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1 Corinthians 7:4-7 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 51 secs

Mutuality in Marriage; Doctrine of the Dance; 1 Corinthians 7:4-7

 

What is being discussed here is the role of sex inside of marriage. The Bible clearly emphasizes that God designed sex for pleasure, for recreation, and secondarily for procreation and the propagation of the species. It was designed from the very beginning in the garden of Eden to be part of marriage. The Corinthians were saying that it was a good thing for a man not to be involved with a woman, that this was a good thing and superior spiritually. In contrast Paul says, "But because of [sexual] immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband." This is the principle that he is going to explain down through verse 7, that a husband is to have sexual relations with his own wife and the wife is to have sexual relations with her husband. It goes both ways, he is not talking from some sort of male chauvinist background. Because of the ease, the availability, the way that so many people succumb to sexual lusts and the problems that that generates, the principle is invalid, do not try to have celibacy in marriage, you need to have an active sex life. There is supposed to be a very rich and enjoyable sex life between the husband and the wife. Then in verses 3 & 4 Paul is going to explain that there is a mutuality in this, this is not a hierarchy, this is not the husband in authority, that even though the husband is the leader in the home, the leader in marriage, he is not going to be saying that husbands are the ones who initiate in sex but the wife can too. There is a mutuality here, an intimacy where it is not based on some sort of hierarchy of authority and responsibility. In verse 5 Paul gives the underlying mandate again, and then in vv. 6 and 7 he is going to come back and give a pragmatic value of celibacy and a proper view of celibacy.

So beginning in verse 3, "The husband must fulfil his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband." Underlying this command is the principle of unconditional love. Unconditional love does not put the emphasis on the behaviour, the actions or the attractiveness of the object of love, it has its root and foundation in the integrity in the soul of the person who is doing the loving. So what is found in sound marriages that have a rich physical enjoyment between the husband and the wife is that there is a solid foundation of impersonal or unconditional love. When they get together for intimacy there is no mental baggage, no problems with bitterness, resentment, or harbouring of past problems. So to understand all of this we must understand that sex comes second, first comes soul rapport. "The husband must fulfil his duty to his wife." Wife here is the Greek word GUNAIKEIOS [gunaikeioj], it is in the dative case which indicates that it is a dative of advantage. It is for the advantage of his wife that the husband fulfil his duty. What does that mean, to fulfil his duty? This is the Greek imperative verb APODIDOMI [a)podidomi], a present active imperative. In the Greek a present imperative indicates something that is a continuing standard operating procedure. This is to be a habit pattern, a characteristic of something. The verb means to restore, to return, to recompense, and so the primary idea is to perform in one's primary area of responsibility. The husband has a responsibility to his wife in the area of sex. But is works the other way, too, "and likewise also the wife to her husband." The verb is not repeated but it is understood, that the wife is to fulfil her responsibility to her husband. There is a mutuality here. Both the husband and the wife are to be involved in meeting the sexual needs of the other partner. The sex life is to be a concern to both the husband and the wife. This demands a level of maturity on the part of both of them because the concept here is built on not getting what I need but giving what the other person needs. It is based on the concept of giving and that is always related to grace. The husband must give from himself and this means it must originate in his soul. No one can be a good lover who is self-absorbed. Love is the opposite of self-absorption and arrogance.

The word translated "duty" in verse 3 is the Greek word OPHEILE [o)feilh], an economic term which means to owe a debt. It comes to mean to have a moral, ethical or legal obligation. There is an obligation or responsibility here. It is talking about the fact that the husband has a legitimate, divinely-given responsibility that he is to fulfil to his wife. The it is reversed, the wife is also to fulfil her responsibility to the husband. In this context it is talking about in the realm of sexual intimacy. The husband has an obligation to fulfil his wife's sexual desires, and the wife also has an obligation to fulfil the husband's sexual desire. We have to remember something about the context here. If we forget the context we can take that to the extreme. The context is that the Corinthians are opting for celibacy in marriage. They are saying there shouldn't be any sex in marriage. There are always problems that enter into a couple's sex life but we are not talking about that kind of a situation. We have to recognize that there are always going to be ebbs and flows in sexual desire within marriage, but his is in the context here of people who are saying no sex in marriage. So Paul is saying that there is a responsibility for husbands and wives for mutual responsibility in the area of sexual intimacy. Ephesians 5:22, 25 clearly states that there is a responsibility in marriage which ultimately resides in the husband who initiates. He is 51% responsible, but that doesn't negate the volition of the wife. Always remember, it take two to make a successful marriage; it only takes one to destroy it.

1 Corinthians 7:4 NASB "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.}" So a biblical view of marriage and the roles of the man and woman in marriage are based on the idea of coordination and not competition. They are to complement each other, not to be involved in some sort of struggle or fight. There is a mutuality in this verse, the wife has authority over the husband and the husband has authority over the wife. Then verb is EXOUSIAZO [e)cousiazw] from the noun EXOUSIA [e)cousia], meaning authority or control, and the verb means to have the right of control or the right of power over something. So husbands, your body belongs to your wife; and wives, your body belongs to your husband. That indicates a mutuality, and the way that is applied is going to be under the condition of unconditional love and impersonal love. We must remember that the Bible expresses these things by showing that the man is not complete without the woman and the woman is not complete without the man. Each finds fulfilment in the other, each has a distinct role, but due to sin competition enters into the picture. The only thing that reverses that is regeneration and spiritual growth.

1 Corinthians 7:5 NASB "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." The verb here is APOSTEREO [a)posterew] in the present active imperative, which means this is to be a standard operating procedure. In some versions it is translated "Don't defraud one another." The verb means to rob, to deprive, or to steal; it means to take that which is not rightfully yours. He is saying, "Quit taking what is rightfully belonging to the other person," i.e. the right to sexual enjoyment in marriage. Sex should be a very significant and central part of any solid, sound marriage relationship. Husbands remember, you can't just go home and tell your wives, "Okay, did you hear the pastor this morning; we are supposed to have more sex." Sex on the part of a woman is a response to your understanding the principles of genuine husband love in the Scriptures, and so there may be some other problems that you have to address in your own life before your wife is going to feel comfortable responding to you.

The principle here is that sex is to be a vital and vibrant part of any solid, healthy marriage. "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time," so he does say that there is an exception here, and that is that you may devote yourself to prayer. So if you are spending time in prayer, listening to tapes, studying the Word, that is the only reason, Paul says, that you should say no. He doesn't say headaches; they're out. The issue here is a spiritual issue. The only thing that should take priority over your sexual life is your spiritual life, but that is just for a time, it is temporary. [6] "But this I say by way of concession, not of command." So he is conceding only on one point in terms of the celibacy issue. If you are going to set aside some time for prayer, some time for Bible study, that is okay, because remember we all have sin natures, we all have sexual desire and if you put this off for too long there can be other problems. "…and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." The lack of self-control there is the Greek word AKRATIA [a)kratia] which has to do with self-control, especially in the area of sexual control. So he says to remember that you shouldn't put this off too long because it is easy for your spouse to become tempted in the area of sex and in order to avoid this and to avoid problems that come from that, make sure that your partner is continually satisfied.

[7] 1 Corinthians 7:7 NASB "Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that." There is a contrast here in the opening verb. Here Paul is going to say that in contrast he really wishes that all men were celibate like he is. "However, each man" ANTHROPOS [a)nqropoj], meaning human. Each individual has his own gift from God. He recognizes that not everybody can be celibate and that most people need to be married other wise they are going to get in trouble from sexual lust. The only reason Paul says celibacy is going to be superior is because celibacy is going to give them an opportunity to spend more time in the Word and more time in ministry. This is because they are not going to be distracted by the cares of raising children, taking care of a wife, and all they have to do is focus on the ministry of God's Word.

So an analogy from marriage on the concept of dancing, where you really have to work together as dance partners to really perfect your ability to dance together. It is a tremendous metaphor for how a husband and a wife are to operate together.

The doctrine of the dance

1)  Dancing involves teamwork with clearly-defined rules and roles for each member of the team. The man is the leader in dancing and the woman is the responder—she follows his lead. When the rules are followed and each person fulfils his role the result is a fluid movement of grace and beauty. The goal of marriage is for the two to move as one. It doesn't happen over night, it doesn't happen intuitively, it happens because there is a lot of work involved but each one understands what their particular roles are within the team and they work to master it. Christian marriage also involves teamwork with clearly defined rules and roles. Ephesians 5:22, 23; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter 3:1-7. Teamwork is defined as a relationship between two individuals that is characterized by mutual cooperation and defined areas of responsibility directed to the achievement of a specified common goal.

2)  Two people cannot dance together without a common goal. In the same way, two believers cannot achieve a Christian marriage without a common goal. The goal of marriage between believers is to produce a union of two lives which brings glory to God and is a testimony of divine grace. This means that the highest priority in your life in terms of marriage is first your own spiritual life. You have to realize that in marriage you are not going to be any better than what you are as an individual. It takes two to make a successful marriage but one can destroy that option. Amos 3:3 KJV "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" When the common goal is a successful Christian marriage, as defined in bringing glory to God through the marriage team, then whenever conflict erupts the final determiner is what is best for the marriage in terms of the Word of God—not what best promotes my life, what is going to make me happy, what is going to bring about my goals, but what is best for the marriage in terms of biblical priorities.

3)  Like any team, dancing has specifically defined roles for the two participants. In dancing the male is the leader and the woman is the follower. This means the man initiates, plans and directs the movements of the woman. The woman is the follower, she has to respond to the leadership of the male, and she has to do everything the man does but she has to do it backward, she can't even see where she is going. In Christian marriage, by analogy, the husband is the leader, the one with final authority, and he is the one who is held accountable by God for the spiritual welfare of the family. The role of spiritual leadership in the home involves teaching the children, praying together, setting priorities, making sure everyone gets to Bible class on time, and modelling the application of doctrine in his own life by setting an example. In Christian marriage the wife is the responder, and she is responding to God first and her husband second. If she starts putting her husband first then she is going to set herself up to be continuously reacting or responding to him and she will become an emotional yoyo.

4)  In the dance the leader and follower positions are not related to the skill level of the dancers. Many times the woman may be a much better dancer than the man. The same thing happens in marriage. Many times the husband is not as bright, is not as skilful, not as adept in relationships as the woman is. The role doesn't have anything to do with the skill level involved, it has to do with God's design and intention for men and women inside of the marriage.

5)  In dancing each person has specific footwork that must be learned and practiced in order to develop grace and fluidity. This demands thought and concentration. When emotion takes over mistakes occur. It is the same with marriage. You have to practice your role, you have to study, you have to think about it; it doesn't just happen, it is not the result of intuition.

6)  In dancing the male through good leads can make his partner look graceful and keep her from making mistakes. However, if his leads are too strong they can cause problems. On the other hand, if his lead is too weak and he doesn't communicate anything to the woman for response she is left in the very frustrating position of trying to guess how to follow the man. The same thing is true about Christian marriage. The man who leads too strongly is a tyrant and bully, doesn't understand grace and destroys the gracefulness in the marriage. A man who is weak and doesn't lead well, always deferring to the wife, also creates problems because she is going to react to that and there will be role reversals in the marriage which are eventually self-defeating.

7)  The male as the leader plans and initiates the various moves. That means he has to be thinking ahead. He sees other people on the dance floor, he sees obstacles, he has to know how to avoid them and maintain control. This implies that as part of the leadership role the husband must understand Christian marriage and where the couple is headed spiritually. He has to look forward.

8)  In the dance the leader must know and study his partner to know how to lead her effectively. The same thing in the home. The husband must know and understand his wife, and this involves listening to her and communicating. A mark of good leadership is humility and teachability.

9)  The man must learn to listen to his partner because only the person you are dancing with knows how you are doing. Grace orientation is a prerequisite for good communication and demands humility.

10)  The woman, in contrast, must learn to communicate to the man without challenging his tender male ego. She is going to have to study her husband to know how to communicate to him, to make suggestions to him, so that he is more responsive and will be more willing to listen. Don't create a conflict.

11)  The woman must learn to let the man lead. This doesn't come naturally, she has to let the man lead. That puts her in a position of vulnerability because he is going to make mistakes, and those mistakes can hurt and have lasting consequences. Scripture doesn't say, "Children obey your parents when they are right." It doesn't say, "Slaves obey your masters when they have your best interests at heart." Neither does it say, "Wives submit to your husbands when they are on the right track." It doesn't say, "Husbands love your wives when they are responding to you the way you think they should." There aren't conditions on those things.

12)  The woman is sometimes unaware of where the man is going on the dance floor and of his plan, so she must be constantly ready to respond and shift with his leads. One of the most difficult things about being a woman is being flexible.

13)  The woman must continue to follow as best she can, no matter how faulty his leadership. If a man is a failure in his leadership role you can still be successful as a follower.

14)  Trouble starts when you quit thinking and start emoting.

15)  Success ultimately is based on consistency and practice. Many mistakes are made but as long as the goal is kept by the two it can be accomplished. As long as you stop, rebound, confess your sins, apologize to one another, forgive one another, then you can always recover and go forward. As the two work together, mutual respect and admiration develops and confidence increases.