As I sat with a young couple preparing them for marriage, I heard a familiar question, one I had not only heard many times but had also experienced personally. As we talked about the important gift of sexuality within a healthy marriage, they were quick to quip, “We have been so entrenched in a ‘sex is bad’ mentality, how do we transition into a ‘sex is good’ one?” Within their witty comment was truth.
To be certain, our Christian sexual ethic is countercultural. Sex is good but is to be shared between a husband and wife only, not before marriage nor with anyone else during. When it comes to what we say about sex, we are often known more for what we oppose than for what we affirm. We are seen more as forbidding sex rather than celebrating it. This has resulted in a subtle asceticism that has flavored our talk about sex. The idea that bodily pleasures are shameful and to be avoided in order to bring more glory to God is simply unbiblical.
1 Timothy 4:3-4 clearly corrects false teachers who breed a message of asceticism: “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving . . . Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
Scripture celebrates sex in that we are taught a good God created our sexuality as a good gift. Not that it can be good, but that it is inherently good. Scripture affirms this when it states (pre-fall, pre-fig leaf) Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. Proverbs 5:19 endorses taking “delight” in your spouse’s body and being “intoxicated” with sexual love. Within the Song of Solomon is erotic poetry lauding sexual passion and pleasure. In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Paul strongly urges a mutual sacrificial giving and serving between husbands and wives sexually.
The Bible will make the prudish blush.
Sex is a celebration — one we should happily embrace. It is a celebration of oneness with our spouse before God. It is one of His greatest creations, and we should teach and model the beautiful, joyful, tremendous vision of sexuality that is rooted in His plan for us. We celebrate that plan, for in it is included His good blessings through procreation, character formation, and simple enjoyment and pleasure.
We Celebrate God’s Good Blessing through Procreation
“Be fruitful and multiply” is foundational to what it means to be alive. All of creation lives to reproduce. It is within God’s created order that we multiply and fill the earth with His image. Sex by nature is procreative. The result is children, which in Psalm 127 are declared to be a blessing from the Lord. However, by no means does this mandate every sexual act be to create children.
We Celebrate God’s good Blessing through Character Formation
It is common for husbands and wives to experience some angst in their sexual relationship. Joy and satisfaction are multiplied when spouses learn to put the needs of the other first. Unselfishly learning what the other enjoys, delaying one’s own gratification, and being committed to the satisfaction of the other is expressing the fruit of the Spirit. A husband and wife who are more concerned with getting than giving sexually are unlikely to meet the radical standard Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, in which a wife is generous in her devotion to meeting her husband’s sexual needs and the husband likewise exhibits selfless consideration in meeting his wife’s sexual needs. But let’s not get lost in the details of learning patience and forget that God is the God of pleasure and He creates good things just so we can simply enjoy them.
We Celebrate God’s Good Blessing through Enjoyment and Pleasure
Contrary to the assumptions of some, pleasure is not the invention of the devil. We are destined for eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11)! We were also created for physical and emotional pleasure in this world. We were created with taste buds to enjoy food. Men and women were created with parts for the exclusive intended and created purpose of sexual delight. God celebrates when we experience His wonderful creation because God intended for us to enjoy it.
Let us therefore remove the fig leaf and join in His plan and celebration.
About the Author
Joshua Ellis is the pastor of New Life Church of the Open Bible in Petersburg, Michigan. He is passionate about learning, studying, and translating the power of the gospel into words and actions that transform his community and the world. He and his wife, Sarah, are parents to five children.