A couple articles ago we considered the prohibition of the seventh commandment as it applies to pornography. The instruction given there, although specifically addressing pornography, can be broadened to include any sexual sin. In the last article we examined the positive requirement of the seventh commandment for those who are unmarried, using three “Cs” to fill that out: Christ, Chastity, and Care. This time we again take that positive approach, but will study the requirement of the seventh commandment for those who are married. As you might expect, the focus will be upon the sexual relationship between a husband and wife in marriage.
The subject is the positive requirement of the seventh commandment for those who are married. “Marriage?” you say. “That doesn’t apply to me.” But this does apply to you, young man or young woman. Even if you are not dating right now, it might be God’s will that you do marry someday. Perhaps others of you are currently dating. And some of you, a little older, might already be married. No matter your age or circumstances, the subject of thankful obedience to the seventh commandment in marriage is always important.
The subject is the positive requirement of the seventh commandment for those who are married. Perhaps this positive approach is not taken as often as it should be. There are reasons for this. It could be that there is a focus only on the “do nots” both before and within marriage, such as avoiding unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, and desires; the positive side is not sufficiently brought out. It could also be that we are embarrassed to broach this rather uncomfortable subject, especially because the world has so twisted it. But we must recognize that there is a full and rich life to which God calls us in marriage! Fallen, sinful man perverts sex—and we are no different by nature. But the grace of our Lord Jesus restores in the elect believer a proper attitude toward sex. In a world that seems to be screaming its perverse and foul teachings louder and louder every day, we must not only issue the warnings, but also faithfully and soberly teach the rightful and beautiful place that sex has within marriage.
Concerning young people, the seventh commandment, and marriage, two comments are to be made.
First, we must not be under the impression that sex is the thing in marriage. The sexual relationship is an element in marriage, and an important one, but not the only element. For young people to have the marriage bed as their singular focus in dating and preparation for marriage is an imbalanced and dangerous view. There are other crucial aspects of marriage to take into consideration, the chief of which is that one marries in the Lord.
Second, having this balanced view on sex and marriage, young people should live their single years with an eye to this beautiful, intimate relationship in marriage. This must be heard in our world of so much immorality. Young man, in a culture where fornication is advertised around every corner, save yourself for your wife! Young woman, in a society where sexual temptations bombard you in many areas, remember the husband to whom you will give yourself someday! Furthermore, not all Christians have the gift of sexual self-control—those who do not have this gift ought to marry. The apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 7:8, 9, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” That is, if the unmarried cannot contain sexually, it is better to marry than to burn in sexual desire. Neither is this idea “below” our Marriage Form, which is a faithful summary of Scripture’s teaching on marriage: “But that you may live godly in this state [of marriage], you must know the reasons wherefore God hath instituted the same.. That each of them [husband and wife], avoiding all uncleanness and evil lusts, may live with a good and quiet conscience. For, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband (I Cor. 7:2).”
All of this being said, it is a reality that some will remain unmarried for many years, if not their whole life. Sometimes it is God’s will that someone who desires to be married remains single for all the years of his or her life. If such should be the case, God will give grace so that the believer is able to ‘contain,’ to use the language of I Corinthians 7. Also, the single must never forget what he or she does enjoy: the intimate, warm covenant friendship of God in Christ.
What, then, does the Bible teach about the positive aspect of the seventh commandment as it relates to marriage? We turn our attention, without any embarrassment, to the rich and beautiful portrait of the sexual relationship between husband and wife in Proverbs 5.
First, the enjoyment and satisfaction of marriage to one’s wife is in view. Marriage is described for us in verse 15 using a figure: “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” The cistern or well is the wife. Drinking water out of the cistern or well is the enjoyment and satisfaction of marriage to one’s wife. The husband drinks deeply of that water in his marriage: the water is satisfying and refreshing, just like any drink of water is; this water enjoyed within marriage is not defiled.
The enjoyment of marriage to one’s wife is further described in verse 19: “Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” Let her be as the loving hind—a variety of deer, a doe. Just as the deer is beautiful and lovely, so the wife. Let her be as the pleasant roe—the female mountain goat, which is graceful and elegant, as the wife is. Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times—a graphic description of the undefiled marriage bed. The danger is always that a husband would pervert such a text to mean he may treat his wife as an object for the satisfying of his selfish pleasures (or that a wife would similarly mistreat her husband). That must not be. Rather, described here is a husband who tenderly and selflessly loves his wife and seeks her good in all of marriage, including their relationship of intimacy. He is ravished always with her love: the husband is intoxicated or exhilarated with the love of his wife!
What Proverbs 5 teaches here is nothing less than the love for the neighbor God requires. It is the husband’s love for his nearest neighbor, his wife; and the wife’s love for her nearest neighbor, her husband. It is a deep love for one’s spouse that is rooted in love for God.
Second, this enjoyment and satisfaction is to be found only in marriage to one’s wife. Proverbs 5:15 makes that plain: “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.” It is sin for this love to be expressed outside the marriage bond. It is proper and good that this love be expressed within the marriage bond. The wife is the singular focus of the husband, and he loves her alone; the same applies to the wife toward her husband.
Why the stress upon the husband’s devotion exclusively to his wife? The strange woman lurks. The first half of Proverbs 5 informs us of this strange woman and warns us sharply concerning her; verses 3, 4, and 8 are a sampling: “For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house….” These verses are the background of the pointed question in verse 20: “And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?” Young man, why would you be intoxicated with the love of another woman outside your marriage, going after her on the computer, on the phone, or in your thoughts? God has given you the wife of your youth—be ravished with her love, in thankfulness to the God of your salvation!
Third, what Proverbs 5 says so frankly and beautifully about marriage must be read side by side with Ephesians 5:25-28:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
We lift our eyes to this lofty spiritual reality. Husbands love and give themselves for their wives, conscious of the spiritual reality to which marriage points: Christ and His church! The sexual union in marriage reflects the intimacy of the union of Christ and the church. The sexual relationship of a husband and wife also points to the intense love that the Savior has for His church, and the love of the church for Christ in response. Also, the husband’s (and wife’s) conduct in marriage is a matter of gratitude to the complete and loving Savior.
Young men and women, study this beautiful portrait. It is my prayer, the prayer of your parents, and the prayer of many, that you would live your single years, your dating years, and your married years conscious of this portrait, in gratitude to God.