Together in Christ: 'Living Holy Lives in a Sex-Saturated World' — 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 & Ephesians 5:21

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.

. . .

And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

— 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 & Ephesians 5:21 NLT

Key Thought

The apostle Paul was single. His singleness prompted questions from the Corinthians about sex. They lived in a sex-saturated culture where few sexual practices were "off the table." [1] So, the believers in Corinth wondered if Paul's singleness with celibacy was a better way to live because of the raging evil of their culture. Paul told them, "Yes, but..." On a theoretical level, the answer was "Yes." On a practical level, in a city known for sexual experiences and perversion, most should marry and be committed to their spouse.

Because we are accustomed to modern understandings in most Western cultures regarding the value of both men and women, wives and husbands, we miss the radical edge in what Paul said: "Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband." The people in that first-century culture were familiar with a man "having his own wife" — the language of ownership. That was the accepted way of discussing marriage, especially in a culture where women had fewer rights. However, Paul makes sure to use the same language for both the husband and the wife. The wife has her own husband just as much as the husband has his own wife. Paul will go on and emphasize this reciprocity and respect more specifically in the next few verses. [2]

The foundation for Paul's understanding is that in all Christian relationships, especially between husbands and wives "in Christ," each must practice submission to the other based on Jesus' example. [3] In other words, while marriage gives us a holy outlet for sexual expression, the foundation of that sexual expression toward our spouse is rooted in what best serves our spouse as we submit ourselves to their needs. [4] This sexual ethic is revolutionary in a world that has forgotten what the Creator intended from the beginning when he made both the wife and the husband "in the image of God." [5] God gave them each other so each could be a blessing to the other's sexually and in every other way, seeking to satisfy their spouse's needs before their own. [6]

[1] Paul likely chose the word πορνείας (porneias, related to the English word, "pornography") to speak of any sex outside of a husband and wife in marriage because so many forms, practices, and perversions of sex were practiced in Corinth — 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Sexual immorality was widely practiced and accepted in most seaports and major cities in Paul's day.
[2] Notice this emphasis in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 on meeting each other's needs. Also notice that what each spouse requests of the other one sexually — indeed, in every aspect of our relationships — must be done while considering our spouse's interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV).
[3] Philippians 2:5-11.
[4] Some refer to Ephesians 5:22 about the wife submitting to the husband and don't realize the word submit is not in that verse. Instead, the translators took it from Ephesians 5:21, where it stands over both the wife's submission to her husband and the husband's submission to his wife. The language "reverence for Christ" makes this mutual submission in marriage an act of worship that releases and accompanies being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18.
[5] Genesis 1:26-27, 31.
[6] Philippians 2:3-4 NIV.

Today's Prayer

Loving Father, thank You for giving us marriage as a wonderful place of security and support to learn to express ourselves sexually while also learning to meet the needs and serve the preferences of our spouse. Forgive me when I am selfish. Please, dear Lord, convict me and correct me in those moments. I believe that if I reverence Christ in the way I serve and bless my spouse, then You, O God, will also see that my needs are met and that You are honored as the Lord of our household. Be with me as I seek to keep my heart pure and devoted to You as I remain faithful to and considerate of my spouse. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Ephesians 5:21-33
  • Genesis 1:26-31, 2:18-25

Comments

Archived Facebook Comments

Other Devotionals from Heartlight for Wednesday, April 3, 2024

A daily devotional featuring wise counsel found in Scripture.
"Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you."
Features the apostle Paul's writings turned into daily, powerful prayers.
"Dear Father, powerful and holy God, Help me to understand that even though all things may be lawful for me, all things are not helpful. Keep me from...."
The classic twice-daily devotional from Charles H. Spurgeon.
"Here a confession of sin common to all the elect people of God. They have all fallen, and therefore, in common chorus, they all say, from the first..."
A daily dose of Christian quotes to inspire and encourage.
"The right way to pray is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father."

Illustration

Illustration of 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 & Ephesians 5:21 NLT — Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
. . .
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

About This Devotional

Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.

'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.