Sexual Conduct - 7:1-9

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1 Corinthians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:28
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Chapter 6 ends the first section of the book of 1 Corinthians.
The problem in the Corinthian church was a lack of unity.
In order to address this problem Paul spends the first 6 chapters detailing what they need to believe (doctrine) and how they need to behave (practice).
He has laid the groundwork of doctrine and practice so that he can now address their disunity.
From chapter 7 through chapter 16 Paul addresses
The Confrontation And Correction Of Disunity
Chapter 7 deals with
Unity Through A Proper Understanding Of Marriage
Half of this chapter deals with the conduct of married people, and about half deals with the conduct of those who are single.
One of the keys to understanding the rest of 1 Corinthians is noticing every time two words appear.
What are the two words?
“Now concerning.”
As we previously noted, Paul had written a letter to the Corinthian church that we do not have.
Apparently, the Corinthians sent a letter back to Paul with some questions or issues that they wanted addressed.
That is what Paul does in the rest of the book.
Each time we see these words, “now concerning,” Paul is introducing a new topic or answering a new question.
Keep that in mind because we will come back to it later this morning.
Paul has just been dealing with the sexual immorality present in the Corinthian Church.
They were confused and he corrected them.
He uses that to connect to the questions they had asked.
Having addressed improper sexuality, Paul now addresses proper sexuality.
A proper understanding of sexuality requires clarity in two areas of conduct.
As clarity is gained sexuality is understood and can be rightly taught and defended.
When we know the truth about sexuality we are free to serve the Lord with boldness.
Area of conduct #1…

1. Sexuality And Marriage vv. 1-5

For a quick and concise illustration of the difference between Scripture and culture we need look no further than the topic of sexuality.
Scripture is clear.
To do things God’s way we save sex for marriage.
After marriage, sex is to be a regular part of married life.
Our culture tells young people to have sex before they are married because after marriage they won’t get any.
When Scripture and culture collide, Christians are responsible to uphold the truth of Scripture.
Every time we capitulate to the culture, we undermine the reliability of Scripture.
With that thought in mind it is essential to understand what Scripture teaches about sexuality and marriage.
As we seek to engage our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ we must understand the truth God’s Word teaches.
As we examine the proper role of sexuality in marriage we make two considerations.
Consideration #1…

a. Consider the place vv. 1-2

There is a proper place for sexual expression.
That place is within the covenant bonds of Biblical marriage.
Outside of a Biblical marriage, there are to be no sexual relationships.
Look at verse 1.
1 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
We already mentioned this but let me hit it again really quickly.
From here through the rest of the book the words “now concerning” introduce a new topic.
Paul tells us that he is shifting gears to now engage with the questions he had been asked.
1st question has to do with the interaction between men and women.
Touch – ἅπτομαι (haptomai) touch. to touch (make contact) v. — to make physical contact with, come in contact with. Verb (direct object), present, middle, infinitive.
Touch – ἅπτομαι (haptomai)
In Jn. 20:17 it is translated “cling.”
In most instances the idea seems to be inseparably connected to the intent behind the touching. It is a deliberate touch.
In this context it seems best to understand this as a sexual touch.
Outside of marriage, it is good not to touch a woman in a sexual way.
That being said, Paul is not naive.
He understands the reality of temptation and the influence of culture.
That’s why he gives us verse 2.
1 Corinthians 7:2 NKJV
2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
“Sexual immorality” is the same word pornia we have seen repeatedly since Ch. 5.
It is good for a man not to touch a woman in any sexual way.
However, because of the existence of sexual immorality, God has designed a way for sexuality to be expressed.
Each man is to have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
The words man, woman, own, husband, and wife are all singular.
God’s design for sexual expression is one man and one woman united as husband and wife through the covenant bonds of marriage.
This is the only acceptable place for the one flesh experience.
These are the only two options for someone seeking to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Option 1 - No sexual touching at all.
Option 2 - Sexuality expressed in Biblical marriage.
Paul recognizes here the necessity of marriage.
I want to stress the difference here between culture and Scripture.
Culture says sex is no big deal and argues for it to be treated casually.
Culture says marriage can be defined in an ever changing variety of ways.
Scripture says sex is a big deal and argues for it to be treated carefully.
Scripture defines marriage as one man and one woman as defined by their genetics.
What does this mean for us as we navigate a culture that stands in opposition to Biblical truth?
It means we engage in conversation.
It means we act with love, grace, and mercy.
It means we put the words of Jesus into practice and love our enemies, bless those who curse is, do good for those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us.
As it is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance, so it must be our goodness to others that attracts them to Jesus.
We will not win lost souls until we see them through the eyes of Jesus.
We must learn to see unbelievers as sheep in desperate need of a Shepherd.
Sex has its proper place only within a Biblical marriage.
The more we as Christians live this truth, the more of an impact we will make.
Consideration #1. Consider the place.
There is a proper place for sexual expression so we consider the place.
Consideration #2…

b. Consider the practice vv. 3-5

When we are joined to a husband or wife in Biblical marriage there is an expectation of sexual intimacy.
Paul has exposed the wrong thinking of the Corinthians in regards to sex outside of marriage.
Now he will correct their thinking about sex inside marriage.
What should the practice of sexual expression look like in the context of Biblical marriage?
Paul first deals with affection.
Look at verse 3.
1 Corinthians 7:3 NKJV
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
All three of these words are important.
Render = bound by obligation.
Affection = goodwill, benevolence, kind charitable acts.
Due = to fulfill or keep an oath or promise.
What is Paul saying?
When a husband and wife are married in a Biblical covenant they make certain promises or vows to one another.
Paul is reminding all married couples that they are bound by obligation to keep the promises they made!
Doesn’t that sound romantic?
Yes, actually, it does.
True romance is choosing to be faithful to our spouse, choosing to love them, be kind to them, and serve them, even when we don’t feel it.
That’s romance.
Romance is faithfulness.
Folks, we could spend months right here in this verse.
We’re not going to.
However, we will take few minutes to stress some important verses about marriage.
In your notes you have whole passages listed. Take some time this week, read those. Ask the Lord how He would have you put them into practice.
Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7.
I do want to highlight two verses.
Ephesians 5:33 NKJV
33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Husbands. Love your wife like yourself.
What does that mean? We’ll get there in a second.
Wives. Respect your husband.
With both of these commands notice something very important.
There are no conditions.
Love only if she earns it.
Respect only if he earns it.
Love and respect. Period.
1 Peter 3:7 NKJV
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
There is a command for both of us here.
Husbands. Understand your wives.
Wives. Tell your husbands what you want.
Husbands. We are to dwell with our wives in an understanding way.
Can you honestly say you are doing that?
Are you asking her what she wants from your relationship?
When she tells you, are you doing it?
Wives. Are you expecting your husband to just know what you want?
Tell him what you want, then enjoy it when he does it.
The point here is that we are to keep our promises to one another!
We are to love and respect one another!
We are to communicate our wants needs and desires.
This affection, this mutual service, comes before sexuality.
Sex is never going to be all God intended if we are not giving each other the affection we promised.
Look at verse 4.
1 Corinthians 7:4 NKJV
4 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.
Does this mean that a husband can demand sex from his wife?
Does it mean that the wife can demand relational connection from her husband?
That’s not the point here at all.
When we pledge ourselves in marriage, those promises, that covenant we make, changes our status.
I no longer get to make any and every decision in regards to my body.
Jess now has a say in things.
The opposite is also true.
The point here is not that we can tell each other when we are out of shape or something like that.
Though that could be included.
The point is that I belong to Jess and she belongs to me.
Our sexual organs, our reproductive systems, those belong to each other.
We are no longer able to use them however we want!
This body is not mine to just give to whoever!
First of all, this body is God’s because He purchased it.
Secondly, this body is Jessica’s because I promised it to her!
We are to agree together on our sexual activity.
Individual sexual activity is not an option and is a form of theft from our spouse.
What we do sexually is not an independent decision, it is a mutual agreement.
With that in mind, Paul gives us verse 5.
1 Corinthians 7:5 NKJV
5 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.
Sexual expression is to be the norm in marriage.
That is Paul’s point here.
Under normal conditions the husband and wife are to have a healthy sexual relationship.
What does that mean?
Paul tells us here.
A healthy sexual relationship consists of frequent intimacy and is only broken by consent for a specific time of fasting and prayer.
This word “deprive” is interesting.
In verse 4 Paul makes the point that our bodies belong to one another in marriage.
Therefore, the position of Scripture is that to deprive one another of sexual intimacy is stealing.
That’s what this word means.
When we withhold sex from our spouse, we steal from them.
We defraud them.
Now, this doesn’t mean there may not be legitimate physical concerns.
It doesn’t mean safety or things of that nature are not to be considered.
What it means is there needs to be a conversation about it.
There needs to be consent. There needs to be agreement.
The abstinence takes place only for an agreed upon period of time.
There is also a specific purpose for the period of abstinence.
To give yourselves to fasting and prayer.
After the agreed upon period of time, the husband and wife are to come together again.
Paul includes a warning here.
Failure to resume the normal healthy sexual relationship with lead to greater temptation.
In fact, Paul specifically states that Satan will tempt those who are not engaging in regular sexual intercourse with their spouse.
This is a serious issue!
With abstinence comes greater temptation which is unnecessary and avoidable.
Self-control is not limitless.
When there is no purpose behind its exercise we begin to grow tired.
That is when Satan tempts.
Don’t give Satan an opening to tempt you.
Sex is mandated in marriage.
There is only one reason to abstain.
In a healthy marriage, regular sex is the norm.
Part of guarding our marriages is ensuring the regular expression of sexuality.
A proper understanding of sexuality requires clarity in two areas of conduct.
Area if conduct #1. Sexuality and marriage.
We must consider the place and practice of sexual expression.
Area of conduct #2…

2. Sexuality And Singleness vv. 6-9

Much damage has been done to the body of Christ through an unintentional minimizing of singleness.
Singleness is a gift and calling of God.
A single person is not second class, is not limited in their service, and does not need to be married to be useful for Jesus.
There are, however, issues that come with singleness.
One of those issues is for those who were once married, but are now single.
That is what Paul is about to address.
To be clear, in this section, Paul is not addressing those who have never been married.
Paul is going to speak to those who were once married but through death or divorce now find themselves single.
He addresses those who were never married later in this chapter.
Paul recognizes that, for those who are single because of circumstances, it is difficult to determine if one should remarry or remain single.
To help navigate these difficulties Paul presents two considerations.
Consideration #1…

a. Consider the design vv. 6-7

1 Corinthians 7:6–7 NKJV
6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 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.
Paul’s point here is that marriage is not necessary.
What he has said in verses 2-5 gives guidance to those who are married.
The natural question arises, what about those who are not married?
More specifically, what about those who are either widowed or divorced?
Paul wants us to understand that marriage is not the only status through which we can serve the Lord.
In fact, Paul would argue that singleness is better!
We’ll get to that later in the chapter.
The point is that Paul is not commanding people to be married. Nor is he intending to present marriage as the optimal goal.
He is simply providing direction.
If you are married, this is what needs to happen.
However, if you are single through death or divorce, there is a different direction for you.
You have a choice.
Verse 7 takes us into a little bit of controversy, so lets talk about that for a moment.
There are three schools of thought when it comes to the marital status of Paul.
1 - He was never married.
2 - He was married but divorced.
3 - He was married but was a widower.
I tend to fall into the third camp for a number of reasons.
I think that Paul was married but his wife passed away.
Why does this matter?
Because of who Paul is addressing.
He is talking to people who were married but now are not.
We will deal with why that is true in a moment.
Paul says in verse 7 that he wishes everyone was like him.
Meaning what? Single.
Why does Paul wish that? Again, we will get to that.
I want to build anticipation for what’s coming in this chapter. :)
Paul’s point in verse 7 is that each of us has a gift and calling from God!
For some that is marriage, for some that is singleness, for some that is both!
Here’s what I want you to take away from this.
Whatever your current marital status, God has called you to be where you are.
You are not married by accident.
You are not single by accident.
Married or single, your status is a gift from God.
Pastor Jon, doesn’t feel like a gift! Can I give it back?
No. Marriage is not about your happiness but about your sanctification.
Marriage has a purifying effect.
It changes us more and more into the image of Christ!
As our rough edges bump against each other, they start to be smoothed out.
Singleness is a unique time that can be devoted to the service of Christ.
We have a tendency to abuse singleness by spending it looking for a mate.
Spend your singleness on Jesus.
What Paul wants us to know is that God’s design is primary.
Paul wishes everyone was single. But he recognizes that God has a plan for each of us.
You and I must live out God’s call on our lives.
If you are single, be single and serve Christ.
If you are married, be married and serve Christ.
Consider the design of God.
Consideration #2…

b. Consider the difficulty vv. 8-9

Paul has talked about sex in marriage.
He has explained how he wishes everyone stayed single, but that God has different plans for each of us.
Even though that is the case, Paul re-emphasizes his desire for people to be single.
Look at verse 8.
1 Corinthians 7:8 NKJV
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am;
I mentioned earlier that I believe Paul is addressing those who were divorced and those who were widowed here.
Because of the topic, and because of the wording.
In this section Paul is answering a question dealing with sex and sexuality for those who have been married.
How do we know that? We look at the context. He has dealt with sex in marriage and now he deals with it in regards to those who had been married.
This idea is strengthened by the consideration that Paul addresses those who have never been married in vv. 25ff.
Remember, Paul is answering questions. This question wasn’t about those who were never married.
How do we know that? Because he addresses those who were never married later.
Had God wanted Paul to address those never married here, He could easily have done so.
In verse 25 Paul uses a word that means virgin. Here he doesn’t do that.
Why not? Because he isn’t talking to those never married.
Paul, being a widower (as I believe), tells widows and those divorced that he thinks they would be better off single like him.
However, he recognizes that singleness is hard, and for some may not be the best option.
He addresses why some might choose to remarry after the death of a spouse or after divorce.
Look at verse 9.
1 Corinthians 7:9 NKJV
9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Paul lumps the unmarried and the widow together, why? Because they have something in common.
What do they have in common?
They were married and have experienced sexual intimacy and this can cause them to burn with passion.
He is identifying here the difficulty of singleness.
Once again, this is not addressed to people who have never been married. That topic begins in v. 25.
Because Paul is going to deal with it later, I do not believe he is dealing with it here.
This was not written for the 19-year-old who wants to have sex.
This is written for those who had experience legitimate sexual relationships and that has made it difficult to abstain.
This also seems to be supported by the fact that v. 5 deals with married people not having sex.
What Paul is recognizing and dealing with here is the difficulty of sexual passion.
Those who have experienced the blessing of sexuality in marriage and become single again can find it more difficult to abstain.
In that situation, Paul is saying it is okay to remarry.
Now, I recognize that there are a diversity of opinions about divorce and remarriage.
We are going to go more in depth on that issue next week.
For now let me put it like this.
Scripture condemns divorce with one exception, sexual immorality.
If you get divorced for that reason, I believe you can get remarried.
In our day and age, someone can divorce you without your consent.
In that situation, as long as there is a possibility of reconciliation, we are to remain unmarried.
However, when reconciliation is made impossible, either through death or the remarriage of your former spouse, I believe Scripture teaches you are free to remarry.
Bear in mind though, Paul argues that singleness gives you a greater ability to serve the Lord.
Sexual desire does not mandate marriage.
It is, however, something to consider.


Where are we going with all of this?
4 lessons:
Marriage is the only appropriate place for sexual activity.
Once married, sexual intimacy is to be enjoyed often.
God gifts some people with singleness.
Careful consideration is needed before remarriage occurs.
That’s everything we have looked at in a nutshell.
Personal: It is vital that we know and teach the truth about sexuality. Teach it with love and grace. Teach it without compromise.
Relational: There is no place in the life of the Christian for pre-marital or extra-marital sex. Do not go there.
Parenting: If we want our culture to change we must be teaching the truth to our children. This world wants to chew them up and spit them out sexually. We must talk about these topics. We must explain Biblical sexuality. If we don’t teach our children, our culture will.
Marriage: The best defense against sexual immorality is Biblical marriage. A Biblical marriage is a sexually fulfilled marriage. It is a marriage where God’s gift of sex is enjoyed mutually and enjoyed often. Our marriages must demonstrate the wisdom of God in His design for sexuality.
Two things I want you to leave here with.
If you are married:
Don’t settle. Always pursue a better marriage.