Summary: Is there something in your life that if it was taken away your life could not go on? Is there something you just can't stop doing? You may be addicted. In fact, even many Christians are addicted to something they are not even aware of - the flesh. How to
What's your addiction? I know that's a pretty strong statement but I want us to think about that. Put another way, what controls you? What can you not do without? What, if taken away, would mean your life was over? You might say "I'm not addicted to anything!" If that's true, then halleluiah. But most of us are actually addicted and don't even know if. We are controlled by self-fulfillment. The flesh still controls us too much. Last week we discussed the two reasons we are left on this earth after receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. 1) To be transformed into His character, then 2) reflect that character as a "witness" to those around you in order to encourage them to enter God's kingdom with you.
Sadly, in practice we think the two reasons we are left on earth are 1) to make sure our fire insurance policy is up to date and then 2) now that we are free from sin we can basically do whatever feels good at the moment.
I think this attitude is at the base for much of what Paul had been addressing in the first six chapters. The Corinthians thought they were so mature but in reality were very immature—their flesh was leading them instead of the Holy Spirit into worshipping humans over God, tolerating gross sin in their midst, and fighting it out with other believers in front of the world.
Paul brings home the reason this is a very bad idea in the final verses of Chapter 6.
Paul is apparently quoting a local catch-phrase: "Everything is permissible for me." What happens is that we think freedom from sin is freedom to sin. Somehow we think that God's forgiveness means we can just indulge the flesh and it's already "covered" in our fire insurance policy.
We miss the point that we are to be changed into His image. Evil is still evil. Sin is still sin. Things outside the character of God are still outside the character of God. God doesn't require us to be perfect the moment we are saved, but He does send His Spirit inside us to change us.
Paul counters their phrase in two ways:
1) Not everything is helpful (or "beneficial"). For dogs, chocolate is a tasty treat, but it is also highly poisonous. I can speak from firsthand knowledge on that point. We've spent more than one long night after our dog got into chocolate. Chocolate is not beneficial to a dog. So too, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. Ask yourself before you say or do something: "Will this bring more glory to God and enhance my walk with Him or just satisfy my fleshly desires?"
2) I will not be brought under the control of anything.
Romans 6:15-17 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! 16 Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?
Make no mistake. The flesh still wants to enslave you, whether to sexual sin, alcohol, food, sports, shopping, money, or the feel-good rush of physical exertion. None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but there is a point where they are used wrongly and begin to be the tail that wags the dog.
Speaking of food, Paul uses it as an example next to make another point:
This was apparently a second saying the Corinthians used in order to justify their sinful behavior. There was a Greek attitude that the body was disassociated with the spirit. So essentially what happens in the body stays in the body, what happens in the spirit stays in the spirit. It's true that eating is not connected with spirituality and in fact God will do away with the requirement to eat. But Paul says that, especially when it comes to sexual things, the body and the spirit or soul are intertwined in ways we cannot imagine. We were made physically to have to eat to survive, but we were not created for sexual immorality. In fact the word for "body" here, soma, is for the whole person, not just the flesh itself.
Sex is good and was created by God to be expressed between two people in marriage. We were created in God's image and are to be transformed into His character. Another way to say the ending of verse 13 is "God cares about our bodies." God does care what you do physically because it is the outward reflection of the inward reality of your character.
We are not always going to struggle with this duality of sinful flesh and redeemed spirit living in the same body. As Jesus was the "firstfruits" (1 Corinthians 15:23 ) of the new creation, we too will share His nature in the resurrection. So why reflect the old nature when it is going to go away?