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God's Design, Part 2: Sexual Intimacy

Updated: Nov 27, 2023


God's Design for Sexual Identity

This blog post is the second in a 3-part series on God's Design for sex. This series is rooted in our ministry's three core Statements on Sexuality. This post is focused on expounding Statement 2: Sexual Intimacy.


We believe God created sexual intimacy to be experienced only in the exclusive, covenant bond of marriage between one man and one woman.


The above statement can be broken down into 4 main points that will be explored further:

  1. God created sexual intimacy

  2. To be experienced

  3. In the exclusive, covenant bond of marriage

  4. Between one man and one woman


God Created Sexual Intimacy


"We believe God created sexual intimacy..."


Since we established the framework for “God created” in the first blog post of this series, we won’t revisit it here. This is the foundation of all three of our ministry statements on sexuality: sex and everything about it was created by God.


Let’s define what we mean by the term sexual intimacy, as this can be a term that might carry different meanings based on context. When we use the term “sexual intimacy” we mean the act of sex and the exclusive physical and emotional bond it creates.


In the same way that God created human beings “male and female,” he also created the act of sex that joins a man and woman together in a completely unique way. Sex is not like a handshake or hug, nor is it an accident or the result of evolutionary necessity for the propagation of the human race. Sex was invented in the mind of God.


Because God created sex, it is good. Many Christians (all people, really) need to be reminded of this. For many Christians who were raised in “purity culture” or highly conservative, strict traditions, sex is often viewed as dirty and bad. For others, sex is idolized; it is taken beyond something that is simply good and is viewed as a must-have, ultimate need or desire. Neither view is correct. God created sex, said it was good¹, and gets the final say on how it is to be engaged.


Let me highlight just a few of the ways that God created sex as a good act²:

  • Sex creates new life.

  • Sex bonds a couple through the release of specific hormones³.

  • Sex causes physical pleasure and can alleviate some types of pain⁴.

  • Sex motivates us to transition from childhood to adulthood by pursuing a mate.

  • Sex has multiple health benefits, such as increased heart health, lowering blood pressure, increasing muscle strength, stronger immune system, better sleep, and better mental health⁵.

  • Sex is a metaphor of the gospel⁶.

Sex is good. Science simply confirms what God created. But we all know that sin has had a terrible effect on this good creation. Everything that God created was good, but sin takes all of it and distorts it into something other than what God intended it to be. But even though sin distorts what God created, it cannot destroy God’s good design. Therefore, no matter what sin has done in your life related to sex, God still created sexual intimacy and said it was good.

To Be Experienced


"We believe God created sexual intimacy to be experienced..."


When God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, he blessed them and said: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:28) This first command by God included sex. How else could the only two humans on earth “multiply” and “fill the earth”? God created sexual intimacy to be experienced by the human beings he created.


This may seem like an unusual aspect of our statement on sexual intimacy to highlight as its own section in this blog post, but it is important for two reasons. First, the way some Christians dismiss or discourage sexual intimacy you might imagine that God made a mistake when he created sex and never truly intended it to be experienced by anyone. Second, because marriage is a specific and repeated metaphor that God uses throughout Scripture to point us to the gospel and our relationship with him, we must understand that God wants us to ultimately experience him. In the same way that sex is to be experienced in marriage, this visceral, tangible, pleasurable, dynamic, exclusive union between husband and wife, we are to experience a visceral, tangible, pleasurable, dynamic, exclusive union with Christ. Faith isn’t merely to be academic; it is to be experienced.


Sexual intimacy is to be experienced, just like faith in Christ is to be experienced. Imagine a young couple on their wedding day. They are filled with excitement and anticipation. Friends and family are gathered for this joyous occasion. Bride and groom stand at the altar and profess their vows to each other. Then, just before the officiant declares them husband and wife, he pulls the couple close and whispers in their ears, “You are legally married. Congratulations. Now, make sure you don’t seek out any ‘experiences’ with one another.”


How do you imagine that couple would respond to such a statement? They would likely be perplexed and astounded. What? Don’t seek out any experiences with one another? What are we supposed to do, then?


I know it’s a ludicrous illustration, but it signifies how many approach faith in God. They “say the prayer” and “sign on the dotted line” in order to complete the “legal” union. But then proceed to engage in a distant, academic exercise of rule-keeping and never truly lean in to experiencing God. That’s not how faith—or sex—was designed by God to work. Both are to be experienced in the relationship in which they were intended; faith in the covenant bond of grace, and sex in the covenant bond of marriage.


In the Exclusive, Covenant Bond of Marriage


"We believe God created sexual intimacy to be experienced only in the exclusive, covenant bond of marriage..."


As stated earlier, sex is a unique expression of intimacy, unlike a handshake or hug. Because God created sex as such a unique act, it must remain in the context for which it was made: marriage. There is no other relationship in which God allows sex to belong. What, then, is marriage?


Marriage is the God-ordained, public, legal covenant binding one man and one woman together for life. This relationship must be prioritized; husband and wife are to relate to one another in a way that is exclusive, especially when it comes to sex. There are many other aspects to marriage that can be experienced (and even encouraged) in other kinds of relationships, but sex is not one of them. And even the personal intimacy that accompanies sex in marriage is exclusive to the relationship.


When a husband and wife engage in sex together they form more than merely a physical bond. God designed sex, with the hormones and chemicals released in the brain, to “meld” husband and wife into “one flesh.”


Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

–Genesis 2:24 (emphasis added)


God didn’t design any other kind of relationship (parent-child, sibling, friend, neighbor, teacher-student, etc.) to engage in this type of intimacy. Marriage is exclusive when it comes to sexual intimacy. This is why we mustn’t be casual about sex. It is the singular act that God created to bond two lives together in a way unlike any other kind of bonding. And because marriage and sex are metaphors of the gospel, when we distort sex and marriage, we distort our understanding of the gospel.


Between One Man and One Woman


"We believe God created sexual intimacy to be experienced only in the exclusive, covenant bond of marriage between one man and one woman..."


We live in a culture that is awash in every form of sexual brokenness. This has led to the breakdown even in understanding historically common terms like man and woman. But no matter how broken society may become on these topics, the truth of God’s design in creation cannot ultimately be destroyed. When it comes to sexual intimacy in marriage, it must only occur between one man and one woman.


Why only one?


It has been said already that marriage (and sex in marriage) is a metaphor of the gospel: the Good New of Jesus Christ. The metaphor is painting a picture of the greater truth of the gospel. We see this metaphor described the most clearly in the following Scripture passage:


Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

–Ephesians 5:25-32 (emphasis added)


The gospel message is clear: there is only one Christ and only one Church. In the passage above, Christ is described as the Husband and the Church his bride. One Christ, one Church. The picture God created in marriage, one man with one woman, is not accidental. It is instructive, helping us to better understand the gospel.


It must also be stated that marriage is the lifelong covenant of one man with one woman. This, too, is not accidental. Let’s revisit the metaphor of marriage.


In marriage, the man enters the woman in the act of sex and new life is created.

In the gospel, Christ enters the Church by the act of faith and new life is created.


If you distort the metaphor by replacing man with woman or vice versa, you distort the gospel. For example, if two men get “married” they can never produce new life. The same is true with two women. Sexual intimacy in marriage, by God’s design, is intended to produce new life, just like the gospel of Christ produces new life in his bride, the Church.


God’s design for sex in marriage was not accidental or arbitrary. It was intentional so that we might gain a beautiful picture of a similar kind of “oneness” that God longs to have with his beloved people. Let us praise God for his sacrificial love for his bride; that he “gave himself up for her” that “she might be holy and without blemish.”


Conclusion


Sexual intimacy is a gift from God reserved for one man and one woman in the lifelong covenant bond of marriage. It is exclusive to that relationship and not to be experienced with anyone outside of marriage. More than that, it is a beautiful picture that God uses to point us to the ultimate “marriage” between Christ and his Church. Let us protect the metaphor so that we do not distort the message of the gospel.



 

¹Genesis 1:31

²This list is highlighting the goodness of sex as God designed it. Some of these statements may be difficult to accept if you have experienced the pain and harm that comes when sin distorts God’s design.

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