*Every year I like to run this article. There is massive confusion in this world regarding sex and I’m convinced we need to no longer hide from teaching it. In fact, I believe the churches’ silence regarding the topic has contributed to the confusion and inappropriate acts among believers. Most marriages experience conflict in one of three areas: communication, sex, and money. Each of these fruits grow from pride, but still speaking on the issue helps. Do not shrink from declaring the full counsel of God, sex is His creation, teach about it.*
Talking about sex among conservative Christians might appear to be edgy. Maybe we’re just trying to get more hits and go viral? Trying to play the Mark Driscoll card? Nope. Sex and how we view it is a problem in our culture. If you’ve counseled couples, then you know this is a serious issue with many problems. I have no desire to write this to be racy. Instead, due to the amount of problems surrounding this issue, this article is an attempt to help minister to people. When it comes to this discussion, it seems there are two popular approaches (that I’m aware of). They are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.
First, I’ve seen ministries that refuse to talk about it, “If it’s a problem they’ll figure it out.” I’ve seen pastors pull books out of a bookstore “because no one here would struggle with it.” That’s not helpful because it is a problem among couples. Acting like problems don’t exist perpetuates the problem.
Yet, in other circles we’ve seen pastors who talk too much about it and go into prurient detail. This is a problem too. Our kids should be able to listen to the discussion without embarrassment. There are principles we can discuss without making it X rated.
Both approaches neglect the way Scripture talks about it. First, Scripture talks about sex. Second, Scripture is not prurient when discussing it.
I propose a middle road where the subject is on the table, discussed in such a way to not embarrass anyone, yet be helpful to any one — something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on your coffee table or your parents or children overhear.
The following are guiding questions and principles anyone should use to honor the Lord with our sexual interaction.
Is sex sinful? God instituted sex in marriage before the fall, described in Genesis 3. He not only made the animals and humans, but he designed their interaction. He looked at creation and said, “It is very good.” Sex between husband and wife “is undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). It is pure. In fact, there is nothing wrong with sex inherently. Any perversion is not sex’s fault per se, but the human heart perverting it by defying God’s designed plan.
Who can partake in sexual activity? Simple: husband and wife. Now no where does the Bible say “a dating couple can’t have sex.” I’ve even heard people say, “we’re dating, meaning we’re spiritually married.” So, how can you tell me we can’t have sex? Well Scripture does say sex is only between husband and wife, just not the way I want it to say it. Pride demands others say it the way I want it said, but that’s not how Scripture works. Scripture says sex is between husband and wife (1 Cor. 7:1-5; Heb 13:4). See what God did there? He gave a positive definition of needed criteria before this action can take place. Before engaging in any sexual activity ask this question, is this person my spouse? If yes, continue to question 2. Does my spouse want to willingly participate? If yes, then continue. 3. Are we private? If yes, continue.
Now, why sex? Sex is for my spouse’s pleasure and procreation. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps 127:3). In order to have kids, there are some biological activities that must take place first. But it is not the ONLY reason for sex. Sex is for pleasure too. Consider Proverbs,
“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. . . . Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, e exhilarated with an adulteress” (Prov 5:15, 18-20).
In context, Solomon warns his son about being tempted by any woman not his wife. Instead, be focused on your wife. Enjoy her. May she be the only one you look upon and find “sexy.” Every person has probably heard, “You see that woman (or man)? She’s hot.” Solomon says, “No she isn’t because she isn’t your wife!” Not only does Solomon support sex as a husband and wife only action, but he acknowledges the pleasure in this action. He tells his son, “Be exhilarated always with her love.” Sex is made for pleasure. God designed it. Proverbs recognizes this detail and supports it!
God wants us to enjoy sex. Let’s advance this detail further for one important nuance. Sex is for your spouse’s pleasure. In fact, sex is actually for your spouse! When looking at issues in Scripture, we often want to go to passages specifically talking about the issue. But all of Scripture speaks about this issue. Ephesians 4 and Philippians 2 both speak about sex. We are to, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance [for my spouse] in love” (Eph 4:1-2). “Walk” portrays the idea of “live.” We are to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel. How would this not apply to sex with your spouse? Be humble, not selfish and prideful. Be patient and gentle. If your spouse doesn’t “do what I want you to do” remember to be loving, thankful, and long-suffering.
“Do nothing (wouldn’t sex be included in this?) from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard [your spouse] as more important than yourself; do not look out for your own personal interest, but also the interests of [my spouse]” (Phil 2:3-4). Sex is not about me, it’s about my spouse. A husband (and wife) should think, what will please, honor, and satisfy her (or him). “But what about me?” “Do NOTHING from selfishness or empty conceit.” If we balk this, we need to reread it, smoke it, dwell on it, act it out, and remember that is the Lord’s perspective.
Paul does specify the “other focus” mentality in 1 Corinthians 7. In fact, the Lord tells a spouse, “your body belongs to your spouse.” The husband’s body belongs to the wife and vice versa. In fact, Scripture uses stronger language. A spouse has authority over the other spouse’s body, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does, and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor. 7:4). So your body is not yours, it’s belongs to your spouse. When we are selfish and focused on ourself, then I am taking away what my spouse owns. You are not your own. After all, didn’t God make the two become one flesh?
What should my attitude be about sex with my spouse? 1 Cor. 7:3, “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife and likewise also the wife to her husband.” This speaks of obligation. Paul could have said, “Couples . . .” But the Spirit inspired him to single out both and exhort both of them to act. This is also an act of love — giving to your spouse. Sex requires time, attention, effort, energy, humility, and devotion. It can be work at times, especially when someone is not “in the mood.” But this verse is a command and exhortation. Therefore fulfilling your duty to your spouse is also an act of worship to God. “Whether we eat or drink, do all things for the glory of God.” Sex should be done with humility, love, and for the other person’s satisfaction. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Love gives. A couple’s sexual interaction seeks to give and provide love.
Dr. Robert Smith says, “The husband is required to render or fulfill, which means to give fully, completely, without reluctance, hesitation, or inhibition. He is required to fulfill the sexual needs and desires of his mate enthusiastically and joyfully. . . . The wife has the same obligation and responsibility to satisfy her husband’s sexual desires and needs completely, enthusiastically, and without reluctance. Each is given the responsibility of keeping the other sexually satisfied.” 
One caveat. Sex does not automatically equal love. Sex is not the pinnacle of love or proof of love. Sex should be done with love, but have the movies tainted us into thinking sex is the binding and pinnacle of a love relationship? When two people fall in love, the movies twist truth by making sex the final proof and climax of the love relationship. There is a distinct difference. Sex should be done in love, but sex, by itself is not love.
But what if I’m not in the mood? Pray without ceasing? “You mean I should pray to be in the mood?” Well, yes, kind of. “God, I didn’t pray to you, obey you, seek you, serve the church, or help my neighbor because I wasn’t in the mood.” How do you think the Lord would respond? That’s okay, I mean, if you weren’t in the mood, you weren’t in the mood. NO!! ABSURD, RIGHT?!? Why is sex different? “Fulfill his duty to his wife and likewise also the wife to her husband.” Maybe pray, “Lord, give me the grace and strength to show my wife the love she deserves from me and help me take my focus off my selfish desires and place them on honoring you by the way I serve my wife.”
“I’m tired and we’re too busy . . . We make this big meal and by the time I’m done, I’m exhausted.” This complaint can be resolved rather easily. Simplify the night. Ask him, would you rather have turkey sandwiches and sex or lasagna and no sex? “Well the floor needs to be cleaned and the laundry done.” God or your spouse will probably not be upset with you for failure to clean the floors. What are your priorities? Look at how you spend your time and ask, “How would the Lord want me to spend my time?” Robert Smith exhorts us,
“I am amazed by married people professing to be believers, claiming to be right with Jesus Christ, sitting in the pews of Bible-Believing churches who disobey God, dishonor Christ, and sin against their mates by being passive about sex. Passiveness about sex is not more biblical than passiveness about prayer, Bible study, tithing, or church attendance. Passive sex in marriage is unbiblical, selfish sex. By such inaction passive marriage partners indicate that God’s Word and their mates are not important enough to put forth the effort.” 
How often should a couple have sex? Every night? Once a week, month, year, or anniversaries? What does the Bible say. The Bible actually says when we shouldn’t have sex. “Stop depriving one another” (1 Cor. 7:5). In the Greek, μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε, which is a present active command with a strong negative. We could interpret this, never, ever deprive your spouse of sex. The command communicates a habitual status. Habitually never deprive. In other words, sex should be regular. In fact, God actually provides us when we should not have sex. When should we not have sex? When both husband and wife agree to not have sex for the sake of prayer. What danger exists when a person deprives his spouse of sex? Satan and disunity. Satan would love nothing more than to destroy your marriage. Withholding sex opens the door to let Satan into your house.
Unfortunately most of us know someone who has committed adultery. But what many of us do not realize is that maybe both spouses played a role in this. I’ve seen adultery cases where the wife was equally culpable because she stopped having sex with him for years. Now, his response is, was, and will always be wrong, it is sin. But she is at fault in this case too for disobeying God’s command in 1 Cor. 7:3 – 5. I completely hold him culpable, but would not say she is qualified to be remarried too should divorce happen.
So when and how often is regularly? Talk about it with your spouse. Decide between the two of you. What if we disagree? Remember, my body belongs to my spouse and I am not to deprive her of sex. Yes, if you’re not going to work because of your spouse, you probably should talk about all of your biblical responsibilities. Obviously balance and other responsibilities should be considered.
WARNING: DO NOT EVER BARTER OR USE SEX TO GET YOUR SPOUSE TO DO SOMETHING. IT IS PURE SIN. “If you wash the dishes, I’ll sleep with you.” should never, ever, ever, come out of your mouth. Why? Because sex is not a tool to get what you want. This reasoning is pure selfishness and should be repented of immediately. My wife and I committed to never barter or use sex in exchange for ANYTHING. And the “any” here, is all, like all, no caveat’s, loopholes, or exceptions. To act like this is pure selfishness. Men, you should not show your wife affection, merely for the sake of sex. This is equally wrong. She is your flesh, to love her like Christ loves the church is an honor and responsibility.
What is on and off limits in the bed room? I do not mean to ask this question to get detailed, crass, or pornographic. Reality is this. Some people want answers to this question. I have no, NONE, desire to know how people answer these questions. But I respect that people want to honor God and so ask about different positions, styles, toys, and other detailed questions that really should only be discussed among husband and wife.
So I want to answer those detailed questions in a way that honors the Lord and doesn’t draw to mind visions none of us need. So how do we decide if something is “fair game” between my spouse and me? First, does the Bible talk about it specifically? “Can we have sex with a neighbor?” The Bible is clear, it’s between a husband and wife ONLY. So no. “Can we watch pornography?” Sex is between you and your spouse, no one else. To watch someone else is sinful and wrong. So, if the Bible talks about is specifically, then follow Scripture.
But the Bible doesn’t talk about some things. For that, follow this advice.
- Yes + yes = Yes. If the husband says yes, the wife says yes, then the answer is yes.
- Yes + no = no. If one spouse does not feel comfortable with an action, then the answer is no. If you’re the “yes” then remember, sex is about your spouse, not you.
- No + no = no.
Communicate: A couple would do well to talk about sex. What pleases your spouse? Sex is about your spouse! Wouldn’t you want to know what pleases him or her? Talk about how regularly you want to partake. I realize this is an area of tension often. Seek humility on this subject. If your spouse wants it more often, then pray and ask Lord for the grace needed to fulfill his or her desires.
Finally, there is a major problem in Christianity. “We are spiritually married, so we can have sex.” First, this is the kind of twisting of Scripture that Satan and our sinful hearts love. In John 3 Jesus met the woman at the well. She lived with a man who was not her spouse. Jesus didn’t say, “You’re spiritually married, He confronted her over this because they were not married.” If others do not know your married, no public announcement, and you don’t live together support each other all the time, then you’re not married. She should be, Mrs. [insert your name]. Her parents and your parents should know too, if possible.
I know this is a serious issue for many people. Many couples struggle with this part of marriage. Pray for one another and serve each other. For more information see the footnotes below for the best booklet I’ve ever read on the subject. I pray the publisher produces more of them and Amazon would have them soon.
 Biblical Principles of Sex, Timeless Texts, Hackettstown, NJ, 2003, pg 14. By the way, this is a must own when the pamphlet comes back in circulation, buy it.
 Biblical Principles of Sex, 10.