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Sexual Boundaries in Marriage (A Transcript)

We are discussing the topic -Are there any regulations in sexual behavior in marriage? This is a great question and it’s one that a lot of people have, but often don’t know how to ask it, which is the reason we have chosen to discuss it.

To respond to this question, I want to say two things, the first reality I want to affirm, is that we have to be very pro-sex in marriage. This is crucial because as Christians it is very easy for us to look at the culture and look at the human heart which is tempted by all kinds of things and say no all the time; no to this and no to that.

While we do need to say no to things that are sinful, we need to be honest that God himself made sex, commands sex in the context of marriage, and we, therefore, ought to be grateful for sex. In fact, we could say more clearly that all the fruit in the garden of sexual delight is open to married couples. This language I use on purpose because it grows out of the book of Song of Solomon 2:1-6, it says, I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women. Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.

As you might know, the Song of Solomon is a love poem about two lovers and it celebrates the love that exists between a man and his wife. In these verses what we read about is a couple in marriages enjoying the delights of marriage in the context of that relationship. There is the reference to raisin cakes and apples which are fruits that were associated with fertility in the ancient world. This text ends up being the instruction to us that as married people, we should enjoy all of the benefits of the sexual relationship that God has given us within marriage.

It is biblical for Christians to celebrate sex within marriage. The question about regulations for sexual behavior in marriage, if we are not careful in answering that question, will lose sight of one key principle which is, sex is a good gift in marriage and is to be received with thanksgiving and joy.

The principle is when you are married all of the fruit in that garden of sexual delight is open and available to you, and you should be free and happy to partake of all of that blessing. As true as that is, in a sinful world we probably need to talk about a few qualifiers to that general principle. While in general, the banquet is open, there are three qualifications that married couples need to remember that regulates that. This gets specifically to the issues on what are the regulations on sexual behavior in marriage.

The first one, you may not in your sexual relationship in marriage include other people. This might seem obvious to some of you, but in our world today there is nothing that should go without saying. As a matter fact, God made the marriage bed to be enjoyed by one man and one woman until they are parted by death. In Genesis 2:24-25, it says for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. It’s the man and his wife who was naked and was not ashamed. They left their parents to be joined together to hold fast to one another and they become one flesh.

This sexual union in marriage is an exclusive union and it is not open to admission by other people. This would include arrangements like an open marriage where couples agree that they can have sex with other people. This would also include pornography. When you view pornography, alone or as a couple, you are introducing other people into the marriage bed and that is not allowed. One regulation on enjoying the delights of sex within marriage is that you may not include other people.

Another regulation or qualifier is that you may not harm one another. The sexual union is a loving union. It is a tender union which requires care for one another. In Ephesians 5:28-29, the apostle Paul writes about husbands to their wives. It says husbands are to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. No one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the church. The apostle Paul takes something for granted here, is that you have enough respect for your body that you nourish it. You never have to be instructed to care for your body; you just do that on your own. When you are hungry and you eat a sandwich you don’t congratulate yourself and say, “Look at me I ate a sandwich, I took care of myself.” It is just part of what you do. The apostle Paul uses that assumption that you care for yourself and applies it to marriage and he says, husbands, in the same way, you care for your own body, so you need to care for your wife because you are members of one of another with her. You are one flesh.

The idea of marriage is that we care for one another. We nourish one another and take care of one another, what the apostle Paul directs toward men in the context of the larger marriage relationship has equal application for the wife in regards to the sexual relationship. You should view this union as one of nurturing and tender care. Couples ought not to bring harm to each other even when in some situations one spouse would like it and would request it. There are some sexual practices that people request, but they do bring physical harm. As Christians, we should say we are not going to do anything that is going to bring harm to anyone, even if asked to. One sexual reality that is off limits is anything that will bring harm to the other person.

The third regulation, you may not insist on your own way. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, the Bible says that love does not insist on its own way. It is amazing the number of couples I have spoken to in years of pastoral ministry and counseling, that there is a debate on this or that sexual practice. We are not talking about normal sexual relations; we are talking about a special request that one spouse would like to try and the other spouse feels uncomfortable about it which causes a debate.

One spouse wants to try this option based on research saying it is okay to try it. The biblical response to that in line with 1 Corinthians 13:5 is that you may not insist on your own way. While it is true that the garden of sexual delights is open to married couples and true that one couple might enjoy this option which may not be forbidden in the text of scripture, however if you are asking your spouse to do something that makes him or her uncomfortable and it is something above and beyond normal sexual relations, then you are insisting on your own way and you are in sin.

You need to forgot about this and drop it and repent of the hatred of insisting on your own way and you should pursue the love that lets your preferences go and seeks to serve your spouse. In marriage, we are to enjoy the sexual relationship that God has created but it doesn’t mean anything goes. In fact, you may not include other people, you may not harm one another, and you may not insist on your on your own way.

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  • Barry Broadhurst
    October 28, 2017

    Great advice and guidelines. Being married for 33 years I echo a hardy yes and amen. Following these guidelines will benefit any couple throughout their lives together. Thank you for this post.

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