In light of accusations that the Bible never expressly condemns sex before marriage I have prepared this short critique on what the Bible actually says regarding this topic. The Greek word that is to be discussed is πορνεία. This word means fornication, or licentiousness. Webster defines fornication as “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other.” Licentiousness is simply not regarding sexual guidelines. The modern versions of the Bible almost always translate πορνεία as “sexual immorality.” This is a very good translation except that America no longer understands what sexual immorality means. Our society believes that sex before marriage, as long as it is safe sex, is okay to do. Furthermore, they believe, on the whole, that adultery is acceptable in many cases. Therefore, a better translation of passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4#4:3 would be to use the word “fornication,” mainly because it is a more clearly understood word. Then the Bible is taken more literally and rather than leaving the interpretation of sexual immorality up to the reader, the translation now specifically denounces any sex outside of marriage.
Several passages of Scripture refer to the word πορνεία, a brief list and explanation of those that pertain specifically to condemning sex before/outside of marriage is as follows:
- Matthew 15#15:18-20/ Mark 7#7:20-23 – Here, Jesus explains that what comes out of our bodies in the form of words and deeds are what defile a man. In the list of evil deeds is πορνεία.
- Acts 15#15:20-29/ Acts 21#21:25 – In the early church, when Gentiles had just begun to accept salvation from Christ Jesus, there was some controversy as to whether these born again Gentiles should be required to follow Jewish Law. The apostles and church leaders held and meeting and determined that they are not required to follow the Jewish Law, except for three things, one of which is πορνεία, or fornication.
- 1 Corinthians 6#6:12-20 – In these verses we are told that our bodies are members of Christ and as such are not to be a part of anything immoral. Specifically verse 13 mentions πορνεία. Moreover, verse 18 expressly condemns πορνεία, translated in our language as, “Flee immorality.”
- 1 Corinthians 7#7:1-5 – Paul begins this passage by saying that it is good to never touch a woman, or in other words, to never marry. But he goes on to say that because of immoralities (πορνεία) a person should have one spouse. Furthermore, he goes on to say that neither the woman nor the man has authority over their own bodies; rather their mate has that authority. This distinction allows for the application that if you wish to have sex with anyone other than your spouse, then your spouse or future spouse as the case may be, has to agree!
- 2 Corinthians 12#12:21 – Toward the end of this letter Paul laments and says that he is afraid that he will find that the Corinthians have not repented of their pasts sins of impurity, immorality (πορνεία), and sensuality.
- Galatians 5#5:19 – This is the list of deeds done by the flesh, and at the top we find immorality (πορνεία).
- Ephesians 5#5:1-5 – In this passage Paul condemns πορνεία specifically in verse 3 but takes it a step further by saying that Christians should not even jest about such matters.
- Colossians 3#3:5-6 – We see that in this passage a born again Christian is “dead” to πορνεία (among other things) and that the wrath of God is toward these deeds.
- 1 Thessalonians 4#4:3 – This passage speaks to the heart of the issue. Verse 3 tells us that it is for our sanctification (process of being holy) that we abstain from πορνεία, meaning that one who leads a holy life will not participate in premarital sex. Furthermore, we have the command to not defraud one’s brother in this issue, because the Lord is the avenger. The reason why it is defrauding your brother is that by committing πορνεία with another woman you steal what is rightfully your brothers in marriage (it does not matter whether any parties are yet married).
- Revelation 2#2:20 – In a message to the church in Thyatira, Jesus condemns the church for even tolerating Jezebel who leads others into πορνεία.
It is easy to see that the Bible actually does expressly and repeatedly condemn sex before marriage (fornication), and sex outside of marriage (adultery).