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Can you be a Christian and have sex outside of marriage?

If someone does not feel convicted about his sexual sin, is it possible that he is not really a Christian?


If a self-proclaimed Christian does not feel convicted about his sexual sin and actually feels OK with having sex in a loving relationship outside of marriage, is it possible that, that person is not really a Christian at all?


Yes, it is possible that he or she is not a believer. Any person can call himself a Christian but not actually “be” one. But there are more categories than just Christian or not Christian. There is also the immature Christian and the rebellious Christian. And God works with all of them.

An immature Christian might not be aware of what the Scriptures teach about sexual purity. It’s possible that all that is needed is good discipleship, teaching and the Holy Spirit’s revelation. This is the Christian who desires to live a life pleasing to Christ, and as he matures in His knowledge of God, he changes.

The rebellious Christian, on the other hand, is one who knows what is right, but refuses to do it. James likens this person to someone who looks in the mirror and immediately forgets what he saw.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like (James 1:22-24, ESV).

A bit earlier in that passage James describes exactly how sin happens:

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

Notice there is nothing here about how the person “feels” about sin that makes it sin or not. The fact that your friend “feels” like it is OK to be sexually active outside of marriage has nothing to do with whether it is sin. We don’t have to “feel” anything about truth to affirm whether it is true. In fact, if sin didn’t deliver at least some level of short-term good feelings, it wouldn’t be nearly as tempting as it is.

How we “feel” about sin isn’t the issue (although as we mature we should despise it as much as God does). What matters is our love for Christ, because Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and a few verses later in verse 23, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me.” And the Holy Spirit said through John in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.”

As we mature in our knowledge of who Christ is by the Holy Spirit’s revelation, primarily as we read the Scriptures, our hearts undergo transformation. It is a miracle. I want to change, not because it “feels” good, but because I want to please the One I love. As I mature, I grow both in my desire and power to live holy.

That’s the process of sanctification. However, when we aren’t “seeking” Him through these habits on a regular basis, our love grows cold, and disobedience — rebellion — is soon to follow.

Is your friend not a Christian? I have no way of knowing. I do know that he either does not understand the Scriptures or is rebelling against them. Either way, you can help by praying for him, that “the eyes of his heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:16-19) and lovingly pointing out to him the truth of God’s Word.



Copyright 2012 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

John Thomas

John Thomas has been a Boundless contributor since its beginning in 1998. He and his wife, Alfie, have three children and live in Arkansas, where he serves as executive director of Ozark Camp and Conference Center, a youth camp and retreat center.


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