The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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. 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.1 Corinthians 7:3-5
The major thrust of this paragraph is that sex in marriage is designed for the fulfillment of each partner. Paul does not say to the husband and the wife,
Demand your own sexual rights. He never puts it in that way, and yet I have been involved in scores of cases where one of the major problems of the marriage was that one partner, usually the man, demanded his sexual rights from his wife. Nothing is more destructive to marital happiness than that. To mistake and mistreat the passage where it speaks of the wife not ruling over her own body and thinking of this as giving license to the husband to demand sex whenever he wants it is to destroy the whole beauty of sex in marriage.
If we understand that it is going to make a big difference in many marriages, and, if you reflect on it a moment, you will see why. Sex is designed so that we have no control over it ourselves within marriage. We need another to minister to us, and that is designed of God to teach us how to relate and fulfill the basic law of life which Jesus put in these terms when he said,
If you attempt to save your life you will lose it (Matthew 16:25). If you try to meet your own need, if you put that first in your life, the result will be that you will lose everything you are trying to gain. Instead of finding fulfillment you will find emptiness, and you will end your years looking back upon a wasted experience. You cannot get fulfillment that way.
That is not merely good advice — that is a law of life, as inviolable as the law of gravity. The only way to find your needs met and yourself fulfilled is to fulfill another's needs. Throw your life away, Jesus said, and you will find it. That is what sex is all about. It is designed not to have your needs met, but to meet another's needs. Thus, in marriage, you have a beautiful reciprocity. In the process of devoting yourself to the enjoyment of your mate, and to giving him or her the most exquisite sense of pleasure that you can, you find your own needs met.
This is why God made us with that quality of needing someone else to fulfill us sexually. This is why unresponsiveness in a partner in sex always creates a deep-seated problem in a marriage and a rift occurs. God has given us the ability to give a gift of love and response to another person, and the joy of doing so is what creates the ecstasy of sexual love in marriage.
So important is this to marriage that the apostle goes on to say that it takes precedence over everything else in your life except an occasional spiritual retreat for prayer.
Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement... If you are going to do this, it has to be a mutual thing. You must not give up or deny your partner the right to this kind of enjoyment. To unilaterally take action to refuse to involve yourself in a sexual union in marriage is to violate this very command of God, and to hurt the marriage very severely. It can be such a dangerous thing in marriage that Paul says,
Be careful. Don't continue it very long, and come together again, lest Satan be given an advantage over you. Those are very wise words, and Paul is underscoring here much that is causing problems in marriages today.
Father, thank you for your frankness in dealing with these matters. Teach me, Lord, the beauty and the glory and the joy of sexuality. Help me to learn how to express it in ways that give honor to you and fulfill your divine intention for me.
Is our perspective toward sexual intimacy in marriage consistent with the basic spiritual principles for all of life? Do we need to examine the inconsistencies, and the ways in which they may be both unloving and ungodly?