Last week we left off with an important question. If you are in a committed relationship, one with a mix of the friendship, commitment, and attraction kinds of love, then why do you have to wait until you’re married to have sex? The flippant (though equally valid) answer would be if you are already in that kind of relationship, why AREN’T you married? However, let’s examine this from a Biblical point of view.

It’s not solely a matter of here’s a verse that says don’t have pre/extra-marital sex, so don’t do it. You’d be surprised how often that doesn’t get very far with people. However, again, I’ll address the issue of what the Bible has to say, or not say, on the topic of extra-marital sex from a couple of different tacks.

Time and time again, I’ve been told that the Bible isn’t clear on the whole issue of premarital sex or heard “I’ve been taught that all my life, but I don’t see it for myself”. We’ll ignore the fact that most of Christian tradition has always taught this, but for those clinging to the hypermodernist/ “truth is how I see it for myself” paradigm, let’s see if there is an overarching theme to what the Bible has to say about sex.

We’ll start at the beginning, the book of Genesis to be precise. The story of the perfect creation order, life how it was supposed to be. God performs the first marriage service (Genesis 2:23), then concludes by saying “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). I guess “one flesh” is the closest rendering of “they get to boning.” Continuing and expanding on the idea of what “one flesh” means, we tie it to a New Testament passage”

“There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another.” I Corinthians 6:16-18 (The Message)

The reason this I Corinthians passage is so important is because it sets the context for the verse that brought us here in the first place: “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (I Corinthians 7:9). Why was chapter 7 written? Because there was so much sexual immorality running rampant. You can talk about cultural contexts all you want, but we’re talking about our nature’s. Men didn’t start trying to hump every hole we could in the 60s.

“Porneia” is the word translated as “sexual immorality”. Originally it meant the practice of consorting with prostitutes, but it came to mean habitual immorality. Porneia includes adultery (Matthew 5:32, 19:9), incest (I Corinthians 5), prostitution (I Corinthians 6), the “burning” (I Corinthians 7). It includes pederasty (I Timothy 1:9-10). Porneia, therefore, is the idea of fornication or any kind of extra-marital sexual relations. In its most general sense, it covers all types of sexual sin between male and female. In some passages, usually when Paul is listing various characteristics that we are to excise from our lives, “sexual immorality” is expanded on by words like “impurity” or “lust”. The word that translates as “impurity” has a broader reference since it includes uncleanness in thought, word, and act. “Pathos”, the word for “lust”, essentially means feeling, though in the New Testament it is used to denote uncontrolled desire.

Actually, I may be wasting my breath with some folks. I think most people, Christian or not, they get that the Bible must teach something along the lines of “no sex before marriage.” My thought was that, especially for Christians, if you weren’t seeing it, it was because you were choosing not to see. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor the last, I’ll have encountered someone who “questioned” the idea of the Bible’s teaching on a particular subject. Nine times out of ten, they didn’t really question it, they just wanted to do it. “I’m on a truth journey … to justify what I want to do.” It was frustrative because I usually felt like they were actually going backwards, being fundamentalist, if I have to break down chapter and verse for them. However, I remember talking to Lauren Winner (author of Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity) about how the church isn’t teaching on sex correctly, IF they talk about it at all. Which means there is a lot of work to have to do in this area of our spiritual development.

Sex is also about spiritual formation (What? Sex as spiritual formation? That’s a discipline I can get behind!). It’s about the kind of person you are wanting to be. Fidelity (in marriage) is hard. Chastity (in singleness) is tough. Sex is relational and not about your own gratification. We forget that disciplined and sanctified behavior shape us toward Christlikeness, even as undisciplined, do as we please behavior, train us in habits and behaviors that stick with us even once we’re married. This also offers insight into how to face temptations of all kinds: combat illegitimate desires by substituting legitimate ones.

Sex isn’t cheap and there is a sacred dimension to it. So, yes, as the two of you become more intimately involved, heading towards the fruition of your “burning” for one another, talk about life plans and move toward marriage. While the ceremony is important, it is about the witness of community. Marriage itself isn’t about the ceremony. We forget the word covenant when it comes to describing the ceremony, and that’s what the marriage bed is about. The covenant commitment between two people. Becoming one flesh is the seal of that covenant.

Your problem may be that you want to seal everything you meet. Don’t make me finish my blog called “masturbation theology.”

*For the record, the alternate title of this blog was “I’m Still Horny!”

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