From a human perspective, it seems reasonable to think it is okay for a couple to have sex if they are going to be married soon anyway. However, God’s Word has a clear and direct command on this topic: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). The “sexually immoral” in this verse includes all those who engage in sex outside of marriage. The world views fornication lightly, but not God.
Paul exhorts the Christians at Corinth, saying, “Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:1–2). His words will later encourage those who are able to live single and celibately in order to fully serve Christ (1 Corinthians 7:7–9, 25–40). Biblically, the only appropriate context for sexual relations is marriage. Those who are “going to get married” are, by definition, unmarried and should not be living as if they were married.
In Jewish culture, sexual relations were clearly restricted until marriage under the Law of Moses. Even though a betrothal was considered a binding agreement, sexual relations were still restricted until the actual marriage. The first time a man and woman had sexual relations together was considered the consummation of the marriage. These two acts—marriage and sexual intercourse—were so closely related as to be nearly synonymous. This explains in part why Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question about divorce by saying, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). In Jewish culture marriage and sexual relations were commonly spoken of together.
Paul elaborates on this idea in 1 Corinthians 6:12–20, in his discussion of God’s lordship over our bodies as well as our souls. He says that, when a man has sex with a prostitute, he has become “one with her in body” (verse 16). It’s clear that the sexual relationship, no matter the context, is special. There is a level of vulnerability one experiences in a sexual relationship that God wants kept within a committed, trusting marital union. Even if you think you are going to marry the person, it is important to honor one another by waiting until you are actually married before giving yourselves to one another sexually.
Simply having marriage plans for the future does not give anyone the right to disobey God’s clear commands in Scripture. If you are planning to get married, congratulations. But, in your planning, honor God and honor your future spouse. Premarital sex is a temptation for every engaged or dating couple, requiring precautions and a commitment to walk in the Spirit. Think about your wedding plans. Think about God’s goodness to you as a couple. But “do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14).
For those who have engaged in premarital sex, there is hope and forgiveness in Christ. If we confess our sin, He will forgive and cleanse us from “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). A new path of purity can begin today, with a renewed commitment to living sexually pure until marriage, despite one’s past. As Paul wrote, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).