Exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, An exceptionally dangerous sin

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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 bodies.

It is unfortunate that today’s Bible text is not more well known, because the revelation it contains was critically needed in Corinth and is no less relevant today. Sexual immorality in its many forms is uniquely damaging to a believer. That is why Paul issues his forceful command: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18a).

He has already said (1 Cor. 6:15) that illicit sex with a prostitute — only one form of sexual immorality — is like tearing our bodies apart from union with our resurrected Lord. This has been called a Christ-violation.[1] Then, in verses 16-18, Paul describes a body-violation inflicted by the sexually immoral Christian against their own body in that they are using it in ways their Creator never intended. Finally, in verses 19-20, such behavior is said to constitute a Spirit-violation, an offense against the Holy Spirit. Those three violations are a trifecta of stupidity!

There are times when the New Living Translation’s tendency toward paraphrase results in an exceptional translation. This is such a case: “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18, NLT).

Paul caps his argument (1 Cor. 6:19-20) with two startling metaphors: a temple and a slave. In both cases he is still focusing on the physical body. He is using that focus in his ongoing proof that the body was for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13) and worthy of their spiritual concern.

To say your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (verse 19) is a metaphor, but figures of speech in the Bible are always intended to express some aspect of reality. Even though a Christian may not look like a temple, the mere fact that the Holy Spirit indwells them makes it so. That being the case, God will not take lightly the desecration of his temple! Do you not know! has the force You had better know!

The second metaphor begins with “You are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19b), proving once again that the placement of verse numbers must have taken place late on a very dark night; verse numbers are not part of the inspired text. Slavery metaphors are difficult today because we do not have personal experience with slave auctions or their consequences. Corinth, however, was a major center for slave trafficking[2], so they understood.

David Garland explains the slavery metaphor by saying: “God now has the title-deed to their bodies. Christs death purchased them [1 Pet. 1:19], and they have been transferred from Satan’s household to serve in Christs household.”[3] Freedom in Christ has never been about being free to do whatever you like. The most decisive factor in determining a slave’s status was the character, status, and influence of the one to whom one belonged as a slave.[4] We belong to the Son of God! The other side of that fact is that the slave (i.e., Christian believer) no longer belongs either to himself/herself or to powers into whose bondage he/she may have entered.[5]

The grand conclusion is simple and obvious: Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Cor. 6:20).

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

 


[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 472, quoting Bruce Fisk.

[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 239.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 239.

[4] Dale Martin, Slavery as Salvation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990) 49.

[5] Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 477.

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.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 6:12-14 The shape of freedom in Christ

1 Corinthians 6:12-14

“I have the right to do anything,” you say but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

At no point is Corinth closer to our daily experience than it is here! One myth of America is that we have the — God-given — freedom to do as we please. The Corinthian believers held the same idea and were equally wrong. Before some of you take offense at that, see what Paul tells them on behalf of Christ.

First, we will look at the Corinthian Declaration of Independence: I have the right to do anything (1 Cor. 6:12a). This phrase has rightly been placed in quotation marks by the NIV, not because the Greek text does so — New Testament manuscripts have no punctuation — but because almost all commentators believe this was a slogan in the Corinthian church. To make sure you understand the phrase as a slogan, the words you say have been added by the NIV translators.

Paul begins his critique of the Declaration by saying not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12b). Anthony Thiselton describes Pauls approach: [Paul] transposes debates about liberty and what is permissible into the different key of what is helpful.[1] Gordon Fee takes the next step by saying, Truly Christian conduct is not predicated on whether I have the right to do something, but whether my conduct is helpful to those about me.[2]

But how do these commentators know that the word beneficial applies first to others? They are peeking at the hidden cards by looking ahead to 1 Cor. 10:2324, where Paul explicitly makes the application to the good of others: I have the right to do anything, you say — but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything — but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

So, the age-old debate between seeking my own good or seeking the good of others has been decisively settled by Jesus Christ, who gave his life on the cross for the salvation of all, even his enemies (Phil. 2:3-8, Rom. 5:10-11). Our identity as those united to Christ, those in Christ, demands that our freedom also be limited by primary concern for others.

Another possible misdirection of our freedom in Christ is that it might be hijacked by clever arguments to justify indiscriminate sexual indulgence. The second half of verse 12 — and Pauls response to it in subsequent verses — seems to suggest that the Corinthian application of the slogan I have the right to do anything was primarily to justify their sexual exploits. Paul first makes an implicit warning (I will not be mastered by anything) about the well known power of sexual activity to master the one engaging in it. We call this power seduction.

In 1 Cor. 6:13a, Paul again seems to be quoting an idea used by the Corinthians to bolster their conclusions: Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both. David Garland outlines what the Corinthians were trying to say: Just as eating food belongs to our fleshly, transitory human condition . . . and has no effect on our soul or eternal destiny, neither do sexual relations.[3] You can imagine an immature believer arguing that since we are already going to heaven — clearly a spiritual matter — what difference does it make if we bodily indulge ourselves however we like.

But that way of thinking — when applied to the body — is a complete distortion of our freedom in Christ! In the second half of verse 13, Paul is crystal clear that the body of a believer must not be used for sexual immorality because the intended use for our bodies is for the Lord. So, we see that Paul has made up his own slogan to counter theirs: The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.[4] Paul elsewhere describes our bodies as weapons (Greek hoplon in Rom 6:13) to be placed in the hands of God (Rom. 6:1213). The phrase the Lord for the body probably means that the Holy Spirit indwells us and that we are Gods temple (1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19).

The fact that God has current plans for our bodies is shown by the bodily resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 6:14). God will also raise us from the dead, a subject that will be explored in detail in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. The Holy Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11) so that we can serve God now, and one day we will rise to live with him forever. Gods promise to resurrect us makes it plain that he cares about our bodies and how they are used both before and after our bodily resurrection. The use of our bodies is a spiritual matter from start to finish!

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

 


[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 461-2.

[2] 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) 252.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 230.

[4] Fee 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) 255.