Book Review: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

One of the top news stories of September 2004 revolved around the actions of civil servants in California and Massachusetts performing same-sex unions. That same month, Desiring God was preparing for their annual conference. 2004’s theme? Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. John Piper, Ben Patterson, David Powlison, Al Mohler, Jr., Mark Dever, Michael Lawrence, Matt Schmucker, Scott Croft, C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, Carolyn McCulley, and Justin Taylor gathered to address a biblical topic that is oftentimes ignored in America’s pulpits. Justin Taylor and John Piper have taken the truths presented in the conference and fashioned a very helpful book for counselors, pastors, and men and women, married or single.

This book sets out to help the church address sex in a biblical, God-glorifying manner. Personally, I have never heard a sermon on sex. In more recent years, I have heard of many churches that have hosted sermon series on the topic of sex and I’ve seen their billboards online. Most people I know regard these series as attempts to boost their number of visitors. It seems to be a more popular topic among seeker-centered churches because the prevailing idea is that “the world” is interested in sex. However, sex ought to be considered a God-centered topic. Christians ought not be the ones ashamed to talk about sex in the way God designed it to be enjoyed. It is when sex is removed from the One who created it that it becomes sinful. Al Mohler says,

Christians have no right to be embarrassed when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality. An unhealthy reticence or embarrassment in dealing with these issues is a form of disrespect to God’s creation. Whatever God made is good, and every good thing God made has an intended purpose that ultimately reveals His own glory. When conservative Christians respond to sex with ambivalence or embarrassment, we slander the goodness of God and hide God’s glory which is intended to be revealed in the right use of creation’s gifts. (Go here to read his whole address.)

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is organized into five sections: God and Sex, Sin and Sex, Men and Sex, Women and Sex, and History and Sex.

John Piper presents the ultimate way we need to learn to view sex with two points. First, he says that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully. Using several lengthy portions of scripture with imagery of brides, marriage, adultery, idolatry, whores, faithfulness, and covenant, Piper brings together the truth that “God created us in his image, male and female, with personhood and sexual passions, so that when he comes to us in this world there would be these powerful words and images to describe the promises and the pleasures of our covenant relationship with him through Christ…God means for human sexual life to be a pointer and foretaste of our relationship with him.”

Piper’s second point is “knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.” While all of the misuses of our sexuality serve to cloud and corrupt our knowledge of God in Christ, the opposite is true: “the true knowledge of God in Christ serves to prevent misuses of our sexuality” by helping us to realize that the thrill of sex is a small thing when compared to savoring the wonders of Jesus Christ. Piper condenses his philosophy, “Little souls make little lusts have great power.” Knowing the supremacy of Christ also empowers us to suffer. “Knowing all that God promises to be for us in Christ both now and for endless ages to come, with ever-increasing joy, frees us from the compulsion that we must avoid pain and maximize comfort in this world…And here’s the link: we must suffer in order to be sexually pure.”

Like the conference, the rest of the book takes off from those two main points.

Chapters of particular interest to me: Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know by C.J. Mahaney, and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Wife Needs to Know by Carolyn Mahaney.

Other chapters I found very interesting: Sex and the Single Woman by Carolyn McCulley, Martin Luther’s Reform of Marriage by Justin Taylor, and Christian Hedonists or Religious Prudes? The Puritans on Sex by Mark Dever.

I skimmed the chapters just for single men because, a) I’m a woman, b) I’m married, and c) I’m not sure I want those kinds of details.

Dr. Mohler’s biblical and cultural response to what is happening in America these days is pertinent, convicting, and practical.

Too many of the Christian women I know talk only about how long it’s been since the last time they made love to their husbands and they aren’t looking forward to the next time he asks. That kind of thinking is so far removed from the joy of love-making described in Song of Songs (which is explained by C.J. Mahaney in his chapter for husbands)! Martin Luther said, “Twice a week, hundred-four a year, should give neither cause to fear.” Married people should be the only ones having sex, however, if I were a betting woman, I’d say that there was a lot more of it going on among the unmarried. This should not be so. Married Christians need to take this topic back.

This book can be foundational for a Christian’s mind regarding sex. It’s not necessarily a book about how to have better sex, though I think it’s a good starting point, but it is a book that places God in the center of sexual union within marriage the way He designed. Yes, it’s for our pleasure, but it is also to point us to Him.

Listen to the conference online at Desiring God or consider purchasing this book.

10 Comments on “Book Review: Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

  1. Oh, I really want to find time to listen to this. Thanks so much Leslie!


  2. I remember one time a minister came to our church and preached a sermon about sex. My Grandma was SO incensed! She said that it belonged in the bedroom and it was an embarassment. For me, who was single at the time, I found it VERY informative and helpful. A generational issue, perhaps?


  3. I read this book last year and thought it was excellent. My copy also came with a 2 hour DVD from the conference.


  4. I love John Piper! He is so Biblically solid. Have you ever read “Sheet Music” by Kevin Leman? It’s a good Christian book on revving up your marriage. An easy read and might make you blush a little, but good!


  5. Anna–I haven’t read that one, but I have heard of it.


  6. This is a great book! I especially loved Piper’s message – though he focused on sexual temptations it can really apply to any area of our lives where we battle temptation. I LOVE how he portrays our redemption and our tendencies to stray. I am that adulterous woman – but the larger my vision of my God and Saviour is the less my heart tends to stray.Thank you for posting on this book today!


  7. Thanks for sharing this info, I have some young engaged friends who are looking for good books to read…


  8. We listened to the CD’s from the conference – great stuff : ) I forgot about the book! I just might want to read that ; ) Thanks for sharing!!!


  9. Our church is one that has done a series on sex. The reason was not to bring in visitors, which I think many people mistakenly assume, but to take back a topic that most believers won’t discuss. The world has its take on sex, but God created it, and the church has a responsibility to address it from Scripture! Our pastor did an excellent job and I was thankful to sit under his teaching for this series. I think as believers we sometimes speak out of both sides of our mouths on this issue. We want our say, but then criticize churches who address it from a biblical standpoint. Thanks for posting on this topic and this book. It sounds great!


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