Sexual Ethics- Part 1 of 2  

We live in a post-Christian culture that denies absolute standards and promotes selfish fulfillment at the expense of relational integrity and internal peace. As believers, we must navigate purity in a world that no longer values sexual integrity. 


Cultural Context of the First Century 

In the Roman Empire, it was common for a man to have a wife, a mistress, and a concubine (usually one of his slaves). There were also prostitutes readily available for any need a man might have. Demosthenes from Athens stated this clearly, “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as guardians of our homes.” This was the worldly mindset of that day. Imagine the shock when someone became a Christian and was asked to be sexually monogamous. There was also a fair amount of homosexual activity in the Roman Empire, specifically in cult worship to pagan idols. Take a moment and think about how sexuality in our culture compares to the sexuality from the Roman Empire in the first century? 

Jewish culture was completely different. The religious leaders promoted monogamy in marriage and opposed all homosexual activity, but privately many men had a concubine or mistress. There were very few singles in Jewish culture. 


Biblical Teaching on Sexuality 

The definition and sanctity of marriage- Matthew 19:3-12. In Jewish culture, the Rabbis interpreted the law in such a way that made it easy to divorce. The law of Moses said that to divorce a woman, a man must give her a certificate of divorce to free her up to marry again. God set the divorce laws up in Israel to protect women. Men would spite their wives by “putting them away” and refusing to give them a certificate of divorce. The women were left to prostitution or begging in order to survive. There was great controversy among the Rabbinic leaders about what constituted a divorce. Shammai* interpreted the law to say that the only reason a man could divorce is for sexual sin. Hillel interpreted the law to mean that a man could divorce his wife for any displeasure. They questioned Jesus on this issue to trap him and undermine his credibility. Following is Jesus’ response: 

  1. He defined marriage- Jesus defined marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman. He defined marriage by going back to God’s intent at creation. When we define something, we limit its definition by what we include and exclude (recipe, doctor’s prescription, engineer specs). In defining marriage, Jesus included man and woman, which excluded all other unions as illegitimate. Jesus addressed homosexual unions through defining what is acceptable marriage. How do we define marriage in culture today? What do you think are the consequences of defining marriage differently than God’s definition? 
  2. He sanctified marriage- Marriage is a holy union brought together by God; man cannot separate it. It is the only relationship on earth called a covenant, and its importance is magnified through being compared to Christ and the church (His bride). Jesus said that marriage is more important than blood relationships. The heart of God is that marriage would never be broken.
  3. He addressed singles- A eunuch was a man who was castrated and therefore could not have sex. He would live celibate. There are three kinds of eunuchs according to Jesus:
    • those who were born that way
    • those who chose to become a eunuch for their career (they were usually slaves who attended the harem for a wealthy man)
    • those who chose that lifestyle for the sake of the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 7) – we see this today. 

Each one chose celibacy as a way of life. Singles choose celibacy for Jesus’ sake until, if they desire, are married.

*The House of Hillel (Beit Hillel) and House of Shammai (Beit Shammai) were, among Jewish scholars, two schools of thought during the period of tannaim, named after the sages Hillel and Shammai (of the last century BCE and the early 1st century CE) who founded them. These two schools had vigorous debates on matters of ritual practice, ethics, and theology which were critical for the shaping of the Oral Law and Judaism as it is today.



Heavenly Father, I thank You that Holy Spirit is absolutely focused on changing me, empowering me, and conforming me to the image of Jesus Christ, as He guides, counsels, and empowers me to fulfill God’s plan for my life. I surrender every area of my life to You today, even areas I’ve never surrendered before. And tomorrow when You reveal other areas I need to surrender, I’ll surrender those areas as well. I know Holy Spirit wants to fully occupy my heart and my life — and I am ready to yield!

In Jesus’ Name, Amen


Pastor Peter Henneberry

Peter Henneberry,

EMIC Groups Pastor
 Office: 817-252-2925
E-mail/ Group questions