Sex and Sacraments

Last night my wife and I spent a wonderful evening of worship and bible study with a group of people from Covenant Presbyterian Church.  We quickly felt right at home among them.  The discussion that sparked the thought process that has now led to this post flowed out of a video study they were watching with R.C. Sproul on marriage.  The topic of our first meeting with them just happened to be sex, a subject I happen to know more than a little something about seeing that we have five children. 

Anyway, we were asked the question, “Why is it important to cultivate good sexual relations within the marriage?”  This got my mind moving while my tongue wisely remained silent.  Here is how I think I would answer that question.

Just as God pours out his grace upon the church through the two great sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Table, so also God pours out His grace within the home in a similar way.  I liken the blessings and importance of sexual relations within the marriage to the blessings and importance of our coming to the Lord’s Table regularly.

First, it provides a visible display of the physical and spiritual intimacy that takes place within a covenantal relationship.  There is nothing else that so vividly evidences the union and communion of the man and woman than the sexual union and intimacy they enjoy with one another.  The same is true as we gather around the table to break bread and drink wine. 

Secondly, it mysteriously and gloriously unites the two individuals in both body and soul as one flesh, just as our eating bread and drinking wine together likewise lifts the believer into the real presence of Christ. 

Third, sexual intimacy within the marriage guards the purity and glory of the covenant.  Scripture forbids that a husband and wife abstain from sex for a lengthy period of time.  The unmarried are encouraged to marry rather than burn with lust and be defiled.  The Lord’s Table is one of God’s primary means of preserving our faith through gospel-centeredness and covenantal faithfulness.

The grace of baptism also has a correlation in marriage in my opinion:  the wedding ring.  I have often used the imagery of the wedding ring to help people understand baptism.  It is not the wedding ring that unites a couple in marriage any more than it is the act of baptism that regenerates and redeems an individual to God.  But just like baptism, the wedding ring holds an important function. 

It is a visible reminder of the covenantal relationship.  In baptism, we are given a new name, a new identity.  We are now identified as a Christian.  We have cast off our old self and taken for our own the name of Christ.  We are his and He is ours.  The wedding ring serves a similar function in that it marks our identity with the other person.  The wife takes the husband’s name as her own.  The husband takes the wife under his protection and care as he would his own body.  

The wedding ring, like baptism, also serves as a lifelong reminder to us of who we are.  It is to be a means of guarding our hearts and minds against anything that would threaten to turn our eyes away from its reality.  We take our wedding ring and our baptism everywhere we go.  It is an inescapable reminder of our true identity.  And we are to continually grow higher and deeper into that reality through the the grace of our true lover and bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

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