FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 1)

FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 1)

still_life_with_open_bible_candlestick_and_novelI’m going to take some heat for this blog post…

(Note to our Catholic brothers and sisters… these articles are written from an Evangelical Protestant perspective. Due to some differences in how our traditions come to our understanding of God’s moral law, there will always be some issues upon which we disagree… and this is one of them. I urge you to ensure that you are following your own understanding before the Lord in the faith tradition that he has led you to.)

Secret Sin or Providential Provision?

Some college buddies of mine called it “The Big M.” It’s called lots of other things, but whatever it may be called, it’s definitely a BIG issue!

Is it wrong or not? There’s probably no bigger “Frequently Asked Question” that we’ve had at MCAG. So I’m going to try and answer the question biblically and reasonably.

But before I answer…

I have to establish a ground rule here—a presupposition that undergirds my response. If someone disagrees with this foundational premise, then they are not likely to agree with my conclusion. It is this:

I cannot accept and will not promote a “rule for righteousness” that does not arise directly from the pages of Scripture.

As we are taught very clearly in Col. 2:20-23, there is absolutely no value (against fleshly indulgence!) in any man-made rule… no matter how well-articulated or how wise it may appear to be.

One of the most persistent realities that sabotage all the failed strategies against porn is that you are told to measure your purity/righteousness/freedom according to man-made rules. At MCAG, we reject any “rule” that is not stated clearly in the Bible.

The Bible Really DOES Talk About Masturbation!

Most people claim that the Bible does not mention masturbation. So, into that silence, they are all too ready to define and insert “God’s Moral Will” about the practice so that we all can know that masturbation really is wrong… God just forgot to mention it.

Don’t believe me? Just Google “Bible” and “Masturbation” and see what you get! It’s amazing to me how many Bible teachers readily admit “the Bible doesn’t mention masturbation… isn’t that amazing?” then turn around and tell you why it is wrong… as if God just “forgot” to address it.

But I disagree. I believe the Bible does mention masturbation… just not with the clinical word that we use to describe it in modern times…

And I suspect that the reason no one seems to recognize it is because the passage does NOT condemn the practice!

A “Seminal Emission”

The passage I speak of is Lev. 15:16-17. However, to fully understand it, we really should look at verses 16-19 (and the following verses too, if you want). Here is the passage:

16 ‘Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening. 17 As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.

There it is. Masturbation in the Bible.

Some claim that this is really talking a “nocturnal emission” and claim that it only applies if the guy is asleep. But that limitation is not found in the passage. Furthermore, we’ll see in the very next verse that the guy is obviously awake there, so we can’t just “read it into” this verse. There is nothing specified in these verses about whether the “emission” happened spontaneously or by active intent. Clearly then, it must apply to either case, so this passage definitely does speak to masturbation.

Notice the only “penalty” for this event is that the man will be ceremonially “unclean” until evening. But does that mean that the practice is wrong? “Unclean” can’t be good, can it? Don’t jump to conclusionslet’s read on…

18 If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

This verse gives the same “penalty” for a man having sexual relations with his wife… which of course, also includes a “seminal emission.” Let’s keep reading…

19 ‘When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. (The verses that follow expand on the regulations regarding a woman’s period)

Here, we see the very same “penalty” for a woman having her menstrual period!

Would anyone try to make the case that marital sex is wrong? Or a woman’s period? Of course not! Therefore, we cannot claim that the Bible teaches that the practice of masturbation—in and of itself—is wrong!

Summary of the Biblical Teaching on Masturbation

Here it is:

If you masturbate, you are ceremonially unclean until the evening. By the way, be sure you clean up your mess.

That’s it.

Of course, there are other important matters to discuss relative to masturbation… like how it relates to lust and addictive or compulsive behavior, but this is where we must begin! I’ll cover those related questions next.

— Pastor David Martin


Stay tuned for the rest of the articles in this FAQ series:

For a very honest, thorough, and biblically sound study about Masturbation, see:
Is Masturbation a Sin?

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

Please share this blog with others…


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Garry J

Thanks for Part 1 and the link. Looking forward to Part 2.

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While I personally believe (thanks in part to your articles) that masturbation without lust is acceptable in moderation, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that this passage of Scripture is referring to it. One could argue that since a woman’s period is involuntary, the seminal emission reference should be interpreted that way as well. The point of these laws is the importance of cleanliness as a symbol of holiness. This passage neither condemns nor condones masturbation.

Ed, thanks for all the work you and the others have put into this site. It has helped me a lot!

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    David Martin

    Hey, Wes. Thanks for writing.

    To clarify, I am not suggesting that Lev. 15:16-17 is only referring to masturbation, but without any doubt, this passage would apply to the occasion of masturbation just as surely as it would a nocturnal emission.

    There is no basis to read “involuntary” into these verses because of the involuntary nature of a woman’s cycle… else you would also have to read “involuntary” into verse 18, which speaks of a man and woman having sex… hardly and involuntary physical act.

    I believe the “point” of these laws was literally a matter of health preservation. When the law was given, people had no idea about bacteria and the causes of infection. But God told them to be very judicious in how they handled the presence of bodily fluids. These laws would have done a lot to keep exposure to infectious waste much lower than they likely would have been concerned with otherwise.

    David Martin (aka Pastor Ed)

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Adam Turner

We so completely agree concerning this passage.

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Gary Cummings

Brother David,
I completely agree with these posts about masturbation. Generally, it is a benign practice. It does help with depression and lowers blood pressure and relieves endorphins as well. No harm done.

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    Jim C

    Thank you for this. I am 64 and have lived most of my life in shame over this practice. God is using this forum to set men free from false guilt and self condemnation! I love the Lord. I know He loves me. He doesn’t frown on me when I MB.

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Heresy Finder

Just absolute heresy and nonsense! Have you listened to the Holy Spirit on this? Did you choose not to listen after guilt and shame washed over you every time you did it? What’s going on? You’re leading the righteous astray! Just absolutely disgusting! Masturbation is a sin and wilfully engaging in it is absolutely a slap in the face to God! Practice self control! Read your Bible more! Dust it off first though. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God! Disgusting!

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    David Martin

    Dear Mr. Nameless “Heresy Finder”

    As you can see, I have published your comments… because I’m not afraid of a challenge… because the truth is not afraid of a challenge. Show me from the Scriptures how I am wrong and I will thank you.

    That said, allow me to answer your direct questions:

    1. Have you listened to the Holy Spirit on this?

    Yes, I believe that I have. Certainly, the Holy Spirit is the author of God’s Word, and I need His illumination to understand it correctly. I do believe that He has provided that illumination, so I’m comfortable asserting that I have listened to the Holy Spirit.

    2. Did you choose not to listen after guilt and shame washed over you every time you did it?

    Actually, I came to this conclusion long after I was married and have no need or desire to masturbate any more. Absolutely no guilt or shame involved in my reaching this conclusion at all… only an honest evaluation of the words of Scripture.

    3. What’s going on?

    What’s going on is that I’m teaching people to reject man-made rules of righteousness and live only by righteous directives found in the Scriptures.

    Now, I’ll respond to some statements that were not questions…

    1. You’re leading the righteous astray!

    Actually, following man-made rules is never a mark of true righteousness… and typically, those same rules are even impediments to true righteousness. Rejecting man-made rules is actually commanded in the Scriptures… See Col. 2:20-23.

    2. Masturbation is a sin and wilfully [sic] engaging in it is absolutely a slap in the face to God!

    You know, that’s what I heard all my life. But when I tried to validate that position from the Scriptures, I could not. How do YOU reach that conclusion?

    And on that note, Mr. Nameless, I issue you a challenge.

    Demonstrate to me from the Scriptures how “Masturbation is a sin and… a slap in the face of God!”

    If you cannot, then it is you who is slapping God in the face, for He said “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book” (speaking of the prophecy of Revelation, but a dire warning to ever “add to” God’s word for any reason).

    The floor is yours. Open your bible and make your case. I’ll publish it here where my readers can judge for themselves who is drawing their position from God’s Word and who is not.

    And when you write back, Please include your real name.

    David Martin

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“But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Titus 1:8

Another thing: God commands us many times to be holy. He said “Be holy for I am holy”. Do you really believe that masturbation is a “holy” act.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”- (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Can you really say that when you are masturbating, you are doing it for the glory of God. Perhaps this verse doesn’t necessarily indicate masturbation is a sin, but still.. do you think God would be pleased with you doing that?

Another question someone posed to me: If you knew Jesus was coming in the next 24 hours, would you masturbate?

I should be careful like you said about following man-made rules like you said, but these verses among others really make me question that masturbation is fine and dandy. Either way, I still want to be free from it. Besides the momentary pleasure,

It won’t make you any less lonely.

It won’t make you any stronger.

It won’t make you any more loving.

It won’t make you any more good.

It won’t improve your relationships with the opposite sex.

It won’t build or improve your self-image.

It won’t bring you closer to your goals in life.

It won’t bring you closer to God.
In fact, over time, it will very much do the opposite of all these things. To quit pornography and masturbation (both) – to say “NO” – is to live in the freedom of Christ. It’s to be the one in control of your body rather than letting it control you. It gives you so much you didn’t even know that you were missing which will lead you outwards, towards a better and more blessed life.

Galatians 5:1
It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].

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    David Martin

    I appreciate Gal. 5:1.

    When Paul wrote that, he was literally telling the Galatians that they did not have to follow God’s Laws for the Jews in order to be saved.

    This means that when Paul says, “Freedom,” he’s literally talking about their submission to the OT’s rules-for-righteousness. Submitting to such rules IS–in Paul’s mind–“a yoke of slavery.”

    And I would submit to you that the “no-masturbation” rule that you are defending actually is one such rule…. which should be rejected.

    It’s a bad precedent to attempt to appeal to human perceptions of acts in order to derive God’s perception of those acts. Is it “holy” to urinate or defecate? Is masturbation any less “holy” than those actions? If I knew that Christ was returning in the next 24 hours, would I bother to urinate? Such a question doesn’t really make sense, and it certainly doesn’t lead us to moral certainty about God’s perspective on such matters.

    I already wrote a long response to your other post, but I’m going to enter it here as well, since I was really responding to both posts when I wrote it.


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    David Martin

    Sky, Thanks for your words of encouragement and your thoughtful post.

    Without going through your post point by point, I think I can summarize my response this way…

    It comes back to one singular and undisputed observation… The bible does not forbid masturbation.

    I know that that’s not the very end of the discussion, but it sure is the starting point. And whatever the bible does notforbid, we should be very reticent to ADD it to God’s Word! And I mean VERY!

    So, if I start from that point, I have to say that I don’t find anything in your reasoning that forces me to conclude that I should add masturbation to God’s true list of moral laws. Particularly when sexuality and sexual conduct is clearly something that is as fundamental to human existence and behavior. It is simply incomprehensible that God would address the “cleanup” after a seminal emission but fail to say, “don’t do that!” at the same time (or anywhere else in the scriptures).

    So… for this reason, I am compelled to avoid adding to God’s word something that God clearly knew about but chose not to include in the inspired text.

    That doesn’t mean that the issues you raised are not valid. Many of them really are. But is adding to God’s word a “rule for righteousness” that He did not give the only possible answer?

    I can tell you that I have heard from young men who have made peace with masturbation and have found a way to not experience the emptiness or guilt or shame or disturbance in their relationship with God. Certainly, if someone cannot do that, they shouldn’t be doing it. But can you conclusively say that finding the godly balance is impossible? I don’t think you can.

    I also find in Colossians 2 further admonition to NOT submit to such rules…

    “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (Col. 2:20-23 emphasis mine)

    Notice several things here about the “decrees” that we are told by Paul to reject:
    * It usually starts with “Do Not…”
    * It is the teaching of men rather than the teaching of God (not found in God’s Word)
    * It really makes sense (appears to be wise)
    * It is a “religious” effort
    * It’s not person-friendly (self-abasing)
    * It’s not body-friendly

    Now when you run the “no masturbation” rule through that grid, it hits squarely on most of them, and is highly suspicious of being a match on the rest of them.

    And the most important thing to observe is that final phrase that Paul gives… man-made rules “are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

    Now, within that context, what do we have to offer that would override all of that and compel us to “make the rule” anyway? For me, there’s simply not enough evidence–no matter how well articulated–to assert that Col. 2 doesn’t apply.

    So… I have to conclude that it must be possible to remain spiritually healthy and committed to God, even while masturbating. Think about it this way… Can I blow my nose to the Glory of God? Can I urinate to the Glory of God? Can I defecate to the Glory of God? Weird questions, right? But The answer has to be “yes” to all those questions. If I am living in my body in a God-honoring way, and my body is functioning as God intended, then yes, even these less-than-pretty actions can be done to God’s glory. And there’s no reason that we cannot add “seminal emission” to that strange list of things we can do to God’s Glory.

    This is NOT an excuse to engage in erotic fantasies or porn or lust in order to masturbate. There are plenty of very good an biblical reasons why those things are wrong. Quite frankly, I suspect that if someone cannot do the deed without such imaginations, they probably are not yet to the point where their body physically needs the “release.”

    Anyway, I hope this helps answer your question. My challenge to you is this… “What does it take for you to conclude that God has a moral absolute that He did not include in the Bible?” I’m not saying there’s never a place for that (drug abuse or smoking, for example), but for something that spans the history of mankind, there really must be a compelling reason to “add” it to God’s Word. I honestly cannot think of a single moral absolute like that that I can point to and assert that it’s really God’s law even though God did not include it in His word. Can you?


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I was 15, not a Christian, when I first saw those verses. I was sitting in the back of a Baptist church when I randomly opened a pew Bible. My eyes fell on Leviticus 15:16-18. Even with the King James Version, I immediately understood what those verses meant. Stunned, I leaned over to my friend and said, “Look, God’s talking about j*cking off!” I read those verses over and over and knew God was on my side. Two months later I became a Christian. The Spirit of Christ came into me and confirmed I was a man and how He created me male was “very good.” It’s what I’ve taught my sons. Still, to this day, it amazes me that the Great I AM used His Word about male masturbation to bring me to Him.