Sex, Dating, Marriage, and the Bible: God's Plan for Romantic and Physical Intimacy

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2009

God’s purpose for giving man and woman the ability to experience romantic and physical intimacy with each other was for marriage. It was not for a relationship outside of marriage. It was to be experienced between a husband and wife in a monogamous relationship. It was given by God to Adam and Eve as husband and wife. In Gen.2:24, God established this at the very beginning of the creation creation of woman. Adam and Eve were not to exist together without being married. Gen.2:24 "They shall become one flesh" refers not only to the physical union of two bodies, but the emotional intimacy that is part of that union as well.

This sexual union is an intimate experience that is both emotional and physical. In marriage, romantic/emotional and physical intimacy has several purposes:

(1) to express love and pleasure between a husband and wife (Prov.5:18-19, Song of Songs),

(2) to become emotionally and physically united as husband and wife (Gen. 2:24, “One flesh"), and

(3) to have children (Gen. 1:28). In the N.T. a Christian marriage was also used as a picture of intimacy between Christ and His Church. (Eph.5:23-33) This was and has always been God's plan for romantic/emotional and sexual intimacy.

The "nakedness" of human beings was part of marriage and not to be exposed or viewed outside of the context of marriage after the fall.

Gen.2:25 indicates that Adam and Eve were married and were naked and felt no shame (no disgrace or humiliation). The reason that they felt no shame was because they were "innocent." They had no sin in them, nor was their sin in the world. When they sinned (Gen.3: 7), they lost their "innocence." Sin was now in them and in the world. They and their descendents could no longer exist with their nakedness uncovered before others. They felt ashamed and humiliated before the world even though at the moment no one else existed. So they covered themselves. In Gen.3:21 God Himself recognized their need for covering their nakedness and clothed them.

Covering our nakedness from others is ordained by God. It is not, as some say, the result of cultural sublimation of that which is primitive and natural according to some Victorian man-made ethic. In Gen.4:1, however although Adam and Eve's nakedness was covered from others, it was not covered from themselves. They fulfilled what God ordained in Gen.1 and 2 and enjoyed sexual union and had a son. They recognized the Lord's blessing of this union. However, after the fall, the pure innocence and lack of humiliation that was felt even between Adam and Eve would never be the same.

God's plan for romantic and sexual intimacy was corrupted by man.

The descendents of Cain turned away from God’s plan for monogamy by polygamy (multiple wives), concubines (females that they did not marry, but cohabited with), premarital sexual relations, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, and other sexual practices that were sinful. In spite of this, Noah who was a righteous man had only one wife and was faithful to her (Gen.6:1, 18).

Jesus repeated and re-emphasized God's original plan and instructions.

In Matt. 19: 3-12 Jesus reminded the Jews of God's original plan. Marriage was for a man and woman to come together in a lifetime relationship where they would experience physical union exclusively with each other. Jesus also condemned adultery and sexual immorality in the mind and desires as well as in action (Matt.5:27-28, Matt.15:19). Jesus pointed out the sin of the woman at the well for "having a man" (living together - sexual relations) that was not her husband.

The N.T. condemns sexual intimacy outside of marriage.

The apostles condemned “sexual immorality." "Sexual immorality" in the N.T. refers to "sexual" intimacy outside of marriage (God's original purpose for it). This condemnation occurs in many verses some which are Heb. 13:4, 1 Cor. 6:13-18, Gal. 5:19, and 1 Thess. 4: 3. “Sexual immorality” is a very general expression that can include adultery in it. The N.T. also tells us to avoid any activity that stimulates for the purpose of stimulating our fleshly lusts. Rom.13:14 says not to provide yourself an opportunity for the flesh to lust. 1 Cor.6:18 says we are to flee these lusts. Run from them. Stay away from them. 1 Tim. 5: 2 says that God desires that Christian men treat Christian women as sisters in absolute purity.

How does God define romantic/emotional/physical intimacy that is for marriage only?

God calls it “uncovering one's nakedness.” One OT expression for "sexual contact" was "uncovering the nakedness" of another which was "looking upon or touching the parts of another's body that was (normally) "covered." When God forbid sexual intimacy between certain family members, the words he used to describe this sexual behavior was the Hebrew expression translated “uncovering one’s nakedness.” This occurs in Lev.18:6-18, Lev.20:11-21, and Gen.9:22. What is translated “sexual relations" is literally "uncover nakedness."

Uncovering another's nakedness outside of marriage is sexual immorality.

Uncovering the nakedness of another person is to view, touch (whether they are clothed or not) or expose the parts of the body that is considered one’s nakedness. In ancient times and even today these three areas on a woman’s body and two areas on a man’s body are obvious.

Any physical contact meant to stimulate someone sexually is forbidden.

Sexual intimacy/contact is more than just the act of sexual intercourse. It is by its very nature any physical contact, which stimulates a sexual response in either participant (even if nakedness is not uncovered). Sexual intimacy is not just an act, it is a whole process of developing physical intimacy. Engaging in activity of this nature with someone outside of marriage is sexual immorality.

Full romantic intimacy outside of marriage should be avoided.

Romantic intimacy is a warm closeness a man and woman share together on an emotional level as they love each other as husband and wife. This is clearly shown (as mentioned earlier) in Song of Songs (see 4:9-10). It is also the path to physical and sexual intimacy. It is for marriage. Romantic feelings should be based on a solid foundation of love and concern for each other. It should never drive the relationship, but complement it. A man and woman should be careful to keep from developing this romantic intimacy too early or too quickly before they married. It is like a rose bud that is opened in marriage and must be opened only a little before they are married, lest it develop their intimacy before the proper time.


1. What about "sleeping together" without sex?

What about "playing married" such as sleeping in the same room, sleeping in the same sleeping bag, staying in the same hotel room, living together (all of these activities without sex)?

You are trying to have married intimacy and the benefits of God's wonderful plan of being married without actually being married, which God requires. Don't play house. If you are not mature enough to actually have gotten married, you're not mature enough to pretend your married.

Sleeping together without sex is the same as saying "I don't love you enough to commit myself to you for the rest of my life (or if you are engaged, to walk down the aisle with you), but I love you enough to pretend we're married." That is not love. God has ordained that the benefits of marriage come when you are married, not before. Also, this kind of situation can stimulate sexual desires either directly or by building romantic intimacy before marriage. A man and woman physically sleeping in the same bed is an intimate experience. I'm assuming that we would all understand that living together and having a sexual relationship would be sexual immorality. Living together (with sex) is the same as saying "I don't love you enough to commit myself to you and marry you, but I love you enough to live with you and have sex with you." That is not love.

2. What about if we don't feel guilty about some romantic or sexual activity we're doing?

Your guide in these issues is the Scriptures not your conscience. Your conscience is not a reliable guide since it is part of your "heart" which is fallen. Rom.2:14-15 tells us that God has implanted a conscience in us which still operates regularly, But it is not always reliable because of the fall. "Do I feel guilty? No! Then, it must be okay." The conscience is never your primary guide to right and wrong, the Word of God is. The question is not "Do I feel guilty or convicted about this,” but rather the question, “What does God say about this?" Conviction is an awareness of a sin that you have committed which the Holy Spirit brings through understanding the Word with a resulting feeling of guilt from your conscience. If you do not understand the Word in this area, you may not feel guilty about it or have a sense of conviction.

Other Issues to consider concerning sex outside of marriage:

1. Once you take a step sexually in your relationship, it is extremely difficult to backup. Where you stop is where you start the next time.
2. Sex can become central to a premarital relationship, but will take its proper place in a marital one which is not central.
3. Sex will fuel romantic feelings to such an extent that you may not be able to determine whether you are sufficiently motivated to marry that person apart from your romantic and sexual feelings. When those feelings change, there may be nothing left.
4. Studies indicate that people who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce.
5. Sex produces an intensity in your premarital relationship because it is forbidden; this cannot be reproduced in marriage, and therefore will have a dramatic impact on your relationship after you are married. After marriage the intensity of satisfying "forbidden desire" is gone.
6. Sex before marriage can be separated in both of your minds from conflicts that you might be having in your relationship (because it is driven by lust), but after marriage (when it is driven by love), it cannot be separated from these conflicts. This will be a dramatic difference.
7. Women will often deeply and emotionally regret sexual involvement before marriage whereas a man will regret it, but not necessarily be emotionally scarred by it.

Follow God's plan for romantic and sexual intimacy as set forth in the Scriptures.

Respect the beauty and sacredness of the marriage covenant.

It is a wonderful gift for the church. It is the marriage covenant that gives permission to share together in all the wonderful blessings of marriage. The marriage covenant also protects us from having our romantic and sexual desires destroy our lives.