Summary: Is sex before or outside of marriage really immorality?

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Sexual Immorality

6/15/03 D. Marion Clark


The scene is Malacandra (Mars). The human, Ransom, is having a conversation with an hross, a seal-like Malacandrian. In a roundabout way, Ransom has raised the question of hrossa overindulging in sexual relations. Hyoi, the hross, tries to comprehend the conception and responds thus:

“I have heard,” he said at last, “of something like what you mean. It is said that sometimes here and there a cub of certain age gets strange twists in him…I have heard of something stranger. There is a poem about a hross who lived long ago, in another handramit, who saw things all made two – two suns in the sky, two heads on a neck; and last of all they say that he fell into such a frenzy that he desired two mates. I do not ask you to believe it, but that is the story: that he loved two hressni.”

Ransom pondered this. Here, unless Hyoi was deceiving him, was a species naturally continent, naturally monogamous….At last it dawned upon him that it was not they, but his own species, that were the puzzle. That the hrossa should have such instincts was mildly surprising; but how came it that the instincts of the hrossa so closely resembled the unattained ideals of that far-divided species Man whose instincts were so deplorably different? What was the history of Man?”

The hross would be amazed with our world’s approach to sex. Raised in an unfallen world, he could not comprehend what for our society is but natural activity, and what, unfortunately, has become accepted even among Christians. Many of the Corinth Christians bought right into the world’s philosophy, just as many still do today.


“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.

I’ve mentioned before the Corinthians’ strange theology that permitted them to engage in sexual immorality with a “good” conscience. Paul dialogues with that theology in this text, which helps us to understand their way of thinking. It appears that they had taken Paul’s own teaching about freedom from the law and applied it to mean that they could do just about anything. Paul himself taught that Christians are not under the law but under grace. In Romans 6:14 he says, You are not under law, but under grace. He has taught that we cannot earn our righteousness by the law, and, indeed, that the law only makes us guilty (Romans 3:20). Christ has set us free from a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). And didn’t Paul say even in this letter that “all things are yours” (3:21)?

So, what do you have to say now, Paul? He responds. Yes, there is a sense in which all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful to do. And though all things may be lawful, we are not to become slaves to these things. We are to consider two consequences of our actions: their effect on others and their effect on us. The question is not what is lawful, but what is helpful for others. Remember the Golden Rule and the commandment to love one’s neighbor? Christ set us free, not to do whatever we want, but to do what is righteous and loving. Furthermore, we are set free from the slavery of sin so that we might be slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). The problem with the law is that sin had manipulated it to make us slaves. For a Christian, set free from the law and sin by grace, to engage in sexual immorality is tantamount to clamping the shackles of slavery to our own wrists and ankles. It defeats the very purpose of being released from the law.

Good response, Paul. Now another argument: 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The Greek text does not have quotation marks, by the way. The NIV and ESV put them in because the translators understand Paul to be quoting statements by the Corinthians. It is possible that the whole verse should be in quotes so that the Corinthians are making the following argument: “Since everything is permitted, and since food is for the stomach and the stomach for food (after all, God will destroy them both in the end, and since all bodily appetites are pretty much alike, that means that the body is for sex and sex for the body – because God will destroy them both in the end as well” (Fee, p. 255).

Do you follow the argument? Who cares what we do with the body? It is the spirit of the person that counts. The body will be destroyed; it is the spirit that lives on.

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