In our Life Apps series at The Bridge this summer, we are taking questions via texting and answering them with a panel. Because we could not get to all of the questions this last week, I am blogging to respond to some of the submitted questions that were not addressed in the service. Last week’s message was, “Good Sex, Bad Sex” and it helped gain a Biblical understanding on the subject. You can watch the sermon and panel here.
What does the marriage bed being undefiled mean?
The term comes from Hebrews 13:4 – “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (ESV).
In the 1st century world, two schools of thought existed. One promoted hedonism, leaving very few restraints on sexuality (far more popular). The other promoted asceticism, viewing sex as a necessary evil for procreation (this thinking made its way into Catholicism).
The Biblical view is neither and the author of Hebrews was arguing against both. The Greek word for “undefiled” refers to something that is pure and good being corrupted or ruined by impurities (i.e. bacteria defiling food, etc.). So the implication is that the marriage bed, sexual activity between a husband and wife, is pure and good. But as he clarifies in the next sentence, sexual activity outside of marriage defiles it.
This came up in our panel last week when someone asked, “Is there anything between two married people that is out of bounds?” I responded that the Bible does not say that anything is wrong but that Hebrews 13 says that the marriage bed is “undefiled”. However, sexual activity is not to be selfish in nature and anything that goes on between a husband and wife must be comfortable and enjoyable for both.
What about masturbation? In and out of marriage?
This can be a pretty controversial subject and there are some strong opinions on it. I’d like to stay with what the Bible says on these matters, and on this one, the Bible just does not say. Some want to point to the Old Testament story of Onan, but that story was not about masterbation. It was about a man who used the Leverite Law to have sex but not to fulfill the principle by “spilling his seed on the ground.” So it doesn’t really apply.
But there can be principles in the Bible that sometimes do apply. For example, Jesus said that looking at a woman lustfully is committing adultery in the heart. In every counseling situation I’ve been in where this has been a problem, it has been used in conjunction with lust…lusting with pornography or sexual imaginations/fantasies of someone other than the spouse. Those are things the Bible does talk about and those are the areas we should want to be disciplined in and surrender to God.
How can unmarried people and those not in a relationship apply these principles?
Whether or not you are married or in a relationship, we all need to have a Biblical understanding of life and the world we live in. And not that many people never face any sexual temptation. So in that sense, it is important for you to understand and embrace God’s perceptive on sex, every bit as much as married people. And it is also important for you to be committed to honoring God in this area.
The other part of this is that as Christians, we are part of a body. We affect others and should care about what other people struggle with and we should be interested in how we can help each other. If we remain ambivalent about matters that do not touch us personally, how can it be said that we really care about each another? So in some ways, we also apply these principles by helping others face challenges in a Biblical way, even if they are challenges that we will not face ourselves.