One Flesh Cleaving (Eph 5:31)

Download Sermon Outline

Sermon Manuscript …

One Flesh Cleaving

Ephesians 5:31—Oneness, part 3


In one of my early seasons of skiing, I remember an instructor telling me to do all sorts of things that didn’t feel natural to me—“Bend your knees and face down the slope.”  But as I began to obey the instructor, something crazy happened–I didn’t fall as much, I gained confidence, and I got better and better.  The more I did what he said, the better I became.  Slowly, I found myself able to leave the bunny hill and go to blue, even black runs.  Not anymore, but long ago I could glide all over the mountain.  It is strange but true–obeying the instructor gave me incredible freedom.  That is not to say that my newfound freedom did not have limits–stay in the ski area, don’t crash into others, don’t jump off the lift chair.  But I knew that those limits were there to protect me, increase my enjoyment, and not ruin skiing for me and others.

Sexual intimacy for marrieds and sexual purity for singles and marrieds functions in the same way.  We must obey our instructor–the Creator of male and female, and the designer of physical intimacy.  When we do things God’s way, there is freedom–and within that freedom there are protective limits, but God’s way is always the best way.  So what is God’s design for physical intimacy?

The Bible clearly teaches that sex is God’s design to be practiced in marriage as a uniting, giving and pleasurable experience between a husband and a wife, which becomes a good, creative and unique way of expressing agape love, oneness, reproducing the race and glorifying God.  Now if it is that clear, why has intimacy become a major issue?  Why is there so much counseling over this issue?  Why is it that many couples are secretly struggling over this?  And why is it the secret sin that many singles are failing into?  To begin with, let me share with you eight major reasons why it is a problem.


Each of us has been given a normal God-given desire for intimacy.  If you desire intimacy, it does not mean that you are a pervert, but that you are working the way that God designed you.  This is the way God made us, the wiring is connected and the plumbing is all hooked up correctly.  But, it can be a problem if not controlled.


To sell a product, from floor wax to shaving cream, you will sell it better if you sell it with sex.  The world is consumed with sex.  We live in a pleasure-seeking world, and since intimacy is highly pleasurable, it has become an all-consuming passion.  We live in a sex-saturated society.


There is an incredible amount of pressure from the world, advertising, friends, classmates, fellow-employees to talk about it, think about it, leer at others, or fantasize through pornography.


Since the sexual revolution of the 60’s, most people do not know the difference between love and lust.  Instead of an unconditional commitment, love has been cheapened to mean a one-night stand or a make-out session.


Because of a poor home life, lack of affection and the basic need for acceptance, many people feel empty–so in order to fill that void, many turn to sexual intimacy.  This is where so many youth go astray–poor home life, lack of natural, normal, healthy affection in the home from mom and dad creates a desire for affection and acceptance elsewhere.


Since our world believes you are your own God and you make up your own rules, many Christians act the same way.  Instead of living by the Scripture, many Christians end up altering the Bible to say what they want.  They wrongly think God wants me to be happy, so they commit adultery.  She will say, “He said he loved me after she commits fornication.”


If intimacy gets out-of-hand in your life, all you have to do to avoid some of the consequences is use some convenient birth control.  Or if that does not work (and none do perfectly), then you can just “Kill that cancerous fetal material” and have an abortion.


The main reason intimacy has become an out-of-control issue is that our enemy (with our full cooperation) has made something that was holy and good out to be something nasty and wicked.

Listen, God created sex—look at Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be held in honor among all [today it is a joke to many] and the marriage bed be undefiled [that means pure]; for fornicators [sex sin for singles] and adulterers [sex sin for marrieds] God will judge.”  God is serious about this sin–He spanks.  You are not going to get away with sin without serious consequences.

On the other hand, if Jesus Christ walked into a room where a husband and wife were intimate there would be no shame but only blessing and joy from your Creator.  Jesus is the one who designed intimacy.  Christ is the one who gave you those drives.  And He is the one who designed boundaries of protection and pleasure in which intimacy is to be enjoyed.

You ask, “Chris, why are we talking about this today?”  You shouldn’t have to ask, since we are merely working our way through Ephesians chapter 5, and have come to the place where God says in verse 31, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.”  Cleaving and one flesh are talking about God’s design for oneness between a husband and wife, and part of oneness and cleaving is sexual intimacy.  And because intimacy continues to be an increasing problem in our world and in the Church, and because God’s Word speaks so directly about intimacy, and that intimacy is an important part of the love that a husband and wife share, we need to hear what God has to say about it.

God’s Word is not inappropriately open over any issue, nor does God’s Word sell truth under the counter in a brown paper bag.  So let’s look at this issue with careful honesty.  For all those reasons I just gave you, sexual sin has become a serious issue.  But let’s not be naïve–sexual sin is not just a problem today, but it was a big problem back in the first century as well.

Sexual sin was a big struggle in Ephesus.  In Ephesus they had the Temple to Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the most popular cult worship of the first century.  This goddess worship centered in Ephesus, and it would make anything that happens in Las Vegas blush.  Like Las Vegas, it was huge for tourism and the economy, and at certain festivals there might be one thousand prostitutes at the temple ready to worship.  The worship was sexual, a giant orgy, and its purpose was to excite pagan god Artemis into producing fertile crops.  Plus, to encourage her to increase the harvest, pilgrims would also buy statues of her–the thinking was, the more trinkets you bought, the better the harvest would be.

This kind of thinking made its way into society and subtly into the life of the Church.  So in chapters 4 and 5, Paul calls the Church to imitate God not false worship, love like Christ–don’t act like or speak like them in any way or you may not be saved.  This is a serious issue.  For this morning, I want to look at another church that was battling with this area in such a way that Paul addresses it directly, both for the unmarried and married.  He gives both before-marrieds and after-marrieds instruction on intimacy in 1 Corinthians 5, 6 and 7 to help them with their confusion.

What was the problem with the Corinthians?  They thought they were strong because they sang, prayed, even taught–but actually they were quite weak, which was seen in the fact that there was so much sex sin in their midst.  This is still true today–the most critical, most divisive, who think they are the most spiritual are many times the most secretly immoral.  Some thought that to really be spiritual meant to have no sexual intimacy, even in marriage.  Others thought the sex act was wrong, but that everything else up to the sex act was okay and permissible in the eyes of God.  With that wrong thinking in mind, look with me at 1 Corinthians 7:1 to 5, and let’s discover what is a biblical view of sex—one flesh.

Today you will discover that the problems of the Corinthians are the problems of today, and the very issues that the men and women, single and married of this church face every day.  Read with me 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”  What is God’s design for sex outside of marriage?  Before marriage . . .


God says it is good for a single man not to touch a woman.

First  What is God’s standard then?

If the sex act is out, then what about everything up to that point?  Is that okay?  What does Paul mean when he says not to touch a woman?  Does that mean you can’t hold hands?  Does that mean you can’t touch?  Some of you are touching now.  Should we institute the one Bible-length apart rule?

The word touch is used four times in the Scripture, twice in Genesis, once in Ruth 2 and once in Proverbs 6, and in each case the word “touch” means . . .

to touch a woman in such a way as to stir up sensual desires

to touch a woman in such a way as to turn her on

to touch a woman in such a way as to prepare her and you for sexual intimacy

What Paul is telling us here is that it is good to be single, but never (as a single) to sexually stimulate anyone.  What is God’s standard for the single?  Sexual intimacy outside of marriage, before marriage, other than your spouse–never.  Now what does that mean–we can’t hold hands?  Maybe.  Can’t kiss?  If you stir up desires, no.  Can’t hug?  It depends.

Now why did God give such a strict rule?  Because everyone is different, and if God gave a line we’d run right up to that line immediately, no matter what the situation.  You’ve heard me share this before.  Imagine if God’s line was drawn at hugs–if God drew a line and the line was hugs, God would have to spell out . . .

How long a hug?

The two-second hug is more spiritual than the ten-second

Which angle of hug–the side hug is more spiritual than the front hug, but the super-spiritual give only back hugs

Which parts can we hug–never the front, just the shoulders, but the super-spiritual only hug the head . . . noogies are spiritual

And of course we’d want to know how tight of a hug–the flower hug is more acceptable than the jaws of death hug

Instead of spelling out that kind of external legalism, God wisely says . . .

Singles, you can touch, but the touch in verse one is very specific.  Once you begin to get turned on, once your motor starts to run, you’ve gone too far–then continue to stay far from that kind of touching for you at all costs.  The Scripture confirms this in I Thessalonians 4:3 to 8–turn there with me.  Paul makes this very clear as he writes this brand new baby church battling with the same issues you and I do.

Look at verse 3 and let me pick it apart for you, “For this is the will of God.”  Do you want to know God’s will for your life?  Part of it will involve sexual purity–no matter how you define it, sexual stimulation for the single is out of God’s will.

Your sanctification,” meaning God expects all of His children to be set apart and unique–we must be different than the world.  We are set apart as a holy person for a holy purpose.

That you abstain,” meaning you cut yourself off fully and completely by a willful decision on your part–you must act on this.

From sexual immorality,” oh, does that mean I can go all the way up to sexual intimacy and still be in God’s will?  No.  The word for immorality is a general term meaning anything from bad thoughts to homosexuality, and read on—“that each of you know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”  Whether married or single, we are not to allow lustful passions to be a part of our lives—but even more, “and that no man transgress or defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things.”

What is it to defraud?  Well, it’s a general term used here to mean to stir up a desire that cannot be righteously fulfilled.  So what about going all the way up to intimacy, then stopping short?  God says do not stir up those kinds of lustful passions.  God’s will is for you to stay far away from stirring up sexual desires.  God’s plan is for you never to “turn on”, charge up, romance, explore, kiss, make-out, or touch anyone so as to stir up sexual desire.  Do not ever get into any physically stimulating behavior.  God says all of that is reserved for marriage–it is only for your future husband or wife.  Stay away from it at work with other women or men.  Stay away from old boyfriends and girlfriends you had prior to marriage.

Wow, why that tough?  Is God trying to ruin your fun?  Is He being a cosmic killjoy?  No–He is trying to protect you.  Do you keep your kids from poisons?  Do you plug up electrical sockets so your kids don’t get fried?  Do you stop your kids from getting too close to a cliff?  Why?  To protect them from great harm–your Father is the same.

You see, the key gauge in the area of sexual involvement is the element of lust, which is strong desire.  We are to stay away from any behavior that creates strong physical desire–if that’s holding hands for you, then that’s out.  When you read through the New Testament you’ll find words like lasciviousness, which means to have the tendency toward lustful desires, the absence of restraint, and sensuality–a planned appeal toward sexual desires, and an abnormal appetite for sexual involvement, which can be anything from porno to going out with someone to a dark, alone and late place.  The focus of lasciviousness and sensuality is the sin of lust–the strong desires, the passions for physical involvement, and that is what we are to avoid at all costs.

In fact the Bible is so strong in this area that Galatians 5:19 to 21 says that the sensual person, the person who as a pattern of his or her life has a tendency toward planning to give into lustful desires, this person will not inherit the kingdom of God.  They are not saved.  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 21 . . . and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

So what is God’s standard for sex outside of marriage?  Never.  What is God’s standard for sexual activity for singles?  No lust, no turn-on, no stirring up of desires.  You mean, if I cannot lust or have any passions aroused I can go as far as I want, even up to and just short of intimacy?  Yes, but there are three things wrong with that . . .

1 It is impossible, unless you are dead

2 Your heart is all wrong–you’re running to sin instead of holiness

3 Proverbs 5:19 tells us the issue of petting is for marriage only

So that’s out as well.  The issue again is lust–strong desire, sexual turn-on, passion, God says stay away from that.  First Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you . . . abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul.”  Sexual desires are like an organized army that wage a continual military campaign against your heart and your character.

The issue is not to see how far we can go but . . .

to see how pure we can stay

to see how separate we can remain and still be a witness

to see how we can make our relationships free from sin, and

to make our relationships truly honor God

Inside of marriage, your strong desires are a part of Eros love that expresses your mutual, unconditional commitment if under the safety of Agape love and a marital vow.  Outside of marriage, when your passions function outside of God’s plan, it is lust which gives birth to sin.  God’s standard–sex outside of marriage, never.  But what happens when you disobey?

Second  The sentence if you disobey

What are the consequences for disobedience to God’s design for sex?  What is the consequence of stepping over the line God has made?  Turn back one chapter to 1 Corinthians 6 and understand that, to the Corinthians sex was a way of life and worship, and now that some were Christians the pressure was on for them to compromise (just like today).  So Paul warns them of the dangers of sex outside of God’s design–anything outside of marriage.  Paul says first of all that sex outside of marriage is . . .


Look at 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.”  Profitable here literally means it is not beneficial.  Then verse 18, “Flee immorality.  Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”  This sin is harmful to you.  Do you remember what happened to David after he sinned with Bathsheba, expressed in Psalm 32 and 51?  He said he was weak, sick, guilty and lonely.

Pre-marital sex is harmful to . . .

your existing relationship—it will cause you to lose respect, compare later on, cause fear and guilt, and retard the proper growth of any relationship

your joy and fruit–this sin will rob you of all that is a joy in the Christian life

your future family

Again, what happened to David–Bathsheba lost the baby, his son committed incest resulting in a murder, Absalom had sex with David’s concubines, and Solomon thought since Dad was loose and had a few wives, I’ll try 700, which ruined the kingdom.  And please don’t say that it won’t happen to you, because God is the one who will avenge and discipline those who have pre-marital sex–it is harmful.

2  CONTROL you

Look at the middle of 1 Corinthians 6:12, “all things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”  Pre-marital sex enslaves, and the passion of it controls people.  Some of you know how it took over your life in the past.  Singles would confess to me how they got involved, then kept trying to convince themselves how close they were with their partner, when actually they had little in common except sex.

Sex controls even marrieds–this is why most divorce is the result of one partner who has turned their affections to someone other than their spouse.  This is why nine out of ten church discipline issues involve sex outside God’s design–they can’t give it up, even under the pressure of the entire church knowing of their sin, they won’t give it up.  And sex outside of marriage is


Look at the end of verse 13, “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body.”  Paul goes on to say that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that we are members of Christ.  To join in a sexual union outside of Christ’s plan is not only to join Christ to a harlot, but also perverts your own body.

Sexual intimacy is not merely a biological act, it is two persons literally becoming one in every sense of the word.  To engage in pre-/extra-marital sex is to allow the enemy to get a foothold in your life, and set you down a path that continually will accelerate to worse perversion.  It is not what God intended.


Look at verse 16, “or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her.  For he says that the two shall become one flesh.”  Pre-/extra-marital sex robs you of the one unique experience you can have with your spouse–the one thing that is exclusively for them alone.  Sex outside of marriage is . . .


Verse 18b says, “the immoral man sins against his own body.”  An old friend of mine was an electrician–he used to talk to me about 120, 220 and high tension wire current.  He told me stories about some friends who were working on some of those high tension wires, and just one mistake caused a man working on high tension current to literally explode–it blew him apart.

All sin is bad, evil and dangerous, but sex sin is the high voltage sin.  It has permanent and violent consequences.  In the Old Testament in Leviticus 20:10, “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”  (That’s pretty bad.)  Proverbs 6:32 says, “The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it.”  This sin is so powerful it must be avoided at all costs.  Sex outside of marriage has . . .


Extra-marital sex . . .

Tends to result in a greater chance of the marriage ending in divorce

Tends to result in a higher percentage of extra-marital cheating

Tends to fool people into marrying a person who is not right for them

Tends to cause greater problems in marriage that surface later, and

It can result in pregnancy, or even an STD–a sexually-transmitted disease which, once you get, you never lose, or even Aids

What is so sad is that, even though they know what God’s Word says, many Christians continue to disobey in this area, hurt themselves, hurt their church, hurt their spouse, and hurt their future spouse.  But for those of you committed to obedience to the Scripture, and even those of you who want to turn your life around, how can you change, stop, get free, become obedient, repent?

Third  The Strategy


Proverbs 6:20 to 24 says, “My son observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about they will guide you; when you sleep they will watch over you; when you awake they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is a light; And the reproofs for discipline are a way of life.  [WHY?] To keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.”

2  Make a CLEAN CUT

First Thessalonians 4:3 says to “abstain [which means to make a sudden break] from sexual sin.”  Do not gradually give it up–do not pray about whether to break up or not.  Get out and run from it—flee.  At this point, politeness or explanation is not necessary–get out and run for help!


Again, Matthew 5:23 to 26 says to make things right with your brother or sister that you have offended, that you have compromised with, before you worship the Lord.  Make confession with those you have sinned against, and keep a clear conscience.  Get counsel on this.


Don’t do missionary dating.  When it comes to guy/gal relationships, stay away from the unsaved and the unsure in your relationships, or you will end up paying an awful price.  Allow those of the same sex to reach out to those of the same sex.

5  Watch your CLOTHING

Mark 9:43 to 48–in talking about the seriousness of sin, Jesus says that if you sin with your eye it would be better for you to cut out your eye than to end up in hell.  Do not be a stumbling block with your clothing–we are not talking about gunny sacks, but be sensible about what you wear.  An older, godly woman is the one to ask about this for gals–men ask only men.


As I Timothy 1:19 says, “keep the faith and a good conscience.”  The only way to maintain moral purity is to establish a definite moral standard, and then make an unbreakable vow to God to live by it.  To set self-standards here is not legalism, but a form of fleeing lust.


There is so much available to you today through the computer, TV, media, movies, advertisements, conversations, and music that is totally destructive to you and your fight for purity.

8  Make right CHOICES

Who, what, when, where and why you spend time with–only after all that (which includes a heart that wants to seek Christ first, and stay pure within first) will you be able to keep God’s standard for sex outside of marriage–which is . . . never.

If that is outside marriage, then what is inside marriage?  Sex inside marriage between a husband and a wife . . .


Look back at I Corinthians 7:2 to 5, “But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does, and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Are we more spiritual if we limit sex in marriage?  I have heard of some Bible teachers right now who teach that it is best for couples to abstain from sex for at least half of every month.  Some cults teach no sex until fifty days after the wedding.  Does that make you more spiritual?  Once married, is it more spiritual to abstain, or even never start?  And are you really fleshly and animal-like if you have sex with your husband or your wife?  Sex inside of marriage—the answer is always.  Please recognize two essential truths that will apply to all married couples.

First  Intimacy is a gift

You may end up giving your wife a necklace, or exchange rings, or buying each other your honeymoon getaway outfits.  You may receive hundreds of gifts at your wedding, but there is only one sacred gift, and that is the gift of your body.

Look at verse 4, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, [why, because she gave her body to her husband] but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does [because he gave her his body].”  Nothing will be more special and more unique to you and your mate than to share in that one blessed experience together.  On the night of your wedding, after the ceremony, the reception, the farewell, nothing will be more meaningful than to present to your spouse your body for them to enjoy without limitation.

What does that mean?  It means whenever a wife wants a sexual relationship men, respond to her.  And whenever a husband wants a sexual relationship wives, grant it.  It means that the greatest possible gift you could give your future spouse is an unused and unsoiled gift.

Now many have already given that gift away.  If it was as a non-Christian and you are now saved–2 Corinthians 5:17 says you are now totally new.  Though you might carry some memories, you are a brand new creature.  If it was as a Christian, just like David in Psalm 51, God can and will make you whiter than snow, if you turn from your sin now.  Like Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, go and sin no more.  But if you continue, no one can protect you from the consequences of making a mockery of God’s grace.

Second  Sex is COMMANDED (in marriage)

Not only are you not more spiritual if you do not have sex in marriage, you are actually in sin–you are not in God’s will, and Jesus Christ is not pleased with you as a couple, unless He stops you temporarily for a short season of prayer, or permanently because of physical inability.

Look at verse 3, “Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”  And then verse five, “Stop depriving one another.”  It is not an issue of being more spiritual, but just the opposite–if you don’t have sex in marriage, you are setting each other up for satanic attack and wipeout.  That’s what Paul means in verse 5 when Paul says, “lest Satan tempt you.”

Now why would Paul command sex in marriage, when most singles can’t wait or would be confused by such a statement?  Let me suggest some reasons:

1 Some in the Corinthian church, feeling they were being spiritual set themselves apart for the Lord’s work alone, meaning they were not fulfilling their physical obligation to their spouse.

2 Some may have been using intimacy as a tool to get their own way in marriage, so they would withhold until they got what they wanted from their spouse

3 Often couples have different drives and needs, as happens today–a couple may find themselves with two different kinds of engines

–One with a 1960 Volkswagen Beetle, the other with a Corvette or Porsche

–One might feel that he or she is more spiritual because they do not need so much intimacy, while the other may feel unspiritual because they need more intimacy, and Paul says just meet each other’s needs whenever you or both are unspiritual.

4 Some, because of past experiences think that intimacy is dirty or less than best, so they decide to abstain.  Because sex was an issue they needed forgiveness for, or were ashamed, they wrongly think it is best to avoid it now in marriage altogether.  Because some have had an immoral past, maybe even as a prostitute, they would not want to come together now as a Christian couple in marriage because of the negative memories, but God’s standard for sex in marriage is always.  Never demanding, never forceful, never without mutual agreement, but always–do not deny each other.

Please raise your hand right now, held high, if this area in any form has ever been a struggle for you.  A final charge . . .

#1  Singles, flee youthful lusts and pursue Christ.  The first step is to talk to someone of the same sex who is an older, godly Christian.  Confess your secret sin, admit your addiction to porno or other acts of sensuality now.

#2  Marrieds, talk to your discipleship leader or an older couple now about how to bring this area in line with Scripture–you’re not mature unless you live every area under the authority of the Word of God.

#3  If you are losing the battle against lust, strong desire, it means one of two things.  Either you are not depending on the Spirit, the Word and the body to gain victory, or it means you do not have the Spirit indwelling you and you need to turn to Christ.  The only way to be delivered is to depend on Christ and follow Him alone–will you?

Let’s pray, and commit yourself to . . .

OUTSIDE MARRIAGE:  NEVER  Stay far away from any sexually stimulating behavior that would cause you or another to sin.  Keep your heart right before the Lord and you will not sin.

INSIDE MARRIAGE:  ALWAYS  If you are a single, preserve your gift as it is now for your future mate, and make any sexual compromise a part of your past.  If married, learn to take care of your mate now with joy.

Some of you may need to:

1 Seek counsel of an older, godly woman-to-woman or man-to-man

2 Make a clean break from someone, some behavior or some place

3 Clear your conscience by asking forgiveness

4 Alter your choice of clothing so as not to be a stumbling block

5 Build convictions as to how you will live pure

6 Stop clouding your mind with sensual media

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.