As the Family & Care Pastor at CCC, I oversee our marriage ministry, which also includes pre-marital mentoring and divorce care. In my experience caring for couples, I have witnessed over and over the impact premarital sex and cohabitation can have on a relationships. So I want to address this touchy topic from a biblical perspective so we can get to the truth of what God designed for this area of our life.

I know this is a sensitive issue, as it might be part of your story, but stick with me, and let’s see what God has to say about it.

But Everybody’s Doing It… Right?

Just by asking the question “Is it okay to sleep together before marriage?” I am probably going to get a lot of “Wow this guy is old school” or “Okay, boomer” replies. (For the record, I’m Gen X.) I totally get it… just take a quick survey of our culture, consider your friends, or think about what’s shown in the movies, and you’d probably be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t live together or have sex before they’re married anymore.

But let me throw an idea out there: what if the answer to this question isn’t based on the current culture or the age of the person asking it.

What if it’s based on how you were designed?

Design Matters

Think about it this way. If I dropped an iPad into the middle of a remote tribe in Africa who has never seen anything like it before, they would have no idea what to do with it. They may use it as a cutting board or a shovel or a weapon or a mirror. And if they did that, they would not be using it the way it was designed to be used. They would miss out on all the incredible things you and I know you can do with an iPad. The only way they could use the iPad the way it was designed was if they had the instructions.

Who writes the instructions for the iPad? The designer. And why do you they give you instructions? Not to limit what you can do with it, but to help you to get the most out of what an iPad can do.

God’s Design for You

If you believe that God is your designer, then you have to believe that he has designed you to live a certain way. We know this from the great instruction manual called The Bible. Too often, people see God’s instructions as confining them to a lesser life, but what if you looked at his instructions more like the designer telling you how to get the most out of your life? If you see it that way, then you’ll realize anytime you’re living outside of his design you aren’t actually experiencing life the way it was meant to be lived.

We can all agree that there are certain aspects of God’s design that are easy to get on board with. For example, you know you shouldn’t be addicted to drugs. Who would disagree with that? No one – because most of us have seen the devastation of addiction. It’s obvious that humans weren’t designed to use drugs, so it’s easy to trust God on that one.

However, it gets tricky when he tells us to avoid something that feels right to us. It’s hard to understand why something that feels so good would be outside of his design.

But hear this: Just because something feels right does not make it right.

God’s Design for Sex

When it comes to sex, God also has a design, and it’s that sex should remain within the confines of a marriage covenant. Meaning the only person you should ever have sex with is your spouse. Therefore, pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex (having an affair while married) are both wrong in God’s eyes. To see the ways God defines sexual immorality in the Bible, check out: Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19.

But you might argue that it can’t be all that wrong if those two people really love each other and are committed to each other. I understand why you might think that, but consider a few things:

Selfless Sex vs. Selfish Sex

Common sense might tell you that living together is a great way to test out sexual compatibility before you commit, and honestly that “Try before you buy” mentality has some logic. The problem with that is it’s based on the wrong understanding of what marriage actually is. Marriage is not a product you purchase or service you sign up for. Ephesians 5 talks about marriage as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church – with us. So what’s that mean? Christ did not love us with a consumer mindset. He didn’t choose us based on what we could do for him. While we were still sinners, actively living against God, is when he died for us. And that’s the mindset he wants you to take into marriage.

Marriage is a relationship based on a covenant where you promise to love your spouse not based on what they can do for you. Rather, you promise that no matter what, you’re not going anywhere. You vow to love your spouse when they’re at their best and at their worst. So within that right understanding of marriage, the focus of sex becomes something you give, not what you can get. It’s selfless – not selfish. And part of that selflessness is waiting until your wedding day when you have completely committed yourselves to each other, so you know no one is going anywhere.

Cohabitation Can Create Division

If God’s word won’t convince you, maybe cold hard facts will: Research has shown that couples who live together before marriage have a 33% higher chance to get divorced. That statistic further proves that God’s design is better. He knows what he’s talking about.

Sex Isn’t Just Fun and Games

It’s actually way more than that. Do you know that pleasure and making babies isn’t the only reason God created sex? If you take a look at Genesis 2, you’ll see that the first two humans God created were a couple he united in marriage. After the wedding, God says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

That whole “one flesh” part might seem weird, but it actually unveils a dimension to sex that is way more than just fun – it reveals that sex literally transforms your life. God designed sex as a way for couples to outwardly demonstrate their total inward commitment to each other. It connects two people physically, emotionally, and even spiritually for life. With such eternal implications, it’s clear to see why God would reserve it for only within a marriage covenant.

The bottom line: He doesn’t want you to give this powerful part of yourself to anyone who wouldn’t commit themselves to you for the rest of their life.

God’s Boundaries are Good for You

I think people can see God as this cosmic killjoy, trying to keep us from everything good in this life, but it’s exactly the opposite. He wants us to have crazy amounts of joy especially when it comes to marriage and sex. That’s why he gave us boundaries for both.

To give you a metaphor, imagine I have a fish tank with a beautiful goldfish. But what if I told you that I just hate that this fish has to live within the confines of the water in his tank? That I don’t think it’s fair to keep him locked in this tank when there’s a whole world out there for him to explore and experience. So I take him out of the water and let him sit on my desk so he can go see the world and do whatever he wants. You wouldn’t like me very much, would you? Why? Because you know a fish can’t survive out of water. A fish wasn’t designed to be just anywhere doing anything. For a fish, life is only found within the “confines” of water.

In the same way, living within God’s design for sex is the best way for a marriage to thrive.

Find Your Way Back to Truth

By the way, it’s never too late to come under God’s design, because the Bible is also more than an instruction manual – it’s a love letter about God’s grace for you. It doesn’t matter what you have done to this point, you can start fresh again because of the forgiveness and grace of Jesus.

Discuss this with your significant other, confess it to God, and decide to take a step of obedience moving forward. It could be the decision that saves your marriage before it even starts.

CCC Resources & Links:
  • Merge: An 8-week pre-marital program for engaged or seriously dating couples designed to prepare for you for life-long commitment by teaching you from a biblical perspective how to handle the most common challenges every married couple will eventually face, such as communication, conflict resolution, finances, sexual intimacy, in-laws, and expectations.
  • Re-Engage: A 16-week marriage program that offers hope to marriages by helping couples move toward oneness through teaching, relatable stories, and discussion in small groups.
  • Center for Care: We offer a variety of services such as clinical counseling and free support groups to help you through all areas of life.