This 'Believing and Confessing' article is written by Rev. Rodney Kleyn and will be published in the October 15, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer.
Faithfulness to marriage
Lord’s Day 41
Question 108. What doth the seventh commandment teach us?
Answer. That all uncleanness is accursed of God; and that therefore we must with all our hearts detest the same, and live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock or in single life.
Question 109. Doth God forbid in this commandment, only adultery and such like gross sins?
Answer. Since both our body and soul are temples of the Holy Ghost, He commands us to preserve them pure and holy; therefore He forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever can entice men thereto.
In a world that has perverted and idolized sex, we need to have a proper attitude toward sex. God has made each of us a sexual being, either male or female, and each of us will either use or abuse the gift of sex.
Only the Scriptures can give us a proper perspective on human sexuality. God created us with this gift, and God knows our sinful inclinations with regard to sex. The Scriptures speak plainly and purely about sex, powerfully warning us against the dangers of its abuse, as well as extolling its blessedness when used as God intends.
Because there is not a word in Scripture that can be harmful to the believer, and because Scripture speaks openly about sex, we must also discuss this subject openly and biblically with our children. If we do not do this, then they will inevitably learn the wrong lessons about sex from peers and culture.
At the same time, we must be ready, before this commandment, to put off the deeds of the flesh, and to be renewed in the inward man according to God’s Word with regard to sex.
Two basic biblical principles are the foundation on which this commandment stands. One is a creation principle, the other is a salvation principle.
The creation principle is that in the beginning God created the man and the woman, Adam and Eve, to be together physically. He created them male and female, different from one another, to complement one another, and each to complete the other. In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (“meet” means “suited to” or “fit for”). Then, in order that Adam might understand his need for a womanly companion, God caused all the animals to pass before him in pairs, and after Adam had named them we read, “but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” It was then that God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and formed Eve from one of his ribs, to which Adam responded, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And God’s Word to them was that “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:18–25). These words teach us that marriage is a lifelong institution (see Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:8-9) between one man and one woman (God made them male and female), and that sex is a part of God’s good creation to be used exclusively within that union (“one flesh” and “the natural use” Rom. 1:27).
The salvation principle behind this commandment is that in a Christian marriage the relationship of husband and wife is a picture of the relation between Christ and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:32). Frequently, the Bible speaks of God’s relationship to the church in terms of a marriage. The Fall brought sin into marriage, and apart from grace, marriage is a battleground and a war zone in which each lives for himself or herself. Already, immediately after the Fall, Adam refused to call his wife by her beautiful name, Eve, and he put the blame on her for his own sin: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:12). But in grace and by salvation Jesus restores joy and unity to the marriage of two believers. Jesus demonstrates this, very strikingly, by His presence and miracles, at the very beginning of His ministry, at a wedding in Cana. His salvation work is covenantal and begins with the restoration of the covenant of marriage. In uniting a believer to Himself in the work of regeneration, and by the indwelling of His Spirit, Christ causes men and women in marriage to see each other differently (as loved by Him and as “joint-heirs of the grace of life”), and to live in marriage with the same selfless and sacrificial love that He has towards His bride, the church. Out of the experience of the love of Christ, the believer lives selflessly and faithfully in marriage.
A call to action
This commandment demands that we “live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock, or in single life” and that we “preserve (our bodies) pure and holy.”
There are demands that this commandment places on every believer. There are ways in which everyone of us is guilty of breaking this commandment.
This must be emphasized because there is, perhaps, no other commandment where we so quickly think of the sins of others and are blind to our own failings.
This is Jesus’ point in Matthew 5:28; “I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
There are so many things that we can get right in understanding and applying this commandment, and yet be guilty ourselves, daily, of violating it. We can have a biblical teaching on the permanence of marriage, and yet not be loving the spouse God has given us as we should. Does God demand only “permanence?” Does He not demand faithfulness and love? We can have a very strict position on “same-sex” marriage, and yet be living unfaithfully or sinfully in a heterosexual relationship. Isn’t God’s demand more than “a man and a woman?” We can be very outspoken against the evils of our sex-saturated culture in its entertainment, advertising, and freedom of sexual expression, but at the same time indulge our lust privately on the Internet or with our wandering eye. Does God only demand the condemnation of public expressions of this sin, or does He not also demand that we mortify this deed of the flesh, lust? We can become very discontented with the behavior of a spouse who is difficult to live with and even become envious of the joy that others seem to have in their marriages, but what am I doing to promote peace and to live before God in my marriage? Doesn’t God demand that we “lead a quiet and peaceable life” in a difficult marriage relationship?
The application of the commandment must begin with myself. This commandment does not only forbid adultery and similar “great” sins (in others), but teaches that God forbids and hates “all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever can entice men thereto” (in me). Clean humor and entertainment, modesty in attire, purity of heart and mind, sacrificial living in marriage, avoiding situations and places, and much more fall under the scope of obedience to this commandment.
Because this sin is so powerful, the Scripture calls us not merely to fight but to “flee fornication” (I Cor. 6:18). Because it is so destructive, not only to families, children, and society but also to our own hearts, it is personified as an enticing woman that leads “strong men” to “hell” (Prov. 7). Because we cannot be “neutral” with regard to this commandment, we must fight for the purity of our minds and the holiness of our marriages (Matt. 5:29; 6:22). Because by nature we are so discontented, we must take action against the inroads of sinful thinking (James 4:7–8), we must delight ourselves in the Lord (Ps. 37:4–5), and we must “drink waters out of [our] own cistern” (Prov. 5:17–19). Because we love to blame-shift, we must take responsibility for our own temptation and lust (James 1:14–15), and we must wait patiently (in our youth) for God to answer our prayers (Lam. 3:25–27).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Whenever we are tempted sexually, Satan promises us something; he tells us this will make us happy. Sex, pornography, a second glance, spending some time with someone who “understands me better than my spouse”—all these, and many other related lures, are presented as ways to happiness. But Jesus says, “The blessed, the happy, are those who are pure in heart.” God’s Word says that true blessedness is to “see God.” In the trenches of this fight against temptation, the real question and the real struggle is one of faith; do you and I believe these words of God? Do we believe that His “lovingkindness is better than life?” (Ps. 63:3). If we spent less time thinking about our sin, and more time meditating on the love God and believing the promises of God’s Word, we would not only be tempted less, but we would sin less in this area.
Action, protection, and repentance. These have been laid down as the steps to fighting and overcoming sexual sin. Action is intentional living. Protection is preventative living. Repentance is transformed living. We cannot “sit around” and expect victory over this sin.
Sex itself is a gift. It is a good gift from God that He gives to us in His love. It has an appropriate place and purpose in the Christian’s life. A part of its purpose is procreation in obedience to God’s command to the married to bring forth children. Another aspect of its purpose, in a sinful world, is that it be used in marriage as a preventative against sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:9). One further, and obvious, reason that God has given it, is for pleasure and intimacy between a married man and woman. This commandment is a part of the second table of the law which demands that you “love your neighbor as yourself.” In the use of this gift in marriage, all selfishness must be set aside and this gift used for the pleasure of the other and to promote marital unity.
The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is both the preventative against and the power to fight sexual sin.
The mantra of the unbelieving world, “My body, my choice,” used as the justification for every sort of sin including the murder of the unborn, is antithetical to the principle by which the believer lives. The believer says, “I am not my own; I have been bought with a price; I will glorify God with my body and with my soul, both of which belong to God. I am His in life and in death.”
And so the Scriptures warn us against sexual impurity by telling us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. A temple is a dwelling place or a house. God does not purchase these houses and then lease them out to tenants, but He Himself comes and lives within us. When we sin sexually, we defile the temple of God. We bring idols into the temple of God. We sin not only against our own bodies, but we sin against the owner and resident, God Himself. This is why the Bible says that in sexual sin we “take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot” and that in doing this we become “one body” with an harlot (1 Cor. 6:15–20). Shall we do this with Christ? When we do this, we “quench” and “resist” the Spirit who is in us, and instead feed the beast of sin that is still alive in us.
By God’s Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we should put to death “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). It is our union to Christ that is the source of power to resist and overcome these temptations. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Are you engaged in this battle?
Questions for discussion
1. What does the Bible teach about marriage in Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:3–9?
2. What does the Bible teach about marriage in Ephesians 5:22–33 and how does this apply to you as either a male or female? How is this different to what our unbelieving culture has accepted?
3. God has created us “male and female,” that is, we are sexual beings. What is the appropriate biblical place for the expression of our sexuality? What is God’s purpose for sex?
4. Why are the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:28 so important as we think about the application of this commandment?
5. Talk about sexual temptation:
a. What unique methods does Satan use in our day to tempt us sexually? How are these represented in Proverbs 5 and 7?
b. Are the temptations to break this commandment different for men than for women? What unique temptations do men face? What unique temptations do women face?
c. What are the sexual temptations that a single person faces? How are these different from the those that a married person faces?
d. Are some people more susceptible to sexual sin than others? Why? Does this in any way excuse or lessen their guilt?
e. What Bible passages are especially helpful to you in fighting against sexual temptation?
6. If you are not allured by sexual temptation itself, in what other ways might you be sinning against this commandment?
7. What are some preventative restrictions that you could use while dating to help avoid sexual temptation and sin? How should parents (fathers in particular) help their children with this?
8. What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Is homosexual sin different than other sex outside marriage? How would you love, help, and restore someone who has practiced this lifestyle?
9. What does 1 Corinthians 7:3–9, together with Proverbs 5:15–21, teach about sex within the bond of marriage?
10. What is the positive side of this commandment? List some things required (positive things) of you in this commandment.