Sex: Is it Biblically bad?
A few years ago, a list of 25 supposedly unanswerable questions about Christianity was circulating on the Internet. One of them made it appear that God, who was the creator of human sexuality, was opposed to sex. Here was the question:
Explain why sex, potentially one of the most wonderful, beautiful things in human nature, is considered "bad" by your particular sect. If your sect does not consider sex to be "bad," then refute Matthew 19:12, 1 Corinthians 7 (particularly verses 1 and 9), Galatians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, James 1:14 15, and Revelation 14:4.
Now, most Christians probably recognize intrinsically that if something was created by God, it isn’t bad. Genesis 1 reports that when God created humanity in the form of Adam, he pronounced him to be good. He created Eve to be the companion of Adam. Now, I don’t see any reason to believe that God created Adam and Eve without sexual organs and that they were only added after the fall. Obviously, Adam and Eve were created to be bedmates, and thus, sex was part of God’s “good” in creation. Bad? When God says “A man shall cleave unto his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) "shall" is a word of command. In other words, sex in marriage is ordered by God! Consider what Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:4 5:
The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.
These verse alone are sufficient to overcome the objection that sex is somehow bad in God’s eyes. But because the question cites some verses that supposedly overcome this very clear teaching, I suppose we ought to take a look at them.
Matt. 19:12 – Jesus said: "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
Let me see; because there are eunuchs (some by birth, some emasculated by others, and some self-emasculated) sex is bad? If that is it, I don’t see the connection. Is the author saying that because Jesus says that the self-emasculating eunuch made himself a eunuch "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" that means that sex is bad? Personally, I don’t see where Jesus says anything that can be interpreted to mean "and you should, too."
In fact, looking at the verse in context (remember context?), it is very clear that he is not saying that. In Matthew 19, Jesus is discussing divorce and telling the disciples that if someone divorces his wife, except for infidelity, they are committing adultery. The conversation continues with the disciples making an incorrect statment:
Matt. 19:10-11 -- The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." But [Jesus] said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.
Let me put this in more contemporary language: The disciples said to Jesus, "In this view of marriage, surely it must prove a snare rather than a blessing, and had better be avoided altogether." Jesus answered them, "that the unmarried state is better, is a saying not for everyone, and indeed only for such as it is divinely intended for." Verse 12 (the verse cited by the questioner) then gives three examples of people to whom it may be appropriate.
The questioner then proceeds to raise 1 Cor. 7 where Paul discusses the fact that he has chosen not to marry. The two verses singled out by the questioner are as follows:
1 Cor. 7:1 – Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
1 Cor. 7:9 -- But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
This is the problem with taking verses out of context – the author is forcing a meaning on the texts that Paul does not intend to convey. The Bible contains an unparalleled commitment to marriage and sex within marriage. Consider Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.” Why would God (the ultimate author of the Bible) say that marriage is honorable in Hebrews but that a man should not touch a woman in another? It is not because God is inconsistent, but rather because the two verses are talking about different aspects of how to deal with our relationship with God and each other. Paul explains himself later in the chapter in verses 29-35:
But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.
What about Galatians 5:17?
Gal. 5:17 – “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
Galatians 5:17 has nothing to do with sex at all! Perhaps you can argue that it is intended to say that the desire of the flesh for sex is in opposition to the desire for God, but the verse is more general than that. The verse is not singling our sex. Rather, it is saying that any desire of the flesh sets itself against the Spirit. Thus, if this means that sex is evil then my desire for a Coca-Cola must be evil, by the questioner's logic. And it is if my desire for the thing of the flesh exceeds my desire for God.
1 Thess. 4:3 -- "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality."
Why do I have a feeling the questioner did not read some of these verses but only cut and pasted? Sex inside of marriage is not seen as sexual immorality anywhere in the Bible. This is a general refutation of sex outside of the confines that God has provided for our benefit.
James 1:14 15 – “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
This verse has nothing to so with sex. It defines the origins of all sin in a man's life. Contrary to the assumption of the author, “lust” is not limited to sexual desire. Lust, according to Meriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, includes: “1 a : PLEASURE, DELIGHT b : personal inclination : WISH 2 : usually intense or unbridled sexual desire : LASCIVIOUSNESS 3 a : an intense longing : CRAVING b : ENTHUSIASM, EAGERNESS” We lust after all types of things, sex being just one. When we follow through on our lusts (“lust has conceived”), then we sin. This is not a verse that stands against sex!
With respect to Revelations 14:4: Revelation has a lot of symbolism in it. Unless you know the WHOLE Bible, it is hard to discuss this book. Yet, let me make a brief comment.
Rev. 14:4 -- These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.”
Revelations is a book that looks at a lot of things spiritually. The ones who have not been defiled, in this case, are being singled out "in contrast to the apostate Church, Babylon (Re 14:8), spiritually "a harlot" (Re 17:1-5; Isa 1:21; contrast 2Co 11:2; Eph 5:25-27). Their not being defiled with women means they were not led astray from Christian faithfulness by the tempters who jointly constitute the spiritual ‘harlot.’" (From the on-line commentary about the Revelation of St. John the Divine by A. R. Fausset.) Again, this verse has nothing to do with sex, per se.
Sex, regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, is not looked down upon or shunned in the Bible. However, God has limited the types of sexual activities we may engage in and the circumstances we may engage in them. The Bible teaches that sex should be limited to marriage, and that marriage is intended to be between a man and a woman. There are some other restrictions, but it is important to keep in mind that all of the restrictions have not been put in place to deprive us. Rather, they are there so that we may be fulfilled and live a life that is both pleasing to God and beneficial to ourselves. Sex is part of our lives and the created good. If we exercise our sexual encounters appropriately, we will benefit, and God will bless us.