An interpretive paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 7:1-9, a key text on marital sexuality:



[1] You wrote to me, “It is good for a man to not touch – that is, to not have sexual relations -- with a woman.” Many in your church feel this way about sex because sexual immorality has been such a problem for you. Some of you have a lot of sexual baggage from your past. Some among you are suggesting that perhaps it would be best, and more spiritual, to do away with sex altogether and try to be celibate. Some of you are ashamed of sex and sexual desire – and no doubt some of this shame is tied back to sins many of you committed before you came to believe the gospel (1 Cor. 6:9-11) or to a misguided asceticism.


[2] Let me give you a more realistic solution to the problem of sexual temptation – a solution that traces back to God’s original creation design for men and women. Your sexual desires are not evil in themselves, they just need a lawful way to be satisfied. Instead of trying to be celibate (and failing, since most of you do not have the gift of self-control required to live a celibate life), the answer to sexual immorality and temptation is marriage, and sex within marriage. That’s right: the solution to sexual temptation is sex within marriage. Thus, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. Because the temptation to sexual immorality is so strong and so widespread, go ahead and get married! Then you will have a lawful sex partner. Sexual activity in marriage is God’s remedy to the sexual temptations you are facing. Contrary to what you wrote to me, I write to you: It is very good for a man to touch his wife! And for her to touch him!


[3] In marriage, the husband is legally and covenantally obligated to give sex to his wife, and the wife to her husband. This may sound radical because in your culture only men have sexual rights. But in the culture God is building, wives have sexual rights too. This was even taught in the Torah (Exodus 21:10-11). Each spouse has a right to sex; each spouse has a duty to give sex; no sexual needs or desires in marriage should go unfulfilled. That’s God’s desire and design for marriage.


[4] The wife does not have authority over her body once she gets married, but her husband does. And likewise, a man no longer has authority over his own body once he gets married, but his wife does. When you get married, you promise to give yourself completely and unreservedly to your spouse. You do not get to withhold yourself. In fact, if you withhold sex to manipulate your spouse, punish your spouse, or for any other reason, you will not only frustrate your spouse, your will frustrate God’s design for marriage. Sexual refusal is sin. Going on a sex strike is sin.


[5] Thus, you should be sexually available to each other at all times. Sexual refusal in marriage is a sin (though you can use sanctified common sense to come up with some exceptions to this rule). If you deprive one another of sex in marriage, you are actually defrauding one another; it is an unjust deprivation, since you are refusing to fulfill an obligation you took on when you got married. It is a form of theft since you are not giving what is owed to your spouse. Note that I am using legal language here! So only refrain from having sex when you both agree it’s a good time to be apart, so that you can give yourselves to prayer. But these mutually agreed-upon times of sexual abstinence should not last for too long, because otherwise Satan will tempt you, and remember, one of the reasons you had for getting married in the first place was to minimize sexual temptation. If you deny your spouse when you have not mutually consented to abstain, you actually put a bullseye target on your spouse, making him/her an easy target for Satan. You should do all you can to protect one another from Satan’s temptations.


[At this point in the argument, Paul could have inserted a reference to Song of Solomon or to Proverbs 5:15ff, which prove God desires us to have mutually enjoyable sexual activity within the marriage covenant. In  Song of Solomon, the woman is full of sexual desire for the bridegroom. Solomon says in Proverbs 5 that a husband should “let [his wife’s] breasts fill you at all times with delight” and should be “intoxicated always with [his wife’s] love.” The “at all times” and “always” of Proverbs 5:19 fits well with what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 7:5.]


[6-7] Now, I do have a concession to make to your view that a man should not touch a woman (7:1). I do not give this as a command, obviously, given what I have just said about the goodness of marriage and sex within marriage, but I will make a concession to the view some in your congregation have taken. The concession is this: It would be good for people to be unmarried. In fact, right at this moment, I wish all were unmarried, like me, because marriage brings with it certain burdens and difficulties, especially in times of persecution, such as we are about to face. If you are single during the coming distress, it will be a great advantage to you. I’ll say more about this in a bit (see 7:26 in context). God has given each of us a gift. To some, he gives the gift of a spouse and family. To others, he gives the gift of being able to live faithfully (that is, chastely) without a spouse. So those of you who do not have strong sex drives certainly have my permission to live a celibate/single life. I am certainly not giving a command that every Christian must get married (the way some Jewish rabbis do).

[Note: The concession in view in v. 6 does not point back to sex within marriage, as if Paul had to reluctantly concede that sexual activity between a husband and wife is just barely permissible. No, it is obvious from Scripture as a whole that God is enthusiastic about sex within marriage, and we should be as well. The concession is found in what follows, and has to do with whether or not they should marry given the church's present circumstances as Paul is writing. These circumstances are twofold: There is widespread sexual immorality which means many need to marry (v. 1) and there is a coming persecution which will be easier to endure for those who remain single (v. 26). In this particular set of circumstances, Paul highlights the benefits of the single/celibate life for those who can do it. Paul is not giving a command to marry or not marry, but rather wisdom so they can make good decisions about marriage in their situation. To paraphrase verses 6 and 7 again, highlighting where the concession falls: "I wish everyone was gifted to live a single life without distraction, as I am. But I will conceded that each one has his own marital status as a gift from God. There is no command here to marry, nor to stay single, because some will be called and gifted by God to marry and some will not."]

[8-9] To those who have not yet married and to those who are widows, I say it is good for you to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control – if they do not have a gift to live without sex – they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn – that is, to burn with sexual passion, which, if it rages out of control can lead to the burning fires of hell. See, sexual desire is a fire, and it belongs in the fireplace of marriage. If it burns outside of that fireplace, it causes destruction. It is better to marry than to burn, even if marriage means you will face certain hardships in the coming persecution. This brings us back around to the issue we started with in verse 1, namely, widespread sexual temptation/immorality in Corinth. Once again, the answer is lawful sexual activity within marriage. My point is that you should not be ashamed of your strong sexual desires – they are rooted in how God made you and they serve his good purposes – but those desires must be channeled. This is why I said earlier that husbands and wives should satisfy each other’s sexual desires – and if you refuse your spouse, you are frustrating one of the chief purposes of marriage, which is the prevention of sexual immorality/temptation.



As I was about to publish this post on marital sexuality, I came across a Facebook post from “Them Before Us” founder, Katy Faust, which also addresses sex within marriage. She is exactly right: in a very real sense, sex is glue. It is a God-given way to express covenant love and renew marital commitment. Because not everyone can access Facebook, I have reproduced most of her post here. Celebrating her marriage of 24 years to her husband, she says,


[We have a great marriage and are still in love] not because we’ve had a trouble free marriage. We’ve experienced job losses, parenting challenges, physical and medical stressors, and communication problems like every other marriage. I can too quickly shut out his opinions, and I’m slower to apologize when we argue. We both have had a lot of growing to do and challenges to overcome in the last 24 years.


But despite the toils of life and personality flaws, there’s a very helpful, God-given glue that when used properly can knit your hearts together in greater devotion with each passing year.


That glue is sex.


Right from the beginning we promised that if either of us had a sexual thought, word, or deed it would always and only involve the other.


Here’s the thing about sex, especially for men. Whatever they are looking at at the moment of climax, that image will stay with them and arouse them (whether they want it to or not) in the future. Throughout these 24 years I’ve met women who regularly tell their husbands to “take care of it themselves.” Others dabble (or indulge) in porn or trashy romance novels. Fools. All of that hijacks your bond with your spouse and makes it less likely that you will make it to 24 years, let alone be happy about it.


But when the only object of your sexual thoughts, words, and deeds involve your husband or your wife, you make it almost impossible to not be devastatingly in love 24 years later. He will truly see you, his wife, as the most beautiful woman in the world even with a few extra pounds and a lot of new wrinkles. Ryan and I jokingly refer to this phenomenon as "monogamy goggles."


When you truly “forsake all others,” real, enduring love is not only possible, but *buildable.*



I normally would not quote from Sheila Gregoire's blog. I really used to enjoy Gregoire's work, about a decade or so ago, before she took a hard left turn and became much more openly progressive and feminist. In the "old days" I can remember when folks like Dalrock and Lori Alexander would engage with her on her blog, sometimes with profit. Gary Thomas also interacted with her material. Those days are long gone now, as she hangs around full blown leftists like Kristen Du Mez and Beth Allison Barr. But some of her old posts had good information and insight. One post, which actually quotes extensively from someone else (Bryan Sands), is entitled "How Sex Is Like Glue." Here is a helpful excerpt:


Sex and Glue: The Emotional Bond of a Physical Act (The Scientific World)

During sexual activity, our brain releases a number of chemicals. Some of the chemicals include estrogen (the chemical that gets a woman in the mood), norepinephrine (the chemical that is like adrenaline and creates the palpitating heart), dopamine (the “got-to-get it chemical”), vasopressin (the “monogamy chemical”), and the chief of all these chemicals—oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone”).

Think of oxytocin as glue, promoting bonding and attachment. If all the hormones had an opportunity to vote for the “most popular” hormone in the yearbook, oxytocin would win every time, because it makes others feel good and close when it is active. It has been dubbed the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it does simply that. Oxytocin creates bonding, trust, and generosity in us. In fact, whenever you feel comfort or security, you can thank oxytocin. Every form of human bonding from non-sexual to sexual interactions involves oxytocin to some degree.

The part of the brain where oxytocin is released is larger in women than men. So during sexual intercourse, the brain releases this chemical that causes the couple to bond on a deep level—but the woman’s brain actually is releasing more. Some have suggested that the reason a woman stays with a man who is abusive or a jerk is because she has a stronger chemical bond toward him. It also explains why, generally speaking, it is easier for guys to hookup and move on, without as much emotional turmoil.

Whether we like it or not, oxytocin creates a bond between you and your partner; and the more sexual encounters you have together, the stronger the bond. When oxytocin is released, it also floods the brain with endorphins, a natural opiate that activates the pleasure center in the brain. As our brain releases these chemicals during sex you are bonding on so many different levels—emotional, physical, sensory, etc.

In other words, oxytocin is a type of chemical bonding glue.

A person may choose to have sex once or many times with many different people, and whether they know it or not, a bond is formed each and every time. When this bond gets broken, it creates pain. It leaves a void. Sound familiar? Have you ever felt a deep sense of hurt or pain after a breakup? Ever felt a hollow void after a one-night stand? Do you find yourself repeatedly playing the scenario in your mind, maybe even thinking of different outcomes? Believe it or not there is a chemical reason for all this. Chances are you are doing these things because of the intoxicating attachment that was created between you and your partner when you were sexually involved. The emotional attachment that is created during sex, resulting from the release of oxytocin, binds two people together.

The Ancient Hebrews (The Spiritual World)

At creation God entrusted this newly created paradise to Adam saying, “Take care of it.” One of Adam’s first tasks was the naming of the animals, and he gave them names as he saw fit. Each had a mate. Each had someone—a companion. All seemed well, but there was a problem in paradise.

Adam was alone.

Even though he had God and all the animals, Adam wanted a partner—another like him. To relieve this loneliness, God created another like him—Eve. Now in this paradise, we have partners, Adam and Eve, who work together to tend to the land, care for the animals, and who enjoy one another in every way. They were able to look at one another in full vulnerability and not feel any insecurities or shame. It was God, Adam, and Eve living in the Garden of Eden—a picture of perfect harmony, perfect intimacy, and perfect unity.

Sadly, it would not last long. As the biblical account goes—Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree and everything changed. (Gen 3)

After all this, Adam and Eve no longer had the same intimate relationship. They now felt shame, insecurities, and deceit. They realized they were naked and ran and covered themselves, hid from God, and blamed one another for what happened. Their intimate bond of unity, of oneness, had been shattered. Now their world became what God had never intended.

What if Adam and Eve’s story is really our story?

The story of Adam and Eve is our story. It is the story of our desires, our choices, and the brokenness we all feel. It is the story of what we all yearn for: a deep, intimate, meaningful, trusting relationship with a partner—oneness. This is how God created us. This is his desire for us as well. The question is this, however: Is it possible for us to get back to that oneness?

In Genesis 2:24–25, the dynamics of marriage are introduced, noting that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, that the two would become “one flesh.” The word, “one” is the Hebrew word echad. Echad’s basic definition is, you guessed it, “one.”  But it also has a deeper significance. Echad carries the idea of one in the midst of unity, and it is closely connected with another Hebrew word that means, “to be united.”[ii] The Hebrew word for “flesh” is basar and it can mean “flesh” or “body” among other things. When these two words are combined, it paints the picture of this couple being united at the deepest level, not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Husband and wife, one made from the elements of dirt, the other taken from a rib, now enjoy God’s gift of sex—a physical unity that envisions the becoming of one flesh once again—emotionally and spiritually. As Adam and Eve came from one body so now they would, once again, become one.

During sex, two beings—two souls—are uniting, becoming one. There is an intimacy and deepness unlike any other act. Sounds like what scientists communicate about the bonding power of the chemical oxytocin, doesn’t it?

It is interesting that the writer of Genesis 2 connects this sense of oneness—echad-ness—within the dynamics of marriage. It is as if to communicate that this bond is so powerful, so transcending, that marriage is the only force that can contain it. Marriage was and still should be considered sacred.

That is exactly right. Marriage and sex go together because both are oneness. Sex is to be celebrated and enjoyed in marriage because it is God's good gift -- God gives a wife to a husband and a husband to a wife -- so they can experience a shadow of God's oneness within the Trinity and Christ's oneness with his bride, the church. Science and Scripture both agree that sex is such a powerful force, it needs to be kept within the proper container, namely, the covenant of marriage.