Another day, another Facebook post. And another blog post. A friend referred to an article on The Christian Left’s website. The article asked if premarital sex was a sin.
The author goes into great detail, spanning some seven pages of text, to argue that premarital sex is not a sin. He says that the Greek word we use to translate fornication does not mean premarital sex. He says that the Biblical references that speak of fornication actually address rape, adultery, and prostitution. He concludes,
Since the most important law in Christianity is the Law of Love this must apply to sex too. Don’t use people. Don’t hurt people. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t lead them to think you feel one way when you really don’t just to get sex. Don’t view them as an object. Don’t push them to do something they may not be ready for. Sex must be mutual. …
The author’s conclusion insists that, as long as sex is expressed in a loving context, and as long as it’s consenting adults and nobody gets hurt, premarital sex is not a sin. I beg to differ, however.
The author uses several “manners and customs” resources written from a rabbinic perspective, to make his point. However, he does not address the concept of how words and customs change over time (see Note 2 below). Also, he never cites lexical (Hebrew or Greek dictionaries) resources (see my notes below); and this is unfortunate. He is correct in pointing out cultural differences between Biblical times and modern times. However, he does not address the fact that modern (especially Western) conventions of courtship and post-teen marriage was unknown in the Old and New Testament times. Therefore there would be no need to address the modern concept of premarital sex in the Old Testament or New Testament. In other words, in Biblical Times, about the time they reached puberty, young men and women would enter betrothal, leading to marriage. Also, verses like Genesis 24:67 describe that marriage occurred with act of intercourse; in other words there was no courtship or prearrangement at all. The author speaks of how the Bible treats multiple wives and concubines, however he fails to differentiate between those things described (i.e., the things that happened) and those things prescribed (i.e., the way things are supposed to happen) in Scripture.
For example, in the story of Abraham, we are told that Abraham had intercourse with Hagar (described), though God did not prescribe that Abraham to do it. In the case of Solomon, we are told that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kings 11:3 described), yet God distinctly tells the Hebrews to not marry foreign wives (Exodus 34:16 prescribed). In fact, we are told that his downfall was that over time, Solomon’s wives distracted him into following their gods (1Kings 11:4 described).
Another important description/prescription can be seen in the Old Testament descriptions of polygamy, and the New Testament prescriptions that church elders and deacons must be a “one-woman man” (1Timothy 3:2, 12).
The author is correct in pointing out that the term fornication includes rape, adultery and prostitution and that most of the OT “fornication” passages refer to those definitions. However, the New Testament Greek word (from which we also get pornography) includes all sorts of sexual immorality, not excluding premarital sex. He also neglects to address another Greek word used in the New Testament to describe sexual sin: licentiousness. Between these two Greek words, pretty much all non-marital sexual activity is covered.
Finally, in a most offensive, presumptive comment, the author reveals his bias:
Many of the sexually repressive teachings that developed in the middle ages are still being followed today. These teachings are based on oppressive Christian traditions that have no biblical basis other than ignorance.
In contrast to the authors comments, the New Testament is very “un-oppressive” and has a great deal of descriptions and prescriptions painting women in a very positive light, as they are given new freedoms in the New Covenant (Galatians 3:28). Women are the first people to see the Empty Tomb (Luke 23:55). Women are very active in the early church. Acts 2:17-19 — quoting Joel 2 — even says that with the Holy Spirit’s anointing, women would prophesy). Also, Romans 16 mentions the deaconess, Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and the apostle, Junia (a legitimate translation of Greek in Romans 16:7). Any “oppressive” Christian traditions do not find their foundation in the inspired, progressive Biblical revelation.
We often come to wrong conclusions because we ask the wrong questions. “Is premarital sex sinful?” is one of those wrong questions. If the Greek word for fornication means “sexual immorality”, we must ask, “Does premarital sex fall under the category of sexually immorality?” Corollary questions are, “What is sexually moral?” and “What is prescribed (not just described) in Scripture?”
The foundational question we should ask is, “Biblically speaking, what is the purpose of sex?” I think it’s safe to say that the first Biblical purpose of sex is procreation Genesis 1:22), though it is not limited to just procreation. Paul says that sexual oneness is a mysterious model of Jesus and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32) Thus, Paul’s prescription for Believers seeking to obediently follow Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit is: Celibacy outside of marriage and fidelity in marriage. (Galatians 5:16–17)
Paul acknowledges that we have sexual desires, but says that there is a proper context for expressing those desires. “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV) Note that Paul prescribes a one-man, one-woman marriage union.
In relation to the paragraph above, the right question is, “What is right about premarital sex?” Does premarital sex model the mysterious union between Jesus and the church? It does not. God’s prescription of the “Law of Love” does not negate the law of God’s righteousness. Biblically based sexual expression is within the confines of God’s righteousness. And God prescribes it as “very good”. (Genesis 1:31, 2:24) Paul goes on to say that married couples should regularly engage in this pleasurable activity. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
So to answer the question, “Is premarital sex sinful?” the Biblical answer is, “Yes. Sexual activity outside the confines of marriage is sin.”
1. πορνεία [porneia /por·ni·ah/] n f. From 4203; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4518; 26 occurrences; AV translates as “fornication” 26 times. 1 illicit sexual intercourse. 1A adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc. 1B sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18. 1C sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)
2. Later Judaism shows how the use of porneía broadens out to include not only fornication or adultery but incest, sodomy, unlawful marriage, and sexual intercourse in general. (Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1985 : 919. Print.)
3. πορνεύω [porneuo /porn·yoo·o/] v. From 4204; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4519; Eight occurrences; AV translates as “commit fornication” seven times, and “commit” once. 1 to prostitute one’s body to the lust of another. 2 to give one’s self to unlawful sexual intercourse. 2A to commit fornication. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)
4. ἀσέλγεια (sensuality/licentiousness)
In some languages the equivalent of ‘licentious behavior’ would be ‘to live like a dog’ or ‘to act like a goat’ or ‘to be a rooster,’ in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior. (Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996 : 770.)
New Testament Prescriptions Regarding “Fornication”
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (Galatians 5:19 ESV)
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV)
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV)
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Today was either a very good day or a very bad day to be a US Citizen. If you are for “marriage equality” for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT), today was a very good day for you.
If, however, you are for traditional “one-man, one-woman marriage”, today was a very bad day for you.
Two very important decisions were handed down by the US Supreme Court today: the Federal DOMA and California’s Proposition 8.
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Federal Government cannot grant special privileges to one group (traditional marriage) over another group (LGBT). Tax credits and other Federal benefits given to traditionally married couples must be granted to LGBT couples as well.
The Federal DOMA was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton in an effort to define marriage in the traditional sense. The Court stated today that those who would limit Federal benefits to one group and not another were doing so in an effort to inflict punishment on the other group. In other words, those who supported DOMA — including Clinton – were bigoted and punitive against those who supported “non-traditional” marriage. Perhaps the Court was correct.
Civil Liberty is a sticky issue.
A few years ago, some groups disapproved allowing religious groups to use public school facilities after school hours and on the weekends. A doctrine of “equal access” was adopted which said that if any one group was allowed access (YMCA, Boy/Girl Scouts), then all other groups also have access. The other side of the same coin said that if one group was prohibited from accessing the school facilities, then all groups would be prohibited from using the facilities.
In a free society, I am protected to be able to practice my religious beliefs according to my personal convictions. At the same time, someone who holds the exact opposite religious beliefs from mine is also protected to practice their religious beliefs according to their personal convictions. That’s the way liberty works. Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants are all free to practice our religious (and non-religious) beliefs. Giving preferential treatment to one group over and against another group violates the “no establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof” parts of the First Amendment. If it applies for one group, it should be applied in the same way to all the other groups.
When the Parker County Ministerial Alliance requested that the Weatherford City Council start with pledges to the US and Texas Flags and an invocation, there was great caution on the part of the Council. They were afraid that at some point in the future the City might have to use taxpayer funds to defend against lawsuits from groups claiming a violation of “separation of church and state”. Their approval could have gone one of two ways:
1 – Having a designated person to pray “nonsectarian” prayers (presumably to a nonsectarian god?).
2 – Allowing a diversity of persons to pray according to their own religious tradition (including praying “in Jesus’ name” for those who chose to do so).
The Council allowed the Ministerial Alliance to coordinate the invocation pray-ers with option 2. The Alliance has done an honest job of being “inclusive” of leaders of respective groups in the community, even inviting religious leaders who are not affiliated with the Alliance.
California’s Proposition 8
The second decision handed down by the Supreme Court had to do with California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 was an amendment to California’s Constitution which defined marriage for the State of California; it was California’s version of the Federal DOMA that applied to just the State of California to protect it in case the Federal Government nationally legalized “nontraditional” marriage. The Court struck down Prop 8, saying that marriage cannot be limited to one-man one-woman couples. However, they also stated that a LGBT couple whose marriage was recognized in one state does not necessarily have to be recognized in any other state.
My Take on the Decisions
I am not a lawyer, nor am I a Constitutional Scholar. However, I am a citizen of the United States whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War of independence against tyranny. I am also a pastor. And these Supreme Court Decisions affect me. They affect all of us.
What we saw today is a display of man’s depravity. What we saw was the natural consequence of putting our ultimate decisions in the hands of nine fallen men and women (the “highest court in the land”).
When a nation turns its back on its original principles and reads its founding documents as “fluid documents”, open to new interpretation of each new generation, anything is up for grabs. Literally anything. LGBT today … LGBTP (pedophilia) tomorrow?
We see a very similar situation in churches that turn their backs on their original principles, where Christians view our founding Document as a fluid document, open to new interpretations of each new generation.
I’m not just talking about the “liberal” churches. I’m also talking about the “conservative” churches. We have all – in our own way – turned out backs on our original principles of reaching a lost and dying world with the hope of the Gospel as it is revealed in the Bible.
The “liberals” have done it by rejecting the Bible as a static document of God’s revelation and authority. They argue that the Bible is outdated and needs to be reinterpreted for the changing culture. They see LGBT as a new situational ethic to be interpreted according to the “love of Christ” without any judgment on the LGBT lifestyle (because the Bible is outdated, remember?).
The “conservatives” have done it by not reaching the lost and dying world. Somehow, we expect lost to find their way to us (even though the Bible clearly says that no one is righteous and no one seeks after God on their own. We have failed to “contextualize” the unchanging Gospel as revealed in the Bible and actually dialog with lost and dying people. We run from Christian huddle to Christian huddle preaching against the evils of abortion and homosexuality. But when was the last time we talked with an unwed teen, offering her viable options for carrying her baby to term (Who’s going to pay for her medical bills?)? Or when was the last time we sat down with a LGBTQ* friend or coworker about his/her struggles for acceptance (regardless of what acceptance he or she may be struggling with)?
Our only hope is for the church to be the church: repent and return to the God on Whose principles and Document our faith was founded. Only then will we have any hope for hope and the blessing that we once enjoyed as a church and as a nation.
So was it a good day or a bad day in Court? Regardless of your views of traditional vs. nontraditional marriage, today was a bad day in Court. It revealed our depravity. The depravity of all of us.
*LGBTQ is a relatively new designation that includes those who are questioning their sexual identity.
As I type this on the morning after the 2012 General Elections, I am physically sick to my stomach. Not because “my guy” didn’t win. I feel sick because of where I see us as a nation and where we are heading as a nation. We are getting what we have asked for. And we deserve exactly what we are getting.
I don’t claim to have the spiritual gift of prophecy, but this is what I see in the coming months and years:
Homosexuality will continue to be paraded in the public square. “Gay marriage” will continue to garner support, either blatantly, or through laissez-faire attitudes by heterosexuals.
Abortion on demand will continue to be “legal and safe”. But it won’t be rare. More babies will be killed (at taxpayer expense), and more women will suffer the physical and emotional consequences of abortion.
First Amendment Religious and Free-Speech Liberties will continue to erode. Religious institutions and other organizations that are pro-life in nature, or pro-life in the organization’s leaders’ beliefs will be required to provide insurance that covers abortion/abortifacients (abortion-causing drugs).
Second Amendment Liberties will be restricted, either through the banning of certain weapons, or through the taxation of weapons and/or ammunition.
Several Supreme Court Justices will be replaced, resulting in decades of even more left-leaning decisions.
As of December 31, 2012, United States citizens will arrive at the “fiscal cliff”, seeing tax increases and cuts to our military and other programs such as Medicare. With President Obama’s reelection and continued Democrat control in the US Senate, our elected leaders will not feel obligated to address these issues — and the US House will have no authority to do so on their own. Our deficit will continue to increase exponentially, increasing the tax burden on our children, grandchildren for generations to come, as we spend more and more of what we don’t have. The result: the “recovery” trumpeted by the Democrats for the past few years will fall into another recession or worse.
Free Market Capitalism will be more restricted through increased government regulation. More workers will be laid off — or their status will be reduced to “part time” status — as employers seek to avoid the increased costs of providing mandated healthcare for their fulltime employees or fines if they don’t.
In short, our nation will continue to become much more different than what we have been accustomed to.
Our Mandate for 2012 and Beyond
It is incumbent on all Christians to pray.
Paul commands that we pray for all those in authority (1Timothy 2:1-2). If we haven’t been, we must begin to pray for our leaders. If we have been praying for them, we must not stop praying. We must pray more, not just that we get our way, but that God will bring us back to Himself, His ways, and his purposes.
“My people” in 2Chroinicles 7:14 applies to all of God’s people, not just the Nation of Israel, led by Solomon in that passage. In fact, the context of 2Chronicles 6-7, if God’s people fail to follow Him, He would bring calamity to them. If “My people” respond in repentance, then He would hear their prayer and bring restoration.
We are in 2Chronicles 7:13, 22. May we be brought back to experience 2Chronicles 7:1-4.
May God have mercy on us!
In Judges 17, we come across a young man named Micah. Micah’s name means, “Who is like God”. But Micah isn’t much like God. He steals silver from his mother and then when he ‘fesses up, his mother dedicates some of the silver for Micah to make into two idols. Micah hires out a Levite to be a father-figure and priest for his private shrine. He is convinced that God is pleased and will prosper him for having a Levite for a priest.
But is it?
Two things emerge as noteworthy.
1. A “man of God” allows himself to be bought to aid in someone’s sin.
2. A “believer” feels that God will bless him in his sin because he has a good luck charm in having a “man of God” assisting him.
A few questions:
What would cause a “man of God” to compromise his integrity and his calling? Perhaps he was burned out from the work of ministry. Perhaps he had been terminated from his previous position. Regardless, here was a man who needed work and Micah offered him a regular paycheck.
How could someone knowingly run headlong into sin, expecting God’s blessing?
In answering both of these questions, let me just say that it happens every day in the Twenty-first Century for the same reasons. As Solomon wisely said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
People see their vocation simply as an occupation rather than a calling. Since it’s merely a means to the end of putting food on the table, they don’t see anything wrong with using their God-given abilities to make a quick buck. The sad thing is that it is worse when the vocation is “ministry”.
As a case in point, in my lifetime we have seen an agenda emerge from a minority group in our society. We were told that 10% of our population is “gay”. Because we bought this lie, we were told that we needed to tolerate their existence. Next we were told that we needed to accept their lifestyle as normative. Currently, we are being told that we need to endorse homosexual unions by changing the centuries-held definition of marriage and promote adoption of children by these “loving couples”. After all, we are told, orphans are better off being raised by a loving homosexual couple than a dysfunctional heterosexual couple. The implication is that there are few non-dysfunctional heterosexual couples, and that because they have had to overcome society’s intolerances, homosexual couples are more committed in their love for each other. Some of the most outspoken supporters of “gay marriage” are members of the clergy in mainline denominations like the United Methodists and Episcopalians. These denominations have been rocked by division as they have begun ordaining/endorsing clergy who live openly as homosexuals. Somehow, homosexuals expect God’s blessing by having members of the clergy assisting in their pursuits toward legitimacy of sin. Like I said, Solomon was right: nothing is new. We just change the words.
People try to manipulate God all the time in an attempt to get His blessing. They would probably deny it, but people frequently try to make deals with God. “God, I’ll go to church, read my Bible, go to the mission field, etc. if You will bail me out, answer my prayer, etc.” And how much of this deal-making actually involves an expectation of God’s blessing of sin?
According to Joshua 1:9-11, God’s blessing comes through obedience to His written Word. So how can people expect God blessing when they actively oppose what is clearly taught in the Bible?
Application: In what areas are you compromising your integrity and calling? What lies have you believed? In what ways are you attempting to make deals with God?
There is grace, forgiveness, and blessing as we submit ourselves in obedience to God. And having experienced God’s grace, forgiveness and blessing, we can — and should — extend grace and forgiveness to others who live in disobedience, helping them to line up their lives with God’s plumb line.
I just watched a great discussion on the importance of the covenant of marriage. It reminded me of a conversation I had between the time when Amy and I got engaged and married. My youth Sunday School teacher said that there would be times when you have to be committed to the marriage, as opposed to each other. I didn’t understand her statement. But through the years, I have come to understand what she was talking about.
The video is just over five minutes and well worth the time to watch.
What sustains the marital bond and affections over the long haul? Three men with a combined 116 years of marriage reflect on what they’ve learned from God’s Word and others along with their experience.
Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper offer insight on falling in love again and again and the ground of covenant in which the flower of love grows. In marriage, man and woman change but their promise does not, sustained by the God who enacted his covenant between Christ and the church.