A Biblical Gestalt of Pleasurable Sex: Physical, Relational, & Spiritual
Nicholas A. Natale, PhD
The significance of sexuality and intimacy shared in a covenantal relationship is well established in Scripture. The ancient text conveys intimacy’s gestalten nature as three parts - physical, relational, and spiritual, and yet somehow, it is also more than its combination of parts. The following is a brief exploration of Scriptural insights that inform the work I conduct with couples who desire to improve their intimate experience. Leading research, cultural trends, and a spiritual perspective are essential to enhancing sexual expression and to address intimacy issues that may surface.
The following statements and explanations are not intended to be comprehensive. They are intended to present a brief and pleasurable perspective regarding intimacy as created by God for couples to enjoy. There is an overall permission-giving, tantalizing, and celebratory expressiveness of intimacy and sexual pleasure found in Scripture. An embracing acknowledgement of these insights provides an openness towards sexual expressiveness that runs contrary to the more fearful, prudish narrative that seems to pervade in some circles of Christian thought. This collection of statements challenges you to peer more deeply and excitedly at the creative drive within us to express ourselves sexually within a covenantal relationship.
Each concise statement is followed by a brief explanation, a Scriptural reference, and identifies the triadic domain of sexual expressiveness to which it speaks.
1. Men and women are created as sexual beings. Men and women were created by God as sexual creatures; yet neither man or woman are not solely defined by their sexuality. Mankind is firstly created as unique beings within the Imago Dei; image bearers of our Creator. All people are beautiful and full of potential due to his likeness within. Sexuality is part of mankind’s distinguishable differences and uniqueness. Genesis 1:26 (physical, spiritual)
2. The sex drive was spoken into being. The Creator spoke into being a primal drive within us to be sexual. Our sex drive is a natural, intentional part of our nature. Our sex drive was created while in the context of a perfect state of innocence for procreation and pleasure. It was included in the created acts of God when he declared, “and God saw everything that he had made, it was very good.” Genesis 1:28, 1:31 (physical, relational)
3. It is not good to be alone. We are created as relational creatures. Each of us need and desire relationship with others. Specifically, we desire a close, intimate relationship that transcends familial connection or friendships. We desire someone with whom we can share a depth of relationship that is emotional, physical, and spiritual. It is within this form of exclusivity that God intended for us to enjoy creative sexual expressiveness. Genesis 2:18 (relational)
4. Covenantal marriage was created by God to include sexual intimacy. Relational exclusivity found within marriage was and is the ideal for complete sexual satisfaction and fulfillment. The “one flesh” descriptor demonstrates desired exclusivity inherent in our being. Each of us desires to be completely known. Genesis 2:24 (relational, physical)
5. The Fall of mankind into sin distorted sexual expression. Immoral sexual expression was reflected in the fall from innocence into depravity. Sex became a focus of shame, abuse, immorality, and hedonistic desire. Intimacy and sex was torn into two distinct expressions that was never intended to exist. In its current fallen state, sex is used to harm, debase, control, satiate individual desires, and humiliate; distortions never intended by its Creator. Genesis 3. (relational, spiritual)
6. It is possible to engage in sexual immoral behavior while in a coventual relationship. Sexual behavior that violates the exclusive relationship or God’s call for channeling sexual expressiveness is immoral. Even within an exclusive relationship, not all sexual behavior is appropriate. The New Testament alone provides abundant imperatives to abstain from sexually immoral behaviors. Matthew 5:27-30, Romans 1:26-27, Acts 15:20, I Corinthians 6:9-20, Ephesians 4:19-24, 5:3-5, Galatians 5:16-21, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Revelation 21:8. (spiritual)
7. Sex without shame is attainable today. While in the Garden of Eden, pure and perfect, the first ones shared their bodies without shame. Their nakedness included sexual expression between them that was condoned and encouraged by their Creator. Shameless sexual expression between husband and wife is the goal for today as part of Christ’s redemption of our complete experience. Genesis 2:25, Song of Solomon, Proverbs 5:17-19, I Corinthians 7 (physical, spiritual)
8. The inclusion of Song of Solomon as Scripture affirms erotic sexuality as God’s design. It is acknowledged by most modern biblical scholars that the Song of Solomon in its current English translation does not reflect the true erotic nature of its contents. Comprised of a number of short poems, the book explores the erotic and sensual relationship between the two main characters. It serves as an affirmation that God continued to redeem sexual expression as an exciting and tantalizing aspect of the human experience. Allender and Longman’s God Loves Sex is commended for further consideration. Song of Solomon (physical)
9. A variety of activity is an anticipated aspect of pleasurable sex. Sex between a couple in a covenantal relationship is not limited to a prescribed list of sexual activities. Variety adds to the sexual experience and varies between couples. There is no “one way” for “godly sex” that is prescribed in Scripture. Song of Solomon 5, 6, Proverbs 5: 17-19 (physical)
10. Using imagination to enhance anticipation is an expected part of the sexual experience. The use of imagination and fantasizing about time with your spouse is a natural aspect of the sexual experience that is condoned and encouraged with Scripture. Song of Solomon 1, I Corinthians 7 (physical)
11. Pleasurable sex is intended for the life span of the relationship. As couples grow in their relationship, their mutually satisfying expressiveness can grow as well. Pleasurable sex is not intended to end after child-bearing age. Proverbs 5:17-19, Ecclesiastes 9:9 (relational, spiritual)
12. In a covenantal relationship, the focus of sexual pleasure is on mutual satisfaction. Each person possesses their own individual desires that are channeled through the relationship. Mutual satisfaction becomes the goal of pleasurable sex as opposed to an individual hedonistic focus. Both are attempting to meet each other’s sexual desire. They become the center of each other’s sexual desire. I Corinthians 7:1-5, Hebrews 13:4 (physical, relational)
13. Sex is to be kept holy and honoring to God. The sexual act is one of separateness within a covenant relationship. It is held in honor before God and separate from the world. It is considered holy; worthy of protection, esteem, and nurture. Hebrews 13:4 (spiritual)
14. Sexual Intimacy possess a spiritual quality. An inexplicable spiritual quality exists within the sex act that needs recognition. Sex does not exist in a simple physical or relational form alone. It contains an element that is spiritual as well. Sex is therefore a spiritual act as well as physical and relational one. I Corinthians 6:13-20 (spiritual)
15. Sex is a spiritual act that foreshadows the relationship between Christ and his Bride. Marriage with Christ as a metaphor captures a spiritual foreshadow inherent in sexual pleasure. Christ’s death was the ultimate expression of love of a husband for his bride. The marriage itself, including the sexual expression shared between husband and wife, harkens to the moment when all the redeemed will sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Within a healthy marriage where the marriage bed is kept holy, sex becomes a celebration of our salvation through Christ. Revelation 19:6-10, Hebrews 13:4 (spiritual)
Nic Natale is a sex therapist practicing in Columbia, SC. His practice focuses on helping couples flourish in their intimacy. Leading research, cultural trends, and a biblical perspective informs his work. For information about Dr. Natale, go to www.nicnatale.com or contact him at email@example.com.