To Christians, God's will is holy. Every transgression of God's will is an offense against God's holiness. God's children are told: "Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior" (1 Pet. 1:15). The unbelieving people of the world do not wish to conform to God's holiness and are not capable of doing so, but rather place their God?given gifts into the service of immorality and their "glory is in their shame" (Phil. 3:19).

This applies also to the Sixth Commandment: "Do not commit adultery" and to the special relationship between man and woman, which God has instituted and intended only for marriage. The unbelieving world wants to desecrate this relationship and demands that the Christian Church change its teaching in such a way that it will not condemn sexual relationships outside of marriage as a sin.

It is not surprising that the unbelievers, who do not know Christ, are not concerned about Christian morality. But what is surprising is that even some clergymen and entire churches do not take the Sixth Commandment seriously, and claim that sexual relations outside marriage are not sinful. The Bible, however, disagrees: "Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:2). "If they do not have self?control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn" (1 Cor. 7:9). These passages clearly forbid sexual relations outside of marriage and call them adultery. Also Deut. 22:20?21.

According to the Bible, the promises given by the betrothed in engagement are meant to last for their lifetime. Engagement is valid when it is born of a mutual agreement between a man and a woman, who have their parent's consent, when it is not forbidden by the laws of the State, and when both parties are fit for the marriage relationship.

Engagement is not valid if the promise to marry has been obtained by fraudulent, untrue promises, and if something that would have prevented the giving of the promise has been concealed.

When there is a valid engagement, the marriage has already taken place when the promise to marry was given. The engaged parties are promised to each other inseparably. But they have not yet been given (Gen. 1:28; 2:22) to each other by God. This occurs when the marriage ceremony takes place.

A marriage relationship before the actual marriage is a sin against God and His Commandements. It is also a sin against parents. It is disorder, and is against the right and the responsibility of the State to see that marriages are performed according to the laws of the State. Sexual relations are permissible only after the marriage ceremony has taken place. The Bible says: "Keep the marriage (greek, gamos, nuptials, cf. John 2:1) in high regard and the marriage bed pure" (Hebr. 13:4).

We have no right to make exceptions when it comes to that which is right and that which is wrong. The Church must unequivocally teach the whole truth of God. The transgression of God's will must be called sin.

But how then can the Church help the fallen?

This is done with the word of the Gospel. The forgiveness of sins through Christ's vicarious atonement is proclaimed to the penitent. God is not insensitive and cruel, but with His gracious Word He refreshes and strengthens us, supports us and anchors us more firmly in the Truth. The Gospel gives strength. As pardoned sinners even the most wretched can sing:

"By grace I am saved, grace free and boundless!"