Archive for November 27th, 2019

1 Corinthians 7:1-4

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-4 Paul begins to address questions that the Corinthian church had for him. The first was about sex. “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” His response seems pretty strong if we take it at face value from this first sentence. He seems to say stay away from sex. Like all scripture, we have to be careful not to take things out of context. That is where the next verse comes in. It begins with the word ‘but’ which tells us there is more to the answer than the initial response Paul makes.

Why would the Corinthian believers suggest celibacy? Maybe because they figured sexual immorality was a significant danger (which it certainly can be) and by abstaining completely from sex they might have a better shot at remaining pure. But Paul doesn’t see it that way. That is why God designed sex to be something shared between husband and wife. “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Sex is designed to be part of marriage in God’s plan. And it is to be shared between them in an ongoing way.

Paul makes it clear that it is part of the marriage covenant as God designed it. He is not saying sex is the only reason for marriage, or the most important reason for marriage. Paul is simply answering their specific questions about marriage, not trying to give a complete theology of marriage. But he is clear that sex should not be something withheld from one another inside the bonds of marriage. Sex is God’s idea, created by Him for the pleasure of a husband and wife to share together. “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.”

Paul does go on to remind us that we need to be submissive to each other in marriage. In fact, these obligations are so concrete, it could be said that the wife’s body does not even belong to herself, but to her husband. The same principle is true of the husband’s body in regard to his wife. “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” This does not justify any sort of mistreatment or abuse but rather the need to care for each other. Paul’s point is that we have a binding obligation to serve our partner with physical affection.

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