Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” NIV I Corinthians 7:1
At first glance, this can be a confusing verse. We need to understand several issues to understand this “awkward” text. First, we must look at this verse within the context of the book of I Corinthians and the city and culture of Corinth around the year of 55 AD. Secondly, we must look at the context of Chapter 7 within the letter of I Corinthians.
The city of Corinth was a wealthy, relatively new Roman city full of many former slaves. Many Corinthians worshiped at the temple of Aphrodite located on the hill above the city. Prostitution and sexual immorality was a common practice at the temple and within Roman society.
Paul wrote the letter of I Corinthians to the church he had started in that city as a reply to several questions they had written to him. Chapter seven begins a new topic of marriage within his letter. The NIV puts quotations around the statement “It is good for a man to not have sexual relations with a woman.”
(I Corinthians 7:1) This indicates that Paul is quoting the Corinthians in this statement. It is possible some people in the church of Corinth believed that sexual relations within marriage was wrong for Christians, because they had the Holy Spirit and didn’t want to corrupt their bodies with sex. Some may have believed that the second coming of Christ was imminent, and since people would not live as married people in heaven, they should begin to live that way now on earth. Others may have been influenced by the popular world view at the time that since their bodies would die, it did not matter what they did with them, they could do anything, even behave sexually immoral – and it didn’t matter.
Paul corrects the Corinthians’ thinking in the next several verses. He is clear that sexual relations within the context of marriage is proper, right and creates a mutuality between husband and wife that would have been somewhat radical for 55 AD. Look at how the Message version translates the next few verses in
I Corinthians 7.
Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? 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. 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. I Corinthians 7:1-4 MSG
Both Paul and Jesus often answered complex and “awkward” questions. There definitely are difficult, confusing and awkward scriptures in the Bible. Asking questions of those who have studied it is one way to find answers. Another is to study the question for yourself. Look at various translations, consult commentaries or other study books on the topic or passage. Pray about your questions;i f you seek God sincerely, He promises He can be found.
I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. Proverbs 8:17 NIV
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 NIV