1

Redeemer Bible Church
Unreserved Accountability to Christ. Undeserved Acceptance from Christ.
The Christian Home, Lecture Seven: The One Flesh Union, Part Two Selected Scriptures Introduction In our last lecture we began to address the subject of the union between husband and wife. Turn with me to Gen 2:24: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Beginning with the phrase and they shall become one flesh, we developed the following points: 1. The one flesh union is the sexual union, moral or immoral cf. 1 Cor 6:15-16. 2. The one flesh union is an intimate union. It is understood as a way a man “knows” a woman cf. Gen 4:1 3. God designed sex for marriage alone. To elaborate upon this item, we parsed the sentence, dividing it into two segments: “God designed sex” and “for marriage alone.” a. We inferred from God’s design that sex is not only “not evil,” but that it is positively holy and righteous and good. In fact, within marriage the sex act functions to prevent immorality and to enhance Christian spirituality. Indeed, to fail regularly to come together with one’s spouse is to sin against God. First Corinthians 7:3 says, “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.” Sex is a duty of Christian marriage. And it should be taken very seriously. The couple that fails to enjoy sexual intimacy places itself in the position of great temptation. First Corinthians 7:5 says, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” b. Then we explored the notion that sex is for marriage alone. Therefore homosexuality, polyandry, and bestiality are forbidden. In addition, sexual immorality, adultery and fornication, are forbidden. This we extended to include masturbation and the use of pornography.

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

2

4. God has given sex to marriage for at least two expressed purposes: the first is procreation and the second is pleasure. That sex within marriage is for procreation is quite clear, not only in terms of what the Bible says in Gen 1:28, but also that when a couple comes together sexually there is always the potential of pregnancy. In other words, our biology itself confirms that sex is for procreation. And that sex within marriage is for purposes of pleasure is not only confirmed by Solomon’s song (which we discussed in some detail), but also by the nature of sex itself. Sex acts make a person feel sensations of pleasure that cannot be experienced any other way. This morning, let’s continue our discussion of sex and marriage by addressing some of the problems related to sex that arise in marriage as well as by offering some advice by way of solving these problems. Then we’ll conclude our lecture with a word about the Christocentric nature of sex. We may boil down sexual problems in marriage into two categories: moral problems and informational problems. Let’s look at the moral issues first. The Moral Problem of Refusing to Do Our Duty Since sex within marriage is something that the Lord has commanded of couples, our failure to have sex as regularly as we ought is an issue of obedience. If we are deliberately withholding sex from our partner we are acting contrary to God’s intention for the marriage bed. And so it is crucial that we look to see why it is that we have chosen to withhold from our spouse. If one member is begging for sexual relations, there is a problem. Now I know that the reasons why partners may withhold sex from one another are variegated (some sinful and others not); nevertheless, unless there is mutual consent to the contrary,1 we are obligated to have sex with our spouses. Let me give you some examples and clarifications that may help in this regard. Let’s say that you have just had a baby. It is not medically advisable to have intercourse for six weeks following delivery (it can be longer for women recovering from a caesarian section). Now I would suggest that for couples at childbearing age, six weeks is way too long to go without sexual intimacy. But that’s just it. Doctors do not tell us to abstain from sexual intimacy, but from sexual intercourse. Our problem is that we have reduced sexual intimacy to sexual intercourse. This is due, in part, I believe to our rampant promiscuity—inside and outside the church. You will, of course, remember a certain American President wagging his finger to emphasize that he did not have “sexual relations” with a certain young intern. Of course, what he said was true—if we can reduce sexual relations to intercourse. But deep down, every person knows better; and Christians ought to know best of all that sex is not simply intercourse. There are a lot of wonderful, pleasurable, sexual experiences a husband and wife can enjoy that will satisfy our burning without having intercourse.

1

See 1 Cor 7:5.

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

3

So then, husbands, let’s say your wife has had your child and that you need to extinguish your burning. Wives, what should you do? Well, you cannot have intercourse, but this doesn’t mean that you ought not to satisfy your husband’s desire. Now that you are married, your body is not your own and you owe it to your spouse to meet his sexual needs. Now let’s say that you are a man who works a job that entails a lot of hard labor, and let us say that today was especially difficult. As you and your wife lay down together for the night, she expresses interest in sex. You, however, are utterly exhausted; you are falling asleep even as you entertain her request. What should you do? Well, the first thing you should do is recall that since you are married your body is not your own, it belongs to your wife, she has authority over your body, and if she needs you to extinguish her burning, then you must meet that need. This, however, does not mean that you do not have a right to appeal to her authority. You could say something like, “Honey, I am so wiped out! Could you wait until tomorrow morning or tomorrow evening, whichever you prefer? Could we abstain for tonight without you entering into sin?” Now if she answers in the negative, then you have to do your conjugal duty and meet her need. If she answers in the affirmative, then you have mutually consented to abstain from sexual relations, and you have complied with the divine mandate. What if you are a man of sixty-five years with a wife of the same age? Let us say your wife engages with you for some sexual intimacy, but you have been having some trouble with impotence. What should you do? Well, I would suggest talking to Bob Dole for one (I mean it). And for another, remember that sex should not be limited to intercourse. You can bring your wife pleasure and sexual satisfaction without having to engage in intercourse. Of course, this may not help the problem of your “burning.” In this case, special prayer is needed to get you through an extremely difficult time. Even so, you are not permitted to deprive your wife of what she’s due. Are you beginning to understand the point? What I am saying is that we must begin with the clear teaching of Scripture that sex is not optional for marriage.2 My spouse has authority over my body. For me to refuse to give myself to my spouse is to fail to love him or her. With this in our minds and hearts, it makes extenuating circumstances (like the situations we’ve just described) easier to navigate. There are, however, instances in which a man’s or a woman’s refusals may entail more than the sin of withholding one’s body. A man may refuse sex with his wife because she has failed to show him due respect. He feels unappreciated and dishonored, so when it comes time for sexual intimacy, the man is not interested. More than that, he may use this refusal as a weapon against his wife for sinning against him. Rather than addressing the issue in a loving confrontation in which the husband may seek his wife’s repentance, he has chosen to bypass the Lord’s design and take matters into his own hands by refusing to do his

This should not be taken to exclude people who are physically unable from having sex from entering into marriage (e.g. quadriplegics). See Lectures 5 & 6 for more information.

2

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

4

solemn duty. So not only does he fail to love his wife by declining to meet her physical needs, but he complicates his sin by failing frankly to admonish her.3 A wife, too, may withhold sex from her husband because she is disgusted by his laziness or lack of initiative or lack of sensitivity or lack of emotional intimacy. So in anger and in the face of her husband’s pleading, she refuses to grant him access to her body. Again, rather than addressing the issue lovingly, she has chosen the way of hatred by refusing to comply with the divine mandate. Now then, let us say that you have had a loving confrontation with your sinning spouse but he or she has not yet seen the error of his or her way. And let us say further that on the evening of your first discussion about your partner’s sin, he or she expresses sexual interest. What is your obligation? You are obligated to meet your partner’s need. But as earlier, you may appeal to your spouse’s authority over your body and ask if you may abstain and instead pray together while you work out the problem within a specified timeframe. If there is mutual consent to the time of abstinence, then you are not obligated to be sexually intimate. If, however, your sinning spouse does not agree to the hiatus, you must come together so that you do not give Satan an opportunity to work his wiles. Or if you are asking for abstinence in the form of wanting to work the problem (but the real reason is that you are so mad at your spouse that you could spit), then not only are you sinning by refusing sexual relations with your spouse, but you are adding to that sin the sins of manipulation (what the Bible calls “deceit”4) and bitterness.5 Now then, what if you are married to an unbeliever? Take a woman with an unbelieving husband for example. If your husband wants to engage you sexually, what should you do? The Bible says that you are obligated to open yourself to him. Paul does not tell believing wives to leave their unbelieving husbands; on the contrary, he says if your unbelieving husband is willing to stay even though you have come to Christ, then you must stay married. And as a married woman, it is incumbent upon you to be obedient to the Lord’s commands for married life even with a disobedient spouse.6 This does not mean that you have no right to appeal to his authority over your body, but if he insists, then you must comply. All this is to say, that we must begin with the very clear and basic truth that sex is something that married couples owe to one another. When you get married, this is what you are asking for: you are asking to become one flesh with your partner; you are saying, his body is now mine, and mine is his, you are saying, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Cant 6:3). This overarching principle must inform all your decisions about sex in your marriage.

3 4

See Lev 19:17; Matt 18:15-19; Gal 6:1-4. See Mark 7:22. 5 See Eph 4:31. 6 See 1 Pet 3:1-6.

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

5

So far we have addressed cases in which spouses have sinned (at least) by refusing to do their duty, now let’s explore some sinful patterns of behavior that often lead to unfulfilling sexual relations in marriage. Other Moral Problems For many women who are less than enthusiastic about sex with their husbands, chief among their problems with their men is that they lack godly character and initiative. There is nothing that turns off a believing wife more than when her husband is a spiritual wimp. Godly wives want godly husbands who take seriously their spiritual leadership in the home. We will spend time in a later lesson addressing the roles of men and women in marriage, but for now we’ll say that God has called husbands to provide leadership to their wives in all areas of life, especially in the things of God. Men who fail to pray with their wives, who fail to encourage their wives in their relationship with Christ, men who fail to lead their wives and children in family worship and religious discussion, men who forsake the assembly of God’s people will not often find a very interested and enthusiastic wife in the bedroom. Of course, if she is godly she will take 1 Cor 7:3 seriously, but having sex with your husband solely because you love the Lord and having sex with your husband because you are overflowing with love and affection for your husband and the Lord are totally different things. As far as disinterested men are concerned, I must say that in my experience there are not many men who lack enthusiasm for sex with their wives (for the sex act, anyway). Yet I have known of situations in which men are less that ecstatic about sex with their wives. These situations almost universally involve the woman failing to honor her husband as per Eph 5:33, which says that “the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” Men who feel disrespected by their wives, men who feel condescended to, who feel as if their wives are treating them as children, who feel nagged, even godly men whose wives are contentious will find themselves not particularly excited about any kind of intimacy with their wives, not even sexual intimacy. And as a godly woman will meet her spousal obligation, a godly man will do the same for the sake of Christ. Yet in both cases the joy and fulfillment and satisfaction and jubilation and ecstasy of wedded love will be severely dampened. It will be dampened both by wimpy husbands and by contentious wives. Returning again to common ways in which men sin against their wives, we ought to note that perhaps equally significant to godly women as spiritual leadership in the home, is the cultivation of relational and emotional intimacy. Men who are not serious about engaging their spouse at a deep level emotionally and relationally will find that difficulty spill over into the bedroom. If the one flesh union is a union of something more than mere flesh, if it entails a kind of intimacy unparalleled in human relations, then a failure to develop this side of the union will have catastrophic effects for the physical side. Men need to express their affection for their wives; if they love them, it is not enough for men to feel it in their hearts, it is not enough for them to be diligent in other areas—

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

6

being hard workers, serious about Scripture and family spirituality—they need verbally and physically to express that affection all the time. They need to create an environment in which sexual relations can thrive. For women this means an environment of regular nonsexual affection—kissing and hugging and talking and laughing and crying and feeling. Feel something for more than sports or cars or tools! Feel something for your wife! Do not think that you are more masculine by holding back your emotions, by suppressing them under a rugged, film noir exterior. Look at Jesus, the ultimate man. He never failed to express his emotions: tears, sighing, joy, grief, indignation, zeal. Did this somehow make him less of a man? He held children on his lap, enjoyed a foot cleansing by a penitent prostitute, and expressed love and affection wherever he went. Even a cursory reading of the gospels reveals this. Men, do you ever call your wives in the middle of the day just to say hi? I mean just to say, “Hey, what’s up?” Do you hug and kiss your wife when you arrive home for the day? Do you hug and kiss your wife throughout the evening? If you don’t, do not be surprised if sex for her is not a top priority. The bottom line in all this is that the reason our sex lives may not be all that satisfying is because we have stopped loving one another. Colossians 3:12 says that love is the perfect bond of unity; perhaps our sexual problems may be reduced to a lack of biblical love shared between partners:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails….But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:4-8a, 13).

Now before we move on to some informational problems, I’d like to address another hindrance to fulfilling sex that at first glance may not appear to be moral in nature, but upon closer scrutiny manifests immorality; namely, unresolved guilt for premarital sexual experiences. Most couples getting married today have had some measure of sexual contact with the opposite sex before they say, “I do.” As a result, once they are married and begin regularly to engage in sexual relations, they can find themselves feeling guilty even for having sex with their spouse. Now the reason I have said that it is close to the mark to put this in the category of the moral is that such feelings stem from a failure to believe God’s promises, a failure to appropriate God’s truth. Unbelief is always sinful. In fact, unbelief is at the root of all our sins. When we are sinning we are not believing the truth about God and/or one another and/or our circumstances. We are refusing to see things from God’s perspective.

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

7

If we feel guilty about sex with our spouse then at least one of the following has happened: (1) we have not dealt biblically with our previous acts of fornication. Perhaps we have not confessed these sins to the Lord. In this case, though we should feel guilty for our unconfessed sin, we are wrongly imposing those genuine feelings of guilt over our past onto a guilt-free set of present circumstances. The answer to this is to confess our sins of fornication to the Lord and to rest in his promises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Perhaps we have confessed them to the Lord but we still feel guilty over it when we have sex with our spouse. In this case, the issue may be that we are failing to believe that the Lord is kindly disposed toward us. This is a failure to believe the gospel, a failure to see that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:39). (2) We are not believing the truth that we explored in our last lecture: that God made sex and within the confines of the marriage covenant it is holy and pleasing to God. In this case, our guilt is false. The marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4); sexual relations in marriage honor God and advance our sanctification. You must believe this if you are going to resolve misplaced feelings of guilt regarding sex in marriage. So if you are suffering from this, may I call you to meditate on the truth of Scripture about God’s forgiveness and/or the holiness of the one flesh marriage union? And at the same time, beg God to believe it. We do believe, but we need help with our unbelief (Mark 9:24). Informational Problems Now that we have addressed some moral issues, let’s move on to the informational. Many times the reason why husbands and wives do not enjoy one another sexually as they should is simply due to ignorance. Now I am not saying that ignorance is always blameless. Indeed, part of what it means to be married is to continue to know one another, to live in such a way that we would truly understand one another as husband and wife.7 But what I am saying is that there are instances in which a man and wife may have the right attitude, but just need more information. One such informational issue may be that we are not attending to basic concerns of hygiene. This, ladies, as you know, is characteristically more problematic for men. Men, sometimes your wives do not want to be with you simply because you are smelly and otherwise gross. Take a shower. Clip your fingernails and toenails. Brush your teeth— maybe even use a little mouthwash. You may find your wife a bit more responsive to your advances. And wives, please do not think you are overstepping your bounds to tell your husbands in a reverent and humble way that they are smelly and/or gross. When it comes to the sexual relationship, his body belongs to you. Help him get it together. In addition, problems with sex in marriage can stem simply from failing to understand the temperament of the opposite sex. Stereotypically, men are more easily
7

See 1 Pet 3:7.

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

8

aroused than women—all he needs to do is see his wife and he’s ready to go. Women on the other hand, are not as stimulated by the male anatomy and often simple acts of kindness and consideration are what actually prepare the woman for sexual relations. Knowing this can help both man and wife to prepare for lovemaking and enhance their sexual intimacy. Another area of ignorance is ignorance of your mate’s physical anatomy: what it is, where it is, how it functions, how it can be stimulated, etc. Of course, the best way to explore one another is to explore one another and ask lots of questions. Many husbands fancy themselves great lovers, when in reality they are quite poor. They fail to realize that from a purely physical standpoint, more time is necessary for their wife to receive pleasure than for them to receive it. When your knowledge of your spouse’s body increases, you will find yourselves enjoying your sexual intimacy much more. So ask each other questions: What do you like that I do for you? What do you dislike? How can I improve? What can we work on together to make our sex as good as God intends it to be? And pray about it; read Song of Solomon a lot and pray about it a lot and experiment a lot. In no time you will find yourselves increasing in your knowledge of one another’s anatomy. Finally, I’d like to say that sometimes the richness of our sex lives is compromised because we have wrong expectations for them. Sometimes this comes from previous or even current experimentation with pornography, from romance novels and soap operas, or even from romantic comedies and sitcoms. Other times there is just too much hype about the wedding night—hype that can never be met with reality. Whatever the case may be, we need to return to the Bible to have the proper expectations for sex. Most often the problem is that we think that our sex has to be extraordinary every time. It is not that our sex is not to be pleasurable (we’ve seen this already); it is just that we need to recognize that not every time we have sex will it be a mountaintop experience. Sometimes it will be like eating filet mignon and other times it will be like eating hot dogs, but both times we can enjoy our meal—if we recognize the nature of a healthy married sex life. Conclusion Now then, I want to conclude this morning’s lecture with a word about the importance of saying yes to God’s plan for sex. In our attempts to have marriages that honor Christ, it is absolutely essential that you do not simply say no to sinful pleasures. You need to say yes to the pleasures of God. God is no cosmic killjoy; he is no ogre. He made sex to be enjoyed in the context of the marriage covenant. So enjoy it. And at the same time you will be working to stem the influence of sexual immorality in your marriage. Too often churches focus on what not to do rather than on what to do. C S Lewis’ insight is quite applicable:
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more
The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2 © 2004 by R W Glenn

9

than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think that this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.8

Although many pastors and teachers have been earnest and sincere about people in their hearing taking seriously God’s call to abstain from sexual immorality, the result is often ignorance regarding what to do with their sexual desires. What is the single person to do? What is the married couple to do? The single person needs to believe that the satisfaction and pleasure of God in Christ is better than the satisfaction and pleasure of sex. The married couple needs to believe this as well; nevertheless, they also must be redirected to glut themselves on the spouse God has graciously given to meet that physical need. Like the single person, married couples need to know that the enjoyment of the sex is meant by God to show how much more enjoyable intimacy with him can and will be. Take, for example, the message of Song of Solomon. As a work of the Old Testament, it, too, finds its fulfillment in Christ. Luke 24:44 says, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” All three divisions of the Hebrew Bible find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Nothing has escaped God’s ultimate intention in recording the words of the Old Testament. Now, then, Song of Solomon is an erotic love poem that vividly depicts the enjoyment and intimacy of the relationship between bridegroom and bride, between husband and wife. Christ, of course, is the ultimate husband, and his bride is the church. We are meant to enjoy a relationship with God in Christ that far surpasses the bliss of sexual pleasure. Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Jonathan Edwards understood this notion and looked forward to the consummation of the wedding between Christ and the church, the divine bridegroom and his bride:
How soon do earthly lovers come to an end of their discoveries of each other’s beauty! how soon do they see all that is to be seen! Are they united as near as possible, and have communion as intimate as possible? How soon do they come to the most endearing expressions of love that it is possible to give, so that no new ways can be invented, given, or received! And how happy is that love in which there is an eternal progress in all those things wherein new beauties are continually discovered, and more and more loveliness, and in which we shall for ever increase in beauty ourselves; where we shall be more capable of finding out and giving, and shall

8

C S Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 1.

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

10

receive more and more endearing expressions of love for ever; our union will become more close, and communion more intimate!9

And he seems to suggest an experience of pleasure that is much more corporeal. He says, “Our animal spirits will also be capable of immensely more fine and exquisite proportions in their motions, than now they are, being so gross.”10 And again…
When the body enjoys the perfections of health and strength, the motions of the animal spirits are not only brisk and free, but also harmonious; there is a regular proportion in the motion from all parts of the body, that begets delight in the soul, and makes the body feel pleasantly all over—God has excellently contrived the nerves and parts of the human body….But we need not doubt that this harmony will be in its proportion in the bodies of the saints after the resurrection; and that as every part of the bodies of the wicked shall be excruciated with intolerable pain, so every part of the saints’ refined bodies shall be as full of pleasure as they can hold; and this will not take the mind off from, but prompt and help it in spiritual delight, to which even the delight of their spiritual bodies shall be but a shadow.11

We need to see the ecstasy of sex in the context of Christ and eternity. If everything we experience now is a mere shadow of the future bliss we will enjoy in perfect union with our groom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and if sex feels so wonderful, what does this say about the kind of pleasure that are ours in Jesus Christ? I am not saying that Edwards’ speculations are necessarily correct, but what I am saying is that he is thinking along the right lines. The beauty and the wonder and the joy of sex (as great as it is) is nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed. And so, in keeping with the Christological focus of the Christian home, may I encourage you to remember that we see now in a mirror darkly the glory of the Lord, but then face to face.

Redeemer Bible Church 16205 Highway 7 Minnetonka, MN 55345 Office: 952.935.2425 Fax: 952.938.8299 info@redeemerbiblechurch.com www.redeemerbiblechurch.com www.solidfood.net

Jonathan Edwards, “Miscellaneous Observations: [198] Happiness” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, edited by Edward Hickman (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997 reprint of the 1834 edition), 2.619. 10 Ibid., “[182] Heaven,” 2.618. 11 Ibid., “[95] Happiness of Heaven,” 2.619.

9

The Christian Home, Lecture 7: The One Flesh Union, Pt 2

© 2004 by R W Glenn

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.