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Sex in the Sanctuary

When I was a teenager, growing up in a Pentecostal church, Valentine’s Day always meant the same thing: our youth pastor would give us “the Christian sex talk.” Without fail, year after year, February would focus on the topics of saving sex for marriage, choosing to date only Christians, and maintaining purity in relationships. While we were learning about love, sex, and dating, the adults learned how to strengthen their marriages. It was just assumed that dating was for teens and adults were married.

Today, things have changed.

For one thing, adults are waiting longer and longer to marry. (For example, have you noticed that the Hallmark movie channel heroine's average age is 30-40?) Others who may have married younger are re-experiencing singleness due to death or divorce.

Of course, it isn’t just demographics that have changed. Our culture’s attitude toward sex has also changed in the last thirty years. We now live in a society that teaches that all forms of sex are acceptable and encouraged. It is now considered abnormal to be chaste or have any restrictions in this area. These attitudes aren’t just held by unbelievers. Progressive Christian churches and leaders have embraced this philosophy and actively teach that God blesses sex in all forms. If it gives you pleasure, then it is alright with God. In their belief system, there is no such thing as sexual sin. It’s one reason progressive Christianity is growing in popularity—it ignores the truth about sin.

Even among Bible-believing Evangelical churches, many are shy about teaching these truths to adults. We’re afraid of offending people or driving them away from the church. We ask, “Who are we to interfere in the private lives of two consenting adults who are living together without being married, raising a family, or just having consensual sex while they date?”. It’s today’s culture—what can the church do?

While I understand that these are difficult questions, I genuinely believe it’s time we find Biblical answers and start doing more to teach the truth on these topics.


Because the Bible has very clear standards for sexual conduct in the life of a Christian—male and female—no matter their age. Because people’s eternal souls are in jeopardy, we MUST find ways to teach Biblical truth and encourage and support single and married adults to follow God’s Word in the area of sexuality. Although I don’t claim to have all of the answers to this dilemma, here are a few foundational truths I believe we can build on:

1. We must believe that the Bible is God’s Word relevant for all times and all people.

Progressive Christianity bases its deception on the belief that the Bible is an out-dated, archaic book whose teaching doesn't apply to modern life. As followers of Christ, we must reject this lie and firmly establish that we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God given to all people and applicable for all times.

This may seem basic, but it is foundational to all that Christians believe. As believers and churches, we must keep coming back to this point and continue reminding new and immature believers that the Bible is relevant, practical, and meant to be obeyed.

2. We must acknowledge that the Bible has a lot to say about sex and relationships.

Starting in Genesis 2, we see God introduce and define sex as being between one man and one woman within the confines of marriage.

“God put the Man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man.

     The Man said, ‘Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.’  Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.  The two of them, the Man and his Wife, were naked, but they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:21-24)

Throughout the Pentateuch, we see God giving His people Laws for how they should conduct themselves sexually. (Leviticus 18-20)

God also instructed His people not to intermarry with the nations about them for fear that their union would cause His people to fall into idol worship. (Deut 7:3, Joshua 23:12, 1 Kings 11:2)

Throughout the Old Testament, we see stories of men and women who disobeyed God’s sexual laws and the consequences they suffered.

The book of Proverbs warns again and again about the dangers of promiscuity and adultery. (Proverbs 5, 6:32, Proverbs 7)

God also celebrates the beauty of sex in marriage in Song of Solomon.

As we move into the New Testament, we read that rather than lowering God’s standards for sexual conduct, Jesus actually raised the bar:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

As we read through the New Testament, sexual sin is addressed frequently.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 says that rejecting Biblical teach about sexuality is rejecting God.

1 Corinthians 6:9 says that sexual sin will keep you out of the kingdom of God.

Revelations 22:14-15 lists the “sexually immoral” as those who will spend eternity in the lake of fire.

Yes, I know this is politically incorrect to say. It might even sound harsh. Yet what is more kind and loving? To tell people the truth so that their souls can be saved or to remain quiet so that they are comfortable in their sin?

Isn’t true love presenting people with truth and giving them the support they need to walk in truth?

How will unbelievers, new believers, or the spiritually immature and weak know the truth if we are afraid of teaching it?

3. Truth must be accompanied by grace.

God’s grace is a beautiful thing.

No matter what happened in a person’s past—what they did or what was done to them--there is always forgiveness and the opportunity for healing through Jesus.

No one is ever without hope because of God’s infinite grace.

In a culture where sexual promiscuity is common, we must emphasize God’s grace as we are teaching truth. We must remember that there are many today that may have never heard a Biblical perspective on sexuality and the entire concept may be foreign to them.

We need to understand that God loves people and wants to forgive them as they repent.

Any teaching that is this counter-culture needs to be spoken with grace and understanding, offering hope that today is the day they can begin again.

4. We need to be prepared to help people change.

While grace is a beautiful thing, it does not allow people to continue living a life of sin. Paul makes this clear in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

Repentance requires change.

In many cases, turning from sexual sin as an adult is far more complicated than a teen.

For some, it may mean finding a new living arrangement. This could cause substantial financial difficulties.

Others may require counseling or help with addiction.

Most will need accountability and godly support.

Changing this area of your life is NOT easy.

But who said following Jesus was easy?

Still, I believe it is the responsibility of stronger believers and the church to help anyone trying to do the hard work of overcoming sin in their lives.

If we don’t—who will?

Will progressive Christian teachers fill in the gap and say, “Don’t worry about sin—there is no sin—God is all love?”

Will people go back to their old way of life because they can’t overcome it on their own?

Who will teach those who have never heard Biblical teaching about sexuality if not genuine believers?

The world has no problem talking about sex. Progressive Christians pontificate on and on about it. Bible-believing Christians cannot choose to be silent, to compromise, or to ignore the topic of adult sexuality.

Lives depend on it. More importantly, people’s eternal souls hang in the balance.

Following the example of Jesus and the apostles, we need to teach Biblical truth regarding sex and relationships unashamedly. We need to offer grace and give people the support they need to walk in freedom.

It’s the Great Commission of the Church: to make disciples. Part of discipleship in 2021 means teaching people how to live for Jesus in every area of their lives—including sex and relationships. If the early church can do it, so can we. Because the "Christian sex talk" isn't just for teens anymore.

Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.

When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.

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