a lifelong commitment with. When we live under God’s guidelines of sex, we are choosing to honor Him with our bodies.
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