Yesterday we had the inevitable discussion about sex and marriage and if I am honest I thought it was probably the best study so far. It may surprise you to learn that the Bible is full of sex and marriage! The key verse is which is threads itself right through scripture is Genesis (Quoted by Jesus and Paul) and it says: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2:24-25
While that verses comes at the beginning of the Bible we also find marriage at the very end of the Bible: “…“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” ” Rev 19:6-9
Furthermore the central themes of the Bible are underlined with marriage metaphors. God tells Hosea to go and marry a promiscuous wife as a picture of God’s marriage to Israel. When the marriage is restored and Israel is reconciled to God the promise is: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah [my delight is in her], and your land Beulah [married]; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:4-5
Then in the New Testament Jesus says He is like the bridegroom to His people and that the people should therefore be joyful in His presence. “Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Matt 9:15. In Matt 25:1-13 Jesus said that the coming of the Kingdom is like people waiting for a wedding and John the Baptist (John 3:30) said that it was time for him to step aside because the bridegroom had come. As we saw last week Paul describes marriage as a demonstration of God’s marriage to His people (Eph 5:21-33).
Transformed or conformed
We finished the study by thinking about how we might be transformed into the likeness of Christ rather than conformed to the world around us (Rom 12:2). Society is shouting messages at us all the time about how we should enjoy sex whenever and however we want it…a far cry from the teaching of scripture which says sex is for marriage alone and marriage is for life. Society says that sexual fulfilment is key to being happy and accepted and that if you are not having regular sex, there is something wrong with you. Society says that sex is purely a recreational thing; that it doesn’t matter who it is with, it doesn’t matter what the situation is, as long as you enjoy it. Society says that there no essential connection to marriage. Did you know that people talk about or display sexual behaviour 15 times every hour on British TV; 90% of those references to sex happen outside of marriage. Society also says that sex is your right; sexual abuse and rape are a consequence of this attitude.
Our society is in the process of redefining marriage to include same sex marriage (something we will discuss next week). Society plays up the importance of instant gratification (sex on demand) and compatibility (try before you buy and all that). We must root our theology of sex and marriage in the Bible or we will be immersed uncontrollably into the culture around us. What we think about this matters for as someone once said “Good theology leads to good sex while bad theology leads to a misuses of sex”.
The importance of sex
Reading the Song of Solomon may cause us to blush a little (or a lot) but it’s great the Bible includes a book like that endorsing the beauty and purity of marital love. Jack Deere writes that “Song of Solomon gives God’s endorsement of marital love as wholesome and pure.” If you have never read it please do take some time this week to read the whole book and rejoice in this celebration of sex. The Bible describes sex with phrases such as ‘becoming one flesh’ (Gen 2), ‘being one in body’ (1 Cor 6), ‘a profound mystery’ (Eph 5) and ‘what God has joined together, let one man separate’ (Mark 10). Sex is so much more than just a physical act, there is something spiritual about sex, something to do with our very person and giving something of who we are. Phillip Jenson and Tony Payne write that “Sex is part of the bond between husband and wife; it unites them – physically, but also at a more profound level. Sex is part of the glue that holds man and woman together in unified relationship” (Quoted from beyond Eden).
Sex as gift, sex or gross
It should not surprise us that the Bible had so much to say about sex and marriage for God designed it and said that it was very good. Richard Davidson writes “we must reject the claim that this chapter displays a “melancholy attitude toward sex.” Instead, we must affirm that Genesis “gives the relationship between man and woman the dignity of being the greatest miracle and mystery of creation” (quoted from A Theology of Sexuality). To finish let’s just remember Mark Driscoll’s suggestion that we tend to regard sex as either God (making it an idol), Gross (a dirty word, unspiritual or taboo) or Gift (as something God created good for us to enjoy within the context of marriage). Society around us encourages us with the first option and church history has certainly not helped with the second option. God is interested in every aspect of our lives including our sexuality. He has given us the amazing gift of sex and Paul says in 1 Timothy 4 that “everything God created is good [that includes sex, marriage and our sexuality], and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
Over the next two weeks we are going to be thinking about some of the misuses of sex and sexuality. Firstly we will look at homosexuality and then we will split into guys/girls to consider some of the struggles we have as men/women in this area.
Thanks for reading