Answering questions like “How far is too far?” the authors articulate a biblical theology of dating aimed at persuading a new generation of Christians to get serious about honoring Christ with their sexuality.
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About the Author
Gerald Hiestand (MA, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the senior associate pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, and executive director of the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is the author of a number of scholarly papers and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Gerald lives in Oak Park, Illinois, with his wife, Jill, and their four children.
Jay Thomas (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves as the lead pastor of Chapel Hill Bible Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was previously the college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Jay and his wife, Rebecca, have four children.
Read an Excerpt
SEX AND THE GOSPEL
Portraying Our Union with the Divine Nature
[Christ is] united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband. JONATHAN EDWARDS
Adam, ... a type of Him who was to come. THE APOSTLE PAUL (ROM. 5:14 NASB)
On the whole, human beings are fascinated with sex — men and women, young and old, Christians, atheists, and everyone in between. In all cultures, throughout all of history, sexual desire has been one of the greatest motivators of the human will. Men and women throw away their families, houses, money, and land in order to be sexually satisfied. Some are addicted to it. Wars have been fought over it. We compose songs about it, make movies about it, and write stories about it. And this preoccupation with sex is not simply a facet of our fallen nature. Even one whole book of the Bible (the Song of Solomon) is dedicated to celebrating the sexual relationship between the husband and wife.
But have you ever wondered why all the fuss? Why did God create us as sexual people in the first place? We remember learning in science class about the asexual reproduction of single-celled organisms and being grateful that God had chosen a different method of reproduction for humans. The thought of mitosis didn't (and still doesn't) sound as appealing as the method of reproduction that God gave us. We suspect you agree. But why did God choose to create us as sexual beings? He was obviously not tied to a need for sexual reproduction in order to propagate the species. He just as easily could have created humans as asexual creatures that reproduce like amoebas.
Until we understand why God created sex, we will never sufficiently make sense of his commands regarding sexual purity, for his commands always relate to his purposes. So to establish a biblical understanding of sexual purity, this chapter is dedicated to capturing a biblical understanding of sex itself.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION: UNDERSTANDING THE PURPOSE OF SEX
The primary reason that many of us do not adequately understand sex is that many of us do not adequately understand how sex relates to the gospel. You read that right: sex and the gospel are intrinsically linked. In fact, to understand one is to make sense of the other.
Shocking though this may seem, Scripture expressly states that God created sex to serve as a living portrait of the life-changing spiritual union that believers have with God through Christ. Understanding how sex serves this function is absolutely essential for understanding not only why God created us as sexual beings but also why God commands what he does regarding sexual purity. Ultimately, we will discover that God created the physical oneness of sex to serve as a visible image, or type, of the spiritual union that exists between Christ and the church. Though it may seem at first that we are diverging far from the primary topic of sexual purity, you will quickly see the relevance of our discussion.
TYPES IN THE BIBLE
Many of history's greatest theologians built their theology around the idea that the image of God and his purposes could be seen in all facets of human existence. Jonathan Edwards and Augustine were two such theologians. Both men believed God created all of life to serve as visible portraits of invisible realities. To see the love between a father and his son, for example, was to see a reflection of the love between God the Father and God the Son. To see the destruction caused by fire was to see a picture of the wrath of God. To see the creativity of an artist was to see a reflection of the creativity of God.
Seeing earthly entities as pictures of divine realities is readily affirmed in much of Scripture. Romans 5:14, for example, describes Adam as a type of Christ. The word type comes from the Greek word tupos, which literally means "blow" or "impression" and refers to the indentation a hammer creates after it strikes wood or metal. Just as an indentation represents that which made it, so too a type points to, or represents, something other than itself. Often translated in the New Testament as "example," a biblical type is a model or image of Christ and his redemptive work. Adam, then, is a shadow, or an image of Christ. Just as Adam's choice in the garden of Eden had ramifications for his posterity, so too Christ's choice in the garden of Gethsemane had ramifications for his posterity. Thus Adam's existence and actions point us toward that which he represents — namely, Christ and his redemptive work.
Perhaps the clearest example of a type found in the Bible is that of the Passover lamb. A brief recounting of the story of the Passover (found in Exodus 11–12) will help us get a clear sense of how types function in Scripture. As you may recall, the children of Israel spent some time in the land of Egypt. Things were not going particularly well (slavery, oppression, forced infanticide), and so God raised up Moses to lead the people out of Egypt and into the land of promise. To outfit him for the task, Moses was granted the ability to perform great and wondrous plagues that were intended to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Moses confronted Pharaoh, who refused to cooperate, and so plague after plague washed over the land of Egypt. Finally, the Lord told Moses that a final plague was needed — the death of every firstborn son in the land of Egypt — and that with this plague Pharaoh would relent. But this plague was to be different. God would no longer work indirectly through Moses. This plague would be carried out by God himself (Ex. 11:4). Good news, on one hand, but troubling on the other. People of God or not, the Israelites were no better prepared to face a holy God than were the Egyptians. Ironically, they were in need of being delivered from their Deliverer. And so God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb and to take the blood of the lamb and paint it over the door posts of the house.
I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex. 12:12–13)
And so it happened. The wrath of God fell upon the land of Egypt, but the Israelites were spared from God's just judgment through the blood of the lamb and delivered out of the bondage of Pharaoh's slavery into the land of promise. The typological implications are evident. Just as the children of Israel were delivered through the blood of a lamb, so too we are spared from God's just judgment through the blood of Christ and are delivered out of the bondage of sin's slavery into the heavenly land of promise.
And of great significance for our purposes is the divine intent in all of this. The similarities between the death of the Passover lamb and the death of Christ are no mere happy coincidence. The children of Israel were instructed by the Lord to celebrate the Passover meal every year as an ongoing reminder of their deliverance from Egypt. But what they didn't know was that the meal also pointed forward — forward to the day when the true Passover Lamb would come. The celebration of the Passover lamb, was, we now see, not really about deliverance from a temporal tyrant. No, it was most fundamentally about Christ. The death of the Passover lamb was a divinely instituted foreshadowing of Christ's redemptive work. Jesus himself, while celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples, connected his pending death with the death of the Passover lamb (Matt. 26:28). And John the Baptist, upon seeing Jesus at his baptism, proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). And most explicitly, the apostle Paul declared Christ to be "our Passover lamb" (1 Cor. 5:7).
Thus a type serves as a prophetic pointer toward a deeper heavenly reality. Scripture is replete with such analogies. Hebrews 11:19 refers to Isaac as a type of Christ, for just as Abraham received him back from certain death, so we too have received Christ back from the dead. The priesthood of Melchizedek, the ancient priest-king of Jerusalem, was a picture of the eternal priesthood of Christ. In Galatians Paul uses the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, as representatives of two contrasting covenants (the new and the old). And, as we will see from Scripture, just as the Passover lamb of the Old Testament served as a type, or foreshadowing, of Christ's redemptive sacrifice, so also sex was created by God to serve as a living witness to the gospel. In other words, when we think of sex, we should ultimately think of the gospel.
Perhaps some of you are already thinking, "I've heard that the marriage relationship reflects Christ and the church, but the act of sex itself? Really?"
Really. Let's dive into a key text.
FOR THIS REASON
Ephesians 5:24–32 pointedly describes the sexual relationship within marriage as an image of the spiritual relationship between Christ and the church. As you read the passage, note carefully the significance of the last sentence (v. 32) within its context:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
In this passage Paul is discussing the relational dynamics of Christian marriage. And as he gives instruction to husbands and wives about how they are to treat one other, he draws a tight parallel between human marriage and Christ's relationship with the church. The way Christ treats the church, Paul tells us, serves as the pattern for the way in which a husband is to treat his wife. And the way the church relates to Christ is the way a wife is to relate to her husband. But why is this? By what logic does Paul ask husbands and wives to relate to one another as Christ and the church? The answer is found in verse 32. Human marriage, Paul tells us, "refers to Christ and the church." In other words, marriage is a type of Christ's relationship to the church. Drawing upon the ancient marriage formula of Genesis 2:24, Paul reveals a mystery (i.e., a previously hidden truth): sexual oneness within marriage was created by God to serve as a foreshadowing of the spiritual oneness that would exist between Christ and his church. As the great church father Augustine once wrote, "It is of Christ and the Church that it is most truly said, 'the two shall be one flesh.'"
From Paul's comments in Ephesians we can see that when a man and a woman come together sexually, in some mysterious way they become one in their flesh (see also 1 Cor. 6:16). Something profound occurs through sexual intercourse. The marriage union is not simply a legal union or a social union, a financial union or a familial union, but rather a union of bodies, a sharing of physical life. Through sex, two people are joined together in the deepest and most wonderful way — so much so that they are said to become one. This is why sexual intercourse is rightly said to "consummate" a marriage.
Marriage is more than sex, but it's not less than sex. In fact, in the ancient biblical world, sexual union was the primary means by which a man and woman married each other (see, for example, the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah in Gen. 24:67). Unlike today, religious clergy of the ancient world did not create a marriage through a formal pronouncement; rather the act of sex itself created the marriage. Thus, a healthy marriage relationship is the living out of the union that is established through sexual intercourse. (This is why a sexual relationship that occurs outside the context of a marriage relationship is so emotionally destructive. The act of sex, which is meant to initiate and sustain a permanent union of marriage, is broken apart and divorced from its very purpose.)
But herein lies the greatest significance of sex — not what it accomplishes on an earthly plane, but what it images on a divine plane. Sex is not an end in itself; it is a type of something higher, pointing to the deeper reality of the gospel. Just as the sacrifice of the Passover lamb in the Old Testament foreshadowed Christ's atoning sacrifice in the New, so too the physical oneness established through sex foreshadows the spiritual oneness that will exist (and which already exists) between Christ and his church at the wedding supper of the Lamb. The New Testament's many references to the church as the "bride" of Christ and to Christ as the "bridegroom" further highlight this parallel between earthly and heavenly union. Additionally, many of Christ's parables use the wedding motif as an illustration of his return and consummate union with the church. And the book of Revelation explicitly refers to the wedding supper of the Lamb as inaugurating the dawn of the eternal age (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17; see also Matt. 25:1–13).
But it's important to remember which came first in God's mind. God did not pattern the divine marriage after human marriage, but rather human marriage is a foreshadowing of the divine marriage. It's not as though God discovered the connection between sex and the gospel the way a pastor peruses the Wall Street Journal for preaching illustrations. No, the connection was purposed before the foundation of the world. As Paul tells us, the sexual oneness of marriage refers to Christ and the church. Just as God ordained the Passover lamb of the old covenant to prophetically witness to the coming sacrifice of Christ, so too God ordained human marriage — from the very dawn of creation — to testify to the coming wedding supper of the Lamb.
REMEMBERING THE GOSPEL
Our spiritual union with Christ is an essential yet often overlooked aspect of the gospel. That lapse is, we believe, the primary reason the contemporary church has largely failed to see the illustrative relationship between sex and salvation. A brief restatement of the gospel is in order.
The good news of salvation is not simply that God has forgiven us but, rather, that through our union with Christ we are born again into his very life — we have become sharers of his nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Forgiveness is indeed a significant aspect of our salvation, but we must not reduce the saving work of God to simple bookkeeping in the divine registry, cleaning out our account of sins but otherwise leaving us untouched. Forgiveness cleans the slate, but forgiveness alone is not sufficient for entering the kingdom of heaven.
That last sentence is worth repeating: forgiveness alone is not sufficient for entering the kingdom of heaven. It is only when we understand that our chief culpability before God is not bound up in our sinful actions but, even more fundamentally, in our sinful nature — the source of our sinful actions — that we can begin to understand why we need more than forgiveness.
Not surprisingly, the main requirement for entering into eternal life is that one actually be alive. Jesus himself said, "No one can see [enter into] the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3 NIV). A key component of New Testament salvation, therefore, is centered on our connection to the very life of God, through Jesus Christ via the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is when we become one spiritually with Christ himself that we enter into both forgiveness and life. Just as a husband and wife become one in their physical life, so too Christ and the Christian, through the indwelling of the Spirit, become one in their spiritual life. Through our union with Christ, his life becomes our own. We are born again precisely because we have been united to the one who is life itself.
The ability to live a God-pleasing life, indeed, to inherit eternal life, does not stem from our dedication to God or vows of our will; rather, it flows to us from the power of the divine life granted to us through our supernatural union with Christ. The very life of God through Christ via the Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside us. We are irrevocably wed to the divine nature, and human marriage is a powerful picture, or symbol, of this union.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Sex, Dating, and Relationships"
Copyright © 2012 Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION Searching for Clarity,
1 SEX AND THE GOSPEL Portraying Our Union with the Divine Nature,
2 MORE THAN A SUBJECTIVE STANDARD Purity and the God-Ordained Categories of Male-Female Relationships,
3 THE DATING DILEMMA, PART I Why We Have to Ask, How Far Is Too Far?,
4 THE DATING DILEMMA, PART II Paper Walls and Unaided Climbing,
5 THE HEART OF THE MATTER Understanding the Biblical Perspective on Sexual Desire,
6 FALLING IN LOVE ONCE The Need to Guard Your Heart,
7 DATING FRIENDSHIPS Switching Categories without Creating New Ones,
8 AN INTEGRATED LIFE Purity as a Lifestyle, Not Just as a Dating Thing,
9 A GOD-CENTERED VIEW OF SINGLENESS,
CONCLUSION Living by Faith Means Trusting in the Happiness of God,
What People are Saying About This
“This is a straightforward, yet provocative little book. You’ll find a lot of practical, sane, biblical wisdom that will explode a number of our cultural assumptions about dating. If you are single or care about someone who is, you really should read this book. The result may just be a simpler, more God-honoring approach to dating than you thought possible.”
Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina
“In a world of cyber relationshipsfueled by Facebook, texts, and tweetsthe issues surrounding sex, dating, and relationships have become increasingly complex and challenging for teens, their friends, and their parents. This cutting-edge treatment of the rapidly changing scene is a must read for parents, students, counselors, and pastors. A big thanks to Gerald and Jay for helping us think sanely through this head-scratching cultural shift from a realistic and theologically astute perspective.”
Joseph M. Stowell, President, Cornerstone University; author, The Upside of Down and Redefining Leadership
“Jay and Gerald have written a provocative book on one of the most pressing issues of our generationsexual purity. As the authors show, few things necessitate getting to the core of the gospel like our soul’s craving for sexual fulfillment. We cannot think too carefully about what our heavenly Father has said. Even where I reach different conclusions from the authors, I am grateful for another investigation of the biblical data.”
J. D. Greear, President, Southern Baptist Convention; author, Not God Enough; Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
“What a gift this book is to single men and women. Here, in brief space, is clear and closely reasoned advice that is über-biblical and Christ-centered. It flows with life-giving grace. Sex, Dating, and Relationships will be a landmark read for many in this generation.”
R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois
“Simplicity is the strength of this fresh approach to sex, dating, and relationships. If at first you chafe at the idea of ‘dating friendships,’ consider whether any alternative can bring greater glory to God, account for the biblical evidence, and guard against unnecessary heartache.”
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
“Hiestand and Thomas don’t kiss dating goodbye; what fun would that be? Instead, dating is revealed for what it is, which might disturb you. The greatest strength of this book is the contribution the authors make toward thinking biblically about something not in the Bible, which isn’t so easy to do. So it is possible that some might agree with their premises and the trajectory of their arguments, yet differ on some of the specific conclusions. But all will be challenged and blessed by their wise contributions to this vitally important issue.”
Richard W. Hove, Executive Director, Faculty Commons, Cru
“How refreshing! Gerald and Jay have written a biblically based, gospel-oriented book on sex, dating, and relationshipsfull of genuine, down-to-earth, practical instruction. This is exactly what Christians need to counteract the worldly attitudes and actions so prevalent in our churches today. It is imperative to think through these issues, and this is the best book I have read for doing so. Dating relationships are so fraught with danger that no Christian should embark on that journey without a guide. I strongly recommend this book as just such a guide.”
Jim Samra, Senior Pastor, Calvary Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan; author, The Gift of Church and God Told Me
“Christ-centered reflection on sex, dating, and relationships has been a long time coming; thankfully, it has finally arrived. This volume is a must-read for anyone doing ministry among humans.”
Chris Castaldo, Pastor, New Covenant Church, Naperville, Illinois; author, Talking with Catholics about the Gospel; coauthor, The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 Years
“Gerald and Jay provide solid wisdom for emerging adults and parents on an issue of extreme importance in our day. Young adults who wish to follow Jesus wholeheartedly are faced daily with an onslaught of sexual temptation. What’s more, they are largely ill-equipped to negotiate the sex-saturated culture in which they live. I believe that the teaching in this book, if lived out, will lead to a godly marriage of passion and purity.”
Joel Willitts, Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, North Park University; College Pastor, Christ Community Church, St. Charles, Illinois