The Marriage Bed
5 Things Singles Should Anticipate

The marriage bed deserves more attention. Fornication, adultery and homosexuality usually get the spotlight and sex inside marriage is just not as sensational or newsworthy. But it should be.

I remember years ago I saw a Facebook status update that has left an impression upon me to this day.  A previous student of mine had gotten married and he posted that he and his wife were enjoying a 7 day marathon of sex. At first I was like, “um…too much information, bro” but he explained that in Christian circles young people almost exclusively hear about how sex is BAD outside of marriage but they never or rarely hear how sex is GOOD inside of it. The world is constantly promoting the promise of pleasure with varying degrees of sexual perversion, but it seems that the Christian majority seem embarrassingly silent about sex.

As a young adult, how many sermons or Bible studies have you heard which gave a biblical theology of the marriage bed? Has anyone taught you or encouraged you to study out what kind of expectations you should have regarding sex inside marriage? It's not like you don't think about it already. But, they probably don't think it's relevant until you're doing pre-marital counseling or something. In the meantime, Hollywood and the music industry are filling the vacuum, providing their own "animated sermons" leaving you with fantasies they must later unlearn. 

It's time that sex ed came back on the shoulders of parents and the church instead of the government and entertainment. So, lets shed some light on the beauty of sexuality inside marriage and develop some realistic and healthy expectations for the marriage bed. If you know what the Bible teaches about godly sexuality, you can have a compass to navigate the rest.

Here are five things unmarried people should believe and understand about the marriage bed.

  1. Sex is holy

    There’s an unspoken belief that sex and God just don’t belong in the same sentence. God and purity? Sure. But God and Sex? That's uncomfortable.

    When I taught a Marriage and the Family class I asked the students to rank the following activities from most spiritual to least spiritual.

    - Giving bible studies
    - Going grocery shopping
    - Going to church
    - Having sex with your spouse
    - Memorizing Scripture
    - Praying
    - Singing hymns
    - Studying the Bible
    - Talking to a friend on the phone
    - Watching a nature documentary

    They all giggled when they saw “Having sex with your spouse” and weren’t quite sure what in the world to do with it.

    The truth is sex with your spouse is a holy activity. God actually commands it. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 says, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.”(NIV) God calls having sex with your spouse a duty! But, definitely a delightful duty as seen by the next verse.

    Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” (Proverbs 5:19)  

    Yes, God talks about breasts. God made them for more than feeding an infant. The word ravished actually means intoxicated. God wants married couples to have sex so much that they are figuratively always drunk with love. (Only this kind of drunkeness doesn't leave you vomiting and hung over). God is definitely in favor of sex within marriage. I would venture to say that it's as holy an activity as going to church! When done with the right motives, it is an act of fellowship, ministry and stewardship!

    The marriage bed is sacred. This phrase comes from Hebrews 13:4 which says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (KJV) The church has focused more on the whoremongers part of the verse, but the emphasis should be on the marriage bed being honorable. Sex inside marriage is pure, the same word used to describe Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God (Hebrews 7:26).

    But as one author describes, Christians are pornifying the marriage bed. “With the vast majority of young men having been exposed to pornography (at least 90% according to recent studies), with a large percentage of them having been addicted to it and with many enjoying it still as they enter into marriage, they need to have their understanding and their expectations reset according to the One who created sex.” He goes on to say that because their perceptions of sexuality have been shaped by professional pornographers, they may impose on their young brides the impossible expectations of a porn star. They bring impurity to the pure, selfishness to the selfless.

    Which brings us to the next truth.

  2. Marriage is not the sole remedy for lust

    There is a verse in the Bible that says, "
    But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." (1 Cor 7:9) So if you are having a hard time with your passions, you should get married, right? Seems like that's what this verse is teaching. But hang on.

    As a writer for Relevant magazine points out in an article called "True Love Does More than Just Wait,  Marriage is often the carrot on the end of a stick to keep adolescents pure. "If you behaved well and didn’t have sex before marriage, God would reward you with extra-awesome-and-uncomplicated sex once you made it to the wedding night." She goes on to say, "As I understood it in my teenage years, it was marriage, not a life given to God, that was the remedy for sexual desires I couldn't fulfill. I merely had to control my desire until marriage, then I was home free. “True love waits” naturally implies a finish line, either for love, sex, or both. The phrase hints that our wait will, at some point, stop. And yet, as many of us know, the waiting does not stop, and love, to the contrary, is something to be nurtured and grown into rather than acquired in a moment." 

    So are you curious about what the more complete solution is? It's not just marriage but the Holy Spirit abiding in the heart that will help you stay pure.

    "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16, NKJV)

    The Holy Spirit enables self control, one of the fruits listed in the "fruits of the Spirit" to counteract the "works of the flesh" in Galatians 5.

    If self-control, not marriage, were presented more in youth rally's today, maybe less single adults would get discouraged and give in. If it doesn't seem that marriage is anywhere close in their future, what's the point of waiting longer? Purity must be encouraged for the motive of glorifying God and serving your spouse, not as a means to an end of self-gratification. Self-denial is an element of discipleship not a work to eventually purchase sexual indulgence.

    Christine Garner, author of "Making Chastity Sexy" criticized an abstinence campaign called "True Love Waits" by saying that we should not "use sex to sell abstinence" by promising more satisfying sexual activity within marriage for those who abstain from premarital sex. She argues that this rhetoric reinforces selfish desires for gratification, sets people up for divorce and dissatisfaction with marriage, and simply adapts "secular forms for religious ends". (Source)

    Despite thousands of young people signing pledges to stay pure till marriage in the True Love Waits campaign, a 2003 study shows that 60% of those students later had premarital sex and of the remaining "virgins", 55% acknowledged having participated in oral sex. It's obvious there needs to be a stronger motivation for purity.

    Purity is a strong virtue to strive for, but as we'll cover in the next point, most young people fall short of the mark and need to know what to expect in light of their past.

  3. Your worth isn't based on your virginity

    The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that 86% of unmarried people between the ages of 18-29 have had sex. The statistic for Christians in that age category are not drastically different with 80% saying they have had sex.(source)

    In light of this, many of you may feel like "damaged goods." You carry around shame like a tattoo.

    Sarah Bessy, an award winning blogger shares her testimony about when a speaker for her youth group passed around a cup of water and asked everyone to spit in it. Of course the boys hawked their worst into it. Then he held up that cup of cloudy saliva from the crowd and asked, “Who wants to drink this?!” Of course, everyone recoiled at the thought. “This is what you are like if you have sex before marriage,” he said seriously, “you are asking your future husband or wife to drink this cup.”

    The author explains, "Over the years the messages melded together into the common refrain: “Sarah, your virginity was a gift and you gave it away. You threw away your virtue for a moment of pleasure. You have twisted God’s ideal of sex and love and marriage. You will never be free of your former partners, the boys of your past will haunt your marriage like soul-ties. Your virginity belonged to your future husband. You stole from him. If – if! – you ever get married, you’ll have tremendous baggage to overcome in your marriage, you’ve ruined everything. No one honourable or godly wants to marry you. You are damaged goods, Sarah. If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.

    The truth is, your sexual choices are NOT the barometer of your righteousness and worth. The author goes on to say, "You are more than your virginity – or lack thereof – and more than your sexual past. It’s likely you would make different choices, if you knew then what you know now, but, darling, don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less than it is. Let it be true, and don’t let anyone silence you or the redeeming work of Christ in your life out of shame. Now, in Christ, you’re clear, like Canadian mountain water, rushing and alive, quenching and bracing, in your wholeness. Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage....The sheep and the goats are not divided on the basis of their virginity."

    The less sacred the marriage bed becomes to the broader culture, the more sacred we insist on making it among Christians. The world places a value on women for their provocative sensuality, thereby objectifying them. Let's not do the same by making an idol out of sexual purity and making a woman's worth be based on their modesty or virginity. This is just reverse objectivization. (source)

    We should not make God's grace small by making sexual sin big. Though there are consequences to sin (you reap what you sow - Galatians 6:7), sexual promiscuity is not the unforgivable sin. I'm not promoting the idea that you can do what you want because you can be forgiven. But I am trying to encourage hope and healing.

    In Jesus' genealogy we find Judah, a man who slept with his daughter-in-law, mistaking her for a prostitute. We find David, the king who murdered the husband of his mistress; Rahab, the prostitute who sheltered the Israelite spies, and Samson, the man with a weakness for beautiful women. "The Bible, in weaving its long history of redemption, is not a storybook of heroes. Failure, even sexual mistakes, has not once tied God's hands. He accomplishes what he wills through the worst of us." (Source)

  4. The night doesn't last all day

    Even if sex were better in marriage for those who remained pure, the marriage bed is only one thin slice of the marriage pie.  You can only have so much. Despite how good your love life may be in marriage, it only accounts for a fraction of the time you spend with your spouse.

    There are other things that must be dealt with that sex will never fix.  It's not going to pay the rent. It won't buy the groceries. It won't train the kids. It won't clean the house. It does feel good after a hard conflict, but you need the humility and courage to communicate through the conflict first. The marriage bed is really good but it’s just one thing that fits into life that makes it a little better.

    Even the "sex on the brain" Solomon in the Song of Solomon (who by the way had a hot and steamy marriage bed) said, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:15) Commentators believe this refers to the trials that eat away at the love life. Solomon and his Shulamite woman had such a great marriage bed because they focused on more than their sex life.

    You must view the marriage bed as part of a whole. It is a culminating expression of unity and intimacy.

  5. Pleasing the other should be the focus

    The marriage bed will never be like the Song of Solomon until the husband and wife adopt this paradigm that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  "A man is never satisfied with sex until he is a master at pleasing his wife. There is more to compulation than getting relief" says Michael Pearl, author of Created to Need a Helpmeet (p.60). Godly sex is other oriented not selfish.

    When you get married you no longer have complete “rights” over your body, your husband/wife now has a right to your body.

    1 Corinthians 7:4 says, The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife" (NIV).

    God intended for the marriage bed to be a bonding, and intimate experience with your spouse, and to be an opportunity to make the other person feel good; not a means of selfish and lustful gratification. That is why I believe God created the male and female anatomy and mentality so different. Women are more romantically inclined and men are very easily stimulated. Therefore, men should take the other 23 hours of the day to get the best sex they can later, and women should make themselves as attractive as possible for their husband! When sex is an expression of love, it takes time. Understand the differences between each other and aim to please the other person.

    Intimacy with God is not much different. As God reveals his unselfish love to us through His word, we lose sight of self and desire nothing but to please Him “The soul dwelling in the pure atmosphere of holy thought is transformed by intercourse with God through the study of His Word. Truth is so large, so far-reaching, so deep, so broad, that self is lost sight of. The heart is softened and subdued into humility, kindness, and love.”  (White, The Faith I Live By, page 223)

    Let us aim at pleasing others and pleasing God and we will always be satisfied.

So, let's review the Marriage Bed Expectations:

  1. Sex is holy and should be preserved for the sacred institution of marriage.
  2. Marriage is not the sole remedy for lust - self control imparted by the indwelling Holy Spirit also plays a part.
  3. Your worth is not based on your virginity. Although there are consequences like guilt and shame (not to mention STD's or unexpected pregnancy), God's grace is bigger than your sin and it need not disqualify you from deserving a godly spouse or destroy the hope of a pleasure in the marriage bed or a happily ever after marriage.
  4. The night doesn't last all day - as important as the marriage bed is to a marriage being an experience and expression of intimacy and bonding unlike anything else on earth, there is more to a marriage. 
  5. Pleasing the other should be the focus - if you come to marriage hoping that the marriage bed will gratify your fantasies, you'll be sorely disappointed. The pleasure of the marriage bed is heightened tenfold when your aim is to glorify God through ministering pleasure to your spouse.

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See also Addicted to Masturbation      Proverbs 31 Woman        How to be a Man

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