The Bible and intercourse

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QUESTION: What does the Bible say about intercourse? Should it only be performed for the purpose of having children?

ANSWER: Your question concerning intercourse between couples who are married is answered rather succinctly in the Bible. The Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church tackles this rather sensitive topic. In 1Corinthians 7 he first states that both the husband and the wife in a relationship ought to render to each other "due benevolence" (the KJV translation uses this term as a euphemism for stating they owe each other intercourse). He then gives us the underlying principle that should govern the intercourse of a couple within marriage.

4 The wife does not have authority (unilateral and complete power) over her own body, but the husband does . . . (1Corinthians 7:4, NKJV)

It is important to note that nowhere in Scripture is it commanded, or even suggested, that a married couple should only have intercourse when they are trying to have children. There is also no indication that any copulation occurring with two people, within the bounds of marriage, is a sin of itself. In fact, Paul states in the book of Hebrews that marriage is an honorable practice and that the marriage bed is "undefiled," meaning that there are really almost no restrictions concerning the intercourse couples have with each other (Hebrews 13:4).

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Paul, in the Bible, calls the physical relationship or intercourse between a married man and woman a "marital duty" and stresses that they should not abstain from it unless they both agree to do so for a short period of time (1Corinthians 7). In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he stresses the role each person in a marriage should play. He also discusses how they should treat each other. So long as these guidelines are followed, any relationship will flourish, even a childless one.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord; Husbands, love your own wives, in the same way that Christ also loved the church . . . In the same way, husbands are duty-bound (they have an obligation before God) to love their wives . . . (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 28, HBFV)

King Solomon, who was given extraordinary and one-of-a-kind wisdom by God, warns us that lust and the illicit intercourse it can lead to can wreak havoc on a person's life (Proverbs 6:25 - 26). The Apostle Paul also warns to flee immorality both before and during marriage (1Corinthians 6:18).

The ability to have intercourse is one of the gifts God built into humans upon their creation (Genesis 1:28). He gave it to use for our benefit and happiness. He encourages couples to enjoy this type of intimacy within marriage (Proverbs 5:18 - 19, Song of Solomon 1:12 - 13, 7:6 - 13, 8:1 - 3). What he does not approve of, however, is using this gift wrongly by performing it before marriage (fornication or lust) or with someone who is not one's marriage partner (adultery - see Leviticus 18:6 - 18, 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:20 - 22, etc.).

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