SEXUAL PURITY MATTERS

 

Week of January 29, 2006

 

Bible Passages:  Genesis 2:18-25; Proverbs 5:15-20; Romans 13:11-14.

 

Biblical Truth:  Living a life of moral purity brings fulfillment to the individual and brings delight to the Lord.

 

God’s Design Meets Human Needs:  Genesis 2:18, 21-25.

 

[18] Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” [21] So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. [22] The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. [23] The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” [24] For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. [25] And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.  [NASU]

 

The New Testament draws much of its teaching on the sexes from these verses [e.g., Eph. 5:31]. The woman is presented wholly as man’s partner and counterpart; nothing is yet said of her as childbearer. She is valued for herself alone. The true partnership between the man and the woman is expounded by the terms that are used: a helper suitable for him (literally a help corresponding to him); by the fruitless search elsewhere, as man discerns the natures of other creatures; and by the fact that Eve is of the very stuff of Adam and yet a wholly new being. The union of the two in marriage is to be an exclusive (a man leaves), permanent (and cleaves), God-sealed bond (one flesh). There is, in God’s true pattern, perfect ease between them [25]. But it is the fruit of perfect love, which has no room for greed, distrust or dishonor.

 

God’s order for mates is nowhere more clearly and simply stated than in Genesis 2:24. To be joined (to cleave) to one’s mate takes in every aspect of the relationship between husband and wife. There is no problem which can arise between mates, the solution for which will not be found in a deeper grasp of what it means to cleave to one another, to become “one flesh” with one’s mate.

 

The word translated “cleave” or “be joined to” is an interesting word. It means “cling, stick to, keep close”. It has the sense of “be glued together” and came to mean “loyalty, devotion”. It is used to describe the Israelites cleaving to the Lord in affection and loyalty [Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20; Joshua 22:5]. Note in these verses the parallel words and phrases that describe this proper attitude to the Lord: fear, serve, love, obey, swear by his name, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments. It has been said that in marriage God designs two people to be glued together. This explains why divorce is so painful since it is a tearing apart of that which has been glued together.

 

Role of Sex. Sex is a creation of the eternal, holy God, who also gave us definite instructions for its right expression in the relationship of marriage. Sexual union in marriage is a wonderful mystery of God. We say that sexual union is a mystery, because no rational explanation can fully account for its powerful and pervasive influence in a marriage, indeed, in life itself. It so merges and unites two human beings that the Bible speaks of them as one flesh, yet no other human act so accentuates one’s own identity and self-awareness at such an elemental level. It is a deep and fundamental giving of oneself. Yet the more successful the relationship, the greater degree of self-pleasure obtained by both partners. It is well to recognize the powerful potential for misuse which lies resident in our sexual appetites. In plain truth, our bodies are easily aroused to lust. This tendency must be guarded against all life long. But this should not cast a shadow upon the sexual relationship between husband and wife. God created man and woman with the capacity for sexual pleasure, and means them to enjoy this in marriage.

 

Mutual Esteem. Mutual esteem, and a correct appreciation of the place which God has assigned to each, are the primary conditions of happiness in marriage. To esteem one’s mate is to see the mate as more than an individual, as one set in a sacred position by God. Esteem is an essential element of love. If it is absent, love ceases to be love; a mere passion remains. Mutual esteem protects a marriage from becoming a victim of the inevitable ups-and-downs which it will encounter. If a husband’s tenderness and care for his wife depends upon the way she looks or the way he may happen to feel on any given day – if the wife’s respect for her husband fluctuates with her moods, or her judgment as to how well he is satisfying her standards and expectations – that marriage is on shaky ground. Love has become the pawn of passing moods and feelings. God means for love in marriage to be built upon a more stable foundation. That foundation is a regard for the position in which the mate has been placed by God.

 

Commitment of Marriage. In a wedding sermon which he wrote to his niece, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” Love is an essential ingredient of marriage. But the marriage does not depend upon love for its continued existence. Rather, your love depends upon marriage for its continued existence. Marriage gives to love a situation of stability and permanence, wherein it can grow toward maturity. Marriage rescues love from the tyranny of strong but immature feelings. It forces a person to live out times of difficulty, and win through to new depths of love and understanding. When we have entered into the covenant of marriage, God commands us to love one another. Love, from God’s point-of-view, is not the basis for marriage, but the issue or outcome of a successful marriage. It is the commitment of each partner to leave, cleave and become one flesh that is the heart of God-designed marriage. And this God-designed marriage then forms the fertile soil from which love can grow and bear much fruit. We help cultivate and develop this love because we set our mind to do so. We train love to be the willing servant of our marriage. This kind of love does not grow in the sandy soil of our immediate feelings. It roots down into the rich subsoil of our mutual commitment to seek God’s best for one’s marriage partner.

 

Marital Boundaries Protect and Satisfy:  Proverbs 5:15-20.

 

[15] Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. [16] Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? [17] Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. [18] Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. [19] As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love. [20] For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress and embrace the bosom of a foreigner?  [NASU]

 

Verse 15 obviously means that a man should have sexual relations only with his wife, but the metaphors of verse 16 and the injunction of verse 17 are more difficult. If the cistern and well are the wife, what are the springs and streams of verse 16 and what is meant by not for strangers with you? The best interpretation is that springs and streams of water refer to the husband’s sexual affections as the cistern refers to the affections of his wife. The man should not take his love and desire to anyone else by going out into the street. The analogy implies that husband and wife fill and refresh each other, the one like a flowing stream and the other like a peaceful well. Sexual anarchy results when people cross over the bounds of fidelity. Verse 17 means that a man should never be willing to share a woman with another man. This naturally excludes visiting prostitutes and immoral women, since they belong to many men. The passage emphasizes the sexual pleasure of marriage. The command to rejoice in the wife of your youth implies negatively that a man should never have sexual relations with another woman and positively that marriage should include sexual joy and fulfillment. Verse 19 brings out both the tender affection and the exuberant pleasure of love. She is a loving doe, and he will be drunken with satisfaction in the pleasure she gives. Verse 20 is linked to verse 19. The man should not be exhilarated from the affection of another woman, nor should he embrace her bosom.

 

God Calls Believers to Live Pure Lives:  Romans 13:11-14.

 

[11] Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. [12] The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [13] Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. [14] But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  [NASU]

 

Why should we obey? Paul’s purpose in this last paragraph of chapter 13 seems to be to lay an eschatological foundation for Christian conduct. He has already told us not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world. Now he urges us to remember what the time is, and then to live appropriately.

 

11-12a  The Bible divides history into ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’, and the New Testament authors are clear that the age to come or the kingdom of God was inaugurated by Jesus. So at present the two ages overlap. We are waiting expectantly for the parousia, when the old age will finally disappear, the period of overlap will end, and the new age of God’s kingdom will be consummated. Paul makes three time references, which assume this background understanding. First, it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep [11b]. Secondly, this is because salvation is nearer to us than when we believed [11c]. Salvation is a comprehensive term embracing our past (justification), present (sanctification) and future (glorification). In this verse clearly our future and final salvation is in mind, what Paul has earlier depicted in terms of the freedom of glory, our final adoption as God’s children, and the redemption of our bodies [8.21-23]. Thirdly, the night is almost gone, and the day is near [12a]. The night represents the old age of darkness while the day is when Christ returns. How could Paul have said that the day of Christ was at hand? Near, or at hand, does not mean that it is imminent in the sense of time. It is the nearness of prophetic perspective and not that of our chronological calculations. In the unfolding of God’s redemptive purpose the next great epochal event, correlative with the death of Christ, his resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is Jesus’ advent in glory. This is the event that looms on the horizon of faith. We must therefore be watchful and alert, because we do not know the exact time of his return. Here, then, are the apostle’s three time references. The time is already here for us to wake up [11a]; now our salvation is nearer than it was [11b] and the night has nearly given place to the day [12a]. It is the familiar tension between the now already of Christ’s first coming and the not yet of his second.

 

12b-14 The therefore in the middle of verse 12 marks the transition from Paul’s statements about the time to his corresponding exhortations. Paul issues three appeals. The first two are couched in the first person plural, so that he includes himself, while the third changes to the second person plural and is his direct summons to his readers. All three are double sentences, the negative and positive aspects of the appeal forming a radical antithesis.

 

(1) The first continues the metaphor of night and day, darkness and light. It concerns our clothing, and what (in the light of the time) it is appropriate for us to wear [12b]. The picture is that, because of the hour, we must not only wake up and get up, but get dressed as well. We must take off our night clothes, the deeds of darkness, and put on instead, as suitable daytime equipment for the soldiers of Christ, the armor of light. For the Christian’s life is not a sleep, but a battle. What Paul is pressing home here is the incompatibility of moral and religious slumbers with the position which believers now occupy in the great drama of redemption. The day of Christ, though not yet come, is nevertheless throwing its light backward upon the present. In that light believers must now live. It is high time to awake to the realization of this fact, to be aroused form spiritual torpor, to throw off the garments of slumber, and to put on the weapons that befit the tasks of such a season in redemptive history.

 

(2) From appropriate clothing Paul proceeds to appropriate behavior. Positively, let us behave properly as in the day, that is, as if the day had already dawned, and turn from the kind of things people do under cover of darkness: not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy [13]. Opposed to decent Christian behavior is lack of self-control in the areas of drink, sex and social relationships.

 

(3) Paul’s third and concluding antithesis might be said to concern our preoccupation, what it is which engrosses our attention as Christian people. The alternative set before us is either the Lord Jesus Christ or our fallen self-centered nature: put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts [14]. The positive exhortation in verse 14 points up the contrast which the lordship of Christ creates and demands. To put on Christ is to be identified with him not only in his death but also in his resurrection. It is to be united to him in the likeness of his resurrection life. In contrast to the beautiful and protective clothing which is Christ, Paul refers to our ugly, self-centered nature. Our instruction is not only not to gratify its desires, but not to think about how to do so, not to make any provision for them, rather to be ruthless in repudiating them and putting them to death [8:13]. There is no greater incentive to the doing of these duties than a lively expectation of the Lord’s return. Our calling is to live in the light of it, to behave in the continuing night as if the day had dawned, to enjoy the now already of the inaugurated kingdom in the certain knowledge that what is still not yet, namely the consummated kingdom, will soon arrive.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.     Note in Genesis 2:24, God’s instruction for marriage: it involves a leaving, a cleaving and a becoming one flesh. What does it mean to leave? To cleave? To become one flesh? Why is the order important? For example, how does only a partial leaving affect the quality of the cleaving in a marriage? And how does an inconsistent cleaving affect becoming one flesh? Note how the world tends to not only reverse the order but to corrupt each stage of the process.

 

2.     In one sense, we were saved when we were justified by faith in Jesus Christ. However, in what sense has our salvation not yet come, but will come soon [13:11]? See also Romans 5:19-20; 8:23; Philippians 3:20-21; and Hebrews 9:28.

 

3.     Because of our approaching salvation, Paul tells us to do several things. Explain how you can apply each of the following phrases to your current life situation: awaken from sleep [11]; lay aside the deeds of darkness; put on the armor of light [12]; behave properly as in the day [13]; put on the Lord Jesus Christ; and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts [14].

 

References:

Genesis, Derek Kidner, Inter-Varsity Press.

The Christian Family, Larry Christenson, Bethany Fellowship.

Proverbs, Charles Bridges, Crossway Books.

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Duane Garrett, NAC, Broadman.

The Epistle to the Romans, John Murray, Eerdmans.

Romans, John Stott, Inter Varsity.