The theology of 1 Cor 7
I think we were going off course in the other thread regarding the original question, so I’m going to start a question about 1 Cor 7.
What does 1 Cor 7 mean to you theologically? How does it define how a couple should operate with each other sexually?
To reply to some of the discussion in the other thread: (None of this has anything to personally do with the other thread – it is a discussion about 1 Cor 7 specifically)
This can be framed in different ways. To me, the idea of defaulting to the HD spouse does not sound harsh, but another way to say it is “both spouses are having their needs met”. Now it is harsh if somebody is leaving somebody in need, right? This is what 1 Cor 7 specifically says and teaches and we know that it is backed up with 2 Tim 3:16.
When I replied to the YouTube woman question who basically said the same thing, it was great, but when I replied to the previous thread about this, it was taken badly. Why is this? It can’t be true in one situation and false in the next.
If I didn’t want to meet my wife’s need, that would be on me, right?
Additionally if I did meet the need, but didn’t do it with the right heart, that would also be on me, right?
Would it be right for me to meet her need 50% or 75% because “compromise is needed” when this is not at all what scripture teaches? Or should I render to her what is due her just like 1 Cor 7 teaches?
If I am keeping track of orgasms, who gets more, who gets less, would that be right? Does that align with scripture?
If 1 Cor 7 has shifted its meaning here, that disappoints me greatly. It was the one place in scripture that many here would accept what it plainly says because they lived the disappointment of not doing what it says.
I am a believer of doing what God instructs leads to blessing.
Here are all the English translations of 1 Cor 7:5
The Christian life I know does what it says plainly. What it doesn’t do is clobber a spouse over the head with it so that they can get their way. I will never deny my wife her marital rights. Turn it around, she will deny me at times. But there can still be joy if we keep a Phillipians 2 mindset of humility and servanthood. Let our interests not be focused on ourselves but on others. Can we love as Christ loves? Yes, to a degree if we depend on Him, daily in His Word and prayer. This is part of the humility of the Christian. We tend to view independence as virtuous, but we must depend on God and realize our need to be spirit filled. Without His work in us, we will quickly chase after the flesh and selfishness.
It’s important to communicate about unmatched drives, but at the end of the day, we do better to read and lead by example. I have tried read and force feed from the Bible and it isn’t productive and likely doesn’t come from a pure motive.
I am going to apologize in advance for how long this is going to be, but I want to make sure to let Scripture speak…
- loving my spouse? (Jn 13:34,35; 15:12,17; Rom 13:8; 1 Thes 3:12; 4:9; 1 Pt 1:22; 4:8; 1 Jn 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 Jn 1:5)
- at peace with my spouse? (Mk 9:50; 1 Thes 5:13)
- devoted to by spouse in brotherly love? (Rom 12:10)
- giving preference to my spouse in honor? (Rom 12:10)
- not putting an obstacle or stumbling block in my spouses way? (Rom 14:13)
- pursuing the things that make for peace and the building up of my spouse? (Rom 14:19)
- of the same mind with my spouse according to Christ Jesus? (Rom 15:5)
- accepting my spouse? (Rom 15:7)
- full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to admonish my spouse? (Rom 15:14; Col 3:16)
- through love serving my spouse? (Gal 5:13)
- not biting nor devouring my spouse? (Gal 5:15)
- not becoming boastful, challenging, nor envying my spouse? (Gal 5:26)
- bearing my spouses burden? (Gal 6:2; Col 3:13)
- with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for my spouse in love? (Eph 4:2)
- being kind to my spouse? (Eph 4:32)
- being tender-hearted, forgiving my spouse, just as God in Christ also has forgiven me? (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13)
- speaking to my spouse in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with my heart to the Lord? (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16)
- being subject to my spouse in the fear of Christ? (Eph 5:21)
- not doing anything from selfishness or empty conceit? (Phil 2:3)
- regarding my spouse as more important than myself, with humility of mind? (Phil 2:3)
- not lying to my spouse? (Col 3:9; Eph 4:25)
- comforting my spouse? (1 Thes 4:18)
- encouraging my spouse? (1 Thes 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:25)
- building up my spouse? (1 Thes 5:11)
- always seeking after that which is good for my spouse? (1 Thes 5:15)
- considering how to stimulate my spouse to love and good deeds? (Heb 10:24)
Those are just a start. If we can answer “yes” to all of those questions, then I will make the confident declaration that our interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 really won’t matter.
What it means to US is that we both believe in rendering marital due to one another. What we also believe and practice according to scripture is grace. Many many things factor into the sexual union between husband and wife. Health issues, conflicts, undue hardships, etc…they are all dealt with an attitude of grace and mercy and love (thankfully), not with an explicit direction of headship and submission (which we both work out on our own–the mandate given explicitly by the Lord to each of us, not to demand that from each other, IOW i am given the directive to submit, not demand my husband fulfill his role). What does 1 Cor 7 have to do w/headship and submission? It clearly says one to another. The NT is also profoundly grace-filled. Jesus had every right to stone the woman caught in adultery but he offered grace in addition to telling her to go and sin no more.
And also how is husbands treat your wife in an understanding way twisted around to point to headship? It is a mandate to the husband FOR the wife. We take everything in context, don’t pull a scripture out of place.
I can read between the lines, sd, and it is clear you are not going to be swayed from your staunch headship role in EVERYTHING. What are YOU trying to say about 1 Cor 7? It seems very clear to me you are erring on the side of the husband getting his conjugal rights (you qualify it with “loving”) any and every time he wants and who cares about the LD spouse? What is with this headship/submission thing with you? I don’t think any Christian here has a problem with headship/submission as taught in scripture but you seem fixated on it and are taking it to another level, especially sexually it seems, to be quite blunt.
What about 1 Cor 13, the great love chapter? This is written to ALL believers and you state that 1 Cor 7 POSSIBLY might be the only scripture where the wife has SOME authority…well what about all other scriptures telling us how to behave? They don’t apply specifically to the marriage union? You and i can debate until the cows come home…you will have the last word and you believe what you believe and it is clear you are trying to sway others to your view. Fine but expect some push back
Why is it there? First in context it is for the Corinthians. What are the conditions? Corinth was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. A hub of immortality, Paul addresses sexual sin in the church in chapters 5 and again in the latter part of chapter 6. In chapter 7, Paul follows these points to address issues that they had written him for clarification (see verse 1). Paul points to marital relations as an alternative to avoid temptation to sexual immorality. Verse 2-5 display an equality between the sexes in the most intimate area of the marriage relationship that was most likely unheard of at the time. To end verse 5, we see that the reason Satan is able to tempt anyone in this area is because of a lack of self control. This again enforced the immaturity of the faith of the Corinthians. I think it parallels many of us in our culture, and I have seen this immaturity in myself as well. That is why it is important to be dependent on God and walk in the spirit, and pray that we might display the fruit of the spirit. When we do so, we won’t be so focused on self to even notice that our spouse isn’t keeping up with our demands. This is a much more important spiritual problem that we face than a spouse who we determine isn’t obeying this text. But if we match the immaturity of the Corinthians and we just can’t help ourselves, take it as literal as you’d like in applying it.
What does it mean to me? We are sinners, we are prone to wander, we are easily led astray. I also read it for myself. It is a command for me. I can’t read it for my wife. For the record I did try that once and never again! I’ll let God speak to her through His word without my interference.
How has it shaped my marriage? When I feel deprived but I know that all DW needs is a good back rub, I can give and do not grudgingly but in obedience to Christ. I can get lost in the joy of meeting my wife’s needs. When I have the right mindset, I can forget about myself at times. It’s not always easy or natural but I do believe it has a direct correlation to how well I depend on Jesus at any given time. John 15 makes it clear that apart from Him we can do nothing. So when we live our lives in bitterness and nothing is happening as far as spiritual fruit we display, we know why. If all the law can be fulfilled with the commandment to love one another, that would include this text. I know that my wife loves me. She gives of herself the best way that she can. Does it match the frequency that I desire? No it doesn’t. How does love deal with it? I try to meet her needs including the tasks that may stand in the way, take time for her when it’s not about sex, listen to her, care about her feelings, complement her and cherish her, do things she enjoys, and realize that this is a real woman, not a porn star or a fantasy. Many of us come out of equally immoral backgrounds as the Corinthians, and that I think is why this verse is so alluring for us. It justifies our lack of self control. We use it to put the emphasis on what our spouse isn’t doing instead of seeing the equality in the passage and recognize our need to show spiritual fruit.
I have much to say and have deleted most of what I have written in this reply. Ultimately, however, I have only this:
The therapist on the Ted Talk video that was linked in an earlier post approached this subject with an attitude of love and understanding toward both parties. That is the reason why she is positively received, both here and in YouTube comments. She shows empathy. She shows the fruit of the Spirit. She makes me wonder if she is a Christian because she shows the love that we are supposed to show for each other.
When you are dealing with people who are hurting, it will always be better to do so with the fruit of the Spirit in mind. To a large degree, people hurt because someone at some point has not shown them those considerations. And they desperately need it if they are to be helped to a place of healing.
I can see why the differences in response are confusing to you. You are, in effect, saying the same thing. It’s the approach that causes the discrepancy. It took me years and a stint of walking with the least of these to learn this. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. And people who are just trying to hang onto what they have do better with kind words. It allows them to take the risk of opening themselves up to growth. I’ve spoken of servant leadership before. This is part of it. And it yields better results.
I take this from a book I am hoping to publish some day.
Word study from 1 Corinthians 7:1-7
The word “duty” in the original Greek language means “that which is owed.” We are obligated by this command to provide the best sex life possible to our marriage partner. It is owed to them.
The Greek word for “authority” means, well, to exercise authority over. “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” (1 Cor. 7:4 NASB). There are some Bible versions, which record this verse as, “The wife/husband “yields” or “gives” authority of his/her body to the spouse. Words like, “yields” and “gives,” are not found in the original Greek manuscripts. The original Greek implies that God grants that authority at the time of marriage. Each spouse is responsible to God for giving that which is owed to their mate. Unfortunately, these verses are sometimes used as a club instead of the love they were written to represent. Paul categorically puts human sexuality into the area of mutual submission. Don’t take that which is owed you, rather give that which is owed to your spouse. The husband has God’s authority over his wife’s body not to take, but to give to her what is owed her. The wife has God’s authority over her husband’s body, not to take, but to give him that which is owed him.
God created us not as owners of our own or our spouse’s body. God is the final authority over you and your spouse’s body because he is its creator and the body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the body (Col. 1:16, 1 Cor.6:13). As with everything else the Lord gives us, we are stewards of our spouse’s bodies. God gives the authority for a wife to be steward, not the master, over her husband’s body and he gives the husband authority to be a steward, not the master over his wife’s body. Merriam-Webster’s, second definition of stewardship is, “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Stewardship is not about taking anything, it is about giving. We are given authority for and entrusted by God to meet the sexual needs of our spouse’s body. We have God’s authority to give to our spouse that which is owed him/her. That is the duty he is talking about.
If either spouse feels sinned against by frequent sexual refusal, remind yourself of Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” It is not the responsibility of either spouse to demand. Christ stands at the door and knocks. Out of love he invites, he does not force anyone into his kingdom; “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” So, invite your spouse to love you in every sense of the word. Ask God if sin in your life may be interfering with your sex life. If that isn’t enough, seek counseling, and help from leaders in your church.
Now notice something else in 1 Corinthians 7:3–5. This is very important. In verse 4 Paul says that the man and the woman have rights over each other’s body. When the two become one flesh, their bodies are at each other’s disposal. Each has the right to lay claim to the other’s body for sexual gratification. But what we really need to see is what Paul commands in verses 3 and 5 in view of these mutual rights. He does not say, “Therefore stake your claim! Take your rights!” He says, “Husband, give her her rights! Wife, give him his rights!” (v. 3). And in verse 4, “Do not refuse one another.” In other words, he does not encourage the husband or wife who wants sexual gratification to seize it without concern for the other’s needs. Instead he urges both husband and wife to always be ready to give their body when the other wants it. I infer from this and from Jesus’s teaching in general that happy and fulfilling sexual relations in marriage depend on each partner aiming to give satisfaction to the other. If it is the joy of each to make the other happy, a hundred problems will be solved. Husbands, if it is your joy to bring her satisfaction, you will be sensitive to what she needs and wants. You will learn that the preparation for satisfactory sexual intercourse at 10 p.m. begins with tender words at 7 a.m. and continues through the day as kindness and respect. And when the time comes, you will not come on like a Sherman tank, but will know her pace and bring her skillfully along. Unless she gives you the signal, you will say, “Her climax, not mine, is the goal.” And you will find in the long run that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Wives, it is not always the case, but often, that your husband wants sexual relations more often than you do. Martin Luther said he found twice a week to be ample protection from the tempter. I don’t know if Katie was up for it every time or not. But if you’re not, give it anyway. I do not say to you husbands, “Take it anyway.” In fact, for her sake you may go without. The goal is to outdo one another in giving what the other wants. Both of you, make it your aim to satisfy each other as fully as possible.
Culled from – Preparing for Marriage Resources from John Piper
Sd595, a good place to start is definitely asking ‘why is it there?’ What specific concerns was Paul addressing? What was going on in the church at Corinth during that time? I’ve found that context is the most important part of understanding scripture, especially letters.
1 Cor 7 is probably the most egalitarian chapter in the Bible. It makes you wonder exactly what was going on at the time. We can guess, but there are no real answers. Some say there were extremes in the church, between promiscuity and those who believed sex was always wrong, even among husbands and wives.
To add onto what SC is saying, if we are not children of God first and spouses in a secondary sense, what happen when we get to heaven and are no longer taken in marriage?