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Sinning Against Our Bodies:(I Corinthians 6:12-20)

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.


Introduction: Defining Sexual Immorality

On the website we get this interesting story. It tells us:

A pagan artisan once manufactured a goblet in the bottom of which there was fixed the model of a serpent. Coiled for the cruel spring, a pair of burning eyes in its head, its fangs ready to strike, it lay beneath the ruby wine. The cup was of gold, and chastely wrought without. Never did the thirsty man who lifted the cup to quench his thirst and quaff the delicious draught suspect what lay below, till, as he reached the dregs, that dreadful head rose and gleamed with terror and menace before his eyes. It is not when you look on the brimming cup of temptation and sin that you see its power to hurt you. It is when the cup is empty that the serpent of remorse, guilt, despair, and punishment rises with its ghastly menace upon the astounded soul.

This illustration is quite powerful in that it shows the utter destructiveness of all sin. However, Paul, in I Corinthians 6:12-20 seems to indicate that there is a sin that appears to have a worse impact on the one who commits it because, as he says, it is sinning against our own body, which he tells the believer in Jesus Christ, is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And that devastating sin is the sin of sexual immorality.

Sexual immorality, in Scripture, can be defined as:

"... interpersonal sexual activity that does not conform to God's revealed laws."

It includes such things as:

  1. Adultery: Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.
  2. Fornication: Sexual intercourse between people who are not married and includes adultery.
  3. Homosexuality: Sex between two people of the same sex.
  4. Idolaters: The worshipping of something or someone besides God. It can include worshipping sex. In the ancient cultures, there were religious rituals in which a person had sex with a prostitute to please the gods or get something from them.
  5. Incest: Intimate sexual contact between a child and a close relative.
  6. Lust: An intense or unrestrained sexual desire or craving.
  7. Prostitution: The action or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment.
  8. Rape: The unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or coercion to have sexual intercourse.
  9. Zoophilia: The act of having sex with animals.

We can summarize all of this by saying that sexual immorality is having sexual relations or thoughts with or about someone other than a person who is your husband or wife.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has idolized sex, much as the culture did which surrounded the Corinthian church in the first century. We can see it in our media and in our entertainment. And we can view it in the destruction that has been done to our culture and to our families throughout our society.

We need to see what Paul has to say about this subject in order to keep ourselves away from this destructive sin and to help us to live differently from the world around us that doesn't know the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us begin by looking at how the culture around the Corinthian church saw this sin that Paul was preaching against.

I. Sexual Immorality at Corinth

The ancient city of Corinth became so infamous for their sexuality that there was a term that was coined about them. To "Corinthianize" meant to live a promiscuous life. One writer by the name of Tony Perrottet had this to say about the city:

After landing at the Corinthian docks, sailors would apparently wheeze up the thousand-odd steps to the top of a stunning crag of rock called the Acrocorinth, which offered 360-degree vistas of the sparkling Mediterranean. There they would pass beneath the marble columns of the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of Beauty and Love, within whose incense-filled, candlelit confines 1,000 comely girls supposedly worked around the clock gathering funds for their deity. Since the Renaissance, this idea had gripped antiquarians, who liked to imagine that congress with one of Aphrodite’s servants offered a mystical union with the goddess herself — uninhibited pagans coupling in ecstasy before her statue in the perpetual twilight of the temple.

So, we can see that Paul was battling the culture in which these Corinthian Christians grew up as more and more pagans were being converted to Christ from a sinful lifestyle that had this freewheeling view of sexuality and immorality. Is it no wonder that these believers had to be instructed in God's view of sex and immorality?

We saw this clearly in our study of chapter 5 where the Corinthians were rejoicing in their acceptance of a man who was having sex with his father's wife.

Now let's look at the reasoning of Paul that has caused him to speak out against the sin of immorality within the church. We can see three reasons that Christians should remain sexually pure. They are:

  1. The Body is for the Lord (12-14)
  2. Our Bodies are to be Members of Christ and Not a Harlot (15-18)
  3. The Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (19-20)

Now let's break these down and get a better picture of how we should live.

II. The Body is for the Lord (12-14)

First of all, Paul sees our bodies as not belonging to ourselves, but to the Lord. The truth is that we have always been slaves to something. Before we were saved, the Bible tells us that we were slaves to sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:12-18). Now we belong to a new master. And that is the one true God who bought us by the blood of Jesus Christ.

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It is in Christ that we can truly be free. Not free to sin but free to live a life that is righteous and holy and one that pleases the Lord who bought us. However, the Christians in Corinth had taken that freedom and turned it into a license to sin. Or as Paul said in Galatians, 'an opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13).

The great apostle begins his argument in verses 12-14 by quoting some popular beliefs that were held by the Corinthians. Here is what he said:

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body." Now God has not only raised the Lord but will also raise us up through His power."

While Paul doesn't specifically argue against the slogan that "all things are lawful for me" he argues against it because of what it would do to a person who lives life like this. While it is true that no matter what sins a believer commits, God forgives, it is also true that not all that one does is profitable or beneficial. There is a price to be paid for abusing freedom and grace. And the cost is very high. Sin is always destructive and will always produce loss.

And to be mastered by it brings us into enslavement. Further, sadly, there is nothing more enslaving than sexual sin. According to Chuck Swindoll:

"While it can never be the unbroken pattern of a true believer's life, it can be the recurring habit that saps joy, peace usefulness and brings divine chastening and even church discipline."

The other slogan: "Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food" is true but that doesn't mean that everything one eats will do us good. This was a popular proverb that celebrated that sex was purely biological, just like eating.

This slogan probably came from a popular belief that the body and the physical nature are evil and only the spiritual things of life are good. Since the body is evil, therefore, what one did physically was not preventable and was inconsequential. So, according to some who believed this way, you can do what you like with the physical body without worrying about it.

Paul's answer to this begins with the fact that though food is meant for the body, immorality was not. The body was made for the Lord, to give Him glory.

Further, just as God the Father has raised the Lord Jesus Christ bodily, he will also raise us up as well, through His power. So, our bodies are not meaningless appendages. They have eternal value. And they will one day be glorified like the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

III. Our Bodies Are Members of Christ and Not a Harlot (15-18)

The next reason Paul gives for not engaging in sexual immorality is that our bodies are members of Christ and not a harlot. Here, in verses 15-18, is how he puts it:

"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? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says: 'The two shall become one flesh.' But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body. But the immoral man sins against his own body."

Not only does the individual's body belong to the Lord, but we are all also a part of the Body of Christ, the Church. And that Body is to be holy as Christ is holy. However, when a Christian sexually sins it's like involving Christ with a harlot or prostitute. All sexual sin is a form of harlotry.

And Paul's answer to the thought of taking the members of Christ and making them members of a prostitute is the strongest Greek negative he could apply. He said, in Greek: 'me genoito' or “absolutely not!” You might even say "Perish the thought!"

The apostle supports all of this by appealing to Genesis 2:24 which defines the sexual union between a man and a woman as being 'one flesh.' And when a person is joined to a harlot it is a 'one flesh' experience. Therefore, in a spiritual sense, Christ is joined to a harlot.

Further, Paul goes on to say in verse 18 that this sin is also evil because, unlike other sins, it is a direct sin against one's own body. Many think that this is an illusion to the fact that venereal disease was rampant in the world at that time, as it also is today. And venereal disease can devastate and destroy the body. No other sin has the potential to do this to one's own body as does the sin of sexual immorality.

Even if one isn't concerned about the spiritual aspects of sex outside the marriage bond, they would do well to heed these warnings. However, the Christian needs to be concerned with both the spiritual as well as the physical.

IV. The Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (19-20)

In verses 19-20, the Apostle gives his final reason that the Christian must avoid sexual immorality. Our bodies are literally temples in which the Holy Spirit of God dwells. He says:

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body."

Some manuscripts add "and in your spirit which are God's." The idea is to completely bring God glory with your whole being. This is the supreme purpose of all of creation, including the believer in Christ. Or might we say, especially the believer, because God paid such a high price for us to be His.

The price that God bought us with in order to make us His possession is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. He gave His life in order to redeem us and buy us out of the slave market of sin. Why should we, the redeemed, want to dishonor Him by placing ourselves back into that same disgusting sewer of sin and depravity from which He bought us? Rather we should spend our lives honoring what He did for us by living holy and pure lives that please Him and bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ.


As I thought of ways to summarize this section of Scripture, I thought of the story of a little boy that I read about. I found this illustration on the website It goes like this:

" A little boy worked very hard, and, with a fine piece of wood and some tools, made himself a fine little boat. He was very proud of it and used to go to the lake with the other boys who had their boats also and sail it on the tranquil waters of the lake near his home. One day it drifted away out of sight, carried by a strong breeze and all the lad's efforts to reach it or even follow it with his eye, were unsuccessful. Some days later, as he was going through the busy street where most of the shops were, he saw the boat in a shop window. He went in and claimed it as his lost boat. But in spite of all his claims, and his repeated assertion that he had made it with his own hands, the shop­keeper said, 'If you want it, you must pay for it.' He returned home, counted up his little savings in his money box and found he had just sufficient to meet the cost of the boat. So, he went in and bought it back. 'You're twice mine!' he exclaimed, as he looked thankfully and proudly at his little boat: 'I made you and I've purchased you.'

We, like that boat, were lost in sin. And we were on our way to a Christless eternity in Hell being punished for those sins. But God loved us, had compassion on us, and set us free from that future from which we could never free ourselves.

The question is: "Why should we not live for Him, who died for us?" We belong to Him, and He loves us with an everlasting love. Sexual sin, and all sin, is disgusting to Him and it hurts Him to see us go back into it. Let us not hurt our Savior and our Master. But let us bring Him delight by living a life that is as free from sin as possible. He deserves no less than our whole life. May we continually reflect His glory and His holiness.

© 2022 Jeff Shirley

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