One Flesh, One Soul, One Spirit
The first time one encounters the Biblical term "one flesh" is in Genesis, in a verse probably inserted by Moses into the original account which had been handed down to him from Adam. Eve had just been taken from the side of Adam and presented to the first man as the one partner in all of creation who "corresponded" to him.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)
The bonding which occurs between man and wife in a good marriage deepens as the years go by. It is wonderful to see the love and unity in a marriage of 30 or 40 or 50 years. Such marriages should be considered national treasures. (1)
Every sexual liaison, whether within marriage or not, carries with it that mysterious deep bonding process of becoming "one flesh" with the other person. (Divorce is terribly painful partly because of the violent ripping apart of this "one flesh" bond-- a tearing apart which goes to the core of one's being).
The Biblical concept of "one fleshness" comes up again in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes,
Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."
But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 5:13-20)
I was intrigued this week reading an excellent book, Battle Cry for a Generation, by Ron Luce. (2) I went on to check out the author's references and sure enough they hold up under scrutiny as seen in recently published research literature.
In any kind of sexual activity, pleasure-producing hormones are released in our brains. The memory of a sexual experience is stored in the brain in a kind-of extra vivid, multidimensional format. Another chemical is also released during sex--oxytocin. (3) In animals and in people this amazing hormone is responsible for trust between partners, and pair bonding. The catch is that oxytocin is associated with any and every form of sexual behavior--whether within marriage or elsewhere. Masturbation produces oxytocin--increasing narcissism perhaps? Internet pornography "bonds" the participant to his favorite images on the screen. Homosexuals "bond" because of oxytocin and also become "one flesh," though in an inverted sort of way. Oxytocin will motivate gays to go on to further homosexual actions, though other factors operate to cause most gays to become promiscuous rather than monogamous. (4)
Worse still, other studies have shown that for males, any form of sex apart from marriage decreases a man's ability to bond well with a wife after marriage, and even decreases his desire to marry in the first place. A non-abstinent male may come to prefer "pagan sex" to the long term commitment and hard work which marriage requires.
Ron Luce's book is an important book for anyone who cares at all about the very rapid collapse of our society in recent years. Not only is marriage considered of little or no importance to many young people today, but sexual hook-ups--which have nothing lasting to do with any real relationship between persons--are now as common as eating and sleeping among many teenagers. [A whole related subject is that marriage does not seem like a very attractive option to many young people today for a variety of reasons].
In the past half-century, the entire social order has not only been turned upside down, but also inside out. God's purpose for sex, clear from the beginning of our race as described in Genesis is a long-gone concept in our culture. That is, sexual expression should always be a part of a heterosexual marriage--but sexual activity should be unknown, unheard of, in any other setting! The New Testament's several warnings about this are all equally strong--these are matters of life and death as far as Christians are concerned:
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, must not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light." See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:1-17)
We have no inherent "rights" to sex! Though abstinence can be very difficult to attain after a life of promiscuity, limiting sex to marriage is not an option for the followers of Christ. However, God never asks us to live a certain life-style without providing the means for us to do so! The long-term rewards for obedience to His standards are evident to all who pay attention to walking with Jesus. Ron Luce's book shows clearly that millions of our young people are currently self-destructing before our eyes with no one showing them that there is any other way to live. The failure of professing Christians to live up to minimal standards for godliness is surely a big factor in the current breakdown of our social order.
Societies are built around stable family structures--it's how God designed things. (1) When young people lack role models for manhood and womanhood and marriage, how can they be expected to build a stable next-generation? Probably they can't--barring a radical wake up move by the slumbering church of our day. To quote from Ray Stedman, "Marriage can not survive in a society which tolerates sexual immorality."
In summary, all sexual experiences have consequences (not just STDs and unwanted babies). Accompanying sex are complex changes in the way we bond to a real partner--or how we bond even to virtual images in the mind. Sex was designed for marriage. God honors no other expression of our sexuality.
"Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Hebrews 13:4)
The soul of man is invisible and forms an interface between body and spirit. The soul is usually considered the seat of the mind, the will and the emotions. Non-Christians have a spirit but are said to be "spiritually dead" and "soulishly" governed, since only a regenerated spirit, a spirit reconnected to the living God, has the power and motivation to live a life-style in tune with God. (5)
The idea that two people could be soul-brothers--"one in soul" is also found in the Bible. King David had a poor family upbringing--which he never overcame, as one sees in the sad accounts of his 10+ marriages and his many failures to relate well with his sons in Second Samuel. Had his short-lived friendship with Saul's son Jonathan lasted longer, David's family life might have gone much better. Jonathan--perhaps 20 years older than David--was a perfect mentor for young David and their love was perfectly godly. Sadly their friendship was short-lived because of circumstances beyond their control.
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "Let the LORD require it at the hand of David's enemies." Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul." (1 Samuel 1:16-17)
When Jonathan was killed in battle along with his father, David wept openly,
Then David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son, and he told them to teach the children of Judah the Song of the Bow; indeed it is written in the Book of Jasher:
"The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon-- Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. "O mountains of Gilboa, Let there be no dew nor rain upon you, Nor fields of offerings. For the shield of the mighty is cast away there! The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, From the fat of the mighty, The bow of Jonathan did not turn back, And the sword of Saul did not return empty.
"Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions.
"O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury; Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. "How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women.
"How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!" (2 Samuel 2:17-27)
In wonderful article in Touchstone magazine, A REQUIEM FOR FRIENDSHIP: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys & Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution, Professor Anthony Esolen (6) shows how healthy, normal, affectionate, relationships between men have all but disappeared in our culture--largely because the counterfeits of real love such as "gay marriages" get all the media attention. Jesus predicted the lonely, loveless character of our culture at the end of the age, "Because wickedness is multiplied, the love of most men will grow cold."
Just as the terms "one flesh" and "one soul" appear in the Bible, so also does the term "one spirit." It is found in the same passage from First Corinthians quoted above,
"But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him."
In Corinthians, the context is a discussion about our bodies being the temples of a holy God, sanctuaries of intimate fellowship and communion. When the Bible talks about love, it begins with our personal relationship with God and then extends to loving our family, friends and neighbors. The starting place for real love is in the sanctuary of the human spirit--not the body--not the soul. When we consent to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in and over our life, our spirit and God's spirit are joined together in an inner union not unlike a marriage. This happens when we submit all that we are to Jesus as Lord--and then go on to make life-style changes that bring us into harmony with God's revealed will and character.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your might" -- is, after all the First and Great commandment. The Second Commandment, as everyone knows, is to love one's neighbor as oneself. One can not reverse the order of these two great commandments.
The breakdown of any culture as vividly described in Romans Chapter One begins in the heart of man--with a subtle loss of worship of the one true God and then the gradual intrusion of other "loves" (idols) into one's affections crowding God into second or third place. This is why Solomon warned, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of the heart spring the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
A key verse in Luke's gospel--Jesus speaking about Himself--says "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." Jesus did not come to merely save those who were lost, but that which was lost. What has been lost to mankind is the secret of our humanity! The work of Jesus in the world is to give back and restore to very lost and confused people our manhood, our womanhood, our personhood.
Intimacy is something we all long for in life, but something we all tend to fear. True intimacy depends on knowing God first and foremost. "You shall have no other gods before me." If we tolerate other gods in the temples of our bodies we are idolaters and spiritual adulterers. In that state of mind, we can not expect any of our interpersonal relationships with other people to work! As Ray Stedman once said, "God has no favorites but He does have many intimates." Normal humanity, as God intended it, can enjoy a variety of intimate, fulfilling relationships because Jesus is invited to be the Third Party--the Mediator, the Lover--in all Christian relationships.
Radical obedience to Jesus is nowadays an imperative for all true followers of Jesus lest we find our selves dragged over the precipice of the fast approaching destruction of our society. Obviously the kind of behavior God expects of mankind can only be attained when people choose to follow Jesus. As the world grows more decadent and corrupt, the followers of Jesus, though few in number, should be gaining in purity, in godlikeness, and in holiness.
By the lifestyle Jesus lived when He was here among us on earth, Jesus showed us that "normal humanity" was designed to depend totally on the indwelling life of Another. Jesus did not come primarily to show us what God is like (though that happened as well). Jesus came to show us by the way He lived that we must die to self and grant Him permission to live His wondrous life in and through us every day we live. In a similar manner, Jesus did everything in dependence on the father who lived in Him, never acting on His divine authority, never taking matters into His own hands, during His time among us on earth.
These days it is very hard to tell Christians from non-Christians. Divorce rates are the same in both groups. and unfortunately sexual immorality and pagan life-styles are also about the same among many "Christians" as among outsiders to the Christian family. Mere church attendance doesn't hack it either for most of us. Accountability and small groups along with radical life style changes requiring tough and sacrificial separation from the pagan culture around us as minimum requirements. (7)
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:1-13)
Spirit, Soul, and Body
Putting all this together: Fallen man is governed by the neo-pagan culture around us--primarily through the flesh and the soul. Humanity as God designed us to be ruled from our spirits operating in close harmony with God the Holy Spirit. This is how Adam lived before He fell--this is how Jesus, the Last Adam lives today as our example, our Healer, our Lord. We are not saved as Lone Ranger Christians, however, but as members of a community, the Body of Christ. Our healing and wholeness is related to the family of God, to His people. (7)
(1) In her book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Judith Wallerstein documents her 25 year study of the catastrophic consequences of the sexual revolution in this country. (Hyperion, NY, 2000).
(2) Battle Cry for a Generation, Ron Luce, (Cook Communications, Colorado Springs, 2005).
(3) For more on oxytocin see
(4) See Aberrant Sexuality, http://ldolphin.org/Aberrant.html
(5) See First Corinthians 1-3 for the Apostle Paul's analysis of the natural man, the soulish man, and the spiritual man.
Addendum: A correspondent from the U.K., Rogert Higginson, emailed me about my statement "Though abstinence can be very difficult to attain after a life of promiscuity, limiting sex to marriage is not an option for the followers of Christ." This is indeed an ambiguous statement. I responded, "What I meant was that those who desire to be sexually active must do so in a marriage relationship. A lifestyle of sexual activity apart from marriage disqualifies a person from going to heaven. That is the clear meaning of Ephesians 5." In a helpful further note by email Mr. Higginson adds, "I was sure of your intention from the whole import of the article, which is excellent. Thank you for that. But I thought I had better let you know of the ambiguity in case you wanted to have the opportunity to send out a revision. After all, as you say, a lifestyle of being sexually active outside of God's boundaries in marriage disqualifies us from heaven. Not only Ephesians 5, but just about all Scripture makes that clear.
The midrashic type of Eph. 5:32 underlines that there is one and only one option for the true believer. Sex has to be kept for marriage, one man and one woman, voluntarily entered into, for life -- as I hope it still says in British Registry Offices. (They're now taking down signs which include the word "marriage" out of respect for gays.) Because the type is Christ and the Church, any sexual immorality is a blasphemy against our Lord. Adultery becomes a prophetic act declaring that Christ could forsake His Church for another. Fornication declares a "heteros euangellion" of Galatians ch.1. Homosexuality perverts the pure love of Christ for the Church, for which He gave his life. So the kind of thing Ingrid warns us about on http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/archives/2006/01/gaithers_evange.php has no place in any real Christian's thinking. (1/28/06)
Unrelated Good Book: If you would like a respite from the gloom and doom of the daily news, may I recommend How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt, (Zondervan 2004).
January 27, 2006.