I Corinthians 7 and Paul’s admonitions about sex in marriage

If you have read many articles on this blog, you will notice I allude to I Corinthians 7 a lot so I decided to dedicate a post just to looking at this very important passage of scripture verse by verse.

I Corinthians 7:1-7(KJV)

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

I am not a KJV only person by any means and you will see me quote from many translations of the Scriptures.  But I chose the KJV as our starting point.  I will give what is my understanding of each verse (based on other translations and commentaries as well as my own opinion).

7:1

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

When Paul says “to touch a woman”, he is actually talking about marriage – a reading of this passage will confirm that to be the case.  He is not saying that man is forbidden from holding a woman’s hand or hugging her (as I have heard many times growing up in conservative churches). He is talking about it is good for a man not to get married.  But before we jump on the celibacy band wagon let’s see what he has to say in its entirety.

7:2

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Fornication Biblically speaking refers to sex outside of marriage. So Paul is saying to avoid having sex outside of marriage, people should get married.  Now here we go from him saying in verse 1 it is good for man not to marry, and then he seems to be saying everybody should get married to avoid fornication, but again we need to let him finish to get the full understanding of the passage.

7:3

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

“benevolence” literally comes from the Greek meaning of “kindness” or “good will”.  So it’s literally saying the husband should render due “kindness” to his wife, and she should do the same for him.  At this point all the ladies are saying – yeah! I just need to be kind to my husband and all is well.  Sorry to disappoint, but “benevolence” in this context is a loaded term, just as “touch” was a loaded term in verse 1.  I believe though that “kindness” does reflect the attitude with which we should follow Paul’s commands in the coming verses, God’s Word given through his prophets and Apostles is never by accident, every word matters.

7:4

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Verse 4 really smacks modern feminism right in the face. The key word of “power” means just that, power or authority. The wife has authority over her husband’s body and the husband has authority over the wife’s body.  Paul acknowledges that men and women may have strong sex drives at any given point with his equal reference to husbands and wives authority over each other’s bodies.

The idea that “it’s my body and I can do what I want with it” has no place before marriage or within marriage for a Christian. Before marriage as Christians our bodies are the temple of God (I Corinthians 6:19), he owns them.  And Ladies yes this refers to all the parts of the your body, not just your southern region. I am not advocating that a man should ever use force when it comes to sex with his wife, but a wife should in love offer her husband her whole body, including her breasts and even her mouth(oral sex).

After marriage, while God still maintains primary ownership of our bodies, he sublets them to our Spouses to have their needs met.

Verse 4 is also the reason that husbands should listen to their wives in how they dress and how they keep their appearance.  For instance I keep my hair cut and my beard trimmed the way my wife likes it. If she wanted me to shave my goatee I would, but she likes it that way.  I wear the clothes my wife likes to see me in and I lovingly call her my fashion adviser.

This concept equally applies to wives. Ladies you should dress to please your husband, and apart from wearing something that you believe would be immoral, you should do as your husband asks.  Ladies that includes in the bedroom wearing lingerie your husband would like, and in the privacy of your own bedroom I can’t think of anything that would be immoral to wear.

7:5

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Now the rubber meets the road. Up to this point Paul has spoken of “due benevolence” and then about power over one another’s bodies in marriage.  Now he speaks in terms of fraud. To deny one another of the things he has previously stated (power over the body and sex) is to defraud your spouse.

Fraud is when a person goes into an agreement, says they will do a list of things and then does not do as they stated.  An example of fraud in the business world are these fly-by night construction companies that give people construction estimates, then take their money and run. Paul is saying that a spouse commits fraud when they deny the sexual rights of their spouse. While there are some men who deny their wives, the reality is more often than not it is the wife denying her husband.

Maybe as Christian wife you consider yourself to be pretty honest.  You would not steal from a store and you would never knowingly make a dishonest agreement with anyone.  But do you know ladies that as honest as you think you are, if you consistently deny your husband of his sexual rights to your body you are committing fraud? It is just as if you went to a gas station, pumped your gas, and then drove off without paying. In fact its even worse, if we make the analogy correct, imagine that someone you are supposed to love(a relative or friend) owned that gas station, and you just drove off without paying.   Paul is clear, when you get you married, you are giving your body to your spouse for the rest of your life.

Paul also answers the age old question – who determines how often a married couple should have sex?  “except it be with consent for a time”, so only with the consent of both parties can sex be denied. Many people (and by people I think mostly women) believe that sex should only happen by consent, when in reality denial of sex should only happen by consent.

Now should a man be considerate of his wife? Absolutely! There may be times for medical reasons or other reasons that a wife cannot perform her duty (and yes it’s her duty!). But sex should not be denied for things like “I am not in the mood”, “I just don’t need it now and you should only want to when we both want to”, “You have not earned it” or “You have not been romantic enough for it”.

The last part of verse 5 refers to the temptation of Satan. I believe every spouse needs to evaluate their performance with their spouse from time to time to see that they are not leaving their spouse open to temptation.  Obviously you cannot account for every way your spouse could be tempted, but you need to put in a good effort in this area.

For men – ask yourselves these kinds of questions in regards to temptations your wife might face:

  1. Do you compliment your wife on how beautiful she looks?  Or is the only time she hears that from a guy at the Super Market or at the place she works?
  2. Do you tell your wife that you love her on a regular basis?
  3. Do you talk with your wife, do you share an emotional connection with her?
  4. Do you try to make sure she is fulfilled in the bedroom, that she is sexually satisfied?
  5. Do you deny her sex when she initiates it?

For women – ask yourselves these kind of questions in regards to temptations your husband might face:

  1. Does your husband only see you in sweat pants and tee shirts? Do you still put make up on and nice clothes? Or is the only women he sees with makeup and nice clothes the ladies he works with or the lady at the store?
  2. Do you put on sexy lingerie for your husband? Or is the only women he sees in lingerie the ladies in the Victoria Secret commercials?
  3. Do you let him see you naked? Or do you scold him like he some kind of pervert for wanting to watch you undress?
  4. Do you give him loving sex, do you give yourself completely to him when you have sex or are you just phoning it in?
  5. Are there things you refuse to do in bedroom? If so is it because you believe they are Biblically wrong or is just because you are uncomfortable with it? Realize that anything you refuse to do in the bedroom opens an automatic line of temptation with your husband.
  6. Do you flat out refuse your husband sex for reasons other than medical?
  7. Can you say that you put in a 100% effort to fulfill your husband’s sexual needs and fantasies (as long as they don’t violate Scripture)?

7:6

But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

What Paul is giving permission to do is to marry.  He is not commanding to marry, only giving permission to marry. Thus qualifying what he said early about letting “every” man and woman have their own spouse.

7:7

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

In verse 7 we see Paul explain what meant in verse one when he said it is good for man not to touch a woman.  He rightly says though, it is a gift and certainly not a command from God not to marry.

Summary of I Corinthians 7:1-7:

The Apostle Paul is stating these truths and commands given to him directly by God:

  1. Guys and gals, it’s good to be celibate if and ONLY if you have the gift of celibacy from God.
  2. If you happen to find yourself desiring the opposite sex, then by all means get married or else you might end up having sex outside of marriage.
  3. If you do get married, realize that your body has now been given by God to your spouse – to meet their sexual needs.
  4. Also if you do get married – you are forbidden from denying your spouse their sexual rights to your body unless they give you consent.  Even when consent is given it must only be for a short time and you need to come together soon to avoid temptation.

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