From the March 18 sermon “Can We_______?,” preached by Pastor Mark Driscoll:
When the Corinthians asked the Apostle Paul a list of questions about sex, he directed them to consider three categories: 1) Is it lawful? 2) Is it helpful? and 3) Is it enslaving? Pastor Mark encourages married couples to do the same, so that they may be free in Christ to enjoy one another and use whatever freedom they prayerfully agree is acceptable to them.
So, the first question is, “Is it lawful?” And here we’re looking at, number one, what does the government say? If it’s illegal, we are to, Romans 13, obey the government. [. . .]
But in addition, what does God say? Because there are some things that are not illegal, but they are sinful. The government does not see them as wrong, but God does, like adultery. Like if your spouse tragically commits adultery on you, you can’t call 911. “Hello, what is your emergency?” “My spouse committed adultery.” They will say, “We do not send the police out for that. It’s not a crime. You can’t fill out a form or press charges. It’s not illegal.” It’s not illegal, but it’s sinful. The government doesn’t see it, necessarily, as wrongdoing, but God does.
So, we have to ask the two questions, “Well, what does the government say? And what does God say? Is it, in fact, lawful?” [. . .]
So, basically, what we’re talking about is that marital intimacy is for a husband and a wife in the covenant of marriage without anyone else involved in any way—just a husband and a wife. Okay? Those are the limitations, restrictions, and protections that God puts on this gift of sex, so that it doesn’t become god-like, and we don’t view it as gross, but we receive it as a gift to be enjoyed and stewarded to God’s glory and our pleasure.
Second question, is it helpful? That’s Paul’s question. Is it helpful? So, let’s say you answer the first question. You say, “Well, it’s not illegal, and the Bible doesn’t forbid it. Can we do it?” Next question, “Is it going to help or harm the marriage?” There are things that may not be sinful, but for your marriage may not be helpful. Do you see the difference? [. . .]
And for those of you who are single, you don’t even know this kind of sex, if you’ve been fornicating prior to marriage and/or are into pornography. You don’t understand the biblical reasons for sex. So, you need to have a renewing of your mind, so that as you prepare for a sexual married relationship, you’re able to start to think biblically before you act practically. [. . .]
First of all, is it lawful? What does government and God say? Secondly, is it helpful? Will this build our marriage or break our marriage? Will this make us closer or further apart? Do we both have a clear conscience or not? What is the heart motive? Why would we want to do this or not do this? Those kinds of questions.
And so what I’m asking the couples that are married and those who are engaged and preparing for marriage to do is get face-to-face, as friends, and you’ve got to talk about it. And some of you say, “I feel very awkward talking about it.” Well, you’re going to be equally awkward doing it, so you may as well talk about it first.
I know a lot of Christian married couples, sometimes because one or both of them has had the view of sex as gross, they don’t talk about it. I’ve been in counseling sessions with embittered, frustrated, divided couples, and I’ll just ask, “Well, what would you like to do?” And one person will say, “I’d like to do this.” And the other person said, “I’m fine with that.” “Really, you are?” “Yeah.” “Why are you meeting with me? Like, I mean, I love you, and I’m glad to be here, but you want to do it, they are fine doing it. You could’ve settled this at your home on the couch.” I’ll just leave it at that.
Another form of slavery, according to the Bible, is pernicious, and it is frequent, and it is subtler, and as a result is sometimes less seen, and that is that we choose our slave master. We will choose to enslave ourselves to someone or something. In our culture, we use the language of addiction. So, to be addicted, according to the Bible, is to be enslaved. That’s the biblical language for addiction.
See, addiction is more a therapeutic term that, “I’m a victim, I’m weak, something has overtaken me.” Slavery puts it in a gospel context of, “I belong to God, but Satan has baited my hook,” if I could use a Puritan illustration. “I saw the bait. I ignored the hook. I bit, and now he is reeling me in to be his possession, to harm me and destroy me. He now controls me and is my master.”
And what we need then is not just to overcome an addiction, but we need Jesus to be our Savior, our liberator, our redeemer, to get the hook out of our mouth, and to get us away from our enemy, and away from our slavery, and away from our misery. We need Jesus. He came to set captives free. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah at the beginning of his earthly ministry, and part of what he says is, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to preach good news and to set captives free.” To set captives free, and that includes drugs, and alcohol, and sex, and gambling, and violence, and all kinds of slavery and captivity.
And so there are certain things that may not be sinful, but for you they might be slavery. I’ll give some general examples. Some of you should not drink any alcohol; not because it’s a sin, but because for you it becomes a master, and it enslaves you, and it rules you, and it dominates you. You can’t control it; it controls you. And so you may have the freedom to drink: according to the government, if you’re over the age of twenty-one; according to the Bible, not getting drunk and tempting others to do the same and glorying in your liberties. But for some of you, you will say, “I have freedom, but I do not exercise my full freedom, because, for me, I am weak, not strong, and it would lead to slavery.” [. . .]
And so God created this great pleasure to connect us with, to bind us to, to cause us to be desirous of our spouse, that it’s like gravity pulling a husband and wife together. So, if you have chastity before marriage, fidelity in marriage, you have two servant lovers who are friends and obey the Word of God, and live within their freedoms, and enjoy one another.