Concerning Married Life
7 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 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. 5 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. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am.
In this chapter, Paul becomes incredibly practical. In the last chapter, he has dealt with the rampant sexual immorality happening in the Corinthian church. The basic message in this chapter is that Paul does not denigrate marriage in any way but gives guidance in the many different situations he is encountering. He thinks marriage is a good and holy thing. But as a single person, he is also is biased. He sees the freedom he has to preach the gospel, and flexibity to go where and when he wants. But he also sees the problem when men and women don't have a regular outlet for their sexual drive and how this can lead to immorality. So Paul says to unmarried people, if you can stay single that is good, but if you burn with lust it is good to get married. Or, if someone has had a spouse die, it is good to stay unmarried. But if you marry that is okay too! If we don't understand the context you might conclude Paul thinks the only purpose of marriage is for an outlet of lust.
What is behind this bias toward being single? Not only was Paul passionate about spreading the gospel and being enencumbered by worldly affairs, but he also thought the end was very near. Part of his urgency was that he thought Jesus was coming in his lifetime. This urgency makes him biased toward staying single if at all possible. It is interesting that Paul makes his argument about marriage being good for those who cannot control their desires. If we don't understand the context of this letter, you might conclude Paul thinks the only purpose of marriage is for an outlet of lust. He does not go into the many other benefits of marriage, but he does do this in other writings, like his letter to Ephesians.
Finally, in the verses above, Paul gives marital advice. That's right Paul is playing the role of marital counselor. Actually Paul is being very pragmatic and realizes that sexual immorality can flow out of an unfulfilled married life. He makes it clear that this duty to your spouse in the area of sexual intimacy is mutual. He teaches sexual intimacy in marriage is a product of each person giving their bodies to each other in mutual consent. This could be taken out of context to mean all sorts of things, he doesn't intend mean. He is saying in marriage our call is to serve each other, which involves meeting each other's needs. It's funny we would get this teaching in the bible, but when you talk to a marriage counselor they would say the same thing.
I love that the bible is so practical. Paul is confronting real issues in real life. Notice he says some commands are from the Lord, such as the clear boundaries the scriptures have given on sexual relations in the context of marriage. But sometimes he says,"This is from Paul, not from the Lord". Meaning he believes the Lord is leading him to say these things to meet the unique needs and issues in the Corinthian church. The bible is inspired and useful for teaching in all areas of our lives. The only question is are we going to use it as our guide for life, even in areas as down to earth as our sexual intimacy with our spouses!