TEXT : 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20
TITLE : Use Your Body for the Glory of God
DATE PREACHED: The Lord's Day , 22 August 2010
I have previously drawn your attention to the fact that we all too easily tend to compartmentalize our Christianity into the sacred and the secular . This not a biblical worldview , for the Bible teaches that we ought to glorify God in every aspect of our lives ( see 1 Cor 10:31) . It is this holistic thinking that underlies the teaching of Deuteronomy 6: 4, 5 , which was also endorsed by Jesus in Mark 12:29- 30: “Hear O Israel : The Lord our God , the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The whole person must worship God emotionally ( with all our heart) and spiritually ( with all our soul), but also intellectually ( with all our mind) and physically ( with all our strength).
We are now considering how we ought to worship God with our bodies, particularly in terms of sexual ethics. The church in Corinth struggled much with this issue (see also Chapter 5). In order to help you understand this, allow me to show you some of the moral problems which they were struggling with.
The city of Corinth was dominated by the ‘Acrocorinth’ , a hill about 560 meters high, on which there stood a large temple to Aphrodite , the Greek goddess of love . The cult of Aphrodite was dedicated to the glorification of sex.The priestesses of the temple apparently about a thousand of them) were so called ‘sacred prostitutes’ who came down into the city at night and plied their trade.
May I remind you that human sexuality is perhaps the most distorted aspect of man’s fall into sin . We have already seen this in Ch 6: 9, 10 . The distortions of God’s good gift of human sexuality is there among the list of depravities , along with idolatry , thieving , drunkenness, and deception. And it has always been like this ever since the fall . The OT makes sad reading when we consider all the accounts of the sexual perversions that occur in it. In the city of Corinth there was also the temple of Apollo. He was the Greek god of music, , song and poetry . He also became the ideal of male beauty. According to Greek mythology he was in a homosexual relationship with a man called Hyacintus . Homosexuality was widely practiced in the Greek and Roman culture , and so we are not surprised that Paul mentions this among the sexual perversions. (see 6:9) . In short – Corinth was well known for its debaucheries , so that the Greeks even had coined a word that would describe a debauched life style : Korinthiazein - to live like a Corinthian . What a challenge then to preach the gospel and to plant a church in such a city . No wonder that Paul came to this city with much fear and trembling ( 1 Cor 2:3) .
Before Paul gives a Christian perspective on the way in which a Christian man or woman should view their body , he lays down the principle of Christian liberty in v.12
v.12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. He repeats this principle in Ch 10:23
Before Paul says anything , he affirms the fact that the Christian gospel is a gospel of freedom ( see Gal 5:1ff) . This is certainly what Paul preached ! And it is an important principle because in his experience he has seen that people have perverted the gospel by simply reducing it to a set of ‘do’s and don’ts ‘.
Let me explain : The gospel draws our hearts to Jesus , and when our hearts love Him ,we will find it very difficult to sin against Him . But when we begin to define Christianity simply as law ( i.e. ‘do’s and don’ts’) then the law becomes an end in itself , and to tell you the truth , it is very hard then to keep the law . But when we are ‘in Christ’ , or when we have Christ as the end of the law ( Rom 10:4) then we have Him in us to help us to say ‘ no’ to ungodliness (Titus 2:12).
By nature we are either ‘legalists’ ( i.e. we live by the law) or we are ‘antinomians’ ( we are against the law).
We find it very hard to find the balance between law and grace. The Corinthians were ‘antinomians’ , for they had taken Paul’s teaching on freedom from the law and had turned it into license ' "to do anything you please" - after all , the law is no longer our master !
And so Paul responds – “ Yes that is true : ‘ All things are lawful for me ‘ , BUT not all things are helpful to do.” “Yes, there is a sense in which all things are lawful , BUT we must not become enslaved by anything.”
The great truth is that Christ has indeed set us free from the curse of the law. And we must stand firm on this principle and not again submit to a yoke of slavery ( Gal 5:1). BUT we must learn to use our freedom with a sense of great responsibility . We are going to learn more about this 1 Corinthians 8 and 10:23-33 . We shall learn there that freedom is not primarily about me. It is primarily about the glory of God, and it is about others (as summarized in the 2 great commandments - Mk 12 : 29,30) .
Thus for a Christian , set free from sin , an engagement in sexual immorality is not a freedom we may presume upon , because it offends two : God and my neighbour ! It offends God , because my body belongs to Christ , and He wants me to use it in a holy way ! It offends my neighbour (who is not my wife or husband) because it robs them of their sexual purity.
That is the argument here in v.12, and if you have understood this , the rest is very easy to understand . But before we get to Paul’s rich exposition of a truly Christ centered attitude to the body, he deals with another diversionary tactic about the stomach - here presented in the form of another ‘ catch phrase’ used by those who were attempting to justify each and every physical indulgence :
v. 13a : “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. What they were saying was this : “Who cares what we do with the body – the body dies anyway ?“ This is what some Greeks philosophers , the Epicureans actually taught : “Let us eat , drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!” (Paul interacts with this Greek philosophy in 1 Cor 15:32). This view had a very low view of the body. This was a part of a faulty worldview of some of the Greeks who taught that the spirit was good but the body was considered as the evil part.
But is this a Christian view ? NO !
And so we hear Paul challenging them : You are wrong !
vv.13b – 14: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.“
Food and stomachs (appetites) are not what life is ultimately all about. They will be destroyed – but this is not true for the body. The body is a sacred creation of God, even though our present bodies will die. But do not forget the resurrection! Our bodies will be resurrected and they will be glorified when Jesus comes again (see 1 Cor 15). The vital point which you need to understand is this : God honors the body , and He sent the Lord Jesus Christ , who became flesh (He received a body) in order to redeem us in the body.
Vv. 15 – 17 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him." Now Paul comes to the key theological argument: If we abuse our bodies (in this particular instance with sexual immorality), then the honour of Christ is at stake. Our bodies are members of Christ! We are united to Him in a spiritual union that includes our bodies.
However, there is a is also a union that takes place in sexual relations - The principle is found in Genesis 2:24 - a man and a woman become ‘ one flesh’.
The Scripture does an incredible thing here: It draws a similitude between the sexual relationship of a married couple (i.e. a man and woman) and the union of Christ and the believer. The sexual act is an exclusive union . It is an expression of oneness. In the same way Christ regards His people as exclusive to Himself.
Thus, the Christian man who engages with a cult prostitute in Corinth is becoming one flesh with her. He is abusing the body which is meant exclusively for the Lord (in the exclusivity of covenant marriage),and thus he defiles his body which is meant for the Lord.
V.18 " Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." There is something about sexual sin that is particularly dangerous , says Paul. Every time you have sex with a man or a woman that is not your spouse you are becoming “one” with that person – but it is more than just that - sexual sin goes beyond the physical sin into our body and our spirit.
Vv19,20: " Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." And so , Paul drives the point home : Your body is a sacred place – like a temple . In this instance it is a temple of the Holy Spirit . If this is so , then how can you allow anything unclean to enter this temple ?
1. What was the Corinthians chief problem ? They believed their culture more than they believed Christ . We need to watch culture and the incredibly subtle way in which it so easily rationalizes, distorts and brings unbiblical thought patterns into the Christian heart and mind.
Here are a couple of modern distortions :
“We have to first live together to see whether we are compatible.” – and if you not compatible, may I ask, how will you deal with your scarred emotions, after your experiment has failed? Are you just going to move on? Remember that the sexual act goes deep into your soul.
Here’s another one : “What’s wrong with sex if people enjoy it? There’s no law against having fun. Besides, it is only a natural, physical act. How can a normal body function and craving be wrong ? It’s just the body, which dies anyhow. And don’t I have a right to do what I want with my own body? Nobody else owns it. It’s mine. I’m not hurting anyone else. Does that argument sound familiar?
Our young people are greatly pressurized by such lies and are made to look stupid or prudish, and abnormal if they tell their friends that they are still virgins. Many young Christians are sadly giving into the culture and the pressures of the present day. We Christians must learn, by the mercies of God, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God … and not to be conformed to this world , but to be transformed by the renewal of our mind…” (Rom 12:1,2)
Once Christ is at the end of your thought processes , He becomes the captain of your soul and the watcher of your heart’s desires, your strength and shield, your Good Shepherd, your very present help in trouble.
2. Is sexual sin serious? Most definitely. It goes deep into your body and mind and soul . If you have had many sexual partners you will find it difficult to forget them. Thus sexual sin leaves deep scars upon your soul, and very often also upon your body through sexually transmitted diseases. It has deep effects upon your relationships with others. Christian marriages have ended because of one of the spouses’ adultery. Children’s homes are torn apart. But more seriously sexual sin goes against God’s intended use of your body. Your body is designed as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
3. What if you have sinned ? The gospel really helps you: both, in terms of forgiveness from sin and also power to withstand it. Christ’s work in the body on the cross is done for the redemption of the whole of you: body and spirit. Christ has done the work of providing forgiveness.
He also has sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within you to give you power to live a holy life.
He has also given you the church ( brothers and sisters) to come alongside you and help you be strong.
The Gospel is really God's answer to all our sin, and if you have allowed you body to be abused by things that do not glorify God, your only recourse is to come to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world - and your sin. Humble yourself under God ; repent ; receive His forgiveness , and go and sin no more. Use your body for the purpose for which it was intended - a vessel with which you may give glory to God. Amen!