SEX AND MARRIAGE

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

7. 1 Corinthians 7:1-17

We mice don’t generally marry, but Paul has written about the subject anyway so we can study what he said. His first concern is that unmarried believers should not be struggling to control their desires for their partners—they should marry and follow the Lord without that stress, and he talks about marital duties. On the way he points out that celibacy has very real benefits for believers. Returning to his main point: divorce is not an option for the saints except where the unbelieving partner wants to leave—then their desire should be honoured in peace. But where does that leave the children? No worries, they’re covered.  >ᴥ<

IMAGE COPYRIGHT QUERNUSCRAFTS

1 Corinthians 7

1          Now, concerning the matters of which you wrote, it’s good for a man to have no contact with a woman,

This is because sexual intimacy is only permitted within marriage, otherwise it is sinful. He seems to be answering a query regarding those who were attracted to particular people and thus in relationship with them—those who were ‘going out’ or betrothed.

2          but to avoid sexual sin, let each man have a wife of his own and each woman her own husband.

Paul says, “if you can do so, refrain from touching her at all; otherwise, get married and so avoid sin.” Sin in all its forms we need to avoid.

3          Let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise, the wife to her husband,

4          as the wife doesn’t have jurisdiction over her own body, the husband does; and just the same, the husband doesn’t have jurisdiction over his body, the wife does.

This tells us that each partner has a legitimate claim on the other for sexual intimacy. It doesn’t really mean that a wife is not in charge of her own body, just that she doesn’t have the authority to deny her husband for no legitimate reason. Withholding intimacy becomes a weapon which will quickly destroy a marriage. It doesn’t however, indicate that such a claim may be enforced against anybody’s will—that would be abuse or even rape. Partners must approach each other in a gracious spirit of affection, serving each other’s needs, always remembering that God is the third partner in every Christian marriage.

5          Don’t deprive one another except perhaps by mutual consent for a time that you may be free to fast and pray; coming together again so that Satan won’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Here’s the power—deciding together to fast for a brief spell from intimacy as well as food so that your prayers may be empowered, and then joyfully returning to each other. The core point being to avoid falling into sin or letting each other do so.

6          I say this as a concession, not a command,

Paul’s concession is regarding returning to intimacy with each other. He is aware of the power of human sex drives and how the enemy can manipulate people into living by the flesh by awakening their natural appetites.

7          for I would like all people to be as I am, but each has his own gifting from God—one has this gift, another has that.

8          So I’m saying to the single and the widows that it would be excellent for them to remain like me,

His gifting seems to be in the area of no great sex drive and so he’s content to remain single in order to serve God without distraction. Obviously his knowledge of the power of his celibacy in God’s service leads him to recommend the condition to these groups if they can live this way.

9          but if they cannot contain themselves let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with desire.

If they can’t “contain themselves” Paul tells them to marry each other because their yearnings for each other will incapacitate them spiritually if they are struggling to stay pure.

10       To those who are married I do command (not I but the Lord) that the wife must not leave her husband,

Interesting to note that Paul differentiates his words from the Lord’s as he is unaware that his readers will count his letters as the living words of God.

11        but if she does leave she must remain unmarried or return to her husband—and her husband must not leave her.

God is no fan of divorce, witness His heartbreak over having to send the tribes of Israel away because of their idolatry (infidelity).

12       To everyone else I, not the Lord, am saying, if any brother has an unbelieving wife who is happy to make her home with him, he must not leave her;

13       and if any woman has an unbelieving husband who is happy to make his home with her, she must not leave him.

Here he appears to suggest that this instruction is less binding, as it’s “not the Lord” speaking, but because it has come to be included in the Word of God we cannot actually take it to be so.

14       For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified in his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified in her husband—otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

To know that one partner’s faith is enough to ensure that God sees your children as holy is very reassuring for those whose partners are not believers. It was just this concern from parents which led the Roman Catholic church to instigate infant baptism for entirely false superstitious reasons.

It also shows that God is perfectly well aware that there will be unbalanced marriages, despite His warnings not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

15       But if the unbeliever chooses to leave, let him go—the brother or sister is not reduced to bondage in such cases, for God has called us to peace.

In other words, even if you have been wronged, don’t put up a fight to keep an unwilling partner, rather honour their free will just as God has honoured yours. God knows your pain but we are called to live in peace and to promote peace in all our relationships—particularly our closest ones.

16       For can you know, wife, if you will save your husband? Or husband, if you will save your wife?

We cannot know whether our attempts to manipulate by clinging (which are sinful as the Bible calls the attempt to manipulate others ‘witchcraft’), or our refusal to control through self-denial (the proper way), is more likely to help our partner to come to saving faith; so all we can do is place the whole matter into God’s gracious and capable hands, trusting Him to effect the transformation we long for. Don’t panic—the kids are already accounted for.

17 In principle however, let everyone continue to live the life assigned to him by God; just as the Lord has called him—this is my rule in all the assemblies.

Interestingly, Paul appears to be telling us that a believer being in an unequally yoked partnership could be “the life assigned to him by God; just as the Lord has called him,” because a person could be married already when he or she comes to faith, but their partner may never become a believer, and so even here we are not to separate for reasons of faith, but to allow the unbelieving partner to make that decision and not to despair or feel condemned if separation is the result.

Continuing to live the life one was living when he came to faith is a general rule, as the next few verses make clear, but this will obviously contain exceptions—the life God didn’t assign him to—such as someone professionally involved in any sinful activity, like prostitution, politics, assassination, extortion, and so on.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-178. 1 Corinthians 7:18-40

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