Sex Is Honorable In Marriage

by David Padfield

The American home is in trouble today. The statistics are rather depressing:

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. For every divorce, there are dozens of unhappy marriages held together by children, business or economic needs. If you are a Christian, you must be concerned about the deterioration of the family in our country.

Where Did The Problem Begin?

When men and women leave the Bible out of their lives, trouble will soon follow. Our society is now reaping the terrible consequences of ungodly living. While the sexual revolution in the 60's has contributed to the problem, the roots go back much further.

Much of the blame for marital problems must be placed on the Roman Catholic Church. Their total misunderstanding of God's purpose for marriage has destroyed many homes. Their influence throughout the world continues to destroy normal husband-wife relationships.

Martin Luther, usually credited with starting the Protestant Reformation, rebelled against Catholicism for many reasons, including their ungodly attitude toward marital relations. "To understand the depths of the revolution, we need to know something about medieval attitudes toward marriage, sexual relations, and the family. While the material on these attitudes is rich and complex, manuals for confessors composed in the late Middle Ages provide some striking illustrations. In these manuals, sexual relations in marriage were usually considered to be at best a concession to the weakness of the flesh and were often categorized as venial sin. Part of the reason for this attitude toward sexual relations in marriage was that celibacy was exalted as the ideal. Marital relations were often viewed with suspicion. The manuals frequently refer to a memorable line often (though incorrectly) attributed to Saint Jerome: 'Anyone who is too passionate a lover with his own wife is himself an adulterer.' Indeed, marital relations were viewed with so much distrust that many clerics felt it was easier to avoid unchastity in a celibate life than in marriage. While these comments refer only to the sexual side of marriage, they indicate the medieval church's attitude to marriage in general" (Christianity Today, October 21, 1983, pp. 14-15).

Closer to our home, I believe we can also blame preachers who refuse to expound upon Bible verses dealing with human sexuality for fear of offending those with "delicate sensibilities."

God Created The Home

Our Creator knows more about us than we will ever know about ourselves. In the beginning, God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Genesis 2:18).

Have you ever wondered why it is not good for man to be alone? Patsy Rae Dawson, in her book on the home, claims "single men commit ninety percent of all crimes of violence, earn less than their married peers, are five times more likely to be hospitalized for emotional distress, have the highest suicide rate, are four times more likely to be killed in a car crash and generally from all causes die younger, and are six times more likely than married men to die of accidental falls" (Marriage: A Taste Of Heaven, Vol. I, p. 164).

God created the woman to be "comparable" to the man. Have you ever wondered why God caused Adam to sleep while He created Eve? Dawson said, "Suppose God had given Adam a say in what the woman would be like. Surely, Adam would have asked for someone strong enough to plow the fields and carry away the boulders to relieve him not for a woman with delicate strength who needed him to open pickle jars and carry heavy boxes for her. Adam would have asked for someone with an analytical mind to help him design bridges and buildings not for a woman who cried easily and who got emotionally involved in matters. And Adam certainly would have asked for someone tough enough to work out in the harsh elements on the evening swing-shift while he slept, not for a soft, tenderly formed woman who wanted to pat, hug, squeeze, and kiss him all the time" (Marriage: A Taste Of Heaven, p. 168).

Anne Moir and David Jessel have recently published a book which shows men and women have different skills and abilities, each providing what the other lacks. "Men are different from women. They are equal only in their common membership of the same species, humankind. To maintain that they are the same in aptitude, skill or behavior is to build a society based on a biological and scientific lie. The sexes are different because their brains are different. The brain, the chief administrative and emotional organ of life, is differently constructed in men and in women; it processes information in a different way, which results in different perceptions, priorities and behavior" (Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men & Women, p. 5).

Here are a few of the differences Moir and Jessel point out: Men are better at reading maps, mathematics, have superior hand-eye coordination, have a more adventurous vocabulary, see better in bright light and like red better than blue. Women score better on tests of verbal ability, are equipped to receive a wider range of sensory information, master foreign languages easier, hear better, have a more conventional vocabulary, and like blue better than red. Instead of creating a Xerox copy of Adam capable of bearing children, God created the woman to be "comparable" to the man.

While in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness (Gen. 2:25). Why should they be? God created them pure and holy. There is nothing unholy about normal marital relations. Though many people today refuse to talk about this subject, the Bible has a great deal to say about it. Many of the problems between husbands and wives can be traced to an unbiblical view of human sexuality (I've probably already offended a few people by using the "S" word!).

When Adam and Eve transgressed God's law and were cast out of the garden, God pronounced the punishment for them and for their tempter, Satan. The Lord cursed Satan and put enmity between him and the woman (Gen. 3:14,15). Adam was punished when the Lord cursed the ground and caused it to bring forth thorns (Gen. 3:17-19).

It is interesting to note the Lord did not "curse" Eve, but rather He added to her pain in childbearing. Then He said, "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." The word "desire" means "to take delight in; to covet" (Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies, p. 118). "Consequently, the word 'desire' never refers to subjection, but expresses desire for another person, sexually or otherwise. The only conclusion seems to be that God consoles Eve by promising that her punishment will not be more than she can bear, and it will not interfere with her sexual love for her husband. Thus, God comforts Eve with these words, 'Yet [in spite of your punishment] your desire will be for your husband [no matter how bad the birth experience might be, it will not cause you to stop desiring sexual relations with your husband. You may not want to have any more children, but you will continue to feel sexual desires for your husband], and he shall rule over you" (Marriage: A Taste of Heaven, Vol. I, p. 191).

"Sex" Is Not A Dirty Word

In Hebrews 13:4 we read, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled." The word for "bed" is this verse is the Greek word koitee, from which we get our English word coitus (sexual intercourse). All that is done for the mutual pleasure of husbands and wives on the marital bed is "honorable." What was a "Thou shalt not" during their courtship is now a "Thou shalt" in marriage.

Even in her old age, Sarah desired to be with her husband, Abraham. When told she was going to bear a child, she said, "After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" (Gen. 24:5).


In the few weeks before the Persian Gulf war, television news programs carried a stories about the many couples who were getting married just days before one of them had to leave for military duty overseas. Do you realize that marriage under similar circumstances would have been prohibited during the Mosaic age? In Deuteronomy 24:5 we read, "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken."

Why did God prohibit a newlywed husband from leaving his wife during the first year of marriage? God wanted the couple to spend time getting to know one another as husband and wife (physically and mentally). There are many adjustments which must be made early in a marriage. God did not want the couple to destroy their marriage by adding to the pressures which all newlyweds face. A husband or wife can not fulfill the sexual and emotional needs of their marriage partner while separated from their spouse.

Some marriage counselors advise young couples to not even own a TV during their first year of marriage. I have never understood newlyweds who wanted to drive 3,000 miles on their honeymoon. Their parents should have explained the difference between a honeymoon and a vacation!

"Due Benevolence"

The apostle Paul commanded the husband to "render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Corinthians 7:3,4). This quote is from the New King James translation. The King James Version uses the phrase "due benevolence" instead of "affection."

The word "benevolence" in 1 Corinthians 7:3 is a translation of the Greek word eunoia, which means "conjugal duty." Several years ago I heard a gospel preacher present a lesson on "due benevolence," and when he finished I don't think anyone in the audience knew he was preaching about sex. It is interesting to note that in the bedroom, God considers the rights of the wife to be equal to the rights of her husband.

Our Creator knows how powerful the human sex drive is. He also knows it is possible for one partner to "cause" a spouse to commit adultery if their needs are not met (cf. Matt. 5:32). As a hedge against adultery God has said, "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Cor. 7:5). According to this passage, three conditions must be met before a married couple may abstain from normal marital relations:

  1. Abstinence must be by mutual consent.
  2. Abstinence must be for a short period of time.
  3. Abstinence must be for the purpose of the couple giving themselves to fasting and prayer.

I have counseled married couples who were abstaining from intercourse for a variety of reasons (anger, guilt, jealousy, etc.), but I have never talked with a couple who abstained for spiritual reasons.

Solomon wrote several chapters in Proverbs to warn his son about the dangers of committing adultery. After a lengthy warning in chapter five, he admonishes him to "drink water from your own cistern" (Prov. 5:15). This verse instructs the young man to satisfy his sexual desires with his own wife and not with an immoral woman (Prov. 5:3).

Solomon also discusses the virtues of marital love and said, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?" (Prov. 5:18-20). The young man was advised to be "enraptured" by his wife's love. When literally translated, the word "enraptured" means "intoxicated." Solomon told his son to be "intoxicated" with his wife's love!

An "intoxicating" wife would be one who is madly in love with her husband and who talks, acts and dresses like a lady. Women who dress like truck drivers should not be disappointed if they are not treated like ladies. The next time you go to the supermarket, take a look at the way nine out of ten women are dressed. They look like survivors of a shipwreck wearing clothing distributed by the Red Cross. Apparently, they think the M-R-S in front of their name means "Miss Rummage Sale."

I don't want to leave the husbands out. They are required to love their wives just as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25-29). A man who loves his wife will put her interests and desires above his own. When both marriage partners are concerned about the happiness of their spouse, they will both find wedded bliss. They will form the foundation for a family pleasing to God and honorable to all.

For further study