Recap | One | Intimacy

As an essential aspect of oneness, marital intimacy tends to be emblematic of the overall health of a marriage. Sadly, this area is most often marked by brokenness and bitterness instead of the power and enjoyment that God means it for. If we are to experience marital oneness, we must recover the Biblical vision of marital intimacy and work to restore it in our marriages.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul very succinctly lays out God’s design and boundary for sexual intimacy and direction to spouses for how to engage in it. God’s intention for those who marry is that “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2) – that spouses should mutually submit to and give themselves to each other. The boundary for sexual intimacy is a marriage relationship; this level of intimacy is not to be known outside of marriage, but it is to be known plentifully within it.

Spouses actually give up their rights to independence when entering a marriage. God directs both husbands and wives to fulfill each other’s distinct needs and to give up authority of their bodies to each other (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). God doesn’t just forbid sexual intimacy outside of marriage here, He wholeheartedly urges it within marriage.

Interestingly, all of this is actually a concession (1 Corinthians 7:6-7). Paul says that he would rather the Corinthians be single! But, if that cannot be the case due to the rampant sexual immorality in Corinth, well, he concedes that they should marry and have their sexual needs fulfilled in this relationship only. In all truth, singleness is ideal according to Scripture because it allows Christians to devote much more of their energy to building and serving the Church.

There are eight points on intimacy that are either derived from or are tangential to 1 Corinthians 7. The intent behind these points is to put married couples in a position where they are able to work through the idea of marital intimacy—and all of the issues that come with it—for themselves and for their marriage.

First, intimacy is the pursuit, as opposed to merely sexual expression. Though a vital one, sex is only one component of marital intimacy. To pursue a sexless intimacy would limit and undermine the bond that is created. And to pursue a purely carnal sexual relationship would be nothing more than a domesticated form of porn that leaves both parties empty in the end.

Second, sex is a good thing, and it is okay to embrace it as such. For many, believing this is remarkably difficult due to background. For those from a very religious background, sex itself may have been shamed and condemned as evil in an attempt to keep one from sexual sin. The reality is that sex is not wrong at all as long as it is within marriage. Conversely, the internal guilt and shame of having engaged in sexual sin in the past may resurface when becoming intimate within marriage. Fundamentally, some of us may actually believe that we are tolerating something less than good in sex.

Third, sex is powerful. While greatly oversold outside of marriage as a seemingly infinite fount of enjoyment, it is undersold within marriage, often delayed due to the great number of distractions of life and marriage.

Fourth, sex is broken. Sexuality is intensely connected to identity, meaning that sexual sin leaves us with wounds that are profoundly deep and scarring. Sexual sin has become an all-too-accessible tool that we seek to deal with the brokenness of our hearts at any given moment, and it leaves us dried up and worn out.

Fifth, sex is different for men and women. The uniqueness of each gender, when not handled well, can cause spouses to despise each other over how they view sex. One thinks sex is a means to an end, and one thinks it is that end. Who is right? Well, it’s complicated—both men and women are right in some senses. There is something profound missing from a marriage when sex is viewed as too important or not important enough.

Sixth, “do not deprive one another.” This is God’s command concerning intimacy in marriage, and both men and women fail to obey it in different ways. Husbands deprive their wives by not pursuing them, often due to hurt feelings or perhaps channeling and bleeding off his energy for pursuit somewhere else instead. Wives, in turn, deprive their husbands by not being open to being pursued.

Often the question that follows is this: Does that mean that a woman can’t ever say no to sex? This is actually the wrong question and can reveal deeper issues in the relationship. For the wife to think she can say no at any time for any reason is not Biblical, just as it is not Biblical for a husband to think he is entitled to sex at any time for any reason. The question for us is not about holding onto rights; the clear truth of Scripture is that both spouses give up their rights to do what they want for themselves when they enter into marriage.

Seventh, the goal for men in marriage is to be the sexual leader of the home. Husbands must lead in having conversations about sex, initiating and moving toward their wives, knowing and studying their wives, and helping to free their wives from other responsibilities and burdens.

Eighth, for women, how do you manage the autonomy you have versus your responsibility to serve and lend strength to your husband? Do you look down on your husband because your version of intimacy is more docile or seemingly spiritual than his? Is sex, as a part of your marriage, too low of a priority?

Intimacy is an area of marriage that is fraught with bitterness, wounds, and great hardness of heart. However, Jesus has died to establish peace between God and us, and also between husbands and wives. However great the divide that exists in a given marriage, Jesus’s death and resurrection means that it has been overcome. Peace is possible if husband and wife would only move toward each other in love and sacrifice.

-Brian Barbee

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Worship Songs from the Weekend

  • Found: Philippians 3:8-9, 1 Corinthians 15:43
  • Whole Again: John 6:53-54, Mark 14:24, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:7
  • Only The Blood: John 6:53-54, Mark 14:24, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:7
  • Holy Is The One: Philippians 2:7-11, Isaiah 6:3
  • This I Believe: 1 Corinthians 15, John 3:16, Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 1
  • Look And See: Revelation 1:4-8, Psalm 66:1-5, Revelation 4:11
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