Does sex equal marriage? Are unmarried couples who have sex married in the eyes of God?
The short answer to the question of whether sex equals marriage is "no." Having sex does not make a couple married in God's eyes. Marriage is much more than just having one sex partner for the rest of your life; marriage is a total union of both persons physically, legally, and materially. To understand why having sex doesn't make a person married before God, one must understand how God views marriage and sex.
The Bible has many passages warning against sexual immorality, and fornication (sex before marriage) is included within this range of acts (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 1:7). Having sex with your significant other does not make you married because marriage is more than sex. Sex does not equal marriage. Marriage is the legally binding promise to give yourself wholly to another for the rest of your life. Sex before marriage is damaging because it separates sex from this promise. God, knowing the beauty and intimacy of sex, protects us from hurting ourselves when He tells us to reserve sex for marriage.
God created marriage as a covenant, and He is the one who binds the couple together (Matthew 19:6). Sex then becomes the act of that covenant by binding a man and woman together in physical and spiritual intimacy that mirrors the legal binding together of the couple (Genesis 2:24). Sex is a way of giving yourself completely to another person, and the covenant of marriage provides the freedom and safety to give oneself wholly (Matthew 19:6). This is a great promise, and because of that Paul writes that we should "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4).
You may be unmarried and having sex with your partner with the full intention of loving them for the rest of your life. If so, what is stopping you from making this promise before God and before the law through marriage? Sex without marriage holds on to the option of walking away when one's needs are not being met, but this is not the covenantal love of marriage. This is love that keeps oneself first rather than one's significant other. God's desire is for us to enjoy all the love and support of intimate, committed relationships, and therefore He has given us the best way we can experience this on earth through marriage.
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