All of God's creatures are designed with exquisite perfection! There are no flaws. Everything works perfectly. "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).
However, only we humans were blessed to be made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). The human body and mind, including the human spirit, are incredibly awesome. "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).
The second thing God said about humans was that they would have dominion "over all the earth" (Genesis 1:26). In other words, everything else on earth was made for our use and enjoyment!
Significantly, the third mentioned feature of humans is their sexuality—their maleness and femaleness (Genesis 1:27). The world is a much better and more interesting place with two complementary sexes. "Vive le difference!"
"And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him'" (Genesis 2:18). God was primarily referring to His plan for marriage—the union of one man to one woman.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Thus God intended for them to form a separate household with their primary loyalty to each other.
"One flesh" means a powerful and permanent partnership that would draw them into ever-closer intimacy physically, mentally and spiritually. God clearly meant for it to include regular sexual relations to foster that intimacy (1 Corinthians 6:16-20; 7:2-4). That is good sex, even godly sex—God's precious gift to be shared exclusively by husbands and wives.
What Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:20 about "glorify God in your body and in your spirit" has many applications. However, the context shows Paul was specifically referring to glorifying God by abstaining from sex before marriage and then enjoying it to the full within marriage.
God instituted marriage, but let's also remember that a desire to marry should be much less important than to "seek first the kingdom of God " (Matthew 6:33). The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 even explains some strong advantages in remaining single.
When God ordained marriage, His plan was for most married couples to have children—to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). God is in the awesome process of greatly expanding His family! And children are a great blessing (Psalm 127 and 128).
Especially precious in God's sight are "godly offspring"—children who are "holy" because their parents are holy (Malachi 2:15; 1 Corinthians 7:14).
Any sexual relations or activities outside of marriage are bad. They are sinful and evil as they break God's laws; adulterate or pollute the sanctity of marriage; do much harm physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; and blaspheme the profound portrayal of the marriage of Jesus Christ with the Church (1 Corinthians 6:9-18; Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7-9).
Those who want to discredit the Bible accuse God of being repressive, ascetic, antipleasure and antisex. This couldn't be further from the truth! God is the One who designed us, made us sexual and instructed married couples to "become one flesh"! The Song of Solomon describes ideal married love, which is sensual and sacred, passionate and pure.
Just think, God carefully designed every detail of our bodies and minds, including our sexual organs, hormones, etc. The sexual organs of animals are designed only for reproduction, whereas those of humans are intended also for pleasure—even when conception is not possible. Our unique biology and anatomy demonstrate God's wonderful love for us.
Physical bodies are not the least bit evil, and sex in marriage should not seem shameful. When the Bible speaks of "sins of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11), the word translated "flesh" does not mean the human body—it means sinful human nature (compare the New International Version translation).
Proverbs 5:18-19 illustrates the purity, beauty and sensuality of marital love: "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured [captivated, exhilarated, intoxicated] with her love."
But notice the strong warning before and after this scripture to only "drink water from your own cistern"—get sexual satisfaction only from your spouse (verse 15 and the rest of chapter 5).
We also see the contrast between godly sex and immoral sex in Hebrews 13:4: "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." The Greek word translated "bed" is coitus —which is now also an English word meaning sexual intercourse.
God's Laws Are Good for Us
"God is love" (1 John 4:8). Out of love for us, He gave us His perfect laws—to keep us from harm and to bring us maximum blessings.
All types of sexual sins are prohibited by the Seventh Commandment: "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). To protect the blessedness of marriage, the Bible specifically warns against extramarital sex (adultery), premarital sex (fornication), homosexuality, incest, bestiality, prostitution, sexual worship, gender confusion (cross-dressing) and sex during a woman's period.
The Tenth Commandment is closely related to the Seventh. "You shall not covet [lust for] your neighbor's wife... or anything that is your neighbor's" (Deuteronomy 5:21). This shows that obeying God with our minds and hearts is as important as obeying God with our actions.
This is partly because thoughts lead to actions—sinful thoughts lead to sinful actions. When one allows lust in his mind, he is tempted to take further steps to pursue that lust.
But that is not the only reason. God looks on the heart and He wants us to have a heart like His (1 Samuel 16:7; Deuteronomy 5:29). He wants us to wage spiritual warfare against wrong thoughts to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). God says one purpose of the New Covenant is to "put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts" (Hebrews 8:10).
Jesus Christ made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 through 7) that we must obey God in the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law.
He said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).
Think carefully about this. This is a "hard saying," especially for us men, but Jesus meant what He said—literally. Just because practically "everyone is doing it" is no excuse. The immodest dress and actions of people in this highly sexualized society makes it tough, but that is no excuse either. Jesus was dead serious. In fact, it is a matter of life and death, because the penalty of sin is death in the lake of fire.
This means more than the technical wording. It of course means that when a woman lusts for a man, she is committing adultery as well. The Bible often states the most common example to represent the general principle.
It also means that all mental lusting is sin, even when not looking at a woman. At least in Western society, there is more lusting over pictures, images on a screen, and/or fantasies and imaginations than while looking directly at women. This has been Satan's world for thousands of years, but now modern technology makes many more opportunities for sin. For example, the vilest pornography can easily be brought into one's home via the Internet.
Jesus went on to say more. In His next two shocking statements, He is referring back to what He just said about not committing adultery in your heart. "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [Greek, gehenna ]" (verse 29).
Then Jesus practically repeated Himself, using a slightly different example, to put maximum emphasis on this principle. "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and cast it from you" (verse 30).
It should be obvious that eyes and hands are not the causes of sin. Jesus meant that we should do whatever it takes, no matter how drastic, no matter how great the sacrifice, to keep from sinning. We should get away from temptations or get the temptations away from us as quickly as possible. It is foolish and dangerous for one to stay near a temptation trusting in his own fragile strength to resist it because "the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).
God makes it absolutely clear that He expects His people to flee from temptations. "Flee sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:18). "O man of God, flee these things [love of money and other temptations]" (1 Timothy 6:11). "Flee also youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22).
This includes not "hanging out" with people who are of weak character and are potentially bad influences. The Bible frequently warns about this danger. See Proverbs 2:16; 4:14-19; 5:1-23; 6:23-35; 7:1-27; 9:13-18; 13:20; 14:7; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 15:33; 1 Peter 4:4; and Revelation 2:14, 20.
Proverbs is a book of wisdom, and notice that the first several chapters are largely devoted to warning people to stay away from those who are provocative and seductive.
Likewise, we must do our best to never be a bad influence, to never be a "stumbling block" to someone, to never cause "one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin... woe to that man [or woman] by whom the offence comes" (1 Corinthians 8:9; Matthew 18:6-7).
Those who are called by God to become part of His Church should have the highest standards for choosing companions (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). We should only consider marriage with someone with whom we are highly compatible. "Can two walk together unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
And God's Word makes it clear that if one is called to be in God's Church ("in the Lord"), he or she can only choose to marry someone "in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39).
The things God created with the greatest power and potential for good also have the greatest potential for evil. One of those is our sexuality. An extremely important part of our character is how we rule over our sexuality.
Immoral sex has always been one of the greatest temptations down through history, even for members of God's Church and their children. Practically every book in the New Testament warns about the great danger of sexual temptation! Speaking of children, parents—please teach and prepare your children well!
Remaining morally pure means much more than just not "going all the way." When one correctly thinks of sexual intercourse as being the whole process of initial intimacy and arousal all the way through to the climax and after-play, it becomes clear that engaging in any part of it outside marriage is contrary to God's will.
Much of what has been called necking, petting, making out, fooling around, etc., was meant by God to be the intimacy, stimulation, wooing and foreplay that would be special and sacred for a husband and wife because they had never been shared with anyone else.
You can read in Ezekiel 23 about how God is dismayed and disgusted with the immorality of His people, characterized by women whose "breasts were fondled and their virgin bosoms caressed" (verse 3, NIV).
If you are single, please protect until marriage what is of incredible value—your virginity. "Virgin" is a beautiful word. We speak of virgin forests, virgin land and virgin wool. It means unused, unspoiled, uncut, unplowed, uncorrupted, innocent or spotless. "Don't excite love, don't stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you're ready [you are married]" (Song of Solomon 2:7, MSG).
If a person has already lost his or her virginity before marriage, the person should dedicate himself or herself to a life of what has been called "secondary virginity." That means one deeply repents, is forgiven by God, abstains from sex from then until marriage and prays for God to "create in me a clean heart, O God!" (Psalm 51:10). God will mercifully respond with gradual healing and cleansing of the mind and heart.
The Church is to be a "chaste virgin to Christ" awaiting His coming and "the marriage of the Lamb" to His Bride (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7).
May we be deeply inspired to follow that pattern of loyalty, patience and purity. Then when one relies on God to be his or her Matchmaker and ultimately gets married, he or she can experience the full joy of God's blessings without any shame or mental and emotional scars. Such a person can truly say, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine" (Song of Solomon 6:3).
In the next issue, a second article is planned that will primarily be for men and teenage boys. In the following issue, an article is planned that will primarily be for women and teenage girls.
Be sure to read our wonderful new booklet, Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension, for more on all the points in this article!