1 Corinthians 7:1-9 - Not Your Own, Part 2
Since sex causes so many problems, wouldn't it be better for Christians to avoid it altogether? Nope.
CONTEXT: If you've not yet read yesterday's post, read it first to understand why today's passage makes what seem to be very unpopular claims. Remember, you are not your own but belong in body and soul to your faithful Savior.
Read / Listen
Read 1 Corinthians 7:1-9
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108
Q. What is God’s will for us
in the seventh commandment?
A. God condemns all unchastity.
We should therefore
thoroughly detest it
and, married or single,
live decent and chaste lives.
This difficult, awkward passage comes as a response to a particular question the Corinthian church had posed to Paul. Since human sexuality is so easily abused and has so much potential to drag people into sin, wondered the Corinthians, wouldn't it be better for Christians to just completely stay away from sexual activity altogether?
Paul's answer - inspired by the Holy Spirit - is a definitive 'no.' Human sexuality is a physical, psychological, and emotional need that God wove into the fabric of humanity, so people who live within the proper context - a formally recognized, monogamous relationship between a man and woman - must continue to give expression to that which God has designed for them.
Just as this passage must be read in the very particular context it was written to address, you must also keep in mind that this is not the Bible's - or even Paul's - only definition of what marriage ought to look like. Verse 9 makes marriage seem like it's merely an institution for those who lack sexual self control, as if total abstinence is the ideal and marriage is a compromise for those who can't resist, while the super-spiritual among us remain celibate.
Yet the instruction for both husbands and wives to yield control of their own bodies to the other only makes sense in the context of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, where he recognizes that marriage is an analogy for Christ's relationship to His bride, the Church. When wives submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, and husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church, then the loving, mutual physical submission Paul instructs here is possible.
Most people in our society - including many Christians - have a deeply flawed understanding of what marriage is and ought to be. Some selfishly see it as a mechanism to make themselves happy, so it's easy to see how such a person could abuse the other with demands to give over their body.
But the flip side of that doesn't work any better: in which the purpose of marriage is to make they other person happy. Though this certainly seems more altruistic, this goal is also doomed to failure, since what it takes to continually please other people is a moving target that's very hard to hit. This attitude can lead to sexual abuse when one partner continually gives up more bodily autonomy than the other in order to make the other partner happy.
But when both partners share the Biblical goal for marriage to glorify God by living according to His design, they will not only be able to fully enjoy their sexuality as God intends, but they will also come to know their Savior in a much deeper way as they love and submit to one another.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who created all things good, including human sexuality;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that whether you're married or single, that your goal will be to glorify God by living according to His design for the context He's placed you in;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 1 Peter 4