Sex is a part of God’s design for humankind. The book of Genesis focuses on two aspects of our creation—the image of God and human sexuality. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God called everything that he made, including sex, “very good” (v. 31), and having sex is a part of being married. God says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). According to Paul, becoming one flesh refers to the sex act. “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:16).
The Bible is not critical of sex but of not respecting God’s laws about sex. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).
Today, as in biblical times, there are many false beliefs about human sexuality. In the early church there were people who promoted either celibacy or libertinism regarding sexual behavior. The libertine view argues that all sexual behavior is permissible because sex is just a natural bodily function. Some Corinthians used sayings or slogans to support their libertine views. They said, “Everything is permissible for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12) and “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (v. 13). Paul’s reply indicates these slogans referred to sexual behavior: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality” (v. 13) and “Flee sexual immorality” (v. 18). Notice how the Corinthians’ slogans suggest that sexual behavior is irresistible because it is biological, but Paul replies, “I will not be mastered by anything” (v. 12). This view is similar to the argument in our day that addiction is a disease rather than a behavior. We are told that addiction is the fault of defective genes, brainwaves, serotonin levels, or allergies rather than wrong choices. The slogan today is, “You are not bad, you are sick.” The Christian response to addiction and all behaviors is, “I will not be mastered by anything.”
Others at Corinth thought celibacy was superior, so they discouraged marriage and sex within marriage. They wrote to Paul about whether it is “good for a man not to marry” (7:1). The NASB is more literal and has “not to touch a woman” instead of “not to marry.” The NASB translation is better because it refers to the sexual relationship within marriage and not just the act of marrying. In the Bible, the phrase “to touch a woman” is a euphemism for sexual relations (Genesis 20:6; Proverbs 6:29). Paul counters this view by pointing out that sex within marriage lessens the temptation to sin. “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Furthermore, he argues that married couples have an obligation to work on their sexual relationship. “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband” (v. 3).
Not everyone has the same desire or interest in marriage and sex. In Paul’s discussion of this subject, he notes that some people have the gift of being single. “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” (1 Corinthians 7:7).
J B Myers