How Far is Too Far Before Marriage?

To unravel this mystery, we need to begin with some definitions. There are three key words that will help us. I am going to use their definitions from the Greek dictionary, instead of the English. This will give us a more accurate sense of their meaning. They are sexual immorality, impurity and sensuality.

  1. Sexual Immorality -- When you see the phrase sexual immorality in your English Bible, behind that phrase is the Greek word porneia. From this word we get our English term pornography. The reason it sounds so vague in English is because porneia is a junk drawn term that describes any sexual expression outside of the marriage covenant. That includes fornication (premarital sex), adultery (extramarital sex), masturbation (self sex), viewing sexual pictures, video or enjoying sexual fantasies (imagined sex). It even includes lewdness, which means dressing in a way that entices others to think about sex.

  2. Impurity -- When you see this word in your English Bible, behind it is the Greek word akatharsias. It means dirty or filthy. It means taking something that is good and wholesome, then spoiling it. I imagine my wife’s homemade spaghetti and meat sauce. Once you have tried it, you will never forget it. Fresh ingredients, lots of meat and a taste to die for. Just thinking about it, I can’t wait to eat it. Now, imagine me taking a plate of it to the men’s bathroom and dumping it in the urinal. Now, using my fork, I scoop it back on my plate. Anybody want a bite? I don’t think so. I took something that was beautiful and pure and made it dirty by putting it in a common place. I ruined it. This is what the word impurity means. In the sexual sense, impurity means lacking sexual restraint. It means taking your virginity and making it dirty by sexually experimenting with the different people you date. You may not go all-the-way, but you take something that is good and pure and wholesome and that is to be reserved for the wedding night and you treat it like it is common, dirty and cheap. Impurity is also lewdness, that means dressing to show plenty of skin to the public instead of saving it for your spouse in private (the teensy weensy polkadot bikini).

  3. Sensuality -- This means an insatiable desire for pleasure. Behind this English word is the Greek word aselgia. It means putting yourself in a position where you are controlled by your lusts. Imagine skipping dinner last night. Not only skipping dinner, but imagine skipping breakfast and lunch. Are you hungry? I am hungry just thinking about missing three meals. Now, go to your favorite pizza parlor and enjoy the smells of the hot pizza as it comes out of the oven. Try not to order a pizza! It is almost impossible. When we are starving, the worst place we can be is in front of our favorite food. The same is true with our sexuality. Each of us has a God-given sexual appetite. The younger we are, the stronger it is. If you are not married, there is no God-honoring way to satisfy your sexual appetite other than abstinence. It is sinful to put yourself in a sexually-tempting situation where it is almost impossible to control your sexual desire. Let me give you an example. One spring break, I went to Florida. Like everyone in school, I was tired of the snow and ice. I couldn’t wait for the warmth of the sun on my ghostly white body. It was a good spring break, until I went to the beach, and my eyes almost fell out of my head. Girls were everywhere. I couldn’t believe what they were wearing, or should I say, what some of them weren’t wearing. The beach was temptation city. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. For me to stay on the beach would be sin. It would be very difficult to not be controlled by my sexual appetite as almost nude women paraded in front of me. (Yes, thankfully I made the right choice and left the beach.) When it comes to sexuality before marriage, the closer a man and woman become, the stronger their passions grow. Let’s face it, anything beyond holding hands, for most guys, quickly enflames their desires. For couples that choose to delve into long kissing, necking, petting, they are controlled by their burning desire to satisfy their sexual appetite. That is clearly not God’s desire for them before marriage.
That is a long introduction. Now that we have these three words under control, let’s look at a few places the Bible uses them.

I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. 2 Corinthians 12:21 (ESV)

Let’s just say that Paul, as he wrote to the Corinthians, wanted them to repent of their impurity, sexual immorality and sensuality. These are not things Christians practice to honor Christ. We honor Christ by repenting of them.

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:13–14 (ESV)

This time, Paul was writing to the Romans. What most of us do not realize about Roman society is that it was known for sexual promiscuity. It was extremely sexually perverse. For example, most of the Roman emperors were bisexual. Nero was known as every woman’s man and every man’s woman. Premarital and extramarital sex was common practice. Paul wrote to the Romans and even though they lived in a sexually progressive society, much like our own, it was not God’s desire for sexual immorality and sensuality to be part of their lives. We are not to figure out ways we can satisfy those sexual desires outside of marriage.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

This is Paul’s top 10 list of evidences that the heart not in tune with God (actually it is his top 15 list). Guess what made the top three? Sexual immorality, impurity and sensuality!

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! Ephesians 4:19–20 (ESV)

Sensuality and impurity are evidences of a life that has become callous to the things of God.

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 4 (ESV)

In this example, perverting the grace of God is taking God’s forgiveness through Christ, and treating it like it is a simple get-out-of-jail-free card from the game of Monopoly. It is using God’s forgiveness of sin as a free pass to sin.

As you can see, the Bible is clear that we are not to be involved with:

  1. Sexual Immorality -- Anything sexual outside of the marriage covenant.

  2. Impurity -- Taking the sacred gift of our sexuality and dragging it through the dirt. We are not to use it whenever we want with whomever we want. Instead, it is special and is to be kept for the right person, the right place and the right time, which is marriage.

  3. Sensuality -- It is not God’s will for us to fan the flames of our sexual desires apart from marriage, where they can legitimately be expressed, since there is no God-honoring way to fulfill them. The more we fan those flames, the more we will be controlled by them.
I think the best summary of how far is too far before marriage is found in 1 Timothy 5:2.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1 Timothy 5:1–2 (ESV)

Before the wedding night, men are to treat women like a sister. Women are to treat men like a brother, in absolute purity.

I realize many of you are already caught in a web of sexual sin before your wedding night. How do you break free and live in purity? Check my future article, “How can I live a life of purity before my wedding?”