95-Can I have sex on the Sabbath?

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Can I have sex on the Sabbath?

By Carlton Foster – June 10, 2023


To ask, “Can I have sex on the Sabbath” is asking if any Biblical laws, commandments, or morals point to allowing sexual activities on the Sabbath. This question came up for discussion many times in several churches I have attended, especially during a presentation on the “Family Life” seminar.

There are many passages in the Bible where God’s words promote loving family, such as “Then God blessed them (Adam and Eve), and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 9:1).”  The first sexual relationship is recorded in Genesis 4:1 (NLT), “Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” God created the sexual organs in all life on earth to reproduce. While performing the act of reproduction, the sensation is pleasurable, motivating many to have sexual relations. But what about doing it on the Sabbath?

Leviticus 18 has several commandments about sexual relationships that are forbidden, but none refers to having sex on the Sabbath. So, is it wrong or right to have sex on the Sabbath? To get the answer, let us look at the purpose of the Sabbath, the activities that should be performed on that day, and those that are forbidden. The first word, “Sabbath,” appears in the Bible in Genesis 16: Moses told the Israelites, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow (verse 23).” Again in verse 25, Moses said, “Eat this food today, for today is a Sabbath day dedicated to the Lord. There will be no food on the ground today.” Here we see that some activities are forbidden on the Holy Sabbath day. That day was “set aside” for the Lord’s activities.

The Lord also gave more instructions about the activities for the Sabbath as recorded in Exodus 20 (NLT), “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day, no one in your household may do any work. This command includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day, he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy (verses 8-11).”

There are other passages in the Bible with some more activities to do and not to do on the Sabbath day; however, the consistent theme is to do “holy” activities – those that pertain to knowing more about God and being benevolent, doing good. However, there are three crucial passages that can help us answer the question. First, let’s look at what Peter said about a similar question. He was speaking to some new believers in Corinthian who were saying that food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food, and the body was made for sex and sex for the body (1 Corinthians 6 NLT). Peter said the body was made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. Peter further clarifies sexual relations during Holy activities, saying, “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5 NLT).”  Here, Peter recognized that sex and Holy activities are not to be performed at the same time. The KJV recognized the activities as “fasting and prayer.”

Another passage also confirmed Peter’s counsel, and it is Isaiah 58:13-14 (NKJV); God said, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob, your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Here the Lord is separating personal self-interest activities from the Holy activities. Doing activities for our own pleasures on the Sabbath day is forbidden – that is, not doing your own ways, finding your own pleasure, or speaking your own words. Sex is one of those “own pleasurable” activities and therefore is forbidden.

Others might argue that God gave us sexual organs and told us to have sex to multiply and fill the earth, so it must be a “holy activity.” I remembered that King Saul had a similar argument about what he considered holy. Let us look at the story in 1 Samuel 15. The Lord commanded Samuel to tell King Saul to go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them, kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey (verse 3). However, Saul and the people spared Agag, the King, and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good and were unwilling to destroy them utterly. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed (verse 9). Because of this, the Lord told Samuel, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not performed My commandments.” Why did Saul not follow God’s commandment? He saw that his actions were holy and should please the Lord! What did Saul do? He said he had brought back some live animals from the Amalekites; the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice to God; the rest of the animals they utterly destroyed (verse 16).

Another example is in Exodus 32 (verses 3-6), Aaron and the Israelites were in the desert waiting for Moses to return. They could not wait any longer, so everyone took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar before the calf. Then he announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking and indulged in pagan revelry. Here Aaron was making an offering to God.

Here King Saul and Aaron decided that their actions should be considered holy because they were having a sacrificial service to God. Today, just like King Saul and Arron erred, some people erred by associating sex on the Sabbath as a sacred activity and believe that God will accept it. Nothing should distract the mind from focusing on God, the task before us on the Sabbath, all religious activities of worship services, and evangelism. Have we ever taken the time to analyze what God is saying in Isaiah 58:13; about finding, talking, and doing our pleasure on His Holy day? He had cautioned us before that we have six days to do our work and other personal activities (Deuteronomy 5:12-14 NKJV); therefore, sex, with its benefits and bodily reactions, can be distracting and emotional; it is one of those “own pleasurable” activities that Isaiah warned about and therefore is forbidden, So sex is prohibited on God’s Holy Sabbath day.



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