Glorify God with Your Body”
Lesson Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:40
Devotional Reading: Ephesians 4:7-16
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (KJV)
12All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
To understand Paul’s argument about not allowing Christian liberty to become a license for immorality.
To compare and contrast the problem of sexual immorality in Corinth with sexual immorality in our own communities.
To remain sexually pure and encourage young adult believers to do the same.
Since I don’t have a refrigerator in my office, I plaster my magnets on file cabinets instead. (Yes, I confess that I am a “magnet person.”) My favorites are from states or foreign countries I have visited. One magnet I particularly like is from New Hampshire, shaped like a license plate and emblazoned with the state’s official motto: Live Free or Die. What a bold slogan!
I wonder how far New Hampshirites are willing to push this ideal. Do they believe they should be free not to pay any taxes whatsoever? Do they believe they are free to drive without a driver’s license? Do they feel free to litter with impunity?
The answer to these questions for the vast majority is, of course, no. The residents of this proud state (as other states) have both defined and accepted limits to their personal freedoms. That fact does not detract from the spirit of the slogan, however. It is a spirit that expresses a desire to live where freedom flourishes, where there are no unnecessary restrictions.
One of the things Paul seems to have been battling in the Corinthian church was the ill-advised use of slogans. Such mottoes appear to have been used by various factions within the church to champion their causes and batter their opponents. We should be careful of doing doctrine by slogan. Without context, slogans can be half-truths, as today’s lesson makes clear.
Time: 1st Century, around A.D. 55
Consider the Lord
There was a great deal of sexual laxness in the city of Corinth. It was a permissive society with a philosophy similar to that which the world has today: Sex is a normal physical function, so why not use it as you please? Paul pointed out that God created sex when He made the first man and woman, and therefore He has the right to tell us how to use it. The Bible is the “owner’s manual” and it must be obeyed.
God condemns sexual sins; Paul named some of them in 1 Corinthians 6:9. In that day, idolatry and sensuality went together. “Effeminate” and “abusers” describe the passive and active partners in a homosexual relationship. (Paul dealt with this and with lesbianism in Rom. 1:26-27.) In 1 Corinthians 6:10, Paul pointed his finger at the members guilty of sins of the spirit, those suing each other because of their covetous attitude.
But God can also cleanse sexual sins and make sinners into new creatures in Christ. “Ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified” (1 Cor. 6:11). The tenses of these verbs indicate a completed transaction. Now, because of all that God had done for them, they had an obligation to God to use their bodies for His service and His glory.
Consider God the Father (vs. 12-14). He created our bodies and one day He will resurrect them in glory. (More about the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15.) In view of the fact that our bodies have such a wonderful origin, and an even more wonderful future, how can we use them for such evil purposes?
The Corinthians had two arguments to defend their sensuality. First, “All things are lawful unto me”(1 Cor. 6:12). This was a popular phrase in Corinth, based on a false view of Christian freedom. We have not been set free so that we can enter into a new kind of bondage! As Christians, we must ask ourselves, “Will this enslave me? Is this activity really profitable for my spiritual life?”
Their second argument was, “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats” (1 Cor. 6:13). They treated sex as an appetite to be satisfied and not as a gift to be cherished and used carefully. Sensuality is to sex what gluttony is to eating; both are sinful and both bring disastrous consequences. Just because we have certain normal desires, given by God at Creation, does not mean that we must give in to them and always satisfy them.
In contrast to the Corinthian arguments, Christian preachers like Paul taught a much broader definition of what constituted sexual immorality: any sexual activity outside of marriage was sinful and forbidden. Shockingly, some members of the church at Corinth were engaging in illicit sexual activity that even the pagan Gentiles disapproved of (1 Corinthians 5:1)! Paul would not stand for this, for he saw sexual sin as a threat to the unity and purity of the entire body of Christ.
Consecrated Bodies (1 Corinthians 6:12-16)
Controlling (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)
1. How can we tell the difference between the Apostle Paul’s statements and those of the Corinthians? (1 Corinthians 6:12)
A recognized difficulty in understanding the book of 1 Corinthians is Paul’s handling of (what appear to be) slogans. These are not his slogans, but are short statements that the various factions in the Corinthian church seem to be using to define themselves and their agendas. Therefore when we see Paul cite a slogan, (“all things are lawful”) we must be careful not to take it out of context as an absolute rule that he himself is promoting, for his intent may be quite the opposite.
But how do we know if and where Paul quotes a Corinthian slogan if he doesn’t preface it with something like “you say that …”? Jay Smith proposes several telltale indicators, and we can summarize them here. Slogans (1) are brief, pithy statements usually in the present tense, (2) are often repeated, (3) feature wording that is inconsistent with the way Paul usually writes, and/or (4) are followed by a counterpoint.
We see all four indicators here in the phrase all things are lawful unto me. This phrase (1) is brief and pithy, (2) is repeated both here (with identical Greek wording) and in 1 Corinthians 10:23 (with very similar Greek wording), (3) does not have an expected conjunction between it and the preceding verse, and (4) is followed by counterstatements both here and in 10:23.
Paul himself has proclaimed freedom in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:12). Noting however, that certain forms of indulgence become wrong when they bring the person into bondage. Disregard for life-guiding rules is not always expedient. Nevertheless, God’s rules (laws) for living are designed for our benefit, not as oppressive restrictions that spoil our fun. Why not commit adultery? Because it will destroy the trust on which marriage is built and wreck one’s family life. To commit sin is never to our benefit.
What Do You Think?
How can we help Christians see the fallacies in the secular thinking that “people have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies”?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Regarding sexual practices | Regarding the exercise of free speech
Regarding substance abuse | Regarding modesty | Other
2. What did Paul mean by “meats for the belly, and the belly for meats” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 14)?
We come to another simplistic slogan: “meats for the belly, and the belly for meats” (The word meats refers to food in general, not just the flesh of animals.) Paul admitted that food and the human body are transitory and that one day God would do away with both of them. But the apostle denied that what believers do with their bodies is either unimportant or inconsequential. Our bodies were created so we can worship and serve “the Lord.”
In effect, Paul is replacing the Corinthian’s defective slogan with one that puts everything together properly: The body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. We surrender our bodies along with all their appetites to the Lord’s service, and He commits himself to us. Explaining his point further, the apostle revealed that the believer’s body will be raised form the dead just as the Father resurrected the Son’s body (v. 14). Therefore, the purpose of the body goes beyond the present moment. The apostle encouraged his readers not to overlook the eternal perspective when deciding what to do with their bodies. When the believers in Corinth kept God’s eternal plans for them in mind, they would be less inclined to do that which was spiritually detrimental to them.
We also recognize a deeper sense of “body” at issue here: the body of Christ as the church. This is the direction of Paul’s discussion in the verses to follow.
Rejecting Illicit Sexual Relationships (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)
3. What did Paul say about believers’ bodies being members of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)?
Next, Paul told his readers that their physical bodies had been united with the spiritual body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15). In 12:12-20, the apostle compared the church to the human body. He said both have many parts, which do different things, and that each part is vital to the operation of the whole. What unites diverse people in the church is the common experience of having one Spirit.
Paul explained that because the physical bodies of the believers in Corinth formed a mystical union with the Savior’s body, they must not unite themselves with those of harlots (prostitutes) (1 Cor. 6:15). In essence, such a sinful act was equal to desecrating the body of Christ. This power of association within the church body can be warped and damaged by improper associations. Paul is not advising that his readers cease all contact with the non-Christians of their community. Rather, he is saying that inappropriate sexual contact must cease (see 1 Corinthians 5:9, 10).
Urgent Instruction (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
4. What urgent command did Paul give to believers (1 Corinthians 6:18)?
Paul’s language here is telling. He does not say “resist,” but flee fornication (contrast James 4:7); it is not “be strong and stand your ground” but “run away!” This is powerful (see also 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).
Here, Paul again uses candid language to justify this strong warning as he puts sexual sin in a unique category of wrongdoing. Other sins are without (outside) the body, meaning they are external. For example, stealing may use the hands to accomplish the sin, but it is still “outside.” Sexual sin, by contrast, is against the body because of the intimate union between those engaged in it.
Nineteen million. That is the number of new infections of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reported each year in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic represents only three types of STDs, which means it’s only a fraction of the true numbers. This figure also does not take into account those who do not seek medical attention.
STDs can cause problems ranging from pain to infertility to death. Yet a sexualized culture does not say, “Stop the immoral behavior that results in STDs,” but rather, “Go ahead and have fun, but make sure you do it safely.” A culture with sexual norms that are far below God’s standard does not seem to realize that every sexual act outside of a marriage between one man and one woman results in a spiritual disease known as sin. Spiritually speaking, there is no “safe sex” outside of marriage.
Commercials, entertainment dialogue, and supermarket conversations that would have embarrassed us a few decades ago now tempt us to reevaluate what is “normal.” We must assume that we will face sexual temptation, and we must be prepared to take flight immediately when it presents itself. Given the attention to this issue we find in the Word of God, we know that sexual immorality has always been a weapon of destruction the enemy wants to use against us. But with God’s help, we can overcome. See 1 Corinthians 10:13.—V. E.
5. In what ways does the believer’s body belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)?
In 1 Corinthians 6:12-18, Paul taught that believers who engage in sexual immorality also forfeit their moral character. Next, the apostle reminded his readers that their individual physical bodies were a temple, or sacred dwelling place, for the Holy Spirit (v. 19). Therefore, the believer’s body is not his or her own. Instead, it belongs to God. In 3:9, Paul referred to believers collectively as a sacred edifice belonging to God. In ancient Israel, God made His presence known in the tabernacle and Jerusalem temple. But since the day of Pentecost, the Lord’s abode had become the hearts of His people through the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Individually and collectively, believers were “God’s temple” (v. 16). Indeed, they were more glorious to Him than Solomon’s legendary temple complex.
Furthermore, believers were sacred, for they had been set apart to worship and serve God exclusively. The Corinthians have not been purchased by Christ’s death just to be enslaved all over again. They have been bought in order that they might be free from the bondage of sin, free forever. They have been made free so that they might “glorify God” with both their spirits and bodies in every way. As this is true for the larger body of Christ, so it is true for each individual member who makes up this body.
What Do You Think?
What challenges in our culture work against our glorifying God with our bodies? How do we overcome these challenges?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Activities that culture says are good, but are not
Activities that culture says are not good, but are
POINT TO PONDER
Because God’s rules are clear, His redeemed children know what He expects. As we follow the Lord, either as married or single persons, we grow spiritually by learning commitment, responsibility, and trust, to God and to others. Then we can show God’s standards to the world.
The Body of Christ in the World
The church is the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of the saved. Our joys and hopes are part of this body’s life. Our times of worship are strengthened by joining with the body in corporate praise. Our understanding of God’s Word is matured by sitting under the wise teachers of the church.
Working against this, the spirit of today elevates and celebrates personal freedom and independence. We are encouraged to question any and every limit to our autonomy in our quest for personal fulfillment. We are to despise any barriers to the exploration of our individuality. Laws that were once seen as expressions of shared moral standards are now attacked as unwanted limits to personal freedom and privacy.
But the sins we commit, even in private, are part of the life of the body. When we sin, we violate not only our own bodies, we also infect the body of Christ—the church that was bought at the cost of the death of God’s son. The church that was called to go out into the world to make a difference for Christ! (See Matthew 28:18-20)
Heavenly Father, You have given us so much! The church is Your gift, redeemed by the blood of Your Son. You have given us Your Holy Spirit to inhabit the church and our lives. Lord, enable us to keep ourselves and our church pure. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
What we do with our bodies affects our spiritual well-being.