Safe Sex: A Biblical View PDF Print E-mail

by The Rev. Henry S. Date
May 17, 1992
First Presbyterian Church of Southport
Indianapolis, Indiana

    Scripture: I Corinthians 6:12-20

    Text: I Corinthians 6:18
    Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body....

One of my favorite sportscasters is Don Hein of Channel 13. Several months ago, shortly after Magic Johnson made the shocking announcement that he had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS, Don had a brief interview with Magic on the six o'clock news spot. Don asked the superstar what word he had for the millions of young people who had so admired him throughout his sports career. Magic responded by saying that he hoped his young audience would learn from what had happened to him; and that they would be very careful to practice "safe sex." The taped interview concluded with that remark, and then Don Hein was on alone. At that point, very briefly, and almost offhandedly, he said this: "There is, however, one other alternative, Magic. It's called 'abstinence.' "

I was so encouraged by that statement that I immediately picked up the phone and called Channel 13 to express my appreciation to Don Hein in person. I did this because I felt that that was exactly the word not only Indianapolis, but America and the whole world needed to hear. "There is another alternative to 'safe-sex.' And its called 'abstinence!' "

What I have to say this morning is not easy for me. It would be much easier to preach a kind of generic sermon on morality, and hope that those in the congregation who needed it would get the point.

But the subject we're dealing with is not something that only some people need. It's a very serious problem that has implications for all of us! For some of us, it has direct implications, because we're on the firing line of temptation ourselves every day. For others of us, it has indirect implications. We're concerned about our children, or our grandchildren, or our great grandchildren, or our nieces or nephews. And our role in that case is to help them make wise decisions that will enable them to live full, wholesome lives for many years to come.

The problem we share is not a new one! The Apostle Paul had to deal with it in his time, too. He dealt with it specifically in his First Letter to the Corinthians. For the Greeks and Romans of the first century,"to corinthianize" was a naughty, thirteen-letter word. In a broad sense, it meant, "Go to the devil!" As bad as countries like the United States and one or two others we could name might be, they are probably not yet up to (or down to!) ancient Corinth! History tells us that at one time, Corinth boasted 1000 sacred prostitutes serving the temple of the goddess Aphrodite alone! For thousands of Corinthians, to worship their god was to patronize the "priestesses."

Because the Corinthian Christians lived in this kind of a culture and environment, the temptation to give in to the morals of the world around them was a constant threat. And it was out of that awareness and that concern that Paul gave them the stern warning that appears in chapter 6, verse 18, the verse we use as our text: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body..." The nine verses, of which our text is a part, constitute a Biblical view of sex that, it seems to me, is desperately needed by all of us.

I. The apostle gives us in this passage, first of all, a biblical view of sex itself.

He tells us in verses 13, 15, and 19: "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord... Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself?... Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? "

The Greeks tended to look down on the body. There was a proverbial saying to the effect that "the body is a tomb." The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, said: "I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse." The important thing was the soul, the spirit of a man or woman. The body was a thing that did not matter.

That view of the body resulted in two attitudes. Either it resulted in the most rigorous asceticism, in which everything was done to subject and humiliate the desires and drives of the body. Or--and, in Corinth, it was this second attitude that was prevalent--it was taken to mean that since the body was of no importance, you could do what you liked with it. You could let it indulge its appetites to the hilt. It was of no importance at all. If the soul is all that matters, then what a person does with his body is of no significance--or, so they reasoned.

What complicated this was the doctrine of Christian freedom that Paul preached. If the Christian is the freest of all persons, then is he not free to do what he likes--especially with this completely unimportant body of his? Let the body have its own way!

But what is the body's own way? Well, the stomach was made for food, and food for the stomach, the Corinthians argued. Food and the stomach naturally and inevitably go together. So it is with the body and the sexual drive, reasoned the Corinthians. The body is made for sex, and sex for the body. Therefore, let the desires of the body, including the sexual drive, have their way.

Paul sharply disagreed with this line of thinking! Stomach and food, he said, are passing things. The day will come when both will pass away. But the personality, the person himself or herself, will not pass away. The person is made for union with Christ in this world; and even more so, in the world to come. Christ and the whole person are inevitably connected.

What happens, then, when a person indulges in the sexual act outside of marriage? What happens when, as a single person he enters into a sexual relationship with another single person; or, as a married person, he enters into a sexual relationship with another married person not his spouse? Is that of no importance?

Paul says it is of the greatest importance--and, at that point, he quotes from Genesis 2:24, which refers to a man leaving his father and mother and becoming one flesh with his wife. He says that a body which rightly belongs to Christ, and has been literally prostituted to someone else, is clearly violating God's Law. He says that other sins are outside of a person, but in this sin, a person sins against his own body--that body which is destined for union with Christ.

He also says that believers are to view their bodies as the Temple of God. When we accept Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, and therefore, our bodies become literally God's Dwelling Place, His Home, His Temple. Therefore, our bodies are sacred, and must be treated accordingly both by ourselves and by all others. C.S. Lewis sums up this whole matter in one, concise statement. He says: "There is no getting away from it: the Christian Rule is, Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence... "

II. Having established the biblical view of sex, Paul goes on to share with his readers how the world has corrupted this biblical view, and turned sex into something destructive.

He asks us in verses 15, 16, and 18: "Shall I take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?... Flee from sexual immorality... "

The problem that faces America today is not that its citizens are visiting temple prostitutes. It is that we have been hoodwinked into thinking that the Biblical view of marriage is something that is no longer relevant. We have been brainwashed into supposing that chastity outside of marriage and faithfulness within marriage is impossible. And even if it were possible, it is an unrealistic expectation: hopelessly old-fashioned, pious, Victorian, out-of-date, ancient, and naive. Our young people have been fed the false philosophy that sex is meant to be only a physical thrill, primarily for recreational use.

I like the way Richard Halvorsen, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate for so many years, puts it in his devotional newsletter, Perspective. He says:

    Sex, in its most fundamental sense, is knowing. It is to know and be known. It is the most basic human relationship....It is the ultimate in human intimacy. It is thoughtfulness, tenderness, courtesy, gentleness, kindness, selflessness at their best. It is love in the ultimate. It means caring, sharing, learning about another, giving oneself to another. It is a covenant relationship, a God-created relationship. Sex is God's idea! Designed for human pleasure in its consummate potential. And incidentally, sex is God's way of perpetuating the human race! In light of this reality, promiscuous sex is the ultimate in human degradation, disappointment, and delusion! Non-fulfillment makes a plaything out of a person!...

And so, the God-given gift of human sexuality has been turned from something superbly creative and beautiful, something intended for the greatest possible human fulfillment, and meant as a way of glorifying God; from that--one of mankind's greatest blessings--it has been transformed into one of mankind's greatest curses!

Ten years ago, when we began to sense the seriousness of the AIDS crisis, a massive campaign was mounted to educate people; and a buzzword was devised to describe the object of all this education. The buzzword was "safe sex"--by which was meant, not abstain from sex outside of marriage; but be careful! Use the proper precautions! Do whatever is necessary to keep from catching one of those terrible diseases!

What has resulted from this massive campaign to educate people--particularly young people--to practice "safe sex," and "to be careful"? Where are we after ten years of information and education about "safe sex"? A recent cover story in Newsweek Magazine tells us:

    For nearly a decade, society has been throwing education at AIDS. Newsweek has run eleven cover stories on the subject. Lectures on safe sex now start in the fourth grade in some schools. Almost no one is ignorant of AIDS in this country....[And what has been the result of all this?] There are twelve million cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year, according to the Center for Disease Control... Three million teenagers contracted one of these diseases last year....[This] represents an apparent failure of the quintessential liberal solution of social problems, [which is] education.

If education, then, is not the answer, what is? Clearly, we must look for a solution from some other quarter!

III. The apostle Paul has that solution, and shares it with us. He has described for us a biblical view of sex, and a biblical view of destructive sex. Now in verses 18 through 20, he describes a biblical view of safe sex.

This is how he puts it: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body....You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body."

Please understand that when Paul tells us this, he is not making a threat or a judgment. He is simply stating a fact. Sexual sin is not only morally wrong, but it is also dangerous and foolish. It is sinning against your own body.

This is true not only because sexual immorality causes many awful diseases, but also because sexual violation of our body has a harmful impact on other aspects of our life. God designed marriage as the life-long union of two persons, and this union of persons is celebrated and enjoyed in the union of their bodies. That's why the Lord forbids people to become one in body, unless they are also bound by a marriage vow to be one in mind and spirit.

When a couple comes to me to be married, and they are already living together, I have to remind them of this. I also have to tell them that I can marry them only if they make the conscious decision to refrain from sex until the wedding takes place. Otherwise, I cannot officiate at the marriage service, because it would make a mockery of the standards that God has clearly established in Scripture.

It's significant, I think, that up until recently, couples have pretty well accepted that. But I'm noticing that more and more, live-in couples resent that standard, and refuse to accept it--in which case, by their own choice, they must go elsewhere to be married.

Why does the Bible have these standards? Because if you have sex with someone you're not married to, you become one in body, but not one in commitment. You give your body to one person, then perhaps to another, then to another; and as this continues, you destroy your capacity to experience the union of two bodies as the loving union of two persons. If you ever do get married, it will be very difficult for you to experience sex as the wonderful, holy, and sacred union of body and spirit intended by God for two people.

One-night stands now can be damaging to a marriage in the future, and even living together without being married can be damaging. You can't experience the oneness of complete commitment and trust. Even live-in lovers who eventually marry are more likely to be divorced than those who made marriage vows and commitments before living together. When you've been sinning against your own body for a long time, it's more difficult for you to remain faithful in your marriage, and it's harder for you to trust your spouse to be faithful.

I love the way David Feddes, Radio Pastor of the Back-to-the-Bible Hour puts it in a recent broadcast. His message was on "Safe Sex," and he said: "If you want to wear something that can make sex truly safe, how about a wedding ring?" The point, of course, is that fidelity within marriage, and abstinence outside of marriage, is God's only solution to the moral, social, and medical nightmares that are facing us today. And only when we begin to take that solution seriously will the terrible tide of destruction and heartache be turned back!

And what are we to teach our teenagers? Dr. James Dobson is absolutely on target in the newsletter, Focus on the Family, when he answers the criticism some are leveling at him these days: namely, that" kids won't listen to the abstinence message," and that "you're just wasting your breath to try to sell them a notion like that." Dr. Dobson responds in these words:

    It is a popular myth that teenagers are incapable of understanding that it is in their best interest to save themselves until marriage. Almost fifty percent of all high school students are virgins today, even though hardly anybody told them it is a good thing. As further evidence, I submit the record of an event held in Lexington, Kentucky, several years ago. It featured ex-convict, Harold Morris, talking about abstinence, among other subjects. The coliseum seated 18,000 people, but 26,000 teenagers showed up! Eventually, more than 2,000 stood outside the packed auditorium, and listened over a hastily prepared public address system. Who says kids wont listen to this time-honored message?

This is God's message to us; and it is much more than a command to "just say no!" God not only gives a command, but he also provides the reasons and the power to make a new start, and to follow His Command. Jesus paid the price of His Life to rescue us from our sins; and this means that trusting in Jesus' death can also break the grip of sexual sins in our lives--whatever form those sexual sins may have taken.

You and I can be forgiven our past, and we can start all over again. We don't have to settle for cheap slogans and cheap sex. God calls us, and invites us to enjoy life in the fullest through a renewed relationship with Him, and with renewed possibilities for the future.

When we really become aware that our body is a temple for God's Holy Spirit and when we discover that our body was bought with the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; and when we learn that we will be raised immortal by His Resurrection Power-- then we will have a renewed awareness that (our) body is not meant for sexual immorality. We are not our own. We are God's precious possession. It follows from this that we are not to treat either ourselves or others as animals, or as means to our own selfish ends. Instead, we are to treat each other as persons. With the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, we are to control our bodies, rather than allowing them to control us.

The bottom line is this: God's Word through Paul is everlastingly true and right! And it is meant for us! "Flee from sexual immorality.... You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body! " Amen!

The Rev. Henry S. Date is pastor of Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.



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