The Outward Varnish of Religion

“I had to offer sacrifices, 

and today I have paid my vows.”

Proverbs 7:14

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known Christian apologist, speaker, and evangelist. His books have been widely read, his YouTube videos have been widely watched, and his conferences have been widely attended. As one listens to him, he seems to exude Christian humility and gentleness. However, ever since his death in 2020, there has been an extensive investigation into Ravi Zacharias’ sexual misconduct. And just last week, the twelve-page report that reveals the findings of the independent investigation into his sexual wrongdoing was released (you can also find the latest Christianity Today article here). Ravi’s sexual misconduct has been made manifest now, and it has become apparent that he was a sexual predator.

As I read through the evidence in the report my stomach churned, and my face cringed. Ravi’s sexual sin is deplorable and sickening. One of the worst parts is that he seems to have used his ministry as a cover for sin. He utilized his Christian faith to his advantage in manipulating and coercing young ladies into certain sexual acts. In light of these recent revelations, this week I wanted to write on Proverbs 7:14 to reveal that the Bible actually talks about this evil tactic of using religion to coerce and seduce someone.

Proverbs 7 – The Adulteress

Within the book of Proverbs, chapters 5-7 deal extensively with sexual sin. In each chapter, there are warnings against the sin of adultery (Proverbs 5:9-14, 21-23; 6:26-35; 7:22-27) and the enticing allure of the adulteress (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24-25; 7:5, 10-21). Though these chapters present a wealth of wisdom, I want to focus on the fact that the adulteress in Proverbs 7:14 presents herself in the garments of religion in hopes to entice the simple man to drink the poison of sexual sin with her.

When the adulteress launches her attack in Proverbs 7, she is “dressed as a prostitute” (7:10), “loud and wayward” (7:11), and waiting for a man whom she can satisfy her sinful lusts with (7:12). Once she discovers her next victim, she lays hold of him and “kisses him” (7:13). Though this is a bold sexual encounter in and of itself, she wants to go further. It is at this point that she uses religion as a means to coerce and entice the simple man to bring this initial sexual encounter to its full consummation. She says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows” (7:14).

Most translations translate “sacrifices” as peace offerings. The peace offering was a unique sacrifice because it was one of the only offerings where the offeror was given a large portion of the sacrifice so that they might return home and partake in it in a celebratory way with both friends and family (Leviticus 7:11-21). And in our passage, the adulteress has just offered up peace offerings at the temple, the dwelling place of God. She is now headed back home to feast on the remaining parts of the sacrifice.

While she’s headed home, she invites the simple man to come along with her. She wants him there so that he might partake in the rest of the sacrifice with her . . . . as well as some carnal love. It seems like she believes that, because of her sacrificial offering, God is rewarding her by satisfying her sinful passions (Proverbs 7:15-20). At the end of the day, it is apparent that the adulteress is covering up the sexual mischievousness of her heart with the outward varnish of religion.

Sadly, the simple man falls prey to her carnal passions that are robed in religious garments. He follows her “as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a stag is caught fast” (Proverbs 7:22), and “as a bird rushes into a snare” (Proverbs 7:23). The simple man of Proverbs 7 is seen as another casualty in the adulteress’ hunt to satisfy own her fleshly appetite (Proverbs 7:26).

Ravi – The Adulterer

Like the adulteress of Proverbs 7, Ravi Zacharias also used his religious garments to help him fulfill his sexual passions. Because Ravi had significant backpain, he would frequently go to receive a massage. While he was receiving these massages from young ladies, he would strike up casual conversations with them. 

One massage therapist said that these conversations led her to think of Ravi as a “father figure” to her. He would speak to her about spiritual things and would inquire about her financial situation. Upon hearing that she was struggling financially, he secured ministry funds to help her out. Shortly after this, he elicited sex from her. In recounting this time in her life, the lady said that Ravi would use “religious expressions to gain her compliance.” He would make her pray with him. He would call her his “reward” from God because of his faithful service to the Lord. Indeed, Ravi drove home the point that “the Lord understood what he had sacrificed” and implied that “their sexual exchanges were God’s way of rewarding him.” He then warned her not to speak out against him because that would “damage his reputation” and lead “millions of souls” to hell.

Another lady said that Ravi groomed her in a similar way. Throughout their conversations, Ravi “gained her trust as a spiritual guide, confidante, and notable Christian statemen.” As she began to see Ravi as a spiritual authority in her life, he started using his influence “to exploit her vulnerability to satisfy his own sexual desires.” Though Ravi and this lady were never physically intimate, intimate photos were shared. 

As you can see, Ravi was enslaved to sexual sin and he used his ministry platform to coerce young ladies. With his worldwide Christian ministry, he groomed women to respect him. This was all, of course, so that he might gratify his flesh with them. Then, with his worldwide Christian ministry platform, he warned the women to stay silent about it. At the end of the day, Ravi abused the Christian faith as a means to fulfill his godless passions. In doing so, he betrayed his wife, victimized many women, delegitimized his worldwide ministry, and dishonored the name of Christ.

Since seemingly godly people use the Christian faith as a means to satisfy their sinful lusts, may we all learn to “beware of any voice, though from the most revered quarter, that manifestly encourages forbidden indulgence.” And may we, those of us that have a ministry platform, learn to leverage our authority and influence for the edification of the church rather than the indulgence of the flesh. For we serve a God that will one day wipe away the outward varnish of religion and expose us for who we truly are.

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

The Seventh Commandment

Over the summer, I walked through the Ten Commandments with the college students at FBC Durham. This proved to be a helpful series that was filled with application. For the purposes of this blog, I just want to mention some applications that I gave in light of the seventh commandment which states: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). But before we get to the applications, let’s briefly look at the meaning of the seventh commandment.

The Narrow & Broad Meaning

The seventh commandment contains far more meaning than we think (this is the case with each commandment). Because of this, I am not going to spend a ton of time extracting all the meaning that’s within the seventh commandment. That would make this blog entirely too long. All I want to do is mention the narrow meaning and the broad meaning of the seventh commandment.

  • The narrow meaning of this commandment is that you should not have sex with another person’s spouse, and that you should not have sex with anybody other than your spouse.
  • The broad meaning of this commandment is best stated by Luther: “This commandment applies to every form of unchastity, however it is called. Not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means. Your heart, your lips, and your whole body are to be chaste and to afford no occasion, aid, or encouragement to unchastity.”

As you can see, the narrow meaning of this commandment focuses on the actual external act being mentioned (adultery), and the broad meaning of this commandment focuses more on the sinful inclinations of the human heart. Nobody comes out unscathed when examining themselves with both the narrow meaning and the broad meaning of this commandment. Some have broken this commandment as it is espoused in its narrow meaning. All have broken this commandment as it is espoused in its broad meaning. What I am saying is this; we have all broken the seventh commandment in some way.

Now, at this point, it is important to mention that much more could be said about this commandment. For example, we could talk more about all the sexual sins that this commandment forbids (homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, adultery, sexual immorality, sensuality, premarital sex, pornography, lusting after somebody with our heart, crude joking, etc.). We could talk about the purpose of this commandment (to protect the marital union). But I do not want to spend my time on all of this.

Rather, I want to give Christians some applications that will help them flee from sexual sin and to pursue purity. For, when there is a, “You shall not,” there is by implication a, “You shall.” What this means is that this commandment is not only forbidding sexual sins, it is also commanding us to pursue purity with utmost diligence. Here are some applications that might help us in this God glorifying endeavor.

Applications that Follow

First, we must have the Spirit of God if we want to obey this commandment.

You see, the Old Covenant gave you a law to obey without giving you a heart to obey. This means that the Old Covenant says, “You shall not commit adultery,” but it does not give you a heart that is able to put sexual sin to death and to pursue purity. This is the terrible plight of those who are apart from Christ and under the law.

However, the blessing of the New Covenant is that it comes with a heart to obey. If you believe in Christ, then the Lord has given you a new heart that enables you to obey the commands of God. This means that, when an individual is born again, the Spirit of God gives them a new heart that allows them to put sexual sin to death and to pursue sexual purity in every area of life. Thus, if you want to be obedient to this commandment in faith, the Spirit of God must do heart surgery on you; He must take out your rebellious heart and give you a new one. Attempts to obey this commandment apart from this are futile.

Second, we must remember our positional status before God.

Who can honestly say that they haven’t sinfully desired that which is contrary to God’s will for sex? Who can honestly say that they have done all that they can to pursue purity of heart, mind, words, and actions? Is it no evident that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God here? Of course it is.

This is why, if we are to actually make progress in putting sexual sin to death and in pursuing purity, we must remember our positional status before God. Before our coversion, we were sinners before God. We were people who had either committed the actual act of adultery or who had committed adultery of the heart. This is who we were positionally: lawless adulterers deserving of the full wrath of a holy God.

However, through faith in Christ, this is no longer our position. We now have a different positional status before God. In Christ, we are now righteous, holy, and pure. Our sins, yes, even sexual sins, have been cleansed. They have been forgiven. We are seen as positionally righteous before the God of all creation. And if you want to fight sexual sin, you must always remember your positional status before God because of the finished work of Christ.

Third, we must study sexual sin.

In Hebrews 3:13, we read that sin is very deceitful. This is the case with sexual sin as well. So think about sexual sin like this: it is your enemy, it is seeking to rob you of your joy in Christ, it is seeking to strip you of your assurance of salvation, it is seeking to keep you from using your spiritual gifts to serve Christ, it is seeking to keep you inactive and unproductive in the faith, and ultimately, it is seeking to kill you.

Therefore, study up on this enemy. Learn about it and how to fight it! You can do this by memorizing Scriptures that are directly related to the topics of sexual sin and purity. You can do this by reading good books about how to kill sin. You can do this by talking to other people who have, by the power of the Spirit, put this particular sin to death.

Fourth, we must be mindful of our eyes.

Job 31:1 says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” As you can see, Job had made a covenant with God that he would not gaze or lust after a woman. Job intentionally sought to be mindful of where he would and would not place his eyes. We would do well to do the same.

Also, as Solomon gives counsel to his son about the adulterous woman, he says, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes” (Proverbs 6:25). As you can see, the beginning stage of adultery is desiring the beauty of another woman in your heart. Therefore, we must be mindful of our eyes. We must make sure that we are not desiring sexual things that are contrary to God’s moral law in our heart. This will help us in the pursuit of purity.

Fifth, we must be mindful of God’s eyes.

When the Scripture teaches about the dangers of sexual sin it says, “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21). Here, Solomon is teaching his son that the all seeing eye of God is upon him. God is pondering all his ways. He is enthroned in the heavens and sees every inclination of our heart and every action that we take.

This kind of teaching is important because sin usually comes with a deceptive voice saying, “Nobody will see. Nobody will notice. This will be easy to cover up!” And we must remember that this is sin’s deception. It is not reality. The reality is that God, who sits enthroned in the heavens and is incomprehensibly pure, sees all the ways of man. He sees our hearts desires. He sees us at the computer. He sees us on our phone. He sees us as we watch T.V. And he sees us when we are with our boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, boss, co-worker, etc. A robust understanding of the all seeing eye of our heavenly Father will help us to be children without the stain of sexual sin.

Sixth, we must be aware of who we are dating or considering dating.

If the person you are dating wants to enjoy sex with you without the covenantal promise that goes with it, then you have a huge problem. I mean, you must understand that God is protecting you when he commands you to only have sex within the marital union.

It really is a beautiful thing for God to reveal to you that your body is so incredibly valuable that the only person that has the right to it must look you in the eyes and vow to be your spouse for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, till death separates you. Is that not beautiful? The only guy or girl that has the right to your body is the one that promises to be with you as long as you both are still breathing!

With this in mind, find somebody that is willing to marry you; to vow before God to never leave you. Then, after they make that vow to you, gladly and joyfully give your body to them. But, and this is a serious matter, be wary of an individual that wants the right to your body without making vows before God. They are not looking out for your good. They are only seeking to experience the fleeting pleasures of sexual gratification, and they are willing to use your valuable body in order to experience them.

Seventh, you must take delight in heavenly things.

God has given you innumerable blessings that will satisfy your soul. He has given you a buffet of soul satisfying blessings. He has given you Christ whom you can feast on by faith. He has given you His word which is like honey from the honeycomb. He has given you prayer which is direct access to the King of the cosmos! So why in the world seek to be satisfied with sexual sin? Why go to the broken cistern of sexual sin seeking refreshment? We have an infinite stream of eternal blessings flowing from our heavenly Father that will satisfy us greatly!

Eighth, you must be aware of entertainment.

Make sure that the books you are reading, the shows you are watching, the social media you are consuming, and the company you are keeping aren’t polluting your mind and tempting you to lust in your heart. If you can’t thank God for the book, show, movie, social media account, or the conversations that you are having with your friends, then you need to rid yourself of them. Seek to only do that which makes you love Christ more zealously! Do what keeps your love for Christ hot and vibrant. Refrain from doing what makes your love for Christ grow cold. It is when your love for Christ is cold that you turn to sexual sin.

Conclusion

There is much more than could be said. There is more that could be said about the seventh commandment in general, and there is more that could be said regarding applications. This is simply written to remind Christians of the importance of putting sexual sin to death, and to help people think about how they can practically put sexual sin to death. I do hope and pray that God will enable you to put sexual sin to death and to pursue purity by the power of the Spirit, for the sake of Christ, and to the glory of God.