In the fifteenth chapter of Acts, leaders in the church gathered to address the conflict that arose between Jewish Christians and Gentile believers. Some teachers had gone out among the new gentile converts / churches and told them, essentially, that if they really wanted to be “saved” – if they wanted to be righteous, they’d need to follow all of the Torah. This caused no small frustration.
There was called a conference in Jerusalem for the elders and apostles to resolve this issue. They deliberated the matter until affirming that since the gentiles had received the Holy Spirit in the same way the Jews had, and that to place a burden on the gentiles that the Jews were unable to bear for generations, that they would require gentiles to observe only a handful of the elements of the Torah. Specifically, gentile believers should abstain from idolatry (from things offered to idols), from strangled meat and blood, and that they should abstain from sexual immorality.
What is important, absolutely, to grasp is that these were the things that were to be carried over that were unique to the Torah. Murder and theft were not on the “list,” but that doesn’t mean that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit that now those things were fine, and that any reference to them in the Torah were antiquated, obsolete. Rather, what is presented is an affirmation of things unique to the Torah that the Holy Spirit pressed as necessary for righteous living.
Prohibitions against murder were not unique to the Torah, nor laws against theft. By the time of the Jerusalem council, these types of regulations were not uncommon in any organized society. But what was NOT unlawful was various forms of sexual congress. Nor was idolatry illegal (just the opposite, in fact it was prescribed in many places). So, what the leaders in Jerusalem affirmed, under the affirmation of the Holy Spirit, were the unique elements of OT law that were germane to righteous living.
Among the requirements set forth by the leaders in Jerusalem was that believers should abstain from sexual immorality. Remember, these are regulations being imported from the Torah. Therefore, one must keep in mind that these Jewish leaders, prohibiting sexual immorality in all Christ-followers, had in mind the context of sexual immorality as delineated by Moses. For the Jew, sexual immorality meant any sexual relationship with any person in any way outside the sacred covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Anything else was fornication. This is what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” to prohibit.
It is hip to redefine sexual immorality in the context of contemporary culture. Today sexuality is “moral” if it is consenting. Violent sexuality is still considered wrong. So, what is sexually moral is no longer a matter of the actual behavior, but the intent. If the intent is mutual stimulation, or even one-sided stimulation met with acquiescence, then it’s all fine. More than fine, in fact, it is celebrated. It is insisted upon. Practitioners of experimental sexual congress build for themselves small mole-hills and plant in them a flag of moral high-ground. And they demand agreement that their behavior is normal, normative, and in some cases, they require it to be recognized as holy – ordained by God Himself.
But no matter how loud their cry, no matter how many times they repeat their claim, it is still absurd. It is fornication.
Many claim that their aberrant sexual expression must be right – because it feels so right. It feels good; it’s fulfilling; it’s pleasant and even helps them feel close to their sexual partner. None of this is evidence for righteousness. There is nothing meritorious about an orgasm.
The ability to climax is not sacred. It’s nothing to be proud of, march in a parade over, or celebrate. In fact, the chemicals in the brain generate feelings of desire and commitment to someone after – because of – sexual release with that person. Literally the brain can be trained via sexual expression to bond to almost anything or anyone. So powerful is this bond, that victims of abuse who unwillingly experience sexual arousal might retain feelings of desire toward the experience. It is precisely because of the fragile nature of human sexuality that it is so important to regard it as sacred, to protect it and use it as designed.
Human sexuality, as designed by God, to be shared in love, in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, is sacred. Anything else is fornication. And it is pleasing (seems good to) to the Holy Spirit for believers to abstain from it.