8. Disorder in the church
III: Moral laxity (1Co 6:12-20)
Context: Paul returns to
the topic about sexual immorality. This time, in contrast to a specific
case about an incestuous man in chapter 5, Paul uses the case of prostitution
to discuss the general principle with regard to Christian liberty. Similar
to the above two topics, Paul addresses the problem of crisis of authority
-- over the Corinthians' "freedom to act as they pleased" without restraint.
Some Corinthians have a false view of freedom
("everything is permissible") and of the body ("God will destroy
it"). They argued that going to prostitutes is permissible because they,
being people of spirit, will not be affected by behaviour of the
6:12-14 Paul argues against their
6:15-20 Paul forbids prostitution;
the theological basis is that such sin is against their bodies.
"Everything is permissible for me" is a Corinthian
slogan. Paul cites it again in 10:23. For Paul, "everything is permissible"
has to do with the non-essentials: food, drink, days, circumcision, not
with ethical or moral matters.
Corinthians use the term "right to determine"
or "authority" (Greek exousia) [similar to 8:9 where Paul speaks
of "this exousia of yours" of going to the pagan temples].
Two criteria in exercising Christian liberty:
Is it "beneficial" to me and to others? (parallel
with "constructive" or "build up" in 10:23)
Will I be "mastered" by it ("anything" or
First, the Corinthians' slogan consisted of two
(a) Food for the stomach and
the stomach for food "and" (translated as "but" is incorrect)
Here, Paul is in essential agreement. Both food and
the stomach belong to the present age, and God will do away with them both
in the end. However, the Corinthians' application derived from this slogan
(b) God will destroy both the
one (stomach) and the other (food).
(a) They thought that since
food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, and since all bodily
appetites are pretty much alike, that leads to the conclusion that the
body is for sex and sex for the body.
Paul corrects them on both counts starting with the
word "but" (i.e., their derivation is wrong):
(b) They thought that food
and the body are both temporal and God will destroy them both in the end,
what happens to the body does not matter.
(a) The body is not for sexual
immorality, but for the Lord "and"
Paul counters their slogan with his own parallel
theological construct: "The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the
body." The meaning of "the Lord is for the body" is not clear but may mean
the Lord has given himself for the redemption of the body.
(b) The body is not destined
for destruction but for resurrection, the proof of which is Christ's resurrection.
The argument against prostitution is in two parts.
(a) The bodies of believers
are "members" of the "body" of Christ (v.15a) because each individual
believer is joined to ["united with"] Christ and becomes one S/spirit
with him (v.17).
Since a believer cannot be the member of the body
of the prostitute and the member of the body of Christ, prostitution precludes
a person from being in the body of Christ.
(b) On the basis of Gen 2:24
(v.16b), in sexual intercourse two bodies become one. With prostitution,
the body of the believer is joined to ["united with"] the prostitute
(v.16a) and becomes a "member" of her body (v.15b).
3 reasons why sexual immorality is wrong:
(a) It is a sin against one's
own body (v.18).
(b) The body is the present
habitation of God's Spirit (v.19) and should be kept holy.
(c) The body is God's rightful
possession because it is redeemed with a great price in the death of Christ
What is the meaning of temple of God
or temple of the Holy Spirit?
Temple of the God is normally referred to the church
as a whole (3:16, 2Co 6:16, Eph 2:21-22). Here, the emphasis is on the
individual's body and the term is thus used for the body.
In what ways should Christians emphasize both
body and spirit in our gospel?
Evangelicals always emphasize faith and spiritual
growth but the doctrine of the sanctity of the body needs to be heard anew
within the church. Today, sin in particular sexual immorality is often
justified under every conceivable rationalization.
Christians need to take care of needs for both the
body and the spirit. The tendency of some people to stress "saving souls"
while caring little for people's material needs should be corrected.
A complete gospel includes salvation of both the
body and the spirit. The importance of such belief is evident in Paul's
argument about resurrection of the body in 1Co 15.
If you live in a building owned by someone else,
you try not to violate the building's rules. Because your body belongs
to God, you must not violate his standards for living. (v.19-20)
Some Christians use the excuses:
(a) Christ had taken away all
sin, and so they had complete freedom to live as they pleased.
(b) What they were doing was
not strictly forbidden by Scripture.
(a) While Christ has taken
away our sin, this does not give us freedom to go on doing what is morally
(b) Some actions are not sinful
in themselves, but they are not appropriate because they can control our
lives and lead us away from God OR they may hurt ourselves and hurt others.