There are many misunderstandings about what Christianity teaches about human sexuality and sexual relationships. During the Victorian era, it was claimed that all sexual acts were sinful, unless they were specifically done for the purpose of procreation. Others have claimed that the original sin was a sexual act, represented by the eating of the forbidden fruit. All of these ideas are without biblical basis. The purpose of this page is to present the biblical Christian view of human sexuality.
The first command of God
The very first command God gave to humans was to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Although we do not usually think of this command in terms of its accomplishment, it is a command for males and females to engage in sexual relations to produce children. Some have taken this command as either requiring that couples must never prevent conception or that the sole purpose of sexual relations is to produce children. Neither of these interpretations are specified in scripture, and, in fact, are contradicted by other biblical passages.
Why did God create humans?
The Bible says that God created humans because He desires to enjoy His children in heaven. In order to accomplish this task, God has made us a partner with Him. Therefore, God designed human sexuality to produce children who were to be raised in a godly manner to seek after Him. The Bible says, “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” The institution of marriage and human sexuality was commenced in the beginning of the first pair of human beings as a temporal institution. A marriage covenant was designed from the beginning so that children would be raised in a godly manner by the parents.
Sexual relations – the original sin?
Genesis chapter two describes the detailed account of the creation of humans in the garden of Eden (the location of which the text places in the Mesopotamian plain). The marriage covenant is spelled out in the original narrative that describes the meeting of the first man and first woman:
And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:22-25)
In contrast to the claims of some, the sexual act was not the original sin, as indicated in the above passage. The Hebrew word (dâbaq), translated “cleave” is a verb describing the closeness that should exist between a husband and wife. This describes both physical and emotional closeness. The next phrase “they shall become one flesh” refers to the sexual relationship. To reinforce the idea that Adam and Eve were engaging in a sexual relationship the text says that they “were both naked and were not ashamed.” The temptation by Satan that led to the original sin occurred in the following chapter. This sin was committed as a direct result of disobedience of the only rule God had made for Adam and Eve.
The Bible actually encourages married couples to enjoy their sexual relationships within marriage. The New Testament confirms that sexual relations within a marriage is not sinful. Paul says that those who marry have not sinned. The writer of the book of Hebrews states, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure,” indicating that sexual relations within marriage are “pure” and not sinful.
Sexual responsibility in marriage
The Bible discusses the responsibility of husbands and wives in marriage. It says that husbands and wives do not authority over their own bodies, but must submit their bodies to their spouse and must not deny each other sexually:
Let the husband 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 that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
The command to not deny the spouse sexually is made so that he or she is not tempted outside the marriage. Fidelity in marriage is emphasized throughout the New Testament.
Commands for the husband
The Christian marriage is arranged in a manner similar to that of the Christian church. Throughout the New Testament, the husband is commanded to love his wife. The manner and extent of devotion is given as “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies,” and “must love his wife as he loves himself.” In other passages, husbands are commanded to “love your wives and do not be harsh with them” and “be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect.”
Commands for the wife
Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands. Submission is not a popular word among women these days. However, the biblical command to submit is not without qualification. Submission is to be done “as the church submits to Christ” and “as is fitting in the Lord.” The Bible also says that the wife should respect her husband. Peter says that wives ought to submit to their husbands so that they “may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” This was one of the main factors why I chose Carole as my wife.
Commands for both
Peter ends his discussion of the responsibilities of husbands and wives with the following instruction for both:
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)
The original law of divorce was instituted by Moses:
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house (Deuteronomy 24:1)
Although the law of divorce seems to be rather broad, it had a rather limited context. The Hebrew word (‛ervâh), translated “indecency” usually referred to some sort of intentional indecent exposure on the part of the wife.
Elsewhere, the Old Testament indicates that God hates divorce:
“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)
In the New Testament, the Pharisees, the ruling religious class, tried to trap Jesus on the question of divorce. Jesus countered with “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” When they pressed Him regarding the Law of Moses, Jesus said:
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. (Matthew 19:8)
In this passage and elsewhere, Jesus indicated that those who divorced and married another person were committing adultery. This rule applied to both husbands and wives and those whom they marry. Likewise, Paul forbade divorce – even when the spouse was a non-believer.
Exceptions to remarriage
Obviously, the death of the spouse allows one to remarry. Jesus said that there was one other exception that allowed remarriage, which was marital unfaithfulness. Paul indicated that abandonment was also a cause for divorce and remarriage. Although the issue of spousal abuse is not directly addressed in the Bible, some have interpreted these kinds of acts to be equivalent to abandonment.
Several specific sexual relationships are forbidden in the Bible. Among these are homosexuality, bestiality (sex with animals), and incest (sexual relations with close family members, including your mother, sister, niece, aunt, daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law), fornication (sexual relations outside of marriage) and adultery (sexual relations with another person’s spouse), and rape (forced sex). To emphasize the seriousness of these kinds of offenses, the penalty was death. Although not specifically mentioned in the Bible, it is clear that pornography is not to be viewed by Christians.
Christians are to avoid all forms of sexual sin, since the Christian’s body is the indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul says that the body is meant for the Lord and not for sexual immorality. Since Christians are redeemed (bought back with a price – which was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ) we no longer “own” our bodies, since they have been purchased by God. Not only are Christians to avoid sexual sins, but we are to avoid those who claim to be Christians, yet practice such things. The Bible says that those who are sexually immoral are separated from God and will not share in God’s inheritance upon death.
Married or single? Which is better?
It is not the will of God that all Christians be married. Paul explained that a person who marries will have divided loyalty between his spouse and the Lord. A Christian is much better able to serve the Lord when single then when married. However, a Christian should not remain single if that gift has not been given to him. Jesus said that those who have been given the gift of being able to remain single should do so for the sake of the gospel.
God invented sex and commanded it to the first males and females He created. However, sexual relations were intended to be enjoyed within the bounds of marriage. Marriage was intended to be for a lifetime and divorce was allowed only under limited, specific circumstances. Within marriage, both husbands and wives are to provide for their partner’s sexual needs and not withhold themselves from the other, in order to reduce temptation. The institution of marriage was designed by God as an analogy between God and the Church, where God (the husband) cares for and loves the Church (the wife).
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)