What Is Chastity? Meaning and Importance of Being Chaste

Although in modern times, we may know more about its synonyms such as virtue, purity, and modesty, the Bible provides ample wisdom about chastity, both sexual and otherwise. Learn more about what it means to be chaste and why it is important.

Updated May 10, 2023
What Is Chastity? Meaning and Importance of Being Chaste

What is chastity? How do we live a chaste life? Discover the biblical meaning of chastity and its relevance today.

"Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society..." ~ Mary Baker Eddy

"Obedience to the law of chastity will increase our happiness in mortality and make possible our progress in eternity." ~ David A. Bednar

Definition of Chastity

Merriam-Webster gives the modern, secular definition of "Chastity" as the quality or state of being chaste: such as

a: abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse
b: abstention from all sexual intercourse
c: purity in conduct and intention
d: restraint and simplicity in design or expression

The word chastity means “the quality of being morally pure.” Note that chastity can relate to either sexual interactions or conduct, behavior, and intention generally. Synonyms of being chaste include purity, modesty, and virtue. Usually, we think of chastity as abstaining from immoral sexual activities. Chastity also has a less-known meaning related to personal integrity.

What Does Scripture Say about Chastity?

Although we may know more about its synonyms, the Bible provides ample wisdom about chastity, both sexual and otherwise.

A Life Pleasing to God: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

"Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." ~ 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

1 Corinthians 7:1-16 provides the following principles for marriage:

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called youto peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

See Torrey's New Topical Textbook entry for a longer list of the Bible's references to chastity and what it commands.

Christian Meaning of Chastity

The Bible advises young men to approach older women as mothers and younger women as sisters “with all chastity” or “purity” (1 Timothy 5:2). When Paul used familial terms to describe women in the church, he set the rules for chaste conduct between the sexes. The implication was clear: “Treat every woman the way you want someone to treat your mother or your sister.” Paul also directed his young student, Timothy, to take care that his own life was a portrait of chastity so that he would “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Ministers and fathers must be examples of chastity in every sector of life (1 Timothy 3:1-13). This incorporates not being addicted to alcohol, living loyal to one wife, remaining free from the love of money, and upholding a virtuous reputation in all ways.

Even though the idea of chastity is swiftly disappearing from our world’s ethical framework, it endures as part of God’s. The Creator of our bodies and our souls is not fooled by our outward displays of chastity designed to impress onlookers. He seeks those who long to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). When chastity is our goal in every area of life, the Lord strengthens and rewards us with the power to overcome sin and enjoy more of His presence.

Here is how 3rd-century church leader Cyprian described chastity:

Chastity is the dignity of the body, the ornament of morality, the sacredness of the sexes, the bond of modesty, the source of purity, the peacefulness of home, the crown of concord. Chastity is not careful whom it pleases but itself. Chastity is always modest, being the mother of innocency; chastity is ever adorned with modesty alone, then rightly conscious of its own beauty if it is displeasing to the wicked. Chastity seeks nothing in the way of adornments: it is its own glory. It is this which commends us to the Lord, unites us with Christ; it is this which drives out from our members all the illicit conflicts of desire, instils peace into our bodies: blessed itself, and making those blessed, whoever they are, in whom it condescends to dwell. It is that which even they who possess it not can never accuse; it is even venerable to its enemies, since, they admire it much more because they are unable to capture it. Moreover, as mature, it is both always excellent in men, and to be earnestly desired by women; so its enemy, unchastity, is always detestable, making an obscene sport for its servants, sparing neither bodies nor souls.

(Excerpted from "Of the Discipline and Advantage of Chastity")

Importance of Being Chaste

First, if you know certain temptations or areas you might struggle with, identify the weaknesses so you can take the next step—establish boundaries. Implementing guardrails in your life is incredibly important to a flourishing life.

Don’t ride alone in the car or attend after-work happy hours with that coworker. Refuse to be alone in a space with the person you are dating. Get the app on your phone and computer that blocks porn and nudity. Do what you must, even if it’s hard or inconvenient, to put a guardrail between you and temptation.

Second, hold the boundary. You’d think this would be assumed, but humans are very good at blurring the lines when they want to. I’ve done it. It was by blurring the lines and not holding the boundaries my boyfriend and I had established that led to sex outside of marriage.

Sexual sin is a serious and damaging matter. As someone who has been there and back, it’s not worth it. Don’t sin against yourself in an attempt to fulfill a momentary desire. God will always give you a way out, but you must choose to take it.

(This section is an excerpt from the Crosswalk.com article: "What Does Sexual Immorality Really Mean and How Does the Bible Define It?" by Brittany Rust)

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