Using your temple wisely
What sort of things do you think every person has a right to?
Let’s not forget how Paul greeted the church in Corinth back in chapter 1. They are the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. Yet the way they are thinking and behaving does not fit with that description. They were quarreling over which leader is the greatest and thinking like people of this world. They were even taking one another to court over matters that could have been resolved with Christian wisdom and unity. And they had somehow allowed sexual immorality to become commendable! Things that even pagans would condemn were being practiced by members of the church. They were not behaving as the people of God.
Paul had instructed them to celebrate and nurture the community of God, cleansed by the blood of the Passover Lamb and love being a community devoted to pursuing holiness – keeping the Festival as though they themselves are unleavened bread. In Chapter 6 Verses 1 to 11, it seems that they were more concerned with their rights than they were with Christian living and forgiveness.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
12 “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. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 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.”d 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.e
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 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; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. They were once sinners but now they have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. They need to learn to be the people that God has made them to be.
What did you see?
- Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)
- The melding of body and soul (14-17)
- Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)
Rejecting hyper spirituality (12-13)
“I have the right to do anything” This sentiment is quoted twice by Paul to mimic what he believes the Corinthians to be saying. How pointed to the age that we live in. Which comes as no surprise because sin, when left unchecked, grows into a tree of self worth and the rejection of care for others or God. Human rights is an important topic but to say that we have the right to do anything is not thoughtful on the implications on others. What did the Corinthians have in mind? Well, if you have been taught that Christ’s death has paid for your sins completely (Romans 8:1) and that keeping the Jewish laws are no longer included in the New Covenant, (Acts 19:9-15), then this surely gives us liberty and freedom to eat and enjoy the good things in life without concern. “We are free in Christ” has become for them: “We have the right to do anything.”
“…but not everything is beneficial…I will not be mastered by anything.” Paul has two responses to the statement, “I have the right to do anything”, which are both about discipline and wisdom. From the very beginning, mankind has been given the challenge to be wise. Think about the test in the garden of Eden with regards to the fruit. Binge TV watching is a Christian liberty but is it really beneficial? Enjoying the things of this life is excellent but if something becomes an addiction, is that really helpful? Something may begin as a liberty but grow into a demand. Should I mention coffee? Alcohol? Candy-crush? What about TV and movies with nudity/course language and anything that can train us in ungodliness? What other things could fit the category of not beneficial or possibly addictive?
“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” This local man-made proverb is capturing the idea that we are just inhabiting a temporary body which will disappear one day and so let’s not care about it. Faith and worship are about the spirit. The body is for food (and sex) and they will not be coming to heaven with us – or so the idea goes. What Paul goes on to talk about is a push-back on the idea that the body does not matter.
“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul has moved from the proverb about food to what he’s really concerned about: sexual immorality. This is the theme of chapters 5 to 7. We are not made in order to abuse sex. All things that are good in this world come from God. Sex, money and power all have their place when used for the glory of God. But all three can be misused and abused to the detriment of ourselves and others. Our bodies – our fleshly, creaturely matter – are meant for the Lord. And Paul will continue to explain what he means by “and the Lord for the body.”
Notice in Verses 12 and 13 how the Corinthians are celebrating a transient life – what they do in the here and now has no effect on eternity. This is an extreme misuse of the doctrine of grace. But pushes back on this hyper-spirituality and says that the body matters!
The melding of body and soul (14-17)
“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead…” In order to place emphasis on the body, Paul goes to the resurrection! It is no light matter that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead! It is also no light matter that Jesus was made flesh to begin with in order to die! Salvation occurred through the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“…and he will raise us also.” The bodily resurrection. A Christian doctrine that says we will not be spirits in the sky but, with a new heaven and a new earth, we will also have new bodies. This current passage is putting emphasis on the point of bodies. The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body. When God gave us life, he also gave us bodies. Our flesh and bones mean something to God. When mankind was made, we were described as being in the image of God. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, he said “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This can have multiple implications but he is saying that they are both flesh! As Christ was raised in bodily form, so we will be raised in body. Jesus is described as the firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1). His resurrection is not the only one, but the body of Christ will rise in Him also. So, I’ve opened a can of worms, I’m sure. Cremation vs burial. Do we sleep when we die or do we rise straight away? How old will we be in the new heaven and earth? Good questions which I will not answer here.
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” Now Paul introduces a new level of complexity. We are not simply talking about his body was important and so ours is also. Paul now reminds us that, as Christians, we have died with Christ and we rise and live with him (Romans 6)! Being part of the body of Christ is not just an illustration for church life! There is something extremely practical and real about actually being attached or united with Christ.
“Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” So, the sexual immorality is unveiled a little here and we see that prostitutes are involved. Unfortunately, some people even in our church may need to hear Paul’s words here. Let’s quickly remind one another also that Jesus equated the thoughts of the mind with adultery in Matthew 5:27-28. The Corinthians may have had easy access to prostitutes in temple worship (most commentaries will talk about that) but we have so much access to virtual prostitution through porn.
“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?” This is an amazing statement. It’s all too common to here the idea that sex is just biology. Paul is arguing for a deeper connection with the body and the spirit in this passage. We are united with Christ in the body. When we unite with somebody in sex, there is a connection that transcends probably anything else. Paul wants us to hear that it’s not just biology.
“For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”” Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24. Sex is for marriage and marriage is the place for sex. Our society has so cheapened sex and likewise cheapened marriage. In God’s wisdom, he has created us to be united closest through this physical act. That does not mean that every sexual act is a highly spiritual one. Life is messed up because of sin. But, all things being equal, sex is a wonderful gift of God given for the purpose of bonding two human beings together – for life. Does that mean that if someone has engaged in casual sex is now married with that person in the eyes of God? No. But understanding the place, purpose, and origin of sex teaches us that our bodies were made for a reason. We are not spirits, we are flesh and blood. Our bodies are united with Christ and they are also the temple of the Holy Spirit…
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” This sounds awfully new agey and quite bold to think that we can say, “I am one with the Lord in spirit!” Ever thought that? Paul wants us to stop thinking 2-dimensionally (or 3 or 4 for that matter). When we are here in body, we are also one with God in spirit. There is a unity between body and spirit. Paul wants us to understand the link between our bodies and our spirit and the union of our body with the Spirit of God.
Trashing someone else’s property (18-20)
“Flee from sexual immorality.” I love these direct applications in the bible. Get out of there! See some sexual immorality threats? Run the other way. In case of personally engaging in sexual immorality – run for your freaking life. In the positive, cultivate habits and thought patterns that entertain godly living. In the negative or defensive mode, shut out opportunities for sexual immorality, learn to cry out to God for help when tempted and speak to someone about dangers that you might face. Paul continues to stress why sexual immorality is particularly harmful.
“All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Paul takes his lesson to the next level. And it is quite a curious thing to say. It fits perfectly with the train of thought so far…if sex means that the two will become one flesh…that sounds quite huge. But gluttony might seem similar. Or self-harm? So, sexual sin is categorised as something that changes you. Let’s remember the two things that Paul said to begin with: not everything is beneficial and I won’t be mastered by anything. Two pair oneself with another liberally is by no means beneficial once we’ve heard Paul’s teaching of the union which that creates. Sexual immorality in deed or in thought can be quite dominating and a dangerous master. For Paul to say that it is a sin against your own body! That’s sobering to hear. Then he says:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Wow! The great promise of Christ to his disciples was that he must go and he will send the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone because the Spirit of Christ and of the Father are with us (John 14:26; 15:26). I have not the space to talk in detail about the temple and its purpose through the scriptures – except that it is where God dwells with his people. While once it was a physical structure in the centre of Jewish life, Christ declared himself to be the temple when he said, “knock that down and in three days I will rebuild it!” John 2:19-21. Paul has taught us that the Spirit of Christ is in us. This is not to say Christ’s Spirit but the Spirit sent from the Father in the name of Christ. Our bodies are the dwelling place of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse has been abused to teach against smoking cigarettes and eating healthy etc. But clearly the context is about sexual immorality! Can you extend the principal though to smoking? I don’t think you can. Paul said that all other sins are outside the body but sexual sin is different. (it is not a good idea to smoke cigarettes nor eat an unhealthy diet – not all things are beneficial).
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” This is perhaps the mic-drop moment of Paul’s talk here. We’ve come from the thought that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies to this final statement that you don’t even own your own body. Salvation has come to you at a price. It was through the death of Christ physically on the cross. Because of that, we have the Spirit within us. In what sense are we free to do whatever we want? The conclusion, though, is not then to be told what to do with our bodies but to honor God. That is surely what we would want right? If not, then why turn to Christ? We have been given a new life through Christ. Paul is not asking us to become prunes, but to honor God with our lives. Like he says in Colossians 3:17, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
What did we learn?
Freedom in Christ does not mean that we begin to ruin our souls through sin. We are saved by grace and now live sanctified lives through the Spirit of God and our bodies are involved in the plans of God. He created us with bodies and the resurrection will somehow include resurrected bodies. The place of sex is also a sacred thing in the eyes of God. We now live with the Spirit of God within us and we ought to think like the sanctified people of God, thinking and acting with wisdom and self-control.
Topic A: Where might we find the freedom we have in Christ being subverted with unwise living? See the notes for examples like TV watching. How do we spot the difference between being wise and being a prune?
Topic B: Live your spiritual life naturally and your natural life spiritually. This is a quote seen on a sign in front of a church somewhere in Australia. What do you think of this saying? Does Paul agree with this statement according to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20?
Topic C: Understanding the balance between grace and discipline. Grace means that we get rewarded despite not deserving nor earning it. Christ paid the price so that we could be rewarded with his righteousness – not what we have done but what Christ has done. Not who we are but who Christ is. We stand uncondemned because of Christ and we can never repay him for what he has given us by grace. Discipline is about choosing wisely and acting with thought and self-control. Making plans and sticking to them. Deciding to do productive and beneficial things and saying no to other things which we could become enslaved to. These could appear contrary to one another. However, all the discipline in the world will not save us – we need the grace and mercy of God. Once saved, we recognise that we do not want to be married to sin any longer and so we must flee. Living a disciplined life does not make us any closer to God than a fish. Living a saved life will spur us on to love and good deeds because of the hope we have for eternity.