The Gospel and Human Sexuality

“Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church.”

As Christians we confess that Adam and Eve complement each other sexually.  There is widespread confusion about what Christians believe about sexuality, so we need to keep a few things in mind: First, humans are created beings who receive their existence from God.  We belong to God and are therefore required to obey Him.  When He sets the parameters for human sexuality, we are not permitted to transgress them without receiving the due penalty: death (cf. Romans 6:23).  Rather, we should live within these parameters because God laid them down for our good and His glory. 

Second, humans are created by God with a specific purpose.  Our older brothers said that our “chief end” is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”[1]  They go on to say, “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.”[2]  Since this is true, then it must be the case that the laws God gives us (which are found in Scripture and in our hearts) are meant to help us glorify and enjoy Him forever.

This fact has serious implications for how we think of God and for how we think of the Christian life.  Many people grow up thinking of God as if He were an angry guy in the sky who is ready to throw down lightning bolts at a moment’s notice.  People think this God is after our complete obedience apart from our joy.  God, according to this line of thinking, doesn’t care about our joy in Him but only our obedience to His law. 

The problem, of course, is that this just couldn’t be any further from the truth.  The Bible always and everywhere teaches us that God is fundamentally concerned with our joy in Him precisely because He is ultimately concerned with His own glory.  The more we enjoy Him, the more His glory is made known throughout the earth, which, in turn, accomplishes our purpose as creatures.  And we enjoy Him by living according to the parameters that He has given us in Scripture, especially concerning human sexuality.

Third, we must acknowledge the intrinsic goodness of humanity and of human sexuality.  When God made humanity, He called them “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and told them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).  This means that sex is God’s gift to humanity.  He designed it for our good and for His glory, which means that He knows how it ought to operate.  So when He says that sex can only function correctly in marriage (cf. Genesis 2:24-25), He’s not trying to steal our joy but to make it more complete (since our joy in Him glorifies Him). 

But even as we acknowledge that humanity was created originally good and that sex is a good gift from God, we must also wrestle with the reality that we live on the other side of Genesis 3.  We all now live in a world which has been fundamentally broken by sin, a world characterized by our rejection of God and His purposes.  Is it any wonder that we, like Adam and Eve before us, feel shame about our nakedness (cf. Genesis 3:7)?  

Yet though we live in a radically fallen world characterized by sin and shame, there is good news: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).  For those of us who have violated God’s good parameters, those of us who feel dirty and shameful about our sexual brokenness, the good news is that Christ, because of his special love for his bride, the church, has come to wash us by his word, to take our shame, and to make us pure before God. 

We see that marriage is a picture of the gospel: just as a husband harbors a special love for his wife that is not reserved for any other woman, a love which manifests itself in self-giving and humble leadership, so too Christ has a special kind of love for his church.  He graciously gave himself up for her, to make her holy.  He gently leads her by the hand, removing her spots and blemishes.  Thus we see that even in regards to human sexuality, Christ has the preeminence.  He has given us the perfect example of what it means to be human, and in light of his death and resurrection, we are empowered by God’s grace to live as those who have been washed clean by his blood.

[1] Westminster Shorter Catechism, Answer 1.

[2] Ibid., Answer 2.

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