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What is God's Design for Sexuality?

January 08, 2013 :: Jim Piper, Jr.

Practical and specific questions regarding human sexuality are good, not bad. The way to get to the best answers is to ask the right questions. I don’t think I have ever been asked the question found at the top of this page; however, I believe it is the best question to begin the discussion about sexuality.

Instead of “What is God’s Design for Sexuality?” I usually get questions like these: “Why do people need to get married; Is there anything wrong with living together to make sure the relationship will work; How far is too far when it comes to sexual or sensual contact between two unmarried people?”

I also get questions about homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, abortion, what’s OK behind closed doors, and other more explicit topics. For now, let’s start at the top, which I believe is the best place to begin. What is God’s Design for Sexuality? This is a good question and if I do a decent job at answering it, even in brevity, it may make other questions on the same subject, mute.

First, I believe the act of sex outside of God’s design is at the least, empty, and at the worse, destructive. In other words, I do not believe sex is a topic that can stand-alone. It is an act directly connected to God’s plan for human reproduction and unique intimacy.


God’s plan for humanity includes multiplication. God’s words recorded in Genesis 1.27-28 make three things extremely clear: 1. Humans were made in God’s image (we reason, rule, create, judge, relate, etc.). 2. Humans are the highest life form on earth. 3. Humans are to multiply.

Men and women have distinctly different body parts and organs made for reproduction. This is fairly obvious, but he also designed the process into a variety of stages: attraction, covenant, intimacy, and sexuality. God wanted the multiplication process to be pleasurable. However, like all good things, they can be used in destructive ways as described in Romans 1.18-32.


Connectedness is what every human soul desires. It is a sense of closeness and unusual trust. Sexuality was designed within the circle of intimacy. Sexuality is not intimacy; even dogs have sex. Sex is an intimate act but it does not define intimacy. Intimacy is profound. It is deep. It is about respect, care, service, unselfishness, commitment, tenderness, truth, and love.

Intimacy cannot be attained without covenant. When people participate in sensual and sexual acts outside the covenant of marriage and the state of intimacy, they reduce sex to an act. When people have sex, that’s what they have but don’t call it “love-making” if the participants are not married and or not pursuing intimacy. As a pastor, I have been ministering to people for over 25 years and can say without hesitation, the misuse of sexuality has hurt more people than anything else I can recall. If one participates in sex then breaks up, it means, “You thought we were intimate but I just wanted sex.” This is a violation of trust and intimacy and that’s why it wounds people so deeply.

Traditionally, nakedness has been considered a very private thing. It is normal to protect our nakedness in a fallen world because lust abounds. Even in Scripture, before the fall, nakedness is considered a very private thing only to be shared with one’s spouse. Before the fall, Genesis 2.22-25 describes the intimacy between Adam and Eve. It says, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” This describes both the purity of sexuality within covenant and how sensuality and nakedness outside of marriage is also outside of God’s design.

Here’s the problem. The ways of the world never stop speaking to us. Television, movies, advertising, and the life-styles of many tell us to pursue pleasure. In a sense, the world is promoting the idea that God is boring and full of laws and regulations. The opposite is true. God is the one who designed pleasure, pleasure without guilt!

We are asking the wrong questions. We should not be asking, “What can I get away with?” We should be asking, “How does intimacy develop?” We should realize that our body has innate value and should be reserved for true covenant and intimacy.

By the way, I’m human as well. Our sexual passions are real and should not be ignored. So another good question for another day might be “How do I acknowledge my needs and desires without falling to lustful passion?”

The apostle Paul wrote: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his body in holiness and honor, not in passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this manner…” 1 Thess. 4.3-6a, ESV.

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