Summary: Paul speaks once again to the issue of sex and how we use our bodies. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit - that means more than quitting smoking; more than the sermon and find out what it does mean.

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It’s time for Body Break with Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, those Canadian health and fitness experts. You know those commercials on TV where a man and woman come on and tell you that all the stuff you’re eating is killing you? That’s them! Did you know that a can of soda contains 5 tablespoons of sugar? Or is it ten? Do you know how much fat there is in a juicy ½ pound burger smothered in cheese, pickles, onions and mushrooms? I don’t care but could I have gravy on the fries?

Hal and Joanne would have a tantrum if we would eat this kind of food in front of them. They would suggest two pounds of carrots, a pound of broccoli, and three bananas, four apples, two oranges and a grapefruit a day…between meals. A meal is a salad with cucumbers and no dressing. Who can live that way? If your body matters to you and your health is at stake then you take these people seriously.

When I say “your body matters” you probably think of Body Break and good health habits. When I say “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” the reaction is similar. Most people think of smoking and claim this verse as a good reason to quit. Few think of overeating in the same way, but by virtue of the principle it fits the logic. However, is this what Paul meant when he implied that our bodies matter?

Corinth was a city obsessed with the worship of sex. A thousand priestesses from the temple of Aphrodite would come down into the city at night and ply their trade. Sexual promiscuity was highly regarded in that culture. Judging by the shows on TV and the stories in the tabloids, the sexual adventures of the stars promotes a similar attitude today.

When Paul said “your body matters” he was addressing this specific issue: sexual immorality. It seems that some Christians in Corinth had taken the message of grace and Paul’s own words to suggest that they had sexual freedom. To this gross misunderstanding, Paul replies with a theology of sex that asks: Is what we do with our bodies of any great spiritual consequence in relationship to Christ?

1. The Lord’s intention for your body

If you were a Christian in Corinth at this time you would be enjoying the truth of God’s grace. “I am forgiven, set free from sin by the cross of Christ, and there is nothing that I need to do to earn my salvation.” You would also conclude that all things are permissible because we are no longer under law. You can even eat meat offered to idols now, as we will see later. Idols are of no consequence to believers.

But what is of consequence for believers? “Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” (v.12) Apparently this is what Paul told them, ‘Everything is permissible’, and they were using these words in a context beyond what Paul meant. Yes, legalism has no place in the Christian life; legalism is an extreme attempt to do what pleases God. But on the other end of extremism is license – that is, life without any rules. So Paul corrects their vision: “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you; “I am allowed to do anything” – but I must not allow myself to become a slave to anything.

If your freedom hurts you and hurts others freedom is no longer a good thing. If your freedom allows you to indulge in certain activities that are addictive and you become a slave to them, you have lost your freedom – you are no longer free anymore. We know what those vices are and you know how they hurt you and others. The things that are not good for you are always enslaving; they tend to be habit-forming. They give a certain degree of pleasure, physically or emotionally and you keep on doing them because that feeling doesn’t last. Each time you think the high will last a little longer but it doesn’t.

Some of the logic for living this way, for experimenting with freedom, came from a dominant philosophy at the time: “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” This saying in Corinth represented bodily appetites. The logic goes like this: the stomach was designed for food and food satisfies the needs of the stomach – therefore it is natural and right to satisfy your need whenever it arises. When you are hungry you go to the refrigerator. It’s not against the law; no one arrests you for that. The same is true, the Corinthians said, of sex. Our bodies are made for sex, so it is natural and right to satisfy those urges as well.

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