Originally published at https://www.rethinknow.org
What does the Bible say about sex? It’s one of the most searched for and sought after questions on the internet. Yet despite the interest much of what you will find in your searches is based more out of opinion and not the Bible. So I want to take a look at sex in the Bible and see what it really says and means for us today.
Disclaimer About What The Bible Says About Sex
But before we dive in we need to clear a few things up…
I will be approaching this topic from a Biblical point of view. We will obviously disagree if that is not where you are coming from. That’s okay.
If you are not following Jesus, what the Bible says about sex isn’t really a question that should concern you. Instead you should wrestle through who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and what impact that holds for you. That comes first.
I say that because many Christians try to force a Christian sexual ethic upon non-Christians. I don’t want to do this in this article. I don’t think that’s right. If you aren’t following Jesus I’m not trying to hold you to these standards. The Bible makes clear this is the standard that Christians are held to. And I don’t think that’s right or effective to force them upon others.
Figure out who Jesus is first. The rest will follow. More about that here: Following Jesus (and what that means)
Finally, if you are following Jesus and find yourself in disagreement with what I am writing, keep in mind I’m simply pointing to what is in the Bible. Take it up with God. Study what the Bible says. Our beliefs should be rooted in something solid and not in what we think is right.
Okay, with that in mind, let’s dive into our question, what does the Bible say about sex?
What Does The Bible Say About Sex?
So, what does the Bible say abut sex? A lot.
We will look at the implications for us in just a minute, but before we do that I want to look at a few Bible verses about sex.
Bible Verses About Sex
We often view the Bible as a clean and family friendly book. And parts of it certainly are. But other parts are extremely sexually explicit.
Since the Bible talks so frequently about sex I’m going to paint with wide strokes; if you want a more compressive list check out: Bible Verses About Sex
The classic example of sex in the Bible is in Song of Solomon. Today we read this book as a cute little relationship between two lovers. But this is no PG encounter; it’s an explicit picture with sexually charged imagery. It’s so explicit that the Jews didn’t let their kids read it until they became adults. Take Song of Solomon 5:14 for example. Most translations simply state, “his body is polished ivory,” but that’s missing the point. What the wife is doing in this passage is comparing an elephant tusk to her husband’s… you know… In other words, she is saying he is WELL endowed. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; this book is full of sexually charged imagery.
The Bible regularly talks about the beauty of a sexual relationship in a marriage (Proverbs 5:18–19). But that’s not all the Bible talks about in regards to sex.
Maybe of the most familiar Bible verses about sex to us today are the passages that give boundaries regarding sex (Leviticus 18, 1 Corinthians 6:15–17, 1 Corinthians 7:3–4, Matthew 5:28). Seriously check out Leviticus 18:7, God had to say it because someone actually did it, gross… We will deal with the rules regarding sex in a minute.
Those are the parts that come to mind when we think of the Bible verses about sex … But there’s some pretty disturbing stories involving sex in the Bible that we often just ignore.
Here’s just a few:
- Lot has drunken sex with his daughters… Ew… (Genesis 19:30–32)
- In Genesis 38:8–9 Onan disobeys God by “waste the semen on the ground”… I’ll let you figure out what that is implying.
- Judges 13–16 is one of my favorite stories of a sex-crazed maniac that goes around killing people (read more here).
- Ezekiel 23:20 is just a crazy verse that compares Israel’s actions to lusting over a donkey’s genitals.
- Even the man after God’s own heart commits adultery (2 Samuel 11) and then covers up the illegitimate child with murder. And just to be clear this was David’s doing, Bathsheba most likely had little to no say in the sex or murder.
- The New Testament gets in on the action too. A woman CAUGHT IN THE ACT of adultery is brought to Jesus (John 8:1–11). Literally caught in the act and probably still naked.
- Paul has to remind people in his churches that sleeping with your father’s wife is a bad idea (1 Corinthians 5:1)… Seriously, some people…
Although the Bible shares stories of some pretty extreme sexual misconduct, that doesn’t mean it condones it. Rather it is regularly condemned.
And we could go on… But I think the point’s been made. Sex in the Bible is a very common topic. And not just about the good of sex and the rules of sex, but also it tells stories about how sex is used and abused. The Bible doesn’t shy away; it talks openly about sex in such detail that would shock most Christians.
But the question still remains, what does what the Bible says about sex mean for us today?
Sex In The Bible (what it means for us)
Now that we looked at the question “what does the Bible say about sex?” I want to distill some of that information into application for us today.
Sex Is A Good Gift
The church has often portrayed sex as a dirty act. It places the spotlight on abstinence and the avoidance of sexual sin. Although not intentional, sex is often viewed as dirty and shameful by the church. But I think that’s backwards. We should be focusing on the goodness of God’s plan for sex. It’s a gift that should be honored, cherished, and enjoyed.
Side note, I think this is the primary failure of the purity movement. While good-intentioned they took the focus of the goodness of sex and placed it on the avoidance of sex.
Now I’m not saying there’s no rules or guidelines when it comes to sex, there are. We will get there in a minute. But primarily sex is a good, God-created and ordained act. The church should be known for portraying it as such.
Great resource: For Couples Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
Singleness and Celibacy Are Also Good (and a gift)
We need to hold these first two points in tension. While sex is a good gift, so is singleness. Sex is not the end all be all. It’s not what makes you human. It’s not what we often build it up to be in our culture. It’s good, but it’s not ultimate.
Let me say it this way. You can live without sex. Not only that, you can thrive and live fully while being celibate. Several key characters in the Bible were single and celibate. And Paul talks about at great length the benefits of not being married (1 Corinthians 7).
So many people today define themselves by their sexuality. It’s who they are. But the Bible doesn’t do that. The Bible defines you by who made you, who’s image you bear.
Sex is good, but it’s not ultimate. Singleness and celibacy are also good. They are all precious gifts that we should use and enjoy.
Sex Is Not Just Physical
Our culture primarily sees sex as a physical act. And that’s certainly an element. However it’s much more than just physical, it’s also emotional AND spiritual.
I think it’s easy for us to buy into the idea that sex is emotional. For the most part we get that. But sex is also spiritual.
That’s why in Genesis 2:24 we are told that husband and wife become one flesh. In the New Testament Jesus and Paul quote that verse and expound upon the spiritual nature of sex.
Sex is not just a physical act, it’s a spiritual mingling in which two people become one.
When you reduce sex to just a physical act it’s easy to argue why you should be able to sleep with whoever you want. But the reason the Bible gives guidelines for who we sleep with is precisely because it’s not just physical. There’s something going on that we cannot fully see or understand.
Sex Has Rules (for our protection)
A good and loving parent always gives their children rules. Letting a child do whatever they want is not loving. Rules keep children safe, healthy, and help them develop. We all know that. But for some reason we fail to take that same reasoning to God. We think a loving God should let us do what we want, what we think is best. A good God should have no rules.
Because God is a good and loving father he has given us rules. Not to kill our joy and end our fun. But to protect us, to keep us healthy, and to help us grow into who we are created to be.
Sex has rules. God ordained rules. Why? Because God loves us and wants what’s best for us.
Yet many Christians have reasoned their way to a belief that it doesn’t really matter who you sleep with. But let me ask you a question. Is it possible that God can see and understand things that you cannot? Is it possible that that rule that seems so archaic and prohibitive is actually for your good?
Here’s my point. We are finite. God is infinite. As followers of Jesus we are called to submit to what he says is the correct way to live because we believe he has our best interests in mind. Even when it doesn’t make sense to us.
So yes, sex has rules. But probably not as many as you think…
The Bible clearly and consistently says sex is reserved for marriage. Anything outside of that is going against what God says is good. That’s not God being a killjoy. It’s God protecting us from harm and wanting the best for us.
Now, within the confines of marriage there are few, if any, rules surrounding sex. As long as the husband and wife are both consenting and no third party is involved (physically or virtually) then more or less anything goes. Some people will try to put more strict rules in place for sex within marriage, but they are baseless claims that simply aren’t supported in the Bible with a proper reading.
Again, let me remind you that we are looking at what the Bible says about sex and viewing sex from a Christian perspective. I’m not interested in forcing a Christian sexual ethic on someone that’s not follow Jesus.
But if you are following Jesus this is what God says is best. You don’t have to understand it all, but we are called to trust and follow him even when things don’t make sense. He has our best interests in mind, even when it might not seem like it.
Closing Thoughts About Sex In The Bible
I intentionally addressed this question “what does the bible say about sex?” a little differently. Most of the articles I’ve read on it address like a FAQ section, “is it okay for a Christian to _________?” Those have their place, but I think many simply miss the point. The Bible doesn’t talk about sex in that way, and I wanted this article to reflect that.
There’s so much more that could be said. But I’ll save that for future blog posts. There’s just no way to address this topic fully in a few pages.
But let me say one more thing… I intentionally did not directly talk about homosexuality. That’s a topic that deserves much more space. But let me just say this. The church is well-known for throwing stones and condemning the LGBTQ+ community. I wish that wasn’t so… They are people so incredibly loved by their creator. We all have sin in our lives, but praise God that doesn’t disqualify us from finding forgiveness and acceptance at the cross. I wish the church was known for leading with love and not just heaving condemnation. We, the church, have severely alienated the LGBTQ+ community from Jesus. It’s possible to stand on truth in a loving manor and by and large the church has failed to do so. That is not okay and needs to change.
I will write more in-depth about that one day, but an EXCELLENT book on the topic of homosexuality in the Bible for now is: People To Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue