May 28, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.”—1 Corinthians 7:1–7 (NKJV)
Approximately three years had passed from the time Paul first established the Church of Corinth to when He writes this letter to them. Being about three years old, they were comparable to a spiritual toddler. If you know anything about toddlers, you know they can do a lot of damage . . . especially to themselves!
So it was at Corinth. A lot of immature activity was causing a lot of damage in a lot of lives. To correct this, Paul gives God’s guidance on those areas where spiritual growth was needed. Not surprisingly, the issue of marriage was one of the most important areas needing correction. He devotes the next forty verses to how marriage is to be seen and honored from God’s perspective. But in these first seven verses, we see three truths concerning marriage that will set up our understanding for the rest of Paul’s message on marriage.
First of all, we see marriage is fulfilling. Now, marriage is not perfect. There’s no perfect marriage because there’s no perfect people. But the marriage union is God’s provision to fulfill the needs that men and women inherently have. In particular, sexual needs. Evidently, the Corinthians had asked Paul what was and what wasn’t sexually acceptable to God. Remember, Corinth was a highly-sexualized society, and the boundaries for sexual behavior were being blurred. He answers that it’s only within the marriage bond between a man and woman that sexual fulfillment is to be found. It’s God’s provision for this specific need He has created within most men and women.
Next, we see marriage is sacrificial. This is drawn out as Paul elaborates on the exchange of sexual activity within marriage. He teaches that marriage is to be governed by a sacrificial spirit shared between husbands and wives. This spirit of sacrifice applies to the way sexual availability is rendered by each other to each other. The apostle teaches that husbands and wives are to consider their bodies as belonging to their spouses and not themselves. And that this sacrificial attitude ought to lead to a willingness to render intimate affection when needed.
Lastly, we see marriage is spiritual. Paul adds one exception to husbands and wives making themselves sexually available to each other, and that’s when there’s a specific spiritual need that supersedes the natural need for sexual fulfillment. There are times in every marriage where a period of prayer and fasting is required, when spiritual disciplines are taken to another level and everything else is set aside, including sex. Marriage is to be a safe space for that to happen, where spiritual needs are prioritized and pursued.
Again, Paul has much to say on the subject of marriage in the days ahead. But he’s establishing a foundation here in these opening verses that will support what’s coming next. God designed marriage to be fulfilling, sacrificial, and spiritual. May we keep these truths in mind as we commit ourselves to seeing and honoring marriage as He does.
Pause: What three aspects of marriage are we to see in this passage?
Practice: Consider how Paul’s teaching on marriage aligns with your own perspective on marriage.
Pray: Lord God, I come to You with a lot of misunderstandings that I inherit from the world around me. Help me to see things, especially marriage, the way You do. Open my understanding to Your truth, and may I order my life in a way that honors things as You would want me to. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.