For the longest time, the concept of sex, especially within marriage, has been grossly misunderstood. Over the years, many conflicting views have come about, causing confusion, even among Bible-believing married couples.
The draw of sex is very strong. In the teenage years, raging hormones naturally cause teens to begin viewing the opposite sex with much more interest. Media compounds this problem by making sex enticing. “Sex sells” is a common motto among advertisers and businessmen in general.
Today’s public is bombarded with vivid and usually skewed images of sex – how it is desirable to be attractive; how great it is to enjoy its pleasures, even if outside of marriage; and how having much sexual experience adds to one’s accomplishments in life.
But though the secular world promotes sex, many in the church either condemn it or try hard to keep silent about it. This is because a lot of conservative believers view sex as something dirty and beneath them, with the more extreme view being that the sexual act is a sin. In such people’s minds, abstaining from it altogether makes a person “more holy.”
Ironically, when believers do decide to marry, they are then encouraged to actively produce children and “enjoy” their time together. However, because the couple is confused about the role of sex in marriage, they struggle to enjoy it (since they may see it as something carnal) and they may even be too shy to discuss what they desire with their spouse (as they may view it as something not to be discussed). Sadly, many spouses end up wondering about the draw of marriage as they are not able to experience what they had been longing for sexually when growing up.
Four Important Principles about Sex in Marriage
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers, God will judge. – Hebrews 13:4
Just to be clear, despite society’s current obsession with it, the Bible clearly teaches that sex outside marriage is and will always be wrong. So for those who are thinking of gaining sexual experience prior to marriage or those who are seeking more “excitement” outside of marriage, they had better rethink their ideas for they will be facing very grave consequences.
But within marriage, sex is sacred and special. This is something that believers need to understand so that their marriage may truly honor God. The following are four important principles about sex in marriage:
1. Sex in Marriage is for God’s Glory
Many people, whether single or in a relationship, have differing views about God’s reason for sex in marriage. Some see it as purely for procreation, nothing more. Others believe that it is meant to express inner love, and then there are those who say it is for the couple’s enjoyment. While there is an element of truth to all of them, there is an even greater reason: Sex in marriage is meant to glorify God.
If humankind’s reason for being is to bring glory to God, then this applies to sex as well. In Genesis 1:26-27, God created humankind in His image. God made them as gendered, sexual beings, not as androgynous ones. This means that there is a goodness to this difference of the sexes as it is part of His plan.
Then in Genesis 1:28 God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply so that they could fill the earth and subdue it, ruling over the creatures God created for them. Clearly, there is a much bigger purpose than just procreation, love, or pleasure.
This purpose is made clearer in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul instructs the believers to glorify God with their bodies as they are all temples of the Holy Spirit since they were purchased at a great price. And in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul writes, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Thus, if even the most mundane of daily activities should glorify our Creator, then sex in marriage’s ultimate purpose must be the same.
This means sexual intimacy between husband and wife should not be viewed as something dirty or shameful. Since God made humankind in this way, the sexual act, when done for the right purpose and in the right context, glorifies Him.
2. Sex in Marriage Unites the Couple
In addition to glorifying God, sex in marriage is also meant to unite husband and wife. Although there are very distinct differences between the sexes (physically, mentally, emotionally), the very creation of humankind points towards a oneness that is expected of them as seen in Genesis 2.
In Genesis 2:18-22, God decided that man needed a partner, yet none was found from among all the existing creatures. So God created one for him, but not from the dust where Adam was formed. Instead, Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib as he slept. Hence, Adam says in Genesis 2:23, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.”
This unity is further cemented in Genesis 2:24-25 as it states, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
As “one flesh,” the bond of marriage is much more than just a physical coming together. Here, the two individuals become one as married life requires husband and wife to think and act as one for the sake of the family. Thus, there should be no shame about being naked in front of one another, as some ultra-conservative people today wrongly believe. Sex in marriage solidifies their bond and reminds them of their oneness.
3. Sex in Marriage Needs to Occur Regularly
Since sexual intimacy between husband and wife glorifies God (as it follows His plan for humankind) and reminds a couple of their unity, then it makes sense that it should be a regular part of the couple’s life. It should not be a once-in-a-while occurrence nor an activity done simply for the purpose of procreation.
Again, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, this sexual intimacy in marriage was specifically addressed as some believers in Corinth were arguing that it was better to stay “pure” by avoiding relations with a woman. Though Paul did state that staying pure was good, if this was unavoidable then it was better to be married. (1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 8-9)
Now for those who are married, Paul gave the following instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 regarding sex in marriage: “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does, and likewise, also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Although there are no specifics as to the regularity of the sexual activity, it is clear that it is part and parcel of married life. It should be something that the couple can discuss without shame and schedule as part of their regular enjoyment of one another.
Deprivation of sex is not supposed to be the norm. It is only in times of prayer, as agreed upon, that they should abstain for a time. But afterwards, they ought to return to one another lest they become tempted to seek sexual satisfaction with somebody else.
4. Sex in Marriage needs to be Other-Oriented
The final principle is that sexual intimacy in marriage is more about one’s spouse rather than oneself. Paul mentions that the wife belongs to the husband and the husband belongs to the wife, thus each ought to fulfill the physical needs of the other. (1 Corinthians 7:3-4)
In Paul’s time, this was a very revolutionary idea. Back then, women were considered “legal property” of their husbands so sex was demanded according to the whims of the husband. But by saying that the husband also belonged to the wife, the idea of sex was completely reoriented. Each partner now had to yield to the desire of the other.
This radical concept of sex, however, did not just rock the beliefs of First Century Corinth; it still affects the views of many married couples today. Sex is not solely about one’s enjoyment, it is meant to show love and to give pleasure to one’s spouse. When thought of and practiced in this way, sex in marriage becomes more than just a physical act. It truly becomes an act of love that glorifies our Creator.
Christian Counseling for Married Couples about Sexual Intimacy
Having the right mindset about sex in marriage is a big blessing to the couple and their family and friends. If the partners feel loved and blessed, such joy will overflow to their children and to their other loved ones. This may then inspire friends and family to inquire about the source of the couple’s happiness, allowing them to know more about God and His design for marriage.
But not all married couples have such joy due to their wrong understanding of sex. Perhaps they were raised with conflicting views about it or they may be suffering from internal issues that prevent them from being true and unashamed in front of their partner. In such situations, it is best to seek professional help from a Christian counselor.
In a neutral environment with a trained Christian counselor, people often feel safer about sharing their worries and fears. And in case there are other issues bothering them (past abuse, anxiety, infidelity), the latest in therapeutic techniques will be used to help the spouse in need.
But most importantly, the faith-based counselor will introduce the couple to the love and mercy of God through prayer and meditation on Holy Scripture. A more intimate connection with Him is necessary for them to understand and accept God’s design for sex in marriage. And if there are questions the couple may have about their faith, marriage, or sex; the Christian counselor will be able to answer their queries.
If you and your spouse are struggling with sexual intimacy in your marriage, seek help soon. Sex in marriage is a very special act meant to glorify God. His help and wisdom are needed for all couples to enjoy their time together as husband and wife.
“Kissing”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Snuggling”, Courtesy of Becca Tapert, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugging”, Courtesy of Kaitlyn Baker, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “In Bed”, Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License