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Things Get Weird When Christians Start Explaining Why We Should “Save Ourselves for Marriage”

Sexual purity is a simple and complicated subject for Christians. It’s simply because the Bible makes it very clear what we are supposed to do: Don’t have premarital sex. Sex is for marriage. Period. That’s not a complicated thing to understand or teach in the church.

However, things get weird when Christians start explaining why we should “save ourselves for marriage.” I don’t have a problem with what the church is telling Christians to do and not do regarding sex. I have a problem with why we are often telling Christians not do these things. The motives for sexual purity that Christians often have is the problem I want to address here.

The Right Reason to Pursue Sexual Purity and Practice Abstinence

In my article Sexual Purity: How the Church Often Gets It Wrong, I cover this point in much greater detail, so I encourage you to read that article to get a deeper understanding of what I am saying in this section.

In short, the reason Christians should not have premarital sex and should practice abstinence before marriage is not [that] they are retaining a purity they were born with but because they are living from the purity that Jesus gave them when they were born again at the moment of their conversion.

We teach people that if you have sex you have forever lost your purity. But do we teach people that if they lie once they have forever lost their truthfulness? Do we teach them if they ever say a cuss word they have forever lost their ability to speak righteously? If they ever punch someone in anger, do we teach them that their fist is forever tainted and can never be used for good again? Then why do we teach people that they have one chance at sexual purity and if they blow it they are forever damaged goods?

Of course, sin has consequences. Of course, people who don’t have premarital sex will not have to deal with certain issues that people who do have premarital sex will need to work through with Christ. There are countless benefits to obeying God when it comes to sexual purity and countless problems when we don’t obey God. But this pattern is true of all sin, not just sexual purity.

When the church talks about obedience in general, usually they teach it right by communicating that we should obey not to be saved but because we are saved. I believe most American churches have a decent understanding of grace. It’s not an odd thing [nowadays] to walk into church and hear the pastor say that we are saved by grace alone and through faith, not by works. We are to obey because we are a new creation and because it is a sign of our changed hearts, for although we are not saved by works, faith without works is dead.

However, everything seems to change when the topic of sexual purity comes up. Suddenly the above biblical truths go out the window and everyone has one chance to retain their purity and if you mess it up you are doomed forever. This is wrong.

Yes, we should teach Christians to obey God’s word and not have premarital sex. But we need to teach them this for the right reasons, just like we do on every other topic of obedience that we teach on in the church. We don’t teach people that if we miss one tithe our finances are irredeemable, so therefore, you better not miss one tithe ever in your life if you want to have blessed finances.

We should obey because God has saved us, because we love God, because we want to reap the benefits of following Christ. But again, it seems when the topic of obeying God’s commands for sexual purity come up the motive taught is completely different. Now all of a sudden we must obey God because if we don’t we have lost our purity that we were born with and there’s really nothing you can do after that. You have been marked with the scarlet letter. Yes, there’s grace for you, but purity is not an option anymore. This is wrong.

We must apply the same biblical truths that we apply to all teaching on obedience. Christians should practice abstinence when they are unmarried because they are seeking to reflect the purity that Christ has given them, not because they are so afraid of losing the purity that they were born with.

30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NLT)

People who think they have their own purity boast in themselves. This is so dangerous.

Lie: When You “Save Yourself for Marriage” You Are Pure Because You Haven’t Had Sex

There are benefits to being a virgin, but never think your lack of certain sins is a form [of] true purity. The Bible says we were all born sinful (Psalm 51:5). We are “totally depraved,” which is a theological term that means every part of our humanity is tainted with our sinful nature. It does not mean we are sinful as possible. Some people really do sin more than others. But every one of us [h]as been infected with sin in every part of our existence and being.

So to think you are pure because you have not had sex is a lie. You are only pure when God transfers the purity of Christ onto you. When we say, “save yourself for marriage,” many of us subtly take those words “save yourself” too far. So many people have tried to be their own messiah through their own sexual purity, and then when they sin in a sexual way they feel they have lost their purity forever.

This mindset is based [on] a “works theology.” The Bible says we are not saved by works but by grace through faith and so we can then live for God (Ephesians 2:8-10). We should seek to live pure lives because Jesus has made us pure, not as a way of saving ourselves.

Mark Ballenger
Mark Ballenger
Mark Ballenger is an author, blogger, and YouTuber. For more resources by Mark, you can visit him at ApplyGodsWord.com.

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