The Christian Bible Reference Site

What Does the Bible Say About Premarital Sex (Sex Before Marriage, Sex Without Marriage)?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Premarital Sex?

Premarital sex, or sex without marriage means sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. If either party is married, then it is adultery (See What Does the Bible Say About Adultery?). Adultery may also apply to people who are separated or divorced in some cases (Matthew 5:31-32). If the partners are of the same sex, then it is homosexual intercourse (See What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality?).

What the Bible Says

There is no specific prohibition in the Bible against sex between an unmarried man and unmarried woman, but some Bible passages may be relevant:

Sexual Immorality

 "Sexual immorality" is denounced in about 25 passages in the New Testament. The word translated as "sexual immorality" or "fornication" or "unchastity" in English versions of the New Testament is the Greek word porneia, which means "illicit sexual intercourse." "Fornication" in modern English is often understood as sex between unmarried persons, but in the Bible it is a translation of porneia and refers to any sexual immorality. Matters of sexuality and reproduction are often spoken of euphemistically in the Bible, but these specific acts are prohibited:

Christians are not bound by Old Testament laws, and sex during menstruation is not generally considered a sin. But the other sexual prohibitions are generally still observed. (See What Does the Bible Say About the Old Testament Law?).


The apostle Paul wrote these verses. They do not specifically prohibit premarital sex, but they do place high value on sexual purity, self-control, and reserving sex for marriage:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (NLT, Galatians 5:19–23)

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (NLT, 1 Corinthians 6:18–20)

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. (NIV, 1 Corinthians 7:1–2)

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (NIV, 1 Corinthians 7:8–9)

Other Considerations

Sexual feelings are natural, and sex can help form strong, fulfilling emotional bonds when used in the right way. But sex has risks for those people not in a stable monogamous relationship like marriage. Everyone who is dating or sexually active should be aware of the risks and how to protect themselves. Comprehensive sex education can be the best defense against getting hurt or unintentionally hurting someone else.


Many unmarried people feel pressured to be sexually active. The pressures come from peers, media, advertising and pornography. Sexual attraction is natural, but the desires can become a strong enough temptation to overcome caution and good judgment. The temptations nowadays may be greater than ever because people are delaying marriage until their late 20s or 30s. The Bible consistently teaches self-control and purity rather than self-indulgence (Matthew 15:19-20, 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6:9-11, 6:16-20, 7:36-38, Ephesians 5:3-5, Colossians 3:5-6).

Jesus warned that it is a terrible sin to tempt or induce an innocent person to sin, and tempting or pressuring another person to commit a sexual sin is a common example:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. (NLT, Luke 17:1-2)

Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STIs or STDs)

At least 30 different diseases are commonly spread from one person to another via vaginal, oral or anal sexual contact. Some of these lead to sterility or death if not treated properly. STIs frequently do not show any initial symptoms, and that increases the risk of spread to additional sex partners. Syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis are curable, but herpes, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, and HPV can only be treated. Abstinence - avoiding all sexual contact - is the best protection against STIs. Properly used male condoms can help protect against some STIs, but not others which spread by skin-to-skin contact.


Unintended pregnancy is the most obvious result of sexual intercourse. Abstinence - avoiding all sexual contact - is the best protection against pregnancy. Even without penetration, there is some risk of pregnancy if semen is spilled in the vaginal area. Properly used male condoms are 85 to 95% effective for preventing pregnancy. Other birth control means (the pill, diaphragm, IUD, morning-after pill, rhythm method, etc.) have varying degrees of effectiveness, but they do not provide protection against STIs.

An unintended pregnancy can have bad emotional and financial implications for the woman. It may mean leaving school, finding a job and taking the responsibilities of parenthood. There are also financial and legal implications for the man, who may also have to leave school, find a job, and take the responsibilities of parenthood.

Rape and Date Rape

Sexual assault is shockingly common and the victims are typically young people, both male and female. Rape is the crime of sexual penetration without consent. Lack of consent is usually presumed if the victim is underage or incapacitated, as by alcohol, drugs or disability. The offender is typically an acquaintance, date or authority figure. Alcohol and "date rape" drugs may be involved. The problem is especially severe on college campuses1. These crimes are often not reported because of fear or embarrassment. There is no need to forgo social experiences because of fear, but learning how to identify, avoid, and escape from bad situations can be a valuable skill.


Does Having Sex Create a Marriage?

Marriage traditions in Biblical times were very different from today. Marriage was neither a civil nor religious event. The fathers of the bride and groom made a marriage contract known as a betrothal. After a year-long betrothal, the man took the woman into his home, and they consummated the marriage with sexual intercourse.

However, once married, the religious laws and customs of the time strongly prohibited adultery and provided physical and financial protections for the spouses and their children (Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 18:20, 20:10 Deuteronomy 25:5-6, Proverbs 22:6, Malachi 2:13-16, Matthew 5:32, Mark 10:2-12, Romans 7:2, Hebrews 13:4 Ephesians 5:22-25, 6:4, 1 Timothy 5:8).

In today's world, it is the legal marriage that provides similar protections. Merely having sex or living together does not fulfill the functions of the Biblical model of marriage.

Does the Bible Say a Couple Must Get Married if They Have Sex?

One Old Testament passage (Exodus 22:16-17) says a man who seduces a virgin must marry her if her father consents. However, the Old Testament rules and laws generally do not apply to Christians (see What Does the Bible Say About the Old Testament Law?) A decision about marriage must be made with prayer and with unselfish consideration for everyone involved, especially children.

Will God Forgive Me for Having Sex Before Marriage?

The Bible says God will forgive any sin if a person sincerely repents and also forgives other people (see What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness of Sins?)

Related articles:
What Does the Bible Say About Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage?
What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness of Sins?
What Does the Bible Say About Adultery?
What Does the Bible Say About Birth Control?
What does the Bible Say About Abortion?

1 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health, retrieved from