3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (Eph 5:3-4)
This horrible meme has been floating around – about how a husband needs sex, sandwiches and submission.
I don’t want to link it because I don’t want to give the godless people who support it any more support, even by a click.
But it got me thinking about this false idea promoted by patriarchialists of every stripe. The idea is this: the cure for fornication is to get married.
The problem is that it is unbiblical. Now I know that many of you are thinking about 1 Corinthians 7:
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1Co 7:2)
In fact, there are many false teachers that teach that it is the wife’s duty to make herself available at all times in order to keep her husband from committing adultery or watching porn.
I wish I could tell you how many times I have heard of pastors giving that counsel to wives whose husbands would rather use porn. “Well, are you making yourself available to him?”
We have to do better. All of scripture is inspired by God. There are no contradictions. There is only one route to purity, and it isn’t taking your fornicating heart into the marriage bed. “Let the marriage bed be undefiled”, the scripture says (Heb. 13:4).
What does Paul mean? As a Reformed pastor, I hold to historical/grammatical exegesis. In order to understand any portion of scripture, you have to look at it in the historical context to see what it is addressing. Paul is addressing a specific situation, which he summarizes in 1 Corinthians 7:1. There were those who were teaching that marriage was not good, and a man should just avoid it all together.
But then what about those young couples in love? Do you remember those years when the bloom of spring is upon you and young hearts are turning to love? Do you remember not being able to keep your hands off of each other?
And now some false teacher is forbidding you to marry. Paul says, “What do you think you will accomplish?” God created sexuality and called it “very good”. Let them marry. Let them rejoice in the wife of their youth. Let them give thanks to a good God who created them and who rejoices at their union (Song of Songs 5:1).
In a twist of self-contradictory thinking, many patriarchialists also throw so many obstacles in the way of their sons and daughters dating and getting married that fornication increases ten-fold in those kinds of circles…This is exactly what Paul is addressing to the church at Corinth.
Paul is most certainly NOT teaching that the cure for a fornicating and adulterous heart is to inflict yourself upon your wife. He is not teaching spousal rape, sexual abuse and domination – no matter what you call it.
Because Paul wasn’t a fool, who said one thing in one place and another thing in another place. The opposite of fornication, according to Ephesians 5, is thanksgiving.
The opposite of fornication is NOT marriage. It is thanksgiving. “But rather, giving of thanks,” God says.
God created men and women and filled the earth with wonderful, beautiful things. He created beautiful things, things with color, shape, form, texture. He gave men and women bodies and made them beautiful. Sin twisted that beauty. Fornication lashes out at beauty, consuming and devouring it for our own twisted lusts. God, who created men and women, created them to be “one flesh”, with sex and touch and sight and smell and taste all rolled into the relationship. Spirit and matter united in a holy bond of love and unity.
And we made it hateful – possession and conquest, lust and demand, devouring and destroying…
The heart of fornication is this: God isn’t good. His gifts aren’t good. I need to reach out and grab the fruit for myself on my own terms. God will not give me every good thing. When you see the heart of the issue, you see that ingratitude and fornication are different sides of the same coin.
Instead of rejoicing at the beauty of the world, the unthankful heart says, “God just created all sorts of beautiful women and then said, “Don’t touch”. But I’ll show HIM!”
It isn’t enough to have EVERY OTHER tree in the garden. I must have them ALL!
THAT is what fornication is, and that is how it has twisted and devoured beauty as God created it. The powerful seduce and devour and consume the weaker like a rich man roasts and eats a lamb (2 Sam. 12:1-4)
And the cure is not to take your twisted, hateful self and inflict it on your spouse. The cure is to take your naked, sinful self to Christ and throw yourself on his mercy. Listen to the accusation of God’s prophet: “THOU are the man!” and then follow David in repentance and faith.
Then you will know what love is. Then you will see what it means that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for her”.
And that is when you are ready to learn how to love a woman (or a man, as the case may be. I do want to be “gender inclusive” in the call of the gospel).
In the Heidelberg Catechism, written over 450 years ago, the Reformers understood that. In the exposition of the 7th commandment, they wrote:
108. What does the seventh Commandment teach us?
That all unchastity is accursed of God, and that we should therefore loathe it with our whole heart, and live chastely and modestly, whether in holy wedlock or in single life.
You CAN be unchaste, unholy, ungodly in wedlock. If you treat your wife like an object to be used, a thing to be broken and discarded, if you refuse to learn what makes her rejoice , then you certainly do not have the heart of Jesus Christ.
Before you can even begin to understand the problem with “Sex, sandwiches and submission”, you must first understand that no one who knows Christ can possibly say such a thing. You are in great danger. Flee the wrath to come.
This is not the heart of a thankful man or woman. This is the heart of fornication – I demand to be served. I demand my own way. I demand that this woman take up the cross and follow ME. I demand sex now…
You have no idea what love is. And you also have no idea what sex is. You understand rape and murder, you understand lies and reviling. But you do not know what love is.
Go and learn what love is at the foot of the cross. Until then, please keep your hands to yourself.