May 8, 2015

“The Shack Up” – Part 2

by Lyndon Unger

The Shack

In the previous post, I introduced the topic of professing Christians “shacking up”, or cohabiting before marriage. I brought up a few common arguments for why professing believers may think about “the shack up”, and then I laid the foundation on which there can be some sort of positive resolution to the issue: the authoritative word of God.

So if we can meet on that foundation, let’s spend a little time in the scripture.  We’re going to address some specific questions that will fence us in for arriving at an answer to the question of whether or not Christians should we move in together.

Q 1 – Does the Bible mention cohabitation?

A 1 – Not in the contemporary sense, no.

If we’re being honest, we don’t want to read anything into or out of the silence of the Bible on the issue, since arguments from silence aren’t actually arguments.

Now one could attempt to stretch the text in some places to attempt to speak to the issue, like Ruth 3:13. In Ruth 3:13, when Boaz wakes up and finds Ruth at his feet, he tells her to stay the night. Still, in Ruth 3:14 it reads “So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’ ” So, if one were trying to stretch that passage, one cannot miss that both Ruth and Boaz knew how it would look if she was seen coming out of his threshing floor early in the morning. That recognition of appearances is, in itself, suggestive, but not exactly a firm statement on the topic at hand.

There are a few other texts that a person could attempt to stretch, but the result is the same. The harder you stretch a text, the more the text is disfigured.

Stretch

When you’re looking for a biblical position on an issue, it’s best to look at the passages of Scripture that directly address the topic, or the issues, at hand.

This brings us to the next question.

Question 2 – Does the Bible mention sexual morality?

Answer 2 – You bet!

This should be absolutely no shock to anyone who professes to be a Christian. The Bible talks about adultery, divorce, homosexuality (contrary to popular opinion these days), and various other issues related to sexual conduct and sin, but we’re not looking for some general statements about sexual morality.  We’re looking for something directly addressing the question of pre-marital sex…because if that’s out, then the question of shacking up is pretty much done.

Well, that is unless you’re one of those people who claims that you’re going to be living together without sleeping together.

Sure Thing.

A-team-10-500

And that’s the real A-Team van too.

That leads us to our next question.

Question 3 – Does the Bible mention premarital sex?

Answer 3 – Yes indeed, though it doesn’t use the phrase “premarital sex.”

The Bible does lay out a framework that addresses the concept though. Let’s take a serious look at one specific text that definitely addresses this issue. Our text is Ephesians 5:1-5, which reads,

 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Eph. 5:1 gives the general command. In light of what has come before in Eph. 4 (the forgiveness extended in 4:32, the sealing for the day of redemption in 4:30, etc.), the professing believer should live as an imitator of their heavenly father.  This is befitting of a child who is loved and cared for (all children copy their parents, but good parents are worthy of emulation). Christians should copy God, but how?

 Eph. 5:2 gives a framework for answering the question of “how” Christians should copy their adopted father. They need to “walk” in love, or live a life that is marked out by a continual pattern of love. This isn’t an emotional expression of affection either, but is rather an active giving up of self for others. Christ also didn’t just give himself up in part. Rather, he offered himself “for us” as a ” fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. In other words, Christ laid down his life for believers. In this way, Christ has modeled the love that Christians should exemplify.

 Christians shouldn’t just occasionally help one another. Christians should put their lives (meaning their own desires and well-being) aside for the benefit of others.  That is how Christians should copy God.

mother-daughter-red-laptop

 Then, after laying out that general command in 5:2 that is an expansion of the general command in 5:1, Paul gets painfully specific in describing what sort of “laying down your life” he’s talking about. In Eph. 5:3 Paul gives three commands when he writes,

 ” But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints”

3a. The first command is that is “sexual immorality…must not even be named among you.” The phrase “sexual immorality” (sometimes translated “fornication”) is translated from the Greek term porneia and is used to refer to any sexual relationship outside a marriage covenant, where as “adultery” is translated from moicheia (which is not in Eph. 5:3) which refers to any sexual relationship in violation of a marriage covenant.  Adultery involves sexual intercourse that is contra-marital and where as “sexual immorality” involves sexual intercourse that is extra-marital.  It is worth noting that both terms refer specifically to physical sexual intercourse.

 Just because there is a lot of confusion about porneia out there (and many people have expanded the definition of the term to include a whole lot more than “physical sexual intercourse”), let me offer a quick but comprehensive word study. Porneia occurs 26 times in the New Testament: Matt. 5:32, 15:19, 19:9; Mark 7:21; John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 29, 21:25; Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:1, 6:13, 6:18, 7:2; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Rev. 2:21, 9:21, 14:8, 17:2, 4, 18:3, 19:2.

 In Matt. 5:32, it’s clearly referring to extra-marital sexual intercourse (if a man divorces his wife for sleeping around, she’s already an adulterer). The term carries the same idea (extra-marital sexual intercourse) in the rest of the passages with (i.e. every usage in 1 Corinthians is unquestionable), though a few may look confusing on the surface.

 When it appears in “sin lists” (Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; Gal. 5:19), it almost always appears alongside “adultery”. I’d suggest that this is because adultery and sexual immorality cover all possible occurrences of sexual intercourse exterior to the covenant of marriage. Like I previously said, adultery is sexual intercourse in violation of the marriage covenant and sexual immorality is sexual intercourse outside the marriage covenant.  Think along the lines of contra-marital and extra-marital.

 The only other confusing passages are Rom. 1:29, Col. 3:5 and Rev. 9:21. In Rom. 1:29, “adultery” doesn’t appear there at all and I’d suggest the reason lies in the people group being discussed (see 1:26-27). In Col. 3:5, the list is similar to the one in Eph. 5:3 and includes similar terms/concepts, though in a less focused list. In Rev. 9:21, it seems pretty easy to point out that the passage takes place during the Tribulation; a period of time when people won’t exactly be concerned with making any sort of marriage vows before God. Outside of those three unclear passages, every other passage where porneia appears is clearly discussing physical sexual intercourse.

 So porneia “must not even be named among you”, since that is proper for someone who claims to follow Christ.  In other words, don’t do it. Ever.  There shouldn’t even be suspicions of it, nor should there be questions about it nor believable accusations of it.  It’s that dangerous because porneia is deadly serious.

 Deadly serious? Really?

 Don’t worry. We’ll get there.

 This then leads to the second term in Eph. 5:3.

3b. The second command is that is “impurity…must not even be named among you.”  The second term comes from the Greek term akatharsia (translated “impurity”) and this term speaks of something that is “unclean”, as in morally stained. The term appears alongside porneia in 2 Cor. 12:21, Gal. 5:19 and Col. 3:5 as part of a list of various sexual sins, and also carries a sexual idea in Rom. 1:24 and 1 Thess. 4:7.  In the other four occurrences in the New Testament (Matt. 23:27; Rom. 6:19; Eph. 4:19;  1 Thess. 2:3) it carries a more general idea of being unclean.  I would strongly argue that the term carries a sexual tone (though it also suggests more than just sexual impurity) here as it does a majority of times it occurs in the writings of Paul.  Akatharsia covers the spectrum of actions outside of porneia, which would basically mean all the physical actions that would lead a person to porneia.

Without being crass, this basically refers to all the physical stuff that would ever give the wrong person “mixed messages”.

Creepy Christian Craig

 Again, akatharsia “must not even be named among you”, since that is proper for someone who claims to follow Christ. In other words, don’t do it. Ever.  It’s that dangerous because akatharsia is deadly serious.

 Again? Deadly serious? Really?

 Don’t worry. We’ll get there.

 This then leads to the third term in Eph. 5:3.

3c. The third command is that “covetousness must not even be named among you.” The third term is pleonexia, which refers to a “desire for more”.  In the only other mention in Ephesians, it refers to a general sort of “desire”, but in this passage I would argue that the term is referring to a desire for more of something of a sexual nature.  Now if I’m being honest, the term is only used with a sexual connotation elsewhere in 2 Pet. 2:14.  The common usage of the term is of a general sort of “desire”.  So why do I suspect it has a sexual nature here?  Well, the meaning of porneia is clear and the meaning of akatharsia is also relatively clear, but Paul anticipates a practical question and preemptively addresses it in the following verse.

The practical question is “where do I start in order to stop myself from falling into porneia?

Paul doesn’t leave the church in Ephesus hanging.  Paul unpacks exactly what sort of manifestation of pleonexia he’s thinking of, and gives his readers three concrete places to “nip sin in the bud”,  so to speak.  In Eph. 5:4 Paul writes, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”  That is where the battle for purity starts.

4a.  The term “filthiness” comes from the Greek term aischrotes, which only appears here.  That is significant because when Paul manufactures (or imports) a term, he desires to get a very specific idea across to his readers.  The term comes from aischyno, which occurs five times in the New Testament (Luke 16:13; 2 Cor. 10:8; Phil. 1:20; 1 Pet. 4:16; 1 John 2:28) and is translated as some form of “shame” each time.  In other words, the idea here is that Christians shouldn’t talk in a manner that would cause them shame if they were discovered.  Everything you say to someone of the opposite sex should be able to be said in front of the whole church without bringing yourself shame.

4b.  The phrase “foolish talk” comes from the Greek term morologia, which is a compound word of moros (from which we get the English “moron”) and logos (which is the Greek term for “word”).  The term only appears here and again, that is significant because Paul manufactures (or imports) a term to get a very specific idea across to his readers.  The idea here is that Christians shouldn’t talk in a moronic or foolish manner.  Everything you say to someone of the opposite sex should be able to be said in front of the whole church without bringing yourself accusations of being a fool.

4c. The phrase “crude joking” comes from the Greek term eutrapelia, which is a compound of eu (which means “well”) and trope (which means “turning”).  The term only appears here and again, that is significant because Paul manufactures (or imports) a term to get a very specific idea across to his readers.   The idea is that Christians shouldn’t talk in a manner that turns words, and every single teenager knows exactly what this is all about.  This is the teenage art of turning anything into an metaphor for something sexual.  Everything you say to someone of the opposite sex should be able to be said in front of the whole church without bringing yourself accusations of having a dirty mind.

wink wink

So as a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it in front of your church, don’t say it to someone of the opposite sex.

This fills out the picture of what to avoid and how: Porneia refers to the physical act of sexual intercourse, akatharsia (in this passage) refers to the physical actions that lead to porneia, and pleonexia refers to the desire (as mainly manifest in one’s talk) to participate in akatharsia toward the end of porneia. This means that you shouldn’t talk with the opposite sex about subjects that are sexually charged in nature, or make jokes that involve twisting an innocent meaning to make it into something sexual.

In other words, the battle for sexual purity is won or lost at the level of your speech.

The questions of physical issues (kissing, petting, etc.) aren’t even up for discussion.

Finally, Paul gets to the big question of why.  In Eph. 5:5 Paul says, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Here Paul restates the three terms of Eph. 5:3 and states why they “must not even be named among you”.  This is the “deadly serious” part.  The reason is simple: people who are marked by sexual immorality, impurity or covetousness don’t get any part of the kingdom.  To say it another way, people who live lives characterized by sexual activity outside of marriage, or getting inappropriately physically amorous with the opposite sex, or even sexually explicit talk, aren’t going to end up in Heaven.

To say it more crassly, the guy who sleeps around and claims to be a Christian is a liar.

The girl who’s the youth group skank most likely isn’t a Christian.

The guy who makes dirty jokes around the youth group skank because she’s the youth group skank (with hopes of being her next make-out partner in the back of the missions trip van) most likely isn’t a Christian either.

Hard words?

You bet they’re hard words.

Stuff like this reads like absolute insanity to every single human being who isn’t operating on a biblical worldview where the scripture is actually the very word of God (hence, the first post in the series).  Then again, everyone working outside of a biblical worldview would stop reading at Eph. 5:2.  Christ calls everyone who follows him to give themselves up for others, and that goes against everything that the unregenerate world stands for.  With regards to believers’ relationships with the opposite sex, Eph. 5:3-5 is what giving yourself up looks like.  If Eph. 5:3-5 seems like absolute crazy talk, the problem isn’t with the morality of the Bible.  The problem is with your moral compass.

Failure

So then, let’s wrap this up.

I’ve only gone through one specific text of scripture, but it’s a pointed text that gives a framework from which to evaluate the topic at hand.  Ephesians 5:1-5 seems fairly clear that sexual immorality (being understood as any sexual intercourse outside of a marriage covenant) is completely off the list of options, as are the two steps that lead to sexual immorality.  People shouldn’t even be able to make substantiated accusations of such things against Christians.

So the original question then remains.  What about moving in together?

Well, let’s filter our possible answer through some biblically informed questions:

Does moving in together make covetousness, impurity or sexual immorality more likely or less likely?

Does moving in together give people reasonable basis for accusations of covetousness, impurity or sexual immorality?

Can you still do it?

Well, think of it this way.  The apostle Paul lays out an option for you:

You can choose to share a home (and bed) with someone you’re not married to, but that choice means you’re also choosing to not share a place (namely “the kingdom”) with Christ.

In other words, “Christians” who move in together are openly declaring they’re not really Christians.

WHAT?

Crews

That’s right.

I said it.

No wait…

…Unless my exegesis is wrong, God said it.

The Bible is actually the word of God.

It’s his book, not mine.

Now you see why the first post was necessary.

Now there’s most certainly a whole lot more said about these issues in Scripture. Here’s a few passages to investigate further (but it’s certainly not a comprehensive list):

Gen 2:18-25; Ex 22:16; Lev 19:29; 21:9; Deut 22:20-29, 23:18; Matt 19:1-9; 1 Cor 6:13-20, 7:2, 7:8-9; Eph. 5:1-21; Col 3:5-6; Heb 13:4; 1 Thess 4:1-8, 5:22.

Also, there are plenty of questions and conundrums, and I’m guessing that you have more than a few.

Just remember that we’ve only dug through one passage of scripture with hopes of answering one specific question.

I’d consider that question sufficiently answered.

Let the comment tsunami begin!

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Erik B.

    It is sad that a well written two-parter against cohabitation is needed for those who profess to be Christian. Nevertheless, grace is sufficient and there is bound to be true believers struggling in this situation. I pray we as the church may have the strength to confront and provide alternative living arrangements for the ones who want out of “the shack.”

  • “Also, there are plenty of questions and conundrums, and I’m guessing that you have more than a few.”

    Amen. This question is easily answered in areas where there are enough homes for people and enough money to go around. And I agree that unmarried couples ought not live together, let alone be alone much, if at all.

    But is it always wrong for two folks of the opposite sex to sleep under the same roof? I think that’s a harder question to answer and it has a lot more scenarios which can be considered.

    In 2015, two Christian men sharing an apartment in some areas could provide a whiff of porneia to a judging outsider…where do you draw the line?

    • Todd

      AMEN and AMEN!!! Michael, AMEN!!! Do you or Lyndon have any suggestions??? In particular to the issues that you brought up Michael. I’m stumped. Also, does anyone have any suggestions on how patient we should be with individuals who are shacking up but who slowly breaking away with other sins and bearing fruit while shacking up remains a struggle? Lyndon thank you!!!! And you as well Michael.

      3rd John 2

      • Oh, Todd. This is a blog, all we can do here is pontificate advice from an ivory tower, how people implement it is irrelevant!

        Ha ha, just kidding. And I know that Lyndon is a holy man who wants to not only teach from a blog, but be ready to personally disciple. Isn’t that the issue, anyway? How do you personally help another conform to the image of Christ.

        I believe sharing these two blog posts could be a good start.

        I’m pretty busy at work, but stay in touch and I’d be happy to keep talking about this. You can contact me here
        http://michaelcoughlin.net/blog/index.php/contact-me/

    • Lyndon Unger

      Hold on a second.

      I wasn’t making some sort of universal application to all hypothetical scenarios, including ones that were outlandishly different than the one I was directly addressing.

      I was specifically, and intentionally, addressing two professing Christians who are contemplating moving in together and cannot seem to find biblical reasons not to do so.

      All other scenarios may possibly need some instruction from a different passage of scripture that deals with different nuances of whatever scenario there is.

      • yes, brother, I know. And that’s why I led off my comment with “Also, there are plenty of questions and conundrums, and I’m guessing that you have more than a few.” Amen.

        You did a good job of arguing about the point you were making.

  • Jason

    I’m certain that there are plenty of people out there who would argue that sexual immorality should only be applied to specific types of sex outside of marriage (the cases they consider “bad”). I know I wondered that personally back before I started reading the Bible for myself.

    Sex and marriage are inseparably joined in the Bible. The first time you run into it is Genesis 2:24. 1 Corinthians 7 is the nail in the coffin of the argument that there may be some acceptable sex outside of a marriage commitment, because it speaks of marriage as *the* proper way to handle situations where sexual temptation exists. If there was another “proper” way to have sexual relationships outside of marriage than this chapter is nonsense.

    Marriage is a commitment to one another. If you have that commitment, then dedicate yourself to it in front of witnesses. Anyone who is truly committed shouldn’t have a problem telling people. I recommend not even trusting yourself if you feel you can be committed but are afraid of dedicating it in front of others.

    If you aren’t committed than why on earth would you want to “become one flesh”?! I personally avoid unnecessary risk of my flesh being torn asunder…

  • David

    I feel like this was a huge straw man argument. You basically equated co-habitation with pre-marital sex (granted the former rarely happens without the later), and then
    ripped into the sex aspect. But that’s not really the question. How many couples
    do you think decide to move in together (and share a bed) that aren’t already
    intimate? And if they’re not, cohabitation isn’t what they’re waiting on (barring a couple of teenagers that can’t find a private place). If we take sexual activity out of the equation, the rest of the post was dealing with avoiding even the appearance of impropriety, aka not letting others have reason to talk. But now I’m just keeping a good face. If my girlfriend comes over for an “afternoon delight” and leaves before the sun goes down so my neighbors are unsuspicious, is that better than her leaving at 2 am because we were engaged in a genuine discussion about how our relationship and faith are impacting each other? The latter being a scenario that has occurred on several occasions.
    I think this was an excellent post on the Biblical views of sex outside of marriage and the need to avoid even speech which leads to it. However the audience that the
    supposed subject is meant to target (Christians contemplating living together) are either A) already having sex and now simply debating whether to take out the commute, or B) completely agree with you but think that because they’ve avoided temptation up to this point they will be able to continue to do so despite close quarters. This post doesn’t actually deal with the questions or problems either couple is considering.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Oh. I entirely missed the boat?

      Okay. I’m often wrong and completely out to lunch.

      Fair enough.

      So what passage have you used in your pastoral counsel to address a couple who comes to you with questions about moving in together?

      • David

        First, sorry the first post was argumentative, valid points but said in a snarky way.
        I feel like it’s too broad of a question to immediately go to a passage, you have to ask “why are they moving in together?” If they’re already having sex, then you address the elephant, in which case (as I said) your passage is right on point. If they don’t repent, then does their post coitus sleeping arrangement really mean that much, and are they going to listen to you anyway? If that topic is received well but they still want to live together, you’ve now moved them to the other category, people who think they can live together and maintain purity. You can approach this with a “don’t give people something to talk about” line, and while there is some validity to that, it just rings hallow to me. I would probably speak more practically on issues of avoiding temptation, and focus on what biblical marriage looks like (Eph 5, 1 Cor 7, Mat 14), what the commitment of marriage demands and supplies. Then contrast that with what living together (even if in chastity) looks like, how it’s a cheap facsimile of marriage, creates bad relational habits (separate money, running from conflict, etc), and puts the relationship in a type of purgatory. Of course the million dollar question is, if you’re willing to live together, why not marry. From how the couple answers, it can point to where to go from there. However, I’m not a pastor or counselor, so these are merely my uneducated opinions.
        I suppose the point I’m really trying to make is simply that the blog entry fits more with “A Biblical View of Premarital Sex” title then actually couples considering living together.

      • David

        Ohh and because I haven’t said it out right yet, I don’t think cohabitation is a smart move. as the other post illustrates.

  • Matthew

    Hey Lyndon,

    Excellent work, thank you. Solid theologically sound teaching with a sense of humor is rare.

    I had a question posed by a friend a few years ago, and I admit I was not sure how to answer them.

    My friend asked, in the OT there doesn’t seem to be a formal wedding ceremony. In the NT we have Jesus attending a wedding and using them as an example in parables. What would you say to a couple that had lived together for decades, have been faithful to one another and had no desire to have an official ceremony?

    My first response was, I would ask the reason why they didn’t want to, and remind them that we are ambassadors for Christ and should avoid the appearance of evil. What are your thoughts?

    • 4Commencefiring4

      When you get down to cases, there really isn’t any command regarding a formal ceremony in order to be “married.” Genesis says, “A man shall leave…and cleave..and the two shall be one..” I doesn’t spell out anything more. Insofar as that passage goes, a man could simply walk away from his parents’ home, take up with a woman he intended to stay with, and he would then have “a wife.” And that’s probably about what they did in O.T. times. David brought Bathsheba into his house, and she became his wife. Was that all there was to it? Other than dispatching her husband? I don’t know.

      In the N.T., there is the formal Cana marriage with attendees and wine, but nothing more is told us–especially of a command nature. Paul mentions those who would “seek a wife” and those “loosed from a wife”, but again there’s no actual command to go through a legal process with signatures and ministers/judges and forms and blood tests. In some states, of course, “common law” marriages are recognized as legal. But are there minimum time periods that must go by for them to be recognized?

      I’m not certain an airtight case can be made that a man and woman (and yes, let’s restrict it to that format) cannot establish a household together, with full intent and commitment to be husband and wife until death, yet somehow be in violation of Scripture because they didn’t hire a minister and an organist and invite guests to throw rice.

      Perhaps it’s just our cultural expectations that we’re demanding be met. The question is, What are God’s requirements for a “marriage” to exist, whether here or elsewhere?

      • Still Waters

        I lived for a while in a culture where the government did not issue marriage certificates, and the religious leaders, while present at the weddings, did not officiate. Nevertheless, there was still a marriage ceremony. The marriages were negotiated by the families, and if a divorce occurred, both the families and the local elders were involved. Every culture distinguishes between married sexual relations and unmarried sexual relations.

        There is abundant evidence for marriage in the OT. Just the fact that wives and concubines were considered two different things is evidence that marriage ceremonies were practiced. Samson’s wedding to a Philistine turned out to be a pretty bloody affair. A man sleeping with a woman wasn’t enough to call it a marriage. In Genesis 34, the Canaanite Shechem asks Jacob for Dinah’s hand in marriage even though he had already raped her. In the Law, a man who seduced a virgin either had to marry her or, if her father couldn’t stomach the idea of having him for a son in law, at least pay her dowry (Exodus 22:16-17).

        Moses’ law doesn’t spell out what the bride price should be set at or what the ceremony should look like, because both those were already established in the culture, and clearly God had no problem with how it was done. Similarly, Paul doesn’t tell Christians how their marriage ceremony should look like because the culture already had one. People who were married as non-Christians didn’t have to get married again as Christians. Marriage is not only pre-religion, it is pre-culture, and thus is found in every culture and religion.

        • 4Commencefiring4

          All well and good, but again there’s no specific Scriptural instruction outlining what constitutes God’s definition of marriage, other than it’s a man and a woman together forever. What Moses or Sampson may have done certainly doesn’t inform our lives today. Certainly David isn’t in the running.

          If He has left it up to societies to iron that out for themselves in each case, letting changing cultural tradition make the rules and the notion of two people “living together” becomes common, I don’t know where we draw a line and say this couple is just “shaking up”, but this one is committed to one another sincerely for life.

          I’m not advocating this for believers; don’t get me wrong. I’m just thinking out loud. If their hearts say, “We’re married, we intend to have children, and are together until death”, can others claim they have impure motives?

          • Still Waters

            No, it clearly isn’t enough for just the couple to decide one day that they are married. If that were so, then the Levite’s concubine in that infamous story in Judges would have been called his wife. He pursued her after a quarrel to her father’s house, her father let her go back to live with him, in short everyone acted like the Levite was married to her; but there was no marriage ceremony and thus she was still just called his concubine.
            All societies have some form of wedding ceremony to declare marriage. One thing a wedding does is show to the surrounding community that this man and this woman are married. It is in the interests of any group of people to know who is married and who is not for a multitude of reasons – legitimacy of children, avoidance of incestuous relationships, and the protection of children and women. Pharaoh and Abimelech were both from pagan societies, but they were both horrified to realize that they had taken Abraham’s wife.
            To propose that anyone can change those deep written rules just because they have a loving commitment to one another, is to argue the way the homosexual lobby has argued for marriage equality. Weddings are so deeply woven in the fabric of the Bible that they are taken for granted. Paul in speaking of Christ purifying His Bride is looking back to the wedding song of Psalm 45. When it speaks in Revelation about the marriage supper of the Lamb, it is looking back to the first wedding, officiated by God, and witnessed by all of creation. Marriage is one of the laws written in the hearts of men (Romans 2:14-15), and cannot be reasoned away.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Again, I’m not advocating cohabitation for believers. But the fact remains that “common law marriage” is a reality in several states today, and there are variations in what each state looks for in order to recognize it. But in general, if the couple present themselves to society as husband and wife and operate that way in all other respects, they are considered–for all intents and purposes–to be married. Some states are more particular in their statutes than others, but that form of marriage exists and has for some time.

            Sure, formal marriage ceremonies have been a tradition historically in most societies; I agree wholeheartedly with you. But the question I’m raising is, does that fact alone mean that tradition and history–and not specific Scriptural dictates (because there really aren’t any)–restrict the meaning of a “married” couple to those which enjoyed the blessing of an officiating minister?

            Traditionally, a “church” is a building dedicated to, and built for the purpose of, worship and christian fellowship. That’s been the format for centuries…except for the first century “church” where things had barely gotten off the ground. But does that mean we can’t call someone’s private home today, where a group of believers gather regularly to do the same thing, a “church”? If it works like a church, is attended by church people, and everyone knows it as their “church”, I’d say it’s a “church.”

            But after all is said and done, yes–I’d still recommend making the marriage formalized by a ceremony, regardless of the dearth of Scriptural commands.

    • Lyndon Unger

      You’re right. There is no prescribed wedding ceremony in the OT or the NT. The form and nature of the ceremony varies from culture to culture, but the principle of uniting into “one flesh” is found in Genesis 2:22-25.

      The idea in that passage is that the women, since she was taken from man’s body, returns to his body when the man leaves his father and mother and unites with her (physically, in the sexual sense).

      The unity there is actually the re-attaching of separated flesh; like grafting on a severed limb. You don’t separate a re-attached limb; doing so would cause tremendous (and possibly fatal) bodily harm.

      In the rest of the OT portrays the marriage as a covenant relationship. It’s a relationship of unity that is sewn together by covenant between a man and a woman as witnessed and ratified by God (i.e. Malachi 2:13-15 mentions this idea). In fact, God uses marriage illustrations for his covenant relationship with Israel multiple times (i.e. Jer. 31:31- 32 mentions this idea). It’s a serious relationship; so much so that God has special interest in it (Heb. 13:4).

      People who have just “shacked up” aren’t married before God. He isn’t part of their relationship because their current lifestyle is one of utter disregard to God (and as another commenter rightly pointed out, John 4:16-18 alludes to the sinful nature of unmarried cohabitation). Disobedience isn’t acceptable.

      So, if there was a couple that was living together and had been faithful to one another, I’d tell them that faithfulness to God is far more important. God has established marriage as a covenant relationship before HIM, and he condemns what they’re doing as sinful.

      One of them has to move out until they’re married. They cannot be sexually involved until they’re married. They need to get married, ASAP.

      For that matter, they can do something official and get a justice of the peace to marry them, almost immediately, for the sake of conscience. Then, for the sake of appearances, I’d urge them to make a public statement with a wedding in the church and I’d do my best to let the church know that their obedience is something that we’re going to celebrate…with bells on.

      I’d throw a huge ceremony FOR them (not for them to pay for, but I’d try my best to bring the church behind them to toss a celebration for them), and let them know that we love them and want them to be living rightly before God.

  • tovlogos

    Thanks, Lyndon — tight exegesis.

    As Eric B said: “It is sad that a well written two-parter against cohabitation is needed for those who profess to be Christian.”

    However, that’s reality. Why? Because becoming Christlike in the take-up-your-cross Christlikeness, is more than just professing. There has to be an actual enlightening/birth from above. Nevertheless, expositions like the one you wrote here, helps those who desire to become spiritual.
    Practical obedience to the Word (Luke 8:21) is one of the best ways to keep one geared up to receive the Spirit, with whom we should be constantly filled (Ephesians 5:18) — constantly, in view of the continuous present. Nothing better than the Spirit Himself to get results; and then great expositions further serve the Spirit’s agenda.

    Parenthetically, taking up our crosses begins at the Two commandments of Christ, in which case we would avoid even the appearance of evil.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Amen!

  • YD

    Let’s be to the point, the Bible simply does not declare a sin of “living together.” The sins of concern are fornication and lust. Therefore, it is logically possible for an opposite sex couple to live under the same roof without increasing sinfulness. They do this by always avoiding fornication and by not increasing lust beyond what we already inevitably experience through interaction every where we go, inside the home and without. While this will be difficult for many, some will not falter in this area. Lust may be a sin, but it is also fact of life that most of us must fight every day, whether “living together” or not. For most people to avoid lust would require not just avoiding cohabitation, but also avoiding stepping outside of the home. It goes far beyond who we live with–wherever attractive people are, lust will follow.

    Therefore, although cohabitation among opposite sex adults certainly suggests sexual immorality, to claim that it absolutely is sexually immoral in every case is, from a standpoint of God’s law, courting legalism. There can be many kinds of cohabitation, sinful and not.

    For example, a couple may live under the same roof without engaging in fornication because they are raising children that are the fruit of their past sexual immorality together. Perhaps they cannot marry, because one co-habitator is divorced, such that to marry again would be adultery. See Luke 16:18 (“anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery…”). Committing the sin of adulterous remarriage per Luke 16:18 could mean that the divorced person continues in rebellion against God, jeopardizing salvation. See 1 Corinthians 6:9 (“do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers…will inherit the kingdom of God”).

    Taking this example a step further, these parents may be living under the same roof for the sake of their children, taking no pleasure from sharing the home with the other parent. Perhaps there is some misery in this cohabitation situation, and this living together could even be part of God’s judgment upon them for past sin. The children of this couple are no less a blessing than any child born of a marital relationship. Should these parents: (1) live apart as if divorced, causing the children to suffer?; or (2) live in the same house to raise their children economically in the nurture and admonition of the Lord as a loving family that honors both mother and father, with the parents keeping themselves separated in the home to avoid fornication entirely?

    Looking at the standard proposed in the blog post–“Does moving in together make covetousness, impurity or sexual immorality more likely or less likely?” Well, yes, usually more likely. But, using the same standard, does attending a Sunday morning worship service make covetousness, impurity or sexual immorality more or less likely? Wherever there are attractive people, lust will follow, even in church. Yes we battle lust nearly every time we step out in public from the door of our home. We may even choose our seating location at the church service to avoid lustful distraction. I have done this myself.

    So, if this “likeliness of immorality” analysis is the determining factor, then perhaps we should have separate Sunday worship services for men and women, because there might be an attractive member of the opposite sex present that could tempt a stray lustful thought. Thus, I say the “likeliness of immorality” standard is overly broad. What it comes down to is that God knows if we have done our best to avoid sexual immorality and will judge us accordingly, regardless of the suspicions and at times erroneous conclusions made by other people who are only looking at mere appearances.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for your very many thoughts.

      I’m sorry, but I cannot really do effective pastoral counsel on a blog.

      I’d recommend you talk to someone, preferably your pastor, about the stuff you’ve brought up.

    • John Kr

      -“Does moving in together make covetousness, impurity or sexual immorality more likely or less likely?” Well, yes, usually more likely. But, using the same standard, does attending a Sunday morning worship service make covetousness, impurity or sexual immorality more or less likely? Wherever there are attractive people, lust will follow, even in church.”
      I don’t think the example of attending a Sunday morning worship service uses the same standard. For one thing, the Bible tells us to assemble together as believers. That is necessary and, for the true believer, unavoidable. It does not say that we have to live together with members of the opposite sex. That is not necessary. Encountering people in places such as church, small groups, offices, hair salons, eateries, public transportation, and other such places is unavoidable. But to live together under the same roof adds a lot here and now extra to that. Also, there’s a far greater chance of sexual immorality happening if two people of the opposite sex are living together under the same roof then there is for it to happen if I go to church. The convenience is much greater.
      As far as the two parents raising their children together but aren’t married and aren’t getting married and aren’t having sex example you related above, the average person (including myself) would find that the idea that this couple would “take no pleasure” in sharing the home a bit hard to believe (I take “take no pleasure” to mean that lust isn’t even an issue). If merely going to church can cause problems with lust, how about living with someone whom there has been a sexual relationship in the past? How does that not come into someone’s mind at some point? And how does the temptation of touching someone or going into their bedroom (it is right there, after all) not come up in a weak moment sometime?
      I’m not saying I can say that every single instance of what you’ve brought up is always 100% wrong. I’m just saying you need to rethink how you’ve framed these questions/arguments.

  • pearlbaker

    Honestly people, what is all this fuss about? How many words will you write trying to justify cohabitation and pretend like it is not entering into a fiery temptation, and how deluded are you that men and women, sometimes not even in a romantic relationship but living together for the sake of economy, are not placing themselves in a position to be sorely tempted and, at a weak moment, to succumb to the desires of the flesh? God placed in us a very strong urge which He intends to be used for the strengthening of the marriage union and for the assurance of the continuation of the race. Do you think mere men and women are stronger than this God-placed desire? It is foolish to think so, it is extremely dangerous to think so. Matthew 26:41 should give you a clue as to just how strong you are…”weak” is the word used in that passage. Why insist on having your way for the sake of convenience or economy, when you consider the danger. And I do not buy some of your arguments here, especially the ridiculous argument that “they are already doing it anyway, so what’s the difference if they cohabitate?” Sound like something straight out of the serpent’s mouth. We are to keep ourselves pure and that’s that. Legalistic, you say? Wise and obedient, I say, oh, and not just me, God said!

  • tovlogos

    Hi Lyndon, I wanted to write this note after everything settled. There is something that was tugging at me from the beginning of this article. As I said, your exegesis is solid; and you sound like the theologian that you are. But my heart wasn’t in my response, which it always is.

    If you don’t mind I would like to digress a bit. My reaction has nothing to do with you; it has to do with my experience with people.
    I have known a lot of people in this situation; and one homosexual — all of them eventually got married, and homosexual went straight.

    It took between 5 to 15 years with most people to make the decision on their own ( which they believed they did).
    Often people’s reaction to the question of living together was met with the rationalization comparing themselves with the utterly out of control sexual immorality in the world today. How could God say we were wrong? One case was about a couple that were committed to each other monogamously; and were professing Christians. They said things like, God knows our hearts; and we will be married in due time.

    I said, fine. I learned from the story of how Jesus reacted to the woman caught in adultery; and yes, He said after she was saved, to sin no more. Neither would I condemn anyone ever.
    Instead I went along with them and the others for years. We read the Bible together many times; and just as importantly, they had a chance to observe me to see if I was “for real.” Did I live what I preached?
    After a while very worldly people, as some of them were, relaxed and became less defensive about God; and received the word anxiously. As time went on I was able to say anything to them and didn’t provoke a defensive recoil. Some began to discern the Spirit. “…and sin no more,” had far more meaning after they became comfortable and submissive to God.

    One rock star, with hair down to his hips was the easiest one to reach. He was laid back and worked in a video store. I walked in one day, a place I never go into. He was alone, he looked up at me from his paper work; and I said immediately, Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? He said, No. We stared at each other for about 15 seconds; and I said why don’t you? He said, Okay, sure.
    I went back home brought him a Bible, signed it; and started him off on how to approach it. He began reading; and calling me every day with questions. By the time seven months had passed by, he was only calling me once every few weeks. The Lord owned him. Those are one in a hundred.
    The homosexual called me up one night crying;a and asked: “Will I really go to hell, if I stay this way? I said, Most definitely; and whatever you are getting from your experience will never satisfy you. God had him.

    So, Lyndon, I wanted to share with you a small snippet of my life. I know that walking in the Spirit takes many turns in the road. All I want to do is follow. I appreciate your work and will keep it for a future witnesses when appropriate.

    Thanks brother,

    Mark

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Mark, I would like to point out that you gave some biblically misleading information to the homosexual. His question was if his homosexuality, if continued, would result in his damnation. You answered in the affirmative.

      But if he has earned God’s wrath, it because he has not called on the name of Christ for forgiveness of ALL his sins, not just his sexual proclivities. We don’t face God’s judgment because we slept with the wrong people, or didn’t attend Wednesday night prayer meeting, or stole pencils from the office. We face His judgment because we’re separated from Him from the jump and need redemption, period. Being gay doesn’t accelerate our problems with God any more than lying or slothfulness or anger. And even if he repented of his gay life, but still spurned the Gospel generally, his damnation would still be assured and your advice would have been tragically useless.

      • tovlogos

        I mentioned more than one issue, my friend. Why do you focus on only one? You are now making it the only issue. That person asked me of one issue — the issue that he practiced continuously. I have known him for years, as I said; obviously we spoke of many things. We have read the Bible together dozens upon dozens of times.

        “We don’t face God’s judgment because we slept with the wrong people, or didn’t attend Wednesday night prayer meeting, or stole pencils from the office. We face His judgment because we’re separated from Him from the jump and need redemption,”

        The only way to receive redemption is the be literally born from above as in John 3:3. That is a literal action. Once redeemed, certain responsibilities are in order. Why? Because “God is spirit; and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit.” The born from above experience gives one the ability to actually for the first time truly worship God.
        Any one who truly knows God, (thanks to Jesus, who made the unreachable God reachable…John 1:18), wants to please Him.
        Nicodemus had the toughest time trying to comprehend the things Jesus was saying, because he simply did not receive the John 3:3 give form heaven; without which, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him.” 1Corinthians 2:14.

        I would like you to look at 1John 3:8-9:

        “…the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil (works which has transformed God kingdom to something that faintly resembles the original) (9) No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
        The verbs for ‘practices’ sin is in the present tense — which denotes continuousness, as opposed to the aorist, which denotes an action one time in the past. The Imperfect would indicate an action that began in the past, continued and stopped in the past.
        So, at the end of the two verses where you see “he cannot sin,” it is saying he cannot continuously sin. That’s the difference between a saved person and an unsaved person. Since we are all imperfect, though positionally perfect in Christ, we all stumble, for time to time.
        Another good example is Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Which is to say, Be constantly filled with the Spirit. The Spirit never left Jesus; but we need constant rejuvenation, due to the issue brought forth in Romans 7:14-25 — among issues.
        The unsaved person is not born from above (John 3:3) and will continually reject Christ; sin by doing whatever he “feels” like doing; or even steel pencils, which would make him a thief — an action that will not reap a blessing form God.
        I anticipate you seeing the big picture. Thanks for your input.

        • 4Commencefiring4

          I believe I did see “the big picture”, and that’s why I wrote what I did: his gay life alone (which is what he asked about) would not result in his damnation, but an unredeemed life would. If he persisted in his particular sin, that would be giving evidence that he never had been “born from above.” He would still face God’s wrath because he’s not in Christ, not because he’s still practicing a homosexual life. The former is the actual root problem, the latter merely an evidence of it.

          No one will be refused heaven because of one or two or a dozen particular persistent sins; they will be refused heaven because they never truly turned to Christ for redemption of their lost soul. Even the redeemed are plagued by sin to one degree or another, as Paul lamented. But persistent sin without remorse or confession suggests the main issue has not been addressed.

          • tovlogos

            “his gay life alone (which is what he asked about) would not result in his damnation…”
            Please show me this in Scripture.
            If you can’t, I would rather not go back and forth — there’s no grace here.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            If a single named sin–one we may struggle with repeatedly–can result in one’s eternal soul being lost, despite being “saved”, then we are all–to a man–headed for hell.

            We are lost because we are not redeemed, period. We aren’t saved, but then lost, on account of not overcoming a particular sin.

            Rom 7:15–For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

            If we believe Paul was saved, yet struggled to obey the Lord in some way (which is clear here), then either we’re mistaken and he wasn’t really saved, or his salvation was not dependent on overcoming this fault.

            And so I posited that your informing your friend that his gay life would result in damnation was misleading: it’s not his sexual practices, per se, that will determine his eternal destiny; it’s whether he is truly surrendered to Christ in his heart at all.

            If any of us are saved, we will all go into Glory with a long list of imperfections of word and deed. That’s why we need a Savior. That’s what the Gospel is: positional rescue from our imperfections, which are legion.

          • tovlogos

            Thank you for trying; however, you are so badly misusing the Scripture; you are making no sense at all. You are saying, homosexuality cannot condemn you, only a lack of redemption can condemn you. Your logic seems to say, you can be redeemed and still be a homosexual; since being a homosexual can’t condemn you.

            However, your can’t drag along sin you embrace and be redeemed. You are suggesting that if homosexuality cannot condemn you, no sin can.

            Romans 5:20-21; 6:1-2 deals with very similar logic as yours.

            Romans 7:15 does not serve your position. And you avoided what I asked of you — to show me where in Scripture you can support your claim that the sin of homosexuality will not condemn you. So, you have found it necessary to give all sin a free pass, even theft; so that homosexuality will not be the only sin to get a pass. What you are doing is forming your own opinion based on your proclivities; but they are actually opposite biblical theology. It is similar to a Matthew Vine approach. He denies basic biblical facts as he blissfully develops his theories.

            Romans 7:15 deals with the paradox of cursed flesh in conflict with the spirit which is saved. Sin in our flesh is our enemy. It can, however be conquered through salvation “Thank God through Jesus Christ…”(verse 25).
            Salvation is a process.
            The only other thing I would ask of you is to reread the passages I sent you the first time, in 1John 3:8-9.
            That answers your question directly!

            The person in question, my friend that I was originally talking about, is a minister, we met in seminary. He knows the Scripture very well. He was calling me to ask me a rhetorical question — he had discovered the answer on his own.

            The Scripture must be read without bias, exegetically, carefully, slowly. If you are stuck in something that contradicts the Bible, it will cloud your discernment.
            Reread the passages I gave you. Why are you avoiding them? They answer your question.
            There are more than 8 billion people in the world, each with his own opinion. There is only One opinion that matters to me, God’s.
            There is nothing else that I can say to you. I know you feel strongly about your position. I can’t change that, I am just a human. Humans plant, and water; but God makes things grow. I am out of words.
            I sincerely pray that God helps you find peace and real freedom.

          • my2cents

            A person can absolutely be a Christian and struggle with same sex attraction. It’s whether they act on those thoughts/desires that determines where they really stand. They must know that acting on their impulses would be sin, and choose not to, even though it’s something they struggle with internally. Just like if someone were to struggle with gossip, or struggle with laziness, etc. They can be tempted to go and share the latest bit of gossip with a friend but then realize that would be a sin and refrain from it-being tempted isn’t the sin. So in the case above, this man is not condemned by his same sex attraction if he is a professing believer pursuing holiness and fighting his fleshly desires- just like any other believer has to do on a daily basis. If he is professing Christ and pursuing homosexual behavior without repentance then he’s likely not a believer.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Agreed. We can compile “evidence” for or against someone’s claimed salvation and even bring to their attention things that we see in their life as problematic (church discipline is based on that), but to tell someone we know they are hell bound because they do X,Y, & Z or that they don’t do A,B, & C is to go beyond our calling.

            In my church is a man who wouldn’t be caught dead using a computer at home because he thinks it’s frivolous, too much of a time waster, and the money net access costs he would rather send to a missionary. He probably thinks all of us here on Cripplegate are far too involved in worldly pursuits and have been sucked into Satan’s online world of deceit and foolishness. And I’m sure he could quote chapter and verse to prove we’re all damned if we disagree.

            Had I been standing at the cross and heard the repentant thief simply say to Jesus, “Remember me…”, I’d have dismissed his chances of salvation: “Sure–NOW you’re all teary-eyed. Good luck.” But what did Jesus say? “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

            Who’d a thunk it? I can’t predict who we’ll see in heaven and who we won’t. If I were that good at seeing the future, I’d have bought Apple at $20 and been retired a long time ago.

          • tovlogos

            OK, now you are going in the right direction. That is correct.
            However, I haver heard people say, that they think about the sin in question, and entertain those thoughts; and not acting on it is enough. Keep in mind that the most important thing to God regarding mankind in the “Heart.” Where the heart is is God’s concern.
            For example:
            “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” That’s in Samuel 16:7, but the theme is throughout the Scriptures.
            True freedom is freedom from within. When you eventually give your heart to God, you have given Him the thing that He wants. If we give Him our hearts, we are trusting Him completely. He can then free us from the things that are competing for our
            hearts.
            You are on the right track, now. Keep going in that direction, praying all of the time, reading the Bible for reinforcement and understanding; and making changes to the places you go, and people you see. If they are not free from within, they do not want you to be free, for sure. Find fellowship with people who have found true freedom in Jesus. They may not be on every corner, but the Spirit will lead you if you are willing to be led.

            I will pray for you every day; I will give your avatar to people who pray.
            If I can answer any questions for you, I will. As long as God keeps me in the flesh, I am willing to help.

          • my2cents

            I’m confused. I wasn’t saying that I struggle with same sex attraction. I was saying that it is possible for people to experience same sex attraction and still be a believer. Sorry if I confused you…I am a happily married woman to a godly man!

            I know that thoughts and intent and the heart matter also, but that’s why I said in my above comment that experiencing same sex attraction does not equal sin if the person is not acting on it and is pursuing holiness.

          • tovlogos

            Hi, sure, we must have crossed wires. No problem. Yes, “pursuing holiness” is the key. James has a formula for when sin actually manifests. James 1:13-15.

            There is temptation, which does not come from God; temptation comes from one’s own propensity to lust; then when lust has conceived, sin has conceived; at that point it usually keeps going down hill to greater depravity; then spiritual death occurs.
            When this continues and become a practice, it takes on the form of possession, which can go as far as Bruce Jenner is now experiencing.
            1John 3:8-9, gives warning; Romans 1:28 gives the results.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            There is not one believer the world over since time began who does not, and has not, stumbled in the flesh in some respect. We are all, to a man, going to our graves someday having engaged in either sins of commission or omission, and some of those sins will be habitual–something we failed to overcome by the time the clock ran out–rather than just something we happened into last week in a moment of inattention. (If you are the lone exception, I’ll gladly sing your praises).

            That’s why Christ’s death was necessary: none of us are capable of living out the law perfectly. “The law was not made for a righteous man, but for sinners.” Your gay friend asked a simple question, and your answer was not only presumptuous on your part (as though any of us can decide who is saved or not), but it attributed to his particular sin problem (homosexuality) a quality and severity that, I assume, you would NOT ascribe to anything you’re doing or struggling with of a “lesser” nature. Yet God considers all sin to be something requiring the same holy blood be shed.

            But is your sin and mine something that, if left unattended, would send us to hell? Not if we have truly trusted in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and for which we are pleading His mercies. And every single one of us who has done so, if we’re honest, could name something in our own lives that someone else in the faith would probably say is not something God is pleased with. Look, I fully agree with you that practicing the gay life is incompatible with God’s design and will; I’ve made that declaration in other forums too many times to count, to the hoots and hollers of unbelievers near and far who hate me for even suggesting such a thing.

            But I cannot tell someone that he is going to hell unless I can see into his heart and know his relationship to Christ. You seem to be making the case that the flesh is something which the believer can, in fact, “conquer”; and I’m saying the cross renders the failures of our flesh–which will always be our lot–ultimately null and void. We are forgiven; we are not perfected this side of Glory.

            The fact remains your friend is either saved and still struggling with sin in his own life (join the club), or he isn’t saved in the first place. It’s not a distinction that you or I can make, and we weren’t given that role.

          • tovlogos

            Well, all I can say at this point is the Bible is my guide. It helps prevent going around in circles, as you are doing. Yes we all have shortcomings, but the Spirit, through His word can walk us out of our faults as we go. Of course we will never be perfect as God is; but we will be far, far better off if we follow Him through His word, than we were when we started. He brings us to conclusions which are sound, from which we can go from there and keep improving until we die. Either way, after one goes to the other side, the conversation is over.
            So, now is the time to find resolution, which the word of God will do if you let it. One thing is certain — we can’t be fixed on God and fixed on sin — it won’t work. 1 John 3:8–9.

          • John Kr

            “The fact remains your friend is either saved and still struggling with sin in his own life (join the club), or he isn’t saved in the first place. It’s not a distinction that you or I can make, and we weren’t given that role.” Well, we can make the distinction in a true albeit provisional way based on a possible trajectory. I Corinthians 6:9-11 says (as I’m sure you well know) “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified,you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (ESV) Yes, an unreeemed life will result in one not going to heaven. However, ultimately unrepentantly pursuing gay sexual relationships is a sure sign that the person is not redeemed, even if they make a Christian confession, and even if they otherwise seem like a solid Christian. That said, someone may be unrepentant now, but may repent later. However, if asked a question by someone who claims to be a Christian but is in a same sex sexual relationship (legally married or otherwise), based on the above passage, if asked if they will be condemned if they don’t ever repent, I would say yes, they will be condemened if they don’t. I can’t say for sure that they will repent or won’t, but I can say if they won’t, then they won’t be in heaven. Of course, people who commit heterosexual sins like sleeping around, engaging in hookups, having friends with benefits, frequenting prostitutes, living together without being married, etc., if they aren’t repenting, I would give the same answer, based on the Scripture passage above. Frankly, some sins carry more weight than others in this sense. Even though any sin can keep someone out of heaven without Christ, some sins pursued unrepentantly can show that a person was not a believer. Drunkenness and thievery and adultery are included as well above, and my answer to those people would be the same. Now I can’t open up their hearts or God’s decrees to know for sure which way they will go in the future, but if they are true believers (or are elect, but not believers yet), they will repent of this type of sin as part of following Christ. If they never repent, it shows that they never truly believed in the first place. And they will be condemned for their unbelief, their gay (or straight) sexual behavior that they didn’t repent of, and their other sins.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Don’t get me wrong: I’m not defending the gay life in the least. It’s sin as sure as I’m typing this.

            That said, we are all in the process of sanctification–a process that lasts until the end of our lives. We are in a battle, no doubt, and that battle won’t be over until heaven. And as we survey the Body, we find a wide variety of habits that are distasteful or noxious to God, homosexuality being but one. Yes, we should be on an “upward” path, meaning the things that we perhaps weren’t convicted of early in our walk we should be getting around to dealing with as the years go by. The Holy Spirit doesn’t overload us with everything that needs adjustment all at once. He leads us along that path as we obey Him.

            In my own case, the thing that stopped overnight when I came to the Lord many years ago was my blue language. As soon as I began to exclaim something the “old way”, I stifled myself because I knew immediately that was not part of “the new things” that had come. God was retuning my mind.

            But I know some very devout and seasoned believers–perhaps you do, too– who will, even now, post something online which frankly surprises me…something I would never expect them to express face to face. In fact, the person who was most instrumental in my becoming saved used to send me emails with questionable language or jokes in it, and I finally had to call her on it. She wasn’t too thrilled, but I have never doubted her faith. It’s just something she wasn’t convicted about, but I was.

            I’ve never been a smoker, but many who name the name of Christ DO smoke, and I wonder what they’re thinking. But suppose one of them should ask me if I think they’re bound for hell because they are damaging their body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, by unrepentant smoking. I’m not going to try to assess that. They have to answer to God for their habits, as I do. I’m sure there are things I do for which some believers would warn me that I’m risking my very soul. All I can say is, give God time to convict me of THIS first; I’ll get around to THAT in due time.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for sharing Mark.

      It’s true that knowing what the Bible says and doing it are often two experiences that are separate with time. I don’t ever want to suggest going after someone or yelling at them or whatever when they’re not “where I’m at” with regards to these issues.

      That being said, if there are people who are professing Christians, this would be a point on which I would take some ample time and discuss with them, at length, what the Bible says about sexual immorality and marriage.

      The question often comes up: “We’re already living together, what would a piece of paper change?”

      I’d urge them to realize that the question should be “We’re already living together, but the difference between sin and righteousness IS that piece of paper. Why are you waiting?”

      The latter question always brings up underlying issues of fear, doubt, trusting God, etc.

      Also, once those discussions were had, we would have to have a second set of talks regarding what churches do with professing believers who are living in willful and unrepentant sin.

      That’s more where you see where a person’s heart is. Are they willing to undergo church discipline because they’re unwilling to get married even though they’re already living together (and often have been for a while)?

      If so, what’s *really* going on?

      • tovlogos

        Exactly, Lyndon. Amen.

  • Parker Reardon

    Don’t forget about the woman at the well that Jesus evangelized. She was shacked up with a man that wasn’t her husband. Jesus used this very scenario as a Segway into the Gospel and her need for spiritual cleansing. Thanks for the post!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for that. That’s a good and pointed text that addresses this issue.

  • acha648

    yes but why can’t we apply this to couples who engage in role reversal and call themselves christians?
    if a woman can break Titus 2:5 and a man can break Ephesians 5 and not provide like christ does, and thus he be the homemaker and she the provider, leader, protector and still be called christian
    why can’t a cohabiting couple or even a gay couple?

    everyone is asking men to be sacrificial servant leaders- do what your wife wants,master homemaking support her career and dreams over yours ( a true leader puts his wife’s needs first) and you call it christian, even though it blatantly disobeys the bible…

    sorry I can’t see how one can pick and choose,,,