Together in Christ: 'Unselfish Submission to Bless and Protect' — 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

Thursday, April 4, 2024

The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.

Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

— 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NLT

Key Thought

Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 was transformational in two powerful ways:

  1. He emphasized the equality of men and women in their sexual roles in marriage.
  2. He stressed that the key to this sexual equality was each submitting, so that each "gives authority over [their] body" to their spouse.

The first was revolutionary because, in most ancient cultures, a woman had no authority over her or her husband's body. Wives were often treated as little more than property. A husband was free to express himself sexually in marriage, and many men felt they had the freedom to express themselves outside of marriage. The wife didn't have these freedoms. Paul taught that the sexual responsibilities of each one were reciprocal in the Lord: "... each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband." [1]

Our verses today go deeper into this theme. Both spouses have the responsibility to fulfill the sexual needs of the other. The husband's concerns must not be about fulfilling his demands in their sexual relationship but about fulfilling his wife's needs. [2] The wife's concerns must not be about fulfilling her demands in their sexual relationship but about fulfilling her husband's needs. While the wife's responsibilities were well understood in the culture in Paul's time, he challenged Christian husbands to live with this same concern for their wives!

The language of the New Living Translation in these verses is beautiful, powerfully capturing Paul's sentiments: each "gives authority over [their] body" to their spouse. Sexual intimacy in marriage is not supposed to be about getting what I want but giving my spouse what she needs as we honor the Lord in our sexual relationship. Paul anchors this idea of honoring the other in the sexual relationship to two primary truths. Applying these truths to myself,

  • I submit myself to my spouse as part of my worship, my reverencing, of Christ. [3]
  • Jesus is my ultimate example as I open my heart to bless and serve others before seeking my will. [4]

Finally, notice Paul's second paragraph of teaching in today's verses. The sexual intimacy practices of a Christian couple should be part of their shared conversation and understanding with each other. This understanding is vital as they center their lives on honoring the Lord Jesus through prayer while providing each other sexual protection from a sexually unhinged world.

[1] 1 Corinthians 7:2.
[2] Philippians 2:3-4 NIV.
[3] Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV. Paul teaches that five types of worship accompany being filled with the Spirit: "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," "singing," "making melody to the Lord with your hearts," "giving thanks," and "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." The word beginning each of these five items is based on an active verb that describes being filled with the Spirit and is similar to the teaching in Hebrews 12:28-29, 13:1-4.
[4] Philippians 2:1-11.

Today's Prayer

Father, in a world so focused on selfish desires, I ask for the Holy Spirit's power to help me follow the example of Jesus in all of my relationships, especially my relationships with those closest to me. I want to be sexually pure. I want to do what is best for my spouse if I am married or to prepare myself for my spouse if I am not. Please guide me as I want to live into the joy of sexual intimacy in ways that honor You, help me remain holy, and bless those I love. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Hebrews 12:28-29, 13:1-16
  • Ephesians 5:18-21

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Illustration

Illustration of 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NLT — The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.

Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

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.