1. It is my body
One of the clear principles in our society is the general saying goes, I am my own person, I am in control of my own body, and it belongs to me, and I get to do whatever I want with it.
Whether it be same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia (yep pretty much the big controversial issues) is this idea, that it is my body; therefore I get to do whatever I want. For example, lets take abortion; it is my body, I get to determine what I do with it, whether to terminate the baby inside (although of course they just see it as an extension); or to continue in giving the child birth. Or even euthanasia, it is my body, I get to determine how and when I die.
2. A different perspective
But this is where the Christian perspective, and the way that Christians brothers and sisters have been shaped by the Gospel is so radically different.
Lets take a look at the situation in Corinth.
“‘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.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Paul is not saying here that all things are lawful, as sometimes understood. He is actually quoting the Corinthian assumption that, “well I could whatever I want”. Paul lists too reasons why that isn’t the best thinking: not everything is helpful and we are not to be mastered by anything.
But he continues:
“‘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.” 1 Corinthians 6:13
Here Paul is challenging the Corinthians, in why we were made. We were not made simply as objects; whether it be for the fantasy of men or women; but rather for the Lord. This is significant, because it means that the purpose of your body is to bring glory to God.
3. The two become one flesh – an illustration from marriage
So Paul continues, expanding on this…
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 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! 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.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
1 Corinthians 6:14-17
In fact Paul applies the very things he talks about in the following chapter, which helps to understand the significance of this union of Christ, to singleness & marriage:
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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. 1 Corinthians 7:1-4
It is interesting that often that verse 1 of chapter 7 is often misunderstood. Here, Paul is certainly not saying that men should be celibate and never marry (although later in the same chapter, he gives good reasons for singleness). Instead he is saying is that one of the ways that God helps us, is that the place of marriage is his good way, for a man and a woman to properly express sexual attractions for each other, as he intended in creation.
In verses 3-4, he describes how the husband’s body “belongs” to his wife, and how the wife’s body “belongs” to his husband, in the right context of marriage, for the right and appropriate expression of sexual attractions and desires; rather than in sexual immorality, especially marital unfaithfulness or prostitution.
The link between the example of marriage and the reality in Christ which should drive our thinking about our bodies, is completed, when Paul, in chapter 6, verse 17; alludes to Genesis 2:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2:24
Paul starts with a principle from creation in verse 13; but then extends in verses 14-15, the connection between God’s purpose in creation, to redemption, in being united to Christ. The New Testament repeats this idea of us being in the body of Christ and one with Christ, for example (and there are countless other passages in the New Testament):
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
and also to understand the concept of union and “oneness”:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21
4. Christ’s body was broken for you
So in the same way, that a husband unites with his wife, and seeks to honour her; and her honour him; is the same way that we are united to Christ.
I recall the words of the Anglican prayer book at communion (Lord’s Supper 1)
“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you, keep your body and soul for everlasting life. Take and eat this, remembering that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving. Amen.” and
“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you, keep your body and soul for everlasting life. Take and eat this, remembering that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving. Amen.”
But also in chapter 11, Paul talks about unity in the church body in terms of participation in the Lord’s supper, and in verse 24, similarly quotes the words of Jesus:
“…and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” 1 Corinthians 11:24
And there are countless other passages in the New Testament, demonstrate that Christ lays down his life for his bride, in reflection of this marriage.
Paul wishes to remind us of this, that we were purchased, and hence in the same manner that Christ’s body was beaten and broken for us, in the most unusual sense bringing glory and honour to us, in dying and rising again for us (again there is much great things to say here); that our bodies are also meant for the Lord and his service.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 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 honour God with your bodies.”
1 Corinthians 6:18-21
Directly, you can see it can apply to our individual bodies, and the purchasing of individual souls by the blood of Jesus, and being united to Christ. The logic flow is that you have been purchased, and your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and so it is holy, set apart, and so there is a call to honour your bodies for what they really are.
“…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.” 1 Corinthians 6:11b
But even more strongly, beyond individual bodies, is the collective body of the church,
Especially if you recall Ephesians 2 from earlier as well), in the sense that the Spirit dwells in us, joining us together and united us together as one body; a body that is meant for the Lord and his service, something which Paul writes about later in chapter 12.
5. Specific Applications
So what does it look like to honour God with our bodies, both individually and as a church
Flee from sexual immorality
- Well firstly there is a command to flee from sexual immorality. Flee from it because it dishonours the church, and Christ. In fact the whole reason Paul is addressing this issue is because of in chapter 5, there is a strong case of sexual immorality that is public, even celebrated within the church, especially the leadership.
- This means that as a church, whether we are married or single; we need to be conforming to what God says about sexuality, and not what we think he says.
- Our desire, whether marriage or single, is not to play around with temptation either, to see how close we can get before crossing over, rather we should be running away and instead closer and closer, to Christ.
Viewing your brothers and sisters correctly
- Paul writes to Timothy to:
“Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1b-2
- We need to remember that just as we are temples of the Holy Spirit; and so are our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That means we need to see them in the same way, we should be seeing ourselves, that is as washed, sanctified and holy dwelling places for God’s spirit. But this only makes sense to think in this way; if we remember that already as brothers and sisters, we are united in Christ as one body.
- It is out of love, that we wish to view members of the opposite sex, not as simply tools or objects for our own sexual gratification, even if it is one’s spouse; but as someone firstly made in God’s image, and secondly in the case of a Christian, as someone who, like you, whose every fibre of their being is not for you and your pleasures, but for Christ. (And likewise members of the same-sex should be viewed in a similar way, as those made in God’s image too).
- Often I think that as a result this should challenge in how we relate to people of the opposite sex, particularly when it comes to dating and marriage; that the goal of marriage is to reflect Christ’s likeness and is one way, in which men and women together participate in the creation covenant of filling the earth and subduing it; rather than simply for gratification or fulfilment.
- While Paul focuses in 1 Corinthians 6, on the issues of sexual immorality, the ideas and principles, and the understanding of who we are because of creation, and because of Christ, should shape our understanding on larger issues too.
- This means that our thinking needs to be reformed on this. Our bodies are not just one part devoted to the Lord; but every. Our hands, our feet, our eyes, ears and mouth; all as Paul says “not our own” but for Christ and his service. In fact it was thinking of this broader application of 1 Corinthians 6, other than just simply relationships, that made me think to write all this.
- We need to remember who we are in Christ: holy, set apart for his noble purposes and cleansed from unrighteousness; and this all because of his grace and kindness shown to us in Christ giving himself up for us.
It is therefore fitting to conclude with the words of Romans 12, where in light of all God has done, to offer ourselves up to God fully for his will in worship; to reflect who we are in him…
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:1-2