Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Sex is good.
Although Paul doesn’t say it in these exact words, it’s basically his point. Which shouldn’t surprise us, because after all God himself was the one who invented it.
This passage isn’t always read this way, primarily because of the statement in the first sentence: “It is good for a man not to marry” (verse 1). In actual fact, it specifically focuses on sexual relations, for the literal words (“It is good for a man not to touch a woman”) were universally understood as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Sex is good? Really? Paul seems to be saying the opposite.
But, in fact, Paul is likely quoting from what the Corinthians themselves had written in their own letter: “It is good for a man not to marry.” In light of their assertion, Paul gives his own response. He himself is unmarried and would readily affirm that it is “good” for him. Indeed, he will shortly say, “I wish that all men were as I am” (verse 7). But he doesn’t want to lay this down as a command, or even as an ideal. “Each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (verse 7). Some are called to singleness, and some to marriage.
If your gift is marriage, sex is good.
It seems likely that the Corinthians thought otherwise. Oh, many of the men were interested enough in sex to consort with the temple prostitutes – Paul has just dealt with that issue in the preceding chapter. But some of the Corinthians seem to think that denying sexual relations entirely was a sign of spirituality. Their perspective, as a result, was that “it is good for a person not to have sexual intercourse.”
Paul disagrees. Strongly. “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband” (verse 3). The body of each belongs to the other. Paul goes on to make the concession that couples may abstain for the sake of prayer, but only if it is by mutual consent, and only if it is for a short period of time. But then, he says, “come together again” (verse 5). Sex is good.
It's a safeguard, “since there is so much immorality” (verse 2). But Paul is too much a student of the Old Testament scriptures to not have Genesis ringing in his mind: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This was the verdict of the Lord God Almighty himself. So, he created the woman, and he brought her to the man, and the two became one flesh. It was God’s idea. It was his gift. Sex is good.
Yes, the Corinthians needed to guard themselves against sexual immorality that was running rampant around them. Yes, we, too, are in the same circumstance. But we’re not meant to be prudish. Within the marriage relationship, given as a gift by God, sex is good. Husband, bless your wife. Wife, bless your husband. You’ve been given a gift. Honour the Lord by embracing what he has given. Amen.
Lord, thank you for all your gifts. Thank you for the gift of sexuality. May you bless it within marriage for joy and communion and pleasure and intimacy and procreation. May your kingdom come. May your purposes be fulfilled. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Pray: If you are married, pray for your spouse. Give thanks for the gift of sexual relationship. Ask for the Lord’s ongoing blessing. If you are single, give thanks for the Lord’s provision. Ask for the fullness of his gifting for singleness, whether it be for a lifetime or simply for this season. Pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”