What Does the Bible Say About Living Together Unmarried?

Living together before marriage is very often unwise and can easily lead to disobedience and sin. God has designed sexually intimate relationships to exist exclusively in the context of a committed marriage.

What Does the Bible Say About Living Together Unmarried

There are many passages throughout the Bible that speak to the institution of marriage.

The Bible depicts marriage as being a sacred union between one man and one woman that ultimately points to the greater reality of Jesus’s covenant with the Church.

Even from the very beginning, the biblical description of Adam’s “one flesh” union with Eve uses language that is later identified as marriage language (Matthew 19:3-6, quoting Genesis 2:24). Adam and Eve were not cohabitors but a “one-flesh” union: committed to each other, united in the sight of God, bindingly married, sharing all the rights and privileges of their union in the bond of marriage.

Because marriage is so important, God has set in place certain boundaries. One of these boundaries is that Christians should only be united with and committed to one spouse.

Knowing that the Bible instructs us to be faithful to and exclusively intimate with one spouse, living together while unmarried is unwise, potentially leading to sin and disobedience of God’s word regarding the sanctity of marriage.

What Does the Bible Say About Living Together Unmarried (KJV)?

“I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.” Song 2:7

As other translations make more clear, this verse from the Song of Solomon (also known as the Song of Songs or simple the Song) speaks to the reality of a timing and place for awakening the full breadth and intimacy of romantic love in marriage. For love to be “stirred” or “awakened” before its time is to go against the grain of wisdom and against the clear teaching of Scripture regarding marital intimacy.

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”’ John 4:16-19

Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well is one of the few examples of where “living together” is clearly differentiated from marriage (where the other men the woman had been involved with were called “husbands”). Jesus’ use of the verb “have” in the phrase “the one you now have”

Moreover, Jesus’ words and the woman’s response (both here and in John 4:29) reveals that her actions of “having” or living with a man outside of marriage (perhaps with the implication of sexual intimacy, though this is not explicated in the text) are viewed sinfully.

And yet Jesus displays kindness and graciousness toward the woman such that he even reveals his messianic, Savior-in-the-flesh identity to her (John 4:25-26). He is not interested in casting her out either for her being sinful or being associated with a class of people despised by Jews of the first century. Instead, he treats her with compassion, showing her the means of salvation and that it has come directly to her. In Him there is forgiveness and freedom to live and worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18
What Does the Bible Say About Living Together Unmarried

Is Living Together Before Marriage a Sin?

Many people wonder whether God approves of living together before marriage. To answer this question, one would first need to define living together.

To share a home while remaining sexually chaste with appropriate boundaries regarding emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual connection may not be considered sinful. This description essentially describes a roommate, not necessarily a romantic or even platonic relationship. (However, in many cultures around the world, the idea of a man and woman sharing a home together would be seen as uncouth or even immoral).

What is generally meant by the idea of “living together” in the West is the idea of cohabitation, which most often refers to a couple living together and having a sexual relationship but who are not married. If, however, “living together” excludes sexual relations and a stirring of desires that lead sexual intimacy, then it is presumably not a sin.

But because living together before marriage could be permissible given the particular situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is wise or good. Even with appropriate boundaries in place, living together before marriage leaves both partners in vulnerable and potentially tempting situations.

In the event a couple does live together unmarried, it is important to remember that marriage is not final until it is final and intimacy of all kinds should be reserved for one spouse only (of which, a roommate is not).

If a Christian man and a Christian woman are dating and decide to become roommates, they should guard their hearts at all costs so as to honor the Lord and glorify Him with their bodies.

It should be noted that many of the questions associated with living together are a search for justification or even absolution, stretching the boundaries as far as possible to obtain what is desired in hopes that it is not actually forbidden. When important issues are unclear in the Bible, it is vital that believers seek the wisdom of pastors and elders in a Bible-believing, evangelical church. As fallen as they too may be, God has given the Church leaders to shepherd the flock of God.

Will God Forgive Living Together Before Marriage?

Living with a romantic partner apart from marriage quickly sets Christians up to fall into sin of many types, including sexual sin. Having sex with someone who is not your spouse is clearly condemned in Scripture (1 Corinthians 6:9), but it is not an unforgivable sin (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can experience the forgiveness of sin and have peace with God (Romans 5:1).

It is important to note, however, that sinning intentionally with the hope of being forgiven is an abuse of grace and an abuse of the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:28; 6:2; 6:15). Though we all fall into that category at some point for greater or lesser things, repentance, conformity to God’s word, and growth in sanctification and Christian maturity, all through being united to Christ, is signified by the desire and continual act of putting sin to death, not making constant arrangements for its survival (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5).

Biblical Consequences of Living Together Before Marriage

Living together before marriage is highly discouraged since God has designed sexually intimate relationships to exist exclusively in the context of a committed marriage. Some of the obvious results or consequences that may occur are:

  • Sexual sin (James 1:14-15)
  • Multiple committed relationships draw our hearts away from God (Deuteronomy 17:17)
  • Devaluing and dishonoring the dignity of your partner
  • It may cause others to question the godliness of your character or devotion to Christ (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • In the event that the relationship ends, the connection could remain so strong as to hinder other future relationships (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)
  • Feelings of guilt or shame about sins stemming from cohabitation can lead to despair

What Does the Bible Say About Living Together While Engaged?

The Bible doesn’t specifically mention living together while engaged, and this would look different among various cultures and people groups. But with a Western worldview in mind (and excluding common-law marriage), engagement is not the equivalent of marriage. Engagement is essentially a formal commitment or agreement to marry (as opposed to an implied arrangement or a causal discussion about getting married).

Quite differently, marriage is in most cultures some kind of legally binding union (whether pertaining to religious or civil laws or both). That being said, having sex and living together while engaged is still considered sexual sin, since the union of marriage is a legally binding union, not an agreement to eventually marry.

Living together while engaged may present even more dangers for Christians, even while abstaining from sexual relations, as the desire for marriage and sexual intimacy is now a planned future event. Pretending to be married but not actually being married is as confusing as it is unwise.

What Does the Bible Say About Sleeping in the Same Bed before Marriage?

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4

While sleeping in the same bed with someone who you hope to marry is not necessarily considered sin, it really is a matter of wisdom and conscience. If a couple is curious whether or not it is sinful, they should discuss the matter with pastors and elders at their church, as well as ask themselves some questions like:

  • What is our purpose and desire for sharing a bed together before marriage?
  • Is sharing a bed likely to lead to intimacy reserved for marriage?
  • Am I respecting God, my partner, and our commitment to maintaining biblical boundaries reserved for marriage by sharing a bed?
  • Does sharing a bed stir sexual desires (which outside of marriage would be considered sinful), whether or not they are carried out, within myself or my partner?

In most situations, sharing a bed with a romantic partner (no matter how committed you feel) should be avoided as it is often a precursor to sexual sin. Instead, believers are exhorted to flee temptation (Luke 11:4; Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 7:2) and to keep themselves above reproach (Acts 15:29; Galatians 6:1).

Stephen D

Stephen Dillard serves as a Bible Scholar with Wycliffe Associates and is a contributing writer on Revelations.org. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He and his wife, Madison, have four children and make their home in Indiana.

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