FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Staying Pure During the Engagement Period

with Dennis Rainey, Various | May 13, 2010
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You're engaged, and the finish line is almost in sight! Is it that big a deal if you slip in the physical area of your relationship? Dennis Rainey shares why it's a good idea to restrain physical passions during engagement.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • You're engaged, and the finish line is almost in sight! Is it that big a deal if you slip in the physical area of your relationship? Dennis Rainey shares why it's a good idea to restrain physical passions during engagement.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

You’re engaged, and the finish line is almost in sight!

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Staying Pure During the Engagement Period

With Dennis Rainey, Various
May 13, 2010
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Dennis:  That’s just a bunch of baloney.  That’s to be worked out in the marriage relationship.  If sexual compatibility was a prerequisite for getting married, then I think God and heaven would have made that clear in scripture.  I don’t think that type of counsel has any place in a young person’s life. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 13th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We are going to talk today about maintaining sexual purity during the engagement period and preparing for sexual intimacy after you say “I do.” 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  This is one of those days when if there is something wrong with the hot water heater at your house, that’s just fine.  You are not going to need hot water.

Dennis:  No, you are now going to need a cold shower.  We are going to turn it on and we are going to have three settings cubed, crushed, or glacial. 


Bob:  Something to turn the heat down because you don’t have to do much to fire it up. 


Dennis:  No, you really don’t.  In fact, you know the other day, Bob, I was just thinking about this, what an insane culture we have today!  I mean on the internet, in music, on TV, on cable, in the movies, all of these shows and messages are about encouraging single people to shack up, have sex, and just go ahead and do it. 

I thought are we crazy, I mean look at the number of sexually transmitted diseases today, they are now 50.  Think of the emotional scars that people bring into a marriage relationship because they experiment it prior to marriage.  Think of the issues of trust.  I want to tell you something, this is a relevant message today and FamilyLife Today doesn’t exist to go along with the flow of the culture.  We are all about getting single people some paddles so they an go against the current and swim upstream to have a real relationship with a real person. 

Bob:  Andyou might think that a series – that actually we put most of these together more than a decade ago, you might think it would sound a little dated.  But if anything, it's more relevant and more significant in the culture today than it was when we put this material together.

Dennis:  Well, if you look at what's happening among single people today cohabiting is more or less expected.  Over six million people today have given up on marriage and are just living together and a lot of them are under the age of 25-30.  They are just shacking up.  And you know what, that’s not the way God designed it. 

Bob:  And it's not healthy for the long-term success of a marriage relationship which is what we have been all about ever since the ministry began back in 1976.  Pointing people back to what the scriptures have to say about God’s design for marriage and it's what FamilyLife Today has been all about since we went on the air almost two decades ago now.  And Dennis, you stop and think about almost 35 years of ministry that you have been involved with here at FamilyLife and almost two decades of FamilyLife Today, it's because of a lot of friends who have joined with us that all of this has been possible. 

Dennis:  That’s exactly right.  Donors have made this ministry possible.  We would not have gone on radio back in 1992 if we hadn’t had some people step up and say you know what, I stand with you to make this message happen called FamilyLife Today

I want you to just picture right now, still listening to Bob and me, what if right now this spot on your dial was led by Howard Stern and his messages about sex?  Would you support that?  Let me tell you, somebody is to the tune of several hundred million dollars in his pocket. 

Well, you know what; I don’t take a penny from this broadcast.  I raise my own personal support to work here and we need to come to you today to say you know what, if you believe in a biblical message on marriage and family for today’s single people, today’s married people, and families today, then would you stand alongside us right now, because honestly, Bob, you know what the financial condition of the ministry is, we run a very thrifty operation here.  But right now, we need our listeners to step up and stand with us financially with a donation. 

Bob:  I was going to ask you if you had any of those dreams with thin cows in them like Joseph had because it was seven years for them, I just wondered how long you think this…

Dennis:  I hope this doesn’t last seven years the cows could get pretty skinny. 

Bob:  We are hoping to take full advantage of a matching gift that has been made available to us here at FamilyLife during the month of May.  Some friends have come along and they have pledged more than $300,000 in matching funds.  They said, “If you can raise the money, we’ll match it.” 

So we are asking folks to do whatever you can do.  If you can give $10 or $20 or $50 or $100 or $500 or $1,000, go online at, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar and it couldn’t come at a better time.  So, if you can help us out, 1-800-FL-TODAY, or go online at and be as generous as you can be and let me just say “thanks” in advance for whatever you are able to do. 

Dennis:  I agree with that and I want to say thanks to the listeners for listening because you are why we do what we do here.  We are all about helping you in your marriage, in your family, and helping you build it according to God’s blueprints. 

Bob:  Alright, let's talk about purity during the engagement period, time to get the cold water running and set the temperature to icy. 

Dennis:  I have never met a couple who just don’t know how to kiss.  I have met several couples who do not know how to establish a relationship.  It's natural to kiss and to quickly get in the stream that takes you towards the falls of intercourse.  It is like paddling upstream to get to know another person, fighting through misunderstood statements, unmet expectations, disappointments, the realities of the life. 

Bob:  Learning to resolve conflict. 


Dennis:  Yeah, that’s the real stuff of life, and you know what, that’s where engaged couples need to be focusing and majoring.  They need to be taking these passions that so want to be expressed physically in finding other avenues, other ways, and there are lots of ways, where you can begin to express your love for that person that you now adore and so want to meet all their needs. 

I will never forget traveling across the country on an airplane and I was somewhere between Dallas and Southern California, Bob, and the young man seated to my right found out what I did.  He asked me the question that a lot of single people are asking today, “How can I know if the woman that I am dating is the one?” 

As I heard him unfold the story, he just rolled right by the fact that they have been living together for three years like water off a duck's back.  After he told the story, I came back to him and I said, “Jim, let me ask you a question.  How do you figure you are going to hear God’s voice when he has commanded us to abstain from any form of sexual immorality?  How do you figure he is hearing your prayer to know if she is the right one?  “Well, I have never thought about that,” he said. 

The Bible is clear on this, isn’t it?  First Thessalonians 4 verse 3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that is that you abstain from sexual immorality.”  Now, what's unclear about that?  I mean it's pretty clear. 

The lie and the defeat of a sexual revolution tells us that you can be involved, that’s a form of commitment. 


Dennis:  First Corinthian 6, 18 - 20, “Flee immorality.” 

You can express yourself to another person, get to know another person sexually. 

Dennis:  “Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have from God, and that you are not your own for you have been bought with the price, therefore, glorify God in your body.” 

And so as we date in junior high, high school, college with single people, before a commitment to another person has ever been made verbally, we are making commitments physically. 

Dennis:  Matthew 5 verses 27 - 28, Jesus warned that if we even look after a woman with adultery in our hearts, we have committed adultery already. 

And the lie from the pit of hell is that you can enjoy these dimensions of the sexual relationship without having consequences.  It doesn’t happen that way. 

First Thessalonians 4 verse 3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”  And it's interesting here, he says, “The will of God is that we be sanctified,” that means being made like Christ, being made holy by the Holy Spirit.  He goes on to explain what does that look like?  He says, “That is that you abstain from sexual immorality.”  The word “sexual immorality” there literally means fornication. 

I think that the phrase here that is so clear is the word “abstain.”  That’s a strong verb.  It means to avoid, it means to stay clear off.  It goes on to say that “Each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion like the gentiles who do not know God.  And that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as I have told you before and solemnly warned you.” 

“For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”  And then this last verse here, verse 8 says, “Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives his Holly Spirit to you.” 

And you might ask the question at that point, is it just sexual intercourse before marriage that is wrong?  And I don’t think so.  I think what God is warning us about here is stirring up passion its petting, its other forms of sexual involvement where what God intended to occur later on in marriage has been set in motion, and it frustrates you.  I think that’s what it means.  Don’t defraud your brother when it’s commanding you in first Thessalonians Chapter 4.  It means do not stir up desires in a relationship that cannot be righteously satisfied and those desires later on in marriage can be righteously satisfied by becoming one flesh. 

Sex is a commitment.  Sex is a giving to another person.  It is a part of the commitment but it occurs because of the commitment.  Many couples listening to this broadcast who are engaged have made the commitment to marry another person.  That commitment can create a problem.  Why? 

Because for Barbara and me, when we got married, both of us looked back some weeks later at the marriage ceremony and said, “That was anti-climactic.”  We really felt like the deal was sealed, the commitment was made when I asked her to marry me and she said, “Yes,” that’s when the commitment was made.  And because the commitment was made then, that didn’t make us married but it did make us feel like we had tied the knot.  At that point, there is a natural progression that occurs, leave cleave.  What happens after cleaving after commitment? 

Bob:  Becoming one flesh. 

Dennis:  Becoming one flesh.  And couples who have made this commitment to one another are not married, but they are wanting to consummate that marriage relationship.  That is only natural.  It’s right, it’s not wrong to feel that.  But they are not married.  Even though you may feel married at points, you are not married and, therefore, you do not have the right nor the privilege to engage in those things that were reserved only for those who have made the commitment public.

You might ask the question, “Why is this so important to discuss?”  Well, if we avoid the discussion of this, we are setting up single people to lower their standards in an era where they ought to be challenged to raise their standards.  What are you going to say to a single person today who is starting to date people?  Keep your bar set on holiness.  Don’t drop an inch toward the world.  But everything within the culture is challenging them to lower that standard and you know without some coaches, some people cheering them on, they are going to lower that standard. 

Bob:  So you are talking about what’s described as petting in a relationship? 

Dennis:  Right. 

Bob:  You are saying that that’s below the holiness standard that God calls us to in a relationship? 

Dennis:  Well, as we are going to look in just a few moments, in First Thessalonians 4, it says “abstain from sexual immorality,” when does immorality begin?  The goal the Bible talks about is holiness.  It’s not being above average.  You are not called just be a cut above the human herd.  You are here called to be men and women of God. 

And what does that look like in a dating relationship?  Well, I am going to tell you some, it’s not two people who are engaged spending time in an apartment in the bedroom or on the couch or in a car, and being involved in physical, sexual activity that God clearly reserved for marriage. 

Bob:  I remember years ago when Elisabeth Elliot’s book Passion and Purity came out and she talked in that book about a standard that was pretty high, not holding hands and not kissing until an engagement had occurred.  I remember folks going, “Can you believe what this woman is calling us to?”  And yet, she has released a sequel to that book where she talks about couples who honored her counsel and couples who failed to honor her counsel, and the disaster that came on those who are lowered at the bar and the blessing that attended those who maintained a high standard of holiness. 

Dennis:  Those who criticized Elisabeth Elliot ought to be immediately asked, okay, you can criticize her for taking a strong stand, but I’ve got a question for you, “what’s your standard?  Where would you draw the line?”  Well, I don’t want to be legalistic.  It’s not legalism; it’s called “convictions.”  And the problem with the Christian community today is that we are quick to cast stones at someone who will hold to a public standard but not so quick to decide what we believe. 

What do you believe?  What is going to be your sexual purity standard?  What’s holiness?  Not what is so near to the edge of the cliff that you figure it’s okay, but what’s so far away from the edge of the cliff that it’s getting near the objective of becoming like Jesus Christ which is holiness.  And when you set a standard of purity like that, that frees you up to know another person in the way that God designed us to know them prior to marriage, did you hear that, prior to marriage.  You aren’t intended to know another person prior to marriage, sexually. 

And yet, in this culture, Bob, we have passed our bodies around like a lending library and we are wondering why we bring all this baggage into marriage.  I have told too many stories around Elisabeth Elliot’s book and around stories that I have in my own life and from others that I have counseled, and people today are longing for some champions.  Some single people who will step up and step out and say, I am not going to behave anything like the world.  I am not going to do it.  I am going to draw a bold standard. 

Bob:  And there are some folks who have maintained a level of moral purity until engagement who now think, “We really are committed to one another.  It’s just a few weeks away, just a formality issue at this point.  Why don’t we go ahead and begin to enjoy what is promised to us once we are married?” 

Dennis:  Two reasons, #1 it’s wrong, and #2 it involve a trust, a sacred trust.  Marriage is maintained by two people who trust one another. 

For many who are listening to our voices today, you know what’s right.  You know what’s right. You know what God’s word says, abstain from sexual immorality.  Flee youthful lusts.  Some need to repent, some need to come clean.  Others who have failed and have repented and have come clean and they have set some high standards need to go back to the scripture and realize yes Jesus Christ forgave you.  There is abundant grace.  There is abundant mercy for any failure, any mistake you have made. 

And no matter how challenging we become here on the broadcast, I always want to share with people the ground around the cross at the foot of Jesus Christ is level.  We are all on the same footing.  We have all failed.  There is none perfect.  I didn’t do it all right myself.  I haven’t today.  But I would like to say to you if you have failed, you are feeling ashamed, you need forgiveness, Jesus Christ welcomes you to him right now.  And it says in scripture he will remove your sin as far as the east from the west and he will cleanse you and make you as white as snow.  That’s a great promise. 

Bob:  Yes.  I think about the interview we did a number of years ago with Heather Jamison, who – she and her boyfriend were involved sexually prior to marriage.  They got married when she became pregnant.  The first years of their marriage were very difficult.  And she ultimately came back to the fact that although she had been sorry for her sexual involvement prior to marriage, she had never repented like you have talked about.  And in her book, Reclaiming Intimacy, she outlines the process that God took her husband and her through that brought them to a place to being able to live in that forgiveness that Christ offers. 

And we have got copies of that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center if there are couples who are listening today who find themselves in that situation or if they are engaged couples who have been involved sexually and who recognize a need to address this issue prior to marriage.  They can go to for more information about Heather Jamison’s book and there is also information about the new Preparing for Marriage workbook that our team has put together.  This workbook has been refreshed and updated and it’s a great tool for an engaged couple to go through to help you address the issues that you need to get out on the table before you walk down the aisle. 

You can go to for more information on how to get a copy of any of these books, again our, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that’s 800-F as in “family” L as in “Life” and then the word TODAY, and we can let you know how you can any of the resources we have talked about here sent out to you. 

You know our goal here at FamilyLife is to provide the kind of practical biblical help for your marriage and your family that you hear on this program each day.  That is because we want to see every home become a Godly home.  And we very much appreciate those of you who help support all that we are trying to do by supporting this radio program, when you make a donation online at or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Those of you who spread the word about the Weekend to Remember conference when it comes to a city near where you live or you mention our resources to other when you hear about something on the air or when you go to our website  We appreciate the partnership we have with you and we are grateful for your passion for marriages and for families. 

This month, we want to ask you to consider helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with the donation of any amount.  We have had some friends who have come along and they have contributed to a matching gift fund that was established, and the total amount of what they’ve pledged so far is up over $300,000. 

But in order for us to take advantage of those pledges, to cash in on those pledges, we need FamilyLife Today listeners here during the month of May to make a donation of any amount in support of the ministry.  When you donate, your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar as long as those pledges remain in the fund.  So can we encourage you go online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone?  And let me just say in advance we do appreciate your support of the ministry and we want to say thanks for whatever you are able to do this month in making a contribution to the ministry.  We appreciate you very much. 

We hope you can be back with us tomorrow when we are going to talk about a whole bunch of things that need to be out on the table, just some of the conversations that you need to make sure you have had before you say “I do.”  We will talk about that tomorrow.  Hope you can be back for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch, our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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