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This is part of a ten-part series about marriage preparation and improvement. This article should be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php.
Our son-in-law Brian teaches junior high school in a rural district of a conservative state. Students in class brought up an eighth-grade boy, who had been expelled for bad behavior, then fathered a child out of wedlock. The majority of students believed he would be a good father. Brian said he should have waited till he was married. The class responded that everyone has sexual relations before marriage; no one waits! They expressed disbelief when he said he had waited and had never been divorced. When he said couples should work hard to have a good marriage, they could not understand why!
When young people have been taught they evolved from animals, why should they reserve the sexual union for marriage or view marriage as a lifetime commitment? Animals see no need for such things.
When even homosexuals can marry, marriage must not mean much. World reported a study at the Hoover Institute: "Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable ... in Sweden, the few young couples who do get married often do not like to admit it, since what they have done is so far out of the norm that they feel embarrassed."
The public media virtually refuses to even acknowledge marriage. It is politically incorrect to even mention words like "husband," "wife," or even "spouse." Instead, the media continually refers to your "partner," "companion," or "significant other." And "family" has been redefined to describe any group of people who live together and care for one another in some way.
No wonder young people do not respect the importance of marriage or of reserving the sexual union for marriage.
Consider reasons why Christians should respect marriage as a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman, and specifically why the sexual union should be reserved only for marriage.
Genesis 2:18-24 - At creation, God observed that it was not "good" for man to be alone, so He created woman and ordained marriage. Within marriage, a man cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh (which includes the sexual union - 1 Cor. 6:16).
Note that animals were not adequate, nor did God create another man as a mate for man. He created a woman as a companion for man. So, marriage and the sexual union within marriage were ordained by God. God declared this to be "good." It meets a fundamental need. In fact, everything God made at creation was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
Those who believe in God, and specifically in God as Creator, must believe that marriage is "good" and is the relationship ordained of God for the sexual union.
Hebrews 13:4 - Marriage is honorable and the sexual relationship (the "bed") is undefiled only within marriage. Note that the sexual union is not inherently evil. But the passage defines "fornication" and "adultery" to be sexual union ("the bed") outside marriage. God will judge such conduct.
Exodus 20:14 - The Old Testament commanded to not commit adultery.
Mark 7:20-23 - Jesus taught that fornication comes from the heart and defiles a man.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 - The Corinthians had been fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, etc. Those who practice this cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:16-18 - Fornication is wrong because it constitutes being "one flesh" with someone other than one's lawful spouse. This refers back to God's plan, which places the sexual union in marriage (Gen. 2:24).
Revelation 21:8; 22:14,15 - Fornicators are among those who will not enter heaven but will be in the lake of fire.
1 Corinthians 7:2-4 - To avoid fornication, one should satisfy the sexual desire only with "his own wife" or "husband." God expressly confirms that marriage companions must be of the opposite gender and that each may satisfy sexual desires only with his/her marital companion.
So, marriage is the authorized relationship for satisfying the need for lifetime companionship and for sexual affection. But it involves one man with one woman with a lifetime commitment. Only that relationship is honorable by God's decree.
God says sexual relations before or outside marriage are wrong, no matter how much we care for the other person. These passages should settle the issue. But sometimes God gives additional reasons for His decrees. Consider additional reasons He gives for saving ourselves for our marriage companion.
[Ephesians 5:3-5; Galatians 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-11; Proverbs 5:1-23; 6:23-7:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; 1 Cor. 5:9,10; Ezek. 16:32]
Proverbs 5:1-18 - Relations with an immoral woman lead to bitterness (v4), dishonor (v9), poverty (v10), grief (v11), destruction of flesh and body (v11 - as in sexually transmitted diseases), and even death (v5). All of us have heard of people who have experienced some or all of these as a result of sexual promiscuity.
People think venereal diseases can be avoided by "safe sex" or cured by modern medicine. If so, why are many such diseases at all-time highs? And why do we continually hear about the dangers of AIDS? Despite politically correct views, the fact is that AIDS is essentially a sexually transmitted disease. Those who avoid illicit sex and illegal drugs have little need for concern.
The solution: stay far away from those who are sexually promiscuous (v8), and rejoice with the wife of your youth (vv 15-18).
Proverbs 6:32-35 - Adultery leads to wounds, dishonor, and reproach. It causes jealousy, fury, and vengeance, which cannot be appeased. This occurs when people violate marriage vows, but it also occurs among people in trial marriages and homosexual relationships. [7:21-27]
Such conduct often brings a burden of guilt to a relationship, which manifests itself in many ways. We may be angry for no apparent reason or unable to express affection freely. When we know our spouse has done this outside marriage (even if they did it with us), we may wonder if he/she will do it again, or with how many others they have done it.
Matthew 19:9 - Sexual union outside marriage is so serious that it is the only grounds for which God will permit the one who is pure to divorce and remarry.
Those who practice chastity before marriage and sexual faithfulness in marriage, need not be concerned about problems of promiscuity. There are reasons why God has restricted the sexual union to marriage. Obeying his plan is always best.
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:24 - God created male and female, told them to have children (reproduce), and said man should be "one flesh" with his wife. One reason God restricted the sexual union to marriage is that this gives children a family with both a father and a mother to raise them.
Proverbs 1:8 - Children should hear the instructions of their father and not forsake the law of their mother.
The fundamental concept throughout Scripture is that children should be raised in a family consisting of a father and mother who train and provide for them (Ephesians 6:2-4; Luke 2:48-51; Genesis 4:1,25; etc.). Marriage, with a lifetime commitment of husband and wife, provides the stable, loving relationship that children need.
Sometimes circumstances beyond our control take away father or mother, but these should be viewed as tragedies. Any relationship, which runs the risk of conceiving a child without the benefit of both a father and a mother to raise it, is irresponsible, unloving, and immoral.
Since the sexual union is the means God designed to conceive children, it follows that having this union outside of marriage can and often does result in children born out of wedlock. Such conduct is irresponsible, unloving, and immoral. Yet, a significant portion of children today are born out of wedlock. No child should ever have to fear that his parents would choose to risk his being born or raised in such an immoral, irresponsible circumstance.
Because marriage is a lifetime commitment, it provides a permanent relationship of companionship and love, even into old age.
Romans 7:2,3 - Husband and wife are bound to one another as long as they live. Those who are true to their marriage vows, will have a spouse to live with, until death parts them. Few things in life are more beautiful than a couple that continues to love and care for one another into their older years.
Young people, who choose promiscuous or homosexual relationships, have no such companionship. They may pass from partner to partner, living for the moment, with no thought of the consequences for old age. Likewise, people who divorce without Scriptural cause, have no right to a companion in their older years. People, who are not true to their marriage commitment, have no reason to expect others to be committed to them.
Likewise, parents who raise children in a committed family, will have children to care for them in their older years.
Ephesians 6:2,3 - Honoring parents includes caring for them in their old age.
1 Timothy 5:4,8,16 - When parents become elderly, especially when they are widowed and their marriage companion is gone, their children should see that their needs are met. (Cf. Matt. 15:4-6; Ruth 4:13-15; John 19:25-27.)
This is called "repaying" the parents. But if parents bring children into the world without a committed family relationship with both a father and a mother to love and care for them, what reason do children have to be committed to them in their old age? If such children learn to care for their parents, it won't be because the parents set a good example of caring for them.
1 Corinthians 7:2-5 - To avoid fornication, man and woman should marry and then should give one another the affection that is due. You do not have authority over your own body to enjoy this affection, except with your committed marriage spouse.
In a committed marriage, the sexual union becomes the ultimate expression of affection, love, and companionship. By reserving this relationship only for our lawful spouse, we are telling them, "I love you so much that I have chosen you to be the only person in the world in which I will engage in this most intimate expression of love." This makes sexual affection the incredibly special bond of love that God intended it to be.
Surveys have repeatedly shown that couples who remain true to their marriage commitment express much greater satisfaction with sexual affection.
Like everything else that God created for good, when people pervert it, they cannot fully enjoy its benefits. People, who practice casual, recreational sexual activities, will never, ever enjoy the true beauty of sexual affection, and most will never even understand what they missed. The brief, passing pleasure such people enjoy can never measure up to committed marital bliss.
Obviously, there are limits to what can properly be discussed in a public forum. Bible teachers have a problem because, if they give detailed discussion, some object that they are too explicit. But if we are not specific enough, many young people will get in trouble because no one warned them what guidelines and limits they should respect. We need to be as explicit as the Bible and specific enough to properly apply Bible teaching.
Proverbs 5:8; 6:26-29 - The point of Solomon's warnings was to stay away from people and circumstances that would seduce you to violate sexual purity. Don't make close friendships with people who are promiscuous, and don't participate in tempting activities. [7:6-27]
Proverbs 6:23-25; Matthew 5:27,28 - The way to avoid immoral conduct is by keeping your thoughts pure. Avoid the lustful thoughts that lead to immoral conduct. And the way to avoid the lustful thoughts is to avoid conduct that leads to lustful thoughts (sexually suggestive flirting).
Titus 2:5 - Young women should be taught to be "chaste" - virtuous, modest, not indecent. This applies to clothing, words, and conduct. [2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 4:8; Luke 8:27,35; 1 Timothy 2:9,10; 2 Samuel 11:2-4]
Romans 13:13,14; Mark 7:20-23; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:1-4 - God forbids "lascivious" or "licentious" conduct - anything that causes or tends to arouse sexual excitement, desire, or lust between people not married to one another.
Young men and women need to be taught that there are ways of speaking, dressing, and acting that arouse sexual desire. These are good and proper in marriage, because married couples can properly act on those desires. But when you have no right to fulfill the desire, then you have no right to arouse it in yourself or in one whom you are courting.
Young people, when you are dating, make sure both you and your date keep your hands off areas that should be reserved for marriage. Make sure you keep clothing on and cover what only married people have the right to see. Don't date anyone who doesn't understand these principles or that has a reputation for improper conduct. At the first sign of improper conduct, stop and insist on respect for purity. If you need more specific guidance, get advice from your parents or from respected older Christians (Titus 2:4,5).
Likewise, married people should avoid the dangers of forming too close relationships with people of the opposite gender other than your spouse. Avoid the very appearance of a "dating" situation. Avoid being alone in private. At the first sign of improper conduct, immediately distance yourself from the friendship.
And don't think nothing wrong can happen, because you are both Christians. Even faithful Christians have been brought to sin by forming too close friendships with people of the opposite gender. Often the relationship begins because we have a special relationship with other Christians, we think we are safe so we drop our barriers, and soon we have an illicit relationship.
[Proverbs 4:23; 6:27; 13:20; 22:3; Matthew 5:8; 6:13; 18:8,9; Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Genesis 39:7-12]
1 Corinthians 7:2-5 - With your true marital spouse you not only may be intimate, but you should do so freely. You and your spouse have no one else with whom to fulfill this desire. Be free and expressive of your affection.
V5 - Failure to do this allows Satan to tempt us to a lack of self-control. This can happen when one withholds affection in anger or in an attempt to punish the other. Or it can happen because of prolonged physical separation. Avoid either form of temptation.
Vv 3,4 - Both the husband and the wife are to show affection; neither is to deprive the other (v5). This is not just for the husband's pleasure. Both will truly be blessed provided both truly seek to show affection.
Remember that sexual affection is an expression of love. As we discussed previously, love requires giving to please the other person. Love is destroyed by selfishness. Nowhere is that true more than in sexual affection. Your relationship will be blessed to the extent that you set aside what you want and try to please your companion. Husbands especially, but both spouses, need to be patient, gentle, and giving. The most basic thing to remember about sexual affection in marriage is that it is an expression of love and should always be guided by a genuine desire to please the other person.
One writer referred to proper sexual affection in marriage as "the twenty-year warm up." At first, you are not sure how to please one another. It may even help if, shortly before or soon after marriage, you personally read a wholesome, helpful book. But as you truly seek to please one another, you will grow in understanding throughout your marriage.
And that's another reason why people will never fully enjoy the blessings of sexual affection, if they don't appreciate marriage. A married couple, who truly love one another, will grow in affection over long periods of time. People who lack marital commitment are generally selfish in their approach and won't take time to grow. Their acts are expressions of lust and selfish desires, rather than true love and commitment.
As society declines, those who have left God's word will grow worse and worse in their perversions of marriage and the sexual relationship. But those who seek to truly be blessed in this life and in eternity need to learn to appreciate and obey God's plan for marriage.
God has created many incredibly powerful forces. When those forces are used improperly, they can do incredible harm; when used properly, they can be incredible blessings. So, nothing makes people more miserable than the breakdown or perversion of marriage. But nothing brings a greater blessing in this life than a loving marriage that follows God's design.
This is part of a ten-part series of articles about marriage preparation and improvement. To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php.
Copyright 2007, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.