“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV).
By endorsing the physical aspect of a marriage relationship, Hebrews 13:4 addresses those who believe that sensuality -in and of itself- is incompatible with Biblical spirituality. This portion of Scripture thus confirms that sexual intimacy is pure and honorable before God within a Biblically valid marital partnership.
This portion of Scripture also serves to protect that aspect of a marriage relationship from the belief that it is somehow more spiritual for husbands and wives to abstain from physical intimacies. Instead, the New Testament epistle of 1 Corinthians endorses the opposite approach: “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs” (1 Corinthians 7:3 NLT).
The only exception is given to us in 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” In light of this, we can say that each marriage partner should provide for the others’ needs except as noted above.
Unfortunately, we may become so engaged in the demands of everyday life that we sometimes fail to prioritize such needs. While family concerns, employment obligations, and other responsibilities often permit less time for sexual intimacy than we may desire, each marriage partner should make a genuine effort to recognize his or her spouse’s physical and emotional needs and work to fulfill them.
We can also look to an effective Biblical principle from Romans 14:23 for guidance in this area: “…whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (ESV). This Biblical precept is useful for governing all that takes place within the marriage bed, subject to the couple’s prayerful and mutual consent. As another translation renders that passage, “…whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful” (AMPC).
A couple who finds common ground in this area can often avoid misunderstandings that limit their satisfaction and enjoyment. The husband or wife who is prayerfully willing to study, learn, and accommodate the needs of his or her spouse will surely reap the benefit of a fulfilling and satisfying relationship over time. Since this portion of Scripture assures us that the marriage bed is undefiled, husbands and wives should seek to enjoy God’s gracious provision in this area.