To really understand sexual sin and why it is wrong and harmful requires us to understand our human sexuality and how it was created and designed by God to function. God’s gift of sex to mankind was one part of His covenantal blessing to us and was created by Him to be the holy of holies of human relationships within the bounds of marriage. That’s how God designed it to be used. Any use of sex outside those boundaries is a perversion of God’s design.
God made marriage to be a “covenant” between a man and a woman – that means a binding agreement. The marriage covenant is also intended to be a “public” covenant that is open and recognised before society. It’s not an agreement that couples can make five minutes before having sex in an “I love you, you love me, so it’s alright” kind of way! It is not informal, but highly serious.
Marriage ceremonies have taken place in many different shapes and forms throughout history. It hasn’t always resulted in a little piece of paper which declares you legally married. But marriage has always been from the beginning, an open declaration to society that this man and this woman are covenanting together.
The sanctity of the marriage covenant
A covenantal agreement is very serious language in God’s vocabulary. He describes His own relationship with us and our relationship with Him as a covenant. Because God has revealed Himself to us in covenant relationship, it indicates that He wants human relationships, especially marriage, to mirror our relationship with Him.
What kind of covenant is marriage? In both Proverbs 2:17and Malachi 2:14 God describes marriage as a covenant of companionship. When you covenant with your husband or your wife in marriage, you are promising to be one another’s companion for life. But this is no ordinary type of companionship. It is not like the companionship between a man and his dog; it is not even like the companionship between a man and his brother, or a father and his son. It is a form of companionship between a man and a woman that goes far beyond such relationships into a place of deep intimacy where two people become effectively “one person”. Genesis2:24 says that the two, “become one flesh” and are joined together inseparably. Sexual intimacy is the holy of holies of the expression of that companionship.
Of course, the marriage relationship is not all about sex, but it has sex at its centre, protected by everything else around it. It has parallels with the pattern that God used for the design of the Old Testament tabernacle, which is why I refer to sex as the holy of holies of marriage. The tabernacle was a tent-like cathedral, a house of worship that was prefabricated and could be carried around as the people ofIsraeltravelled through the wilderness. There was an outer court, inner courts, an altar of sacrifice with a basin to wash in, and then there were two separate sections which were hidden from view. One was called “the holy place” and the other was called “the most holy place” or the “holy of holies”. The holy of holies was the most special place of all.
God has given us this relationship of sex as the holy of holies of all our human relationships. When a husband and wife unite with one another in the act of sex, it is to be within the protection, covering and context of covenant, like the protective outer courts of the tabernacle. It is a sacred act which is not to be taken outside that protective covering. If it is taken outside and abused, then it is outside God’s order and becomes a destructive force.
Why is it so destructive? Because as human beings we are made up of spirit, soul and body. When we present ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices, as Paul instructs us to in Romans 12:1-2, we are giving the whole of ourselves to God, spirit, soul and body. Similarly, when we give ourselves to our husband/wife in the covenant of marriage, we are giving not just our body, but our soul and spirit too. In that act of union we are not accomplishing something merely in the physical realm, but in the spiritual as well.
That’s why the act of sex is so serious. The Bible confirms the fact that we are “spirit, soul and body” people in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. When two people have sex, it is not just a physical act as the world would like us to believe. Those people are mixing their souls and merging their human spirits. It is not something to be taken lightly. God designed the act of intercourse to be a “seal” on the covenant of marriage, just as other types of covenant are sealed with blood.
In fact, the nature of the human body shows us that marriage too is a kind of blood covenant. God’s intention is for a man and woman to both be virgins as they come to the marriage bed. As the husband penetrates his wife for the first time there is a separation or tearing of the woman’s hymen which produces a small amount of blood. Even if the hymen is broken or not totally intact due to some activity other than sexual intercourse such as physical exercise, there is usually a small amount of blood produced by the first act of sexual intercourse. It is like a blood seal on the covenant of marriage and is an important reason why you should remain a virgin until then.