If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 1 Corinthians 6:1
In the last chapter we saw Paul absolutely shocked that there was open and flagrant immorality in the Corinthian church. Now he is shocked again that Christians are taking their brothers and sisters before civil law courts to settle disputes. It would help us to understand a little about the Greek people in this regard. Barclay, who was quite knowledgeable about the Greek culture, enlightens us. He says of it, “the Greeks…were characteristically a litigious people. The law courts were one of their chief entertainments.” 1 In the Greek system, serious matters were settled by large juries, consisting of anywhere between 201 to 6,000 of its citizens. Barclay says, “It is plain to see that in a Greek city every man was more or less a lawyer and spent a very great part of his time either deciding or listening to law cases. The Greeks were in fact famous, or notorious, for their love of going to law.” 2
Obviously, the Greek legal understandings had crept into the church. We may well wonder if a similar thing is not currently happening in the US, as lawsuits are now springing up everywhere like poisonous weeds (Hos. 10:4). Our country has become litigious to the extreme in the course of my lifetime. I can remember as a young person how it was not socially acceptable for lawyers even to advertise. Now the airwaves are crammed with lawyers who are advertising large and excessive settlements for their clients. Many companies have been bankrupted by class action suits as lawyers and clients have pocketed their vast winnings. Such money does little good for anyone. The Bible says, “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Prov. 23:5). Also, Proverbs 13:11 tells us, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Paul, being Jewish, must have had the Jewish system of justice in mind here. The Romans allowed the Jews to administer civil justice among themselves. No doubt, at this early stage, the Christian church would have been considered merely a sect of Judaism and would have come under this same provision. Bruce says, “Every Jewish community throughout the Roman Empire and beyond its frontiers had its own bet-din, its own competent machinery for the administration of civil justice within its own membership; the least that could be expected of a Christian church was that it should make similar arrangements if necessary, and not wash its dirty linen in public.” 3
Kretzmann says, “One can well imagine the self-sufficient, triumphant smile which appeared on the faces of the judges when quarreling Christians laid their case before them! What a disgrace to the Christian confession and to the name of Christ to be found haggling and wrangling before a Gentile court while confessing to be followers of the Prince of Peace!” 4 Keener adds: “Bringing internal disputes of the Jewish or Christian communities before secular magistrates was a luxury these minority religions could ill afford; there was already too much slander against them in the broader society.” 5
No doubt, Paul was greatly distressed that these Christians were not following the teachings of the Master in this regard. The Lord had told us that when we are assaulted we should turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39). The Bible advises us everywhere to love one another (Jn. 13:34; 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn. 3:23; 4:11-12).
Stedman tells about ministering with the great Dr. H.A. Ironside and hearing him tell a story that happened when he was but eight years old. He had listened in as a church discussed some difficult matter of business. Finally one member shook his fist and said, “I don’t care what the rest of you do. I want my rights! That’s all! I just want my rights.” A half-deaf Scottish brother on the front row asked, “Aye, brother, what’s that ye say?” The agitated member repeated the demands for his rights. The Scotsman replied: “Your rights, brother, is that what you want, your rights? Why the Lord Jesus didn’t come to get his rights. He came to get his wrongs, and he got them.” The agitated member stood transfixed for a while and then replied with lowered head: “’You’re right, brother, you’re right. Settle it any way you like.” Ironside said in just a few minutes the whole matter was settled. 6
“Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” (6:2). Occasionally, Paul surprises us by sharing a bit of revelation otherwise unknown to us. We must remember that Paul had the unusual experience of visiting in the heavenly places and hearing all kinds of secrets and mysteries. Some were so profound that he didn’t dare repeat them, but others he was able to share (2 Cor. 12:2-4). This is probably one of those revelations, although we see hints of it several places in the Scripture (cf. Dan. 7:22, 27 LXX; Matt. 19:28; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4-6).
McGee sums it up succinctly, in a way that is often lacking in modern and postmodern preaching: “My friend, if you are a believer in Christ, you will have a part with the Lord Jesus in ruling the earth someday.” 7 In today’s church, this sounds astounding and unbelievable. Yet, it is true. If we are going to judge the world, we need to start judging ourselves and rendering stern judgment on the many questionable things that confront us each day of our lives (1 Cor. 11:31). We need to get into practice of judging for Christ.
We must not judge others but ourselves, and the various temptations the devil presents to us on a daily basis. We must learn to rule in life through Christ (Rom. 5:17). Johnson better explains this by commenting, “The saints shall judge the world, because of their union with the Messiah, to whom all judgment is committed.” 8
“Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (6:3). Paul uses the expression “Do you not know?” six times in this chapter. He sounds a little like a frustrated teacher who has pounded a certain fact into his student’s heads and then realizes that they still do not understand. No doubt, the apostle had shared this information several times with these new saints at Corinth.
So here is another deep mystery that is seldom understood in today’s church. The saints will not only judge the world but they will judge angels. Because we are in Christ and co-heirs with him (Rom. 8:17), we will participate in the final judgment of fallen angels. They left heavenly realms and plagued fallen humanity. They mixed with the human race and brought it even lower. In Christ, restored humanity will judge them as we gain the heavenly realms by faith. Morgan exclaims: “Is there any statement in the apostolic writings…which has more definite and tremendous implication of the union of the saints with their Lord?” 9 Although this is another great mystery, it also is hinted at several places in the Scriptures (cf. Dan. 7:22, 27; 10:13, 20; Jn. 5:22; Gal. 1:8; 2 Pet. 2:4-9; Heb. 2:5; Jude 1:6; Rev. 20:10).
Utley does much to clear up this strange passage. He says: “Believers are a higher spiritual order than the angels. It is hard for believers, trapped in this fallen world, to realize our true spiritual standing (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). Angels were created as servants of God and of redeemed humanity (cf. Heb. 1:14). It is humanity that is created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), not the angels…Believers will one day judge the angels…” 10 We must not forget that amazing passage in Hebrews 2:5 which assures us: “It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.”
Since we are dealing with a couple of great mysteries here, perhaps we should try to summarize and restate them as best we can. God created human beings originally a little lower than the angels (Psa. 8:5). He chose man to be a vice-regent on earth and to have dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). That dominion was lost through the fall, as mentioned in Genesis chapter 3. In Genesis 3:15, God made the first promise of a deliverer who would restore man’s rule over the earth. Angels were assigned as ministers and helpers of humanity in this process (Heb. 1:14). However, many of the angels fell from high their position by lusting after women (Gen. 6:1-4). It is clear that through grace and faith we humans are now lifted higher than the angels (Rom. 8:38-39). Because of Christ, we are destined to regain the authority over the earth as we reign with Christ (Psa. 115:16; Mt. 5:5; Rev. 22:5). That the new earth will not be ruled by angels (Heb. 2:5), but by the co-heirs with Christ. In the deuterocanonical book, Wisdom of Solomon (found in the Catholic Bible), we read these words concerning God’s saints: “They shall judge the nations and have dominion over the people.” 11
We must ask why we never hear about these things in church? I have been in the ministry over 50 years and have never heard a sermon or teaching about these mysteries. We hear much about Christians escaping the earth and dwelling forever in some far-off heaven, but we never hear about saints in Christ ruling the new earth. Amazing! It does make sense that God would repair that which happened in the Garden and restore humanity.
HOW CHURCH DISPUTES ARE TO BE HANDLED
Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 1 Corinthians 6:4-5
There are various opinions as to how verse 4 should be translated. The NAS version reads: “…do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?” The NET, NAB, NJB, NKJ, & NRS have very similar translations. Smith points out how the early Greek manuscripts had no punctuation and that it was added later. Because of this, it is difficult to determine if this verse is read as a command or a question. 12
Quite a number of commentators feel that Paul is using some more irony here. They feel that he is saying that they should take the least important member of the church and have that person be the judge, rather than going before a pagan court.13 The Corinthian church members thought themselves so wise, and now they seem to have no one wise enough to judge the simplest matters.
Christians today find themselves in this same quandary when they charge each other before secular courts. Comfort sees some ray of hope in the fact that many Christian organizations are now requiring third-party arbitration clauses to be inserted in their employment contracts. These at least ensure that there will be peaceful settlements to some disputes. 14
“But instead, one brother takes another to court— and this in front of unbelievers! (6:6). Godbey says, “He again withers them with sarcasm.” 15 How ridiculous the church can look at times! We lower ourselves to appear before courts and judges who have no appreciation for the deep spiritual truths we embrace. They hinder us from allowing those deep truths to operate in our lives and to bring spiritual settlements to our problems.
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:7
Lawsuits among Christians were a sure sign that they had already suffered defeat. They had already transgressed the simple teaching of the Lord Jesus. The Lord says in Matthew, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matt. 5:39-41). In other words, go ahead and give the person the shirt off your back (and your coat too). We are commanded not to resist evil but to overcome it (Rom. 12:21).
The Corinthians failed at this. The Greek word used here is hēttēma and it means defeat, loss, and moral failure.16 Their case was already lost. The reformer Calvin says: “I acknowledge, then, that a Christian man is altogether prohibited from revenge, so that he must not exercise it, either by himself, or by means of the magistrate, nor even desire it…it is rare to find a single instance of an upright litigant.” 17
In the days of the early church fathers, they seemed to have taken seriously Jesus’ commands concerning this. Tertullian (c. 200) said: “Men of old were used to requiring ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’ and to repay evil for evil…But after Christ has supervened and has united the grace of faith with patience, now it is no longer lawful to attack others even with words, nor to merely say ‘fool,’ without danger of the judgment…Christ says, ‘Love your enemies and bless your cursers, and pray for your persecutors.’” 18
“Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters” (6:8). Utley comments: “The western church, with its emphasis on the individual, has skewed the gospel. We have missed its continual emphasis on the whole, the corporate, the body! We see Christianity as something for us individually instead of something for the gospel.” 19 Thus, we do wrong and hurt those whom we should love the most, our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
THE MANY HORRORS OF UNGODLINESS
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men. 1 Corinthians 6:9
Now that we no longer have a firm biblical basis for our system of law in the US, we are forced to base our laws upon the principle of “majority rule.” When 51 percent of the people think something is right, it then becomes “right” and the laws are changed to reflect it. This system didn’t work too well in Nazi Germany but many seem to think it will somehow work today.
The Bible is plain in saying that wrongdoers will not inherit God’s kingdom. This is not speaking of someone who happens to commit a single sin, but it is speaking of someone who is sinning habitually or who has sin as a lifestyle. Today we are instructed to have tolerance for all wrongdoers and not to judge in any way. This is how far political correctness has taken us. It almost astounds people today in our western societies to suggest that their sin will keep them out of the kingdom of God. It has become unthinkable to say such a thing. Yet, God says it, and he says it plainly so that it cannot be misunderstood.
The Bible here tells us to not be deceived. The expression, “Do not be deceived,” in the Greek (mē planāsthe) is present passive imperative. With the negative particle in front, it means to stop an act that is already in progress.20 Millions of people are already deceived today and they need to stop being deceived.
Paul lists several categories of sinning here. Let us look at them. The first is pornoi which is translated “sexual immorality.” This word can describe many different types of sexual sins. The word immediately reminds us of porn and pornography. This problem has run wild in our internet age. By 2005, there were already 4.2 million pornographic web sites. That would amount to 12 percent of all the world’s websites, and total some 372 million porn pages. The search engines report that there are some 68 million porn requests each day. 21
Sexual immorality is especially seen in the pervasive hookup culture on today’s college campuses. Donna Freitas, in her book The End of Sex, describes a hookup: “A hookup includes some form of sexual intimacy, anything from kissing to oral, vaginal, or anal sex and everything in between…A hookup is intended to be purely physical in nature and involves both parties shutting down any communication or connection that might lead to emotional attachment.” 22 Frietas asks, “What could be better than sex without strings?” But she notes that neither the men nor the women are enjoying it. She says, “Many students today are graduating college either unhappy or ambivalent about their sex lives, and unable to imagine a more fulfilling alternative.” 23
Obviously, a hookup is totally unnatural. The world’s people imagine that there is such a thing as casual sex, but the truth is that the sexual relationship is anything but casual. It involves the whole person in the deepest emotional, physical and spiritual bonds known to humanity. The Bible says that when two people have sex they become one. (Gen. 2:24).
Paul’s next word is “idolaters.” Perhaps it is appropriately placed with all the sexual sins, because in ancient societies people worshipped their idols by indulging in illicit sex and homosexuality. That was the very manner in which the Corinthians worshipped just before Paul came on their scene. Idolatry remakes the True God into an idol the shape of an animal, fish or bird. It also causes us to make idols in our own image. That way we are not threatened by God’s transcendence. Idolatry has a dumbing-down effect on humanity and seeks to erase the image of God in us. Yet, we are today a nation of idol worshippers. Our idols are in the form of Hollywood stars, sports heroes, and the like. We have no doubt noted that these stars make very poor role models for us to follow. Of course, money, fame, jobs and a host of other things can also become idols.
Next, he deals with adulterers (moichos) or those who are unfaithful marriage partners. In the Greek culture, adultery was taken for granted as part of marriage. While the wife lived in seclusion at home, the husband was free to have as many affairs as he wished.24 We see in Scripture how sexual immorality is a valid ground for divorce (Matt. 19:9). In a real sense, it breaks the marriage bond. Still, blessed are those couples who rescue and reform their marriages even after adultery occurs.
Paul continues as he lists “men who have sex with men.” In the Greek, there seems to be two words making up this category. They are malakoi and arsenokoitai. Malakoi has the meaning of “soft.” Barclay says it “literally means those who are soft and effeminate, those who have lost their manhood and live for the luxuries of recondite pleasures.” 25 The word arsenokoitai refers to the sodomites, and is a sort of generic term for all homosexual practice.26 Bruce says that the term “homosexual” involves both these Greek words and that they denote the passive and the active roles respectively.27
Both the Greek and Roman worlds were rife with homosexuality. Barclay points out how fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman emperors practiced homosexuality. The emperor Nero took the boy Sporus, had him castrated, and then married him in a full ceremony.28 As we have mentioned, homosexuality was practiced commonly at pagan shrines. It was just one of the ways people worshipped their gods.
There is no question that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin in no uncertain terms (Gen. 19:4-5, 12-13; Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27). Yet, we see this sin being revived today on a massive scale. Because of political correctness and the LGBT lobbies, we have seen homosexuality gain immense political power. “For instance, while the majority of Americans reject same-sex marriage, and while they have repeatedly defeated the issue in elections, it continues to grow. No matter that a comprehensive review of nine different studies of same-sex couples shows that children raised by homosexuals are ‘seven times more likely to develop homosexual or bisexual preferences than children raised by heterosexuals.’ The gay rights juggernaut, aided by a sympathetic government and compliant press, rolls on.” 29
The homosexual movements are built upon a string of lies. Homosexuals have claimed that their problem is in their genes. Paul Copan replies: “Homosexuality is not the result of genetic necessity but results largely from dysfunctional same-sex relationships in one’s youth (or, in the case of lesbianism, bad experiences with males who were abusive or violent).” 30 Gay participants would claim that homosexuality is a wonderful and content way of life. However, a study in the later part of last century, conducted by Alan P. Bell and Martin S. Wineburg, showed that 43 percent of homosexuals were involved with more than five hundred sex partners in their lifetime.31
Regarding these loose sexual standards, the eugenicist Margaret Sanger once said: “Through sex, mankind will attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, and light up the only path to an earthly paradise.” 32 Quite in contrast to this is the word of J. D. Unwin who studied eighty-six different societies. His findings startled the scholars as well as himself. He found in all these societies there was “a direct tie between absolute monogamy and the ‘expansive energy’ of civilization. In other words, sexual fidelity was the single most important predictor of a society’s ascendancy.” 33
Paul continues with his rogue’s list, “nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (6:10). The ancient world was cursed by thieves and robbers, who would even steal clothes and other valuables as people enjoyed the public baths and gymnasiums. Certain kinds of thefts could bring a death sentence, other thefts could bring hefty fines.34 In addition to thievery, the ancient world had its greedy or covetous people. I remember hearing the story about a farmer who said he would be happy if he only had all the land that joined his farm. Hmmm!
The ancient world was also cursed by drunkards. This is the Greek word methos and it has to do with drinking alcohol in an uncontrolled manner. Even small children drank in ancient Greece. They drank for breakfast because that meal often consisted of bread dipped in wine. On the positive side, the Greek people diluted their wine with three parts wine mixed with two parts water. 35
Paul winds up by mentioning two more classes of folks who will not inherit God’s kingdom. They are slanderers (revilers) and swindlers. These two sins seem closely connected, for both involve poor speech in some respect. Slander is a quick and effective way to destroy the Lord’s church. We must learn to be careful with our words. The American poet Will Carleton said it well:
Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds;
You can’t do that way when you’re flying words.
Careful with fire, is good advice we know
Careful with words, is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead;
But God Himself can’t kill them when they’re said. 36
Swindlers were a common sight along the main roads of the ancient world. No doubt snake oil peddlers were everywhere as people tried to make a fast buck. We have it nice today. If something we purchase doesn’t work, or is unsatisfactory, we can simply return it to the store. In our society, the customer is always right (at least most of the time). I can remember a day when large tracts of land were sold with a handshake. Now it takes a battery of lawyers to keep persons true to their agreements.
“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” (6:11). No doubt some of the Corinthians had plumbed the depths of all the sins we have mentioned. But after Paul came with the gospel, everything changed. They were cleansed from their many sins. The picture here is one of washing (apolouō). Titus 3:5 tells us, “…He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit….” Just as water was present in our birth, it is also present in our rebirth.
Some connect this spiritual washing to the act of baptism (cf. Acts 22:16). However, several commentators make clear that this is not the case. Morris calls it a “metaphorical washing.” 37 Pett says, “…Baptism is rarely, if ever, likened to ‘washing’, as though sins could be washed off (Jer. 2:22), and the verb here is never used of ritual washing…apolouō is never used of such washings, in the Old Testament, ceremonial washing in itself never ‘cleanses’, and we are specifically told in every case that the Old Testament washings left the person ‘unclean until the evening.”’ 38 Clearly, the only true washing from sin is the blood of Jesus (Rev. 7:14).
Paul mentions, that along with washing, we were also sanctified (hēgiasthēte) and justified (edikaiōthēte). These are two very important terms that many in the postmodern church have almost forgotten about. The word sanctified is that process of holiness that should be going on in our lives. Scholars feel there is a positional sanctification that we have immediately on our salvation, and then there is a progressive sanctification that grows within us as we live for Jesus (cf. my comment on 1 Cor. 1:30). Justification, on the other hand, is a one-time decree of God at our new birth. God declares that through Christ and his blood we have become righteous, forgiven and acquitted of all our sins (past, present & future).
OUR BODIES ARE FOR THE LORD
“I have the right to do anything,” you say— but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”— but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12
Quite a number of commentators feel that Paul is repeating a catch-phrase that was being mouthed by the Corinthians.39 No doubt the apostle had thoroughly instructed the Corinthians on the blessings of Christian liberty. Now they were using their liberty as a cover-up for evildoing (cf. 1 Pet. 2:16). C. S. Lewis once said, “Satan always sends error into the world in pairs that are opposites. His great hope is that you will get so upset about one of his errors, that you’ll react into the opposite one, and he’s got you.” 40 Paul would not deny that we Christians have great rights and freedoms. Yet, he also knows that we must be careful with these freedoms. As he says, “everything is not beneficial.” While we have rights and freedoms we do not want these to lead us into bondage.
It seemed that Paul always had to battle on two fronts, with overboard ascetics or overboard libertines.41 Much of this struggle was due to the Greek thinking that considered the body of no importance, but only the spiritual realm as significant. Some became ascetics and tried to whip the body into shape while others felt that it did not matter what they did in the body, since it was of no importance anyway.
Paul is saying something that was later reflected by Chrysostom, “All things are in my power, but I shall not be overpowered by anything.” 42 We no doubt remember the story of Samson, who was deceived by Delilah. Through that deception, the great and powerful Samson was weakened, captured, and later brought to his death (Judg. 16:4-21). In the Christian faith, we must be free from sin, but not free to sin. We must always be on our guard lest sin deceive us and overpower us.
“You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’ The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (6:13). What we have here is probably another catch-phrase that was being used by the Corinthians. With it, they were comparing the need for food with the need for sex. Again, they were using the same logic as before. They were saying that sex, even illicit sex with shrine prostitutes was no more important than eating. Since the body is nothing and would be eventually destroyed, it shouldn’t matter what one does with the body. They were probably saying something like this: “My body wants food, so I eat. My body wants sex, so I hire a prostitute. What’s the problem?” 43
A large number of interpreters see the word for “body” (soma) in a holistic sense, representing the whole person or the personality (cf. Rom. 12:1; Phil. 1:20; Eph. 5:28). 44 There certainly is a sense in which the things we do with our body touches our spirit and affects our relationship with God. Paul will say in verse 15 that our bodies are members of Christ himself. So, there is a sacredness and holiness about our bodies. They will not be destroyed as the Greeks thought, but they will be redeemed and resurrected (cf. 15:44, 51-52; Matt. 22:30; Phil. 3:21).
“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (6:14). As we have seen, the Greeks did not feel that the body was too important. They believed that death brought the end of the body and there would be no more use for it. When Paul preached to the philosophers at Athens and mentioned the resurrection of the dead, he immediately began to be heckled (Acts 17:32). Jesus was and is the firstfruits from the dead (15:20). He was and is the first person ever to come out of the grave with a perfectly resurrected body. Morris says of this: “The resurrection forbids us to take the body lightly.” 45 Because of this, we believers can be confident that we will also be resurrected with a perfect spiritual and immortal body. This was one of the great hopes of early Christianity.
MEMBERS OF CHRIST
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! 1 Corinthians 6:15
Paul makes it very clear that the believer is a member of Christ’s body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:20, 27; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:12, 16, 25). For us to be involved with illicit sex, whether in fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or whatever, it is a great sin against Christ. The Corinthians were actually involved in a greater sin. It was customary in Corinth for people to go to the temple of the love-goddess Aphrodite, which was in their city, and have sex with prostitutes, both male and female. Prostitute is again the Greek word porne. This was the normal manner of worship, the normal way of going to church in ancient times.
Apparently some of the new Christians were still doing this, and the apostle is aghast. He makes clear the drastic implications of such an act. To join bodies with a temple prostitute was not only to defile the body (which is Christ’s) but they would spiritually join themselves with that vile goddess. As Kretzmann says, “Sexual union constitutes a permanent bond between the guilty parties…” 46
We must not miss the great significance of the sexual act. Again, today people are certain that they can have casual sex and treat it almost like a social sport. How tragic this misunderstanding is! Wiersbe comments: “Sex outside of marriage is like a man robbing a bank: he gets something, but it is not his and he will one day pay for it. Sex within marriage can be like a person putting money into a bank: there is safety, security, and he will collect dividends …Sex outside of marriage is destructive, while sex in marriage can be creative and beautiful.” 47
Today we live in a sex-crazed society. Comfort says, “…The Corinthians faced pagan religions that used sex in worship. Modern culture has made a religion out of worshiping sex…” 48 Their idolatry took an awful toll on the Corinthians, and our modern idolatry is taking a terrible toll on our society today. Kupelian reports: “…A ghoulish smorgasbord of sexually transmitted diseases – many incurable, such as AIDS, herpes, and human papilloma virus (thought to be one of the main causes of cervical cancer), as well as hepatitis, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and a host of others – is pretty powerful indicator that we weren’t meant to have wanton, rampant sex.” 49 This is only one area where illicit sex is devastating our society.
To make matters worse for the Corinthians and even for people today, the ranks of prostitutes in ancient times were stocked with slave girls. These were raised for the profession and chosen from the vast number of abandoned babies in the ancient world. 50 Even when one visits a prostitute today that person may be unknowingly contributing to the sex-slave trade. Sex slavery in the US is now becoming a noticeable problem, but for some eastern nations it has already reached plague proportions.
“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’” (6:16). This teaching goes all the way back to Genesis 2:24, where God speaks of marriage saying: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Wiersbe says, “When a man and woman join their bodies, the entire personality is involved. There is a much deeper experience, a ‘one-ness’ that brings with it deep and lasting consequences. Paul warned that sexual sin is the most serious sin a person can commit against his body, for it involves the whole person (6:18).” 51 Ambrosiaster of old said, “Sexual immorality makes them both one, in nature as well as in sin.” 52
Guzik comments: “In sex outside of marriage, the partners become ‘one flesh’ in a way that is under God’s curse…” To those not married he says, “…Part of their self is given to that person, and it means there is less to give to the Lord and to the partner God intends for them…” 53
What a contrast this is to the holy matrimony that God has designed. Pett comments: “Between a man and a woman who are united in marriage it is a holy thing. Two persons, who are both members of Christ’s body, are themselves by it united as one within that body.” 54 Thus, our physical bodies must be used for the Lord and for his glory as many Scriptures attest (cf. 12:27; Eph. 4:12, 15, 16; 5:30).
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (6:17). Even in the Old Testament people were said to be “joined” to God (Jer. 50:5; Zech. 2:11). In the New Testament this is true in a greater and deeper sense. The Greek word for “joined” (kollao) used here means to be glued together. 55 What a great picture this is!
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18
The word for “flee” is pheugete in the Greek. It is present imperative, and conveys the meaning that we should make a habit of fleeing from sexual immorality.56 This would mean that we should flee from all forms of porn. We should run away quickly without looking back. This verse reminds us very much of young Joseph down in Egypt, when he was tempted sexually by his master’s wife. The Bible says, “She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Gen. 39:12). What a sterling example for all of us today.
Sometimes people talk as if sexual sins were the worst kinds of sins. They may be right. Paul says here that all other sins are committed outside the body but this one is a sin against the body in some special way. It seems at first that there are several sins which affect the body, sins like gluttony, drunkenness, and drug abuse. However, people can stop these sins and recover their health. Calvin says, “…fornication leaves a stain impressed upon the body, such as is not impressed upon it from other sins.” 57 Fornication makes an indelible mark upon a person’s soul. It deeply affects the personality. Also, this sin can indirectly make a person guilty of bloodshed (Isa. 1:15), as a resulting baby is aborted, or as a party dies from sexually transmitted disease. We must also consider the guilt and emotional turmoil that such sexual encounters often bring on. People have probably taken their own lives due to the awful psychological burden of sinful sexual encounters. Chrysostom says, “It is a sin against one’s own self in a way that the others are not.” 58 Pfeiffer and Harrison say in addition that it, “involves a monstrous denial of union with Christ by union with a harlot.” 59
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (6:19-20). The NIV takes the liberty to make body and temple plural here, but in the Greek they are both singular. 60 Most other translations read to the effect that our body is a temple of God. Interestingly, in the other places that speak of redeemed people being God’s temple, the people are plural and the temple is singular (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:5). In a real sense God’s people (plural) make up his temple (singular) and we are not the temple of God all by ourselves. This is important in our day of what we might call “Lone Ranger Christianity.”
Many folks today firmly believe that their bodies are their own, and that they can do whatever they wish with them. This is a dreadful misunderstanding of the human body. The Bible says that our bodies are not our own but they belong to God. We have been bought with a price (Rom. 6:17-18; 1 Cor. 7:23). The picture here is one of the slave markets of old. Often slaves were redeemed and sometimes by their own kin. In our case, Christ has bought each of us out of the devil’s slavery and he has paid for our release with his precious blood on Calvary. This is what the gospel is all about. We cannot call our bodies our own anymore. Comfort says, “…If you live in a building owned by someone else, you try not to violate the building’s rules.” 61 We are now owned by a new Master and we must serve him body and soul.
As we have said, we were bought with a price (Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:13; 4:5). We are servants of the new and wonderful Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. The earliest Christians persisted in calling themselves “slaves” of Christ. What a blissful slavery it is! Our desire now is to please him only and to fully serve him with our lives. Again, “Harry Ironside was right when he made another statement, ‘Glorify God in your body and the spiritual side will take care of itself.’” 62