Studying the Truths of the Old Testament | 04

AUTHOR: Holy Scripture

READ:

Read or listen to Genesis 2:21–24, Matthew 19:1–12, Ephesians 5:22–33.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called “woman,”
for she was taken from man.

This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he departed from Galilee and went to the region of Judea across the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees approached him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that he who created them in the beginning made them male and female, and he also said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked him, “did Moses command us to give divorce papers and to send her away?”

He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts, but it was not like that from the beginning. I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.”

His disciples said to him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry.”

He responded, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept it should accept it.

”Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

How does understanding the context of Genesis 2 aid us in understanding Jesus’ and Paul’s usage of the text?

The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.

FOCUS:

Read or listen to the blog. What is one thing you learned about the character of God?

How Do We Live Out God’s Design?

 

The following is an excerpt from our revised paper “Exploring God’s Design for Human Sexuality” (available 01.28.24)

One of the beautiful realities of the Christian faith is that the gospel of grace places us all on level footing before a holy God. None of us stand before God on our own merit. We stand on the righteousness of Christ, and not our own. The Christian life is a work of grace from beginning to end, and this includes our growth in sexual integrity. Our freedom from sexual sin and healing of its consequences is a gradual work of righteousness. It is one part of our larger spiritual formation whereby God transforms our hearts, motives, desires, and dreams, all by his grace.

Transformation

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2). This work is not just external, only involving our behavior. Rather, it is a transformation of the inner self. God is just as concerned with the state of our hearts and minds as he is with our conduct. Indeed, we were designed for wholeness of character and conduct, a seamless knitting together of head, heart, and hands.
By grace through faith, God grants his people a new heart that is capable of the integral life (Ezekiel 36:26). Our freedom from sexual sin is grounded in this foundational truth. If this isn’t our starting place for living out God’s design for sexuality, we will veer into a dangerous legalism that is not pleasing to God. Christian maturity, including sexual healing and wholeness, is a work of God.

Effort

But growth in grace is really a cooperative effort. God is at work in our hearts to change us, but we must be diligent to reject the patterns of this world and work hard at faithful obedience. As Dallas Willard put it in his book, The Great Omission, “Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.” The notion that God has done it all and we are mere consumers of his grace will most certainly lead to spiritual stagnation, apathy, and even license. If sexual sin is going to be combated in fruitful and effective ways, grace and effort must work hand in hand.

Progress

The measuring stick for growth in the Christian life is not perfection but progress. In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus provided the perfection needed to pay for sin. We will not be perfect this side of Christ’s return, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be noticeable maturity in faith and obedience—even if our starting points and our growth rates are different.

Through the Power of the Spirit

Fortunately, we’re not left to fight in our own strength. God’s grace gives us a new heart, but
we still battle with sin because our distorted desires remain. God has filled us with his Spirit—the Spirit of truth—as a Helper for the journey of faith (John 14:16–17). When we walk by God’s Spirit, we have the necessary power to say “no” to sexual sin and “yes” to godly living (Galatians 5:16-26).

Revealing Sin

The Spirit helps us live out God’s design for sexuality. One of his primary tasks in the world is to reveal sin and convict the world of the need for salvation from judgment. “When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment…” (John 16:8). We often aren’t growing in maturity because we are blinded to the sinfulness of our desires and deeds (1 Corinthians 3). The Spirit names our sin and convinces us of our guilt, which should lead us to confession and repentance.

Producing Fruit

He not only reveals our sin and helps us fight it, but he produces in us the fruit that is in keeping with those that have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22–24). We know that these attributes are integral to our sexuality as God designed it—love, faithfulness, and self-control, in particular—and the Spirit is at work in the hearts of God’s children to produce such fruit.

With the Help of Community

This walk with the Spirit, essential to living out God’s good design, was never meant to be done alone. When it comes to sexual sin, freedom, and healing are impossible apart from the love, support, and encouragement of a faith community. In fact, the forgiveness accomplished by Christ at the cross is often experienced most powerfully when appropriated by the church—the hands and feet of Jesus.

Compassion

If the church is going to help one another grow into maturity, it must do so with loving compassion. The sensitive nature of sexual brokenness makes vulnerability very difficult, so we must be quick to create an open environment that allows for honest sharing. While we are committed to proclaiming the truth of Scripture, it must be communicated in the love of Christ and the safety of a trusted community.

Confession

One way this sharing takes place is through confession of sin. Confession is at the heart of the gospel of grace and is the first step toward repentance and faithful obedience. Only when we see our sin as offensive to a holy God can we really understand the forgiveness that we have in the blood of Jesus.

Regular confession of sin provides the power for freedom and healing from sexual sin. The burden of guilt and the shackles of shame can be lifted—not completely, but powerfully—through the practice of regular confession of sin. Whether it’s a close friend, family member, or someone in your church community, it should be a trusted brother or sister in Christ who is committed to your spiritual vitality. This could also be accomplished in a pastoral or professional counseling relationship.

Commitment

Confession of sin should lead to repentance, which is a turning from sin toward God. The faith community must be committed to encouraging one another toward the obedience of faith that Christ’s death and resurrection has made possible. But living out God’s design for sexuality must be a commitment that we make, for ourselves and for one another, in the way of grace and truth.

We wait with hopeful anticipation for the day when Christ’s return sets all things right again, and our sexuality finally accomplishes perfectly what it now reflects so dimly: the glory of God and the good of his people.

 

PRAY:

Creator God, thank you that from the very beginning of your word you reveal to us the glory and the beauty of our sexuality. Help us to never give it more glory than we give you but instead glorify you with our bodies.

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Week 4 of 7 Study

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