“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. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away 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. 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.” (1 Corinthians 6:12–20, NASB95)
Apparently, there were some in the church at Corinth who thought or at least chose to live as if their being forgiven of their sins meant that they were then free to live in those sins and indulge their fleshly desires. In these verses Paul confronts that idea head on. He did so by first returning to a foundational principle of freedom properly applied. This is not a declaration that he was not responsible to live according to the laws set in place by those in authority over him, nor was it a declaration that he was free to ignore the statutes and ordinances of God. Rather, it was a clear declaration that neither obeying nor disobeying was going to save him but having been saved he was now called to live according to his new identity and not the things that may have marked him in the past.
In addressing this, he spoke to the issues of food and sex which are both good things. They were both designed by God and given to man for a good purpose. But man has abused that purpose and severely distorted what God intended for good. God made His good intent clear from the very beginning of the Bible, as we see in Genesis chapter 1: “God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:28–31, NASB95)
There it is. The two subjects that Paul went to in this response to the Corinthian church abuse are found in God’s summary statement of creation on day six that He declared was “very good.” But of course, we know that Adam and Eve sinned and were removed from the garden and subsequently everything was then stained indelibly with sin. But let us not lose sight that food and sex were given to us by God and in their best form were included in His “very good.” Yet, man has turned what was meant for good and has become a slave to it for destruction. It was to this slavery that Paul 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.” He wrote to them of a standard that went beyond legitimacy and desire to that of what was right and in its proper place. He recognized his freedom in Christ, but he also knew that this freedom could easily become slavery if not properly controlled. He was committed to not letting even these most basic things have mastery over his life, and this was his charge to a people who had fallen into that trap.
First, he went to food as out most obvious necessity. After all, if we don’t eat we starve and we die. But on the other hand, if we abuse that eating we also die. In the culture of the day and consistent with the cults that were present, food and sex orgies often went hand in hand. These were times of totally letting go of morality and pursuing whatever pleasure was present before them with the preference being all of the above. This is the background of these believers and this is surely some of what influenced their interactions even in the church.
When it comes to food there are many things that I could easily binge on and go after. However, in 2005 I was told by my doctor that I have diabetes. What followed was a process of retraining myself not only in eating but how I thought about eating. My body was at war with my habits, and I had to get serious about which one I wanted to protect. I have come a long way and there are days that the candy and the chips are more prevalent, but overall a process of taking control rather than letting my diet control has proven to be a very good move. It is amazing how strong cravings can be, and sometimes we need to stay completely away. Other times we are enabled to moderate them knowing that properly controlled we wind up having a much greater freedom than when we were slaves to the demands of our minds and our bodies.
One day our bodies will be stuck in the ground (if Christ doesn’t return first), and food will no longer be needed. It is a temporary good given us by God to not only sustain our bodies but to also enjoy the flavor along the way. God will do away with stomachs and it seems that he will also do away with food. I don’t pretend to know what this looks like in eternity, but I do know that when I leave this body the tie that this body has with food will once and for all be broken, and I will be set free to enjoy God’s perfect plan in His presence.
Next Paul went after sex. With food it doesn’t seem like eating or not eating and even how we eat is really in its essence a morality issue, but sex is. In Genesis 1:27 and 28 we read, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:27–28, NASB95) Then in Genesis 2:18; 21-25 He added, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”” (Genesis 2:18, NASB95) … “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:21–25, NASB95)
God made man. Male and female He made them. He also made them to come together as one man and one woman in the lifetime oneness relationship of marriage with the purpose in part of being fruitful and multiplying. And this part does not come without sex or as Paul said “join[ing] together. Though sex is a significant part of marriage, it is and always has been about more than sex. It is a oneness relationship where the husband and wife are made to be suitable for each other to walk side by side with each other through life. And, not getting into the fact that some don’t marry and some who do never have children either by choice, infertility or some other reason, this was and remains God’s design for man and woman as male and female, husband and wife.
I know that our culture is fighting this and that laws are even being changed in some places where you cannot speak or write openly a different opinion than that of the culture. This issue has even surfaced in the church where people have stepped away from the authority of God’s Word. But, this is God’s design declared by Him in His Word. It was established at creation and reaffirmed by Christ. It is not something that God intended to morph or change. It is the same from beginning to end, and its instruction is wide swept throughout Scripture. And, I choose to accept His Word to be fully inspired by Him as truthful, accurate, and dependable. Peter spoke very strongly to this issue. “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20–21, NASB95)
From that position, Paul declared that anyone who goes against this and specifically here joins himself (speaking to men) to a prostitute violates the relationship that we also have of being united in Christ. Being united as a husband or wife properly in the marriage relationship and simultaneously with Christ are not incompatible. This is God’s design. But bringing anyone else into that relationship not only violates the human plain of relationship but it also violates the vertical with our Lord. We in essence take these bodies which are temples of His Spirit and we join them with the spirit of one who is not properly ours. To this Paul wrote that everything else we do we commit outside the body, but when we engage in sex in conflict with God’s design we bring a oneness with that outsider into the same body as our oneness with Christ. And to this Paul says, “May it never be!”
When we trusted Christ for our salvation we became new creations in Him. His Spirit became a permanent resident in us, and we are to live according to what is right before Him. Knowing this, we do sin and we do have forgiveness. These passages are not given to beat us up, but to bring us to a point of thinking soberly about how we might be living and to turn from those things toward living right with our Lord who purchased us with His body. “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.”