In this sermon, Pastor Dave Capoccia examines the apostle Paul’s teaching on the body and sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul presents three critical truths about the body that should cause believers to flee immorality and glorify God in their bodies instead.
1. Our Bodies Matter to God (vv. 12-14)
2. Our Bodies Are in Union with Christ (vv. 15-17)
3. Our Bodies Must Not Be Desecrated (vv. 18-20)
I’m very glad to be able to open the word with you again today. Some of you have asked me why I’ve chosen to preach on the text that I have. Basically it’s because as I’ve trained as a biblical counselor and pursuing certification with ACBC as a biblical counselor, I became aware that there are certain struggles that Christians commonly face. They often show up in biblical counseling. Anger, anxiety, and others – they are some of the most common issues. So I thought it would be profitable to at least broach those topics even from the pulpit. Obviously I can’t say everything what the Bible says about those issues right now. Lord willing, we can come back and address those more fully in a class later. I’m hoping that we can do a counseling class along those lines. Today’s topic is another very common issue in biblical counseling, as it is I think in Christianity as a whole. So I trust at this time will be profitable for us all.
Please play with me. Heavenly Father, we need you. We need You every hour and we need Your Word. It is our food. It is more important than physical food. Lord, I pray that You’d help me to deliver this food to Your people. Help me to be able to explain this clearly, accurately, and well. And Holy Spirit, I pray that You would convict, encourage, transform hearts as a result. You’re the One with the power. Use these means now just as You have ordained. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
William Shakespeare – ever heard of him? The famous English playwright from the 16th century. You probably know him for his famous plays like “Romeo and Juliet”, “Hamlet”. He also publish many poems. One of his more unusual poems is Sonnet 129. I say this is unusual because the poem is a meditation on sexual lust. Listen to what Shakespeare wrote in this short poem. Now this is early modern English poetry. So don’t worry if you don’t get every word. I know it’s a little bit hard. Just listen to the main ideas. This is the poem:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action: and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
What we can tell about Shakespeare today, he was not a true Christian. Nevertheless, even Shakespeare could observe what lust and the immorality that springs from lust is really like. Lust is selfish. It leads to many other sins. Lust is controlling, causing a person to do the opposite of what is wise. And lust is deceptive. It promises joy and fulfillment, but it just leaves regret and emptiness instead. But what is most startling about Shakespeare’s poem is the admission he makes at the end. Even though many have discovered and experienced the truly evil and vain nature of lust, that does not stop them from going back to it again and again.
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, immorality and lust have been characteristic of the sinful human race. Romans 1 actually, Romans 1:24-27 says that increasing sexual perversion is the natural outcome of those who rebelled against their creator. God actually gives them over to that, he says. And although different cultures throughout history have been more open or less open about sexual sin, make no mistake it has been a problem in every culture in every place of the world throughout time. Our modern American culture has no exception. Not only is sexual sin excused today, it’s even promoted and celebrated. In this we see all around us, don’t we? I don’t have to prove that to you.
But how should we as Christians live in such a world? Consider what the apostle Paul write to early Christian, Christians who lived in a society and a world that is not much different from our own in terms of immorality. It was just as bad, perhaps worse. Listen to what he writes to the Christians in Ephesians 5:3:
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;
Wow – is such really possible? Can purity and self-control be expected of those who say they truly know God? Consider for yourselves. Have you realize how evil, destructive, and wasteful immorality is? And if you have realized it, do you nevertheless keep turning to immorality? Do you appreciate the seriousness of safeguarding yourself against sexual sin? Have you discovered that there is a better and more joyful way, that is the way of the Lord and a chaste life?
Now, I should say at the outset, the good news of the gospel, my friends, is that there is forgiving, cleansing, and transforming grace in Jesus Christ. No matter what kind of immorality you’ve been involved with, the Lord is able to cleanse and change you. But how did that come about? It comes about by faith and repentance. And repentance is often the part that’s missed. What is repentance? It is the change of mind that leads to a change in action. Your mind needs to be transformed in the way you think about immorality.
To help us in this process, I think it’d be good to examine again the teaching of the Scriptures when it comes to this topic. So please take your Bible and open to the book of 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter 6. Let’s hear God speak on the issue of immorality. The title of my message today is “Glorify God in your body”. That’s ultimately what we want to do as we have our minds transform in the way we think about our bodies, the way we think about sex, and the way we think about immorality.
Our text is specifically 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Before I read it, a few quick words of background. This text is part of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, a group of mostly gentile Christians in Corinth, which is in Greece. The corinthian, though they are true believers and Paul affirms that in the beginning of this letter. He says I thank the Lord for you. They’ve nonetheless become increasingly proud and selfish and excusing of sin. This appears to be because they have adopted certain worldly ideas and called it Christianity. Paul writes this letter to the church, the letter of first Corinthians, to correct their thinking and their behavior on various issues, including immorality. Let’s hear what Paul said specifically to them in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Here’s the Word of the Lord:
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. 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. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 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 prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do 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? For you’ve been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
As we just examine this passage in general, let us first look at the words immorality and immoral that appear several times. What exactly is immorality? It’d be useful for us to define that term. The Greek word used for immorality in our translation is “pornea”. It refers to any kind of unrighteous sexual activity. How do you know what’s unrighteous sexual activity? Anything that goes against God’s original design for it in marriage. Any pursuit of sexual pleasure or fulfillment outside of marriage is immorality.
See, God created marriage. He loves marriage. It ultimately pictures Christ and the church. God designed sexual intimacy to be a blessed part of that one flesh union of marriage – one man and one woman in covenant together. This physical union is not only for procreation, but also for pleasure, as Proverbs 5 says, as we read earlier, and Song of Solomon. Even within marriage though, sexual intimacy is to be pursued not chiefly to fulfill one’s owns desires, but actually the desires of the other spouse, which is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Your body is not your own; it actually belongs to your spouse.
God’s original design for marriage and for sex is good. But every sexual pursuit that violates this original design from God, God hates and He calls it immorality. These include outward acts such as premarital sex, adultery, pornography, solo stimulation, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, prostitution, and rape. That’s not the only place – also internally. Jesus said that lustful looks or thoughts or desires are immorality of heart, adultery of heart. And they are sin before God. That’s Matthew 5. And even lustful and coarse words are immoral, according to Paul in Ephesians 5. So all of this is being brought to bear when you see the term immorality in the Scriptures.
Notice, as we continue to look at this passage in general – 1 Corinthians 6:12-22, we have two commands here. There’s a command in verse 18 – flee immorality. Then there’s the command in verse 20 – glorify God in your body. These two commands really go together. You can’t do one without the other. But notice where they appear in the text – kind of towards the end of this section. This delay is significant. It shows us that even though obedience to these two command is the intended outcome of Paul’s instruction, nevertheless he wants to address the thinking first. He wants to make sure we’re thinking about immorality rightly before we respond with proper behavior.
So we’re going to mimic Paul’s approach as we study this passage. We’re going to investigate or we’re going to listen as Paul presents three critical truths about the body that should lead us to flee immorality and glorify God in our bodies instead. We’re going to investigate these three truth, and we’re going to circle back to look at the commands as application. I believe this is what Paul intended.
What are the three critical truths we need to know, we need to appreciate, and embrace? I give them to you in outline. Number one – our bodies matter to God. Number two – our bodies are in union with Christ. And number three – our bodies must not be desecrated.
Take a look this first critical truth as it appears verses 12 to 14. Why did you flee immorality and glorify God in your body instead? Number one – our bodies matter to God. Now these first few verses need a little bit of background to help you appreciate them. There’s always a temptation as Christians to think in one way or another that what we do in the body does not matter. Things physical don’t matter to God. This certainly was a temptation in ancient Corinth due to popular Greek thought. Popular Greek thought at the time was dualistic. It saw the body and things physical as evil or inferior while the spirit, things intellectual, things spiritual, were superior and good innately. They also saw these things that separate from one another. And the body was kind of like a prison for your true self, which was your soul or your spirit. As long as your spirit was right with the divine or the forces of the world, your body didn’t really matter.
This was a common Greek thought, and this popular thinking soon attached itself to the Christian faith. Because you see, Christians like Paul were coming around and preaching that you need faith in Christ. Faith in Christ alone is what saves, not any works, not any rituals, none of those physical things. Moreover Paul taught, the teachers of God taught that issues like food, drink, circumcision, again these outward external physical issues, they ultimately don’t matter to God. What matters is a clean conscience and making sure that you don’t cause your brother to stumble. You can see where this Christian truth and this pagan idea seemed to overlap. So some Christians began to think, some Greek converts: well as long as I have faith in Christ, as long as I’m right with God, it doesn’t really matter what I do in the body. I can even indulge in immorality. Immorality can be excused, tolerated, justified if I have the right spiritual beliefs and relationship with God.
A situation like this seems to have arisen in Corinth. There were Corinthians suggesting that immorality, as it’s just a function of the body, doesn’t really matter to God. And Paul is responding to this kind of thinking in verses 12 to 14 by bringing up the slogans or common sayings is that were being circulated in the church, not by everybody probably, but by some in the church to justify the body doesn’t really matter. This helps explain why there’s such an abrupt transition between verse 11 and verse 12. It’s pretty abrupt. And also as we look at verses 12 to 14, there’s a series of contrast presented. It’s almost like Paul keeps on contradicting himself. Why is he doing that? That’s because he’s responding to or appears to be responding to what some of the Corinthians were saying.
Notice the first saying or slogan that Paul confronts at the beginning of verse 12. People were saying – all things are lawful for me. That’s a pretty sweeping statement, isn’t it? I have the right to do whatever I want. I’m clean in Christ. I’m free in Christ. The body doesn’t matter. This isn’t too far even from what some Christian say today. But notice how Paul responds. He says – all things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. That’s an interesting response. Paul doesn’t do what we think he might do – just come right out and reject their slogan. But he shows that it’s incomplete and that it comes from an improper perspective, a misguided perspective. Paul is saying – yes, you Corinthians are clean in Christ and you do have amazing freedom in Christ, but do you remember that Christ called you to live wisely and always to look at what is the most profitable choice in any situation? what is the most useful, what is the most profitable action? Immorality, even as Greg read earlier from Proverbs 5, is inherently destructive. It is self-destructive and it’s destructive to others. It destroys health. It destroys wealth. It destroys reputation, and it destroys relationships. Even before he’s really dealt with the issue, he says – Corinthians, how does giving free rein to your body, how does just open yourself up to immorality fit with this basic calling you have as a Christian to do what is most profitable?
Paul has another response this slogan though at the end of verse 12. He says:
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
And isn’t this another fundamental Christian principle? When we became believers, we renounced lordship over our own lives and we transferred that lordship to Jesus, to God, to whom that lordship rightfully belongs. Jesus is our exclusive Master now. And He’s made it quite clear in His word that He will not share mastery with anyone else or with any other power. You can go back to that passage we looked at last week. No man can serve two masters. Because this is true, Paul now challenges the Corinthians and us with that principle. How does indulging in immorality and giving free rein to your body fit with this basic Christian calling? Immorality is inherently enslaving and controlling. It demands greater and greater amounts of your time, your attention, and your resources. How does this fit with your calling to serve Christ and Him alone? Not to be under the control of something else.
Next slogan Paul deals with in the beginning of verse 13 is somewhat longer. It actually has two parts. He is basically quoting from them:
Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.
There are two excuses given here for the body and for immorality. The first is that immorality is basically necessary and inevitable. I mean, it’s just like the stomach and food, they say. God made the stomach for food, to enjoy all different kinds of food. In the same way, God made the human body for sex and for all different kinds of sex. That’s what the body was designed for. The stomach was designed for food; the body was designed for sex. But you can’t get that in God’s limited marriage design. So in other words, immorality is a biological need. Don’t try to stop it. It’s natural. It’s healthy. Again, don’t we hear the same idea in our society today?
The second excuse though is that morality is also inconsequential. Because again, think about the stomach and food, they’re saying. Stomach is not going to last forever. Food is not going to last forever. So does it really matter what foods you choose to eat or what foods you choose not to eat? It’s all the same destiny in the end. You might as well eat what you want. In the same way, they’re implying, our bodies are not going to last forever and our sexual relationships are not going to last forever. So no matter how much we indulge or whether we indulge, the outcome is the same in the end. So whatever we do in the body is eternally inconsequential. So why not just enjoy ourselves? Why fight so hard to restrain the body? It doesn’t matter in the end.
Listen to Paul’s two part response to these excuses. His response is in verses 13 to 14. He says:
Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.
This is really interesting. The first part of Paul’s response, he’s accomplishing the equivalent of a judo flip. Paul doesn’t simply retort that the body is made for sex in marriage, but actually he said it’s made for something much grander – for the Lord Himself. Paul says to us and to them – you know what is more necessary to your body and to its life than food or sexual relationships? Jesus Christ, knowing Him and walking with Him. Your body – listen now, this is true for all of you. Your body was meant for Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ was meant for your body. You want to talk about creative purposes? Indulging in immorality isn’t fulfilling your creative purpose. That’s actually going against it. Your body was created for the Lord, for serving Him and knowing Him.
As for the second part of their excuse, again Paul turns the Corinthian words on their head. He says – yes our bodies and their appetites will one day come to an end, but that is not the end of our bodies. The same bodies that lived on the earth, bodies that we chose whether to indulge in immorality or not, those same bodies will be raised by the Lord in the same way that the Lord’s body was raised. So don’t talk as if it doesn’t matter what we do with our bodies because we’re just going to discard them. You’re going to get it back. And then your body will be an eternal testimony to how you chose to live on the earth.
By the way, did you notice that Paul doesn’t say God will raise up our bodies through His power, but rather God will raise us up through His power? Is that an important distinction? Is Paul saying that it’s not our bodies that are going to be raised, it’s just our spirits? Actually no. Go to 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul says much more about the resurrection. He’s quite clear – our bodies, our actual bodies, will be raised. Why doesn’t he say that here? Because Paul is emphasizing that you cannot distance yourself from your body. This whole Greek idea, which is still around today, that the soul is imprisoned in the body like a shell, is wrong. Rather, you are your body. That’s not all that you are, but that’s part of what you are. You are a complex interconnection of body and soul. You have an outer man and you have an inner man. These are both terms used to describe the Christian experience in the Bible. But they’re both man. They’re both you. So therefore, let us have none of this “it doesn’t matter what I do in the body”. It certainly does matter what you do in the body because you are your body. And whether you choose to be immoral with your body or not matters to God and has eternal consequences.
Now friends, think about what these truths mean for you. You cannot claim that you are spiritually safe while you pursue immorality. God has called you just like He called the Corinthians. You are to live wisely. You are to do what is most profitable for My sake, for your sake, for other’s sake. You also cannot remain nonchalant about whether immorality or something else places you in bondage. Because God says I will not tolerate anyone or anything being master over you except Me. You cannot excuse immorality as biologically or emotionally necessary because God says He and His will is more necessary than anything else in life. And you cannot treat sexual sin as inconsequential because in some mysterious sense, you will wear the consequences of your sexual choices for eternity. Clearly then, our bodies matter to God and that should change the way we live.
There’s a second critical truth that Paul presents next as to why we should flee immorality, to cause us to flee immorality and instead of glorify God in our bodies. Number two – our bodies are in union with Christ. This is really profound. Look again at verses 15 to 17. I’m going to discuss these verses all at once.
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 prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one enjoying himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
These verses Paul draw attention to an amazing theological fact – our union with Christ. Paul is essentially asking – don’t you remember that when you became a Christian, all of you was placed into Christ? You spiritually became a member of His body. This really is how all salvation blessings come to us, because when we believe in Jesus and we have faith in the Lord, it’s not so much the faith that saves us, it’s how that faith attaches us to the One who has the power to save us. In a mysterious way, through faith we’re attached to God Himself, the Son of God, in a kind of spiritual marriage. We become one with the Lord. And just like in a real marriage, a human marriage that we experience in this world, everything that belongs to one spouse now belongs to the other spouse. That’s really good news for us because what belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ? Life, eternal life, righteousness, strength, blessing – all those get passed over to us. They pour into our lives because we’re attached to Jesus. Now what do we have to offer Him? Sin, death, humiliation. He took that all, and what did He do with it? He paid it at the cross. He suffered that. He suffered the wrath of God that was due our sin for our rebellion against our Creator. And He suffered the most extreme humiliation because we’re now attached to Him. He cares for us as His own body, as Ephesians 5 says. This is a mysterious union that cannot be fully understood, and yet it is real and it is the foundation of our hope and eternal life.
What is this have to do with immorality? Paul is asking us to consider this question. Having been made part of such an amazing union with the Lord Himself, will you then seek out a different and contradictory union? In these verses, Paul is presenting and contrasting two different union. You have, on the one hand, total union body and soul with Christ through the Spirit. And on the other hand, you have total union body and soul with a prostitute through the flesh. Both of these unions are a version of that fundamental one flesh marriage paradigm established by God in Genesis 2:24. That’s what Paul quotes in verse 16. By the way, prostitution was the most common temptation to immorality in Corinth. But a prostitute here really stands for any kind of immorality. Don’t think this is just talking about physical actual prostitution.
Because of these contrasting unions, notice what Paul says is essentially taking place, theologically spiritually taking place, when a Christian goes to visit a prostitute. Paul says the Christian takes away. That’s a good translation of the Greek verb here -not simply takes, takes away. He removes the members of Christ, which is what he is, which is what he became by union with Christ. He removes those members. He removes himself from union with Christ and he instead makes those members, makes Christ’s members, one with a harlot – members of a prostitute. What’s Paul’s reaction to this theoretical scenario? Should such a situation ever take place? Paul says – may it never be. Absolutely not, God forbid, never. All those would be proper translations.
Why such a strong response, Paul? Clearly, he’s showing this ought to be unthinkable to us. But he doesn’t specifically draw the implications. Nevertheless, we just think about it. We can see those implications, can’t we? I think there are two. On the one hand, because of these realities, because of the reality of union with Christ, can anyone conceive of a greater blasphemy against the saving Lord than to try to unite Him with immorality? This is what is attempted any time any Christian, even any one of you, seeks out immorality. That person not only robbed Christ of the members that belong to Him that are His, but he then seeks to defile those members and even Christ Himself in blatant sin. What would the Lord think of this? Will the perfect holy One whose eyes are flame of fire, whose feet are burnished bronze, according to John’s vision in revelation, will He excused this? Will He tolerate this? Oh it doesn’t matter if you defile Me, I’m only the holy One. Any Christian who loves Christ at all or has a shred of holy fear would not dare even consider such a blasphemy, such a blasphemous act, much less carry it out. That’s one implication.
And on the other hand, the second implication – if you remove yourself from Christ and unite yourself with a harlot, unite yourself with immorality, how would you experience anything but eternal and spiritual death? If you caught it when Greg was reading Proverbs 5 earlier, prostitutes are associated with death. Their way goes down to death. They themselves are on that way and they don’t know it. And when you go with them, you go down to death. Union with Christ is life and righteousness. Union with a prostitute, union with immorality, is uncleanness and death. And you have to choose one or the other. Let’s face it, Paul says you cannot be united with Christ and a prostitute at the same time. You have to remove your members from one to be joined to the other. You can be a member of Christ’s body or you can be a member of a harlot’s body. You can have Christ be your Master or you can have immorality be your master. You cannot serve both.
I might ask – wait are you saying that I can lose my salvation through immorality? No, I’m not saying that. What I am saying and what the Lord is saying is that it is totally inconsistent for someone who says he’s attached to Jesus Christ to then go and attach himself to immorality, himself or herself. Yes, true Christians can fall into sexual sin. As I said, there’s forgiving and transforming grace in the Lord. Praise God for that. We need that. That gives us hope. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that God understands, that God overlooks immorality. And let us must not kid ourselves that we are repentant when nothing changes in our lives. Every time, every time I participate, I’m just so sorry and I don’t ever want to do it again. But if you keep on doing it, that’s not repentance. A true change in mind leads to a true change in action. After all, what does 1 Corinthians 6:9 say? I didn’t read this yet, but just go back right before our passage. Paul says:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,
Most of those things on that list are immorality, in the the beginning part of that list.
My friends, here is the sobering word from the Lord. You cannot have Christ and immorality too. You cannot claim union with Christ while you regularly seek union with a prostitute. So which do you want? Obviously union with Christ is so much better. All life and blessing and joy is in Him. So why would you faithlessly choose instead the short-lived pleasure in the long-term poison of a harlot? Both the fact that our bodies matter to God and the fact that our bodies are in union with Christ if we know Him, they should cause us to flee immorality and seek to glorify God in our bodies instead.
There’s one more critical truth that should motivate these actions and we see this in verses 18 to 20. This last section, I think we can divide into some points. Let me give you the main point first. Here’s the third point – our bodies must not be desecrated. Our bodies must not be desecrated. And as I was saying, we can break this last section into three sub-points, three different ways where we can unacceptably desecrate our bodies and God says don’t do it.
The first one is in verse 18. This is 3a. Immorality first desecrates man’s created dignity. Look at verse 18. Paul says:
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
We’ll will come back to the phrase flee immorality in just a little bit, but the second half this verse has long presented a puzzle to interpreters. What does Paul mean? In what sense is immorality a unique sin against the person’s own body? How is it different than other sins against the body like drunkenness or gluttony or even suicide? That’s a difficult question to answer. There’s no unity among interpreters on that issue. Certainly there is something unique though about sexual sin. My view as to why it is a particular sin against the body is that sexual sin joins people body and soul, not just body. The one flesh union that God designed in marriage is not just physical. It joins people body and soul in an inappropriate way because they’re not actually married. Thus, it fundamentally degrades people. It degrades people who were made in the image of God. There is something about that improper union that degrade the image of God. And thus immoral persons are afflicted with this deep sense of uncleanness and shame. It seems to come from within and never go away. The reason I say this is partly due to what Paul says in Romans 1:24 and 1:26. He’s talking about how immorality results when people rebelled against God. And he says – God gives them over to dishonor their bodies, to desecrate their bodies among themselves. There’s something about immorality that uniquely desecrates the body, and I think it has to do with God’s image. God doesn’t want to see His image desecrated, and neither should we. That’s the first way that our bodies must not be desecrated.
A second way, 3b – immorality desecrates the Holy Spirit’s dwelling. Actually let me say it this way – desecrates the Spirit’s holy dwelling. Look now at verse 19:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God,
We’ll just stop right there. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes hear well-meaning Christians misapplying this verse. What, you’re going to eat that whopper? Don’t you know your body’s a temple of the Holy Spirit? Well, it’s true that we should steward our bodies well, and sometimes that means eating more or less healthy. That’s not what this verse is talking about at all. It’s not talking about your body’s health or its appearance. It’s talking about sin. Paul is drawing attention to another amazing salvation blessing, and that is indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you’ve been saved by God, if you’ve been united to Christ, then you’ve also receive God’s Holy Spirit inside of you to empower you, to enlighten you, to cause you to follow after the Lord. He dwells in you just like God dwelt in the temple in the Old Testament. You are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Interesting, earlier in 1 Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul talked about the whole church being the dwelling place of the temple of God, and it actually applies on an individual basis too. You, your body, is the temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s an amazing reality.
Why is that significant when it comes to immorality? Well because sexual sin, this is what Paul’s implying here, sexual sin which is committed with the body, it desecrates the Holy Spirit’s temple. It defiles it. As one pastor puts it – indulging in immorality is like taking a prostitute right into God’s holy of holies. Because that’s what your body is as a temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s how God sees your immorality if you turn to it. Now this reality, of course again, it should grieve anybody who loves God, who’s grateful for salvation, who’s grateful for the Holy Spirit and all of the Spirit’s work, of the Spirit’s guarantee of an inheritance.
But again, it should also sober us, because how did God feel about the temple’s desecration by sin in the Old Testament? People of Israel didn’t follow the Lord faithfully. They literally brought sin into the temple. How did God respond? In judgment. God not only removed His glory from the temple. He removed His presence from the temple, but He allowed his temple, His physical temple, to be destroyed. He said – I’d rather this temple that I set up on my own special grace, I’d rather it be destroyed than to continue to allow My name to be dishonoured by the sin that goes on here. God is a holy God, and He doesn’t change. Should we expect Him to act any differently with us if our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit?
There’s one other way that we must not desecrate the bodies that God has given us. The third way, 3c, that immorality desecrates and it is immorality desecrates the Son’s redeeming blood. Look now at the end of verse 19 into verse 20. I’m going to borrow the beginning of verse 19 just for the sense:
Or do you not know…that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price.
Here Paul reminds us that our bodies, if we are in Christ, don’t actually belong to us. In truth, everyone’s body belongs to God in a certain sense because He’s the Creator. He made you. He made your body. It belongs to Him. But in another sense, the bodies of believers uniquely belong to God because they have been redeemed. They’ve been bought by the Son. You see, formerly, those of us who are now in Christ, we were enslaved. We were enslaved to sin, to our own passions, to Satan, to the world system. Romans 6 and Ephesians 2 talk about that. But then the Son of God, Jesus, in His incredible salvation work, he redeemed us. He bought us back – that’s what redeem means. What was the price of our redemption? The blood of Jesus on the cross, His suffering, his death, even under the eternal infinite wrath of God. He paid all of that in order to buy us back from that slavery. However, our redemption is not such that we suddenly became free and can just do whatever we please. Rather, ownership was transferred. Formerly, we were slaves to sin, to Satan. Now, Romans 6 says, we are slaves of righteousness. We have become slaves of Christ. Unlike most slavery in the world, slavery in Christ is happy servitude. When He’s your master, you know that He will love and care for you eternally. And amazingly, one of the things that He promises His slaves in the New Testament is that He will one day cause us to rule and reign with Him in His kingdom. We are who are unworthy slaves. This is what He accomplished by His redemption work on the cross – His life, death, and resurrection. These are wonderful realities, but they mean that we are not our own. Our bodies are not our own. They belong to Him. They are His property.
What does this mean for immorality? It means our bodies are not ours to use or abuse as we see fit with sexual sin. And if we instead do that, it is theft of our Master’s property and a blasphemy of the great price that He paid to obtain us for Himself. It is a blasphemy against the redeeming blood of Christ. Again, if you love Christ, can you bear to blaspheme Him that way? And will the Lord bear with our dishonoring Him in such strident way? We must fear desecrating the blood-bought bodies that we have from christ.
Let’s review the truths we’ve seen this far. Paul has shown us, first of all, that our bodies matter to God. Second of all, that our bodies are in union with Christ. And third, that our bodies must not be desecrated, not desecrated by violating our created dignity, by defiling the Spirit’s holy dwelling, by blaspheming the blood of Christ’s redemption. These truths are not just presented to us to educate us, but to move us to action, to move us to change, to obey the Lord’s commands. What are those two commands? Back to verse 18, we see the first one. Paul says:
Doesn’t this just makes sense after all we’ve seen? This is the present tense verb, meaning not just to do it one time, but you keep on doing it – continuous action. Keep on fleeing. What does it mean to flee? It means to run like your life depended on it. That’s the way we should treat immorality. Because in a way, the same picture is true – your eternal soul depends on how you treat immorality. We have to do as Proverbs 5 says. Solomon counsels, God counsels – do not even go near the door of her house. Where temptation is coming or might come, give that situation a wide berth because you don’t want to dishonor the Lord.
Obviously, if you’re currently involved in immorality, fleeing immorality means that you must stop. Don’t give any excuses. Stop. Stop doing it. Don’t start doing it again, and run away from anything that will encourage you to do it. Be like Joseph in Genesis 39, who famously runs out of Potiphar’s house when Potiphar’s wife tries to entice him when nobody else is around. He left his cloak behind. That got him in trouble, but he says – better that than for me to fall into sexual sin and dishonor my Creator and my Lord.
What are some practical ways that we can do this? I’ll just give you some. What’s it mean to flee immorality practically? It means removing or mitigating sources of temptation in your life, sources of sexual temptation. This is going to be different for every person. It maybe people. It maybe relationships. It maybe situations. It maybe entertainment, and maybe social media, and maybe technologies of different kinds. Whatever it is, you either have to change your use of it in such a way that it’s no longer temptation to you or you have to get rid of it. You say – that seems kind of radical. It’s nothing different than what Jesus said. Matthew 5: if your right eye causes you to sin, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it out, cut it off. Why? Better for you to be maimed and get eternal life than to be whole and to be damned forever.
Remove sources of temptation, but also fleeing means changing your thought life. You can remove all the external sources of temptation but if you don’t deal with the internal thoughts, you’re going to go right back. You have to change the way you think. You have to put off unrighteous thoughts, unprofitable thoughts, lustful thoughts, and then replace them. You can’t just be like – ok can’t think about that, can’t think about that. Because what you going to do? You’re going to think about it. You have to think about what God calls you to think about. Philippians 4:8, right? Think about what is true, what is lovely, what is praiseworthy, etc. Ultimately, those things are related to the Lord. God has given you plenty of things to think about in this world, that’s right and that leads you to glorify God. That’s what you want to think about instead.
Remove sources of temptation, change the way you think, but also change where you look for comfort when life gets hard. I know that many people turn to immorality because they’re looking for comfort. They feel depressed, discouraged, anxious, angry. They feel like immorality will give them some respite. Of course though, as anyone knows who’s ever done that, it is a short-lived comfort that brings greater pain in the end. You must change where you look for comfort. Ultimately, your comfort has to come from the Lord, and He is more than sufficient to give you comfort. Paul says He is the God of all comfort, who comforts the depressed. You’re going through a hard time, go to the Lord. Don’t go to immorality. He will give you true comfort, but you have to have faith.
Another way is – if your married, do what Proverbs 5 says. Rejoice in your spouse rather than immorality. God gave your spouse to you, partly so that you can enjoy that sexual relationship. That’s a safeguard for you. Now sometimes that’s not possible, not available. Or maybe you have a strained relationship with your spouse. God is still sufficient for you. If you do have a strained relationship, let this promise from God, this is intended blessing from God, being motivation for you to seek reconciliation, to repent and to seek to make peace with your spouse. So that you can enjoy marriage as God meant it to be.
One final practical way of how we can flee immorality is get help from your brothers and sisters in the church. Immorality is an uniquely difficult, enslaving, and entangling sin. But God gave you a resource that can deliver you out of it. He gave you the church. Go to your mature brothers. Go to your mature sisters, depending on what your gender is, and ask them to help you. God put these people around you to encourage you, to instruct you, to pray for you, and ultimately to help you achieve victory. Many people don’t truly put immorality to death until they get help from others. God gave you that resource because He knows you need it. You’ve got to take advantage of it.
So those are some practical ways as we see this first command. In light of these truths about the body, flee immorality. There is the second command, and this we’ll just talk about briefly. Look at the second one in verse 20. This is how he finishes the whole thing:
therefore glorify God in your body.
You know when it comes to the issue of sexual purity, often instruction about it is framed in the negative, full of prohibitions and warnings. And that is right. That is biblical. That is necessary. We need a holy fear of God and of sin. There’s something profound about this second command because as you might notice, it’s positive. It’s not saying – don’t do this. Actually, do this instead. See, these exhortations from God are not a mere duty, a mere warning. They are an entreaty. They are an invitation. They are an opportunity leading to your delight. How so? You see, your body and its sexuality, they are not merely burdens to be endured. They are a way that you can enjoy God and put Him on display to the world. God calls you, God calls me to live in a wise and self-controlled way because He says that glorifies Him. It’s not a neutral thing that you can sometimes slip away from and sin against God. It is something that actually glorifies the Lord. He says – I am pleased by that. You are showing how worthy I am in how you steward your body.
Let us embrace this call from Christ. It is the way to joy. It is so often the temptation of immorality is you’re missing out. There’s some pleasure, there’s some good that God is keeping you away from. And so you need to go against God. But the truth is of course the opposite. Those who refuse to live in a holy way with their sexuality, they are the ones who truly miss out because they miss out on the chance to glorify God in their bodies, to walk with the Lord, to know the Lord, to revel in the joy of the Lord continually. I want that for all of you. Paul wanted that for the Corinthians. God wants that for you.
The psalmist says – taste and see that the Lord is good. That’s true, even when it comes glorifying God in our bodies. Let me say again. If you just think about your life and what you’ve done in the past, what you’ve done with your body, all the immorality that you’ve indulged in, take courage. The Lord is able to forgive. He is able to clean. It doesn’t matter how unholy you’ve been with your body. Yes there’s some consequences that will never go away, but you can be completely clean in Christ. Think about it. In Jesus’s own ministry, who were the ones who often flocking to Him and being saved? Prostitutes. If you just go back to 1 Corinthians, 6:11. I read you that list where he says the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Look at all these immoral types of people – they will not inherit. And then look what He says at the end:
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…
This is the Lord speaking you today. Take hold of this invitation from God. Turn from immorality. Flee from immorality, and turn to Christ by repentance and faith. Glorify God in your body and you will not only know the joy of the Lord, but you will inherit eternal life.