What the Bible Says about Premarital Sex

By | October 12, 2023

This short article is my summary of “A Biblical Argument Against Premarital Sex” by Mark Snoeberger in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 20 (2015), pages 45–63. The passages below are helpful as we seek to live holy lives in a fallen world. Young people, singles, and parents instructing their children will benefit by reading what follows.

Two passages in the OT speak against premarital sex.

First, Exodus 22:16–17 commands that, if a man seduced a virgin and lie with her, he must marry her. Having taken her virginity, the man was to become her husband. Or, if the woman’s father refused this marriage, the seducer had to pay the father “money equal to the bride-price for virgins.” Though we are not Israelites who follow Mosaic Law today (cf. Romans 10:4), requiring marriage after an act of fornication, this passage does express timeless requirements in keeping with the moral character of God—sex is reserved for marriage alone, and premarital sex is sin.

Second, Deuteronomy 22:13–21 instructed Israel what to do if a man married a woman but then claimed to discover that she was not a virgin. If he lied, he would be punished. If she had lied, however, she was to be treated as an adulteress and given capital punishment (cf. Deuteronomy 22:22–24). Not only had she committed fornication (premarital sex, and that with someone other than her new husband), but then she lied and violated the marriage covenant by bringing her hidden immorality into their marriage, something more serious than premarital sex as seen above in Exodus 22:16–17. Again, though we do not follow specific requirements within the Mosaic Law as Israelites did then, this passage, too, expresses requirements in keeping with the moral character of God—premarital sex is sin. Lying about it to one’s potential spouse is sin as well.

Two passages in 1 Corinthians 7 are helpful as well.

First, in 1 Corinthians 7:8–9, Paul prefers singleness to marriage but encourages marriage if one cannot control one’s sexual desires. Paul does not offer premarital sex as a third option—fulfilling one’s passions but in a way that stops short of marriage. The single person may either practice self-control or marry. Premarital sex is sin, and sexual desires properly find fulfillment within marriage.

Second, in 1 Corinthians 7:36–37, Paul instructs an unmarried couple. If a man finds himself so strongly attracted to his would-be wife that he fears engaging in premarital sex, they should marry. The couple would be able to fulfill their sexual desires properly as husband and wife. Or, if he is able to keep “his desire under control,” they can let their marriage wait. Like 1 Corinthians 7:8–9, the options are either self-control or marriage. Premarital sex is not a third option—fulfilling one’s sexual desires apart from marriage, even if the man and woman intend to marry one another in time. Premarital sex is sin, and sexual desires properly find fulfillment within marriage.

Image by Olessya from Pixabay