For the next few weeks we will cover a section of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth that deals with love, sex, singleness, and marriage. I believe that what God has to teach us in our lesson this morning and in all of 1 Corinthians 7 is some of the most needed teaching of all today.
I am convinced that we could not be more confused, sexually, as a nation. We like to point to what is taking place currently as the problem, but I know better. I was born in 1961 and the “free love” movement was blossoming. I grew up listening to Stephen Stills sing, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one your with.” Bachman Turner Overdrive singing, “Any love is good love, so I took what I could get…”
In 1967, Timothy Leary told a crowd of 30,000 hippies gathered in San Francisco to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” In the summer of the same year, the Summer of Love unfolded and young people chose to cast off all restraint. Sheila Weller, writing for Vanity Fair, described the Summer of Love as “ushering in a series of liberations and awakenings that irreversibly changed our way of life.” She goes on to say,
The Summer of Love also thrust a new kind of music—acid rock—across the airwaves, nearly put barbers out of business, traded clothes for costumes, turned psychedelic drugs into sacred door keys, and revived the outdoor gatherings of the Messianic Age, making everyone an acolyte and a priest. It turned sex with strangers into a mode of generosity, made “uptight” an epithet on a par with “racist,” refashioned the notion of earnest Peace Corps idealism into a bacchanalian rhapsody, and set that favorite American adjective, “free,” on a fresh altar. (Sheila Weller, Suddenly That Summer. June 14, 2012)
I’ve got news for you. Sexual confusion and sexually saturated societies go back way before America in the 60s and 70s. Paul was dealing with the same problems when he was writing to the people in Corinth. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and let’s get started.
12 “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. 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. 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 6:12-20 NIV)
As we’ve been going through Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth verse-by-verse, we’ve learned that Corinth was a port city. There were travelers coming and going each and every day and the night life was over the top. It is said the temple of Aphrodite had 1,000 female prostitutes to occupy the time of the travelers as well as the men of the city. Craig Keener writes,
Sexual behavior that Paul, his Scripture, and most Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the world today would consider immoral was rife in Greco-Roman cities. Aristocratic Roman men could not sleep with women of rank, but they could sleep with those of lower stations. Until age thirty, Greek men had access to intercourse primarily with slaves, prostitutes, and each other. Many abandoned girl babies rescued from death were raised as slave prostitutes, many of whom worked in inns and taverns, which doubled as brothels. Perhaps even more than today, sexually explicit comedy was also publicly accepted. (Keener, Craig. 1-2 Corinthians. pg. 59)
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, writes that there is nothing new under the sun. I believe that is true when it comes to secular societies’ obsession with sex. So, how does Paul address what is going on with members of the church who are saying, “I have the right to do anything.” It is interesting to recognize what he does not do. He doesn’t say they should abstain from sexual immorality to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. I won’t take that angle this morning either even though it is worth knowing that the Center for Disease Control just last year reported that roughly 20 million new cases of STDs occur every year in the United States alone–and that number is rising. Half of the new occurrences are in the 15-24 age category. He doesn’t tell them they should abstain from sexual immorality to prevent unwanted pregnancy. He doesn’t argue that sex outside of marriage can have a detrimental impact on their future marriage. And neither does he argue that they should abstain from a sexually promiscuous lifestyle to protect their emotional and mental health.
The people in Corinth were saying, “I’m the one and the only one who makes decisions for myself. It’s my body and my choice. There are no absolutes. Nobody can tell me what is best for me.” Paul says, in verses 19-20,
…You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)
The slogan, “My body. My choice” has become the rallying cry of the abortion rights movement, but in actuality we take and apply the slogan to all of life. It’s my body and I can with it whatever I choose. Paul says, “If you are a follower of Jesus then that is simply not true. It is not your body, you were bought with a price…and the price was Jesus’ life. “Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Secular society preaches one extreme and the sermon is “do what you want, when you want, and with whom you want.” That sermon has been heard and applauded in every generation by those who want to live with no restraint. We can see the consequences all around us.
There is a second sermon that has been preached throughout the ages and it has thundered from pulpits in churches. The sermon goes like this: sex is bad, it’s dirty, and that’s that. In the 90s a man named Joshua Harris wrote a book called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” The book was targeted to young people and his message was they should not date or even kiss someone unless they were sure they were going to marry them. Sexual thoughts, most physical contact including holding hands and hugging, and sex outside of marriage were almost unforgivable sins. The book sold more than 1.2 million copies and I’m sure that every one of the copies were bought by moms and dads who bought them for their sons and daughters.
The extremes of what secular society teaches and what has often been taught by leaders in the church have done so much damage. What is needed is the truth of what God’s Word teaches us about sex and relationships. That’s a great question! Let’s go back to the very first book in the Bible, the book of Genesis. In the creation story we find God creating…Read it with me from Genesis 2:21-25.
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:21-25 NIV)
“…a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” In 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul used the exact same phrase, “the two will become one flesh.” What’s really interesting is that Jesus was asked about divorce by some Pharisees one time and His response is almost an exact quote from Genesis 2. Listen to what Jesus said in Mark 10:6-9.
6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:6-9 NIV)
God created marriage and God gave the husband and wife the joy of sexual intimacy to be shared with one another. I want to remind you that God did this in Genesis 2, before sin entered the world in Genesis 3, in what we call “the Fall.” The gift of sexual intimacy which God gave to Adam and Eve was good, but every good gift God has given us can be misused and mangled.
When I do premarital counseling with couples we spend one session on a lesson called, “Sex As God Intended.” All of the couples I spend time with have been saturated by the lessons taught by our society. Some of them have grown up in churches where sex was taboo and they were only taught all of the negative things that can take place if you have sex outside of marriage. The lesson is eye-opening, informative, and encouraging. I tell them, “On the day of your wedding your friends are going to bring you gifts because they love you, but none of their gifts will even begin to compare to the gift God will give you on your wedding night–the gift of sexual intimacy. Enjoy it all of your days. Guard it with your life. Treat it as the gift that it is. If you will recognize the intimacy God is giving you as a gift you will be blessed, but if you misuse it, it can do irreparable damage to your marriage.”
I am fully aware that what I’m sharing with you is so out of step with what is being taught in our society and even in some of our churches, but it is what God’s Word teaches. The belief of most of those in our society parallels the belief of many of those in the church at Corinth. In verse 13, Paul writes,
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. (1 Corinthians 6:13 NIV)
Many of the people in Corinth believed that there was a common solution to our appetites. When we are hungry we eat, when we are thirsty we drink, and when we have a desire for sex we should meet that need as well. Paul answered their belief by saying, “The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” This was a totally foreign concept to most in the Greek culture because they understood the material world to be of no value, it didn’t matter what you did with your body because only the soul was immortal. Paul crushes that belief by letting them know that their bodies were made for the Lord and not for sexualy immorality. These bodies that God has given us are to be used for His glory and the blessing of His people. He has given them to us and we are to offer them back to Him for His service. He says as much in Romans 12:1-2. Read it with me.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God– this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
There is no doubt that God has created us with appetites, but the satisfaction of our deepest longings is not sexual satisfaction. Let me explain what I mean. In John 6, Jesus said He is the Bread of Life and those who come to Him will never go hungry and never be thirsty. Read John 6:31-35 with me.
31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:31-35 NIV)
Now, Jesus didn’t mean that those who come to Him will never have to eat or drink again, but what He did mean is that if you and I will come to Him, trust in Him, live our lives for Him, and continually draw from Him–our deepest hunger and our greatest thirst will be quenched.
In John 4 Jesus met a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from a well. She had had five husbands and was living with a man at the time she came to the well. Jesus told her,
13 …”Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NIV)
A relationship with Jesus is the ultimate source of life, the source of satisfaction for our deepest longings in life. We are constantly told by Madison Avenue marketers that “this or that” will satisfy us, fulfill us, and give us the life we’ve always longed for. Throughout history sex has always been dangled like a carrot before a horse to entice us, lure us, and whisper in our ear that it can deliver the satisfaction and pleasure that nothing else can. All the while Jesus invites us to come to Him, to drink deeply of the Living Waters and to feast on the Bread of Life, but we brush Him aside as we continue to seek cheap imitations of satisfaction, those things which can never deliver on their promise. C.S. Lewis wrote,
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory)
We were made by God, for God, therefore glory God with your body, in the way you live your life. We are not to offer our bodies to sexual immorality, but to God. In this section of Scripture Paul mentions offering our bodies to a prostitute in verses 15 and 16, but Paul broadens the discussion in verse 18 when he writes, “Flee sexual immorality.” Some of your Bibles translate the phrase, “Flee fornication.” The Greek word, “???????” (porneia) is the word from which we get our word, “pornography.” The word is used in the Bible to describe any sexual encounter outside of marriage. It is used to describe adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, beastiality, and incest.
I mentioned that it is the word from which we get our word pornography. I read a study this past week from The Journal of Clinical Medicine concerning the use of pornography and sexual dysfunction. In one part of their study they shared statistics gathered by Pornhub concerning traffic to pornographic websites. In 2013, pornographic websites reported 15 billion visits. In 2018, the total number of visits totaled 35 billion. Don’t you dare draw the conclusion that only those who are not followers of Jesus are logging in to pornographic websites. A survey conducted in 2014 by the Barna Group for the Christian men’s organization Proven Man found that 64% of men who identified as Christian looked at pornography at least monthly. That’s not good news. There is some good news in the study though and it is this: The more committed to their faith the less pornography they watched. Paul says, “Flee pornography!”
When I read Paul’s words I immediately thought of Joseph while he was working in Potiphar’s house. Joseph was nothing more than a servant, but he must have been a good looking servant because Potiphar’s wife began to put the moves on him. We can read about what happened in Genesis 39. Potiphar’s wife began to notice Joseph and she said, “Come to bed with me!” Let’s pick up the story in verse 8.
8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. 11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. (Genesis 39:8-12 NIV)
Joseph ran for his life and so should we. You know what’s interesting? Sexual immorality is the only temptation mentioned in the Bible where we are told to run for our life. Let me give you two examples of where we are told to “resist the devil” and “take our stand against the devil’s schemes.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 NIV)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV)
When it comes to sexual immorality we are told to get out of Dodge. If you play with fire you are bound to get burned. How many men and women have let down their guard and ended up with regrets or worse?
Through the years we’ve been confronted with two paths, two options: First, follow the way of the world and just give in to any and every sexual desire we have and every opportunity that comes our way. That doesn’t work. It never ends well. The second option is to try and convince folks of all of the negative things that will inevitably happen if we have a sexual thought or act on our desires. That hasn’t worked either.
Paul lays out for us a much better path for those who want to live out God’s design for sexual intimacy. Our bodies are made to bring glory to our God. Second, just as God raised Jesus’ body from the dead, so will He raise our bodies from the dead one day. Third, we are united with Christ, each of us who are followers of Jesus are part of the Body of Christ who are called to represent Him in this world. Fourth, our physical bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul told the brothers and sisters in Corinth that they, the gathered church, were the temple of the Holy Spirit. Here he makes an even more profound declaration: You, each of you who follow Jesus, are inhabited by the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Last of all, you and I need to stay constantly aware of the fact that we are not our own, to do whatever we wish, but instead we are His, bought at an incredibly high price, the blood of our Savior shed for our redemption–therefore we can set our sights on honoring God with every fiber of who we are. How amazing! How freeing! How inspiring! I don’t want to dishonor God; I want to honor Him for Who He is and what He has done for me.
One final thing before we go. I know there are many of us sitting here this morning and thinking, “I’ve already blown it. I wish I would have done things differently, but I’ve blown it again and again.” Or maybe some of you are involved in something right now that seems harmless, but let’s get real for a minute–it is not going to turn out well and even more importantly, it is not honoring God. Flee and find refuge in Christ alone. I would share with you what Jesus shared with the woman who was caught in adultery. The crowd was ready to pounce. The law gave them the leeway to stone her to death. Jesus invited the crowd, “Any of you who has never sinned, fire away!” They all dropped their rocks and walked away. Then we read,
10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” 12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:10-12 NLT)
For all of us, regardless of how many times we’ve blown it, now we know the truth of God’s Word and He has shown us His will. Now it is time to walk in the light of God’s truth. Is that your heart’s desire this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 18, 2021
1 Corinthians 6:12-20