As I mentioned in the beginning of the study of Corinthians, Paul is writing in response to things that were indirectly learned as problems about the church as well as a response to questions for which they have directly asked him for guidance. It seems now that he has gone through resetting a baseline for their behavior he is addressing their specific questions. We can only hypothesize what the questions were that he is answering but it is the responses we should pay attention to anyway. I like that one issue is about marriage since it is a major element in society.
7 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
As we have already witnessed the problem of sexual promiscuity in Corinth and the church’s spiritual father (Paul) was indeed single, it only makes sense that they would ask about the spirituality of having a partner and sex itself. There are parts of the bible that discuss sex from a different perspective, one of spiritual union that is an integral part of a healthy married life. However from this aspect, we see Paul is talking more about the flesh, lust, and our innate brokenness as humans. It makes me wonder exactly what the question was that the church asked Paul. Paul’s response also reveals that the Corinthians had some knowledge of Jewish practices (remember Corinth was a commercial city, so there was a big mix of religion and culture there). The Jewish Law described the uncleanliness of one who had recently had intercourse. At this time, Christianity was seen as a spin-off of Judaism so it makes sense that people would be willing to know where the line is drawn. Should they abstain from all sexual relations to remain holy? Paul’s response above reveals that we are missing the point if we look at it from that point of view.
Just as we read in Ephesians 5, Paul starts by making clear that when we are married, we are no longer individuals and therefore need to remember not to act as such. One class I attended mentioned it takes us between 7 and 14 years for our minds to accept and act as if we are one with our spouses instead of individuals. Paul’s words here, which he points out are a suggestion (so we can’t say, hey, you HAVE to do this or that), is that by not submitting to each other we are giving the devil a foothold. This is way too easy to twist into something other than what it says and therefore create an atmosphere of sexual oppression in a relationship. Paul is highlighting here that while sex is a gift from God to be shared within marriage, the enemy works very hard at using it to get us to veer off course. This is why sex sells, because it is powerful and very corrupting. In war, wouldn’t it be a great “victory” if the enemy could use their adversary’s best weapon against them? This is what has happened with sex in our spiritual battle. This is why Paul says that he wishes everyone was resistant to sexual temptation as he is, but also recognizes we are all uniquely made (and therefore doesn’t pass judgment upon those who aren’t).
How are we working to avoid sexual temptation in our lives? As Paul mentions here, it is extremely difficult in today’s society to avoid and resist it. What are you doing to make sure the enemy doesn’t sneak in and sabotage you in this arena? Our society increasingly falls to sexual oppression thinking it’s “ok” because it is a part of society. Corinth was battling this problem thousands of years ago and we can see it has only gotten worse. How can you maintain your sexual purity?