Dating and Sexual Immorality

There are several Scriptural references which directly address sexual intimacy in dating. One of these would be Exodus 20:14, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Deut. 5:18; Luke 18:20; James 2:11), and its corollary, Matthew 5:27-28:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say to you
That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

A second Scriptural reference addressing sexual intimacy in dating is Ex. 22:16-17:

“And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surety endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”

We can see from this Old Testament case law that sexual intimacy before marriage is illegal in God’s economy. Although the penalty for this violation is not death, as in the case of adultery, it is a crime that exacts a monetary penalty. The difference in the penalty is because the seduction of a virgin does not involve the breaking of a vow (North, 1990). Fornication by unmarried partners was a crime in the Old Testament. In the New Testament era, seduction remains an attack on the authority structure of the girl’s family (North, 1990).

A third Scriptural principle involving sexual intimacy in dating would be the general prohibition against any type of sexual impurity such as sodomy (homosexual activity – Lev. 18:22), prostitution (Lev. 19:29), bestiality (Ex. 22:19), incest (Lev. 20:11), and fornication (I Cor. 6:9-20; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3) (North, 1983).

Finally, in Heb. 13:4, God says that sexual intimacy is to be reserved for the marriage bed:

“Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers [fornicators] and adulterers God will judge.”

It is left now for us to define sexual intimacy. Acts 15:29 says that as Christians we must restrain from sexual immorality. The Greek word used is porneia, which has been variously interpreted to mean anything from strictly sexual intercourse (Vine’s Expository Dictionary) to uncleanness as it is used by Moses in Deut. 24:1 (Sutton, 1988). I believe it to mean any kind of moral impurity including sexual impurity. If this is so, then any activity that would result in sexual impurity is prohibited before marriage. This would include fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, and bestiality.

Friendship

Dating

Going Steady

Engaged

Married

L & T

L,T, & h

L,T, h, & H

L,T, h, H & k

L,T, h, H, k, K, fk, B, SO, & SI

KEY

L – look
T – touch
h – holding hands lightly
H – constant holding hands
k – light kiss
K – strong kiss
fk – french kiss
B – fondling breasts
SO – sexual organs
SI – sexual intercourse

Sexual Intimacy Before Marriage

“That which has its natural end in sexual intercourse should be held to your wedding night….” (Wright, 1977:197)

This chart of sexual intimacy permitted before and after marriage reflects my understanding of the Greek word porneia. When comparing Matthew 5:31-32 with Deuteronomy 24:1, Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were distorting what Moses had taught. They had twisted Deuteronomy 24:1 so that all a man had to do in order to be rid of his wife was to write out a certificate of divorce. They had left out the requirement of finding the “unclean thing” in her, a specific offense (Sutton, 1988). Jesus supported Moses when He said that divorce requires porneia, “fornication.” Moses’ use of “uncleanness” and Jesus’ use of “fornication” was the same. Both these words generally refer to the same thing.

The original words for “indecent thing” (uncleanness) and “fornication” are coextensive in their meanings in the Hebrew Old Testament, the LXX, and the Greek New Testament (Bahnsen, 1984).  According to Dr. Greg Bahnsen, they both speak of “generic, ethically abhorrent misbehavior with the focus on sexual immorality” (Bahnsen, 1984:106).  In Exodus 22:27 and Isaiah 20:2, the “unclean thing” refers to nakedness, and in Exodus 20:26, 1 Corinthians 12:23, and Revelation 16:15 to the genital organ. In a broad sense, sexual immorality includes incest (Lev. 18:6; Acts 15:29; 1 Cor. 5:1), whoredom (Ez. 23:18; Gen. 38:24; 1 Cor. 6:15-16; 7:2), and homosexuality (Gen. 9:22; Ez. 22:10; Rom. 1:27; Jude 7).

The Greek word for fornication, porneia, is also used in a general sense for morally shameful behavior. In the LXX it is used for Numbers 14:33, Jeremiah 2:20; 3:9, and Hosea 5:4; 9:1 describing murmuring, arrogance, no fear of God, and idolatry. It is also used to denote witchcraft in 2 Kings 9:22 (Bahnsen, 1984). The Biblical concepts of “uncleanness” and “fornication” are virtually identical in Biblical writings. So, any sexual activity, and not just sexual intercourse, that is morally shameful, arrogant, selfish, or idolatrous would fall into the same category as adultery, fornication, bestiality, and homosexuality as being contrary to the will of God.

The unsaved world views these things to be deeply sexual (even touching of the female breasts). Christians, with their Biblical ethics and laws, should set the standard of sexual behavior in the world. Christians, when they are dating, should witness to these standards even as they witness of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

_______________________________________

REFERENCES

Bahnsen, Greg L.
1984 Theonomy and Christian Ethics. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed.
North, Gary
1983 Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory. Tyler, Texas: Geneva Divinity School Press.

1990 Tools of Dominion. Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics.
Sutton, Ray
1988 Second Chance. Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press.
Wright, H. Norman
1977 Premarital Counseling. Chicago: Moody.

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The Doctrines of Grace

by Robert Himes+ © 1990

(as published in America at the Millennium: the Best Poems and Poets of the 20th Century ISBN 1-58235-510-X)

Promiscuous immorality;
Vile, bestial depravity;
Continuous, malevolent, obscene wickedness –
Man is an animal. Man is immoral. Only evil emerges.
Man is full of sin.

Abounding mercy;
Compassionate, forgiving grace;
Unconditional, loving, divine election –
He is God. God is merciful. He loves and saves sinful men.
He is full of grace.

Total submission;
Painful, horrible crucifixion;
Substitutionary, impeccable, blood atonement –
He is the Lord. Jesus died for His sheep. Crucified on Calvery,
He died in our place.

Irresistible grace;
Powerful, drawing personality;
Revealing, comforting, nourishing breath –
He is the Spirit. Spirit draws men to God. He cannot be resisted.
He reveals the Son.

Priestly kingdom;
Chosen, trusting people;
Persevering, submissive, worshipping Israel –
We are the elect. We believe and trust. His love and grace overflows.
We will persevere.

The Mark of Maturity

Probably at some time in your life you have known someone who was a living example of Christian maturity.  God worked mightily in them and through them.  Perhaps you know someone like that right now.  What makes them different?  What makes them a mature Christian?

In Hebrews 5:14 God reveals to us one of the marks of a mature Christian, which is the ability to discern both good and evil.  In Genesis 2:9b, 3:5, and 3:22, the word “knowledge” comes from the same Hebrew root, yada.

“The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the  tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Gen. 2:9

“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Gen. 3:5

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.”  Gen. 3:22

In these verses, the word “knowledge” would more accurately be understood as “determine.” Thus, the sin of man, from the time of the garden, and ever since, has been the act of determining for ourselves what is good and evil. Man desires to establish his own laws and not obey the laws of God.

When Adam took of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was, as Calvin wrote, “trusting to his own understanding” and establishing himself as “an arbiter and judge of good and evil.”1

Sutton agreed with Calvin when he wrote,

“[Satan] offered Adam divine authority.  He told man that he would                become like God, ‘knowing (determining) good and evil’ (Gen. 3:3), if            he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . . . But the way            to manifest God was not by ‘knowing’ (determining) good and evil;                rather, it was by ruling as a delegated authority.”2

Adam’s sin was not simply in coming to know the difference between good and evil, but in determining for himself what was good and evil. Adam’s sin, and even Satan’s rebellion, stemmed from a desire to decide for himself what is good and evil.

Christian maturity is just the opposite.  Mature Christians are spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul reveals that Christians can experience different levels of spirituality and carnality.  In Hebrews 5:14, the instruction from God is that a mature Christian is one who can discern God’s Law and apply it to everyday situations.  The difference is between determining and discerning. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14).

To “discern” both good and evil is to distinguish between what God considers good and evil. W.E. Vine defines “discern” as, “a distinguishing, a clear discrimination. . . . In Heb. 5:14 . . . of those who are capable of discriminating between good and evil.”3  Robertson adds, “To discern . . . ‘For deciding between’ . . . (between good and evil).”4

So, we must conclude that, if we aspire to maturity, we must study God’s Law and learn to apply it to our lives.  For me, this means I must not only know and understand the Ten Commandments, but also the case law of the Old Testament – Exodus 21-23 where the Ten Commandments are applied to specific cases5 – as well as the Sermon on the Mount and the instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Maturity demands diligent study of the Word of God and discerning application of the Law of God.

Think about it!

NOTES

  1. Calvin’s Commentaries – Vol. 1, John Calvin, translated by the Rev. John King, M.A., Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1979, p. 118.

2.  That You May Prosper, Ray Sutton, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, Texas, 1987, p. 44.

3.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary, W.E. Vine, ed. by F.F. Bruce, Fleming Revel Co,, Old Tappan, NJ, 1981, p. 315.

4.  Word Pictures in the Old Testament – Vol. 5, Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1932, p. 372.

5.  Tools of Dominion, Dr. Gary North, Institute for Christian Economics,    Tyler, Texas, 1987.

Is Christianity Intolerant?

Is Christianity intolerant?

A friend of mine some time back told me that he could never be a Christian because Christianity was intolerant. I think that what many people call intolerance in Christianity is actually exclusivity. Christianity is exclusive, not inclusive. Our Lord said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” That is totally exclusive. Only those men, women, and children whose faith is in Jesus Christ are true Christians and are recipients of what Jesus Christ accomplished by His death on the cross and resurrection (i.e.; justification, adoption into God’s family, sins forgiven, Christ’s righteousness imputed, atonement, eternal life with Christ, etc.) All others, whose faith is not in Jesus, are damned to an eternity of torment and darkness. This is the exclusivity of Christianity.

What God teaches in His Holy Word is an exclusive faith: justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the Bible alone is our primary source for all of faith and practice, and all of our lives should be lived for God’ s glory alone. If anyone does not believe this, then they are not a Christian.

This being said, throughout all of the Bible – all 66 books written over 4000-5000 years of human history – reveals to us God’s marvelous tolerance towards all men. He is long suffering, through millennia, not willing that any of His children should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Christians are taught that we should love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. And we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are to peacefully and lovingly coexist, as much as lies within us, with all others. Does this sound like intolerance? We are at peace with God and strive for peace in this world.

Is there intolerance in the Church of Jesus Christ?

Obviously there has been, and still is, intolerance in the Church. There are three reasons for that: there are congregations of people calling themselves Christian but are not; there are people in the Church who are not, and never have been true Christians; and there are true Christians who, out of pride, think, say, and do intolerant things.

Without getting into too much theology and ecclesiology, there are some congregations who call themselves Christians but are far from believing in justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the Bible alone is our primary source for all of life and practice, and all of our lives should be lived for God’s glory alone. We recognize these non-Christian churches as Christian Cults. They violate God’s moral law (the Ten Commandments) and His commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is a systemic violation of God’s law found in the official teachings of the congregation.

Within true Christian Churches, those who believe, teach, and preach God’s Word, and administer the Holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, there are a mixture of wheat and weeds. The weeds are those who have said all the right things and jumped through all the right hoops to be members of the Church, but whose faith is not in Jesus Christ. Non-believers in the Church, by nature, are filled with pride and hate towards others who do not agree with them or are somehow noticeably different from them. As a result, they do not speak or act lovingly towards them.

The wheat in the Church are those who are true believers, but who struggle daily with pride and arrogance (which in all honesty is most of us), and thus occasionally speak and act intolerant. We are called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves all the time, but we occasionally fall into the sin of intolerance. This is one of the reasons we meet together every week in Christian worship where we are disciplined by God through the preaching of His Word and receiving Holy Communion. We repent of our sins, hear God’s words of absolution, receive encouragement and correction through the preached word, and receive spiritual strength at His Table. We are then sent out into the world to sin no more.

Sometimes it is hard to see the difference between the weeds and the wheat.