This is an excerpt from a recent message I received. I am answering it publicly, but I am NOT naming who asked the question. I have chosen to do so because I think that it is a question that more than one person has, and I would like to share why I hold the belief I do about abstinence. The opening quote was taken from a comment I made in response to a question presented to me in my comments.
"'The Bible says sex is reserved for marriage' -- Where, precisely, does it say that? The Christian community has said that for many, many years. I have yet to find any verse in the Bible, read IN CONTEXT of the society in which the writers lived, which says anything of the sort."
I struggled with this question for several years as divorced woman. I was even told by certain people in positions of authority that I had every right to indulge my sexual appetites since I was “no longer a virgin”. However, I did what I think every Christian should do, and I did not accept any man’s word without confirming or disproving it within the pages of Scripture.
For me the answer is most clearly spelled out in 1 Corinthians 7:1-8. In verses one and two Paul says, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But because of the temptation to sexual immorality each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Paul makes it clear that way to combat the temptation to sexual immorality is through marriage, but that begs the question what is sexual immorality?
The question is answered in two different passages. The first is Acts 15:28-29 which is the summation of the Jerusalem Council that delineates the obligations of the Gentile Christian from the Jewish born Christian. Keep in mind that this was a group of Jewish men, at least one of which was trained in Jewish law by a leading Rabbi, whose references would have reflected their Jewish training and understanding of these terms. The second passage is 2 Timothy 3:16,17, where Paul says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that every man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work.”
Please note that the New Testament as we know it was not yet considered to be Scripture – so Paul could not be referring to any of the books authored after the life of Jesus. He was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the books of reference for the Jerusalem Council. Since everyone was referring back to the Hebrew for their definitions that is where we must go to find out what sexual immorality means. Now I do not wish to bore you, so I am not going to type out all the sexual laws contained within the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy). Instead, I am just going to give you a few references that you can look up if you are interested: Deuteronomy 22:13-30 which demonstrates the importance of a woman’s virginity before marriage and fidelity after, Genesis 38 which demonstrates that even a widow was expected to abstain until remarried, and Leviticus 18 which clearly states that the attitudes of believers towards sex should not be in keeping with the cultural norms of other cultures or prevalent societal views.
Finally allow me to add, while I do believe that these passages provide us with the standards that we should strive to maintain the Bible was not written by a God who was unaware or unfeeling towards our struggles. He knows that we all fall short, we screw it up (sometimes literally), but He extends the gifts of mercy and grace. He never called us to perfection apart from Him, and He never denies a second chance for those seeking to move deeper in relationship with Him. The quest to tame my sex drive was a driving force in teaching me how to rely on Him and in deepening my relationship with Him. In the end, I value the fight for what it taught me, and I do not regret anything momentary pleasure I may have missed in seeking His ways before my own.