Like a precious gem destined for a royal crown, human sexuality finds its ultimate showcase in heterosexual marriage. God had a special purpose in creating humankind as male and female (Gen. 1:16-18). While each bear His image, the joining of gender opposites in the “one flesh” of marriage reflects the unity within the Godhead in a special way. It also provides for procreation of a new life, an original human expression of the divine image. Scripture therefore places off limits all uses of the human sexual powers that would defeat or pose as a counterfeit to His divine purpose.
Sexual intimacy with a person who is not one’s spouse or is the spouse of another is immoral (Ex. 20:14, 17; Heb. 13:14). The command bans singles from sexually intimacy with a married man or woman. Joseph knew this moral boundary: “How . . . could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God (Gen. 39:9)?”
Sexual intercourse between members of the same sex is denounced (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; cf. Rom. 1:26, 27; 1 Cor. 6:9). A variety of aberrant sexual behaviors, including bestiality and sexual relationships between males and females who are close family relatives, are prohibited (cf. Lev. 18, 20). The New Testament views the bodies of Christians as redeemed by Christ and therefore His property. Since they belong to the Lord, believers’ bodies are not meant for sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:13).
God speaks about premarital sex. Sexual characteristics, present in girls and boys from birth, become pronounced at the time of puberty. Biologically, the sexual organs mature well ahead of the time when emotionally and socially—not to mention educationally or economically–youth can manage the momentous choices of adult life. Sexual instincts are real and they are powerful. Knowing well the realities of human development, Scripture nevertheless urges upon youth its value that sexual intimacy is a privilege of marriage.
A bountiful fountain. Counseling the unmarried to wait for marriage and the married to be faithful, Proverbs 5:3-20 presents the unfavorable comparison between love for the “right” woman (sexual bonding and intercourse within marriage) and love for the “wrong” woman (sexual bonding and intercourse outside marriage).The advice of the wise man is that the godly unmarried individual should reserve and, if married, should preserve his or her deepest affection and sexual intimacy for marriage. The powerful attraction of illicit love must be weighed against its life-threatening consequences. Addressing men specifically, Proverbs uses the imagery of water as a delicate symbol of sexuality. The pleasure and satisfaction of a bountiful fountain springing from committed married love is contrasted with waste water soiling the streets through unfaithfulness. Casual sexual liaisons lack commitment and fall far short of true intimacy. Material, physical, and emotional resources are squandered and regret results in old age. Most importantly, one must answer to God for the choices made in life.
A “door” or a “wall”? We find God’s plan for premarital sexual abstinence also in the Song of Solomon. A poetic flashback in Song of Sol. 8:8-10 has the bride (Shulamith) reflecting on her brothers’ concern for her as a little girl. How will she handle puberty, they wonder? They use the metaphor of a “wall” to speak of chaste behavior and the metaphor of a “door” to speak of sexual promiscuity. If she is a wall, that is, if she protects her virginity, they will reward her. But if she is a door, allowing easy access to herself, they will have to “enclose” (“guard” or “constrict”) her until she is married. Reflecting on this and speaking as an adult, Shulamith strongly declares the values and commitment by which she has lived. “I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers” (NIV). “Dear brothers, I’m a walled-in virgin still, but my breasts are full” (The Message). “Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment” (NIV). The verse expresses the joy of coming to marriage whole, as a virgin. “Contentment” is from the Hebrew shalom, often translated “peace,” but with a root meaning of “wholeness.”
Elsewhere, the Song further supports premarital chastity. Solomon declares on their wedding night, “You are a garden locked up; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain (Song of Sol. 4:12 NIV, emphasis supplied). Commentators agree that these symbols describe her virginity. Also, in several asides to the “daughters of Jerusalem,” a poetic device of an imaginary group of young women that allows her inner thoughts as a young bride to be expressed, Shulamith advises, “Do not awaken love until its time” (2:7; 8:4). Several versions translate this similarly to: “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (Holman Christian Standard Bible). The comment is made following sexual love play, as if Shulamith would warn against such a level of intimate sexual expression and lovemaking outside the covenant of marriage.
Singleness and sexuality. As challenging as waiting for marriage can be for youth amid the flush of adolescence, with a decisive focus on being a “wall,” and with reliance on God’s power, it is doable. Delay until marriage is one thing. But what of those singles whose waiting has gone on interminably? While some seem more comfortable with being adult, single, and celibate, others know the feeling of Adam whose aloneness was declared by God “not good.” Well into adulthood they long for the blessing of a sexual partner and for the experience of marriage, or perhaps to marry again after being widowed or divorced. They struggle through long and lonely nights with tears. All of the sexual energy and desire that is part of being an adult male or female does not dissipate just because a suitable partner cannot be found. What does God have in mind for such as these?
The reality is that some Christians who want to marry will never know the joy of physical and emotional sexual satisfaction in the arms of a marriage partner. The biblical emphasis on sexuality as something that can be fulfilled only in marriage can result in an unhealthy bias in Christian communities that leaves many Christian singles feeling second-class at best and at worst marginalized or alienated. Further, advice and suggestions from those who are married can often be well-meant but misguided and hurtful. The church is at its best when it facilitates ministry to one another without bias and prejudice, when all are accepted equally as members of the body of Christ, and when a lot of honest listening occurs. We must learn to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). Loss must be grieved, hopefully with the support of loving fellow believers, before any resolution can come.
In recent years, ministry for singles has developed and much thoughtful, reflective writing has been done by Christian singles on the topic of sexuality. A simple Internet search for works on Christian singleness will reveal a plethora of resources that can be helpful. The best among these have grasped the divine plan for sexuality in marriage, but understand as well that sexuality is something much bigger, that sexuality shapes our lives in many ways, creating the distinctive physical and emotional components of manhood and womanhood, influencing a person’s capacity to give and receive affection and to connect with others in friendship. Importantly, they have found healthy ways to resolve sexual longing in the awareness that happiness and satisfaction are ultimately not defined by the presence or absence of a mate, but by one’s relationship with God.
Submitting Our Sexuality to God
The reality of sin in human nature is universal. Sin ignores God’s stated will for human sexuality and pursues another agenda of personal, selfish desire. Furthermore, Satan exploits the weakness of our nature.
The good news is that God has smiled upon the human family in the person of His Son and has reconciled the world to Himself. Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin. Satan is an enemy who has been defeated. In Jesus Christ, God has bound Himself to humanity with a tie of love that can never be broken except by human choice. He has given us His Holy Spirit to comfort us and strengthen us for living for Him.
God forgives those who repent of sin (1 John 1:9). The gospel enables individuals, who formerly engaged in promiscuity and sinful sexual activity, to be part of the fellowship of believers (cf.1 Cor. 6:9-11). God feels human pain and graciously comforts and extends His keeping power (2 Cor. 1:3, 4; 12:9; Jude 24).
When the gospel rings clear, we create the best likelihood that people will be drawn to Jesus and find hope and peace and joy in the assurance of salvation that is theirs in Him if they will only unclasp their hands to receive it. It is only when we submit our sexuality to God that the call to living holy sexually makes sense. The gospel and the gospel alone is the most powerful motivator for sexual purity. It is a call to which those who have experienced grace will respond.
The divine will is evident again and again in the Word of God that the precious bestowment of human sexuality is to be sacredly guarded. Its ultimate emotional and physical display is in heterosexual marriage. Our age, however, is one that has uncoupled sexuality from marriage. Greater emphasis on individualism and sexual freedom, a decline in the number of couples who marry and stay married, along with social acceptance of alternative sexual practices constitute a cacophony of voices that threaten to shout down the biblical view as antiquated. Youth today stand at the crossroads. We who know that old does not necessarily mean old-fashioned must make sure that the biblical view on sexuality and marriage is discernible, legible to be read in words, and visible to be seen in lives. Then we must appeal with Jeremiah: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Jer. 6:16).
In what ways does Scripture help us to become more comfortable with the idea that male and female sexuality is good?
What is it that makes marriage such a compelling metaphor for intimacy with God?
Why is it important to guard God’s creation design for sexuality?
How does the picture of God as the heavenly husband inspire and inform our human marital covenants?
What should be the attitude of Christians to fellow believers who are experiencing marital difficulty or have divorced?
In what ways has this study heightened your awareness of competing views about sexuality? What are the strengths of the biblical view that sexuality and marriage are inextricably intertwined? What are the challenges to this view today? List one or two areas where you would like to deepen your study of the biblical view of sexuality. Discuss your conclusions with others in your group.
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
Christians have a loving Creator to thank for the special gifts of sexuality and marriage He gave to the human family.
Married couples: Express thanks to God for your spouse. Think of a special romantic way—a new perfume, a candlelight dinner, a CD of romantic music, a get-away for the two of you— in which you can affirm the gift of sexuality that you share.
Youth: Express thanks to God for couples that model sexuality in a healthy way. Then show appreciation to a married couple for the way they portray marriage. Mention some specific loving gestures or actions they incorporate in their relationship that you consider a model for how you would like to relate to your future married partner.
Adult singles: Express thanks to God for the experiences of married love on the human level that have enabled you to glimpse the depth of God’s love as a divine husband to His bride, the church. Then take time to tangibly express feelings of closeness that you experience with a good friend, with family members, or with fellow believers at church. You might also try writing a love letter to God.
Balancing Openness with Discretion
One of the greatest gifts parents and leaders can give youth is the willingness to discuss sexual subjects. Raising the topic, though, can be a frightening task. Not many adults feel comfortable doing it. However, the greatest enemy of sexual wholeness may well be silence about it. It is never too late to teach children and youth about healthy sexuality because our learning on this topic is lifelong.
Our own sexual history, sexual traumas experienced in the past, or sexual addictions that may afflict us may contribute to our discomfort. Personal reflection, along with healthy dialogue with a spouse, counselor, pastor, or friend may contribute to healing and a greater level of comfort with our own sexuality. Many Christian books (see the brief bibliography) are now available that can provide valuable aids to help parents and leaders become more intelligent about, and at ease with the topic.
At the same time as we endeavor to be more open about the topic of sexuality, we must also have appropriate sensitivity and respect. Jesting, joking, and treating the subject casually or with street language do not befit this special gift of God to His children. Also, discretion must be used in choosing what to share out of one’s personal stories. Openness toward the topic does not mean full disclosure of one’s sexual experience.
Tips for discussing sexuality with youth:
Discuss choices and options, which are easier for adolescents, rather than “do’s” and “don’ts.”
Keep the focus of the discussion on processing the teen’s feelings, attitudes, and beliefs rather than your own.
Ask questions that lead to reflection: “How do you feel when you see that?” “What do you and your friends think that means?” “Have you had a chance to talk this over with others?”
Spring-board into conversation from magazine articles or television reports, such as date-rape, sexual harassment, and abuse.
Affirm adolescents often for what they are doing well in handling issues of sexuality.
Confront problematic behavior positively, avoiding over-reaction: “It’s normal for you to be curious about sex. I would like to talk with you about what women/men are really like and what healthy sexuality means to them.” “I know what it’s like to be attracted to those kinds of videos. It’s pretty normal. I’d like to share some things about sexuality that the videos don’t always tell you.”
Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, pp. 340, 341: “Jesus pointed His hearers back to the marriage institution as ordained at creation. . . . Then marriage and the Sabbath had their origin, twin institutions for the glory of God in the benefit of humanity.”
Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 64: “Like every other one of God’s good gifts entrusted to the keeping of humanity, marriage has been perverted by sin; but it is the purpose of the gospel to restore its purity and beauty.”
Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 176: “True love is a high and holy principle, altogether different in character from that love which is awakened by impulse and which suddenly dies when severely tested. It is by faithfulness to duty in the parental home that the youth are to prepare themselves for homes of their own. Let them here practice self-denial and manifest kindness, courtesy, and Christian sympathy. Thus love will be kept warm in the heart, and he who goes out from such a household to stand at the head of a family of his own will know how to promote the happiness of her whom he has chosen as a companion for life. Marriage, instead of being the end of love, will be only its beginning.”
Ellen G. White, Child Guidance, pp. 103, 104: “The children need to be instructed in regard to their own bodies. There are but few youth who have any definite knowledge of the mysteries of human life. They know but little about the living machinery. Says David, ‘I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’. . . . Continue to teach your children in regard to their own bodies, and how to take care of them. Recklessness in regard to bodily health tends to recklessness in moral character.”
Laaser, M. (1999). Talking to your kids about sex. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press.
Mazat, A. (1996). Captivated byLlove. Silver Spring, MD: Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Smedes, L. B. (1994). Sex for Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Flowers, K & R (2009). The Gift. Silver Spring, MD: Youth Ministry Accent, Youth Ministries Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Wheat, E. & G. (2010). Intended for Pleasure, 4th ed. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell.
World Commission on Human Sexuality. (1997). An affirmation of God’s gift of sexuality. Flowers, K. & R. Human Sexuality: Sharing the Wonder of God’s Good Gift with Your Children
Session 12: Understanding the Consequences of the Human Fall To understand the consequences of the human fall from God’s original plan, I am learning that:
the great controversy between God and Satan originated in heaven.
because of the disobedience of the first human beings, I have a will to sin and a sinful nature.
the Ten Commandment law of God expresses the character of God and gives the standard for human conduct.
the natural world no longer reflects the perfection in which God created it.
the Bible is needed to interpret the natural world as an expression of the character of God.
The consequences of the human fall and the great controversy at large help you to understand God’s love for you.
Look: Prov. 16:18; Matt 5:17-19
Memorize: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov.16:18 NIV).
God’s character and purpose in His law
In your own words, how can you describe God? Many communities of people the world over have given God different names and descriptions depending on how much importance they attach to Him. One common phrase we usually hear about God is, “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.” The main reason why God is good to you and me all the time is because His love is boundless. Period. He gives it in equal measure to all His children, devoid of any limitation.
The quality of love is deeply entrenched in the character of God since the beginning of time. When Lucifer and other angels rebelled against Him in heaven, God had the power to destroy them completely at one go. However, as a compassionate Savior, He chose the law of love as the foundation of His government. He sought through His mercy to draw back the rebels from the abyss of ruin into which they were about to plunge. But the rebels resisted His mercy until their cup was full to the brim, and they had to pay the price.
In the same way, we sometimes resist God’s mercy and continue to sin until we are totally lost into it. However, God does not want us to perish in sin. He remains loving to us, even as He remained loving to the rebels in heaven. Each one of us is a special child of God and His love and care are upon us at all times. Owing to the sinful nature we inherited from our first parents (Adam and Eve), we are prone to sin.
It is for this reason that God has given us His law expressed in the Bible, to serve as the mirror through which we look into our spiritual and moral conduct. God changes people through His word in the Bible. We need to embrace this change because we live in a world that no longer reflects the perfection in which God created it.
Share: What do you think is the best way to mend the rift caused by sin between God and humankind?
The “great controversy” is the name we have given to the greatest battle of all time—the battle between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan. It is what draws the diving line between the character of God and that of Satan. The Bible states that the rebellion started in heaven with one archangel filled with pride and indulgence in self-exaltation. Before then, the heavenly community was in perfect harmony. God the Creator commanded the highest authority. Christ was second in command and glory. Lucifer was the leader of all the angels.
“Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation … Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself. And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35).
The selfish desire to be equal to God was the driving force behind the great controversy that would mar the celestial harmonies for millennia to come. But God, in His infinite power over everything, allowed this rebellion to take place in order to explain in detail His character of infinite love and mercy. Self-exaltation, which caused the great controversy in heaven, is the main way Satan has used to lure us into his trap ever since. We often see ourselves first before we give our Creator the first priority in our lives. This keeps us from recognizing the direct connection between God’s character and His law, which He has given us to check our spirituality and morality.
The Ten Commandment law is a set of instructions from our Father in heaven to show us how we should allow Him to bring His character into our lives. The laws are vital for our relationship with God as well as with our fellow humans. One lesson we can learn from the great plan of redemption for each of us is that it opens our eyes so we can see sin and its consequences.
“Satan’s rebellion was to be a lesson to the universe through all coming ages-- a perpetual testimony to the nature of sin and its terrible results. The working out of Satan’s rule, its effects upon both men [and women] and angels would show what must be the fruit of setting aside the divine authority. It would testify that with the existence of God’s government is bound up the well-being of all the creatures He has made. Thus the history of this terrible experiment of rebellion was to be a perpetual safeguard to all holy beings, to prevent them from being deceived as to the nature of transgression, to save them from committing sin, and suffering its penalty” (Patriarchs and Prophets p. 42-3).
Share: Where in your life do you see the great controversy play out? What does the character of God in dealing with Satan teach you about how He deals with you when you commit sin?
It is a fact that at various points in your life you have continually witnessed the effect of sin and its circumstances. The great controversy is always active, although, owing to our sinful nature, we cannot fully understand the circumstances revolving around it.
Why do you think that God did not destroy Satan immediately at the start of the great controversy? How much time to change do you think God should give you before He destroys you completely after sin?
Suggested alternative question: Why do you think God did not allow Lucifer’s sin (deliberate disconnection from God, the source of life) to destroy him immediately? How long do you think He should allow this “sin experiment” to go on before allowing sin to have its natural consequences and destroy itself and everything and everyone unalterably connected with it?
What are some of the impacts of the great controversy that we still feel now, thousands of years after Lucifer started it and our first parents chose to join it?
What role does the Ten Commandment law play in your life, especially in shaping your character?
Look at the environment around you. Do you see the great controversy in play? What is not perfect as originally created by God?
Does the Bible give you enough freedom to live as you want? Or does it enslave you to live by some specific rules? Give reasons for your answer.