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March 2, 2022

Nick Nowalk Focuses on Bible Narrative, Romance, and Marriage

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Have you ever noticed that the Bible begins and ends with a wedding? The creation story of Genesis 1-2 culminates in the marriage covenant between Adam and Eve when God declares that it is not good for man to be alone and how a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife as one flesh. The story of God begins with a wedding, but it also ends in the same fashion as Jesus, the bridegroom, is finally united to his Bride, the Church, in Revelation 21-22. 


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Thinking about the Bible as a romance story that hinges around marriage was the theme when Nick Nowalk spoke at Christian Union Gloria’s Doxa lecture series in the fall. The title of the message was The Beginning and End of Sex: Erotic Love and the Image of God.

For most, thinking of the Bible in this fashion is a bizarre idea. But perhaps our view of the biblical narrative needs to be reimagined, especially when it comes to how we think about human sexuality and how it is designed to teach us about our Creator. According to Nowalk, pastor of The Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village in New York, human sexuality has always been important to God—even central to how He reveals Himself to His creation; we find it in the second chapter of his revealed Word and it is declared good. But like all of God’s creation, our sexuality was created with distinct purpose and occasion, namely to be exercised in the context of marriage. 

As Nowalk describes in his talk, human sexuality is a God-given gift, created for the context of marriage. In the new heavens and the new earth, however, marriage and sex will no longer exist, which means that human sexuality and marriage serve a distinct purpose for this time “in the middle.” Oftentimes, however, Christians view sexuality as something to be embarrassed about rather than digging in to explore its purpose. Most Christians know the basic “rules” of sexuality from Scripture— that “you aren’t supposed to have sex before marriage”—but the why behind the rule is often unclear, leaving believers with a flimsy understanding of God’s intention and purposes in making us sexual beings and how our sexuality teaches us about our relationship to Him.

As Nowalk posits, to understand human sexuality, we must first understand the covenant of marriage, the storyline that bookends all of Scripture. Marriage is a covenant between two people. A covenant is a promise to be in relationship no matter what happens. As Paul fleshes out in Ephesians, this covenant of marriage is exclusive, lifelong, and designed primarily for each person to grow in their Christ-likeness as they learn submission, self-sacrificial love, steadfastness, humility, and more (Eph 5).
 

Marriage between man and woman is not the only place we see God using it to disciple us and teach us about godliness; God chooses to use marriage as the primary metaphor for how He relates to all of humanity. This is why, throughout Scripture, the language God uses to speak of Israel and the Church is of His Bride (Is 62:5). In the prophets, Israel is often the adulterous wife who runs to idols rather than to her husband (Ez 16, Hos 3). In Isaiah, God speaks of rescuing his people like a husband rescues his wife (Is 61:10). And throughout the new testament, the church is described as the bride of Christ (Eph 5, Rev 20-21).

Human marriage, therefore, is given to us as the ultimate metaphor comparing how God relates to his people—in an exclusive covenant marked by intimacy, faithfulness, and self-sacrificial love. 

Though the sexual ethic laid out in Scripture is robust and profoundly important to understanding both ourselves and how our God relates to us and reveals himself to us, the false gospel of the sexual revolution and the resulting cultural norms of homosexuality, transgenderism, and casual sexual relationships outside of marriage have become the dominant narrative for our culture as well as many in the Church. This compromised and errant view of God’s Word and His commandments for His covenant people has permeated the church. But perhaps the current sexual crisis in the Church is less of a moral collapse and more of a lack of discipleship and failure to teach good and robust theology.
 

The lack of thorough instruction around human sexuality for believers is a massive loss and error for a generation of Christians who cannot articulate God’s design for sexual desire and have never grasped the beauty of God’s profound love and covenant with His people. Moreover, Christianity has quickly been labeled oppressive, patriarchal, and archaic when it comes to orthodox views on human sexuality. These factors combined make life as a Christian college student very difficult. 

This is exactly why Christian Union addresses the issue head-on with a Sex and Spirituality Bible course for first-years that teaches the biblical narrative of sexuality and engages students in discussion as they enter college. Leadership lecture series talks like Nowalk’s, and another by CU Gloria Ministry Fellow Tyler Parker on desire, add to the discipleship and community understanding of Christian sexual ethics. 

As students grasp a godly and biblical understanding of sexuality, it is exciting to imagine them going out into the world with confidence and joy, boldly witnessing to friends, family, and co-workers about the good news of God for our sexuality. 

RELATED: Want to go deeper in your faith? Click here to receive a free download of Christian Union’s "Seeking God Lifestyle” Bible Course Manual.

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