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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 7:3-4 A pure and decent life

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 26, 2023

Parents reading this devotion aloud to young children may want to skip down to the last paragraph for a simple and godly application. Newlyweds or couples about to be married may want to read this devotion aloud to one another to benefit their union and their joy of each other.

3 For his wife, the husband must fulfill his marital duty. And the wife for her husband. 4 The wife is not the only master of her body, but her husband as well. And the husband is not the only master of his body, but his wife as well.

These verses should be clear enough, but in case there is someone misled, or naïve, or ignorant of such things, I will explain in plain words: The sexual needs of husband and wife must be fulfilled by one another.  As the wife says in the Song: “My lover is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16). So if people are married, they ought normally to have sexual relations with one another.

The Bible does not command the frequency of marital relations, but they must not become so infrequent as to frustrate one spouse or the other. One spouse will probably want to make love more often than the other, and the other, obviously will desire sex less often than the one. They are best advised to find a compromise between these desires, especially if they are extremely different.

The custom in some places or cultures of waiting for some time (often three days) after the wedding before they begin their intimacy is not Scriptural. Where this is enforced, the Apocryphal book of Tobit is often cited and the example there (Tobit 8:1-4). But even in that place there is no direct mention of a third night, but only an invented story about a folk remedy for demon possession which flies in the face of the true examples of exorcism and the command of Jesus Christ, to pray for anything in his name (Mark 9:29; John 14:13-14). Also, Luther points out that the patriarch Jacob slept with his wife Leah on their wedding night (Genesis 29:23).

The husband must learn his wife’s needs and pleasures. There are many counselors and therapists who recommend that a husband should learn to apply “Ladies first” in bed, and that the husband who learns the truth of this will find a wife who is forever content with him. This of course is not a command or a rule, but merely good advice. In any case, he will want her to be able to say: “His left arm is under my head and his right arm embraces me” (Song of Solomon 8:3). In turn, the wife must learn her husband’s needs. She will say: “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me” (Song 7:10).

Discovering one another’s needs is not done only in the silence of the bed, but by talking about what pleases and what does not. The husband who never imagines that his wife has any needs will never have a satisfied wife. The wife who assumes her man is like a character in a movie or like “all the men” portrayed by Hollywood will never have a satisfied husband. It is the union of the two, this wife and this husband, that they must discover and enjoy. Then the wife will realize to her delight that he craves no one else; that in addition to his vow of faithfulness, his heart truly belongs to her: “Thus I have become in his eyes like one who delivers contentment” (Song 8:10). And he will know that her heart truly belongs to him, and she will say, “My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand” (Song 5:10).

In this way, the husband and wife can fulfill all of one another’s desires, and the temptations that plague so many can be avoided, since all sexual release within the marriage is holy and godly; the happy intimacy of their union. That is to say, this is so when they do not violate other commands of the Lord, pursuing deviations that would be forbidden by the other commandments, especially the First, Fifth, and Tenth but including all of God’s holy law. What they seek in their lovemaking they will seek only in one another; not involving any other person, nor alone without the other, but together, with one another, and they will always say: “My own vineyard is before me” (Song 8:12). Luther wisely and simply says: “Certainly no one can commit adultery with his own wife unless he did not think of her as his wife or did not touch her as his wife.”

Why would the Apostle Paul make these statements? The Corinthians seemed to be people of extremes. Some of the men were taking their pleasure with prostitutes up at the temple of the goddess, but other men were denying their own wives any sexual fulfillment. They were not necessarily the same men; we should be careful not to lay every sin before just one pair of feet. But how cruel of a man to marry a woman and then deny her fulfillment and also deny her the chance to produce children! In the same way, how wicked for a wife to marry a man and then force him into a bizarre sexual abstinence that would make him question why he ever got married in the first place. The commentator R.C.H. Lenski has an elegant and serious warning here: “A false and dangerous asceticism had to be rooted out lest the vilest sins creep under its pious cloak.”

At the same time, the marital, conjugal duty must not be forced. Paul says: “Each one of you also is to love his wife as himself, and each wife is to respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). So the state of marriage is ruled by the law of love, each partner fulfilling the needs of the other. Each partner lovingly serves the other. And neither partner owes the other anything apart from faithfulness. So we come to the understanding that adultery, as Luther says, “is the greatest thievery and robbery on earth, for it gives away the living body, which is not ours, and takes another living body, which is also not ours.” For the wife says: “I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Throughout the Song, we put the best construction on the language and see truly that whenever she calls her man her lover, she means her husband and only her husband, and when the man calls her his love and other pet names, he means his wife and only his wife. She longs for him and no one else: “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves” (Song 3:1), and he says, “How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights!” (Song of Solomon 7:6), but they are only speaking to and flirting with one another and no one else, as it should be.

I think that we do not need to write more about this. Paul says this thing clearly and simply: In matters of love, the husband and wife belong to each other and not only to themselves. She will learn that “his mouth is sweetness itself” (Song 5:16), and he will tell her, “You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes” (Song 4:8). God has given us marriage to keep us from Sixth Commandment sins, and therefore anyone who chooses marriage as a fortress against immorality has the blessing and encouragement of the Apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit. God knows our weaknesses and our needs, and he provides help for us: an intimate friend for life. Each man calls this intimate friend his wife, and each woman calls this intimate friend her husband, and both will say to one another: “Your love is more delightful than wine” (Song 1:2). This is why Luther explained the Sixth Commandment as he did: “We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent life in words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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