What Does the Bible Have to Say About Physical Intimacy?

Series: Preacher: Date: September 17, 2000 Scripture Reference: Genesis 2:18-25

18 – The Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.

19 – Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

20 – So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

21 – So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.

22 – Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.

23 – The man said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.

24 – For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

25 – The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Every pastor faces the same decision 52 times a year-that is, what to preach on each Sunday…what subject to deal with from the perspective of Scripture. And I’m like my peers, because I constantly wonder, How can I best use my 52 opportunities to deliver God’s word to you-the wonderful believers who make up Redland Baptist Church? Well, most pastors rely, at least in part, on the liturgical calendar to guide them in this decision. They focus on Pentecost on the Sunday set aside for that purpose…usually sometime in May. This calendar of course also suggests that they plan messages dealing with the texts surrounding Jesus’ triumphal entry, crucifixion, and resurrection during Holy Week each spring and on those that tell of Jesus’ birth in December.

Some pastors grab a teachable-or preach-able moment by planning sermons that focus on holidays or special calendared events. Based on this principle thousands of pastors decided to deal with the subject of end times when the year 2000 dawned. This principle motivated me to focus on what the Bible has to say about work on Labor day. And, this is why if you walk in a church on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, you will probably hear a sermon on parenting or marriage.

Many pastors feel led from time to time to plan a series of sermons on a particular passage of scripture…like I did last year when we looked at the 10 Commandments. I’ve even heard of ministers taking years to preach through an entire book of the Bible, a few verses a week.

Other times, pastors choose to deal with an issue because they feel that their people need to hear what God has to say about something that they are confronting. This is why I chose to focus on waiting on God a few weeks ago for, I have observed over the past several months many of you have had to learn to do just that.

But, often the main reason pastors preach on a particular topic is simply because they have a lot of information in their library on the issue. They feel God has prepared them to deal with a topic by providing enough content to fill a message or series of messages.

So, there are several different reasons that pastors preach on certain texts or topics-which brings us to the focus of this morning’s sermon, which is of course physical intimacy.

Why preach on sex? What would motivate me to deal with this topic from the pulpit? Since I announced that this would be the subject of three Sunday’s worth of sermon time many of you have either asked me questions like this or inferred by your gracious comments that you wondered about my rationale. And in answer I would say that I DIDN’T decide to preach on this topic because I have volumes of books in my library dealing with this issue. There is no holiday devoted specifically to sex. You certainly won’t find this topic listed on the liturgical calendar.

No, I think God has led me to deal with this sensitive issue simply because…you and I hear so much about sex these days. From television to magazines and the entertainment industry, we are constantly bombarded with sexual messages and innuendoes. This week as I studied I wasn’t really surprised to read that SEX is the most frequently used word on search engines on the Internet. It is also the most popular hook used to attract viewers to mainline talk shows and films. Sex is used to sell everything from perfume to high performance vehicles. Ours IS a SEX-saturated culture.

And, unfortunately, society’s slant on sex tends to be totally contrary to that of scripture. In fact, I defy you to listen to a conversation at the office without an off-color joke eventually emerging or to read the newspaper without finding a sexually explicit advertisement or to make it through a night of television without finding somebody who’s climbing into bed with somebody he or she is not married to. By the way, do you realize that 90% of all sexual encounters on television and the movies are between unmarried people? Before the average American turns eighteen, he or she has witnessed more than seventy thousand images of sex or suggested sexual intercourse between people who aren’t wed to each other.

Well, in the midst of all this, I think it is very sad to note that the church is basically silent on the topic of sex. Recently the chaplains at the University of Nebraska took a survey of incoming freshmen and asked them this question: How much influence did your church play on your views of sexuality? Of the freshmen surveyed, only 2 percent said that they church had ANYTHING to do with their views of sexuality….ONLY 2 PERCENT! I think these young adults replied in this way because down through the years pastors have said very little about this subject from their pulpits. And often, when Christian leaders HAVE dealt with this topic, they’ve misinterpreted the Scripture’s teachings. Even St. Augustine, whose book, Confessions, has inspired millions of believers down through the centuries concluded that, since sex has caused mankind such struggle and heartbreak, he wished God had dreamed up a better idea.

Well, due to the fact that the world says so much about sex and the church so little, many people-some of them Christians-have come to believe that, while God may be omniscient and omnipotent and while He’s certainly holy and merciful, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to sex, people really know better than He does. More and more have come to think that the Bible is outdated and outmoded when it comes to this issue. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth for, God’s word contains everything that is true and lovely and right about sexuality. And, unlike today’s media and the SILENT church, God’s written word tells it like it REALLY is: from the rapture of married love, to the agony of adultery; from the struggle for sexual purity to the ever-present temptations of desire.

So, I’ve have chosen to deal with this topic because I think we as Christians need to decide here. Will we listen to culture or to the Creator when it comes to this issue? And, to help you with this decision I have decided to devote three weeks of sermon time to focus on this subject. Today, I’ll try to form a foundation by looking at what the Bible says on this issue as a whole. Then, next week Steve will build on this by helping us to understand both the pressures our teens face in today’s anything goes culture and our need as parents to talk to our kids about this subject, to show them by our actions that God’s way really is best….that when it comes to sex, TRUE LOVE really does WAIT. And then on October 1st, I want us to look at what Scripture has to say about homosexuality so that we can see how we as grace-driven believers can learn to combine our scripturally-based convictions on this issue with Christlike compassion.

Well,let’s begin. What does the Bible have to say about physical intimacy?

1. First off, it clearly says it was God’s idea from the beginning.

Sex wasn’t some evil practice that started after the fall of man. It wasn’t part of the curse. No, physical intimacy was God’s plan all along. In Matthew 19:4 Jesus said to the Pharisees, Have you not read that the One Who made them at the beginning, ‘MADE them male and female?’ Our Lord was reminding them-and us-that God came up with sexuality. He designed us as sexual beings. When Eve was brought to Adam and he said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, he wasn’t complimenting her personality! You see, nothing in all of creation up until that point could satisfy Adam’s yearning for a partner. And God gave him that yearning. As verse 25 of today’s text infers, our sexual desires are not a result of our sinful nature for there was no shame in mankind’s sexuality before sin entered the world. Remember, at the end of the sixth day God looked at His creation…including man and woman and said, It is VERY good.

Now why did God create sex?

  • Well, one reason is obvious….He did so for the purpose of procreation.In Genesis 1:28, God says to Adam and Eve, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Physical intimacy then is the God-given means by which we conceive children and populate our families and the world. It is a creative, life-giving act. Ed Young writes, God could have chosen any number of ways for the human race to multiply, but in His wisdom, He gave us sexual bodies that fit together perfectly and a natural desire for the opposite sex and the ability to create new life through that physical union.
  • But God also made sex for the purpose of pleasure. The Living Bible’s paraphrase of Proverbs 5:18-19 (which is the tamest version I could find) says, REJOICE in the wife of your youth. Let her charms and TENDER EMBRACE satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with DELIGHT! The context of this proverb plainly teaches that sex is an experience intended not just for the propagation of the race…but for the MUTUAL ENJOYMENT of husband and wife. Do you realize that there are parts of our bodies that have function other than to give us sexual pleasure?! So, the enjoyment of physical intimacy was an intentional part of God’s divine design, not a serendipitous by-product. God MEANT for sex to be a powerfully pleasurable experience. He could have made sex merely functional-but He did not. NO, He made it to be a thrilling, passionate act-full of potential for physical delight.

And, this is one sexual truth that the Church has avoided speaking of throughout history. Augustine wrongly concluded that sex should be for procreation and nothing more. And Martin Luther wrote, Intercourse is never without sin; but God excuses it by His grace because the estate of marriage is His work… These great men were right on many things but they were wrong here. For, God’s word speaks openly of the pleasures of sex. If you doubt this read the Song of Solomon from start to finish in a modern translation! Even the Apostle Paul, not known for his personal enthusiasm for marriage urged Christian wives and husbands not to withhold physical intimacy from each other. (I Corinthians 7:3-6 )

So sex WAS and IS God’s idea.. Our desire for physical intimacy and companionship are a reflection of our design. There is nothing inherently evil about our sexual longings. Charles Swindoll tells of receiving a letter from a woman who said that she did not marry until she was 31 and up until that point she prayed regularly for a husband. She said that every night before she went to sleep she hung a pair of man’s pants on the bed post and knelt down to pray this prayer:

Father in heaven, hear my prayer, and grant it if You can;

I’ve hung a pair of trousers here, please fill them with a man.

Swindoll shared the letter with his congregation and a few weeks later he got the following note from one of the mothers in his church:

Dear Chuck, I am wondering if I should be worried about something. It has to do with our son. For the last two weeks I have noticed that before he turns the light out and goes to sleep at night, he hangs a woman’s bikini over the foot of his bed. Should I be concerned about this?

Well, she needn’t be concerned. There is nothing wrong with yearning for a husband or a wife. This longing is just a reflection of the way God designed us.

2. And then, a second thing the Bible teaches about HUMAN sexuality is that it is unique.

Now, many people in our society today would argue that sex is the same for us as it is for animals. They would say that it’s a basic and straightforward appetite, similar to the hunger for food or the instinct for self-preservation. But to describe it in these terms is to greatly minimize its significance and purpose. For, the Bible makes it clear that there is much more involved in human sexuality than the satisfaction of an instinctual physical urge. We are NOT merely animals.

No, we are created in the image of God and because of this our sexuality is more complex and multifaceted than the urge of animals to mate. Sex involves every aspect of our human being-the physical, the psychological, the emotional, and the spiritual. You see, by it’s very nature sexual intercourse is a soul-uniting act. When you engage in sex you’re not just touching somebody’s body. You’re touching the essence of their being.

As Christians we must especially take note of this fact, because our souls are different than those of non-believers. When we give our hearts and lives to Jesus, scripture teaches that His spirit comes and resides within us. So, when we sin sexually, we drag His spirit into it. I Corinthians 6:15-18 warns us of this when it says:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never. Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘the two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality.

So, sex for human beings IS unique. It’s much more than just a physical act. In his paraphrase of the New Testament, Eugene Peterson renders I Corinthians 6:16 in this way, There’s more to sex than mere skin to skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, ‘The two become one.’ Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever-the kind of sex that can never ‘become one.’

You see, this is why there is so much hurt and guilt tied up with sex outside of God’s guidelines.

Ask people who are divorced, and they will tell you that there is nothing as painful as pulling apart two souls that were once united. This is why people who engage in physical intimacy with someone to whom they are not married, feel such an emptiness. Their souls have been robbed.

There has been a touching of the spirits of two people without the life-long commitment that is supposed to go along with the act.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis refers to our text for this morning and writes,

The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside of marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (sexual) from all other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.

So you see, it is ridiculous for people who ignore God’s guidelines for sex and get involved in an adulterous affair and then use that all too common disclaimer, It didn’t mean anything. That is just not true. Ask the adulterer’s spouse what it meant to him or to her! There is no such thing as a meaningless affair. For a human being sex is never meaningless. Physical intimacy for us is far different than it is for any other created thing. And this leads us to something I’ve been inferring from the beginning of this message…

3. …for the Bible also clearly states that there are boundaries to sexual expression.

God, didn’t design sex so that anything goes. He created it-programmed it-to function within clearly set limits. In Leviticus 18:6-18 God specifically says, NO to incest-or sex between members of our immediate family. God also says NO to sex between persons of the same gender. Romans 1:24-28 is only one of the passages where He repeatedly, specifically warns against this, the practice of homosexuality. In Exodus 22:19 and Leviticus 20:13-16, He also says NO to sex with animals, or bestiality. In Matthew 5:27-28, God also says NO to indulging in sexual fantasy for anyone other than your marriage partner. That is lust. Scripture also teaches that God says NO to sex that is painful or forced or violent. This is abuse and it is not part of His design. I Corinthians 13:4-7 and Philippians 2:3-4 would apply here.

And, as I have already said this morning, God says NO to sex with anyone other than your husband or wife, for God designed sexual expression specifically for marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Now, we must understand that God established boundaries around sexual intimacy not to be a KILLjoy but to ensure MAXIMUM joy. He meant for sex to be a blessing, not a burden…a delight and not a disaster. And, only those who honor God’s boundaries for sex will experience the true blessing that God intended sex to be. For, everyone else would be using physical intimacy in a way it was not designed to function.

Now, in our world of sex on the second date, live together before you are married, and homosexual activism, any principle of sexual boundaries sounds out of place. But it is true. God wired us emotionally so that sex outside of marriage is not nearly as fulfilling or enjoyable as it is within that secure bond. Even John Gray, the author of the popular Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, concludes that sex and commitment are definitely made for each other. He writes:

“What makes sex really great is love. The more you get to know someone and continue to grow in intimacy and love, the more the sexual experience has a chance to thrive.”

The biblical truth is that sex DOES thrive in an atmosphere of committed love. God’s design for pure sex reserves its full expression for the marriage relationship: one man, with one woman, for life. A couple years ago a team of researchers at the University of Chicago released a long-awaited scientific study titled Sex in America, and their findings support this principle. Their research revealed that married couples report having more frequent sex than their supposedly swinging single counterparts. The data they collected also indicated that couples who consider themselves religious or claim a church affiliation are just as sexual as those who do not. They have even concluded that the married women reporting the highest degree of sexual satisfaction were conservative Protestants!

In spite of research like this many people choose to ignore God’s guidelines and say, Doesn’t it make sense to try out a relationship before you commit to another person for a lifetime? I mean, you wouldn’t invest 20,000 dollars in a new car without test-driving it would you? So, why not take your potential spouse out for a spin? It seems logical that you’re more likely to have a better marriage in the future if you try out each other sexually in the present. And today almost two thirds of adults opt for this reasoning. But stats show that those who live together before they marry are twice as likely to get divorced after they do marry as those who don’t try things out first. Studies have also shown that the more premarital sex you have before marriage the less likely you will be happy in your future marriage and the more likely that you and your spouse will cheat after you are wed. While couples often think that premarital sex will strengthen their eventual sex life when they are married, research shows that the exact opposite is true. You see, this is why I Thessalonians 4:3 says that it is our Designer’s will, …that [we] should be sanctified: that [we] should avoid sexual immorality.

This week I read an interview conducted several years ago by Phyllis George. She was interviewing the then Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubbach and it was a dull interview until Phyllis asked, Roger, how do you feel when you compare yourself with Joe Namath, who is so sexually active and has a different woman on his arm every time we see him? Staubbach replied, Phyllis, I’m sure I’m just as sexually active as Joe. The difference is that all of my activity is with one woman. Now, whether you are a Cowboys fan or not you have to agree that Staubbach hit the end zone with that comeback. Like millions of other Godly husbands and wives he has discovered that sex with one woman for life is the source of true joy when it comes to physical intimacy.

And then, before we leave this place today I think we should note one last very important thing….

4. …You see, the Bible also teaches that all of us need God’s forgiveness when it comes to our sexuality…

Now, in church it’s easy for people to pretend that they don’t have a problem when it comes to sexual sin. But in Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus said that all of us have failed in this area. Each of us present this morning have failed when it comes to obeying God’s guidelines for sexuality. Some of us ignore God’s standard by fantasizing about someone other than our spouse in inappropriate ways. Others are so keenly aware that they live in a society that idolizes sexual attractiveness, that they find themselves too attached to the need to appear sexually desirable or jealous of someone who is more attractive than they are. They might even find themselves regularly flirting inappropriately to prove their attractiveness. Maybe you are like many who struggle with some form of sexual addiction or like others who grapple with homosexual feelings that they have yielded to.

Many of us carry deep guilt in this area for one or more of these reasons…but nothing we have ever done is so bad that it cannot be covered by Jesus’ death on the cross. NOTHING. We can trust that God’s forgiveness is readily available to all who ask for it. God delights-He absolutely revels-in answering the kind of prayer that King David uttered after his own sexual sin when he prayed: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. When we come to God with a heartfelt request like that, He WILL forgive and cleanse and make all things new.

In his new book, Fresh Faith Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City tells the story of Amalia, who grew up in the projects of lower Manhattan, the third of seven children. Her father was an alcoholic and whenever he drank he beat Amalia’s mother. Amalia could hear the beatings from her room as she lay in bed at night. Amalia loved her mom so one night, when she was in fourth grade, in an effort to protect her mom, Amalia offered to swap beds. She shares that this was the biggest mistake of her life for on that night her father began to molest her and this continued for years. It got so that Amalia felt her father would start fights with her mom…just to insure these incestuous sleeping arrangements. She began to hide a knife or a screw driver under the mattress to use to kill her father if he touched her again but she never had the courage to do so. This went on until she was sixteen when, basically to get away from her father, she married a boy in the neighborhood named Richard. Richard introduced her to drugs and after the marriage ended, less than a year later, Amalia entered a life of addiction getting money anyway she could in an effort to stay high 24 hours a day. She became physically involved with one man after another and some women as well. At one point she tried to straighten herself out and went to school to become a bartender. But the only job she could get was as a barmaid at a Go Go bar. She ended up working there as an exotic dancer, stripping for the much higher salary. She did this for four years, still going from man to man, getting pregnant several times and each time having an abortion. But eventually, out of curiosity, she decided to have a child and she named him Vinny. Her pregnancy cost her her job and so she moved in with her mom. Her dad had left years before. She worked while her mom watched Vinny but she still struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and regularly came home stoned. Once, when her latest lover broke off the relationship she became suicidal and began to plan to end her life by jumping from the East River bridge. But, about this time her sister’s husband, Mickey, became a Christian and began to talk to Amalia about the Lord and how his relationship with Jesus helped him kick his drug habit. He invited her to the tabernacle and there she heard Pastor Cymbala say, Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done. He will forgive you and take you past whatever has been done to you in life. Amalia responded to the invitation that morning and in a powerful congregational prayer service she gave her heart and life to Jesus. Amalia said that night she got the best sleep she had in years….no nightmares…no drugs…no self-hatred…no despair. She felt clean inside for the first time. She got active in a discipleship group and the people in the church began to see her change before their eyes. Her eyes brightened. Her wardrobe changed. She began to carry herself like a godly young woman instead of what sin had made her become. She found a job as a receptionist in a small law firm, then moved on to a Wall Street insurance company. Eventually Amalia joined the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

A year or two later, when the church held a big public concert at Radio City Music hall, she was asked to share her testimony just before the choir sang a song entitled, I’m Clean. The lyrics went like this: There is a blood, a cleansing blood that flows from Calvary, and in this blood there’s a saving power, for it washed me white and made me clean; Through the blood that Jesus shed I’m truly free… While the choir sang, they showed a series of slides on the big screen-one picture after another that Amalia had loaned them. The hardness and degradation kept building until finally the frame dissolved slowly into the beautiful woman she had now become, in a sequined white choir gown. As they watched it seemed that all six thousand people present broke down in tears.

I share Amalia’s story this morning because like her all of us HAVE failed when it comes to God’s perfect standards in this area. All of us need His forgiveness this morning. And, as Amalia discovered, when we confess God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us.

I realize that our response to this morning’s message may need to be private. We may need to simply bow our heads and ask God to forgive us praying that He would help us renew our minds so that we look at our sexuality from the unchanging perspective of the Bible as we commit to live according to the guidelines of our Creator instead of our culture. Husbands and wives may need to respond by promising to make time to renew their covenant to each other — to make their marriage…including its physical aspect…all that God intended it to be. You many have a sexual addiction and realize your need to admit your sin to God and promise to get help and find someone to pray with you and keep you accountable. You may be living together and today you see your need to honor God with your obedience. You may even be on the brink of becoming involved in an affair, but whatever your sin, don’t let it separate you from your loving Heavenly Father. Confess it to Him and ask His forgiveness and cleansing.

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