There are some Christians who view physical intimacy (sex) as being dirty and something that is required to do – a duty, but not necessarily something that they should seek out and enjoy. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are told in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” The sex act as described in the Book of Solomon is indicative of what a bed undefiled should look like; we shall look at some verses from this book later on. In order to lay down a foundation let us look at the false notion that sex consummates a marriage.
Sex does not consummate a marriage
Let me just start off with a misconception held by some which is that the sex act on the night of marriage consummates the marriage and that without it the marriage is not official. The belief is false and proof of that can be found in the account of Jesus’ birth:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph before they came together, she was
found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded
to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph,
thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring
forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his
name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden
him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
Joseph and Mary were considered married when Joseph asked for her hand and she accepted; Joseph was called her husband. The only caveat is that they abstained from physical relations until after the actual marriage ceremony. Also, in John 4:16-18, Jesus did not consider the man the woman was living with as being her husband: “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” Let’s make this even more practical. Imagine a couple gets married and on the way to their honeymoon suite they are involved in an unfortunate car accident. The husband is now paralyzed from the neck down with no potential to ever be physically intimate. For those who claim that sex consummates a marriage, we would have to consider this couple unmarried! Moreover, we would have to come to the conclusion that the marriage ceremony was a farce – it meant nothing since the couple could not consummate the marriage. Do you see how absurd this view is? Although sex does not make a marriage it is an important factor in a marriage. Let me qualify by stating that sex and/or sexual problems seem not to be a focus in marriages that are characterized by love and respect (that is not to say that one should not work on the issues), however, sexual problems seem to be the overriding focus in marriages lacking love and respect.
Sex is required in a biblical marriage
We read in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5:
"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let
every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and
likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not
power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves
to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency."
First, sex should be regular and not sporadic. Both parties should feel comfortable and satisfied with the timing and amount of sex in their relationship. The Bible does teach that a couple may decide to abstain for a period of time in order to devote themselves to fasting and prayer. To do anything else is to place oneself in a position to be tempted. Regular sex is a deterrent of sexual immorality, it assists in self-control as long as the desire for it is not prompted by lust due to viewing or thinking things that are sinful, such as pornography.
Secondly, sex is a duty to satisfy the other spouse. A general scriptural principle that can be applied to all life circumstances is found in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.” This principle can be applied even in the area of intimacy. We are told in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, that "the husband does not own his body but his wife does, likewise the wife does not own her body but the husband does. Moreover, each spouse should seek to render to the other satisfaction." In other words, sex is not selfish. When a husband and wife come together the husband’s primary purpose should be to provide his wife complete satisfaction and not be preoccupied with his own needs. Likewise, the wife should be seeking to fulfill her husband’s needs and not her own. If spouses adhere to God’s given instructions both parties will be fulfilled. Also, verses 3-4 teach that either spouse husband or wife can initiate sex.
Thirdly, Christian couples need to understand that there is a difference between lust and burning. We are told in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” The burning being spoken of here is not a lustful passion that is sinful but rather a natural God-given desire for sex. There is no sin in having a strong desire to have sex. Lust, however, fuels an unbiblical and at times uncontrollable desire which is sinful. God-given sex is never for fulfilling lust: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). In Matthew 5:27-28, we are told, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Is it sinful for a man to see a woman and be attracted to her? The answer would be NO. However, once a man sees a woman that he is attracted to he is not to dwell on her by taking a second or third look or dwelling on her image during the day when she is no longer present. To do so would be to be led by lust which is sinful. Likewise, it would be sinful for women to read romantic novels or watch romantic movies as a way to escape the lack of companionship and intimacy in their marriage. Additionally, it would be deleterious to compare the fictitious men described in romance novels, the Hallmark Channel, or movies to their husbands. Martin Luther was quoted as saying that "he had no control over birds flying over his head but he did have control over a bird nesting on his head." Sex is not for fulfilling lust but rather the solution to a God-given desire for intimacy. Couples are supposed to enjoy God-given intimacy, we read in Proverbs 5:15-20:
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.
Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.
Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee.
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be
thou ravished always with her love.
And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a
Cleanwaters Counseling Ministries provides biblical discipleship and counseling for married couples and those with addictions.