Questions About Sex Answered by the Bible

Many ask if different sexual acts are sin, such as masturbation, living together or homosexual sex. The Bible’s teaching about the creation of sex helps us see the answers.

We receive many questions about sex:

  • Is engaging in sex without being married a sin?
  • Is having a homosexual relationship a sin?
  • Is a same-sex marriage a sin?
  • Is living together without being married a sin?
  • Is self-stimulation (masturbation) a sin?
  • Is “sexting” a sin?
  • Is “Internet sex” a sin?

Not political

These aren’t political questions in want of legislation. They aren’t social issues waiting upon the direction of the vacillating winds of public opinion. They aren’t arbitrary points of law needing judicial review. They aren’t vague religious notions, subject to the interpretation of the clergy. Only one authority has the right to establish the boundaries of moral behavior: the Creator God.

The Bible does define many sexual sins (such as adultery, fornication and homosexual sex), but it doesn’t specifically mention all of the above-listed or related questions. The simplicity of the truth is that it doesn’t have to spell out every detail. Those who want to know the boundaries God instituted have only to read the first two chapters of the Bible. That’s not to say the Bible is silent afterwards, but what the Bible says thereafter is based upon what is recorded in in Genesis 1 and 2.

Let’s begin at the beginning: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Humankind different from animal kind

After creating all other kinds of life, God made another kind—humankind. He could have made man in any number of ways, but God chose to make two beings of opposite sexes. The first made was the male, whom God sculpted from dirt or clay, naming him simply “Adam,” a play on the Hebrew word for dirt or clay.

But why did God create mankind “male and female”? This is a key question.

One obvious answer is so that, as male and female, they would reproduce. Their descendants would make up the human race. If that was God’s sole purpose, He could have stopped at that point. The human species would propagate. Like animals, the male and female would have been drawn together in the course of nature to produce offspring.

But the second creation account reveals that God had a purpose for sexuality that was deeper than simply reproduction.

Read both creation accounts

Few realize that there are two records of creation. Genesis 1:1 through 2:3 is the first account. The second begins with Genesis 2:4 and concludes with verse 25, telling the story again from the beginning and filling in details not mentioned in the first account.

Both accounts provide unique details, which, when taken together, give us a better understanding of many things. For the focus of this article, they give us a better understanding of the purpose for sexuality. In fact, the second account centers on the creation of the second sex. It even includes a touch of romance.

This version of creation simply speaks of God giving “the man” responsibilities, without noting his creation: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Critical and profoundly significant instructions follow about unique trees in the Garden. (That is a different but closely related story, told in “Adam and Eve and the Two Trees” and “The Tree of Life.”)

God designed a human female counterpart to the man

On the matter of sexuality, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). “Helper comparable” doesn’t convey the force of the Hebrew. This “helper” was the mirror opposite of the man, his perfect complement, a mate who could make the man complete. “It has a special sense to indicate Eve’s likeness to [and yet, difference from] Adam” (Spiros Zodhiates, Complete Word Study Dictionaries, 2003, notes on neged).

In order to emphasize the uniqueness of the woman He would create—how special she was, how much Adam needed her—God assigned Adam the formidable task of naming every animal that God had created. So every species paraded by Adam for his designation, all on the sixth day of creation. We aren’t told what Adam called them. The emphasis is this: “But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:20). God obviously knew that, so the exercise was to accentuate this fact for Adam’s sake.

God used this dramatic method to show Adam that he, too, needed a mate, but that he would not find his mate among animals! Having made that abundantly clear, God could then have made Eve instantly appear and presented her to Adam! Or God could have formed her from clay or dirt, as He had shaped Adam.

Instead, further embellishing the event, God anesthetized Adam, removed a rib from him and then miraculously created the “female,” mentioned in Genesis 1:27, from one of Adam’s bones!

Woman = “from man”

Matthew Henry captured the depth of meaning by this oft-quoted statement: “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved” (Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1706, notes on Genesis 2:21-25).

Then God presented Eve to Adam! In the first biblical poetry, we have Adam’s response upon seeing God’s gift:

And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).

Perhaps the words from man would better reflect the contrasting Hebrew words for man and woman. First, God made a man; then God made man’s female counterpart, a from man. The wording illustrates that Adam saw how perfectly suited they were for each other. We learn later (Genesis 3:20) that Adam named his wife Eve, which literally means “life” or “living.”

If this sounds like a love story, that’s because it is! God made two sexual beings—one male, one female—both in His image.

God shows marriage is necessary

Even at this point, God could have left the man and woman to do what their sexuality would have drawn them to do: reproduce. And, as you will hear argued by people who choose to live together unmarried, “You don’t need a piece of paper [a legal document] to prove that you are committed to each other!” They haven’t read, haven’t understood, haven’t believed or have simply ignored what the Bible says next.

The second creation account ends with: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). The biblical account of the events of the sixth day of creation ends with the female called the wife of the male, not just his mate. Therefore, the capstone event of the creation of humankind was the establishment of marriage.

Historians and anthropologists who do not regard the Bible as authoritative are stymied as to the explanation of the appearance of marriage in the human family. Male and female could have mated for life, just as some species of animals do. But, instead, the Bible shows that the first male and the first female were joined in marriage. (See our article “What Is Marriage?”)

Unbreakable moral boundaries

Why does the Bible say “a man shall leave his father and mother,” when Adam had no father and mother to leave? The obvious reason was to reveal the moral parameters that the Creator set for humankind. Male and female descendants of Adam and Eve should leave their birth families in order to be joined in marriage to begin new families.

God intended sexual intimacy to be the supreme expression of love between a husband and wife, as these New Testament scriptures amplify: 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 and Hebrews 13:4.That’s not all! This verse concludes, “And they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), a transparent reference to sexual intimacy, which occurred after the male and female married, not before. God intended sexual intimacy to be the supreme expression of love between a husband and wife, as these New Testament scriptures amplify: 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 and Hebrews 13:4.

The two purposes for human sexuality

So the two purposes for creating sexuality were to express love and to produce offspring. Both purposes for sex are fulfilled only in the context of marriage.

(Nothing is said or implied that sexual intimacy within marriage is “a necessary evil only for procreation,” as some religious authorities have attempted to read into the Bible.)

Sexual references throughout the entire Bible are consistent with these purposes revealed in the creation accounts. This includes the 10 Commandments (which were in effect from the beginning); the civil laws God gave Israel in the statutes of Numbers and Deuteronomy; all references to sexual sin; and the doctrines and the practices of the New Testament Church of God.

The answers

Understanding God’s purpose for sex ends all debate over what might at first have seemed to be hot-button questions at the beginning of this article:

  • Is engaging in sex without being married a sin?
  • Is having a homosexual relationship a sin?
  • Is a same-sex marriage a sin?
  • Is living together without being married a sin?
  • Is self-stimulation (masturbation) a sin?
  • Is “sexting” a sin?
  • Is “Internet sex” a sin?

The answers to all of them (as well as to other unstated, but related actions) is the same: Yes, every one of them is a sin, because each involves sex outside of marriage, rather than between a husband and his wife.

This is clearly backed up in the New Testament. Paul wrote of “sexual immorality” as an example of sin. Sexual immorality means the misuse of sexuality—using it immorally, instead of morally.

The first four examples of human nature that each of us has to control (listed in Galatians 5:19-21) deal with sexual immorality: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness.” The last two words show that the misuse of the mind is also a factor in immoral behavior, which means that a righteous person must avoid pornography and sexually suggestive entertainment.

The underlying principle is that it is sin to engage in sexual intimacy for any purpose other than for those reasons God created sexuality. That’s why sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, homosexual sex, masturbation and pornography are sins.

You can break the cycle of sexual sin

If you are caught in the habit of a sexual sin, you can break free! But you will need God’s help.If you are caught in the habit of a sexual sin, you can break free! But you will need God’s help.

Follow His command to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), which means we are to avoid putting ourselves in tempting situations. We also have to turn away from tempting TV programs, videos, movies, books, websites, games, etc.—too many of which make sexual sin appealing.

Examine your lifestyle to see what you need to change. If you are passive, the world around you will saturate your mind daily with images that violate God’s intended use of sexuality. Even simple ads for consumer goods often include sexually alluring images with the implication, “This product will please you.” The underlying message is an encouragement to please yourself.

What’s wrong with that? God obviously made sex to be pleasurable—but self-pleasure is not the primary purpose for which God designed sex for humankind. (Read our article “The Gift of Sex.”)

Sex not selfish

The entire context of 1 Corinthians 6:18, from verse 15 to 20, shows that sexuality was not created for selfish gratification—in or out of marriage. Everything about engaging in sexual intimacy should honor God by being an expression of love for your spouse.

The Bible leaves no doubt that it is sin to engage in a sexual act for any purpose other than those for which God designed human sexuality. That is why we said above that the biblical principles teach that masturbation and other acts of self-gratification are sin.

Battle of the mind

Winning or losing the battle takes place in the mind. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [that is, not actual physical weapons] but mighty in God [that is, the power of His Spirit in our minds] for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

Another way of putting it is that we battle against sin in our minds, taking it “captive” or “arresting it,” to use the biblical analogy, before it develops into a fantasy or an action. God’s Spirit gives us the strength to do this. (If you are a believer but find that you do not have the spiritual power to do what you know you should, we recommend that you read “How Do You Know You Have the Holy Spirit?”)

Here is the way

We have several articles that can help you overcome sin and live a lifestyle that honors God. See our series of articles on breaking the cycle of sin. The lead article is “Deadly Sins: Are There Any?” Near the end of the article are links to four additional articles that explain the steps of the process: temptation, desire, wrong choice and effects of sin. They follow in logical progression how the mind is teased to sin, how to recognize and resist temptation, as well as how to break the bonds of a sin that has already captured you.

Other articles that may be helpful include:

About the Author

Cecil Maranville

Cecil Maranville is a minister of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He worked for many years with the responses to questions our readers send to this website and is now retired.

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