“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:3).- Ephesians 5:3
Our next few studies will be based on Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Sex and the Single Christian, as we continue to look at the biblical sexual ethic. But if you are married, you should not let the title of the series mislead you into thinking these devotions have nothing to say to you. The principles Dr. Sproul draws from God’s Word apply to all, no matter your marital status, and we will draw conclusions for both single and married people in the course of our study.
“How far does God say we can go physically?” is one common question dating couples ask of Scripture. The correlative question married couples may pose is “What is permissible in our sexual relationship?” Both inquiries recognize that there are certain absolute limits our Father has set regarding our sexual behavior. However, there has been a lot of confusion in defining these limits.
The main reason for befuddlement is the Bible’s lack of an extensive list of “do’s and don’t’s” in this area. Of course, today’s passage teaches that “sexual immorality” is forbidden, thereby prohibiting intercourse outside of marriage. But it is hard to find explicit biblical stipulations on the propriety of premarital displays of affection such as kissing or “petting.” Likewise, Scripture does not give many specific directives for married couples, focusing instead on general principles including an undefiled marriage bed (Heb. 13:4).
Many groups have not let the lack of a list of acceptable and forbidden activities prevent them from imposing their own man-made checklist of godly and ungodly behaviors. While this form of legalism is clearly harmful, it is another type of legalism that may be even more prevalent, namely, trying to find all sorts of creative ways to get around God’s law. The Pharisees were excellent practitioners of this kind of legalism. Once they even thought they could righteously get away from honoring their elderly parents by taking any support they could offer them and giving it to God instead (Mark 7:9–13).
As we look to God’s law and sexuality, let us be wary of our tendency to circumvent true obedience. We are always a hair-breadth away from becoming Pharisees ourselves.
Because it is hard to find a detailed list of do’s and don’t’s regarding sexual behavior, it is easy for us to justify certain activities or thoughts that may in fact not be edifying. Even if something might be “lawful,” it might not be “helpful” (1 Cor. 6:12). We can easily conform to specific commands while violating their spirit. Take some time today to recognize your own proclivity to find loopholes in God’s Word. Confess your need of Him to make you obey truly and fully.
Passages for Further Study