“Make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” – Ephesians 5:26
One night an elderly couple was lying on opposite sides of the bed. The wife was unhappy about the distance between them. She reminded her husband, “When we were young, you used to hold my hand in bed.” He hesitated a moment, then reached across the bed and grasped her hand. After a few moments, she said, “When we were young, you used to cuddle right up next to me.” The husband hesitated a bit longer this time. But eventually, with a few groans, he laboriously turned his body and cradled her in his arms as best he could. She still wasn’t satisfied. She said, “When we were young, you used to nibble on my ear.” Giving a loud sigh, he threw back the covers and bolted out of bed. Somewhat hurt, she asked, “Where are you going?” The husband responded, “To get my teeth!”
Physical intimacy can be an awkward topic. But it may surprise you to learn that the Bible doesn’t shy away from the subject of sex. In most cases, it’s tactful and discreet—but the Bible DOES have a lot to say about sexual intimacy in marriage.
When it comes to understanding true physical intimacy, we as 21st century Christians have two strikes against us. First, our culture is obsessed with sex. It’s everywhere. It’s in our TV shows; it’s in our movies; it’s in our music; it’s in our commercials; and in its most perverted form, it’s plastered all over the internet. But there’s a second strike against us: Churches tend to ignore the topic of sexual intimacy. Some churches ignore it because it’s uncomfortable. Others ignore it because what God has to say about it is unpopular and politically incorrect. Still other churches ignore it because they really don’t understand how important sexual intimacy is to God. Therefore, far too many Christian couples begin dating relationships and get married without having learned what God has to say about true sexual intimacy. And as a result, our dating relationships and our marriages suffer.
Well, I don’t want our relationships to suffer. So, let’s look at a few insights from God’s word. Many Christians wonder if God has a specific list of “do’s” and “don’t’s” when it comes to sexual intimacy within marriage. Well, the quick answer is, “No.” But He does give us some wonderful principles in Ephesians 5:25-33 that serve as a guide for Christian husbands and wives. Chances are you’ve never viewed this passage as God’s guide for you in the area of sexual intimacy, but it is. It boils down to these three points:
#1: True sexual intimacy must be grounded in “agape” love, not selfish lust (v. 25). Guess which Greek word for love is used throughout this passage. It’s “agape”—unselfish, unconditional, Christ-like love. When sexual intimacy isn’t grounded in agape love, it can be like a hurricane sweeping through a mobile home park. It leaves a whole lot of damage in its wake.
#2: True sexual intimacy involves self-sacrifice—giving yourself up for the good of your spouse (v. 25). According to God’s word, your main focus during sexual intimacy should be pleasing your spouse, not pleasing yourself. I love the way theologian Warren Wiersbe says it: “Sexual love is a beautiful tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with.” Far too many wives use sex as a weapon to manipulate their husbands. And far too many husbands give their wives guilt trips about sex. That’s not conducive to intimacy. True sexual intimacy involves self-sacrifice.
#3: True sexual intimacy is holy and cleanses your spouse (v. 26). According to God’s word, all sex outside of marriage is perverted, regardless of whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual. It’s dirty, and it makes both sexual partners dirty. You see, God created sex to be like the water in your washing machine. If it stays inside the machine, it makes your clothes clean. But if you toss it in the dirt, it will just make your clothes dirtier. Within a godly marriage, sexual intimacy can help cleanse your spouse of lustful thoughts. It can help cleanse your spouse of discouragement and insecurities. And it can help cleanse your spouse of feelings of rejection. No, sexual intimacy can’t cleanse your spouse of sin. Only Jesus can do that. But there is cleansing power in sexual intimacy, and that is by God’s design. So, is there such a thing as holy sex? Yes, there is, when we allow God’s word to be our guide.
One final insight: Sexual intimacy provides a living illustration of how passionately Jesus Christ loves us and desires to be close to us. Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:31-32 as he’s giving instructions to husbands: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” You see, the very best marriages are a living illustration of Christ’s love for the Church, which in the New Testament is often called the Bride of Christ.
When we are intimate with our spouses and experience that agape love, we are closer than we can ever be to any other human being. Could it be that God designed this intimacy for us to better understand how much Jesus loves us … and how much He wants us to be close to Him?
Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.