Sex and the Spiritual Christian 1 Cor. After the second or third message, a friend informed us that one of the men had walked out during the meeting in protest. Craig and I were shocked.
What had we said that was so offensive? We were told that we were talking too much about sex. This man did not want us to meddle with his sex life. We simply spoke about sex as often as the subject came up in the Book of Genesis. If you think about it, you will have to agree that sex is a subject frequently addressed in the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New.
Though the Bible handles this subject matter much differently than the secular world, it does have much to say on the subject. I can only think of one reason for matters pertaining to sex to be so frequently discussed in the Bible—sexuality must be very closely related to spirituality. The beliefs and practices of the Corinthian saints seem to vary greatly when it comes to matters of sexual values and conduct.
We have already been introduced to the liberal extreme in chapters 5 and 6. There are those in Corinth whose sexual values are shocking, even to the pagan Corinthians see 5: In our text, it seems that for some believers spirituality is a pretext for sexual immorality, while for others spirituality means abstaining from sex altogether.
In chapter 7, Paul turns his attention to those who seem to regard all sex as dirty, and who therefore advocated celibacy. For those who are single, it means staying single and, unlike today, celibate as well. For those who are married, it seems to mean that these couples should also refrain from sexual relations. The Corinthian Error and the Culture of that Day In the matter of sexual conduct, the Corinthians live in a very troubled world, not unlike the world of our own day.
Verrall, the great classical scholar, once said that one of the chief diseases of which ancient civilization died was a low view of women.
Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes had laid it down as the common and accepted rule of life: But at the time of Paul, Roman family life was wrecked.
Seneca writes that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married. In Rome the Romans did not commonly date their years by numbers; they called them by the names of their husbands. Martial the Roman poet tells of a woman who had ten husbands; Juvenal tells us of one who had had eight husbands in five years; Jerome declares it to be true that in Rome there was a woman who was married to her twenty-third husband and she herself was his twenty-first wife.
We find even a Roman Emperor Augustus demanding that her husband should divorce the lady Livia when she was with child that he might himself marry her. We find even Cicero, in his old age, putting away his wife Terentia that he might marry a young heiress, whose trustee he was, that he might enter into her estate, in order to pay his debts. So great was its peril that the very institution of marriage was threatened. Jewish girls were refusing to marry at all because the position of the wife was so uncertain.
This surgical procedure if one dares to dignify it by such terms is of no benefit to the woman, but imposed upon the female so that she may never have the enjoyment of sex.
Sadly, among pagans and Christians alike, there is a similar if less brutal belief strongly held by some today. The man expects his wife to give him sexual pleasure at any time, but he feels little or no obligation toward fulfilling his wife sexually.
Let us listen to the finest sex education available to men—a word from God on sex and marriage, through the Apostle Paul. Paul is required to address a group of Corinthian saints who have adopted an extreme view of sex and marriage. Before devoting our attention to the distorted views of sex and marriage which some of the Corinthians hold, let us remind ourselves of what the Bible as a whole says on the subject. I will make him a helper suitable for him.
In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus attended a wedding and then miraculously provided wine when their supplies were exhausted John 2: The Apostle Paul assumed that elders and deacons would be married, with children 1 Timothy 3: Paul also encouraged younger widows to marry 1 Timothy 5: The writer to the Hebrews also held marriage in high esteem, and the proper realm for sexual enjoyment between husband and wife.
In the Bible, marriage is viewed as the norm, and the single life as the exception. Marriage is viewed as holy, righteous, and good. Those who seek to prohibit marriage as something evil are identified as false teachers by Paul 1 Timothy 4: When we approach 1 Corinthians 7, we must do so confident that marriage is a good gift from God, a gift many Christians gratefully receive and enjoy.
A Touchy Issue 7: Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry NIV. It is generally assumed that the Corinthians wrote a letter to Paul asking his advice on certain matters. Some people ask a question which is not meant to be enlightening. Some seek to undermine the teaching or authority of the one asked. This is surely the purpose of the questions the scribes and Pharisees asked our Lord.
But here, we should recognize that we are assuming something not specifically stated. Were the Corinthians really asking Paul questions? And, if so, were their questions sincere? I raise this issue because of what Paul has already told us in his letter to the Corinthians. There are divisions in the Corinthian church. Various little groups have their own leaders and their own doctrines.
Those in one group look down on those in another, because they are not so wise nor so persuasive and powerful, nor well esteemed by the pagan world of that day. One thing many Corinthians share is their disdain for the Apostle Paul. They believe they are wise, and Paul is foolish: Are they—wise as they are—trying to enlighten Paul? It is indeed possible. It is not very likely. I am therefore inclined to view their communication with Paul with some suspicion. Paul may very graciously avoid giving us any greater detail than to specify the issues raised by their communication with him, whether rightly motivated or not.
Some Corinthians are proud as a result of sin and their response to it. When Paul raises the issue of sex and marriage in chapter 7, he is dealing with the opposite extreme in the church … those who have overreacted to fleshly lusts, seeking to overcome them by asceticism. These folks are just as proud of their asceticism as the others named in chapter 5 are of their fleshly indulgence.
After all, when it comes to sexual abstinence and remaining single, Paul stands out among the apostles, and among those in the churches see 1 Corinthians 9: They will not get what they expect nor what they want. They will get much more than they asked.
Indeed, they would not sanction sex. They feel that sex is dirty, whether within marriage or without. This tells us more about the ascetics than it does about biblical morality: Having concluded that all sex is evil, these folks follow out the implications of their false doctrine.
If all sex is evil, then it is evil to enjoy sex in marriage. Husbands and wives should abstain from sex, unless for the bearing of children if that. Paul cannot and will not endorse such a view. What is most impressive in chapter 7 is the gentleness of the Apostle Paul. He is certainly practicing what he preaches. Remember these words Paul wrote to Timothy about dealing with those who are in error: How easy it would have been for Paul to come on strong with these Corinthians. Instead, he gently seeks to show them the error of their thinking and conduct.
He clearly distinguishes between his personal convictions, his counsel advice , and his authoritative apostolic commands see 7: His approach is to introduce the issue at hand and then gently correct the errors. In later chapters e. The ascetics of the Corinthian church have over-reacted to the immorality of that day, concluding that all sex is dirty and should be avoided, even within marriage. This was their slogan.
Paul repeats the statement, not because he agrees with it in its entirety, but because he agrees with it in part. He will shortly set out to clarify the circumstances in which celibacy could serve a beneficial purpose. I am going to advance to verses at this point to suggest just how sexual abstinence could be beneficial.
I do this because the main thrust of verses is to address the role of sex within marriage. Later verses will expand upon the benefits a celibate lifestyle can produce. The Benefits of Staying Single 7: However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. The first thing we should observe is that celibacy does have its benefits. When celibacy abstaining from sex, and thus from marriage contributes to the cause of Christ, it is depicted positively in the Bible.
Our Lord spoke positively of celibacy: Paul speaks positively of it as well in 1 Corinthians 9 in reference to his choice and to that of Barnabas also to remain single 1 Corinthians 9: