Why does sexual purity matter so much to God? It boils down to the fact that, as believers, we are set apart for God. “…the Lord has set apart the godly for himself” (Psalm 4:3). He has bought us back from the former way of life in which we used to live, and we have chosen to live in him and for him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Set Apart by God
Before Christ, we lived as we wanted; we pleased ourselves and gratified the desires of our flesh. But the old [life] has gone and the new is here. We are now set apart to God.
What does it mean to be set apart? Think of it this way, many things in our lives are set apart for specific purposes:
- Some people own special china, dishes, or silverware that are set apart for special occasions like holidays.
- Likewise, it isn’t uncommon to own “guest towels,” a couple matching sets of towels reserved for houseguests.
- Some of us have house shoes, shoes that are only worn indoors, or shower shoes that are only worn in the shower.
You get it: while some things in life are for common, everyday use, other things we possess are given more honor. They are reserved or set apart for special purposes or occasions.
You wouldn’t wash the car with the guest towels. Why not? They would get dirty and lose their unique function. Similarly, the pattern on fancy china would wear and dim with everyday use. China is also more fragile and can break easily.
Now imagine that a king or queen set something apart for a particular purpose. The unique purpose for that person, possession, day, item of clothing, etc., etc. would have even greater value by human standards. It was set apart by someone considered to be important. The personal automobile, for instance, of the king or queen would be kept spotless. The attending or wait staff would be required to lead very particular lifestyles, committed exclusively to the king or queen’s needs and wishes.
Set Apart for the King
The Word of God tells us that those who confess to be Christians “must turn away from wickedness.” Our personal holiness and purity will affect our usefulness to our King. As Christians, we don’t belong to ourselves, but to God, and as the passage below explains, he wants to use us for good in this world.
“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:19-22).
Set Apart as Children of God
As believers, we are set apart by God. God! The God of the universe, the King of kings. As believers, we are set apart from the rest of the world and declared his children by adoption. We are better than servants, we are heirs to the kingdom.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Note that the above passage tells us that, as his children, we were chosen “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” It makes sense that the children of God would be called to be like their Father.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith… (Galatians 3:26).
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).
Set Apart to Serve God
1 Corinthians 6 points to several reasons that God requires us to be pure:
1. As Christians, our bodies are meant for the Lord and not for sexual immorality (v 13). You’ve heard the increasingly popular statement, “My body, my choice.” That is not true. We have been bought by God with the precious blood of his Son, Jesus. We are not our own.
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
It is so important to understand that honoring God with our bodies begins by honoring him in our minds.
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they are your character (Unknown).
Purity begins in your mind. Honoring God begins with your thoughts. You cannot be sexually pure or moral if your thought life is impure.
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman [or a man] lustfully has already committed adultery with her [him] in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
2. Our bodies are members of Christ (v 15). Our physical bodies are for the Lord, but we are also a part of his body, the Church.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:22-23).
…Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior (Ephesians 5:23).
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Why is God’s standard for purity so high? The Bible uses the metaphor of a head and body to describe the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ is the head of the Church (both the Church universal and each individual local church) and the Church, with its many members, is his body. Each true believer, each follower of Christ, is a member of the body of Christ. If the members of the Church are impure, the Church itself is impure, meaning the body of Christ is impure!
3. We are united with the Lord and one with him in spirit (v 17).
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other… (Galatians 5:16-17).
If we are spiritually one with Christ, we can be assured that our flesh (our physical desires) and our spirit will desire to go two separate ways. Do not be surprised by this.
And in case you are confused about what physical, fleshly desires look like, the Apostle Paul includes a list:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
So how would someone united with Christ live? Paul doesn’t leave us confused about that either:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25).
4. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in us (v 19). There is no greater proof that believers are set apart than the fact that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in us. The Holy Spirit indwells believers. Our purity is of utmost importance to 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, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
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Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 19 years working with CrossWay International Baptist Church. She is the author of three books: Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ, Convinced: Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices, and Big Picture: 66 Books, 1 Message.