1 Corinthians 6-7
Do you believe there is a connection between your relationship with God and how you view sex? So if you are in a relationship with God, He loves you and you love Him, do you think that relationship should determine how you behave sexually? The people of Corinth didn’t.
They saw no connection. They believed their body and spirit were separate. That means they believed that their spirit could love God, and at the same time, they could do what they wanted with their body. They could have a mistress for pleasure, a prostitute for worship and a wife for legitimate children.
Paul taught the complete opposite. He taught, there is a clear connection between your relationship with God and how you live sexually. I want to read for you the foundation of what Paul wrote. We will talk about it more later, but this one sentence says it all.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ESV 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
As you can imagine, this area of sexual purity was one of the biggest areas where Greek culture clashed with Christianity so Paul had to write a letter to address it. It’s found in 1 Corinthians 6 to 7.
Before we jump into this section, let’s real quickly do a review. Paul starts the church in Corinth. Corinth is so bad, they become a verb: to Corinthianize. That means to be promiscuous, to have no limits or boundaries. So it’s no surprise that this church gives Paul the hardest time. Paul leaves and years later, when he is in Ephesus, it’s reported to him that the church is a mess. So Paul writes them a letter. We call that letter 1 Corinthians. What was a challenge for Paul, becomes a gift to us. We get to read how our relationship with Christ should impact our lives spiritually and practically.
The first issue Paul deals with is divisions in church. After Paul left, other leaders came like Apollos and Peter. The church began arguing over who was better cause significant problems. Paul said, stop it! You have missed the point of God’s grace. It’s not supposed to be used to weigh and measure each other. God’s grace is freedom for you to serve, it’s not to put others down and create divisions.
The second issue was dealing with misunderstanding sin and sexual sin. Remember, in Corinth, it was normal to have sex with prostitutes to worship the idol Aphrodite. So the Christians in Corinth had no boundaries when it came to sex. To add to that, they believed that the body and spirit were split. You could love God with your heart and do whatever you wanted with your body. So Paul has to address their misunderstanding of what it means to be sexually pure.
Let’s read what Paul wrote;
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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. ESV 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul was saying, don’t be deceived, your body and spirit are one. You can’t separate the two. You can’t fully engage sin, have your life characterized and dominated by it, have no repentance over it and inherit the kingdom of heaven. Your body and spirit are connected.
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
Just because something is legally right in Corinth, doesn’t make it spiritually right with God. If you just do whatever feels fun or free you are doing nothing more than fulfilling your desires. You may think you are living in freedom, far from any boundaries, but you are basically in bondage to every selfish desire you have. As a disciple of Christ, nothing [including your desires] should enslave you or have control over you.
Paul gets detailed about sexual desires.
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!
The Greeks thought; a desire is a desire, nothing more, go fulfill it. If you are hungry, you go eat. If you have a desire for sex, go fulfill that desire like you do food; mistress, prostitute, whatever. They would have thought, the desire in me, it was placed there, I am born like this so it’s natural to fulfill every urge I have.
Paul taught, you have to understand your appetite for food and sex are different. Food is temporary. Your body is for you and God and has a soul that lasts. God created sexual appetite, true. But the sin from Adam twisted what God created into immorality. The way God created sex, in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, it was meant to lead to intimacy and purity. Outside of that context, Paul would call it immorality and it can lead to potential consequences. Loss of closeness with God, divorce which can lead to financial loss, pregnancy, guilt, physical or medical harm, estrangement from family or friends, etc.
Paul is making it clear, God is in you, you have to be aware that you don’t bring God into immorality.
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.”
Same verse in the Message Version: 16 There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.
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. ESV
Sex isn’t just physical. If you don’t believe me, then ask every person in this room who has had several sexual partners outside of marriage. Our culture is trying to tell us what the Greeks believed; a desire is just a desire, it’s no more big deal than being hungry and eating. The problem with that; it’s a lie and everyone who has experienced sex outside of marriage will tell you; there is damage done.
Paul says, the reason it’s not just physical is because two become one. Your souls are connected. Remember, this isn’t a simple appetite for food. It’s different. Spiritually, what is in you can be a part of them and them in you. There is no such thing as casual sex, recreational sex or friends with benefits. The mystery of sex is that your souls are tied together.
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.
As a disciple of Christ, you are not your own. God lives in you. If someone wanted to mail God a letter, they would have to send that letter to you. You are God’s address. You are the dwelling place of God. And because of that, we must understand that sexual purity is a big deal. Again, your body and soul are connected. There is a connection between loving God and how you live sexually. As a disciple of Christ, we give up our ‘rights’ to do what we want. We don’t treat our sexual appetite like a food appetite.
So let me ask you, before we move on, do you believe there is a connection between your relationship with God and how you live sexually?
In Chapter 6, Paul confronts the church of Corinth about sex, about the body and soul being connected, and about the mystery of sex. If this letter was read, those hearing it would then ask: when and where and with who can we have sex?
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 in two versions.
[ESV: English Standard Version] 1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
[MSG: Message Version] 1 Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? 2 Certainly – but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. 3 The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. 4 Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. 5 Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting – but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it.
The context of sex, as God created it, is between a man and woman in marriage, for life. It’s to protect and satisfy each other.
Here is the enemy’s greatest strategies against marriage. Ruin sex. If God created sex for marriage, then it should be no surprise that your enemy is coming to ruin sex inside of marriage. It should also not be a surprise that the more godless our culture becomes, immorality [that would be sex outside of marriage] is going to be celebrated and promoted. Every TV show, every movie, will create scenarios that will make marriage look like an old, defeated and a dead tradition. Immorality will seem normal, fun and thrilling. If you view marriage as special and biblical, you might even be viewed as an uneducated simpleton.
So Paul not only gives the context for sex but then gives some explanation because this is all new to the church in Corinth. Sex in marriage is about seeking to satisfy your spouse. It’s not about being lazy, disinterested and calling your spouse gross. Sex in marriage isn’t about being selfish or stubborn or power games by withholding it. To withhold sex from your spouse is to show selfishness and a lack of control. Sex in marriage is about in and out of bed, meaning, it’s about romance and fun. It’s about relationship, serving, intimacy out of bed too.
Chances are, in your marriage, one person is more into it than the other. To the spouse who is less interested, to treat this area as gross and something that isn’t important and you hit the ‘off’ switch, you are doing significant emotional damage to your spouse. That’s why scripture is so clear.
4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
One last thought about sex in marriage. You have an enemy and he is actively working against your sex life in marriage. Please understand this. Sadly, in our churches across the country, it is reported that people get married and think, my job is done. This can lead to sex inside of marriage slowly dying.
In general, guys can think; I got the girl, I don’t have to purse her any more. In general, ladies can think; I got the guy, now he has to earn sex and I will be the one who control it. Hear me, just because you are married doesn’t mean you are living out scripture.
So let me ask you, before we move on, do you believe there is a connection between your relationship with God and how you live sexually?
Scripture says there is a clear connection. In fact, as a disciple of Christ, you were bought with the price of Christ’s crucifixion. You are no longer your own. Your body is no longer your own. Your desires and appetites are real and they need to placed under the authority of Christ.
What if you wrestle with having sex outside of marriage? You are single and want to enjoy sex. You are married and are attracted to someone else. What if you wrestle with homosexuality? You find yourself attracted to the same sex. What if you wrestle with pornography? Maybe you are married and pornography is that sin that seems to control you. What if you are confused sexually? What if you are married and you struggle to have sex inside of marriage? You think it’s gross, you hit the ‘off’ switch.
Please hear me clearlty: God calls us all to sexual purity. All of those appetites are real but as Paul said, nothing should control us.
To begin finding clarity, it begins by understanding that God created sex, it’s good, it’s healthy but in the right context. It was the sin from Adam and Eve that has taken what is good from God and twisted it into immorality. God designed it for intimacy but our culture has taken and treated it like food, like we are nothing more than our urges that need to be fulfilled.
When we understand that, we give our life to Christ and realize, my life is now God’s. I give up my rights of what I want. I now want what God wants because I have been bought by the price of Christ’s crucifixion. I am the resting place of God. And if I struggle to keep sex inside of marriage, I need to remember that nothing should control me but God and I can invite God into that struggle.
It’s key to understand; everything God is asking of me is leading me to spiritual freedom.
So let me ask you, do you believe there is a connection between your relationship with God and how you live sexually?