Saturday, 11 December 2004 17:29

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (15)

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Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (15)

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Broadcast: May 24, 1998; Message Number 1473

The Christian View of the Body

When God saves sinners He saves them as whole persons. The Gospel affects every area of our life. It transforms our intellect, affections and conduct. Not only our souls, but also our bodies are changed and consecrated to the Lord's service. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds his fellow believers that together they constitute the temple of God. Here, in I Corinthians 6, the apostle says that each individual believer is also a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Christians should never think that they can do with their body as they please. Why not? Because, as Paul says, you are not your own, but you belong to Christ who bought you and made you His own.

The Christian view of the body differs greatly from that of the pagans. The Greeks had a low view of the human body. To them the soul was everything. Man's spirit was immortal, they believed, and destined for eternal bliss. While here on earth, the soul was imprisoned in the body from which it could only escape through death. Since the body was part of matter, it was considered inherently evil. This negative view of the body came to expression in two completely opposite ways. In some cases it led to extreme asceticism. The body and its desires were denied and suppressed by fasting and mutilation. In most cases it resulted in a lifestyle which gave free rein to the enjoyment of physical pleasures. Apparently, the Corinthians favoured the latter option. They saw nothing wrong with fornication, adultery, same-sex relations and other immoral practices.

When the Corinthians were converted, they retained many of these pagan ideas with the result that they made excuses for such sins as fornication and even incest. Today, we face a similar problem. We live in a society which places a lot of emphasis on the body. In some cases this emphasis is good, e.g. when we are reminded of the need for physical exercise and proper diet. But there is also an unwholesome aspect to this current preoccupation with the body. We see especially the female body exploited on TV and in books and magazines. Many TV programs and commercials pander to the prurient interest of the viewers; and advertisers know that sex sells.

The Bible has a lot to say about human sexuality. It tells us not only that God created us with this powerful impulse, but also how we are to use this gift. When God saves a sinner, He saves the whole person, soul and body. If we are Christians, we consecrate not only our souls, but our bodies as well, to our new Master.

Paul says that we are to glorify God with our bodies. The Corinthians had either forgotten or misunderstood this important truth. Their basic problem seems to have been that they were drawing the wrong conclusions from another doctrine, namely that of Christian liberty or freedom. We can also take our freedom in Christ too far. Some of the Corinthians were doing that. They were saying, since we are free in Christ, it doesn't matter how we live. What we do with our bodies is immaterial. In other words, they began to use their liberty as an excuse for practising immorality.

Paul warns them against this deadly error. "All things are lawful for me," he says, "but all things are not expedient [or beneficial], but I will not be brought under the power of any." Although we have liberty in Christ, we do not have the freedom to do whatever we want. We are free only to do what Christ wants from us. Christian liberty is not the privilege to do as we please; it is the power to do as we ought.

I will not be a slave to my body, Paul says. There are many ways in which people can enslave themselves. Drug addiction is a modern form of slavery. Millions are hooked to cocaine, heroin and other narcotics. Many are in bondage to alcohol. They can't leave the bottle alone. Others are slaves to tobacco. Still others are obsessed with food. The type of bondage Paul is dealing with is of a sexual nature. The Corinthians were enslaved to immorality. They defended their immoral lifestyle by pointing to the naturalness of the sexual impulse. They had a kind of proverb that said, the stomach is made for food and food for the stomach, and they applied this principle to sexual activities. Look, they argued, just as the stomach is designed to handle food, so the sexual organs are designed for sexual behaviour. Conclusion: it is perfectly natural for us to satisfy our sexual appetites.

Today, people are using the same basic argument. All sorts of sexual sins are excused on the premise that sex, like eating and drinking, is just a bodily function that needs an outlet. If you are interested in partners of the opposite sex, fine, but if your preference is for members of the same gender, who cares. And if young people like to experiment before marriage, that's no big deal either. Even a bit of adultery is OK. An affair now and then can do wonders for a marriage that has lost its spark.

Paul says: no! Meats for the belly and the belly for meats, but God shall destroy both it and them. What he means is this: the stomach and food are made for each other, true enough. But they are passing things. As long as we are in this life, we have to eat in order to live, but in the new heaven and new earth this biological function will cease. A day is coming when God will do away with both food and the digestive system that processes it. Not so with the body itself. Our bodies are designed by God for much more than biological functions. It certainly is not for fornication. Rather, it is designed to serve the Lord. That is its true purpose.

Not all sexual relations are sinful. When God created man and woman, He blessed the sexual union between them, but only in the context of marriage. Outside of that divinely appointed boundary, sexual activity is sinful and those who engage in it bring God's judgment upon themselves. Even in this life, the consequences of this sin are fearful. Nothing causes more pain and misery than sexual immorality. It has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, produced more heartache and sheer misery than drugs and alcohol combined. Sex outside of marriage is destructive, yet many enjoy it for the sheer excitement of it. However, excitement is not the same as enrichment.

Paul goes on to say in verse 14, "And God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by his own power." Our bodies are designed not only to serve God in this life, but also in the life to come. They are far more than biological organisms. The human body was made for union with Christ; now in this life, but even more so in the life to come.

What Paul is saying has tremendous implications for our sexual conduct. The apostle spells them out in verses 15 to 18. "Do you not know," he asks, "that your bodies are the members of Christ?" Shall I take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. "What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit."

Paul means this: our bodies are not only for the Lord, but also of the Lord. We are part of Christ's body, He being the Head and we the members (Romans 12). Therefore, for a Christian to commit sexual sin is to make the members of Christ members of a harlot. It is to use a part of Christ's own body in an act of fornication or adultery.

If we are believers, we are joined to Christ. That is a wonderful truth, full of comfort and joy. Paul uses it here to show that when we commit sexual sins, we involve our Lord in this sin--not that Christ is personally tainted with our sin any more than the sunbeam that shines on a garbage dump is polluted. But His reputation is dirtied because of the relationship that exists between Him and His people.

We grieve our Lord by all our sins, but especially by sexual sins. Why? As Paul explains, "every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body." Sins like drunkenness, overeating, gambling and other vices do not have the same impact on the body of a believer as the sin of sexual immorality, because his body belongs to Christ. For a Christian to fornicate with a prostitute means giving his body to a harlot, because Scripture says that sexual intercourse makes two people into one flesh. It results in the union of two bodies. Paul is quoting Genesis 2:24 to show the seriousness of the sins the Corinthians were involved in. They were taking their bodies, which belonged to Christ, and prostituting them to someone else. In doing so, they were no longer serving the Lord with their bodies, but they were using them in the service of sin.

When Paul says that by committing sexual sins a man sins against his own body, he does not just mean that he brings upon himself all kinds of problems. That is true, of course, but that is not Paul's main concern in this passage. What he emphasizes here is that by committing sexual sin we jeopardize our spiritual life and if we do not repent of this sin God's wrath will fall upon us.

We do not have to go to the extremes that these Corinthians went to in order to come under this indictment. We may never have committed the actual sin of fornication or adultery and yet be guilty of these sins. We can give in to lustful thoughts and do things with our bodies that also fall into the category of immorality. Paul says "flee fornication." This not only means that we are not to go to prostitutes, but we are to avoid all situations where you are likely to be tempted to commit sins of the flesh.

Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Paul reminds the Corinthians. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's. Let this fact, namely that you belong to the Lord, influence your entire outlook on life and determine your conduct in every way.

You who are not Christians, you belong to another master. You are a slave to sin and to Satan. Pray to God to set you free from the bondage that will ultimately drag you down to hell! Repent and believe in Jesus, the only Saviour, who has come into the world to bind the strong man, Satan, in order to set his victims free. He is able to set you free also.

No matter what sin you are addicted to, He is able to deliver you from it. Some of the worst sinners in Corinth were saved and transformed by the power of Christ. "Such were some of you," the apostle says in verse 11, "but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

Additional Info

  • Audio: 11052086
  • Speaker: Rev. C. Pronk
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