1 Corinthians 6:12-20 In ancient Corinth, overlooking the city, was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite—the pagan goddess of love. Over 1,000 prostitutes worked in that temple where worshipers would use their services as an act of worship to Aphrodite.
Such was the reputation of ancient Corinth that to call a young woman “a Corinthian girl” was the same as calling her a trollop. Partaking in drunken, sexual debauchery was called: Corinthianizing.
Temples to pagan goddesses and the immoral practices attached to them may seem pretty far removed from our lives but let me ask you this: what else would you call so many of the TV programs and magazine articles and movies and websites that exist today but temples to the idols of sexual immorality and lust?
Can any of us honestly say that we do not live in a culture that is saturated with sexual immorality—a time and place that is really any different than ancient Corinth?
For Corinthian Christians and for American Christians the challenges and temptations are exactly the same. How do we lead a sexually chaste and decent life that glorifies God when we live in a culture that is anything but chaste and decent and instead glorifies lust and sexual immorality? That is what we are going to hear about today from God’s Word. The Bible says:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other.
Despite the fact that Corinth had a temple to Aphrodite with a thousand temple prostitutes –despite the fact that sexual immorality was everywhere—the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached there and it had born fruit there and a Christian Church had taken hold there.
That is important to remember. When we despair over the direction of our culture, the Corinthian church is an encouraging example that no people, no matter how debauched and depraved, are beyond the help of God and the reach of the Holy Spirit.
But making a real break with their pagan past was a challenge for the Corinthians. They loved hearing that it was for freedom that Christ had set them free-- but their flesh tempted them to turn that good news into a license for sin—especially sexual sin.
When their pastors called them to live chaste and decent sexual lives, they had ready-made responses. They said: “All things are lawful for me”—in other words, I’ve been set free from the law. They said: “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—in other words, my sexual appetite is no different than my appetite for food and if it’s not wrong to satisfy my hunger how can it be wrong to satisfy my lust?
People still have slogans to excuse their sexual immorality. The couple living together outside of marriage tells their pastor that “it’s just a piece of paper.” The same-sex couple maintains that “it doesn’t matter who you love only that you love”. The teenager is certain that her sexual choices “are not hurting anyone”.
More and more these attitudes and ideas have made inroads into the church and they have to be confronted and challenged and rebuked and answered because sexual immorality is a return to slavery to sin and our flesh and there is a judgment by God to face over it. And so what is God’s answer to all these excuses for sexual immorality? The Bible says that:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
Our bodies have not been created by God and redeemed by Jesus and sanctified by the Holy Spirit so that we can live for ourselves.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free-- but this Gospel freedom does not mean that we live our lives as we see fit, sexually or otherwise, but that we are free to live as children of our heavenly Father and serve our neighbor and glorify God with our body.
The mistaken idea of the Corinthian Christians (and by so many Christians today) that our souls are what matter and our bodies don’t and so we can do what we want with them without consequence to our faith-- is completely wrong.
Among all the creatures, God made us body and soul. We are just as much body as soul. Our bodies matter just as much as our souls.
Jesus entered into this world, not as some disembodied spirit, but he took on our flesh and lived and died and God raised his body and God will raise our body to live before him in holiness and righteousness for all eternity.
What God has intended for immortality must not be used by us for immorality. The Bible says:
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! 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.”
In the beginning, our Creator made us sexual people. God established the principle that the sexual union of a man and a woman made them one flesh. God blessed that one-flesh union so that it would be pro-creative, children coming forth from their parent’s love for one another. God established that the one flesh union of husband and wife would be a picture of the love that exists between Christ and the church. Who we are as men and women—as sexual people—is God’s design.
And the only “one flesh” union that has God’s approval is when one man and one woman commit themselves to one another for a lifetime in marriage. Any sexual activity outside of that one-flesh union is marriage is a sin—whether you are a single person or a married person or a heterosexual person or a homosexual person—any sexual activity outside of the one-flesh union of husband and wife is a sin.
And that is certainly true of what was going on in Corinth in the temple of Aphrodite. It is inconceivable that any Christian would engage in such behavior, not only because it is sinful, but because of their connection to Christ.
Our bodies (and you will notice that Paul is very careful to say bodies and not just souls) our bodies are members of Christ—our bodies are connected to Christ—our bodies are one with Christ--and to become one flesh with someone outside the bonds of marriage is to take that wickedness and evil and unite it to Christ.
Our bodies-- and our lives as sexual people-- cannot be divorced from our relationship with Jesus Christ. That is why the Bible says:
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
I think that most of us remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament—how he was abandoned by his brothers and sold into slavery and how he rose to power and finally forgave them and saved them. In all this he is a type or picture of Christ.
What we may not remember is that when he had risen to power he faced a terrible temptation. His master’s wife wanted him to commit adultery with her. But he told her, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” But she persisted and one when she had him cornered he ran from her presence as fast as he could. That is our model when tempted.
Flee sexual immorality! That is God’s Word to us. That is the example of the faithful saints of old. Flee from sexual immorality. Don’t even let it begin to get a hold on you.
And so what does that mean for us as a practical matter? It means that we need to guard our eyes from much of what is on TV and the Internet. It means that we regard our fellow Christians as members of our family: daughters/sons, brothers/sisters, fathers/mothers. It means that we are extremely circumspect in how we interact with members of the opposite sex in our schools and in the workplace and among our circle of friends.
We do not want even a hint of sexual immorality to be present in our lives because our bodies are temple of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says: Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
In contrast to the pagan temple of Aphrodite-- and in contrast to the millions of temples to lust and perversion on TV and movie and computer screens--the Holy Spirit is present in our bodies and it is God alone who must be served and honored and glorified rather than some idol or false god. The Bible says that: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Nothing could be farther from the truth than the rallying cry of the pro-abortion folks that “it is my body” and I can with it what I like. Our bodies belong to God. He is the one who created us and intended us to be holy in his sight.
And when we failed at that, God sent his Son to buy us back from slavery to sin and death at the cost of his own life. That is what we do not belong to ourselves—because we have a God who has created us and a Savior who has redeemed and filled us with his Spirit so that we can glory God in our bodily life and even in our sexual life.
Sexuality is a gift that God gives to us so that husbands and wives can show love to one another and have a part in God’s work by bringing new life into the world. For those who are single, God is glorified when we flee sexual immorality and live chaste and decent lives in thought, word, and deed.
This then is the way that those who are created by God and redeemed by his Son and filled with his Spirit live lives that bring glory to God. Amen.