Lesson One – Sexual Passion of Humanity

Sexual Passion of Humanity

Lesson Text:  I Corinthians 7:1-40.


In addition to historical and literary analysis, there are two other basic principles for reading a letter; One, follow the style of the writer; two, “know what the recipients knew.”  Paul’s style or “train of thought” has notably changed in this text.  Whereas, he was working to help the church correct their “boasting” about the wisdom of men in the previous chapters, he turned to instructing.  In the preceding chapters he used the literary tool of rhetorical questions to induce spiritual thinking.  His aim was to help the church members “think through” their divisional problem.

In letters, the literary movement is from thought to thought.  The intent of the structure of this introduction is to move our thinking through the text from thought to thought.  The chapters and verses do not necessarily follow the thoughts; therefore, the reader has the responsibility to determine where a thought begins and ends.  Paul often combined complex thoughts – one thought within another.

He used fewer rhetorical questions when he turned to the subject of “sexual passion.”  The questions he did insert were used to introduce a topic.  In this text his style was to instruct the members of Christ’s body about the following topics:

7:1-5.  “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (KJV and ASV).  “It is good for a man not to marry.”  (NIV).  Note, this was not put in the form of a question.  The first translation is more literal.  This means the translators followed closer to the Greek words Paul used in his letter than the NIV translators.  This statement introduced the first of several topics to which the writer will respond; first in this text and then in the remainder of the letter.

“Touch” was translated from the Greek word “hapto,” meaning “to fasten, or cling to.”  According to Vines Greek Dictionary, it means “to have carnal intercourse.”  In the context of Paul’s thought in verses one through five; “man” stands for both male and female (Gen. 1:27).  Note how he quickly turned this declaration into the topic of marriage.  In the light of chapters five and six, how else could the subject of “touching” be discussed except in the context of marriage?  It was probably “not by chance” he chose to structure his answer about “touching” after his discourse on sexual immorality.

7:6-9.  Paul spoke his own mind  in this scripture – not the Lord’s.  It agrees with his later declaration, “because of the present constraint.” (See distress, KJV, ASV and crisis, NIV).   I Cor. 7:26.  In this thought he introduced the innate urge for sexual relationships God created in each healthy individual.

7:10, 11.  The Lord commands –  “Let not the wife depart (Gr. chorizo) from her husband: But if she departs, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away (Gr. apo – from, hiemi – to send, leave alone, neglect)  his wife.”  (KJV).  “A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  (NIV).  The translation of the Greek word “apohiemi” as  divorce may be misleading because the Greek word in Matthew’s gospel that was translated from Jesus’ Aramaic word for divorce is “apoluo.”  It means to let loose from, to let go free; therefore, the marriage covenant is no longer binding.  The Greek words translated, “depart” and “put away” means to put some distance between the man and woman who are married.  Divorce leaves a different situation for the once married couple according to the use of the Greek word, apoluo, in the Gospels.  The marriage covenant is null and void.  There is nothing to reconcile to after a divorce.  According to the Greek words in the Corinthian letter the married couple may be reconciled but they don’t re-marry because the covenant is still in force.

The subject in Matthew 19:1-9 is specific to the question the Pharisees asked Jesus; “Is it lawful for a man to put away (Gr. apoluo) his wife for every cause?”  (KJV).  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”  (NIV).  Divorce is understood in verse 7 by the Gr. word “apostasion,” that is, a “writing of divorcement Moses issued.  (Apo means from, luo –to loose).  Divorce loosed the married man and woman from God’s covenant of marriage because one party had committed fornication (Gr. porneia).  The other party was loosed, or set free from the covenant they had entered into with another person.  The covenant involved the decision of a male and a female “to become one.”  Since their decision was sanctioned by God, God only can “loose” the “wronged party” from the covenant by the means of a divorce.

The strength of the marriage covenant is understood by the Greek word “dedeahai,” translated “bound” in I Cor. 7:39.  It means the certainty or inevitableness of what is bound.  God said it and that is the way it is until He says otherwise.  The death of a spouse frees (Gr. eleutheros – not a slave to the marriage covenant they had been bound to while both were living) the living party “to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.”  See Romans 7:2, 3.  The “loosed” party may enter into another marriage covenant because God said they could.  Neither the church, nor the court of the State, has been given the right to overrule God’s word (Acts 4:19).

7:12-16.  Again, Paul reveals his own wisdom about a married couple in a case where one had become a Christian but the other party was still an “outsider” in the world realm.

7:17-24.  By Paul’s authority, as an apostle, “in all the churches,” he wrote, “Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.” V. 24.  Although this command was for a general application, he made it specific to married couples, Jews and proselytes in regard to circumcision and slaves.  It has been estimated that one third of those living in the Roman Empire were considered slaves.

7:25-28.   “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.”

7:29-38. Paul’s reasoning and personal observations were based on his experiences. How much weight should Christians give to the things he said and “not the Lord” in verses 6-9, 12-16 and 25-28?  One answer: probably, as much weight as we would place on such scriptures as Heb. 13:7, 17 and other exhortations to weigh the words of leaders in the church.  As Jesus said, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”  Matt. 7:20.  Paul was personally picked by Jesus as an apostle for the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13, 14; 15:17-19).  This should count as weight; however, the foregoing was Paul’s reasoning based on the teachings of Jesus Christ about His appearing (Matt. 24:30-36).  Paul and other first century Christians, as well as present day believers, expect Jesus to appear at any moment after the rebellion.  See
II Thess. 1:5-2:17.   On the other hand, since Jesus has not yet appeared, Paul’s wisdom would have shut down God’s plan for procreation in marriage.

7:39, 40.  In this scripture Paul mixed Jesus’ commands with a little more of his own wisdom.  See II Cor. 6:14; Matt. 5:31, 32.

Our aim in this lesson is to understand the divine wisdom of God about the sexual relationship between a husband and wife and the other blessings in marriage.  Also we want to be encouraged to accept “the place in life that the Lord assigned” to us (I Cor. 7:17).  The author of these lessons has produced a book of lessons entitled the “Sermon on the Mount.”  Please read Part III, Lesson Three, “Adultery and Divorce.”  Also “Young Adults” in Part V, Lesson Four.  These lessons are more detailed and present more scriptures about the human urge for sexual relations – the good and the bad.  See Website https://kingdomofchrist.info   


What we have learned from our previous lessons in regard to sexual immorality is that Satan knows about the urge for sexual relationships God created in all people (I Cor. 5:5).  Fornication and adultery are common sins among Jew and Gentile; male and female; rich and poor; people with degrees on one side and illiterate people on the other.  We have also learned sexual sin is different from other sins (I Cor. 6:18).  Someone understood the power of sexual sins so well they wrote; “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”  I Cor. 7:1.  (See some manuscripts).

As it was stated in the Introduction Paul agreed with this statement, but, perhaps, for a different reason than the person who made the declaration.  Granted this declaration may have intended to be more of a question than an imperative.  He or she may have been experiencing the “burn of passion” while still a virgin (I Cor. 7:9).

Some people have the idea that anything to do with sexual desires is evil.  Parents may inadvertently plant this idea in the mind/conscience combination of their maturing children in order to keep them sexually pure.  The use of guilt for discipline is not what Paul was thinking.  This might lead to what is called “repression.”  Repression may lead to many other mental health problems.  The following is an excerpt from Part III, Lesson Three of my book, “Sermon on the Mount.”

Excerpt:  Why so much emphasis on God’s ordained institution of marriage?  Because Jesus’ law of life for attaining satisfaction for Christians’ sex drive has its roots in marriage.  Sometimes newly “born again” Christians find themselves in a situation where there is no acceptable way to fulfill their sex drive.  This might happen by being the guilty party in a divorce case or by having been divorced for a reason other than adultery.  The sex drive can be a very demanding drive.  So what to do?  The following are some choices:

  1. Expression:  Ignore laws of life and express the desire.
  2. Suppression:  Keep strict control.  Do not give way to expression.  Jesus may have had this kind of thinking in mind when He said, “if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in hell.” Matt. 5:29.  Some Christians may need to recognize that we have “tendencies to lust” in some areas that we have not yet grown spiritually enough to keep dormant.  We want to make sure we don’t make provisions for our lust (Jas. 1:13-15).  Consequently, we need to admit our weakness and stay away from situations that would tempt us to make provision and give expression to our lust.
    Christians who may have been homosexual offenders before they were born again will need to consider this choice for dealing with their sexual urges (I Cor. 6:9).  The solution for tendencies to lust is found in spiritual growth (Rom. 13:14).
  3. Repression:  This is an extremely dangerous way to deal with a desire a person does not plan to express.  Repression neither expresses the desire nor admits its presence.  People who use this remedy deceive themselves; however, one cannot close a desire out of one’s mind in this manner.  It will find another way to express itself.  Many people suffer from fears, guilt and unacceptable behavior because they have repressed some episode or desire.  They put them in a compartment in their minds and try to close the door.  Still they find expression in unusual ways the person does not realize
  4. Sublimation:  A form of sublimation is what the Apostle Paul practiced and suggested Christians might want to choose.  See I Corinthians 7:8, 29-38.  In this case, a person takes the power of the drive in question and directs it toward another goal – according some psychologists.  Paul wanted to use his time and energy for his apostleship.  He did not deny he had an urge for sexual activity.  He used the time and energy it would take to carry about a wife, as Peter did, for other worthwhile goals (I Cor. 9:5, 24-27).  End Excerpt.

Paul promoted the psychological concept of “sublimation.”  He was influenced by two conclusions:  One, Jesus might appear at any moment, so since the world is passing away in its present form, why use your time and energy on non-permanent and mortal things (I Cor. 1:7; 7:31; 15:24)?  Two, he felt married life would demand the concern and devotion of the spouse to the point that their “devotion to the Lord” would wane.  His intent was to sublimate his sexual urges and use the power generated by those drives for his calling as an apostle of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 1:5-7; 4:7-15).

For Paul, or anyone who might accept celibacy as a lifestyle, the challenge is to keep control over their will to suppress this extremely strong inherent need for becoming one with another person in sexual acts (I Cor. 6:16; 7:37).  Their will to act is a human endowment from God.  People can decide to go there – and just go there.  They can decide to do it or not do it.  The urge to seek satisfaction is also present from within.  There will be many evil forces bombarding us from outside.  In the present universal system of communication the commercial world targets peoples’ natural needs every waking hour.  One target most often used to sell expensive items is the innate sexual need.  The governments, in most nations, no longer protect their citizens from Satan’s pornography.   Even where they try, the advent of the computer age makes it available to all who allow themselves to look – even the very young.  Sin is powerfully addictive.  Pornographic pictures become addictive for males because males are naturally stimulated by looking (Matt. 5:28-30).

Suppression and sublimation of sexual urges were possible for the Apostle Paul, as well as Jesus Christ, because they were able to control their individual will to act (Matt. 26:39; II Cor. 4:7-12).  Their zeal for their mission was strong enough to help them re-direct and burn the energy from what would otherwise be their energy used in their “burn of passion” for sexual relation encounters.

In the face of the foregoing challenge of celibacy and living in a world inhabited by people who willfully practice sexual immorality, Paul, via the Holy Spirit, advised Christians; “Each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.”  I Cor. 7:2.  God always allows choices.  Mature adults can choose to burn with passion or marry and enjoy their passion for sexual intercourse by sharing their bodies with their spouse (I Cor. 7:3-5).  Both male and female have the same need; however, the stimulation process may be quite different.  Men are definitely aroused by looking at the woman.  Women want to be nourished and cherished; otherwise, they may feel used and abused.

Those who choose to give themselves over to “expression” of sexual relations outside marriage, “sin against their own bodies.” I Cor. 6:18.  One or both parties may seek to use the other for self-gratification.  Some may give themselves as a sexual partner to gain social acceptance, security or fame.  In this way they are prostitutes.  Satisfaction is rarely attained on a continuum basis so lust takes control.  Lust always cries for more or something different (I Cor. 6:9).

God’s design of marriage and the special way He created mankind also produces a family.  The design is one woman and one man.  God took only one rib from Adam because he only needed one helper (Gen. 2:21-25).  One wife is enough to help the man with the innate need his mother could not serve.  One husband is all the wife needs as her head at one time (I Cor. 7:39; 11:3).  God allowed for men to have several wives after the fall of mankind into sin; however, Jesus asked, “Haven’t you read, … that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?”  Matt. 19:4, 5.

Nothing has changed about God’s marriage covenant and gender arrangement since the beginning.  Mankind has from time to time approved many different arrangements in their religious groups and in their “ungodly courts.”  I Cor. 6:1.  Most of the changes were designed by men to gratify their lust.  In the twenty first century religions and governments are re-arranging the gender count.  As the women’s liberation movement continues to gain strength, arrangements may become tilted to satisfy women’s lust.  The laws of nature are being respected more by scientists than the laws of life are being respected by religious leaders (Luke 16:8).  Both laws are God’s way of defining life and the way it grows (II Cor. 13:8).

When God’s design, arrangement and covenant are accepted by a woman and a man and lived out before their children, the children will be taught holiness in their formative passive learning stage.  They will be holy (I Cor. 7:14).  Their spirits came from God; therefore, if they are nurtured in a godly home they will be holy in their personality and character.  Passive learning is a powerful tool in the home.  The children learn life principles by interpreting truth according to the righteous behavior of their parents.

When the parents find themselves in a situation where one has become a Christian, but the other is still living by the wisdom of the world – the divine principle is “don’t separate.”  I Cor. 7:10, 11.  If a separation should take place, try to work for reconciliation on behalf of the total family.   This was the essence of Paul’s wisdom (I Cor. 12:12-16).

Paul moved with the thought about the family maintaining the “status quo” after they became Christians to the status of other members of the church.  His instructions for those who had been circumcised in the Jewish tradition and those members who were slaves:  “Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.”  I Cor. 7:20.  The status of Christians when they were “outsiders” has no significance after we are “insiders.”  I Cor. 5:12, 13.  Inside, “everything is permissible.”  We are free to keep “God’s commands” which will keep us free from sin and death (I Cor. 7:19; Rom. 8:1, 2).  “Neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” Gal. 6:15.

For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is Christ’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.  I Cor. 7:22

Questions for Discussion

  1. Explain the change in Paul’s style of writing in the text for this lesson.
  2. Why might Paul have responded to the statement about “touching a woman” where he did in the structure of I Corinthians?
  3. Explain the difference in the meaning of the words Paul used “depart” and “separate” and the word “divorce” Jesus used in the Gospels.
  4. Why did Paul promote celibacy?  Why would it have been impractical for the whole church over several decades?
  5. How common was sexual immorality in the first century A.D. according to the Apostle Paul?
  6. Explain I Corinthians 7:37 in relation to the psychological concept of suppression and sublimation.
  7. Why might pornography be more addictive for men than women?
  8. People in the world often decide to adopt “expression” as a way to satisfy their God-given urge for sexual relationships.  They ignore God’s plan for the satisfaction of this “burning passion.”  Why does it not work out to be a “win/win encounter?”
  9. Why is it just as unwise and unhealthy to change God’s marriage covenant as it is for a farmer to disregard the laws of nature?
  10. Why was it a natural step for Paul to move from the topic of sexual passion to the sanctity of the parents and the children in their family?
  11. What is the connection between the “passive learning stage” of children and the value of at least one parent being a Christian?
  12. The Greek word that has been translated reconciliation is katallasso.  It means a person who has been born again has a change of relationship with God.  See II Cor. 5:17-20 and Gal. 4:7.  How does this relate to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in I Cor. 7:17-24?

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