Friday, 11 July 2014
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:5
Based on his words of the previous verse, Paul now introduces a word of instruction to avoid problems which may arise between the married. Beginning with “Do not deprive one another” his intent is to show that it is not right for a man to deprive a wife, nor a woman to deprive a husband of their rightful due within the marriage. As one another’s body belongs to the other, there is no “right” to deny what actually has mutual ownership.
However, there may be times where there may be a mutual agreement to remain temporarily celibate. It should not occur “except with consent for a time.” The only reason for one to deny the other is when it was mutually agreed and then only for a short time. The verb used here is in the aorist tense showing that it is intended for brief periods at best, not for continuous years or some lengthy period. A span may be desired, for example, for mourning the loss of a loved one or possibly for seeking God’s face for some reason. This is not without prior precedent. When the people were to see God’s presence on Mount Sinai, they were given this instruction –
“So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives.'” Exodus 19:14, 15
In a like manner, Paul says that by mutual consent, a couple could abstain “that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” For a higher purpose of a spiritual nature, temporary celibacy is acceptable. However, Paul understood that we are still in our frail human bodies and it is not the norm for married couples to live in such a manner. Instead, he instructs that they are to “come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Should a prolonged time of such celibacy occur in a marriage, thoughts will begin to wander, temptations will begin to arise, and the flesh will make itself known once again. In such a weakened state, Satan will come to tempt even the strongest person. Many pastors and other followers of Christ have fallen because of such enticement. And this comes from a “lack of self-control.” This is the natural thing which occurs when someone is weakened through temptation.
King David found this out personally as have so many others. There was probably no initial thought in his mind that he would disobey the Lord’s command. But in his weak state he succumbed to adultery and then murder to cover it up. If this can happen to Israel’s sweet psalmist who penned words of beauty to the Lord even in the most trying circumstances, how certain is it that we too can fall in this manner!
Life application: God, through Paul’s hand, has given us these instructions for intimate conduct between a man and a woman who are married. If they are not adhered to, or if the man or the woman intentionally violates what He has instructed, it is sin. Be ready to perform the duties which you promised when you made the original vow of marriage to your spouse.
Heavenly Father, I want to thank You today for those You have placed in my life and who have such a positive effect on me. You have blessed me with a wife beyond compare, children who have blessed me in ways they cannot imagine, people who help me with words of comfort, actions of support, and times of happiness and fellowship. I’m blessed with a great group with whom I worship and wonderful people that I work with. Lord, just thinking on all the people who are in my life – close by or as distant friends who I only hear from occasionally, I feel so blessed – even to overflowing. Thank You for the intimacy of such people. Amen.