In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul wants to show the Corinthians that there is a spiritual dimension to sex because God made us a (here’s your nerdy word for the week) psychosomatic unity. This means that our soul (psycho) and body (soma) are one; what happens with one affects the other.
Yes, it’s true that when our body dies, our soul goes on to be with Jesus, and it is disembodied for a while, but that’s not the way our soul was created to be. So when we’re in that state, Scripture says that we’re uncomfortable, “longing to be clothed” with our resurrected bodies (2 Corinthians 5:2). Our soul is created to be united to a body.
There’s a world of wisdom that flows from this one fact. But let’s keep the focus on sex for now. Paul argues that because our bodies and souls are one, sex is far from a meaningless physical activity. Whether we want it to or not, sex has an inherently spiritual dimension to it.
Because our bodies and souls are one, sex is far from a meaningless physical activity. Whether we want it to or not, sex has an inherently spiritual dimension to it.
We see this in three ways:
1. The Marriage Covenant
A marriage covenant is just like the salvation covenant. In both, we come to the altar to unite ourselves to one another, forever. All that’s yours becomes theirs, and all that’s theirs becomes yours. In marriage, the woman traditionally takes on a new name, rings are exchanged, and sex is the physical seal of our commitment, out of which God often brings forth new life.
Each one of those steps illustrates the gospel. In salvation, you took on a new family name, your exchange of rings was called baptism, we celebrate that union with a meal called communion, and at your salvation, Jesus put his Holy Spirit into you, out of which God brings forth new life in you and through you. Do you see it? Each step of marriage—including sex—preaches the gospel.
2. The Act of Sex
The act of sex itself is a physical illustration of the love of God. Psychologists say that the deepest desire of the human heart is to be known and loved. To be known and not loved is rejection. But to be loved and not known isn’t fulfilling, either—it’s false.
The combination of knowing and loving happens, in a physical way, in sex. Someone sees you, uncovered, and they embrace and receive all of you. It’s why sex, when done in the context of love, feels so beautiful and euphoric. It’s an echo of God’s love for you.
3. The Complementary Nature of Sex
Even the complementary nature of sex—two different genders, male and female—is a picture of our relationship to Christ. Our union with Christ is not a union of identicals. We’re alike but different. God wrote this all through creation: He uses opposite pairs again and again to produce the good—day and night, sun and moon, land and sea, earth and heaven—and on his ultimate day of creation, male and female.
All of that was a setup for salvation. We, humanity, are united to Christ. Christ plays the role of the male, the life-giver; we all play the role of the female, the life-receiver. It’s why C.S. Lewis said that in relation to God, all souls are female. Sex is a picture of our role as the bride of Christ.
In all of this, it is clear that every part of marriage and sex illustrates the love and nature of God. Far from being merely the satisfaction of a bodily urge, sexuality is central to our humanity and central to our knowledge of God.