Can Christians cohabit and have sex if their wedding date is already set? That was the question put to famed US pastor John Piper this week on the Ask Pastor John podcast, published at Desiring God today.
Piper said the idea was 'merely fleshly, worldly pragmatism' and that those who teach otherwise are 'tragically wrong'.
'How would you respond to a group of professing Christian leaders who teach or imply that it's okay for couples to move in together and engage in sex as long as the wedding date is set in stone?' Piper was asked.
Piper maintained the traditional Christian teaching that the proper place for sex is firmly within the marriage covenant, insisting that marriage and setting a marriage date were not the same 'in God's eyes'.
He said: 'It is merely fleshly, worldly pragmatism to treat an intention to get married the same as being married. They're not the same.' Any sex outside of marriage, Piper said, was a 'prostitution of God's creation'.
Piper used the example of the chastity of Mary and Joseph when they were betrothed to be married, with Joseph described in Scripture as a 'just man'. Piper said: 'You're not a just man if you cave in to the worldly pragmatism of just saving money on rent and jumping in bed together. That's not a just man. That's a weak man with little biblical principle.'
He added: 'Sex is not a relief valve for desire or a mere pleasure with a devoted lover...God joins a couple, and he joins them in marriage. Part of that joining is the sacred vow of establishing the covenant relationship. Part of it is the subsequent consummation in sexual union.
'The Bible does not recognize a legitimate use of sexual relations except as an expression of the covenant of marriage – no matter how crazy our modern world has become and almost all media and entertainment have shown.'
Those who wait for marriage, Piper said, could 'set a beautiful example to their peers, to children that are watching, and to the teenagers around them that are all watching, knowing what they do shows that sexual relations belong in marriage'.
'They will want to witness, with their lives, that God created this beautiful gift and placed it precisely where he knew it should be,' he said. 'The most satisfying, most fruitful, most beautiful, most God-honoring place is in marriage. Therefore, Christians do not sleep together before their wedding night.'