Commentary on Titus and Jude

         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.


Commentary

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?"

It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
“To touch a woman” is to be understood here to mean, not merely the simple act of touching a woman, which can neither be criminal, or always inappropriate, or that evil intentions are involved, or there are dangerous consequences; and it does not refer to the matrimonial contract, which is lawful and honorable; but the subject is the act of carnal copulation with a woman, which is the sense in which the Jews use the phrase—“And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” (Gen 20:6; KJV). And the word "touch" is used here in the same sense, both by Greek and Latin authors. The apostle's meaning is not that it is unlawful to marry, or that it is sinful to lie with a woman in lawful wedlock; but that it is much better and more appropriate, to abstain from the use of women, when persons have the gift of chastity. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” is an Old Testament phrase which means not to marry. He does not mean that marriage is wrong, but that on account of "the present distress" it was a good thing not to be bound by family ties—“Because of the present crisis I believe it is good for people to remain as they are…Do you have a wife? Don't seek a divorce. Are you divorced from your wife? Don't look for another one” (1 Cor 7:26-27; GW). "Forbidding to marry" is one of the signs of apostasy: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13.4; KJV).

The word "good" as used here "does not mean morally good, but that it is in man's best interests in some circumstances to remain single." "He is teaching that because of the persecution of Christians, it is better not to get married and bring children into the world to be killed and suffer persecution. It should be carefully observed, however, that Paul in no sense advocated celibacy, except in certain situations and circumstances, and that even in those cases it was merely "allowable," and not commanded. There is no belittling of marriage here, Paul's writings in Ephesians 5:22, 23, etc., making it abundantly clear that he held the institution of marriage in the very highest esteem: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Eph 5:22-23; KJV). As Marsh said, "He is not writing a treatise on marriage, but answering their questions within the context of current attitudes and circumstances." Marsh translated this phrase, "It is WELL for a man not to touch a woman ... meaning COMMENDABLE, but not morally or intrinsically better." It is true now, even as it was in the beginning, that "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). As Lipscomb noted, "Paul's teaching here regards the persecution then raging against the Christians; and, on account of these, if a man could restrain his lusts, it was better not to marry."

2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication,
Or "fornications"; meaning either the frequent commission of that sin; or in a larger sense, all sorts of immorality and corruption, which may be avoided by wedlock, and the proper use of the marriage bed, where the gift of abstinence is not conferred: therefore to prevent unlawful sex, such as between single persons, or of a married person with a single person, the apostle advises them about what is right and proper, which is “To avoid fornication.” Paul overrides his principle of appropriateness (vs. 1) with the principle of necessity. Because of the prevalence of immorality in Corinth, Paul’s advice to these believers is that every man is to have his own wife and every wife her own husband. He informs them that marriage, and the comfort and satisfaction of that state, are by divine wisdom prescribed for preventing fornication and all sorts of lawless lust. Paul is not saying sex is the only reason for marriage, or the most important reason for marriage. Paul is simply answering their specific questions about marriage, not trying to give a complete theology of marriage. For a more complete theology of marriage, see Ephesians 5:21-33.

By these words—“But because of fornications”—and the command following, Paul refuted the false argument of Jerome who said, "If it is good for a man not to touch a woman, it must be bad to do so; and therefore celibacy is a holier state than marriage." Far from being a holier state than marriage, celibacy, forced upon the clergy of the Catholic Church is something contrary to nature which has become the worst of evils. As Barnes said: “How much evil, how much deep pollution, how many abominable crimes would have been avoided, which have grown out of the monastic system, and the celibacy of the clergy ... if Paul's advice had been followed by all professed Christians!”

let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
Now Paul lifts marriage up to the heights, out of this degradation, and says to the Corinthians, “You are not to live like that.” Every man is to have one wife, and every woman is to have her own husband. Paul lifted woman from the place of slavery in the pagan world, the Roman Empire, and made her a companion of man. He restored her to her rightful position. He was in Ephesus when he wrote to the Corinthians, and in Ephesus there was a great deal of the same thing in the awful temple of Diana. It was to the Ephesians that Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

Now I know somebody is going to say that he also told wives to obey their husbands. I would like to know where he said that. He did write, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). Have you ever looked up the word submit to see what it means? To submit means to “respond.” Wives are to respond to their own husbands. The wife is to react to the man. Man is the aggressor. He initiates the expression of love, and the woman is the receiver. This is not a matter of sex alone; it involves a couple mentally, spiritually, psychologically, and physically. Man is the aggressor; woman is the receiver. God created man and woman that way in the beginning. He created woman as the “helpmeet,” a helper suitable for him or corresponding to him. She is the other part of man. When a husband says, “I love you,” she answers, “I love you.” When a man admits that he has a cold wife, he is really saying that he is a failure as a husband and that he is to blame for the condition.

The word “fornication” is used here in the larger sense of immorality in general. For the sake of the purity of society, and to avoid the evils of sensual indulgence, and the corruption and crime which go along with an illicit sexual affair, it is proper and better to enter into the married state. Believers at Corinth were constantly exposed to this vice. See the Introduction. Paul says that marriage is honorable, and that the relations of domestic life should be formed, to avoid the evils which would otherwise result. The world is the witness of the evils which flow from the neglect of his advice. Every community where the marriage tie has been lax and feeble, or where it has been disregarded or dishonored, has been infected with sin, and it always will be. Society is pure and virtuous, just as long as marriage is deemed honourable, and its vows adhered to and preserved. It was recently brought to my attention that in America statics now show more couples live together than are married; more couples live in sin than don’t. Friend, America will not be destroyed by war or terrorism, but by the elimination of marriage, leading to the destruction of families. In light of the grave danger of sexual immorality (ever present in the Corinthian culture – and our own), it is appropriate for husband and wife to have each other in a sexual sense. Paul is not commanding the Corinthian Christians to get married (an issue he deals with later in the chapter), but rather he commands them to live as a married couple, especially in the sexual sense. Paul is saying that husbands and wives should be having sexual relations.

In the Jewish constitutions there are some things regarding marriage. "There are four causes which induce men to marry: 1. Impure desire; 2. To get riches; 3. To become honourable; 4. For the glory of God. Those who marry through the first motive beget wicked and rebellious children. Those who marry for the sake of riches have the curse of leaving them to others. Those who marry for the sake of exalting their family shall have their families diminished. Those who marry to promote the glory of God, will have children that are holy, and by them the true Church will be increased." Christianity is opposed to polygamy, marital affairs, divorce and all related evils. Also, there is implicit in this verse a practical condemnation of celibacy. Because celibacy is an absolutely unattainable state for the vast majority of mankind, marriage is required as the only practical alternative.

3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

Beginning here and through verse 6, we have the principle of mutual sexual responsibility in marriage. “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 mutual consent for a time, so 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.”

Instead of a man not to touch a woman, within marriage, a husband must render to his wife the affection due her. It is wrong for him to withhold affection from his wife. The affection due her is an important phrase; since Paul meant this to apply to every Christian marriage; it shows that every wife is due affection from her husband. Paul doesn't think only the young or pretty or submissive wives are due affection; every wife is due affection because she is a wife of a Christian man!

If a husband is having sexual relations with his wife, but without true affection for her, he is not giving his wife what she is due. Affection also reminds us that when a couple is unable—for physical or other reasons—to have a complete sexual relationship, they can still have an affectionate relationship, and in this way, fulfill God's purpose for these commands. The sexual relationship of married couples, far from being wrong, is a lawful and necessary function of Christian marriage. This verse establishes the idea that "Among some of the Corinthians there existed an exaggerated spiritualistic tendency which threatened to injure conjugal relations." There existed a view among those who practiced abstinence that sexual relations were in and of themselves wicked, or evil. In contrast, the wife is not to withhold marital affection from her husband. Paul strongly puts forth the idea that there is a mutual sexual responsibility in marriage; the husband has obligations towards his wife, and the wife has obligations towards her husband. “Render to his wife” places the emphasis on giving, on "I owe you" instead of "you owe me." In God's heart, sex is put on a much higher level than merely being the husband's privilege and the wife's duty.

The husband owes his wife love, tenderness, kindness, care, provision, and protection; though here it seems the apostle is chiefly, if not solely, referring to what is called, "her marriage duty" (Exodus 21:10), as distinct from providing food and raiment for her; and the Jewish doctors will tell us what that means: one says, it is "the use of the marriage bed"; and, another says "it is to lie with her", according to the way of all the earth. And so the phrase here, "due benevolence", is a euphemism that means the act of sexual intercourse; which is an act of love and affection between married partners, and a sign of mutual benevolence; it began by divine ordination, and it is a debt due to those who are married. The Jewish doctors have fixed and established various precepts concerning the performance of this conjugal debt: and the apostle may be influenced by the rules and customs which he obtained from his nation.

Few persons are at a loss for the meaning of this verse, and the context is sufficiently clear. Some have rendered the words, rightly, “Let the husband render unto the wife matrimonial debt…or conjugal duty”; it is that which a wife owes to her husband, and the husband to his wife; and which they must mutually render, because if they fail to do so, alienation of affection will be the inevitable consequence, and this has lead one or both parties to enter into an adulterous relationship. In such cases the wife has to blame herself for the infidelity of her husband, and the husband for that of his wife. What miserable conditions have been created within families by a wife or a husband pretending to be wiser than the apostle, and too holy and spiritual to keep the commandments of God! Conversely, in a marriage where the sensuous impulses are being controlled and placed under religious sanctions the marriage is refined and purified; and instead of being the source of countless curses to mankind, the marriage becomes a condition for their continuance and an element in their peace, because it has been placed under the blessing of God and of his church.

"Let them not imagine that there is any virtue in living separate from each other, as if they were in a state of celibacy."--Doddridge. They are bound to each other; in every way they are to show kindness, and to seek to promote the happiness and purity of each other. There is a great deal of delicacy used here by Paul, and his expression is removed as far as possible from the grossness of heathen writers. His meaning is plain; but instead of using a word to express it which would be indelicate and offensive, he uses one which is not indelicate in the slightest degree; the word he uses is” benevolence” (eunoian), which stands for kindness, good-will, and affection. And by the use of the word "due" (ofeilomenhn), he reminds them of the sacredness of their vow, and of the fact that in person, possessions, and in every respect, they belong to each other. It was apparently necessary to give this instruction, because the opposing view might have been regarded as proper by many, who would have supposed there was special virtue and merit in living separate from each other;--facts have shown that many have held to such an idea;--but it was not possible to give this rule with more delicacy than Paul has done.

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.

The wife hath not power of her own body,
This statement by the apostle is a paradox: She hath not power over her own body, and yet it is her own. A wife does NOT have the power (permission, authority, or the right) to refuse her husband the use of her body; or to prostitute it to another man. The woman that would do such a thing is either naive or a fool. It would be petty to attribute her conduct to any other cause than weakness or foolishness. It should NOT be said of her: She does not love her husband; or she loves someone else better than her husband; or she makes deceitful claims to have a nonexistent holiness, which is unsupported by Scripture or common sense. In fact, neither of them has any authority to refuse what the other has a matrimonial right to demand. By the marriage covenant that power, in this respect, is transferred to the husband. The oneness of body in which marriage places husband and wife explains this. The one complements the other. Neither without the other realizes the perfect ideal of mankind.

It may be assumed that Paul delivered such teachings as this, not through any love for the subject, but because all kinds of unnatural and immoral proposals were being advocated by those who promoted abstinence and the "super-spirituals" among the Corinthians. The equality of husband and wife in the marriage partnership is in the foreground here. Neither partner in marriage was to subscribe to any form of "sexless" behavior, because there was a positive duty that each owed the other in marriage. The wife does not have authority over her own body: In fact, these obligations are so concrete, it could be said that the wife's body does not even belong to her, but her husband. The same principle is true of the husband's body in regard to his wife; and partners in a marriage no longer have the right to an autonomous existence: “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord…But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife” (1 Cor 7:32-33; KJV). "The things of the Lord" are the things of religion. An unmarried person is not distracted by the cares of this life; his time is not immersed in the concerns of a family. He can give his main attention to the things of religion. Paul's teaching showed that this was the course which he preferred; and showed also that in some instances it was lawful and proper for a man to remain unmarried. But the Divine commandment—“God blessed them and said, “Be fertile, increase in number, fill the earth, and be its master…” (Gen 1:28; GW)—and the commendation bestowed upon marriage everywhere in the Scriptures, show that it was not God’s plan that celibacy should be rule, instead of the exception. Consequently, it is sin to sexually reject one’s partner!

but the husband:
The husband has the sole power over his wife’s body, and may require the use of it when he pleases; but this does not justify a husband abusing or coercing his wife, sexually or otherwise. Paul's point is that we have a binding obligation to serve our partner with physical affection.

The man is not to run up to that temple of Aphrodite. That is sin. Love and sex are to take place at home. That is exactly what he is saying here. The only motive for marriage is love—not sex, but love. I am convinced that Paul had known the love of a good and great woman. So many of the great men in Scripture knew the love of a woman. There are Adam and Eve, Jacob and Rachel, Boaz and Ruth, David and Abigail—it was Abigail who told David, “… the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God …” (1 Sam. 25:29).

It is said about John Wesley that when he came to America he was not a saved man. He wrote, “I came to this country to convert Indians, but who is going to convert John Wesley?” The story goes that the crown had sent to America an insipid nobleman. Due to the terrible custom of that day, the nobility was entitled to marry the finest, and he had married a woman of striking beauty and strong personality, who also was an outstanding Christian. Then there came into their colony this fiery young missionary. And these two fell in love. But she said, “No, John, God has called you to go back to England to do some great service for Him.” It was she who sent John Wesley back to England—to marry the Methodist Church. Back in England Wesley was converted, and she was his inspiration. Behind every great man is a great woman.

and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
And, when they are married, both husband and wife are to render the other due benevolence (love, compassion, affection) (See 1 Corinthians 7:3), and consider the temperament and need of each other, and provide the conjugal duty, which is owed to each other. Because, as the apostle argues here, in the married state neither person has power over his or her own body, but has delivered it into the power of the other, the wife giving hers into the power of the husband, the husband giving his into the power of the wife. And therefore they should not defraud one another by withholding the use of their bodies, or any other of the benefits of the wedded state, which have been selected by God for the purpose of keeping the vessel in sanctification and honour, and preventing the lusts of uncleanness; except it is done with mutual consent (See 1 Corinthians 7:5) and then only for the time they are devoting themselves to some extraordinary religious activities, or giving themselves to fasting and prayer.

Note, Polygamy, or the marriage of more persons than one, as well as adultery, must be a breach of marriage-covenants, and a violation of the partner's rights.
Note, There may be times when deep humility requires abstinence from lawful pleasures. But this separation between husband and wife must not be prolonged any longer than necessary, because, by doing so, they may expose themselves to Satan's temptations, due to their sensuality, or inability to contain fleshly desires.
Note, Persons expose themselves to great danger by attempting to do what is above their strength, and at the same time not required by any law of God. If they abstain from lawful pleasures, they may be ensnared by unlawful ones. The remedies God has provided against sinful inclinations are certainly best.

Here, each sex is put on exactly the same footing. The body of each belongs to the other, and cannot be given away to other parties. The spirit of the passage not only forbids adultery, but polygamy. I hope you will agree: It is an awesome obligation that out of the billions of people on the earth, God has chosen one, and only one, to meet our sexual needs. There is to be no one else. The equal rights of husband and wife, in the Scriptures, are to be maintained everywhere. They are to regard themselves as united in the most intimate union, and in the tenderest ties. It is a sin for either party in a marriage to withhold the use of their body from their spouse; or abuse it by self-pollution, fornication, adultery, sodomy, or any other unclean acts: but this power over each other's bodies does not allow, by consent, either the husband or the wife to lie with another.

Now Paul continues his guidelines for conduct in marriage.

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.

Defraud ye not one the other,
Paul is expressing some negativity here: what is expressed positively in verse 3, is expressed negatively here. What he is saying is “the husband is NOT to defraud the wife, and the wife is NOT to defraud the husband:” “Do not defraud the other” means “stop depriving one another.” The biblical precept of marriage implies that conjugal rights will be regularly exercised. By withholding those rights, denying the use of the marriage bed, refusing to pay the conjugal debt, is what is called "diminishing of her marriage duty" in Exodus 21:10—“If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.” The Septuagint uses the same word "defraud", as the apostle does here; it is what both have a right to, and therefore, if either party is denied, it is a case of injustice, a defrauding—unless the following conditions are met:
1. With mutual consent and understanding between husband and wife. In the East, the women have separate apartments, and during this period the husband would not enter the wife's apartment.
2. Temporarily—and then only for a short time.
3. For the purpose of fasting and prayer, and meditating upon the things of God, without distractions—not pleasure.

This verse needs to be preached often in the Church today. No wonder divorce courts are grinding out divorces like water pours over Niagara Falls. Men and women work today with the husband on one shift and the wife on another. They take separate vacations, having their own personal bank accounts, and their own personal automobiles. In fact, many marriages today seem to be largely an agreement that the two parties will live under the same roof, though rarely seeing each other and having almost no fellowship as man and wife. Under such arrangements they are separated more than they are together, and this cannot lead to a happy marriage.

except it be with consent for a time,
When men and women unite in marriage, they become one flesh, and it is unscriptural for husband and wife to stay apart for extended periods of time for any reason. Please note that even in the case of fasting and prayer the separation is to be for only a short time. Many homes have been broken and divorces granted because the wife spent too much time in her parents’ home. In that case the wife should never have married and left her mother. Homes have also been broken (and divorces granted) because the husband spent too much time hunting and fishing—or with the “boys” at the club—than he gave to his own wife and family.

When husband and wife agree to separate from each other for a season of prayer, they are instructed, “come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” That is, “Get back together before the devil overwhelms your self-control by means of a temptation to commit evil—yes, even after a time of prayer.

In such an apostolic directive as this, the notion that sexual relations between Christian marriage partners are allowed only for procreation, totally disappears. On the other hand, the refusal of one of the partners to cohabitate is designated as fraud. Since they have a mutual power over each other's bodies, abstinence must be voluntary on each side; otherwise injury is done to the person that does not consent, who is deprived against their will of that which is rightfully theirs; but if there is agreement, then there is no defrauding, because each give up their right.
 
Humorous Marriage: Several guys were talking about why their wives chose to marry them. One guy said, “My wife married me because she thought I was funny. Now she just thinks I’m a big joke.”

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 incontinency.
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.

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.

 

but every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

All the gifts of nature and grace which men have, they have received from God; they cannot be manufactured by themselves; and every man has a gift made specifically for him; no one man has all gifts, but some have one, and some have another; and with respect to the case in hand, one man has the gift of continency (self-control), and another the gift of marriage. All men cannot contain their passions, only those can who have received the gift of continence: and all are not inclined to marriage; some are inclined to a single life, and some to a marital state; and of those that are married, some can abstain from the use of the marriage bed longer than others, without being in danger of being tempted by Satan for their incontinency (lack of self-control); and such a disposition is desirable. The point is that “every man hath his proper gift of God”—“But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches… Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called…Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God…Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife” (1 Cor 7:17, 20, 24, 27 ;KJV). Every man has his own peculiar talent, or something he excels at doing. One man excels in one thing, and another in another. One may not have this particular virtue, but he may be distinguished for another virtue quite as valuable. The doctrine here is, therefore, that we are not to judge others by ourselves, or measure their good qualities by ours. We may excel in one thing, they in another. And because they do not have our peculiar virtue, or capability, we are not to condemn or denounce them. “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given…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. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matt 19:11-12; KJV). Both marriage and celibacy are considered gifts of the Holy Spirit. Although Paul knew singleness was good for him, he would not impose it on anyone. The important thing is what gift one has from God, either being gifted to singleness or marriage.
i. It is significant that Paul regards both marriage and singleness as gifts from God. Many find themselves in the "grass is greener" trap, with singles wishing they were married and married people wishing they were single. Each state is a gift from God.
ii. And, to be single or married is a special gift from God. When Paul writes about his own gift, he uses the same word for spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Each state, married or single, needs special gifting from God to work.
iii. Paul's understanding that the unmarried state can be a gift is especially striking when we consider the Jewish background of Paul himself and the early church. It was regarded as a sin for a Jewish man to be unmarried. "Among the Jews marriage was not held a thing indifferent, or at their own liberty to choose or refuse, but a binding command." (Trapp) Clarke quotes from an ancient Jewish writing known as the Gemara: "It is forbidden a man to be without a wife; because it is written, It is not good for man to be alone. And whosoever gives not himself to generation and multiplying is all one with a murderer: he is as though he diminished from the image of God".
iv. While Paul recognizes that some are gifted for marriage, and some are gifted for the unmarried state, no one is "gifted" for sexual immorality! The married must live faithfully to their spouse, and the unmarried must live celibate.

The virtue of continence is Paul’s gift; and he had reason, as any other man must have, to be thankful that God had conferred it on him. So if a man is naturally friendly, kind, gentle, large-hearted, tender, and affectionate, he should regard it as the gift of God, and be thankful that he does not have to contend with the evils of a glum, proud, haughty, and severe temper. It is true, however, that all these virtues may be greatly strengthened by discipline, and that religion gives resolve and appeal to them all. Paul's virtue in this was strengthened by his resolution; by his manner of life; by his frequent fasting and trials, and by the abundant work which God gave him in the apostleship. And it is still true, that if a man wants to overcome the lusts of the flesh; hardship, trials, and self-denial will enable him, by the grace of God, to do it. Idleness will often corrupt the desires of men; and God kept Paul from ever being idle, by giving him enough to do; and by giving him enough to suffer.

 

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