Studies in First Corinthians
by Bob Burridge ©2017
Lesson 15 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV)
You Are Not Your Own
and growing up in its culture,
were influenced by its immorality.
Immorality was deeply ingrained in their upbringing, and surrounded them every day. It was assumed as normal by their neighbors, friends, and the people they worked with. The whole culture of the city was centered around a life style that glorified lusts, and did not limit sexual intimacy to marriage as God demanded.
In many ways it wasn’t much unlike the world we live in today. The days are gone when there was a sense of decency about what went on in public. The songs that some thought were suggestive in the 1950’s seem very modest
compared to the lyrics that many fill their heads with today. The movies that were rated as “Adult” in the middle of the 20th century, would probably be rated much more openly in the 21st century.
Pastors would have hesitated to deal so openly with this issue in their sermons and lessons back then, but today it’s absolutely crucial that we build a morally healthy attitude from God’s word. We need to combat the unrelenting attack we and our children are subjected to living in our modern world. We need to be open with them and with ourselves if we are to effectively combat Satan’s assault.
When Paul came to Corinth he encouraged the believers there, and helped them learn the basics for building a strong spiritual family. They had all they needed to mature into a strong testimony in that pagan city.
But the Corinthian church didn’t grow up spiritually the way it should have. In Paul’s absence, opportunists started manipulating the church. Many of the church members were glad to find ways to justify their old pagan habits. They were being told they didn’t have to abandon their old life style. It made them feel very relevant, contemporary, and noble to tolerate moral diversity.
These misleading teachers didn’t develop a biblical foundation for making those kinds of judgments. Since there was no unifying word of God to decide which path to take divisions were ripping the church apart, confusing her members, and weakening her testimony in the region.
They saw little wrong with some serious sin in the lives of the church members, even incest. They should have removed one particular unrepentant member as the Bible commanded. But while they openly tolerated evil, they were suing one another over petty little daily issues. To use the language Jesus used, they were straining out the gnats, while gulping down the camels.
The old ways should have been put aside when they came to Christ. When they were justified by God’s grace
there should have been sincere repentance, confident faith in God’s promises and teachings, and a change in their hearts desires about morality. But immature people lack the ability to make good judgments.
mixing up the things God forbids
with what simply wasn’t wise.
12. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
Sadly this verse is often confused because it’s context in this chapter is ignored. Clearly Paul isn’t saying that God’s law does not forbid anything for him. To say that nothing in all the world was immoral or unlawful for him would be exactly the opposite of everything he had been saying and that follows in this Epistle.
The problem was that the Corinthians had confused the boundaries. While they were tolerating evil things which they should be dealing with, they were bickering and suing one another over matters that were unimportant. These small issues of personal comfort and personal gain that divided them were not matters of God’s law. In this case, winning a personal lawsuit against a brother in Christ wasn’t really helpful. The litigious soul is never really free. It’s in bondage to its own selfish desires. There were important judgments to make and the Corinthians were making them poorly. Instead of running off to the civil courts over personal matters, they should work it out as a spiritual family.
This is the context: The non-moral personal issues they were so concerned with were not matters of God’s law. As he said in the first part of this chapter, when it comes to these kinds of things it’s better to be taken advantage of than to take Christian brothers to the pagan courts.
to excuse what was really sin.
13. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”–and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
Their reasoning went like this:
- God made the stomach to need food, and made food for the stomach.
- God obviously intended us to satisfy our food cravings with all the different kinds of foods he created.
They reasoned that satisfying our urges was therefore acceptable and honorable. Since the body has sexual desires, it must be OK for us to satisfy those cravings in different ways too. But, not knowing God’s word well, they did not know or understand the boundaries God set morally.
One day we will die. Our stomachs and food will be gone. Diet was not a pure moral issue. The food restrictions for the Jews were temporary, only for the time from Moses to Christ. Those rules were only to demonstrate the uniqueness of God’s people, and their separation from sin. But God’s restrictions about sex go all the way back to Creation in Eden. Those desires of our bodies are not to be satisfied in a variety of ways. Our bodies are the Lord’s, and will be raised up in the resurrection. The moral boundaries God gave us need to be obeyed.
to satisfy all our needs.
15. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
16. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”
17. But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
The comparison of marriage and our relationship with Christ is more than just coincidence. God instituted marriage to reveal an important truth. Marriage was given as the life-long union between one man and one woman. It teaches us about the unbreakable and special union believers have with their Savior.
In Matthew 19:5-6 Jesus quoted and explained what Moses had written in Genesis 2:24. Has God not said, ” ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
The physical desires God gave for men and women in marriage should be limited to one another only. They should never be indulged in outside of marriage. The marriage union shows that our loyalty should be to God only and to no other. Ephesians 5 tells us that Jesus Christ cares for his church as if it was his own body. He’s faithful to his church just as if she was his bride in the sanctity of marriage.
The body is not for sexual immorality. It’s for the Lord in an eternal relationship. We are like the members of Christ’s own body. Therefore we should not be unfaithful to him to serve other gods.
To show that, we should be faithful in our marriages. We should never try to satisfy our special physical desires with any but our own husband or wife. Marriage is the moral way. That’s what God prescribed. There is no excuse for incest, temple prostitution, or fornication in any form.
Dr. Robertson explains that in Corinth, at the famous Temple of Aphrodite, fornication was thought of as consecration instead of desecration. The Priestesses of Aphrodite were prostitutes. Their worship was to engage in fornication with these Priestesses.
In many pagan cultures their spiritual fornication also promoted the physical version of it. This should be unacceptable to those who claim to be transformed by Jesus Christ.
Paul uses one of his favorite expressions, “May it never be!” The Greek expression is “mae genoito” (μη γενοιτο). It’s an aorist optative. The ESV translates it as, “Never!” The King James Version is very wrong to translate it as “God forbid!” The words literally mean, “Let it not be”. The idea of sexual freedom outside marriage should be offensive to us and unthinkable.
Recent attacks against Christianity try to obscure this important truth. Marriage is being re-defined by the homosexual and LGBTQ movements, and in the Liberal culture. Satisfying our sexual desires is being separated from the marriage union as God defines it.
WorldNetDaily.com reported about a new translation of the Bible called, “Good As New.” It was endorsed by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England. Ruth Gledhill, the London Times religious affairs correspondent, said this about it, “Instead of condemning fornicators, adulterers and abusers of themselves with mankind, the new version of his first letter to Corinth has St. Paul advising Christians not to go without sex for too long in case they get frustrated.'”
For example it changes 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 to read, “Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from each other. That is more likely to lead to sexual offenses. My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner.” The ESV ends with, “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
This “Good As New” version also changes 1 Corinthians 7:9 to read, “If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated.” The ESV says, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Today, God’s word is being manipulated to justify sin rather than to promote his morality, just as it was in Corinth.
Satan is very wise in his attacks. Confusion about truth is more effective than an open attack against it. This is the world we live in and that our children are growing up in.
believers need to battle against it.
18. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
The advice of the Apostle is plain and simple: Run away from sexual immorality! The word he used here for immorality is “porneia” (πορνεία). It’s a very general word for sexual immorality. It’s the word from which we get our word “pornography”. It’s any attempt to stimulate or satisfy sexual desires outside of marriage as God defines it in his word. It’s dangerous to toy with such things.
These aren’t just outward sins. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:28, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Sexual sins corrupt from within and obscure a most fundamental principle. The offense is on a far higher plane than people usually comprehend. These sins go against what the believer is as the bride of Christ.
to help us deal with all moral issues.
19. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
20. for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Our relationship with God is something far more intimate and profound than some realize. The Holy Spirit dwells in every believer in a special way. Back in chapter 3 Paul warned those who trouble God’s people saying, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
This isn’t a physical dwelling. Since the Holy Spirit is God, he is altogether everywhere all the time. There is no place in all the universe where he isn’t completely present.
He dwells in us by having a special relationship with us. We as individuals and as a church assembled together are his body and the bride of the Savior. We are to specially show his presence to the world around us. We are comforted by the Good Shepherd who loves us specially, and guides us always. In this sense we are the Temple of God on earth.
Therefore we should treat every believer with great respect. What belongs to Jesus Christ in this way should never be used sinfully.
we belong to God. We are not our own.
God created us for his own glory. We exist for what he said we should be. He redeemed us with the price of the blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
If we dare to take what belongs to God, and treat it as if it belongs to us — to do with our thoughts and lives only as we please — we commit thievery against God himself, and rebel against his gracious love.
This is profoundly summarized in the first answer in the Heidelberg Catechism:
The question asks: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
The answer begins; “That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil …”
No matter how hard it may be, we should not set God’s interests aside in favor of our own. The only right paths are the ones that bring glory to God. Our body and soul, our thoughts, word, and deeds are under that obligation.
But obeying God is more than just an obligation to those redeemed by Christ. It’s our way of showing gratitude for God’s grace and care. It’s the only way to truly expect God’s blessings. Though all we have is undeserved, he never blesses our sinful solutions to our problems.
When tempted, this simple truth should stop us and turn us to God for strength to resist. We need to remind ourselves by remembering: I am not my own. All that I am, belongs to God. I should never use my body, my mind, my time, my talents in ways that are immoral. It’s arrogant and foolish to expect we could get away with stealing from God.
There was an interesting story in the news. Some teen thieves broke into a house while the family was away on vacation. But while they were busy collecting things to steal, they were being watched. The web-cam had been left on and a lady in another state was watching the whole thing. She looked up the local police number using the internet and called it in. While the officers were on their way she described everything the thieves were doing. When the squad cars pulled up and surrounded the neighborhood the teens had left the house. But they had a full description and could identify the things they had stolen. Within minutes the thieves were all in custody.
Would they have gone ahead with the crime if they knew they were being watched? Probably not. But how foolish – when God’s own people, knowing God sees all they do, use what belongs to God to serve their sinful desires.
Maybe you haven’t done the kinds of things the Corinthians were doing. But we all need to remember that we are not our own, and we have not always lived within the moral boundaries God has explained in his word. We abuse what truly belongs to God, and the owner is always watching.
Our fear of getting caught should never be the main issue. But knowing that God is witnessing our offense to him should make us stop and repent, and humbly turn to God for forgiveness and strength.
May God help us all to obey and serve our Loving Savior with all we are and have.
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)