Marriage and Sex - Page 6 of 7 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
And not of commandment.
The meaning of this verse is that Paul is giving the Corinthian believers good, sound, spiritual counsel and advice. It was not a commandment of God that a man touch not a woman and that the single person marry not; but since Paul was the spiritual father of those who made up the church in Corinth, he felt toward them as a father would feel toward his children and had a deep desire to see them live victoriously and enjoy their spiritual birthright. (That does not mean that these verses are not inspired; the apostle gave a commandment only when it was received from God as a command; otherwise by the divine help of the Lord he councils as a spiritual guide.)
It is not a command of God that a husband and wife NOT defraud each other (deprive each other) unless it is by mutual consent for a short time—but very few husbands and wives can afford to ignore Paul’s advice in the matter, because we are human and the devil is no respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter who we are, we are not immune from temptation. It would be good for us to heed these words of warning from the apostle.
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.
For I would that all men were even as I myself.
The question of whether or not Paul was ever married has surfaced frequently, since there are many dogmatic opinions supporting the pro and con. One thing is certain; Paul was NOT married at this time. Halley gave his opinion that "This chapter seems to have been written by one who knew something of the intimacies of the married life," and combined with this is the fact of Paul's voting in the Sanhedrin (An unmarried man could not be a member of the Sanhedrin.)—“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 (vote) against them (early Christians)” (Acts 26:10; KJV)—which he could not do unless he was a member of the Sanhedrin; about which, it was said, marriage was a prerequisite, making these two of the reasons for supposing that Paul had been married. That is supported by the next verse: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. (1 Cor 7:8; KJV). Paul, at the time of this writing, was unmarried, since he included himself among the unmarried and the widows. Added to that is the opinion that Paul was an extremely observant Jew and an example among his people: “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more…Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee…Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil 3:4-6; KJV). In Paul's day, Jews considered that marriage was a duty, to the extent that a man reaching 20 years of age without having been married was considered to have sinned. Unmarried men were often considered excluded from heaven and not real men at all.
Standing on the other side of the question is Shore, however, who declared that "The almost universal tradition of the early church was that Paul was never married." However, that tradition appears to be weak. Farrar stated that it "has no certain support of tradition"; and the testimony of both Tertullian and Jerome (in favor of the "unmarried" view) he wrote off as inadmissible, because both of them "were biased witnesses." Moreover, the tradition of Paul's never having been married was most likely fostered by the historic church as a support of their unscriptural doctrine of celibacy for the clergy. It is not a matter of great importance either way, but this student is persuaded that Paul was married before he wrote this letter, but was single now. It is a matter of speculation that he may have been a widower or perhaps his wife deserted him at the time of his conversion. At this time, however, Paul did not have a wife. He did not remarry. He was not taking a wife along with him on his travels.
There are people in the Lord’s work who have not married. They have made that kind of sacrifice—some for several years, some for their whole lifetime. You remember that the Lord Jesus said, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake …” (Matt. 19:12). When he wishes that all men were like him, he evidently does not mean that he would prefer that all men would be unmarried, for this would be against the Divine institution of marriage, and against his own teaching elsewhere; but since the Church at that time was experiencing difficulties, it was much better for its single members not to encumber themselves with domestic responsibilities. It can hardly be thought Paul could wish all men to be in either state, either all married, or all unmarried; but he speaks here of the gift of continency (self control; he had the ability to control his sexual desires), which is clearly "his own gift from God; and that is what he means when he says, “I would that all men were even as I myself." He desires above all else for all men to be free from any danger from Satan's temptations, that they are in the Church, and that they might be more prepared and willing to serve Christ. He would be glad if all men had control over their passions as he had; and could abstain from marriage when circumstances would make it proper. But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
The principle in this passage is important. God makes it clear that there is nothing wrong and everything right, about sex in marriage. Satan's great strategy, when it comes to sex, is to do everything he can to encourage sex outside of marriage, and to discourage sex within marriage. It is an equal victory for Satan if he accomplishes either plan!
1. This can be seen in the way some of the Corinthian Christians thought it was just fine to hire the services of a prostitute (as in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), and other Corinthian Christians thought it was more spiritual for a husband and wife to never have sexual relations!
2. A Christian husband and wife must not accept a poor sexual relationship. The problems may not be easily overcome, or quickly solved, but God wants every Christian marriage to enjoy a sexual relationship that is a genuine blessing, instead of a burden or a curse.