What is Chastity? The 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.

Christianity.com Editorial Staff
chastity, chastity meaning

So what is chastity? How do we live a chaste life? Discover the biblical application of chastity and its relevance today.

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality" ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." ~ Colossians 3:5

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

Note that chastity can relate to either sexual interactions or conduct, behavior, and intention generally. Synonyms of being chaste include purity, modesty, and virtue.

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.

Importance of Being Chaste

First, if you know there are certain temptations or areas you might struggle with, identify the weaknesses so that 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 need to do, 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 is an excerpt from the Crosswalk.com article: "What Does Sexual Immorality Really Mean and How Does the Bible Define It?"

What does Scripture say about Chastity?

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

GotQuestions.org gives an excellent synopsis of the biblical teaching on chastity:

"The Bible’s teaching on sexual chastity is clear. Any sexual activity outside a one-man-one-woman covenant marriage is sin (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 12:21). But chastity is more than white-knuckled abstention from sex; chastity begins in the heart. It is from the heart that all evil comes (Matthew 15:18-19). Jesus taught that even private sexual lust is unchaste and sinful (Matthew 5:28). Pornography, immodest clothing, and heavy make-out sessions between dating couples all violate the Bible’s principle of chastity. Chaste people must set personal boundaries so that their hearts are not led into temptation (Romans 13:14).

Living lives of chastity can be difficult for everyone, but single men and women struggle with it most. However, they may find chastity easier when they limit their exposure to sexually exploitive images and situations. Married people practice chastity by remaining faithful to their spouses and honoring the Lord with their bodies and minds (1 Corinthians 7:2-5). Christians who battle same-sex attraction remain celibate, trusting that the Lover of their souls will satisfy even their deepest longings. Personal times of worship, prayer, and meditation on Scripture help keep our minds chaste as we work to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)."

"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

Principles for Marriage: 1 Corinthians 7:1-16

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?

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

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Originally published August 31, 2020.