On Chastity

"God wills that the light of chastity shine in our entire body and all of our members." -Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, Sixth Commandment
And how do we do this? Virtually every Christian knows the things this commandment forbids outside of marriage, including even looking with lust on someone you are not married to. However, due to a modern lack and perversion of teaching on chastity within marriage, many think that anything you do with your spouse is automatically sanctified simply by virtue of the fact that they are married. In fact, in this recent national debate about homosexual “marriage” one must ask: who redefined marriage first? If marriage is only about “love,” “mutual support” and “companionship” then why are we upset that the homosexuals think they should be able to get married too?

Hebrews 13:4 τιμιος ο γαμος εν πασιν και η κοιτη αμιαντος
“Let marriage be held in honor in all respects, and let the marriage bed be undefiled…”

Let κοιτη be αμιαντος!
“κοιτη” – koite {N-NSF} – the marriage bed, sexual intercourse, coitus.
“αμιαντος” – amiantos {A-NSF} – undefiled, unsoiled, free from that by which the nature of a thing is deformed and debased, or its force and vigor impaired.

How is marriage honored in all respects? When we act in accordance with all of the godly purposes for which marriage was instituted, and intentionally contrary to none of them. How is the marriage bed kept undefiled? When the one-flesh union is kept free of things by which its very nature is deformed and debased, or its force and vigor impaired.

The Large Catechism explanation of the Sixth Commandment (¶207) mirrors this verse as follows:

“Therefore, He also wishes us to honor marriage and to maintain and conduct it as a divine and blessed estate because, in the first place, He has instituted it before all others, and therefore created man and woman separately, as is evident, not for lewdness, but that they should live together legitimately, be fruitful, beget children, and nourish and train them to the honor of God.”

Chastity within marriage is seldom kept inviolate in today’s world. Few realize that the Sixth Commandment is often violated by two persons in their own bed even if they are married. This occurs when their blessed conjugal union is perverted for selfish use contrary to nature and God’s divine ordinance and will – that is, when God’s procreative purpose is intentionally frustrated. For instance, consider the following.

Genesis 38:9-10 “But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.”

“Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him.” [Luther's Works, vol. 7, page 20]

Does this mean that every act of intercourse, or even every marriage, must produce a child? Certainly not. Yet we must not take it upon ourselves to intentionally separate the one-flesh union from God’s blessing of children, nor even desire to avoid such a blessing in our hearts. Let us not ignore the noble examples of chastity exemplified through the heavy cross that is carried by those whose marriage has not been blessed with children. Consider the beautiful motherly faith and chastity of Rachel and Sarah extolled in the following passages from Luther’s Lectures on Genesis regarding chapter 30, verses 1-2: “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob: Give me children, or I shall die! Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said: ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’”

“But from this it is clear that the very saintly women were not lustful but were desirous of offspring and the blessing. For this was the cause of envy in Rachel, who, if she had been like other women whom our age has produced in large numbers, would have said: ‘What is it to me whether I bear children or not? Provided that I remain the mother of the household and have an abundance of all other things, I have enough.’ But Rachel demands offspring so much that she prefers death to remaining sterile. I do not remember reading a similar statement in any history. Therefore she is an example of a very pious and continent woman whose only zeal and burning desire is for offspring, even if it means death. Thus above (Gen. 16:2) Sarah also showed a similar desire for offspring. And in both this feeling is decidedly praiseworthy.

“. . . In the second place, they [the Papists who extol forced celibacy] do not see with what pure and maternal hearts these women ask for children. These feelings and words of Rachel show that her heart was altogether alien to lust. This they do not see. Why? Because it is written: ‘Away with the godless man, lest he see or hear what God says, what He does and works!’ They are not worthy of seeing God’s glory. Thus they hear us today as we cry out, as we teach and sing the Word of God. They see the works of God. Yet they do not see. Why? Because they are not worthy. Thus they do not see either that Rachel is set forth as an example of very beautiful and motherly affection and chastity."

And in this same context, Luther praises the faith of Jacob in Rachel’s barren condition as well, in contrast to the unbelief shown by those who put off having children due to the cares of this world:

“. . . Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: ‘Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.’ But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.”

Yes, there is an abundance of such unchastity within marriage today, due in great part to the modern church’s recent approval of contraception since the middle of the last century. Back to Chemnitz in his locus on the Sixth Commandment in Loci Theologici, pg. 414, we read a warning in this regard:

“In this commandment there is also this general rule, Romans 1:32, ‘They are worthy of death, not only those who do such things, but also those who give their approval.’ Therefore they are guilty of [violating] the Sixth Commandment who defend or aid or do not prohibit, or in other circumstances share in another’s sin, as has been said under the locus of sin, cf. Lev. 19:29; Ps. 50:18; Ecclus. 26:13, 42:11.”

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