"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Sex Is a Symbol of Something Else

"Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the bed undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).

Lil Wayne caused an uproar last week when he stomped on the American flag. Nobody gets in trouble for stepping on cloth died red, white or blue if that cloth is a shirt or a rag, but when died cloth is a symbol for America--and you step on it--people get really upset.

Symbols have meaning.

Christians have a hard time explaining why sex outside of marriage is wrong because we haven't been taught that marriage is a symbol of something else. When everybody else in culture seems to be participating in sex outside of marriage, the person who abstains from sex until marriage is often looked upon as weird or abnormal. As Christians, we need to give some very good reasons for why sex should be reserved for marriage. We haven't done our children any favors by asking them to make promises of abstinence without ever giving them reasons for their promises. Here it is:

Sex in marriage is a symbol of a person's union and intimacy with God.

Sex outside of marriage is a symbol of a person turning his back on God.

One should wait for sex until marriage for the same reason Lil Wayne ought to refrain from trampling on the American flag. The flag represents his country, and desecrating the symbol for America is a picture of Lil Wayne turning his back on America. Likewise, sex outside of marriage is a symbol of a person turning his back on a union with God.

Throughout Scripture, God calls those who trust Him "the bride of Christ."  When Paul refers to the union of a man and a wife, He compares it to the union between Christ and His people (Ephesians 5:22-33). It would be right to say that everything about the sexual union between a man and a woman in marriage is a beautiful picture of what it is going to be like when we see our covenant God face-to-face and are united with Him forever.

The euphoria and ecstasy of heaven are pictured in the sexual union of marriage. The intimacy in relationship between a husband and wife pictures the intimacy of relationship between Christ and His people. There is one simple way to prove that the sexual union in marriage pictures something else.

When the reality is present, there is no longer any need for the picture.

I was a wrangler in Colorado and would alternate taking people to the top of two majestic mountains, Mt. Antero and Mt. Princeton, and prepare breakfast for them. How silly would it have been for the people who went with me to the top of the mountains to sit down smack dab in the middle of a 360 panoramic view of the Rockies and pull out pictures of the views from the top of the mountains and focus on the pictures? It would have been very silly. You don't need pictures when you are on top of the mountains and can look at the real thing that the pictures represent.

Jesus said, "During the resurrection (heaven) people will not marry nor will they be given in marriage" (Matthew 22:30). I've heard some people with great marriages get upset with the fact that they won't be married in heaven. Relax. Your best friend here will be your best friend there. What Jesus is saying is that there is no sexual activity in heaven, no sexual union in marriage in heaven, no procreation in heaven.

There is no marriage or giving in marriage (the sexual union) in heaven because there is no need for the symbol or the picture when the reality is present.

The euphoria and ecstasy the marriage bed pictures will be enjoyed the feelings we have of being united with Christ forever. Sexual union within the context of marriage is a picture of our eternal union with Christ.

This is why marriage in this life should never be the identity of any individual Christian Whether you are single, widowed, divorced, or in a bad marriage, the essence of who you are as a person is found in  in your union with Christ, not in a good marriage or the lack of a good marriage. The picture frame may break, or the picture itself may be destroyed, but the reality of what marriage represents cannot be destroyed. Singles, don't let anybody tell you that you are "missing out" by not being married. Look them square in the eye and tell them you have the reality of what their marriage represents. You have union with your covenant God and you enjoy Him and can't wait until you see Him face to face.

Since God designed marriage to be a symbol or picture of the union that people can have with Him, then when a person moves into sexual activity outside of marriage, it is a picture that that one has gone after the pleasure of other gods and has forsaken the joy that comes from union with the one true and living God.
 
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” (I Corinthians 6:18-19). The argument against sexual sins outside of marriage is that you are in union with God, and if you united yourself sexually with someone other than your spouse, you are symbolizing an abandonment of your union with God.  You are like Lil Wayne - you are trampling on the flag of marriage and turning your back on what the flag represents.

The sin of sexual activity outside of marriage is spiritual, not physical.  Anybody who tries to tell you that sex outside of marriage is not pleasurable is lying. The act of sex is always pleasurable, that's why people are addicted to it. What those people who go after sex outside of marriage forget is that sex symbolizes something else.  The person who looks to sexual activity as a goal has forgotten that there is a God. Only He can feel the empty soul with the joy, purpose and meaning.

Sexual sins are symptoms, not the disease. The disease of the sexual addict is a lack of enjoying a union with God. The symptom of this spiritual disease is to look for sex as the goal. Or, to put it in biblical language, "the sex addict begins to worship the thing created rather than the Creator" (see Romans 1).

“For fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). God is not judging people for participating in the act of sex. God created sex. It is a beautiful and sacred act. The reason God judges fornicators and adulterers is because the person who pursues sex outside of the context of marriage is giving evidence that he or she is not in union with God.  It’s not the act of sex that is judged. It’s not the enjoyment of the act of sex that is judged. It is the separation from God in the act of sex that is judged.

I think Beth Moore is the one who said, "There is no high like the Most High."  The person who is enjoying their union with God will have no problem honoring the flag.
 
It makes zero sense to condemn the world for their sexual immorality. They have no concept that sex is a picture of something else. But there may come a time when you can use the subject of sex as a way to witness of your union with Christ.
 
Next time someone pressures you to have sex outside the confines of marriage, feel free to say no to that person in this manner, "I find you attractive. I am sure I would enjoy having sex with you. However, sex is a symbol of my covenant relationship with God. I am united with Him. He has pledged His fidelity to me. He loves me. He cares for me. I am going to wait for sex until marriage because I wish to honor the symbol He has given me of my relationship with God. To have sex with you now is to symbolically turn my back on my union with the most important Person in my life. I will not trample on the symbol of my spiritual union with my God."
 
Then take a picture of the look on your friend's face.
 
             

20 comments:

Victorious said...

Sex in marriage is a symbol of a person's union and intimacy with God.

Sex outside of marriage is a symbol of a person turning his back on God.


Oh my...I couldn't disagree more.

Sex is an appetite of the flesh just as hunger and thirst. All are normal and provide pleasure. If sex wasn't pleasurable, no one would fulfill the "be fruitful and multiply" command to fill the earth and eventually provide the seed of the woman.

I don't see sex as symbolizing my union with God any more than when I satisfy my appetite for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The difference with the sexual appetite is the commitment of the two individuals who pledged their lives to one another.

Ephesians 5 references Christ and the church as an example of His laying down His life for those He loves and His nourishing them and is intended for husbands to follow that example in their self sacrifice for their wives. To sexualize or spiritualize that passage is to miss the point entirely in my humble opinion.

Self control is the answer to all God-given appetites. To imply sex is symbolic of a union and/or intimacy with God is to imply Jesus Himself, Paul, and all single/widowed or eunuch's (for the sake of the Kingdom) have not this union/intimacy.

as I see it....



Wade Burleson said...

Victorious,

"To imply sex is symbolic of a union and/or intimacy with God is to imply Jesus Himself, Paul, and all single/widowed or eunuch's (for the sake of the Kingdom) have not this union/intimacy."

I think you may have misread my post or not read it carefully. The following paragraph would apply to Jesus, Paul and any other single/widowed person.

"Whether you are single, widowed, divorced, or in a bad marriage, the essence of who you are as a person is found in in your union with Christ, not in a good marriage or the lack of a good marriage. The picture frame may break, or the picture itself may be destroyed, but the reality of what marriage represents cannot be destroyed. Singles, don't let anybody tell you that you are "missing out" by not being married. Look them square in the eye and tell them you have the reality of what their marriage represents. You have union with your covenant God and you enjoy Him and can't wait until you see Him face to face."

Thanks for the comment!

Wade Burleson said...

Victorious,

Also, in the same manner, when a person participates in sexual activity outside of marriage, it doesn't mean that he or she has no actual union with God -- for the reality of the union with God can't be broken by our unfaithfulness.

Again, thanks for commenting.

Kevin Sanders said...

This (sexual purity) is an issue near and dear to my heart and one I spend a lot of time writing about. May we continue to honor God even though we live in an "x rated" world.

Victorious said...

Wade, I actually read your post carefully, but found it difficult to get past the statement that sex is symbolic of a person's union and intimacy with God.

May I ask then what is symbolic of a single, widowed, or divorced person's union and intimacy with God?

And if sex truly is symbolic of a person's union and intimacy with God, does more sex mean a closer union and intimacy? And what does that say of David and Solomon and other polygamists?

Paul specifically says that it's better to marry than to burn but clearly admits that marriage is a distraction from the things of the Lord.

I don't see scripture that spiritualizes sex as reflecting a union with Christ. Paul seems to indicate that marriage is a "safeguard" against immoralities and lack of self control.

My apologies if I sound harsh, but I am sick to death of the way the topic of sex and marriage has infiltrated the church to the point of idolatry with a kind P.S. tacked on for unmarrieds.

I'm not saying you do this, but in a sex-saturated world, do we really need more sex-saturated teachings in the church?

Again, forgive my harshness. I do believe scripture admonishes abstaining from sexual immorality, but evidently God didn't think David and Solomon were immoral.

Christiane said...

Sex outside of marriage is forbidden in sacred Scripture. If it occurs, it is called a 'sin', which by all means can be described as a 'turning away from God' . . .

but sex also harms the 'other' involved person in a sinful relationship, so when one partner leads the other into sin, that compounds the seriousness of the offense

if a person is unfaithful to a spouse, and the spouse is hurt, that is a devastating betrayal of a promise before God,
if the marriage vows were made in Church . . . and in some cases, the injured spouse may then attempt to find consolation in a forbidden relationship outside of the marriage,
which brings in a fourth person involved in sin . . .

I don't think people understand that there is more to sin that offending God . . .
that sin is above all a lack of love for God and for others that is selfish and many times cruel in its consequences . . . ask children who cry in school because daddy is leaving mommy to go live with his girlfriend (children are the saddest victims of sex outside of marriage)


I reject any teaching that says sex outside of marriage is other than a sin against God that also injures others. If a person is engaging in sex outside of marriage and tries in any way to justify it, or re-define it, I would ask them to think about who gets hurt other than themselves,
but the truth is,
by the time they have chosen the path of this sin,
their thought is like for 'self' at all costs.

It's the 'costs' that are so very sad. May God keep us all from temptation and from evil for the duration of our lives on this Earth. And tempted parents need to have mercy on their children, the youngest and most injured victims of many a betrayed marriage for sure.

Anonymous said...

Victorious,

Thank you for your excellent comments. I totally agree with you.

Ruby Tuesday

Rex Ray said...

Well, well!

IMHO, the batter that has been striking out just hit a homerun.

In my boyhood days, Zane Grey was a favorite, and I believe it was there an old cowboy was counseling a man about marriage.

The guy didn’t want to get married because sex (with saloon girls) made him feel dirty. The old guy said, “Sex in marriage is just like being in church.”

Funny how you remember some things but can’t find your glasses.

Wade Burleson said...

"In a sex-saturated world, do we really need more sex-saturated teachings in the church?"

Hebrews 13:4 is the text we dealt with last Sunday morning. You might listen to the message and see if your feelings are the same. Most people who heard it (and spoke to me) had the opposite reaction. They were grateful that sex was presented as sacred and not animalistic, that young people were given reasons why they should ignore culture's bias about sex with multiple partners, and that that people were given reasons for waiting for sex until marriage.

Again, thanks for your comments.

Wade Burleson said...

By the way, when a man abuses a person sexually, the judgment of God is very severe. The punishment always matches the crime.



Rex Ray said...

Victorious,

I keep your testimony of June 10 at the start of my record of comments. I respect your ‘courage’ to disagree.

David, Solomon, and Paul are NOT good examples of sex that God intended. With David and Solomon, culture made sex a reward. David’s first wife was given to him for killing Goliath. Women were like another notch on a gunslinger’s gun.

Paul did not comply with God’s plan to populate the earth and “It’s not good for the man to be alone.”

What if Paul had children to spread the Gospel? His only idea of marriage was to avoid lust if a person could not control himself.

Paul controlled himself physically, but what about his thoughts in Romans 7:14-25? He wrote, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

What did Paul hate? Was his thorn in the flesh thinking about sex?

RRR said...

Wade,

Great post. I agree with you that sexual relationships are indeed used by God to symbolize our exclusive and intimidate relationship with Him. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention.

God Himself uses this concept over and over again of sexual exclusiveness being within the confines of a husband and wife and it symbolizing the intimate, private, personal and precious relationship we have with God and that He has with us. God uses it in Scripture so often in that context that it leads me to believe that maybe God created “sex” for the purpose of helping us to understand our relationship with Him even more than His creating sex for reasons of pro-creation, personal gratification or expressing love between the husband and wife although it surely is for those purposes too.

God repeatedly uses this symbolically in Scripture by showing how we can relate to the pain He feels when we reject or are unfaithful to Him by comparing it to the excruciating pain caused by the first time of sexual unfaithfulness of a husband or wife.

The significance of sexual unfaithfulness between a husband and wife is again affirmed by Jesus. It's the only justification "mentioned" specifically by Jesus for a divorce to take place.

NOTHING is more intimate, personal, private and precious for a man and woman than their sexual identity and it is THE most valuable expression of trust that they give to their spouse.

When someone minimizes sexual relationships as being less than what God created it to be it makes me wonder if they've already "trashed" their sexual identity so as to make it have no more value than a "hand shake" which is exactly what the media and worldly culture (king Satan) has intended. It’s sad to see our society reach this point where it has become so de-sensitized to the most basic principles of morals and God-created boundaries. We have definitely thrown the "pearls to the swine".

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I’ll bet your Sunday service didn’t start with a recorded song with words on a screen: “I’d like to have a beer with Jesus.”

Sorry, the devil made me do it. :)

Victorious said...

I agree with you that sexual relationships are indeed used by God to symbolize our exclusive and intimidate relationship with Him

RRR, would you please provide scripture that equates sexual intercourse between a woman and man with a relationship with God?

If this is true (and I don't believe it is, we have just made sexual "activity" even more enticing to those who are single. Who wouldn't want to experience this intimate union with God?

Can we imagine God reserving a special union and intimacy for only those who have signed a contract of marriage? No...it is not the sexual act that God relates Himself to. It's the relationship between them; love, self-sacrifice, nurturing, sharing, and commitment. These are the characteristics that God exhibits to all believers (not marrieds only) and that He desire we likewise express to Him. In other words, we love Him because He first loved us.

Love is reciprocal and can be certainly be expressed in the sexual act, but that is not nor should it be the primary method of expression. If we understand this love for one another, we will not focus on marriage as the primary relationship that reflects an intimacy with God.

The Bible is full of loving relationships between people; i.e. David and Jonathan and subsequently his kindness to Mephibosheth. Those are examples of the type of love (not sexual) that God desires between people.

RRR said...

Dear Victorious;

“Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? (Jer. 3:6) 3:9 Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. (Jer. 3:9) “How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of whores. (Jer. 5:7) Also Ezekiel 16:38, 23:37.
(Rev. 19:7: Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;

Rev. 19:7/2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Rev. 21:2/29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. John 3:29/23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:23) The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

(1 Cor. 6:13) 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:15-20)

Terry said...

If I might suggest an additional direction for this conversation - from God's perspective, when are a man and woman actually married? This is a significant issue because the concept of marriage is making a dramatic shift in our culture. It is rare indeed for a man and woman not to have sex before they walk down the aisle. Often, such is the case between two faithful Christians who are committed to one another. Is it possible that God views them as married before they actually say, “I do” in front of the church? I there a difference between the legal or cultural view of when a marriage happens than when God considers a couple married? I am not looking for a justification for sex before marriage but simply asking if marriage (in God’s eyes) might happen before it does in man’s eyes.

RRR said...

Terry,

I think you're right. A "paper" from the government doesn't make a marriage and a "paper" from the government doesn't "end" a marriage.

Victorious said...

RRR, thank you for posting those scriptures, but again, they do not equate sex between a woman and man with an intimate union with God.

They do speak to unfaithfulness in a relationship where two have committed themselves to one another. They speak of immorality as well. Let's face it, God is relating these sins to marriage because of the pain and harm to the partner. He is expressing His disappointment, sorrow and anger at His people for their infidelity in turning to other pagan gods and away from Him.

Still, no reference of the act of two bodies engaging in sexual intercourse as the symbol of intimacy with Him.

It's relationship that's God's concern and how we treat one another both in marriage and otherwise.

Infidelity, putting away, treacherous treatment, etc. against one's spouse is what God hates. These are sins against the one who is supposed to be treated with love and respect.

Is the "royal law" of loving Him and one another that enables a close, intimate relationship with Him...not sex.



RRR said...

Victorious,

"Is the "royal law" of loving Him and one another that enables a close, intimate relationship with Him...not sex."

Sorry if I have not communicated my thoughts clearly. I'm sure that if we had the opportunity to dialogue face to face we would better understand each other. My intent was not to suggest that our relationship with God is dependent upon our succeeding in obeying His moral code of confining sex within marriage. Of course all followers of Christ would want to be obedient in that as well as all of His instructions.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

To my mind, there can be more than one perspective on the symbolism of sex.

As you pointed out, a small number of people are strong and self-sufficient, preferring the single life. They have the benefit of being unencumbered in their service for God and should give thanks to Him for that.They find all their fulfilment and identity in Him alone, and honor Him in their state of willing celibacy and sexual abstinence. We honor them too,for living their lives according to the way the feel led by the Spirit.

Related to single celibacy is the long standing tradition among some Christian groups that sex in marriage is intended for procreation alone, and that sex is not intended, nor needed, to sustain any of the basic principles of marriage , such as mutual love, caring , support, provision, protection, companionship, respect and submission. Married 'abstainence' is their goal. For them, apart from the procreation act to 'be fruitful and multiply', all forms of sex to satisfy a carnal pleasure is considered as being idolatrous, and the sinful misuse of God's creative provision. That would apply to all recreational sex, be it in marriage, fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexuality, bestiality, paedophilia or incest. All are taboo because the sins of the flesh war against our new nature in Christ. Sexual abstinence, in or out of marriage, is seen by them as a symbol of identification with the self-emptying of Christ, who knew no sin.
This is how they feel led by the Spirit to conduct their lives, and we can respect that too.

The truth is that a good marriage of true hearts is not dependent upon being sexually active in marriage. Harmony comes essentially from applying our hearts and minds to all the loving attitudes so well set out for us in 1 Cor 13. Be sure of this, sex , like other things, will pass away but love never ends.

Gordon