CLEAN LIVING IN AN UNCLEAN WORLD

1 CORINTHIANS 6:12-20

We live in an era of sexual permissiveness. I have seen this era grow and develop throughout most of my life. I was a child of the 60's when what was termed as the sexual revolution came on the scene and promised to set people free to enjoy their sexuality. Instead it had just the opposite effect.

All too often, the church has stood silent on these issues, either pretending that they are not problems encountered by Christians, or else watering down the purity of the church and merely ignoring the issues. Yet the Bible is not silent on these subjects. God does not hide His head when talking about sexual relationships and the time has long past when the church ought to follow suit.

Christians live in a real world with real issues and they are tempted with real sins. We are called to be different. We are called to be clean in an unclean world.

We have already noted that chapters 5-6 deal with three specific problems that were infecting the church:

5:1-13

6:1-11

6:12-20

Sexual Misconduct that called for church discipline

Legal Lawsuits that called for church oversight

Lustful temptations that called for a connective reminder

The corporate church is called to be a part of the solution

Our corporate identity in Christ is the solution

It is interesting that this one is sandwiched between two issues that deal with sexuality among Christians. While the first two problems called for the church to act corporately in coming to a solution, the solution in this section will be seen in an understanding of our identity in Christ.

 

LAWFUL LIBERTY

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12).

A "grace movement" had come to Corinth. There seem to have been those in the church who were teaching that, since Christ has paid for sins and set us free from the penalty of Godís law, it is okay to live as you please. They taught that, if you want to sin a little, it is okay because Jesus took your sins away. If you want to divorce your wife and trade her in on a younger model, it is okay because God wants you to be free. If you go up to the Temple of Aphrodite and engage in immoral acts, it is acceptable because you are not under the Law.

Paul is going to counter this sort of false teaching, but he does not do it by saying that there is no such thing as grace or that we do not have freedom in Christ Jesus. He teaches instead that grace and Christian living are mutually compatible.

Everything in this world that is not sin is lawful for me. God has given me a wonderful freedom. I can do anything as long as it does not involve sinning. In this, I am much like Adam in the Garden of Eden who was told, "You can eat every tree of the Garden except one." Just as he could eat of anything, so also, I can do anything. But there are some things that are without profit.

I can spend the rest of my life making paper airplanes. There is nothing sinful about paper airplanes. I am not breaking any of Godís laws by making a paper airplane. But it is a profitless way of spending my life.

All things are lawful for me. It is okay for me to have things. One of the problems with having things is that it is easy to be enslaved by them. It is an ancient truism that says, "Whatever you own owns you."

The older we get, the more we tend to acquire stuff. Eventually, we get so much stuff that we have to rent a warehouse in which to store some of our stuff. We get very possessive of our stuff. We become upset if someone messes with our stuff. And we take more and more time to take care of our stuff. What is really happening is that we are becoming enslaved to our stuff.

That is what Paul is describing. He says that he will not allow stuff to enslave him. He has room for only one master in his life. His master is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

DESIRES OF DESIGN

Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:13).

The Corinthians had a rebuttal to Paulís call to holy living. They responded by saying, "We arenít really living in sin. We are only filling the natural desires that God has given to us. If God didnít want us to live this way, then He wouldnít have given us these desires." Paul has an answer to such a statement.

This was a Greek proverb. It points to the Greek way of thinking that you are made with certain desires and that your lot in life is to fulfill those desires. The Greeks applied this principle to the area of sex. They said that the body is for sex and sex is for the body. They reasoned that, since you have sexual desires, it must be so that you can fulfill them. This philosophy was the cornerstone of their sexual revolution. It was to this end that they erected their Temple to Aphrodite with its thousand temple prostitutes.

Paul quotes this proverb, but he does so with the balancing truth of temporality. The truth is that the body will one day come to an end. There is coming a day when there will be no more food and no more stomach and no more sexual pleasure.

Paul has just noted that the body is temporary. That is not an excuse to indulge in the flesh while you are here on planet earth. To do so would be contrary to its design. The body was not made for immorality, but for the Lord.

What does this mean? In what way is the body for the Lord? I would like to suggest that the answer is to be found in the following verses. Paul is going to explain that the body has been fashioned to be a dwelling-place for the Lord.

There is a wonderful truth here. When you came to Jesus Christ in faith, Godís Spirit took up residence inside your body. Your body became the dwelling-place of God. This is why it will be called the "temple of God" in verse 19.

The human body did not come about by chance. It was not the chance product of blind evolution. It was created. It was fashioned for a purpose. It was designed to be a temple for the God of the universe.

 

BODIES BUILT TO LAST

Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. (1 Corinthians 6:14).

There was a false teaching going around Corinth that said there is no resurrection from the dead. This teaching had its roots in Greek philosophy. It stated that the body is evil while the spirit is good. Therefore it was reasoned that, if the body died, the spirit could be free to be good.

Paul is going to deal with this false teaching at length in chapter 15. But for now, he merely points out that God builds bodies to last.

You see, it could be argued that, since our bodies are only temporary, it does not really matter what we do with them during this relatively short period we are here on earth. If I want to engage in immoral conduct with a temple prostitute, then it is only my body that is involved and my spirit remains without sin.

To combat such a suggestion, Paul has pointed out that my body is the dwelling place of God. It has been designed for a purpose. And now he goes on to show that this is an eternal purpose. It is an eternal purpose because I am going to have an eternal body. This body in which I currently reside is going to die one day, but God will raise me from the dead. I am going to have a new body and it will also be the temple of God.

 

JOINED WITH JESUS

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

We have been joined with Jesus. We have a new identity. We have become everything that He is with respect to His communicable attributes.

He is the Son of God; we are sons of God.

He has eternal life; we have eternal life.

He is righteous; we have been declared to be righteous.

He is the heir to the kingdom of God; we are co-heirs with Christ.

That is not all. Christ has also been identified with us. He became human and we are human. He was born as we are born. He lived as we live, yet without sin. He was tempted as we are tempted. He died as we die.

Just as we are in the body of Christ, so also He lives within our bodies. This is important. This is not mere Bible trivia. This is not meaningless theology. It has some very practical applications.

The Fact that I am Joined to Jesus means that for me to engage in sexual immorality is to identify the body of Jesus Christ with a sinful situation. For a Christian to commit adultery is to bring the body of Jesus Christ into an adulterous relationship.

Paul asks this in the form of three rhetorical questions:

When you enter into a sexual union with someone, it is much more than two bodies rubbing together in the night. There is a bonding that takes place. Two people become one. This is the way your body was designed. It was designed to become one with another of the opposite gender. We call this bonding MARRIAGE. The first marriage was described in exactly this way.

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24).

God designed the first man and the first woman so that the could come together to become "one flesh." This "one flesh" relationship is not to be taken lightly. It is only to be entered into with one who is also of one spirit.

This is why the believer is commanded not to be bonded together with an unbeliever. Believers should not marry unbelievers because they donít have anything in common.

On the other hand, we are one spirit with other believers because we are one spirit with Christ.

Now let me issue a disclaimer. The fact that believers share the same spirit does NOT mean that it is okay for believers to engage in extra-marital relations.

I often hear the argument that says, "The wedding license is just a piece of paper." The problem with such a statement is that, if the wedding license is just a piece of paper now, then it will be just a piece of paper after you are married. People who see marriage as just a formality will consider it nothing but a formality when they see a prettier girl or a wealthier guy or someone who is better at flattering their ego.

The importance of marriage is that it signifies COMMITMENT. If you have such a commitment, then you have determined at the outset to flee fornication.

 

A FLIGHT FROM FORNICATION

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Here is the message that Paul brings to the Corinthians who are having sexual problems. He says to flee immorality. He does not say to conquer immorality. He does not say to argue with immorality. If you begin to argue with immorality, then you will probably lose. The thing to do with temptation is not to stay and argue with it. Flee it!

Do you remember the example of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar? Joseph had been sold as a slave into the land of Egypt. He found himself in the house of the Egyptian captain of the guard, a position that was usually held by a eunuch. If this was the case with Potiphar, then we can understand some of his wifeís desire toward Joseph. She wanted to take him to bed.

I imagine that if Joseph had stopped to share in Christian counseling with this woman, he might have fallen prey to her temptation. He might have gotten emotionally involved and felt sorry for her and perhaps even rationalized their relationship. Instead, he ran.

There is a principle here. It is that continued exposure to a temptation to which you are inclined will result in a weakening of your will. You need to cover your exposures. You need to flee temptation and then you need to stay away from places where temptation is likely to be.

For the Corinthians, this might have meant staying away from the Acrocorinth and the Temple of Aphrodite. Or it might have involved staying away from a certain purpose to whom one was attracted.

There is a story told about Augustine when he encountered a woman on the street with whom he had once had an affair before coming to Christ. As soon as he recognized her, he turned and began to run in the opposite direction. She called after him, "Augustine, it is I." Without even turning, he called back, "But it is not I."

There is a truth here. It is that we are no longer the people we once were. Our bodies are no longer only our bodies. They are now temples of God.

 

TEMPLES OF THE TRINITY

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Have you ever heard someone talk lightly about sin, commenting that certain sins between consenting adults are okay because they donít hurt anyone else? This isnít true. It is especially wrong for Christians because the Christian is always involving a third party. He is involving the holy God of the universe. If you are a Christian, then Paul has several truths that are directed toward you.

  1. You are not alone: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God (6:19).
  2. No matter where you go or what you do, God is with you. Your body has become the temple of the Holy Spirit. The word that Paul uses for "temple" in this passage is not the general word for temple. It is the special word that denoted only the innermost sanctuary. It was not the place where people gathered to worship. It was the holy place into which only the priest was permitted to enter because it was holy ground.

    You are not alone. Your body has become holy ground to the Holy God of the universe.

  3. You are not your own person: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price (6:19-20).
  4. You have been bought and paid for. The price of your payment was the blood of Christ that He shed upon the cross. You are now the special possession of God. He owns you. When you dishonor your body, you are dishonoring Godís personal prized possession.

  5. You have a new purpose: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (6:20).

Your new purpose is to glorify God in your body. This is your new goal in life. It is to bring glory to God.

We usually want to glorify ourselves. We like to make ourselves look good. We like people to think good of us. If the truth were known, it is that we want to be worshiped. But we have a higher calling. Our calling is to worship the One who is worthy of our worship.

At this point, I need to address those of you who might be thinking, "How can God ever use me? I have already dishonored my body in all of the ways that are described in this passage." There is good news for you here. It is the good news of the gospel. It is the good news that tells of new beginnings when you come to Christ in faith. It is the good news that is echoed in verses 9-11 of this chapter when it says, "You used to live like that, but then you were washed and you were sanctified and you were justified."

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