Ministry Resources

Sexuality In God’s Design

One of the most beautiful relationships in life is that of a man and a woman who join in marriage and become one flesh. Human sexuality is a gift from God which not only enables us to bring children into the world, but also provides for the most intimate union possible between a man and a woman.

Some of life’s greatest problems arise when men and women abuse their sexuality. Many people try to deal with their sexuality without benefit of God’s revealed wisdom and His enablement to keep their bodies in subjection. As a result, they find themselves trapped in a lifestyle which is unholy and damaging both physically and emotionally.

God has not left us without very specific instructions to govern the powerful sexual drive within us. Whether you are married or single, God expects you to exercise control in this area of your life. The instructions He has given in His Word set the boundaries for sexual expression. Disobedience brings guilt, shame, suffering, and sin into your life. Obedience will make it possible for you to serve the Lord with joy and purity in the distinct sexuality which is His gift to you.

Sexuality And Celibacy

It is common practice today in many parts of the world for unmarried men and women to establish short-term relationships for the purpose of meeting their sexual “needs.” Sex has become so glamorized by the world that young people feel deprived and unfulfilled if they are not sexually involved. The biblical pattern of celibacy (unmarried and without sexual involvement) is unpopular and often unheeded.

Is it possible for a person to remain celibate? Certainly it is! We can draw on the same divine resources to avoid temptation in this respect as we do in other areas of our lives. The Scripture we discussed in Lesson 1—1 Corinthians 10:13—can be applied to our sexual desires as well as to other desires. God will give you the power to resist temptation to sin, and this includes the sin of sexual involvement outside of marriage.

Why does God forbid sexual involvement outside of marriage? There are many reasons, and all of them have to do with His love and concern for you. He wants to protect you from these serious problems that we see all around us today:

1. Illegitimate children. Children born outside of marriage do not have the privilege of both a father and mother to care for them and fulfill the duties of parents. Often they are neglected and unloved.

2. An increase in abortions. Many unmarried women choose to have their pregnancies aborted surgically, rather than give birth to a child outside of marriage. This often results in feelings of guilt for taking the life of the unborn child, causing intense spiritual turmoil and emotional pain.

3. An increase in venereal disease. People who involve themselves sexually in casual relationships take a high risk of contracting a venereal disease such as syphilis or gonorrhea, which can also affect unborn children, cause blindness, and cause other physical or mental problems. There is also the threat of AIDS.

4. Emotional scars. God did not plan for the act of sex to be separated from a permanent love relationship. When there is no love commitment between sex partners, the result often is a feeling of rejection, or of being abused and degraded. Feelings of guilt cause mental anguish and self-condemnation.

Celibacy is the only alternative to marriage sanctioned (approved) by the Bible. In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, the apostle Paul advises those who are unable to remain celibate to marry. Maintaining celibacy in a single life is likely to be more troublesome for someone who is unwillingly single, and who does a lot of thinking and day-dreaming about sex or about being married. In Lesson 6 we saw that the single person who is committed to Christ is a gift to the church. The best way a single person can cooperate with the Lord in maintaining sexual purity is to guard his thoughts (James 1:14-15). In Lesson 2 we talked about the importance of guarding your thoughts so that you will not be tempted to sin. The Lord can and will help you in this regard if you have made up your mind to keep yourself pure. Live your life in joy and obedience to the Lord. Trust the future to Him in all aspects. He will help you in every step that you take.

Here is a Scripture which will help you deal with sexual needs from the right perspective:

Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:12-13, 19-20).

God has provided a way to control sexual desires rather than giving in to them. That way is called sublimation—it involves the channeling of sexual tensions into worthy activities. Sublimation is defined as “the mental process by which basic sexual drives are unconsciously converted into other socially acceptable endeavors.” Real satisfaction can be found in work, play, social, and religious activities. Sexual energies may be channeled beneficially into art, literature, music, athletics, prayer, devotional study, Christian service, or other meaningful activities that captivate your mind and interest.

Young people should also be encouraged to stay active physically by exercising regularly, engaging in sports, and avoiding lethargy. This will help keep the sexual drive under control and assist the young person refrain from fantasizing and masturbation. Avoiding sexually explicit television programs and movies is also necessary. Though these measures may seem tough, they work and help produce purity.

It must be pointed out that sexual desire is not a sin—it is part of our physical makeup and is a gift of God. But it is to be kept in complete subjection until the time of marriage. The Lord can and will provide a fulfilled, overcoming life for the unmarried person who will seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). If it is God’s will for you to remain unmarried, He will enable you to discipline this area of your life so that you can “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2).

The apostle Paul acknowledged that the gift of celibacy was not for everyone, but those who have it can be a special blessing to the kingdom of God as they devote themselves to God’s will and serve Him without distraction.

Sexuality And Marriage

Sexual relations are a normal, honorable part of marriage. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us: “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).

The apostle Paul, recognizing the powerful force of human sexual desire, encouraged those Christians who were experiencing difficulty in controlling this desire to marry, so that they would not be tempted to sin (1 Corinthians 7:9).

What was God’s purpose in designing the sexual act as an important part of the marriage relationship?

One purpose, of course, is procreation (producing children). It was God’s plan that the earth be populated with human beings, and so He gave them the desire to have physical union to bring forth children.

For most living creatures, sexual relations take place only during the periods of time when the female can become pregnant. But God created men and women so that they would have sexual desire even during the woman’s infertile periods. So the sexual relationship is not limited to the purpose of bringing children into the world. Another purpose of the sexual act is oneness. This oneness includes the pleasure experienced in communicating sexual love. God has given the husband and wife the right to enjoy this pleasure regularly.

Oneness is referred to by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6. The apostle Paul later quoted these words of Jesus when he used this mysterious feature of oneness in the marriage union to picture the spiritual relationship of Jesus Christ to His church:

“For this reason 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 (Ephesians 5:31-32).

The aspect of oneness is used as a strong argument against immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:15. Paul explains that since, in the sexual act, the two partners become one, and since believers’ bodies are parts of the body of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit, an immoral sexual act is a terrible sin against Christ as well as against the body.

God’s Word gives clear instructions concerning sexual relations within marriage. We will summarize them here:

1. Marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

This is confirmed in the words of Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6):

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.”

Thus, sexual relations are permitted only between a man and his wife. This is a lifetime relationship. If either of them enters into a sexual relationship with another person, the one who does so is guilty of the sin of adultery.

2. Mutuality is the rule for sexual relations within marriage (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). Both husband and wife are each to consider the needs of the other, with love, mutual respect, and understanding. Paul says very clearly that the husband is not master of his own body, but his wife is. Just as well, a wife is not master of her own body, but her husband is. They are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

In Ephesians chapter 5 the Holy Spirit again prompts Paul to picture the submission and love between Christ and the church by using the illustration of the intimate marriage relationship.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord . . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything . . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church . . . . He who loves his wife loves himself . . . . However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:22-25, 28, 33).

3. The husband and wife should not refrain from sexual relations except by mutual agreement. Consent is key. However, such an agreement should preferably be for a short period of time only, woman and man satisfied as to not fall into temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5).

There are other valid reasons for a period of no sexual activity, such as a need for travel to conduct business, serious illness, emotional seasons of healing, etc. However, refraining from sexual relations within marriage is not to be done without good reason and by mutual consent. So too is communication key in understanding the reason for why your partner needs this time of refrain. Listen to your husband or wife and cherish and honor them through the times of sexual breaks.

4. Sexual relations safeguard the marriage. I wonder how many times one partner in marriage has committed adultery because the other partner failed to respond to her or his sexual needs. Normal sexual relations within marriage should keep the married person from giving in to Satan’s temptation to look elsewhere for satisfaction because of a lack of self control, or because of bitterness. Sexual relations are to be a mutual time of love, adoration, and tender care to your wife or husbands desires. No one persons needs should be seen as higher than the others.  Both are to enjoy this time with one another. It is these moments of love and oneness within sexual relations that safeguards a marriage and makes the act of adultery unfathomable.

The physical union between a husband and wife who love and respect each other provides a basis for a strong marriage and a strong family unit. The love and affection of parents for each other will be felt by their children, who will respond with love and affection.

Disapproved Sexual Practices

God hates immorality. He has given clear instructions in His Word concerning what is, and is not, permissible. During Old Testament times, sexual immorality among the Israelites was punishable by death to those involved.

Leviticus 20 also makes it clear that husband and wife are not to be close blood relatives. Sexual relations between close blood relatives is called incest and is strictly forbidden by Scripture. It is also strictly forbidden by most societies of people worldwide.

There are three disapproved practices which are serious problem areas in today’s world, and which we wish to discuss briefly in this lesson. They are adultery, fornication, and homosexuality. Christians need to be aware of the danger of temptation in these areas in order to guard themselves or to help others who may be involved in such sexual immorality.


Adultery is sexual relations between a married person and someone to whom he (or she) is not married. It can be between a married man and a married woman who is not his wife, or between a married person and an unmarried person. It is also called extramarital sex.

One of the ten commandments is this: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). This Scripture is repeated and the commandment is emphasized many times in the Bible. (See Matthew 5:27-28; Matthew 19:9; Romans 13:9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28 are a warning to each of us to guard our thoughts carefully and avoid circumstances which might lead us into temptation in this area of our lives. He said: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Many acts of adultery are the result of careless words or behavior that may have seemed quite innocent to begin with, but which developed to the point where temptation occurred. The Bible tells us to run, to quickly get away from such temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18). Daily spiritual preparation will help you to conduct yourself in a Christlike way in all your relationships with members of the opposite sex. (We discussed spiritual preparation in Lesson 3.)

I know of a man who was a strong spiritual leader in his church. He became sympathetic to a widow with two small children, and often took food to her or made repairs when they were needed in her home. This led to close acquaintance, and the relationship developed slowly until eventually they were overcome by temptation. The man’s testimony was ruined, both he and the woman were shamed in the eyes of their families and friends, and there was much pain experienced by all those involved. Even though they repented, and stopped seeing each other, much damage had been done in their lives and in the lives of others. What started perhaps as a spiritual ministry ended in disaster.


Fornication, which involves sexual relations other than between a man and his wife, also refers to sexual relations between unmarried people. We discussed this earlier in the lesson when we talked about celibacy. Sexual relations between unmarried people are referred to as premarital sex.

The apostle Paul concludes chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians with these words: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” A sinful body does not bring honor and glory to God. You honor Him by keeping yourself pure, free from sexual sin. You honor Christ, who paid the penalty for your salvation with His own body through suffering and death.


In some parts of the world, homosexuality (sexual relations between two people of the same sex) is openly advertised as an “alternative” lifestyle. However, the Bible clearly declares homosexuality to be sin.

1. It is sin because it is contrary to principles of sexuality that God established. Human sexuality was planned at Creation to be monogamous and heterosexual (one man with one woman). When people choose to be homosexuals, they reject God’s principles of sexuality. Romans 1:18-32 explains how this comes about: they do shameful things, they exchange the truth about God for a lie, and so God gives them over to shameful passions. Romans 1:28 says, “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”

2. It is sin which comes under divine judgment. “God’s anger is revealed from heaven against all the sin and evil of the people whose evil ways prevent the truth from being known” (Romans 1:18 TEV) (See also Genesis 19:4-11; 24-23.) Genesis 19 describes God’s severe judgment on the city of Sodom where the sin of homosexuality was widespread. (See also 2 Peter 2:6 and Jude 7.)

This is not a hopeless situation. The sin of homosexuality can be cleansed and forgiven. In the church at Corinth were former homosexuals who had been delivered from the bondage of this sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul lists homosexuals among those who cannot inherit or possess God’s kingdom. But later in verse 11 he wrote: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Dealing With Sexual Problems

It would be impossible in this short space to discuss every type of sexual problem and ways of dealing with each one. Some sexual problems are of a physical nature which may require the help of a physician. Most others would basically be a sin problem, and the solution for those would be repentance and a renewed life.

God Forgives 

In dealing with someone who has been involved in sexual sin, there is an important message to share with them: God forgives.

No matter how people may judge you, nor how terrible the results of your sin, there is always forgiveness in Christ. He will not only forgive your sin, but He will help you to have a renewed life!

A Renewed Mind

Those who have committed sexual sin can be assured that not only has God forgiven them when they confessed their sin, but also they are given a renewed mind as they yield themselves to God’s will. They are no longer under the condemnation of their sin, because they have been set free from sin. This is what the Bible says about it:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin death . . . . Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires . . . the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:1-2, 5-6).

Problems concerning the sexual aspects of life can be especially sensitive and troublesome. But God is sufficient for every problem if we are obedient to His Word. For this reason, knowing the Bible principles which apply is of great importance. We have given you these principles in this lesson. Put them into practice in your own life, so that you may “. . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind” for the instructions He has given so that you will be able to avoid temptation and honor God as the temple of His Holy Spirit.

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