Posted By LAF Editor on February 2, 2015
A central issue in interpreting these verses is what Paul intends by the term “burn with passion” (a single word: puroústhai, “to burn”) and how burning relates to the theology of marriage that surrounds 1 Corinthians 7:8–9 (1 Corinthians 7:1–7, 10–16). Is marriage the coveted arena where each and every sexual fantasy comes to life? Is marriage a crude medium to satiate our base and carnal desire for something that disgusts God (i.e., sex)? Is burning an inconvenient reality that both God and man must shamefully and reluctantly endure until heaven?
I believe burning, for Paul, is a legitimate sexual desire among the unmarried. He states his audience clearly: “the unmarried and the widows.” The danger of this interpretation is that some will inevitably misconstrue sinful sexual desires as regular and good, and assume that marriage is meant to be an unrestricted place for our unhindered sexual whims.
But Paul answers this objection in the text, when he makes the point that the Christian sexual ethic requires love of neighbor applied to the context of marriage — to love the spouse above oneself, against abusive relationship structures (1 Corinthians 7:2–4; cf. also Ephesians 5:3, 25–33)
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It’s (Not That) Complicated: How to Relate to Guys in a Healthy, Sane, and Biblical Way
Sex, Marriage, and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva: Courtship, Engagement and Marriage
The Christian Lover