What Does the Bible Say About Sex?
Today, I’m sharing how to develop a Biblical worldview regarding sex.
There are a few myths that persist when it comes to this important area.1
Myth #1: Sex is an unavoidable drive, a natural appetite, and therefore no big deal.
Myth #2: Sex is a necessary form of self-expression – a way to “be yourself” and “find yourself.”
Myth #3: Sex is a private matter between consenting adults-it’s nobody else’s business.
Myth #4: It’s a sin to experience same-sex attraction.
Myth #5: Singleness is too difficult-especially if that means no sex.
Myth #6: Marriage is all you need to fulfill your relational needs and eliminate loneliness.
Myth #7: Marriage means you will no longer struggle with sexual desire toward others.
You might not think about sexual ethics too often; however, consider what has shaped or is currently shaping your views on the subject. No matter what age or stage of life we’re in, all of us are exposed to various sexual ideologies.
There are messages about sex in movies, TV, music, news, advertisements, books, podcasts, YouTube videos, Facebook, Instagram reels, Tiktok, Twitter, and every other social media. In addition, you’ll hear sexual opinions from family members and friends, co-workers and strangers, politicians, counselors, pastors, and just about anyone. Added to these are our own individual desires that can shape our perspectives.
Generally, our culture’s message is to do whatever makes you happy as long as you’re not hurting anyone. But followers of Jesus must consider instruction from scripture that goes against our culture’s message. Often this creates a level of friction.
As I’ve said before, my role as a pastor is not to tell you what to believe but to teach you how to let scripture shape your beliefs through the lens of following Jesus.
Followers of Jesus should view sex and sexual ethics through the filter of scripture.
Let scripture shape your beliefs rather than confirm existing viewpoints.
Let’s walk through these four questions to develop a biblical worldview on sex and sexual sin:
1) Why are sex and sexual sin important?
God created sex as a beautiful act of intimacy. The One who made it also gave instructions for it.
Sexual desire itself is not a sin. However, just because a desire is there doesn’t mean that it is God-given or that we should act on it.
Darrin Belousek points out an important reality: “Due to our fallen condition, all human perceptions and experiences are subject to the effects of sin. Due to sin, all my loves — my affections and attractions, my desires and devotions — are susceptible to deviations from God’s design.”2
This reality impacts married and single people alike.
2) What biblical principle applies?
Biblical principles are timeless and unchanging. Because it’s tempting to search for scriptures to confirm beliefs, finding biblical principles requires reading multiple scriptures in context and asking the Holy Spirit to guide into all truth.
Here are a few scriptures to discover biblical principles on sex and sexual sin:
“Jesus replied, ‘Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'” Matthew 19:4-5 (NLT)
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)
“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 (NLT)
“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 (NLT)
The biblical principle:
Jesus affirms God’s design for marriage between a husband and wife, teaching his followers to trust God’s design to enjoy these gifts in the way he intended.
Biblical marriage is a lifelong exclusive commitment between husband and wife. Any sexual encounter may have lifelong consequences; therefore, it should come with a lifelong commitment. Paul addressed sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed as the result of desires corrupted by sin.
3) How do followers of Jesus guard themselves?
Jesus made it clear that there is a difference between having a desire and acting on that desire. In a conversation with his disciples, he said, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you” (Matthew 15:19-20).
Jesus made this list of all the things that originate from the heart, which is why we shouldn’t always trust our hearts. The heart is susceptible to desires that cause us to drift from following him.
Murder doesn’t start as an act. It begins as a thought of anger and hate.
Theft doesn’t start as an act. It begins as a thought of wanting what you can’t have.
Adultery and sexual immorality don’t start as acts. Both start as thoughts of sexual desire that can lead to an act that goes against what scripture teaches.
Just because you have a desire doesn’t mean you should act on that desire.
Do our desires and actions align or compete with devotion to Jesus?
4) How do followers of Jesus care for one another in this area?
Treat others the way Christ treated us. To the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you. But go and sin no more” (John 8). Jesus accepted her where she was and challenged her to change.
He taught his followers to love one another. He didn’t shy away from the truth. He didn’t accuse nor condemn, but he was clear, direct, and kind.
Jesus accepts people where they are and challenges them to change.
And he taught his followers to do the same.
1 I’m grateful for the work of Dave Detwiler and Timothy Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage”; which addresses this subject with grace and truth and influenced this essay.
2 Darrin Snyder Belousek, “Marriage, Scripture, and the Church.“