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I'll start by putting my position right on the line: I believe the Bible to teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and all romantically oriented physical activity is sexual activity. As the questions above indicate, however, many single Christians have questions about whether premarital physical activity at some level beyond kissing is OK.

We need to address the whole spectrum ("just kissing" included). First, the fact that "romantically oriented" is in italics above is important.

As a good initial principle here, we should affirm that sex itself (and sexual activity in general) is not inherently negative or sinful.

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In Song of Songs, God has given us a holy and beautiful picture of a marital sexual relationship, and everyone seems to be having an excellent time.

Even there, however, God is clear that sex is uniquely for marriage: "Do not arouse or awaken love before it so desires (i.e., before it's appropriate — within marriage)." (Song 2:7) A blog comment or two emerging from the last column suggested a different interpretation of this verse and Song in general, but the orthodox interpretation of the book suggests both that an actual sexual relationship is part of what the narrative relays, and a context (at the time of the sexual part of the relationship) of marriage.

How are we to relate to everyone else (especially believers), and how does that question inform the topic of premarital sexual activity — including kissing? As a lawyer, I almost never see absolute statements.

The simple answer is that every believer to whom I am not married is my brother or sister in Christ, and I am to act accordingly. Honor one another above yourselves."); Romans 13:8-14, especially vv. It's the strongest possible language Paul can employ. 4:3-8 gets even more specific: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.

Was your purpose for doing what you did to build that person up spiritually — to make that person "more holy" (Eph. Do you believe that you and your partner "honor[ed] God with your bodies" in doing what you did (1 Cor. Whatever you did, did that interaction reflect "absolute purity" (1 Tim 5:2)?

Was there "even a hint" of sexual immorality in what you did (Eph. Whatever you did, as you now think about it, does it inspire a comfortable peace or an uncomfortable shudder to remember that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit observed it all?

The argument might run thus: "Of course I want to be loving to others. I just think I can show genuine affection by engaging in kissing and/or other sexual activity (short of intercourse) with someone I clearly care about and still obey those passages." Fair enough. Let's say for the sake of argument that it is theoretically possible to engage in extramarital romantically oriented physical activity and obey the above biblical standards while doing it. Think about the times you have engaged in any type of physical activity with someone not your spouse.

It might have been last night or last week or last year or back in high school or college.

Many wanted to know, did I really mean no physical intimacy? Isn't it sex outside of marriage that Scripture explicitly prohibits?

How can you say definitively that other things are wrong? Shouldn't our physical relationship "progress" as other aspects of our relationship deepen? I understand most physical stuff is wrong, but what about just kissing? With respect to pre-marital, romantically oriented kissing, we're clearly talking about an area about which reasonable believers can (and do) disagree.

by Scott Croft Before continuing with this column, please review the preamble included at the beginning of Scott's first article in this series, "Biblical Dating: An Introduction." * * * A promise is a promise.

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