You’re reading WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT SEX, an inspirational book to help you discover and put into practice what God says about sex, by Eric Elder. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!
“Now Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1, NKJV).
You may have heard about the group of scientists who got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God.
They picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need You. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t You just go on and get lost.”
God listened patiently to the man and when the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well! How about this? Let’s have a man-making contest.”
To which the man replied, “Okay, great!”
But God added, “Now we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”
The scientist said, “Sure, no problem,” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go and get your own dirt!”
We may think that our new reproductive technologies are remarkable, like in vitro fertilization, where a man’s sperm and a woman’s eggs are extracted from their bodies and then coaxed together in a test tube. Or cloning, where scientists take a few cells from one body and try to fuse them together with an egg from another body, and then try to spark life into them by using an electric shock in a sterile lab. These technologies are remarkable, but compared to the way God designed sex to create a new life in the first place, there’s no doubt in my mind which process is more remarkable—and more fun!
Given the choice, I think most people would rather create a new life the old-fashioned way: by making love, not just making babies. The reason for this goes deeper than just the fact that lovemaking can be tremendously fun.
The reason is that God wants us to know our husband or wife, deeply and intimately, and making love with them is one of the deepest ways we can know them. In fact, one of the Hebrew words that is often used in the Bible to describe making love is yada, which literally means “to know.”
For instance, the Bible says:
“Now Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1; see also Genesis 4:17, 1 Samuel 1:19, NKJV).
To know someone, in the biblical sense, means to have sexual intercourse with them. An easy way to remember what the word intimacy means is to think of the phrase “into-me-see.” When we’re intimate with our husband or wife, we’re allowing them to see into us and they’re allowing us to see into them.
Why does God want you to know your spouse so intimately? Because God wants you to use your hands, your eyes, your words, your ears, your heart—your whole being—to express His love to them, as well as your own.
As much as God wants to fulfill the desires of your heart, He also wants to fulfill the desires of your spouse’s heart—through you! In order to do that effectively, it’s vitally important that you know your spouse, deeply and intimately, so that you can touch them in the way God wants them to be touched.
Why Don’t You Marry Her?
The first time this struck me, that God wanted to work through me to fulfill the desires of Lana’s heart, started before I even thought about marrying her.
Lana was still living in Michigan and I was living in Texas. Even though we had dated in college, we had broken up two years earlier, but we still talked on the phone from time to time. One night, Lana told me that she was wondering if God wanted her to stay at her current job or not. I told her that I was planning a special time of prayer and fasting that week, so I’d pray about her job decision, too.
By day two of my fast, I was feeling spiritually stronger, but a little lightheaded. I was sitting by a pool in the warm Texas sun, having taken the day off work to pray. When I began praying for Lana, I didn’t picture her wearing a suit and tie, working for a large corporation for the rest of her life—I pictured her at home, married and raising a family.
That’s it, Lord! She doesn’t need a different job. What she needs is a husband who will take care of her so that she can stay home. I began to pray that God would bring her a husband.
Then these words floated through my mind as clear as the water in front of me: “Why don’t you marry her?”
What?!? That’s not what I was praying about at all! Maybe the fast was affecting me more than I thought!
But two weeks later, even after my fast was over, the question was still at the forefront of my mind: “Why don’t you marry her?”
I began to ask myself the same thing: “Why don’t I marry her?” It wasn’t that I didn’t like her. In fact, when we dated in college, I was totally in love with her. But the reason we broke up two years earlier was because God had already been working on my heart and I felt He was the one prompting me to break up with her. At the time, I didn’t even know why God would want us to break up. But in the months following our breakup, both of us decided to put our faith in Christ. We then began to learn what God says about sex and realized that what we had been doing was wrong.
Now, two years later, and having both given our lives to Christ, maybe God really did want us to get back together! I had to find out, one way or the other, so I decided to set aside the next three months to pray and see if this question was really from God or not. Lana and I still talked from time to time, but I didn’t tell her about my prayers, both for her sake and for my own. I just wanted to hear clearly from God without the pressure of a relationship.
Over those next few months, God put a love in my heart for Lana that surpassed anything I had ever felt before. I was able to listen to her from a distance and see how she felt on issues that were important to me, her relationship with Christ, and her dreams and desires. I tried to look at her the way God looks at her to see if I could really meet her needs the way God wanted them to be met.
By the end of the three months of praying, I was about ready to burst! I was so in love with her that I told God I’d be really mad at Him if He didn’t let me marry her!
Knowing Your Spouse Before Marriage
God cares deeply about who we marry. I don’t know whether or not God has prearranged, from the beginning of time, who He wants us to marry. But I do know that He has a definite stake in the decision.
There are certain things that God wants us to know about our spouse even before we marry them. In several places in the Bible, God gives us clear guidelines, as well as specific guidance, about the person He wants us to marry.
I remember when our first two kids were younger, they wondered if they could marry each other when they grew up. I’m glad they liked each other so much at the time to even think of it, but we said, “No, God will give you someone else to marry.”
How did we know this and they didn’t? Because we knew it was against the law and they didn’t, and also because we had read it in the Bible and they hadn’t. Some of the things we take for granted are obvious to us only because we, or someone before us, has discovered them in God’s Word. Here are a few of the general guidelines that God gives in the Bible for who He wants us to marry—and not marry.
God wants believers in Christ to marry other believers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers, for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?” (2 Corinthians 6:14a).
God doesn’t want us to marry someone who would turn our hearts away from Him: “You must not intermarry with them [those who serve other gods], because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods” (1 Kings 11:2b).
God tells us who is off-limits for sexual relations, and therefore off limits for marriage:
- We’re not to have sexual relations with any close relative: “No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 18:6). In the same chapter, God then goes on to define close relatives as our parents, children, brothers and sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews;
- We’re not to have sexual relations with anyone who is already married, which would be adultery; “Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her” (Leviticus 18:20);
- Nor with animals, which is called bestiality: “Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it” (Leviticus 18:23a);
- Nor with people who are the same sex as us, which is called homosexuality among men and lesbianism among women: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22) and “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).
Those in the Bible who ask for God’s input about who to marry are invariably blessed, such as Isaac and Rebekah (see Genesis 24) and Jacob and Rachel (see Genesis 29). Those who don’t follow God’s advice invariably pay the price, such as Amnon and Tamar (see 2 Samuel 13:1-21) and Solomon and his foreign wives (see 1 Kings 11:1-4).
This is not to say that God can’t redeem and restore any marriage—because He can and He has! I’ve seen Him do it several times! But those who have gone into marriage without listening first to what God says will be the first ones to tell you that they wished they had followed God’s advice.
God cares who you marry because He cares about you, He cares about your spouse, and He cares about the children who may result from your marriage.
A Gift From God
During those three months that I prayed about marrying Lana, I was able to find out several things about her. I could see that she was a believer and that she would encourage me in my walk with the Lord, not turn me away from Him. I already knew she wasn’t a close relative, she wasn’t married, she wasn’t an animal, and she wasn’t a man. So far so good!
When my three months of prayer came to an end, I decided to call Lana and tell her everything that was on my heart. When we started talking, she told me she had finally decided to quit her job. She knew it was the right thing to do, but she didn’t know what she was going to do next. I told her I had an idea!
When I asked her to consider moving to Houston so we could pray together about possibly getting married, she was the one that went into shock! What?!? she thought. That’s not what I was praying about at all!
Now she needed some time to pray about it. During those next few months, there was nothing I could do but wait. At one point during this time, when I honestly didn’t know what Lana might decide, I read this passage in the Bible:
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests” (Psalm 20:4-5).
Once again, the words of the Bible seemed to leap off the page. I knew in that moment that Lana was the desire of my heart. Although I knew it might sound like a childish prayer, I said, “Lord, You’ve already given me more than I deserve by forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life with You. But if I could ask you for only one gift the rest of my life, it would be to marry Lana.” I had no idea if God would grant me my request, and I was willing to trust Him whatever the outcome, but I also knew that I would “shout for joy,” as it said in Psalm 20, if He did let me marry her!
Less than a year later, as we were standing at the altar exchanging our wedding vows, I looked at Lana with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and said, “Lana, ever since I read Psalm 20 that said, ‘May He give you the desire of your heart’ I’ve known that you are the desire of my heart. … You are a gift from God to me, and I plan to treat you as a gift.”
A husband or wife really is a gift from God—and God wants us to treat them as gifts. That includes the way we treat them sexually. One of the problems with sex is that people often use it to get what they want, rather than to give what God wants. Making love is more than just another term for sex, it also describes the way we should do it.
There are times when I’ll look at Lana and ask myself, If God were here right now, what would He do to bless her? How would He want me to use my hands, my words, my eyes, my ears, and my heart to bless her in a special way? Sometimes I’ll sense that God wants me to caress her forehead, stroke her hair, or give her gentle kisses on her lips and cheeks. While it’s nearly impossible for me not to take pleasure in this, too, my honest motivation at times like these is not to satisfy my own desires, but to let God work through me to satisfy hers. I usually find that by blessing her, God uses her to bless me back!
By knowing our spouse, deeply and intimately, we can better minister to their needs. The Bible says that husbands and wives ought to care for each other’s bodies as if they were their own:
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:28-30).
Ironically, some people will joke with their spouse when they don’t want to have sex by saying, “Not tonight, honey, I have a headache.” But in reality, sex might be just what the doctor ordered. I’ve been amazed that throughout our married life, whenever my wife really does have a headache, godly caressing and lovemaking has brought about the complete and total cure! God has been able to work through me to bring about the healing she needs.
I’d like to give you a short list of suggestions for how to truly make love with your spouse, all of which revolve around knowing your spouse.
- Treat one another with love and respect. God wants to use our hands, our bodies and our words to express His love to our spouses, not in any way that is hurtful or disrespectful. Does this delight my spouse? Does it make them feel truly loved and respected? Does it make them feel appreciated and genuinely cared for? “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
- Build each other up, not tear each other down. Some types of touching may be exciting to us, but may cause physical or emotional harm to our spouse or to ourselves. God has wired our bodies to sense pain so that we can tell when something needs extra care. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
- Make love regularly. The Bible doesn’t give us a “norm” for how often a married couple should engage in sex, but it does say that we should not deprive each other of these times of intimacy, except when both spouses agree and only for a limited time. Ask God what He wants you to do for your spouse, inviting His Holy Spirit into your lives to help you find what may even be creative ways to bless them. “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
- Take time to learn the differences between your own body and your spouse’s. While most men can be aroused and have an orgasm within just a few minutes, it takes most women twenty minutes or more to have an orgasm. While a man may be ready to engage in full sexual intercourse within the first few minutes, he would find his wife is much more receptive after taking twenty minutes or more to just talk and touch and caress her until she is ready, too. I shared this simple fact with a friend before his wedding and when he came back from his honeymoon, he said that knowing this fact had made all the difference in the way he approached sex with his new wife and their mutual experience of it. If there’s one book about sex that I would recommend to you so that you can learn more about your spouse and godly lovemaking, it would be Dr. Ed and Gaye Wheats’ book, Intended For Pleasure.
- Recognize the unique way God created humans to make love. Did you know that human beings are the only creatures that can engage in sexual intercourse face-to-face? This is one of many facts I learned from the Wheats’ book that has helped me to appreciate even more the way God created our bodies to relate sexually. While many books about sex go into great detail about various sexual positions a couple might try, don’t think it’s a small thing to make love in one of the most obvious positions of all—face-to-face with your husband or wife, a position that God has reserved for humans alone.
- Pray for each other daily. One simple thing that Lana and I have done since the beginning of our marriage is to go to bed together at the same time whenever we can, and to pray for each other, out loud, every night before going to sleep. This has helped us to know each other even better, as we share about the important things in our lives needing prayer. It allows us to cover each other in prayer, as well as to regularly “clear the air” if there has been any tension between us during the day, as the Bible encourages all of us to do: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” (Ephesians 4:26b). This time of spiritual intimacy is often a precursor to a time of physical intimacy.
Our lovemaking can and should be life-giving, not destructive in any way. As Jesus said:
“The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
By knowing your spouse, deeply and intimately, this can be yet another way that you can experience just such a full and abundant life. And as you’ll see in the next chapter, it can bring about an abundance of life in other ways, too!
1. What is the meaning behind the Hebrew word “yada” which the Bible uses to describe sexual relations? (as used in Genesis 4:1, NKJV)
2. Who are some of the people listed in the Bible with whom God does not want us to engage in sexual relations or marriage? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Kings 11:2, Leviticus 18)
3. How does God want husbands and wives to treat each other’s bodies? (Ephesians 5:28-30)
4. What are some additional ways that God wants us to treat each other that can also be applied to sexual intimacy? (Ephesians 5:33, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5)