What is God’s standard for the sexuality of the Christian? The Apostle Paul doesn’t mince words – he gets right to the point. In Ephesians 5:3 he writes,
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
Here we are told that sexual immorality is not even be “named” among us! Now Paul isn’t saying that it should never be the subject of conversation among us (although he deals with filthy talk and dirty jokes in v.4). He himself is bringing up the subject in this very letter, so that can’t be his point. What he is saying is that sexual immorality should be so exceedingly rare in the lives of believers so as to be unheard of among us. It should be so rare that if someone were to accuse one of us of sexual immorality, no one would believe it because it would seem absurd.
But is that the case in today’s church? Is anyone (inside or outside of the church) really shocked or even more than a bit surprised to hear a report of sexual immorality within the church? Sadly, I think not.
Ask yourself this simple question: If someone were to accuse you of sexual immorality, what would the people who know you think? Would they have a legitimate reason to think it might be true?
Sexual immorality in the church is the proverbial elephant in the room – it is the thing that everyone knows is there, but hardly anyone wants to acknowledge it or talk about. Maybe we are hoping that if we ignore it, it will just go away. It is the scandal of today’s evangelical church. How many professing Christians these days seem to think nothing of committing fornication, cohabitation, adultery, and even sodomy! How many “good Christian girls” get pregnant out of wedlock (and all too often not just once) without the slightest hint of church discipline being initiated for the repentance and restoration of the persons involved? In this we have become conformed to the world.
How has this mindset crept into the church? In our day preachers and teachers in the church often avoid the subject altogether for fear of offense. Or in many cases churches and even entire denominations go so far as to explicitly deny or contradict the plain teaching of Scripture on this matter. This should not be so.
Paul goes even further – he even includes our words. Not only should our lives be free from impurity of filthiness, but our speech should be free from it as well! In v.4 he writes,
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
A dirty mind expresses itself not only through filthy conduct, but also through filthy speech, foolish talk, and crude humor. Such things are truly “out of place” for those who call ourselves “Christians.” And what should take the place of filthy conversation? Paul says, “ . . .but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Why thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is what should describe the heart attitude of the Christian toward God’s good gift of sex within marriage between a man an a woman. Sex itself is not a shameful, unspeakable, dirty subject. It is a gift of our loving God, and it is not to be abused, twisted, or distorted.
Christians are not anti-sex. The Bible is not anti-sex. We are against sexual immorality. We are for celebrating and sanctifying God’s good gift of sex within the bounds where God has reserved it – between one man and one woman in marriage, which is also a gift from our Creator.
One of the things that should set believers apart from the world around us is sexual purity. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul writes, ” For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Abstaining from sexual immorality is the will of God for our lives; it is our “sanctification” – the thing that marks us as being set apart unto the Lord. It is not the only important aspect of our sanctification by any means, but it is so important that Paul seems to sum up our sanctification under that one category!
May God grant His church grace and repentance, so that sexual immorality will become so rare as to be unheard of among us. To Him be the glory.