Date: April 27, 2014
Study: In His Image: Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Relationships
Teacher: Lawson Hembree
Three Aspects of God’s Purpose for Sex:
- Expression of One-Flesh Union Between Husband and Wife
Two Ways to Uphold God’s Design for Sex:
- Flee Sexual Immorality
- Pursue Sexual Purity
Sexuality is a beautiful gift from God for believers within the context of marriage. True biblical sexuality brings glory to God by displaying the intimate one-flesh union of a husband and wife as a picture of Christ and His church while also bringing pleasure to the couple as they seek to obey the command to be fruitful and multiply. Striving for that ideal in not only the way we act, but also in the way we think and talk is a powerful way to preserve and promote the God-intended purpose for sex.
Christians are often accused of being obsessed with sex. How should we respond to these claims? Instead of getting defensive, we should say that we’re concerned about sexual behavior and norms precisely because of the way they distort God’s design for marriage as a picture of Christ’s exclusive covenant relationship with His Church. We should say that we guard God’s commandments regarding sex because violation of those commandments will produce social chaos. Sexual behavior and sexual norms are a key barometer of social health. We see the devastating effects of sexual immorality in Romans 1. If things are disordered in our bedrooms, they will likely be disordered in boardrooms and political offices.
HISTORY OF SEXUAL ETHICS
Why is a biblical sexual ethic so important? In the Old Testament Levitical code: God separated His people, Israel, from the surrounding nations in a variety of ways—including their sexual ethic (Leviticus 18; 20:24). Marriage itself is a type of separation that involved “leaving” and “clinging” (Genesis 2:24). Through Jesus, God is redeeming the world and part of that redeeming work is the separation of the church from the world. The church is the holy people of God, and as the holy people, the church is called, like Israel, to maintain the boundaries that are constitutive of the new creation. One of the chief boundaries is the difference between Christian and worldly sexual conduct, and sexual expectations and norms. The new creation is church-separated-from-world.
Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity started a cultural revolution: restraining and channeling male drive, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love. Within Christianity, sex takes on a new and different meaning– one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. And ultimately within Christianity, marriage is a picture of the gospel.
Fast forward to today where Western culture has ceased to believe in the Christian framework as the foundation for society. However, with Christianity “out of the way,” Western thought has made it impossible to believe in any other framework that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward the overall good of society. In other words, the role of culture has been inverted. Instead of teaching us what we must deprive ourselves of to be civilized, we have a society that tells us we find meaning and purpose in releasing ourselves from the old prohibitions. As a result, the church is constantly pressured to adapt or abandon its view of biblical sexuality to accommodate the spirit of the age. Insofar as the church has abandoned God’s commandments regarding sex, to that extent she has weakened the call to holiness in the world.
DISTORTIONS OF BIBLICAL SEXUALITY (Romans 1:16-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20)
In Romans 1:18-23, we see that one of the common expressions of this exchange of God’s glory for personal glory is dysfunctional forms of sexual pleasure. With our definition of God’s purpose for sex and this historical background, here are a few prevalent distortions of biblical sexuality (there are many more, but these are the most pressing and relevant for our study):
- Porn/Erotic Novels/Masturbation
- Recreational Sex/Cohabitation
How are we as Christians to respond to those who struggle with distorted sexual desires and sin? The same way that Paul did in Romans 1:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: with the hope of the gospel. John Piper once said, “God’s judgment on sin is not because He is a killjoy, but because He is opposed to what kills joy.”
On a practical level, this leads to a combination of biblical conviction and personal compassion: conviction that perverted sexual behavior is sinful, perverse, and destructive to individuals and culture, combined with a willingness to lay down our lives in love for those struggling with sexual sin. To truly love them, we must believe it is harmful and sinful (1 Corinthians 13:6) and not seek to approve of, tolerate, or rejoice in their sin. This isn’t to imply that they have less dignity or are not made in God’s image by any means. The most loving thing you can tell any sinner is that their sin is wrong, separates them from God, and deserves his just wrath (Romans 1:18; 6:23). Follow that up with sharing the hope of the gospel: despite our sinfulness and willing rejection of his revealed truth (Romans 1:18-23), God sent his only Son to die in our place in order to make atonement for our sin (Romans 5:6-11;Hebrews 2:14-15). Salvation is offered to those that would repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Mark 1:15; Romans 6:1-11, 10:8-10; 2 Peter 1:3-11). True salvation is evidenced by a changed lifestyle: living for the glory of God instead of the glory of man (1 John). However, just because a person becomes a Christian doesn’t mean that their sinful desires will automatically disappear. It means that we now war against the sin in our life (Romans 8:12-14; Colossians 3:1-17).
RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING
Finally Free by Heath Lambert
Sexual Detox by Tim Challies
What is the Meaning of Sex? by Denny Burk
Love Into Light by Peter Hubbard
Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
“Sex After Christianity”on The American Conservative