What Does God Say About Sex In Marriage?

JacknJilAnnouncements Jan47bContrary to popularly held notions about God’s word, the Bible is actually not shy about discussing sex. Some imagine such a subject taboo to a holy God, which explains why many churches don’t talk about sex; or why they’re only broached in special conclaves like premarital counselling classes. Well, Paul wrote a letter containing instructions on sex to the Church at Corinth, and the way it was in those days, those letters had to be read openly in church. If God didn’t want the subject of sex broached in church, Paul’s letter would never have been read publicly. We tend to forget that God invented and innovated sex. How can the subject then be too “holy” for him?

And Christians have somehow given the impression that God’s attitude to sex is only about, “Thou shalt not…” The truth however is that the Bible is a veritable instruction manual on sex in marriage. It’s an authority on the subject of sex. The Bible is very real. Some of the stories are indeed graphic content. One of the most controversial characters in the Bible was a dude named Onan. One of the laws of inheritance in Israel in those days was that if a man died childless, his brother married his wife in order to produce heirs for him. That way, no lineage is wiped out. Every line is preserved. Onan did agree to marry his late brother’s wife alright. Only he was unwilling to have a child who would not be his. So whenever he had intercourse with Tamar, his brother’s wife, the Bible says “He spilled the semen on the ground.” (Genesis 38:9) God is not demure on the subject of sex. And in case you’re wondering what happened to Onan, “the Lord considered it evil for Onan to deny a child for his dead brother. So the Lord took Onan’s life…”

Now as to the question of sex during fasting, the relevant scripture is 1 Corinthians 7. That chapter would end up as a marital sex manual, no thanks to the Corinthians. The Corinthians, you see, were not your average group of Christians. God spoiled them, so much so Paul wrote, “You don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all!” (1 Corinthians 1:7) But they were the most libertine set of people Paul had ever preached to. These were guys who oppressed each other with the Lord’s Supper. (The Lord’s Supper was eaten quite differently in those days. It was proper meal, not micro cups and pressed wafers). One dude in that church actually started dating his stepmom! They weren’t shy about asking questions about sex. They actually sent Paul a set of questions by email. Okay, no email in those days, but they sent mail to Paul by courier. And I don’t mean DHL or UPS. But try and imagine the guts these guys had to send an apostle questions about sex. But they didn’t see why they couldn’t ask questions bothering them, just like the people who sent in these questions. The fact that the Corinthians could write Paul on the subject of sex and Paul answered means God wants to answer the real questions bothering us. God is very direct. He’s always hated all that pretentious and hypocritical stuff. You can always ask God questions bothering you. You have a “free and open access to God.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-6 MSG) He’s your Father. It’s religiosity that makes us imagine certain subjects taboo to God.

Why were the Corinthians so libertine? Corinth, you see, was the “Amsterdam of the Ancient World.” One of its most prominent attractions was the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love. It reputedly featured 1,000 “sacred prostitutes.” Within such a context, Paul’s celibate lifestyle became aspirational, and there were folks trying to put away their wives and married people resorting to abstinence. One of the questions they asked Paul, indeed the first question posed to him was, “Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?” They had come to view sex as sinful. These were people who tended to swing from one extreme to the other. Which explains a curious phrase Paul used in his reply about “a BALANCED and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder.” (1 Corinthians 7:2-6 MSG)

In his response Paul wrote, “Sometimes, I wish everyone were single like me – a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone anymore than marriage is. God gives the gift of single life to some, and the gift of marriage to some.” (1 Corinthians 7:7) And in the next verse Paul implies that the man with the gift of celibacy is someone able to “manage desires and emotions.” If you’re struggling to manage your sexual desires and emotions, celibacy is certainly not for you. Better marry! “The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.” (1 Corinthians 7:9)

It was in seeking to discourage a lifestyle of abstinence in marriage that Paul got to touch on the subject of sex or no sex during fasting. Which is why Paul wrote as follows: “Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting – but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it.” (1 Corinthians 7:5-6 MSG)

We can infer from this passage that sex is expected to cease during fasting. That’s why Paul says the couple must “come back together again” after the fasting period, lest Satan whacks them on the side of the head. The purpose of fasting is to subdue the body to heighten sensitivity of the spirit. It would seem that sex during fasting would achieve the exact opposite.


Now, to the question of oral sex in marriage. The Bible approach to this and other technicalities of creative libidinous exertions in marriage is TMI (Too Much Information). The Bible lays down a general principle within the ambit of which couples can exercise latitude. The general principle is the rule of mutuality, and it’s contained in 1 Corinthians 7. “Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to stand up for your rights…Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.” (1 Corinthians 7:2-6 MSG)

This is the general principle. The operational clause is, “the marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy the husband…” It’s really up to a couple how they choose to interpret that. Any nitty gritty beyond it would turn the word of God into prurience.

Lastly, the question of whether missionary position is the only “godly” position for couples. Again, TMI (Too Much Information). For the avoidance of doubt however, the Bible prescribes no sex positions. The mutuality principle gives couples latitude on sexual positions: “The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy the husband…” In other words, each partner will have personal desires and preferences during sex and the partners must seek to satisfy each other. Marriage is a “decision to serve the other, in bed or out.” The New Living Translation (NLT) is very helpful in bringing home the explanation: “The husband should fulfil his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfil her husband’s sexual needs.” (1 Corinthians 7:3 NLT) Seems pretty straightforward!

If you have any questions you can write me. Just mail me at talk2me@lekealder.com. I’d be glad to answer your questions.