What's Sex Got to Do with It?

Mary Kassian has been exploring the relationship between complementarity and mutuality when it comes to men and women. In her final post, she will show us what this has to do with the most intimate part of a married couple's life.

Some of you may wonder why I published the previous posts establishing the relationship between complementarity and mutuality before writing about what this has to do with sex. It's because sex is the place where complementarity and mutuality kiss. Holy, covenant sex is the symbolic act where their essential meanings climax. I wanted to establish the relationship between complementarity and mutuality before I discuss how they reach their zenith in covenant sex.

Sex in the Shadowlands

God created manhood, womanhood, marriage, and sex because He wanted us to have symbols, images, and language powerful enough to convey the idea of who He is and what a relationship with Him is all about. The visible symbols display and testify about what is unseen—the temporary points to eternal spiritual realities. C.S. Lewis called it living in the "shadowlands." We bring God glory when the shadows we cast here on earth match up with their heavenly counterparts. Sex in the shadowlands is supposed to tell the story of God.

Perfectly One

In marital sex, two complementary beings come together as one flesh. The two become one. "Oneness" is the ultimate aim for marriage and is likewise—though on a different level—the ultimate aim for the community of believers. Through our oneness we display the fact that God is one. We also point to the day when Christ's covenant will be consummated, and we will be one with Him—the day when God will be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28, Eph. 1:23) Jesus prayed,

"That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:21–23)

The Meaning of Sex

The ultimate goal of sex is to tell the truth about God and to point to the oneness we will enjoy when Christ is united with His Church.

Simply stated, sex is a powerful symbol that points to the fulfillment of a covenant. When a husband and wife have sex, they testify to their own covenant and also point to the time when the Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride will come together in fulfillment of the New Covenant.

The ultimate goal of sex is to tell the truth about God and to point to the oneness we will enjoy when Christ is united with His Church.

When our physical union with Christ takes place, the covenant will be fulfilled. Union is the point of consummation—the climax. The covenant is the essential context. If there were no covenant, there would be no union. Christ's covenant is what makes a relationship with Him possible. That's why the Bible says no sex outside of marriage, because it violates the meaning of sex. It goes against the bigger truth that sex is supposed to symbolize.

Five Necessities for God-Glorifying Sex

The big picture about sex informs us that there are five things necessary for sex to tell the story in the way that Scripture upholds as the ideal: 1) a marriage covenant, 2) complementarity, 3) mutuality, 4) congruence, and 5) Godwardness.

1. A Marriage Covenant

Sex symbolizes covenant fulfillment. If you have sex with someone you're not married to, you tell a lie with your body. Your body testifies that a spiritual, supernatural, and legal joining has taken place, when in fact it hasn't. Not only that, your behavior also tells a lie about God and the nature of His covenant. You throw mud at the supernatural storyline that your body was created to honor. According to the Bible, the only sex that faithfully tells God's covenant story is sex that takes place within a marriage covenant.

2. Complementarity

Both man and woman bring the totality of who they are into the marriage bed. In the act of sex they connect as counterparts on every possible level—physical, emotional, and spiritual. God designed the two pieces to fit. It's the complementarity that facilitates a perfect union.

Sex is the place where complementarity and mutuality kiss.

Sex is the union of two complementary beings—a male, who God created with a physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual bent to lovingly and self-sacrificially bestow and give, and a female, who God created with a physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual bent to actively and joyfully welcome and receive.

A man is at no time more "manly" and woman is at no time more "womanly" than in the act of sex. (Sex as God intended it, that is.) His body "gives" in a way that hers can't. Her body "receives" in a way that his can't. Sex is the place where complementarity and mutuality kiss.

3. Mutuality

Complementarity reaches its apex in the act of sex. That's where male-female differences are eclipsed by a profound unity. So much so, that husband and wife relinquish their separate physical "selves" (1 Cor. 7:3–4). The Bible says the husband's body belongs to the wife and the wife's to the husband. They no longer interact as two separate individuals, but as counterparts of one flesh.

It's this concept that the New Testament points to when it instructs husbands and wives to relinquish ownership and give their bodies completely to one another in the marital bed (1 Cor. 7:3–4). My body belongs to my husband. His belongs to me. It's a paradox really, because this cross-ownership demands that both parts of our "one flesh" agree on what physically takes place. Good sex requires that each discovers and fulfills what the other desires.

4. Congruence

Congruence means that what a husband and wife do sexually needs to line up with Christ's character and the storyline of His cosmic romance. Mutual agreement isn't the final determiner for the appropriateness of any given sexual behavior. If something is incongruent with the storyline of the gospel, a couple shouldn't be doing it.

Say a couple agrees to view porn movies together or to engage in BDSM. They do so in the confines of their bedroom and for the purpose of charging up their sex life. Is their behavior congruent with the story of the covenant love between Christ and the Church? Is it appropriate for the Church to fill her mind with images of other lovers? Is Christ sadistic or masochistic toward His Bride? Does He put her in bondage?

The answer is no. The physical symbol isn't true to the spiritual reality to which it points. Therefore, choosing to engage in such behavior doesn't glorify God.

5. Godwardness

Godwardness is the overarching necessity for God-glorifying sex—understanding that your sexuality (and the rest of life) is ultimately not about you, but about reflecting truths about your Creator-Redeemer. As a Christian, you have an obligation to use your body in a manner that honors God and to refrain from using it in a way that dishonors Him (1 Cor. 6:18–20).

A Godward mentality shapes and informs our sexual conduct. It challenges married men to tenderly love, romance, and pursue their wives. It challenges married women to love, respect, and respond to their husbands. It challenges singles to honor the gospel story through sexual continence. It challenges all of us to strive for increasingly higher standards of sexual purity (1 Thess. 4:1–8). It also challenges us to keep dealing with the sin in our lives and aim for ever-increasing Christ-likeness.

Aiming for the Ideal

In a sex-saturated world broken by sin, the Bible's ideal is difficult to attain. Each one of us is sexually broken to one extent or another. We all need Christ to sanctify our hearts, minds, bodies, sexual behaviors, and inclinations so our sexuality increasingly conforms to God's intent for it.

Though we may never fully attain it, though we fail, it is nonetheless important that believers understand, faithfully communicate, and aim for God's ideal for sex. Indeed, I believe that apart from the Word of God and the power of God's Holy Spirit working in a life redeemed by Jesus, we have no hope of becoming sexually whole.

God's design for gender is not only right, but it is also beautiful and good.

The Lord wants Christians to experience great sex. He doesn't want us to settle for impure—dirty, common, ordinary—sex. He wants our sexual conduct to become more and more pure—clean, uncommon, extraordinary, set apart (1 Thess. 4:1–8). Scripture tells us that what we do with our bodies is important. Sex exists for the purpose of glorifying God. "So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:13–20).


God's design for gender is not only right, but it is also beautiful and good. We fail to see the forest for the trees whenever we get caught up in thinking complementarity is about what male and female legalistically HAVE to do, rather than a grace-soaked, magnificent vision for who we GET to be. Knowing Christ gives us the freedom to step into the fullness and joy of who God created us to be—male and female. We cannot know ourselves, experience wholeness of personhood, or truly bring Him glory, outside of this God-ordained context.

About the Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a frequent guest on Revive Our Hearts. She has written more than a dozen books and Bible studies including Conversation Peace and The Right Kind of Strong. … read more …

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