Temples of the Holy Spirit | 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 | Rev Adam Knight
We live in an over sexualized society – it’s everywhere. And I’m not going to stand up here and say that it’s all bad because there have been some good developments in this – resources to help married couples with this area of their relationship that might not have come about otherwise. But, the dominant messages around sex in our culture do not line up with what we understand to be God’s will for this extremely important area of our lives. In the midst of all of this, I want you to know that while this is the reality that we live, it’s not new. The oversexualized nature of our culture is not something that we came up with – this has been a struggle almost from the very beginning. And it makes sense when you really think about it, God has given us this incredible gift for deeper connection and intimacy with our spouse, the opportunity to be known in a way that we will not be known by anyone else in the world. As humans we all want to be known and seen, and sometimes we take the ways God has given us to be known by one person and use it to be known by lots of people.
In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 The Corinthians were missing the point in how to live out their faith as followers of Jesus. We saw last week how they were missing the point when it came to divisions within the community. Today we see that they were missing the point, not just in God’s intention for sexual relationships, but in what it meant to be free in Christ and what that freedom entailed. For a quick over view of chapters 5-7 take a look at this:
As Paul moves into this next section of his letter, he is responding to issues that have come to his attention through previous correspondence with the Corinthian church. There are lots of problems – there is rampant sexual misconduct. His first example is of a man sleeping with his step mother. Paul is mortified and doesn’t understand why the community of believers have not dealt with the brother and removed him from the fellowship of the church. This would be a Christian response in keeping with Roman law at the time that looked at adultery with incest with absolutely no leniency at all. This explains Paul’s words at the beginning of chapter 5 when says,
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.
-1 Corinthian 5:1
Do you hear it? “Not even the pagans tolerate this.” That is his reference to the Roman law on this matter and it lets us know that this is in fact being committed by a Christian brother. Other problems happening in this community have to do with lavish dinner parties that were part of Roman culture at that time. These parties would include lots of food, lots of wine, and then lots of sex among all of those who are present. One final issue is that played out at these parties among other places as well is prostitution. People would freely partake of sex with prostitutes at parties and even at the Temple as we heard in the video.
Paul is not having any of it. He is calling the Corinthian Christians out for not just missing the point, but for misusing their freedom in Christ. They want to have their cake and eat it too – they want to be in Christ and have his forgiveness and new life and still live their Roman lives and culture. Paul says, “No, it doesn’t work that way.”
Paul distinguishes between the expectations for those in the church, and those who are not. He says 1 Corinthians 5:9-10;
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
-1 Corinthians 5:9-10
He understands that the world cannot be held to these expectations – why would they, they’re the world. This standard is for those in the church – those claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ. You see there was this thinking that had worked its way through the Corinthians that since they were free in Christ that meant they were free to live and enjoy however they saw fit.
There was a philosophy of the day that suggested that what is important is the Spirit and the Spiritual side of who you are. The body itself is not spiritual and therefore it doesn’t matter – do what you want the body because sins committed by the body don’t matter. It’s the sins of the Spirit that you need to avoid.
Paul deals with this idea decisively by reminding them of the implications of what Jesus has accomplished for us.
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.
-1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Paul reminds the Corinthians of something fundamental to who we are as followers of Jesus – we are created in the image of God; our bodies are important. Sin entered the world through a body in the act of eating what had been forbidden. Sin was defeated through a body in the act of Jesus giving his very life on the cross for our sin. Life eternal is accomplished through the resurrection of the body as God gives us a glorified body to enjoy eternal life with him in the new heaven and new earth. When Paul says when you join your body with a prostitute you are joining Christ’s body with a prostitute, he is reinforcing a creation theology that we are created in God’s image and a salvation theology that when we are in Christ, he is in us. Your bodies matter. What you do with your bodies matters. N.T. Wright puts it this way,
There is no such thing as a casual sexual encounter. What you do sexually, you do with your whole self, not with one little bit of you. What you are and do as a Christian you are and do as your whole self, not just with the spiritual part of you.
-N.T. Wright; “Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians”
All of this does beg the question, why? Why is this such an important teaching for Paul that he would spend the better part of three chapters in this letter dealing with this issue? Is he a prude? Is he just trying to assume control over the people by controlling their sexual appetites, as Nietzsche and others might suggest? I don’t think so. I think Paul is simply trying to point out that as wonderful a gift sex is, it is also fraught with dangerous consequences when it is misused. I can think of few things in our world that have caused more harm or damage to people than the misuse of sexual desire. I think Paul realizes this, and he cares so much for the believers in Corinth he wants to help them avoid needless pain if he can.
Friends, this Lenten season we are journeying through 1 Corinthians so that we can might learn from another Christian community who were missing the point. We want to ask ourselves, “Have I been missing the point here? Is this something that I need to lay before the Lord?” How are we using our bodies? Are we honoring God with our bodies, treating ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit? Is our unity with our spouse the way God intended it? Without comparisons, distractions, porn, etc? Have we repented of those things in our past so that we might experience the forgiveness of God and true new beginning? We are made in God’s image, Marriage was designed by God, and sex with your spouse is designed by God and is God honoring. These are all questions and points for us to consider as we move closer to the cross and the empty tomb. Because it is there, we find that no matter what our Savior awaits, arms wide open to forgive and to show us new way of living in him. AMEN!!
See full sermon online HERE: March 13 Sermon | Temples of the Holy Spirit
For a Deeper Dive, View the Study Guide Online: Click HERE
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