The Role of Sex in Creation
Saturday Supplement: Nathan Pickup
From the time we’re old enough to understand ideas about anything, we are inundated with ideas about sex. Within that barrage are many lies about the nature of sex and its role in life, allowing Satan to weaponize it against God’s people. We try to counter Satan by encouraging sexual purity, but this encouragement will only go so far if we continue to conceptualize sex the way Satan hopes we will. To counter his lies, we must ensure that we have a correct view regarding the intended role of sex in God’s creation. If our world is wrong in its teaching about sex, then what is the right teaching according to a biblical worldview?
Have you ever wondered why sex was created? God must have had a reason for making it part of his “good” creation (Gen. 1:31). But what was that reason? It is clear from the Genesis account that sex was created in tandem with the covenant institution of marriage (Gen. 2:23-25). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” While the expression “one flesh” means more than just the act of sexual joining, sex is obviously included within its meaning. Thus, God’s “good” creation included the covenant bond of marriage, within which the sexual act was to function. This designed role of sex within marriage is brimming with meaning.
First, sex was created to be a sign of the marital covenant between a man and woman. God could have created marriage without creating sex, since the idea of a marital covenant is not dependent on the existence of sexuality. But God wasn’t content to leave the oneness of marriage as an abstract idea, so he created the male and female bodies to join—a tangible sign of oneness that two covenant partners can perform with their bodies. This makes a married couple’s covenantal joining a corporeal reality. God created a physical sign that represents the oneness, covenant devotion, and giving of one’s self that marriage was created to exemplify. Since sex was created as a sign of the marital covenant, to speak of sex is equivalent to speaking of covenant. If one seeks to adhere to a biblical worldview, then sex cannot be conceptualized apart from the covenant bond of marriage.
In addition to being a sign of the marital covenant, sex is also an expression of the covenant love between a man and woman. Imagine if God had created marriage, but the only way to express covenant love to your spouse was through verbal expression. God created the means for covenant love to be expressed in a deeper way, in which a man and woman can use the most intimate parts of themselves to physically express their devotion to one another. God created sex so that covenant love could be expressed verbally and physically. We should add that God designed this physical expression of covenant love to be enjoyable. We mustn’t hide that or make it the “elephant in the room.” The physical enjoyment of sex is part of what God deemed “good,” so we shouldn’t treat it as the result of sin and the fall of creation.
Lastly, God created sex as a means of producing human offspring. Was God required to make sex the means of producing children? No—so why did God decide to use the sign and expression of marital covenant as the way for human life to enter the world? By making sex the means of producing offspring, God designed human life to be the result of covenant love. Humanity is, therefore, the only part of creation in which covenant love is the means of producing life. If humanity had followed this design, then every human life in this world would be the result of the covenant love of two human beings. That is a beautiful ideal. We should also recognize that God designed the expression of covenant oneness to create human life in the image of the two covenant partners (Gen. 5:3). In the same way that God created life in his image out of love and a desire for covenant relationship, he designed men and women to produce life in their image out of covenant love and relationship. Thus, the producing of life in our image through covenant love is part of our being in the image of the Creator.
Sex was not designed by God to be the stumbling block it has become for so many of his people. That is Satan’s doing. Sex was created to point to the transcendent oneness of the marital covenant, which was created to correspond to the covenantal oneness between God and his people (Eph. 5:22-32). Human sexuality, within the covenant of marriage, is a beautiful expression that mysteriously joins two different but complementary beings into “one flesh.” This expression of covenant love produces human life in the image of the two covenant partners and in the image of God. This is the sacred role of sex within God’s creation, and it is a worthy addition to his “good” work. With a proper view of sex as God designed it, we can better recognize the subtle lies of Satan regarding this subject. Building on the views expressed above, I’ll seek to answer in my next article a question most of us have probably wondered at one time or another: why does sex have to be reserved for marriage?