The Relationship Between Sex and Knowing Christ

“Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.  Knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”  So argues John Piper in his book “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.”

In order to help the reader better understand what he means, he restates these two points negatively.  “All misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ.  All misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.” Still a little fuzzy?  Try this one:  “All sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.”

To say that the purpose of sex is intense physical pleasure for husband and wife along with procreation would not be wrong, but Piper takes us beyond a basic understanding of sex to its deeper meaning.  Too often Christians have a distorted view of sex, having been more influenced by the world than by the Scriptures.  In some circles, the topic of sex is taboo and we forget that the Bible is not silent when it comes to this subject.  I remember one of my professors in seminary giving us his own personal paraphrase to Genesis 1:28, which the ESV translates, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  My professor’s paraphrase went something like this: “Have sex and have lots of it!”  All humor aside, God created sex and it is clearly a “good” thing, when it happens in its proper, God-ordained context – marital love.

Few Christians would argue that God intends for us to know Christ more fully.  Paul even said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ.”  So how can we know Christ more fully?  A typical evangelical response might go something like this – through prayer, bible study, fellowship, and worship and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  But let’s return to Piper and his thesis – “Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.”  Perhaps we could now add sex to the list.

Piper writes, “God created us in his image, male and female, with personhood and sexual passions, so that when he comes to us in this world there would be these powerful words and images to describe the promises and pleasures of our covenant relationship with him through Christ.  God made us powerfully sexual so that he would be more deeply knowable.  We were given the power to know each other sexually so that we might have some hint of what it will be like to know Christ supremely.  Therefore, all misuses of our sexuality (adultery, fornication, illicit fantasies, masturbation, pornography, homosexual behavior, rape, sexual child abuse, bestiality, exhibitionism, and so on) distort the true knowledge of God.  God means for human sexual life to be a pointer and foretaste of our relationship with him.”

One of the ways this can be illustrated is in Genesis 4.  “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.”  Adam’s knowledge of his wife obviously refers to sexual intercourse.  There is a much deeper intimacy and knowledge that comes through sex than through any other type of relationship, which is why God has reserved this privilege for those who are married and have become “one flesh.”  Husband and wife have the great privilege of growing in this “knowledge” for the rest of their earthly lives together. And as Piper stated earlier, God intends for sexuality to be a pointer and a foretaste of our relationship with him.  God does not intend for us to simply know things about him.  I have met Christians who equate knowledge of God with knowing facts about the bible and being able to quote scripture by memory.  In contrast to that, God’s desire for His children is that they might move beyond mere “head knowledge” to a deep and intimate knowledge of their Creator.

To be sure, marital love is only a foretaste of what awaits God’s children at the coming of their Savior, but what a powerful reminder it is!  As it says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

So what does knowing Christ have to do with guarding and guiding our sexuality?

To quote once again from John Piper, “not only do all the misuses of our sexuality serve to conceal or distort the true knowledge of God in Christ, but it also works powerfully the other way around: the true knowledge of God in Christ serves to prevent the misuses of our sexuality.  So, on the one hand, sexuality is designed by God as a way to know Christ more fully.  And, on the other hand, knowing Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:3.  “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Christians know that sexual purity is important, but we also know that it is a challenge, given our toxic culture.  There are temptations all around and it’s easy for our purity to be compromised. The solution is not to simply give in and say “everyone is doing it so it’s ok.” The solution is to flee from the temptation and trust that God will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).  As Paul writes, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: That you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)  Notice how at the end of that passage we are told that the Gentiles “do not know God.”  In contrast, those who know God are committed to sanctification – to pleasing God in everything they do, including their sexuality.

As Piper concludes, “If the Scripture teaches that truly knowing God – truly knowing Christ – guards and guides and governs our sexuality in purity and love, then we may be sure that anyone whose sexuality is not governed and guarded and guided in purity and love does not know God – at least not as he ought.”

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