Troublesome Topic: What Made Sexual Sins Wrong?

Lesson 1 of 3

On what basis did God, and does God, judge certain sexual acts? What makes them wrong?

I’m glad you asked. Allow me to shed what light I can on this subject.

From what I can see in the Bible, there were two reasons that sexual intercourse outside of marriage was wrong, punishable as sin (besides the fact that God said “don’t do that”). One was the issue of authority, and the other was the type of relationship involved. These two things go together because the lines of authority involved are due to relationships, and vice versa.

God placed a high level of importance on lines of authority. He is always at the top, and he demands that we respect and obey Him as the ultimate authority. He has chosen to administer His kingdom through lesser degrees of authority vested in individuals who are to function under Him. In a sin-filled world, it seldom turns out that the people vested with large amounts of authority use it for God’s glory as He intended. But these lines of authority keep going down to smaller and smaller levels, they don’t stop with kings and governors, or even city leaders. The father of every home has authority given by God to govern his home. He is like a king over a very small kingdom. His wife is the queen, and together they rule that kingdom. They are intended to function as a team that works well together. Assuming all the adults are married with families, the only ones in this picture who don’t have any authority are the children. But they are being trained so that one day they will have authority and hopefully they will rule wisely over their family-sized kingdom.

The type of relationship and the roles within that relationship were also very important. The uniqueness of the marriage relationship was established from the beginning, before man had sinned.

Genesis 2:24


On this ground

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a man

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leaves behind

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his father and mother and clings

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to his wife,

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and they become one body.   (See comment below.)


Based on the pattern that was established back then, a man moves out from under the direct authority of his father and mother and becomes closely united to his wife and they become one family and one body [when their love produces their first child.]  (See comment below.)

The man must first leave his father and mother, and then begin to cling to his wife. Notice there is a change in the relationships. The man does not receive authority until he has someone to lead, a wife. Authority and relationship go together. We have different roles within a marriage relationship, and each role is important. A subordinate role does not mean that one has less value, it just means that the roles are different. Our children are under our authority, but that does not mean they have less value. Absolutely not! What’s more, just because a father has authority over his home does not give him freedom to abuse that authority, rather Paul says that the man needs to exercise his authority over his wife in the same way that Jesus used His authority over the church–He laid down his life! 

Ephesians 5:25


Husbands, love

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your wives, even as CHRIST loved the assembly of the called-out ones

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and handed himself over for her.


Husbands, love your wives with your will, not with your emotions; do this in the same way that THE SPIRIT ANOINTED MESSIAH chose to love those who answer His call and demonstrated it by abandoning Himself on her behalf.

In ancient times, as fathers became grandfathers, the extent of their authority grew. Some of those grandfathers became leaders of clans, and some even leaders of tribes within Israel. With rare exceptions, everyone knew where they stood in society based on those well-known lines of authority.

Because authority was passed down from father to son, and because the act of sex has the tendency to produce children (especially since birth control methods were limited in those days)  sex outside of marriage wreaked havoc with those lines of authority. If a man had sexual relations with a married woman and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was responsible for raising that son? In whose hierarchy of authority would he grow up to someday hold authority himself? It was a mess.

We see some similar dilemmas today even though we have relaxed many of the principles that they held to. Today, when there is a divorce, the children can often play one parent against the other because the parents are not united in their decision-making. What role does the step-father or step-mother play in raising this child? Good question! Many people wish for a good answer! When the relationships and the lines of authority get muddled, good answers seem far away.

When David had his affair with Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to tell him that he would be punished. In the rebuke of the prophet Nathan, sex is not mentioned once, although it is implied. There were two things for which David was chastised specifically, killing an innocent man because that man had authority over someone David wanted to have, and taking something that did not belong to him, the other man’s wife. Bathsheba was under her husband’s direct authority and it was wrong for David to step in where he did not belong. He could not join the relationship and make it a three-some, that was not accepted, and there was no way he could exercise authority over the woman as long as the proper authority figure (her husband) was living. So he had her husband killed but he did it in a way that made it look like he was not behind it.

This makes me think the key reasons God forbade sex outside of marriage is that it messes with authority structures and it messes with clearly defined relationships.

Focusing on authority issues and on the type of relationship explains why polygamy was allowed in the Bible but sex outside of marriage was not.

For other topics that relate to the topic of authority and sex, please see:

Marriage Is a Covenant,

Why Did God Allow Polygamy?

Solomon’s Many Wives

The next lesson in all three series on covenants is: Why Did Some Sexual Acts Receive the Death Penalty?


1: “on this ground”

This verse contains principles that appear to have been added later by someone else such as Moses when he wrote down the oral tradition that had been handed down from generation to generation.

The phrase used here basically means “on this ground,” and it fulfills the role of our English phrases “based on this, or on account of this.”

What is based on what? The leaving to establish a new household is based on the fact that God provided a companion that was perfectly suited for man; the closeness of their relationship was based on the way the woman was taken out of man, one became two, and now two would become one again.


Once again this is not “the adam,” but the other word for “man.”

3: "Leaves behind”

When a man and woman get married, the relationship they establish replaces the relationship of parent to child as the new priority of top importance. Because it is now the most important relationship it requires both man and woman to leave their parents, otherwise there may be a confusion of the authority structure. Dad may want to continue exercising the level of authority he always has, or something close to it, therefore the new couple must leave to establish their own family unit with their own authority structures.


This word means “to cling to, to stick to” as the tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth when you are desperately thirsty. “Clinging and sticking” bring with them a picture of great closeness, thus it becomes a picture of the closeness desired from a marriage relationship. There is also a hint in this verse that loyalty and continued closeness are expected.”

5: “his wife”

This is simply the word for “woman,” the word that sounds like the word for man and emphasizes the fact that she was taken out of man. Context in cases like this tells that it is a woman who is in a special relationship with a man, thus a wife.


This is the “agape” kind of love. That means it was based on a choice, not an emotion. It was a choice which in a way, saw something of value in the recipient, but in another way was not deserved.


This word is usually translated “church;” it means “the called out-ones” or “the assembly.” Thus it refers to those who hear the call of God and have chosen to answer that call by gathering together with others who have also answered the call.