Selfless Oneness

Meditation Text: Genesis 2:24–25  Suggested Reading: Proverbs 5


It is no secret that we live in a sex-crazed world. From magazine covers at the check-out counter to television commercials to what the algorithms at YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok feed us, sex is constantly being used to sell us something. On top of that, in many movies, Netflix series, and paperback novels sexual pleasure of whatever kind between consenting adults is portrayed as highly desirable, the thing to be on the lookout for, a highlight in a person’s life. The picture we’re shown is one of blissful intimacy, where there’s nothing but fireworks and thrills for both parties, with virtually no challenges, down side, or negative effects.

As Christians who were created with the same sex drive as everyone else, we can feel powerfully drawn to what the world offers and wonder: Can I have that too? What does God think about sexual desire?


Sexual Satisfaction

It turns out that God thinks quite highly of sexual desire, for He created it. After forming the woman from Adam’s body and joining them together in a marriage covenant, God stated “and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, English Standard Version). The “holding fast” of a man to his wife finds its highest expression in the physical union of their two bodies or, as we more often say, in making love. The Lord absolutely wants His people to enjoy the wonder of sexual intimacy but to do so within the setting of holy marriage—and only there.

The world has turned this upside down, hasn’t it? Our culture promotes “having sex” as something light and casual, no marriage required. One-night stands or hook-ups are common. You just meet for some kind of sexual interchange and then go your way. No relationship, no bond, no love—just an exhilarating experience and then you move on. To say it plainly, for many the act of becoming one flesh has become a way to satisfy personal lust.

And lust is something we all can relate to, for it arises naturally in our sinful hearts. The temptations to indulge our sexual appetite in one way or another before we become married are real and powerful. We catch ourselves dreaming of ways to satisfy our cravings. As Christians we can even view getting married as a solution to this yearning—Now I can have sex whenever I want! Isn’t that what marriage is for, at least in part? Sure, other responsibilities come along with marriage but, we may think, At last I can indulge myself.


But that’s not what God intends for sex or marriage—not at all. Not only does the above view make marriage a vehicle to slake one’s lust, but also it turns sex into a self-centered, self-pleasing activity. How can this be true when, as we saw in the last article, God designed our marriages to reflect His own spiritual marriage to His people? Does God’s relationship with His bride involve lust of any kind? The very thought is blasphemous. And is it conceivable that the Lord would act in a selfish manner toward His bride or desire her to be self-focused? The opposite is the case: in the most incredible act of selflessness, God sacrificed His only-begotten Son to save His church. In turn, He calls His bride to be devoted to Him in selfless love (Luke 10:27). In the same way, husbands and wives must enter marriage not to get but to give; not to be served but to serve the needs of the other.

Adam knew this from the start when, upon seeing the woman for the first time, he exclaimed with gratitude, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). He received her as his equal, as God’s precious gift to be treasured, not as an object to be used. He and she were to become “one flesh,” which certainly points to sexual union (1 Cor. 6:17) but also symbolizes a deeper unity of commitment and purpose. Husband and wife are not to be two individuals living separate lives under the same roof. Rather, having been joined together by God in a solemn marriage covenant, the couple forms a new family unit. They now serve God together, side by side as head and helper, in harmonious unison. Jointly they exercise dominion over the earth and raise up godly offspring. As the Lord Jesus later affirmed, the two have become one (Matt. 19:6).


Oneness implies that each is for the other. You cannot be one if each is for himself or herself. Later in Scripture the Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He becomes even more pointed through Paul: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3, New International Version). If this is our calling toward all people in general, how much more toward the spouse God has gifted to us! As husbands and wives we must repent of selfishness and in the Spirit of Christ seek to serve, bless, and bring pleasure to the other.

Let’s not overlook this: God has created sexual intercourse for our enjoyment and pleasure as man and wife. People sometimes think that sex is merely functional, that love making serves one purpose only, to produce children. Any pleasure one gets out of that act is just a side benefit and not really the main point, but nowhere does Scripture suggest that the two are mutually exclusive. Nor does it teach that sexual intimacy should not be sought when there is no prospect for conception. On the contrary, in Proverbs 5:18–19 the Holy Spirit exhorts husbands and wives to take delight in one another, using a mix of metaphor and plain-speak: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Sexual intercourse is not to be a chore but a joy. Do not the eight chapters of the Song of Solomon ring out with the same message? By all means, husband and wife, take time to enjoy this beautiful calling from God.

And the key to this delight is to enter the bedroom with the aim of pleasuring the other. Selfish lust must give way to a generous giving of yourself for the satisfaction of the other, and all to the glory of God. Remember that the Lord has His eye on our whole life, including what we do in the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). It’s good to pray together about this, for as in all areas of life, unless the Lord blesses our intimacy, it will not flourish. It’s also very helpful for a husband and wife to speak about their love making in order to better understand one another at all levels. A lack of communication can easily lead to unnecessary frustration and alienation.

Husbands, are you taking time to know your wife’s needs in this area so that you can tenderly serve her for her fulfillment? Your calling is to put her ahead of yourself. And wives, are you seeking to know your husband intimately so that you can bless him with sexual satisfaction? Love making is to be a mutual enjoyment, a time of union and communion that transcends the physical experience to something spiritual, a sharing of one another that is difficult to put into words but is an amazing gift from God (see Prov. 30:19).

If you are unmarried and hear the message to stay away from sex before marriage, don’t be discouraged. That is God’s will for your life, but it’s not meant to take away pleasure but to preserve it. God is protecting you from perverting and emptying an act that is rich and meaningful in its proper context. The Lord is keeping you from lust in order to preserve you for love, true Christ-like love with your future spouse where you together may experience pleasure without shame.

Naked and Unashamed

Moses writes in Genesis 2:25, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Instantly we perceive this to be a foreshadowing of dark things soon to take place. In Genesis 3 we will read that when the man and his wife broke God’s commandment, their eyes were opened, and they both realized they were naked. Shame will soon fill their lives, and that’s something we all know about. We all have sin, we all are sinners by nature, and before the purity of the Lord we all are ashamed of ourselves.

But before man sinned, husband and wife were both naked and felt no shame. In their holy marriage bond, in their intimate union of one flesh, there was only honor. In the past some have thought that intercourse even in marriage was a shameful thing not to be talked about, but Scripture says that God gives it to husband and wife as something noble. It wasn’t nakedness itself that brought the shame, nor was it the act of becoming one flesh, but it was rebellion against God’s commandments. Only after that could Adam and Eve no longer look at each other without some sense of shame, and so they covered up their bodies.

But now what has our Lord Jesus Christ done but remove our sin and shame by His suffering and death? When we trust in Him our sins are forgiven and our shame before God falls away. Likewise, we have no need to be ashamed before our wife or husband with whom we have covenanted in the Lord. Christ was sent to wash away also this shame, and that’s why the Lord placed the Song of Solomon in the Bible, and why we find the apostle Paul instructing the churches about marriage and sexual intercourse (1 Cor. 7). What was lost in Paradise has been recovered on Golgotha. Christian husbands and wives, you may freely take joy in the spouse God has given you, without shame, for through the blood of our Savior your union is holy and honorable before God.

Do we not also in this aspect of marriage reflect God’s covenant with His people? True, God is spirit and has no physical union with His bride, but does He not have an intimate spiritual union with His church? Are we not one with Christ through the Holy Spirit who lives in our bodies just as He lives in Christ (1 Cor. 6:17)? The coming together of husband and wife shows a glimpse of that mysterious and wonderful union we have with Christ our husband.

Are you single and hope to be married? Keep your sexual desire for the one God has in mind for you. Are you married? Glorify the Lord as husband and wife by giving and receiving pleasure in a union without shame.

Rev. Peter H. Holtvlüwer is minister of Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church (ON) and editor of Christ’s Psalms, Our Psalms.