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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to thank you for being here week in and week out, and I thank you for your diligence in studying the Bible.
Introduction to Chapter 7
This chapter begins the second part of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth in which he responds to six questions from them asking for his advice. The letter in which these questions were posed has been lost to antiquity, so this is the equivalent of listening to one end of a telephone conversation.
Paul had sternly, and sarcastically in certain places, reprimanded the Corinthians for certain sins already noted in the first six chapters before getting around to responding to these questions (or problems) within the church in their letter.
As I stated earlier, we only have Paul’s advice or his response to the questions he was asked by the Corinthians. Without the “lost letter” no one can say for certain why these six questions were presented. Since Scripture doesn’t tell us why these problems existed in the Corinthian church, we’ll just work with what we have been given. I’m not one to speculate and an opinion, if it’s not based on fact, is about as useful as a screen door in a submarine, so we won’t be going there.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians, chapter 7.
Teaching on Marriage
Our Apostle Paul has discussed the issue of sexual immorality with the Corinthians (5:1-13; 6:9:20) and here we find him dealing with this topic again in verses 1-7. It appears the Corinthians held multiple misconceptions about marriage such as: the possibility of future marriage, the possibility of divorce and remarriage, and then separation and divorce, so Paul answers each one of their questions one at a time.
1 Corinthians 7
1: Now concerning the (what) things about which you wrote, (where is that letter?) it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
As for Paul’s opening comment: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. Let’s be clear, Paul isn’t saying a man should not shake a woman’s hand, give them a hug, or offer them a “holy kiss,” as a sign of fellowship or friendship (Romans 16:16). The phrase, “To touch a woman” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Several of the English Bible translations have dropped the euphemism and translate “sexual relations” (NET, ESV). The God’s Word Bible translates this phrase as “to marry;” a weak translation to say the least and a confusing one because this takes the Bible text to a place the Corinthians never intended it to go.
The Greek word for touch, as Paul uses it here, is Haptomai (pronounced: hap’-tom-ahee) a verb, from the Greek word Hapto. The word has been rendered, “embrace,” “grasp hold of,” “lay hold of,” or “take hold of,” etc. by Bible commentators. However, this Greek word is used about 36 times and is always translated, “touch,” as in the KJV Bible translation (see Strongs Greek #680). There are no exceptions and in many of its occurrences it could not be translated in any other way according to the text.
When Paul said it is good for a man not to touch a woman he was speaking about abstaining from sexual immorality, as we’ll soon see in the next verse (5:1-5; 6:9-20; 7:9), and it is in that sense in which a man is not to touch a woman. This phrase is in keeping with Paul’s command to the Corinthians to flee immorality; “to get out of there,” if necessary to keep from polluting their bodies, which did not belong to them (6:18-20).
Paul’s statement does not express nor does it imply a negative attitude toward marriage or the marriage state, as we’ll see later in 7:25-40. Marriage is the God-ordained institution which provides a legitimate outlet for sexual passions. He is condemning mankind’s abuse of God’s gift of sexuality and the marriage state, noting that mankind always takes God’s good gifts and practices them beyond God’s set boundaries.
Let’s go to verses 2-4.
1 Corinthians 7
2: But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
The word “But” at the beginning of verse 2 makes this is a contrasting sentence. Paul could have said: “Contrastingly, since it’s not good for a man to touch a woman, each man is to have his own wife and each woman is to have her own husband.”
The reason Paul gives for each man and each woman having their own spouse is because of “immoralities,”Porneia in the Greek language (pronounced: por-ni’-ah), noun Feminine, meaning: adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, lesbianism, intercourse with animals, and the list goes on for man’s depravity knows no bounds --Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:7-8; (see Strongs Greek #4202). Paul has used the word Porneia before (5:1; 6:13, 18). Our English word “pornography” is derived from this Greek word.
Paul acknowledges that Believers are going to experience sexual temptations, since they are living in Satan’s realm. But God has provided them a legitimate way to satisfy their sexual urges and that is within the marital relationship. Again, here’s more evidence that Paul is not anti-marriage and he is not anti-sex; he is pro-marriage and pro-sex because of the use of the verb to have, which is a euphemism for sexual relations. Put another way, rather than abstaining from sexual relations with their marriage partner, Paul’s expectation is that the Corinthian husbands and wives continue having normal sexual relations.
Moreover, the word have is a present tense command that implies “keep.” Knowing this, Paul’s statement would read: “Let each man live sexually with his wife, and let each wife live sexually with her husband.” God has provided a way out in regard to the sin of immorality, and that is through the marriage covenant (1 Corinthians 10:13). Husbands and wives are to protect and satisfy their spouse.
3: The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
In verse 3 Paul said that both the husband and the wife have a mutual obligation to each other regarding their sexual desires. The word duty in the Greek language is Opheile (pronounced: of-i-lay), Noun Feminine, and it means – that which is owed, dues: specifically of conjugal duty. By selecting this word Paul makes it abundantly clear that sexual relations in marriage are not simply a privilege and a pleasure to be enjoyed, but a responsibility (see Exodus 21:10). In an ideal marriage the husband and wife give themselves to each other physically as well as spiritually. Celibacy or abstinence belongs to the unmarried life rather than the married life.
What does this mean in plain English? It means what every man hopes it means! For true believers it’s one of the greatest verses in the Bible… It is a “honey do” that men can delight in. But before you guys get too carried away, there are a few things to take note of according to our Apostle Paul, and he begins with husbands because the man is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the Head of the church (Ephesians 5:22-23). This doesn’t mean that the man is the lord of his wife and she exists to do his every bidding; she didn’t get married to become the man’s “step n’ fetch.”
The role of the husband in the home according to God’s Word starts with leadership. Scripture makes this clear in 1Timothy 3 in speaking of two church leadership positions traditionally filled by men; verse 5 specifically says: but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?
I need to point out that the word leadership, as used here, means influence. A biblically-based husband should influence his family. Husbands are not to be despots in their home, they should not rule with a heavy-hand over their wives and children. Instead, husbands should influence their wives and children in accordance with accurate Bible teaching. They should be living examples, displaying attributes that bring honor and glory to God, and spiritual value to their spouse and family. The fruit of a good biblically-based husband is a strong, confident, spiritually mature wife and family. The husband can best achieve this by being a provider and a protector (1 Timothy 5:8; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7).
The next role the husband needs to fulfill is that of a companion. What saith the Scriptures? Husbands are to love their wives, just as Christ also loved the church (this is agape love; sacrificial love, asking nothing in return for service rendered) and gave Himself up for her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word… (Ephesians 5:25). If you want to know the truth, this verse is saying that every believing husband should be willing to lay down his life for his wife; think on that.
Paul goes on to say: Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated (or disrespected; defrauded) his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body (Ephesians 28-30; Genesis 2:24).
The relationship between a husband and a wife is meant to be one of love, respect, and support. They are to help each other. This idea is introduced at the beginning of the Bible. Adam was alone and God decided he needed a suitable helper (see Genesis 2:20-24). This introduces another meaning of the word companionship. God created men and women differently, in case some of you men out there haven’t noticed… We are not the same physically or emotionally. Where one is weak, the other is strong for example. Therefore, a husband and a wife can help each other by meeting the other person’s needs through physical or emotional intimacy (7:2-5).
For you husbands, since we’re the spiritual leaders of the home, by choosing to use the word fulfill Paul is indicating that you must attend to your wife’s needs. He’s indicating that you get to make the first move guys; this means you’re going to have to put the remote device, or the newspaper down, and seek out your wife’s needs.
When asked to describe the purpose of romance, the wife will use words such as endearment, friendship, intimacy, relationship, tenderness, etc. Ask the husband the same question and he’ll answer, sex.
What Paul means to say is the husband should find out what his wife needs, when she needs it, and how she needs it. Of course, I understand men don’t have a clue how to do this. This is where communication comes in. Men are responsible for facilitating communication with their wives. Ladies, this means that you have to explain to your husband how he can “minister” to your need(s). Communication is one of the key components in any legitimate relationship, so if the two of you are not learning how to communicate with one another and putting this helpful marital tool into practice both of you will become disillusioned and frustrated.
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.
If you read through this verse carefully, it becomes rather obvious that some of the Corinthians were advocating and practicing celibacy within the marriage relationship. Again, we don’t know for certain why this was going on, but the most likely suggestion is that one or more of the divisive groups emphasized the philosophy that the highest plane of spirituality is to abstain from sex. We note that some religious organizations continue to believe and follow this practice even today, albeit not very successfully.
In verse 4 Paul said the husband and the wife must relinquish control of their bodies for the benefit of the marriage partner. The word authority in the Greek language is Exousiazo (pronounced: ex-oo-see-ad’-zo), a Verb, and it means – to have full and entire authority over the body. This word has nothing to do with power. When a man and a woman enter into the marriage covenant, an exclusive transfer of authority takes place; they assign to each other (and only to each other) the right and the responsibility for the pure and proper sexual use of each other’s bodies without any strings attached emotionally or physically.
Let’s go to verses 5-6.
As I said, some of the Corinthians believed abstaining from sex made them more spiritual. Paul referred to that practice as, “depriving (defrauding) one another,” or being celibate and he tells them to stop doing this unless it’s mutually agreed upon.
1 Corinthians 7
5: Stop depriving (defrauding) one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that (who) Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
In verse 5 Paul gives them one exception to the rule regarding the duty of husbands and wives to each other, and this exception was carefully limited. Breaking verse 5 down, so it can be more easily understood what you have is this:
1) Abstinence must be by the mutual agreement of both marriage partners
2) It must be for a limited period.
3) It must be for prayer or other church-related purposes.
4) It must be temporary. Normal marital relations should be resumed and continued. The reason Paul gives for this is so that Satan does not get a “foot-hold” in their lives; temptation does not enter in feeding their fleshly impulses, tempting them to engage in sexual immorality.
With such an apostolic command as this, the notion that sexual relations between believing partners are allowed only for procreation totally disappears. On the other hand, the refusal of one partner to cohabitate is designated as fraud. The husband or the wife is not to use sex as a lever or a means of punishing the other. Satan is waiting nearby to tempt one or the other to take their sexual urges elsewhere.
Since husband and wife have mutual authority over each other’s bodies, abstinence must be voluntary on each side; otherwise injury is done to the person that does not consent, who is deprived (defrauded) against their will of that which is legally and rightfully theirs, unless there is an agreement, then there is no defrauding, because each has given up the right.
Let’s go to verse 7
1 Corinthians 7
6: But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
But this I say refers back to what Paul said about marriage. The word concession can mean either “to think the same thing as someone, to have a joint opinion, a common mind or understanding.” It can also mean “awareness.” I think Paul was saying that he was aware that being single and celibate was a good thing, yet also aware of the privileges and responsibilities of the married life. His advice was not meant as a command for every Believer in Corinth to be married. Marriage was ordained by God and is the norm for the man-woman relationship, and it is a great blessing to mankind. But it is not required for Believers.
Paul’s point is this: if you are single that is a wonderful thing, and if you are married or planning to get married, be true to one another; stay married, and retain normal marital relations, for that is God’s will.
Let’s move on to verses 7-9.
1 Corinthians 7
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.
One thing you have to understand about our Apostle Paul is he never speaks without a reason, so there had to be a reason for his comment in verse 7. We know he was pro-marriage and pro-sex within the confines of the marital relationship, but what does he mean by saying “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am?” If you’re familiar with his writings, then you’re aware there’s a common thread that runs through all of them and that is he believes the Lord Jesus Christ’s return is imminent. Paul also had personal knowledge concerning the persecution going on in the church and the negative impact this had on the Believer and their families. Facing this persecution and the possibility of one’s death was better done alone.
Whether or not Paul was ever married is the subject of great debate among theologians.
What we do know is that Paul wasn’t married at this time based on his statements in 7:8-9 and later at 9:5. But the Bible doesn’t say if Paul was married prior to this or if he was a widower.
Some claim Paul was married because he was a member of the Sanhedrin. But there is no biblical evidence to support this. Paul does declare himself to be a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) but he never mentions being a member of the Sanhedrin, although it could be said he was being groomed for the position (see Galatians 1:14).
When Paul said, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am,” he isn’t saying it’s preferable that all men remain unmarried for this would be against God’s divine will, and would be contrary to his teaching on marriage elsewhere. Paul is actually speaking of the gift of establishing and maintaining self-control over one’s sexual desires, which is clearly one of his own gifts from God because he speaks of possessing the ability to control his sexual desires, “even as I am” (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul would be pleased if all men had self-control over their passions as he had; and could abstain from marriage when circumstances allowed this. But if they could not exercise self-control, then they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. Although celibacy is good for Believers who are not married, it is a gift from God that He does not give to every Believer. Just as it is wrong to misuse a gift that we have, it is also wrong to try to use a gift we do not have. For a person who does not have the gift of celibacy, trying to practice it brings moral and spiritual frustration. But for those who have this gift, singleness is truly God’s gift and like all His gifts, a blessing.
In Paul’s day an unmarried person was looked down on as a “second-class citizen.” The Jews considered any man who wasn’t married by the age of 20 a sinner and unfit for heaven. Paul was saying, “I don’t think so.” If singleness is God’s gift to a person, it is also God’s will for that person to accept and exercise the gift: Regardless, each one should lead the life that the Lord has assigned him and to which God has called him. This is what I prescribe in all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17 – Berean Study Bible).
Obviously, singleness has many practically advantages. He or she is able to move around and set his or her own schedule. It allows greater freedom in serving the Lord. Paul will point out later on that married people have many cares and concerns that the single people do not have (7:32-34).
Both singleness and marriage are to be considered gifts of God. Although Paul knew singleness was good for him, he would not and did not impose it on anyone. The important thing is what gift one has from God, either being gifted to singleness or marriage. Many people find themselves on the "grass is greener" side of the fence and this is one of Satan’s traps, with singles wishing they were married, and married people wishing they were single. Each state is a gift from God; give thanks.
(To be continued)
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