Today's set of verses is long. In these verses, Paul spoke about the issue of sexual intimacy and marriage. He was applying what I taught in My ministry to a variety of life circumstances being faced by the Corinthians. I am not going to comment on all that Paul said in these verses. I want you to read the entire passage. Pray about what you read. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply Paul's teaching to your life's circumstances. However, I do want to speak about a few specific truths Paul taught in the verses below.
The Corinthian Christians tended to take things to extremes. These extremes existed in both their involvement in sexual immorality as well as their avoidance of it — even to the point of not sharing in sexual intimacy in marriage. Some said that since it is important to be holy in their sexual practices by not participating in sexual immorality (yesterday's devotional
), then it would be even more holy to not have sex at all, even in marriage. Paul spoke plainly to this issue when he said, "I disagree."
His rationale for disagreement is very important. He used significant and detailed teaching about appropriate sexual intimacy from a number of important angles and circumstances. Please take what Paul said here seriously. Especially notice the following truths that he taught the Corinthians.
First, Paul emphasized that if a believer can remain single and stay pure, then he or she should do so, especially in view of the difficulties that the Corinthians would be facing. Remaining single allows such a believer to serve Us — Father, Son, and Spirit — without distraction. Some of Our most dedicated servants through the ages have been holy and single. For example, remember that I was single as were John the Baptist and the apostle Paul. Do not look down on singles as being less complete. Appreciate their whole-hearted devotion to Me and to the kingdom. However, this single and celibate lifestyle is not for most people. It is only for those to whom the gift of fulfilled singleness is given (Matthew 19:10-11)
. Most people are not gifted to live single and chaste, so they should marry. Also, notice the teaching Paul gave to different groups about this issue. (See the underlined words in the verses below to help you recognize these different groups.)
Second, you can glorify Us with your sexuality. When sexual intimacy is shared appropriately with your spouse in marriage, it is a good and glorious gift given to you by Us. Your sexual life in marriage is not something dirty or anything negative. It is a holy way to honor and glorify Us in your body as you fulfill and bless your spouse in your marriage (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:21)
Third, when We created humanity, We made people male and female. Both men and women are created in Our image. We blessed a man and a woman to enjoy the one-flesh union of sexual intimacy and We declared this to be "very good" (Genesis 1:27-31; Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6)
. The principles of love, care, faithfulness, pleasure, fulfillment, and blessing need to be applied equally to both the husband and the wife. In most cultures in Paul's day, the wife was viewed as little more than property. Notice the care Paul takes in all of his instructions to apply the truths he teaches equally to both
husband and wife. Paul's teaching was not only against the cultural standards of his day, but against most religious teaching in his time — it was transformational and revolutionary. However, Paul's teaching is what We had intended from creation. Both husband and wife are created in Our image. Each, and the pleasure and joy and fulfillment of each, are important to Us. As you read the verses below, notice the words in bold that will help you see how Paul took such great care to emphasize this principle We built into creation.
Fourth, responsibly procreating as good stewards of creation is one purpose of sexual intimacy (Genesis 1:28)
, but it is far from the only reason we blessed you with this intimacy. Sexual intimacy can help you relieve your sense of being alone and needing a partner in the world (Genesis 2:18-25)
. Sexual intimacy is a gift We gave you as a way to enjoy, serve, and fulfill each other (Proverbs 5:15-19)
. Finding joy in sexually pleasing, blessing, and fulfilling your spouse is a great way to guard against the pull and lust of sexual immorality as well as a way to show your love for your spouse. Notice what Paul said:
Because of our tendency to embrace immoralities, each man should feel free to join together in sexual intimacy with his own wife, and each woman should join with her own husband.
Pleasing, blessing, and fulfilling your spouse is a responsibility you have to your spouse. Again, notice what Paul said:
Each husband has the responsibility to meet his wife's sexual desires, and each wife should do the same for her husband. In marriage neither the husband nor the wife should act as if his or her body is private property — your bodies now belong to one another, and together they are whole. So do not withhold sex from one another, unless both of you have agreed to devote a certain period of time to prayer. When the agreed time is over, come together again so that Satan will not tempt you when you are short on self-control.
Be certain that you do not misunderstand or wrongly apply Paul's teaching that "your bodies now belong to one another."
This instruction definitely is not license to take advantage of your spouse. The relationship between spouses is to be based on love, respect, and voluntary submission to each other (Ephesians 5:21-30; 1 Peter 3:8)
Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that sexual intimacy is a very important part of honoring and glorifying Us with their bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
. I want you to realize this truth is equally important for you!
Sexual intimacy is a precious gift We gave you. Please recognize it as such. Learn to glorify Us while bringing pleasure and fulfillment to each other in marriage. Paul helps you understand this in the following verses:
Now to the topics you raised in your last letter. Some have said, "It is better for a man to abstain from having sex with his wife." Well, I disagree. Because of our tendency to embrace immoralities, each man should feel free to join together in sexual intimacy with his own wife, and each woman should join with her own husband. Husbands and wives have reciprocal duties. Each husband has the responsibility to meet his wife's sexual desires, and each wife should do the same for her husband. In marriage neither the husband nor the wife should act as if his or her body is private property — your bodies now belong to one another, and together they are whole. So do not withhold sex from one another, unless both of you have agreed to devote a certain period of time to prayer. When the agreed time is over, come together again so that Satan will not tempt you when you are short on self-control. I am trying to encourage you and give you some wise counsel, so don't take this advice as a command. I wish that all of you could live as I do, unmarried. But the truth is all people are different, each gifted by God in various and dissimilar ways.
To those who are unmarried or widowed, here's my advice: it is a good thing to stay single as I do. If they do not have self-control, they should go ahead and get married. It is much better to marry than to be obsessed by sexual urges.
To those who are married, here's my command (to be clear, this isn't merely my opinion; it comes from the teaching of the Lord Jesus): it is not right for a wife to leave her husband. If she does, she must either remain single or reconcile with her husband, but she should not marry someone else. Likewise, the husband should not divorce his wife.
To everyone else, here's my counsel (this is not a direct command from the Lord; it is my opinion): if a brother has a wife who does not believe Jesus' teachings and the truth of His resurrection, he is to stay with her as long as she is willing to live with him. The same is true for any sister; you should not leave your husband even if he has no allegiance to Jesus. Here's the reason: An unbelieving husband is consecrated by that union — touched by the grace of God through his believing wife — and the same is true when the husband is a man of faith and he's wed to an unbelieving wife. His wife is consecrated through their union. If this weren't so, your children wouldn't be pure; but as it is when faith enters in, God sets apart these children to be used uniquely for His purposes. If the unbelieving spouse decides the marriage is over, then let him or her go; the believing partner is freed from the marital vows because God has called you to peace. Remember that anything is possible, so the life you lead and the love you show under this strain may be what finally liberates your partner.
So here is my instruction to all the churches: each must live with the gifts the Lord Jesus grants you and with the call God offers you. When you heard the voice of Jesus, what were your circumstances? Were you living as a circumcised Jew? If so, then don't try to undo your circumcision. Were you living as if you were an uncircumcised outsider? If so, you don't need to become a Jew. You see, whether you are circumcised or not — these outward signs aren't the issue — the way you live out the commands of God is what really matters. It is important for all people to live out faith in the circumstances they know.
Did you hear God's voice while you were a slave? Don't be concerned. (But if the opportunity comes to gain your freedom, then take it.) For the slave who hears the Lord's call is set free to belong to the Lord. In the same way, the so-called free person is called to become a slave of the Anointed One. A high price has been paid for your freedom, so don't devalue God's investment by becoming a slave to people. My brothers and sisters, each of you should remain in whatever external circumstances you were in when God called you.
Now when it comes to unmarried young women, I do not have a command from our Lord. The best I can do is to give you my advice as a trustworthy brother who knows the Lord's mercy well. Because of the challenging times we live in, I think the best plan is to stay as you are. If you are married, don't divorce. If you are single, there is no need to get married. But if you decide to get married, this is not a sin; there is nothing wrong with a young woman taking a husband, but know that marriage is not easy and those who marry will face hard times. I am only trying to protect you. But hear what I say, brothers and sisters: the time is short and growing shorter. So for the time remaining, even if you have wives, live with the undivided focus of those who do not have them. Those who cry should live as those who have no tears. Those who rejoice should live as those who have no pleasure. Those who buy things should live as those who do not possess anything. If you make use of this rebellious and broken world, live as if you have no use for it — because the form of this world is fading away.
My primary desire is for you to be free from the worries that plague humanity. A single man can focus on the things of the Lord and how to please the Lord, but a married man has to worry about the details of the here and now and how to please his wife. A married man will always have divided loyalties. The same idea is true for a young unmarried woman. She concerns herself only with the work of the Lord and how to dedicate herself entirely, body and spirit, to her Lord. On the other hand, a married woman has vast responsibilities for her family and a desire to please her husband. I am not trying to give you more rules and regulations. I only want to give you advice that is fitting and helpful. I want to help you live lives of faithful devotion to the Lord without any distraction.
But I have this advice for every single man: If anyone thinks he is behaving badly toward his fiancée, if his desires prove to be too much for him, and if he feels they ought to marry, then he should do what he wants; it is not wrong to marry her. It is better that we let men and women in this situation do as they wish and get married. If a man has no compulsion and chooses not to marry his fiancée, but commits himself to live a celibate life for the sake of following God and has the strength to live out his conviction, then he is doing a good thing. So those who marry do a good thing, and they will share in a holy blessing; those who do not marry do an even better thing because they are part of an even greater blessing in the service of God.
A wife should stay by her husband's side all of his life. But if he dies, she is free to marry any man she wishes as long as it is in the Lord. You can likely guess that in my opinion this woman would be better off to remain single, and I think that I have this insight from God's Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 7:1-40)
Father in heaven, thank You for the gift of sexual intimacy. Please help me to live my sexuality in ways that honor You and are appropriate for the season of life in which I now find myself. I want my body to honor You and the incredible price Jesus paid to redeem me from my sin. I ask that the Holy Spirit empower me to put to death the misdeeds of my flesh as I seek to bring my mind, my heart, and my body into conformity with Your holy will. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.