Summary: Two words dominate the biblical passage we will study today: sexual sin and body. How does God view them? Paul gives us great insight in 1 Corinthians chapter six.
Two words dominate the biblical passage we will study today: sexual sin and body. Our culture is desperately confused and distorted about our bodies and sexuality. We wildly swing from obsession over bodies to neglect of our bodies, from anorexia to obesity. We indulge our bodies and abuse them. Healthy appetites quickly degenerate into destructive addictions. How should we view our bodies? How does God view them? Paul gives us great insight in 1 Corinthians chapter six.
Our bodily confusion leads to sexual distortion. The issues in First Corinthians apply directly to our culture. None of you needs me to explain the degree of sexual immorality in our world today. From pornography to sex trafficking to adultery to romance novels to the Secret Life of American Teenagers, we can’t get away from it. It affects our children at younger and younger ages. Let’s be real: we know about sexual sin because if you are past puberty, you have dealt with it in your own life. This topic always exposes guilt and shame. As you hear the Bible explain why sexual sin is terrible, you cry out in your head, “What if I have already failed?” And you think you’re alone, but nearly every person is thinking the same thing. Thankfully, God’s grace is amazing and we desperately need it. We have sinned and dishonored God with our bodies. After the message I will lead us in a time of confession and receiving all over again the healing grace of God that washes us clean.
Today, rather than giving statistics and stories about sexual sin, I want to share some history so we understand the Corinthians a bit better. Prostitution was legal. The famous Roman author, Plutarch, said no shame was attached to satisfying one’s passion. He (Mor. 140B) argues that a wife should not be angry with her husband if he has sex with a prostitute or maidservant: “She should reason that it is respect for her which leads him to share his debauchery . . . . with another woman.”
There was enormous social pressure to participate in eating and drinking at banquets. These were business, social and civic obligations where there was unbridled gluttony, drinking and sex. Philo of Alexandria recorded that special tables were reserved for ‘the drinking bouts which followed as part of “the after-dinners”, as they called them . Plutarch describes a huge meal followed by raucous music and shameless sex, where the host provided prostitutes. When a young man turned eighteen he received a special toga which gave him the right to accept invitations to these parties as he was considered mature enough to cope with sexual advances. Not surprisingly, ancient writers warned of this persistent danger for young men. Just as Corinth was a sexually immoral place, so is our culture today.
We are studying Paul’s letter to Christians in ancient Corinth in which he addresses hot potato issues to show us how to find spiritual wisdom in a foolish world. Today we consider sexual sin and how to view our bodies. What Paul has to say is not in any public school curriculum on sexuality. It’s interesting to see what Paul does not say. He does not attack sexual immorality because it can cause STDs or unwanted pregnancies. Rather than addressing external behavior, Paul confronts the distorted thinking on which the behaved is excused. He helps us gain a biblical view our bodies and the triune God. We do not just have bodies; we are embodied persons. At a deep level it is an understanding of the gospel in terms of our new identity that shapes our behavior. When you understand your bodily identity in relation to the triune God, then you see sex differently. It’s not simply sexual ethics that are at stake, but the gospel itself. The Bible presents sexual union as much more than simply a biological function. It is an intimate communication and commitment involving whole persons, which can be wonderful in marriage.
As we prepare to read First Corinthians chapter six, let me give you a few handles. In Paul’s day, it was common to pose objections from an imaginary opponent and then answer them. In this chapter Paul counters three Corinthian slogans. Ancient pithy sayings were recorded on inscriptions and displayed publicly like billboards. You find the first one in verse twelve, “I have the right to do anything.” Then in verse thirteen, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” Then in verse eighteen, “All sins a person commits are outside the body.” The Bible does not endorse any of these three, but sets them up as distorted thinking to be corrected. As we read the text, look for what I call a Trinitarian theology of the body which should compel us to flee sexual sin in order to honor God with our bodies. Look for the two commands in the passage. Let’s stand for the reading of God’s Word beginning in First Corinthians six, verse twelve.