Intimacy Within Marriage – 1 Corinthians 7:1-6

A few guidelines:

  1. First, this is recorded, and will be put on the website. Just wanted you to know that for your consideration when sharing.
  2. Second, I want to encourage questions, sharing, but I also want to encourage sensitivity and discretion. If you have any questions you’re concerned about asking here, you can ask Pastor Doug, myself or Katie and Jessica.
  3. Since the Bible doesn’t use certain words, I’m going to try to avoid using those words. For example, it refers to husbands “knowing” or “laying” w/ their wives, as opposed to using other words; therefore, I’m going to use the word intimacy to refer to physical relations between a husband and wife.


Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, intimacy is one of the most neglected – or we could even say ignored – areas of teaching within the church. While I understand why this is the case, it’s unfortunate for three reasons:

  1. First, it’s not a neglected issue in God’s Word: intimacy is discussed in a number of areas in the Old and New Testaments, even committing one book largely to the topic. When God’s Word makes something important, we have a responsibility to make it important.
  2. Second, in the marital counseling I’ve done intimacy is one of the most common issues of conflict between husbands and wives. I’m not going to blame churches for this problem, but it probably doesn’t help that there’s a common area of contention in marriage and the church rarely discusses it.
  3. Third, if the church isn’t teaching or equipping believers to have a biblical understanding in this area, then where will believers receive their teaching? From the world…


I mention this last point b/c I became more convinced of the need to cover this topic after seeing the popularity of and discussion of 50 Shades of Grey, among even Christians, the book and now the movie. Books and movies like this ruin the romance and intimacy within marriage and unfortunately these materials become even more acceptable in people’s eyes when the church doesn’t tell people the truth.


We’ve all heard the analogy that people who consider whether money is counterfeit don’t spend their time looking at counterfeit money: they study the real thing and it allows them to recognize when something is counterfeit. The idea is people should study God’s Word so they can tell when they encounter something counterfeit.


One of the reasons people don’t recognize 50 Shades of Grey is counterfeit is they don’t know what God’s Word says about intimacy. So while I recognize intimacy is a topic that demands an amount of tact and discretion to discuss it – for example we don’t have any children here, I gave you those guidelines at the beginning – it’s still an area where churches have the responsibility to equip believers regarding what God’s Word says just like we do w/ any other area.




There are a number of sins discussed in Scripture that are recognized as wrong even in the world’s eyes. For example, for the most part – the world acknowledges lying, stealing and murder are wrong. I say for the most part b/c of the world’s confidence in murdering babies. But w/ a few exceptions, most of the world will say these actions are wrong.


The world used to say fornication, or sexual activity outside of marriage, is wrong – it used to be frowned on to live together outside of marriage – but today it’s at best acceptable and at worst encouraged: “so you get to know the person.” It’s almost hard to imagine a television show that frowned on unmarried people living together. If a television show portrayed a young couple fornicating as a bad thing, the show would probably be called hateful or judgmental.


Don Oswald pointed out to me that one of the objectives of some of the leaders during the 60s was to remove human sexuality entirely from the moral category. In other words what you did sexually was neither moral nor immoral, but amoral. They were largely successful with respect to the broader culture, and it reveals why people feel so comfortable living together, sharing their sexual exploits. Possibly share story of girl during Senior Dinner announcing before everyone that she has sex w/ no shame whatsoever.


My point in mentioning this is the devil has been very, very successful regarding encouraging intimacy outside of marriage: fornication has become one of the most acceptable sins in the world’s eyes. It’s not even uncommon for people to be told TO fornicate for various reasons before they’re married like determining compatibility, making sure you know what to do on your wedding day. Evil counsel like this that is completely opposed to God’s Word is very prevalent.


I don’t think I really need to convince any of you of the sinfulness of intimacy outside of marriage and how successful the devil has been at encouraging that, but I do want to point out one of the other ways the devil can be successful: discouraging intimacy within marriage. So one of the main points I want to make at the beginning, is don’t let the devil discourage intimacy in your marriage.


This leads us to Lesson 2 and some points I want to make about intimacy in marriage…




For some of you this might seem like a completely unnecessary lesson. You’re so comfortable with the acceptableness of intimacy within marriage you don’t even know why I would spend any time on this. But let me briefly tell you a story that was very instructive for me…


In CA I was counseling a man in his 50’s enslaved to pornography; I mention his age b/c we generally think of pornography being a struggle for single guys, but it can enslave men – and I would say women – of any age in any season of life. He was a really wonderful man and you would not believe how terrible he felt about his enslavement. He would beat himself up so badly about what he was doing – the guilt and shame he was experiencing, the lack of self-respect – it was almost hard to believe anything could be worth what he was going through.


Before I explain what was going on w/ him let me first say it doesn’t excuse what he was doing. It was sin. He shouldn’t have been engaged in it. But w/ that said…


After months of counseling together it became apparent he thought intimacy was a dirty act for people to engage in. He had a very weird and legalistic single mother who had convinced him at a very young age that intimacy was a dirty thing to do and he had never gotten rid of that belief. He even told me one time, “I look at porn b/c at least then I’m not involving my wife in the dirty activity.” I gave him a book by Michael Pearl called, The Holy Sex Handbook, which was basically a commentary on Song of Solomon discussing the liberty and freedom we had in marriage.


The point is some people think intimacy within marriage is dirty, and if by chance – even if it’s a small chance – anyone here thinks that, I want to make sure we all know that’s not true.


Heb 13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.


This verse really ties things together:

  • Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled: intimacy in marriage is honorable and pure! So intimacy in marriage shouldn’t be thought of as something neutral – like perhaps circumcision or not eating meat: things you can do or not do – instead it should be thought of positively.
  • Fornicators and adulterers God will judge: God prescribes serious consequences for intimate activity outside of marriage.


The next point I want to make about intimacy is…





Intimacy isn’t just good, it’s given to us as a gift or blessing. Intimacy is for our enjoyment.


Part of the reason God gave us intimacy is to fulfill the command in Gen 1:28 to “Be fruitful and multiply.” So yes, intimacy is for procreation.


But there’s an unfortunate belief some people have that procreation is the ONLY reason God gave us intimacy. That’s completely untrue, as God gave us intimacy as a gift and blessing. It’s something He wants us to experience and enjoy.


Pro 5:18 Let your fountain be blessed,

And rejoice with the wife of your youth.

19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe,

Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;

And always be enraptured with her love.


There are a number of words in these verses that reveal the enjoyment God wants us to experience w/ our spouses: blessed, rejoice, satisfy, enrapture. In some translations it’s captivate, intoxicate or exhilarate. These words describe the pleasure God wants us to have.


What I wanted to do was provide you w/ some other verses, specifically from Song of Solomon, showing how enjoyable the man and wife in the story found intimacy w/ each other to be, but there were two problems:

  1. First, most of the verses that relate to intimacy are somewhat graphic.
  2. Second, there were too many of them.


All you need to know is you can tell the man and woman in the story really enjoyed each other:

  • They enjoyed discovering each other.
  • They enjoyed opening themselves up to each other.
  • They enjoyed experimenting w/ each other.


I don’t want to go much further w/ this, but I will say it’s important to recognize the freedom and liberty God has given us in marriage. If you have some questions about the liberty and freedom you have – or don’t have – basically if you have any questions about anything specific, please let me know and I’ll give you some applicable verses.

Now let’s look at 1 Cor 7


1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:

It is good for a man not to touch a woman (this is a euphemism for physical intimacy…it’s one of the examples like I mentioned earlier of Scripture avoiding certain words). Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.


Earlier I said intimacy isn’t wrong, and it isn’t just for procreation, it’s also for enjoyment. You can go beyond that and say that intimacy is commanded. This brings us to Lesson 2, Part III….





Here’s what’s actually happening in these verses…

  • In verse 1 Paul says it’s bad for single people to be intimate: It is good for a man not to touch a woman
  • But then in verses 2 and 3 he says it’s equally bad for married people NOT to be intimate.
  • So while we recognize intimacy outside of marriage is bad, we should also recognize withholding intimacy in marriage is bad.
  • For that reason we’re commanded to render [to each other] the affection [our spouse is] due.


Please notice the words due her and due him


The Greek word for due is (opheilō). It means, “To owe, to owe money, be in debt for, that which is due, the debt.”


Here are a few places it’s used:

  • Matt 18:28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed (opheilō) him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe (opheilō)!’
  • Matt 18:30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt (opheilō).
  • Luke 7:41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed (opheilō) five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
  • Luke 11:4 And forgive us our sins,
    For we also forgive everyone who is indebted
    (opheilō) to us.
    And do not lead us into temptation,
    But deliver us from the evil one.”

So the point is we owe affection – or intimacy – to our spouse; we’re in debt to our spouse. As a result, it would be sinful to withhold affection from our spouse simply out of anger or as punishment.


As a note, we’re going to talk in more detail a little later about what happens when there are mismatched desires – or when one spouse wants to and the other doesn’t – but for now let’s just make sure we understand we’re command to please our spouse and it’s sinful to withhold affection simply as a punishment or to be vindictive or manipulative.


The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.





We’ve had a number of discussions lately about headship and submission, and it all relates to authority.


So what’s interesting in this verse is Paul identifies an area of marriage where there’s equal authority:

  • Normally men have authority in the marriage relationship, but when it comes to intimacy, husbands and wives have equal authority over their spouse’s body.
  • There are no differences regarding the gender roles: while we typically find different commands for husbands and wives elsewhere in Scripture, when it comes to intimacy husbands and wives are given identical commands.


This makes a lot of sense b/c when it comes to intimacy w/in marriage there aren’t really the differences the world wants to make us believe exist. Pastor Doug said it well in an e-mail to me when we were discussing this: “It’s a myth that men have a stronger drive than women. There are wives who desire it more than their husbands and each spouse’s goal should be to please each other, willingly, counting their bodies as not their own, but as their spouses.”


Let me provide a few brief notes about your body belonging to your spouse:

  1. First, since our bodies belong to our spouses, whatever we do w/ our bodies we should have our spouse’s permission/blessing. While some of you might think this is extreme, I would say:
    1. If a man wanted to have a beard and his wife didn’t want him to have one, he shouldn’t have one.
    2. If a woman wanted to wear her hair a certain way and her husband happened to hate it, she should stop doing it.
  2. Second, this gives us good reason to take care of ourselves:
    1. I don’t mean just physically as though we all have to be in great shape, although I do think we should keep in mind that our bodies are what our spouses get to enjoy for the rest of their lives so we should take that somewhat into consideration.
    2. I mean even regarding our health we should take care of ourselves. What kind of a blessing are you going to be to your spouse if you’re always sick and unhealthy? Some people can’t help it, but if you’re sick and unhealthy b/c you don’t take care of yourself your spouse is the one who’s suffering b/c of your choices.


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. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.


Paul says the only time a couple should abstain is when both people have agreed to do so. What that means is if one person says, “I feel like we should abstain from intimacy for this period of time to give ourselves over to prayer and fasting” and the other person says, “I don’t think like we should” then you shouldn’t! It has to be agreed upon by both people.


Paul lists fasting and prayer as a possible reason for abstinence and it’s the only reason given in the NT.


There could be other acceptable reasons to abstain that are dictated by common sense and simple consideration for the other person: sickness or health, pregnancy, grieving or loss: some people who are suffering or struggling might not be able to think about intimacy.


The Old Testament also provided two circumstances under which people should abstain:

  1. When a woman is menstruating: Lev 15:19-24, 18:19, 20:18. In Eze 22:10 God criticized the Jews for sleeping w/ women when they were menstruating.
  2. After a woman gives birth: Lev 12 says a woman is unclean for 40 days after the birth of a son and 80 days after the birth of a girl. Why twice as long for a girl than a boy? B/c girls are twice as bad as boys when they’re born.


Because of these Scriptures some Christian couples abstain under these circumstances. The only problem w/ this view is that if the verses are applied consistently, even touching a woman who is menstruating would be forbidden. Additionally, Lev 15:20-23 says touching anything she’s touched will make you unclean.


We know the moral commands in the OT are still binding today, but the ceremonial ones are not and these commands fall under the ceremonial portion of the Law. To understand the purpose of these commands we have to understand the importance of blood under the law, that it was sacred: Lev 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. A woman’s uncleanness while menstruating revealed the value placed on blood, and contact w/ a woman having her period was forbidden.


But w/ that said I’m not saying we shouldn’t consider the wisdom in the Law and abstain in these situations…but I’m also not saying we should.


Basically in the language of Rom 14:1 I see this as a “disputable matter” and like verse 5 says Let each one be convinced in his own mind. I would change it to say let each couple be convinced in their minds how they feel about abstinence under these circumstances.


Aside from these reasons I’ve discussed, I’m not sure what other reasons there would be for people to choose to abstain.

And even if you chose to abstain for spiritual reasons like fasting and prayer, you have to notice it’s not commanded: 1 Cor 7:6 I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.


Paul has no problem giving us commands, but he didn’t want to command people to abstain, he’s simply saying it’s something believers can do if they want, but if you choose to go through your entire marriage w/o ever abstaining for fasting and prayer, there’s nothing wrong w/ that.


But if people do choose to abstain, Paul provides some requirements…


It should only be for a limited period of time: you need to make sure you come together again. And if you choose to abstain for the reasons mentioned under the Law, I would encourage you to come together again when those circumstances end.


Finally, if you abstain you need to recognize you’re opening yourself up to temptation from Satan. This isn’t my opinion: 1 Cor 7:5 So that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I don’t mention this to discourage anyone from abstaining for any reasons, I say it simply so when/if people abstain they’re aware that they’re facing greater temptation when they do so.


If you ever felt led to abstain, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have some accountability. And I would apply this to situations where people are forced to abstain, like perhaps spouses being separated b/c of work or travel. Then they need to recognize Satan wants to tempt them and they need to be on guard even more during that time.

Now while we’re talking about Satan tempting us when we’re w/o affection from our spouse I want to make an important point about this…


We need to recognize that when we deprive our spouse we’re potentially putting that person under temptation from Satan. Compare verse 5 with verse 9:

  • 5 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.
  • 9 but if THEY CANNOT EXERCISE SELF-CONTROL, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The point is when you’re w/o affection from your spouse you’re in a place of temptation where your self-control is tempted. It’s such a place of testing Paul says to just get married. But if you’re married and you’re unable to receive that affection from your spouse, you’re in the same precarious position as a single person.


So while we can’t blame anyone, including our spouse, for our sins – a man can’t look at porn and claim that it’s b/c his wife wasn’t rendering him the affection due him –we do need to recognize that when a man or woman deprives their spouse they’re putting that spouse under greater temptation.


So here’s the question we need to ask ourselves…


Knowing our spouses deal w/ temptation, and knowing our bodies belong to our spouses, how committed should we be to satisfying and pleasing our spouses to obey God’s commands and help our spouses avoid temptation?

Now w/ that said, let me try to provide some balance…


Scripture always has to be considered in light of other Scripture. So if this was the only passage of Scripture to consider we’d have to say spouse’s bodies belong to each other and they don’t need to give any though to how their spouse feels, what their spouse wants, etc. But there are other passages in Scripture to consider and they command love, gentleness, compassion and they need to be balanced against these verses in 1 Cor 7.


So we know we the responsibility to satisfy our spouse, and it would be dangerous not to, but at the same time we have the responsibility to think about what our spouse wants and how our spouse feels. While it would be unhealthy and even sinful to deprive our spouses, it can also be unhealthy and even sinful to be demanding or insensitive toward our spouses.


And this brings us to the next lesson…





Because no two people are the same, when they get married they’re going to have plenty of differences: differences regarding finances, parenting, being organized or messy, being prompt or being tardy, being extroverted or introverted…and all these differences have the potential to cause problems within marriages.


For this message one of the other areas of difference between husbands and wives that we need to consider relates to intimacy. Husbands and wives can differ regarding:

  • Their desires or drive for intimacy.
  • Even if you have a couple w/ similar drives, there will still be times when one has the desire and the other doesn’t.
  • And even regarding the act of intimacy itself there are different desire regarding how it takes place.


Let me present a situation that can easily happen in any marriage…


Spouse A desires intimacy while Spouse B does not…


I don’t want to say there’s a contradiction in Scripture, b/c I don’t see it that way, but I would say we can sometimes face competing commands:

  • Spouse A can quote 1 Cor 7 for spouses not to deprive each other. It’s even possible for Spouse A to be insensitive and extreme: “You need to look at 1 Cor 7 and it says you need to render to me the affection I want. I know you don’t want to do this, but I don’t care. You need to obey God and recognize your body belongs to me.”
  • But Spouse B can quote verses related to love, deference, compassion, consideration, etc. to support not being in the mood and not having to be intimate. Spouse B could say, “Why don’t you turn a few chapters to the right and read about love in chapter 13? Phil 2 says you’re supposed esteem me above yourself; you not supposed to look out for yourself, but for others…like me!”


Both of these extremes would be wrong b/c they’re both demanding and they’re both insensitive.


But I still haven’t said who should “get what they want.”


Normally when a stalemate is reached in the marriage relationship, God has established headship and submission like we’ve discussed in a number of sermons so a decision can be made and the relationship can go forward. But like we discussed in 1 Cor 7 there’s equal authority:


So what happens at this impasse? For lack of a better way to say is: “Who wins?”


Instead of looking at it like – “Who wins?” – I want to encourage you to look at it a different way…


There are almost always problems in marriage when it comes down to “who the winner is” or “who’s right and who’s wrong.” That’s basically the wrong attitude to have. The attitude in marriage shouldn’t be, “How can I get what I want? How can I get MY way?”


When I used to perform marriage counseling I almost always tried to avoid being a referee that declared a winner. That makes marriages look like a competition where husbands and wives see themselves on opposing teams which is the exact opposite of what marriage is supposed to be: two people on the same team.


So I don’t want to equip you to go home and say, “Well, Pastor Scott said these verses outweigh these verses so you should…”


Here’s the attitude I want to encourage you to have instead:

  • An attitude that wants to die to self…
  • An attitude that seeks to please and satisfy our spouse. This applies to Spouse A and B: this applies to the person wanting intimacy and the person not wanting intimacy.

If both spouses have this attitude, I can guarantee they’re going to have a strong, healthy, relationship, and more often than not these situations will actually resolve themselves…

  • Spouse A will appreciate the effort Spouse B makes to satisfy his or her desires for intimacy even when he or she doesn’t want to be intimate.
  • Spouse B will appreciate that Spouse A considers how Spouse B is feeling at times and puts Spouse B’s feelings ahead of his or her desires.


Let me share something w/ you that I’m completely convinced of…


The healthiest and most joyful marriages – and I don’t just mean regarding intimacy but regarding all areas are NOT – despite what the world and unfortunately sometimes even Christians believe – the marriages that contain the most compatible people: you can take the most compatible people and if they’re selfish they’re going to have a miserable marriage.


The healthiest and most joyful marriages contain the people who are the most giving, selfless, and sacrificial…and that applies to every area of marriage including intimacy.


So instead of two people trying to win over the other by quoting verses, strive for a marriage where you have two people whose greatest desire is to please and satisfy the other, b/c w/in marriage when you have two people who will do that you’ll have a healthy, strong marriage.

But w/ that said I have to throw a wrench in here…


If I had to say to err on one of these sides, I would say to err on the side of satisfying your spouse and here’s why…


There are commands to satisfy are spouses, but there are no competing commands telling us we don’t have to satisfy our spouses. We consider the commands relating to love, compassion, consideration, deference, but they don’t directly relate to intimacy. We have direct, clear commands about pleasing our spouses, but any verses that make us think we don’t have to satisfy our spouse has to be inferred. So in my mind when you have a command directly relating to a situation it’s got to have more weight than verses that are inferred.


Second, consider the potential consequences regarding both courses of action…


The potential consequences of not satisfying your spouse far outweigh the consequences – if you want to call it that – of satisfying your spouse. What I mean is:

  • There aren’t many drawbacks to satisfying your spouse. If you give in and satisfy your spouse, there’s no list of “bad things” that could potentially take place as a result.
  • But there are plenty of potential problems associated w/ not satisfying your spouse…including like Paul said opening your spouse up to temptation from Satan.

Before we move on from this lesson, I want to say one more thing regarding being considerate toward our spouses. I don’t want to go in to this too much, but b/c it’s a class on intimacy I feel obligated to say this…


Assuming two people have obeyed Scripture and waited until they were married, assuming two people have stayed pure and not looked at things or done things they shouldn’t, intimacy w/in marriage is going to be a process of discovery and that’s wonderful! But as a result, the individuals might have different preferences and levels of comfort associated w/ certain parts of intimacy. And I want to make two points as a result of this…


First, since intimacy should be mutually enjoyable for both people, both people should strive for mutual comfort regarding expressions of intimacy. There should be comfort on both sides. Love means caring how the other person feels.


Second, many Christians have asked questions – and they’re important and legitimate questions – about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to intimacy w/in marriage. If you have some of these questions, please let me know. I can talk to you about it private and I have some verses I can share w/ you.





God has given us intimacy as a blessing and gift, but as sinful people in a sinful world we have the potential to do something w/ every gift and blessing God has given us and that’s ruin it. It might not be too much to say intimacy is probably the one gift or blessing God has given us that we have ruined the most.


Intimacy is always going to be healthiest and most enjoyed by those w/ pure hearts and minds. These are people who are reserving all their desires and passions for their spouses.


Pornography obviously comes to mind for this lesson, so I’ll deal w/ that first…


I know we have some single people here so I’d like to briefly address them: if you want to enjoy your spouse in the future, you want to do everything you can to stay pure at this time. What you look at and think about at this time has the potential to ruin the enjoyment you’ll later have w/ your spouse. You want to do everything you can to rip your eyes away from things you shouldn’t see. If you don’t, you’re going to find yourself being disappointed w/ your spouse and the intimacy you’re able to experience w/ that person. You’ll literally be destroying the gift and blessing God has given you.


POSSIBLE ILLUSTRATION: Ricky asking about ring in bull’s nose, and how that ring controls the bull. Doesn’t matter how big, strong, healthy the bull is, it’s controlled by the ring. That’s what porn does to men.


But purity in marriage goes far beyond what we look at:

  • We don’t just have to control our eyes, we have to control our hearts, thoughts, feelings, etc.
  • While we should have friendships with people of the opposite sex, we want to ensure those friendships are very close.
  • We want to make sure we don’t lust after anyone or wish that our spouse was more like someone else.


Much of this has to do w/ contentment, which I’d like to briefly discuss…


The world sort of presents contentment like it presents love: as something you feel or have no control over. But the Bible presents contentment like it presents love: as a choice that you have control over.


The application for marriage is we have the choice to be content or discontent w/ our spouses.


We have to choose to be content w/ the way our spouses look and what their bodies are like. In that we have to choose not to look at or lust after others…


Pro 5:18 Let your fountain be blessed,

And rejoice with the wife of your youth.

19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe,

Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;

And always be enraptured with her love.


The words Let her…satisfy you at all times command husbands to be content w/ their wife’s body and what their wife offers.


When you read Song of Solomon, you’re seeing two people who only had eyes, thoughts, feelings for each other; they were completely content w/ each other. As a result, their relationship was as enjoyable as it looks in the book.