What does 1 Corinthians 7:4 mean?
ESV: For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
NIV: 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.
NASB: The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband also does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
CSB: A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does.
NLT: The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
KJV: The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
NKJV: The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Verse Commentary:
Paul is revealing God's will about sex within marriage. He has rejected the idea that married Christians should abstain from sex. Early heresies, such as Gnosticism, claimed that the body was evil and sex should be avoided, even in marriage. In fact, Scripture says the opposite is true because of the temptation to participate in damaging sexual sin.

In the previous verse, Paul wrote that husbands and wives must both give sex to each other, translated in various Bibles as "conjugal rights" or "marital duty." Now Paul explains why this is true, using the language of authority. Neither wives nor husbands are entirely independent over their own bodies when it comes to sex. Instead, the wife has authority over the husband's body and vice versa.

The Bible's teaching on this subject runs counter to both the culture of Paul's day and to our own. This is a uniquely Christian idea for several reasons.

First, in many cultures then and now, a wife's body was thought to be the explicit property of her husband, but categorically not the other way around. In some cases, cultures essentially considered "male adultery" non-existent, requiring fidelity only of the woman. In Christian teaching, however, both parties in marriage are so closely connected, as if one person (Genesis 2:24), that they have mutual authority over each other's bodies. This is the opposite of male dominance of women. This specific verse focuses on that idea of mutual submission in one specific area of marriage.

Second, especially in modern times and places, culture often recoils at the suggestion that a person does not have absolute, unrestricted autonomy over his or her own body. Christian teaching, though, is clear about this idea. Paul wrote in the previous chapter that, as Christians, we do not own our bodies, because God purchased us from sin and death with the blood of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19–20; Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 3:13). The two primary expressions of this are in avoidance of sin and in the mutual expression of sexuality in marriage.

Marriage is meant to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and those who have been redeemed in the church. In that picture, both the redeemed husband and redeemed wife surrender their right to exercise authority over their own bodies—in this area specifically—as part of their marriage commitment to become one.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 7:1–16 includes Paul's teaching about sex and marriage for Christians. Some in Corinth apparently thought even married believers should not have sex. Paul rejects that idea, insisting that married Christians belong to each other and should not deprive each other in this way because of the temptation to sexual sin. Also, married believers should not divorce in order to somehow be closer to God. The Lord intends marriage to be for life. Those married to unbelievers may, by staying in the marriage, help lead the other person to Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Paul rejects an idea concerning the Corinthian believers: that married Christians should not have sex. Perhaps some even thought marriages should be dissolved and avoided. On the contrary, Scripture says married Christians should have regular sex in order to avoid temptation. Those who are married ought to remain married. Unmarried believers with the gift of celibacy, however, should consider remaining single in order to avoid the troubles of marriage. That is Paul's personal preference, though that gift is not given to all others. Single believers can devote themselves to serving Christ without distraction. The time is short. All believers should live and serve Christ now as if this world is passing away.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 7 follows Paul's teaching in the previous chapter, which focused mostly on avoiding sexual immorality. Here he commands married husbands and wives not to deprive each other of sex, or get divorced, in a misguided attempt to be more spiritual. Unmarried people who can live contentedly without sex, however, should consider remaining single in order to serve Christ undivided. Getting married is good, but the time is short. The form of this world is passing away. Unmarried people should think about the opportunities to avoid trouble and serve Christ that come with staying single.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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