My friend is a Progressive Christian who says that the bible doesn't condemn or even mention sex outside of marriage in the bible. Is this true?

If not, what is the Biblical basis for condemning sex outside of marriage?

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    Proverbs 13:20. If you're not pulling your friend to the Truth, they will be pulling you into Error. Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:03
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    As with another of the Progressive friend questions, would really help to know what her argument is. Why does she think that? What verses is she using to argue for that? Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:04
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    I suggest you ask her (or him) some tough questions about the child that may result despite best efforts to the contrary (unintended pregnancies happen all the time -- broken condom, one day off schedule, forgot the pill, we don't know how it happened, it happened just once, etc.) Commented May 31, 2022 at 18:37
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    And, please, if she (or his partner), is already pregnant, please point them to solutions that will preserve their son or daughter that God has already filled with a soul. Commented May 31, 2022 at 18:41
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    Go to BibleGateway.com and search in KJV for "fornicator" and "fornication" -- IDK what it would be in other versions -- and that's likely your best answer.
    – Maverick
    Commented Mar 22 at 15:17

6 Answers 6


It's one of the 10 commandments: Thou shalt not commit adultery (see Exodus 20:14)

The 18th chapter of Leviticus is devoted to condemning all manner of other sexual sins, lest any seek for loopholes that weren't quite covered by the previous commandments. Deuteronomy 22:21 clearly condemns sexual relations before marriage.

Even entertaining sexual fantasies is condemned by Jesus:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

From the very beginning God's standard is abundantly clear:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

This sacred union between a man and a woman--becoming one--comes after marriage, not before.


I will disagree with the view that in the eyes of God (or His people) the act of sexual intercourse is what made a couple "married".

These thoughts may be very unpopular (if you're looking for it, the down vote button is above and to the left), but they are Biblical. Biblically, marriage is supposed to precede sexual intercourse, not result from it. Five (of many) examples cited below:

  • Genesis 2:22-25. Before Eve is brought to Adam she is referred to as a woman; after God brings Eve to Adam she is referred to as his woman (what we would today translate as "wife"). God brought them together as husband & wife (what we would today call "performed a marriage") well before any intimate relations occurred between them. It was the giving/committing of one person to the other, not sex, that resulted in marriage.
  • Genesis 29:21-23. Joseph is clear is his discussion with Laban that Laban's daughter must be "given to him" before there are any sexual relations. A feast is held, and then Laban "gives" his daughter (sneakily giving Leah not Rachel) to Joseph. Consummation of the marriage comes afterward. It was the giving/committing of one person to the other, not sex, that resulted in marriage.
  • Genesis 38:14-25. In this polygamous society Judah could marry more than one woman, and Tamar is eligible for marriage. Yet their sexual act is condemned as unrighteous, and does not result in marriage. Neither gave themselves to the other -- these sexual relations between two people not married to each other was what today might be called a "one night stand" and it was considered a serious sin.
  • Deut. 22 is painfully explicit with respect to sexual sin and the punishments associated therewith. While Israel did use what we would today call "shotgun weddings" in certain cases, the couple did not become married as a result of having sex, they were married later, after the man paid the girl's father the bride price. Verse 21 is unmistakably clear that the damsel who is unchaste before marriage is guilty of great sin.
  • The Bible repeatedly condemns fornication (e.g. Matthew 15:19, which condemns both adultery & fornication)

For a much deeper dive on the topic, these videos on my channel may be of interest:

  • +1 The question is a bit vague. I am guessing the question has to do with sex where both people aren't married, though. So the adultery one doesn't quite cover it. Even Matthew 5 isn't straightforwardly applicable. Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:07
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    @OneGodtheFather one could potentially argue that having sex prior to marriage commit adultery towards your future spouse. Along with that, one could cite the passage where Paul says it is better to get married than to burn with lust, implying that if lust is bad prior to marriage, then so is sex.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 4:21
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    @OneGodtheFather fair question; I added Deut. 22 to address the ambiguity.. Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 1:55
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    To add, using the Golden Rule "Matthew 7:12 NIV So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." => "If I want to marry a Virgin, then I should keep other men's future wives virginous." Negatively, "If I don't want someone sexually used up, I should not use up someone else's future bride." and finally, "If I don't want to be compared with the sexual strengths of 100 men every time I have sex with my wife, then I should not be the first of the 100 for someone else's wife." The Golden Rule can be used to synthesize much morality! Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 11:36
  • In 1 Cor. 6:16 Paul explicitly applies 'two becoming one flesh' to joining with a harlot and makes the case that, for a Christian who is joined to the Lord to do so is to join the Lord to a harlot. Marriage is not all sex but sex is part of marriage and not something that follows after, therefore, in one sense there is no such thing as sex outside of marriage. Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 13:39

My friend is a Progressive Christian who says that the bible doesn't condemn or even mention sex outside of marriage in the bible.

For your friend to say that, she has not really read God's word and should probably do so before making conclusions that could get her pregnant. Does her progressiveness also allow her the quick way out, which is to take the life that she irresponsibly conceived out-of-wedlock? God calls that exactly the same as what Cain did to Abel, according to the book Harbinger II.

Should she suddenly marry the man she had a one-night stand with? I ask these tough questions because this happened to me, so I know that of which I speak.

Tell her it is because God knows what's good for society, since he made Adam and Eve and the covenant of Marriage, and sex can get her pregnant, and that child should remain alive, be brought to term, and live in a healthy family with married parents that are as committed to each other and God as they are to their child. And she would find all of that throughout the Bible if she would prayerfully read it.

Golden Rule: Matthew 7:12 (NIV) So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Another way to look at this is the Golden Rule, which is the standard for all morality. Pretend she has sex and gets pregnant, but the guy is (fill in the blank). Now switch places with the child in the womb. Do you want your mom to abort you? Do you want your mom to give you a difficult life because she raises you herself, not as part of a team? Do you want your mom to marry the guy anyway, and have one mess (unhappy marriage) or the other (divorce) because the foundation of the marriage isn't solid? There's no good way to look at it for that child just accidentally conceived and probably unwanted. Do you want to be unwanted?

Now perform the Golden Rule again, but with the happy marriage scenario. You're a child in the womb, wanted, with parents who work together as a team, and stay together, laying down their lives for each other and submitting to each other in Love as instructed in the Word. If you are both following Jesus, it is easy for you to sacrifice for the other when needed. And who would not want to have a marriage like that? Or be a child of that marriage?

Therefore... First produce the family that your daughter would love to be part of. Then you can have the sex that might give you a daughter. Anything else leads to the fatherlessness spoken of in the last chapter of Malachi, the same fatherlessness which is bringing on the natural disasters we are seeing more of, again from Malachi.

Malachi 4

1 [a]“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

If you read the book Harbinger II, you will see that the guidelines and laws God gave to Israel are for all of us, with some of the corrections and clarifications brought by Jesus when he otherwise ratified the Law and the Prophets by saying

Matthew 5:17-19, 27-28 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If your friend wants to read one set of things that the Bible says about sex outside of marriage, they can read all of Proverbs 5.

A note about the Harbinger II. While it evokes some strong emotions in some, there is no real voice of God (prophecy) that does not have that effect, no matter where you read in the Bible.

The Harbinger II itself is really a call to prevent or reduce any more "shakings" like 9/11, the Financial Market Crash, or Covid-19, by doing the following:

2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NIV 13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Don't we want our land healed of drug addiction, lantern flies, wildfires, inflation, STD's, sex outside of marriage, school shootings, monkey pox, et. cetera? Our plagues are multiplying like crazy. Yet I do not see anybody organizing the body of Christ to do this as a group.

A long time ago, I was part of a mass Christian prayer meeting in Washington DC, to fast and pray for our nation. And Harbinger II includes details about what God did as a result of that specific meeting that I was a part of -- President Ronald Reagan, as he was being sworn into office, placed his left hand on his mother's bible, on 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, the same verses as above -- his mom had written next to those verses something like "A most wonderful scripture for the healing of the nations." This detail was in Harbinger II -- I never knew this until I read the book.

God's enemy will use any tactics at his disposal to get you not to read this book. So disobey God's enemy, instead of God, and get this most excellent book, and read it. I am starting my third time through, this time with a notebook!

And the sin of abortion, the mass murder of the innocents, is directly related to this question, and is strongly in the book.

Just think... Because New York started all of this, worldwide, One Billion murders worldwide have taken place. And God, who has created every single soul of that One Billion, does not take that lightly!

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    For this to be your first answer on this 'Christianity' site bodes well for future ones. Your frank honesty is refreshing and it takes courage, even if others don't know who you are. Please continue to contribute!
    – Anne
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 10:12
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    Whilst realising that you have made reference to a novel, I appreciate you pointing to Proverbs chapter 5 which condemns sex outside of marriage. I guess "Progressive Christians" don't want to be constrained by what God says is right for us. – Lesley
    – Lesley
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 11:53
  • why are you assuming the friend is female? You also seem to focus quite a bit on abortion which doesn't seem to be included/mentioned in the OP
    – depperm
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 14:02
  • Using something like Harbinger II as your primary source is probably not the best for the "scholarly nature" of this site. Don't expect a ton of upvotes!
    – Peter Turner
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 16:50
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    @depperm, do you deny that there's a correlation between adultery and abortion? If only people in Christian marriages copulated, how many of them do you think would seek to murder the resulting children? Sure, we aren't going to stop non-believers from copulating, but why should Christians willingly contribute to the problem?
    – Matthew
    Commented Mar 22 at 17:01

The phrase "sex outside of marriage" is a strange one from a biblical perspective.

And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. - Genesis 24:67

One must read a long way into the Scripture before anything approaching a wedding ceremony is detailed. For most of (biblical) human history the copulatory act and the marriage were not separate events. And I'm not convinced God has changed his mind about it.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. - 1 Corinthians 6:15-16

This passage in first Corinthians makes the phrase 'sex outside of marriage' into a nonsense phrase. There is no sex that is outside of marriage, that's what makes immorality in this area so bad; every sexual union is a marital union. One caveat to add here is that consent is certainly required. As a commenter below noted, Dinah was raped (Genesis 34) and this did not constitute marriage for her.

Considered in this light it is easy to see why having multiple, casual sexual partners or same gender sexual partners or anything that is lumped into sexual immorality is just as egregious as what is normally considered as adultery. God instituted marriage to be a one man and one woman, monogamous lifetime commitment and anything that falls outside of those parameters is an aberration of marriage. Practicing anything else sexually is a distortion, not of sex so much, as of marriage.

But, considered in this same light it is not so easy to say that a man and a woman who have committed monogamously to one another before God without the trappings of a church officiant or legal documentation are living in sin. Biblically speaking it is entirely likely that they are married in God's eyes from the moment of their first sexual union.

We tend to take sex way too lightly and the marriage ceremony way too seriously; especially since it is unlikely that the two should be considered separately. This has led to a world of adultery.

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    Yes, right from Genesis "the two become one flesh" is what sex means, in God's sight. That is why a marriage is deemed unlawful (i.e. there was no marriage, despite a ceremony) if the husband does not consummate it with sexual intercourse. Today's ceremonies are, indeed, far removed from O.T. ones. Not only adultery (sex between people not married to each other), but fornication (an unmarried person having sex) are concepts mocked these days, by the ungodly.
    – Anne
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 13:31
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    In Genesis 34, Dinah is raped but remains unmarried in everyone's eyes. And dowries / parent's consent, etc are mentioned earlier. Jacob and Leah's wedding is clearly that, a wedding. I agree that the secular notion of marriage (any 2 adults relationship solemnised by a ceremony) is wrong though. Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 11:22
  • @SeanOConnor Good point about Dinah. I suppose consent is required but Jacob and Leah were married (he went in unto her) and he was tricked. Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 12:15
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    An opinion supporting this answer-- C. S. Lewis's Fox said, in Till we have Faces : "Nature knows nothing of these names. What you call marriage is by law and custom not nature. Nature's marriage is but the union of the man who persuades with the woman who consents." Interestingly, she is the one who consents in this recipe, which if valid could be important WRT Jacob and Leah.
    – Conrado
    Commented Mar 22 at 15:16
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    One can make the argument that the Bible does not mention sex anywhere at all. Instead it talks about marriage and fornication, as if the the latter is not worthy of being compared to the former.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Mar 27 at 20:17

Morality is the law written on the heart that St. Paul talks about in Romans 2:15. This is also the Natural Law developed by the Greeks and interpreted by the Church throughout all of Christendom to fill in the blanks where scripture is silent or obtuse on measures of morality because scripture is, mainly, theology.

The natural law stipulates that a thing should be used as intended. So sexual acts, are supposed to be unitive and generative. They should bond a mother and father and produce offspring. They should not take place outside of marriage because marriage is the right place to raise a child.

If you're simply asking about the words in the Bible, you're probably barking up the wrong tree on this site, and I'm sure it's been asked ad nauseum on the hermeneutics site, but here, where we deal with theology (and not morality or linguistics specifically) the theological reason that Sexual Immorality is Sex Outside of Marriage is that the Natural Moral Law places the only moral place to have sex inside marriage.

However, I did pull out my concordance from TAN, and many apologies if this is a tinge Catholic, it may elucidate the divide on this subject.

  1. Tobit 6:17-22 - For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over to the devil hath his power

  2. Sirach 47:21-22 - And thou didst bow thyself to women: and by they body though wast brought under subjection. Thou hast stained thy glory, and defiled thy seed, so as to bring wrath upon thy children, and to have thy folly kindled

  3. Hosea 4:11 - Fornication, and wine, and drunkenness take away the understanding.

  4. Sirach 18:30-31 - Go not after thy lusts, but turn away from thy own will. If thou give to thy soul her desires she will make thee a joy to thy enemies

... There were some other verses that were touched on lust and passions and stuff. What does your book of Jude say that Sodom and Gamorrha were punish for? My concordance says "having given themselves over to fornication and going after other flesh", which I can only see as meaning sexual immorality.


The crime of adultery is clearly prohibited in the Ten Commandments, but it is true that there is no specific commandment in the Old Testament prohibiting fornication. Prostitution is unlawful however (Deut. 23:18), as is seducing a virgin (Ex. 22:16). This covers most expected cases in OT society - a woman was presumed to be a virgin when she married - but it does leave a loophole in cases where a woman is no longer a virgin, is not a prostitute and is not married.

The New Testament, on the other hand, does prohibit fornication. In Acts 15, James the "Lord's brother" states:

19 It is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Nearly all translations use either "fornication" or "sexual immorality" for πόρνεια in vs. 20. A few translators substitute "unlawful marriage," so those who wish to justify fornication may appeal to this interpretation.

Conclusion: while fornication in itself was not a punishable offense in OT Law, no circumstance was envisioned in which it would be sanctioned. It is clearly prohibited in the New Testament. Sex within marriage was the first blessing God gave to man (Be fruitful and multiply). Sex outside of marriage contradicts God's greatest gift to us.


Mr Fetterman probably hits the truest response. It isn’t prohibited by Old Testament law.

I would argue that there were many Old Testament Hero’s of Faith that had concubines (Judges 8:30-31, 2 Sam 5:13, 2 Chron 11:21.) That definitely was not marriage. It is not credited to them as sin for having those concubines. It doesn’t seem to offend God, at least God never condemns them. If you argue about all the trouble they caused, I would say that wives caused trouble as well.

So, if you have a concubine, you can safely have sex that isn’t related to marriage.

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    I bet your wife will cause more than the ordinary amount of trouble if you get a concubine, though.
    – Conrado
    Commented Mar 22 at 19:56
  • Maybe so, but everyone concludes that sex outside of one woman that you are married to is the only way. I am merely showing examples of men, greater than you and me, who did not see things the same way. And no one called them sinners. What changed? Could someone please show scripture backing up these claims? Explicitly denouncing sex outside of marriage Commented Mar 24 at 16:28
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    @BogusDavid "In the beginning it was not so" is what Jesus says - reaffirming that the way He created things was good (one Man one Woman) anything else is from the evil one.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Mar 25 at 13:28

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