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6/25/13 at 01:07 PM 3 Comments

Sex Is a Symbol of Something Else

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By Wade Burleson

"Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the bed undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).

Lil Wayne caused an uproar last week when he stomped on the American flag. Nobody gets in trouble for stepping on cloth dyed red, white or blue if that cloth is a shirt or a rag, but when dyed cloth is a symbol for America--and you step on it--people get really upset.

Symbols have meaning.

Christians have a hard time explaining why sex outside of marriage is wrong because we haven't been taught that marriage is a symbol of something else. When everybody else in culture seems to be participating in sex outside of marriage, the person who abstains from sex until marriage is often looked upon as weird or abnormal. As Christians, we need to give some very good reasons for why sex should be reserved for marriage. We haven't done our children any favors by asking them to make promises of abstinence without ever giving them reasons for their promises. Here it is:

Sex in marriage is a symbol of a person's union and intimacy with God.

Sex outside of marriage is a symbol of a person turning his back on God.

One should wait for sex until marriage for the same reason Lil Wayne ought to refrain from trampling on the American flag. The flag represents his country, and desecrating the symbol for America is a picture of Lil Wayne turning his back on America. Likewise, sex outside of marriage is a symbol of a person turning his back on a union with God.

Throughout Scripture, God calls those who trust Him "the bride of Christ." When Paul refers to the union of a man and a wife, He compares it to the union between Christ and His people (Ephesians 5:22-33). It would be right to say that everything about the sexual union between a man and a woman in marriage is a beautiful picture of what it is going to be like when we see our covenant God face-to-face and are united with Him forever.

The euphoria and ecstasy of heaven are pictured in the sexual union of marriage. The intimacy in relationship between a husband and wife pictures the intimacy of relationship between Christ and His people. There is one simple way to prove that the sexual union in marriage pictures something else.

When the reality is present, there is no longer any need for the picture.

I was a wrangler in Colorado and would alternate taking people to the top of two majestic mountains, Mt. Antero and Mt. Princeton, and prepare breakfast for them. How silly would it have been for the people who went with me to the top of the mountains to sit down smack dab in the middle of a 360 panoramic view of the Rockies and pull out pictures of the views from the top of the mountains and focus on the pictures? It would have been very silly. You don't need pictures when you are on top of the mountains and can look at the real thing that the pictures represent.

Jesus said, "During the resurrection (heaven) people will not marry nor will they be given in marriage" (Matthew 22:30). I've heard some people with great marriages get upset with the fact that they won't be married in heaven. Relax. Your best friend here will be your best friend there. What Jesus is saying is that there is no sexual activity in heaven, no sexual union in marriage in heaven, no procreation in heaven.

There is no marriage or giving in marriage (the sexual union) in heaven because there is no need for the symbol or the picture when the reality is present.

The euphoria and ecstasy the marriage bed pictures will be enjoyed the feelings we have of being united with Christ forever. Sexual union within the context of marriage is a picture of our eternal union with Christ.

This is why marriage in this life should never be the identity of any individual Christian. Whether you are single, widowed, divorced, or in a bad marriage, the essence of who you are as a person is found in in your union with Christ, not in a good marriage or the lack of a good marriage. The picture frame may break, or the picture itself may be destroyed, but the reality of what marriage represents cannot be destroyed. Singles, don't let anybody tell you that you are "missing out" by not being married. Look them square in the eye and tell them you have the reality of what their marriage represents. You have union with your covenant God and you enjoy Him and can't wait until you see Him face to face.

Since God designed marriage to be a symbol or picture of the union that people can have with Him, then when a person moves into sexual activity outside of marriage, it is a picture that one has gone after the pleasure of other gods and has forsaken the joy that comes from union with the one true and living God.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” (I Corinthians 6:18-19). The argument against sexual sins outside of marriage is that you are in union with God, and if you united yourself sexually with someone other than your spouse, you are symbolizing an abandonment of your union with God. You are like Lil Wayne - you are trampling on the flag of marriage and turning your back on what the flag represents.

The sin of sexual activity outside of marriage is spiritual, not physical. Anybody who tries to tell you that sex outside of marriage is not pleasurable is lying. The act of sex is always pleasurable, that's why people are addicted to it. What those people who go after sex outside of marriage forget is that sex symbolizes something else. The person who looks to sexual activity as a goal has forgotten that there is a God. Only He can feel the empty soul with the joy, purpose and meaning.

Sexual sins are symptoms, not the disease. The disease of the sexual addict is a lack of enjoying a union with God. The symptom of this spiritual disease is to look for sex as the goal. Or, to put it in biblical language, "the sex addict begins to worship the thing created rather than the Creator" (see Romans 1).

“For fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). God is not judging people for participating in the act of sex. God created sex. It is a beautiful and sacred act. The reason God judges fornicators and adulterers is because the person who pursues sex outside of the context of marriage is giving evidence that he or she is not in union with God. It’s not the act of sex that is judged. It’s not the enjoyment of the act of sex that is judged. It is the separation from God in the act of sex that is judged.

I think Beth Moore is the one who said, "There is no high like the Most High." The person who is enjoying their union with God will have no problem honoring the flag.

It makes zero sense to condemn the world for their sexual immorality. They have no concept that sex is a picture of something else. But there may come a time when you can use the subject of sex as a way to witness of your union with Christ.

Next time someone pressures you to have sex outside the confines of marriage, feel free to say no to that person in this manner, "I find you attractive. I am sure I would enjoy having sex with you. However, sex is a symbol of my covenant relationship with God. I am united with Him. He has pledged His fidelity to me. He loves me. He cares for me. I am going to wait for sex until marriage because I wish to honor the symbol He has given me of my relationship with God. To have sex with you now is to symbolically turn my back on my union with the most important Person in my life. I will not trample on the symbol of my spiritual union with my God."

Then take a picture of the look on your friend's face.

Wade Burleson is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma and blogs at
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