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.”17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 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.
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e. “us”):
POP QUIZ: What do the first century Corinthians have in common with the twenty-first century Americans?
Hint: The first seven words of today’s text.
“I have the right to do anything,”
Yes, these seven little words could be our biggest problem. In Corinth, this was the mentality of a so-called “spiritual” person; someone whose life had been illuminated by the superior religion of the wisdom of the age. Again, they wanted to bring it right into the church. It was especially handy when it came to their penchant for prostitutes.
Come to think of it, it sounds a little reminiscent of the ethos behind the sexual revolution in this country. It goes something like this: “What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is their own business and they have every right to do it. What business is it of the government’s to tell people who they can marry and who they can’t and so forth?”
And what business it of the church to dole out rights? Answer: The church does not do business in the realm of rights. That is not our language or framework. The real issue is not our “rights” but righteousness in our relationships; and by righteousness I mean the inside-out expression of the holy love of God and neighbor.
These Corinthians reasoned that their bodies were temporal and would ultimately be done away with, so what’s the big deal with a little philandering. After all, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” right? Eat, drink, and be merry! “Come on,” they would say, “We have the right to do anything we want to do.” They believed in the immortality of the soul. Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. Because the resurrection of the body is a core doctrine of the Christian faith, we take a very high view of the human body. The human body is sacred and must be cherished and guarded against corruption.
The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
Do you see how Paul so artfully confronts the false teaching of the Corinthians with the sound doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ? People are going to do what people are going to do, but there is no need for the church to be unclear about what it believes and there is certainly no need to change its course to conform to the cultural tides of the age. The church need not be mean spirited or cavalier or caustic; just clear.
Scripture offers an equal opportunity rebuke to any and all forms of sexual immorality. People want to know why the church tends to put so much emphasis on this. It’s because the Bible puts so much emphasis on it. In fact, the Bible seems to put sexual immorality in a category of its own. Somewhere along the way, the church unfortunately equated sexual immorality with sex in general and we still haven’t recovered. Scripture quite robustly affirms sexual union in the context of marriage, but outside of marriage it is destructive.
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.
There’s something about sexual immorality that cuts to the very heart of our relationship with God. We want to think of our relationship with God as primarily a spiritual reality. That’s how the Corinthians were letting themselves off the hook. According to Scripture, our relationship with God seems to primarily be a bodily thing. Our “spirits” or our “inner person” are not the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our physical human bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s close with the two admonitions from today’s text:
Flee from sexual immorality . . . Therefore honor God with your bodies.
We don’t flee sexual immorality because sex is a bad thing. It’s because sex is a good thing. In fact, it may just be one of the greatest ways two married people can honor God with their bodies. Sex is not a right for anyone. It is a sacred privilege of those called to be married. More on that to come.
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for calling us to be holy as you are holy. Thank you for the arresting and compelling vision of holiness we see in your son, Jesus. Forgive us for messing up that word so badly. Thank you that my physical body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Awaken me to all the implications of this reality. I want to experience it to the full. I am living beneath this now. Come Holy Spirit, from my sexuality to my weight and fitness, lead me to bodily holiness in a beautiful way. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.
1. Why do you think sexual immorality is seemingly singled out in a category of its own in scripture? What are the implications of that?
2. What would it look like for you to “Flee from sexual immorality?” What images does the word “flee” conjure up in you? How can that be strategized and actualized in your life?
3. What would it mean for you to take steps to “honor God with your body?”
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