What is human sexuality in the context of the kingdom of God? The place to begin a discussion of “Kingdom sexuality” is with our God. Why God? Because God is the creator, not only of human sexuality but of all sexuality. If therefore sex is God’s design, we can say that sex is comprehensively good. As a creative work of God, sex bears the fingerprints of its creator. So understood and practiced, sex is holy, righteous, just, faithful, trusting, peaceful, honorable, noble, corporately edifying, unifying, and creative.
God’s design for sexuality as revealed in Genesis and as affirmed by Jesus and the Apostle Paul, is for a man to leave his father and his mother and to cleave to his wife and for the two to become one flesh. The phenomenon of two becoming one flesh speaks to the physiological reality that happens in sexual intimacy between woman and man. The female sexual physiology and the male physiology are distinct and unique body parts that remain incomplete until they are united with their counterpart which exists within the physiology of another human being. The male penis cannot perform its designed end in procreation until it is united within its female counterpart, the vagina of a female’s physiology. When the two are united, the one encasing the other, then the two become one flesh. This phenomenon is biologically mysterious. For if we presuppose some form of evolutionary development, how are we to explain how one organism evolved a spectacularly detailed organ with an accompanying spectacularly complex biochemistry that totally depends on its perfection, it’s procreative performance, only in conjunction with another independent organism that has independently evolved a different but complementary organ of equal physiological and biochemical complexity successfully culminating in the possibility of procreation.? We don’t know. No one knows. It’s a mystery.
But it’s true. Even on the cellular level, if the male sperm and female egg are artificially removed from their natural place of origin within men and women and relocated to a petri dish or another human womb, it remains categorically true that the female egg must be penetrated by the male sperm in order for life to procreate. All human beings have come into existence through the heterosexual union of male and female. And that is God’s design as revealed in Scripture and as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul.
The consequence of this design, originating as it has within the mind of God, is holy, righteous, spectacularly good, and eternally glorious—producing as it does “a people for God’s own possession.” For without sexual intercourse between men and women there would be no newborn babies, there would be no adorable toddlers, there would be no children, middle schoolers, young people, college students, young adults, adults, or seniors. We all owe our existence to God’s invention of human sexuality. Without it there would be no laughter, no art, no music, no theatre, no philosophy, no science, no human worship or theology. Everything we know is contingent upon our existence and our existence is, according to God’s design, contingent upon sexual intercourse between male and female.
God’s perfect design for sex does not stop there. Accompanying God’s revealed will for a man to leave his mother and father and to cleave to his wife are God’s ordained guidelines for securing sexual fidelity through permanently responsible expressions of faithfulness, including expressions of love and forgiveness that sacrifice one’s selfish interests for the sake of the other and that in the spirit of Christ-like servanthood demonstrate unconditional agape love. This is God’s standard, modelled by Christ and to which Jesus calls us in the Sermon on the Mount and to which Paul calls us to in understanding the relationship of our risen Lord to his bride, the Church (cf. Eph. 5:22-32).
This is the spiritual maturity that God is calling us to in Christ Jesus. Sexual relationships that follow God’s guidelines for covenant consecration and permanent fidelity come to know lasting exhilaration, spectacular erotic pleasure, and warranted honor before God. Moreover, this context of holy sexual relations guided by truly loving eternal commitments, and stabilized by the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23) create the perfect atmosphere for raising children, all of whom are male or female in a world of males and females.
God’s optimal design is for males and females to procreate human life that is then trained through godly parenting to radiate divine wisdom into the created order, where the virtues of fidelity, trust, sacrifice, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and sacrificial love are essential for community and global shalom. These truths have only heightened in importance as a consequence of the fall. It being the case that we are all sinners, understanding God’s design for sex is a form of evangelistic Christian education that offers our world a better way, a healthier way, and, ironically, a more exhilarating way. A better sexual life is one aspect of the abundant life that Jesus came to commend—not just life but life abundantly (John 10:10).
This subject, sex, is indeed an important one within the mission of Taylor University as we “develop servant leaders marked with a passion for ministering the love and truth of God to a world in need.” There is, tragically, a world of dark deception related to sex in our world today. Counterfeit forms of sex seduce, addict, exploit, divide, shame, and sometimes even cause disease and destroy their hosts. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that 45% of American adults (110 million people) suffer from a sexually transmitted disease. How is that possible? Another report documents that America is investing 34 billion dollars into research on AIDS this year, compared to 17 billion for all cancers combined, and 3 billion for world hunger. Last year it was 36 billion dollars and if we go all the way back to 1981 over 550 billion dollars have been invested in AIDS research with the goal of coming up with a cure for a disease that would be eradicated in one generation if people lived God’s way, without illicit sex and illicit drugs.
Friends, God’s way is the best way. And as we profess to be about the business of “developing servant leaders marked with a passion for ministering Christ’s love to a world in need” it is our calling and responsibility to exercise integrity and holy living as we proclaim the Gospel in word and in our lifestyles, especially our sexual conduct. In Scripture, we are repeatedly called to be holy as God is holy, and that holiness is all-inclusive and intended for our eternal good and the eternal good of our world.
If you want the best sex, do it God’s way in committed matrimony. You’ll have more sex. You’ll have more exhilarating sex. And you’ll have sex with a partner into whose eyes you can look with faithful love and trust without shame or guilt, who understands the kind of commitment that sexual intercourse communicates.
On a still deeper level, sexual intercourse between a man and a woman within marital covenant is the closest human relationship that we have to the mysterious union we have with Christ through his atoning work. For when we profess in baptism that we have been crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ, we profess that we are now members of the global church, who is married to Christ. He is the bridegroom and we are his bride. The metaphor has its precedent in the Old Testament where Israel was understood in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea to be the metaphorical bride of God. God thereby was understood to be Israel’s husband. It is therefore upon this logic that the prophets equated Israel’s idolatry with adultery. To put it plainly, false worship is understood to be the moral equivalent to adultery. To put it another way, worship in any way other than God’s way is to commit adultery. Or to put it still another way, what sex is to marriage, worship is within our exclusive, intimate covenant with God.
It is in these senses that the Bible describes as abominable and unnatural all sexual relationships other than that which God has ordained for his creation. For a man to lie with a man as he lies with a female is to violate God’s design for the human body, which God perfectly designed for optimal sexual pleasure, optimal physiological compatibility, and optimal procreative potential. The hand, mouth, and anus are not sexual organs. Their functions for climaxing sex are at best compromises and at worst harmful to individual practitioners and society at large. Reality affirms this point, however controversial it may seem to you or offensive it may be to others. As it would be an abomination to the car manufacturer to treat the tail pipe like the gas tank, so it is to God for us to treat the anus like the vagina. The act is an abomination to God and a severe health risk. Were all human beings to engage only in same-sex intercourse humans would be extinct within one generation.
From these considerations, we find our benchmark for kingdom sexuality among the people of God. Being in Christ, our calling, our divinely given identity, is to be holy as God is holy, and this holiness defines our sexuality as much as any other dimension of our lives. This means that if you are single in Christ, your calling is to chastity for as long as you are unmarried. Your calling is to imitate the Christ with whom you are united by God’s grace through faith. Your conduct sexually should reflect the character and conduct of your Lord, who lived in this world, tempted as we are, and yet without sin. Is this possible? Yes, of course. God would not call us to attempt the impossible. His Holy Spirit is more than able to equip us to successfully repel all temptations to compromise. To say otherwise is to falsify the omnipotence, truth, and love of God. Many Christians have successfully proven God’s ability to maintain sexual chastity for a lifetime. Not only Jesus himself, but also recent heroes of the faith like John Stott and Mother Teresa. Revelation 14 commends as truly heroic and exemplary those who fulfill this call. Among the 144,000 who sing a new song before the throne of God are those “men who have kept themselves chaste and have not defiled themselves with women; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of mankind for God and the Lamb. No lie was found on their lips; they are without fault” (Rev 14:4-5).
While secular culture may caricature virgins as somehow deprived of pleasure and in some sense weak, the reality is that the opposite is the case. It takes strength of character to follow God’s will. Anyone can live according to the dictates of their appetites. It takes strength to turn away from pornography and extramarital sexual exploits. It takes wisdom, knowing that such is essential for maintaining integrity and intimacy with our holy God.
For the rest of us who are married, God’s revealed will discloses that heterosexual marital fidelity is God’s designed context for sexual relations. Sex between a faithful husband and wife is God’s perfect will. It creates a relationship that reflects God’s will for his own relationship with his covenant people, following the perfect sinless sacrifice of Jesus, which made our new creation as the people of God possible.
For the single as well as the married in Christ, pornography is a sinful violation of God’s will, pre-marital sex is a violation of God’s will, and adultery is a violation of God’s will. Premarital sex is a violation because in Christ the single person is in covenant with God, whose will for sex is within marriage. To engage in pre-marital sex is to violate one’s union with God through Christ and to disrespect one’s responsibility in saving one’s self for their future spouse. This is a mysterious truth that the people of God know to be true in their inner most beings. God is a holy God and he desires for his people to be holy in spirit and in truth. What is true for worship is true for sex. God is perfect. His design for all things is optimal. Correspondingly, his plan for sex is spectacular, the consummation of the closest human relationship one can have—marriage, the performance of arguably the most exhilarating physical experience a person can have—sexual intercourse, and the most creative endeavor a person can engage in—shared responsibility for the procreation of human life. Sex is awesome. But, like all truly awesome things, sex is also an awesome responsibility fit only for the wise, the devoted, the responsible, and the committed. Malpractice has its consequences as only the foolish and most deceived will deny.
Therefore, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “I urge you, my friends, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1).
Friends, the biblical sexual standard is a profoundly strategic, divinely ordained way by which we can prove to our world what God’s will is—that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Don’t settle for less.