“Sexuality & Union: Part II of ‘Genesis, Sex, & Sexuality'” by Calvin Peronto

Last semester I posted my thoughts and reflections from Biblical texts regarding sexuality and masturbation. This paper serves as a much-needed supplement to that post, for it (the post last semester) solely regarded sexuality apart from union with Christ and the effects of soteriology on the human person. But now attention is given to sexuality within its restored context, specifically considering the interweaving of sexuality and soteriology in the mind of the apostle Paul. I hope that this article shall not be quickly read then passed over, for the import of his subject can hardly be expressed. I would also ask the reader to dwell on and contemplate the movement of the narrative of Scripture as it relates to sexuality and union, and most certainly to examine themselves and their own conceptions of sexuality. I pray that this would be helpful and beneficial and would cultivate discussion and thought concerning human beings as sexual, but also that it would express the profundity and gravity of this topic. This I offer up work to God in service of his Church. May it be used by him!Sexuality and Union shall be considered in three movements within this paper, each movement consisting of two passages. The first movement examines sexuality in general and marital union in particular in the created ideal, thus Genesis 1 and 2 are the focus. Next, the implications of The Fall on sexuality and union are explicated through Genesis 3 and Romans 1:22-25. The final movement considers our topic in the context of redemption, specifically for those who are united to Christ, by inspection of 1 Cor. 6:12-20 and Eph. 5:21-33.

Genesis 1& 2

Genesis 1 displays with broad brush strokes the movement of God in the making of the cosmos culminating in the creation of man. It is important to see the clear indication of the tri-unity of God in the deliberation to make humanity in his image in v. 26. The exalted form of v. 27 brings clarity into the import and gravity of God’s creation of mankind, specifically magnifying sexuality in the anthropological complexion. Observe the poetic form:

(27a) “And God created (bara) mankind in his image(27b)

in the image of God, he created (bara) him(27c)

male and female he created (bara) them

(28a) and God blessed (barak) them”

Vs. 27 describes the action of the fiat of vs. 26, highlighting the uniqueness of man over all creation in poetic formula with parallelism. This poetry emphasizes the nascence of mankind, male and female, as the crown of creation, because they are God’s image-bearers. Mankind as a whole was made to have sexual distinction as male and female, indicating likeness yet difference, while also displaying equality in glory and honor (Ps. 8). This distinction magnifies the need of each to be in relationship with the other, viz. individually they are incapable of fulfilling the royal mandate given to them in the next verse. Thus, Genesis 1:26-28 presents human sexuality reverently, specifically as an aspect of the image of the triune God, highlighting in particular the diversity yet complementary nature of the sexes.

Chapter 2 of Genesis provides a closer look at the creation of the man and woman. The Lord God forms (yatsar) the man from the ground as a potter in vs. 7, while the woman is built (banah) as a complex structure in vs. 22. There is difference in the craftsmanship of the Lord God, yet there is also dignity in each sex as complementary masterpieces. The creation of the woman is necessary, for her absence from Adam’s milieu was declared: “not good” (vs. 18). The helper given Adam is one who would be in covenant-relationship with him, and is suitable for him as is expressed in Adam’s poem in vs. 23, which says:

(a) “This one (zot) at last!

(b) bone from (min)  my bones

(b1) and flesh from (min)  my flesh

(c) this one (zot) will be called woman (ishah)

(c1) because from (min) man (ish) this one (zot) was taken”

The overwhelming expression of this poem is the certitude of the longed-for-intimacy, rooted within the created compatibility as distinct image-bearers. Adam’s exclamation evinces the joyful recognition of the proper corresponding person, while the content of his poem indicates the completion of himself with the advent of “this one” who is homologous to his own created nature.

Next, the narrator clarifies the union of the man and the woman in vs. 24 with three indicative statements. The language of the first is harsh, for azab is commonly translated as “forsakes,” showing the force needed in the severance of familial ties. But following severance is the holding fast to his wife, the commitment and steadfastness, which binds the two together. Following these two actions the union is realized in becoming one flesh; experiencing union, thus not being complete without the other. Genesis 2 finishes with the declaration that they were “naked and unashamed” (vs. 25). These two chapters provide dignity and equality for the man and the woman, who are both complementary in form. The stage of the created good is set, closing with the vulnerable, intimate nakedness of the primal couple as the final image of its perfection.

Genesis 3 & Romans 1:22-25

Genesis 3 displays sin’s advent into the world and the destructive repercussions that affect the creation, in particular the inimical effects on mankind. Immediately following the disobedience of the first couple, the fracture of the primal marital relationship is seen in their actions viz. the making of loincloths out of leaves to cover their nakedness. Because this is prior to the hearing of the Lord in the garden, the reaction of the couple is to one another. Thus the hiding of their physical bodies, shows the loss of union in the primal couple and the loin cloths signal the great divide between them as a result of their sin. As described in the judgment of God in vs. 16, the man and woman will have a ruptured and disjointed relationship. This will function by the woman seeking to subvert the authority of the man, while the man will rule by the subjugation of the woman under his power. It is clear that image-likeness of God, which consisted in the union of the man and the woman, is broken; for the tasks given them requires the two persons unified in order for completion, yet sin turns the two parts of the whole against one another, bringing the creation mandate to abeyance.Romans 1:21-22 form a transition from the intellectual posture of the rebellious man, to his further degradation as a result of the fall, specifically understood in image-likeness language. Mankind, though knowing the immortal God, exchanged his glory (vs. 23), which was what the man and the woman were to be as image bearers. But now, mankind has taken up the task of resembling themselves (or other creatures) as their economic purpose. Mankind’s purpose is turned inward with the lusts of their hearts and the dishonoring of their bodies as a result of the worship and the serving of themselves, instead of God their Creator, who alone is worthy to be worshiped (vs. 25). Thus the distortions to sexuality are specifically a disruption of the doxological intent of human sexuality, which was to be manifest through the union of a man and woman in matrimony. But now, the substratum for sexual distortion, which is moral, can be seen as idolatry, namely the trading of the glory of God, which is spiritual, for the image of creatures unto the worship and service of oneself and others, but not of God.

Now that Sexuality has been considered in its created and postlapsarian contexts, attention shall now be given to sexuality for those who believe in Christ Jesus, for those who do not believe in Christ remain in a condition of sexual distortion.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 & Ephesians 5:21-33

In this passage, Paul is correcting the Corinthian’s understanding of the physical body, specifically as it relates to sexual immorality. In 13b, Paul declares his thesis of this section, which vs. 14-20 will unpack, namely that the body is meant for the Lord, not for sexual immorality. Verses 15-20 functions as an explanation for his polemic against sexual immorality, specifically through consideration of sexuality as it relates to the believer’s physical bodies, which are members of Christ’s body as he emphatically declares in vs. 15a. Immediately following, he hypothetically deliberates sexual union between a prostitute and a believer (vs.15), to display the absurdity of such a thought. This absurdity is grounded in the analogical relationship of sexual intercourse with the believer’s mystical union with Christ Jesus (vs. 16-17). Therefore, Paul urges to flee from sexual immorality, for in sexual union the two become one body (soma), meaning one flesh. Thus the one who is joined to a prostitute is one with her (vs. 16), while the members of Christ are one Spirit (pneuma) with him (vs.17), thereby through union with Christ, the physical bodies of believers are organic extensions of Christ’s own physical body. This reality makes the joining of what is already joined to Christ to a prostitute unthinkable. In this passage, the gravity of sexual union is at the fore and thus the import of the physical body in the anthropological complexion is buttressed and again the relation of the spiritual to the moral is manifest.This final passage discusses sexuality and union in the context of the marriage relationship. In particular it positively considers the union of a man and a woman in its proper context as distinct from the unholy union considered negatively in the prior passage. Interlaced throughout the paraenetic declarations concerning this relationship, Paul includes analogous theological content regarding Christ Jesus’ relationship to the Church, thus establishing its archetypal status for the husband and wife’s relationship in marriage. Most important in this passage for our purpose are vs. 30-32 because of the fundamental declaration of believers being the members of the body of Christ, the quotation of Gen. 2:24 and Paul’s commentary regarding it. Specifically, Paul grounds the ectypal relationship, namely marriage, in the salvific union that Christ has with the Church. However, although this archetype functions as the exemplification for the ectype, it more importantly is a reality that provides the necessary means for fulfilling the ectypal relationship because the husband and wife already participate in the archetypal relationship as a part of Christ’s body, the Church. Thus, in the descriptions of Christ’s activity to the church, namely his salvastion (vs. 23), his love (vs. 25), his sanctification and cleansing (vs. 26) and his nourishing and cherishing of it  (vs. 29), these are not abstract ideas but are present realities for all united to him, for the husband and wife to communicate to one another. Therefore, the husband and the wife, though distinct in sexually somatic build and role, yet equal in worth, through the renewal of the image of God by union with Christ, may economically image God’s activity and likeness in their matrimonial union, specifically God’s grace and love manifest in his salvation.

Conclusion

Sexuality and sexual union are mysterious realities deeply imbedded in the created nature of humanity. As such they have suffered the consequences of The Fall yet there are no bounds to the redemptive work of Christ Jesus. Thus the leafy loincloths and bestial garb (Gen. 3) have been replaced with Jesus himself (Gal. 3:27), for he has borne our guilt and shame (Is 53:3-5), and now transforms us into the glory (2 Cor 3:18), which once we traded (Rom 1:23). Thus sexuality and union have been ennobled, functioning to image Christ’s salvific work in marriage, restoring their created doxological intention as an intimate component of the human complexion.
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