If I’m going to talk about good sex, there are two things I need to say from the start. First, I believe that the God of the Bible is the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. Does that seem to be a strange thing to clarify before speaking on this topic? The claim, in itself, is not unexpected from a Christian pastor and many of you would agree. For those who do not, I would ask you to work from this understanding while reading this article. If that claim were true, how would it affect your thoughts about some very confusing realities and opinions surrounding the topic of good sex? What would it say about things that are right and wrong or, perhaps, better and best? Would some of the struggles people wrestle with, weep about and hurt each other over make sense if God created good things for a good purpose?
Second, I believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for things such as this discussion. If you are willing to read from these two premises, then you may find this article valuable. You will also need to allow yourself some time for a long read. This topic is not honored in sound bites or clichés.
God designed what God desires
The accounts of creation found in Genesis 1-2 have been debated for many reasons. The point of this article is not to discuss literal or non-literal interpretation. Instead, consider what God revealed about Himself and His creation to human creatures through inspired Scriptures. These passages are unique in Scripture because creation had not yet sinned against their Creator and experienced the rightful consequences of their actions. The Bible tells us that our world is now “moaning” and “groaning” for redemption and has been since that fateful event of Genesis 3, where people, male and female, chose to enjoy the pleasure of creation apart from the Creator’s designed intention for it.
For this reason, a theology of sex (and marriage) from the first two chapters is pure and clear. The instructions concerning male, female and their relationships in those chapters are not oriented toward God’s leading us back from our rebellion to His created intention. Instead, because of the absence of sin, God is speaking directly to the goodness of what He created and His good intentions for His creatures.
God created humanity, both male and female. He created them together, equal in His image and in their worth. He created them of like kind but unique. He created within them the ability to experience His deep and rich purposes because they could experience a deep and rich relationship with the Person of God Himself. In the beginning, they did. They walked in the cool of the garden He created. They were naked and unashamed. They were naked and God was not ashamed. God created these humans, along with all the rest of creation, and it was very good. The relationships that creatures had with God, with each other and with creation were very good.
The word “good” here is not simply conveying “orderly”. This is not an obsessive compulsive description of creation. The word literally means pleasurable or delightful. God took delight in His creation, man and woman were pleasing to God and each other, and creation was pleasing to man, woman and God in every way. This is what God created.
Everything in God’s design is rooted in God’s desire for delight
God designed creation, and specifically the humans he placed within it, for His delight. He created them not only for His delight, but for their delight in Him, their Creator. He designed delight into His creation so that even necessary tasks like eating, drinking, and procreation were delightful. He designed creation to reflect and declare His glory. God desires delight. He does not desire delight selfishly at the expense of others. Instead, He shares His great glory with others in a way that inspires the creatures’ delight in Him. In His goodness, He designed and desired that humanity would obediently experience deep and rich delight in all of creation and that these delights, coupled with His personal relationship, would prompt a response of delight and worship to Him. These capabilities, to delight, obey, relate and worship, are endowed through mankind’s creation in God’s image. As Scripture relays in Genesis 3, these capacities also bear the potential of NOT delighting, obeying, relating, and worshiping God.
If humans were to truly experience the delight that is God, they must choose that delight above others. They must choose Him. They must trust Him. He told them not to eat of the fruit of one tree in the garden and humans chose to disregard that instruction. The forbidden fruit was good to sight and tasty – it was delightful. Why? Why would God not make it ugly and bitter? It wasn’t ugly and bitter because God created it and sin had not yet entered the world. The tree and the fruit were not evil; man’s disobedience of God’s instruction was evil. Thus the birth of all things terrible and awful are literally found in the fallen (or sinful) nature of humanity and the burden man’s sin has placed upon the remainder of creation.
This is true of sex. Before sin, man and woman were naked and were not ashamed. They were instructed to be fruitful and multiply. They were companions. After sin, however, the situation changed. Man and woman recognized their nakedness, felt shame and hid – not from each other, but from God. The openness and nakedness of human sexuality was to be covered – at first by man’s meager efforts (plant leaves) and then through God’s proper solution (animal skin). God graciously provided parameters in which sex could still honor him.
We now live in a world that desires to open and uncover sexuality more and more. This new nakedness is shameless where modesty and restraint should abound. It is tainted, marred, scarred, and grotesque in ways that continue to distort and shape our culture. We live in a world where more money is made through the porn industry each year than all professional sports revenue combined. Rapes are an accepted reality for women in many parts of the world and seen as an almost accepted norm in those cultures. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Tran-sexual orientations and gender identities are now such common topics that most people know the acronym without question. These orientations and identities are so assumed to be good and virtuous by so many people in our culture that those who hold moral beliefs in opposition are considered bigots and hate-mongers. This sexual revolution is not progress and does not delight the God who created with intention.
God created male and female to experience one flesh with one another. God used this physical terminology to convey a relationship between a husband and wife which is much more than physical. We are told to be of one mind and one spirit with others in the church, but the husband and wife are to be one flesh. Biblically, marriage is best described as one man and one woman living as one flesh for one life. God gave them to one another to delight in one another so deeply that their lives would be intertwined in such a way that no man should ever separate them because God united them.
I chose to define marriage as one man and one woman because every description of marriage in every part of Scripture relays this pairing. The words used are gender-specific and descriptively clear. There is no place in Scripture where marriage is ever discussed in any other terms. The use of gender-specific terms are not simply cultural generalities. They are very specific to each gender, beginning with and thereafter reflecting on the description of pre-sin marriage in the creation accounts. From those creation accounts, we see that God created and intended sexual delight in 4 ways:
- Physical Delight – Adam’s words describing Eve are physically specific. The sexual act is, and was intended to be, immensely physically pleasurable. Not many will argue this point, but we sometimes miss its significance. God made sex physically delightful so that a man would delight in his wife and a woman would delight in her husband physically. God equipped men and women for delight. In so doing, both may delight in the Creator who gave them such a good and pleasing gift.
- Emotional Delight – Adam’s response to Eve is emotional. He may not wax poetic with his words, but he does use words. (Take notes, fellas, as we learn the same lesson in the Song of Solomon – use your words in your sexual relationship with your spouse.) God created men and women to bring emotional delight to one another. Few argue the emotional impact of sexuality. There are many people who devote their lives to help those who have been negatively affected by the emotional damage of negative sexual experiences. Sex was not created to cause emotional damage, but emotional delight.
- Relational Delight – Adam and Eve enjoyed a shameless relationship in absolute openness before one another. We see this relational delight when Eve goes and gets Adam to eat the sinful fruit. How does this show relational delight? Because the fruit was physically and emotionally delightful for her and she wanted to share it with her husband. She liked delighting with him. Sin instantly broke that delight. In their next encounter with God, Adam goes from describing his wife as “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” to the “woman you made and gave to me, God.” Relational delight was tarnished by sin but was always a portion of God’s intention in designing sex for marriage.
- Spiritual Delight – Adam and Eve never hid from God until they had sinned. God walked in the Garden with them in their nakedness and they enjoyed a beautiful relationship with Him which was open, honest, and unashamed. Sin destroyed that. As God provided a covering for their nakedness, He began to set parameters by which sex could again be a portion of spiritual delight.
We struggle with what the Bible has to say about sexuality because we struggle with why God says certain things are right and wrong. In this way, we are not dissimilar to the distrust of God shown in the biblical account of Adam and Eve. Remember that James tells us that sin is to “know right and not do it.” Sin is not based on what is wrong as much as it is birthed out of what is right. God designed what He desired because He designed for the best of delight. God, our Creator, knows the greatest delight that we can experience.
God has not restricted us to decrease delight, He has instructed us to increase delight.
That is why the laws, truths, and principles of Scripture are so important. God’s intention is found in them. All sex outside of the prescription of one man and one woman living as one flesh is outside of what God designed for delight and is, therefore, sin. God desires that we would experience his very best for us and He is unwilling to accept anything less as a holy standard.
An issue which seems to confuse many is the truth that His goodness still remains in creation. This general grace, which flows from His innate grace, offers opportunities for temptation, cravings, and sinful desires. Women are beautiful, men are attractive and sex is enjoyable even if you don’t acknowledge God at all. Creation can be delighted in physically, emotionally, and even relationally-thriving sexual relationships while still missing the most important intention in sex – spiritual delight. Sex can be enjoyed physically by someone viewing pornography or engaging in promiscuous sex while proving unhealthy emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Sex can be enjoyed by a young dating couple physically and emotionally as it wreaks havoc in their lives relationally and spiritually. A non-married, cohabitating, heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple can enjoy sex physically, emotionally, and even relationally, but they are outside of the spiritual delight that can only be experienced within God’s design. Romans 1 speaks of the reality of living outside of this “natural” design. It is not just natural, meaning the way of nature. It is God-intended.
Christians today seem to have become weak about the issues of sin in our society because we have become weak about salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 teaches us a healthy approach to dealing openly and honestly about sin, including sexual sin. We must, however, remember why we cannot live in approval of sin (Romans 1:32). The person who will not speak of righteousness with integrity cannot speak of repentance with integrity. Again, if you will not speak of sin, how can you speak of salvation? What is the need? The result of offering salvation without addressing condemnation for sin is a redemption without reason, a penalty paid for no offense. But Jesus’ call was one of repentance, which is necessarily dependent on understanding sin, not just for those we consider heinous offenders but even those who simply suffer from greed. You cannot tell people that the things in their life for which Christ died are good and then tell them that the death of Christ is good for them, too. This lacks integrity.
So remember, if we truly believe the Gospel, then we believe that God not only changes what people do, He changes what people desire. We believe, in the Gospel, that God not only changes what people desire, He changes what they delight in. So speak the truth about sin not because God sent you to judge but because He sent Jesus to save. He sent you to testify to that sin and salvation.
Delight deeply in God’s design. Married couples, you will never experience the depth of God’s intention for your marriage emotionally, relationally, and spiritually if you neglect it physically any more than you can experience what He desires physically if you ignore His emotional, relational, or spiritual design. So delight in the spouse of your youth and thank God daily!