Paul begins the final section of chapter six with a illustration that parallels food and the body. He says that food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food. He doesn’t want us to be deceived in thinking that the body is meant for sexual immorality and sexual immorality for the body. No, Paul shows us the correct purpose for the bodies that God has given us. The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body.
Paul then makes an argument about the negative affect of treating the body as though it were meant for immorality and makes a positive argument for why it is for the Lord and how the body is the Lord’s.
Many in Corinth saw sex as something to be treated casually and even within the church there were those who thought that freedom in Christ meant the freedom to do anything with their bodies, including incest and prostitution. Paul disagrees with this and tries to show why what we do with our bodies has great importance.
Any sexual interaction creates a new unity. Therefore there is no casual sex. This is a myth of our culture that says sex can be “just sex.” It is something more. So to have sex with a prostitute is to join yourself to the prostitute. It is not a casual encounter with no significance and to make it all the worse, Paul reminds us that we are already joined to Christ. We are members of Christ and to engage in this wrong behavior is to take the members of Christ and make them members with a prostitute. We should rather flee this sexual immorality and flee to Christ.
This stems from a low view of the body and of sex. Sex shouldn’t be seen in the same way as food. Ken Bailey’s commentary says this on the topic:
Paul is objecting to the dehumanizing of sex that takes place when it is turned into a form of entertainment and made parallel to food. Paul is rejecting the view that says “I feel hungry–I eat. I feel sexual desire–I engage in sex.”1
No we are made for something more. Our bodies are for the Lord and in Christ we are bound to him, two are made one in spirit. If we throw ourselves into immoral sexual relationships we are pulling ourselves away from unity to Christ and united our bodies, temples of the Spirit, to a prostitute. We are torn apart from the fellowship we find in Jesus.
It is more than a moral argument about what is acceptable in polite society. Paul wants his readers to realize that our bodies are meant for the Lord and they will be raised up with him. Our bodies are meant for the resurrection and what we do to them matters. Christianity is not a religion that pulls away from the body and focuses only on the otherworldly. We believe God created this world and proclaimed it good. Our God even came to us and took on flesh in Jesus Christ. Jesus had a body and our bodies are of great worth and we can’t toss them aside or think what we do with them has no meaning. No, they are meant for the Lord and destined to be raised with him.
Our bodies are given a great task in that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. Where once there was one place where all people went to seek the presence of God, now the one who is found in Christ is the very dwelling place of his Spirit. As a temple, our bodies then are to be places of worship, sacrifice, dedication, praise, offering, and thanksgiving. As a temple, we represent God’s presence where ever we walk.
Sexual immorality draws us away from Christ, harming the unity we have with him. It also misunderstands the purpose of our bodies, giving us a vision of a purpose that is far too small for the Christian. God has given us our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit, to be for the Lord. And we are the Lord’s. We have been purchased at great cost to be Christ’s. The price for you and for me was his death. But that is how much we are loved and prized by God. We are beloved, a cherished possession. So know that we now do in our bodies matters. His sacrifice for us gives our whole selves–bodies and all–great significance. If you and your body are important to God, they should be important to you as well.
The last line says it all so well. Remember, you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Ken Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes. 185. ↩
Shifting his focus back from our response to sin within the body (and how we should not bring these matters for judgment before the unbelievers), Paul now returns to the matter of sin itself. He lists out certain behaviors that, like treating the courts as though they are the highest authority, are inconsistent with the life to which Christ has called us.
Paul has already met head on the issues of divisions, jealousy, and strife in the church. Also, the issue that everyone has reported to him of a man sleeping with his father’s wife has been addressed. Now in chapter six he presents a longer lists of sins.
It comes after a stern warning, “Do not be deceived.” We all have a great ability–great in its scope, not great in benefit–to deceive ourselves. It is an awful power that we have. We are skilled at rationalizing behaviors and thoughts, causing ourselves to believe what we do is right and appropriate. The world and its values can set the tone for what we come to think is right. There are even those in the church, in Paul’s day and in ours, that come along teaching something very different from what we see in Scripture. Paul often in his books is having to counter false teaching and warn them of its presence. So here he warns them not to be deceived and then reminds them of what is unrighteous behavior.
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)
Make no mistake about the type of town Corinth was. Paul indicates the Corinthians took part in this behavior as he follows this line by saying bluntly, “such were some of you.” These would be just the types of behaviors many were familiar with and had taken part in, and now they were likely to be tempted to fall back into old patterns. But also take note that Pauls says, “such were some of you,” indicating that old patterns were broken and healing was manifest in this community. All this because of what we read in the end of verse 11, “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.”
This list is not unlike the sins that Paul lays out in Colossians 3:5,8. In both places the list breaks down into two sections of five. The first five in both places seem to relate to sexual sins, even with idolatry as “idolatrous worship in Corinth involved sacred prostitution with the priestesses of Aphrodite/Venus.” The emphasis on sexual sin, both heterosexual sin and homosexual sin, clearly stems from the problems that are damaging the community of faith in Corinth that have come up in the previous chapter.
In both 1 Corinthians and Colossians the lists continue with another set of five. In 1 Corinthians 6 they are: thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers. This is a list tailored to this church as we have already read of their defrauding each other in the courts–a form of the first and last sins in the list. We haven’t read yet, but will in a later chapter, about their issues surrounding the communion table. In chapter 11 Paul mentions that some are getting drunk at the meal while others go hungry because other greedily take all the food. We can safely assume that a church that is already factious will most likely give way to insults (revilers) when excessive drinking is thrown into the mix. Ken Bailey summarizes how this list is so well-suited for this church:
Behind this list of ten sins lie aspects of three problems in the Corinthian church: stealing and their misuse of the courts, their sexual misconduct, and irregularities at their Eucharistic meals.
Again Paul wants to remind them not of their sins, but of their former sins. He wants them to remember these as their past ways and focus on who has accomplished this work in them. If we are washed, sanctified, and justified, then we can be free from this sin.
Kenneth Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes. 176-77. ↩
In many translations of 1 Corinthians 6 the the first five sins listed appear as four since two items in the list are often combined into one: homosexuality. The Greek reads, oute malakoi and oute arsenokoitai, which refers to two partners in a homosexual relationship. ↩
Paul is upset by what the Corinthians have been doing in bringing their grievances before the secular courts. He mentions that having lawsuits is already a failure, but to then take such cases before unbelievers makes it all the worse.
Why does he say this?
In verses 7-8 he is lifting up the love, sacrifice, and humility that should instead be the character of a Christian community. Paul writes, “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” He wants the body to endure the suffering, but instead it is getting caught up with the ways of the world, wronging and defrauding fellow believers in the courts. Earlier in chapter four Paul wrote, “When reviled we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” This is not the attitude of someone always seeking to prove themselves, to seek retribution, to fight it out before the world in the courts.
These battles in the courts are a public witness and they do not witness to the unity of the church or to the pattern of life that should be based on Christ’s crucifixion. It is to their shame, as Paul says.
After spending so much time in the preceding chapters speaking about the wisdom of God in the cross of Jesus Christ and a wisdom that we have received by the Holy Spirit, Paul is confronted with a church that appeals to the wisdom of the world to determine its verdict. God’s wisdom is greater and he has granted it to his people, so isn’t there even just one person wise enough to settle dispute in the church? Paul then reminds them that the judges of the world are no real authority on these matters, instead the saints are ones who will be given great authority. In Christ we will reign with him and we will judge the world.
Paul then makes his arguments as he moves from the greater to the lesser. If you will judge the world, can’t you then judge a smaller issue? (Not to say that this is trivial in the sense that it doesn’t matter, it is just of lesser significance than judging the world.) If you are to judge angels–creatures that are otherworldly, heavenly–can’t you judge matters of this life?
This is a call for the church to remember its calling. And it is a high calling. The Corinthians need to live into it, to see themselves for what they are and what they are going to be. If they are judges of the world, what does it say if they bring matters of the church before mere human (1 Cor 3:4) courts? If the church has been entrusted with the mysteries and wisdom of God, matters that the rulers did not understand (2:8, 4:1), what is the witness to the world if such wisdom is inadequate to discern issues within the Christian body? Who then is the real authority in the life of the church? If God’s wisdom is to rule in their church, they must change course and stop acting as though the law of the unrighteous is their judge.
In chapter seven Paul is continuing his discussion of sin in the church body, and specifically sexual sin. He isn’t making a simply moralistic argument about what is proper for a Christian community rather it is a theological argument.
Paul doesn’t base the conduct of the church on any passing norms in the culture. For the sake of argument he even acknowledges the church in Corinth’s thought that all things are now lawful for us in Christ. But Paul says that just because something is permissible, that does not mean it is good for the body. Our bodies have a purpose and it is not to satisfy sexual desire. We are not our own, rather we are Christ’s. And we serve his purposes.
Memorizing 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 will serve us well in remembering what we are called to do with the bodies God has blessed us with.
When Paul mentions the Passover he is calling to mind one of the defining events for the Jewish people. The final plague of Exodus was to be the death of the firstborns in Egypt, but God’s people are spared because he has made a provision for them. The blood of the firstborns is replaced by the blood of a lamb. Its blood is smeared on the doors of the homes and death passes over God’s people. Paul now says to the church that Christ is this Passover lamb.
But the Passover calls to mind not only the passing over, but also the final deliverance from Egypt. The people were to prepare themselves for on the same night that Israel is passed over and death comes upon many in that land, there were to leave. They need to be ready to go and go quickly. Exodus 12:11 says this:
In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.
Having your belt fastened is what is at times translated, “gird up your loins.” The idea behind it is be ready for travel. Don’t let your robes hang low and trip you up as you make your escape. Don’t just have your shoes by the door, put them on. Fasten your belt, tie your shoes laces–in double knots, have your car keys in hand and not on the table. Be ready to go immediately.
This hurry is why they eat the unleavened bread. Israel would have no time for their dough to rise. They needed to make haste.
Then as God had told them, it all comes to pass. Cries went up in the night “for there was not a house where someone was not dead.” Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron in the night and commands them to go. He says, ““Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”
There is a great urgency for Egypt to rid itself of such a people that have brought God’s judgment upon them. They fear what may come next. So with such urgency in the land, it was in God’s wisdom that he prepared Israel to make haste. This great exodus was no small undertaking and it would have taken much preparation, and God had guided them through it. Here is what happened, beginning in verse 34 of Exodus 12:
So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
The book of Exodus then recounts the length of time that Israel had spent in Egypt, emphasizing the ending of that time and the beginning of a new day for Israel. Now they are freed. Generations of slavery have come to an end. So, when death pases over the people and Pharaoh finally tells Moses and his people, “Go!”, the only proper response is to leave. God did not bring about such a miraculous deliverance for his own people from the great worldly power of Egypt for them to remain in captivity. Israel’s response to God’s work and Pharaoh’s charge cannot be to linger. When Pharaoh says to leave, they shouldn’t say, “Give me a minute.” They can’t stay a moment longer. They can’t remain in slavery. God makes this point when he tells them to prepare themselves and dress appropriately for they won’t even have time for bread to rise. When God makes the way for his people, they must go. He desires to free them from Egypt and deliver them into a land that had been promised to them.
Paul is calling upon this theme of deliverance in 1 Corinthians. When he mentions that Christ is our Passover lamb he wants you to remember the Passover. The Passover is not only the sparing of Israel, it is the catalyst of their freedom. Likewise, Jesus is our sacrifice, sparing us from the consequence of our sin. He has taken the judgment on himself. But this Passover lamb was not sacrificed so that we can now linger in slavery. The church in Corinth is making a mockery of the sacrifice and is misunderstanding freedom in Christ. The arrogant sinning that is going on is nothing but a return to slavery. Paul wants them to understand and then live into a true freedom in Christ. His sacrifice is what brings us freedom to flee from captivity, leaving behind the chains of sin and the dominion of death.
Knowing that Jesus is our Passover, we ought to make haste to flee from sin and rush into his arms. We experience true freedom in him. We know the life we are intended to live when we are in Christ.
Using our freedom in Christ to return to sin is a return to slavery. Rather, just as Israel prepared itself to march out of Egypt into God’s guidance, we too must prepare ourselves. We are called to rid ourselves of such bondage, casting aside whatever weighs us down and entangles us because we have a race before us that we must run (Hebrews 12:1-2). We must be ready for a march into God’s promised land. We have a kingdom to be stewards of in this fallen world. We have a life of freedom that leads not to death, but to newness of life and life everlasting. So in our continuing work to leave the captivity of sin and live the life of a freed people, captive only to the righteousness of God, let us prepare ourselves as we are instructed in Ephesians 6, keeping in mind the way the Israelites were to prepare themselves on the night of their deliverance:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
When Paul says to cast the man out of the church who is sleeping with his father’s wife, it is important to remember everything that he says, lest we miss his point. He begins in verse four with:
Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
But that is not all. A couple verses later he adds:
When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
This is not punishment for no purpose. Paul instructs the church in a way to enact discipline on this man for two reasons. What we see in the verse quoted above is “so that his spirit may be saved.” It is the difference between a strictly punitive action and a restorative one. Paul wants the church to, by their expulsion of him, restore his soul. If he wants to be part of the body again, he’ll have to turn from this sin. He can’t just go to the more open-minded church around the block in Corinth. This is his fellowship to which he would seek to restored.
The other purpose in casting out this man, a man who has sinned in such a way that even the extremely permissive Roman society would condemn him, is to guard the body of believers. His sin is not harmless. It is like a leaven that makes it way into the whole dough. Paul wants to protect this people who he cares greatly about. He’s already compared himself to a mother and a father in his relationship to them. He knows that if this influence remains it will affect the whole church.
So rather than recommend what may have been a Jewish judgment of incest, stoning, or delivering this man before Roman courts for the Roman law he has broken, Paul instructs the body to do something that may save the man’s spirit on the day of the Lord and will protect the life and witness of the church in Corinth.
When Paul refers to Christ as our Passover Lamb, there is a wealth of Scripture that a Jewish audience would have flooding to mind. But the church, as it is now, is a place of great variety, and those who were familiar would have been expected to bring others along in their understanding. Here are two great passages to help make you more familiar with the Passover and further your understanding of how how Christ is our lamb.
Here is where we learn of God’s instituting of the Passover. God’s people are in slavery in Egypt and God is in the process of bringing plagues upon the land as his means of deliverance. God then gives instructions for how to survive his final judgment on Egypt. It is a way for the Hebrews to be saved as death passes them over and this plague will be the catalyst for their deliverance from bondage.
1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.
7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.
Here in the New Testament in John, John the Baptist is identifying Jesus with the Passover Lamb, proclaiming that Jesus has come to take away our sins.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Take note that here in the very beginning of John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry is already directed to the cross, where he will make the ultimate sacrifice.