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When God creates something, He creates it with purpose and design. The Genesis account of creation makes it clear that God’s creation is “good” (Genesis 1:31). But mankind has a history of distorting what God has made, whether out of ignorance or just plain stubbornness. The golden calf (idol) of the Israelites, for example. Gold is beautiful to look at, but God clearly did not want His people worshipping it.
Sex (and yes, sex was God’s idea) is no different. God created it, and therefore it is reasonable to expect that it is good. But when man distorts it by ignoring God’s specific standards, it becomes harmful and destructive. So the question we’ve asked “why save sex for marriage” is really a question of understanding God’s purpose and design for sex. We can choose to do things God’s way, and experience the beauty of His plan, or we can choose to do things our way, and experience harm and destruction (Proverbs 16:25).
So, let’s talk first about why God created sex. One reason is obvious: procreation. When God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), they probably figured out that He wanted them to have sex. But God also wanted them to develop intimacy with one another, and He knew that sex would help them do that, in a way that nothing else could.
God also knew that because sex is so powerful in creating intimacy that there must be some constraints on how it was to be used, so He specifically relegated sex to the arena of marriage. The kind of intimacy that God desires between a married couple cannot occur between one person and several others; it can only be experienced between one man and one woman. Hence God has specifically said, “Do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), and “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). That is, do not have sex with someone who is not your spouse. Obedience requires that sex be reserved for one’s spouse.
So far we have two basic reasons to save sex for marriage: (1) God tells us to, and (2) God’s purpose and design for sex cannot be fully achieved any other way. Many, though, have argued that non-marriage sex is not all that harmful. Let’s look carefully at the potential consequences for this particular area of disobedience.
Sex outside of marriage causes damage in at least two areas: (1) physical consequences, and (2) relational consequences.
The physical consequences are becoming increasingly obvious and increasingly dangerous in today’s society. AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases are frightening realities. “Safe sex” is more accurately described as “reduced risk sex.” The only truly safe sex is abstinence. There is also a very real risk that children could be born — and possibly grow up without two parents. Your actions affect your life, your partner’s life, and the lives of your family. They can result in handicapping an innocent baby’s life as well. Worst of all the willfull destruction of human life often results from pre-marital sex.)
The relational consequences are just as real, though they may be more difficult to grasp. First, sin always damages a person’s relationship with his God. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." Intentional disobedience of God’s command to not commit adultery dishonors and displeases God. Conversely, God is pleased when His children choose obedience and self-control instead of the immediacy of pleasure.
Second, relational damage happens between a Christian and those who are watching his life. The sin of adultery (i.e., televangelist scandals) causes a person’s friends and even “outsiders” to view the adulterer as less committed to obedience, and more prone to hypocrisy. But a Christian who saves himself or herself in obedience to God wins the respect of those who see his or her life.
Sex outside of marriage also damages the relationship between the persons involved. Trust is the main issue here. If two people do not cherish sex enough to wait for a marriage commitment, how can they trust one another for fidelity? Conversely, a man and woman build trust and respect for one another when they both survive the struggles of self-control — each will have the confidence that the other respects them, and cherishes their intimacy.
Similarly, if a person has not carried sexual purity into marriage, his or her marriage relationship is affected by the past. If a man or woman has previously had sex with someone else, their marital intimacy has already been affected. One or both spouses will have to deal with real or perceived comparisons with “former lovers” and feeling that intimacy was not important enough for the other person to wait for it. But if both have waited for their wedding night, the intimacy has already begun with a solid foundation.
Why save sex for marriage? We’ve discussed several reasons: (1) God commands us to, (2) God’s purpose and design for sex can only be achieved within marriage, and (3) the physical and relational consequences of sex outside of marriage are painfully real.
"But we’re in love!" some might say. Maybe so, but if one believes in God’s definition of love, he must realize that love is patient and kind; it does not seek to please itself, nor does it delight in evil, but is always hopeful (1 Corinthians 13). True love would be patient in waiting for the proper time for sex.
It would be kind to future spouses by not pre-harming marital intimacy. True love would be unselfish in placing God’s desires and the needs of others above itself. It would not delight in the evil of disobedience, nor would it force another to disobey God. Love could never be a reason for premarital sex; rather, it should be one of the greatest reasons to avoid premarital sex.
"But we’re going to be married anyway" is another common excuse. Along with being presumptuous, this stance will almost certainly leave one question unanswered: If one gives in to moral temptation before marriage, what’s to stop him or her from giving in to moral temptation once married?
"What if it’s too late? What if I’ve already forfeited my sexual purity?"
Good question! Certainly a person cannot reverse the past, but there are a number of steps one should take to keep from further damaging his or her intimacy with God and others.
First, acknowledge your actions as sin. For those who have accepted Christ’s payment of the penalty for their sins, He asks only that they confess - agree with God that they are sinful.
Second, maintain purity from this moment forward. Jesus told the woman caught in sexual sin to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). You cannot change what’s been done, but you can keep yourself and others from any further damage by avoiding situations which might cause you to compromise your commitment to sexual purity. Paul advised Timothy to run away from temptation (2 Timothy 2:22), and Joseph is famous for running from moral danger (Genesis 39:7-12).
Third, be honest with anyone who is a “potential spouse” — don’t wait till your wedding night to discuss your sexual past. Some intimacy problems may be averted if you address them early on.
Sex is a good thing. It must be, if God created it! The only way to keep it a “good thing” is to follow God’s guidelines. God will reward you if you choose to honor Him, and save sex for its proper time and place — your marriage.
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Author: George Martin and Scott Myers of Summit Ministries
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