Sexuality FAQ Guide

Western culture has seen a radical transformation in views about sexuality. So often Christians today struggle to know the truth about sex and what God really desires from his children.

Many Christians, especially among Millennials and Generation Z, no longer feel that things like extra-marital sex, homosexuality, or pornography are such a big deal.

This wrong thinking is taking a big toll on the church and emptying the gospel of its power to transform people into the image of Christ.

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the Bible’s teaching about sex. There are many issues and questions that could be tackled and we address in detail in other articles.

Here, we’ll begin with an overview of God’s purpose for creating sex, and the practical implications this has for many of the contemporary sexual issues that Christians face.

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

As Genesis 1:27 makes clear, God created mankind—all people—to bear his image.

While God is neither male nor female, his purpose in creating humanity this way is so we can be embodied reflectors of his nature and his eternal purpose for creation.

Sexual differences reflect God’s nature

Our Western culture trains us to think of bearing God’s image only in individualistic terms.

But humanity as a whole was created to reflect God’s image, not just individual people. As such, the male / female gender distinction is one of the most significant ways in which humanity reflects God’s nature as Trinity.

The diagrams that follow help to show why:


The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is one in his being, but three in his persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

In this way, God possesses in his nature both unity and diversity. He’s the one God who has existed from all eternity, enjoying eternal and loving fellowship among the three persons of his being.

In creating humanity as both male and female, he has likewise given us the capacity for bearing a resemblance to this unity of being and diversity in persons.

Genesis 2:18-25 tells us that God created Eve by taking one of Adam’s ribs.

Did you ever wonder why God didn’t just use another clump of dirt the way he did when he made Adam? They still would have been “of the same kind.”

But apparently, God was interested in them being something more. Notice what Adam says upon God’s presentation of Eve to him in Genesis 2:23:


The summary statement of vs. 24 reinforces this unity by describing the “one flesh” union of marriage.

It’s not that husband and wife become one body. But the closeness created by the sexual union in marriage illustrates the kind of relational love and union that exists within the Trinity.

Just as God is one and three, a man and woman become one and two through the one-flesh marriage union, and so in miniature reflect the unity and diversity of God’s own nature.

Marital love reflects God’s eternal purpose

Following God’s presentation of Eve to Adam, the Bible makes a summary statement about the consequences of this male/female union:

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Here we see God establishing marriage as the foundation for all human society and flourishing.

But marriage itself was not the eternal purpose God had in mind. Rather, it points us to something else. We get a hint of this from Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12 and Luke 20 where he explains how people won’t be married or given in marriage in heaven.

As wonderful a gift as marriage is, it’s only temporary for our time on earth. What it’s meant to point us to is the glorious and eternal marriage between Christ and his church (see Revelation 9:7-9).

Conclusion to why God created male and female

As you can see, God’s purpose in creating male and female goes way beyond providing companionship and a way for making babies.

It speaks to his creation design for humanity to reflect his own nature, not merely as individuals but as a whole.

Understanding this design is the key to understanding the Bible’s teaching about sexuality.

God gave us moral commands to tell us how we should conduct ourselves sexually. But God’s purpose in creating us male and female tells us why.

As with every other part of our being, God gave men and women their diverse and complimentary sexuality in order that in the one-flesh union of marriage, humanity would reflect God’s glory back to him. All of creation is for his glory.

Dig deeper into the question of Why Did God Create Male and Female?

For many, the traditional Christian belief that sex is reserved for marriage between a man and woman is outdated and unrealistic.

What’s more, many see it as judgmental and legalistic. They feel churches should stop focusing so much on sex and just concentrate on showing people Jesus’ love.

To them, in light of everything else going on in the world, sex outside marriage is just no big deal.

There are many arguments people make for why sex outside marriage between a man and woman should no longer be considered sinful.

Here are a few of the most popular:

  1. There’s evidence that sex outside of marriage was a common practice, even among Israelites in the Old Testament (see Genesis 38:15-26)
  2. Old Testament sexual prohibitions were rooted in concerns about property violation, because the culture saw women as men’s property.
  3. The biblical word for “fornication” is porneia. But that refers to sexual promiscuity usually associated with idolatrous religious practice. It wasn’t referring to sexual expressions of committed love.

In general, the reasons given for no longer considering sex outside marriage a sin rely on reasoning that what was considered wrong in the ancient culture of the Bible is no longer considered wrong in our culture.

But is this a reliable way of determining whether or not we should obey God’s commands?

While it’s true that some of God’s commandments were unique to Israel and therefore no longer binding on us, we need to remember that all of God’s commandments flow from his holy nature and eternal purpose.

Determining whether or not sex outside marriage is sin requires determining how sex and marriage relate to God’s unchanging holiness and eternal will.

Why did God create marriage?

Marriage is obviously not unique to Christianity, but the Christian understanding of marriage is.

Therefore, it’s important that we form our understanding of marriage based on God’s eternal nature and purpose, not cultural sensibilities.

To do this, we must begin with Genesis chapter 2:

22The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man.
23The man said,
  “This is now bone of my bones,
   And flesh of my flesh;
  She shall be called Woman,
  Because she was taken out of Man.”
24For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

When we looked at the question of why God made male and female, we discussed how verse 23 shows the unique way that marriage allows humanity to reflect God’s nature as Trinity. The language of verse 24, however, makes it very clear that God’s purpose was for marriage to form humanity’s most basic social structure.

The relational bond between husband and wife was meant by God to supersede all others, even that between parents and children.

Marriage is designed by God to establish a lifelong bond between a man and woman typified by the term “one flesh”.

Obviously the “one flesh” bond of marriage doesn’t mean a husband and wife literally become one person. What it refers to is sometimes described as the “mystical bond” of marriage.

This bond is the unique way that God has designed a husband and wife in marriage to be so tightly joined together that you can’t refer to one without the other.

If one hurts, the other hurts. If one rejoices, the other rejoices. It’s quite simply the deepest and most profound human relationship a person can experience.

The bond of marriage is meant to be the place of safety and security where a man and woman can express and protect this “one flesh” union of relational love.

God’s purpose was also that marriage be established through a covenant made in the public context of community. By this, society as a whole was meant to honour, respect and protect this sacred and fundamental union upon which families and societies could be secured.

What is sex for?

Besides the obvious functions of physical pleasure and making babies, God’s most foundational purpose for the act of having sex is as the means of establishing the “one flesh” union of marriage (see Genesis 2:24).

It’s not that having sex makes two people married, but it does produce a “oneness” or uniting between them that God intends for marriages. Lewis Smedes, in his book Sex for Christians gives one of the best explanations:

It does not matter what two people [having sex] have in mind…The reality of the act, unfelt and unnoticed by them, is this: It unites them – body and soul – to each other. It unites them in that strange, impossible to pinpoint sense of “one flesh”.[1]

Simply put, since God’s purpose for marriage is the exclusive, life-long bonding of a husband and wife, God designed sex as the “glue” which establishes and keeps that bond healthy and strong.

Misusing sex for any other purpose violates God’s intended purpose for it.

Conclusion to sex outside marriage

Contrary to popular opinion, the biblical Christian teaching that restricts sexual expression to heterosexual marriage is not a hold-over from some prudish cultural ghetto of the past.

It’s based on the timeless purpose of God the Creator graciously giving to humanity the joy and honour of bearing his image.

Ignoring biblical boundaries for sex only serves to distort this good gift from God. And as the apostle Paul warns, we bear the consequences within our very bodies when we do (1 Corinthians 6:18).

It might be possible to avoid the obvious dangers of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or unwanted pregnancy.

But it’s impossible to escape the inner emotional scarring, relational tensions, and decreased capacity for intimacy that result from misusing God’s life-uniting gift of sex outside the safety of the life-uniting bond of marriage.

Restricting sex to marriage is seen by our world as an unkind and unrealistic expectation for unmarried people. Even many Christians see remaining celibate as unfairly sentencing single people to a life of unhappiness.

Answering this question requires serious thought for the church.

Not only in applying sound biblical truth, but in thinking through how to provide single people in the church with the necessary love and support they need to bear what can often be a difficult burden. Pat answers simply won’t do.

Our goal is to answer the immediate question according to the truth that God has revealed. Doing so will require answering two important questions:

  1. Does the Bible really make such a restriction on sex?
  2. What instructions (if any) does the Bible give to single people about sex?

1. Does the Bible restrict all sexual activity to marriage?

The apostle Paul explicitly says that our bodies are “not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13b).

God’s expectation and desire for his children to remain sexually pure is clear. However, the question many single Christians have is, “What is sexual purity?”

The church has traditionally taught that sexual purity means no sex outside of marriage. But is this what the Bible actually teaches?

The word most often translated “sexual immorality” is the Greek word pornia. The Bible uses it to convey a wide range of meanings. Some examples are “fornication”, “prostitution”, “unchastity”, “sexual impurity”, “adultery”, and “idolatry”. As with most words, its specific meaning depends upon the context in which it’s used.

This has led some to conclude that what Bible writers meant by sexual immorality was sexual acts associated with cult worship and temple prostitution. Not the loving expression of consensual sex between two people in a committed relationship.

Unfortunately, such conclusions ignore the clear and positive biblical teaching about what God created sex for, as we observed earlier on in this analysis.

As a reminder, God created sex to be the means for establishing the one-flesh union of marriage between a husband and wife. As a result, the bond that sex creates is intended to secure a marriage union that is exclusive and lifelong.

Therefore, using sex for any other purpose is a misuse. To quote Lewis Smede again,

And now we can see clearly why Paul thought sexual intercourse by unmarried people was wrong. It is wrong because it violates the inner reality of the act; it is wrong because unmarried people thereby engage in a life-uniting act without a life-uniting intent. Whenever two people copulate without a commitment to life-union, they commit fornication.[2]

No matter how some may attempt to justify it, sex was created by God to secure, protect and nurture marital love.

Using it for anything less is disobeying God’s will for your life. It’s a sin that can’t produce the true-life satisfaction you desire.

This may be difficult to accept, especially as you’re surrounded each day by our culture’s unbridled and highly individualized views of “whatever-makes-you-happy” sexuality.

But knowing God’s greater purpose behind sex will help you catch God’s vision for sex in your life, and equip you to stand firm amid culture’s pressures.

2. What instructions does the Bible give about singleness?

Single Christians might be surprised to know that the Bible actually presents a very positive picture of singleness.

This isn’t meant to minimize the very real struggle that exists for those who long to be happily married, but for whom God has not yet provided a spouse.

It is, however, meant to counteract the cultural stereotypes, which depict singleness and celibacy as a sentence to an unhappy or incomplete life. To this the Bible clearly speaks with encouragement and hope.

Here are three positive biblical messages that single Christians need to be reminded of:

1.     Sex is not the most important thing in life.

Far from proving its necessity for full life, our culture’s ever-increasing obsession with sexual freedom illustrates sex’s inability to satisfy.

That’s because increased sexual freedom fails to produce the increased life satisfaction thought to accompany it. The almost epidemic levels of sexual addictions and abuses are evidence that unrestricted sexual liberty ultimately leads to slavery, not freedom.

In contrast, while recognizing the good gift that sex is for healthy and happy marriages, the Bible nowhere includes marriage and sex as a necessity for a full and satisfying life.

If it did, that wouldn’t speak well for the most fully alive and satisfied person who ever lived, namely Jesus.

Jesus’ life shows us that true and full living comes, not from managing to satisfy all of our own desires, but by living to accomplish the will of our heavenly Father. As Jesus said, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

2.    The Bible describes singleness as a “gift”.

Let’s be clear. The Bible doesn’t try to gloss over the very real struggles that single Christians face.

Loneliness, wrestling with sexual desires, or longing to be married are very real burdens. Let’s not make the mistake of mis-identifying these as the gifts of singleness.

Because these struggles are real, churches ought to be deliberate to ensure ministry is done that addresses these very real needs. The command “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) applies here.

On the other hand, single Christians need to avoid the error of thinking that in remaining chaste and unmarried that they have somehow been robbed of the opportunity for a full and satisfying life.

Philippians chapter 3 serves as a great source of instruction and encouragement in this regard. Paul reminds us that Jesus is all that we need for true contentment and satisfaction in life.

Looking back upon his own life and all of the missed the opportunities for career, influence, status, security, and even marriage, he could honestly say,

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Because Jesus is our great eternal reward, Paul helps to re-orient our thinking about singleness (see 1 Corinthians 7). Despite the challenges, singleness does provide opportunity for more focused devotion to Jesus not available to those who are married.

As wonderful a gift as marriage is, it greatly divides a person’s time, energy, and resources. The needs of a spouse, and most certainly children, can be taxing and often divert attention away from devotion to Jesus.

Singleness, on the other hand, allows someone to offer a greater portion of their living energy, both in body and spirit, to their relationship with Jesus and kingdom service.

But we must be careful not to try weighing married and single life against each other. One is not better than another. Rather, as Christians we must continually fix our eyes on the eternal goal of resurrection life with Christ.

We don’t store up treasures for ourselves in this world (Matthew 6:19) of any kind.

Both married and single life, when lived out through faith in Jesus Christ, should be seen as good gifts from God. Gifts that, properly used, will result in joyful and satisfying life in Christ, to the glory of God.

Conclusion on if God expects singles to remain celibate

The near obsession that our culture has with sex stands in such stark contrast to traditional Christian expectations. The idea that a single person should remain celibate is seen as impossible and ridiculous.

As Christians, however, we must realize that the reason is not due to mere cultural differences.

Rather, it’s based on a worldview that excludes God the Creator, and places all of life’s purpose, meaning, and reward within the bounds of this life only.

Christians, on the other hand, must always live with the perspective of eternity in mind. We don’t live for this life, but for the life to come. We don’t store up our treasures here, but in heaven. There is no lasting satisfaction in this world, only in Christ.

And so, while the world around us expends all of its energy to preserve and maximize life in this world, as Christians we continually remember what’s true. That our bodily living is meant to be a “living sacrifice”, and that our eternal reward is yet to come.