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RCCG Miracle Land Dundalk
Sunday, April 09 2017

Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai

In last week’s study titled “The Lord’s Body” we learnt how believers should honour the Lord Jesus Christ with their bodies and the impact sexual sins have on our bodies and our spirits.
Today’s study is the first part of a three-part series on Paul’s teachings on marriage.
The tone of this chapter infers that the Corinthian church had written Paul a letter. And in that letter the Corinthians had probably asked questions which tended to belittle marriage, and had implied that it was better to break it off when contracted with an unbeliever. There was also the notion that it was better not to be married at all!

Verses 1-2: Sexual Relations was designed by God ONLY as a part of marriage
One of the questions the Corinthian church asked Paul was: “Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?” Verse 1 (MSG)
So, Paul’s answer was
“Certainly—but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder.” [MSG]

Here the general rule is given to the unmarried to avoid sexual immorality because sexual drives are strong. So, if you are of marriageable age and are ready for marriage, go ahead and get married because God designed marriage to curtail these sexual drives! And secondly, He designed marriage to provide a balanced and fulfilling sexual life. But still we hear of infidelity in marriages, don’t we? The root of many of those lie in what Paul addresses in the next two verses

Verses 3-4. The duty of cohabitation on the part of the married.
The husband must fulfil his [marital] duty to his wife [with good will and kindness], and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have [exclusive] authority over her own body, but the husband shares with her; and likewise, the husband does not have [exclusive] authority over his body, but the wife shares with him. [AMP]

The Message version explains clearly what these verses refer to when Paul said:

“The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.”

It is not a one-sided affair but mutual. The failure of couples in fulfilling their marital (sexual) duties these days have resulted in sexual immorality in the body of Christ. In verse 3, Paul admonishes both husband and wife to fulfil their marital duties. That is when indeed they can experience a balanced and fulfilling sexual life. It’s a no brainer Proverbs 27:7 (MSG) says:
“When you've stuffed yourself, you refuse dessert; when you're starved, you could eat a horse.”
The NIV renders the second part of this verse as:
“. . . but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.”

Paul then goes ahead to reveal an interesting paradox. The husband and wife do not have [exclusive] authority over their bodies but it is shared!
The oneness of body in which marriage places husband and wife shows us that although is an integral part of marriage, marriage goes beyond sex. More importantly, it is the decision to “serve” each other whether in bed or out.

Verses 5-6. Agreeing on abstinence is important but moderation is key
“Do not deprive each other [of marital rights], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves [unhindered] to prayer, but come together again so that Satan will not tempt you [to sin] because of your lack of self-control.  But I am saying this as a concession, not as a command.”

Other versions use the word “defraud” in place of deprive. To defraud means, to deceive, to swindle, to cheat, or trick. Some spouses hide behind spirituality to defraud their partners. So, desist from withholding sex from your spouse by any means – Paul says it must be mutually agreed if there should be any abstinence. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period if you both agree to it, and if it is for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Because Satan can use the opportunity of prolonged abstinence to introduce unholy thoughts amidst the holiest exercises; especially when it becomes prolonged. Important to note here that Paul was not commanding these periods of abstinence; he was only providing his best counsel if we would choose them.

Verses 7-9. Celibacy is not for everyone; can’t handle it? Get married! God honours both!
“I wish that all the people were as I am; but each person has his own gift from God, one of this kind and one of that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, [that as a practical matter] it is good if they remain [single and entirely devoted to the Lord] as I am. But if they do not have [sufficient] self-control, they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, and the gift of the married life to others. Also, our emotions are God-given but there are those who are gifted to be able to turn off these emotions and leave them permanently turned off! Paul was one of such and wished everyone were single like him because it is a simpler life in many ways! So, he offers another advice; to the unmarried and widows that if they can, they should remain unmarried. However, if they cannot stay single because they are not gifted they should marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
To “burn” refers to being consumed with the secret flame of lust, which lays waste the whole inner man James 1:14 (AMP) says:
“But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion).”

Verses 10-11: Divorce isn’t an acceptable option
In these last two verses, Paul switched from offering advice to giving a command!
“But to the married [believers] I give instructions—not I, but the Lord—that the wife is not to separate from her husband, (but even if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not leave his wife.”

In effect, what the Lord through Paul commands is that if you are married, stay married - regardless. If a wife or husband should leave their partner, he/she must either remain single (that is, if the sin of separation has been committed, the sin of a new marriage is not to be added); or else come back and make things right with their partner. The only exception Jesus gave is in Matt. 5:32. Let’s read this verse in the message version
“Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.”

The world for thousands of years and to date has been plagued by sexual disorder (Gen. 19:5) and there is immense pressure on the young and old who want to maintain their purity; either as singles or married as the world applauds those who defile the laws of God. (Romans 1:32)
When we fail to follow God’s order we leave room for manipulation by the devil (Romans 1:18-32)
Hebrews 13:4 [AMP] says
“Marriage is to be held in honour among all [that is, regarded as something of great value], and the marriage bed undefiled [by immorality or by any sexual sin]; for God, will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
As singles, we should know that it pleases the Father to maintain our purity; and as married couples, we should hold our marriages in honour and not endanger our spouses if we love them; by depriving them and leaving them exposed to the attack of the enemy!

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