There’s a lot of talk these days about sexual freedom. What is freedom? Freedom to do anything? The apostle Paul to the Corinthians explains in I Corinthians 6:12-13 (New English Bible):
‘I am free to do anything’, you say. Yes, but not everything is for my good. No doubt I am free to do anything, but I for one will not let anything make free with me. “Food is for the belly and the belly for food”, you say. True; and one day God will put an end to both. But it is not true that the body is for lust; it is for the Lord‘ (emphasis added).
The Bible is clear:
- ‘You shall not commit adultery’ (Ex 20:14; Mt 5:27; Rom 13:9);
- ‘Flee from sexual immorality’ (1 Cor 6:18);
- Romans 1:26-27 speaks of homosexuality as involving ‘dishonorable passions’ and ‘shameful acts’; the sexual relations between a man and a woman are called ‘natural relations’ (ESV).
God, being God, does not have to explain his commands, yet he chose to do so. In I Corinthians 6:13 he tells us why premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex and homosexual sex are wrong: “But it is not true that the body is for lust [i.e. fornication/sexual immorality]; it is for the Lord.”
God defines freedom according to the purpose for which something is designed or made: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality” (I Cor. 6:13 NIV). The world in which we live is one where everything has a design and function. John White’s explanation helped me:
The experience of freedom has to do with being loved and loving. God designed you because he loved you. His purposes for you are an expression of his love to you. And as you respond in love to his commands (about sex or anything else) you are set free, free to be and to do what both you and God want. The more completely you are enslaved to his blessed will, the freer you will discover yourself to be (White 1997: 46-47).
I don’t think the best question to ask is: When are sexual relations wrong? But, when are they right? God is very clear, and we are told our purpose, sexually, from the beginning of creation. From creation, God said and we need to understand it for a God-honouring sexual relationship. We can conclude this from God’s description of creation in the early chapters of Genesis:
1. Gen 1:27: Human beings are created spiritual beings, “in the image of God”. God is spirit.
2. Gen 1:27: “Male and female he created them”. God’s revealed will is heterosexuality, from the beginning of creation.
3. Gen 1:28: “God blessed them [male and female] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth.” Sexual intercourse is a gift of God and God’s purpose is that it involves male and female.” One purpose of sexual intercourse is to have children.
4. Gen 1:31: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Sex (between male and female) is very good in God’s sight.
5. Gen 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” God brought the animals and birds to Adam to name, “but for Adam no suitable helper was found” (Gen 2:20). So “the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and brought her to the man.” (2:22). And what was the man’s response? “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man” (2:23). That phrase “this is now” could be paraphrased “Wolf whistle”. Man was alone; he needed completion, but that did not come with an animal, nor with another man, but with a woman. Sexuality involves more than behaviour. “It is not good for the man to be alone.” There is a deep yearning for intimacy, connection with another–not a lustful, seductive encounter.
As a former homosexual, Andrew Comiskey explains that this yearning
Sexuality involves longing and desire. The body longs for human touch; the soul desires a companion to ease its aloneness. Such yearning is not a concession to our fallenness. According to the Bible, God deemed Adam–prior to the fall–as not suited to being alone (see Gen. 2:18). The Creator shaped a complement for Adam to provide for his unique emotional and physical needs, as well as for hers… Although Adam and Eve had clear access to God, He realized they needed something more. So He provided for each the gift of the other” (Comiskey (1989:37).
3. Genesis 2:24 and sexual bonding
This topic has the potential of being controversial. I know from the last 17 years as a full time counsellor and counselling manager (recently retired). When I’ve raised the topic with secular counsellors, they don’t know how to respond as they don’t experience some of these dimensions in counselling.
Why? Their world and life view does not even allow them to get close to asking some of the questions to draw a couple out on this issue. Only occasionally would a couple raise this matter voluntarily with me, but they sure knew how to put one another down if sex wasn’t fulfilling in their relationship (someone, it was alleged, wasn’t performing as he/she ought).
However, I would approach the topic for couples in a rocky relationship with some specific open-ended questions. With the right questions, people have opened up lots for me over the years in therapy.
But very few therapists I have worked with deal with this issue.Let’s get to some biblical basics to help us see what happens in sexual relationships and bonding,
There is more to the creation account in Genesis that has contemporary relevance in a secular society.
Genesis 2:24 states, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (ESV).
“One flesh” is a powerful symbol of this heterosexual coming together between a man and a woman in marriage. In the act of sexual intercourse, the male and female merge bodies and souls with a bonding that is difficult to describe. However, when this sexual union is ruined through promiscuity, people know it and they’ve told it to me in counselling in various ways down through the years.
Here, one husband unites with one wife to become one flesh. This is monogamous heterosexual marriage which is God’s design for ultimate satisfaction and benefit in marriage. What does it mean for a man and a woman in the sexual relationship to ‘become one flesh’?
Let’s hear from a couple of Hebrew exegetes and how they explain it:
- H C Leupold: ‘”Becoming one flesh” involves the complete identification of one personality with the other in a community of interests and pursuits, a union consummated in intercourse’ (Leupold 1942:137).
- C F Keil & F Delitzsch: Genesis 2:24 is
to exhibit marriage as the deepest corporeal and spiritual unity of man and woman, and to hold up monogamy before the eyes of the people of Israel as the form of marriage ordained by God. But as the words of Moses, they are the utterance of divine revelation; and Christ could quote them, therefore, as the word of God (Matt. xix.5). By the leaving of mother and father, which applies to the woman as well as the man, the conjugal union is shown to be a spiritual oneness, a vital communion of heart as well as of body, in which it finds its consummation. This union is of a totally different nature from that of parents and children…. Marriage itself, notwithstanding the fact that it demands the leaving of father and mother, is a holy appointment of God (Keil & Delitzsch n d:90-91).
So important is this ‘one flesh’ union (bonding) of a man and a woman in sexual intercourse of one man for one woman that Jesus repeats it in Matthew 19:5. This sexual consummation is critical to an understanding of God’s view of marriage. In this biblical aspect of marriage, the only thing that should fracture this union and longevity is sexual infidelity (see Matt 5;31-32; 19:3-12; Mark 10:7-9). Sexual unfaithfulness is one of the reasons for divorce according to Matthew. First Corinthians 7 gives another.
3. My observations as a counsellor
I obviously will not be giving confidential information from my 34 years of counselling. But I will note some trends that I noticed in counselling with people who have been in multiple sexual relationships:
- For many men it is not difficult to have an orgasm. However, many men want the woman to have an orgasmic experience to identify with pleasure and for him to feel fulfilled;
- After multiple sex partners, there is often a lack of sexual responses in both male and female, but especially with the female; orgasmic experiences are difficult to have.
- This is because God designed sexual intercourse with a purpose: It should be one man for one woman in sexual union as a bonding, one flesh, experience. One flesh is a deeper union than being a sexual mate. When that is violated time after time through sexual union with many partners, there is an inner ‘tearing’ of the human being – the soul – that takes place.
- Practically speaking, this makes it difficult to maintain a healthy sex life and leads to the break down in relationships between a man and a woman. So there is break up after break up in relationships. Multiple sex partners will lead to fragile relationships. They cannot last. That’s because God’s purpose is a ‘one flesh’ relationship between a man and a woman in marriage. I’ve had to deal with men and women weeping bitterly because they cannot get deep satisfaction in the sexual relationship and that flows into the cohabitation/defacto relationship they are having. Break ups then happen. And sometimes there are children who suffer in this trauma.
- When a secular society promotes freedom to the extent of anything goes in sex – and there is no understanding of the intimate bonding between a man and a woman – there is a natural progression that happens. Sexual relationships break up and the promiscuous cycle goes on and on.
- Is there a solution? God’s salvation through repentance and forgiveness in Christ brings healing? But too often there are residual thought patterns and hurt that can influence future relationships. Continuous healing is necessary.
- I pray that this kind of message can get through to youth before their first sexual encounter. The bonding in the sexual relationship is a God-given union that should take place between one man and one woman in marriage. Warn our youth about the consequences of promiscuity. Sexual freedom leads to sexual bondage when fuelled by a secular worldview.
- And I haven’t discussed the tragedy of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV.
- Therefore, ‘necking’ is a dangerous sexual ‘sport’ to play as our emotions lead from one thing to another and before long an illicit sexual relationship is formed. It is extremely difficult to convince youth of the dangers of necking and illicit sex – especially with the availability of condoms and contraceptives.
- However, illicit sex is dangerous to long-term sexual satisfaction in marriage.
- Please understand that what I have written above will be challenged by secular psychologists and counsellors who do not understand the deep nature of God’s purpose in sexual intercourse, of bonding through one man for one woman. I have tried to share this with some counsellors and it zooms past them.
God upholds healthy, heterosexual, monogamous relationships as His intention for us. But Genesis 3 tells how the male-female relationship fell from innocence. The entry of sin into the human race caused sexuality to become depraved. All of us are sexually vulnerable. As a result, the heterosexual relationships are just as fallen as homosexual tendencies. So we have a world invaded by fornication (premarital sex), adultery, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, polygamy, polyamory, etc. Andrew Comiskey explains:
Comiskey, A 1989. Pursuing sexual wholeness. Lake Mary, Florida: Creation House.
Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vol 1. London: Evangelical Press.
White, J 1977. Eros defiled. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
Copyright (c) 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at 14 October 2015.