By Rev. Lance Filio
Pursuing Sexual Purity and Finding a Godly Spouse are two topics when combined point to a larger theme of Wisdom. Wisdom, often associated with age, is perhaps the reason the organizing committee assigned this topic. It is their way of saying, “Pastor, you’re old so teach this topic!” So rather than denying the reality, I accepted their judgement and immediately prepared for it.
As I worked myself into the subject, I noticed how difficult it was to study. It is hard not because they were hard to comprehend for training and skills help in that area. It is difficult because it requires you to submit your heart and life into it. You need to apply them to confirm if you really understood. They do not allow skin-deep application. You cannot master it unless you allow them to master you. They are not the object of your study because studying the matter requires you to be the subject. As a caveat, let me concede by admitting I am not an expert in sexuality, singleness and marriage let alone a sage in sanctification in this life. I am a Christian for almost 30 years now and let me say I can never perfectly apply them. Just like you, I am a sinner saved by God‘s grace who now lives under his rule. But as a fellow student of God’s word and in service to our Lord who sanctifies, let us study Wisdom in the light of the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). In Him, may we all learn to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Wisdom in relation to the Law
Modern churches today lay heavy emphasis on godly living. Wisdom topics occupy almost all of their regular Sunday preaching sessions while weekly small group gatherings make sure they properly applied it. The topics range from relationships to finances, to family and personal life goals. The church suddenly becomes relationship experts, financial gurus, offering practical advice on Christian living, and projecting an image of the #blessed life. They seem to get everything right. They appear to have read Wisdom from Scripture and seized every opportunity to own her.
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” (Proverbs 4:5-9)
Yet Wisdom comes with a companion. In the all blessings she bestows, Wisdom assumes the Law of God. To distinguish godly wisdom with worldly wisdom, Scripture must be its source. Wisdom lives in the commandments of God. True wisdom is found in the true knowledge of God in Scripture.
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. (Proverbs 4:1-4)
Scripture, specifically the laws of God, refers to the teachings, instructions and commandments given by these verses. The father exhort his son to follow the way of the law. For when Scripture is not the source of knowledge, then Wisdom becomes worldly. Wisdom assumes the Law and its commandments come from God. He is alone is wise, true and good. Therefore, the first step to gaining Godly Wisdom is to admit that we cannot be its source. We cannot assume to be wiser than God. And to grow in wisdom requires growing in our knowledge of God. The summary of the Wisdom literature teach us this universal reality: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). Fear means reverential awe and not fear of judgement. Beginning not only means to start, but to become its fountainhead. Wisdom means living under the sovereign rule of God. To be wise means to acknowledge our dependence on Him because he is all-sufficient and we are not. God dictates the nature of our reality and we receive his knowledge over the matter as true and wise. He orders everything in creation while He himself is not created but its Creator. He sustains, governs and concurs everything in this world. He relates all thing with him and through him we related to everything else. This is Wisdom and living under God’s rule is wise.
However, the Fall happens. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, deemed it necessary to determine for themselves what is good and wise. Instead of fearing God they opted to rebel against him. Instead of following God’s prohibition in the garden they ignored him and wanted to become like Him. Man pursues independence. He prefers autonomy. He rejects God‘s supernatural revelation and relied on his creaturely reasoning and experience. As a result, He becomes foolish. Blinded the reality of our own sin, we claim to be wise yet borrow wisdom from God without acknowledging what we owe Him everything. Man reversed the order of relationships between creation and God. He set himself up as the final arbiter of truth. We are lost yet we are in denial of our own situation. We are “…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7).
We need salvation. We require rescue and deliverance. Redemption comes by restoring wisdom in man. There are two areas would like address which I believe are in need of redeeming. I think sin affects our knowledge and understanding of them and as a result impairs the way we live. Let me address first “Finding a Godly Spouse” and second “Pursuing Sexual Purity”. The doctrine of Creation illuminates the former while the doctrine of New Creation establishes the latter. We find Wisdom in both. They all point to Christ.
Finding a Godly Spouse
Discerning God’s Will has become the biggest concern for Christians today. Every day, we make decisions and the church obsesses with finding the right formula to align themselves with God. Christians today wanted to find out the right answer to any problem in any situation that might arise. They wanted to know the right job, the right spouse, the right church and the right life. And while living the right way becomes the goal, we have come up with illegitimate ways to attain them.
We labor to find God’s will in our lives because our sin makes us insecure. Our fallen minds strive to discern all the possible outcome of our decision. We desire to become the sovereign of our own lives. Yet our creaturely wills and desires come with certain limitations. We depend on God to sustain, govern and concur our every being and action. In sin, we deceive ourselves into thinking we can control God and creation. We think we are wise but we are living foolishly. So discerning God’s will has become a human enterprise. Rather than submitting to the absolute rule of God in his Word, we devise clever ways of predicting God’s will. Some retorted to playing the game of chance. They believe in so they develop a sense of “Let go and Let God” attitude. Rather than laboring to know God’s will in his Word, they recklessly abandon their lives to so-called destiny. Some insisted on laying down a list of man-made rules. They believe obedience leads to blessing, so they relied heavily on rituals and ceremonies. Rather than trusting God’s providence, they have come with solutions to every problem. They promote their knowledge as a way of following God’s purposes and plans but in reality, they rebel against the good and perfect will of God. But Scripture rejects both worldly wisdom. Paul refutes the former in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”. While in the latter, Paul warned us against it when he wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:22).
The cure to this foolish way of the world is the person and work of Christ. The divine person of the Son of God in his two nature, God and man, restores us to the proper knowledge of God and his will. The truth of the gospel about the life, death, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus Christ informs our minds with knowledge our sin and our need for reconciliation and restoration. Upon learning of his atoning death on our behalf, the sinner places his complete trust upon God’s work and abandoned all efforts to justify himself before a holy God. And at the moment conversion, the believer becomes united to Christ and the Spirit and now lives under God‘s righteous reign. God restores him in his proper place as God‘s creature made in the image of God. God forgives his sin and begins the work of sanctification in his life. The work of restoring Wisdom in him begins and ends with Christ who is his Wisdom. The gospel informs us of inability to save ourselves. It rescues us from sin through the atoning death of our Savior. As a result, the Spirit transforms us to the image of God’s Son.
Part of the restoring work of the Spirit is the submission of the mind to the will of God as he revealed himself in Scripture. The ability to discern the will of God made possible only by the atoning work of Christ and become actual through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s mind begins. The believer understands his Redeemer as his Creator and Sustainer. Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he differentiates between the revealed will and secret will of God. He reads Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” and submits to the authority of God‘s Word. He grows to learn more about God’s preceptive will as he engages every Lord’s Day to hear the preaching of God’s Word and in his personal study of God’s Law in Scripture. Slowly, he expands his knowledge about God and as a result learn more about himself. The Word of God renews the mind of the believer (Romans 12:1-2). He is now “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:10)”.
Wisdom assists in our choice between singleness or marriage. In the same way, it helps us in our quest to find the suitable spouse. Both cases, the ability to discern between the revealed will and secret will of God is key. The regenerated wise person understands the moral laws of God and willfully submits to them. He also submits to God’s wisdom in providence and understands God’s goodness despite of the outcome. But in principle, the secret will of God governs and concurs the choices either singleness and marriage or even in our quest to find a suitable spouse. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 addresses the concerns about marriage. Reading them in context he instructs the congregation to apply the saving work of the gospel. Jesus, the wisdom of God, who through the power of the Holy Spirit applies wisdom to his people. In singleness and marriage, he exhorts them to apply wisdom. In verse 17, Paul wrote, “Only let each person lead the life, that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” To marry or to be single are two equally valid callings in life. We are all called to live the life as God in his wisdom in providence has called us to life. The same is true when finding a suitable spouse. J.V. Fesko wrote:
“The Bible does not give us a specific means by which we can find spouses. Some might be introduced by family or friends. Some might cultivate a letter-writing relationship (or as we might more commonly find it, e-mail, or some form of social media)…The greater doctrinal point here is that in the pursuit of finding a spouse, we must be mindful two things: (1) that we are mindful of God’s revealed will in the moral law—we should not violate it in word, thought, or deed; and (2) Christian liberty—where God has spoken, we are bound, but where he has not spoken we are free. We are not bound by the commandments of men. This means that godly Christians may differ in how they live their lives, but it doesn’t mean that one is holier than another because she dates and doesn’t court.
The message is clear. Outside God’s moral law, Christian conscience binds us. Christ and the Holy Spirit provides the Wisdom to discern between the two. We are called to make our choices according vocation the Lord assigned to us in his providence. Let us live and enjoy the freedom the Holy Spirit provides.
Pursuing Sexual Purity
Now unlike singleness and marriage which aligns itself within the decretive will of God, the duty of pursuing sexual purity lives within the moral will of God in Scripture. Worldly wisdom often confuses the two and switch their categories. Because of sin, we treat our earthly vocation as an imperative duty demanding our obedience while our fallen nature mistakes sexual purity as a matter of Christian liberty. Nothing is farther from the truth. We even think marriage solves the problem of sexual purity. We assume sexual immorality is simply a secondary or minor issue of the Christian life. We are foolish to think this way. Paul considers sexual immorality as an important topic in sanctification he even wrote against them in most of his letters (Ephesians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and 1 Thessalonians). Sexual sins wound the Christian, and it affects their daily walk with God. The goal of holiness requires those whom the Spirit regenerates to live free from all immorality.
The moral laws of God is clear about the matter. Scripture prohibits sexual immorality, all sexual sins including self-pleasure in any form of masturbation and pornography. They are specifically included in the 7th commandment of God (Exodus 20:14). The moral standard required by the law of God is perfect. It makes no provisions for reprieve nor allowances for considerations. A regenerated mind illuminated by the Holy Spirit understands this truth and fully submits to the authority of Scripture. However, information about the law of God does not make one righteous. It only condemns and does not empower them to obey. Wisdom understands this for it assumes the Law and yet it also helps us accomplish our duty by pointing us to the Gospel. The Gospel does not lower the standard of obedience but fulfills them in Christ. The Gospel not only rescue us from the law’s righteous demands by proclaiming to us the atoning death of our Savior but it also redeems us from the daily presence of sin in our lives. And sexual purity is an area where Christ and the Spirit continually delivers us. They free us from the guilt and power of sin.
Some members of the church in Corinth considers sexual immorality like food. They reason “All things are lawful for me (verse 12a)”. However, Paul corrects them by answering, “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (verse 12b)”. He pleads exemption to the rule. For apostle, these people excuse themselves for claiming wisdom when clearly it is world wisdom they are applying. It is a kind of wisdom that demands autonomy from the ordered reality of God. They mistake sexual immorality as a matter of indifference which affect no one expect their own. However, God owns their bodies and souls. Paul exhorts, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (verse 13c-14a).” He reminds the congregation that both the soul together with the body were made for this Creation and will be transformed in the New Creation. Paul grounds his imperative in the reality of God’s work of New Creation. He exhorts:
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (verses 18-20).
Sexual sin is to sin against one’s own body Paul reminds us. It strikes at the heart of any believer. Therefore, we need to mortify it. Wisdom comes when we grow in the knowledge of God. Knowing God enables us to know ourselves better. Wisdom assumes God’s Law, but it also points us to the Gospel. It shows not only our sins but also delivers us from it. Scripture provides several wise counsel to help us overcome the temptation of sexual sins.
First, we need to kill sin at its root. Sexual sins, while under 7th commandment, are sins motivated by lust. Lust means to desire and to take pleasure from an object of desire. Sexual sins, while involves the external body, involves the internal desires of the heart. The heart is center of our will and desires. While it is important we inform our minds about the moral law against sexual immorality, the problem lies not only the mind but more so with will and desire. In all cases where we were tempted to sin sexually, it always begins at the heart.
Second, we need to mortify all lustful desires. The way to mortify a particular lust is to aim at mortifying every lustful desires. We cannot make a soft stand against lust for sin will always bring itself to fruition. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:17, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Colossians 3:15).” In our battle against remaining sin, there are no neutral grounds. Therefore, we rid ourselves of all opportunity to lust. We kill every connection, relation and even association with anyone who professes to be Christian and yet live immoral lives (1 Corinthians 5:11). Run away from any immoral place, people and situation. When we yield to sin, we immediately repent and bring them to Christ.
Third, we need to turn away from idols and worship the Creator rather than the creature or even creation. Sexual immortality is idolatry. Paul commands in the Lord, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry”. We sin in our lust when we place any creature above the place where God rightly belongs. Therefore, the cure to sexual immortality is the proper worship of God our Creator. We need remind ourselves of our duty to serve God and him alone.
Forth, we desire the Triune God above all else. To pursue sexual purity means to pursue Christ. We need to remind ourselves that we belong to him (Galatians 2:10) and God created us for his glory (Revelations 4:11). We gaze upon Christ and treasure Him in our hearts. We enjoy him by taking pleasure in his will and purposes. We take our refuge on him and rest on his promises. God created us to take pleasure in Him so submit our desires to Him and allow him to satisfy our restless heart. Our hearts are restless until it rests in you said Augustine. All our lusting after pleasure will never be satisfied because God is the pleasure we all desire. We find our satisfaction in Him.
These general principles are simple guidelines to help us in our fight against temptation and sin. Wisdom affords us with the knowledge and power that comes from Christ and His Spirit so let us diligently use them.
Zion Cornerstone Reformed Churches in Pasig, Malolos and Imus, let us live wisely under the rule of God in Word. Let us remind ourselves of the gift and duty that Wisdom provides. May we find our godly spouse by the wisdom of God in Christ and pursue sexual purity by the power of God in the Holy Spirit. Amen.