Belonging to One Another

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Where in the Bible does it say a woman’s body belongs to her husband?

This phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 7:4, a chapter devoted to questions about marriage from the Corinthians to the apostle Paul. Some people may take this to mean that Paul is a chauvinist but when you read the whole verse and all the co press cancel ntext, it doesn’t look that way at all.

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” (1 Corinthians 7:4, ESV)

The original question the Corinthians sent him concerned the temptation for sexual relations and what people should do about them. The biblical answer is to get married (1 Corinthians 7:1-2). But part of the marriage contract is that husbands don’t hold back sex from their wives, nor wives from their husbands (1 Corinthians 7:3).

The reason Paul gives for this is the verse we quoted above. The wife belongs to her husband and a husband to his wife. It doesn’t go just one way. Paul makes it very clear that both should be devoted to each other.

The husband enjoys his wife’s body and the wife enjoys her husband’s body. So their bodies belong to one another. This is the point Paul makes on why they must not keep each other from enjoying the sexual relationship.

The problem is that often in marriages, even Christian marriages, a husband or wife will withhold sex as part of husband, control, or anger toward their spouse. This is exactly the issue that Paul brings up. It’s not up to the husband to keep himself from his wife. And it’s not up to the wife to keep herself from her husband.

Sex should not be an emotional nuclear football used against a spouse. God means sex to be an enjoyable byproduct of a loving marriage between a man and woman. So when it is withheld or used in an arsenal of ways to keep your spouse in line or hold power over them, this is not what God intended.

Paul does leave one exception for abstaining from sexual relations with your spouse: to devote yourself to God through prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). But he stresses that this is only for a limited time and, most importantly, by agreement from both parties.

Each spouse must agree to withhold sex from one another. It has to go both ways or is not biblically legitimate. Otherwise, when a spouse withholds sex, the other spouse will be tempted by the devil to break their vows, usually through adultery.

God has designed sex to be within the bounds of marriage. Anything outside of marriage is some sort of sexual immorality. Like the Corinthians, we live in a sexualized culture. Every show on TV invites us into the bedroom of a married couple. Everything around us pushes sexual immorality of this flavor or that.

This is why every Christian must understand the principles of marriage found in Scripture. We must please the Lord especially in the most intimate relationship we will have on this earth, other than our relationship with Jesus. With the divorce rate in the church and in the world running about the same, we must change the tide, at least in the church.

This sacred and private relationship is intimate because of the deep connection the Lord creates between husband and wife. We must maintain the sacred bond of marriage and defended at all costs.

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