Our culture has become enamored with sex; it’s everywhere. From the shows that are deemed popular to the posts on our social media pages–sex is on the minds of a lot of people. But seemingly in an unhealthy way. C.S. Lewis in his popular work “Mere Christianity” suggests:
Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong (Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity, 95.).
If Lewis is correct and our human instincts have led us astray to the purpose and parameters of sexuality then what is the proper understanding of it? I want to discuss four areas the Bible addresses in regards to sexuality: (1) the creation of sex, (2) the purpose of sex, (3) the context of sex, and (4) the corruption of sex.
The creation of sex
The first thing to realize is that sex, like all good things, was created by God. In his epistle James writes: “all good and perfect gifts come from the father.” Everything we see that is good—the beautiful sights of creation, the gentle touch of a newborn baby, all of the wonderful attributes we share (love joy, peace, kindness etc…), everything good is from God! This is truly the most fundamental point concerning sex—God created it (and I’m glad he did!). At the very beginning he designed man and woman to participate in the activity of sexuality. In the Genesis account we see this clearly:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”—Gen. 1:27-28
Then the man said,“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.—Gen. 2:23-24
Sex is from God.
Now because God is the creator and designer of sex, we must conclude that sex, as he intended it, is a very wonderful and marvelous gift. Sex is to be enjoyed by his creation—not to be suppressed or looked down upon. But why? Why did God create sex? This leads us to our second observation:
The purpose of sex
Why did God create sex? Let me offer four reasons:
1. To create life.
One of the first duties given by God to his creation was to have sex in order to “fill the earth (Gen. 1:27-28).” What is significantly beautiful about this act, is that we as God’s creation, get to participate with God in creating life! This is what I love so much about our father—He has always longed for us to have a relationship with him, and by giving us the gift of sex, we are able to join in with him in the act of creating sacred life.
2. For pleasure.
God has given us an entire book (the song of Solomon) in order to communicate this point. Throughout the book of song of Solomon we are given insight on one of the main purposes of sex—to have pleasure with our spouse. Here’s a quick sampler:
- Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine. (1:2)
- Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. (4:5)
- Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.(2:8)
Sex brings forth an intimate oneness and unity. It’s interesting that the Biblical writers, in expressing the act of sexuality, used the word “to know.” So, for example the Bible says that Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…” The idea “to know” someone in the Bible carries more than just mental assent. Rather, it carried the idea of intimate relationship with another.
Sex, therefore, is much more than a physical act—it is a spiritual and intimate act that brings two people together—so much so that the Bible pictures sexuality as the union between two people. When two individuals come together in the act of sex, they enter into a dynamic and supernatural oneness.
4. An illustration of Christ and the church
This pertains to marriage as a whole, but definitely involves the act of sex between the husband and the wife. One of the most profound teachings concerning sex and marriage is the idea that the covenant union between husband and wife is synonymous with the covenant union between Christ and the church. Paul points this out in Ephesians 5:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians. 5:31-32).
Therefore, one profound purpose of sexual union and marriage in general is to display and illustrate, in a powerful way, the picture of our relationship with Christ.
The Context of sex.
Does the Bible teach that sex is to be done in a certain context, or is sex open for anyone and at any time? The simple answer is that sex is to be enjoyed solely between one man and one woman in the context of marriage.
The biblical teaching on this is severely clear from my perspective. For starters, the sexual relationship between a man and a woman is grounded in the Genesis narrative. From the beginning God has defined godly sexuality as being between one man and one woman; and as goes Genesis 1-3, so goes the rest of the Bible. As one sifts through the Biblical story it becomes evidently clear that sex was never to be exercised beyond the boundaries of covenantal marriage. In fact, a good portion of the Bible involves God’s rebuke and correction over the misuse and abuse of sexuality. For example, one of the earliest accounts of God’s judgment was on two cities (Sodom and Gomorrah) who had severely corrupted the purpose of sexuality.
As one moves into the NT the teaching of sex within the context of marriage becomes even clearer. Jesus taught emphatically about the issue of sexuality stating that for one even to lust within the heart is a form of adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). By saying this Jesus raised the importance of sexuality.
The apostle Paul dealt a good bit with the issue of sexuality. In 1 Corinthians for example, the church had gone in two extreme directions. On the one hand there were those who were abusing the gift of sexuality to its extreme. They were openly and proudly, having promiscuous sex in every way imaginary (5:1-6:20). On the other hand, there seemed to be those who rejected sex all together, even within the context of marriage. Sex was seen as a bad thing. Paul’s instruction for both these areas is sexual purity—that is, sex within the exclusive context between a husband and a wife. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5:
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)
Many other passages could be mentioned here but suffice it to say that both the OT and the NT communicate that sexuality is to be enjoyed exclusively in the context of the covenant union of marriage. Hebrews 13: 4 summarizes well this teaching:
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4)
The Corruption of sex
We come now to our final observation, the corruption of sex. In the beginning sex, like all good things, was undefiled and just as God had intended it. However, the Biblical story describes an event we call “the fall.” Because of humanity’s free choice to rebel against God, creation as a whole became tainted and marred. As a result of sin, the world now experiences brokenness. This is also true of sexuality. Sexuality, as we have seen was designed by God for the enjoyment and intimacy of a man and a woman. However, because of the birth of sin we are now prone to abuse God’s good gift and use them for our own pleasures and desires. Whenever we as God’s creation act contrary to the nature and will of God it is called sin. God, in his sovereign plan has revealed to us how we are to live. Unfortunately, enticed by our own desires, humanity rebels against that will and chooses to live out their own ambitions.
In short, any sexual activity outside of the marriage union of one man and one woman is outside of God’s desired will for us and therefore is sin. The Bible actually has a word that sort of envelopes all of these sexual activities into one, it is called “porneia.” Porneia (usually translated “sexual immorality”, or “fornication”) includes any sexual activity outside of marriage: sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pornography etc…. To say it concisely, all sex outside of marriage is simply wrong from a biblical viewpoint.
Grace and the Spirit.
Before I conclude let me briefly offer a reminder about the Grace of God and the power of his Spirit. I am very aware of the numerous and complicated situations revolving this topic. Furthermore, I understand that while these various biblical principles have been presented, these issues are not abstract; they involve real genuine human beings. I know personally individuals that fight daily the battles of sexual temptations and desires. So, as we discuss these topics, I think it is wise to know that if someone is dealing with sexual struggles, they need to know they are not alone. God is a God full of grace and he longs to fill you with his Spirit. And while it seems almost unbearable to overcome certain desires and temptations, God’s grace can and will give you the power to overcome any difficulty. This is exactly the point of Paul’s words in Romans 6:
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:12-14).