Exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:15-17, Only one union: Christ

1 Corinthians 6:15-17

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 whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Always remember that rhetorical questions, such as those we find in 1 Cor. 6:15, have the same force as statements. The clause your bodies are members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15) deserves attention. Gordon Fee explains, The word members is a term for the parts of the body [such as a limb or an organ], thus suggesting in a metaphorical way that the believer is an integral part of the body of Christ.[1] So, our physical body is joined to Christs body that was raised from the dead. The idea behind take [away] the members of Christ is one of ripping away our bodies from union with Christ to join them to a prostitute. This is not a picture of spirituality!

Paul is taking his previous statement, The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body (1 Cor. 6:13), and applying it to the practice of visiting prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:15). This works because sexual immorality is a broad term, and consorting with a prostitute is one of many sinful behaviors that fit under that umbrella.

Prostitution was pervasive in Rome and other parts of the empire. Indeed, our word fornication derives from the arched alcoves (called fornices) of the Circus Maximus — the chariot racing venue — where brothels set up shop during the frequent races. Archaeologists have found that brothels also riddled the urban area of ancient Pompeii (near modern Naples, Italy). An exhibit of Pompeiis artifacts and business signs, unless severely restricted, is not fit for adult believers, much less a family. Corinth tried to emulate Rome, and prostitution was doubtless an integral part of Corinthian life.

Paul is totally forceful in rejecting such behavior by the Corinthian Christians — Never! (1 Cor. 6:15). When Paul says he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body (1 Cor. 6:16), this is more than a physical reality. David Garland says: Sexual intercourse entails the joining together of persons with all their spiritual associations and is not simply the coupling of bodies.[2]

Paul proves his point by quoting the creation account in Genesis 2:24. Robert Gundry says: The whole man, body and spirit, belongs to the Lord. Therefore, illicit union with a harlot, although it is merely physical, as the Corinthians would say, effects a oneness of physical relationship which contradicts the Lords claim over the body.[3]

Paul used the example of prostitution with the Corinthians. We would do well to remember that he could have said the same about adultery, fornication or homosexuality, all of which fit the general category sexual immorality.

We must do all possible to maintain the purity of our union with Christ.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 258.

[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 233.

[3] Robert H. Gundry, Soma in Biblical Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) 69.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!