Abstinence is Reasonable|
by David Diestelkamp
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from
fornication” (1 Thess. 4:3 - KJV).
is totally confused. It wants people to be reasonable (thinking, logically) about
sex. It wants them to think about civil law, time and place (decency), disease,
pregnancy, “protection,” etc. It wants boundaries, thought and self-control in
these areas, but when it comes to abstinence it is thought “unreasonable” to
expect people to maintain boundaries, thought and self-control.
People think abstinence is unreasonable because they don’t understand
sanctification. Couples give in to sexual temptation because they forget their
sanctification. The world thinks it strange and speaks evil of those who “do
not run with them in the same flood of dissipation” because they do not accept
sanctification (1 Pet. 4:4). Abstinence happens for Christians because they are
sanctified, not because they have commandments that shame or intimidate them,
or because they have no sex drive. Sanctification changes who we are and
through that, what we do.
God made our bodies. He knows what is best for us. He knows what we are
designed for: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy
Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body…” (1 Cor.
6:19-20). That’s right, God made us—sex organs, hormones, desires, and all—to
The world takes a “foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods” (1 Cor.
6:13) approach (“sex for the body and the body for sex”). Paul answers: “Now
the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the
body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the
members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or
do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?
For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is
joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:13b-18).
We “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18 - KJV) because in response to the cross we
are giving ourselves to God in all things. We see ourselves as “joined to the
Lord.” Therefore, abstinence is not simply about waiting until marriage, it is
about serving the Lord with our bodies right now! Sexual abstinence works
because our inner person wants to please the Lord more than it (or our body)
wants to please self or another.
Sanctification is reasonable. It helps us arm ourselves to make good decisions.
It puts our self-worth and self-esteem in God’s great love, not in someone
else’s fickle love. It connects us with God who wants us for eternity, not just
for momentary passing pleasure. It even helps us develop refusal skills as we
learn in Christ to “…make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its
lusts” (Rom. 13:14).
Sanctification answers the question, “What do we do with ourselves?” We serve
the Lord! Now the answer to the question, “Why did God give us sexual desires
and sex?” Marriage!
Sanctification doesn’t mean abstinence, it means spiritual purity through
submitting to a relationship with God through Christ. Sexual intercourse is
only right between a husband and wife in a marriage formed in keeping with
God’s law. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but
fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Sex in marriage isn’t
dirty or sinful because it is in keeping with our submission to the will of
God. From the beginning this has been right and reasonable: “For this reason
a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two
shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:5; Gen. 2:24).
God designed marriage to be the primary fulfillment of sexual desire and
solution to sexual temptation: “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let
each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor.
7:2). This requires that the needs, wants, and desires of one’s spouse be
willingly met as though they were their own: “Let the husband render to his
wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife
does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And
likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
(1 Cor. 7:3-4). Depriving one another is only to happen by consent, and then
only for a time, “…and come back together again so that Satan does not tempt you…”
(1 Cor. 7:5). Abstinence can increase desire to the point of strong temptation.
Sexual selfishness, blackmail, revenge, etc., is dangerous and a violation of
our commitments to God and our spouses.
Our world is a very sensual and immoral place. Christians don’t avoid sexual
sin by denying this. They marry. It is “better to marry than to burn with
passion” (1 Cor. 7:9b). Husbands and wives don’t cope with the cultural
inundation of sexual temptation by somehow imagining that Christians don’t feel
sexual urges or think sexual thoughts—they fulfill the desires of their
spouses. Just as husbands and wives want to be the “best” at things for their
spouses, Christians try to be the best lovers to their spouses and want them to
be the most sexually fulfilled that anyone can be. Sanctification in Christ
makes us better spouses, for God and for our spouses.
Although under normal circumstances a married person is not abstaining from
sexual intercourse, faithfulness in marriage does imply abstinence from sex
with others—abstinence from adultery. Adulterers are enemies of God (Jas. 4:4),
do not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9), and receive God’s judgment
(Heb. 13:4). Adulterers act contrary to and without regard to sanctification.
Marriage does not free one from all vestiges of self-control. Marriage can
awaken desires which cannot always be immediately fulfilled. In the absence of
one’s spouse, someone else is never an option. Even just lusting after another
is a compromise of sexual desire which is committed only to one’s spouse (Matt.
5:28). Ultimately, sanctification, not romantic love, attraction, or even
sexual satisfaction, is what keeps us from adultery. “How then can I do this
great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Joseph to Potiphar’s seducing wife -
Sexual faithfulness is really about sanctification. It is about our purity,
faithfulness and oneness with God. It is reasonable to choose the way that
leads to eternal life. It is not reasonable to act like unthinking animals. It
is reasonable that in Christ we act like the sanctified people (saints) He has
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named
among you, as is fitting for saints” (Eph. 5:3).
Go Back to Knollwood Church of Christ Index Page