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Intimacy in Marriage: Vices and Virtues


Christian Sex Ethics

Christian couples often have questions regarding what the Bible says about marriage and sex. Christian sex ethics generally refers to a set of Biblical beliefs or principles that are the foundation to determining the acceptable sexual practices and attitudes of Christians. In particular, many are interested in how to determine what sexual behavior or activities are permitted or prohibited for Christians.  We are careful not to teach what we do not know or lead where we cannot go. We don’t offer our preferences and inclinations as truth. We are not giving you a list of dos and don’ts beyond what scripture explicitly permits or prohibits.

We share Biblical principles that guide you to wise choices for sexual intimacy in marriage and establish a foundation by which to continually make those choices.

Explicit Biblical Prohibitions

Again, we restrict ourselves to that which scripture prohibits. Consistent with this commitment, we provide the following references as evidence of sexual activities/areas Christians MUST avoid. We believe these activities are explicitly off limits to us. 

Fornication. Sex while single (even if the parties are engaged): (Galatians 5:19, 1 Corinthians 7:2 & 36) 

Adultery. Sex with someone other than your spouse (spouse swapping, swinging, orgies, threesomes, and all sex with those other than your spouse are examples of such): (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:27) 

Homosexuality. Sexual intimacy with same gender or with transgender persons: (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26, 27) 

Prostitution. Any form of payment for any forms of sexual interaction including virtual, computer-aided or telephonic: (Deuteronomy 23::17, Proverbs 23:27, I Corinthians 6:15, 16)  

Incest. Sex among relatives. (Leviticus 18:6, I Corinthians 5:1-5) 

Pornography. Visual, literary and audio media depicting sexual behavior to produce excitement or arousal. (Psalm 101:3, Ezekiel 20:30, Matthew 5:28, 6:23-24, I John 2:15-17)  

Beware of The Internet

We have many tools available to increase our productivity, to accomplish tasks quickly, and to help us in ways scarcely imagined by previous generations. Those same tools can tempt us to act against God’s desire and design for us—to sin. A case in point: The World Wide Web! 

The prohibitions mentioned above are marketed aggressively on the internet. Ever click on a seemingly benign link and end up on an adult (pornographic) website? Ever have that site continuously generate pop-up windows that seemed almost impossible to close? 

With great persistence and cunning, the enemy of our soul seeks to drain all that is Godly from us and assaults us on every front, including in the virtual world of the internet. Behaviors and thoughts some would not entertain in the “real” world are too often enjoyed in the virtual world. 

The acts prohibited as referenced above are as offensive to God in the virtual world of the internet as they are in the actual world. Beware! Sins of the mind…are still sins! (Matthew 5:27-29) Because of God’s amazing grace, we can repent and be made whole. (Proverbs 14:12, James 1:14-15, Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:17-24, Acts 17:30, II Timothy 2:19, Acts 3:19, Hebrews 12:2a)  

Making Principled Choices

The Bible is not a sex manual for Believers. And the absence of specific references to various sex acts coupled with the presence of broad spiritual principles applicable to sex suggests to us that the Word of God and His Holy Spirit are sufficient to guide us to what is acceptable in His sight and best for us. (II Corinthians 3:6) 

Having discovered the vices to avoid, we are now left with questions concerning sexual activities and behaviors which do not clearly categorize under explicit prohibitions. 

How do we know what choices are right? 

There are 5 principles which guide our choices of sexual attitudes and practice consistent with our faith in Jesus Christ. We have already alluded to them.  Namely:  

  • Principle 1: Purpose. Sexual activities and behaviors mustn’t regularly take away from the ultimate and natural end of the couple’s sexual experience, genital union.  
  • Principle 2: Exclusivity. Sexual intimate experiences are exclusively between one man and one woman in the context of marriage. 
  • Principle 3: Attitude. Sexual activities and behaviors must support a husband and wife’s exclusive focus on and preference for one another.  
  • Principle 4: Respect. Sexual intimacy is a collaboration of efforts and requires mutual respect, agreement and sacrifice for maximum fulfillment of each spouse.  
  • Principle 5: Love. Sexual activity and behaviors must be born of love and, accordingly, must not intentionally inflict pain nor demean either spouse physically, emotionally, or spiritually.      6    

With the application of these principles, we have Biblical standards by which we can begin to judge whether our practices are righteous in an absolute way as well as personal choice.