God's Design for Sexual Intimacy
I got an interesting email this week, and it was sent to my work email. Email, like most technology, has its benefits and its drawbacks. With email you can send someone on another part of the world information very quickly, but email also allows anyone else in the world to contact you as well. The email I received came under the name Hector Dean, and at the top it listed reference number: FSC-CP02-PY8.
Here’s what the email said: “Good Morning. We are not sure you received our previous message, but once again we wish to use this medium to officially congratulate and inform you that you have been selected to receive a financial compensation amount of US$750,000.00.
“For details to immediately receive your US$750,000.00, kindly send your TELEPHONE number by email, to our payment director, Caroline Morgan, using the below contact information.”
Then the contact information was listed.
At the conclusion of the email, I received one final reminder: “PLEASE NOTE: For prompt attention, all correspondence should directly be sent to Caroline Morgan by email and must have the above stated reference number sent along with your telephone number. Yours faithfully, Financial Services, UK”
What in the world, am I supposed to do with an email like that? I assume most of you know the answer. You do nothing other than erase it and move on with your life. Why do these kinds of emails exist in the first place?
These kinds of emails exist because not everyone will recognize what it is. A small percentage of people, either motivated by greed or curiosity or courtesy, will respond. And a smaller percentage of that will even include their phone number, telling these people that you are susceptible, and they should call you. If all goes according to plan, that email will not end with someone getting $750,000; it’ll end with someone in another country having stolen money from another victim.
The best label for this email is not “Spam;” it’s “Scam.” Again, I think most of you understand that. This is a scam.
A scam is specific kind of lie. All lies include deception, but a scam takes it one step further. A scam is intended to deceive you in order to take something from you.
Most of us assume that we would never be the victim of a scam. We’re too smart for that. We’re too savvy. We would never fall for that kind of deception.
Well, today we’re going to talk about one of the greatest, most pervasive and persuasive scams we face every day. I’ve being deceived by it, and so have you. This is a deception that has infected practically every area of society.
The scam is the message that your greatest joy and satisfaction will come from sexual fulfilment, and you get to decide how that happens. That’s the lie. Our lives, we are told, will be greatly improved if we pursue and fulfill every sexual desire that arises.
And the reason I feel justified in calling it a scam is because this kind of message is taking something from us individually and as a society. What is that this deception is taking from us?
It’s stealing away the strength of our marriages and our families. It’s stealing from us the ability to raise responsible, productive, mature, and joyful men and women. It’s stealing our ability to develop meaningful, healthy relationships with others. And as the church of Jesus Christ, it’s stealing the power of our testimony and our ability to live for God’s glory.
The sexual messages our culture promotes are a scam. And like any other scam, the best way to confront it is with the truth. You need to understand the truth in order to protect yourself. And you need to know the truth in order to fight back. This is a relentless battle.
Ever since we finished preaching through First Peter, we have been in a series that I’ve called “Living as Exiles.” As a biblical example, we’ve been looking at the life of Daniel. He was a Jewish exile in Babylon and then in the Medo-Persian Empire. He knew what it meant to live in a land that wasn’t his own, surrounded by wickedness. That’s the real-life example we’ve been looking at.
And then, we have also been talking about various issues that we are facing today. We talked about the reality that God exists, and that He created this world. That was set against atheism and this idea that we all came from nothing and have no true purpose in the universe.
We also talked about evolution and how drastically that contradicts what God has told us regarding how valuable and precious human life is. The value of human life is why murder and suicide are sins, and we specifically talked about abortion. By the way, in 2021 abortion killed more people than all other causes of death combined. Just think about that.
The World Health Organization says there were about 73 million abortions last year worldwide. And if we add up every other cause of death around the world, not counting abortion, that’s about 60 million. It’s amazing how destructive it is when we fall away from the truth.
And in terms of sexual immorality, we have definitely seen the destruction at both an individual level and at a societal level. We have abortion. We have scarred lives. We have broken marriages and children growing up without their parents. We have human trafficking and venereal diseases. It’s all absolutely tragic. This is the result of people using cultural norms and personal feelings to guide them, rather than the word of God.
So, let’s remind ourselves what the Bible tells us concerning human sexuality. For that, like we’ve done before, let’s start in Genesis chapter 1.
Just so you know, we’re going to spend at least a couple of weeks on this topic. Today, we’re going to do some of the groundwork talking more generally about God’s design concerning sex. And this is important for all of us to understand, especially our young children. They need to know God’s standard, God’s design.
Next week, we are going to talk more specifically about how to respond to the many perversions that exist and are promoted in this world. And since that can be a more delicate or sensitive topic, we are going to give you parents the option of having your kids go to a children’s class during this service.
Normally, we only have childcare for babies and toddlers. But next week, we’re going to add a class for our elementary age kids. So, parents, if you want your kids to be here for the sermon, that’s fine. That’s your decision as a parent. If you think your kids are too young for some of those discussions, then they can be part of the class. But parents, that’ll be your decision. The rest of us, from junior high and upward, we’ll be here in the service.
Again, today we’re talking about some foundational and vital principles. To be honest, this kind of stuff is so basic, but in light of where our culture is, we need to keep reminding ourselves.
For the first part of our message today, I’m just going to give you one sentence. And I’ll give it to you upfront. This is the basic principle of human sexuality: God created two distinct sexes, and He designed sexual intimacy to strengthen and to celebrate the relationship between a man and his wife.
Let me say that again: God created two distinct sexes, and He designed sexual intimacy to strengthen and to celebrate the relationship between a man and his wife.
Now, that’s not true because I said it. That’s true because that’s what God’s word teaches. So, let’s go to Scriptures now and see it for ourselves.
Let’s start in Genesis 1:26. It’s the sixth day of creation, and after God makes everything else, He comes to the grand finale. Genesis 1:26— Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
“Man” there is the generic term for mankind. Mankind was designed to represent God in a special way. He would glorify God in a way that is distinct from the rest of creation, even the angels.
Verse 27—So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God didn’t create a multitude of people, and say “You folks figure out how you want to be classified.” No. He created two distinct sexes. He made male and female. He made them distinct, different. Both are made in God’s image. Both are equal before the Lord. But for His own glory, God created men and women differently. Together, they would represent Him more fully in this world.
Some aspects of God’s heart and character are better represented by women, as they fulfil their God-given responsibilities. And other aspect of God’s heart and character are better represented by men, as they fulfill their God-given responsibilities. This is God’s design.
In other parts of the Bible, God affirms this distinction by prohibiting men from dressing like women and women from dressing like men. People should be able to tell the difference. Culturally, that’s going to be applied in different ways, but the principle remains. And you can read more about that in Deuteronomy 22:5 and also in 1 Corinthians 11. God wants men and women to look different because they are different. They’re distinct.
Now, in creating male and female, God gave them some instructions. Genesis 1:28—And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The first part of that command says “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” What does that mean? It means, “have babies!” And how does that happen? It takes the coming together of a man and a woman. That was God’s design. There’s a mommy, and there’s a daddy. You need both to get a baby.
Some people get really squeamish around the topic of sexual intimacy, but you don’t get very far in the Bible before you run into it. In and of itself, it’s not a bad thing. God invented it. God designed it.
And to look at that a little more closely, let’s jump over to Genesis chapter 2.
Genesis 2 slows down Day 6 for us. We get to see some of the details. Look at Genesis 2, verse 7—Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
The first man—whom we know as Adam, which means “man”—was made from dirt. God formed his body like a sculptor using clay. Your body is not a prison for your soul; it’s a gift from God. He made it.
And after making Adam’s body, God gave him life. He gave him a soul, a mind. God gave him reasoning faculties so that He could live as the image of God. And that man was placed in a specially created garden. This wasn’t a little neighborhood garden. This was a lush paradise with rivers and a variety of fruit-bearing trees.
Verse 15 says—The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Even before the curse came upon the world, work was part of God’s design. Man’s job description includes working and tending to what God has created.
Verse 18—Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
Numerous times in Genesis 1, God sees that His creation is good. But for the first God says that something is not good. Something’s missing. Something is incomplete. It is not good for this man to be alone. On his own, the man can’t fulfill what it means to be made in God’s image. So, God is going to solve Adam’s inadequacy by making him a perfect companion.
Verse 19—Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
God was doing something intentional here. He had made the animals earlier, and now He brings them to Adam who is supposed to rule over them. The animals wouldn’t have had all the variation they have today, but they would have had clusters, or groups, according to their kinds. Every animal was part of a larger group. But what about Adam?
The cows have a herd. The lions have a pride. The birds have their flocks. But Adam is all by himself as a human. God wanted Adam to be aware that he was alone. He wanted him to feel it. There was no one quite like him. Again, that highlights the distinction that mankind has in the world. And this tension that God produces in Adam gets resolved in verse 21
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
The word used there for “rib” mean Adam’s side, and it probably includes the bone and the muscles and the flesh. There was a divine anesthesia, and then a divine surgery. And taking a piece of Adam’s side is significant because it symbolizes that this is going to be Adam’s equal. This is Adam’s partner in life. And there is supposed to be a strong connection between her and the man. That’s why God didn’t make something new. He took it out of the man.
And once the anesthesia wears off, God, as a proud Creator, brings the woman to him. Adam wakes up, and this grown man, for the first time in his life sees the woman God has made for him. And she is au natural. So what’s his response? His response is poetry! How romantic, right?
Look at verse 23—Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
This idea of bone and flesh is used in other parts of the Bible, and it means that people are family, either literally or in sprit. There’s a loyalty and an obligation between them. In 2 Samuel 5, the tribes pledge their allegiance to David as the king, and they say, “We are your bone and your flesh.”
Adam, here, is pledging himself to this new woman. He dedicates himself to her. These are, we might say, the first marriage vows. They are a family.
And to express their connection, the man names her woman. The Hebrew word for man or male is ish. The Hebrew word for woman or female is ishah, so you can see the connection between the words in either language. This is the first marriage.
And you might ask, “Ya, but where is the pastor? Where are all the witnesses?” Nobody else has been born yet. This is the most private ceremony imaginable. This is the most secluded destination wedding anyone could ask for. It’s in paradise, and it’s just the one man, and the one woman, and God himself.
Adam’s commitment to the woman, whom we will know later as Eve, is part of God’s plan for him. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that even though there may be human decisions involved with a marriage, it is God Himself who unites a man and his wife. God affirms and completes the union.
In Proverbs 2:17, speaking of an adulteress, it says that she forgets the covenant of her God. Marriage is a divine covenant. It’s not a human invention. God designed it.
In Malachi 2:14 it says the Lord is a witness between a man and his wife. She is his companion and his wife by covenant.
And more famously, we have the word of Jesus. He was being asked about divorce, and in talking about God’s design for marriage, He says, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
There was no pastor there for this first wedding, but they didn’t need one. God was there, I believe in a physical form, and He united them in the commitment of marriage. And this sets the pattern for God’s design, which is what we see described in verses 24 and 25—Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
God is not trying to be brief here. He could have just said, “A man leaves his parents, and he marries his wife.” But that would lose all the beauty of what marriage is and what God designed it to be.
God’s design is not just that a man and a woman agree to live together and have children. It’s so much more than that. God’s design is that a man make a commitment to and then “hold fast” to his wife.
Literally, the image here is clinging, but the idea is that a man values and loves and serves his wife. This is now his most valued earthly possession. This new relationship is now greater than any previous one, including his father and his mother.
And we see that idea in the New Testament when the Apostles address husbands in 1 Peter 3, Colossians 3, and Ephesians 5. Men, we are not supposed to be harsh with them. We’re supposed to be tender and compassionate. We’re supposed to seek to understand them and honor them. We’re supposed to protect and provide. We’re supposed to care for them like we care for our own bodies. We are supposed to nurture them physically and spiritually, willing to sacrifice whatever is needed for their wellbeing. That’s God’s design.
This is supposed to be a one-flesh union, which points to the unity that should exist. A husband and wife should be united in every possible way, and that should continue to grow over time. My wife and I are united emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, physically, whatever. That’s God’s design. Man and wife come together as a unit.
Again, God didn’t just create a mass of people and say, “You figure out how you want to get organized.” No. He set a pattern to follow, and that pattern is marriage and the family unit.
And here in Genesis 2:25, God points us to one particular and wondrous aspect of the marriage union: physical intimacy. If all God cared about was some social contract, we wouldn’t get verse 25—And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This is pointing to the joy God designed for a man and his wife. This is what is so important to understand. Sexual satisfaction, sexual desire, sexual joy—those are not bad things. Again, God created them. But, as the Creator, He gets to set the boundaries.
Sexual satisfaction falls under the category of marriage. That’s the shelf it belongs on, as it were. God, for His own glory, created men and women. And He created our bodies. And He created marriage. And within the covenant of marriage, God designed that there would be sexual and physical intimacy. Kids, you might think it’s yucky when mom and dad start kissing, but that’s part of God’s design.
Unlike what’s being taught in public school or on Netflix or in the movies or on the vast majority of social media, sex was never intended to exist all by itself. But that’s what we’re seeing. It has been stripped of its God-ordained context.
Let’s go back to that original sentence I gave you. It’s so foundational. God created two distinct sexes, and He designed sexual intimacy to strengthen and to celebrate the relationship between a man and his wife.
That’s God’s purpose for sex. It’s not strictly for personal enjoyment or for personal expression. It was designed by God to strengthen and to celebrate the relationship between a man and his wife. It strengthens the connection between them, and when that connection is strong, it celebrates it and reinforces it. God designed it that way. God wants strong, healthy, joyful marriages. And to help us along in that regard, He created sexual intimacy.
Why does God care so much about strong, healthy marriages? Ephesians 5 tells us. It’s because God designed marriage to serve as a picture in and to this world about the love of Jesus Christ. Your marriage is not just about you and your spouse, it’s about the gory of God being on display.
God cares about marriages, and God cares about sexual intimacy. His desire to use sexual intimacy to strengthen and to celebrate marriages is not just in Genesis 2. You can read about it in Proverbs 5, when a father talks to his son about it. I preached on this back in 2018, and you can find it on our website.
God also gave us an entire book about the joy of marriage. It’s called the Song of Solomon. It’s not a raunchy book. It’s a celebration of God’s design in marriage. Before they’re married, they talk about how attracted they are to one another. But it says, “Don’t stir up love. Don’t awaken it until it’s time.” In other words, “Hold on. Wait until it’s time.”
But then in chapter 3, you finally get the royal wedding. And they praise and enjoy one another’s beauty. And the poetic imagery is like a banquet with sweet, succulent food. That’s God’s design. That’s why the chorus comes in and says, “Eat friends, drink, and be drunk with love.”
Another passage that touches on this subject is found in First Corinthians 7. I’d like you to go there. First Corinthians chapter 7. Again, the point I’m trying to prove is that God designed sexual intimacy to strengthen and to celebrate the marriage relationship.
It’s not just about having kids. It’s about more than that.
The Corinthian church was a young church. They were marked by selfish division, but they also lived in a very pagan society. Sexual immorality was rampant, and they weren’t sure how to respond.
Back in chapter 6, we find out that some men were still going to visit prostitutes. And Paul points them back to Genesis by saying, look don’t you know that the sexual act makes you one-flesh with that prostitute? And if you belong to Jesus Christ, why are you joining Christ to that kind of perversion?
Well, as a response to that kind of immorality, it seems like there were people in the Corinthian church beginning to say, “Well, let’s just stop sexual intimacy altogether. It’s sinful. It’s bad.” Let’s see how Paul responds.
First Corinthians 7:1—Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
The final sentence of that verse was probably some kind of saying that was going around in the Corinthian church. And Paul affirms it. Sexual purity is a god thing. Celibacy has a godly purpose too. But that’s not for everybody.
For those who were already married, or those who were really feeling that pull, they shouldn’t ignore God’s design. Within marriage, sexual intimacy is not just allowed or good; it’s expected, even commanded.
Verse 2—But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Sexual intimacy is a God-ordained weapon against sexual temptation. It’s not a weapon a husband and wife should use against one another. It’s not a bargaining chip. It’s a key part of a healthy, marriage. That’s why it says don’t go too long without it. Make sure both parties are satisfied so that they aren’t going somewhere else to meet that desire.
Another evidence that God values sexual intimacy, and this is more anecdotal than Scriptural, is the desire He has placed in us, particularly in men. Men, God has called you to lead in your marriage. And leading doesn’t mean demanding your way. It means being proactive in nurturing and caring for your wife. You take that initiative.
Our sexual desire, which is usually stronger in men, motivates us to find a wife. And once we’re married, it motivates us to keep pursuing her. In some ways, we could compare it to physical hunger.
Proverbs 16:26 says—A worker's appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.
That means that your desire for food motivates you to work. If you want to eat, go get a job.
We could say the same thing about sexual desire in marriage. Sexual desire pushes us toward a relational connection with our wives. You want some physical intimacy? You want your wife to meet some desire you have? Then do the work it takes to connect with her relationally.
Tim Challies calls this a “beautiful dance” as describes a theology of sex. He writes: “The husband has a desire that only his wife can meet, a desire for his wife; therefore, he takes the lead in seeking to fulfill that desire. He does this by meeting the desires of his wife that will, in turn, cause her to see and appreciate and eventually fulfill his desires. And then, in that act of consummation, God grants a grace that surpasses the mere union of flesh and blood.”
This is all for God’s glory. This is His design to put His wisdom and His love on display. Sexual intimacy strengthens and celebrates the relationship between a man and his wife. It unites them in joy and love and compassion and mutual service.
Now, having come to that conclusion, we come to the second part of our message, and this is going to be brief. It’s a very simple concept, though our world ignores it. Here’s the second principle for today. Principle number 2: Since God created sexual joy and sexual satisfaction for the marriage relationship, everything outside of that purpose is prohibited. It’s sinful.
Since God created sexual joy and sexual satisfaction for the marriage relationship, everything outside of that purpose is prohibited. It’s sinful.
When two people sleep together who are not married, that’s called fornication. If one or both of them are married to someone else, that’s called adultery. That’s a breach of God’s design.
And they are not the only kinds of sexual sin. Another example of sexual sin is sexual immodesty. That’s when you take the body parts God gave you for your spouse to enjoy and delight in, and you use them to entice someone else.
Ladies, God didn’t give you attractive and beautiful body parts so that you can get all kinds of attention. He didn’t give it to women so that companies can sell calendars or beer or whatever else. It wasn’t created so you could get more followers on Instagram. God gave you physical beauty so that you would give it to your husband as a special gift. And some specific parts of you body are just for him to enjoy. No one else. And the same goes for us men.
Every kind of deviation from God’s standard is sin. Everything outside of God’s context for sexual satisfaction is a rebellion against the God who made us. Whether that’s someone enjoying it without a husband or a wife, or whether it’s someone seeking to add to that relationship. It’s all off limits, says God. This is solely for a man and his wife.
In First Thessalonians 4, Paul tells the church: “This is God’s will for your life: that you be sanctified, that you stay away from sexual immorality... God wants you to be holy.”
Hebrews 13:4 tells us: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Those are some very difficult words, especially in our culture. But I think the most direct words come from Christ Himself. In Matthew 5, Jesus reminds us that the battle is not simply about our actions and our bodies. It begins at the level of our mind. Jesus said that look on someone with lust is adultery in our heart.
Do you know what that does? It makes all of us guilty before God. It puts us all at the same level. God sees our hearts, and He will punish all sin, even if there wasn’t an external, visible action.
Whether you waited until marriage or not, you and I stand at the same level as everyone else. We are guilty before God because mentally and physically, one way or another, we have sinned against Him. We have rejected the design of our Creator.
In marriage or in singleness, we have not lived up to God’s standard as a man or as a woman, whichever He made you to be. Instead of honor and obedience, we have chosen to sinfully gratify our own desires.
We have taken what God designed to be beautiful, and have twisted it to our own desires. And the results, like we said, have been devastating. We’ve been deceived by the scam. And we’ve paid the price in one way or another.
But thanks be to God, that the price of eternal judgment has been paid as well.
Here’s a final principle you need to understand related to sexual intimacy. Principle number 3: Every sexual sin can be forgiven and battled against in Jesus Christ.
Every sexual sin can be forgiven and battled against in Jesus Christ. We may all stand condemned before God, but He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty that we deserve.
The pure, spotless Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of His people. And then, He was raised from the dead in complete victory over sin.
If you will repent of your sin and trust in Him, God will cleanse you. He will wipe your record clean. And He will give you the Spirit of Christ to help you fight and win against the onslaught of temptation.
Sexual temptation and sexual perversion is everywhere, right? It’s on billboards. It’s in commercials. It’s on TV and movies. It’s all over social media. And it’s accessible at the touch of a button. And even if you’re not looking for it, it will fid you.
Thankfully, for those who repent, the grace and the cross of Jesus Christ bring forgiveness, and they bring strength for the battle.
Romans 6 says that just like Jesus was raised form the dead, those who trust in Him can walk in newness of life. Instead of giving ourselves to sin, leading to greater lawlessness, we can be obedient to God, leading to sanctification.
Would you please stand with me? I’m going to close in prayer, and then we’ll have a short moment to respond in personal reflection. You can jot something down if you want. You can pray alone or with your family. And then, we’ll end our time together with a short chorus.