Is It a Sin for Christian Couples to Engage in Sexual Foreplay Before Marriage?

Is it ok for couples to perform oral sex on each other or manually stimulate each other’s erogenous areas before marriage? In other words, does the Bible allow everything short of penile-vaginal intercourse before marriage?

These are some of the questions recently asked of me by one of my readers calling himself Mark.

Here is an excerpt from Mark’s email to me:

“What are your thoughts on foreplay for dating couples not yet married?

I’ve been so contemplated on it and have prayed about it for a while and out of fear and respect for the Lord my girlfriend and I have stopped but it always feels like it’s a natural thing to want to please the other person in a serious intimate relationship. And we’ve ruled that sex should be waited till marriage and we have slipped a couple times but now we know to wait till that day comes.

So, I wanted to hear your thoughts and biblical stance on everything below sex. From Oral stuff, to hand stuff, even to kissing and making out.”

Does the Bible only forbid penile-vaginal intercourse before marriage?

Many Christians correctly believe that the Bible forbids sex before marriage.  And this belief is commonly based on Hebrews 13:4 which states the following:

“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Hebrews 13:4 teaches us the Biblical principle that the only sexual relations which God honors and considers pure are those which occur in the context of a marriage covenant.  All sexual relations with others outside the covenant of marriage are either classified as whoremongering (sex between unmarried persons) or adultery (when a man has sex with another man’s wife).

But is the Bible only restricting penile-vaginal sex intercourse to those who have entered into a covenant of marriage? Is it allowing for other forms of sexual activity including oral sex, manual sex or virtual sex like web cams and other such things?

The answer to that question is found in Leviticus 18:22:

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

The passage above is speaking to homosexual behavior, specifically sexual relations between men.  So, what does it have to with a man and woman engaging in heterosexual activity before marriage? It has everything to do with it as I will now show.

To lay with someone is a well-known Biblical euphemism for having sexual relations with someone.  And the Bible says that is possible for a man to have sex with a man as he does a woman.  But since a man cannot have penile-vaginal sex with another man (as men do not have vaginas) how can he do this?

The answer is that men can have sexual relations with women in ways other than penile-vaginal intercourse – they can have sexual relations through oral sex, manual sex or anal sex and men can have sexual relations with each other in all these other ways.

So, when we take Hebrews 13:4’s prohibition against men and women having sexual relations outside the covenant of marriage and we combine that with Leviticus 18:22 which shows us that sexual relations involve more than just penile-vaginal intercourse – we can see that the Bible condemns all forms of sexual relations before marriage including oral sex, manual sex and anal sex.

For more on my positions on oral sex and anal sex see my articles “Why Christian Couples Should Have Oral Sex” and “The Biblical Case Against Anal Sex”.

What About Virtual Sex?

There are many ways we as human beings can relate to one another.  We can relate to one another over a phone using voice or text or via a web cam. We can relate even via writing letters to one another.  Many of us have used these forms of relating to other people whether it be our parents or our friends or even coworkers.

But when it comes to sexual forms of relating to others, God strictly reserves that for marriage.  A lot of young couples try to act like virtual sex is not the same as physical sex.  But then I always ask them the following question – “If your spouse did what you are doing now virtually with another person after you were married would you consider that a forbidden activity?” and they always answer “Yes”. 

Here is the truth of God’s Word.  It is a sin for a man to engage in any form of sexual relations with a woman until he has entered into a covenant of marriage with her.   Her body belongs to her future husband, not him.  That man may eventually become her husband – but is he is not yet her husband.  Therefore, it is a sin for him to engage in any form of sexual relations with her before they are married.

The Modern Dating Model Tempts Couples to Sin

Before the late 1800’s, no one had ever heard of couples “dating” one another.   If you had referred to couples “courting” that was a well-known term, but not “dating”.

For the first 7000 years of human civilization, most women were arranged in marriage by their fathers.  And many men also agreed to arranged marriage by their parents although some preferred to find their own wives.  But while men often had the choice to agree to an arranged marriage or not, women did not.

Then around the time late 1500’s with plays like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” young women began to rebel against their father’s arranging them in marriage.  Young women believed they should be able to marry “for love” rather than because it was what their father thought was best.

This romanticism eventually led to the complete breakdown of the norm of arranged marriages by the time of the founding of America in the late 1700s. 

But even with the breakdown of the norm of arranged marriages for women and women now having a choice in whom they married –courtship still remained in place.  With courtship a couple would both have to consent to marry, but they spent supervised time together to get to know one another and make sure they were compatible for marriage.

One of the most important aspects of courtship is that a couple was never allowed to be alone with one another – they were always chaperoned wherever they went.  Why? Because they recognized the biological truth that when a man and woman like one another and spend time with one another and begin to have feelings for each other – they will naturally desire to engage in sexual relations.  The chaperone was the buffer, the protection against premarital sexual relations occurring.

In the late 1800’s couples began to throw off the old practice of courtship. Men and women now wanted to just spend time with each other for fun and not strictly because they were thinking of marriage.  They also threw off the practice of having chaperones.  They called this new practice of young men and women spending time alone together just for fun – “dating”.

Inevitably the new practice of dating, rather than chaperoned courting for marriage, led to rampant fornication among young people and then even eventually older people.  Fornication and adultery had sky rocketed by the 1950s prompting state governments to abolish anti-fornication laws they had for over a century.  This of course pave the wave for the 60s Sexual Revolution and abortion on demand in the 1970s.

All of this fornication and free sex eventually led to the breakdown of marriage and the family we are currently experiencing today.

What About Just Kissing and Making Out?

A peck on the lips or cheek and a hug is one thing.  These are non-sexual greetings that we could give to our relatives or friends.  But we all know that a “make-out” session involves couples engaging in French kissing and sticking their tongues down each other’s throats and often this leads to touching each other in sexual areas.   This is not how you would kiss your grandma!  French kissing is undeniably a form of sexual foreplay and is reserved as part of sexual relations for marriage.

What Can Couples Do Today to Avoid Fornication?

Young Christian men and women today need to recommit to remaining sexually pure before marriage.  And this means commitment to these three principles which have guided marriage throughout the centuries:

  1. Return to embracing fathers as the advisors and arbiters of marriage.  Men should seek their own father’s advice as well as the blessing of the fathers of women they wish to court.
  2. Men and women should only pursue one another for marriage and not just “for fun”.
  3. Men and women who are courting should ALWAYS be chaperoned and make a commitment to never be alone together before marriage.

These steps would help roll back the tide of fornication in our society and keep young people from temptation to sexual sin.

Young people – don’t listen to the crowd that tells you to just “exercise self-control” when it comes to temptation to sex outside of marriage.   The Bible does not tell us to stay in a sexually tempting situation and just “exercise self-control”, but rather it tells us to “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

The Bible also tells us in Romans 13:14 not to “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof”.  When you purposefully set out to be alone with your boyfriend or girlfriend you are making provision for your sinful nature to cause you to sin, whether you realize it or not.

So don’t do it. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted to fornicate.

Honor God’s design and keep ALL forms of sexual relations whether they be oral sex, manual sex, virtual sex and yes penile-vaginal intercourse as well for marriage.

Published by biblicalgenderroles

I am a Christian husband and father in his 40's. The goal of my blog is to help educate people on the distinct ways God has designed men and women and his special purposes for each gender.

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