Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Sex, Marriage, and God's Design

Q. 70: Which is the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Q. 71: What is required in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbour's chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Q. 72: What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
Answer: The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. (WSC)

As we work our way through the Shorter Catechism, we come to the seventh commandment. The seventh commandment forbids violating the marriage covenant in which husband and wife are bound to be sexually intimate only with each other, being loving and faithful to each other until death parts them (Lev. 20:10, 1 Cor. 7:4). Nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church or civil magistrate, can give grounds for a legitimate divorce (Matt. 19:3-9, 1 Cor. 7:15, WCF 24.6). God created marriage as a one-flesh union of a man and a woman and he designed sexual union for marriage alone (Gen. 2, 1 Cor. 6-7). Thus, by extension, this commandment forbids all sexual immorality, all sexual activity outside God’s ordinance of marriage. In case there is any doubt, Scripture is pretty clear on the specifics (Lev. 18, 20:10-21, Deut. 22:13-30, 1 Cor. 6:9, 15).

God has made us and our bodies and tells us how to use them. Sexual immorality is a rebellion against his design. Consequently, it also causes great damage to others and to society. And as Christians we have even more reasons to keep this commandment. We are not our own, for Christ has bought us and made our bodies members of his body, therefore we ought to glorify him with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15-20). Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we ought to flee from sexual immorality, for the sexually immoral person sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18-19).

As the catechism says, our goal ought to be to preserve our own and our neighbor’s chastity and to avoid all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. Questions 138-139 of the Larger Catechism provide an excellent summary of how the Bible teaches us to do this. As Jesus taught, we must keep watch over our thoughts and desires, lest we commit adultery in our hearts (Matt. 5:27-30). In the language of the Larger Catechism, we should also avoid “all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel, … lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays [e.g. movies]” (Eph. 5:3-4, Prov. 7, Is. 3:16-17, 1 Peter 3:2-4, 1 Tim. 2:9, 5:2).

Positively, we should all hold marriage in honor (Heb. 13:4), as a good and wise ordinance of God for his glory and our good (Gen. 2, Mal. 2:13-16). The one who is married should love and delight in his or her spouse (Prov. 5:15-19, 1 Cor. 7:2-5, Song of Solomon 1-8). The one who is unmarried ought to prepare for and (when ready, with wisdom) seek marriage, unless given the gift of continency (1 Cor. 7:2, 9, 1 Tim. 5:14, Matt. 19:10-12). Marriage is not fool-proof, nor does it elevate one in the kingdom of God, but it is a blessing and provision of God to be treasured and carefully preserved.

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