APART FROM THE GIFT OF CELIBACY, THE CONSISTENT PATTERN OF SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE MARRIAGE UNION PROTECTS FROM TEMPTATION TO IMMORALITY
Temptation to Immorality is all around us. Apparently this was true for the Corinthians back in Paul’s day just as it is true for us today. After the hormones kick in for a young man, the clock starts ticking and the intensity of the temptation and need for self control increase dramatically. Some individuals like the Apostle Paul have been granted the gift of celibacy from God. They still need to exercise self control. But marriage is equally a gift and provides the God-ordained context for sexual relationships – between one man and one woman in a lifelong covenant union. But even that does not make one immune from sexual temptation. There still must be that growth in intimacy and the sharing of one’s life with one’s partner along with the discipline of self control.
How do you know whether you have the gift of celibacy (or the calling to stay single and minister from that standpoint)? Even if you have not been married for twenty years, do you ever come to that point of conviction where you have confidence that God desires for you to remain single your entire life? “Each man has his own gift from God.” (I am thankful for my gift!)
I. (:1) CELIBACY CAN BE A GOOD THING – IF THAT IS GOD’S GIFT (CALLING) FOR YOU (CONSISTENT WITH THE MINISTRY HE HAS FOR YOU)
A. Context = Corinthians raising some key questions
“Now concerning the things about which you wrote”
Maybe some were advocating celibacy on much too widespread a basis; taking a legalistic approach – that given the seriousness of sexual immorality, let’s just rule sex as taboo and move on …
Apparently they were not too squeamish to put this question in writing; they were very frank about the need to have clarity regarding sexual issues
Stedman: You will remember from the first part of this letter that there were three young men who had come from the church in Corinth to Ephesus, where Paul was, bringing with them a report on the conditions of the church. (Their names, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, are given to us in the last chapter of this letter.) They also brought with them a letter from the church, asking the apostle certain questions.
B. Characterization of Celibacy as a Good Thing
“It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
Hard to argue against this – look at the example of Christ
But that is not the end of the discussion; it is a much more involved issue; that only answers the question for those few (usually in the minority) who have been granted this gift from God
II. (:2) MONOGAMOUS MARRIAGE MORE COMMONLY IS GOD’S PROVISION FOR SEXUAL FULFILLMENT AND AVOIDANCE OF IMMORALITY
A. Context = Pervasive Pressure of the Temptation to Immorality
“But because of immoralities”
MacArthur: Marriage cannot be reduced simply to being God’s escape valve for the sex drive. Paul does not suggest that Christians go out and find another Christian to marry only to keep from getting into moral sin. He had a much higher view of marriage than that (see Eph. 5:22-23). His purpose here is to stress the reality of the sexual temptations of singleness and to acknowledge that they have a legitimate outlet in marriage.
B. Characterization of Monogamous Marriage as a Good Thing = God’s Provision
“each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.”
Interesting TV interview this past week – reported embedded in polygamous Mormon community in Arizona. He interviewed all segments of that community. Very disturbing to see how the truth can be twisted and then the biblical roles of husband and wife impugned as a result.
This verse clearly spells out a one-to-one relationship; and that is one husband to one wife; no allowance for same sex unions; no allowance for masturbation or any other sexual perversions
Wayne Mack: Sexual relations within marriage are holy and good (Heb. 13:4). God encourages sexual relations and warns against the temptations that may arise from deprivation or cessation. (principles quoted from Harry H. McGee, M.D., in the booklet, “The Scriptures, Sex and Satisfaction” – quoted by Mack in Strengthening Your Marriage)
Wayne Mack: Sexual relationships are equal and reciprocal.
III. (:3-5) THE CONSISTENT PATTERN OF SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE MARRIAGE UNION MUST BE MAINTAINED
A. (:3-4) Sexual Relations in Marriage Involve Mutual Obligations and Rights
1. (:3) Both Spouses Have an Obligation to Sexually Satisfy One Another
“The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”
2. (:4) Both Spouses Have a Right Over Each Other’s Body
“The wife does not have authority over he own body, but the husband does and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
Wayne Mack: Pleasure in sexual relations (like pleasure in eating or in the performance of other bodily functions) is not forbidden but rather assumed when Paul writes that the bodies of both parties belong to one another (cf. also Prov 5:18-19 and Song of Solomon).
Wayne Mack: Sexual pleasure is to be regulated by the key principle that one’s sexuality does not exist for himself or for his own pleasure, but for his partner. . . Every self-oriented manifestation of sex is sinful and lustful rather than holy and loving. Homosexuality and masturbation thereby are condemned along with other self-oriented activities within marriage. In sex as in every other aspect of life, it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” The greatest pleasure comes from satisfying one’s spouse.
Wayne Mack: The principle of mutual satisfaction means that each party is to provide the sexual enjoyment which is “due” his or her spouse whenever needed. But, of course, other biblical principles (e.g., the principle of moderation), and the principle that one never seeks to satisfy himself but his partner in marriage always regulates the frequency in such a way that no one ever makes unreasonable demands upon another. Requests for sexual satisfaction may never be governed by an idolatrous lust, but neither may such regulation be used as an excuse for failing to sense and satisfy a partner’s genuine need.
B. (:5) Depriving Your Partner of Sexual Relations Only Proper in Special Circumstances
“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.”
Wayne Mack: Sexual relations are to be regular and continuous. No exact number of times per week is advised, but the principle that both parties are to provide such adequate satisfaction that both “burning” (unfulfilled sexual desire) and the temptation to find satisfaction elsewhere are avoided.
Wayne Mack: There is to be no sexual bargaining (“I’ll not have relations unless you . . .”) Neither party has the right to make such bargains.
Deffinbaugh: Unfortunately, I have known of situations in which “prayer” was the excuse of one mate for avoiding sex with the other. Who can be more pious than one who gives up sex for prayer? And who can be so unspiritual as to criticize anyone for neglecting their sex life to enhance their prayer life? It is the ultimate spiritual “lion in the road” (to use an expression from the Book of Proverbs). A “lion in the road” is a compelling reason (excuse) for avoiding what one really doesn’t want to do. If the truth were known, a healthy sexual relationship between a man and his wife may facilitate a richer prayer life. I say this on the basis of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:7 “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Surely “living with one’s wife in an understanding way” includes the sexual relationship. A sexually frustrated and irritated mate is not a good prayer partner.
IV. (:6-7) CELIBACY REMAINS A GOOD THING FOR THOSE WHOM GOD HAS SO GIFTED
MacArthur: “Paul was very aware of the God-ordained advantages of both singleness and marriage, and was not commanding marriage because of the temptation of singleness. Spirituality is not connected at all to marital status, though marriage is God’s good gift (see 1 Pet 3:7, “the grace of life”).
A. (:6) Marriage Not Commanded
“But this I say by way of concession, not of command.”
B. (:7a) Celibacy = Paul’s Personal Preference
“Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am.”
C. (:7b) God’s Calling and Giftedness = the Determining Factor
“However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.”