This is the Bible study I taught this morning to the 11th-12th grade students at the church where God allows me to serve. As such, it is aimed at high school students, but I pray it will also be beneficial to those who are a bit older.
The Bible Says What?!
The Words of a Wife:
“My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool. His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend.”
The Words of a Husband:
“How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus. Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine. It goes down smoothly for my beloved, gliding over lips and teeth.”
It may surprise you to learn that these are not quotations from Greek mythology, The Joker by The Steve Miller Band (you older folks will get that) or a sleazy romance novel. These are, in fact, quotations from the Bible. Yes, that Bible. Specifically, they are quotations from the Song of Solomon (5:10-16a, 7:1-9). What does it mean that such language is included in the Bible? It means, among other things, that God wants people to enjoy sex. A lot. But God didn’t stop there. In his mercy, God also revealed to us both the purposes and context for sex, so that we can most fully enjoy sex and glorify Him in the process.
The Purposes of Sex.
The Bible not only reveals several purposes for sex:
1) The Glorification of God.
Sex functions as a “living parable,” as it is sometimes called, of the intimacy that exists between God and His bride, the church. A result of great sex should be the thought, “Is it possible that the presence of God is sweeter even than this? Can it be that any pleasure could surpass this? The answer, of course, is an overwhelming, “Yes.” There is a sweetness of intimacy with God that I enjoy now, but not the way I one day will. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Take me home!” This undoubtedly glorifies God by pointing the nature of His all-surpassing, all-satisfying closeness with His bride, and this is the highest purpose for sex.
2) Pleasure (Prov. 5:15-19, Song of Solomon).
If you didn’t notice from the quotations from Song of Solomon, Go created sex to surpass virtually every other earthly (not meaning “worldly,” a term used in Scripture to describe godless pleasures) pleasure.
3) Procreation (Gen. 1:28).
“Be fruitful and multiply.” If you’ve realized that babies aren’t dropped off by storks, take a few deep breaths. Great. Let’s move on.
4) Union (Gen. 2:24, 4:1).
There is obviously a biological union that takes place in sex, but there is also an emotional and spiritual union that takes place. While I can’t explain how all that works, such is the clear teaching of Scripture with overwhelming support in human experience.
5) Protection (1 Cor. 7:5).
Sex within the context of marriage guards the husband and wife from the temptation to set aside self control and gratify their sexual desires elsewhere. Though one spouse is never to be blamed for the adultery of the other (i.e., adultery is the fault of the adulterer), it is possible for one spouse to remove the safeguard of frequent sex from the other.
The Context for Sex.
God created sex with a number of God-glorifying, people-satisfying purposes, all of which are to be enjoyed within the context of marriage (1 Cor. 7:1-3). The Bible is certainly does not lack warnings (negatively) about sex outside of marriage (Prov. 5-7, 1 Cor. 5, 6:12-20, Eph. 5:3-7, 1 Thess. 4:3-8, etc.), but neither does the Bible lack affirmations that God is glorified and people are most satisfied in sex when it happens within the context of marriage (1 Cor. 7:1-3). Because of the overwhelming biblical clarity on this issue, I won’t beleaguer the point.
Common Sex Problems (And Why the Gospel Is the Solution).
Here’s a news flash: Not every married couple experiences sex the way I’ve just described. In fact, sex is frequently cited as a leading reason for divorce, clearly demonstrating that having sex within the context of marriage does not guarantee that all is well. There are virtually endless factors that can contribute to a distortion of sex in marriage, so I will acknowledge the limitations of a simple blog post and address what seem to be some of the more common issues:
1) Misunderstanding of Marriage.
As strange as it may sound, it is not uncommon to find married couples who have no idea what it is to be married. In such cases, the distortion of marriage in general trickles down to all of its parts. To learn how the Gospel lays the foundation for marriage, click here, here and here.
2) Infrequency of Sex (1 Cor. 7:5).
Work, children, general busyness, stress, fatigue, frustration, and unresolved conflict. These are just a few of the most common reasons for the infrequent sexual intimacy that plagues some marriages. While all of these factors are legitimate obstacles to overcome, it is crucial acknowledge that they are, in fact, obstacles to overcome, not excuses behind which a spouse may hide. “How do you know?”, you may ask. Well, I’m glad you asked. Infrequency of sex must be overcome because sex is intimately connected to the overall picture marriage should paint: Christ’s relationship with the church. The Gospel established unending intimacy between Christ and His bride, the church, and believers are called to diligently pursue continued intimacy with Him, hence Paul’s command to “pray continually” (2 Thess. 5:17). To properly reflect Christ’s relationship with His bride, married couples are called to unending intimacy with one another. Paul explains that married couples should have stop having sex only for a short time to devote oneself to prayer. It seems obvious that, like the command to “pray continually,” Paul is making use of hyperbole, so don’t panic when it turns out that your married life doesn’t consist strictly of sex and prayer, but be prepared and challenged to pursue frequent sexual intimacy with your spouse. The Gospel demands it, and the Gospel empowers it.
3) Marital Prostitution.
On this note, it is not uncommon for one spouse to make sex the reward of the other’s good behavior, and to withhold sex as the penalty for bad behavior. Paying for sex, whether with money or good behavior, is prostitution. Sex should always be graciously given regardless of your spouse’s behavior. This is, after all, the very nature of the Gospel: Christ graciously giving deep, satisfying intimacy to His bride despite the fact that she has never for the briefest moment been worthy of it. He gave of Himself simply because He loves His bride.
4) Selfishness (1 Cor. 7:4, cf. Phil. 2:3-8).
The Gospel is undoubtedly the most significant demonstration of selflessness the world has ever seen (Phil. 2:3-8). Since marriage is a living parable of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church, your primary aim in sex should be to genuinely enjoy pleasing your spouse… even on days when that same attitude is not (or does not seem to be) shared by your spouse.
5) Lack of Sexual Enjoyment (Song of Solomon, cf. 1 Cor. 7:9).
It’s odd to me citing “selfishness” and “lack of enjoyment” as factors that contribute to sexual misery because, at first glance, they seem contradictory. I should be selfish in sex, but I should seek to enjoy sex. The latter seems to be a violation of the first, but I am convinced that it is not a violation at all. In fact, I would argue that the latter is one of the primary ways of accomplishing the former. Here’s why: In the Gospel, God has given to us in His very presence the absolute fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11), so that the responsibility of the believer is to find all of their delight in God Himself (Mt. 13:44). So it is that John Piper is correct when he says, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” In similar fashion, the man who takes the time and spends the effort to be completely enamored not with women in general, but with his wife uniquely, viewing her as a true work of beauty, undoubtedly shows far more value to his bride than the man who views sex with his wife merely as a job to get done. If sex in your marriage, for whatever reason, devolves into joyless ritual, you must fight to regain your enjoyment of it! Future wives, pray (!), concoct new ways to serve your husbands, initiate sex with him, tell him how insanely attractive he is (and be specific), etc. Future husbands, pray (!), take your wives on dates you’ve put some thought into, plan some time for her to rest with her friends while you take care of the house and the kids, reintroduce flirtatiousness into your relationships, tell her she’s beautiful (and be specific), etc.. Fight for joy!
- Sex & the Supremacy of Christ (PDF) edited by John Piper
- Sex & the Supremacy of Christ (Book) edited by John Piper
- The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
What did I leave out that would’ve been helpful? What needs clarification? Where do my thoughts differ from yours? I would love to dialogue with you below! As always, thanks for reading.