Many single Christians struggle more with this questions than any other: “I know that sex before marriage is wrong, but how far can I go?” In this post, I plan to answer that question by drawing the line where I believe Scripture draws the line.
Before I “draw the line,” however, let me give some general advice about sexual sin and temptation. In Proverbs 7, Solomon, and the Lord, use a “young man lacking sense” and an adulteress woman as the personification of sexual sin and temptation. Even though this passage was written from a father to his son, it applies to both young men and young women, and, for that matter, men and women of all ages.
The Young Man and the Adulteress Woman
The young man lacking sense of Proverbs 7 is different from the “fool” that Solomon uses in other parts of Proverbs. Unlike the fool, the young man has not rejected God’s wisdom—he just doesn’t have it. Most likely, we are to assume that this is because of his youth and inexperience. He represents young people (buy guys and girls) who can choose to either listen to the wisdom of Proverbs 7:25 (go ahead and look it up) or face the consequences of Proverbs 7:26-27 (look it up!). The adulteress woman represents something both young men and young women need to avoid—sexual temptation.
Understanding Sexual Sin and Temptation
Consider the wisdom passed from a father to his son in Proverbs 7. Verses 8-11 talk about being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong company. When it comes to sexual temptation and sin, any one or two of those could end in trouble so they should all be avoided. The combination of the three is a deadly recipe for sexual sin and all its consequences.
Verses 13-21, describe the characteristics of sexual sin and temptation–aggression, unrealistic expectations of romance and pleasure, and denial of consequences. We must learn that the enemy is aggressive. He will take any opportunity to attack us with sexual temptation, and he will do it quickly and with determination. He will also exaggerate the pleasure of sexual sin by making it seem romantic, beautiful, and fulfilling. He is a liar. Any hint of these found in sexual sin will only be like the sweetness of sugar laced with poison: deceitful, temporary, and deadly.
Furthermore, Men and women of all ages, but especially young men and women must avoid building their entire defense against sexual sin on the fear of consequences (getting caught, getting pregnant, or getting an STD) because Satan and our flesh will work to remove the possibility of those consequences (i.e. “my husband is on a journey” or in modern times “I can’t get pregnant,” or “my parents are out of town,” etc.). Satan will even convince those he tempts that the eternal and spiritual consequences are not real. One of Satan’s first lies was when he told Eve, “you will not surely die (Genesis 3:4).” He is still selling us the same lie.
Verses 22 and following reveal the true consequences of all sin–being drug down to death. Young men and young ladies need to know that Satan, the world, and our flesh want us to believe that true fulfillment can be found in forbidden fruit. It was that lie—God is keeping us from something good—that led to a seemingly small and insignificant decision to eat a piece of fruit. That decision, however, has led to all the pain we experience in the world including poverty, natural disasters, childhood cancer, and school shootings. The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and temptation is his best weapon.
The Gospel and Sexual Sin
Before I “draw the line,” let me remind you that the ultimate goal as a young person is not to get to your wedding night as a virgin. While that is an admirable goal that will pay unbelievable dividends into your life and marriage, it is not what the gospel is all about. What I want for you is so much more. I want you to see the real danger of sin so that you can either avoid it or repent from it. Sin will destroy us–in this life and in the next–and the only remedy is the forgiveness available by grace through faith in Jesus. Anything less only fixes from the outside in, and we need to be changed from the inside out. For those of you, like me, who have “crossed the line” I am about to draw, there is forgiveness available. For those who have not, you still need the grace of God. In fact, moral goodness can sometimes keep you from receiving grace and forgiveness. If you avoid all the “big sins,” you might never realize that your sin problem is so deep that you cannot fix it. Satan will tell you that you only need to tweak a few areas of your life. The truth is, whether you are a rebellious sinner or a self righteous one, you still need to be transformed by God’s free gift of salvation. Just because you have never “crossed the line,” you are not guiltless before God.
So Finally, How Far is Too Far?
I admit that what I am about to write is radical, and when I was a teenager, if anyone had shared this with me, I probably would have written it off as outdated and unrealistic. I am convinced, however, that the biggest blind spot in modern society is sexual sin so I do not believe that modern teenagers are really that well equipped to think clearly about this issue. How can they be when we have allowed them to be pummeled with sexual ideas and images since birth?
As a single young man, I heard many adults talk about sexual sin and temptation. While they offered good advice, it seems that they were afraid to answer the question, “How far is too far?” As I remember it, their vague responses mostly amounted to some form of, “you pray about it and figure it out.” I don’t think I have to tell you why that is a bad idea. Why are adults so afraid to have this conversation? Maybe they don’t know what to say. Maybe they are shy about sexual topics, or maybe we are too ashamed of our sexual past and we are afraid of the question, “did you ever cross that line?” So let me just go ahead and answer—yes I crossed the line I am about to defend as the biblical line. In fact, I went way past it, and I really regret it.
So how far is too far? Biblically speaking, there are two types of adultery: sexual activity before marriage and sexual activity with someone other than your spouse once you are married (see Exodus 22:13-29). In essence, these two types of adultery are the same. Adultery while married is breaking a vow to a current spouse, and adultery before marriage is breaking a vow to a future spouse (even if the act is with the future spouse). Deuteronomy 22:13-14 makes it clear that God considered the marriage vow violated if one of the spouses was not a virgin when married and deceived the other into thinking he/she was. In other words, it is possible to break your marriage vows before you even take them!
After praying, studying this passage and other Scriptures, and consulting other pastors, I believe that the biblical standard is this: it is sinful to do anything with someone before you are married that you should not do with a person other than your spouse after you are married. In other words, if you would consider it cheating after marriage, it is probably sinful before marriage. That means that intercourse, oral sex, any type of foreplay, sensual touching (above or beneath clothing), being naked together, pressing bodies together, and yes, even sensual kissing is across the line. Does that seem outrageous to you? It would have seemed that way to me, but now, with clearer vision, it seems outrageous to think that there is anything godly about making out with someone you are not married to. To be more blunt, I believe that if you kiss or touch a member of the opposite sex that you are not married to in any way you would not kiss or touch your grandmother, you have crossed the line.
Don’t Be a Fool
I know that the line I just proposed is one that has been crossed by 99% of us, including me, but I believe with all of my heart that it is the biblical line. We must conform ourselves to the standard of the word and not of the world. You might believe that my application of Exodus 22 is off the mark, and if you do, please let me know why it is wrong and where you think “the line” has been drawn. If your belief is based more on your desire for pleasure than a clear understanding of Scripture, please be aware that the thief is trying to kill you, steal from you, and destroy you. You might have started reading this article as a “young man lacking sense,” but now you have to choose between conforming your life to the biblical standard, or living as a fool. Please, for your sake, don’t be a fool!
Do you agree that the line I have drawn is biblical? Why or why not? How has our oversexed society perverted our ability to think clearly about this issue? If you are married, do you wish you had never even kissed anyone until your wedding day?
 It is important to remember that Deuteronomy 22 was written as legal instructions to the nation of Israel as they prepared to live in the Promised Land. The legal punishments no longer apply to any government or individual. Furthermore, this passage does not teach that only virgins can get married. The eternal principle to take away is honesty about your sexual past with your future spouse, not that only virgins can get married. The passage does reveal, however, how God views sexual sin before marriage, and it seems clear that sex before marriage is viewed as a violation of the marriage covenant with a future spouse in the same way that sex with someone other than a spouse is a violation of the covenant after marriage.