Genesis 1-2, 2 Thessalonians 4:3-6
“What would you like to study?” I asked the college group. It was quiet for a few awkward moments, then an anonymous voice from the back of the room shouted, “Sex. Teach us what the Bible says about sex!” And then there was an outburst of nervous laughter. And everyone looked at me and watched to see if I’d blush.
Actually, a long time ago I’d made up my mind not to be embarrassed to talk about that which God was not embarrassed to create. If He looked on all He made, sex included, and judged, “It’s very good,” then why should I treat it otherwise?
So, I said to the college gathering, “Sex? You want me to talk about sex? Okay! Let’s hear it for sex! If it wasn’t for sex I wouldn’t be here! If it wasn’t for sex you wouldn’t be here! And if it wasn’t for sex we wouldn’t have a meeting tonight. So let’s hear it for sex!” And there was a thunderously enthusiastic applause.
The Bible teaches that the strongest person who ever lived was Samson. And what was his downfall? A relationship with the woman Delilah. The wisest person who ever lived was Solomon. And his downfall? He married foreign wives who turned his heart away from the Lord. The holiest person who ever lived was David. Twice the Bible calls him “a man after God’s own heart.” Yet an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba proved to be his downfall.
Now, if the strongest, wisest and holiest persons who ever lived all struggled with their sexuality, do you think we today who aren’t so strong, holy and wise might be struggling ourselves? And, indeed, we are!
Actually, we are living today at the tail end of what sociologists are calling the sexual revolution. Fifty years ago inventions became widely available that caused young people to remove restraints from their sexual expression. Think through it with me.
Fifty years ago people courted on the front porch or the parlor. And it was really difficult to get too sexually involved since one’s parents might walk in at any time. But along came the automobile with its back seat that provided a kind of mobile hotel room. And it took away the fear of detection.
Another invention was conception control. Before its discovery, women were afraid they’d “get in trouble.” But now they know how to take precautions preventing pregnancy.
And yet a third discovery was penicillin. Epidemics of venereal disease swept our nation again and again crippling and killing until cures were found. So if fear of getting caught or getting pregnant didn’t cause sexual restraint, the fear of a disease would. But now all three fears were allayed by the car, the control of conception, and penicillin. So, what reason was there to wait?
Actually, there was one more fear, fear of God. But gradually that, too, began to wane until by the end of World War II, Americans were ready to play. So, they cast off all restraint and plunged into the sexual revolution with earnestness. “Free love,” it was called. “The age of Aquarius.” Pre-marital sex. Open marriages. No-fault divorce. Office affairs. All of this reached its peak somewhere in the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s as we became a nation of little more than yard dogs led about by our passions, and sex became casual, calloused, something we’d reduced to little more meaning than a well-executed belch.
Today, it is no longer the sexual revolution we talk about, but the sexual wilderness. What God created good to bless us, we treated badly and it has cursed us. Divorce, alimony, child abuse, incest, loneliness, perversion, disease, lust, confusion, homosexuality, rape, pornography, sadism…these are the sexual expressions of our day.
So, it is no wonder one goes on a college campus and asks, “What would you like to study?” Only to find the overwhelming answer is, “Sex! Teach us what the Bible says about sex!”
To study the Biblical view of sex, let’s ask three basic questions.
First of all, why did God create sex? What did He have in mind when He made such a mysterious relationship?
The first book in the Bible, Genesis, teaches that God formed man from the clay. Then He did something odd. He put His lips on Adam’s mouth and blew into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Thus, when Adam first opened his eyes he knew God in lip to lip and face to face intimacy. And, perhaps, as a reminder of our first relationship with God, we still have more nerve endings in our lips than in any other portion of our body.
Next God said, “It is not good that man should live alone. I will make a helper fit for him (Genesis 2:18).” Actually, the Hebrew literally reads, “I will make a helper fit to be before Him.” So it was that God created Eve, the first female. Then He gave the first command in Scripture, a command to be sexual, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…(Genesis 1:28).”
I am not being vulgar, but, rather, highly theological when I point out that the human sexual encounter is one of the only in the animal world that is lip to lip and face to face. With dogs it is front to back. Humans, however, share the creator/creation position of face to face.
Do you see what is going on here? Genesis teaches that history began with a wedding in a garden. Jesus Christ chose to launch his public ministry at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Christ calls Himself the groom. The church is called His bride. And the Bible teaches in Revelation 19 that history will be consummated at the wedding feast of Jesus and His church.
Written large in Scripture is God’s desire for a loving, eternal home-like relationship with people. Why, even one of the New Testament words for “worship” means “to kiss toward God,” to seek His face, to know Him with face to face intimacy.
This is the big picture of Biblical history. And as a kind of smaller picture of the large picture, God has given us married sexual love that, like our relationship with him, is life giving, lasting, face to face, and satisfying.
When one goes into a fine restaurant, they serve the appetizer before the main course. It is the little meal before the big meal. And Christian marriage is just like that. It is the little relationship before the greatest, a sort of “foretaste of glory divine.”
The Bible goes on to say that the Lord created sex for three very important reason. First, sex was made for companionship. “It is not good that man should live alone, I will make a helper fit to be before him.” God said. And married love is the most special and concentrated form of human relationship.
Second, sex was made for joy. Most people who read the Song of Solomon aren’t quite certain what is going on, but they do know that whatever it is they’re having a fine time doing it. Actually, the Song of Songs is, among other things, a poem of married love expressing the joy of sex.
And, third, God created sex for procreation. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” God first commanded. So, sex is how God designed babies to be conceived. Intercourse is, thus, a chance to create with God. It is the most god-like act of which man and woman are capable.
How it Works
Well, that, is something of God’s original purpose for sex. Now, this: How does sex work? What equipment does one have with which to be sexual? Underlying such questions is the query, “What does it mean to be human?”
Genesis 1:26 tells us God said, “Let us make man in our image.” The “us” and “our” in God’s statement is one of the first hints that God is triune. “Let us-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-make man in our image. So if God is triune, and He made us like Himself, then we must share His multi-dimensional nature as well.
And this is exactly what one finds in Genesis 2:7. “God formed man of the dust from the ground” — that’s the physical dimension— “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;”— that’s the spiritual dimension— “and man became a living soul,”— that is the emotion, will and intellect.
In our day, most people only understand sex as something physical and emotional. The intellectual dimensions are ignored. Of the spiritual dimensions we are ignorant. And the notion of sex having a willful dimension is abhorred. So, as far as most of us are concerned, physical and emotional sex is all there is.
Yet such sex is truncated, less than fully human. Like a six cylinder car only hitting on two cylinders, such sex is likewise not hitting on all God created it to be.
So far we have asked two questions of the Bible. What was God’s original purpose for sex? And what is it we bring as a person to the act of sex? Now, a third question: Why does the Bible teach sexual restraint? I mean, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and all about how sex before marriage is sinful— why is God telling us to practice sexual discipline?
Let’s say we walk outside and are confronted with a wild horse that threatens to trample us. We rush back inside and meet to decide what to do. We could simply shoot the horse, or we could simply let him run wild and go back out and take our chances, or we could catch the horse, tame him, and put a saddle and bridle on him.
When the major religions of the world confront the passions of the human heart they divide into three camps. One group says we should kill our sexual desire. Another group says we should allow it to run free. Christianity, however, stands in the center saying, “Don’t you go calling evil and killing what God has given you, and called good. And don’t you go doing anything you want with God’s gift of sexuality. Control yourself. Tame your sexual passions and live happily with it for a lifetime.”
Clearly, then, the Bible teaches that in calling for sexual restraint, God is not keeping you from sex, He is saving you for it. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly,” and, as sex is an important part of life, so Jesus came to enhance our sexual lives, not to detract from it.
Look with me at how practically this is so!
Did I say that one of the things you have to do sex with is the intellect? Have you ever taken time to consider the intellectual dimensions of sex?
Let’s say you’re dating your high school sweetheart and are madly in love. Why should you not have pre-marital sex? You know how not to get caught, pregnant or diseased. And you’ve heard God is forgiving. So, why wait? Not being able to think of good reasons and being pressured by overwhelming passion, you decide to go ahead and indulge in sex.
Statistically, 87% of high school romances break-up. And of college romances nearly 64% end in break-up. I figured it out. I dated 29 women, seven of them seriously, before I married my wife. So, the fact is, if you have premarital sex, the chances are overwhelming that you will not marry your partner. So, let’s say you break up and three or four or five years later meet the right person, fall in love and marry. But though you may never cheat on your spouse, you will never be theirs in a total sense. Why? Because sex is intellectual. And one of the capacities of the intellect is memory.
This means when you get into bed together, so will your memories of former sexual encounters. Flashbacks will say she looked like that. She looks like this. She did it that way. She does it this way. And Satan will sneer, “Which do you like better?”
This, my friend, is precisely what the Bible calls adultery. God created sex to be His gift to a man and woman for their wedding night. He meant it to be life’s most concentrated form of human relationship, an intimate rest-of-one’s-life bonding that is pure emotionally, willfully, intellectually, spiritually and physically.
Not only are there practical intellectual reasons for sexual restraint, there are also solid physical reasons.
If I give you $1,000 and you waste it, there is no real problem. After all, one can always earn some more money. And God has given us the gift of a physical body. And we can waste it on sexual sin, but when it is all spent with disease, bad habits and insensitivity, where can one go to get another one? Our sexuality does not fall out with our baby teeth and give us a second adult chance. The body we are born with is the body we shall live with and die with.
Tragically, one in five Americans has a sexually transmitted disease today. Some forms of venereal disease are incurable and cause infertility, agonizing pain, and even death. Our nation is being scarred by herpes, AIDS and syphilis. But the good news is that a sexually chaste person has little chance of contracting such a disease.
Not only are there strong intellectual and physical reasons for practicing sexual restraint, there are also some good willful reasons.
Ask yourselves, “If my date cannot control his sexual passion, what other passions can he also not control? His temper? His thirst for alcohol? His spending habits?” And if your date is willing to be immoral with you now, what makes you think he’ll suddenly be moral and practice sexual restraint after you’ve married him?
Fact is, a lack of sexual control shows a lack of character, reveals a life to be immature and out of control at large. Do you want to risk being married to such an undisciplined person? Do you want to see that same character reproduced in your children?
I could go on giving you emotional and spiritual reasons for waiting, as well. In fact, I can give you profound reasons why sex is better if you do it God’s way, but enough! You already see what the Bible says makes sense.
The big questions uppermost in most seriously dating couples minds at this point is this: since sex before marriage is wrong and damaging, how far can we go and still be righteous?
Let me point you to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6. “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality, that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passions of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter…” The Greek behind “transgress and wrong” here means to defraud, to short-change, it means it is sinful to stir up a passion in your date it would be a sin to fulfill.
“How far is too far?” I tell people they should make it their goal to so date another that they help them to grow spiritually, physically, emotionally, willfully and intellectually. They should so date that if and when they break-up they do not leave the other person an emotional cripple suffering intellectual flashbacks.
With this in mind, I offer a few solid and practical guidelines that if kept unviolated will keep you. The youth in my church laughingly call these five guidelines, “Stephen’s Rules.” I hear them say to one another teasingly as they go about socializing, “Remember Stephen’s Rules!”
Here they are: (1) “Keep both feet on the floor and sit up. (2) Don’t take anything off. (3) Allow nothing below the neck. (4) Stay out of too private places— back seats of automobiles, hotel rooms, your house when your parents aren’t there, his or her apartment. (5) Put a time limit on your physical expression. Five minutes maximum or less.
Such principles will keep sex from playing too big a role in your dating relationship. It will give you time and energy to get to know the other person spiritually, mentally, vocationally, willfully. You’ll find out if you can talk, play, argue, and grow together. You won’t end up crippled, used, and regretful like the young woman who confessed, “My boyfriend and I broke up. After three years I realized I never really knew him. I guess we used sex as an excuse for really getting to know each other.”
I’m not going to tell you that pre-marital sex isn’t wonderful and that it doesn’t have some strongly arguable merits. You can do that better than me. Even the Bible says, “There’s pleasure in sin for a season.” But I am going to tell you it is a sin, it is damaging, and less than God wants for you.
When springtime comes, apple trees put out their blossoms. And who could resist gathering a bouquet to enjoy in the home? But if the gardener catches you he’ll gruffly tell you to stop. Why? Because it is from the blossoms that the ripened fruit grows. And if you take the apples on the bloom you’ll never know its ripened fruit.
And it is the same with sex. Take it out of season and you’ll never know the life-long wedded bliss of once and for all time married love.
About now, many young people look at me in horror and say, “This is fantastic! The Bible is so helpful and clear. But it’s too late for me. You should have been here two years ago. Because I’ve already blown it.”
Listen, God knows all about you. He know what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, and the good news is that He still loves you. And He is far more eager to forgive you than He is to judge you.
And hear this: In Jesus Christ God can meet you right where you are in life and still bring a blessing out of it. When Israel lay wasted by sin, God promised through the prophet Joel, “I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).” And He can restore you as well.
Though you may never be able to go back and reclaim your virginity, you can commit yourself to secondary virginity. That means God can forgive you, begin to break bad habits and heal your memories, and you can commit 100% of what you have left physically, spiritually, emotionally, willfully and intellectually to doing sex the Lord’s way. And in the end, should God choose marriage for you, then sex will not be a bed for the night but a home for the years.
Lord, How I need your mercy in my life. I ask you, Jesus, to forgive me, cleanse me, and give me strength to walk in your light. Amen.