(This post is a remake of the original, which was somehow lost from our blog. The original post came out in February 2015.)
We continue our study this week of the physical aspects of marriage. Since God designed sex as a vital part of His marriage plan, it is important to know what God’s Word has to say about it.
Within the confines of marriage, the Bible says sexual relations are good, pure, and holy. But marriage was not made for sex…sex was made for marriage. And understanding its purpose and the blessings received through it is necessary to have a proper attitude and see God’s view of it.
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” – 1 Corinthians 7:3-4
Is sex within marriage only for our pleasure? Or for creating children? Or to keep the romance alive? The answer to these questions should have a profound effect on how we view the physical act of marriage and how we relate to each other as husband and wife.
To Glorify God
Marriage is made to glorify God. And sex as part of marriage is made to glorify God. Sex as part of marriage is good, pure, and holy, but it is not the basis or main reason for marriage.
The main reason for marriage is to glorify God. It is God’s way of showing the world His relationship with humankind and, especially, with His Church.
Paul taught us this in Ephesians 5:25-27: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Then Paul concludes his teaching on marriage with these confirming words in Ephesians 5:32: “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
Physical union is important, however, and was created by God as part of marriage. However, it is the covenant we make between us as a man and a woman and God that makes a marriage. Some believe if we make this covenant with God and our spouse, but do not consummate it with the sex act that we are not married. That is why some Christians believe annulment or ending of a marriage if there has been no sexual relationship yet is just fine.
This is not true. The covenant is what truly makes the marriage a marriage in God’s eyes. It is then that the couple has the privilege of retreating to a private place and enjoying the wonderful experience of becoming fully one flesh through physical relations. But if there can be no sex for some reason, it is still a marriage by covenant.
We will almost certainly desire to have sexual relationships with our spouse. God created us that way. He helps make us one that way. It is important to a healthy marriage, but it is not what makes the marriage.
For the Good of Our Spouse
Sex is not first about us and our needs, but meeting the needs of our husband or wife. God tells us this clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”
Of course, we will usually be blessed by and enjoy sex ourselves. God created it to be that way. But that is not part of the command in the verse above. Nowhere do you read “if you feel like it.”
There will be times when loving our spouse means we understand their state of mind or physical condition and don’t push the subject. But saying “no” should not be our regular response. The result of doing things God’s way will be a strong marriage, loving each other with “agape” love for the good of our spouse above our own. We will love with a giving spirit instead of a getting spirit.
Remembering that sex is not first and foremost about us will also protect us from adultery. Our focus will be on God and our spouse, not ourselves. Sin begins when our focus is on us. Again, the desire for sex with our husband or wife is not wrong. It is part of God’s plan for marriage. But we must not allow that desire to turn into sin. This biblical concept will also keep us away from other potential problems and sins such as masturbation and pornography.
This concept of selfless, agape love–giving ourselves for the other–will bring positive consequences when both spouses agree it is time to show each other love through sexual relations. It will allow you to discuss openly what each enjoys and does not enjoy. It will lead you to understand each other better and so enjoy each other and your time together more.
One example of this is an issue that often comes up in marriage counseling. It is whether or not reaching climax is necessary for one of the spouses to have full enjoyment. Most men have little problem with this. This is not always true for wives. They sometimes feel completely satisfied, however, even without reaching climax. A man’s response when this happens might be to feel he has “failed” her or to become upset. When this happens, he allows a beautiful loving time between himself and his wife to be harmed. Yet talking together about this–remembering it is about her and not him–can allow a husband to still enjoy the experience with his wife and to allow her to fully enjoy it as well.
Regular and Continuous
Sexual relations should be a regular, continuous part of our marriages.
God’s Word tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This teaching will also protect us from temptations like we previously identified.
The question, therefore, is not, “Will we have sexual relations?” but “When should we have them?” or “How often should we have them”? Questions like the latter should be discussed and decided between each couple. Should it only be spontaneous? Should it be planned? Each couple is made uniquely by God and should decide this for themselves. But refraining from sex completely, except for short, specific reasons is not biblical.
Following these truths God gives us for a healthy sex life will bless us and our spouses. They will keep our marriages strong and allow them to be a solid witness to the world about Christ and His Church.
Questions for Discussion
- How does knowing God created sex in marriage to glorify Him change your attitude about it?
- Do you usually think about your physical relationhip as a way to meet your needs or a way to show love to your spouse?
- Discuss this part of your marriage as it is now. Does it bring enjoyment to both of you? Are you making the time for each other regularly? What are some things each of you can do to bless the other in this area?
- Pray together that God will give you a right attitude toward sex, the desire to meet your spouse’s needs, and that this part of your relationship will glorify Him.
Next week, we will discuss some warnings God gives us that we need to heed about some things we must avoid and deal with to help keep our marriages and sex life stay strong.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the SEX AND MARRIAGE series:
Part 1–Created by God
Part 2–Love and Understanding
Part 4–Two Warnings
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.