Tag Archives: sexuality

What does the Bible say about human sexuality and sexual sin?

The Bible affirms human sexuality as a part of God’s original creation, something He considered good and beautiful. The Genesis account tells us that God created human beings in His image as male and female—complementary genders designed to play and work together for a greater purpose. Our Creator-God intended the first couple to use the gift of sexual union to reproduce His image across the earth[1] and to enjoy and deepen the unique bond between a husband and wife.[2] God’s design portrays sex as an act of creation and joyful intimacy between a man and a woman in marriage.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they set in motion many ways human beings miss God’s design for life. These behaviors take many forms, including selfish actions in relationships, sexual behaviors and lifestyles, and physical excesses. The Bible speaks to all of these as sin[3] and makes it clear that we all have done things that go against God’s design for our lives.[4]

The Bible is clear that God hates sin because it damages us, sabotages our lives, and limits our ability to experience and express the life and love of our God. This is beautifully observed in Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. While he named her sexual sin by telling her that she was living with a man outside of marriage, His words did not condemn her. Instead, He invited her to an everlasting life and satisfaction she had never known.[5]

While some sexual sins can have more far-reaching consequences than others, the Bible does not encourage the people of God to single out one sexual sin as the worst. Neither are we to condemn those who struggle with sins that we don’t.[6] Instead, Jesus calls us to compassionately meet people where they are and to humbly invite them by word and example to God’s new way of life found in him, never losing sight of our own persistent capacity for sin.[7]

We live in a time of widespread sexual promiscuity and growing social acceptance of adultery, homosexuality, and the use of pornography. As a result, our world today looks much like the world of the Bible, influenced by the Greek and Roman worlds that embraced a culture of sexual excess. We should consider approaching these matters as the Apostles did—calling people to “put aside the deeds of darkness,”[8] to avoid judging others,[9] and acknowledge our own sin but in the context of God’s grace.[10]

The Bible reveals the Creator of heaven and earth to be a God of love, mercy, and second chances. He doesn’t give up on the sexually promiscuous person any more than He writes off the greedy or the gluttonous. He longs to show mercy toward those who confess to all forms of behavior outside of His divine intent.

Though God’s forgiveness doesn’t exempt any of us from the present consequences of sexual sin, the pages of the Bible also show that we who fall short of God’s design can be forgiven and restored to live a new life found in Jesus.[11]

[1] Genesis 1:27-28

[2] Genesis 2:24

[3] Mark 7:21-22

[4] Romans 3:23

[5] John 4:7-26

[6] John 8:3-11

[7] Matthew 9:12-13

[8] Romans 13:12-14

[9] Romans 14:10

[10] Romans 7:15-25

[11] Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17

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Can a Person Who Continually Struggles With Impure Thoughts Be Genuinely Saved?

Being born again doesn’t keep us from having impure thoughts. First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (KJV). And in Romans 7:15-25, the apostle Paul describes his continuing struggle with sin.

The Bible teaches that all of us have fallen characteristics—a “dark side” that is inclined to sin and rebellion (Romans 7:23; Colossians 3:5)—and it tells us to resist our destructive inclinations and be obedient to Christ (Galatians 5:17-21; 6:8; Ephesians 1:2-6). In this life we will never escape the influence of our old nature, including evil and impure thoughts.

There probably isn’t a single Christian who isn’t ashamed and saddened at the thoughts that sometimes come into his or her mind. If Satan can get us obsessed with the evil thoughts that flash into our consciousness, he can rob us of our joy and keep us from being effective workers for the kingdom of God. This is what Satan tries to do as our adversary (Job 1:7-12), “slanderer,”1 and “accuser” (Revelation 12:10).

Although in this life we will never be completely freed from the taint of sin and impure thoughts, we can grow in our ability to control our response to them. Just because we have a thought doesn’t mean we need to dwell on it or, even worse, commit ourselves to a sinful action because of it. Our goal shouldn’t be to eliminate evil thoughts altogether but to recognize them when they appear and, instead of giving them influence, acknowledging them as sin and rejecting them (James 4:7).

By responding to our evil and impure thoughts with disciplined resistance, we can go a long way towards cleansing ourselves of habitual, willful sin. But we still live in a fallen world and will continue to struggle with our dark side. If we don’t acknowledge this unpleasant reality, we may become drawn into spiritual pride—perhaps the most dangerous sin of all.

  1. The name “devil” is from the Greek word diabolos, meaning slanderer, false accuser. Back To Article
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Why is it Important Not to Treat Sexual Intimacy Casually?

God intended sexual intimacy to mold a man and a woman physically, emotionally, and spiritually into “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Seeking a “one-flesh relationship” outside of a long-term, committed relationship is like a long-distance runner substituting performance-enhancing drugs for discipline and training or a graduate student hiring someone to write his/her master’s thesis.

Because we are not just animals, the human value of sexual experience is derived mostly from spiritual and emotional intimacy. Casual sexual experiences actually make it harder for people to yoke genuine intimacy with sexual arousal. This is why ordinary married people usually have a more deeply satisfying and long-lasting relationship than promiscuous celebrities who look spectacularly attractive and desirable.

We have fallen far from God’s plan for sexual intimacy. Contraception now allows the wholesale separation of sex from conception, birthing, parenting, and family bonding. Cultural changes have also identified pornography, promiscuity, and sexual relativism with sexual liberation. Consequently, we see unprecedented rates of divorce, family instability, and social problems.

Rather than experimenting with sexual experiences that scar and break hearts, Christians—whether single or married—should focus on establishing and nurturing genuine friendship and intimacy, the kind that will stand them in good stead for a lifetime.

 

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Is Masturbation Wrong?

The fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention masturbation implies that we should approach this topic with sensitivity and caution. Most teenagers and single adults face an enormous struggle coming to terms with their sexual longings. Often the individuals who are most conscientious about their sexual feelings are the ones most likely to be tormented by unrealistic guilt. If we add to Scripture and weigh them down with even more unwarranted guilt, we become like the Pharisees and their legal experts. To protect holy principles, they added their own laws to Moses — like fences around fences — and in the process they heaped on others burdens that they themselves were not willing or able to bear (Luke 11:46).

If we are honest, each of us will acknowledge the difficulty of keeping sexually pure in a permissive and sexually obsessed culture. We struggle to avoid either of two extremes. We must not surrender to the hedonistic spirit of the age, but we also want to avoid the spirit of asceticism and proud self-denial that has often marred the history of Christianity. Any belief that our sexual desires and feelings are evil in themselves is based in the Gnostic1 denial of the goodness of the body and the natural world, not in the teachings of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-3).

On the other hand, we can’t entirely discount the significance of habitual masturbation as a moral issue simply because it isn’t mentioned in Scripture. One doesn’t speak of “habitual” eating or “habitual” sleeping unless someone is eating or sleeping much more than they should. The fact that you realize you are caught up in a cycle of habitual behavior implies that you know that something is wrong.

All of life’s pleasures have an appropriate context. When we eat entirely for pleasure, we become flabby and unhealthy. When we sleep much more than is needed for rest and bodily health, we become mentally and physically ill. Any misuse of legitimate pleasure has bad consequences.

The purpose of sexual pleasure is to nurture intimacy and unity between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24 ; Mark 10:6-8 ; Ephesians 5:28-32). Sexual desire is related to our deepest longings, our profoundest potential for intimacy and joy. It is like a fire. In the right circumstances a fire provides warmth, light, and food. In the wrong place it has enormous capacity for destruction.

The Bible doesn’t provide a detailed discussion of human sexual issues. It tends to refer to sexual matters indirectly and with considerable delicacy. For example, even the term sex isn’t used in the Bible, and the male and female sexual organs are referred to only indirectly, as is the act of intercourse. Even such a serious issue as pedophilia isn’t mentioned specifically. It’s likely, therefore, that although it isn’t mentioned specifically in Scripture, habitual masturbation would be included under the categories of “lasciviousness,” “impurity,” and “uncleanness” (e.g. Leviticus 15:16-17 ; Mark 7:20-22 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 ; Galatians 5:19 ; Ephesians 5:3,5 ; Colossians 3:5).2

What are some of the illegitimate uses of sexual pleasure that we should be on guard against?

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t serve merely as a “pressure valve” for the release of physical and emotional tension. There are more constructive, loving ways to release — and even to harness — our physical and emotional tension.

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be fed by sinful fantasy. Jesus made it clear that sexual sin isn’t limited to physical act. Sin occurs equally in fantasy and imagination. There is a healthy imagination that leads to actions that honor one another, and a self-absorbed imagination that inclines us to use others for our own pleasure (Matthew 5:27-30; 15:19). Sexual fantasy can be a destructive expression of rage, revenge, or lust. Such unhealthy fantasies can scar and harden our hearts even if they aren’t carried out in the real world.

Sexual pleasure should never be a way we demand that God satisfy us immediately, on our terms. We should never expect sexual pleasure to compensate for our loneliness, disappointment, powerlessness, or sense of rejection. If we use it for these reasons, it is illegitimate.

Followers of Christ have been given freedom and forgiveness to love and honor one another, but not to be enslaved again to the flesh (Romans 6:16). We have been given God’s Spirit and wisdom so that we can understand that our bodies make good servants — and cruel masters.

  1. . Gnostics represented a wide range of beliefs, but they universally believed that a certain gnosis (wisdom) could be attained that is far more important than “mere obedience” to God’s moral law. Paul’s strong words in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 were written in response to a Gnostic heresy that claimed one could sin “in the body” without sinning “in the spirit.” The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were also written largely to counter an early form of Gnosticism, as were a number of other sections of the New Testament.
    Gnostics tended to deny the goodness of the material world and of physical life. They glorified the spirit while maintaining that the body was evil and the source of every kind of corruption. If you are interested in Gnostic beliefs, it would be well worth your time to read about Gnosticism in a good Church History text, like A History Of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, or A History Of The Christian Church by Williston Walker. Back To Article
  2. Leviticus 15:16-17 makes it clear that masturbation would have been considered “unclean” under Old Testament Law. On page 12 of his highly regarded book, Homosexuality And The Politics Of Truth, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover comments:

    On the basis of the Pentateuch, the Talmud treats all sexual activity outside of marital relations, including masturbation, unequivocally as sins, though it makes careful distinctions concerning their varying severity.Back To Article

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Why Shouldn’t I View Pornography or Sexually Explicit Educational Videos?

Pornography and sexually explicit “educational” videos don’t promote the development of love and intimacy — they undermine it. A married couple may benefit from better knowledge of sexual physiology and technique, but information about sex should be provided in a way that respects the tenderness, mystery, and wonder of marital love. Filmed sex is a crass violation of human dignity and intimacy.

Intimacy is a matter of the heart. It can’t be captured by bright lights and a camera. All that can be captured on film is an illusion of intimacy. Lonely people who watch pornography in hopes of satisfying some of their longing for intimacy will be drawn in the opposite direction — toward voyeurism and self-absorbed lust. In fact,the more a person succeeds in imitating pornography, the more he will fall into the snare of sexual addiction and the further he will be from understanding the nature of real love.

Scripture contains some of the most beautiful erotic literature ever written ( Song Of Solomon 4:9-15; 5:10-16 ). It is clear that God created us as sexual beings, and He intends for us to delight in our sexuality when expressed within the bond of marriage. But Scripture also contains severe warnings against self-absorbed lust ( Exodus 20:17 ; Proverbs 5:3-6; 9:13 ; Matthew 5:28; 15:16-20 ; Colossians 3:4-7 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 ). In the same epistle in which the apostle Paul wrote his marvelous “love chapter,” he made a striking observation about sexual sin:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

In these verses Paul indicated what it is about sexual sin that makes it so destructive. He declared that it is a sin “against the body.” This clearly refers to much more than the mere physical effects of sexual sin. Real love and intimacy require a commitment of the heart ( 1 John 2:16; 4:8 ). Human sexuality is designed for much deeper purposes than mere sensual pleasure, release of tension, and self-gratification. It was designed to express the passionate, tender unity of a husband and wife in committed love. The apostle Paul wrote:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself to the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:31-32).

If a person commits his body to sex according to the pornographic model, the power of self-absorbed lust is released in full force,untempered by love. The Scriptures warn us that this will produce a darkened mind and an insensitive and hardened heart ( Romans 1:21-24; Ephesians 4:17-19 ). As a hardened heart and darkened mind vainly try to duplicate the joy of an intimacy in counterfeit form,the flames of lust flare with ever greater intensity. As lust grows, so does sexual addiction, diminishing our ability to experience in the body the ecstasy of real intimacy and genuine erotic love.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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