Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, (1)each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. (2)The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. [because] 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. [therefore] 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. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. (vv. 1-6)
It can be argued here that ‘not to touch a woman’ is referring to not marrying, which Paul brings up later in the passage, however it doesn’t appear that Paul is using imagery here. The Corinthians were very familiar with immorality and so I think this passage can be taken very literally; just keep your hands to yourself.
(1)’But’ or ‘instead of touching people you shouldn’t be,’ everyone should have only one husband or wife—as is appropriate. In the ancient cultures, marriage was not a governing institution like it is today. It was, however, a lifelong commitment established upon consummation. Many cultures were in the habit of not marrying because of the lifelong part. So, Paul is saying that instead of touching many, each person should choose just one partner. When he says everyone should have one husband or wife, he is condemning promiscuity because it is immoral.
(2)The second thing he condemns is sexual deprivation. Paul recognizes further in the chapter that uncontrollable sexual desire in itself is reason enough to get married. And so if the sexual desire is not met within the bonds of marriage, then it is a door for Satan to enter into to tempt with immorality; specifically adultery. He says that in a marriage, your body is not your own, so you have no authority to deprive your partner, except in the case that you are devoting time to God, and even then it should only be for a short time.
Lastly, Paul says that this is a concession not a command. He is saying, “this works,” but you don’t have to do it. If for some reason you are able to avoid immorality, then another ‘model’ could be acceptable. The immorality is the part that is sin. However, I think it is highly improbable that any other model is likely to work. To be clear, the variable part is not in the number of wives or husbands nor is it to do with touching, he means that the nature of sexual interaction within marriage is up to your discretion so long as it is not immoral. I also don’t think deprivation is by design according to Genesis 2, so I think that he means that the nature and frequency of interaction is ultimately between the husband and wife and should not be taken legalistically.
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. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (vv. 7-9)
This passage is simple. Paul was unmarried. Some people will argue that Paul had a wife before he was an apostle, but it is not really important either way. What is important is that Paul recognizes that all people are different. I think of the jokes where people say, “when God was handing out such and such…” In a sense, God did give us all different bodies that come with different chemical levels and we all have different minds and different emotions. We are physically, mentally, emotionally, and often spiritually relative. And since we are all different, having different ‘gifts’ or traits, then we can’t all be expected to live in the same way. Paul is able to remain single. Others shouldn’t attempt it because they cannot control their sexual desire.
This makes me think of people who push their children to get an education before they get married. Where this can be a good practice, I think it is important that the desire for our children to become successful does not overshadow our desire for them to remain pure. If our children ‘burn with passion’ and lack self control, we have to be ready for the only thing that the Bible allows in order to meet that need, which is marriage. I think that promiscuity might not be such a widely accepted practice in our culture if we did not put a larger weight on education than on purity. Parents are not exclusive to this perspective. We are as individuals ultimately responsible for our own purity and cannot use cultural expectations such as an education higher than what God has called us to. Yes, I am saying that you should find a husband or wife if you honestly are unable to control yourself.
But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. (vv. 10-14)
Let’s talk about the ‘not I but the Lord’ and the ‘I say, not the Lord.’ First of all, ‘all scripture is God breathed’ including both of these verses. I think these verses give us some insight into what it means that God breathed the scripture or that scripture has been inspired by God. What I believe this shows us is that when Jesus spoke, the Lords words were put to paper very practically, but when Paul wrote letters that would later be made scripture, he wrote Paul’s words according to the will and Spirit of God. What we find here is that Paul is paraphrasing Jesus’ teaching regarding marriage. Jesus said that no one should divorce or separate. Then he put’s in his two cents (according to the will and Spirit of God) and presents the rules for when one party is a non-believer. Both are scripture. One was inspired by God through the Spirit and the other was inspired literally by the mouth of God when Jesus spoke.
OK. For all married, believers or not. A wife should never leave her husband. It is always better to be reconciled. If for some reason, the wife does leave—not divorce—then the husband should not divorce her for leaving. He should pursue reconciliation. I know that concession was made for divorce on account of adultery, but God does not desire that anyone divorce in any situation. We commit adultery against God regularly and where He has the right to divorce us, He chooses to be reconciled instead.
For marriages with one believer and one non believer. The believer should not initiate separation. The reason is out of love for the other person. Doesn’t the believer want their partner to believe? The believer should pursue reconciliation because through the believing partner, they will experience the love of God; they are sanctified, set apart to experience all that God has designed for them. To separate is to deny the unbeliever the sanctification that might bring them to Christ. In the same way, the children are made holy when the parents remain together, because they too will see the love of God in them. For the parents to separate is to make them unclean, hindering their likelihood of seeing Christ.
NOTE: Believers or not, if a divorce takes place, it causes the children to be unclean. Also, this passage is not suggesting that it is OK for a believer to marry an unbeliever. According to 2 Corinthians 6, we should not be yoked to an unbeliever in any relationship, including marriage.
Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk And so I direct in all the churches. (vv. 15-17)
The previous was a command for the believer not to leave. This passage addresses the unbeliever leaving. The believer is not bound to the requirement to stay together if the unbeliever leaves, however we are called by God to peace, so reconciliation should always be the goal. The unbeliever, however, can leave and the believer cannot force them to stay in the marriage because that would only cause unrest.
The last verse really gives some peace for all of these matters addressed above regarding marriage. As believers, we have all been called to a specific life as it has been assigned by the Lord. And we should walk as we are directed to do so. This reminds me that we should constantly be looking for God’s will.
Romans 12:2—Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This is how we know God’s will. We do not conform any longer to the ways of the world and we do this through the renewing of our minds. That means that we are constantly in prayer and in God’s word, changing our minds and our habits from worldly ones to righteous ones. Then as our minds are renewed, we will gain discernment in order to be able to know God’s will for our lives, which is good and pleasing and above all, perfect. In a sense, if our minds were renewed, then we would be able to figure out how to act in our marriages according to our own God gifted discernment.
Image Credits: ralev_com, sxc.hu