I Corinthians 6. Sexuality. Pt. II. Of Law-suits and Prostitutes.
Key Notes: Saints as judges. A list of the unrighteous. Enslaved by " anything". Five arguments against illicit sex.
Lawsuits and prostitutes were only some of the embarrassments to the Corinthian church. Neither should have been a problem. But this baby Greek church was not unique. Litigation continues to be a blight on the modern church. And sexuality so drenches our society and tempts believers, that that topic must be given full attention.
6:1–8. Paul brings up the question of lawsuits in the context (chapter 5) of the Church’s responsibility to judge the man who is openly guilty of incest. They were to judge and discipline their own members. Then he finds that the Christians are going to Roman authorities with their grievances and he is upset.
Paul uses the phrase “Do you not know…?” six times in this chapter. He is trying to shake them up.
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” But who are the “saints”?
In the next sentence he answers that it is the saints of Corinth (and by implication believers like us) who will judge the world. And then he cranks up the volume and says they will also judge angels. That is real news. We do not think of our selves in such exalted company. We have no other Biblical references on judging angels and do not know if evil angels are intended.
Jesus said to the apostles “You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Lk.22:28–30; Matt.19:28).
Daniel said “And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him;” “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever and for ever.” (Dan.7:14,18).
John said “Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who have been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God…. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev.20:4)
Zechariah 14:16–21 describes the discipline of the nations that survive to enter the Kingdom.
We understand that the Apostles and martyrs will rule and judge. We do not think we are in their class. Revelation portrays the saints as worshipers. (Rev.7:13-). Paul, on the other hand, is portraying the ordinary believers as empowered and leading—presiding, judging, ruling. What will we be doing when the New World is revealed? More than we can imagine--worshiping and working--both will take on new dimensions. The popular cartoon of a person sitting on a cloud with a halo and harp is a just that—a silly cartoon.
Paul then applies the principle to the Church. Taking a disagreement outside of the Church to be settled by a Roman judge is a disgrace—brother against brother before unbelievers. And sometimes there was fraud involved. Better to suffer loss than to discredit the Lord.
6:9–11 The idea of fraud brings up the fact that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom. Paul says they should not be deceived "(be wanderers") on this point. The unrighteous include:
worshipers of idols
effeminate, passive homosexuals
active male homosexuals
The list upsets many modern readers, especially because sex sin is given special attention and homosexual activities are declared out of bounds for Christians. Is homosexuality genetic and untreatable? The list includes some who became believers: “such were some of you.” The good news is that “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.” (6:11)
Their old sins had been washed away, their guilt acquitted, and their status before God made holy. That is the hope of every generation since.
6:12–20 Having set the barriers, Paul goes on to discuss one kind of sin. Sex sin is mentioned three times in the list. He develops his argument by saying that “all things are lawful for me”. Although the English text has the sentence in quotations, we do not know if the statement is Paul’s or if he is quoting the Corinthians. He will use the same sentence again in ICor.10:23 in connection with food offered to idols. He at once modifies the sentence with “but all things are not helpful” and “but I will not be enslaved by anything” The sentence can be read “all things are in my power but I will not be under the power of anything”.
In this case the “power of anything” is inside our heads, because there are pleasure systems in the brain which set up powerful drives that can drive us to extremes. Sexual situations feed in from sight, smell, sound and touch and can activate these pleasure systems (via endorphins) to the point where nothing else matters and self-control is lost. The extent to which pornography can enslave using only the eyes is awesome. There are other inputs to our brains which have addictive potential, such as drugs and gambling, speed, and even applause. How can we “not be enslaved by anything”?
Then he uses a popular slogan “food for the stomach; the stomach for food”. Another slogan of the time was “the sword for the scabbard; the scabbard for the sword.” The Greeks would argue that we are entitled to use the body for its natural functions without restriction. Paul responds that both food and stomach will be destroyed by God. Sex is not a part of the Christian’s future resurrection body functions. Jesus confirms that in Matt.22:30. The body belongs to God and will be raised by His power. God does not devalue the body but invests in it. Not only did He create it, but He will raise it up and perfect it. The flesh, on the other hand, is the lower nature which will be destroyed and must be restrained and done away with.
His third argument is that in sexual intercourse we become one flesh with another person. (Matt.19:5). As members of Christ’s body, one must not (“God forbid!”) become one flesh with a prostitute. The sexual bonding of husband and wife is God-ordained and sanctified by Him. The man-woman relationship models the Christ-Church relationship (Eph.5:22-). Prostitution destroys the model.
His fourth argument is that sex sin, unlike other sin, is against one’s own body—and we might add—against the other person’s body as well. This seems radical because James says that whoever “fails in one point has become guilty of all” (Jm.2:10) so that it sounds as if one sin is just as bad as another. Before God that is true. But in sex souls are involved. And bonding occurs. Sometimes people die. Life-threatening disease may be transmitted. A new human being may be generated. It is profound and complicated, nothing “like drinking water”—as Masters and Johnson would have you believe.
Some will argue for other sins that are against the body, such as alcoholism. However, alcoholism requires a second step—gross indulgence. That argument would allow us to add many other activities and drugs to the list. Suicide is another suggestion—unthinkable to the early church, as was abortion.
His last argument is that the believer’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit given to us by God. We are bought and paid for. The body belongs to God. The body is to glorify God.
To summarize the arguments against fornication, adultery. prostitution and homosexual activities:
- These sins exclude a person from the Kingdom.
- We have spiritual freedom, but must not allow ourselves to be enslaved.
- Sexual functions will be destroyed. They do not have permanent value, although the body does.
- Our bodies are members of Christ and must not be misused in adultery.
- Sex sin is worse than most other sins because it is a sin against the body.
- The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
From these arguments, we can see that Paul’s intent is to arm the believers against the day of temptation. When we are in the throes of passion, these arguments are not likely to be effective. But they should enable us to think ahead and “Flee fornication.” (6:18 KJV)
This question often comes up: a saved person may relapse and return to the sins of the past. Alcoholism is notorious for relapses. What then? “Once saved, always saved?” The problem of “backsliding “ is a major theme of Hebrews.
Two questions belong to God and not to us, although we cannot help speculating:
- was the person saved in the first place?
- where is a point of no return?
On law suits in the modern world.
In’82 Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote “The courts have been expected to fill the void created by the decline of church, family and neighborhood unity”.
In response to the overwhelming burden of court cases, and mindful of ICor.6, Christians have risen to the challenge. Christian Conciliation Service, Christian Legal Society and others have established arbitration systems and trained arbitrators to do serious legal work. “Religious courts” have met with secular legal approval and support. Arbitration needs the help and support of the churches. (See Websites for articles on Christian arbitration.)
The local church must also learn to deal with its own disputes. Divorces, for example, tend to be ignored by the church but they are failures of spiritual ministry. We have not come to terms with the modern epidemic. Sometimes acrimonious confrontations between Christians are conducted in full view of the secular divorce courts. The disgrace of the divorce is then doubled. The Church must take this task in hand, to promote reconciliation of spouses if possible. Protection of the children and amicable distribution of property, if not healing and restoration, must be done at all costs.