Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the New King James Version
Sexuality is a natural part of human life. But today, we are living in an increasingly over-sexualized world. Sexuality seems to have become an obsession and is over-emphasized in the entertainment industry and in the media. The term “sexy” is used for all sorts of purposes. It is sometimes even used for cars, for body lotions and other objects. Many people, including Christians, are left wondering what sexuality is all about. Our modern contraception culture strikes at the heart of the God-designed purpose for sexuality. Pleasure has become the main focus of sexuality and procreation, has been cast aside. Many people, including Christians, are left wondering what sexuality is all about. Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on this subject. In fact, a lot can be learned in the Scriptures concerning the purpose of sexuality and proper sexual behaviors.
Adam and Eve
Beginning in Genesis chapter one, we learn about the great purpose God has for mankind. From the very beginning, God’s purposes for sex and marriage is clearly stated. Sexuality is for the procreation of the human species. In Genesis 1:27-28, we read: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The real purpose of sexuality is for procreation and those not prepared to assume the inherent responsibility of human sexuality should refrain from it. This is a blessing that God bestows open the human race. We are to be fruitful, to fill the earth and to be stewards upon it. God sanctified sexuality and commanded Adam and Eve to have an intimate sexual relationship and to procreate. This obvious purpose for sexuality has been increasingly downplayed in the recent decades. We are in a world in which the only purpose of sexuality seems to be the satisfaction of one’s selfish pleasure. Sexual gratification was not God’s original purpose to sex. In fact, God re-emphasized the sacred meaning of marriage and family in Genesis 2:24. We read: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Family is the first human institution found in the Bible. It was instituted and commanded by God himself. God intended children to be conceived and to grow through those holy institutions that we call marriage and family; a family consisting of a husband and a wife. Thus we learn that sexuality was not meant to satisfy selfish desire but to produce offspring. Still, according to 2010 U.S. Census data, the number of people aged 40 to 44 who have decided to not have children is close to 20 percent. As a result of the increase liberalization of moral standards, many today in the Western world, have forgotten the real purpose of sexuality. God designed the pleasure associated with sexuality to promote procreation and to enhance couple spiritual relationships. The apostle Paul teaches that childbearing is part of a woman’s normal and healthy purpose in life (1 Timothy 2:15). This misunderstanding concerning the real purpose of sexuality is at the root of all sorts of aberrant sexual practices.
The marriage institution
To better understand sexuality in the context of the Bible, we first need to understand the meaning of sexual intercourse in the Torah (the five books of Moses). In ancient Israel, to have sexual intercourse was synonymous with marriage. In Exodus 22:16-17 we read: “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.” In the Torah, we do not find the concept of pre-marital sex. Having sexual intercourse with a virgin is an act of marriage. In Genesis 24:67 Isaac and Rebekah are publicly married by entering a tent to have a sexual relationship. By having sex, a man and a woman become “one flesh.” The Torah and Jesus Christ in the Gospels make this concept very clear. Sexual intercourse means a relationship for life and implies that the couple will have children. Divorce is seen as a violation of God’s marriage covenant. In Malachi 2:14-16, we read: “Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence.”
Throughout the Bible, in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage, God gave us a number of directives allowing us to discern between what is acceptable and what is not. Leviticus 18:6-29 define the boundaries of godly sexuality. A number of prohibitions are given concerning sexual relationships with close relatives, unacceptable marriage relationships and unnatural sexual practices. Although those commandments were given to Israel, they are binding on every nation. In Leviticus 18:24-29, we read: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.” The nations and people who do not follow God’s commandments are sexually defiled. All of us should read and meditate on Leviticus 18. This chapter tells us how God values highly families and the “one flesh” principle found in the Scriptures.
Prohibited sexual relationships
Some sexual practices prohibited in the Bible are becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. To name of few, we can cite pornography, adultery and homosexuality. In our Western society, these practices are becoming more and more acceptable. In fact, in 2006, the porn industry in the USA alone generated about $13 billion in estimated revenues. According to the Internet accountability and filtering company Covenant Eyes, “50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women say they are addicted to pornography” (2013). As for homosexuality, according to Pew Research (2013), “[v]iews of homosexuality are particularly positive in Spain (88% say it should be accepted by society), Germany (87%), Czech Republic (80%), Canada (80%), Australia (79%), France (77%), Britain (76%), Argentina (74%), Italy (74%) and Philippines (73%).” A great number of Mainstream Christian Churches, such as many Reform and Lutheran Churches in Europe and in North America do not consider homosexuality to be a sin anymore. All in all in the USA, and according to a study by the Barna Group (2003), 42% of respondents found “having a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse” acceptable. Furthermore, “[a]bout one-third of the population gave the stamp of approval to pornography (38%), […] and homosexual sex (30%).” There is even today in North America a well advertised website that claims to be “the world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters” (in other words, for adultery).
Despite acceptance by some Christian Churches, are such practices biblically acceptable? First of all, what does the Bible has to say about pornography? Although, the Bible does not use the term pornography as such, many Bible principles oppose such practices. For example, in Matthew 5:28, Jesus says: “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Being aroused or the desire to have sex with someone to who one is not married is akin to adultery. Pornography is clearly wrong. The Bible encourages us to “put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). In this passage, practices such as pornography are compared to idolatry. Instead of deadening immoral desires, pornography nurtures them. The psalmist encourages us to “set nothing wicked before [our] eyes” and “[to] hate the work of those who fall away.” On a side note, the same is true for a practice often linked to pornography, which is masturbation. The absence of a direct specific biblical injunction regarding masturbation shouldn’t leave us to conclude that this practice is acceptable in God's eyes. Masturbation, as pornography, is a self-centered sexual activity, which rely on immoral fantasy. True, sexuality involves some form of pleasure, but it is first of all meant for reproduction and as an expression of love between spouses (Read Proverbs 5:15-19). The Scriptures encourages us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). There is no place for pornography and masturbation in a Christian life. If you find yourselves stumbling and falling on such issue, do not despair and know that God is “good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5). In the meantime, “Flee sexual immorality,” and remember: “[H]e who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body […] the temple of the Holy Spirit.” We ought to “glorify God in [our] body and in [our] spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Adultery is a sin and it has always been so, either in the Tanakh or in the apostolic writings. Although the Ten Commandments clearly forbids adultery, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), the sin of adultery is already mentioned in Genesis. In chapter 39 verses 7-9, we read: “And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “[…] How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”” Read also Genesis 12:10-20. From the very beginning, to be married meant becoming “one flesh” as an unavoidable consequence of a man and a woman being sexually involved. The Gospel writings agree: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). In the same token, this passage condemns once again divorce as being the breaking of a God instituted covenant. The same is obviously true for adultery. In Hebrews 13:4, we read: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” To participate in an act of prostitution is adultery as well. “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). One cannot possibly be “one flesh” with one’s spouse and be “one flesh” with a prostitute. Marriage was originally intended to be between ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN. This still holds true today. Although, the Torah regulated polygamy, as can be seen in Leviticus 18, such arrangements are only to be seen as a concession made to a specific type of patriarchal societies in which it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself. Polygamy was allowed, not encouraged, so that a man would provide and protect a number of women from prostitution, slavery or starvation. In some cases, it was seen as a way to fulfill the commandment according to which mankind is to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). In the case of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, we learn that polygamy was not without causing tensions in marriage (Genesis 21). Monogamy, in contrast to polygamy, conforms more closely to God’s ideal for marriage. Read Genesis 2:24, Deuteronomy 17:14-20. The fact that having multiple wives can cause tension and even sin is best seen in the example of King Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4). In the Gospels and in the apostolic writings, Jesus Christ emphasizes the “one flesh” command as being between ONE man and ONE woman (Read again Matthew 19:4-6). It is further emphasized in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 (please read those passages). Overseers, elders and deacons are to be “husband of one wife.” Such criteria rules out adulterers and polygamists. If such a qualification is specifically required for leaders in the Church, this is obviously a standard of holiness for all Church members. All men in the Church should strive to be “temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach” and “having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.” Obviously, the same is true for being the ““husband of one wife.” This should apply equally to all Christians. God our Father “who called [us] is holy,” and we “also [should] be holy in all [our] conduct” (1 Peter 1:16). Read Ephesians 5:22-33 for a further description of the husband and wife relationship. As there is ONE Christ, there is ONE husband, and as there is ONE Church, there is ONE wife. As seen with Adam and Eve, God did not design marriage to be polygamous. This is further reason why adultery and prostitution cannot be holy and acceptable in God’s eyes.
What about homosexuality, is it acceptable for Christians today? Although, the Scriptures do not speak often about homosexuality, each time they do, it is condemned as being a sin. It is made clear in Leviticus 18:22 in which we read: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” According to the Torah, it is to be punished by death (Leviticus 20:13). In the Gospel age, there is no theocratic kingdom on earth. Christians are to obey the law of the land and not to try to enforce death penalty applicable only in the context of Ancient Israel to a secular society. Still, homosexuality remains a sin as it was from the very beginning. This is still an abhorrent sexual behavior to God. According to most Jewish and Christian scholars in history, homosexuality was one of the sins involved in God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The apostolic writings agree. Jude 7 mentions Sodom and Gomorrah and tells us that those cities “having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” The first chapter of Romans speaks of homosexuality as being a rejection of God and akin to idolatry (verse 25). “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:26-27). Read 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. Scriptures reject homosexuality, in accord with God’s will and design for human sexuality. If not the Bible, at least nature tells us that the natural sex partner for a man is a woman, and the natural sex partner for a woman is a man. There are numerous claims about homosexuality: some believe it to be a chosen behavior, some think they were born this way and others see homosexuality as a mental illness. In fact, as late as 1973, homosexuality was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In any case, no matter which one of these assertions is/are true (if any), it does not make homosexuality an acceptable “lifestyle” according to the Bible. This simply tells us that in a fallen world we need more that our own will to overcome the flesh. Even the apostle Paul had his own weakness. “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:22-23). Homosexuality denies the sanctity of human sexuality as designed by God. However, God is loving (1 John 4:8) and patient (Romans 2:4). Paul comfortingly reminded us that “[n]o temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is true for homosexuality, but it also applies for pornography and adultery. Remember: “[W]ith the temptation [God] will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Marriage bed undefiled
Increasing changes in our society’s moral values and practices have left many Christians wondering what is sexually acceptable in a Christian marriage. Surrounded and influenced by pornography and by over-sexualized mainstream medias, a great number of Christian are left wondering if sexual practices such as anal sex, oral sex and partner swapping are acceptable in a marriage setting. Being contaminated by worldliness, a number of so-called Church leaders are giving confusing answers to such questions. Once again, the Bible does not specifically address anal sex, oral sex and partner swapping as such, but it does provide a great number of principles, which shed light on such sexual practices. First of all, and despite the overwhelming carnal nature of the world surrounding us, it is somewhat reassuring that Christians wonder about such practices and try to understand what they need to do in order to walk “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). This does mean that the Holy Spirit of God is working in us and leads us to investigate and question such practices. Sadly, a number of Christian leaders are not “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” as they should be (Acts 6:3) and give some confusing (ungodly) answers to those questions.
Those who know the Scriptures are aware that God is preoccupied with holiness in marriage. We already mentioned Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Those who read Leviticus 18 are also aware of a number of prohibitions regarding some practices abhorrent to God. We already learned that one “shall not lie with a male as with a woman” (verse 22). The same is true for bestiality. Verse 23 reads: “Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion.” Under the rulings of the Old Testament, such behaviors were to be punished by death. Genuine sexuality is a matter of holiness. Nothing has changed in human sexuality since Moses wrote down those commandments in a book. These directives reflect God’s will for a holy sanctified sexual life. First, let’s pause and ponder on Leviticus 18:19 as it will shed light on practices such as anal and oral sex. In the same part of the chapter in which God condemns adultery (verse 20) and child sacrifice (verse 21), He also prohibits having sexual intercourse with a wife during her monthly period. “[Y]ou shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity.” As all other discharges from the body, the woman’s monthly flow is considered unclean; avoiding sexual intercourse during a woman’s monthly period is a matter of holiness and sanctity. In fact, the Bible already mentioned it in Leviticus 15:19-24. If accidently violated, a man “shall be unclean seven days” as is the menstruating woman. If a deliberate act of sexual intercourse during a woman period was to happen, the couple committing the offense was to be “cut off from their people” (Leviticus 20:17). This highlights the seriousness of holiness in marriage and in sexuality. When in Acts 15:20, the first council in Jerusalem mentioned “sexual immorality” as one of the minimum requirements for the Gentiles to enter the fellowship of the saints, as first century Jews, what they had in mind was Leviticus 18. Remember, in Leviticus 18:24-26, we read: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you.”
How does this apply to anal sex, oral sex and swapping partners? First, concerning swapping partners (a “Christian” website exists encouraging this practice!), we read in Leviticus 18: 20 and learn that one should “not lie carnally with [ones] neighbor’s wife, to defile [oneself] with her.” Obviously, swapping partners, even in a consensual manner, would break such a prohibition. As we wrote earlier, in ancient Israel, to have sexual intercourse was synonymous with marriage. And as we learned throughout this study, marriage is a sacred institution originated in Genesis in which a man and a woman become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Read also Matthew 19:4-6. Anal and oral sex are to be included in the same range of unnatural and unclean practices. Nature tells us that anal sex and oral sex do not fulfill the main purpose of human sexuality that is procreation. Furthermore, as we have seen studying Leviticus 18:19, to keep the marriage holy and to have a sanctified sexual relationship with one’s spouse, unclean practices should be avoided. In the Bible, semen is unclean. “If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening” (Leviticus 15:16). We know from the Scriptures that some animals were not to be eaten for they were unclean. If the carcasses of one of these animals were to touch any cooking objects, those objects couldn’t be used anymore. “And everything on which a part of any such carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it is an oven or cooking stove, it shall be broken down; for they are unclean, and shall be unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:32). The same principle applies for oral sex. How can the mouth be put in contact with uncleanness, when it is supposed to be used to praise God? “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:10). First century Judaism and early Christianity did not consider unnatural sexual practices to be acceptable. In fact, the Epistle of Barnabas, a second-century Christian text that was often quoted as Scriptures by early church writers expressly condemns oral sex. “Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Leviticus 11:29]. For he means, 'Thou shalt not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shalt thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness"' (Letter of Barnabas 10:8). Even though Judaism is becoming increasingly liberal as well, it traditionally held a similar view on oral sex. An halakah reads: “And even though one may kiss whatever part of his wife's body that he wants, it is forbidden to look at, or to kiss, his wife's sexual organ, for whoever looks there has no shame, and trespasses ‘and you shall walk modestly with your G-d’ (Michah, 6:8), and he removes the look of shame before G-d from his face; for whoever has a sense of shame will not sin. Not only this, but he incites his evil inclination, and all the more so, someone who kisses that place transgresses all of the above and ‘You shall not make an abomination out of your souls’” (Aven HaEzer, 230:4. Darkei Tahara, Ch.22, 3-4). Those texts are not part of our Bible, but they tell us what early Christianity and Judaism understood of the Scriptures. They testify that biblically and historically such practices cannot be considered spiritually appropriate and part of the Christian life.
Marriage itself does not make legitimate all forms of sexuality. Anal and oral sex, as well as the use of pornography and sexual toys, are unnatural sexual practices and remain sinful, even for married Christians. Anal sex uses body parts in a way contrary to their designed purposes. This is perversion. The anus and the rectum are highly contaminated passageway specifically designed for expelling waste from the body. Feces are considered unclean in the Scriptures. “You must have a place outside the camp and go there to relieve yourself. You must have a digging tool in your equipment; when you relieve yourself, dig a hole with it and cover up your excrement. For the LORD your God walks throughout your camp to protect you and deliver your enemies to you; so your encampments must be holy. He must not see anything improper among you or He will turn away from you” (Leviticus 23:12-14 – Holman Christian Standard Bible). Read Ezechiel 4:12-14. According to the Medical Institute for Sexual Health (2012), anal sex is “very damaging to your health and quite possibly life threatening.” It can cause “anal abscesses, hemorrhoids, or fissures.” It can “weaken your muscles down there, which makes it hard to hold feces.” Furthermore, “[t]he fragile nature of the anal tissue makes it easier for STDs to enter into the bloodstream” and “[r]ecent studies have linked anal sex to anal cancer.” On a side note and concerning oral sex, the same Institute recognize that “[w]hile pregnancy may not be an issue, oral sex still puts you at risk for many STI’s, including syphilis, gonorrhea, genital herpes, chlamydia, HPV, and HIV” (Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 2012). The Bible is not a medical manual, but God certainly does not want us to indulge in sexual practices detrimental to our health. ““For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”” (Jeremiah 29:11 - NIV). The secular world of media and pornography actively promote sexual practices such as adultery, oral sex and anal sex. It doesn’t make it acceptable. On the contrary, knowing where it is coming from, Christians should be even more suspicious of such practices.
We did not mention practices such as sadomasochism in our study, but for those who wonder about it, there is enough to say that such practices are unhealthy (physically and mentally). They are obvious deviations of the true purposes of human sexuality which is first procreation and secondly the building up of a sanctified and spiritual relationship between a man and a woman. “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
As a conclusion
God instituted sexuality and marriage for a special purpose. Human sexuality is a sacred bond that units a man and a woman as “one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). Sexuality is a joyful and spiritual experience to be lived within the bounds of marriage. The secular world has corrupted the true meaning and purpose of sexuality and marriage, which is procreation in a healthy spiritual environment and the building up of a family. Pornography, adultery and homosexuality are sins condemned by the Bible. Even within the bound of marriage practices such as oral sex, anal sex or sadomasochism are unhealthy and unnatural and deviate from God’s purpose for human sexuality. Every Christian should meditate on what God says about sexual purity. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God […] For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5,7). For a Christian to continue in fornication (sexual impurity) is to deny the work done for us by God through Jesus Christ. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). This is somewhat reassuring that despite propaganda from the media and the prevalence of pornography in our Western world, a number of Christians still question the spiritual relevance and purity of practices such as adultery, anal sex, oral sex and homosexuality. Despite the fact that we are living in a time in which people do “not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they [do] heap up for themselves [false] teachers”, the Bible encourages us to “[g]uard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to [us]” (2 Timothy 1:14 - Holman Christian Standard Bible). May God bless you and keep you!