3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:3–4, NKJV)
One of the biggest sources of marital problems is selfishness. Marriage establishes a moral obligation to deliver (render) to one’s mate the good will of sexual fulfillment which he or she is due. To use the marriage bed as an incentive for good behavior or a punishment for bad behavior is not the will of God. Such selfish treatment of the marriage bed chips away at the emotional and spiritual stability and security it is designed to provide. To be even more emphatic, the apostle explains that in marriage your body belongs to your spouse, not to yourself (verse 4). Each one has authority (right, privilege, jurisdiction) over the other’s body. Such authority is not tyrannical, oppressive or abusive, but respectful and affectionate. When a husband or wife says their body is nobody’s business but their own, they reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of marriage as a hedge against sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). In marriage, your body belongs to your spouse. The marriage bed binds two souls together in unselfish fulfillment, and thereby gives protection from the moral defilement of sexual immorality.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (Ephesians 5:3, NKJV)
The rise in cohabitation without marriage in America over the past 30 years is obvious. Reflective of a society that has cast off moral restraints, it is but one indicator of self-defined morality. The annual Gallup Values and Beliefs Survey (May 1-10, 2018) reports that 69% of those surveyed believe sexual activity before marriage is morally acceptable, while 42% said it is morally acceptable for teenagers to practice it. The morality of having a baby outside of marriage was approved by 65% of those polled, while 67% said gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable. In stark contrast, the Holy Spirit inspired apostle drew a red line in the sand that all sexual activity, before and in addition to marriage, is not to be professed among Christians. It is against who we are. We are saints (“holy ones”), called to be sanctified or set apart from such sins. We are not to participate in them or endorse them. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Christians must rise above the world’s definition of what is moral and refuse the allurements of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17).
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, NKJV)
The “present distress” of persecution facing the Corinthian Christians made it advisable for them not to marriage (1 Cor. 7:25-33). But, the temptation of sexual immorality was strong then, just as it is today. And so, God gave marriage as the holy fulfillment of human sexual desire. The apostle had just warned Christians to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). Now, he reminds them that God gave marriage as the one, moral means of their sexual desires. The bed is “undefiled” in marriage (Heb. 13:4). This one flesh uniting of husband and wife meets one of the Lord’s purposes for marriage; the avoidance of sexual sin. Thus, both husband and wife are obliged to serve their mate in this matter (see 1 Cor. 7:3-4). The marriage bed is not an exercise in selfish pleasure. Nor is it a bargaining chip to hold power over one’s spouse. Such selfish treatment of the marriage bed shows shameful disrespect for what God deems to be a holy safeguard against sin. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:16–18, NKJV)
These are not pleasant words, nevertheless, their warning is needful. The sexual appetite is strong, and when fed within God-approved marriage, it is undefiled (Heb. 13:4). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (thus, “outside the body”). But, sexual immorality (“fornication,” translated from the Greek word, porneia) is “against the body”, that is, it is opposed to the God-intended purpose of the body (v. 18). After all, your body does not belong to you, but to God (1 Cor. 6:20, 15). Therefore, “glorify God in your body” by fleeing fornication and maintaining sexual purity. Our society is saturated with sexual sins and their allurements. The gospel calls us to the purity of holiness, not to return to the shameful and destructive sins of the flesh (1 Pet. 1:15; 4:1-3). Stolen water is not sweet, and stolen bread feeds the flames of hell (Prov. 9:17-18). While the world indulges itself in this soul-destroying use of their bodies, let us flee fornication and pursue righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22).