Addressing Sexual Immorality – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Recap of 1 Corinthians Thus Far

This morning we are returning to our sermon series through the book of 1 Corinthians. In this letter to the church that he planted the Apostle Paul is addressing some of their questions to him and as well as their lack of obedience to his former teachings. In chapters 1-4 we heard Paul address the lack of unity within the church, in chapter 5 he addressed the need for church discipline so that the church could represent Christ in purity. Then the last passage we studied was in chapter 6, verses 1-11where Paul confronted the church about taking each other to court and consequently ruining their witness to unbelievers in the community.

What we’ve seen over and over so far is that these immature Christians have dragged the sins of their former way of life into their new life in Christ and this was causing continual problems. Somehow they had neglected to realize that their relationship with Christ was not simply an intellectual belief but a life-changing submission to following and serving Christ. As Paul continues to address these issues in hopes that they will repent and follow Jesus’ example, he comes to another problem within their church – sexual immorality.


The Corinthian View of Sex

The culture in which this church existed was similar to our culture (if not worse) when it came to their thinking about sex. Basically anything and everything was ok. Coming out of this culture, the people of the Corinthian church still had some of that thought process in mind and they rationalized much of their sexual activity. They would talk about our freedom from the law in Christ and say, “Everything is permissible! We’re free from the Law, so don’t worry about it! Do whatever you like.”

This is the opinion in our culture in many ways as well. We hear people saying, “What’s the big deal?” It’s just a biological urge. Do whatever feels good to you.” That’s the same idea you find in the city of Corinth. In fact the city of Corinth was synonymous with sex – the verb “to corinthianize” meant to have sex with a prostitute. That’s how attached Corinth was to that kind of life. So once again, we find the believers in Corinth dragging this sin from their former way of life into their new life in Christ and Paul set out to teach them why this was not ok.

Perhaps you struggle with some of these questions as well. As you try to follow Christ in the midst of a culture that says you can do and be just about whatever you want, maybe you have become confused about how to view sex in a righteous manner. Perhaps you’re not married yet and you have strong feelings for someone and you find yourself wondering “How far is too far physically before marriage?” Maybe you want to be pure and you have set up boundaries physically, but you have slipped into viewing pornography and you can’t seem to break free from it. Or maybe you’re married and you find yourself thinking about someone other than your spouse. Maybe in the midst of our culture doing its best to make homosexuality and gay marriage and transgender lifestyles seem normal you have become confused about what the Bible has to say about sexuality. My hope is that today, as we study the words of Scripture, you can find some answers and some help in these areas. As we get into this study please let me humbly remind you that you and I aren’t God. We didn’t create this world, so we don’t get to make up the rules according to what may seem or feel right in our eyes. We don’t have the intellect, the ability to view things outside of the confines of time and space, or the righteousness to allow us to have the type of perfect and pure point-of-view that God does, so let us remember who is instructing us as we study Scripture and submit to His perfect wisdom rather than the thoughts of our culture which prove its depravity more and more every day.

A Framework for Thinking Righteously (1 Cor. 6:12-13)

As Paul begins this section he quotes three sayings that were popular among the Corinthians and he uses these to teach the church a new framework for how to think about sex. In verses 12-13 we read,

“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial.
“Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
“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.

The Corinthian Christians were attempting to use their newfound freedom in Christ to indulge in sin. No doubt they had in mind the types of things Paul teaches in Galatians 5 – that we are free from the law and that our righteousness in Christ doesn’t come from our obedience but rather by God’s grace through faith. But they had forgotten what Paul went on to teach in Galatians 5:13 where he said, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” These believers wanted the forgiveness and grace and salvation that comes through Christ, but they didn’t want to submit to Him. They focused on their freedom in Christ the Savior, but not their responsibilities to Him as Lord.

Consequently, Paul had to take their thought process and replace it with a new framework. He begins with the first quote, “Everything is permissible for me.” Similar to Satan’s twisting of Scripture in the Garden of Eden or as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, this statement has truth to it, but it falls short of the full truth. In Christ we are free, however, that doesn’t mean it’s wise to use that freedom in any way we choose so Paul gives some helpful safeguards to guide their thinking.

The first safeguard Paul offers is to consider whether the action you are considering is spiritually beneficial. In other words, if you are confused about whether something is right or wrong, ask yourself, “Will this help or hinder my relationship with Jesus?” Now, of course, not everything is so black and white. You might ask yourself that question and not be sure of the answer.

-“Should I lean over and kiss that pretty girl that’s batting her eyelashes at me?”

-“Well, let me think, will it be beneficial to my relationship with Jesus?”

-“It might make me say, ‘Hallelujah!’ but I’m not sure that’s what Scripture means…”

It can be confusing right? So how do you think through this when the issue is not so clear? Try asking other similar questions like,

-“Where might this road take me if it continues?”

-“Could this decision move Jesus from the center of my attention?”

-“Is this something I could do in front of Jesus without guilt?”

The second safeguard Paul offers is to consider whether the action you are considering might enslave you. Remember, the Corinthians are coming at this idea with a desire for freedom. They were excited about their new found freedom from the Law, yet the sexually immoral decisions they were making were simply leading to a new type of bondage! You don’t want to move from one type of bondage to another! You want to be free! So Paul instructs us to ask another guiding question, “Could this decision lead me to be under the influence of something rather than Jesus?”

-If I enter into this relationship, is it healthy enough to allow Jesus to be our focus?

-If I go down this road of physical intimacy, at what point will I lose my ability to have self-control?

-If I allow my thoughts to go there, or my eyes to go there, or my feet to take me there, is there a chance that I will become enslaved?

Lastly, Paul considers another one of their sayings and responds to it. The Corinthians were rationalizing sexual immorality by comparing it to another simple, biological act of eating. They would said, “Food for the stomach, and stomach for food,” in other words, they were saying that just as eating and digesting food have no bearing on our spirituality, neither does sex – it’s just physical. But Paul knew that this wasn’t true and he wanted desperately for them to understand why, so he agrees with them that food and the stomach are both temporary things that God would destroy, our bodies are important to God.

Paul teaches us that “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul wanted them to take on a more eternal and intentional mindset. He wanted them to view all of life as an opportunity to bring glory to God and that should be our mindset as well. The questions for this consideration would be to ask yourself, “Will this bring glory to God?” That’s exactly what Paul teaches this later in this book (1 Cor. 10:31) saying, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

This is great framework for you to think through before you act. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it spiritually beneficial?
  2. Might this lead to me being enslaved by sin?
  3. Will this bring glory to God? (or dishonor?)

The Worth of Your Body in God’s Eyes (1 Cor. 6:14-17)

Next, Paul moves into a different line of argument against sexual immorality by teaching about the worth of our bodies in God’s eyes. In verses 14-17 he says,

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.

It’s easy to miss, but in these verses we learn several things about God’s view of our bodies and His future plans that help us to understand why misusing our bodies sexually is so serious.

First we learn that just as God raised Jesus (and His body) from the dead, He will raise us also. In other words, God has future plans for your body, not just earthly plans. That raises some questions doesn’t it? For instance,

-Doesn’t the Bible say that we will be given new, imperishable bodies?

-Wasn’t Jesus’ resurrection body different that His pre-death body?

-If this is the case, what about those who have been cremated and had their ashes put out to sea or something?

Let me address these things. First, yes, the Bible does say that our earthly bodies are perishable and compares them to a seed that will be planted when we die and then will come forth in a new form and will be imperishable. And yes, Jesus’ resurrection body was different from His pre-death body as we see Him able to walk through walls. But as Paul moved on from speaking about the stomach as being something perishable, he taught that the body is different. He drew a sharp line between the stomach and the body in that the “body” in this context meant more than just the physical frame; it referred to the whole person – composed of flesh and spirit. The “body,” therefore, was not perishable but eternal, and it was not meant for sexual immorality but for union with the Lord. As for the question about cremation, it is easy to understand that God has no problem reestablishing the disbursed matter and reuniting it as necessary. The physical aspect is not the focus here, it’s the spiritual and moral that is the focus.

The second thing we learn in these verses about God’s view of our bodies is that our bodies have been united with Christ and we are now joined together with Him. Consequently, as Paul spells out, whatever you allow your body to be part of, you are involving Christ. If you are polluting your body with drugs or immorality, you are involving Christ in those things. This makes the importance of purity so clear! It is unthinkable that we would involve Jesus in a sexually immoral situation.

Lastly, we learn that not only are we united with Christ in salvation, but we are united with anyone we have sex with. This is why God has commanded in Scripture that sex only take place within the confines of the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Sex is not just physical; it is a spiritual union between two people. It is a God-created, beautiful, metaphysical union that is of more significance than most of us realize. This is why God has given such specific commandments about sex. He is FOR sex. It is wonderful and beautiful, but it is also powerful in that it is connected to your spirit as a person, and this is what Paul turns to next.

Instructions From God (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body.

One short, but powerful and very clear command is given – “FLEE sexual immorality.” Do you know what the word flee means? It means to “run away from a place or situation of danger; to move swiftly, to fly, or speed.” You don’t flee with the thought of a period, you FLEE – exclamation point! You flee for your life. Scripture says, FLEE sexual immorality. Don’t think about it. Don’t flirt with it. Don’t get near it. Don’t go anywhere it’s present. Don’t watch others do it. Don’t minimize it. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t experiment with it. FLEE.

Let me give you some specific suggestions for exactly how to flee:

-Memorize specific Scriptures that deal with whatever temptation you are battling.

-Pray and ask God for deliverance.

-Phone a friend. Just like a sponsor in AA – get help now so that you can call in moments of temptation.

-Get your mind on something else. You can just make thoughts go away; you have to replace them with other thoughts. Get busy doing something else.

Why is this so important? Why is sexual immorality so dangerous? Why are we not to walk away, but to FLEE? Verses 18-20 give us three strong reasons:

Number one – “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” While sexual sin is not necessarily the worst sin and it’s certainly not unforgivable, Scripture tells us that it is unique in its consequences. It has a way of internally destroying us in a way that no other sin does. Why? Because of all sins it is the one sin that is the spiritual union of two people. You can commit other sins and those sins may be superficial. They may affect you on some level, but the sin of sexual intimacy with someone is the deepest uniting of two people that can happen and therefore it has the unique ability to destroy you at your very core.

Number two – As a follower of Christ, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.” As we talked about earlier with being united to Christ, you are now joined together with God. It could not be more inappropriate to involve Him in sin.

Number three – “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  Jesus paid for you and your redemption with His life – that’s how important this is to Him. You and your body belong to Jesus. Can you imagine taking something that belongs to Jesus and misusing it and having to turn it back into Him messed up?

-So think about this, your eyes belong to Jesus – are you allowing them to watch things that He would find repulsive and impure?

-Your mind belongs to Jesus – are you using it to think impure thoughts or to lust?

-Your hands and feet belong to Jesus – are you allowing them to take hold of things you shouldn’t or to take you to places you have no business being?

Paul closes with another very clear instruction, “Therefore, honor God with your body.”

Remember that – 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

This is to be the aim of our lives. In all we do or say, we exist to bring glory to God. Practice it and perfect it now so that you can enjoy it forever.

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