Cameron a listener from London asks, “Dear Pastor John, to what extent is the goodness and glory of the Christian understanding of human sexuality spiritually discerned?”
Animals have instincts that cause them to mate and reproduce and, viewed from a God-centered perspective, that is amazing. That is an amazing thing. It reveals the glory of God the Creator. How do they know how to do that? How do those birds know to splay their feathers in just that way to attract her at just that time? How does that frog know to change the tone of her chirrup? It is so that the species goes on.
The earth is full of the wonders of God. “In wisdom you have made them all” (Psalm 104:24). We watch and, with the eyes awakened to God, we see the glory of God in all of it, all that sexuality. So it is with human sexuality. We have instincts and desires and understandings that cause us to make love and reproduce the race. But without eyes to see the goodness and the glory of God in our sexuality, we are more like animals than we are like God. And that is not what God calls us to be or to do.
So when you read what the Bible has to say about sex, you are thrown into a world of divine glory. And if we don’t have eyes to see, we will miss it. So when Cameron asks, “To what extent is the goodness and the glory of the Christian understanding of human sexuality spiritually discerned?” my answer is, “All of it.” Totally. It is totally discerned spiritually. Without spiritual life, without the awakening of our sprit by the Spirit of God, the reality of God, the glory of God in all things, we may have intense feelings and poetic thoughts about sex, even far above the animals. But we will never see the goodness and the glory that God reveals of himself in and through our sexuality. Without spiritual discernment, that is, without the awakening and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, we only rise to the level of nature and never see in it the glory of God.
So let me illustrate with a few passages. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” We are merely natural, in other words, without new birth by the Spirit. And as such, the things of the Spirit are not discernible to us.
Discerning the things of the Spirit means seeing all things the way the Spirit does. “Things of the Spirit” are not just a class of things, but are all things revealing the truth of God and the glory of God and the reality of Christ by the Spirit. So the Bible says that the role of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. So the things of the Spirit are all things in their capacities to reveal Christ, like sex. We will never see that, we will never see what sex has to do with the glorious reality for which we are made, Jesus Christ, without those eyes, the spiritual eyes.
Here is another text: Ephesians 5:25–27 says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing with water in the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” The whole drama of marriage including sex is a drama about the glories of Christ’s covenant relation to his bride, the church. None of this reality is visible or enjoyable for the person without spiritual discernment.
Another text: 1 Corinthians 6:15–17 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” Could Paul have woven together the most nitty-gritty physical reality like prostitution with the most spiritual reality of our oneness with Christ? Prostitution, he says, is about Christ — what you do with Christ. So not only can we not see the glories of sex without spiritual discernment, we can’t see the prostitution of the glories of sex without spiritual discernment.
One more: Mark 10:7–9 says, “‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two should become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mind-boggling. God joins us together in sex. This is a great and unseen glory of marriage. Who sees this? Who marvels at how marriage (with its sexual union) is a work of God? God is at work at a wedding ceremony. God is at work that night in bed. Who sees this glorious reality? Those who are spiritually awakened; those who are spiritually discerning.
So yes, Cameron, yes. The goodness and the glory of sexuality is for those with eyes to see. And those eyes are a gift of the Spirit through faith in Christ.