I wore a purity ring, didn’t date in high school, and grew up without cable television. I was homeschooled, with involved parents. I was the poster girl of the purity movement. Yet secretly I was consumed by sexual shame, and not until college did I finally confess my sexual struggle to someone.
Sadly, my story is not unique.
In the church, millions of men and women of all ages struggle with various sexual sins. Though Christians acknowledge and address this topic with much more vulnerability than they have in the past, we don’t always understand the root cause of the struggles. Sexual sin doesn’t start with porn, erotica, or any other deviation. It starts with the thoughts we entertain and the desires we indulge.
To address these issues, we must understand the connection between how we think about sex and how we act sexually.
Not all of us struggle with sexual temptations. Not all of us encounter porn or erotica, struggle to set boundaries with boyfriends and girlfriends, or battle sexual problems in marriage. But many of us face a different kind of sexual struggle—our twisted view of sex itself. A biblical perspective on sex can transform our lives, allowing us to enjoy this gift from our Creator and giving us a way to share the gospel with others.
Marriage Between Two Sexes—a Broken Symbol
God intended for marriage to be a beautiful picture of intimacy—woman taken from man, and man becoming one with woman again. But he intended it to be not merely a picture of intimacy between a man and woman in marriage, but also a picture of the unity we will experience with God and one another in heaven someday.
Marriage and sexuality are not constructs of society. They are divinely instituted and lovingly designed. Genesis 1 and 2 reveal God’s marvelous intentions in the creation of man and woman: they were made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Their physical differences perfectly complement one another, and they could not fill the earth and appropriately care for the world without each other (Genesis 2:18). Adam and Eve’s marriage brought the two together in an intimacy through which all the people of the world were to be blessed.
If only things had stayed as good as God designed them. But sin, brought on by the fall of man, has twisted marriage and sexuality. Genesis 3 records the first breach of intimacy, when man hid in shame as God called to him. Consequently, in the fallen world, sexuality between men and women became broken by sin, characterized by multiple marriages and sexual relationships with partner after partner instead of two people intimately walking as one until death.
Today, we can see that the sinful world’s sexual perspective is very different from God’s perspective in Scripture. Without the foundation of the Bible, our culture’s understanding of sex is fluid and ever-changing, guided by vague personal guidelines with no moral point of reference.
Sadly, the church doesn’t always counter this perverted sexual perspective in a biblical way. Unless we are intentional about maintaining a biblical perspective of sex, we can unconsciously adopt the culture’s perspective shown in movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, and websites. Fearing that worldly sexuality will infiltrate the church, some Christians swing to the opposite extreme, teaching about sexuality focused on reputation and appearances rather than attitudes of the heart.
This teaching is usually well-intentioned, encouraging purity pledges and rings or following specific rules for dating and courtship. But when these methods are divorced from the heart of purity—a heart that loves God, loves his Word, and is led by the Holy Spirit into holiness—they become nothing more than behavior reform. Purity teaching focused on behavior may motivate people to be outwardly “pure,” but it causes Christians to think about sex in terms of rules rather than as a blessing from God and a picture of our eternal future.
Both the church and the world have given us a skewed perspective on the gift of procreation and pleasure from a loving Creator.
Why Our View of Sex Matters
I used to associate sexuality with sin because this was the context in which I’d learned it. When our sexual perspective is distorted, sexuality becomes shameful, not something God meant to be celebrated as sacred.
Reframing our view of sex is vital if we want to accept God’s sexual perspective. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In this case, we need our minds to be renewed by what God’s Word says about sexuality.
Our perspective can’t match the beautiful depiction of sex described in God’s Word if we embrace the negative way our parents may have talked about sex, the guilt of legalistic teaching, lies from past sins, or current cultural messages. We need to remove the lies and replace them with the truth!
These three scriptural truths about sex can help us reframe our perspective.
- God made us sexual—and that is
a good thing!
Because sex is so often discussed in a sinful context, we can forget the goodness of our design—a goodness experienced when we obey God with our sexuality. Genesis 1:27–28 tells us, “Male and female he created them.” We reflect God’s glory through every part of our being, including our physical design.
- Sex is a depiction of covenantal
According to Deuteronomy 22:13–21, sex was (and is) a form of a “blood covenant” between two people because the virgin lost the physical “evidence of her virginity” when consummating her marriage. The Old Testament authors viewed sexual activity as something that should only take place within marriage because sex was only for two people in covenant to one another before God. When we think of marriage in terms of covenant, the image of Christ and the church becomes that much more powerful. God’s covenant with Israel gave context to the weight of the marriage covenant, just as our covenant with God through Christ does for us today.
Isaiah 54:5 expressed God’s unwavering commitment to Israel when the prophet wrote, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name.” God is the perfect covenant-keeper, utterly faithful to his Word, and he expects us to protect our marriage covenant with this same loyalty. That should tell us something about how glorious and holy sex really is, as an integral part of the marriage relationship.
- Sex is holy and honorable when
experienced in God’s context of marriage.
We know that to turn a blind eye to sexual sin is to demean the beauty of sexuality, but we can also demean sexuality by refusing to discuss it at all. To be silent about the beauty of God’s design is to allow culture to spread a false narrative about one of the Creator’s most amazing gifts. Many married Christians still view sex as a source of guilt and shame, refusing to embrace the holiness of sex for those in Christ. Let us remind them that through the gospel our shame is removed!
These truths prove that Scripture does not present sex in a discouraging way; in fact, the only time sex is described negatively is in the context of sin outside of marriage (Proverbs 5; Matthew 5:28; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 18; 1 Thessalonians 4). All other references to sex celebrate its goodness and delight in the glorious intimacy God meant it to be (see Proverbs 5:18; Song of Solomon; 1 Corinthians 7; Hebrews 13:4).
In fact, sexuality is a means for us to preach the gospel!
Sex and the Gospel
Once we’ve renewed our minds to God’s perspective, we are able to communicate the goodness of sexuality by embracing this gift within the bounds of marriage. We absolutely must adhere to the scriptural standard for sexuality: one man with one woman for life. This isn’t a popular message in a world that adopts a loose definition of marriage as being between any combination of people of either gender.
It’s a delicate and difficult balance—communicating the positivity and beauty of God-designed sex while still explaining how sin has corrupted and changed his intention and design for marriage.
But God’s standard ultimately emphasizes his love, not his condemnation. Therefore, our motive in communicating the biblical sexual standard should be loving as we use the truth to point people to the creator of marriage.
When our view of sex agrees with God’s Word, we find that sexuality was designed to bless us and to glorify the one who created it. It functions to raise up image-bearers who fill the world with God’s glory and truth. And perhaps most often overlooked, it brings us joy! The kindness of God to design something that can give men and women enjoyment in marriage shows us just how loving our Creator is.
A biblical marriage also points to the ultimate unity and joy that will come when those who have believed in Christ will live in harmony with him and their fellow believers for eternity. The institution of marriage will be done away with, along with sexual activity. A greater marriage will have taken place—the union of Christ and the church. This eternal perspective gives even greater power to biblical sexuality.
Once our perspective of sex aligns with Scripture, we become a picture of the gospel to the world. Imagine the power of millions of Christian marriages proclaiming the goodness of God’s design and pointing our culture toward the ultimate unity of spending eternity with Christ in heaven!
5 Ways Singles Can Stay Pure
Even as a single person, your view of sex affects how you talk about sexuality with others, how you deal with sexual temptation, and who and how you date. A skewed perspective twists our mindset about our bodies and drives a wedge in future sexual intimacy in marriage. Second Corinthians 6:7 encourages us to walk in purity, by the Holy Spirit, with “weapons of righteousness.” Purity is a weapon you can use to fight against the enemy’s twisted version of sexuality. Faithful, joyful purity is so rarely seen that people can’t help but ask about the God you serve. Here are five ways you can pursue purity as a single person.
- Learn to recognize lust
for what it is.
Men and women alike struggle with lust. We must be willing to recognize and address lust in our hearts and minds. You can recognize lust because it objectifies people, satisfies itself first, twists God’s design, and ultimately usurps God’s authority by ignoring his sovereignty and setting up its own sexual standards. Lust doesn’t always manifest in things as obvious as a pornography addiction. It might simply be a desire to consume romance novels because the storyline seems harmless—even though the content is subtly shifting our view of sex. Only when we’re honest with ourselves can we address the lust in our minds.
- Set up safeguards.
The line between healthy safeguards and legalistic rules is thin. How do we pursue holiness without serving rules rather than God? The key is in your daily walk with the Lord. Perhaps make yourself accountable to others through apps like Covenant Eyes and Accountable2You, but remember that sexual safeguards only work if your heart desires holiness. And your heart will only desire holiness if you are frequently, even daily, exposed to God through his Word and the Holy Spirit. If you aren’t sure what safeguards to set, ask God to give you wisdom (James 1:5), and ask advice of others (Proverbs 11:14). Be willing to adjust your boundaries as the Lord leads you.
- Walk in God’s grace.
Those who have struggled with sexual purity often find it difficult to accept grace. We know we don’t deserve God’s favor. But in order to walk in victory, you must embrace the grace God has given through Christ. Dwelling on past sins leads to further defeat. Repenting and trusting the redemption of Christ leads to victory.
- Live according to your
identity in Christ.
Through the gospel, we now wear Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are no longer identified as sinners separated from God but as dearly loved children. We can embrace this identity by listening to the Spirit leading us into obedience. When you live according to this gospel identity, you will make choices that align with God’s standard for sex.
- Lean into your faith.
A life of sexual self-restraint forces us into a life of faith because we must intentionally and continually trust God with our sexual desires. God cares about this struggle and promises not to let us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). As we rely on him, we come to trust him more for strength to overcome our lust. Someday our struggle will end when all things are made new. Believers will “neither marry nor [be] given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30) and will enjoy perfect unity with Christ for eternity.