Let’s begin with an important biblical principle taught by our Lord – that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).
A person who practices masturbation without imagining sex with someone is rare indeed, if he or she exists at all. On that basis, the practice is tantamount to engaging in adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior or any number of other sexual practices that the mind can imagine – even idolatry, as revealed in Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5 and Ezekiel 23:49.
In a certain sense, it could be said that masturbation is a form of mental pornography, which we all know to be sinful.
We also know sin by the witness of the Holy Spirit within, provided we haven’t quenched that witness through ongoing rebellion (1 Thessalonians 5:19; see also Ephesians 4:30). And who doesn’t live with guilt over the practice of masturbation – even those who have convinced themselves that it isn’t sinful?
Additionally, the Bible teaches that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit – a sacred temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16) and that it is a member of Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). If we are warned against uniting “Christ in us” to a prostitute, why would we want to unite Him to the immoral thoughts and images in our minds? (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)
The Bible also teaches that sexual immorality is a sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18c). Additionally, in 1 Peter 2:11, it says that sinful desires war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). In that sense, by engaging in masturbation with its accompanying immoral fantasies, we are actually warring against ourselves. And war is hell, as anyone in bondage to this behavior can attest.
Finally, a very important biblical principle that is often overlooked in our search to discover if masturbation is sinful is found in 1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19-20; and Romans 6:14-23 – that whatever masters us (other than the Holy Spirit) is harmful to us. In short, “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”
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