Sexuality and Gender

This is Bible study and comment covering many aspects of sexuality and gender. I've done the best I can to reflect a biblical perspective on many issues - I don't expect anyone to fully agree with my conclusions!

This is a long article! You can jump from Contents to the various topics and tap  at the end of each topic to return to the main Contents.

There is other information on some of these topics in my articles on 'Christian Marriage' and 'Divorce and Remarriage'.

John Robertshaw  

Bible References - The ESV is used throughout this article. Touch or hover over the Bible references to bring up some of the verses. Follow more» to get the whole passage. If it's not working, touch another part of the page and try again.

Navigate from Contents by touching the entries.
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1) Biological Sex (male or female)
2) Gender (masculine or feminine)
3) Intersex
4) Transgender
5) Gender in the Bible
# Marriage
# Family - Household
# Church
# Teaching and Leadership
6) Sexual Immorality
7) Sex before Marriage
8) Sins of the Canaanites
9) Incest
10) Adultery
11) Homosexuality
12) Sex with Animals
13) Rape
14) Abuse
15) Prostitution
16) Sex Events
17) Attraction, Temptation, Lust
18) Flirting and Joking
19) Pornography
20) Masturbation
21) Other Sexual Practices
22) Clothes and Nudity

1) Biological Sex (male or female)

Biological sex is usually the first thing that we notice about another human being. It is the first question we ask about a new-born baby "Is it a boy or a girl?". It is fundamental to our identity as human beings and written into our genes as chromosomes XX(female) or XY(male). 

Gen 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let us make man (mankind) in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man (mankind) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...”

  • The Bible divides human beings into male and female in the first chapter of the Bible. These two categories are created by God and assumed throughout the rest of the Bible.
  • Both male and female reflect the image of God.

Gen 2:18-24 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”... 
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

  • The second chapter of the Bible establishes the institution of marriage between one man and one woman.
  • Marriage is given for companionship and help for each other. It is, of course, also given for reproduction and furtherance of the human race (Gen 1:28).

Matt 19:4-6 He (Jesus) answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  • Jesus teaches the creation of two sexes (male and female) and the institution of marriage quoting from Genesis. He also emphasises the concept of one flesh, the joining together by God and the permanence of marriage.
  • Throughout the Bible, the only appropriate setting for sexual relations is between one man and one woman within the permanent union of marriage. 

2) Gender (masculine or feminine)

Gender may be used to describe the social and cultural distinctions between males and females. These may vary considerably between different cultures.

  • Appearance - When we see another human being, we subconsciously assess the sex of that person from gender specific clues. Obvious ones are body shape, hair length and style, make-up, cosmetics, jewellery, beards, clothes, scent and voice.
  • Behaviour - There are, of course, considerable biological and psychological differences between males and females and these contribute to the differences in behaviour. Another major factor is the learned behaviour from the cultural norms in society. Traditional feminine traits are gentleness, empathy, humility and sensitivity. Traditional masculine traits are strength, courage, independence, leadership and assertiveness. We often admire people who cross these boundaries - a kind and sensitive man or an assertive and militant woman!
  • Roles - Biologically females are obviously equipped to bear children and nurse them and this clearly has influenced them being homemakers whereas the males go out as hunter-gatherers to feed their family - they are the breadwinners. In modern society, these traditional roles can be shared or even reversed.
  • Feminism - Historically, men and women have been treated very differently in society often to the disadvantage to women socially, economically, politically, judicially, educationally, personally and sexually. Feminists have campaigned in many countries for equal rights and opportunities for males and females in all of these areas. Unfortunately, there are still parts of the world where women are considered inferior to men and treated badly. 

3) Intersex

The development of sexual characteristics in the womb depend upon both genetics (chromosomes) and a delicate balance of male and female hormones (eg testosterone and estrogen). In most cases the development of the foetus clearly renders the baby male or female. In a small number of cases (about 1 in 1500) the sex of the baby is unclear at birth because of the irregular development of genitals - they may be intermediate between male and female and sometimes have both male and female characteristics. Some cases of intersex may only show up later in life, often at puberty.

  • Genetics (chromosomes) - Usually people have 23 pairs of chromosomes - total 46. The 23rd pair differs between males and females. Females have two X chromosomes (46,XX) and males have one X and one Y chromosome (46,XY). Some intersex people have different numbers of chromosomes - eg 45,X (Turner syndrome) or 47,XXY (Klinefelter syndrome).
  • Hormones - The chromosomes affect the development of the glands which produce the hormones affecting the development of the sexual organs. If this whole complex process does not work in the usual way, then there may be irregularities in the way in which the genitals develop. This can happen even if there are the usual number and types of chromosomes.
  • Responses - Intersex children are usually brought up as a boy or a girl in line with the closest correspondence of external genitals. Ability to have sex and fertility vary with the type and degree of intersex. In some societies, intersex has a lot of stigma and parents may be blamed! Quite often, parents and doctors decide to attempt to correct the irregularities by surgery and sometimes hormone treatments. A more modern approach is to only do essential surgery at birth (eg if there is a problem with urination) and then to allow the person to make their own informed decisions regarding sex, gender, surgery, hormone treatment etc. when they are old enough to understand the issues and take control of their own bodies.

There are no obvious cases of intersex mentioned in the Bible. As Christians, we need to help and support people with intersex issues. 

4) Transgender

Some people are uncomfortable with their assigned biological sex. They may then go to considerable lengths to adopt the lifestyle of a gender different from that associated with their assigned sex. This may involve hormone treatment or surgery in order to change their body to align with their chosen gender. They cannot, however, change the chromosomes which determined their birth sex.

  • The Bible does not directly address transgender, but it does assume the unity of biological sex and gender identity.
  • The Bible encourages us to be content with the way that God has made us. (Psalm 139:13-14)
  • Bible verses about homosexuality (see later) warn us about taking on the opposite sexual roles. (Lev 18:22, 20:13)
  • There are two other verses which may also relate to this subject:

Deut 22:5 A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.
1 Cor 11:14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 

5) Gender in the Bible

In Bible times, women were considered to be under the ownership and protection first of their father or brother and later their husband. In fact the husband paid the bride-price (dowry) to effectively buy their wife from her father!
There are several passages in the Bible which make clear gender distinctions between men and women. These are controversial and may be even offensive to modern women. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is cultural and applicable to Bible times and which are universal. It is important to read whole passages and not just take short phrases in isolation. 

# Marriage

Eph 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

  • This passage draws an analogy between the relationship of a husband with his wife and Christ with the church.
  • A large part of the passage is about how a husband should love his wife as Christ loves the church. The husband is challenged to love his wife in a serving and sacrificial way and to bring out the best in her. Christ did not and does not dominate us or force us to do anything - he even sacrificed himself for us and washed his disciples' feet. It is not part of the job of a husband to make his wife submit to him.
  • As Christians, we have no problem submitting ourselves to Christ since we have perfect trust in him and his love for us. This is the kind of relationship we should be aiming for in our marriages.

1 Peter 3:1-7 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

  • Here the emphasis is on the role of the wife to behave in such a way that her husband is encouraged in his faith. Wives should live pure, modest and holy lives respecting their husbands.
  • Husbands are instructed to honour their wives because they are heirs together of the grace of life - they are a team working together for the Kingdom of God. Women may be generally physically weaker than men, but this does not mean that a wife is inferior to her husband - they are both make in the image of God. (Gen 1:27, Gal 3:28)

God did not make woman from the head of the man so she could dominate him
or from his feet to be trodden on by him
- but from his side to be equal to him, 
from under his arm to be protected by him,
and from near his heart to be loved by him.
(Matthew Henry)

Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 

# Family - Household

The Bible describes a patriarchal system where men are usually named as leaders of their tribes, clans, families and households. Nowhere does it say "a husband is the head of his household" but of course it does say that "a husband is the head of his wife" - these are not quite the same thing - a wife is not a household! Some women in the Bible have considerable responsibility in their households.

Matt 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard...

  • In several of Jesus' parables he refers to the master of a house - this is the owner or the person in charge of the house. Often he is responsible for the servants.

1 Tim 3:4-5 He (overseer) must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?
1 Tim 3:12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

  • This verse assumes that a male church leader has responsibility for managing his household and family.

Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 
Col 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

  • Fathers have responsibility for bringing up their children wisely.

Prov 31:10-31 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

  • This is an amazing description of an excellent wife. She works hard, does business, provides for her household. She is popular and full of strength, dignity, wisdom, generosity, kindness, brings honour to her husband and fears the LORD!
  • This is a confident and enterprising woman who clearly is taking a lead in the household alongside her husband.

Acts 16:14-15 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

  • Lydia appears to be another such woman.

Gen 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”... 

  • Woman was made as a companion and a helper for man. This does not mean that she was a lesser assistant. The word used for helper is often used in the Old Testament for God being our helper - he is not a lesser assistant! (Ps 33:20, 70:5, 115:9)
  • Adam and Eve were to work together in the garden of Eden - this was their joint project for God.
  • For married couples, a major joint project is their household - this involves providing and maintaining accommodation, organising finance, providing food, raising and caring for children, hospitality etc.
  • They may also have other joint projects for the Kingdom of God - eg running groups, home groups, mission work, church work etc.

Matt 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  • When Jesus said that God has joined together a man and his wife, the word used means that they are "yoked together" like oxen yoked together pulling a plough - this is most effective when the oxen are well matched and pull together. A married couple are most effective when they are both leading their family and household together.
  • A good way to see it is that a man and his wife are a team who together lead their family and household. The husband may be considered as the team leader. 

# Church

 Here are some of the New Testament passages written by the apostle Paul - they are written regarding churches which had a combination of Jews and Gentiles and which were influenced by Greek and Roman cultures. There are many opinions by different scholars on these passages!

1 Cor 11:3-16 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

  • This is a difficult passage reflecting cultural norms which would be familiar to the Corinthians but are obscure to us! We do, however, need to try to unravel it!
  • The word head is used in two ways in this passage. In some sections it applies to the actual physical, biological head on our shoulders, in other contexts it is used as a word of respect or authority as a husband is head of his wife etc.
  • Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head - In Bible times, Jews probably did not generally cover their heads to pray. In the Old Testament, some priests had special headgear (Ex 28:4 29:6) and men generally covered their heads as a sign of desperation or mourning. (2 Sam 15:30, 19:4 Jer 14:3, Esther 6:12)  There are no Old Testament commands for men to cover their heads - the custom of modern Jews to wear Kippahs (skull caps) was introduced much later possibly in medieval times and partly as a sign of distinction. Some Romans and Greeks may have covered their heads in their temples, and it may have emphasised class distinctions - this may be the reason why Paul found it necessary to make these comments. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God - It seems that Paul did not want any barriers set up between us and God. As Christians we have full access to the father through the blood of Jesus. (Heb 10:19-22)
  • but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. - It is good news that women did pray and prophesy in the Christian meetings! But Paul had a different rule for them - they should cover their heads! It seems that women covered their heads as a sign of respect for their husband's authority (their head). It was inappropriate for women to remove their coverings in public since this was seen as sexually provocative. It may be that short hair or shaven heads for women was a sign of an adulteress or prostitute. A modern equivalent to removing the head covering may be dressing in a sexually provocative way to attract the wrong type of attention using fancy hair styles, make-up or revealing, skimpy, tight clothing etc. - many would agree that this is inappropriate for a married or unmarried woman who wishes to pray or prophesy in a church meeting! 
  • because of the angels. - Jesus promised that when we meet together as Christians in his name that he would be among us. (Matt 18:20) Here Paul suggests that angels are also among us. (1 Tim 5:21) This is another reason for us to act with respect and dignity when we meet together.
    Angels are God's messengers carrying out his commands to bring about his purposes here on earth - this includes protecting and guiding us. (Ps 91:11-12, Luke 1:26-27, Acts 12:7-8, Heb 1:14) We are not called to summon angels, pray to them, or command them - they are God's servants.
  • 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. - These verses add some equality between the sexes.
  • 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him. - This whole passage is about gender differences and Paul also makes it clear that it is inappropriate for a woman to have short hair like a man or for a man to have long hair like a woman. He is keen that our gender appearance matches our sex.

Christians deal with these verses in different ways:

  • Literal - Some Christians insist that women should wear head coverings - all the time or at church meetings or when they pray and prophesy.
  • Cultural - Some Christians simply believe that all of this was to do with the culture and ways of the time and cannot be applied to our modern culture. They believe it is largely irrelevant these days.
  • Cultural and Relevant - This is the approach I have taken above. There are some cultural issues but there are lessons we can learn from the passage.

1 Cor 14:33-35 As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

  • What is this about? Earlier (1 Cor 11:5-6) Paul has said that women should cover their heads when they pray or prophesy - so clearly some women do speak in church meetings.
  • Verse 35 may suggest that the women were asking too many questions or chatting between themselves and generally being disruptive! 

Titus 2:1-6 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.

  • A number of themes are brought together in this passage. Different genders and age groups are recognised and appropriate advice given in each case.
  • Older women are encouraged to teach and to train young women.

Gal 3:26-29 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Gal 4:6-7 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Romans 8:14-17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

  • The greek word for son throughout these verses is huios which would have been understood as a mature male offspring who is the heir. The greek word for children in Rom 8:16-17 is teknon which means child, son or daughter.
  • Unfortunately, many modern Bible translations use the word "child" or "children" for huios to make it inclusive which lessens the impact of these verses. 
  • In the kingdom of God, the distinction between male and female disappears and we are all sons of God with rights as heirs of God.
  • Men and women can both claim to be sons of God in this context.
  • Male and female appear to be irrelevant in heaven where Jesus said that there is no marriage for us or for angels! (Matt 22:29-30, Mark 12:24-25)
  • Nevertheless, we do have male and female here and now with their associated gender roles! 

# Teaching and Leadership

The question is then whether both men and women can teach other people and be in leadership? This is a very controversial area with a wide spread of opinions. This Bible passage is relevant and causes many difficulties within a society which is increasingly offended by gender differences. We cannot, however, ignore parts of the Bible because they are uncomfortable - it is our task as believers to do what we can to understand the word of God!

1 Tim 2:8-15 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

  • Verses 8-11 cover some of the issues already mentioned previously.
  • Verses 12-15 are difficult. Paul appears to forbid two functions for women - teach or to exercise authority over a man
  • I do not permit a exercise authority over a man - Paul draws on the order of creation: Adam was created first and he is the head of his wife - he seems to extend this more generally to men and women in the church.
  • I do not permit a woman to teach - Paul now draws on the events of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Eve was deceived by the serpent and then taught Adam a new doctrine which permitted them to eat from tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 3:1-6) This, of course, was contrary to God's command. (Gen 2:16-17). Paul suggests that this exposes an inherent inclination to deception in women! (Gen 3:13, 2 Cor 11:3) It is important to notice that Adam was not innocent - he listened to his wife and ate from the tree  and abdicated his role as head of his wife (Gen 3:17). He should have protected his wife. Adam is actually blamed and declared responsible for the fallen state of mankind. (Hos 6:7, Rom 5:12, 1 Cor 15:21-22)
  • Yet she will be saved through childbearing... - This is another very difficult verse. Since it connects with Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden it is likely that it is referencing God's judgement on the woman which mentions childbearing. (Gen 3:16). It may also be about mothers teaching and bringing up their children in a godly way.

Churches deal with these difficult verses in different ways:

  • Strict - Women are simply not allowed to speak, teach or lead in any context.
  • Semi-strict - Women are permitted to teach younger women and children but not men. Women do not lead. (Titus 2:3-4)
  • Cultural - Some argue that this teaching is based on the culture of the day and is simply not relevant in our modern culture of gender equality. Women can lead and teach in exactly the same way as men. The problem with this view is that Paul uses a biblical argument from Genesis to support his teaching - it is a universal argument, not a cultural one.
  • Male authority - Women are able to teach, lead and do almost anything in church as long as they are under the authority and supervision of men or their husbands. This gives considerable freedom to women in the church but requires that the ultimate executive church authority is male. 

6) Sexual Immorality

Sexual immorality has always been a common sin of mankind. It is not surprising that this issue arises many times in the Bible in various ways. The rest of this article describes many sexually immoral practices.

Old Testament
  • There are several words and phrases in the Old Testament which indicate sexual intercourse such as: lie with (sakab), know (yada), uncover nakedness (gala erwa), come/go in to (bo el), mate (raba). Some more literal versions of the Bible distinguish between these in translation, other modern versions translate them all as simply have sex with or something similar. The words may apply to permissible sex between man and wife or may be used for sinful sexual activities which are described later.
  • There is no single word for immorality in the Old Testament but there are words for immoral sexual activity such as prostitution, prostitute, cult prostitute (female and male), whoring, adultery, adulterer, adulteress, lust etc.
New Testament
  • Porn... - There is a group of related Greek words in the New Testament which refer generally to many aspects of sexual immorality. Obviously we get our English words porn and pornography etc. from these Greek words.
    porneia 25x - sexual immorality
    porneuo 8x - verb to commit sexual immorality
    porne 12x - sexually immoral female, prostitute, harlot
    pornos 10x - sexually immoral man
  • Old fashioned words like fornication or fornicator or impure person were used in older versions of the Bible.
  • The writers of the New Testament would understand these words to cover the sexual sins described in the Old and New Testaments such as incest, homosexual behaviour, sex with animals, prostitution, adultery, rape, orgies, filthy talk, sensuality, lust etc. (Matt 5:32, 19:9, Mar 7:21-23, Ex 20:14, Lev 18:6, 20, 22, 23, 19:29, Deut 22:5, 23-24, 25, 23:17-18, Rom 1:26-27, 13:13, Gal 5:21, 1 Peter 4:3, Eph 5:3-4, 1 Thess 4:4-5). Many of these sins are included in the following discussion.
  • Sexual immorality was included in the list of sins which Jesus said come out the heart. (Matt 15:19, Mark 7:21-22)
  • Jesus said that sexual immorality was the only ground for divorce. (Matt 5:32, 19:9)
  • In his letters, Paul often warns against sexual immorality. (Rom 13:13, 1 Cor 5:1, 9, 6:9, 13, 18, 7:2, 10:8, 2 Cor 12:21, Gal 5:19, Eph 5:3, 5, Col 3:5, 1 Thess 4:3, 1 Tim 1:9-10, Heb 13:4) Also Jude  7.
  • It is also mentioned as a sin in some of the seven churches in Revelation (Rev 2:14, 20, 21) and in the events leading up to the end. (Rev 9:21, 14:8, 17:2, 4, 18:3, 9, 21:8, 22:15)

Acts 15:19-21 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

  • When Paul preached the gospel to the Gentiles, there was a discussion about which Old Testament laws the Gentile believers should obey. Avoiding sexual immorality was one of the laws which was insisted upon. This was relevant in a Greek and Roman cultures where sexual immorality was very common.
  • Paul preached the gospel in Corinth and founded a church there. This church was in a Greek area and Paul needed to help the new Christians control their sexual behaviour.

1 Cor 6:13-20 “...The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

  • When we become followers of Jesus, we give our lives and bodies to him to serve him. Our bodies are actually members of Christ.
  • It makes no sense to go with a prostitute or engage in other forms of sexual immorality.
  • The concept of becoming one flesh is usually applied to the joining of husband and wife in marriage. (Gen 2:24, Matt 19:5-6, Mark 10:8, Eph 5:31) Surprisingly here, Paul uses one flesh to describe the sexual relationship with a prostitute. It appears that having sex with another produces a one flesh union with them. Some people who become Christians have found it helpful to pray for release from these unions caused by previous sexual relationships.
  • As believers, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Sexual immorality will defile this temple.
  • As believers, our bodies are no longer our own to do what we want with. We were bought with the precious blood of Christ and need to use our bodies to bring glory to God. Our bodies are our main valuable resource to serve God with while we are in this world.

1 Cor 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  • This is one of the passages in the New Testament that states that sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:5-6, Rev 21:8, 22:14-15)
  • This list of sins is a selection. The fact is that any sin will exclude us from the kingdom of God without the salvation offered through Christ. (Rom 3:23, 6:23)
  • This is a serious warning that as Christians we cannot continue in these sins.
  • When we repent and believe in Jesus as our saviour, our sins are washed away, we are made holy in God's sight (sanctified), and we are counted as righteous (justified).
  • Faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ saves us and the Spirit of our God gives us power to live a new life.

1 Cor 5:9-13 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

  • Our primary mission as Christians is to reach the world with the gospel. This will necessarily mean that we will mix with obviously sinful people as Jesus did. (Mark 2:16-17)
  • Jesus prayed for believers that that they would be protected from worldly influences in these situations. (John 17:15-19)
  • We are called to be lights in the darkness as Jesus was. (John 8:12, Matt 5:14-16)
  • We need to be careful, however, mixing with people who claim to be Christians but who obviously continue in sin and sexual immorality. These can be polluting influences among believers and in the church. Sometimes drastic action is required - purge the evil person from among you! (Rev 2:20-23)

1 Cor 7:1-5  Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

  • Paul himself was a single man and this enabled him to travel and take risks. Jesus, of course, also lived as a single man all his life.
  • Paul here recognises that sexual temptation and immorality is a big issue for many single people and his solution is very simple - get married!
  • He advocates an active, regular sexual relationship between a man and his wife.
  • The verse about husband and wife having authority over each other's bodies is a reflection of the close sharing relationship between husband and wife. It is not an excuse to dominate or abuse the other person! 

7) Sex before Marriage

There is no specific command in the Bible that you should not have sex before marriage. There is, however, a general principle that sexual activity should only be between a man and his wife which excludes sex before marriage and outside marriage. Historically, the word "fornication" was used for premarital sex - in older versions of the Bible this word was a translation of the porneia words. As we have shown earlier, these porneia words indicate more general sexual immorality.

Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

  • This verse is the institution of marriage. A man and his wife leave their parents and form a family of their own and become one flesh. This is quoted by Jesus and by Paul. (Matt 19:5, Mark 10:7-8, Eph 5:31)
  • Paul identifies the idea of becoming one flesh with sexual intercourse. (1 Cor 6:16) Clearly a man should become one flesh only with his wife who he has formed a family with. It is therefore inappropriate to have sex with another before marriage or outside marriage.

Ex 22:16-17 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.
Deut 22:28-29 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.

  • This law is simple. If a man has sex with a virgin, he is obliged to marry her - not because she is pregnant but because he has destroyed her virginity.
  • Virginity was very important in Bible times. When men got married, they would look for evidence of virginity and there were severe consequences if the woman was found not to be a virgin. (Deut 22:13-21)
  • This is why Mary was in trouble when it was obvious that she was pregnant with Jesus! She was, of course, actually still a virgin!
  • There were laws for Old Testament priests which stipulated that they must marry a virgin - not a widow, a divorcee or a prostitute. (Lev 21:7, 13-14)
  • Unfortunately, in modern western societies virginity is not valued and many teenage girls make a point of losing it at quite a young age.
  • It is important to say that these sins can be forgiven as we repent and put our faith in Jesus. A new start can be made, we don't need to ruled by our past behaviour, and good lasting marriages can be established. (1 Cor 6:11) 

8) Sins of the Canaanites

This section may be obscure to you! The reason I include it is to demonstrate the universality of some of the laws given to Israel which relate to sexual immorality. These verses also tie together parts of the Old Testament story and explain why Joshua was commanded to invade Canaan and displace the population.

Gen 15:12-16 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

  • This was a prophecy from God to Abraham when he was living in Canaan. His descendants would be four hundred years in another land (Egypt), God would judge the Egyptians and Abraham's descendants would be set free and leave with many possessions. Eventually Abraham's descendants would return back to the land of Canaan when the iniquity of the Amorites is complete.
  • The Amorites here is used as a general name for the people groups in Canaan. God knew that their sin would eventually be so great and that Abraham's descendants would bring judgement on the Canaanites.

Deut 9:5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

  • Several times God declares that the conquest of Canaan was because of the wickedness of the people in the land. In the Bible, God uses different methods to bring judgment on sinful people (cursed ground, a flood, confusion of language, fire, plagues, exile etc.)  - here he uses an invading army.

Lev 18:1-5  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

  • Then follows a description of some of the sins of the Canaanites. They are: 6-18 Incest, 19 Having sex with a woman during her period, 20 Adultery, 21 Child sacrifice, 22 Homosexual acts, 23 Sex with animals.
  • It is clear that these sins are serious and universal for all mankind.
  • The chapter finishes with a reminder that these abominable practices are the reason why God is displacing the Canaanites and a warning not to do these things or they will suffer the same fate:

Lev 18:24-30 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

  • The next couple of chapters in Leviticus describe further these sins and also some other sins of the Canaanites. (Lev 20:23) 

9) Incest

Incest is having sex with a close relative. Most groups of people in the world have rules or laws regarding incest and it is biologically sound in that it prevents genetic problems through inbreeding.

Lev 18:6-9 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home...

  • Uncover nakedness means just that but it is also one of the Old Testament ways of describing "having sexual relations with". Other Bible versions translate it in different ways.
  • The passage goes on to include grandchildren, stepsister, aunt, uncle, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, a woman and her daughter, sisters.
  • The passage is incomplete and written mainly from a male point of view. Reciprocal relationships are assumed.
  • In a later passage, punishments are included for various incestual relationships (Lev 20:11-21, Deut 27:20, 22-23)
  • Many of the relationships mentioned are blood relatives who are genetically close. The laws, however, are extended to include other close family members who are not blood relatives.
  • Cousins do marry quite often in the Bible.
Examples in the Bible
  • Lot and his daughters (Gen 19:31-38)
  • Reuben and his father's concubine (Gen 35:22)
  • Judah and daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen 38:12-30)
  • Amnon and half-sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:1-22)

1 Cor 5:1-2  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

  • In this New Testament case, Paul brings church discipline to a situation which includes incest. 

10) Adultery

Adultery is an often-mentioned sexual sin in the Bible. You commit adultery if you are married and have sex with someone other than your spouse. You also commit adultery if you have sex with someone who is married to another. An essential part of marriage is faithfulness to your spouse - adultery involves unfaithfulness and breaking your marriage covenant. Adultery is viewed as a very serious sin. In the Old Testament, marital unfaithfulness, prostitution and adultery are used as an illustration of unfaithful Israel forsaking the LORD and going after other gods and idols.

Exod 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery”...
Exod 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”

  • This law against adultery is one of the 10 Commandments.
  • Another of the commandments also forbids coveting another person's wife - this means that you should not desire her or look at her lustfully.

Lev 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
Deut 22:22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

  • Adultery was so serious that it deserved the death penalty.

Prov 2:16-19 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, 17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18 for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; 19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.
Proverbs 5:15-21 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? 21 For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.
Prov 6:23-25 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;

  • The book of Proverbs has several warnings to young men about the temptation to go with an adulteress. Adultery is seen as a dangerous trap. See more advice in these extended passages. (Prov 5:1-23, 6:20-7:27)

Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

  • Jesus raised the standard for adultery to include looking lustfully at a woman. This is similar to the 10th commandment regarding coveting your neighbour's wife.

Matt 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

  • Jesus was quite tough about divorce. There need to be sufficient biblical grounds for divorce, otherwise remarriage becomes adultery. (Matt 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:3)
Examples in the Bible
  • David had sex with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. He tried to conceal his sin and eventually caused the death of Uriah. David did repent of this serious sin and was personally forgiven by God but nevertheless reaped the consequences of his immoral behaviour in his wider household. (2 Sam 11:1-12:23)
  • Hosea's unfaithful wife is a picture of unfaithful Israel going after other gods. Hosea takes his wife back as God desires to take Israel back. (Hos 3:1-5)
  • The religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by presenting him with a woman found in the act of adultery to see whether he would condemn her or not. His wise and compassionate treatment of the woman was amazing and challenging! (John 8:1-11)
  • In the book of Revelation, the risen Jesus comments on the church in Thyatira. There is an influential woman in this church who claims to be a prophetess and who is seducing members of the church into sexual immorality and adultery. (Rev 2:20-23) 

 11) Homosexuality

Homosexuality is a very contentious issue in modern society and it is easy to get into trouble if you criticise it! It is well known that the Bible condemns homosexual practice and the main verses are listed here:

Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Lev 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

  • These were straightforward laws which forbid male homosexual intimacy. The death sentence may seem harsh but remember that these laws were given to a large community living in tents with no facility for imprisonment. It was certainly a very serious offence.

1 Cor 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

  • men who practice homosexuality There are two Greek words for this phrase:
    • malakos - effeminate, male prostitute, boy kept for homosexual relations, male homosexual, passive partner.
    • arsenokoites - from arsen (man, male) + koites (bed, sexual intercourse, sleep with, conceive, coitus) = men who have sex with men
  • Paul was writing to a church in a Greek context where homosexual acts were quite common in the society. Men might have penetrative sex with their male slaves. They might also have sexual relationships with adolescent boys that they were mentoring and educating (pederasty).
  • Paul would know of the Old Testament laws and saw it as his task to bring clarity on this issue in Corinth which was Greek.
  • Practicing homosexuality is included in this list of unrighteous practices which prevent people from inheriting the kingdom of God - this means they are not saved eternally. Of course, we are not saved by our own righteousness but by our repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as our saviour. As believers, we can be forgiven but are not to continue in these unrighteous sinful practices.

1 Tim 1:8-10 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

  • men who practice homosexuality This is again the Greek word arsenokoites.
  • This list of ungodly sinners includes men who practice homosexuality.

Rom 1:18-27 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

  • Here lesbian activity is included as homosexual sin.
  • Homosexual activity is described as lust, dishonourable passions, shameless acts and contrary to nature etc.
  • The Bible does not comment on homosexuality as a sexual orientation. It simply condemns homosexual acts.
  • Attraction to the same sex is not a reason or excuse to engage in sexual relationships with the same sex.
  • In the Bible, heterosexual marriage is the only appropriate setting for sex. God designed woman as the perfect companion and helper for man. (Gen 2:18, 21-25)
  • Jesus did not comment on homosexuality, but he emphasised the institution of heterosexual marriage. (Matt 19:4-6) He would, of course, be aware of the Old Testament law regarding homosexual acts.
  • There are no grounds for homosexual marriage in the Bible. Marriage is instituted between one man and one woman. (Gen 2:24)
  • God designed sex as a means of reproduction and for the expression of love between a man and his wife.
  • It is inconsistent for a Bible believing Christian to engage in homosexual behaviour.
  • Homosexual behaviour is just one of many sins mentioned in the Bible. It is not given special emphasis.
  • For people who are not Bible believing Christians, none of these biblical arguments are relevant to them and they may well indulge in homosexual behaviour. We should treat these people like everyone else and be kind and loving towards them doing what we can to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ as their saviour. (1 Tim 2:3-6, 2 Pet 3:9) Otherwise they will fall under the judgement of God because of their unbelief and sin. (John 3:18-19)  

12) Sex with Animals

Lev 18:23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.
Lev 20:15-16  If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Ex 22:19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
Deut 27:21 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with any kind of animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

  • Clearly sex with an animal is forbidden. This may seem unlikely today, but people can be tempted with pets and farm animals. 

13) Rape

Rape is usually defined as forced sexual abuse with penetration. Unfortunately, this has been a serious sin for mankind since early times. It is usually male-on-female or male-on-male although female-on-male is possible (see examples below). Rape is one of the most violating of sins and can have serious consequences such as loss of virginity, pregnancy, physical injury, sexually transmitted diseases and mental health problems. As Christians, we need to provide care and support of rape victims. In biblical times, women were considered as the property of father, brother or husband and so rape was also an offence against the protector of the woman.

Deut 22:23-29 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
Lev 19:20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free...

  • These laws were designed to control aspects of illicit sex, adultery and rape.
  • The woman's voice was considered to be her rape alarm.
  • A betrothed woman was considered to be half married and not available for sex. These cases are counted as adultery.
  • The first of these cases in a city where the woman does not scream is considered to be consensual adultery.
  • If a man has sex with an unbetrothed woman, he is obliged to marry her because he has destroyed her virginity.
Examples of rape in the Bible
  • Attempted homosexual gang rape of angels by men of Sodom! (Gen 19:4-11),
  • Rape of a father by his two daughters while drunk (example of female-on-male drug rape!) (Gen 19:30-38)
  • Rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah by Shechem. (Gen 34:1-31)
  • Attempted female-on-male rape by Potiphar's wife used her position to compel her slave Joseph to have sex with her. He refused and she wrongly accused him of attempted rape! (Gen 39:6-20)
  • Attempted homosexual gang rape of a Levite man followed by the gang rape of his concubine until dead. (Judges 19:22-30)
  • Rape of David's daughter Tamar by her half-brother Amnon. (2 Sam 13:1-22)
  • Absalom raped his father David's concubines. (2 Sam 16:20-23)
  • Rape by invading armies. (Lam 5:11) 

14) Abuse

Abuse generally may be physical, psychological, sexual or economic. It may involve violence, manipulation, restriction, control, domination, oppression, captivity, unreasonable behaviour etc. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is common in the world often with people of power taking advantage of younger or more vulnerable people. The people of power may be spouses, parents, relatives, partners, teachers, employers, carers etc. - they can be male or female. The behaviour may appear consensual but, unfortunately, it is often driven by coercion and manipulation. Abuse is wrong and should always be addressed.

Domestic Abuse

1 Cor 7:3-5  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Col 3:18-19 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

  • It is misuse of these Bible verses for a husband to use them to demand obedience and all manner of sexual services from his wife. It is the husband's job to love his wife as Christ loves the church - not use her as a sexual object for his own gratification. (Eph 5:25-30, 1 Peter 3:7)
  • Nowhere does the Bible say that a husband should make his wife submit to him! Nor does it say that a wife should withhold sex in order to manipulate her husband!
  • Love concentrates on the well-being of the other person, lust concentrates on your own pleasure.
  • There should always be true consent for any sexual interaction.
  • As a Christian, you may feel ashamed and guilty because of domestic abuse and be secretive about it. You may wish to protect the reputations of yourself and your spouse. Abuse, however, is wrong and it is important to address it and expose it where necessary.
  • If both husband and wife are believers then the church justice route may be followed: - first try to sort it out together, then with two witnesses, then before the church (possibly elders). (Matt 18:15-17). Hopefully, with support from friends and church leadership, you may be able to resolve the situation. Accountability before others always helps and ongoing support will be necessary.
  • If one spouse is an unbeliever, then it may still be possible to enlist help from your church if the unbelieving spouse has respect for the church leadership. It may even be possible to bring the unbelieving spouse to faith.
  • If the church route is unsuccessful and the abuse continues, then you may find it necessary to leave your spouse and resort to secular justice.
  • Marriage vows include promises to love, care for, protect, honour and respect your spouse. Abuse is the opposite of these and the abuser is breaking the covenant of marriage. This gives the abused spouse a reason to withdraw from the marriage.
Child Abuse

Matt 11:25-26 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Matt 18:1-6 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matt 18:10-14 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Matt 19:13-15 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

  • Jesus clearly had great respect and care for children and vulnerable people.
  • Children can have good simple faith and this can be an example to us all.
  • We need to respect children, keep them safe and protect them from sin.
  • Unfortunately, some Christian groups have had a reputation for tolerating various kinds of child abuse, not dealing with it adequately, and destroying evidence etc. This is inexcusable.
  • We should never hide child abuse in order to protect adults. It is sin and should be exposed.
  • There is comfort for abused people in the Christian message and the knowledge of God as a good father. (Rom 8:14-16, 2 Cor 1:3)
  • Children are human beings with equal significance and value to adults. They are not lesser people.
  • It has been a challenge to society to give the same significance and value to unborn children in the womb. (Ps 139:13, Jer 1:5, Luke 1:41-43)

A Child's Basic Needs
Physical - Warmth, Shelter, Clothing, Food, Water, Hygiene, Sleep
Emotional - Affection, Security, Discipline, Praise
Mental - Stimulation, Opportunity, Education, Play
(Christian Medical Fellowship)

  • Unfortunately, there are several sad situations in the Bible where children end up suffering because of the actions and behaviour of their parents and other adults. (Ex 11:4-5, Lev 18:21, Num 14:18, Deut 3:6, Matt 2:16) 

15) Prostitution

A prostitute is someone who sells their body and sexual services to others. Prostitution appears early in the Bible and is sometimes linked with rituals in other religions. It is also used many times metaphorically for Israel's unfaithfulness to God. Other words used in various Bible versions are whore and harlot.

Lev 19:29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.
Lev 21:9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.
Deut 23:17-18 “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.

  • These Old Testament laws make it clear what God thinks about prostitution.
  • Even the money from prostitution was considered defiled. Wages of a dog - dog was a derogatory term for a male cult prostitute.

1 Cor 6:15-20 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

  • Here is Paul's teaching Christians in Corinth regarding going with a prostitute.
  • Having sex with someone, even a prostitute, is more than just a biological act - there is a joining together and becoming one flesh.
  • However, as a Christian, you are joined spiritually to the Lord and your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and you belong to God bought with the precious blood of Jesus.
  • Paul's argument is so strong that it is unthinkable that a Christian should have sex with prostitute or any other loose, immoral person. It is a sin against your own body.
  • Going with a prostitute can also risk you picking up sexually transmitted infections. Although prostitutes may appear friendly and helpful, they are often people with big life problems and may be controlled by others who make money from them. By going with prostitutes you are helping to fund the sex industry.

Luke 4:16-19  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

  • Prostitution can be a terrible trap caused by vulnerability, young age, poverty, sex trafficking, imprisonment, addictions, control by pimps, madams, brothel keepers etc.
  • An essential part of Jesus' work was to set captives free and he was particularly concerned to help lost people trapped by sin including prostitutes. (Luke 15:1-7)
  • As Christians, we can share the compassion of Jesus and find ways to help people trapped in this way.
  • A repentant prostitute can be forgiven, redeemed and saved. (Josh 6:25, Matt 1:5, Heb 11:31, Matt 21:31-32)
Examples of Prostitution in the Bible
  • Judah's widowed daughter-in-law pretends to be a prostitute in order for Judah to have sex with her and produce offspring. (Gen 38:13-30)
  • Rahab the prostitute helped the people of Israel to take Jericho. She was saved from destruction and becomes part of the Israelites and even appears in the genealogy of Jesus! (Josh 2:1-21, 6:17, 22-23, 25, Matt 1:5, Heb 11:31)
  • Jephthah the judge was the son of a prostitute, this caused trouble with his father's legitimate children. (Judges 11:1-3)
  • Samson went with a prostitute in Gaza. (Judges 16:1-3)
  • Solomon showed his great wisdom by judging between two prostitutes. (1 Kings 3:16-28)
  • The nations around Israel had male and female cult prostitutes as part of their religious rituals. Unfortunately, these practices were adopted by some of the Israelites. Various kings had purges to rid the land of these. (1 Kings 14:24, 15:11-12, 22:46, 2 Kings 23:7)
  • Proverbs warn of the dangers of prostitution. (Prov 23:27, 29:3)
  • Israel is accused of acting like a prostitute in her unfaithfulness to God. (1 Chron 5:25, Jer 3:6-9, Hosea 9:1)
  • Prostitutes responded to the ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist. (Matt 21:31-32)
  • The prodigal son wastes his money on prostitutes much to the disgust of his brother. (Luke 15:11-31)
  • The book of Revelation has a dramatic scene revealing a great prostitute who represents Babylon, the city of the world. She is characterised by pride, wealth, luxury, materialism, power, sexual immorality, ungodliness, false religion, blasphemy, persecution of the people of God etc. Thankfully, she is eventually destroyed and the Bible finishes with the bride of Christ, the new Jerusalem, the city of God! (Rev 17:1-21:4) 

16) Sex Events

Human beings through history have attended events to give opportunity for erotic encounters and sex. These events may be religious or secular. Often these events are fuelled by alcohol or other drugs which enable people to lose their inhibitions and engage in wild behaviour.

Old Testament

The nations and tribes surrounding the Israelites were immoral and engaged in fertility religions which sometimes involved public sexual acts designed to encourage their gods (eg Baal, Asherah) to bless them. Their temples employed male and female cult prostitutes. Unfortunately, the Israelites sometimes absorbed these practices into their own society and religion.

  • The men of Sodom and later the men of Gibeah wanted to gang rape visitors to their towns. (Gen 19:4-11, Judges 19:22-28)
  • The Israelite were led astray into fertility rites by the women of Moab at Shittim. (Num 25:1-9, 31:16, 1 Cor 10:8, Rev 2:14)

1 Kings 14:22-24 And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. 23 For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 24 and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.

New Testament

The Christians in New Testament times were in Roman/Greek culture where group sexual practices were common. Paul and Peter both warned converts about the danger of sensuality, sexual immorality, orgies and drunkenness etc.

Rom 13:12-14 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Pet 4:3-5 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

  • We live in a sex-obsessed society and as Christians we cannot expect to participate in all the activities of the world around us. (1 John 2:15-17, 1 Pet 1:14-16)
  • People go to events designed to help people have some sexual outcome. Some things to avoid are night clubs, wild parties, swing parties, sex parties, pole dancing, lap dancing, wife swapping, erotic dancing etc.
  • You may, of course, think that it is good to attend these events to help the people there? Didn't Jesus go to these sorts of places? (Luke 7:33-35) We are not sure, but Jesus certainly would not attend in order to participate in the immoral activities - only to bring light in the darkness. The problem with trying to help people in these situations is the noise and the fact that people are often too drunk and distracted to listen to you. It is best, if possible, to help them in a different context when they are sober! You also put yourself in a vulnerable situation attending these events.
  • Although people in the Bible appear to drink alcohol, drunkenness is clearly condemned as sinful and dangerous. (Prov 23:29-35, Luke 21:34-36, 1 Cor 6:10, Tit 1:7) 

17) Attraction, Temptation, Lust

Attraction, temptation and lust are all invisible, taking place in our heads! God, however, is able to read our thoughts and is aware of our struggles in these areas. (Gen 6:5, Psalm 139:2, 23, Prov 15:26, Is 66:18, Matt 9:4, 12:25, Luke 6:8, Heb 4:12-13)


Attraction to other human beings depends on all sorts of factors, their beauty, face, eyes, body, size, shape, voice, clothing, expression, personality, intelligence, sense of humour, conversation, age etc. We just seem to be drawn to some people more than others because there is some chemistry between us. It is often difficult to analyse the reasons why we are attracted and it somehow seems out of our control. The attraction may have a sexual element, but not necessarily - you may simply like some people. Attraction and admiration of beauty is natural and not necessarily sinful.

Gen 24:16-17 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.”

  • The Bible recognises that some people are particularly beautiful and handsome and more attractive that others. (Gen 29:17, 39:6-7, 1 Sam 25:3, 2 Sam 11:2, Job 42:15)
  • Attractiveness can lead to popularity, influence and power. (1 Sam 9:2, 16:12, 2 Sam 14:25, Psalm 45:2)
  • The Song of Songs contains many references to the physical beauty of a man and woman. (SS 1:8, 15, 16, 7:1 etc.)

Temptation in itself is not sin - of course Jesus was tempted. It is the thought to do something which we know is wrong against our better judgement. It may be a strong desire to do something in the short term which we know we will regret in the long term. It is just on the edge of sin.

James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

  • Temptation is very dangerous because it is so close to sin. It so easily moves on to the next stage.

Matt 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matt 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

  • It is significant that when Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray, he included a request to God to save us from temptation and evil.
  • Prayer is a powerful weapon in overcoming temptation. Temptation is a battle between the spirit and the flesh. (Rom 8:5-7)

1 Cor 10:12-13 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

  • We might think that our own temptations are different or stronger than those of other people. The truth, however, is that we are all tempted similarly and that is why it can help to talk about your temptations with sympathetic people who will not judge you.
  • Verse 13 has two promises. The first one is that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to overcome it.
  • The second promise is that God will provide a way of escape - always look for the escape route when you are being tempted.
  • The escape route may simply be avoidance of people, places, activities or situations which are associated with your temptation. You may need to make changes to your way of life!

Matt 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Heb 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

  • It is reassuring to know that God knows about our temptations - Jesus was tempted as we are and he knew how to overcome.
  • He is well positioned to help us in our temptations!

1 Cor 7:2-3 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.

  • This is part of Paul's useful advice on this subject. It is not, however, the only reason to get married to someone!
  • Also, of course, even happily married people can still be attracted to others and be tempted! It doesn't stop!

Lust is the next step where your thoughts go out of control and you strongly desire the object of your temptation with passion. It may involve fantasy and thinking of ways to achieve your sexual desire. This has now crossed the line and is sinful thinking.

Matt 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

  • Jesus recognised that this lustful intent was a form of adultery.
  • The 10th commandment in the Old Testament also includes this sentiment "You shall not covet...your neighbour's wife". To covet is to have a yearning and desire to possess something that does not belong to you but belongs to someone else. (Ex 20:17)
  • Jesus also mentioned looking at a woman. Sinful thinking is often triggered because we look at people in the wrong way and analyse them as sexual objects. Another way to escape from temptation is to view people in a pure way as human beings that God loves. Job recognised this issue and made a covenant with his eyes! (Job 31:1)

1 Thess 4:3-8 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

  • Lust is a lack of control which can lead us deeper into sin.
  • Lust is a common feature in the world around us. (Rom 1:24)
  • We used to be like the rest of the world but Jesus has saved us. (Eph 2:3, Titus 3:3, 1 Pet 1:14-16, Rom 7:5)
  • We need to flee youthful passions (2 Tim 2:22), renounce ungodliness and worldly passions (Tit 2:11-12),  put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14), walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16-17), abstain from passions of the flesh (1 Peter 2:11), crucify the flesh (Gal 5:24), and not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (Rom 6:12-13)!

1 Peter 2:11-12 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

  • Our manner of life needs to be significantly different from those around us so that we present a good witness in this world. 

18) Flirting and Joking


Flirting is a perfectly normal part of courtship when you are single trying to get the attention of another single person! There are, however, many other situations where flirting is not appropriate. 

Isaiah 3:16 The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly (other versions "flirting") with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet,
Prov 6:25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
Prov 7:21 With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.

  • It is always good for Christians to be friendly, to smile at people, to enjoy chatting with them, to greet them warmly, to take an interest in them etc.
  • Flirting, however, is another dimension. - there is often frequent and prolonged eye contact, long and personal conversations and compliments etc.
  • A flirt may also dress in a provocative way and use hairstyles and make-up designed to attract someone or everyone! (1 Tim 2:9-10)
  • It is inappropriate for a married person to flirt with other people or for a single person to flirt with a married person.

Humour is an important part of our interaction with other people. It indicates that we are light-hearted, happy, optimistic and positive. We do need to be careful that our humour is good, clean and is not at the expense of others.

Col 3:5-8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Eph 5:3-14 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light.

  • Unfortunately, a lot of modern comedian humour is obscene with sexual suggestion.
  • It is also difficult when a friend shares a crude or dirty joke with us. We need to be careful about how we react in these circumstances! We don't want to laugh at a dirty joke but we may wish to retain our friendship.
  • Our own speech should be righteous and clear of swearing, obscene talk or crude joking. 

19) Pornography

Pornography used to mainly involve magazines on high shelves in certain shops. Today it is available to nearly everyone at the press of a button on their phone, tablet or computer. Unfortunately, this exposes people of all ages to be able to view explicit images and videos of naked bodies and sexual acts and opens ways for males and females to indulge in online sexual activity as they share images etc. It also makes a way for people to easily meet up for sex. It can be particularly harmful for young people.

Matt 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

  • Viewing pornography is clearly looking at naked bodies and sexual acts lustfully and it is sinful.
Extent of Porn

Online and media pornography are the most available forms of pornography these days. Porn occupies a huge amount of the internet traffic.

  • Websites - This is a common form of pornography where a person views naked bodies and sexual acts in images and videos.
  • Chat rooms - This is person to person video chat often with views of each other's bodies and engaging in sexual acts. It is a form of virtual sex. Some people pay for chats which then becomes a form of virtual prostitution. Chats may lead to people meeting up in person for sex. Unfortunately, video chats are popular with teenagers and children.
  • Movies and TV - Many movies and TV series etc. contain scenes which show naked bodies and people performing sexual acts. This can be difficult for Christians who wish to watch the latest movies but who don't really want to watch people having sex. This calls for selectivity and may mean that you avoid material with high age or adult ratings.
Dangers of Porn
  • Addiction - Like many other addictions, the porn addict will always be looking for more dramatic and more extreme material to view. They will be constantly drawn to known websites and search for new ones. They may spend several hours a day viewing porn, wasting their lives and their time on a harmful and sinful secret activity.
  • Shame and Guilt - Christians who view porn usually have strong feeling of shame and guilt which interfere with their happiness, their relationships with other people and their service of God.
  • Distortion - Often the sexual acts portrayed in porn are exaggerated and extreme involving all manner of sexual practices. This is particularly bad for teenage observers for whom this is their introduction to sex. It also gives high expectations of sex which may be unachievable. It may also result in men and women making unreasonable sexual demands on their partners.
  • Wasted money - Some porn addicts spend money accessing premium websites.
  • Destruction of Marriage - Unfortunately many marriages, including Christian ones, have been ruined because one or both spouses get involved in pornography.
  • Support of Sex Industry - Whenever you access porn websites, you are effectively subsidising the huge and extensive sex industry. Remember too, that sex workers who feature in the images and videos may be abused, controlled, imprisoned or trafficked.
  • Sharing - If you participate in a chat room, your activities can be recorded and made into a video. If you post a naked image of yourself to anyone, it can be passed on to others. The sharing of this material is now out of your control and may remain on the internet for many years! Beware!
  • Tracking - Although you may be able to remove your records and surfing history from your local computer, tablet or phone, all of your visits to websites are in the logs of your internet provider and search engine and possibly elsewhere. This may influence the advertising you receive. Viewing pornography is not illegal in many countries, but if you accidently or intentionally briefly visit a porn website with images or video of under-age children, you may be contacted by police. This may result in embarrassing interviews or even prosecution.
Getting Free of Porn

It is essential for Christians who are addicted to pornography to get themselves free. Here are just a few ideas that might help you to rid yourself of this destructive habit.

  • Repent - You first need to admit that your viewing of pornography is a form of sexual immorality and is wrong. It is sin against God, against the performers in the images and videos, against your spouse if you are married, and even against yourself. (1 Cor 6:18-20) You then need to repent and turn away from your sin, asking God to forgive you, and availing yourself of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Your life now needs to change! (Psalm 32:5, 51:2-3, Prov 28:13, 1 John 1:9)
  • Watch and Pray - Having an active Christian life can help you break free of this habit. Basic things like praying, reading your Bible and having fellowship will guard you. (Matt 26:41, Eph 6:11, Psalm 119:9, 11, Heb 10:25)
  • Self-control - When you are aware of your habit but are unable to stop it, you are basically out of control. (Rom 7:14-15) You need to take control of your life and devise strategies to overcome. This might mean identifying the time, place and situation of your temptations and using avoidance tactics. You need to occupy your time with more useful and fulfilling activities. It is also good to be objective about the extent of your habit. One way is to have a record of the date your last visit to a porn website in a prominent place so that you are reminded to resist when you are tempted. (Prov 25:28, Gal 5:22-24, 2 Tim 1:7, 1 Pet 4:7, 2 Pet 1:5-7, John 8:36)
  • Accountability - Sharing your problem with a trusted friend can be a great help. You can give them permission to ask you how you are getting on in this area. A critical and caring friend can be of great value in overcoming your habit. (Prov 27:5-6, Psalm 141:5, James 5:19-20)
  • Spouse - Sharing your problem with your spouse can be a delicate process! They may react with surprise, alarm, disappointment, sadness, anger, resentment, disgust, confusion embarrassment, shame etc.  They may feel deceived, cheated on, or that they have been a failure in this area. Some spouses find it so difficult that their only course of action is to shout at you, isolate you, punish you, reject you etc.  Spouses desperate to preserve their marriages may be more forgiving and try all they can to help you. Your spouse can be the best person to provide accountability. This is a challenge for love, transparency, honesty and application of biblical principles of repentance, forgiveness and understanding of the human heart. (Jer 17:9, Mark 7:21-22, Rom 3:23, Luke 6:37, Eph 5:33) If this crisis is handled well, you can make a good recovery.
  • Counselling - You may find it necessary to seek counselling from your church pastoral team or professional counsellors. 

20) Masturbation

In Victorian times, boys were told off and even punished for touching themselves - this was considered a dirty and sinful habit! Today in schools, students are encouraged to explore their bodies and to give themselves pleasure! It is not surprising that Christians are caught between traditional Christian teaching that masturbation is wrong and sinful, and advice that it is a natural, common, harmless habit with positive health benefits! This used to be considered a mainly male issue but it is now clearly also a female issue. A major problem is that this is to do with parts of your own body that cannot easily be ignored! There is no mention of masturbation directly in the Bible but there are some passages which can help us to unravel this subject which causes a lot of concern and worry among young Christians.

Biblical Material

Gen 38:8-10 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother's wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also.

  • "Onanism" is named after this incident. It is used of contraception by withdrawal and also of masturbation which both waste semen. It is, however, unlikely that the sin of Onan was wasted semen or contraception. The text indicates that Onan's sin was actually not carrying out his legal responsibility to enable his sister-in-law to bear children on behalf of her dead husband.
  • This story used to be applied as biblical teaching against masturbation, but it is generally not used these days. It is unclear that wasting semen is sinful.
Emission of Semen

Lev 15:16-18 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. 17 And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening. 18 If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening.

Deut 23:9-11 “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.
10 “If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, 11 but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.

  • Emission of semen was one of the things which made a man ritually unclean.
  • Being unclean was not sinful, it was a state which prevented you from doing certain things and participating in religious activity.
  • The fact that emission of semen had inconvenient consequences suggests that men would probably not often masturbate!
  • In any case, it is probably true that there was very little privacy for men and women in those days!
  • Nocturnal Events - Males may occasionally experience ejaculations during sleep - this is natural way for the body to dispose of the various fluids which accumulate in the genitals. These may or may not be associated with sexual dreams but are often called "wet dreams". Females may also experience orgasms during sleep which may or may not wake them up. These events are natural and cannot be controlled and are no cause for concern.
  • Within Marriage - Mutual masturbation may be a way that married couples enjoy each other's bodies and as foreplay before intercourse. It may also be useful to express intimacy if there are problems with normal sexual intercourse such as illness, impotency, during periods or pregnancy. Couples may also masturbate and think about each other when they are apart for some reason.
  • Bodily Function - Males may be aroused and have several spontaneous erections during the night and the day. These may or may not be particularly connected with sexual thoughts or activity. They may also decide to masturbate to bring about ejaculation for relief and pleasure. This may be purely a bodily function unconnected with sexual thoughts, fantasy or pornography. Females may also masturbate for personal pleasure in a similar way. Some Christians believe that this kind of masturbation for physical relief only is not sinful but quite normal, natural and healthy human behaviour - it is simply personal, private behaviour as is urinating, defecating, picking your nose or biting your nails - it is more a sexual function than a sexual activity!  Others believe that solo masturbation is wrong in all circumstances and that the temptation should always be resisted. (Gal 5:19, 1 Cor 6:18-20) 
  • With other Sexual Activity - Males and females may use other people, fantasy, sexual thoughts, pornography and online sex sessions to bring about masturbation, orgasms and ejaculations. This is sinful behaviour because it includes many other definitely sinful sexual practices.
  • Obsessive behaviour - Masturbation can become an obsessive, compulsive and addictive habit taking up a lot of time and energy and distracting from other aspects of life. It is a good idea to get some help if this is a problem to you.
  • Harmful to sexual relationship with spouse - It is, of course, not good if solo sex becomes a substitute for a good intimate relationship with your spouse.
  • Relationship with God - As you can see, there are different opinions regarding this habit and you will need to make your own decisions about your behaviour. An important indicator is whether your behaviour seems to cause problems in your relationship with God. (1 Cor 6:18-20, James 4:17) 

21) Other Sexual practices

The sex obsessed society around us is constantly devising new ways to be immoral and make sex more exciting. As Christians we need to be careful that we don't simply copy the world around us and expect to do the same as they do.

  • Practices such as - oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, vibrators, fetish, bondage, domination and submission role play, rough sex, partial strangulation, erotic clothing and underwear etc.
  • Some of these practices are unhealthy, damaging or even dangerous.
  • They are also are quite unnecessary for a satisfactory sexual relationship with your spouse.

Eph 4:22-24 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
1 Pet 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

  • Like every other part of your life, your sexual activity needs to be renewed, holy and open to God and his guidance. 

22) Clothes and Nudity

Gen 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

  • In their original condition of innocence, Adam and Eve presumably had sexual intercourse. (Gen 1:28, 2:24) They were, however sinless, and no wrong immoral thought or sexual temptation would cross their mind. Their nakedness was quite appropriate and no problem.

Gen 3:6-7  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

  • Immediately after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve became sinners (Gen 2:17, Eph 2:1). Their thinking changed and they became vulnerable to immoral thoughts and sexual temptation. They now realised that they were naked and attempted to cover their nakedness.

Gen 3:9-11 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Gen 3:21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

  • God knew that awareness of nakedness was a sign that Adam and Eve had broken the only law in the Garden of Eden. (Gen 2:17)
  • He eventually replaced their fig leaves with more permanent clothes made with the skins of animals. God obviously thought that clothing was necessary.
  • Many have commented that this is the first animal sacrifice (by God) for the covering of sin - but that's another Bible study!!
  • We, of course, inherit the sinful nature of Adam (Rom 5:12). When we become Christians, we are sanctified and justified and saved by the sacrifice of Jesus and our sins are forgiven. (1 Cor 6:11) We are saved sinners but unfortunately still imperfect and vulnerable to sin and temptation as we live in this fallen world. We will not be completely perfect until we go to be with the Lord. (Rom 8:29-30, 1 Cor 15:51-52, Phil 3:20-21, Heb 12:23, 1 John 3:2-3)
  • So we need to keep our clothes on!!

Generally, in the Bible, nakedness was a sign of poverty, shame, imprisonment, defeat by enemies etc. Clothing was expensive in Bible times and fine clothing indicated wealth and success.

  • Uncover Nakedness - This expression which simply means to see people naked was also used to describe sexual contact. (Lev 18:6)
  • Noah and Ham - Noah became drunk in his tent and his son Ham looked at him. Ham's brothers, Shem and Japheth, were careful to cover their father without seeing his nakedness. Ham was guilty of the serious sin of uncovering the nakedness of his Father. (Lev 18:7) The outcome was a curse on Ham's descendants (Canaan) and a blessing on Shem and Japheth. (Gen 9:20-27)
  • Worship in Israel - The religions of Israel's surrounding nations often involved nakedness and sexual acts. The laws of Israel were designed to exclude situations where these things could happen in the worship of Yahweh. Priests were carefully clothed and were not allowed to go up steps to the altar in case of of exposure. (Ex 20:26) Other sexual functions rendered people unclean and unable to participate in religious occasions. (Lev 15:16, 19)
  • Nudity - The points made above indicate that God does not want us to expose our nakedness or to view other people's nakedness. This should prevent our participation in nude beaches, pornography etc. 

Written 2020-03   

Last Edited: 2020-07-07   

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