In today’s societal circles it is not an uncommon ideology that purity is a thing of the past and marriage is just a piece of paper. Such perceptions are not seen today as profanity, but as public norm in a modern and progressive civilisation. Chastity is condemned to the garbage heap of worthless charms that come from a bygone era. It is seen as being archaic and a misfit in an educated and sophisticated culture, with its value and praise only worthy in time-honoured classics such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
No more is that gemstone of purity once seen as the main piece in a woman’s tiara and worn with dignity upon her head a desirable diadem. No longer is the glistening silk fabric of chastity once woven through a lady’s character, and valued, guarded and lauded by her male counterpart, an attractive garment hung in shop windows enticing to passers-by.
This should come as no surprise though, for it is the cyclical pattern evident in peoples conduct almost as far back as creation itself. The crucial turning point lifting people from plummeting even lower, right to the depths of deserving God’s irrevocable judgement, being repentance, reformation and transformation alone. This downward spiral, including God’s irrevocable judgement as evidenced in the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Canaanites being wiped out by the Israelites to name a few, is documented throughout the recordings of Scripture, and it is clear in the Apostle Paul’s writings that society at that time was unregenerate and steeped in what is politely termed “misconduct”. This cycle has once again been repeated, and it is clearly proportionate to the withdrawal of man from walking with God. The Bible teaches that it will reach the height of its baseness in the last days – and it is also likely to be so, for the so-called church will not be a pillar of steadfast morality to stand against the blow, or stem the haemorrhage.
The church of today has begun to accept and draw from the libertines of general society, having also “progressed” in its thinking and practise. Adaptability and pliability have been seen as necessary lifelines not only beneficial to the survival of businesses, but also required to ensure the continued existence and maintenance of the church at large. In many instances church leadership is pioneering the way ahead, but peer influence within the church has also promulgated and encouraged this shift with its progressive perspectives in this regard. Those opposing the liberal change are now more frequently considered to be obscurantists with a dogmatic doctrine (shibboleth), rather than stalwarts of the faith, thus leaving those desirous of pursuing purity under more pressure to conform. As a true, born again Christian with a heart to go God’s way, how do you respond to all this? Can true, born again Christians accept this? Has this shift truly been to the benefit of believers? What impact does it have on our relationship with the Lord, which is ultimately at the heart of our salvation? Have we been sold a lie, or liberated from worthless tradition and piety, thus leaving us free to indulge the senses and what was once seen as a stigma of forbidden fruit? Let us delve into this matter a little further and find out what Scripture reveals.
The devil’s deception and destructiveness
Firstly, there are some aspects that we need to understand, which will give us a clearer perspective upon which to base our judgement and reaction.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8,9).
The devil waits for an opportune time before attempting to destroy. He waits for a time when he feels that a person will be vulnerable, or in a compromised position where that person may have the potential to falter or fumble. He waits for a weakness, a tiredness, an opening. In Matthew 4:1–11 is recorded the temptation of Jesus, where the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Note when the devil came to tempt – it was not immediately, when Jesus was strong, well and feeling fine. It was after Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights that he came to tempt. The devil came when Jesus was hungry. As another example: if you want to push someone over, you will not try to do so when they are standing braced and ready for your hand to shove them. Why? Because you know that they will be able to resist the shove and stand firm. You will wait until they are on the wrong foot, or have overbalanced for some reason and are not alert to your intent to push them to the ground, then you will give them a shove.
The devil works the same way, for he is a liar and a cheat. He waits until he perceives that we are “hungry”. He does not play fair, but foul, for he hates our guts with an everlasting hatred. A moral stand before God and uprightness in keeping oneself pure, he despises with as much venomous evil that exists. He will seek an avenue, an inroad that he can use to take down such a stand – for he hates who we are, what we represent, and God whom we serve. Satan hates God’s principles, commands and laws. He opposes everything that is God, of God, and godly. The devil will delight in our downfall, defeat and destruction – therefore, we need to be on our guard and not give him an inroad, an opportunity, for he will be swift to take it. We need to resist him, standing firm in the faith.
When Satan tempted Eve, what did he do? He questioned God’s command, “Did God really say?”
Satan sowed a doubt,
which encouraged a desire,
which led to disobedience,
which resulted in defilement,
which brought about destruction,
and which ended in devastation.
Additionally, placing oneself deliberately in a situation of compromise leaves one in a precarious and potentially invidious position. Without you knowing it, you leave yourself with the likely prospect of finding yourself on the wrong foot [as mentioned above], and the devil is just waiting for the opportunity to give you a shove and send you to the floor of regret and remorse.
We need to know God’s covenants and the value of what they represent – the devil does, and he hates God for them and us for keeping them. Satan makes unholy what God holds sacred and holy. He devalues what God holds valuable, and debases what God holds in high esteem. This we need to know and understand – it is vital. We also need to know our God – it is more vital still.
In the book of Hosea, a book that will be mentioned later on, God says to the people the following, “My people are cut off for lack of knowledge. Because you rejected the knowledge (knowing God and His requirements), I also rejected you from being priest to Me. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will forget your sons; even I” (Hosea 4:6). This is a strong warning, but also a strong encouragement to learn to know about God, and to learn to know God – in respect to His covenants, commands, and character. The consequences of the failure to do so on our part will be evidenced further on.
In the instance with respect to marriage, sex and covenant, the very intimation now widely claimed that it is “only a piece of paper” is the very lie, delusion, devaluation, and deception that the devil has created regarding a sacred and honoured covenant created by God. Marriage is not a contract, but a covenant – there is a vast difference between the two. The notion of “a piece of paper” reflects the understanding that it only represents a contract [of little value], not a covenant [of high value].
If we have the perspective that marriage is just a piece of paper, so implying that indulging the act of marriage outside of marriage is acceptable, then we have no understanding of God’s character, or His created covenants. We are also walking in sin and rebellion by defiling and disowning such a covenant created by God. Who do we believe – God, or the world/devil? Who do we follow – God or the devil? Who has bought us at a price – God or the devil? Who will save us in the end – God or the devil? Whose principles do we keep – God’s or the devil’s? These are questions that we need to ask and answer for ourselves – but they need to be asked and answered in light of God’s commands and covenants. Salvation is not a licence for sin, nor is grace a freedom for licentiousness. God wants holy people, moral people, sanctified people; people producing a harvest of righteousness for Him. God wants people who know Him, obey Him and follow Him. If we joke and make jest of an area that is serious, or make seem inconsequential that which is very important and close to God’s heart, we could only do so if we:
a) are walking in defeat ourselves,
b) do not understand God’s character, requirements, and judgements for disobedience,
c) do not have a right and sound foundation of salvation and what it means.
The danger zone
It is scary to see the end result of those who take lightly God’s covenants and walk in presumption about what He accepts and does not accept.
- Paul says, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral (fornicators) nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). Paul does not say that if you have accepted Christ as your saviour that you will be exempt from God’s wrath in such instances. He calls such people wicked – and says that such people will not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul is giving a warning to the church at Corinth, he is not warning the unsaved of the world. He goes on to say, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). Paul is saying that you are no longer supposed to conduct yourself in the ways of the wicked – for you have been a) cleansed, b) justified, c) sanctified.
- Paul goes on to say, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your body” (1 Cor 6:18–20). Paul clearly expresses not only his concern regarding the attitudes of the Corinthian church, being appalled at how they are viewing the issues regarding sex, sexual sin and God’s covenants, but he is also expressing the impact, value and seriousness of what this represents.
- Before this, Paul says, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people (fornicators) – not at all meaning the people of the world who are immoral, or greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother (saved person) but is sexually immoral (a fornicator) or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’” (1 Cor 5:9–11,13b). Paul makes no bones about the issue. He takes it very seriously, for he understands the devastation and destruction that it represents to the believers and the church. He recognises where it will lead – one bad apple in a barrel of good ones. Apart from it denying God’s cleansing power, and purity of body and spirit, we can understand that this bad apple concept is indirectly what Paul is implying, for in the latter part of Pauls letter to the Corinthian church he says, “Do not be misled (deceived): ‘Bad company corrupts good character (morals).’ Come back to your senses (awaken to righteousness) as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame” (1 Cor 15:33,34).
- Jesus himself clearly stands against this very same conduct when He addresses the Church in Pergamum, as recorded in the book of Revelation, “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality (fornication). Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:14,16). It is very clear that Jesus does not approve of or tolerate fornication – He stands against it and calls it sin. Furthermore, if it is not repented of, He will not only condemn those who commit such offence, but will fight against them. That which was an abomination to God in the Old Testament still remains an abomination today (in the New Testament).
- We further understand the severity of this, for when talking about the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes (Blessed are they that do His commandments), that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practise magic arts, the sexually immoral (fornicators), the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood” (Revelation 22:14,15).
The above is a sobering warning to us, which we need to heed. Peer influences within the church promulgating and encouraging a shift towards progressive perspectives in this area are selling us a delusion and a lie when they say that marriage is only a piece of paper; intimate restraint is not necessary. The deception is straight from the mouth of the devil and leads to the pit of destruction (hell).
God says, “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6a). Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). It is interesting to note what Paul says in one of the verses almost immediately preceding Hebrews 13:8. He says, “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (fornicators)” (Heb 13:4). Again, Paul is writing to believers and warning them, he is not writing to the unsaved. As Christians we need to heed the warnings and listen. What we also need to take note of here is that in the pronounced judgement, God does not make a distinction between the unsaved and the saved – God will judge the adulterer and all fornicators.
An additional warning
Many believe that their salvation rests alone on a once-off declaration that they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They believe that they cannot thereafter lose their salvation, no matter what they do – as forgiveness of their sins is perpetual, and God’s grace unexhausted and irrevocable. However, this is not true.
The promulgators of the above mentioned progressive perspectives may poo-poo what has been presented, but all of us also need to take heed of the following, for it threads a pattern and perspective throughout the Bible – from start to finish:
“The LORD replied to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33).
- This was after the Israelites, who had been brought out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, made the golden calf and indulged sexual sin. These were a people who had literally been saved and baptised and were God’s people – for they had been covered with the blood of the lamb (saved by Jesus), brought out of slavery (been set free) and delivered from their pursuing enemy having passed through the water (baptism). They were now a covenant people of God. Yet this (Ex 32:33) is what God says about them.
- It may be argued that they made an idol, so this was why God’s anger burned.
Firstly, when we make principles based on our own understanding and ways, we are making God to fit our model of God. This is making an idol, for it is fashioned by our own minds and hands, not by God’s commands and decrees.
Secondly, they committed sexual sin. Sexual sin follows idolatry; and where you find sexual sin, you will find idolatry – God made in the image of man’s fashioning. This is no different to a golden calf.
Thirdly, God takes sexual sin very seriously, for in the conduct with the Moabites [as mentioned above with Balaam and Balak], God wiped out 24000 people with a plague as a result of their idolatry and sexual sin.
- What is very interesting is that the plague was stopped when Phinehas drove a spear through an Israelite man and Moabite woman who were committing fornication. What is further interesting is that Phinehas’ conduct turned God’s action away from the Israelites (stopped the plague), for he was as zealous as God for God’s honour. We are told that this was credited to Phinehas as righteousness for endless generations to come. God made a covenant of peace with him (Psalm 106:30; Numbers 25:10–13). This is extraordinary – you have two complete contrasts. On the one hand you have God’s burning anger against a disobedient people conducting themselves in idolatry and sexual immorality (chaos), and on the other hand you have God’s acceptance and covenant [of peace] with a man who understood God’s requirements and honoured God.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence (blot me not out of Your book); and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:10–12).
- This is king David repenting after committing adultery with Bathsheba. It may be argued that this is adultery, but when it comes to the classification of sin, God does not distinguish between adultery and fornication – it is sexual sin.
- Note part of what David is pleading for – cast me not away; take not thy Holy Spirit from me. He understands that his name can be removed from God’s book and his salvation forfeited. Therefore, he repents – the very action that Jesus calls for in Revelation 2:14,16 (as mentioned earlier). David seeks a clean heart – and a right spirit.
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains, and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete (perfect) in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:1b–6).
- This again, is a word to the church, not to the unsaved. Jesus is giving warning – “you have the reputation of being alive (saved, a Christian, fruitful), but you are dead (lost, separate, useless, worthless).” Jesus calls for repentance and obedience. Again, we have a warning through implication of the opposite of what is said about the overcomers – those who do not repent and do not overcome, their names will be erased from the book of life.
“Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
What is holy has nothing whatsoever to do with what is unclean – they must never come into contact. What is unclean needs to be cleansed and then consecrated.
- That is why Jesus calls the church to repent of the deeds done in disobedience and defilement of God’s directives and decrees. Repentance is a turning away from; a regret about one’s actions, and wish that it had never been done; a resolve not to continue the wrongdoing.
- That is why Paul says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
1 Peter 1:15,16 – “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (Reference to Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7)
- God is completely holy, so we must be completely holy.
- Western society has adopted the Greek way of thinking, whereby the body and the spirit are separate – or in other terms, the physical has nothing to do with the spiritual. However, the Hebrew way of thinking does not separate them – God is One, so we are also a whole; a complete entity. This is God’s perspective, because we are made in God’s image and our whole being – body, soul, spirit – is important to Him and impacts upon our functionality and relationship with Him. God’s perspective should also be our perspective.
1 Corinthians 7:34,35* – “There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit (your own good); not that I may cast a snare (restriction) upon you, but for that which is comely (right living), and that ye may attend upon (serve) the Lord without distraction.”
- There is a distinction between the roles of the unmarried (virgin) and the married.
- As an unmarried, you are not there to be seeing how you can please your boyfriend – you are not married. Your devotion should still be solely to the Lord.
- Devoted – being holy – is both in body and spirit, not just in spirit. We are called to be holy in body and spirit. Taking what is holy to God and making it common and then unclean – chastity and our bodies – is not honouring God and not being devoted to our Lord.
- Paul is saying this not to place restrictions (snares), but is saying it for your benefit, for your advantage. He has just had to deal with the mess in the Corinthian church due to sexual immorality and fornication and is trying to create order and keep sanity (not to mention sanctity) in the ranks of the believers.
- In summary – it is:
> knowing the peculiarity (distinction) between married and unmarried,
> keeping purity (being holy),
> maintaining perspective (being devoted),
> seeing the positive (not a snare, but a benefit),
> accepting the purpose (live in a right way),
> honouring the person (undivided devotion to the Lord).
* Paul addresses both the male and female equally, but for express purposes, only one was selected for explanation.
It is important to remember that a godly life is godly through and through, or it is not godly at all. We are to be holy in body and spirit. If we are not, we make it all common and potentially unclean. Why? Because when what is common comes into contact with what is holy, the common makes the holy become common – not the other way around. And when what is unclean comes into contact with what is common, it makes the common unclean and unholy. If our spirit is holy, but we make our body common or unclean, what happens to our spirit? It too becomes common or worse, unclean and unholy. God is holy, therefore He says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” What is unholy and unclean cannot dwell with what is holy – they have to be kept separate. It is imperative, therefore, that we be holy to the Lord in both body and spirit, otherwise we cannot be devoted to Him, or commune with Him.