Teaching series from Hebrews

Christian Distinctives #3: Human Sexuality

Hebrews 13:4

Teaching t05009


Reiterate theme (expose by positive contrast the emptiness of life apart from God) and remind of first two distinctives.  Now for the third.

Read vs 4.  It's not too difficult to interpret this verse.  Marriage is to be held in honor by our sexual ethics.  Sexual expression is to be reserved for within marriage.  All sex outside of marriage (porneia is general for all illicit sex or all single sex); moichos refers to a married person having sex with anyone besides their spouse) is condemned by God as wrong.

This is the ethical position of biblical revelation--the teaching about the role of sexual expression revealed to us by God throughout the Bible.

Of course, this was the accepted view in western civilization and America until very recently.  Prior to the 1960's, this ethic was not necessarily practiced by many Americans, but it was affirmed as morally correct by the vast majority.  This fact is important because a moral consensus does affect behavior (EXAMPLE: rate of theft when seen as immoral vs. when seen as OK).

Today, however, we live in a truly secularized culture.  Since the 1960's, America has rejected a sexual ethic derived from biblical revelation and has instead tried to derive it from observation.  This has been done in two ways:

Since humans are now viewed as animals instead of as spiritual beings made in God's image, we have observed the animal realm to derive our sex ethic.  Obviously, if we take our cue from animals, they teach us that sex is:

INSTINCTUAL: a powerful physical drive which is ethically self-validating; sexual self-control is not a virtue (GEORGE MICHAEL: "I want your sex, I want your body!"  ALDOUS HUXLEY: "[Chastity is] the most unnatural of the sexual perversions." )

SELF-GRATIFYING: this is its main purpose, even at the other person's expense (EURYTHMICS: "Some of them want to use you; some of them want to be used by you")

IMPERSONAL: not integrally related to a relationship with the other person; in fact, it may be more satisfying outside a relational context (TURNER: What's love got to do with it?  What's love, but a second-hand emotion?")

People like Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, and Hite began to observe statistical norms for a sex ethic.  Even though their studies have been seriously flawed on some subjects (KINSEY ON HOMOSEXUALITY INCIDENCE), the real issue is a radical shift away from morality derived from what we ought to do as revealed by God to morality derived from what we actually do do as compiled from surveys. 

The result is the well-known sexual revolution, which means the progressive erosion of any genuine sexual ethic.  As Francis Schaeffer has pointed out, you can never derive an "ought" from an "is."  We are living in a "brave new world" and the results are truly revolutionary.  (Patterson & Kim: "In terms of the idealized couple of the past--virgins joined in holy matrimony, faithful till death do them part--we found nothing but a shadow on the wall."   >> SELECTED STATS)

Tragically, the available evidence suggests that the Christian community in America has conformed to this to such an extent that there is virtually no distinctiveness!!!!

>> There are a host of issues surrounding this subject which I cannot deal with because of time constraints (divorce; homosexuality; censorship; effects of sexual abuse).  I have two goals for this teaching: to persuade you that the biblical sex ethic is true, and to provide you with practical help to follow it.  To do this, we will study a passage which elaborates God's view, and which is addressed to Christians living in a secularized culture like our own >> 1Cor.6:12-20.

God's Design For Human Sexuality (1Cor.6:12,13)

>> Evidently, Paul had given them two maxims which distilled his teaching on certain theological issues.  The Corinthians were misusing these maxims by applying them wrongly.

Paul reaffirms that "all things are lawful" with regard to God's acceptance of the Christian.  But this does not mean that all things are profitable or that nothing is enslaving.  If we want lives that are both profitable and liberating, we need God's acceptance and we need to understand and commit ourselves to God's moral will for our lives.

Paul reaffirms that "food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food."  He denied that certain foods were spiritually defiling.  By God's design, all digestible foods are permitted to Christians.  "So when you're hungry, eat!  What kind of food?  Whatever kind you like!"

The problem is that they were applying this same maxim to sexuality.  "So when you're "hungry" for sex, have sex--with whom and whenever you like!"  Some were evidently using this to justify having sex with the temple "priestesses" of Aphrodite (vs 15b).  You don't have to be an astute cultural observer to realize this is identical to the modern view cited above.

But Paul says this maxim does not apply to sexual expression: "the body is not for immorality."  Instead, he says "The body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body."  This maxim summarizes two foundational truths about God's revealed design for sex (refer to Gen.2):

Sex and sexual pleasure are essentially good.  Since God is good, all that he creates is essentially good.  Since God created us with the capacity to perform and enjoy sex, sex and sexual pleasure are essentially good.

Sex is to be expressed within the context of permanent, heterosexual monogamy.  God designed sex to be the unique expression of a unique union between a man and a woman.  Because this is its intended purpose, all expression of it outside this context results in injury rather than wholeness.

Don't distort the biblical position!  If I tell you not to pour diesel fuel into your gasoline engine, am I down on diesel fuel??  No!  I am telling you something about the design of your engine, and I am telling you this because I care about you and because I want your good--not because I want to rain on your parade!

Sexual Immorality Is Destructive (1Cor.6:15-18)

>> In Heb.13:4, we were told that God will judge fornicators and adulterers.  This does not mean that God will condemn and damn Christians who engage in sexual immorality (FWC).  It means that because God has designed us to express our sexuality according to his design, when we violate his design we will experience destructive consequences.  ("We cannot truly break God's law; we break ourselves upon his law.")  In these verses, Paul delineates three destructive results you experience God's judgment when you engage in sexual immorality.

It creates profound dissonance in your relationship with God (vs 15,19).  Even many non-Christians experience pangs of conscious when they commit sexual sin because they have a conscience which reflects God's moral verdicts (though imperfectly & subject to searing).  On rare occasions, people have admitted to me that the real reason they aren't interested in a relationship with Christ is because they know that will mean a change in their sexual behavior.

But for Christians, who have a personal relationship with God, this is a big issue.  Paul says because you are united with Christ, you involve him in sexual immorality and misrepresent him to others, and you reject his moral leadership.  This will create profound spiritual dissonance in your relationship with him.  This is why you will experience a deeper sense of shame and guilt if you sin sexually as a Christian.  Indeed, this is one sign you are regenerated.  Sexual sin is forgiven by Christ's death like all other sins, but until you agree with God that it is wrong and turn away from it, your relationship with God will be "up on blocks" in a fundamental way.  This is why some of you can't pray, have withdrawn from fellowship with other vital Christians, can't get anything edifying out of God's word, etc.

It forges a wrongful union between you and the other person (vs16).  There is really no such thing as "casual sex."  When you have sex with someone, you have forged a profound union between yourself and that person.  This is why you can never look at them the same way again.  This is why there is so much more pain when a sexual relationship ends.  This is why sex is better for those who marry as virgins and stay faithful to their spouses (ME).

"It damages you in ways no other sin can (vs18b).  Quote Prov.5:18-22; 6:27-33.  The primary application here is not S.T.D., even though they are spread primarily by sexual immorality.  Paul and Solomon are describing something more.  The guilt and anguish over exploiting another and/or betraying another person.  The guilt and anguish of allowing yourself to be exploited.  The profound gender/identity confusion of homosexual acts.  The enslaving need for more sex and different kinds of sex ("PRECOCIOUS" STAT).  The insecurity and impaired ability to entrust and commit yourself to another person (COHABITATION STATS & IRONY).

>> Don't you believe the hype!!  Those who promote the secular sex ethic as liberating are "promising you freedom while they themselves are slaves to corruption!" (2Pet.3:19)

God's Solution For Us

>> "I have already blown it so badly in this area that there is no hope for me!"  On the contrary, there is tremendous hope for you!  If you will cooperate with God's will for your life in this area, you can experience the security of his love and forgiveness, and you can see progressive, substantial healing in your sexual life.

Appropriate his forgiveness and new identity (vs11).  No matter how badly you have blown it in this area of your life, God can forgive you of all your sexual sins.  No matter how much you may view yourself as a "slut," God is able to view you as his precious child.  (GOSPEL >> CHRISTIANS)

Pursue sexual purity as a spiritual priority (vs18,20). It is not possible to have a sexually immoral way of life and be a spiritual person.  Every child of God should be committed to sexual purity as a way of life because it is God's will, because it is good for us, and because it demonstrates his distinctiveness to others. 

Read vs 18a.  "Flee" is not a passive verb; it means "run away from."  View sexual self-control as a high virtue (1Thes.4:4).  Respect the power of sexual temptation and take practical steps to stay free from sexual sin.

If you're involved in sexual immorality, get out of it--even if it costs you a relationship.

If you've betrayed your spouse, confess it and ask forgiveness (WHY).

Stay away from tempting situations (FLIRTING; MEAT MARKET BARS; CAMPING, VACATIONING ALONE).

Practice self-control in your thought-life (FANTASIES; PORN).

Critically discern the messages from the media on this subject.

>> Don't be intimidated by our culture into being embarrassed of sexual purity.  This is one of the most precious distinctives of the Christian life!!  Make this a high priority in your parenting (SUGGEST BOOKS).  Be willing to warn and admonish fellow Christians who are blowing it in this area.

Cited in James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told The Truth (New York: Prentiss Hall Press, 1991), p.81.

James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told The Truth (New York: Prentiss Hall Press, 1991), p.73.