Up to this point, Paul had been dealing with the sins reported to be known in the Corinthian congregation. Now he takes up the questions about which they had written to him.
Some liberal critics have accused Paul of being against both marriage and women. These accusations are not true, of course.
Nor is it true that in 1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, and 25 Paul is disclaiming divine inspiration for what he wrote. Rather, he is referring to what Jesus taught when He was on earth (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18).
Paul had to answer some questions that Jesus never discussed; but when a question arose that the Lord had dealt with, Paul referred to His words. Instead of disclaiming inspiration, Paul claimed that what he wrote was equal in authority to what Christ taught.
Christians Married to Christians (1 Cor. 7:1-11)
Apparently one of the questions the church asked was, “Is celibacy [remaining unmarried] more spiritual than marriage?” Paul replied that it is good for a man or a woman to have the gift of celibacy, but the celibate state is not better than marriage, nor is it the best state for everybody. Dr. Kenneth Wuest translates Paul’s reply, “It is perfectly proper, honorable, morally befitting for a man to live in strict celibacy.”
1 First Corinthians 7:6 makes it clear that celibacy is permitted, but it is not commanded; and 1 Corinthians 7:7 informs us that not everybody has the gift of remaining celibate. This ties in with our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:10-12, where “eunuchs” refers to those who abstain from marriage. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18) is generally true for most people; but some have been called to a life of singleness for one reason or another.
One purpose for marriage is “to avoid fornication.” First Corinthians 7:2 makes it clear that God does not approve either of polygamy or homosexual “marriages.” One man married to one woman has been God’s pattern from the first. However, the husband and wife must not abuse the privilege of sexual love that is a normal part of marriage.
The wife’s body belongs to the husband, and the husband’s body to the wife; and each must be considerate of the other. Sexual love is a beautiful tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with. To refuse each other is to commit robbery (see 1 Thes. 4:6) and to invite Satan to tempt the partners to seek their satisfaction elsewhere.
As in all things, the spiritual must govern the physical; for our bodies are God’s temples. The husband and wife may abstain in order to devote their full interest to prayer and fasting (1 Cor. 7:5); but they must not use this as an excuse for prolonged separation. Paul is encouraging Christian partners to be “in tune” with each other in matters both spiritual and physical.
In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul applied the principle stated in 1 Corinthians 7:1 to single believers and widows: If you cannot control yourself, then marry.
The Responsibilities of Marriage Partners (7:2-6)
“Because of fornication it is better for every man to have a wife.”
Sexual drive is God given; but must be fulfilled within the bounds of marriage. Love is something which is expressed by seeking the best for another even when the emotional enthusiasm has diminished.
Paul’s inspired judgment is that man has the right of choice in the question of marriage.
Obligations in marriage.
Sexual intercourse in marriage is not just permitted; it is commanded. The husband and wife belong to each other. Deprive not one another except by mutual consent. Could relate to temporary separation during a time of religious involvement. Without the consent, separation should not take place. Agreement based on a time of prayer. Such prayer was not commanded.
Generally thought of during specific needs and times.
The necessity is there to come back together to avoid Satan’s temptation which is ever present. The idea of separation between husband and wife is a concession, not a command.
Paul’s Personal Example (7:7-8)
Paul possessed self control with regard to sexual desires. He credited his self control in sexual desire to a gift from God. Paul wished everyone possessed that gift as he did 1 Corinthians 7:9.
“Better to marry than to burn.”
“Burn” – Has to do with present sexual feelings or desire. Does not mean burn in torment. Paul stresses the need for marriage as the means of controlling sexual desires. Marriage should be exercised before sex; not as a result of having sexual encounters. Sexual desire is God given and therefore, not impure if placed in the context of marriage (Hebrews 13:4). In spite of the distress, marriage is better than being overtaken by temptation.
All covenants with God have a visible sign.
Sex is the Marriage Covenant’s Visible Sign
And sex is a sign of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman and God. Sex is a visible sign that makes visible the invisible reality of the union of the two people. The sign of the marriage covenant is sex.
According to the Bible, every other woman in the world a man relates to as a sister or a mother, but only one does he relate to as a wife. The sign between you and that only other person who you relate to as your spouse is sex.
It is designed to be a sign of permanence, safety, security, faithfulness.
Implicit in having sex is the promise of faithfulness. Sex communicates to the other person’s heart and to God the father: “I am touching you because I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. The exchange of our most intimate gifts communicates permanence. That is why sex belongs in marriage.
In this context, we are able to see why sex as a single adult is so damaging. When you have sex with someone as a single adult you are doing two things:
1) you are making permanent promises to the other person’s soul while you have temporary intentions. This creates confusion, anxiety, and insecurity.
2) Sex as a single adult makes a mockery out of the covenant between a man and a woman before the Lord and brings you into a state of spiritual disconnection. It doesn’t matter how brief the hookup or how strictly physical it is, sex outside of marriage leaves devastation emotional and spiritual devastation in its wake.
1 Corinthians 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
The way we typically see things is as commitment increases so does physical intimacy. We basically earn the right to be more intimate as we stay with the person longer. If you haven’t been allowed to have a kiss after three dates then you might get a little upset because you have the right to have a kiss. That’s what dating people do. “We are dating, come on. I’m going to go find someone else.”
However, what the Bible indicates is that if there are only two types of relationships, those you relate to as brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers or husbands/wives, then there are only two levels of sexual intimacy. No sexual intimacy or total sexual intimacy. Please don’t tune this out because it’s some preacher guy who is out of touch. There is no middle ground. No “friends with benefits”. No “hook-up buddies”. No dating and doing everything but intercourse. Because sex includes more than the act of intercourse.
I am not trying to draw a new set of rules for you. I am trying to get you to think about your sexuality in a new way. The way you relate to the opposite sex. Relating sexually as if you were married to that person you are dating brings incredible relational, emotional, physical, and spiritual confusion.
And you are setting yourself up for failure.
Sex as not a birthright or a mile-marker needed after so many days in a relationship. The damage from sex as a single adult comes not because you don’t have the right person, but because it is in the wrong context. The truth
is that the only place where sex is going to be satisfying to your soul is when it is the visible sign of the invisible covenant you have made with that one person of the opposite sex. It is the way we demonstrate our commitment to the covenant to that one person for the rest of our lives.
Managing your Sexuality as a Single Adult
So how does a single person resist the temptation? Sometimes the sex drive seems almost overwhelming especially for those single adults who are single again after being in a marriage relationship where they enjoyed sex in its rightful context.
Here are some practical steps to managing your sexuality as a single adult:
Do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person, even if you stop short of sexual intercourse.
A lot of single adults will draw a line at not having intercourse but will do everything else. They call it messing around. For married people, “messing around” is the onramp onto the freeway.
Single adults consistently operate in this realm of “messing around” doing everything but the final act and then they wonder why they cannot manage their sexuality.
Do not seek sexual gratification through self stimulation.
Self stimulation does not solve sexual pressure. Many Christians believe that it is a healthy way to deal with their sexual desires. But it is not. Not only can self gratification become habitual, but it produces guilt, is accompanied by lust, and, most importantly, contradicts the God-given design of sexuality.
The sexual act is not designed to be done alone for selfish gratification. Sex is created for relationship with the opposite sex in a marriage covenant. When you gratify yourself, you are training yourself to not need another person physically, emotionally, and mentally, to satisfy yourself. It is pseudo sex.
The more you train yourself to satisfy yourself physically before marriage, the more likely you are to satisfy yourself physically after you are married. Because it’s not really about sex. It is about our lazy, self-centered desire, to satisfy ourselves rather than give ourselves to and for another person. The answer to your pent up sexual desires is not gratifying yourself, but resisting temptationResist and avoid sexual stimulation.
James 4:6a-7 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires…7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
It is a no-brainer that pornography is destructive and works against you in your quest to be sexually pure. But the real test is what you do with the more common sources of sexual stimulation. R-rated movies, Men’s Health magazine, the newspaper, television, music videos.
In our society you cannot escape sexual stimulation, but you can refuse to seek it. And you can avoid it often when you see it coming. This will tell you whether you are enslaved or free. Can we say no to our bodies that want us to keep looking?
This becomes easier the more we focus on Christ and pure things. There is no better way to overcome a bad desire than to push it out with a new one. It is in prayer that we summon the divine help to produce in us that new desire for God. Fill your mind in God’s Word.
There is nothing that renews the mind like regular meditation on the Scriptures.
Embrace Christian Community
Hebrews 10:24: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
The struggle to resist temptation and manage your sexuality must be done in with the help of others seeking the same goals. For some of you the odds are not in your favor of having a lot of success with this because you are surrounded by people who do not believe the same things as you. Every conversation and outing is focused on sex and hooking up. Christian community gives you strength and support. Others will join to help you get to where you want to go instead of trying to rip you off course. You can pray for each other and hold each other accountable.
Make Spiritual Compatibly the Highest Requirement for Romantic Relationships
2 Corinthians 6:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible): Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and awlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?
The Bible clearly teaches that it is not appropriate for Christians to be in a relationship where an unbeliever has control over their life. This is especially true for dating relationships. It is hard enough to stay sexually pure as a dating couple when you are both spiritually aligned with Christ as the center of the relationship. But when the people is not in agreement and one is trying to remain sexually pure and the other does not have the same goal, guess which one will eventually win? You must make spiritual compatibility your highest priority.
Don’t get Desperate.
Desperate people make poor choices. Desperation begins when faith in God’s future and the enjoyment of the present disappears. When you believe that it will never happen unless you begin to take steps to make it happen yourself because you are just sick and tired of waiting.
When you get desperate you make mistakes. You will make compromises you never intended, date people you should never have dated, marry someone that is not a good fit.
As a single adult, the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is a special time in life where you can pour yourself into ministry and serving others more than at any other time in life. It is a time to live for God boldly, to grow close to him and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Do not become desperate. Desperate people make desperate decisions and pay drastic consequences.
Many want that sexual experience because we believe that that is the pinnacle of feeling loved by someone as a human. But we can learn to replace that with the love that can only be found in the total abandonment to Jesus then we can begin to be loved completely by him and him alone.
There is going to come a day that even though you are in a great marriage that there are areas that your spouse can never satisfy.
Inside the covenant of marriage sex is like a great meal, satisfying and nourishing. Outside of marriage it is more like candy. It might give you a short rush, but is full of empty calories with no nourishment. And a steady diet of it will make you sick. It will make you sick in your relationships with the opposite sex and it will make you sick in your relationship with God. Jesus has given us a choice. Now what are you going to do with it?