Consider Our Triune God (preaching resource for Epiphany 2: January 14, 2024)
This post exegetes 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, providing context for the RCL Epistle reading for 1/14/2024 (Epiphany 2). This exegesis draws on commentary from Warren Wiersbe ("Bible Expository Commentary") and Bruce Winter ("New Bible Commentary").
|Ruins of the temple of Apollo with acrocorinth behind (Wikimedia Commons)
In addition to being divided by competing factions, the church at Corinth was being disgraced by the sinful behaviors of some of its members—two behaviors in particular:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you… (1Cor. 5:1a)
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already… (1Cor. 6:7a)
Some of the believers in Corinth were behaving like non-believers (and sometimes worse). Not only were they caught up in gross sexual immorality, they were misusing the legal system to settle disputes within the church. Of course, no church is entirely free from sin—indeed the church is best understood to be a “hospital for sinners”—not perfect, but being healed. But this fact must not be used to justify turning a blind eye and avoiding the appropriate disciplining of church members when necessary.
That said, note that church discipline is not about aggressive “spiritual police” hunting down and punishing “criminals.” Rather it’s about duly authorized, yet brokenhearted brothers and sisters, who on behalf of the church seek to restore erring members. In 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, Paul urges the church in Corinth to exercise this sort of church discipline—discipline that shows due consideration for 1) the church, 2) for the unbelieving community, and 3) for our Triune God. In this sermon we'll look at the third consideration, addressed in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. We begin in v9:
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul is warning the church in Corinth against embracing sinful behaviors openly practiced in Corinth—sexual perversion and idolatry (often combined through temple prostitution) heading the list (though putting these sins first does not mean they are worse than the others listed). For Paul all of these sins are inconsistent with our position in God’s kingdom. All represent a failure to live up to who we now are in our union with God in Christ through the Spirit (verse 11, and note here that the verb tenses indicate a completed transaction). The use of our minds and bodies must appropriately consider who we are now in our relationship with the Triune God—Father, Son and Spirit:
Consider our relationship with the Father (vv. 12–14)
12 "Everything is permissible for me"-- but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"-- but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"-- but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
God our Father gives us an “embodied” life (body and spirit united to Christ) that will one day be raised bodily in glory. We must have this same high view of our bodies and our bodily behavior that God does. We must use our bodies in ways that bring glory to our Heavenly Father. However, the catch-phrase of the Corinthians was “everything is permissible for me” (verse 12). They thought they were free to do whatever they felt like doing. But God has given us a body and freedom to participate in what has true and lasting benefit—and sexual immorality has no lasting benefit; rather it is a form of bondage. The Corinthians also had a second catch-phrase: “food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (verse 13). Sex was seen as an appetite to be satisfied rather than a gift from God to be cherished and protected. For them, sensuality is to sex what gluttony is to eating. Both misuse God-given appetites and both lead to disastrous long-term consequences that destroy lives and relationships.
Consider our relationship with the Son (vv. 15–18)
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
The believer’s body, just like his spirit, is joined to Christ—a “member” of Christ himself (see 1 Cor. 12:12ff). It is thus unthinkable for Paul that a believer would join their body to that of a prostitute (and there were 1,000 temple prostitutes plying their trade in Corinth). By referring here to Gen. 2:24, Paul makes it clear that this union of two bodies in sex is to be reserved for marriage because in the sexual act, a man and woman are joined not only in body, but in spirit.
Consider our relationship with the Spirit (vv. 19–20)
19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
God the Father created our bodies; God the Son redeemed them by uniting our bodies to himself and now God the Spirit indwells our bodies making them God’s own temple. How then can we defile this temple by using it for immorality? The word your is plural, but the words body and temple are singular (1 Cor. 6:19). It may be that Paul is describing not only the individual believer, but also the entire local church. Each local assembly is a “body” of people united to Jesus. The conduct of individual members affects the spiritual life of the entire church. In both cases, the lesson is clear and emphatic: “honor God with your body.” The Holy Spirit was given for the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ (John 16:14). The Spirit can use our bodies to glorify and magnify him (Phil. 1:20–21).
The good news is that God’s redeeming and purifying grace transforms lives: “That is what some of you were” is how Paul phrases it in 1Cor. 6:11. As we participate in the life that is ours in Christ, we experience more and more the reality of this “new creation” in Christ (2Cor. 5:17, 21). Indeed, we are not our own. We belong to the Father who made us, the Son who redeemed us, and the Spirit who now indwells us. We also belong to one another—we are together the one body of Christ, his church. And our behavior affects and can “infect” the church and its testimony to the world around us. And so let us consider our relationship with the Triune God. And let us live up to our obligation to administer appropriate and love-motivated church discipline when needed.