When last we met on this topic, we began to turn to what the Bible has to say on the topic. As I mentioned earlier, we hear that the Bible says that sex outside of marriage is a wrong. Paul is clear that extramarital sex is a sin. Really? Where? If he’s so clear, why is there such confusion? Rarely have we been shown where it says this or explained why. Now we turn to examine a few other Scriptures and try to peel back the idea of why this is a concern at all.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” –Hebrews 13:4

My question is ‘‘why?’ Why does God place such an emphasis on sexual purity? What is it about sexual immorality above many sins that God keeps singling it out to caution us about? How seriously is the marriage bed to be treated? We aren’t to even joke about it (Ephesians 5:5, talk about sins that strike close to home). I think one reason is because how we view and treat sex is one way that separates us from being “of the world.” There is a sacredness to sex that is difficult to understand. Sadly, the idea of the sacredness, the holiness, how it is to be set apart has been used to justify a whole slough of bad ideas. So I want to concentrate on our two basic questions: how does this form us and into what does it form us? We want to reduce sex to the act, to the mere stirrings of biology no different that eating. As if it is simply about sating a physiological drive. However, how we choose to view sex is what sets us apart from animals.

Gary L. Thomas talks about how the ancient Jews viewed sex. The Holy Letter (written by Nahmanides in the thirteenth century) sees sex as a mystical experience of meeting with God: “Through the act [of intercourse] they become partners with God in the act of creation. This is the mystery of what the sages said, ‘When a man unites with his wife in holiness, the Shekinah is between them in the mystery of man and woman.'” The breadth of this statement is sobering when you consider that this shekinah glory is the same presence Moses experienced when God met with him face-to-face (Exodus 24:15-18).

To use our sexuality as a spiritual discipline—to integrate our faith and flesh, so to speak—it’s imperative that we understand this: God made flesh, and with it, some amazing sensations … Within the context of covenant love and mutual service, intimacy should be exhilarating.”

So maybe it’s less about what body parts are going where and when, and more about how we esteem marriage and the covenant of sex between husband and wife.

There are two passages in particular that I wanted to examine that discusses sexual immorality. The first is I Corinthians 5-6. Sexual immorality, in this case the act of incest, is condemned as is the church’s attitude of indifference and arrogance. The purity demanded is symbolized as removing the leaven in the Passover celebration. In verse 5:3, Paul passes judgment on the sin. The church has to guard its own membership, not try to Christianize unbelievers by forcing biblical standards on them.

In 6:9-10, Paul gives another list that is headed up by sexual immorality to show how unchristian and sinful their actions were toward one another. Verse 6:12 begins a look at Christian liberties taken too far (almost begging the question ‘‘how far is too far?”). The Corinthians reasoned that physical activities had no impact on one’s inner or spiritual life. Using the example that we have an appetite and a stomach so we indulge in eating, therefore if we have desire and the parts we should indulge in sex. Both, after all, are natural processes. Paul denies this. The conclusion to Paul’s rebuttal of this is that the body is not meant for sexual license, but for the Lord. Sexual relations is more than just a physical act, it unites two people together, analogous to Christians having been joined in union with the Lord (united spiritually). Anything other than the divinely established marriage union is a perversion. A simple three-pronged argument is put forth in verses 19-20: 1) my body is the temple of God; 2) I have received the Spirit from God to help me against sin; 3) I have no right to pervert and misuse my body because I have been purchased at a price; therefore I am to glorify God in my body.

The second passage is I Thessalonians 4:1-8. Christian holiness requires total abstinence from porneia. The Thessalonians were congratulated on their faith in 1:3, but this did not mean that there was no occasional misbehavior in the church, which is kind of how I see my walk. Holiness requires me to learn to control my own body (v. 4). A wholesome marriage is Paul’s antidote for sexual immorality, but that doesn’t negate our necessity to learn chastity as a discipline. Believers are obligated to a higher standard, not to give in to passionate, wanton lust.

I had a couple of questions which kept nagging me. Firstly, I Corinthians 6:18 says “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” So I was left with the question ‘‘is sexual immorality a special type/brand/category of sin?’ Frankly, while “sin is sin,” I could see how it could be. Few sins so captivate and enslave a person as sexual immorality. It is interesting that the passage that begins the discussion of sexual immorality (v. 12), ends with ‘‘but I will not be mastered by anything.’ There is a mystery to sex. A transcendence, if you will, so that it is greater than the bringing together of the parts. An intimacy is created, indicating more than merely parts interacting. All of this can only be correctly expressed in marriage, because few other sins can be used so destructively when engaged in outside of their intentions.

Secondly, what exactly is condemned? I mean, is it the one time sinful act (and in a general sense, you can insert any sin), this sin as a recurring trouble area (what do you say to a person who is struggling with this, but is trying to overcome it), or this sin characterizing their lifestyle (a person indulging their sin)? What is condemned is both the individual act and the lifestyle that can come from it. After reading Romans 1:18-26 (the context for 1:24), I realized, from verse 19, that we all in the same “sin” boat, we all have issues that we struggle with. However, the fact that we struggle with a sin isn’t the end of the story. It’s the fact that we get back up after we stumble that defines us.

I know, I know. Some of you are ready to revoke my postmodern card. I’m not deconstructing the sexual mores presented through our archaic takes on theology. I’m perpetuating a Puritanical mindset, forcing it on a new age that has a new paradigm. We forget that such a high view of sex has always gone against the social mores of the age, lest we forget how pure and chaste the Roman culture was at the time that Paul wrote these words. The teachings chafe. Why listen to the words of men written nearly 2000 years ago? Coming at the Bible looking for loopholes means that we’re coming to this topic already with the wrong heart attitude. By my quick survey of the texts, it’s almost as if Paul is recalling a better time, addressing how we were created to be, the ideal of how sexuality was intended to be. He remembers how the Bible celebrates sex in the Song of Songs and how God created an
d instituted it, and called it good.

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