v 1 – “Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
- Paul now changes the subject to something about which they had reached out to him, likely via a letter that made its way to him.
- He states something that, to us, seems a little strange – “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. This is the beginning of this chapter, and this section about which he is discussing where he covers the facts about marriage and sexual desire in the face of persecution – from the Roman government and Jews alike. Also, given the view of scripture and its commands and how this is largely unknown by these gentile believers, they are asking the simple question that all baby Christians has – “how now shall we live?”. In this section, Paul will make some simple Biblical council, both from his own opinion and directly from the Lord, about how to handle many aspects of our lives as regards romantic relations. He explores questions about:
- Mitigating immoral thought life
- Whether or not one should pursue marriage given their present distress / persecution
- Whether or not believers should remain in marriage with unbelievers
- Salvation of children in a family of unequally yoked parents
- And more…
- Now, to the point of this sentence, it is good that a man not pursue relations with a woman, and vice versa, for the sake of the gospel itself. This is a statement that he first begins, but later finishes this thought in verse 26 and following. In verses 2-25 Paul explores the many issues that exist in relationships that may cause struggles in their pursuit of Christ. Given their present distress in the form of threats of persecution and even death if they are to be caught serving Christ and not Caesar. He will later go into more detail that the married person has a requirement to serve their spouse and family, and they may not have the necessary freedom to flee from place to place, or to go to a far off country at the drop of a hat to serve God wherever they may be called.
v 2 – “But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.”
- Now, given his controversial opening statement, Paul now tempers that for those who are both currently married and those who are pursuing marriage. The vast majority of humans on this planet have sexual desires – be they pure or impure. Given this prevalent struggle, God has provided a way of escape from those desires (which again is not to say that these desires are inherently sinful, but they can become sinful if they are made to be primary things in our lives) – marriage. The marriage bed is undefiled, and therefore spending your sexual energies on your spouse relieves you from pursuing those same desires in immoral ways.
- Paul declares here that marriage is a good thing for the sake of our inborn proclivities toward sexual sin. For some people, (the vast majority, really) sexual desires can become overwhelming, and for those people marriage is the God-given process by which we are to end those desires.
- Also, for the sake of procreation, marriage is a good thing.
v 3 – “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”
- Paul clearly states that, for the sake of sexual sin and desires, the responsibility for resolving those issues falls to the marriage partner (husband to his wife, and wife to her husband) so as to maintain purity within the home.
v 4 – “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own boy, but the wife does.”
- Going into more detail, Paul fills out this idea found in vs 2-3 by revealing that in a marriage covenant each member has forsaken autonomy for the sake of the combined marriage relationship. The husband does not have authority to refuse sexual relations with his wife, nor does the wife have authority to refuse sexual relations to her husband. They have come together in a covenant between the husband, wife and the God of their salvation, to build one another up, and to support one another. This is alluded to in the relationship between people and their church, as it also is mirrored in the relationship between Christ and His Church.
- The man must not prevent his wife from resolving her sexual desires as he must also not ignore her other sin areas for the sake of his own freedom, and the wife, likewise, has the same command.
v 5 – “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer,and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
- Sexual temptations can cause all sorts of issues if left unchecked. Paul commands the people in Corinth to stop depriving one another from sexual relations. This appears to have been one of the questions that they had asked him in their letter, and it seems that they have been pursuing abstinence for the sake of some sort of purity. Maybe they had a large group of people in the church who were influenced by the Stoics who believe that freedom from desire and things is the path to purity. Paul, however, shoots that idea down unless it is only for a short period of time. The reason for this stance is that Paul, knowing human kind, also knows that our desires are Satan’s playground, and that it becomes an easy entry point for a seed of both discord and sin. To that end, sexual relations in a marriage should not be forsaken except by agreement for certain reasons, and even then only for a very short period of time.
- The goal here is sanctification, not sexual fulfillment, but the marriage bed is used for the purification of those desires and therefore should not be neglected or abandoned.