Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

1 Corinthians 7:1 (KJV)

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he writes in response to a question from the Corinthians that “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1 NIV). I’ve supplied the King James version above to demonstrate the severe nature of Paul’s response. Was Paul against procreation? What was Paul talking about in 1 Corinthians 7:1, and why did he say it was good for a man not to touch a woman?

Most of 1 Corinthians 7 deals with relationships in and out of marriage, but verse 1 is more of a bridge between what Paul wrote at the end of 1 Corinthians 6.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything…Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.

1 Corinthians 6:12,15-19 (NIV)

At the end of 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addresses the Gnostic belief that the spirit (mind) was better than the body and that the things done in the body didn’t impact one’s soul. This concept justified having sex with whomever they choose. Thus, the Corinthians asked Paul about this practice. Hence, his response in 1 Corinthians 7:1 and his qualifying statement about men and women having sex only with their spouse in verse 2.

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:2 (NIV)

While there were other Gnostic beliefs counter to Christian ideology, the Gnostics still claimed a relationship with Christ. However, many Gnostic claims, like those about the mind and body, were not in line with the Gospel teaching. Gnostic false teachers were just one group among many that Paul and others had to deal with in the first century of the Christian church.