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Sexual Sin and Its Risks

April 2005
By: David O'Leary
Many people falsely think that sex produces oneness between partners. In reality, sex can only express the oneness and the intimacy that are already there.



What's love got to do with it?" asks Tina Turner in her popular song. When it comes to sex, for many people love and purity don't have anything to do with it. But what many of us don't realize is that sex is a spiritual thing, and that is one of the reasons that love is supposed to be a part of sex. Sexual sin is spiritual too. Now this may surprise you because the one thing we all know is that sex is physical. The physical aspect of sex is obvious. The spiritual aspect is subtler, but it has a big impact.

Many people think that sexual sin is defined by uptight religious types who are opposed to something that is fun. Rather, the concept of sexual sin comes from what God says in His Word. The Bible is the owner's manual for human beings. In it, God tells us how to operate and maintain the bodies and souls He has given us. The Bible says that God gave sex to human beings and told them what was wise and wholesome for them.

What is sexual purity all about? Purity is practicing our sexuality in the way that God has told us so that we will have maximum enjoyment, maximum safety, and maximum affirmation as human beings. Many people falsely think that sex produces oneness between partners. In reality, sex can only express the oneness and the intimacy that are already there. Any other use of sex is manipulative, can invite abuse, and ultimately will not satisfy.

There are many ways in which humans can sin sexually. Some of them are extreme and are considered offensive and perverse. But I want to speak about the effect of the most understandable, most common, and easiest to get involved in: sexual relations between a man and a woman who are not married to each other.


Without a commitment
to each other, partners
are left uncertain and
insecure, never knowing
whether each can
depend on the other.



You might ask, "If they are unmarried and if they are both willing, why should anyone object?" Let me try to answer. Sexual sin begins with a heart problem between each of us and God. God's Word says that when we sin, we exchange "the truth of God for a lie" and worship and serve "the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). When we feel strongly about someone, it is tempting to put that person up on a pedestal. And what man or woman doesn't want to be worshiped by his or her partner? Yet, putting that person and his or her wishes ahead of God and the instructions in His Word is the first stage of a downward turn. It's idolatry. King Solomon was famous, in part, for having 700 wives! Unfortunately, they turned his heart after other gods (I Kings 11:2-3).

It gets worse. Our sexual sin depersonalizes our partner because we separate our love, commitment, and faithfulness from the physical act of sex. This makes our partner an object for our use or pleasure. It also invites our partner to see us in the same way. We become accustomed to using relationships for pleasure without being required to invest much of ourselves into them. Without a commitment to each other, partners are left uncertain and insecure, never knowing whether each can depend on the other. While this is often a two-way situation, it seems that women are more often hurt and abandoned by such arrangements.

We risk damage to ourselves as well. Objectifying sex, we begin to think of our sexual life as a bargaining tool to help us selfishly find intimacy and relationship. If sex is a tool, we are not emotionally and thoroughly involved in the act as an expression of love. We become hardhearted and insensitive. The Word of God describes the danger of those "who, being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness [lewdness], to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Ephesians 4:19). We develop a continual thirst for more to fill the gap in our intimacy. We cheat ourselves out of a relationship based on commitment, trust, and obedience to God. Ultimately, sexual sin does not satisfy because it deprives us of the deep intimacy for which God designed us.

In addition to this, sexual sin brings physical risks that should not be ignored. The two most obvious are unexpected pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Further risks include the physical abuse that often goes with a dysfunctional relationship.

What can someone do who has been involved in long-term sexual sin? The issue is the heart. The solution is to immediately turn your heart back to God and seek Him with all your heart. He promises that you will find Him. Then get the help of a good biblical counselor. If you are a woman, get the support of one or more godly women to help you commit to sexual purity. If a man, get help from godly men.

Sexuality is a wonderful gift from God, but it is meant to be enjoyed in a holy, committed marriage before God. If sexual sin is a problem you are dealing with, God wants you to go back to the owner's manual, read His words for you, abandon that sin forever, and start anew.

David O'Leary is married and has four children. He pastors a church in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He holds degrees from Tufts University (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.A.R., M.Div.), and Covenant Seminary (D.Min.). He can be reached at doleary@opc-ipswich.org.

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