Though it is a very uncomfortable subject, sex is everywhere! It’s in advertisements because “sex sells”. Prime time television is filled with casual sex with multiple partners. It’s so common that we are “used to it”. Pornography is just a click away on your computer. There are pills to enhance sexual performance. Young girls are encouraged to dress for “sex appeal”. The news is filled with stories of the sexual failures of our leaders. . . even leaders in the church.
Once again our society strongly parallels that of the Corinthians. The city of Corinth was notoriously immoral. Adultery, homosexuality, and ritual sex were common. To have sex with a temple prostitute was so common in Corinth that the practice came to be called, “Corinthianizing”. Paul condemns this lifestyle.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul confronted this indulgent attitude and made at least four important points about our sinful desires.
FREEDOM OUT OF CONTROL IS BONDAGE (v. 12)
12 “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
In most of your Bibles you will find the words, “everything is permissible for me” in quotation marks. It is believed by most scholars that Paul was quoting what the Corinthians were actually saying. They may have been quoting Paul himself.
Paul preached about our freedom in Christ. In Galatians 5 Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (1) and “you my brothers were called to be free” (13). Paul told us that we are not under the law but under grace. He underscored the fact that Christ died for every sin that we have committed. There is a true freedom in Christ.
The people of Corinth were apparently using the idea of freedom in Christ as an excuse for their own sinfulness, especially their sexual sin. When someone would tell them they were doing wrong they apparently responded, “I have been set free from the law of sin and death.” It’s like saying, “It’s my body I can do what I want to do with it.”
Paul responded to this idea with two “qualifiers” to the exercise of our freedom. First, though we are free, not everything is profitable. Even though we have been set free in Christ, some behaviors are still wrong. These things lead to painful consequences and erect a barrier between us and God. Though you certainly can do whatever you want with your body, why would you do things that were actually harmful to that body? Paul implies that we need to always ask: “Is this profitable?” before we do it.
Second, though we are free, we must continue to be on guard against being enslaved again. In the careless exercise of our freedom we may actually end up in bondage. Let’s illustrate this:
- You might like to go shopping. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you can afford it. However, if you don’t show restraint you can start to feel that you “need to buy something” in order to be happy. You can become enslaved to debt or that constant feeling that you need more.
- You like to eat. That’s natural and good. However, if you can’t control your eating you can do harm your body by eating too much or eating the wrong foods.
- It is good to have a desire to look good but if that desire gets out of control, you may end up with an eating DIS-order and do harm to yourself.
- There is nothing wrong with taking medication but the overuse of medication results in you become “addicted” which is just another word for enslaved.
- You may enjoy sporting events. However, if these events begin to control your life or if they get you too worked up (they are just games, afterall), it is no longer a good thing. It has caught you in its snare.
Paul’s point is that most sin is taking something good and taking it beyond what is healthy. There is nothing wrong with sex, as long as it is used within the boundaries that God has set up.
Think about the Mississippi River. The river is great, useful and a source of enjoyment as long as it stays within its banks. When it reaches flood stage it can create all kinds of damage. The same is true with sex.
IT IS NEVER “JUST SEX”
In response to Paul’s comments about the careful use of our freedoms, Paul anticipated another argument.
13 “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
God gave us food to fill our stomach and gave us a stomach to enjoy our food. Likewise (they were arguing) the sex drive is a natural desire that needs to be fed. The Corinthians may have been arguing: “Our sexual desires have been given us by God, so we are just doing what comes naturally. It’s not really a big deal; it’s just sex.”
Paul responded: though the stomach was created for food and food is needed to fuel the body; our sexual appetites were not created simply to have sex. Our desires were created for us to long to have a relationship with God and with each other.
I believe Paul argues that there is no such thing as “casual sex”. It is not simply a detached act. Sex outside of the marriage relationship has consequences.
- It creates a unique bond with a person who is not your spouse. In verse 16 Paul said, “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.” The act of sexual union requires a vulnerability that joins a person physically, mentally, and spiritually.
- Takes something from your present or future spouse. When we are sexually “active” we are giving a part of ourselves to others that we will never be able to give to our spouse.
- It destroys marriages and families
- Diminishes our respect for others. When we begin to view people as “objects of gratification” our view of all people is diminished.
- It opens the doors to disease
In his SCREWTAPE LETTERS C.S. Lewis says that each time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship, a spiritual bond is established between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured. God takes sexual sin seriously because it corrupts and shatters spiritual relationships, both human and divine.
People can and are forgiven for sexual sin. But the wreckage is often extensive.
WE LIVE OUR LIVES WITH CHRIST AT OUR SIDE
There is a third principle that Paul gives us: “Christ Lives and Walks with Us”,
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 he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Too many so-called Christians believe they can compartmentalize their lives. In other words they believe they have a Christian life and a worldly life and the two don’t need to intersect. They engage in sexual intimacy with others and don’t see why it should have any affect on their marriage. They engage in immoral behaviors during the week and come into worship feeling quite satisfied with their relationship with God.
Paul reminds us of three things in these verses: First, this life is not all there is. As God raised Christ from the dead, so He will raise us from the dead. We will one day stand before the throne of God and have to give an account of every idle word. Our society encourages us to “live for the moment”, to “grab the gusto” and to immerse ourselves fully into this life. Paul says that is very short-sighted.
Second, as believers the Holy Spirit actually lives inside of us. No matter what we do the Lord is with us. We not only will face Him in the future, He is aware of what we do right now! We don’t leave Him behind when we walk out of the church. When we engage in that immoral relationship God is witness to the act.
Suppose your life was a reality show and everyone in the church was (for some reason) watching. If you were aware of what was going on would that cause you to live differently? Would you be a little more kind, compassionate and devoted? Probably. Would you avoid obvious and blatant sin (like immorality)? Of course you would! People are watching. Paul wants us to remember that the Holy Spirit is with us wherever we go. God is watching!
Paul adds a third argument for holy living: “you are not your own, you were bought with a price.” The picture here is from the slave market of the day. Picture yourself as someone enslaved to Satan because of your sin. You are helpless to save yourself. Jesus however comes along and, through His death and resurrection, purchases you. You are now delivered from our slavery and we now belong to Him. We are now to serve Him with our lives.
Let’s look at this another way. Suppose you ate poorly and did nothing in regard to exercise in your life. As a result you have a serious heart attack. The EMT’s save your life and a Surgeon does extensive surgery on your heart to repair the damage. After the surgery you have to go through months of difficult physical therapy to get your energy and strength back. The Doctor gives you instructions about how you need to change your life. He tells you to get out and walk and to avoid eating certain foods. We all recognize that it would be foolish to ignore the Doctor. It would be foolish to continue to pursue the path that caused you such pain?
Likewise, the Lord has told us that to avoid falling back into the life we had before we became His child. There is a very real sense in which our bodies no longer belong to us, but to Him. The price He paid for our release from bondage to Satan was huge. We owe Him our obedience. In a very real sense, what we do with our bodies reflects on Him. He deserves to have us honor Him with the way we live our lives.
ALL SIN IS NOT THE SAME
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
Not all sin is the same. Some sins are more blatant. For example, hatred and murder are both sins. One is obviously worse than the other. In the same way, lust and adultery are both sin. But they are not equally bad. It is possible that the people were excusing their immorality by saying, “It’s not any worse than _______________ (name a sin you know someone else is committing).”
Paul says that “all other sins a man commits are outside of his body”. Certainly drunkenness, drug addiction, gluttony and other eating disorders, and even suicide are sins that affect the body. However, all these other sins take advantage of external objects to harm the body. Immoral behavior is the only sin in which we use our body itself to sin. .
I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases verses 14-18
There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another.
It is likely that there are people here today (probably many) who recognize that they have committed sexual sin. You can be forgiven if you truly repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Repentance means you have to stop the sinful activity. Ask God to help you turn away from what is wrong. Next you need to seek the forgiveness of the Lord and may need to seek the forgiveness of others who have knowingly been affected by your sin. If you will do this, God can bring healing. He can rebuild broken lives. He can restore respect and honor to relationships.
This is sin that we all need to guard against. To help us, Paul gives us some specific counsel. In verse 18 Paul says we should Flee from sexual immorality.
The best illustration of this in the Bible, is Joseph (Gen 35). Joseph worked for Potipher one of Pharaoh’s assistants. Mrs. Potipher thought Joseph was a good looking guy and she desired him. She flirted with him and propositioned him but Joseph declined. Joseph told her it would be a violation of the trust that her husband had given him.
Mrs. Potipher was persistent. One day she had all the servants leave, put on an outfit from Victoria Secret and invited Joseph to be with her. When Joseph didn’t respond, she grabbed him so she could press up against him and give him a kiss. Joseph didn’t say, “O a little kiss won’t hurt anything”. He left his coat in her hand and he ran. Sexual temptation is powerful and we cannot negotiate with it. We must simply run.
Fleeing immorality involves fleeing in several different areas. it means:
- Diligently avoiding potentially tempting situations. Young people need to spend more times in group dates to limit alone time with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Married men and women should avoid time alone with members of the opposite sex. Most people I talk to about marital infidelity say the same thing, “we never meant for this to happen . . . one thing just led to another.” We must be diligent or it could happen to you.
- We must learn to turn away from things which stimulate lust. In other words we should turn our eyes away from the person in the revealing clothing, we should turn off the sexually explicit show, and we should filter pornographic websites from our computers.
- We should avoid sexual innuendo and flirting with those who are not our spouse.
- We should dress modestly. Dressing to produce lust in another is wrong.
We must guard our eyes and our heart.
Second, in verse 20 we are told to “honor God with your body”. This is the flip side to the command to flee. Instead of giving ourselves to immoral behaviors we should seek to use our bodies in ways that will honor God. Perhaps you could
- Do some repair work for someone in need
- Get down on your knees and pray
- Make a visit to a hospital or nursing home
- Give your time to a ministry that needs your help
- Open up a Christian book and read
- Go see that neighbor who doesn’t have a relationship with Christ
Instead of using your body to indulge the sinful nature, use it to show honor to the Lord of the Universe.
Third, we should put our energy into our marriages. In chapter 7 Paul is going to encourage people to work on their own marriages and this includes the area of sexual intimacy. Paul basically tells us to maintain a healthy sex life in our marriage and to never use sex as a weapon because it often backfires.
Solomon told us to rejoice in the wife of our youth. The idea is pretty simple: Instead of looking for greener pastures, we should seek to develop depth in our relationship with our spouse. Instead of seeking different relationships we should instead seek to develop deeper relationships. It is true that the best defense against marital infidelity is a good relationship at home.
Our society is on a downward spiral. We have become preoccupied with sex. People increasingly look at each other as objects for gratification rather than as people of value and worth in and of themselves. Contrary to what we are being told, we are not more enlightened! We are becoming superficial and enslaved to our desires and passions.
God’s prescription regarding sex is designed to keep us from a self-absorbed, animal like approach to sex. God’s counsel is designed to lead us into true intimacy and lasting love. He’s not trying to take away our enjoyment of sex. He is trying to make it better.