Marriage and Sex - Page 1 of 7 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

December 3, 2012
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #6: Questions Concerning Marriage, 1 Corinthians 7.1-7.40

Lesson 6.1: Marriage and Sex
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7.1-7.7

1 Cor 7.1-7 (KJV)
1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
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.
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.
6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
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.

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

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:
It is obvious that the Corinthian believers had written a letter to Paul concerning this problem. We do not have the question, but we do have Paul’s answer. Paul has taken a long time to get to this. He first dealt with the divisions and the scandals in their midst. However, he has no reluctance in dealing with the subject of marriage, and he writes boldly and very frankly. Before we get into the text itself, I wish to deal with two introductory matters.

First there is the question: Was Paul ever married? If Paul was never married, then in his explanation he is simply theorizing. He is not speaking from experience. However, Paul did not do that. Paul always spoke from experience. It was not the method of the Spirit of God to choose a man who knew nothing about the subject on which the Spirit of God wanted him to write.

It has always been assumed that Paul was not married on the basis of the seventh verse: “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.” If we are going to assume that Paul was not married, we need to pay attention to the verse that follows: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” Someone will say, “He still says that he is unmarried.” I agree. We know he was not married. But notice that he mentions two classes here: the unmarried and the widows (or widowers). He could have been unmarried or a widower.

It is difficult to believe that Paul had always been unmarried because of his background and because of who he was. Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10 Paul says, “Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.” How could he give his voice against them? It was by his vote in the Sanhedrin, which means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. Since Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, he must have been a married man because that was one of the conditions of membership.
There was an insistence upon Jewish young men to marry. The Mishna said this should be at the age of eighteen. In the Yebhamoth, in the commentary on Genesis 5:2 it states: “A Jew who has no wife is not a man.” I believe it is an inescapable conclusion that Paul at one time was a married man. He undoubtedly was a “widower” who had never remarried. In chapter 9 we read, “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5). I think Paul is saying, “I could marry again if I wanted to; I would be permitted to do that. But I’m not going to for the simple reason that I would not ask a woman to follow me around in the type of ministry God has given to me.”

It is my conviction that in the past Paul had loved some good woman who had reciprocated his love because he spoke so tenderly of the marriage relationship. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

I would like to give you a quotation from F. W. Farrar who writes in his Life and Work of St. Paul: “The other question which arises is, “Was Saul married?” Did he have the support of some loving heart during the fiery struggles of his youth? Amid the to–and–fro contentions of spirit which resulted from an imperfect and unsatisfying creed, was there in the troubled sea of his life one little island home where he could find refuge from unremitting thoughts? As Little as we know of his domestic relations, as little as he cared to mingle mere private interests with the great spiritual truths which occupy his soul, it seems to me that we must answer this question in the affirmative.”

The position of this Bible student is that Paul had been married and that his wife had died. Paul never made reference to her, but because he spoke so tenderly of the marriage relationship, I believe he had been married.

The second introductory matter is not a question but a statement. We need to understand the Corinth of that day. If we do not, we are going to fall into the trap of saying that Paul is commending the single state above the married state. One must understand the local situation of Corinth to know what he is talking about. Notice again what the first two verses say: 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 (1 Cor. 7:1–2).

We need to understand Corinth. Ancient Corinth, of course, is a ruin today. Towering above those ruins is the mountain which was the acropolis, called Acro–Corinthus. The city was dominated by the Acro–Corinthus, and on top of it was the temple of Aphrodite. It towered over the city like a dark cloud. Today the ruins of a Crusader fort are there. When the Crusaders came, they used the stones from the temple of Aphrodite to build their fortress.

This temple was like most heathen temples. Sex was a religion. There were one thousand so–called vestal virgins there. In that temple you could get food, drink, and sex. Those vestal virgins were nothing in the world but one thousand prostitutes. Sex was carried on in the name of religion. That was the philosophy of Plato, by the way.

People tend to forget the immorality of that culture. A man once said, “Socrates wrote in a very lofty language.” Yes, sometimes he did. He also told prostitutes how they ought to conduct themselves. The whole thought was to get rid of the desires of the body by satisfying them. That is heathenism. That came out in two basic philosophies of the Greeks. Stoicism said the basic desires were to be denied; Epicureanism said they were to be fulfilled.

The wife in the Roman world was treated like a servant or slave. She was a workhorse. A man generally had several wives. One had charge of the kitchen, another had charge of the living area, and another was in charge of the clothes. Sex was secondary because the man went up to the temple where the good–looking girls were kept. There they celebrated the seasons of fertility, and believe me, friend, that is what was carried on.

You will still find the same thing among the Bedouins in Palestine today. They have several wives, and it is a practical thing for them. One takes care of the sheep, another goes with the man as he wanders around, another stays back at the home base where they have a tent and probably a few fruit trees. He thinks he needs at least three wives.

Now, let’s get back to the text. Although the false apostles had greatly influenced the members of this church, nevertheless there were many among them that had a very great respect for the apostle, and they kept up a correspondence with him, by writing. In their letters, they informed him of the doubts and difficulties that arose in their minds about certain things, and they asked for his opinion, which they held in high-regard. The things they wrote to him about are mentioned here in his reply, and may be gathered from the contents of this chapter, and some other chapters that follow, such as: whether a Christian man should abstain from the use of women; whether a believer ought to live with an unbelieving partner; whether apprentices, who were called by the grace of God, should serve out their time with their masters; and there must have been inquiries concerning celibacy or virginity, the eating of things offered to idols, and the maintenance of ministers. The first question he tackles seems to be this: "Is it proper (that is, whether it was lawful and beneficial) for a man to marry considering the present circumstances of the Church?"

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