Everybody seems to be talking about sex. You can hardly turn on the TV, see a movie, or listen to the radio without finding references to it. Not only is our culture talking about sex, it seems that everybody is doing it. The biblical boundaries for sex - God's instruction to reserve physical intimacy for marriage - have been set aside, disregarded as old fashioned and culturally "out of step."

And why not? After all, the Bible is an ancient book written in a completely different culture. Many in today's society - especially youth - reason that times change and truth is what works for the individual. How can we look to an "archaic book" as the definitive standard for truth, especially regarding one's sex life in the 21st century? What is the Bible and what kind of authority does it have? The writer of Hebrews calls it the living and active Word of God (Heb. 4:12). The apostle Paul describes it as the "word of life" (Phil. 2:16, NASB). In a letter to Timothy, Paul explains the purpose of the Bible: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NLT).

All Scripture, then, is intended to show us the right way, which is in our best interest. As Moses told the nation of Israel, "Obey the Lord's commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good…. I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!" (Deut. 10:13; 11:26, NLT, italics added). The Bible is a relational revelation of a loving God who desires to protect us from harm and provide for our good. He has given us precepts so we may live an abundant life by knowing him and experiencing his love to the fullest. His precepts point to universal moral principles, which then point us to the very person of God.

Precept, Principle, Person
We all know that God issued specific commands, such as "You shall not murder" and "You shall not covet." These precepts define right and wrong in explicit terms, but are just the first step in understanding basic morality. They also point to larger moral principles that help explain the "why" behind the command. And if we look beyond the principle, we begin to see that the precept is founded on an even greater moral truth-the person of God. God's ultimate purpose in every precept is to bring people to the knowledge of himself.

With this in mind, let's return to the specific issue of sexuality. What does the Bible have to say about sex, and what difference does it make to our 21st century lives?

Know the Precept
In biblical terms, sexual immorality is all extramarital (including premarital) sex. God has set his standard: sexual involvement outside of marriage is wrong. The precept is clear:
"Abstain from…sexual immorality..." (Acts 15:29, NIV). "Flee from sexual immorality..." (1 Cor. 6:18, NIV). "We should not commit sexual immorality..." (1 Cor. 10:8, NIV). "It is God's will that you... should avoid sexual immorality..." (1 Thess. 4:3, NIV).

P> Know the Principle
Every "negative" command of the Bible expresses a positive principle. The biblical command to "flee sexual immorality" is based on at least three fundamental principles: love, purity, and faithfulness. The biblical standard of sex is love. The problem is, most people are working from a counterfeit standard of love-one that says love permits sex without boundaries, outside God's definition of love. According to the Bible, love is evident when the happiness, health, and spiritual growth of another person are as important to you as your own. True love is giving and trusting; it is secure and safe, loyal and forever. That kind of love sets clear boundaries for sex.

The biblical standard of sex is purity. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Heb. 13:4, NIV). God designed sex to be enjoyed in a husband-wife relationship to form a pure union: two virgins entering an exclusive bond.