July 18, 2004 Q & A

Sexual Morality


Could you answer a question I have that I am confused about? I have met some guys on the single websites who say that someone can be a Christian and still live immorally. They say that there is nowhere in the Bible or in the Ten Commandments that says anything about sex if you are single. Is this correct? They claim that the Bible is contradictory because it talks about someone having 5 wives. They say that morality means just being with one person only. They also say I am missing out on a lot. So if everyone sins, how do you know what you can and cannot do to be a true Christian? No one seems to follow the Bible. Please explain.


You've hit the proverbial nail on the head when you say "No one seems to follow the Bible." We are certainly living in a time that is much like the time of the Judges in the Bible when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 17:6 and 21:25). The reason for this is the failure of many churches in America today. They have not remained faithful to the teaching of the Bible.

Can "someone be a Christian and still live immorally?" The Biblical answer is "No." This does not mean that sinners cannot turn to the true God and find mercy. They can. As a matter of fact the Apostle Paul said that he was the chief of sinners, and yet he found forgiveness when he came to believe in Christ (1 Tim. 1:15). But, as the Apostle Paul himself asked: "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" And his answer is, "Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom. 6:1,2).

Now, of course, this does not mean that genuine believers—real Christians—are, in this life, able to live perfectly sinless lives. No, says the Apostle John, "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). There is no such thing, in other words, as a Christian who is (in this life) already perfect. But there is such a thing as a genuine change of heart and life, and it is this that distinguishes the true believer from the hypocrite. For, as the writer of the book of Hebrews put it, "if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:28).

I can't think of a single person in the Bible that God acknowledged as a true believer who did not sin at times in weakness. Peter sinned when he denied his Lord, only to weep bitterly a bit later (Matt. 26:69-72). Abraham sinned when he gave way to fear and deliberately gave a false impression about his relationship to Sarah (Genesis, Chapter 18). But—and this is the main thing—the whole course and direction of their lives was to willingly do God's will.

The Bible recognizes the powerful urge to sexual relations. But what does it say? It says this: "Because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:2). The words "sexual immorality" are a translation of the one Greek word 'porneias' from which we get our English word pornography. In the old King James Version it was translated 'fornication' which refers to sex before or outside of marriage. But the term has a wider sense than that. It can refer to homosexual as well as heterosexual activity, and (as Christ himself said [Matt. 5:28]) can refer to sinful inward desires as well as to outward acts. These, and other like texts, prove that our Lord requires us to express our sexuality either in celibacy or in a one-man-one-woman relationship, a relationship characterized by life-long commitment (until death parts us). This is clearly seen in the Biblical requirement for those who would be pastors of God's people (Read 1 Tim. 3).

It is true, of course, that polygamy existed among God's people in Old Testament times. Abraham not only had a wife named Sarah but also had sexual relations with his wife's maid named Hagar. But, as Jesus himself rightly said, "from the beginning it was not so" (Matt. 19:8). No, in the beginning—at creation—it was like this: "He who made them at the beginning made them male and female and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'" (19:4,5). Clearly, then, God intended—from the beginning—a one-man-one-woman relationship: the very thing that the historic Christian Church has always recognized (until quite recently) as the God-approved context of sexual relations.

And now, one final point. The Bible says, "without holiness no one will see the Lord." We are, to begin with, utterly unworthy sinners. But when God saves us, he not only counts us righteous in Christ so that we are justified (declared righteous in his sight because of Christ's righteousness imputed to us), but he also sanctifies us by the work of his Holy Spirit in us. It is because the Holy Spirit works in us that we no longer want to sin, or even listen to those who tell is it is O.K. to sin, but rather we want to turn away from it that we might begin to be holy.

May the Lord give you grace to turn away from the evil voices you've been hearing.



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