The public scandal of marital unfaithfulness in another high-profile pastor has brought the question of sexual purity to the forefront of our minds, and people are asking how much it really matters anyway. Some ask, what’s the big deal? While others rightly repeat the apostolic cry for purity in the church: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints (Ephesians 5:3). Continuing from yesterday, let’s consider 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 and the high calling to sexual faithfulness.
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.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
As the apostle called believers to display sexual faithfulness in the midst of an immoral culture, he gave four reasons why purity should matter in the church. We have already considered the first two: sexual sin defiles Christ’s body and it destroys the bodies of those who violate God’s standard of purity. Today, let’s look at the remaining two reasons.
Sexual sin desecrates God’s sanctuary (v. 19).
The apostle now asks, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? The word temple refers to the dwelling place of God; the inner sanctuary. The believer’s physical flesh and bones are the sanctuary of God. The moment we are saved the Holy Spirit chooses to take up residence in our bodies. We become His apartment, so to speak. Therefore, when we sin we do not sin alone. We take the Holy Spirit with us into acts of immorality. We do not corrupt the Spirit, just as we do not defile Christ himself, but we sin in the presence of God nonetheless. This is why Paul wrote do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). As individual believers are sanctuaries of the Spirit, so the collective church is a corporate sanctuary of the Spirit. Therefore, sexual purity should be a big deal to believers; it should really matter to the church.
The foundation of the apostolic call to keep our temple pure is given: you are not your own. Redemption changes things for the believer. It’s just the way it is. The unbeliever may do anything he wishes with his body (this does not mean it is not sin), but the believer now belongs to God and, therefore, is to live under the constant awareness of His presence. The price Jesus paid to purchase us—His shed blood—cries out to us as a constant reminder of our call to holiness (1 Peter 1:19). As those who have been purchased from the slave market of sin, we are stewards of God’s possession—our bodies. Applying the truth of the indwelling presence of the Spirit calls us to live with the constant awareness that every time we choose to sin we do so in the very presence of God. It is as if we walk before His throne and boldly sin in His sight. Praise God for promises of forgiveness and restoration to God, like 1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But the promise of forgiveness is never a license for believers to keep on sinning (Romans 6:1).
Sexual sin detracts from God’s glory (v. 20).
Finally, a fourth reason sexual priority should matter to the church is given: For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. The logical response to knowing we have been bought with such a great price is a life committed to God’s glory. To glorify means to cause someone else to have a good opinion of God. It means to magnify God, to take a wallet-sized photo and blow it up to an 11×17. In other words, what a believer does with his body should give other people a good opinion of God. The sexual ethics of the church present a certain picture of God to the unbelieving world. For sure, we want the world to know of the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ. However, we must never want this at the expense of lifting up His righteousness.
This is serious business. God’s glory is at stake when the church acts as though sexual sin is not a grievous matter. As a result, the world’s picture of God is distorted and His standard of holiness for His own redeemed people is lowered, thus weakening the church’s witness to both.