1 Corinthians 6:12-20

A Change in Ownership.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT

autonomy: (aw-ton-uh-mee) – independence or freedom; self-government or the right of self-government

The believers in Corinth needed a slight attitude adjustment, and Paul was more than happy to provide it. It seems that much of their behavior was based on a misguided understanding of their new freedom in Christ. They had reached the conclusion that, since Christ had freed them from sin and provided them with forgiveness, they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. They had even come up with their own taglines or slogans to justify their behavior, such as, “I am allowed to do anything.” The NIV translates that phrase as “Everything is permissible for me.” Their problem was one of autonomy. Rather than understand the fact that they had been purchased out of slavery to sin by God with the death of His Son, they believed they were now free to do as they wished. They were self-governing, independent agents who believed they had every right and freedom to do whatever they wanted.

This would be a common misunderstanding in the early church. Paul addresses it in his letter to the believers in Rome. “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:15-16 NLT). The logic of the Corinthians had led them to some fairly dangerous conclusions. Yes, there were some behaviors that were not addressed or prohibited in Scripture. But even those things we are free to do can end up enslaving us. Another popular maxim among the Christians in Corinth was “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” While this was a true statement, it was not a license for gluttony or dissipation. That same logic had seemingly led the Corinthians to conclude that the body was made for sex, therefore, sexual relationships of all kinds were permissible. Paul confronts them on this issue. “But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:13b NLT). Sex was an everyday reality for the Corinthians. Their city contained the temple of the love goddess, Aphrodite, where more than 1,000 “priestesses” performed sexual acts with those who came to worship. The satisfying of their bodily desires and urges was natural to the Corinthians. Becoming believers had not taken the temptations and urges away. So Paul encourages them to “run from sexual sin!” He reminds them that their bodies no longer belong to them. Christ had died to redeem not only their souls, but their bodies. In fact, the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in their bodies. Just as Jesus had taken on human flesh and lived a holy, sinless life, Paul was encouraging them to allow the Holy Spirit to transform their hearts and their character. He was pleading for them to honor God with their bodies. Christianity is not some kind of ethereal, purely spiritual endeavor, but a holistic, all-encompassing transformation of the entire being. We cannot divorce the body from the soul. In fact, Paul begged the believers in Rome, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:1 NLT). Our bodies belong to God. We have been set apart by God for His use – not just our souls, but our bodies as well.

The constant temptation for all believers is to satisfy our natural desires. Some of these temptations can appear to be quite innocuous. There is nothing inherently wrong with good food, but the desire for it can quickly lead to over-indulgence and gluttony. We are sexual beings, created by God to enjoy the pleasures of the relationship between a man and a woman. But we are not free to satisfy that desire outside God’s preordained bounds of marriage. Freedom is a highly valued, but also highly misunderstood concept today. Everyone wants freedom, but few understand the dangers that come with it. We are free in Christ, but that does not mean we are free to do whatever it is we want. Paul told the believers in Galatia: “For you have been called to live in freedom my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13 NLT). Freedom for the believer is not to be self-centered, but outwardly focused. I have been set free, not so that I can indulge the self, but to serve others. I am free to express love to others, not practice some sad form of narcissism – totally focused on self and our own satisfaction. We are free to live differently. We are free to live selflessly. We are free to live our lives on God’s terms, not our own. Because He bought us out of slavery to sin having paid the high price required with the life of His own Son.

Father, forgive me for my obsession with self. Help me to continue to grow in my understanding that I belong to You. That all of me belongs to You. May my life become less and less about me and my own desires, and more about You and Your will for me. I want my body to be a living, daily sacrifice to You. I want to die to self and live for You. Show me what that looks like. Make it concrete and practical. Don’t let me abuse my freedom by focusing on me. Keep my eyes turned to You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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