First Corinthians 7 addressed sexual intercourse within marriage, widows, divorce, marriage to unbelievers, virgins, the unmarried, and the importance of remaining in the state in which one was called (slave/free; male/ female; married/unmarried).130 An overarching theme of this complicated passage is the problem of desire:
It is well for a man not to touch a woman. 131
Because of porneia, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
Do not refuse one another, except perhaps by agreement for a season, in order that you might devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again, so that Satan might not test you through lack of self-control.
If they cannot exercise authority over themselves [enkrateuomai], they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn. 132
Whoever is firmly established in his heart, not being under pressure, but having authority [exousia] over his own desire [thelema] and having deliberated in his own heart to maintain his own virgin [parthenos], he will do well.
Paul recommends marriage for those who cannot keep desire in check.133 For those capable of self-control, celibacy was the better choice.134 Paul was so anxious about out-of-control desire that he settled for marriage as a caution against porneia. He suggests that those who had married should remain as they are (i.e., they should stay married) but offers practical and eschatological reasons for his counsel, not an endorsement of sexual intercourse.135 To Paul, it is preferable for virgins (parthenoi) to remain virgins since "the unmarried woman or virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, that she be holy in body and spirit" (1 Cor 7:34). Still, he further advocated that a man overcome by strong passion for his parthenos should marry her. Again, Paul raised the concept of "authority" (exousia) over desire, in this case described as authority over one's will (thelema).136 Better that his own virgin relinquish her virginity, granting him a proper target for the lack of authority (exousia) he has over his desire, than that he fall into porneia. The holiness of her body and spirit pale in comparison to the danger of his lust.137
By endorsing marriage as a counter to porneia, even while favoring sexual abstinence, Paul suggested that two types of Christ followers were to be welcomed: the believer strong enough to overcome desire altogether and the believer, incapable of full self-mastery, who ought to marry.138 In chapters 5 and 6 of this letter, Paul expressed outrage at the idea that believers would tolerate sexual immorality. Paul pointedly argued that such practices must not be permitted since "even the gentiles" know this behavior is wrong. In this chapter, he urged married couples to engage in intercourse as a caution against porneia, though he recommended that unmarried believers remain unmarried so long as they can also control their desires. Marriage was to be preferred to porneia, for it is better to marry than to be aflame with desire: "I wish all people to be as I myself am [i.e., sexually abstinent] but each has one's own gift from God" (1 Cor 7:7).139 In this way, Paul constructed two types of Jesus followers, those who were able to imitate him—overcoming their desires and thereby making marriage unnecessary—and those who remained susceptible to lust and so continued to engage in sexual intercourse in the context of marriage. In either case, however, believers must always maintain strict control of their desires.140
First Corinthians 7, when read against Paul's representation of the despicable sexual behavior of gentiles, offers further evidence of the importance of sex as a sign of saintly purity and righteousness against the impurity and immorality imputed to everyone else. To Paul, porneia and epithymia were such a threat that marriage was warranted, though celibacy was represented as the better option. The power of desire was so dangerous that virgins, though better employed in full-time concern for Christ, should submit to their lustful fiances. Perhaps, after arguing so vehemently that believers were to be distinguished from outsiders on the basis of the way they utilize their bodily parts, Paul had no choice but to describe exactly when and under what conditions the shameful parts may be employed.141 Having been told that their bodies are "temples," and "members of Christ," with their bodily parts described as slaves of God, under the authority of the Lord, and meant for purity and righteousness, the Corinthian believers may have been confused as to what, precisely, constituted this proposed purity. Paul's response indicates that marriage was the only proper venue for the expression of desire, though sexual renunciation was to be preferred.
Was this article helpful?
Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.