It is not uncommon for Christians to wrongly conclude that God cares only for our souls and not for our bodies. This false conclusion is not entirely without reason. We live in a world preoccupied by the physical (nothing new under the sun) and, since we are not to be “of this world” we often swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and conclude that, since our bodies will one-day die anyway, it makes no difference what we do with them. However, Scripture exhorts us to consider the importance of consecrating our bodies to God. Romans 12:1 exhorts, I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
God does not just want our souls; He wants our bodies and our lives. He wants every part of our being to glorify Him. One reason Christ died and rose again is to deliver us from living for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:15). Additionally, we are called to approach God in worship with clean bodies; let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22). In no area is this call to purity more obvious than in the sexual. Let us consider, then, a key passage concerning the priority of purity and why it should matter to the church.
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. – 1 Corinthians 6:15-20
The Greek culture of Corinth’s day was immersed in immorality. Some of the believers in the church had no doubt been saved out of the sex-worship surrounding the Temple of Aphrodite. Athenaeus, a second-century writer, quoted from a speech of Demosthenes, “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for daily concubinage, but wives we have in order to produce children legitimately and to have a trustworthy guardian of our domestic property.” That was the mentality of the city of Corinth. Sex was for the body and the body was for sex. Sadly, however, this problem was not confined to the culture, but the church had adopted it to some degree as well. From the context it is apparent there were some church-going Corinthians who were visiting the prostitutes. They were still taking part in that which had been a regular part of their former lives (6:11). Therefore, the apostle called them to sexual purity and gave four reasons it should matter in the church.
Sexual sin defiles Christ’s body (vv. 15-17).
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? In other words, “Do you not know that as believers you are united with Christ in body and soul?” Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Believers are united with Christ in the most intimate union possible. Consequently, for a believer to take his body away from Christ in order to give it to another person outside of the bonds of holy marriage is a violation of one’s union with Christ and defiles Christ’s body. This does not mean sexual sin defiles Christ himself; He is undefiled and always will be. But, sexual sin defiles Christ’s body in the sense that it corrupts the believer’s union with Him, and corrupts the church.
Physical adultery is also spiritual adultery since the body belongs to Christ. “The horrible thing about this sin is that the members of Christ are taken away from their proper use (the service of Christ) and made ‘members again of a prostitute.” (Leon Morris). Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? The word joins is used of close bonds of various kinds, literally meaning “to glue.” The believer who offers his body in sexual immorality corrupts the bond with Christ because there is a unifying power in sexual relations; the two become one flesh. When a man and a woman come together there is a union at the deepest possible level, earthly speaking. But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Just as man and wife are united in body, Christ and the believer are in union with each other. We are in Christ and Christ is in us! Paul’s conclusion is that it is unthinkable for a believer to tear himself away from Christ in order to offer himself to someone else in sexual immorality.
Sexual sin destroys the sinner’s body and life (v. 18).
The biblical command to flee immorality is the call to continual, habitual action. King Solomon urged men to avoid seductive women. Proverbs 5:8-9 warns, keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your vigor to others, and your years to the cruel one. Christian men and women must continually run from the seduction so prevalent in our world. The battle for purity of mind for the Christian is at an all-time high and we are called to take whatever steps are necessary to avoid pollution. Thoughts and desires long to be fulfilled. That is why pornography is so devastating to the mind and relationships. Therefore, don’t flirt with danger. Make yourself accountable to another person in your church and keep each other in check. The danger is so great, the devil is so sly, and our flesh is so deceitful. Our sinful flesh enjoys getting as close to the boundary as possible, wrongly thinking it will never cross over the line. Stop fooling yourself! We are weak, defiled, and sinful and the battle will become more intense as time goes by. We must do whatever it takes to protect the purity of our hearts and our marriages. When temptation to sexual sin crouches at our door we must run for our lives like Joseph who left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside (Genesis 39:12).
Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Sexual sin originates in the heart, but is deeply connected to the body and, therefore, causes its harm at the very depths of our being. Jesus taught, out of the heart come…adulteries, fornications (Matthew 15:19). Sexual sin is unique in its origin and in its damage. John Calvin wrote, “fornication leaves a stain impressed upon the body, such as is not impressed upon in from other sins.” Because it originates within, it harms within. It leaves scars that last for years to come and the battle for purity may remain strong for life because of the damage caused.
The immoral man somehow sins against his own body. Romans 1:27 hints at this concept as well when it speaks of the internal damage done by homosexuality, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. There is a stain, a corruption, and a damage that is done to the inner person by immoral acts. I am not talking about forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God; God clearly forgives (6:9-11). However, forgiveness does not mean we always escape the consequences of our sin. We are forgiven of sin, but some believers will live the rest of their lives with the damaging consequences of sexual sin. This is merely the law of the harvest; we reap what we sow. Thankfully, God’s grace is not only sufficient for forgiveness, but is also enough to carry us through the consequences, thus enabling us to glorify Him in the here and now.
King David is an illustration of the lingering consequences of sexual sin. In a moment of laziness and lust he committed adultery with Bathsheba. To cover up his sin he killed her husband. God sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront David and he repented. Nathan said, the Lord also has taken away your sin, but the child also that is born to you shall surely die (2 Sam. 12:13-14). That was only one of the consequences David lived with until he went to the grave. That is the subtle power of sexual sin! By teaching that the immoral man sins against his own body, Paul’s basic point is this: body and spirit are so intimately connected that sexual sin affects not just the body, but the spirit as well. Sin promises great pleasure, but it always carries a very high price tag. Proverbs 6:20-29 is a strong warning of what awaits the one who commits adultery.
There are great consequences to sexual sin. There is the destruction of the body, of the spirit, and, to a degree, the earthly lives of those affected by it. Sexual faithfulness, therefore, should matter to the church.
In tomorrow’s post, we will consider two more reasons sexual purity matters in the church.