It is no secret that people are getting married—if they’re getting married at all—later in life than in generations past.
Why do you think it is? Are they waiting because they feel they can be better prepared for marriage? Perhaps during those extra years they’re memorizing Bible verses, applying biblical wisdom, and studying under long-married couples?
Many, especially those who profess the name of Jesus Christ, are breaking the Seventh Commandment (“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 22:14). They don’t want to commit to marriage, and thus they feel freer to have sex on their own terms.
In fact, a 2013 government study found that 48 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 had moved in with a man to whom they were not married. The study covered the years between 2006 and 2010 and discovered that cohabitation was on the rise. In 2002, it was 43 percent, and in 1995, 34 percent.
This Commandment Is for Our Blessing
There’s a universal notion in our nation that rules are bad—really bad. We love freedom in America, which is good thing, and we reason that actual freedom is essential to any pleasure. And true freedom, we imagine, comes from chucking any outside restrictions and following only the orders of our own hearts.
Two myths emerge from this line of thought:
1. “I am most free when I am liberated from all rules.” John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Real freedom is found not in existing by our desires, but by our design in God.
2. “My desires are the top track to knowing what’s best for me.” Have you ever had a time in your life that you followed your heart and it got you into trouble (Jer. 17:9)? God’s laws are beneficial. They flow out of the intention of a good and loving God for us, not the random orders of a controlling and distant tyrant. The commandments lead to our blessing, not our unhappiness.
What Are the Restrictions of This Commandment?
The fundamental focus of the Seventh Commandment isn’t on what is banned, but what is supported. This commandment is a protection of God’s view of sex and should be ours as well.
Why? Because God created the pleasure of sex and knows how it works best!
In the New Testament, any type of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is known in the Greek as “porneia.” This is, of course, where the current words “porn” or “pornography” originate.
(Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that even lusting is breaking this commandment.)
Several cultural responses arise from this restriction of sex outside of one man and one woman in marriage:
- “But we love one another.” Great! Have you united in marriage? If not, it’s porneia.
- “We are engaged and are waiting to get married.” Engagement is different in the Lord’s eyes than marriage. It’s porneia any other way.
- “What about “friends with benefits”? What harm can come?” Everything—it’s considered porneia.
- “What about homosexual marriage?” If it isn’t between one man and one woman in marriage, it’s porneia. And it is often said, “Jesus never denounced homosexuality.”
Yet 11 times in His ministry he affirmed the Old Testament’s understanding of blessed sex between a man and woman in marriage. Anything outside of that was breaking this commandment.
Okay, But Why Is Sex Outside of Traditional Marriage Bad?
According to Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33, sex is more than just biology. Since we are created in God’s image, marriage and sex are to point to something divine and eternal beyond us. Earthly marriages are given to us as a depiction of God’s relationship to us.
In marriage, there’s a complete union of two persons. It’s total oneness. What’s more, there is exclusiveness in marriage. Even if you’re not married, when you’re having sex with somebody, you don’t want them out “playing the field” on you, do you? Marriage confirms there is no other person but your spouse. And, finally, in marriage there’s total acceptance. The goal is to see your spouse for who he or she is and love him or her no matter what.
Likewise, in our relationship to God, it ties Himself to us when we become Christians through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:15). Second, just like the earthly picture of marriage, we have no other gods but Him and Him alone. And, finally, God unconditionally accepts us in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. He sees us for all that we were (sinners by nature and action), in all our shame, and loves us just as we are in His Son.
Where Does This Leave You?
Sex is an echo of God’s love for all humanity. When you take it simply as a “good time,” you downplay the mystery and glory God put into us.
Throughout the Bible, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the people of God is that they view sex differently. God guards sex for our good. When adultery was rampant among God’s people, God saw it as an offense against Himself, as if He were the injured one (Jer. 5:8-9). Satan’s plan for sex is to have as much of it as possible before marriage, and as little as possible within marriage. One of the many wonderful things about the Song of Solomon is that it says sex inside the marriage covenant is supposed to be sexy.
The Bible has an extremely high view of sex. It is a part of the most intimate, vulnerable and personal parts of our body. There’re so many who resist this commandment because they are afraid of missing out on something. The Bible tells you to keep sex in marriage precisely because it doesn’t want you to miss out on something.
So, ask yourself honestly, what is your God? What commands your obedience? Is it sex? Pornography? Lust?
What you really need to do is return to the First Commandment—“no other gods before me.” Your soul isn’t right with God and so you crave all these things in sex. Remind yourself that sex is a picture. Yes, it is wonderful, but it points beyond itself to the love of God given to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
God values our sexuality, more than we do. Does your view of sex line up with God’s?