Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

My ex-husband and I divorced and he wants to reconcile with me and have sex he has not spoken of marriage but of a starting over again in a relationship. Is this a sin to have sex with your ex-husband. What does the bible say about this?

Sincerely, J

Dear J,

According to the Bible sex is for married couples. Sex is a holy thing and to be expressed only in a marriage setting. Sex with someone who is not your spouse is a sin because it defiles both of your bodies and brings with it an ungodliness that breaks Jesus' heart. Paul wrote about the very issue in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Notice that our bodies are not necessarily ours to do with as we please. When we received Christ into our lives our bodies and everything else about us became His. After all, He bought us with the blood that He shed on the cross when He forgave our sins. At the moment of our surrender to Christ the Holy Spirit Himself came to inhabit our very beings. To take our holy temples (our bodies) and have sex with someone who is not our spouse defiles our temple. Our lives are no longer holy places where God can dwell in loving purity. His ability to pour into our lives the abundant life promised by Jesus is severely compromised.

I think that it is wonderful that you husband wants to reconcile with you. Do you want to reconcile with him?

You mentioned that "he has not spoken of marriage but of a starting over again in a relationship." Let's consider that for several moments. God's design is for no sex until the wedding night. This is both a trust and a purity issue. I don't know whether or not you had premarital sex with your ex the first time around, but if you did, you basically started out your marriage without Jesus being closely involved and able to freely empower your marriage forward to success.

If you both decide to begin the relationship again, then I suggest doing it God's way this time. Keep your bodies free from premarital sex so that your "marriage bed may be undefiled:" Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Hebrews 13:4).

As you consider his sex request and his desire to begin a new relationship, let me encourage you to carefully examine the role of both husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:21-33:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

J, read the passage carefully and let me point out several things.

Note in verse 21 that you and your ex are to submit to each other. This means meeting each other's needs first.

Submitting to your husband as the "head" of your relationship puts more responsibility on him than on you. Being the "head" does not mean that he is free to treat you any way he wants to, or that he can freely order you around. Being the head is like being a shepherd. The shepherd will do everything imaginable to care for his/her sheep. He subordinates his own needs for the good of the sheep. So, likewise, your husband's job is to do everything in his power to make sure that your needs are met. If he does his job well then you will have no trouble submitting to his leadership. Make his job as easy as you can by following God's role for you.

In the next several verses Paul makes it clear that the primary job of the husband is to love his wife as Jesus loved His church. And, how did Jesus show love for his wife? He gave up His life on the cross for her. Be certain to notice in verse 26 how important it is for every husband to express love for his wife by doing everything possible to keep her pure (sexually and other wise. By the way, one of the ways he does this is to teach you the Word of God in such a way that others are able to see Jesus in you and Jesus is better able to work His life through you to others.

Consider that fulfilling your ex's desire for sex with you while not being married will simply put a spiritual stain on your life before God. When your ex decides to renew your relationship in holiness and purity then you may talk to him about beginning a new relationship and perhaps one day about remarriage.

If he decides that it is not worth the wait, then you have a clear-cut indication of where his heart really is.

My advice is not to give anything away for free.

By the way, one of a woman's greatest needs is security. One of a man's greatest needs is respect. When he loves you like Jesus loved His church you feel secure and your respect for him soars. You both are blessed and on the way to a great marriage.

Well, J, thanks for the great question, I imagine that many of my readers are wondering the same thing. My God bless both you and your ex. I hope things work out for the best.

Love, Roger

EpilogueShortly after I answered J’s letter she wrote a short note of thanks and told me that her ex-husband had decided to seek sex and love elsewhere.

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: January 31, 2012