- March 30 – 1 Cor. 5:1-11 – Paul mentions incest and sexual immorality
- April 13 – 1 Cor. 6:9-11 – Paul mentions sexual immorality and homosexuality
- April 27 – 1 Cor 6:12-20 – The whole thing is about sexual purity
- May 5 – 1 Cor 7:1-9 – Paul talks about sex in marriage
I’m slightly embarrassed about this prevalence of the topic of sex in these sermons. But there it is.
So why did this happen? Going back to the historical situation in the city of Corinth, we hear how Paul describes it in 1 Cor 7:2 “there is so much immorality”. I can’t tell you how many people, since we started this series, have remarked that it feels like Paul was writing to the church in America in 2014. We live in a world where the expression of our sexuality has moved from a private thing to a public thing.
Paul’s advice in 1 Cor 7:1-9, then, is very timely. I said something in the sermon on Sunday that I think bears repeating: while Paul was single and will make a case for the value of singleness (which we’ll get to in a few weeks), he says clearly that marriage is a very good thing. That is true for many reasons, none the least of which, in a sexually open culture like ours, is that marriage is God’s wonderful design for the expression of this incredible gift that we call sex. Paul says that Christian husband and wives should not be withholding sex from one another, except for mutually agreed upon periods of fasting, where they devote themselves to prayer. Simply put, Christian marriage should be marked by husbands and wives having lots of sex.
There is much more that could be said about sex in marriage. Particularly, husbands and wives need to talk about it. Often we do not. And I get it. Talking about sex can be awkward. But we need to bring it up. If you feel it isn’t happening enough, talk about it. If you feel you’re being pressured to have sex too much, talk about it. Like Paul says, come to a mutually agreed upon decision about how often you have sex.
And here’s where Paul opens the door to the secret of marriage. Not just by saying that couples should have lots of sex. Instead he says that “your spouse owns your body”! Just as he said in the previous chapter (for which Phil Bartelt had a powerful sermon on sexual purity), your body is not your own. God owns your body. Now in chapter 7, he goes on to say that your spouse owns your body. Doesn’t that sound weird? In our hyper-individualized culture the thought that you don’t own your body seems wrong. Twice, though, Paul says others own our body. God and our spouse. This is the secret to marriage. When you embrace the idea that you don’t own your body, you know that you can give yourself lovingly and generously on behalf of your spouse.
That you do not own your body does not mean that you allow others, including your spouse, to treat your body with disrespect. If your spouse is abusing you emotionally or physically or in any way, you should get to place of safety immediately. Paul’s conveys his understanding of our spouses owning our bodies in a mutually beneficial way. What he says is actually quite radical for his culture! In the Greco-Roman era wives were considered possessions of their husbands. So when Paul says “wives, your bodies belong to your husbands”, the people would have understood this as the norm for their culture. But when he goes on to say “husbands, your bodies belong to your wives” a hush would have gone through the room. That was radical stuff. That kind of mutuality in marriage was unheard of. It’s why our treatment of each other in marriage must be a practice of mutual loving-kindness (the kind of love Paul will go on to describe in 1 Cor 13).
So in summary, we learned what it means to give yourself away to your spouse. If you cultivate that kind of attitude, you’ll be creating furrow ground in which a fruitful marriage can grow.