Genesis 2:23-25 shows us a picture of the ideal and it looks fairly different than the arguments of society. God provides the ideal and principle for marriage, even calling the woman the man’s “wife.” This first marriage is a union far superior than simply a sex act.
As we read further in the Old Testament, we find many positive instances of man and women being joined in marriage and then they have sex. Sex comes as a result of marriage, not a precursor to it. We also see many negative instances of men having sex with women whom they are not married to. The former is written about positively and the latter is viewed negatively and sinful.
However, it is the New Testament epistles that provide the clearest instruction on this matter for Christians today.
1 Corinthians 7:1-5 demonstrates that sex apart from one in a covenant relationship with his or her spouse is wrong. The idea is that because people cannot control themselves outside of marriage (and it would likely prove too difficult to abstain entirely as it seems the Corinthians may have inquired of Paul), a man should have a wife and a woman a husband so they can fulfill their passions in a moral way rather than in a way that is sexually immoral. If a husband or wife is required to have moral sex, than a marriage must be required to have husband or wife. A monogamous sex partner is simply not enough. The wedding, not sex, that is the process of making the covenant. Sex is the consummation of the covenant as seen repeatedly in the Old Testament.
Hebrews 13:4 says that the marriage bed should not be defiled but honored. God judges the sexually immoral and adulterers. Adultery is not only defined by cheating on someone, but sex outside of marriage. And given the picture of the great love between a man and wife in the Song of Solomon, it would seem that sexual immorality would be more about those having sex outside of the loving, caring, consensual, beautiful, God honoring marriage. The act of sex is not the thing that honors God, but the marital relationship itself. And within this marital relationship, sex can honor God as well. Outside of a marriage bed, sex is a defiling act.
It must also be noted that God repeatedly condemns sexual immorality and both Hebrews 13:4 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 define any sex outside of a marriage covenant as sexually immoral. (Examples of God commanding his people to remain free from sexual immorality include: Acts 15:20, 1 Corinthians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, Colossians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Jude 7.) Therefore, sex is only acceptable to God inside the marriage covenant.
*Photo of rings taken by Flickr.com user, FotoRita and is licensed under a creative commons license.