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27 Mar 2022

Sex in Marriage [1Corinthians 7:1-6]

Overview

Satan’s strategy, when it comes to sex, is to do everything he can to discourage sex within marriage, & encourage sex outside of marriage. Many marriages break down or are eroded because of sexual frustrations. What does God's word say about this? How far should one go regarding how we satisfy one spouse's sexual needs? Why is this even important? Or how can we better honor God in the realm of marital sex?


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If you're new with us, we are in the book of 1st Corinthians, you must have wondered what is that passage that we read just all about.

Well, we have been looking at this letter written by the Apostle Paul, to the people living in ancient Corinth. He dealt with several issues. One, is the issue of divisions or schisms and the other issue that we are right now looking into is that of sexual immorality.

It is sad that there are sexual sins even amongst the people of God. You see, the church is not a collection of perfect people, we are a very flawed and sinful people. And we are not God's people because we are good, we are God's people because of His grace. He sent His Son to die and to pay for our sins. We want to be better, we want to be a holy people, but even in our journey towards that goal, there are stumbles and there are slip ups, and that's what's happening in the church at Corinth.

Some tragic sexual sins because there is ... there is someone who is committing incest, he is with his father's wife, probably his stepmother. And then last week, we looked at how there was a problem of prostitution, that men probably in the church are going out to visit prostitutes to fulfill his or their sexual needs, and that's tragic.

So Paul says, "Flee from sexual immorality." [1 Cor 6:18] That's where we stopped. This morning in chapter 7, in verse 1, we read, "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman."'

So, Paul is now addressing a question or a proposal that the Corinthians has ... have written to him about. They have postulated that it is better for a man not to have sexual relationships with a woman. In other words, they are postulating that celibacy is better, celibacy should be the ideal.

Now, this is a subject that is somewhat related to sexual immorality. So Paul, I think takes this opportunity right now to address what they have written. Now, Paul says, "This proposal that you put out, that it is better for a man to remain celibate, not to have any sexual relationships, well, it is not universally applicable or true."

He says in verse 2, "Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." So Paul says, "Celibacy is not to be mandated for every single one. It should not be the expectation for every man or every woman because of the temptation to sexual immorality, you should get married."

Now, actually this is very wise, if you think about it. There are some major religions in the world today that positions celibacy as an ideal, that if you are more spiritual, you should be celibate, you should not be married. And if you read enough and if you dig enough, you will realize that there are major deviant sexual behaviors in such religious orders — crimes, sins.

Because there is this unwise teaching that it is better for everyone to remain celibate, especially if you're a religious leader, you should be celibate and there is where the problem lies. But not for Paul, Paul understands celibacy may be good in its own right, but it is not to be universally applied to everyone.

So today, we are looking at this subject of "Sex In Marriage" or "Marital Sex". I did say that it's PG ah, not that children cannot hear but better for the parents to guide the children as they hear. So this is a PG subject - Sex In Marriage, and I want to emphasize that what we are talking about today is not dirty, it's not ugly, it's not something that we should shun, as if sex is a dirty word. It's not!

As we've often referred to Hebrews 13, verse 4 is very clear, "Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure." Marriage is a ... is a gift from God and marital sex is also a gift from God. So sex in marriage is not a dirty subject, it's a beautiful gift that we should consider this morning.

As usual, as is my style, I like to position three facts or truths from the passage we have just read for your consideration today.

[1] Protection Through Marital Sex
Number one, I think Paul here teaches us protection through marital sex.

He tells us one of the purposes of marriage and marital sex is for our spiritual protection. He says, "Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." [1 Cor 7:2]

So what's one of the purposes of marriage? Well, it's to prevent you from sexual immorality. Now, of course, Paul is not saying that ... that, "Protection from sexual immorality is the only reason to get married." You say, "What a weirdo he will be?" It's not! He's not saying that, but it is certainly one of the reasons.

Now, there are many reasons for marriage, isn't it? The Bible tells us, way back in the Garden of Eden, God saying to Adam, "It is not good for man to be alone. Well, I'll make him a help, a companion suitable or meet for him." So another purpose of marriage is partnership, companionship.

Malachi, chapter 2 tells us that another purpose of marriage is that, "We may have children or godly offspring." So second reason is that of procreation.

A third reason, I think is probably the most important one, especially for Christian marriage is found in Ephesians, chapter 5. That the union between a man and a woman, a Christian man and a Christian woman, is to portray the union between Christ and His Church. In other words, another reason for marriage, a Christian marriage is that of portrayal. We want to show to the world, the love between Christ and His Church in the love between a man and a woman in marriage.

So these are some four reasons or purposes for marriage — partnership, procreation, portrayal and protection. But just in case you think, "Ah, if I get married, I will never commit sexual immorality again!" That's not quite true too! It is not a silver bullet that solves all immorality problems or issues, because you remember last week, we said there is a five-fold plan to dealing with sexual sins.

Number one, you flee. You have to flee from temptation. You have to flee from very dangerous situations or suggestive images of videos. You've got to flee! Just because you're married doesn't mean you will never commit adultery, if you're not fleeing from sexual temptation.

Number two, you've got to fight. Just because you're married doesn't mean that you will never be tempted, and therefore you need to learn to fight. And we understood fighting sexual sin is via prayer, looking to God by His Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit in us, to resist or to mortify, to put to death sin.

And we realize that you can't fight very long if you're not fortifying yourself in Scripture, in God's Word. You will lack that strength in due course.

And then we say that, there is great need for fellowship, that there must be accountability, that there must be a support one for another amongst Christian brothers, and amongst Christian sisters.

And then of course, we talked about fulfill, and that's what we are talking about.

So, the Corinthians said to Paul, "It's good for a man not to be married, that should be the ideal that should be what all of us aim for." Paul says, "No, not so! Because you need that protection in marital sex."

Now, the Corinthian position, when taken to an extreme is dangerous. Paul says in 1st Timothy 4:1-3, "In later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the in ... through the insincerity of liars, whose consciences are seared who forbid marriage."

So, Paul says, "These teachings of forbidding marriage is a satanic lie from false teachers." Now, I'd like to pause here, and let you consider if you remember 1st Corinthians 5 and now 1st Corinthians 7, you will see that CS Lewis is correct when he said, "The devil always sends errors into the world in pairs — pairs of opposites."

What do you mean? Remember earlier on in chapter 5, the Corinthians say, "Oh, we can have sex with anyone because all things are lawful for me! I'm saved by grace, I can do whatever I want!" So the Corinthians are saying, some of them are saying, "It is okay for me to have casual sex."

But now, there is another group in the Corinthian church that wrote to Paul that says, "It is good for a man not to have sexual relationships with a woman." And what they're saying is, "Our position is no sex." You see the two extremes — any sex with anybody is fine, no sex with anybody is better.

And Paul is saying, "Both positions are wrong, these are all the extremes that the devil throws out to you because there is a better way and that is marital sex, because both these approaches lead you to immorality. Casual sex is immorality and if you force people to have a no sex position, you would also inadvertently lead them to immorality."

These are not, yes, these are not right, correct, and this is what is right. For those who are not given to celibacy, marital sex is the God ordained way for your protection. So I say to all the single men and women here, some of you are happily single. In other words, you don't ... you don't experience that sexual frustration, you're quite comfortable the way you are, and you want to steward your singleness for the glory of God. That's fine, nothing wrong with being single!

God does not put down singleness, we're gonna study that next week. But if you're not happily single, you have sexual needs and desires, then don't force yourself to be single, but pray and look for a spouse, because this is God ordained means to protect you from sexual immorality.

[2]Principle in Marital Sex
Number two, Paul, in this passage not only tells us the protection through marital sex, he gives us a principle in marital sex.

If God has ordained that we are kept from immorality through marital sex, then each husband and wife must understand this principle. This principle is I think, summarized in two phrases. One: I owe you. And two: You decide.

Very simple words, right? Can you all say together with me, "Number one, I owe you and number two, you decide." I'm not talking about paying for a meal ah, not about the case of this dating app, people who went for $270 meal and say, "You owe me, you pay. I ..." It's not about it, this is in a context of marital sex.

Where do we get this principle from? Well, let me point you to the verses. Verse three, "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband." Now, in King James, is 'due benevolence' and so on, but actually in the Greek, it's a very strange way to translate in ... into English and that's why they put it in the marital terms — conjugal rights.

But actually in the Greek, it is a very strong and strange way but the correct way and it is this, "The husband should pay his debt." That's literally the word used in the Greek - pay your debt. And in the context here, it's your debt to fulfill your spouse and his sexual needs.

Now, you will find it strange and maybe even a bit too strong, isn't it, that we would talk about debts in a marriage? But you see it is not that far off, because a marriage properly viewed is a covenant. And with any covenant, there are covenantal responsibilities, duties and obligations. And there is an obligation, a duty, a responsibility that one should consider with regard to his or her spouse, especially if you understand point number one that there is a God ordained means of protection through marital sex.

In fact, this idea is even more enhanced, when we go to verse 4, "For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." So in marital sex, who decides? That's what Paul is saying.

"Who decides?" "Me? "No, you, because I do not have authority over my own body with regard to marital sex, but the husband does or the wife does." So that's why I say, the phrase is, "You decide". "I recognize that in marriage and in marital bed, God has ordained that the authority lies with my spouse, not me. I will submit myself to that authority that God has ordained."

Now, this is really radical stuff, you probably won't hear this in marriage counseling books by secular writers, but that's the scriptural biblical point of view. Because God values how we possess our bodies with honor and sanctification, because God does not want His people to live in immorality. He has provided for us protection through marital sex.

And the principle that God's people must remember and honor is that, "I owe you, I need to help you, I need to fulfill your needs, and I need to understand you have authority over this body, not me."

Before we go on, I want to emphasize, Paul is saying, "I owe you, not you owe me." Okay, I say that because this is not a passage that one should take and use to demand sex from another. It's an entirely different thing altogether, alright! "I, submitting my body for the purpose of fulfilling my spousal's ... spouse's sexual needs is very different from I demanding that you fulfill my sexual needs."

This is not a justification to force your spouse, this is definitely not a justification for marital rape. This is for the individual follower of Jesus Christ to joyfully and obediently honor God by serving her spouse or his spouse in marital sex. Alright? So I ... I ... I ... I hope none of us will take this as a passage to clobber our husbands or to clobber our wives with.

[3] Priority of Marital Sex
Finally, knowing the protection, knowing the principle, I just want to emphasize along with Paul, the priority of marital sex, to ... to highlight to you the great importance of this matter. This is not a trivial matter, not to Paul. How do I know this is not trivial, because of what he writes right here.

He says, "Do not defraud." Now, to be fair, this is not the word you read in your ESV Bible. When you read your Bible, and when we read the Scripture passage just now, we are told, "Do not deprive one another." "So Jason, why do you change it to defraud?" Because let me tell you, the Greek word is actually — defraud.

Huh, but perhaps when the translators translate it, defraud sounds weird, but if you really sit down and think about it, it is not weird, it is the right word. Now, let me show that to you, the word, 'deprive' in the English here is the Greek word, 'apostoreo,' which is the word, 'defraud' because this same word was used when we read 1st Corinthians 6:7 — "Why not rather be defrauded? Why not rather be robbed?"

So the word here is a strong word, "Do not rob! Do not take away something that is rightfully his or hers," which follows the logic of verses 3, 4. "It's a debt and you have authority over me," remember? "So do not defraud," is an appropriate translation.

It was Warren Wiersbe, who also said, "Sexual love is a beautiful tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with ... to refuse each other is to commit robbery," is defrauding, that's what it means.

"So do not deprive," but maybe a better way is, "Do not defraud one another." Do not withhold sexual intimacy from your spouse, unless these three things concur, "Perhaps by agreement for a limited time that you may devote yourselves to prayer." [1 Cor 7:5]

So three things, number one, there is a mutual agreement that you will stay away from marital sex for a while. Number two, it is for a limited time, not forever. Number three is for a spiritual pursuit in prayer. And even then Paul is saying, "Perhaps."

Why? He says, "Even after you are doing this for a limited time, come together again," obviously in sexual intimacy in your marriage. Because it will be a sad irony that when you want to pursue God in prayer, that you fall prey to sexual immorality the next day. So he says, "Come back together again, lest Satan will tempt you because of your lack of self control." [1 Cor 7:5]

So Paul is not ignorant or he does not forget that the devil is real and he's a real hard worker. He's always looking for vulnerabilities, he's looking for a prey. He's like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. And when he sees that there is someone who is sexually frustrated because they are not honoring Scripture, well, that's where he comes.

And "Satan tempts him because of lack of self control." [1 Cor 7:5] So there may be not just immoral thoughts and acts and relationships, there may be bitterness, frustration, resentment. All these sinful emotions, because Satan has found a gap through which he can attack.

So, Paul says actually in verse 6, "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this." So Paul is recognizing that, "What I'm saying to you that you can meet together as husband and wife, so that you refrain from sex for a while, so that you can seek God in prayer, even that I say to you, it's a concession, not a command.

"I meet you halfway." That's the word of ... meaning of the word, 'concession'. "I meet you half way, you want to seek God, that's great! You can do that, but never elevate it to the level of a command. Never tell people, "Refrain from sex so that you can pray to God."'

So in Paul's mind, it is important to seek God in prayer, but it's also important not to refrain from sex unnecessarily. He's not saying, "Oh, prayer is such a spiritual thing and sex is such a dirty thing." No, he's saying, "It's equally important, don't you neglect it. So this is the priority of marital sex, "Do not defraud. Do not rob. Do not deprive."

Now, there are some, I suppose many, who use sex as a manipulation tool. You know what I mean by that? They use sex as a manipulation tool to get their spouse to do what they want. For example, "If you have been a good boy, I will give you sex." So, you treat your husband or you treat your wife like a puppy.
"Hah, come, you ... you ... you ... you wave hand, you shake hand, ah very good, I give you the tidbit."

If your ... if your husband is a good boy, you give him sex, but if he's not a good boy, you don't give him sex. Now, that might be a common practice, but that's not a biblical practice. You don't use sex as a marital or as a manipulation tool. Neither should you use sex therefore as a threat, "You do that again, you sleep outside."

You ... you hear that before? I watch a lot of Chinese serials and they all say the same thing. "Lei chut hoei fun nah [Cantonese dialect]... zo tang zeong, you know, a captain of the living room. Don't come in!" Well, there are people who use sex as a manipulation tool, either as a treat or as a threat. Or maybe you give a red card. "You do this okay, you get out lah!"

And ... and so it becomes a tactic, a strategy to get what you want, but is that biblical at all? Or perhaps maybe more common, are these statements you can hear about in many marriages or even in your own marriage, where one partner or one spouse says, "I'm just not in the mood," or "I don't feel like it," or "I don't feel up to it." "I feel so tired," and "I just don't feel well."

Now, I ... I am not downplaying that there are genuine issues in life often times, that life can become overwhelming, that you may be sick, you may be ill, you may be infirm, there are genuine problems. But I think, what I'm asking you and what the Scriptures would demand that we think about, is that we must not resort to thinking that sex is a mere function of how we feel — whether I feel up to it or not.

Now, there are genuine problems, I'm not saying that you should force yourself all the time, but certainly we should not relegate it to a matter of just mere feelings. Whether you feel like it or not, you got to pay your debt, right? Whether you feel like it or not, you got to submit to your authorities, right? And so in a sense there must be a recognition of the debt and the ownership issue that 1st Corinthians 7 talks about.

Perhaps, this might also if this is a matter of priority, remember if this is a matter of importance, this should also trigger some re-prioritization or rescheduling of life. Because there are many people who think about sexual intimacy as an afterthought, "When I have some energy left over, when I still feel good after I've done so many things in a day, then I'll have sex."

Well, you may be very good in scheduling a lot of things, meeting a lot of needs, taking care of a lot of your work and your family, but this might be one area that you are neglectful about. Because you have never planned for it, you've never prioritized it, you've never recognized it as one of the ways we worship God and serve our spouse. You might have just neglected the number one relationship in your life, apart from your relationship with God, because you're busy with your work, with your family, with children, but not your spouse.

So in sum, marital sex offers protection. Think about it, in the whole wide world, billions of people God has chosen only you to legitimately, lawfully, biblically fulfill the sexual needs of your spouse, and to protect him or her from sexual temptation. You're the only one, and if you don't do it, that's it!

Number two, the Bible says, "The principle is that you owe it to your spouse." That's the covenantal obligation, responsibility or duty. It's not what you decide, it's what she decides or what he decides. This must never be used as a demand to force sex from your spouse, but this is your own personal discipleship to Jesus, where you recognize God's will and you voluntarily and joyfully submit yourself to fulfill your spouse.

This is a matter of great priority. In a sense, that this does not get relegated even if you are seeking God in spiritual prayer, do not defraud your spouse. Think about it this way, that you should not use sex as a manipulation tool, but it's serving your spouse with your body. And that if this is so important, then you don't leave it to the end, but you think about priorities and schedules and energies of life.

I remind you that Satan's strategy when it comes to sex, is to do everything he can to discourage sex within marriage and encourage sex outside of marriage. I will not be surprised, I don't have stats, I did not dig up stats, but I will not be surprised that many marital issues may find one of its roots to somewhere along where we have spoken of this morning.

God's will for the Christian marriage is that we will be a portrayal of the relationship between Christ and His Church. The way we love and sacrifice for each other, the way we submit to each other, the way we serve each other is to be a reminder, a reflection to the world how we serve the Lord Jesus Christ and how He serves us and gives Himself for us.

May this be true in your marriage. What we spoke about is extremely practical, real and not easy to do, but I pray that we will all remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ, resource from it and may we reflect it. If you're here with us for the first time, I must say this must be a very interesting message for you to listen to, but we don't talk about these things all the time, but Christ and His Church is what we talk about all the time.

I want to tell you today, if you think this is really tough, this sex thing is really tough, God sent His Son, glorious, joyous, fulfilled in every way, so that He might empty Himself of all that glory and joy and be born into this world, so that He might one day go to the cross, suffer and die to save us from our sins.

It's difficult! It's extremely painful, but this is the God of the Bible, He gave His Son to save you from your sins. I pray that as you see godly Christian marriages around you, you'll be reminded of how Christ sacrifice Himself to save you from your sin.

This morning, I want to invite you to receive this love of Jesus Christ, I want to ask you to think about God's love, that you may stop trying to be good enough for God because you can never do that, but receive this love, this salvation, this payment Christ did for us on the cross.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You this morning, Your Word is always so rich and instructive. It might be counter intuitive, it might be very radical to consider, but when we think deeply upon it, we know this is truth. And we pray You will give us wisdom not only to know but to do Your will, but supremely above all, may You lead us today, to be reminded of Your love for us in Jesus Christ. How He unconditionally, unswervingly gave of Himself to love us, to sacrifice for us, to cleanse us, and to save us from our sins.

May we be a church of people who will gladly submit ourselves to Him. Lord, help us to be faithful followers, worshipers. Again, we pray for friends who are tuning in or right here in this hall today, bless them that they might also receive this love, this message of salvation, Jesus Christ into their lives. Thank You, we pray all this in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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