This sermon is number 15 in a series of 46
1 Corinthians - Part 15
"Christian Liberty And The Christian's Purity"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Corinthians 6:12-20
First Corinthians chapter 6 is our study tonight, 1 Corinthians chapter 6 - this is our fifteenth study, and we are beginning our reading in verse 12. We're studying under the title 'Christian Liberty And The Christian's Purity'. Beginning to read at verse 12: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's".
I think you would agree with me when I say that we live in an age that is infatuated with the human body. Millions of pounds are spent by year on diet books and vitamins, fashions, fitness clubs, exercise bikes and other equipment and cosmetics. There's a magnificent concentration on the human body. Day after day we are bombarded through the media with finely tuned bodies and trimmed bodies that are paraded before us - and we are led to believe that that's the way we ought to be, that's what we ought to strive towards. Now, I know that for some of you it's got past that now, you couldn't even strive towards that if you wanted to! But even for the young people, no-one seems to tell us that this parody of beauty and perfection is usually derived from an artist's graphic airbrush, or thousands of pounds of plastic surgery. But there is a fascination with the human body, and it seems that coming along - paired with that - there's also an obsession with sexuality.
Of course, you don't need to look too far to see how our present humankind exploits sexuality for everything from ice cream to the sale of cars in advertisements, to obscene pornography in daily newspapers and tabloids - even to the depths of the type of pornography that is found on the Internet. We live in a sex-mad society, a society that is obsessed and fascinated and infatuated with the physical, with the sensual, with the body. Of course, the old prophet was right when he said: 'There's nothing new under the sun' - that's what Solomon said. But we know that the same was the case, almost 1900 years ago or so, in the apostle Paul's day in the city of Corinth. I know, and you know, if you're honest with yourself, that on a daily basis we are bombarded with the greatest effulgence of filth that we feel, perhaps, humanity has ever known, and we almost could be forgiven for thinking that it is impossible to stay pure, it is impossible to remain a child of God that is uncontaminated by everything that is going on in our society. You may be forgiven for thinking that, but the fact of the matter is: it has been as bad as today, and we could almost say that at some stages in earth's history it has been worse than it is today - I know that's hard for some of us to except, but that's the facts.
The city of Corinth is the case in point. If you want to find out a little bit about that, you can get the tape about our introduction, and we went into great detail about the various evils and vices that went on in this Greek city. But these believers in the church at Corinth had the same dilemma that you and I have: how do we react to all the immorality and promiscuity that is going on around us in our sex-mad and body-mad society? You see, the danger that we can fall into is the danger that the Corinthians fell into, and it is a twofold danger of two extremes. You can either ignore the body totally - in other words, ignore the media, ignore the world around you, shut yourself in a darkened room, never look out of a window again, and try to suppress and deny the appetites that you have within you, the desires, the inclinations, the drives. That's one option, of course the other option is not to ignore but to indulge. That's the other extreme that is very dangerous to fall into, but many are falling into it today - 'You can't win! If you can't beat them, join them! - and the only way to dull this fiery passion within the human breast is to indulge it, satisfy it, quench it'.
Now the Greeks and the Romans believed, philosophically, something different about the body than we do today. They believed that the body was like a prison, it was the tomb of the soul, and true paradise was to get out of your body and sort of ascend into this mystic paradise. They believed that this tomb for the soul really had no value, so this physical body that you're in tonight really was not immoral, it wasn't moral, it was amoral. It didn't matter to God, and it doesn't really matter to men, and eventually one day at the end of the world this body would be destroyed - it wouldn't continue on into the end of the age. Now because they believed this, and because they lived in a body-mad society like ours today, they fell into the two mistakes we've just been talking about. First of all they indulged their bodies - this was a group in Greek philosophy called the hedonists, they believed in hedonism, which simply means that you turn your body over to all the lusts of the flesh that you can possibly get your hands onto. Since it's only the soul that survives, and the body's going to be destroyed, well then you should let the body do what it feels like; and if it feels good, well then you do it. They handed their bodies over to every conceivable lust that you could imagine. Corinth was a city, as we learned in previous studies, that was gripped by hedonism, by this worship and love of pleasure.
Then there was the other extreme, as I've said - the ascetics, or asceticism. We would liken that to monasticism today, monks that lock themselves in rooms and shut out the world, and don't talk, sometimes don't eat, don't use their natural affections and passions. The ascetics believed that the world was so evil, and the body was so evil, had no worth, that you should deny the body the passions and appetites that are natural to it by self-discipline, self-mutilation, and try and curb and suppress and starve the human passions.
Now Paul comes into the church at Corinth, and as you have found out as we've gone through the studies that the philosophies of the Greek city were filtering into the church, they had been delivered from them at conversion, but they were resorting back to them in their humanistic wisdom. So we find in this particular instance that they are imbibing the two philosophies of Corinth. There's a group, and we'll come to this in a later week, who believed it's good not even to touch a woman - don't exercise your human desires, stay single and chaste all your life - and we'll see that Paul said: 'Well, that's maybe the preferred option but there are people who can't handle that, and don't have that as a gift. You can't lay that down for someone that doesn't have chastity as a gift, saying single'. But here tonight we're dealing with the other extreme, and that is that of indulgence, hedonism, where there were actually - imagine it - people in the church of Jesus Christ who were saying: 'Right, the body is not going to be resurrected, the body has no eternal value, the body is not immoral or moral, it is amoral, it means nothing. If these are the desires of the body and they're wanting to pull my soul down, I should just give in to them because only the soul will survive'.
Paul comes into the midst of this mess and he teaches them in this chapter that liberty, true freedom, is found only in Christian purity. True liberty is found only in Christian purity, and it can only happen - not when we give over our body to its passions, senses, lusts and appetites, but when we give our bodies over to God. As Paul told the Romans who had the selfsame philosophy in Romans 12 verse 1: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world'. If we learn anything tonight it's that Paul is urging these indulgent, carnal, fleshly, immoral believers to give their bodies over to God, and that true Christian freedom and liberty is found in Christian purity.
I want to take this slowly so that especially the young people in our gathering understand it, because this is particularly contemporary to you. The first thing that Paul does for us in verse 12 is he outlines a principle, he outlines a principle. Now I believe that this was a statement and a slogan that was very well known all around the church in Corinth, and I believe it was something that Paul had taught them on a previous occasion - verse 12: 'All things are lawful unto me'. You see the Christian gospel proclaims to us that we have been freed from the law, as the hymn says: 'O happy condition, Jesus hath died and there is remission'. Now that simply means that the first five books of the Bible, the Mosaic law, we are no longer chained beneath all the rules and regulations, and we don't live by a list of rules and regulations, but we live by the law of the spirit in Christ Jesus which has set us free from the law of sin and death, the law of Moses. So we don't concentrate on keeping a list of laws and rules and regulations like the Old Testament saints did, and so Paul preached this gospel of grace. You see that's what grace means: not through what we earn, but a free gift of God; not for keeping rules, but given to us in mercy and grace.
But you see, what happened in the church was that these Corinthian carnal believers took up this slogan and they went around and used it as a banner over their heads when they were committing all the types of sin and fleshy indulgences that you can imagine. 'Oh, I can do this', they said, 'because all things are lawful for me. There's no law in Christ, we're free from the law, we're forgiven with grace and therefore we shall sin - and the more we sin, the more grace abounds toward us'. So they took up this true saying and they used it in a false capacity. Now it's important that we understand what it's saying here, because believe it or not there are Christians today in our modern world that are making the same mistake with this statement: 'All things are lawful for me'. What does it mean? Does it mean that I can go out and do anything? That I don't have to obey any laws of God, or even any laws of the land, all things are lawful for me - there's no law against anything for the Christian. That's what they heard Paul say. Now you would know, if you were here last week, that when you look at verse 9 he says: 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God'. So you can rule all them out right away - if you've done any of those things you've broken the law of God, and that can't be what Paul is talking about here, otherwise he's contradicting himself.
So we have to say that this statement: 'All things are lawful unto me', has to be steadied on two legs. Now here's the two legs that you steady them on this evening: the first is this, the ten commandments. You say: 'Oh, the ten commandments have passed away' - well, that's correct, we don't obey the ten commandments as a sense of rules and regulations whereby we come any nearer to God. But I'll tell you what has happened in Christ: we are enabled to live the spiritual reality of the moral law that is enshrined within the ten commandments by the Spirit, as we walk in the Spirit and do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. It's not done through trying, it's done through allowing Christ to live through you, it's a spiritual thing - but nevertheless we are called to do it. We're not out to break the commandments, surely that's not the case.
So you have to keep steady on that leg when you think of this thing that 'all things are lawful for me' - nothing is lawful for the Christian that transgresses any of the moral law of God, I think you would have to accept that, wouldn't you? But then we go into the New Testament and we find that all of the moral law is echoed, except the Sabbath day of course, but in James chapter 4 we have another principle, and it goes like this: 'Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?'. So if you in your travels, when you do certain things that you feel are lawful for you and there's no law against, you gradually become nearer and nearer and nearer the world, you will become a friend of the world - and as a friend of the world you will become an enemy of God, and you can see that could not be lawful for a Christian. You understand that? So somewhere in between these two facts - the Old Testament that's lived through the Spirit by the Christian, and this principle of friendship with the world being enmity toward God - there is a liberty that allows us freedom to do a lot of things, and we would have to say a lot of things that there are no laws against.
Now what are these things? I believe what Paul is talking about here are natural things, the things of life, the natural appetites of the body - he is talking about the body, isn't he? He's talking about things that we like, things that we enjoy. There are some people in our gathering this evening that have a real keen ear to music, and you enjoy music, listening to music. You need to be careful in these days what music you listen to, but nevertheless there's no law in the Bible that says that you can't listen to music - no law there, it's perfectly legitimate to do that. Then there are some people who have a keen eye, and through the eye-gate they like to look at architecture and can appreciate the aesthetics of architecture, they love to look at nature, the birds, the trees, and all sorts of things that God has created - and they appreciate it. Some even take pen to paper, or a brush to paper, and paint them, and take great pleasure in artistry and in creating things and sculpting things, and making things with their hands, and woodwork, and carpentry. You can see that these are natural things. There are some people who like to travel, they like to sight-see, they like to go to other countries and experience other cultures, they like to try and speak other languages and learn from other people. There are some people that like their food - and I can see among you who that is that likes their food tonight, and that's not a crime. It's a crime to indulge these things, it's not a crime to enjoy these things - and who of us doesn't enjoy a big chunk of pavlova or a big steak, you enjoy it!
I think what Paul is talking about here is that we are free, there's a certain amount of liberty in Christ, and freedom where we're allowed to enjoy certain things. There's a lot of things we are free to do in the range of our human nature and our appetites, and let me just say that even among Christendom there are some old wrinkled Pharisees that wouldn't even let you enjoy your pavlova! That's the truth, isn't it? Some of them can't even smile, God help them! Big long face tripping them up everywhere they go! Well that's not the liberty that we have in Christ, and I believe that what Paul is saying here is that the Christian life is a natural life. Now I don't mean in the sense that we are naturally sinful and we naturally indulge things when we're outside of Christ, but what I'm talking about is: as God created us with certain healthy appetites, the Christian life is a life that acknowledges those, and in that sense it's a natural life.
Now here's where the problem enters in Corinth, because these Christians were interpreting this law of liberty as a law of licence. They were using the freedom that they had in these legitimate appetites to indulge their appetites, and they ignored the fact that in the same way as we have some privileges in our Christian faith, we also have some responsibilities. With the privilege of Christian liberty there are some bounds, and we have to acknowledge that - no matter how loudly you shout that you're free and liberated in Christ, you have to acknowledge that there are certain boundaries to Christian freedom. The moral law that we have mentioned, preventing your enjoyment taking you into the world, as James said, and becoming an enemy with God - but the problem in Corinth, and the problem today within the church, is that people put a fullstop at the end of this statement 'All things are lawful unto me' - fullstop, but there's not a fullstop there, there's a comma. He goes on, look what he says: 'but not all things are expedient' - all things are not expedient.
Now if you look at your margin, if you've a good margin Bible you'll see in the margin that that word 'expedient' could also be translated 'profitable'. Now let's first of all take what Paul originally meant, what he first meant in this statement: 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient'. Let me illustrate it to you like this: say I loved art, or I loved golf - and I don't love golf, and I don't love art either! - but say I did, and it was a passion. There was something in me that had a desire to swing a golf club around, or to paint a picture now and again - it's perfectly legitimate, there's nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves. But say, for instance, I indulged that desire so much that every Monday morning and afternoon I was out on the golf course; and then I came to the Bible Reading and I had nothing to say to you. You get to the point there where the indulgence that is perfectly lawful has moved into a realm where it's legitimacy has become licence, and it is preventing me in one of the responsibilities that I have as a child of God. In other words, it has ceased to be profitable to me and it has become unprofitable toward me.
I hope you can see this distinction, I'm trying to go as slowly and as definitely as I can for you to grasp this. Paul is saying that you can't let these things take control of you. You have a nature, yes; and that nature cries out for certain legitimate things, yes: food and drink, and relationships and so on - but you have got to learn to control that nature, not let that nature control you. Do you see where he's going now? Because you don't just have natural passions and appetites, but you have a God-given responsibility. Take mine for instance: I could never take - and I don't want you to start weeping now! - but I could never take up a real sport, I could never take up an in-depth hobby - why? Because my calling from God is to be delved every day in the ministry of the word of God and the ministry of prayer, praying without ceasing, so that I can give the bread of God to the people of God and that they be fed. There's nothing wrong with now and again getting a break and going away somewhere, or kicking a football around for half-an-hour, there's nothing wrong with that - but if we're to take up those things to such an extent that they control us, and move us away from a God-given responsibility, they have ceased to be profitable and have become unprofitable - they're no longer expedient.
Now there's another application of this, and it doesn't just come to your responsibility to yourself, but also your responsibility to your brother, and we may come to this in a later stage. 'Am I my brothers keeper?', was the great question - the answer, spiritually, is 'Yes', to a certain extent you are you brother's keeper. There is what is called in the Scriptures the law of the weaker brother. Let me give you an illustration: one young Christian feels he can take a drink and handle it and never get drunk, and he goes into the pub and into the club and he takes a drink, and he can handle it - but wee Sammy can't handle it, but he doesn't know he can't handle it, he's never had a drink. He follows that Christian into the pub, and he sits down, and he can't handle it, and he gets taken away - now there is an illustration for you! You haven't got responsibilities just to yourselves, but you've responsibilities to your brother. But the whole point that Paul is getting here, and this is the original way that he gave this particular statement 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient' is: you're never to use your liberty to legitimatise your sin! Never!
Liberty is never to be used as an excuse for immorality or impurity. He expands it and he says, if you look at the second half: 'but I will not be brought under the power of anything'. If what my nature loves becomes such a preoccupation and a desire that it begins to bind me and hold me, it has ceased to be profitable. One translation puts it like this: 'All things are within my power, but I will not put myself under the power of any of them', because when you do that here's what happens: you lose your liberty that is in Christ. One Bible scholar put it like this: 'The great fact of the Christian faith is not that it makes a man free to sin, but that it makes a man free not to sin'.
Let me ask you before we go on any further, whether you're a believer or whether you're not a believer, this applies to us all: whose slave are you? Whose slave are you? What is it that's mastering you at this particular time? What particular natural appetite or passion are you giving yourself over to, are you bound by? Paul says: 'I will not be bound by anything - legitimate or illegitimate!'. Do you see what he's saying here? It's not just sinful things, it's things that are not profitable to me as a Christian. Not necessarily things that are sinful in and of themselves, but things that are not spiritually profitable, even legitimate things. Do you know what we've got here? I wish I had time to tease it out, but I don't: we have the principle of sacrifice. I've been talking to some men of God recently, and they have been saying to me how they lament that this principle seems to have become extinct among the church of Jesus Christ, the idea of sacrifice - that you should give up certain legitimate things, not because you have to, not because there's a rule that says you need to, but because you know you want to! You choose eternal things over temporal things, spiritual over material.
Let me give you an illustration: Anthony Norris Groves was one of the early Brethren, and he left a dentist's practice were he was getting thousands and thousands of pounds on the regular basis that was unheard of in those days, and he left to be a pioneer missionary. He had an interest in horticulture, but in his life story - I think it's an excerpt from one of his diaries - he says this: 'I haven't even time to cultivate a flower'. If you were there you might put your arm around him and say: 'Now you've got to slow down here. Anthony, this is too much, and God doesn't expect this of anybody, you're not superhuman'. Well, of course this man had accepted the principle of sacrifice - nobody had told him to do it, maybe God hadn't even told him to do it, but he had a desire within his heart that he should fill every moment to be spent and spend for Christ, and he did it.
This word 'expedient', I want you to look at it. The word 'expedient' comes in our English from a root that we derive the word 'expedition' from, and the actual Greek root isn't a million miles away from that either. 'Expedition', you would know, carries the sense of helping on our way - do you see it? 'Helping on our way'. Paul is saying: 'Everything, anything is lawful for me as a Christian with the liberty of grace that I have, but not everything helps me on my way - especially those things that master me and bind me and control me, rather than me controlling them'. Now you would know, wouldn't you, even if this text wasn't in the Bible, this is what astounds me: with the certain amount of discernment that you have in Christ, it's common sense that there are certain things that take you away from Christ rather than bring you near to Him. Sure anybody with two eyes can see that!
Let me illustrate it for you, this is when the rubber meets the road: you have an opportunity of a job promotion, and the job promotion means a bigger wage, a bigger house, and a bigger company car - but the job promotion also means less fellowship, less time at the meetings, less time to serve the Lord. What do you do? What is happening today is people take the promotion, they don't think about it all, they just take the promotion. There was a day, not so long ago, that men forwent promotions for the house of God. What about overtime? You have to do overtime, and you get a few more pounds for it, and it lines your pocket - and I don't withhold that from you, it's lawful, it's legitimate, perfectly legitimate. But it means that the length of overtime you're doing, you're regularly forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, and you're missing out - what do you do? Do you go for the overtime or do you come to the meeting? Here's another one: we are not what could be called Sabbatarians, but we still believe that on the first day of the week the church meets - but more and more people are choosing to work than to come to the gathering where God's people are met. I'm not talking about doctors and nurses, and necessary employments as those, but I'm talking about people who have a choice! All that communicates to me - maybe I'm too simple - is that you're choosing the physical over the spiritual.
Let me go to the other extreme: you're out every night of the week that God sends you, and every hour of the Lord's Day at meetings, meetings, meetings - serving the Lord so much that you haven't got time for the Lord, or you haven't got time for the family the Lord has given you! You see there's two extremes here: there is the hedonism and there is the asceticism. These things of themselves may be respectable desires like employment and like occupations, but sometimes - I think this is really what Paul is getting at - the more respectable things at times can be the more dangerous, because the stealth of them means we don't see the bite of them! Before we know it they've got us in their grasp, and we're taken.
The problem in Corinth was not so much legitimate things, but they had taken this to an immoral extreme and were doing things that were not only not expedient, but were blatant sin, and they were using their liberty to commit fornication. Now let me say that we've got to say as Christians, there's very few dos and don'ts in the New Testament, but what there is is the law of love that means that you don't need a law about it, you don't need a law about it, because the law of love is meant to be written on your heart - and love tells you that thing is not right or it is right, and Jesus would like you to do it or Jesus wouldn't like you to do it. Do you agree with me? There's no law written down that you can't feed your child on bread and water like the dog, is there, anyone? But you wouldn't do it, because you love them, and you give them the best that you can possibly give to them. What Paul is saying here in verse 12 is: 'Freedom is liberty, but with the limits of edification; those things which bring you forward, bring you nearer to Christ'. Then in the end of verse 12 he's also saying: 'Christian freedom is also within the limits of self-control'. You control things, don't let things control you. Do you see it? These Corinthians were in danger of transgressing their liberty through this misunderstanding.
Here's the second danger they fell into: the danger of desecrating the body. Now we looked in verse 12 at the principle of what Paul was teaching here, but here he tells us of the purpose of the body - verses 13 to 18. Now let me remind you again: the Corinthian view of the body was that the body didn't really matter, and it's epitomised in this statement - it's another slogan that they used in Corinth - in verse 13: 'Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats'. It's a slogan, that's that they were shouting: 'Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats'. In other words, if you're hungry, what do you do? You eat. If you have a sexual drive and urge, what do you do? Well, if you're hungry and you eat, when you have a sexual drive you satisfy it. Well, that's common sense, isn't it? That's rational, that makes sense, there is an obvious parallel there. Paul says: 'No, you're making a mistake'. It's perfectly natural to eat, that's what Paul says, we'll see that he goes on to say it - but you've got to realise, Corinthians, that it's not essential to eat, in eternity that is. It's not essential that meat goes into your belly in eternity, neither is it essential that in time, when you come to eternity, that you've had sexual relationships. When you stand before God that will not matter, in fact that will all be destroyed - that's what Paul says in verse 13: 'God shall destroy both it and then'. God will destroy the belly and the meat, and He will destroy the sexual reproductive system too, it's not needed any longer.
He's trying to bring a bit of perspective to them, that you should not be living for appetites that are not eternal. Food is legitimate, sexual relationships within marriage are legitimate; but you're not to live for food, and you're not to live for sex. God has created both of them, but you need to realise that they're both temporal, and God will destroy both of them and they won't go on into eternity. Many people would be forgiven for thinking that the comparison is right: 'food for the stomach, and the body' - but remember what the Corinthians were saying the body is for, they weren't saying 'the body for sex', they weren't saying 'the body for marriage', they were saying 'the body for fornication', subtle, isn't it? The devil is subtle, and Paul is saying: 'Yes, the belly is for the body', but look what he goes on to say in verse 13 in the middle, 'but the body is for the Lord'. The belly is for the body alright, but the body's for the Lord; and the body has an eternity, and the belly won't - some of you should be shouting 'Praise God' with some of the bellies that you have! But it's talking about the stomach, it will rot in the grave - and to cement this for us, so that we don't misunderstand, Paul brings to them in verse 14: 'the body will continue, your philosophy is wrong'. The stomach won't, the appetites won't, the reproductive system won't, the respiratory system of breathing air and needing it to make blood won't, because you won't need blood - but you'll still have a body!
Verse 14: 'God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power' - and there's a day coming, praise God, when we will be raised again who are in Christ because the body is for the Lord. In that sense, our bodies - this is the difference between the Christian view and the Corinthian view - our bodies are to be instruments to the glory of God. The body is not for fornication, he says, it's not for eating, it's not for the indulging of appetites, but it's to glorify God in some of these legitimate things - but one day it will be for the glory of God, hallelujah, when He bursts us out of the grave and changes us into His own likeness! Wonderful!
Now that sheds a bit of light on it. Whenever people say to me: 'It's my body, I'll wear what I want' - no, that's not the case. You can't wear what you want, ladies. You can't wear a skirt as short as you want, and a top as low as you want - that's not your prerogative. It's not your body, it's the Lord's body. You can go further, verse 15: 'Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?', they are the members of the body of Christ. Verse 19: 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost', the end of verse 19, 'ye are not your own'. Verse 20: 'Ye are bought with a price' - you can't do what you want with your body. Don't be falling into Corinthian indulgence: the body is for the Lord. I think that's wonderful, isn't it? In everything that's going on, we could almost fall into the trap of being brainwashed and indoctrinated to think that the body is for sex, or the body is to be filled with food, or the body is to be dolled up like some kind of dummy in a shop window - the body is for the Lord! It's wonderful. It encourages me, and what a high fulfilment it is to have your body given over to the Lord.
This next thing is even more beautiful, if it possibly could be: 'and the Lord for the body'. Do you see what's going on here? All these Corinthian young men and women are running around with these passions and hormones going over the place, and they've been used with Corinthian prostitution, where they went up to the temple on the Acropolis, and there's a thousand lady prostitutes - and it is normal, nobody bats an eyelid if you go and visit them because it's seen as spiritual worship. They've been brought up this way, and all of a sudden they are converted, and they have to stop it - and some of them can't stop it, and some of them are falling headlong back into the middle of it! But God is saying through the apostle: 'If you give your body over to the Lord, He will control your passions. The Lord is enough for your body, the Lord is enough to control your needs, to suppress your appetites spiritually, and to help you with whatever problem you have' - and I mean that!
I wonder am I talking to someone - let me say that we've all got our weaknesses where this is concerned - but do you believe tonight that if you give your body over to the Lord, He'll take care of it? The body is for the Lord, but remember the Lord is for the body. Sure it's wonderful - all your weaknesses give up to Him. The fact of the matter is that the body can never attain it's true dignity and immortal destiny unless we give our body over to the Lord, and one day we're going to have a body like unto His glorious body. As He said after He was resurrected to the disciples: 'A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have', we will have a body of flesh and bones - but the animating force of our body will not be the flesh, will not even be the soul, but will be the spirit, and we'll have no need of food. We may be able to eat food, just like the Lord did, but we'll have no need to fill any of our appetites. Because He bought us and He saved us, and He raised from the grave Himself, God who raised Christ will raise us.
Now here's the goal of our bodies today, let's go through it quickly, three points. It's as the physical extension of Christ, verse 15: 'Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?'. Just the way you have fingers and toes, and eyes and ears, and you use them for yourself; you as a body are a member of Christ, and God wants to use you. So he says this: 'If you're joining yourself to a harlot, you're effectively - because you're a physical extension of Christ - associating Christ with a harlot'. Now I'm not going into this, because it's awful, and the reason why we know it's awful is Paul says: 'God forbid, perish the thought!'. You have been made one with Christ, and you should go as a child of God who's one with Christ, and make yourself one with a harlot - and by doing so you make Christ, the member of Christ that you are, one with a harlot! The terrible thing is that there are churches in our land that are teaching this, Bishops in the Church of England who are legitimatising cohabitation, homosexuality, and you name whatever sin you want, and they're putting their stamp on it - and God will damn them! God has declared His will and His word.
Verse 16: 'What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh', Genesis quoted, 'But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit' - that is the most intimate relationship that is possible: to be of one spirit, or one mind, with the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure if you were one mind with Him you wouldn't do anything like this, would you? You would do what verse 18 says and flee fornication, just like Joseph did in Potiphar's house when his wife came on to him - what did he do? Did he stand and quote verses to her? He took to his heels and he ran! You couldn't see him for dust! That's what we are to do, and you know it amazes me because James says with regards to the devil: 'Submit yourselves unto God, resist the devil and he will flee from you' - but when it comes to fleshly lusts, the word of God says: 'Flee youthful lusts', flee them! Don't resist them, don't stare them eyeball to eyeball.
Saint Augustine in his unconverted days was a slave to lusts, and when he was converted he said: 'Will I ever be able to keep pure, and keep away from the things of this world?'. He took as his text Romans 13 and 14: 'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh'. He determined that he would never go to that red light district of the city in order to be tempted again to the way of life that he lived, but one day he was forced to go there on business. As he was there all of a sudden his eye glanced a beautiful girl that he had relations with in his unconverted days, and they looked at one another, and it was as if her face illuminated in beauty toward him. She opened her arms and she beckoned him, and she said: 'Austin, Austin, where have you been for so long, we've missed you so' - and he turned around and put his back to her, and he lifted his long philosopher's gown and he started to run! It didn't look too dignified for a doctor of religion or a professor of rhetoric running down the street with a whore running after him, and she called: 'Austin, Austin, why do you run? It is only I!'. He looked back and he exclaimed: 'I run because it is not I, it is not I'.
'It is not I that liveth', Paul says, 'but Christ that liveth in me; and the life I now live, I live not by my own power, or my own effort, or my own suppression of passions and appetites, but I live by the power of the faith of the Son of God who loved me and give Himself for me'. This is serious business because when you commit fornication, and I warn you, you sin against your own body, Paul says in verse 18. Now what does that mean? There's been speculation - 'You sin against your own body'. Well, most sins are done outwardly, aren't they? They're done to other people or to other things, but this sin seems to be done internally, it's done with your own body. People say: 'Well, drunkenness is like that, you put intoxicating liquid into your body and you get drunk, and drugs are like that as well, and there are other sins like that' - but that's not what it means, because Paul says very clearly that this is the only sin like it. It could mean the intimate nature of this sin, that when you commit this intimate sin you can never be intimate exclusively in the same way toward anyone else.
Let me tell you what I believe it means: other sins that are internal are internal by external means, the drink is external, it's put in; the drugs are external, it's put in. But this is a sin that is inflicted on your own body by your own body, where you violate yourself - it's psychological, it's spiritual, it's theological; it's against God, it's against the other party, and it against fornicator's body - and if you don't already know it from reading between the lines tonight: extramarital sex whatsoever is forbidden to the child of God.
Secondly, the danger of desecrating the body involves not only a physical extension of Christ, but a living temple of the Holy Ghost, because that's what you are. You remember in chapter 3 we looked at how the church, the local church, was the temple, the 'naos' of the Holy Spirit. That meant the Holy of Holies, not the external building of the temple of Jerusalem, but that actual part where God dwelt. There were so many shrines in Corinth where these false pagan gods were worshipped through various sexual rites and rituals immorally, that the Corinthians couldn't fail to miss the analogy here, and it's simply this: the Holy Ghost is in you, and you are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and therefore you should be holy! God should be marked with holiness in your temple, the presence of the Spirit is in you, child of God, not when you get the baptism of the Spirit - it was in these old carnal believers, and if they have the gift of the Spirit every child of God has them, I can tell you that. But also they were purchased: 'Ye are not your own', verse 20, 'bought with a price'. 'The precious blood of Jesus', as the hymnwriter said:
'Not my own, but saved by Jesus
Who redeemed me by His blood.
Gladly I accept the message,
I belong to Christ the Lord.
Not my own, my time my talents,
Freely all to Christ I bring
To be used in joyful service,
For the glory of my King'.
He bought you at Calvary for His own purpose. Thirdly, the purpose of life, verse 20, the purpose of your body, the purpose it was bought, the purpose the Holy Ghost was put in it, is that you should glorify God in your body - not through monastic mysticism, but this really encourages me tonight: through a practical personal purity that is possible, that puts the worship of God not just in a spiritual sphere, but in a physical sphere here and now! Why? Because the world doesn't need holiness of buildings, the world needs holiness of bodies, they need to see you as a holy man of God.
We're going to sing our final hymn now, but before we do can I ask you: have you ever been brought to the point of surrendering your body to Jesus? Of putting your body on the altar for Christ? That was asked of the Virgin Mary, and it was a big price because her husband thought she had been double-dealing him and cheating on him, didn't he? Isn't that right? Then the whole town thought it, and they talked about it, and the old bishops of the Church of England are still talking about it! But she took the price of what it meant to use her body, give it over to God whatever the cost. What did Paul say? 'I bear in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus'.
Put your hand up if you've one mark on your body that you suffered for Jesus. Let me say this, we'll not even sing our hymn because I want to say this: if there's somebody here tonight, and you have fallen into this kind of sexual sin, let me say three things. Paul said to the Corinthians: 'Such were some of you, but ye are washed'. Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery: 'Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more'. The Holy Spirit says to you tonight in 1 John 1 verse 9: 'If you confess your sin, he is faithful and just to forgive you your sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness'.
Let us bow our heads: Lord, all of us stand guilty with our mouths dumb when we come before Thy word, and all of us are sinners, and Father we pray for Thy cleansing when we have been contaminated in this filthy world and allowed ourselves to be overtaken in faults and led ourselves into temptation. Forgive me, our Father, but Lord there could be some soul here tonight and they're stuck in this sin - they're maybe a believer, or person that takes the name of Christ who has fallen, they may be an unbeliever who is looking for deliverance or hope - Lord, would You reveal to them that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin. Would they come to that fountain tonight, life-giving and free, and be cleansed from all iniquity? Give them the grace to do it, Lord - it's hard, but it's necessary - for Christ's sake. Amen.
Let me just say if anybody wants to talk to me after the meeting I'll be free and more than willing to speak with you, thank you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifteenth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Christian Liberty And The Christian's Purity" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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