Q. My fiance and I have been dating for 14 months and are engaged to be married. We are both Christians and have been married before. Both our previous spouses are deceased. As strong as my walk has been with the Lord, I am not sure about us having sex before we are actually married. We are obviously not virgins. I haven’t found anything in the Bible to give us specific direction. We have not been physically intimate yet and I want to be clear on whether we need to wait for our union to be blessed. Could you give us some insight and scripture?
A. According to the Bible, having sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex, or with one who is married to someone else, is a sin. If an unmarried couple was caught having sex in Biblical times the penalty was a 50 shekel fine (21 ounces of silver) payable to the female’s father and they had to get married (Deut. 22:28-29). Obviously none of these conditions apply specifically to you.
Also, in Biblical times a couple became married by declaring themselves to be so before God and family and by holding themselves out to the community as such. It was very similar to today’s “common law” marriage provisions, and in my opinion is the standard God still uses. However, people today are usually considered to be legally married when they have a signed marriage license. Civil marriage licenses are easy to obtain, can be had in a few days, and do not preclude having a traditional wedding afterward.
If your goal is to be legally married before having sex, then a civil ceremony is easiest. If you want to delay having sex until you are married before God and family in a religious ceremony, that would obviously require a longer wait.
In summary, there is more clarity in our traditions than there is in the Bible for cases like yours, but the strictest interpretation would dictate waiting until you are married in your eyes, the Lord’s eyes, and the eyes of friends and family. This would fulfill Paul’s admonition to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thes.5:22).