Blog Archive

Friday, November 5, 2010

Question of the Week:
Can Marital Sex be Sinful?
Part I

1. Is pornography adultery?
~ Anonymous
2. Am I obligated to sleep with a spouse who I do not think loves me anymore and is just using me for sex?
~ Anonymous

These were submitted as two separate questions. Both might receive a simple 'yes' based on Matthew 5:28 and 1 Corinthians 7:4-5. But addressing sin in context of marital sex deserves far more depth, and three posts are planned to offer some answers:

Part I: Sexual Immorality, Unique Sin
Part II: Sex Drive, Unique Motivation
Part III: Sexual Contrasts, Unique Solution

: : :


"What makes pornography so addictive
is that more than anything else in a lost man's life,
it makes him feel like a man
without ever requiring a thing of him."
~ John Eldredge, from Wild at Heart

(To provide full explanations, today's post includes full biblical texts rather than the usual links.)

Jesus unequivocally defined lust as the sin of adultery. Perhaps He anticipated an argument that lust is inescapable—a person can’t help where the eye looks and what is then compelled of the hand—because He went on to address such rationale. Here is the complete text:

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."
~ Matthew 5:27-30 (NKJV)

The context of sexual immorality continues into the verses which immediately follow:

"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."
~ Matthew 5:31-32 (NKJV)

Thoroughly despicable to the Jews, adultery carried the death penalty. Jesus pointed out that a divorced woman was compelled to seek another man for support, and He declared a man who commits divorce as guilty of complicity to resulting adultery—unless his wife gave him sufficient grounds for divorce. Jesus didn’t specify grounds for divorce as adultery (Greek moicheia). He instead spoke of sexual immorality (Greek porneia), a broader sin which includes adultery. Jesus affirms permanency of marriage—and how intolerable sexual immorality in marriage is.

Paul describes sexual immorality as a unique sin because of the way sex unites one person, body and soul, to another. He uses this principle to point out that God's Spirit unites Himself to our bodies, and our bodies are to honor that Spirit:

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 harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "The two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
~ 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 (NKJV)

We generally think of pornography as a visual temptation which indulges men to lust. But pornography can include images, audio, or text, whether explicit or evocative. It may tempt a man or a woman, married or single. It may tempt indulgence of physical lust or emotional lust. Pornography sabotages marriage, both present and future, and cannot be separated from the lust which violates the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery."

Such lust is only one aspect of sexual immorality, which violates a higher commandment. Because it degrades our bodies, which serve as dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, sexual immorality sabotages efforts to love the Lord our God with all our soul, heart, mind, body.

: : :

For more on defining sin, see "Is It Wrong?"

For more on divorce and the sanctity of marriage, see "What is Marriage?"

This post originally appeared at Bullets & Butterflies. To see additional comments containing ongoing dialogue, click here.

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. Anne, tough questions! Thank you for your thoughtful response on Russell's blog. With all in the news, I can't help wondering about differences in views on this topic between Islam and Christianity.

  2. Amy ~

    I apologize for not providing a prompt reply. I was thinking that any comparison would be long enough for its own post. I'll add this to the questions awaiting a response. : )


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