Fighting the Works of the Flesh: Sex Outside of Marriage
In the second of this series covering the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, we look at several strategies for combating fornication.
The idea of restraint and self-control over our natural sexual desires is called “old-fashioned” and “unrealistic” in today’s world. This societal trend has left a devastating line of wreckage behind it: broken hearts and trust, a warped and lustful view of the opposite sex, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, jail time—and the list goes on and on.
The second work of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19 deals directly with the issue of sex outside of marriage. Fornication includes lingering sexual thoughts and actions outside of the marriage relationship between a husband and wife. This work of the flesh has distorted mankind’s view of the purpose of sex and the beauty of sexual intimacy as God intended it to be expressed. Our Creator created sex for a great purpose—and Life, Hope & Truth provides many resources explaining that purpose.
Let’s start by attacking the lies that society has accepted about fornication.
Satan influences society to lie about fornication
Sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship is beautiful when it involves two people trying to please each other more than themselves.Lie No. 1: “It is unreasonable and nearly impossible for people to control their sexual urges. There is no need to use restraint in something as natural as human sexuality.”
This reasoning is built on two wrong premises that exist in society today.
- The implications of Darwinian evolution. This thinking believes that human beings are just highly evolved mammals. When you believe human beings evolved from lower life-forms, then sexual restraint becomes less important. Sex is seen as merely the natural means of preserving a species—so why restrain what is just a function of natural selection? This idea, equating humans to animals, should be insulting to human beings—but somehow millions of people have accepted this logic. The Bible actually teaches that man is not simply a highly evolved mammal, but is instead created in God’s image with a unique a “spirit in man” that separates us from the animal kingdom.
- The idea that human beings should have the freedom to “make love” to whomever whenever is a cause of much of the unrestrained sexual activity in today’s world. The Bible presents another picture—that the only outlet for sexual behavior is the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).
Lie No. 2: “There is no harm in having many sexual experiences with several different partners. Sexual fantasies and exploration are healthy and help you find out who you are.”
Many lives have been seriously hurt by this lie. God’s intent when He created man and woman was for a husband and wife to be joined together as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). He did not mean for them to destructively stir up sexual intimacy (Song of Solomon 8:4) with many different people, stripping away love and commitment from the physical act of sex.
Ask anyone who admits to being a former pornography addict if his or her sexual fantasies were “healthy” and improved his or her life. Unfortunately, despite the negative consequences, society continues to glorify casual sex in culture and media.
Strategies to combat fornication
Here are some tips for removing fornication (in all its forms) from your life:
1. Value the opposite sex as human beings, not sexual objects. The first step to overcoming fornication is training yourself to look at people of the opposite sex as human beings with distinct personalities and traits. Value a person’s smile, opinions and positive character traits instead of fixating on his or her physical appearance. Unchecked sexual desire, especially in males (who are naturally more externally and visually connected to sexuality than females), can devalue a human being into an object. Happy marriages are determined by growing love and respect for another human being.
2. Show love (not lust) toward members of the opposite sex. Lust is the opposite of love. Lust says, “I want,” while love asks, “What can I do for you?” Sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship is beautiful when it involves two people trying to please each other more than themselves. This is love in action and should be expressed often, for the rest of two human lives.
But Christian love can also be shown by men and women to people who aren’t their spouse. This can be done by not lusting and sexualizing them in their mind—but treating them with dignity as human beings.
3. Learn to despise and hate fornication. When we use a member of the opposite sex as a source of sexual gratification outside of marriage, we are basically saying we think they are only good for sexual gratification and are not worth a loving, fulfilling relationship. This is a way of thinking that God hates—and that we should come to hate. The entertainment media sells us on the idea that this thinking is normal and natural. We have to see it for what it is—sinful and degrading. In order to overcome this, we must hate it.
We should want all human beings to treat each other with love, respect and decency. Fornication spits on that, taking the jewel of sexual intimacy in marriage and throwing it in a pile of waste. We need to fight against that.
For more resources on the themes covered in this blog, read: