Posted by: SandreS | July 12, 2011

Love Making

Let the husband render to the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife to the husband (I Corinthians 7:3).

Paul’s marital instruction is very clear: the consummated husband/wife relationship is to function on the basis of a perpetual state of marriage (uniting as “one flesh”).

Conjugal Duties

The covenant (promise) of marriage (physical union), among other things, binds the husband and wife to the on-going act of marriage. This sexual activity is called “due benevolence” in the King James Version. The Greek word translated “benevolence” is eunoia, which is a euphemism for “conjugal duty,”[1] while the Greek word translated “due” is opheilō, meaning “to owe … to be under obligation.”[2]

James Moffatt (1913) translates the King James phrase as “conjugal dues” as does the Riverside New Testament (1923).

Thus the husband and wife are under a covenant of obligation to conjugal duty (sexual responsibility). The husband is responsible by the covenant of marriage to “render unto the wife conjugal duties” The wife is also responsible by the same union covenant to render to her husband “conjugal duties.”

Husband and wife are in the bonds of sexual unity: as the wife’s body belongs to her husband, so the husband’s body belongs to his wife.

The wife has not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife (I Corinthians 7:4).

Marital Fraud

Because of these “conjugal duties,” if the husband or wife denies sexual intimacy, they defraud the other.

Defraud not one another, except it is with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempts you not for your incontinency (I Corinthians 7:5).

Noah Webster defines “defraud” as,

To deprive of right … to withhold wrongfully from another what is due to him.

Our English word “defraud” obviously comes from the root “fraud,” which is defined by Webster as,

Artifice by which the right or interest of another is injured.

For this reason, the Greek word apostereō translated “defraud” is also rendered “kept back by fraud” (James 5:4, King James Version).

At the core of the marital covenant is the union of two as one. Central to this union is the sexual bond of coitus. This is the meaning of “marriage”: “the act of uniting.” Unless prohibited by genuine physical limitations, anything less than consistent[3] sexual union between a husband and wife is a defrauding of the marriage covenant (the promise of physical union).

Much fraud takes place in marriage relationships. Many “marriages” could be scripturally declared fraudulent – the couple being in a state of fault (i.e., “an omission of that which ought to be done”). Their relationship is merely a pretense of “marriage” – an upscale roommate arrangement, a social partner – but not a biblical marriage.

Sole Exception

Outside of genuine physical limitations, there is only one scriptural exception for the suspension of regular sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. Conjugal intimacy is to be set aside only for the purpose of “fasting and prayer.”

Defraud not one another, except it is with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempts you not for your incontinency (I Corinthians 7:5).

Clearly stated, “fasting and prayer” is the only biblical purpose for not actively engaging in marital sexuality. No other reason is given.[4] The principle therefore is quite simple: no sex, no food; no intercourse, no eating. I would dare say that if many couples followed this simple scriptural principle they would already be dead from starvation!

Fasting and Prayer

This fasting is not for medical or health reasons, for it is coupled with “prayer”“fasting and prayer.” This fasting is a response to overwhelming grief, sorrow and heaviness – all an atmosphere of a heavily burdened soul.

This example given to us by Paul is of a couple who is overwhelmed and overburdened of heart and soul to such an extent that there is a mutual loss of physical desire and drive. They are in mutual harmony – “with consent.” They have agreed to devote themselves to working through their trials by giving their attentions to spiritual rather than physical matters. They will take the time that they usually spend in eating and intercourse and apply it to their struggles. This would be such a natural process for situations of extreme circumstances; but this unique time that they share together before the Lord is only to be “for a time.” The expression of their sexual intimacy will be resumed at the same time as their dietary life is reinstated. There is a clear correlation between the need and pleasure of eating and that of sex.

Mutual Consent

Defraud not one another, except it is with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempts you not for your incontinency (I Corinthians 7:5).

This abstinence for the purpose of “fasting and prayer” is to take place only by mutual consent. Both the husband and wife are to be in agreement to this purpose.

For a Time

Defraud not one another, except it is with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempts you not for your incontinency (I Corinthians 7:5).

Not only is this “fasting and prayer” and sexual abstinence to be by reciprocal approval, it is also to be only for a limited, agreed-upon period of time – “for a time.”

Even in the most extreme trials of agony, there comes a time to rise up from the sorrow and continue with life. This can be seen in the life of King David who, after his grieving process at the death of his young son, it is written:

Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel … and he ate (II Samuel 12:20).

Come Together Again

Defraud not one another, except it is with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempts you not for your incontinency (I Corinthians 7:5).

At the end of the mutually agreed upon period of time dedicated to “fasting and prayer,” the couple are to “come together again.” The Greek word here translated “come together” in the King James Version is sunerchomai, meaning “cohabit (conjugally).”[5] The Greek word for “again” is palin, and is defined as “oscillatory repetition.”[6] Webster defines oscillatory as “moving backward and forward like a pendulum; swinging; as an oscillatory motion.”[7]

This entire passage on the marital relationship is exceptionally plain: the consummated husband/wife union is to function on the basis of a continuous state of marriage (uniting as “one flesh”). Violating these principles places the believer in a state of rebellion to God’s most basic marital foundation. Other than for this rare exception of “fasting and prayer,” there is no place for sexual abstinence in the life of the married believer. Operating “marriage” in such abstinence is a contraction of terms; it is an oxymoron, denying the very biblical meaning of “marriage.” Couples living in such a state of fraud are breaking their marriage covenant – they are marital covenant breakers.

Intimacy of sexual relationship is designed by God to be the great bond of joy between husband and wife. This is not just a physical issue, but a spiritual one as well. Its importance and value are to be protected at all lengths – “that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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[1]Strong’s Concordance, Greek Lexicon #2133.
[2]Ibid. #3784.
[3]There is no legalistic rule of frequency; an innate interval being established by the very nature of the Couple themselves, and even then with degrees of ebb and flow.
[4]Paul does not even validate the Mosaic Law’s prohibition of sexual relations during the menstrual period as an exception. This ceremonial “uncleanness” has been done away by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
[5]Strong’s Concordance, Greek Lexicon #4905.
[6]Ibid #3825.
[7]Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.
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