1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 'It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should
avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in
a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do
not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage
A good servant, a bad master
In the first lesson of this course—Temple Maintenance: You and your body—we noted
that sex is one of the basic bodily drives. Like the other drives, such as hunger
and the need for sleep, it has to be kept in its place, and the Bible provides some
clear guidelines to help you with this.
Kept in its place, sex is a good servant. But if you allow it to assert itself it
will quickly become a tyrannical master that will make your life a misery.
Sex is God's gift
Sex is a gift from God, given by him before the Fall (Genesis 1:27-28). Because God
gives only good gifts (James 1:17), sex is fundamentally good. In fact God views
sex within marriage so highly that he uses it to illustrate the intimacy of Christ's
relationship with the church:
Ephesians 5:22, 25, 31-32 'Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…Husbands,
love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…"a man
will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become
one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.'
So sex is good, but it can, of course, be abused, as we shall see.
Variations in sex drive
The sex drive is stronger in some people than others, and some have none at all.
Matthew 19:12 'Some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made
that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.'
By 'eunuchs' he meant people who did not marry and have sexual relations. He mentions
three reasons why people take this course:
Some lack any sexual drive and therefore have no interest in sex at all.
Some men have been castrated, rendering them incapable of sex.
Some choose to abstain from marriage and sex in order to concentrate on God's work.
Jesus himself was in this category.
The third category, however, does not mean that celibacy is a higher state than marriage.
On the contrary, the Bible assumes that sex within marriage will be the experience
of most people, and there is a whole book of the Bible devoted to it: the Song of
The only context in which God permits sexual activity is marriage. The key element
in marriage is not sex, as some imagine, but the commitment of a husband and wife
to one another in a lifelong relationship. Sex is one of the ways in which that commitment
finds ongoing expression:
1 Corinthians 7:2 'Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own
wife, and each woman her own husband.'
God gave us sexuality for two purposes:
For procreation. It is the means by which the human race is perpetuated.
For pleasure. Sexual activity is God's provision by which a husband and wife can
express and confirm their mutual love and commitment.
Hebrews 13:4 'Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure,
for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.'
This verse mentions some non-permissible ways of sexual expression. Let's now consider
what God says about these and some others.
Adultery takes place when a married person has sex with someone other than their
marriage partner, and God condemns it without reserve. It is a denial of the marriage
promises and brings misery to all concerned, including children of the marriage.
Because adultery is such a serious threat to marriage and family life, God included
a clear word about it in the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:14 'You shall not commit adultery.'
3. Sex outside of marriage
God opposes sexual activity among unmarried people, too. It is sometimes called 'fornication'.
Sadly, today this is considered normal, but it produces a sad harvest of spoilt and
ruined lives. Avoid it at all costs because' God will judge…all the sexually immoral'
(Hebrews 13:4). The fact that 'everybody does it' is another good reason for you,
as a Christian, not to do it. The Bible says:
Romans 12:2 'Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould' (J.B.
Take a stand on this issue and 'keep yourself pure' (1 Timothy 5:22).
In spite of efforts by gay and lesbian liberation movements to have homosexual sex
accepted and approved, the Bible condemns it outright—as it does other forms of sexual
perversion, like bestiality:
Leviticus 18:22-23 'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman
must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a
God overthrew the Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the rampant
homosexuality in them (Genesis 13:13; 19:1-29). The New Testament is equally clear.
Describing those who reject God, Paul says:
Romans 1:26-27 'God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged
natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural
relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent
acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.'
While as Christians we reject homosexuality as a form of sexual expression, we must
have compassion for those caught up in it. By embracing the gospel, they can be delivered—as
some of the Corinthian believers had discovered (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Moving towards marriage
The Bible says, 'Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers' (2 Corinthians
6:14). Marriage is a 'yoke'—it compels two people to walk together, and that's impossible
if only one of them has a commitment to Christ.If you're single, make up your mind
now that you'll only marry another Christian.
If you develop a relationship with another Christian that might lead to marriage,
don't overdo the physical aspects, which can easily get out of hand. Heavy petting
of the kind that normally precedes sexual intercourse is unwise when, as believers,
you can't go on to intercourse until you're married. So set limits for yourselves
and look to God for help to stay within them.
Self-control is a great Christian virtue and part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
Galatians 5:16,22-24 'Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of
the sinful nature…The fruit of the Spirit is… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.'
Flirting is dangerous. It has been called 'attention without intention'. It plays
at relationships with no serious intention, which devalues the kind of man-woman
relationships that God wants people to build.
So avoid it, and treat members of the opposite sex with respect. Paul told the young
man, Timothy, what his attitude should be to the younger women in the church:
1 Timothy 5:1-2 'Treat…younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.'
Masturbation is self-stimulation in order to find sexual satisfaction.
The Bible says nothing explicit about it. But it's clearly wrong if it's accompanied
by sexual fantasies and becomes addictive. God meant sex to be 'other-oriented',
that is, providing satisfaction for one's marriage partner (1 Corinthians 7:3-4),
whereas masturbation is 'self-oriented', that is, satisfying only oneself.
It's hard to imagine that Jesus, who was 'tempted in every way, just as we are' (Hebrews
4:15), took this route when faced with sexual pressure. There's no need for you to
take it either. There are, however, many Christians who see masturbation as God’s
provision of a way of releasing sexual tension without engaging in illicit sex. You
must make up your own mind before God as to how you view it.
3. The mastery of sex
Sexual desire is like a burning fire (Proverbs 6:27-29). A fire in the house is fine,
so long as it's in the grate. If it's in the middle of the lounge floor, you've got
problems! The right place for sex, as we've seen, is in marriage. If you're single,
keep yourself for your husband or wife when the time comes.
In the meantime, or if you intend to stay single, avoid sexually stimulating reading
and TV, and channel your energies into other activities. Above all, walk closely
with the Lord. That's the route to a life of fulfilment and joy, as countless single
Christians have discovered.
Learn by heart
1 Corinthians 7:2'Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own
wife, and each woman her own husband.'