Sex in a Christian marriage is a beautiful, God-designed act. It is not only for procreation, but for pleasure. God created sex in a Christian marriage for us to have physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy with our partners.
I’ve received several emails on what is ok and what is not ok when it comes to sex in the Christian marriage. While I wish the Bible included a how-to manual or a specific list of guidelines, it does not. It does however, make several items crystal clear.
Sex is Designed for Married Couples
We were created to be exclusive sexually. Becoming “one flesh” with your partner is important for satisfying sexual needs. Sex was not designed to be a group sport or for one to have multiple partners. Casual sex, or sex outside of marriage, may relieve sexual tension but fails to meet our needs for deeper intimacy that sex in a Christian marriage was designed for.
God created sex to be between a husband and wife as is written in the Scriptures:
1 Corinthians 7:2
But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.
1 Corinthians 7:8-9
Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
A husband and wife build their relationship and intimacy, one sexual encounter at a time (Of course, they do this in more ways than just having sex, but bear with me here). That deepening level of intimacy can turn “just” sex into “making love”.
Having sex outside of marriage, not only is against God’s design, but also promotes mistrust, sexual performance anxiety, and partner comparison evaluations that destroy marriage intimacy.
Sex Should Include Mutual Submissiveness
We are all different creatures with varying levels of sexual drive and interests. Usually, men’s desire for sex is higher than women’s and they enjoy more variety in the marital bed (in terms of sexual play, positions, etc.). Women, however, seek more emotional intimacy and connectedness. These differences often lead to conflicts regarding frequency of sex, specific sexual activities and more. (I write about these differences in-depth, in my book, The God Centered Marriage)
Instead of looking at these differences as barriers or another reason to fight, use these differences as an opportunity for mutual submissiveness. Talk about sex with your husband. What each of you desires in your marital bed. Discuss frequency, positions and what needs the other partner has. Come to an agreement on what is mutually acceptable and what is off-limits. Use what you learn to show respect and submission to each other.
When you do only what is mutually acceptable, you may have to make sacrifices (be submissive) to your husband. A wife, perhaps, might consider more frequent sex to please her husband (Not in the mood for sex? See 7 Tips for When You Just Aren’t in the Mood) or try different sexual positions or play that are out of her comfort zone in order to please her husband.
A husband, for example, might try to adjust his needs for sexual frequency or let go of a particular sexual fantasy. Sex in a Christian marriage should not be difficult, but should never make one spouse feel pressured or less-than.
Although, asked regularly, specific sexual activities that may be “wishes” for one or the other partner include: oral sex, rear-entry vaginal penetration, initiation of sexual activity, positions for intercourse, and mutual masturbation.
I am unable to find any Scripture against the above when it comes to sex in a Christian marriage. Paul does make it clear, however, that we are not to withhold sex from our spouses except by mutual consent.
1 Corinthians 7:5
Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Sex Should Bring Pleasure
Sexual was created to enjoyable for both spouses. If a sexual activity doesn’t bring pleasure to BOTH partners, it can lead to resentment and damage intimacy. Sex was designed for us to become one flesh
That’s not part of the design for “becoming one flesh.” If for some reason, sex is painful for either of you, consider a visit to your Dr as it, most likely, is something easy to fix (like vaginitis). Painful sex can lead to problems with intimacy, as well as sex.
While the Bible does not specifically address sado-masochistic sex or bondage, those behaviors involve one spouse having power over another and do not reflect marital submissiveness. If one partner is experiencing shame or physical or emotional pain, they should not be included in sex in a Christian marriage.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
Sex Should Focus on the Relationship of the Couple
When you are focused on each other and pleasing each other, sex in a Christian marriage is a beautiful and pleasurable act. When you introduce others into your marital bed via fantasies, pornography, etc., it forms a barrier around the beautiful intimacy that God has gifted us with.
While pornography (film, photographs, and other sexually explicit material) may provide arousal, they take the focus off of each other and introduce a third party into your marriage bed. They also increase the potential for comparison and low self-esteem. Additionally, the use of pornographic material can become a crutch requiring one or more of the spouses to need such material to perform sexually. For healthy and intimate sex in a Christian marriage, avoid pornography.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
What the Bible Says About Specific Sexual Acts
Ok, so I get that I’m to have sex with just my husband and that pornography is not honoring God, but as long a both partners are in agreement, is there anything off limits in the bedroom? What about the use of sex toys? Are oral and anal sex allowed?
These are questions that I have heard and discussed with friends. The Bible not does not address these activities, but we have to ask ourselves two key questions:
What does God prohibit in terms of sex in the Christian marriage and what does God allow for?
God does say quite a bit about sex and even Song of Songs celebrates sex in a Christian marriage. And, while His Word doesn’t address all of sexual activities that we might consider, we can look to Scripture for answers on what we should avoid and not allow in our marital bed.
The word “fornication” means any unlawful sexual intercourse including adultery. In the Bible, the Greek definition of the word “fornication” means to commit illicit sexual intercourse. It comes from the Greek word porneia which means “unclean.” This broad term includes sexual intercourse outside of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:3), sleeping with your stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1), sex with a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:13, 15-16), and adultery (Matthew 5:32).
Adultery occurs when a married person engages in a sexual relationship with someone other than their spouse. The Bible clearly condemns this act: “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) It violates the commitment made in marriage to be faithful to one’s husband or wife. .
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. – Hebrews 13:4
Adultery, is a sin and was punishable in the Old Testament by death (Leviticus 20:10). In the New Testament, Jesus elaborated on the definition of adultery and included emotional acts and thoughts, as well.(Matthew 5:28).
The Bible is very clear that for a man to have sex with a man or woman to have sex with a woman is detestable to God (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:9).
This condemnation is found in both the Old and New Testaments, so it is pretty clear that God’s position on this has not changed.
There are several Greek words which are translated as “impurity.” To become “impure” (in Greek, molvno) can mean to lose one’s virginity (Revelation 14:4), or to become defiled, due to living out a secular and essentially pagan lifestyle (1 Corinthians 6:9, 2 Corinthians 7:1). The Greek word rupos often refers to moral uncleanness in general (Revelation 22:11). This includes impure thoughts and viewing pornography.
For a married couple to become involved in sex orgies or partner swapping is clearly forbidden and goes against the previously mentioned condemnations.
Prostitution, which is paying for sex, is morally wrong and condemned throughout Scripture (Leviticus 19:29, Deuteronomy 23:17, Proverbs 7:4-27). Prostitution is also having sex outside of the marital union, which adds more credence to its condemnation in the Bible.
Lustful passion does not refer to the powerful, beautiful and God-given sexual desire a husband and wife have for each another. It refers to an unrestrained, indiscriminate sexual desire for men or women other than the person’s marriage partner (Mark 7:21-22, Ephesians 4:19).
In the Old Testament, sodomy refers to men lying with men. The English word means “sexual intercourse involving anal or oral copulation or unnatural sexual intercourse, especially of one man with another or of a human being with an animal.” Mistakenly, some Christian teachers have erroneously equated sodomy with oral sex. In the Bible, sodomites refer to male homosexuals or temple prostitutes (both male and female). In modern use, the term sodomy is sometimes used to describe anal intercourse between a man and woman BUT this is not the meaning of the biblical word.
Obscenity and Foul Language
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” The Greek word for unwholesome is very descriptive and literally means “rotten” or “decaying.” In Ephesians 5:4, the Bible warns us to avoid “silly talk” or, as it is called in some versions, “coarse jesting.” We have all been around people who can see a sexual connotation in some innocent phrase and then begin to snicker or laugh. This is wrong. However, this does not rule out the appropriate sexual humor in the privacy of marriage, but rather inappropriate sexual comments in public.
Incest, or sex with family members or relatives, is specifically forbidden in Scripture (Leviticus 18:7-18; 20:11-21).
Incest brings up strong negative emotions for most people. Incest – sex with a close relative (one’s parent, child, or sibling) is widely considered particularly depraved, as well as detrimental and stigmatising for any children who are conceived as a result of incest.
So now that we’ve pretty well covered what is NOT OK, let’s talk a bit about what is OK and how to increase pleasure in sex in a Christian marriage.
Tips for Increasing Sexual Pleasure in Your Marriage
- Both Spouses Should be Sexually Pure
In the above section, we talked about how impurity is against God’s commands. To be pure in the marriage, both spouses need to avoid immorality, unpure thoughts (about anyone or thing outside of the marriage) and have eyes only for each other. If this is an issue in your marriage, consider accountability partners to ensure that you both stay pure.
2.Both Spouses Need to Understand Each Other’s Needs
In my book, The God Centered Marriage, I talk about this in-depth. God created men and women as unique creatures. Men crave the physical aspects of sex more than women (usually, but not in all cases). Women seek non-sexual touch, emotional connectedness and support. Talk with each other and learn what your spouse needs from you and be aware that your needs may not meet your spouse’s needs. Learn to get out of your comfort zone and meet your partner’s needs.
3.Wives Should Embrace Their Sexuality
Learning how to embrace sensuality is essential because sexual inhibition will compromise sex in a Christian (or any marriage) and can harm the marriage. Learn how to love yourself and see what your husband loves about you. Practice ways to be sexy for your husband. This is a tough one for many women as before marriage, we are told that sex is bad (or at least outside of marriage) and to avoid appearing too sexual. Ask your husband what he finds appealing about you and flaunt it – for him only!
4. Both Spouses Should Recognize How Sex Can Bless Their Marriage
Understanding each other’s needs is a part of this, but sex in a Christian marriage can bless the marriage in so many ways. Sex is a gift from God. We increase our emotional, physical and even spiritual intimacy with our spouses through sex. Make it a point to have sex more often and watch your marriage blossom. (Your husband will be pleasantly surprised, too!)
5. Learn to Talk Openly About Sex
Even couples that have been married for years can struggle talking about sex, but talking about sex deepens emotional intimacy and helps you learn more about what your spouse needs, wants, and enjoys. Talking about sex also can get each of your aroused, which is always a bonus and can lead to more sex! (Which, as we know, blesses a marriage!) Talk about what each of you enjoys or would like to try. Talk about your fantasies (of course, these fantasies should only involve your spouse!). Talk about what the other recently did that made you feel good. Talk, talk, talk about sex!
6. Learn to Experiment
In any marriage, there can be a desire to “spice things up”. Anything that is done repeatedly in the same way can cause boredom – even sex. As mentioned above, talk to your spouse about sex and step out in faith to try something new. Perhaps, you and your husband can take turns trying something that you each desire.
Sex in a Christian marriage is a blessing, a gift from our Creator and a beautiful bonus of marriage. Become a student of your husband’s needs and enjoy this incredible gift from our Awesome God!
Because of Him,