I heard that the Bible doesn’t say anything about premarital sex. Is that true?

Anyone who says that the Bible is silent on premarital sex has not spent much time reading the Bible. The phrase premarital sex does not appear in the Bible, because Scripture uses the term fornication instead. This term is used in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6, where the apostle Paul says:

Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolators nor adulterers . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. . . . The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. . . . Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own. For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:9–10, 15, 18–20, NAB)

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Saint Paul says, “This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you knowhow to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God. . . . For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who [also] gives his holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thess. 4:3–5, 7–8, NAB). Elsewhere the Bible exhorts us, “Immorality or any impurity . . . must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones” (Eph. 5:3).[1]

This provides biblical support, but it hardly answers the real issue. A person who claims that the Bible says nothing about premarital sex is often a person who is trying to suppress his conscience. Impurity erodes our faith. When we live an immoral lifestyle and go to church, we have to grapple with the tension between how we are living and what we believe. If our behavior does not match our religious doctrine, one of them has to go.

As this tension mounts, we search for moral loopholes, such as “The Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong.” When no loopholes are left, we grope for some reason to leave the faith altogether. “I think the faith is unreasonable,” we argue. Or “I don’t care for organized religion.” “I have doubts about the reliability of the biblical manuscripts.” “I won’t obey the Church because Church leaders don’t always live up to its teachings.” There is always something to divert us and keep us from studying and confronting the truth. We may claim to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” The words of Saint Paul are a challenge to us all: “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds” (Titus 1:16).

If we love God, we will obey him. If we do not obey him, we cannot claim to love him.[2] Or in the words of Saint Augustine, “If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”[3] People in this situation need to turn to Christ and allow themselves to be transformed. God’s laws are not burdens. He is not a taskmaster who overwhelms us with rules so that we will blindly conform and live miserable lives to satisfy him. He wants to raise us up as his sons and daughters, training us in discipline so that we can become free to love. His laws exist because he loves us and wants us to share in that love.

“Jesus loves you.” We hear that often, but do we ever let the message sink in? Could it be that the God of love is not out to ruin our lives? Could it be that God has an interest in our love lives beyond making sure that we don’t go too far? And could it be that he has established a Church to guide us to the truth? If we come to God with sincere and humble hearts, we will know the truth and be set free. We will not be bound by the illusion that God and his Church are out to rob us of our freedom.

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[1]. See also Romans 1:18; 6:12–14; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:16–23; Ephesians 4:17–24; 5:3–13; Colossians 3:5–8; 1 Timothy 4:12.
[2]. John 14:23–24.
[3]. St. Augustine, Sermons 20:2 (inter a.d. 391–430).

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