Most people in our culture don’t have the slightest clue how to answer this question. In fact, most people in our culture aren’t even asking this question, ever. Sexuality is so much a part of our culture that waiting until you are married to have sex isn’t even considered a viable concept. It just doesn’t make sense to most people. You can see this in the public mocking of Tim Tebow. (I only give this google search as an example. I haven’t screened any of the links.) See another example here.
But the Bible paints a different picture.
An Unexpected Choice
Last week in our series called A Redemption Story we saw Ruth get herself cleaned and perfumed up, sneak down to where Boaz was sleeping, in the middle of the night, pull his robe up enough to uncover his feet (and maybe even his lower legs), and lie down. It was a plan suggested to her as a way to help her find a husband (Ruth 3.1-7).
Many relationships either start with a sexual experience or haven’t been running long before sex becomes part of it. But something unexpected happens in this story.
Nothing seems all that out of the ordinary if we see this through contemporary cultural lenses. Many relationships either start with a sexual experience or haven’t been running long before sex becomes part of it. But something unexpected happens in this story…
Ruth and Boaz do not sleep together (Ruth 3.8-15). We see that Boaz doesn’t misinterpret Ruth’s intentions because he knows better. He knows her character. And Boaz doesn’t take advantage of the situation to force his own desires on Ruth because of his own character. They make a choice not to sleep together based on principles that God himself lays out for us in Scripture.
A Sermon Omission
As I was preparing to teach this passage, I thought this would be a great time to stop and address the pervasive issue in our culture of premarital sex and what God says about it in the Bible. I was reminded on Saturday (thankfully!) that Sunday was a family worship day for us, when many of our kids stay with us for the entire gathering. After reviewing my notes and talking with Charity, I felt pretty sure that a discussion about premarital sex would be better had out of the presence of lots of little ears, all being shepherded differently by their parents.
But the reality remains: many people in our culture, and even in our churches, do not know that sex before marriage is not God’s desire, and if they do, most don’t know exactly why. So I’d like to take a few minutes to lay out a simple, biblical case.
The Bible’s Case for Great Sex & Incredible Intimacy
Ephesians 5.31 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The order of things is not random here: A man should leave the home and the authority of his parents, find a woman to marry, make a lifelong commitment to her called marriage, and then they should become one flesh. Becoming one flesh means to consummate the marriage, or to have sex, but the idea carries with it a lot more than just a physical act.
If you go all the way back to the beginning, in Genesis 2, you see the same phrase used. Genesis 2.24-25 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” So this idea is originally not from Paul, who wrote Ephesians, but from God himself. And you see not just the idea of physical intimacy, but a much deeper level of intimacy where the two are naked and completely unashamed. The idea here is an incredibly deep intimacy–being revealed, exposed, vulnerable, and known to someone–in ways that no one else has access to.
The idea here is an incredibly deep intimacy–being revealed, exposed, vulnerable, and known to someone–in ways that no one else has access to.
The idea we’re talking about here is much more than physical connection and pleasure, though that’s certainly part of it! We’re talking about one person sharing all of themselves with another person, becoming completely vulnerable and known, to the point of becoming what the Bible calls “one flesh.” And a major part of that is sex.
Without getting too graphic, there is a literal physical connection between a man and a woman that God created our bodies for and intends as good. When we take this step, the Bible’s intention is that we will give ourselves to this person not just physically, but in every other way, as well, within the confines of a lifelong commitment to each other’s welfare called marriage. God has given us a specific order to these things for our own good and for his glory.
It is impossible for us to make these commitments, become this known, and become one flesh with more than one person.
All these things being true, it is impossible for us to make these commitments, become this known, and become one flesh with more than one person. Thankfully there is grace that covers our sin and our mistakes. God is in the business of redeeming, repairing, and making things new, so we are able to experience his goodness because of the work of Jesus in our salvation. But God still has a plan, an original intent, and his desire and expectation is that we will honor it. It was God’s intent in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and it’s still true today.
Obedience When it is Radically Against Our Culture
In our society, it seems nearly impossible, and almost cheesy, to live like this. It is radically counter-cultural, and therefore incredibly difficult. But isn’t that exactly what the gospel calls us to? Jesus calls his church to be so different that we seem as light in darkness–so different it stands out boldly.
Living like this is radically counter-cultural, and therefore incredibly difficult. But isn’t that exactly what the gospel calls us to?
In 1 Peter 2.11, the apostle Peter urges the church to abstain from passions of the flesh, saying that they wage war against our souls. He precedes this by calling the church travelers, people who do not call this world home. And because this is not our native land, not our home country, it is radically counter-cultural for us.
So when we encounter resistance because of things like our stance on premarital sex, and any number of other things, we should not be at all surprised and should look two places for hope and encouragement: To the founder of our faith (Heb. 12.1-3) and to our fellow travelers (Heb. 10.23-25).