Is the Desire for Sex Wrong?

Paul Tambrino, EdD, PhD
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Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino


Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.

Question #31 – Is the Desire for Sex Wrong?

 

In what we call the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ deals with the sanctity of sexual relations.

His teaching on this is introduced in Matthew 5:27, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

In the very next verse, He adds, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”“It is the ‘lustful’ desire upon which Jesus places His finger of reproof.”

This statement contrasts with the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, who had confined adultery to the overt act only.

Jesus’s teaching included reference to the lascivious desire of the heart as well as the outward act. The pivot of Jesus’ indirect clause is “to lust for her.” It is the “lustful” desire upon which Jesus places His finger of reproof.

However, Jesus does not say that all sexual desire is wrong. To cast any aspersion on sex desire is to impugn the integrity of our Creator God and His creation.

It is not wrong to satisfy our sexual desire and impulse in the way God has ordained. Scripture fully recognizes the propriety of that motive and commends marriage as the honorable and necessary outlet for our sexual impulse.

What is wrong is to satisfy the impulse to the sex act outside of marriage.“To cast any aspersion on sex desire is to impugn the integrity of our Creator God and His creation. It is not wrong to satisfy our sexual desire and impulse in the way God has ordained.”

Premarital sex is very widespread today and is almost taken for granted. The language used in the media and in educational circles makes its own value judgments: teens are no longer “promiscuous” (much less engaging in “fornication”), but rather have chosen to become “sexually active.”

The act of sex itself, an act that at once has profound spiritual implications to it and is a sacred gift of God, has been degraded to something quick and self-serving. How many times have you heard it said that people “hook up” for “one night stands?”

The sad truth is, schools and even parents today often normalize deviant sexual behavior. Ultimately, such language is neither neutral nor objective, but implies the legitimacy of sex outside of marriage.

“Active” is such a strong and positive word that the “sexually inactive” must be unhealthy or abnormal or “hung-up,” or so it would seem.“The sad truth is, schools and even parents today often normalize deviant sexual behavior.”

The biblical teaching on the illicitness of sexual intercourse outside of marriage is clear and unequivocal. Fornication is defined in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament as an “unconditional repudiation of all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse.”

The Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary concurs and defines fornication or the practice of fornication as “every kind of sexual intercourse outside of marriage.”

These conclusions are easily confirmed by an inspection of representative New Testament texts. No fornicator has any part in the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9) although repentance and forgiveness mean a new start. (1 Cor. 6:11)

Fornication and sexual uncleanness are repeatedly mentioned in the lists of vices the Christian is to avoid. (Rom. 1:24-32, 1 Cor. 5:10f., 6:9f., 2 Cor. 12:20f, Gal. 5:19-21, Col. 3:5, 8f)“In the long run we don’t break God’s laws; they break us.”

Toleration of the fornicator endangers the spiritual well being of the church. (1 Cor. 5:1f) God’s will for the believer is sanctification and sexual purity. (1 Thess. 4:1-5)

Problems of sexual immorality are rebuked in the church of Pergamum (Rev. 2:14) and at Thyatira. (Rev. 2:20) The author of Revelation also warns that the persistent and unrepentant fornicator is in danger of the second death. (Rev. 21:8, 22:15)

The disturbing trends in American public health confirm the Bible’s teaching that those who sow to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. (Gal.  6:8)

Persistent violation by any society of the basic principal of natural moral law will eventually reap its consequences. The British anthropologist J. D. Unwin, on the basis of a comprehensive study of ancient and modern civilizations, concluded that, “the whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has become absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.” (Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy, The Hibbert Journal 25, pp. 663-677)

In the long run we don’t break God’s laws; they break us.


A Second View – Is the Desire for Sex Wrong? by J.R. Waller

J.R. is Founder of The Greater Heritage, and host of The Greater Heritage Podcast. He holds an MBA from Rollins College, Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University and Bible Knowledge Certificate from The Master’s Seminary. He is former James Madison Institute Leaders Fellow and University of Central Florida Center for Public and Nonprofit Management Fellow.

I remember growing up at my Christian school and around my church community and sex always being treated very, well, strangely.

Every now and then at my school chapel speakers would warn us about the dangers of sex. In fact, one time we were all given bright orange cards that said on them “I will wait until ‘I do.'” Such approaches meant well, but they often confused me and even scared me. Also, neither me or my peers would walk away from such messages with a real understanding of why God places limits on sex or of the theology of sex. It was just “avoid it at all costs and stay pure.”“I quickly realized later in life that most Christian circles do a regrettably poor job at handling the topics of sex and sexuality”

While often well intentioned, I quickly realized later in life that most Christian circles do a regrettably poor job at handling the topics of sex and sexuality. Either they don’t talk about sex…at all, or if they do its in a strange way (i.e. sex is evil, or purity is the only way to have a blissful marriage, both of which are false by the way).

Also, I can count the number of sermons I’ve heard that have mentioned the topic or that have been preached from Song of Solomon on one hand, and I’ve heard a lot of sermons! Of course, many congregations have audiences with multiple age groups present and you need to be sensitive to that, but even among groups of adults the topic is rarely breached.

To be clear, I don’t fault those whose aim is to keep others from falling into sexual sin. Sexuality in modern culture is totally off the rails, and its quickly being “re-defined” and “re-imagined” to fit man’s selfish lustful desires in ways that are not just deviant but depraved.

For those who try to remain virgins before marriage there is temptation around every corner. I can’t echo Paul’s words above enough, its bad out there and getting worse all the time. “While God’s limits on sexual activity might appear restrictive, they are actually for our benefit and protection.”

But my approach whenever I speak to non-believers or younger Christians about sex is not to use freak out tactics or decry sex as evil and something to be afraid of. It’s not a sin by itself at all, it’s what we do with it that matters.

What it always boils down to for me is that while God’s limits on sexual activity might appear restrictive, they are actually for our benefit and protection.

Sex is a great gift of God that pictures the loving relationship between God and his church (His bride), between a man and a woman and is the means through which mankind procreates. It’s also a level of intimacy that is spiritually profound. Sex is an amazing creation of God’s.“Freedom to enjoy sex can only come in the safety of the marriage union between one man and one women.”

I was a psychology major in undergrad and the biological/chemical changes that take place during sex aren’t to be treated as weird, but as gifts from God. We can enjoy sex and the emotional sensations that come with it without shame. However, there is one condition.

Freedom to enjoy sex can only come in the safety of the marriage union between one man and one women. That’s it. Sex in marriage is a beautiful thing and sex in itself is not wrong at all. Like anything else in this life, sin distorts it.

That being said, sex is too emotionally powerful and profound of an act to be wielded outside of marriage, and when it is, the relationship dysfunction, emptiness and emotional turmoil that result are devastating, not to mention that sex is best enjoyed to its fullest and for its true purpose (a picture of God and his church, procreation, self-giving matrimonial love, etc.) within marriage between one man and one woman.

So, should we fear sex? No, but we need to fear the consequences of using it in ways that God does not intend.

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