How can we think about the issue of sex and how does the gospel specifically address the issue of sexual sin? Regrettably, all of us know the bitter taste of sexual failure in one way or another. Thankfully, God is a healer and restorer. In order to understand how the gospel addresses sex we first need to take some time to reflect on what the act of sex is, really. After that, we will be ready to think about how God redeems what is broken and redirects our desires.
What Is Sex And Why Did God Create Sex?
God’s design for sex is best understood in light of God’s design for gender. Through sermons and supplemental articles we have considered how God made man and woman as complementary image bearers. This does not mean that man and woman are always giving each other complements (though that’s a part of it) but that man and woman are designed to fit together and work together in a variety of relationships. So, the issue of sex is rooted in the issue of our God-created genders.
A word of pastoral sensitivity is needed while embarking on a discussion of sex. Sex is God’s idea, God’s design, and God’s gift to his image bearers. So, we are encouraged to examine this gift–similar to any of the other good gifts that God gives to his people–as a way of learning more about the character of the Giver: God. The point is not the gift of sex but the Giver of the gift. Examining the biblical descriptions of what sex is should not lead to desiring the experience of the gift as much as it should lead to the worship of God. So, allow the following descriptions of the topic of Sex to draw your affections to God who graciously and wisely created the gift as a means of revealing his character.
God didn’t have to make sex to be the incredible experience that it is between a man and a woman in marriage, but he did. And since he did, we must ask, “Why?” Seriously consider this: God could have made it less pleasurable and less desirable, but he didn’t. God chose to design the experience to illicit the emotional and physiological impulses that it does. In fact, it’s worth considering that our present experience of sex is marred by sin and experienced in this broken-yet-being-repaired world that we live in. So, our experience of Sex is shaped by a good creational design, broken distortions because of sin, and a healing promise of redemption.
Someone might wonder whether it is wise or beneficial even to consider the issue of sex if you are not married or in a season of life where sex can be enjoyed. I would encourage a close reading of the biblical references to sex as a means of purifying one’s own understanding of the issue and a means of drawing attention to God. We can understand a lot about sex by simply studying what the Bible teaches about sex.
Consider the following major aspects of sex, as explained in the Bible.
Sex is relational
Sex involves two people working together. Sex is not mechanical but relational. Contrary to sinful distortions, sex is not an act with an object, it is an experience with a person. Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 5:3-10
Sex is covenantal
Sex is intended to be enjoyed between a man and a woman in marriage. Covenant comes first, then consummation. In the Bible, sex is only celebrated in the context of an exclusive covenant relationship between a man and woman in marriage. Proverbs 5:15-20; Malachi 2:14
Sex is intimate
Sex is obviously physical, but it is also deeply spiritual. The physical aspect is the outer shell of what’s happening deeply and spiritually in the heart. Sex draws man and woman together so closely that nothing is between them, so close that God says they are “one flesh.” Genesis 4:1; Ephesians 5:22-23
Sex is fruitful by design
Sex ultimately leads to having children (being fruitful and multiplying) and filling the earth with images of God. Every form of non-complementarian sex fails to fulfill this end. While fruitfulness is the design many couples experience the bitter ramifications of a fallen world through barrenness and even birth defects in the lives of their children. These are not the result of specific sin committed in the lives of parents but the general brokenness that all of creation experiences as a result of our rebellion against God. Genesis 1:28; Song of Solomon 2:13; 1 Corinthians 7:5
Sex is selfless, not selfish
There is a paradox in sex, made possible by its covenant basis. Some wonder how sex can be satisfying without focusing on yourself. The more a couple focuses on pleasing one another, the more pleasure each receives. Therefore, non-complementarian sex is selfish. Ephesians 5:28-31; 1 Corinthians 7:3-4
Sex is complex…Sex involves the mind, body, and soul
Jesus taught that lustful looks equal the act of adultery in the heart. Therefore, our spiritual life cannot be disconnected from physical sex. You cannot isolate sexual union from the other unions that are created to be enjoyed with it. Sex affects everything, therefore it must be guarded. 1 Corinthians 6:13-14, Matthew 5:23
Sex is complementary
Man and woman are designed to fit together… no pictures needed, you get it. Not one time is sex celebrated in the Bible in a way that is not complementary–man and woman in marriage. All other, non-complementary, forms of sex are condemned–for our condemnation God has provided grace through Jesus. Genesis 2:18-24
In Conclusion: So, why did God create sex to be all of this and more?
God created sex to give us a faint taste of the closeness, oneness, and joy that he will have with his people. This is a deep mystery, yet it is clear as can be. God created sex as a foretaste of the closeness that his worshippers will enjoy one day with him. Whether you are sexually promiscuous, troubled, or celibate–the physical reality of sex is intended to be a pointer to the greater spiritual reality that God’s people will experience with Him. Sex is God’s idea; He designed it for a man and woman to enjoy in the context of marriage.
What Is Sexual Sin And Is There Any Hope For Overcoming It?
Our sexually confused and crazed culture is similar to the cultures of the Bible (1 Corinthians 6:9-20). Corinth was a sexually crazed city similar to ours. Every night, 1,000 temple prostitutes would come down to practice their trade. New Christians in Corinth had been saved out of that culture. To live into God’s design for life, Paul gave those believers a new sexual ethic. That new sexual ethic was needed to help live redemptively in the midst of sexual sin.
What is sexual sin?
The Bible uses one big word to refer to all types of sexual sin: Pornea – everything from pornography, adultery, homosexuality, heterosexual sin - all of it is in this word. Counterfeit sex, in all of its varieties, steals from God’s design for sex and the ultimate reason God created it. Every form of sexual experience outside of marriage with a man and a woman is focused on self and the act of taking. God’s design for sex is to be a picture of giving and nurturing.
Given such a broad definition of sexual sin, all of us find ourselves as guilty–no one is spared, and that’s the point. We are not pure in our hearts or our physical interactions with one another. So, what should followers of Jesus do in response to our sexual sin? Followers of Jesus should flee all sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman (1 Corinthians 6:18). Christians should not reason with it or rationalize it–but run from it.
The Bible diagnoses and offers the cure for our sexual sin.
God’s Word has a way of getting beneath the issues of life and exposes them for what they really are. When it comes to the issue of sex and sexual sin, Scripture gets beneath the fruits, exposes the roots, and provides us categories for thinking about where we go wrong.
Consider the following truths and how they apply the gospel to the issue of sexual sin.
God has created our bodies for His ultimate glory (1 Corinthians 6:13, 20)
God has a specific plan and intention for our bodies. Our bodies are made good, for good things. Foundational to overcoming sexual sin is understanding, and believing, what our bodies are made for. They are not made to merely be a facility for physical pleasure but something far greater.
God has created our bodies for our eternal good (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)
God created our bodies and knows what is best for them. To help us, God has given restrictions for how all of creation, including sex, should be enjoyed. Living outside God’s design for sex would be like a fish who jumps on land to escape the restrictions of life underwater. Fish are most free when living in the parameters of their design. Humanity is most free when living consistent with God’s good design for humanity within the rest of the created world. God’s restrictions are protective. As G.K. Chesterton mused, “Doctrine and discipline may be walls but they are the walls of a playground.” God had our best in mind when laid out our design.
God explains the anatomy of our sexual sin (Romans 1:18-21)
Like a good surgeon, God gets beneath the surface and exposes the heart of the issue of Sexual Sin. Our problem with Sexual Sin is that that we fail physically in some fashion, but that we have sinful hearts. In Romans 1 Paul exposes the fourfold progression of sin in our hearts.
- Sin disorders our hearts – We exchange God’s pattern for our preferences.
- Sin disorders our thoughts – We exchange God’s Word for our experience.
- Sin in disorders our desires – We exchange sexual responsibility for supposed rights.
- Sin disorders our actions – We exchange moral obligations for natural explanations.
Overcoming sexual sin involves a realization about how sin has contaminated our hearts and its’ corrosive effects permeate all of life. Yet, our sin is no match for our Savior. Before we despair in our sexual sin we are to look to Jesus Christ as our great Savior.
Jesus has purchased our bodies with His blood (1 Corinthians 6:20)
This truth is a healing balm for anyone who feels dirty in sexual sin. Christian, your body has been bought with a price. Trust in the crucified Christ who has purchased our bodies with His blood. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian then you need to know that Jesus Christ can remove the stain of sin from your soul. Trust in Him to forgive your sins; He will restore you.
Jesus has united our bodies with His body (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)
Dramatically, Jesus doesn’t simply remove the stain of sin, or give us a new identity of “no sexual sin” but he also chooses to unite our renewed bodies with his pure body. The God of the universe cares for your body so much that Jesus came to pay for your body. The impetus for fleeing Sexual Sin as a Christian is not simply that it would offend God but that you are united with God!
God calls you to turn from your sin and yourself (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)
Like a loving Father, God speaks to us with words of wisdom and authority. For anyone stuck in Sexual Sin, the Father shouts: Flee!
Sexual sin harms so deeply – it hurts, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. Flee!
Sexual sin controls so quickly – sin is like an addiction mixed with a sickness. Flee!
Sexual sin devastates so painfully – we all know the bitterness and hurt. Flee!
God made Jesus “sin” so he could make us his sin-free children. 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21 explains that God made him who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. This means that on the cross God made Jesus your sexual sin (the adulterer, lustful, confused, crazed, person that all of us amount to) so that we could become the perfect record holding and pure children of God. It’s a jarring thought and it’s essentially biblical. God made Jesus your sin so that he could make you his child. On the cross Jesus took on the names that are ours when it comes to sexual sins so that we could inherit his titles in that place: Pure, Loving, Kind, Gracious, Merciful, Humble, and True.
God invites you to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
Jesus is ready to set you free. He is ready to forgive you for all of your sexual sin because he has already punished Jesus in your place. Substitution is at the heart of the issue when it comes to sexual sin. You can be free because Jesus was punished in your place. This pardon becomes yours through faith. As you trust in Jesus Christ through faith you get the pleasure of experiencing him as Lord of your life. Lord of your thoughts. Lord of your agenda. Lord of your body. Lord of your life.
Sex is God’s good design. We have complicated our understanding and experience of sex with our sin. Jesus is our loving Savior who can fully heal the stain of sexual sin and gradually reverse the patterns of our errant sexual behaviors.
The gospel for sexual sin is simply this: God has made a way to be free from the penalty and patterns of Sexual Sin. The Way is called Jesus. Look to him. See him suffering for your sin. Receive his pardon and his purity as his gracious offer. Flee! Be healed. Be free.