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Intimacy and Marriage

1 Corinthians 7:1-7
Now for the matters you wrote about: 'It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.' But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. (NIVUK)

The church leaders in Corinth had written to Paul asking for advice about how to guide the believers in their relationships. Their past background of immoral behaviour required specific guidance if the church was to please the Lord. It may be that they had asked if God wanted everybody to be celibate, as Paul was? His answer was that it is not essential to be married; celibacy is good if it is a gift from God. However, marriage is the Lord's provision for most people to contain and enjoy the God-given desire for intimacy.
Both husband and wife have a responsibility to protect their spouse from immorality by encouraging intimacy within the marriage. Their bodies do not belong to themselves but to each other. That is not to say one person should demand or force himself or herself on the other, but that each should encourage the other to enjoy God's gift together. In that way husband and wife gladly serve each other.
But there are occasions for fasting from close contact, in the same way that we may fast from food. In the Old Testament, David's men were instructed not to have intimate relationships before a battle (1 Samuel 21:1-5). Paul said that special times of prayer for a couple may also demand that discipline; but only if they both agree and then come back together again, lest either of them be tempted into immorality.
This was practical wisdom from the apostle, and we do well to note it too. Marriage is not granted to everybody and the unmarried need to remain celibate like Paul. Satan will use periods of emotional separation in a marriage to weaken our discipline and tempt us into wrong relationships. Although many Christians have traditionally not talked about the intimate side of their marriage, these verses encourage us to do so. Rightly used, God's gift of physical intimacy is not dirty but beautiful, and is designed to unite people within their marriage so that their homes may be examples of the love of God in a loveless world.

Loving God. Thank You for the natural desire for intimacy that You have given. I am sorry when I have not used this gift rightly. Please help me to use the grace You have given to live in a godly way, honouring those You have given to me being conscious that the devil will try to tempt our desires to separate marriages and dishonour You . In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams