My Brother-in-Law Kurt Katzorke (married to my sister Becky) is a hungry student of God’s word as well as myself and wrote a letter to his professor which is below, I thought it might be of general use.
Recently in my Core Humanities class my professor cover some church history. In particular he focused on Paul and his writing in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. For whatever reason this passage is a favorite of college professors to cover when discussing Christianity. This particular professor tried to demonstrate a Catholic tradition that all sex (even that confined to marriage) is bad and attribute it to Pauline origins. Out of a desire to have the Christian faith and its biblical themes seen correctly, I wrote my professor a letter containing biblical perspective on the matter. I have somewhat edited the letter as some introductory and closing matters were not pertinent the matter at hand.
Not on one occasion in Pauls writings does he say, “All types of sex are bad.” However, there are several instances in which Paul reprimands sexual immorality. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul states,
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.” If you are wondering what sexual immorality includes you can look to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which reads, “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Four types of sexual immorality are listed here.
Fornicators- the Greek for this word is por’-nos which is used for a male or female prostitute and is commonly interpreted fornicator, whoremonger.
Adulterers- comes for the Greek moy-khos’ and is commonly translated paramour or adulterer. It is someone who is either in marriage and having sexual relations outside of marriage or the person who is not married and having sexual relations with someone who is married.
Effeminate- The Greek here is mal-ak-os’ which means of uncertain affinity or soft; figuratively, a catamite. It is commonly interpreted effeminate, soft. It is often used as an adjective in describing clothes and also in conjunction with the common Greek practice of an older man having sexual relations with a younger boy.
Homosexual- comes from the Greek ar-sen-ok-oy’-tace and is simply a sodomite. It literally means a homosexual.
These four types of sexual sin are not new in that Paul came up with them. Old Testament (Torah) Law required that anyone committing any of the sins above be taken outside the city and stoned to death. It is a biblical theme that sexual immorality is intolerable in the eyes of God.
As stated earlier Paul does not outright say, “sex is bad and should be confined to procreation.” The fact of the matter is that when it is confined to marriage it is a debt that one spouse owes to the other and is glorifying to God. 1 Cor 7:1-6 outlines several key issues concerning our topic:
7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command.
Verse 1 offers insight into the entire letter Paul wrote to Corinth. He says, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote ” At this point in the letter Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked him in form of a letter. We dont have the letter so we dont know exactly what the question is, but Pauls answers are still useful. Issues addressed in verse 2 are concerned with the fact that Paul is writing to the church in Corinth that had tons of sexual immorality. In fact the temple in Corinth was dedicated to the goddess of sex- Aphrodite. Sexual immorality ran ramped in Corinth and that is why Paul addresses it as harshly as he does with the Corinthians. Also, the context of the passage is important here. Later in this chapter (verse 26) Paul makes it evident that there is a “present distress” in Corinth. What that distress was we dont know for sure. It may have been famine, persecution or a number of other possibilities. Whatever it was it caused Paul to speak of marriage in a harsh manner to the Corinthians (Whereas in Ephesians chapter 5 Pauls writing is inspiring to a married Christian). This is also why Paul says that, “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” and that, “because of immoralities let each have his own wife.” Verse 3 contains the debt that is owed between a man and a woman. In verse 3 the word duty is used. This same word is used other places in Pauls writings as reward or blessing, it takes on a duel meaning in this case in that a husband or wife owes to their spouse an obligation of good will. In other words God has made the act of sex a blessing that spouses owe to each other- it is their marital duty to pay it. Verses 4-6 go even a step further and say the husband has authority over his wifes body and the wife has authority over her husbands body. Also, that husband and wife should not deprive one another sexually except for a time of prayer in order focus on the Lord and avoid temptation. Paul is not condemning sex inside the marriage; rather, he is imploring sex to be practiced and enjoyed inside marriage. Any idea the God does not want a husband or wife to enjoy sex with one another is not Biblical, Pauline, or even remotely close to Gods will.
The origin of churches teaching that sex is all together bad is a result of Augustine in the 4th century. His own battles with sexual sin and misunderstanding of scripture lead the Roman Church to start the unbiblical doctrine that sex should only be for procreation. I find such ideas appalling. I am a Biblical Christian and am also married. I find the blessing of the unity between my wife and I to be one of the greatest gifts that God has chosen to give me in this life. Furthermore, I am deeply grieved for any follower of Christ would has been taught otherwise. Marriage was the first institution God set up among man. Any teaching that says it is heroic to remain unmarried and simply permissible to marry is foolish. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul glorifies the marriage relationship likening it to the relationship between Christ and His Church. Not only this, but also that when Christian husbands and wives serve each other as Christ does for all they glorify God.
If one seeks to understand biblical principle then looking at one verse or passage and taking it out of context will not serve them well. When this done the verse or passage can be made to say almost anything. To understand biblical principle one must observe and interpret. Observe when the passage was written, what was happening at the time, who was writing, who were they writing to, what do we know about them, why was it written, what result did they have in mind, what is the context (historical, biblical, book, and passage-wise), what is the content (words, grammar, and syntax), and how does it compare with other scripture (especially those by the same author). In other words there is more to understanding what Paul wrote than simply reading it. Taking a passage out of context and a lack observing and interpreting has led to several unbiblical church doctrines. The idea that all sex is sinful and displeasing to God is one of such doctrines.