What Level Of Intimacy Should There Be Before Marriage?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Does the Bible limit the amount and kind of intimacy that men and women should have before marriage?  If so, what are these limits?

The Sanctity of Marriage

Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

The author or authors of Hebrews tells us that marriage is an honorable institution and one that was created by God (Gen 2:24).  A man was told to leave his family and cleave to his wife…to leave and to cleave.  The two become one and are as one flesh.  This is the mysterious symbolism of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and the Bride of Christ, the church.  These two become joined together and become one family.  Just as a man and a woman are to be joined together for life, so too are the church and Christ to be joined together for all time.  The betrothed or engaged Bride of Christ should present herself to the Bridegroom as a spotless virgin.  So too should a woman be joined with the man to become her husband and a man to be joined with the woman to become her bride.  Both should remain faithful and loyal to each other because in the Jewish tradition, as soon as the man and the woman became engaged, it was in effect, a contractual or covenantal agreement that could not be broken.  They were committed to each other even before marriage.  So too should a man and a woman remain chaste and should abstain from sexual fornication before marriage.

No Sex Before Marriage

The Bible is abundantly clear that there should be no sexual intercourse prior to marriage.  There are no exceptions anywhere given in the Bible and so even if a man and a woman are engaged to be married, it is sin for them to have premarital sex.  The Bible gives no allowance nor is there any tolerance for any sex at any time prior to their marriage.  To fail to do so will result in the anger of God being upon both of them and no one will be held guiltless if sex is involved before a couple is legally joined before God in a lawful marriage.  That is the way God intended it and it is one of the most grievous sins there are when even an engaged couple has sex before marriage.

Cohabitating:  A Recipe for Disaster and Divorce

Sadly, even some Christians, churches, Christian counselors and pastors look the other way or refuse to condemn couples living together before marriage.  In fact, the divorce rate is considerably higher. The Canadian General Social Survey of 1990 indicated that of the couples who had lived together prior to marriage, 63% of them had separated in only 5 years (by 1995) while only 33% of the couples who waited until marriage to live together had divorced.(1)  That means in Canada at that time the divorce rate doubled for those who cohabitated (lived together) prior to getting married.  The statistics today are even higher.  Yale University sociologist Neil Bennett reported that cohabiting women were 80% more likely to separate or divorce than were women who had not lived with their spouses before marriage.(2)  Beside this, the Bible tells believers that we are to “abstain from every appearance of evil” (1 Thess 5:22), even if there is no sin going on.  Imagine the people in your neighborhood who are not Christians and they see two professing Christians who decide to live together.  Can you imagine what the neighbors will think is going on, even if it isn’t? Also, this is just too much temptation for couples living together to not have sex.  Jesus equated looking at a man or a woman with lust in their hearts to adultery (Matt 5:27-28) so it would be nearly impossible to live together and never run into compromising situations where they must share a home, especially the bathroom.

What Level Of Intimacy Should There Be Before Marriage

No Sex Outside of Marriage

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

There is no doubt that Paul is speaking to believers and to those who are married and unmarried and any sex outside or before marriage is like joining one’s self to a prostitute because the “two become one flesh.”  That is the person who has sex outside of marriage is nothing less than a prostitute themselves and they become one with or the same as a prostitute and no believer should sin like this because our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit of God and we are not our own, but we were “bought with a price,” and that price was supremely costly; by the blood of the Lamb of God.  We ought to “glorify God in [our] body.”  This sin is one that is against the person’s own body, unlike other sins which are “outside the body” meaning that this is a grievous sin that destroys the temple of God (the body).

God has commanded us to “abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thess 4:3b-7).  To “abstain from sexual immorality” means to not commit sexual fornication outside or before marriage “because the Lord is an avenger in all these things.”  That means that God is angered by this and will avenge or correct those who do such things in the strongest of manners.

Limits to Premarital Intimacy

There is nothing sinful for engaged couples to kiss or hold hands but anything more than this is clearly going no place good.  When we touch or stroke or pet in areas that are forbidden for unmarried couples, we are placing ourselves in a situation where we are tempted to go even further.  Human passions are hard enough to control as it is, including sexual thoughts, so by adding temptation to the mix only makes committing sexual immorality that much easier.  It also takes advantage of the other person and when this happens, you are taking advantage of the unmarried person to satisfy your own sexual desires for your instant gratification.  Paul speaks “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:8-9). What Paul is saying is that if a person cannot control their sexual passion because they “burn with passion” it is better for them to marry because then there is a biblical place for having sex…and that is within and only within the confines of marriage.  So if you “cannot exercise self-control” then you “should marry.”


God will not hold those guiltless who fornicate before and outside of marriage.  God is the avenger of those who do such things.  He is angered by this and no one wants God angry at them. That will not go well at all. The divorce rates are nearly tripled if a couple lives together before marriage so there are no innocent parties who live together before marriage because the temptations to sin is too much to handle and besides, if it looks evil in appearance, even if there is no sex happening because our witness for Christ is greatly harmed by our appearances because even the Gentiles (non-saved) recognize that this is wrong.  No believer should ever be joined with an unbeliever either because being unequally yoked will only make for heartbreak or also increases the likelihood of the couple being divorced (2 Cor 6:14).  Any level of intimacy is fine within marriage but this is not the case with those who are not married.  No one should defile the temple of the Holy Spirit because, in effect, they become one with a prostitute and God is an avenger of those who do such things.

Related reading: Christian Advice Before Marriage

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (1) A Zet Daily Dispatch. “Cohabitation: A Recipe for Marital Ruin.”  http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/zcohabit.HTM (accessed June 7, 2014). (2)  Leader U. “Sociological Reasons Not to Live Together.” http://www.leaderu.com/critical/cohabitation-socio.html (accessed June 7, 2014).

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Teddy July 1, 2014 at 3:35 am

Dear Pastor Jack
Thank you for your explanations on this. Very informative. I will keep it for my daughter.
May I merely ask then, what about those who did in fact cohabit and have sex before marriage, or who had multiple successive partners at the tender age where sexual desires are at their peak? Those who have since then become Christians and repented of their sins? What of God’s wrath on them? Will it still be so severe? I know if I had my life to live over again, knowing what I know now, I would live it very differently.

Please could you also do an article on how to teach kids, from a young age, and so that it becomes ingrained in their hearts, that sex before marriage is wrong?



Jack Wellman July 1, 2014 at 8:41 am

Thank you so much Teddy. Once a person is saved their slate is wiped clean and their sins are placed on Christ and they are completely separated from us forever (Psalm 103) because once we confess them He is just and faithful to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and then God sees us as having Jesus own righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). WE all have regrets but having our sins forgiven is not one of them….now, you must learn to forgive yourself just as God has. Hope this helps Teddy.


Jack Wellman July 2, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Teddy…please forgive me for I didn’t respond to the latter part of your question and so I apologize for that. You asked for us to write an article on how to teach kids from a young age that sex before marriage is wrong. We actually have an article on that topic at: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-does-the-bible-teach-about-sex-outside-of-marriage/ and it contains numerous Bible verses on this subject and in the hopes that they might read this. I desire that all youth pastors should be addressing this important issue too Teddy. Thanks for caring enough about our youth.


Teddy July 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Dear Pastor Jack
I thank you for your sound biblical advice and the reference provided. I will certainly read that one. It’s a scary world to bring children up in these days and we as parents need to make sure they are well equipped and well grounded in scripture, ethics and morals.


Jack Wellman July 2, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Thank you Teddy. Perhaps this might help the parents of younger children called How to Talk to Your Children About Sex at: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-to-talk-to-your-children-about-sex-a-christian-perspective/ for if we don’t talk to them about sex they will pick it up on the street or on the playground.


Mr Anthony Cotton July 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

This is a tough one.
I suddenly started to trash porn off my computer.
Can you give me an example when you commit Adulatory Mentally has Jesus said if you look at a woman with lust in your heart you have already committed Adulatory.
I have been on quite a of number of sites to find the answer to this,but not so clearly in the mind.


Jack Wellman July 12, 2014 at 4:46 pm

I think it would be when you look with lust at a woman and in your mind she is not clothed or you imagine her and you being with her or seeing her in her privacy and thinking about her in a sexual way (don’t want to get any more explicit than that if you know what I mean). You are all but committing the physical act and by looking at a woman’s areas that we have no business looking at…glaringly. Make sense brother?


Mr Anthony Cotton July 13, 2014 at 3:33 pm

On GotQuestion.org it said lust and adultery are the same,because if you said what you say it is right.
I don`t look at a woman and think of being with her,or thinking about her in a sexual way.
I was going on different sites,but they really didn`t tell what you would think to commit adultery.
I do not look at a woman,and think sexual things about her now that to me is what Jesus meant if you do that you have committed adultery.
On one site it said it is very hard in this day and age to overcome this,and it mentioned all the things you wrote in your post.
It gave you examples- tight hugging jeans,skirts up has they dare,thongs at the beach ect…
The only thing I have done is, if a woman has a nice backside I just look,and I don`t think of any thing.
I am like a stone.
I fully understand what you mean,but I don`t think that way.
I do some times glare at a woman`s backside,but has I said I don`t think of anything else. That she has a nice backside,and that`s it. Do you think that`s ok Jack?


Jack Wellman July 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Anthony, from what you have told me I don’t believe that you are committing adultery in your heart. By definition, you are not sinning. I think it is a very natural thing to look at a woman who is pretty and that which you have done and do is not sin in my opinion. I see no lusting after her in this. PS, GotQuestions.org is a rock solid website and I think they are very reliable. Hope this helps ease your conscience my friend.


Mr Anthony Cotton July 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Thanks very much Jack you have definitely eased my conscience.
I was up all last night,and I Googled “Mental Adultery”,and I was amazed how many people wanted to know the answer to this issue.
Some of them were asking about affairs that they really liked a woman mentally.
The answer`s where vast like is it a “Psychiatric Problem”.
I said “What God has joined together let no man put asunder” Also to death do you part.
I fully agree with what you say when a child is involed,and their is violence.
In England you get a court order to keep the violent person away.
I can`t understand how I divorced my wife,but the solicitor said it was the law of the land.
I remember saying but it`s not God`s Law,but I had a 3 year old son to take care of,and the court granted me custody of my own son. Again I thank you very much Jack for your kind words of wisdom. God is with You!


Jack Wellman July 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Thank you Anthony. We both can rest easier for, as in the Body of Christ, the church, and a real human body, when one member is suffering then the other members of the body feel it and I want to do what I can, where I can, when I can, to help in whatever way I can. Thank you Anthony. It made me feel better to know that you can sleep better.


Mr Anthony Cotton July 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Thanks again jack for you to keep giving me reassurance.
You are just like the priest who I pestered to death.
It`s the “The Psychiatric Problem” that I can`t understand.
When I get out? I do stare at woman,but I don,t think of any sexual thought.
I am committing a sin by looking at a pornographic picture,but I do not think of any sexual thought.
To be transparent the girl in the picture is looking at me,and thats the kick I get her looking at me while I am doing it.
I do not think of any think sexually about the woman.
I am committing a sin.
I went back on the internet to look at these people with the “Psychiatric Problem” of this issue and I find it very confusing now this is starting to get me down.
I evan thought of Jesus when he said “Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone”
I am always amazed at what Jesus said when He stopped a mob with rocks from doing anything by this simple statement.
The priest I was seeing said she did go away,but she did probably do it again.
I am busy deleting it off my computer,and I did sleep,but I am having a battle with Satan. Sorry Jack for being a burden!


Jack Wellman July 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Anthony, the fact that you are deleting these sites is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit lives in you and since we know that God has no aborted children who were born again, I know that I will see you in the kingdom. We must always put God’s objective truths (John 6:37. 39, 10:28-29) ahead of what we feel or think. God’s Word cannot be broken (said Jesus) but our feelings are as untrustworthy as Wall Street Brokers.


Jack Wellman July 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm

PS, you are never, ever a burden. You are not heavy, you are my brother (so the song goes). Those who are battling Satan the most are the ones who are trying hardest to overcome sin…and that is a good sign.


Mr Anthony Cotton July 16, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I have that feeling that the Holy Spirit is around me all the time,evan when He is not helping I can feel the presence for a few seconds.
Satan is very good in what he does.
I can evan feel his presence in my head telling me that it`s ok to do this when I do not want to do it.
The Holy Spirit will not let me go,because I was thinking of giving up quite a few times,but the Holy Spirit seems other wise,and He boosts me up.
Jack I know one thing it`s very hard to overcome Satan.
It`s waring me out mentally,but the Holy Spirit is constantly pulling,dragging me back,and He doesn`t give in. Thank you Jack for the great support you are giving me. I really appreciate your help with this constant battle.
I think God has chose you Jack. I don`t know how you do it?


Leonardo October 16, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Dear Pastor, I would like to adress the sentence apostle Paul said about “should marry”. I hold my ground against marrying just for the sole purpose of intimacy either by both parties or just one of them. Marriage should not be an “exit” to worldly passions, it just be a helpful hand aiding each other as they walk “as one”. God bless!


Jack Wellman October 17, 2014 at 8:21 am

Thank you Leonardo. You make a very good point sir.


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