The Bible and Sexuality: A Closer Look
That is a topic that many don't think belongs in a church, let alone a study bible. As I have written before, Christians might consider. I wrote five things (and you can find the full article here).
The first four included:
First, we need to move beyond discomfort on the subject...
Second, we need to answer the critical questions people are asking...
Third, when talking about sex, hype does not help...
Fourth, teaching on sex, or at least the same levels of teaching on sex, is not for everyone...
The fifth point included this information:
Fifth, we need to talk more, not less, about sex.Yes, the Song of Solomon is about a relationship and, yes, sex-- let's grow up and stop pretending it's only an allegory. I know this is shocking to some, but let's get honest. God is pro-sex, and I am thankful for the Song of Solomon which shows that clearly.
As Danny Akin explains:
The book portrays the deep, genuine love between a man and a woman in marriage. The subject of the book is quite obviously sexual in nature. The intimacy and physical pleasure God intended for a man and a woman is tastefully and appealingly put on full display before us. (Daniel L. Akin, Song of Songs,Holman Old Testament Commentary, 135.)
We should be able to speak about sex as the Scripture does, addressing the abuses and idolatry of sex in our culture, while calling one another to live godly lives where we enjoy God's good gifts as well as the Giver of those gifts Himself. Talking more about sex should result in more biblical clarity and (yes) enjoyment. One of my favorite books that addresses this is Danny Akin's book (in addition to his commentary above), God on Sex.
Danny Akin brings his wisdom on the issue in the HCSB study bible here:
God created men and women as sexual creatures. Therefore sex should be viewed as a good gift from a great God. Sex as God designed it is to be enjoyed within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. It should be good, exciting, intoxicating, powerful, and unifying.
This "one-flesh" relationship (Gn 2:24) is the most intense physical intimacy and the deepest spiritual unity possible between a man and woman. It should remind both partners of the even more remarkable oneness that the human spirit can experience with God in spiritual new birth through faith in Jesus Christ (Jn 3). God approves of sexual relations within marriage alone, where husband and wife are to serve each other and meet each other's physical needs in sexual intercourse (Pr 5:15-21). Paul indicates that sexual problems in marriage can hamper the Christian life, especially prayer (1Co 7:5). Both husband and wife have equal sexual needs which are to be met in marriage (1Co 7:3), and each is to pursue the needs of the other and not his or her own (Php 2:3-5).
Though the Bible is not a book on sex, it does contain a complete theology of sexuality: the purposes for sex, warnings against its misuse, and a beautiful picture of ideal physical intimacy (see especially the Song of Songs). Below are some of the Bible's most important teachings on human sexuality.
God's Purposes for Giving Us the Good Gift of Sex
• Knowledge (Gn 4:1)
• Intimate oneness (Gn 2:24)
• Comfort (Gn 24:67)
• The creation of life (Gn 1:28)
• Play and pleasure (Sg 2:8-17; 4:1-16)
• Avoiding temptation outside marriage (1Co 7:2-5)
God's Commands to the Husband
• He is to find satisfaction in his wife (Pr 5:19)
• He is to find joy in his wife (Ec 9:9)
• He is to concern himself with meeting her unique needs (Dt 24:5; 1Pt 3:7)
God's Commands to the Wife
• She is to be sexually available to her husband (1Co 7:3-5)
• She is to prepare and plan to capture her husband's heart (Sg 4:9-15)
• She is to show sexual interest in her husband (Sg 4:16; 5:2)
• She is to be sensitive to his unique masculine needs (Gn 24:67)
Biblical Principles to Govern Sex
• Sexual relations within marriage are holy and good. God encourages intimate relations and warns against their cessation (1Co 7:5).
• Pleasure in sexual relations is both healthy and expected. The bodies of both parties belong to the other (Pr 5:15-19; 1Co 7:4).
• Sexual pleasure is to be guided by the principle that one's sexuality is to be other-oriented. "Rights" over one's body are given in marriage to our mate (Php 2:3-4).
• Sexual relations are to be regular and normal. No exact number of times per week is prescribed, but the biblical principle is that both parties are to provide adequate sexual satisfaction so that both "burning" (sexual desire) and temptation to find satisfaction outside marriage are avoided (1Co 7:9).
• The principle of satisfaction means that each party is to provide sexual enjoyment (which is "due" him or her in marriage) as frequently as the other party requires. Other biblical principles (moderation, seeking to please another rather than oneself, etc.) also come into play. Consideration of one's mate is to guide one's requests for sexual relations.
• In accordance with the principle of "rights," there is to be no sexual bargaining between married persons ("I'll not have relations unless you . . ."). Neither party has the right to make such bargains. This is a form of "marital prostitution" and must be avoided.
• Sexual relations are equal and reciprocal. The Bible does not give the man superior rights to the woman or the woman superior rights to the man. Mutual service is the goal.
• Whatever is safe, pleasing, enjoyable, and satisfying to both is acceptable. The body of each belongs to the other (1Co 7:4). Neither should demand from the other what is painful, harmful, degrading, or distasteful to him or her.
Daniel L. Akin
Ph. D., University of Texas at Arlington