Sermon: “Glorify God in Your Body” (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)
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12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 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! 16 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.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 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, 20 for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20, ESV
Our Scripture passage today is in 1st Corinthians 6:18-20. We’re going to read the larger passage, 6:12-20. We will be looking at the last three verses in particular.
The word of the Lord given to us in love.
On April 10th, 1976 President Gerald Ford was in San Antonio, Texas campaigning for a second term of presidency. He was running against Jimmy Carter. While he was there in San Antonio, they served him a food that is very common Texas, tamales. It was a plate of tamales. If you’ve ever seen one, it is corn dough called masa that is spiced and sometimes contains meats. It’s wrapped up in corn leaves or corn husk. While in that wrapper they steam them, or they boil them.
They gave the president a plate of tamales and he grabbed one and bit straight into it. Anyone who has ever eaten a tamale before knows that you can’t eat the tamale with the wrapper still on it. In fact, as one political reporter there recalled, the president nearly choked is he was trying to eat it. You have to remove the husk or the wrapper in order to get to the good stuff inside the tamales.
This was such a big deal that Texas showed this on their television news over and over again during the next several weeks. It became something of a symbol of how out of touch the president was in that state. He doesn’t even know how to eat our food. As history has its the president lost Texas in his bid for re-election, which left him short of Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter won the presidency that year and some actually pointed to this particular incident has the turning point in the campaigns.
Now why am I mentioning this? Because the passage we are looking at today forbids us from treating our bodies as though they were the husk or a wrapper around a tamale. You’ve got to get rid of this physical body that is so needy. It needs to be fed and watered and needs sleep, it’s so clumsy, it’s wasting away as we grow older with age. We need to get rid of these bodies, we have to get to the good stuff the spiritual stuff inside. This is just a husk to be castaway, to get away to the good stuff of our spiritual matter.
Scriptures teach us all over, from the very beginning to this passage, that is not true. That in fact the body is important. God did not create you to be a spiritual ghost, God created you to be a whole human being, body and soul. When we talk about a body sometimes, we mean something physical as opposed to something spiritual. Where God says when we talk about your body we’re not talking about physical as a distinct from spiritual, we’re talking about this incredible union that God has knitted you together of body with soul. You can’t separate one from the other. Which brings us to our big idea today, which I take from directly from the end of verse twenty.
Our big idea is this, Glorify God in your body.
Now let me show you how this passage is structured. Paul is making this argument at the end of a longer passage. In verses eighteen through twenty he tells us a lot about how we are to understand. Notice in eighteen he begins with an argument and at the end of verse twenty he ends with an argument. In the beginning Paul says flee sexual immorality and at the end he says glorify God in your body. We need to see both to understand both of these arguments. Both of these arguments say the exact same thing in two different ways.
The first is a negative kind of statement. Don’t do something. In fact, stay so far away from not doing sexual immorality that you flee from it. Don’t flirt with it, don’t debate with it. Just like Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife when she was trying to seduce him, so you also must flee sexual immorality. What Paul is saying then is whatever else glorifying God in your body means, the bare minimum of that statement is given at the beginning of verse eighteen. At a bare minimum glorify God in your body means that you must flee sexual immorality.
At best look at your sanctification until you take this seriously and flee sexual immorality. At worst as Paul said earlier do not be deceived, in verse nine, neither the sexually immoral person, nor other sinners, will inherit the kingdom of God. At worst this could cost you the kingdom of God. It’s really important for you to stay away from this. Make this a practice of fleeing from sexual immorality into a habit, make this habit to something that is woven into the fabric of your character. So, flee sexual immorality.
As we talked about it a little bit last week, it’s not enough to have a Bob Newhart sanctification and just going around saying “stop it, stop it.” Again, Bob Newhart was a comedian who played a psychologist in his comedy routine and that’s what he would tell people. It was not very helpful and was part of the humor.
We need to not just have something not to do. We must have a positive for what we’re doing. We must flee sexual immorality in order to pursue a much larger goal. The larger goal which Paul tells us in verse twenty is to glorify God in your body. That’s how the two arguments meet. He says one thing in a negative way, flee from something; and then he says the same thing in a positive way, so that you may glorify God in your body.
In this argument sandwich there are three arguments that Paul gives us to defend, explain and support this. So, we’re going to look at these arguments one after another.
- Why Not?
- What For?
- How Come?
Let’s start with “why not”. We see this in the second half of verse eighteen, Paul says flee from sexual immorality. So, this raises the question why not? Why shouldn’t we commit sexual immorality? The answer is in verse eighteen. He says every other sin a person commits are outside his body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
What Paul is saying here is that in some way, sexual immorality uniquely attacks your body. Sexual sins are uniquely against your own body in a way that other sins are not. Ever since Christians first read this passage this has raised a lot of questions. If you look at all of the commentators, they all kind of raised the same questions at this point; what about other sins that involve your body? What about drunkenness? When you get drunk, alcohol is affecting your body. What about suicide? To murder your own body, isn’t that a sin against your body?
Paul has told us already what the difference is. We’ve been studying it in chapter six. When you commit the act of sexual immorality, it joins you physically and spiritually, body and soul, with another person to make you one body and one flesh.
In marriage, sexual intimacy is something that God blesses and sanctifies. It’s part of the way God joins a husband and wife together. However, if it’s outside of that lifelong covenant of one man and one woman, then what happens is that you have the same effect of joining two people together but two very different results.
Inside of marriage sexual intimacy blesses and sanctifies. Outside of marriage sexual intimacy curses and defiles. What Paul says here is that our body is not merely physical, sexual immorality isn’t something we just do physically but it’s something that involves our entire person. It uniquely involves all of who we are as human beings. Not just our physical body, but our mind, our emotions, our desire, our will, our conscience, our memory and our souls. No other sin attacks our body the wholeness of our body in the same way.
Now Paul is telling us this again because he’s beginning to build to a larger discussion here. He’s starting the with this negative, flee from sexual immorality, in order to lead into the fullness of the positive idea of what it would mean to glorify God in our bodies. He saying sexual immorality is such a unique sin in our body that you need to flee from it. This is important because your body matters more than you think it does. Paul has already told us this in one way.
14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 1 Corinthians 6:14, ESV
God care so much about your body that when you die it’s not just a husk to be shucked and cast off forever. Rather death is a hideous, unnatural, grotesque separation of the body from the soul. It’s not a state that you’re intended to remain in forever. We have to stay there right now. Death has a hold on our bodies for a time, but you were created to be a whole person, body and soul.
I was talking a little bit about these ideas with Bill Stupfell and he reminded me of this wonderful question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question number 37.
Q: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 37
Again, we can’t just shuck off our bodies as though they were husk on a tamale, rather with our bodies God intends to bring us back into glory at the resurrection. The proof text for that catechism question is 1 Thessalonians 4:14. It’s a wonderful promise.
14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:14, ESV
Our bodies remain united to Christ until with Jesus we will be raised up at the resurrection of the dead. Now at a bare minimum this means that we must avoid and flee sexual immorality. However, the principle that Paul is getting at is much bigger than that. It doesn’t just say what we shouldn’t do, much more it says what we should do. Our bodies were created for something, not just to avoid something, but for something. Specifically, we’re told that our bodies were created to enjoy union and communion as one spirit with Christ through the Holy Spirit in our bodies.
Remember what Paul said in the verse right before the one we’re looking at right now, verse seventeen.
17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.1 Corinthians 6:17, ESV
Paul said earlier in verse thirteen,
13 The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
1 Corinthians 6:13b, ESV
Look at verse nineteen, “or do you not know?”. This is the eighth time in this letter that Paul uses that phrase. He means, you should know it and if you don’t know it you need to figure it out. This is a matter of life and death. What is astonishing is that it’s the sixth time in this chapter alone. On these life or death issues Paul keeps saying, don’t you know this?
Here again he says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”.
If you were here when we went through chapter three or if you are just familiar with it, you may remember that Paul stated the church collectively is a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. All of us together form the place where God’s Holy Spirit dwells. Now Paul is saying a new thing with a twist. Just as all of us collectively are meant to be the dwelling place of the Lord, so each of us individually is a body fitted to be a temple or a vessel to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
What’s remarkable is that there are two words for temple in Greek. One of them refers to the whole temple complex, specifically the outer courts. If we were living back in that day and we were talking about going to the temple, we would use that word that referred to the outer courts. That’s as far as most people were permitted to go. You weren’t permitted to go into the inner places, the holy of holies because that’s where God dwells.
Here, Paul is using that inner sanctuary word. He’s saying you weren’t permitted to go into the old covenant temple, but now God has made you personally the dwelling place for his Holy Spirit. Where you were not enabled to go into, God has turned your body into that inner sanctuary.
So, you were created to be the dwelling place of God by his Holy Spirit within you. Notice Paul also writes here that this Holy Spirit is someone you have from God. This refers to the whole undivided work of the three persons of the trinity. We talk a lot about what the Father and the Son do in Christianity. We talk about the fact that the Father loves us, and Jesus Christ the Son of God came into this world and lived and took on a human nature like ours and suffered and died on the cross for us. He was resurrected and he’s ascended to the right hand of the Father now. We should talk about that, it’s the heart of the gospel.
We get a little itchy when we start talking about the Holy Spirit because we are not entirely sure how the Holy Spirit relates to what the Father and the Son are doing. Sometimes we think that the Holy Spirit is just a rogue agent; just wild and doing whatever he wants. Yes, the Father and the Son are over here working out salvation for humankind. Well, we don’t really know what the Holy Spirit is up to. He’s just out there doing whatever the he will.
In fact, the scriptures teach us what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit is the one that we have from God. When the Father sent the Son into the world, he was bringing about the incarnation from Mary to become pregnant even though she was a virgin. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Christ. He was poured out on Jesus Christ himself to empower even the Son of God incarnate for the ministry he has.
Then we read that when Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven and the Father and the Son together pour out the Holy Spirit to apply to us everything that Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. That’s the distinction. What the Son accomplishes through his incarnation, life, death, burial and resurrection, the Holy Spirit comes to give it to us. To make us increasingly holy by indwelling our bodies. This is what the body is for. To be filled up with the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of God himself. So that those virtues start blossoming out of your life like fruit from a vine.
You were created to enjoy union and communion with God. You experience this through the Holy Spirit. You were created to have your emptiness filled, your brokenness healed, your despair infused with exceedingly great joy. That happens because of your direct encounter and experience with God the Holy Spirit.
It doesn’t mean that all of your problems are going to go away in this life. Rather many of your problems will continue with you. But it means that as the world is crumbling around you and you wrestle with the corruption that is within your flesh. As your outer physical nature is wasting away day by day, at the same time your inner nature is being renewed day by day. Not so that one day you can escape the body, but because the first fruits of God in you is happening spiritually.
All of the renewal and transformation that you are experiencing spiritually, if you are in Christ, God promises to not only finish on the other side of glory. He promises to also accomplish it in your body. Everything your body was created to be will be raised up and reunited with your soul so that you will enjoy the Lord together forever with Jesus.
How does this all come to pass? How did this come about at all? If we lost the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit when humankind first sinned in the Garden of Eden. How do we come to enjoy this again? Well, Paul tells us this astonishingly good news at the end of verse nineteen and twenty as we come to our third point.
For you were bought with a price. You don’t belong to yourself. You are not your own. Your body is not to use as you please. It’s not your body your choice in any sense because you belong to God.
You were bought with a great price, the inestimably costly price of the shed blood of Jesus Christ for you on the cross. The picture that Paul is giving us is these Old Testament echoes of where God’s people redeemed this people out of their captivity in the nation from Egypt, he brought them out through great signs and wonders, including the death of every first born in Egypt, but sparing his own people. When he saw the blood of the Passover Lamb smeared over the doorframes of the houses of his people. In the same way God sees the blood of the true Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ.
The old covenant Israelites were brought out of the bondage and slavery, to become the bondservants of God. Not so that they could all go their separate ways and return back to their various kinds of sins, but to become the people of God. What the scriptures tell us is, when we insist upon freedom for its own sake to live as we please, in fact we remain slaves to our sin. When we willingly, by faith, enslave ourselves to Jesus Christ and allow him to do whatever he will with us so that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit will fill us up and guide us as the temple that we are. The paradox is that we aren’t really slaves, we are free indeed. By coming under the yoke of Jesus Christ we become not slaves but the children of God
7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.Galatians 4:7, ESV
You are an heir; you have an inheritance to gain through God. You don’t belong to yourself; you belong to Jesus. You belong to Jesus not as a slave for him to use and abuse but as his brother to become the son of God so that God can use you to glorify him and brings you ultimate lasting joy and satisfaction.
Therefore, glorify God in your body. That’s what this life is supposed to be about. You were bought with a price. You were created to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. At a minimum that means fleeing sexual immorality. You do that in order to glorify God in every respect and every aspect. Let’s take some applications to this.
- This teaches us that we must flee sexual immorality. I’m going to lean hard on the words of scriptures themselves. Flee sexual immorality. A commentator I like to read, he’s written a commentary on all the New Testament, his name is R.C.H. Lenski, he’s a Lutheran commentator and just wonderful. He writes this, “Really two reasons that we need to flee sexual immorality. Some sins we must necessarily face, fight and thus conquer. From others we recoil with a shock. Their baseness and their stench repeal us. Sexual immorality is and should be one of these.”
Our culture in which we live and move and have our being treats sexual immorality so casually and with such approval. Whereas the scripture say that we need to cultivate a horror of this kind of a sin. To recognize that there are unique threats. Just as parents of small children are perpetually terrified when their children are in parking lots because you know it just takes a moment, so we also should cultivate the same kind of terror against sexual immorality.
That doesn’t mean that we despise those who are caught up in this sin. Properly understood it means that we will have deep compassion, recognizing that these people are enslaved, and they don’t see it yet. They need the liberating redemption of the blood of Jesus Christ, just as we do. Our job is to be sent to them to declare the freedom from captivity to sin that is offered to us in Jesus Christ. Cultivate horror of this kind of sin.
I haven’t been a pastor all that long, but the times that I have cared for people in the midst of this. The thing that I’m shocked about every time is how far the ripples go. You can’t imagine how much you have to keep doing to keep dealing with it.
So, evaluate what might train your heart to dismiss sexual immorality. What entertainment do you consume? Is it deadening your horror to this sin? What jokes do you laugh at? What thoughts do you allow to pass through your mind and indwell there without repenting from them, acknowledging that they are indeed sin? We can’t fight this; we can’t debate this we have to just flee from it.
- Lenski writes, “Paul writes flee for another reason. He recognizes the danger that lie in our sinful flesh. So, he admonishes flee lest the spark ignite the tinder and fire the passion and lust and you be scorched in the flames.”
We have to be honest and sober minded about this to recognize that it’s not just that we are weak. It is that even among believers the corruption of original sin that inclines us to even desire and be attracted toward various kinds of sin still remains.
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter six, paragraph five says that this corruption nature during this life remains in those that are regenerated. Although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified yet both itself and all its motions thereof are truly and properly sin.
Sexual immorality is not only horrifying, it is also something that our sinful flesh finds enticing and alluring. Which is another reason that we have to stay so far away from it. You are not only weak and broken, there is sin dwelling in you trying to regain mastery over you that you gave to Jesus Christ when you came to him in faith. Flee sexual immorality.
Believe the gospel. This gives us such a unique vision of what the gospel declares to us. You were created to be a dwelling place, a temple, for the Holy Spirit. God stopped at nothing for his Holy Spirit to indwell you again. The Father sent the Son in to the world who died in your place for you sins. The Son willing did this on our behalf empowered as he was by the Holy Spirit in his own life during his own ministry. The Father and the Son together pour out the Holy Spirit on us.
This Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Son or the Spirit of Christ because it’s through the Holy Spirit that we are united to Christ. It’s through Christ that we come to know the Father. The Holy Spirit is our direct engagement of God, the fullness of God. He’s what Paul elsewhere calls the down payment or the deposit of our inheritance.
Through the Holy Spirit we come to experience every person of the Trinity. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote this, “I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three. Nor can I discern the three without being straight away carried back to the one.”
We love and serve one God who exists as three persons. The gospel announces whoever you are and wherever you’ve been the blood of Jesus was a sufficient price for you. It was sufficient to cover your sins. Wherever you have been it was enough to cleanse you and make you white as snow. Believe the gospel. Why wait another day? Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and be united and reconciled back to God through the Holy Spirit and by the work of Jesus Christ who reconciles you to the Father.
- Finally, glorify God in your body. You are mobile temple. You have been set apart to the Lord’s holy purposes anywhere and everywhere you go. Now under the old covenant the holiness of God’s temple was something that had to be protected and walled off from people. That’s why you could only ever go to the outer courts and never to the inner sanctuary. The holiness was something that could be so easily polluted, but we have a different degree of holiness.
In the new covenant, wherever Jesus went who was the dwelling place of God on earth, people weren’t defiling him. He was making other people holy. His holiness didn’t have to be protected and walled off from people. Rather the God of God, light of light went into the direct experience and interaction with sinners. He didn’t participate in their sin. He was like us in every respect except without sin. His holiness wasn’t on the defensive. It was on the offensive. It was reaching out to people, calling them into the holiness that we come to gain and experience through him.
That’s our calling too. We are called to have this new covenant offensive sort of holiness. It certainly will be offensive to people, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s on the offense, you don’t have to protect it and wall it off. What you do in your body matters. God gave you a body so that you could be around people where you are living holiness in their midst. People aren’t saved by knowing you, but they are saved when they ask you to give a reason for the hope that is in you and you tell them about the Jesus Christ who died for you and who can make them whole through his death by faith as well.
The resurrection is further proof and confirmation your body was created for the Lord and the Lord for the body. Therefore, honor and glorify with your body. Take care of your body, don’t enter into sin. Flee from sexual immorality, guard the purity of your body. On the positive side, everything you do, whether eating or drinking, do all to the glory of God.
Here’s what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV
Your sins will be forgiven, and you will be made righteous by Christ alone. We will all have to give an account for what we have done in the body, whether for good or for evil at the righteous judgement seat of Christ. Therefore beloved, flee from sexual immorality and glorify God in your body.
Pray with me.
Lord, we ask that you give us grace to glorify you in our body. To recognize how important our body is. The interactions we have, the way we use our body, the way we steward our body. Take this great gift that you have given us in our body and use it to draw other people to Jesus by telling them of your work as we await the Holy Spirit to do your drawing work for us. Father, we ask that you would accomplish this and draw sinners to come know and love Jesus Christ. We pray that you would do all of this for Christ’s glory and our good. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.