For years I have spoken about marital intimacy at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. In that setting I have always made the statement, “Sex was God’s idea.”
I wish you could see what I see when I say those words. There are always some people in the audience who get a puzzled look on their faces. Others think I have just slandered God in some way.
And there are undoubtedly a few who are hoping I won’t bring up the subject again. It makes them uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves living in what author Paul David Tripp calls a sexually-insane culture. People talk openly and even brazenly about human sexuality, and most of what we’re hearing people say in this culture is crazy talk.
And the unfortunate truth is that in our day the biblical view of sex has been dismissed. The culture has declared a new and better way for us to live as sexual beings. The common view is that anything the Bible has to say about sexuality is out of date or irrelevant.
If you believe that the Bible teaches that sex should be reserved for a man and a woman in a committed, monogamous marriage for a lifetime, you are considered out of step. If you believe that homosexuality is morally wrong or unnatural, then you have, in just the last five years, moved from being a part of the majority to being in the minority in this culture.
The culture is not moving in the direction of the Bible on this subject. It is moving in the opposite direction. It is aggressively rejecting and declaring its independence from biblical teaching in the area of human sexuality.
As the cultural view of sexuality becomes increasingly pervasive, it’s important for us to revisit what the Bible has to say on the subject. We need to consider again what God had in mind when He invented human sexuality in the first place.
God made us male and female
Let’s start with Genesis 1:27-28:
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 the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
In the act of creating “man in His own image” as male and female, God created human sexuality. It’s His design. It’s His idea, His gift to us. Our sexuality is connected to the fact that we are the same species but different in gender. To put it another way, in order to have sexuality as God intends for it, you must have both a man and a woman.
The very first instruction God gives to the man and the woman in Genesis 1 is, “Be fruitful and multiply.” This command involves sexual engagement, on our part. God could have chosen another way to populate the earth, but He chose to make the sexual union part of His design, and He blessed that relationship.
We have to acknowledge that there are cases where a married couple is unable to conceive. But infertility does not invalidate God’s design. Would anyone suggest that because someone gets pneumonia, that means God did not give us lungs for breathing?
What is clear from God’s design for human sexuality is that a man and a man can never bear children alone. Neither can two women bear children by themselves. By God’s design, it takes the seed of a man and the egg of a woman to conceive children.
In Genesis 2 God says it is not good for man to be alone. He tells Adam that He will make man a “helper fit for him.” God creates the animals and birds and brings them to the man to name them, but “for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:20). In the Hebrew, the word “fit” means “facing, or toward, or corresponding to.” In other words, there is no creature that God has created that Adam can face or that Adam can correspond to. The very language itself hints that a man and woman are designed by God to “fit together” sexually.
That’s not true for men and men. That’s not true for women and women. You stand two men or two women face to face, and they don’t fit.
The pinnacle of creation
Then look at the next verses:
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. 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. (Genesis 2:21-24)
What I want you to see in this passage is that when God fashioned the woman to be a complement to the man, He was not yet done with the crescendo of His creation. It’s not until He brings the man and the woman back together again and “the two become one flesh” that we arrive at the summit. In that act of marriage and sexuality we see the pinnacle of creation.
I think there’s something central and profound in the sexual act, as a part of a marriage designed by God. When a husband and wife become one flesh they experience a deep physical, emotional, and even spiritual oneness that binds them together.
But it does more than that. It also points to and reflects the goodness of God.
The Bible makes it clear that this sexual bond is meant to happen within marriage. This, of course, is one point where our culture teaches a far different philosophy than God’s Word.
Here are five reasons why a sexual relationship should occur within the confines of marriage:
1. Sex is meant to strengthen the marriage bond. In marriage we enter into a covenant relationship with one another. This covenant mirrors God’s covenant. During the wedding ceremony we vow to remain committed “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer … till death do us part.” These promises echo the promise God makes to us when He adopts us into His family and unites Himself to us in Christ. He has said that He will never leave us or forsake us.
God wants the husband and wife to be one. The recurring, ongoing participation in sex is the instrument that God uses so that we can experience a closer, richer, deeper relationship with one another. When sex happens outside of the safe haven of a committed, loving covenant relationship—what used to be called “the bonds of matrimony” —you may still experience physical pleasure, but there will be an emptiness in your soul. There is something missing. There is a shallowness to the sexuality that we experience apart from a lifelong covenant.
2. God wants to teach us more about the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the Trinity. There is oneness within the Trinity—there are three persons, but they are one. In marriage, there are two persons, but they become one. In marriage we learn something about the intimacy that God enjoys within the context of the Trinity—the intimacy that the Father has with the Son, and the Son with the Spirit, and the Spirit with the Father and the Son.
3. God also wants to give us a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-33). In some mysterious way, the husband and wife relationship—and our sexuality—is tied to that picture.
4. A sexual relationship in marriage teaches us something about the nature of real love—God’s love. Over a lifetime in marriage, we learn that in order for our sexuality to be expressed in the way that God intends it, the sexuality needs to be unselfish. Both husband and wife must be committed to pleasing each other and meeting each other’s needs.
5. It is best for the offspring of our sexual union to grow up in a home governed by a covenant relationship between a husband and a wife who love one another and are committed to each other. If a child is growing up in a setting where there is one parent or where two parents are not bound together in covenant love with one another, that child is missing something.
Consider this: If our sexual relationship is this powerful and this important, is it any wonder that Satan would take delight in trying to undermine, pervert, and destroy our human sexuality? Is it any wonder that sex is so huge, so pervasive in our culture—and that the temptation to operate independently of God’s plan is so powerful? I’ll take a closer look at this theme in part two of this series.