Why Is Fasting Not Emphasized In Marriage?
This question springs up from the context of 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 and, in particular, the whole chapter. This passage is dealing with questions from the Corinthian brethren that Paul answers. In this historical context, there was a “present distress” [a period of adversity] that was occurring at that time (1 Corinthians 7:26) and Paul was sharing his inspired wisdom on what to do.
First, it is implied that the Corinthians had asked Paul “In light of the present distress, is it good for a man not to touch a woman?” (that is, not marry – remain single, 1 Corinthians 7:1, 26). Certainly, Paul did not want the brethren to commit fornication (which he had already addressed in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6). He writes that God created the sexual desire to be fulfilled only in the pure, scriptural, marital relationship in which He approves (Matthew 19:3-12; 1 Corinthians 7:2,3). Paul also points out that the husband and wife belong to each other in this “one flesh” relationship and that it is not to be guided by selfishness. Whenever a wife has an intimate affection for her husband, the husband ought to be willing to consent to her needs and vice versa. So, Paul’s answer to the Corinthians' question is that it is not morally or spiritually wrong to marry and “touch” your spouse in a God-joined marriage (compare Hebrews 13:4; there is nothing intrinsically sinful about the physical flesh).
In 1 Corinthians 7:5, it is emphasized that the sexual relationship may be suspended for a time by mutual consent. This is when both parties agree not to engage in intimate activity for a time. Paul indicates that there are times when it is good for a married couple to focus on the spiritual side of their marriage. They mutually agree to enhance the spiritual focus of their marriage by fasting and prayer. Some examples of when this would be beneficial: (1) when great and important decisions need to be made within the family (for example, the church fasted when a great and important decision was made for Paul and Barnabas to go on their missionary journey, Acts 13:1-5); (2) when adversity is rocking their marriage in which there was some trouble such as this “present distress” that will be discussed in 1 Corinthians 7:26. Fasting, when done right, may increase spirituality and help a struggling, married couple. In Western culture today, however, fasting is rarely practiced and may not prove helpful in a marital situation. This is the primary reason why it is not emphasized in the West.
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