Marriage and Sex - Page 5 of 7 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer;
“Fasting” means abstaining from Food. Jesus said, “Moreover when ye FAST, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to FAST. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou FASTEST, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to FAST, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18). Some facts about fasting are:
1. Only one fast was appointed by the Mosaic Law, which was on the Day of Atonement. There is no mention of any other periodical fast in the Old Testament except in Zech 7:1-7; 8:19. From these passages it appears that the Jews, during their captivity, observed four annual fasts,—in the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months.
2. Public fasts were occasionally proclaimed to express national humiliation and to pray for divine favor. In the case of public danger the proclamation appears to have been accompanied with the blowing of trumpets. Joel 2:1-15 (See 1 Sam 7:6; 2 Chr 20:3; Jere 36:6-10). Three days after the feast of tabernacles, when the second temple was completed, "the children of Israel assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes and earth upon them," to hear the law read and to confess their sins: Nehe 9:1.
3. Private occasional fasts are recognized in one passage of the law: Numb 30:13. The instances given of individuals fasting under the influence of grief, vexation or anxiety are numerous.
4. In the New Testament the only reference to the Jewish fasts are the mention of "the fast" in Acts 27:9 (generally understood to denote the Day of Atonement) and the allusions to the weekly fasts: Matt 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; 18:12; Acts 10:30. These fasts originated some time after the captivity.
5. The Jewish fasts were observed with various degrees of strictness. Sometimes there was entire abstinence from food: Esth 4:16 etc. On other occasions there appears to have been only a restriction to a very plain diet: Dani 10:3. Those who fasted frequently dressed in sackcloth or rent their clothes, put ashes on their head and went barefoot: 1 Kin 21:27; Nehe 9:1; Psal 35:13.
6. The sacrifice of the personal will, which gives to fasting all its value, is expressed in the old term used in the law, afflicting the soul.
Abstinence from the normal marital relations, to serve as a fast, was not required, but it was allowable only upon the consent of both partners, and even then only for purposes of prayer and fasting, and only "for a season (a short time)." Note: the requirement that married couples live apart during Lent was grounded on this verse.
and come together again,
The oldest manuscripts read, "be together," namely, in the same bed, and to use it, in the customary manner of married persons. Even by mutual consent, the apostle would not have this separation to be perpetual; since it would expose them to many of the evils which the marriage relation was designed to avoid.
that Satan tempt you not for your incontingency.
Satan never takes a vacation; he is always alert and on the job. We must therefore put on “the whole armor of God. . . taking the shield of faith,” that we may be able to quench the fiery darts of the devil. We must not be unaware of his snares and pitfalls. 1 Peter 5.8 warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
“Incontinency” is the lack of self control, and in the context of this verse it refers to the inability to control sexual desires. Paul tells the married Corinthian believers that they do not have the gift of continency, consequently, if they agree to separate it must be for a short time: Satan, who knows the character and temperament of men and women, may tempt them not only to hate and quarrel with one another, but to have impure lusts and desires, and to commit fornication, adultery, and numerous immoral acts. Therefore, though abstinence from the marriage bed for a short time, by the consent of both parties, for religious purposes, may be lawful, it is a very good idea to keep the duration of the separation to a minimum; since Satan may use it to gain an advantage over them, and draw them into the commission of disgraceful wickedness—“For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain” (1 Thess 3:5; KJV). Satan has many methods for seducing men and women to abandon the truth—such as temptations to apostasy by your former heathen friends; or by the skill of false teachers; or by the severity of suffering—and Paul was fearful that by some of his talents Satan might be successful. One regrettable comment by believers is that Satan often thrusts in his temptations amidst the holiest exercises; prayer, communion, and while trying to be attentive in the preaching service and Sunday school. Isn’t it wonderful that in heaven we will no longer be bothered by any temptation or anything that can distract us from worshiping and serving God?
6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
But I speak this by permission,
Paul is referring to what he had said before, although not to all of it: not to 1 Corinthians 7:2, that in order to avoid falling into fornication, every man should make use of his own wife, and every woman of her own husband, since this is not something God permits, rather He has commanded it—“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24; KJV); not to 1 Corinthians 7:3, 4, that married persons ought to give each other love and affection, and not deny the other the marital bed, having a power over each other's bodies, which is a precept, and not something God permits—“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish” (Ex 21:10; KJV). But, the apostle is referring to what he said in the previous verse; that if the husband and wife part, it should be for a short time, and then they should come back together. It is not an absolute command of God that they should separate for a time, on account of fasting and prayer, but if they do so by mutual agreement, there was no positive instruction for their coming together again, after such service was over. Resuming the marriage and maintaining the family unit is certainly the Lord’s preference, but it is not commended by Him.
The custom of the more conscientious rabbis was to make a difference between the things which they demanded based upon their own judgment, and those which they demanded based on the authority of the law. Rabbi Tancum said: "The washing of hands before meat is in our own power; washing after meat is commanded." What the apostle is saying here is that the directions he has given were from his own judgment, and not from any Divine inspiration; and from this we may take it for granted that anytime he does not make this observation he is writing under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit.
“By permission” means indulgence, or permission, and stands opposed to that which is expressly stated. Paul said, “Concerning virgins: Even though I don't have any command from the Lord, I'll give you my opinion. I'm a person to whom the Lord has shown mercy, so I can be trusted” (1 Cor 7:25; GW)."I am allowed to say this; I have no express command on the subject; I give it as my opinion; I do not speak it directly under the influence of Divine inspiration." This verse has been grossly misunderstood by some who claim it is a denial of the inspiration of Paul’s writing, and showed he was uncertain about the advice he gave. This is not true at all; but it indicates that such behavior as celibacy and married couples refraining from cohabitation for "a season" were allowable, but not required, a concession not a commandment. There is no indication in this verse that Paul lacked the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There are three things that can be said about this verse:
1. It shows that he was an honest man, and was willing to state the exact truth. An impostor, pretending to have Divine inspiration, would have claimed to have always been inspired. Who ever heard of a pretender to Divine inspiration admitting that in anything he was not under Divine guidance? Did Mohammed ever do this? Do impostors ever do it now?
2. It shows that in other cases, where no exception is made, he claimed to be inspired. These few exceptions, which he expressly makes, prove that in everywhere else he claimed to be under the influence of inspiration.
3. We are to understand, therefore, that in all his writings where he makes no such admission, (and the exceptions are very few in number,) Paul claimed to be inspired.