“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
God invented sex and instituted marriage alone as its proper setting. “And Adam knew Eve his wife” (Genesis 4:1) Sex was God’s idea to begin with. He not only designed it as the means to reproduction, but He created it to be a deeply satisfying and pleasurable experience. Eve was created to worship God alongside her husband, but she was also created to fill a need in his life unable to be filled by any in the animal world.
While one can share intimacy with a harlot, one is by no means special to the harlot. The harlot shares the same experience with many others. “Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers.” (Jeremiah 3:1) The willingness to share intimacy with someone is not what makes intimacy special. What is special is the unwillingness to share that intimacy with anyone other than one’s spouse. The exclusiveness of the marriage covenant is expressed in Hosea 3:3: “Thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.”
Sex is not dirty or evil. Fornication though is equated with uncleanness. What does the Bible mean when it speaks of something as unclean? The term unclean in scripture, rather than meaning dirty, refers to that which is “out of proper order.” When we tell our little children to clean up the floor they’ve been playing on we don’t want them to wash the carpet, we want them to put away their toys. When we ask our teenager to clean his room we’re not asking him to remove dirt, but to put his things where they belong. This is the idea behind uncleanness and cleansing in scripture. When something is out of God’s proper order and design it is in a state of uncleanness, when it is clean it has been restored. Fornication is unclean sex. It is sex out of God’s order and design.
Escape from sexual uncleanness can only begin when we accept God’s plain verdict on what sexual expressions are out of His order.
The fornicator is unclean because he will not abide in God’s sexual order. Leviticus 18 describes the range of the fornicator into forbidden sexual territory. Men may believe that such lists of unclean sexual behavior simply reflect the biases of the biblical writers, but the Apostle solemnly warns: “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7,8) What God calls clean we must call clean; what God calls unclean we must call unclean.
What does Leviticus 18 tell us about sexual uncleanness? First, God calls bestiality uncleanness. “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.” (Leviticus 18:23) In other words, for men or women to have sexual relations with an animal is contrary to nature and out of God’s intended order. Most people still agree with this and are disgusted by the thought. But equally unclean and abominable to God is sodomy, or homosexuality, which is also against nature and out of God’s created order. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) Incest is equally unclean. “None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD.” Adultery falls under the same category. “Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her.” (Leviticus 18:20)
Agreement with God in these areas has nothing to do with hating human beings who are sexually unclean. It is the sin itself that is abominable. Those who commit such sins are yet loved by God.
As hard as it may be for those who are bound in such sins to swallow, escape from sexual uncleanness can only begin when we accept God’s plain verdict on what sexual expressions are out of His order. God is not ambivalent concerning these matters. He has not left it up to you or I or anyone else to decide what is right here. Whether we like it or not, bestiality, sodomy, incest and adultery are not legitimate expressions of sexuality. They are expressions of fornication. They are unclean and abominable in the sight of God. If we despise such views we “despise not man, but God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:8)
Agreement with God in these areas has nothing to do with hating human beings who are sexually unclean. It is the sin itself that is abominable. Those who commit such sins are yet loved by God. “Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel…” (Hosea 3:1) God is the friend who loves men and women who are yet sexually unclean. He inspires no hatred toward any human beings. He calls all who have escaped the snares of sin to remember where they came from and to never speak derogatory about anyone:
“To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Titus 3:2-4)
Despite the prevalent opinion that there’s no such thing as normal or right for everybody, only what is right to the individual, God has one norm for sex, and it is between a husband and his wife. When some wished to point out to Jesus that Moses made provision for divorce, Jesus hearkened back to the norm that God first established and blessed. “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8) All else besides this Jesus attributed to “hardness of heart.”
Where the spirit of fornication enters into a marriage, the joy and beauty that God designed for one faithful man to experience with one faithful woman is lost.
God has created both men and women with a deep desire to be the one and only of their partner. ”Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm …” (Song of Solomon 8:6) The seal spoken of in this verse is a signet which has a name engraved on it. In God’s design, which can only be perfectly fulfilled in marriage, the name of one’s beloved is “set as a seal upon the heart.” It is in this secure environment that sexual intimacy fulfills its promise. Here more than two bodies join in becoming “one flesh,” here two hearts and lives become one in the fullest sense known between human beings.
What has God joined together? A man and a woman for a lifetime of faithful love. Only through marriage is the commitment to that fidelity found. The marriage bed, where husband and wife join in a union unsullied by the spirit of fornication, is alone undefiled. This is God’s design for sex. Jesus warned: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) Jesus targeted fornication as the means by which such division took place. Because the fornicator continually lusts after other women in his spirit, whether she knows it or not, he brings someone other than his wife into the marriage bed.
Where the spirit of fornication enters into a marriage, the joy and beauty that God designed for one faithful man to experience with one faithful woman is lost. For all its seeming passion, illicit sex is ultimately hollow and unsatisfying. It is spiritually defiling, emotionally draining and physically damaging. The fornicator can never enjoy his wife the way a faithful man can. His desires have been stirred by the sight and thoughts of others. Even when he joins with his wife he brings desires to his marriage bed that have been stirred by strangers. His wife is not that unique, one and only treasure that God has given him. She is one among many who has the capacity to arouse him. She usually finishes what he has allowed others to start.
The man and woman who hold true to their marriage vows, “to have and hold each other alone – forsaking all others,” year by year discover the joy of sexual intimacy that can only exist where two people belong solely to each other.
The true husband cherishes his wife at all times because she is his one and only treasure. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Even after intimacy, one goes on loving their beloved deeply, because her whole person is cherished. Her body alone is not loved; her soul and spirit are cherished. She is not an object existing solely to satisfy lust; she is a whole person who is wholly loved. But when one has been used as an object of lust they quickly become despised. The beautiful Tamar was hated by the lusty Amnon once he had his way with her. “Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.” (2 Samuel 13:15) The fires of lust that are quickly extinguished leave in their wake partners who are coldly alienated from each other. “And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them.” (Ezekiel 23:17)
The man and woman who hold true to their marriage vows, “to have and hold each other alone – forsaking all others,” year by year discover the joy of sexual intimacy that can only exist where two people belong solely to each other. A wife is secure when she knows her husband allows her alone to ravish his heart. (Song of Solomon 4:9) She confidently knows, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” (Song of Solomon 4:10) She therefore all the more desires to give herself to her beloved, “Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits … drink, yea, drink abundantly, (Hebrew: get intoxicated) O beloved.” (Song of Solomon 4:16; 5:1)
God’s way for sex which He has never and will never depart from is that which He ordained from the beginning: one man and one woman pledged to each other and none other.
God reserves the most satisfying experience to the husband and wife who are faithful to Him by being absolutely faithful to each other in spirit, as well as body. He gives them the go-ahead to enjoy each other fully: “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18,19)
When a person decides to forsake God’s way and find their own, God allows them to reap the consequences of their choices. “So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” (Psalm 81:12) But knowing how much such a one has missed out on, God sorrowfully adds, “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” (Psalm 81:13) God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), including the wonderful gift of sex. But where God’s gifts are dishonored, misplaced and misused they became hollow shells of what they ought to be. Sadly, men somehow feel they know better than God how to take care of themselves. They dismiss God’s way and replace it with their own. God’s way for sex which He has never and will never depart from is that which He ordained from the beginning: one man and one woman pledged to each other and none other. Those who commit to God, commit to His way in every area of their life. They alone are blessed because Father knows best!