Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | February 4, 2009

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Jesus Raises the Bar

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20: 12 “Everything is permissible for me”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”-but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”-but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The police captain informs the bar’s owner that he’s shutting the place down.  The owner asks, “Why?”  And the captain says, “I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling is going on here!”  Moments later a waiter gives the captain some money, saying, “Here are your winnings.”  “Thank you,” the captain replies, and walks away.  You might recognize that scene from Casablanca.  You might also recognize it as hypocrisy.

It’s a scene that plays out in our own lives.  We see TV husbands and wives no longer sleeping in twin beds, and sometimes not just with each other.  We see reality TV promoting promiscuous sex.  We see commercials not just selling condoms and sexual enhancement drugs, but also selling sex toys to help women pleasure themselves.  We see entire programs and channels devoted to alternative lifestyles – homosexuality, lesbianism, and transsexuality.  We see nudity, not just on movies, but on TV shows, and no longer only after 10 pm.  We see pornography going from seedy theatres, to adult movie stores, to your neighborhood Blockbuster, to pay-per-view, to one-click away on the Internet.  We hear sex in our kids’ music and see it in their clothes.  We hear statistics suggesting that most people have pre-marital sex.  We discover that simply watching TV increases our daughters’ chances of having pre-marital sex.  We find that our free-love society has murdered 50,000,000 babies.  And we’re shocked, shocked to see how low the perversion bar is!

But where’s the waiter handing us our winnings?  How many of our children are conceived out of wedlock?  How many adulteries are in our past?  How many “it just went too fars” could we talk about?  How many lewd and lascivious shows are on our TV screens and in our movie collections?  How many “men’s” magazines are tucked away in our homes, even so innocently packaged as “swimsuit” issues?  What CDs and clothes have we bought for kids and grandkids?  How many sons and daughters have we tolerated living together outside of marriage?  How many of us have lived together without benefit of marriage as if it’s an option?  How many crude jokes do we make?  How many innocent waitresses and passers-by do we ogle?  How have we actively worked to lower the bar?  How have we been like the Corinthians?

Corinth and America have a lot in common.  Sex was everywhere.  Corinth even had religious temples where “worship” was having sex with a temple worker.  Things were so bad in Corinth that they got their own verb.  “Corinthianizing” meant engaging in sinful sexual activity.  And, as sinners do, the Corinthians tried to defend their behavior.  “Everything is permissible!” they cried out.  “It’s my body!  It’s my life!”  Sound familiar?

It’s a common American refrain, “I’M FREE!”  It’s common for Lutherans too.  We know that Jesus freed us from Old Testament laws and rules.  But like little children, we go too far, “All things are free.”  Except they aren’t.  God hasn’t erased His moral law, the standards for God-pleasing living implanted in everybody’s heart.  Read your Bible.  Every listing of grievous sins, from Jesus’ words in Mark 7 to Revelation’s concluding words, gives sexual sins prominence, from adultery, immorality, and promiscuity, to homosexuality and orgies.  Jesus didn’t erase Law.  He fulfilled it.  And He expects Christians to do the same.

This Corinthian attitude runs rampant among us.  Freed by Christ, we think we’re free to do whatever we want.  But this isn’t even true in America, the land of the free.  Can you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre?  No.  As one Supreme Court justice noted, your freedom ends where your neighbor’s nose begins.  We aren’t ever free to do whatever we want whenever we want.  Paul agrees when he writes, Shall I go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  I’m dead to sin, how can I live in it any longer.

I can’t argue for sexual license based on freedom, but there are other arguments.  The Corinthians offered one, Food for the stomach, the stomach for food. In other words, “Food exists to fill my belly and my belly exists to be filled with food.  Like sex!  It’s just a natural process that two human beings engage in, no more, no less.”  Except it’s not.  Food may be a means to an end – nutrition and energy – but sex is not.  Sex is God’s gift, as He makes clear when He instituted marriage in Genesis, as He reveals in Song of Songs, and later in 1 Corinthians.  Sex is God’s gift to marriage; the perfect expression of the one-fleshness of marriage.  Sex isn’t just a natural bodily function related to a body that’s my own to do with as I please like an animal.  The body belongs not to us, but the Lord.  The body is the Holy Spirit’s temple.  Man’s body, then, is sacred.  We aren’t materialists who see only flesh and bones.  We have a deep spiritual nature.  Yet we aren’t Platonic either.  We don’t view bodies as necessary evils with better realities somewhere on the ethereal plain.  My body, here and now, is dedicated to the Lord.  And the Lord Himself is dedicated to our body.

And not just dedicated to our bodies, but dwelling in them.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? We are one-flesh with Christ.  Think about that.  Sexual relationships make the participants one-flesh.  This is the most intimate form of connection God allows human beings to have.  And He says that this oneness pictures the one-flesh relationship He creates between us and Christ.  Is it any wonder that Scripture continually calls unfaithfulness to Jesus adultery and that Jesus lists adultery as a marriage-breaking behavior?  Because you can’t be one-flesh with more than one person!

Thus Paul makes “a federal case” out of this.  On the one hand, sexual immorality is no more damning than idolatry, theft, murder, breaking the Sabbath, or dishonoring Mom and Dad.  On the other hand, with sexual sins the body itself is the instrument of sin, a public sin against yourself.  Consider the consequences of one-fleshing yourself sinfully:  lost reputation, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, self-loathing, a feeling of violation, whether by rape, sodomy, or other perversions, the curse and stigma of one marked, like Hester Prynne with a scarlet letter.  Sinful sex drags your body down into dissolution.  When you see prostitutes or sex workers in real life are they ever as glamorous as TV makes them?

And again, remember Paul’s point: these things destroy your own body and your body is the Temple of Christ, united with Him.  Your body is the Lord’s and you willfully violate it, drag it down, make it a product for sale, degrade it and destroy it.  This act breaks the mystical union between you and Christ just as much as adultery breaks the bond between a husband and a wife!  It’s a rape of the body of Christ!

Just as we loath the sexual criminals in our society and find a special place and way to punish pedophiles and child-rapists, we must loath violating the body of Christ in any way, legal or not.  And we do.  We loath all these things – until we’re the adulterer, or it’s our child who’s homosexual, or our grandchildren living together outside of marriage.  Then suddenly we find freedom, or declare it something natural and beautiful that just can’t be trodden upon.  But we must loath them, for we must see what they are – rapes of Christ’ body, misusing a body that doesn’t belong to us, a body not our own.  You were bought at a price.

Finally, the glorious gospel!  Get me out of this red-light district, this disgusting, hate-filled perversion!  And Christ does:  You were bought at a price! The price?  The perfect, holy, righteous body of God Himself – Jesus Christ.  He who dwells in you dwelt with you and died for you.  And He did this because God is not disinterested in flesh and blood bodies.  He willed from eternity that His Son, for us and for our salvation, would become fully human, would die, and that same human body would also rise.  And He wishes to raise our human bodies also from the dust of death and have those bodies reign with Him in eternity.  God’s not just in the soul business.  He’s in the body and soul business.  He created flesh and gave it to Adam and Eve.  And when they corrupted that flesh (and the soul within), He willed to do what it took to redeem those bodies and souls and bring them back to Paradise.  He willed that the perfect and spotless body of His Son be the redeeming price.  What we corrupted, He bought back.  No sexual sin touched the flesh of Christ.  Not a stain marked His soul.  For me.  Because Christ dedicated Himself in marriage to us, He decreed that He desired to be one-flesh with us, that we would be one body, the body of Christ, without stain, wrinkle, or blemish.  What an earthly marriage can only imperfectly picture, Christ pictures perfectly, offering the perfect husbandly love by dying for us, offering the perfect wifely submission, submitting to His Father’s will.  And then it’s reunion time.  By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.

Jesus raises the bar back where it belongs, for He raised us up from death, raised us up from depravity, and made Himself one-flesh with us.  The bar is high.  Set so purposely by Christ.  Alone I cannot meet it.  But with a body cleansed by Christ, washed clean by Christ, nourished on His perfect food, my body becomes my living sacrifice to Christ, my way to honor my God.  And so flee.  Flee from that which the world tells you!  Flee to Christ!  Let His body, destroyed by your sins, yet renewed in glory, be your Temple, your safe place, your refuge.  You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Christ’s price.  He bought you.  Amen.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.


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