Husbands and wives, even as Christians, often have issues to deal with, and situations to work through. When Jesus was teaching on the seriousness of the marriage relationship, and the importance of not getting a divorce, the apostlesí comment was, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry" (Matthew 19:10). As complex as the relationship between man and wife is, it is simple compared to the intricacies of the inter-relationships that occur with the local church. So at some point within the interactions of the body of Christ, frictions will occur, saints will be offended, issues will develop, and sometimes general church action must take place. Hence the apostle Paul offers some Spirit-inspired directives for dealing with these situations that have escalated.
- Mourning - Earlier, when the apostle was directly discussing the illicit relationship between a man and his fatherís wife, he stated, "You have become arrogant, and not mourned instead." There is to be sadness when sin is overtaking a saintís life. This "mourning" sets the tone as to how these issues are going to be dealt with, and underscores the intensity of the spiritual battle for the soul of each individual.
- Where to plead - So Ö when serious issues (or what seem to be serious issues) arise between brethren, and they cannot reach a conclusion themselves, to what court do they appeal? "Does any one of you," probes the apostle, "when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?" (I Corinthians 6:1). There might have been a point in American history where some modicum of justice could have been expected from the courts; but in these days of "judicial activism," where judges make totally arbitrary decisions, any semblance of justice in this country has degenerated to the same level as it has been in the rest of the world throughout most of history. So why would saints take issues among themselves to worldly, unrighteous courts?
- Competency of the church - The saints of God sometimes have their view of their position in Christ obscured. Paul points out some items of significance: "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?" (I Corinthians 6:2). Satan is very good at getting the brethren to think too lowly of the church and its leadership. "Do you not know we shall judge angels?" he adds. If the same individuals in the assembly will be judging the world and also judging the fallen angelic beings, "How much more matters of this life?" (I Corinthians 6:3).
- Wise men - Inside the congregation there are those of tested and trusted leadership. Their "wise counsel" is extremely valuable, and their words should be heeded by the brethren. "If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life," is Paulís next reasoned point, "do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?" (I Corinthians 6:4). (Not all brethren are equally competent!) "I say this to your shame," the apostle adds, noting again that the wrong people were rising to positions of influence in Corinth. "Is it so," he further probes, "that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?" (I Corinthians 6:5,6). There was at least one such individual in the congregation, but the wise were being shunted aside by those rushing to be the big fish in that pond.
Modern congregations need to learn from the breakdown in Corinth. "Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you," animadverted the concerned apostle, "that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that your brethren" (I Corinthians 6:7,8). Better for a saint to be defrauded, if it comes to that, rather than having the name of Christ dragged through the courts.
The congregation at Corinth was beset by all kinds of problems. There were those who were "politicking" to maneuver themselves into positions of leadership that they did not deserve. There were those who were incorporating Greek "wisdom" and philosophy into the doctrines being taught by the church. There were rampant immorality, fleshliness, division and fighting. There were brethren who were filing lawsuits against one another in the courts of this world. Satan was having his heyday, and the apostle Paul was once again having to take his stand to "right the ship," and prevent more collateral damage from taking place.
- Fate of the unrighteous - The saint of God is to come out of this world, and live a lifestyle that is in conformity with the doctrines of Christ. While there is sufficient grace to cover any transgression against the Almighty God, there is also a warning that certain behaviors have to come to a stop. The warning here from the inspired apostle is not to be taken lightly: "Or do you not know," he again queries, "that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" (I Corinthians 6:9). This is addressed to the Christians in Corinth; it is not addressed to those who have never been immersed into Christ. It is possible for the saint to lose his healthy fear and respect for God and His holiness. "Do not be deceived," is the cautionary cry. Those once justified by the mercy and grace of God ó if they engage in self-deception, and drift back into worldliness ówill not maintain their standing with Him who died for their sins, who desires that they might live righteous, godly, and holy lives for Him.
- The inherited kingdom - Those who live in their flesh by faith in the Son of God still have to face the challenges of being "in the world, but not of the world." Persecution, torture, and humiliation often face those who have chosen to take up their crosses and follow the Great Leader. While walking the surface of the earth, they are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, having been transferred out of Satanís realm into the kingdom of Godís beloved Son. But there still awaits the "eternal kingdom," wherein those of the times before Christ who were faithful and those who were in the kingdom which came as recorded in Acts chapter two will enter what moderns often call "heaven." Only the righteous will enter; and the warning for the brethren in Corinth is that they must lay aside the deeds of darkness in order to enter or inherit that eternal kingdom.
- Listing the sinners - When people commit their first sin and enter the trap of Satan, the devil becomes their father. They, instead of having the image of the heavenly Father, are part of the fallen race, and act in accordance with the image of the prince of darkness. Hence they are sinners. These who were to be saints ó holy ones ó in Corinth, had possibly lost their new image in Christ, and had gone back to being what they were in the world. "Do not be deceived," is the emphasis, "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9,10). The types of characters are what Paul is using to illustrate what he means by "unrighteous." No type of sexual deviant will be allowed in the heavenly kingdom; only those who, if they are married, have the proper relationship with their spouses. Fornicators, adulterers, "femmy" men, and homosexuals are excluded. That not only includes the outright action, but also those "who indulge the desires of the mind" (Ephesians 2:3). The grasping, greedy, and envious will not enter in ó the thieves, the covetous, the swindlers. Those whose evil thoughts cause them to issue vile comments and destructive names of others will not enter ó the revilers. And the drunks wonít enter in either.
Christians are "new creatures in Christ." The old self is to be laid aside, and the new self is to be put on. Those who refuse to participate with all diligence in this transformation will remain what they were in their former life, and their continuing behavior will send them straight to hell.
You Were Washed
The word of God continually paints the picture of what the new creature in Christ is. Time after time, and in illustration after illustration, teaching after teaching, the Holy Spirit points the sincere believer to the image of Christ in glory, and repeatedly shows him how that image in the saintís faith center translates into high spiritual performance and exemplary behavior. The scripture describes those in Satanís realm as "sinners"; that is who they are, and therefore they act accordingly. The word of God describes those in Christís kingdom as "saints"; and if that is truly what they are, they will act accordingly. Performance is always based on the inner picture; hence God works to transform the inner picture, both by painting the picture and by the transforming power of the Spirit in the inner man.
- "Such were some of you" - The members of the congregation in Corinth came out of all kinds of backgrounds. "Such were some you," is Paulís comment about how they used to be sexually immoral, thieves and covetous, revilers and drunkards. That was their picture: that is how they were.
- "You were washed" - God was wonderfully intelligent in designing immersion in Jesusí name, and all the pictures that feed into it. Water is normally, by His overall design, associated with washing; hence, it is fitting that the washing away of sins should take place in water. And no one knew this better than Paul, who was told by Ananias (sent by the Lord Jesus Himself!), "Arise, and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Herein also, is the sprinkling of the blood of Jesusí sacrifice, cleansing the conscience (Hebrews 10:22), as Peter said, "that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood" (I Peter 1:2). Thus Paul reminded the Corinthian brethren that, regardless of what they were in the past, "you were washed" (I Corinthians 6:11).
- "You were sanctified" - These who were once unrighteous and unholy, God transformed. He can do more than raise up from the stones children to Abraham; stones are neutral. He can take the most abject sinner, and set him apart ó sanctify, or make holy ó for Godís purposes! Once again, the apostle Paul is conscious of this working in his life, telling the churches of Galatia, "He who had set me apart from my motherís womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles" (Galatians 1:15,16). As Paulís setting apart was operative at his immersion, just so it was for the Corinthians: "you were sanctified."
- "You were justified" - Regardless of how far the fallen state of the individual is, God can rescue him. Essentially the charges against him in the courts of heaven are transferred over to Jesus, so that the individual now stands free and clear before his God; he is justified. Paul himself, "foremost" among sinners ópersecutor of the church, blasphemer, and violent aggressor ó was able to be justified by the intercession of Christ, the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. And so it was for the brethren in Corinth: "you were justified."
This washing, sanctification, and justification were "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." This parallels, as expected, Acts 2:38. Immersion in water is "in the name of Jesus Christ," and the "gift of the Holy Spirit" is then granted. Thus it was with the Corinthian brethren, and they are reminded of this. This is where their new image began; this is where the old man of sin was done away with, and the new self was resurrected to walk in newness of life! They needed to be reminded of this picture, so that they might have the performance befitting those sanctified and bearing the name of Jesus the Christ!
The System of Faith Works
Being an adulterer or other sexual pervert was wrong under the Law of Moses. Idolatry was wrong, and likewise punishable by physical death. Stealing, coveting, reviling, drunkenness, and the like had similar condemnation. But did the Law really prevent those things from happening? The record of Israel according to the flesh is that while they may have, to outward appearances, observed the Law, inwardly and under cover they participated in all these sinful and destructive practices. Hence, if the apostle Paul were to try to help the saints at Corinth past these habits and practices by bringing the Law down on them, he would have had the same results as were accomplished under old covenant. Therefore, he will ó after pointing out the consequences of those who engaged in such practices, that they would not enter the kingdom of heaven ó broach the subject their changing by "a new and living way."
- Not all things are profitable - The Christian is set free from the law of sin and of death. Because he is free from the law of condemnation, he is able to move forward without being motivated by guilt; he is free to make progress in his walk with Christ, overcoming sins one at a time. Under the system, styled "the faith of Christ," the way the saint looks at things is different than the way they would have been perceived under "the law of Moses." Under the system of law, the perspective was: "Is this going to condemn me?" or "How close can I get to sinning without its actually being sin?" Under the system of faith, the question is: "Is this going to be beneficial to my forward progress in the gospel, or is this going be a step backward?" The way the apostle Paul put to the church in Corinth was in this fashion: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable" (I Corinthians 6:12). In this way thinking is freed up, and the follower of Christ can start looking at things from a perspective of "positive or negative" rather than being in a constant state of mental paralysis out of fear of doing something wrong.
- Cautionary note - For the Christian, everything needs to be seen the way it is. Where there is sin, it needs to be confessed, and repentance is in order. Part of the purpose of the combination of grace and mercy is to enable the disciple of Christ to face himself objectively. Whereas the ultimate goal of the law was to be a schoolmaster to bring the sinner to Christ, the goal of the gospel is to enable the believer to walk as Christ walked. Hence a system of law is not used on the Christian; the appeal for living a holy life is on a totally different basis. "All things are lawful for me," stated the apostle, "but I will not be mastered by anything." The boundary on participation is not going to be a law-type of limitation; it is going to be an individualized boundary based on whether the saint is the master, or the habit is the master. There is no room for justification or excuses; the saint needs objectively to look and see whether he is in control, or whether he is a slave to a bad habit.
The saints in Corinth were beset by varied and multitudinous sins. The apostle Paul could not help them accomplish real change by coming in and hammering them with the law of Moses; that system did not work in Israel, and would not work in the church. Hence he continues to work with those who are yet "fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers" on a different basis, appealing to them on the basis of their conductís being "profitable." Real change in performance only springs from a real change in thought processes. Thus Paul was going to the root of the problem ó the way they thought ó rather than simply excoriating their performance. This is how the system of faith works, and why the system of law fails!
Temporal Vs Eternal
The intelligent individual is going to invest in that which has positive long term return, and he is going to avoid significant investment in that which has no return at all. The grass may need to be mowed and the snow may need to be shoveled, but there is, for the most part, no return on the investment of time for those necessary but not particularly long-term productive tasks. And thus it is for most of earthly living; the work connected with planting, harvesting, buying, selling, building, marrying, and being given in marriage has no long term benefit other than to sustain the individual while he is in the process of deciding where he is going to spend eternity. The "outer man is decaying," affirmed the apostle Paul, "yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (II Corinthians 4:16). It is obvious, then, to the clearly reasoning mind, that the area to invest in is in things eternal rather than things temporal.
- Priority problem - Under the terms of the new covenant, the goals of the saint are primarily spiritual. The old covenant was a maintenance system, designed to preserve a remnant of faith in the Jewish people until such time as the Christ could come to earth and implement the new covenant. The new covenant is an evangelistic covenant, containing in its teachings and practices the ingredients necessary to prepare Godís people for going into a pagan world and rescuing its woe-begone inhabitants. It makes sense, then, that the new covenant saint ó going everywhere into an often stark world instead of being located in land of milk and honey ó would need to be able to say with Paul, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable." Who knows under what conditions the follower of Christ might be living off the flesh of the pig, dog, or rat? Who knows when he might have to be wearing leather breeches, linen shirt, and woolen coat I one ensemble? The issue here is not whether such food and clothing is lawful, but whether it is profitable. "All things are lawful," was the apostleís added statement, "but I will not be mastered by anything." The mission of the apostle, and by extension, of all Christians, is not to be subverted by pulls of the flesh. "Food is for the stomach," is one aspect Paul uses to illustrate his point, "and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them" (I Corinthians 6:13). Like mowing the lawn or shoveling the snow, the preparation of meals is a necessary but not particularly profitable activity ó gastronomy must never get in the way of the gospel! Food and stomach will both perish in destruction of all things material.
- Destructive priority - Planting, harvesting, milling, and other processing are all necessary in providing the fuel necessary for this piece of machinery called "the body" to function. While any of these aspects can be overemphasized and wrong priorities can be set, they are not wrong in and of themselves. But the individual can place his body into situations that are wrong and unnecessary. "Yet the body is not for immorality," animadverts the apostle, "but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body." The body is not bad or evil; the body is for the Lord! Furthermore, the Lord is for the body; He wants it to be used as a tool for His glorification. Definitely, then, the body is not for immorality!!!!
The problem is perspective. As long as temporal things are the fixations of the mind, then the world and Satan have their opportunity to pull the saint into immorality. The goal of God, therefore, is to help the saint keep his eyes fixed on Jesus who sits on His glorious throne. If the Christian can continue to focus on the things eternal, the things temporal will have no pull power. Then the body will truly be for the Lord!
The leaven of immorality was working its way through the congregation in Corinth. Sexual proclivities have a perniciousness and infectiousness about them; those involved by nature are in the process of recruiting others into the same depravities. Furthermore, the visual and open attractions, as well as the more clandestine subtleties, appeal to the sensual side of the human race, and can serve to pull a Christian off his path. Hence the word of God is strident in its warnings in this area. "Do you not know," Paul had stated a bit earlier in this epistle, "that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" Not only can the individual saint accept the misdirection immorality offers, but the whole congregation can be desensitized into accepting such flagrant violations of the sacred marriage relationship.
- The body is housing - The body is temporary housing for the soul. It is a tent, designed as a temporary location in which the individualís soul and spirit operate and are tested until such time as they exit the carcass. In order for Godís overall plan to continue on earth, the male body is made for war, for work, and for reproduction, while the female body is made for nurturing, for work, and for reproduction. Because there has to be a normal attraction between male and female for all this to transpire, then the forces of darkness have their opportunity to intervene and begin to twist that which is honorable into the one of the most destructive forces in the idea sphere in which human beings live, move, love, and die. But it is important to remember that the body is not the focus; it is just the housing for the inner man. To function, it needs food. "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food," are Paulís reminders, "but God will do away with both of them." He then moves on to the moral areas connected with sex and reproduction. "Yet the body is not for immorality," is his emphasis, "but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). The body is for the Lord! That concept, held and firmly focused on by the mind, will keep a person from immorality.
- Members of Christ - Time on earth is so transitory; a few blinks of the eye, and earthly existence has passed. Why, then, would a supposed disciple of Christ throw away his eternity for some sensual pleasure that itself is fleeting compared to fleeting life on earth? "Now God has not only raised up the Lord," is the apostleís way of bringing eternity in focus, "but will also raise us up through His power" (I Corinthians 6:14). Why jeopardize that proper and wonderful resurrection! "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" Paul further queries. "Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!" (I Corinthians 6:15). This is slapping the face of Him who loved us and released from our sins by His blood ó taking away the actual members of His body and selling them into prostitution!
- Choose your union - Godís design from the beginning was for the sexual union of man and wife to make them "one flesh"; Satan is the one who has gotten into the mix and tempted man into sinning against God and against his spouse. What was intended to be very good ends up being very twisted. "Or do you not know," is the lead in to another of Paulís rhetorical questions, "that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, ĎThe two will become one flesh.í " (I Corinthians 6:16). Is that your union? Or is it this one, "But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (I Corinthians 6:17).
The injunction: "Flee immorality."
The Holy Spirit's Temple
The great event in the future is styled "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb." God thus designed the consummation of marriage as the specific means of communicating the ultimate spiritual intimacy between Jesus and the church. Satan, then, in strategizing his assault on Christ and His bride, works to pervert the bond that makes man and wife one flesh, and promotes every sort of sexuality outside the marriage covenant. It is somewhat understandable for those who are slaves of sin, who lie in the power of the evil one, to be pulled into adultery, fornication, and perversion. But for those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness, and have been transferred into the kingdom of Godís beloved SonÖ No wonder Paul exclaimed, "Shall I take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot!"
- Flee immorality - The Holy Spirit inspired injunction is to "flee immorality." The saint is deceiving himself if he [or she] thinks that he can place himself in "steamy" situations and somehow not get pulled into that vortex. The advice from heaven is, "Run!" "Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body," states the apostle, "but the immoral man sins against his body" (I Corinthians 6:18). A husband is "one flesh" with his wife; a single man is to hold himself in purity to be, if God so wills, joined to his wife in the future. Husband and wife are, in effect, one body. Every other sin that a man commits is thus outside the body, but violation of Godís sexual code is sin against his own body. These habits become ingrained in the body, and defile the relationship of the individual and Christ.
- Body a temple for the Holy Spirit - The saintís union with Christ occurred in his immersion into Christ. "The one who joins himself to the Lord," says Paul, paralleling the spiritual union to Christ with the physical union of a man and his bride, "is one spirit (as contrasted to one flesh) with Him." A Christian who would get sidetracked from that union needs this reminder: "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" (I Corinthians 6:19). The magnificence of the house that Solomon built was not sufficient for the great God of all and over all to dwell in; but He is delighted to make the body of the saint His temple! Forgiveness of sins, accomplished initially at a personís immersion into Christ, is the means by which the vessel is cleaned, so that it is now a fit dwelling place for God in the Spirit. Hence it is that "the Holy Spirit is in you." This indwelling Spirit "you have from God"; He is the gift received at immersion.
- Not your own - The disciple of Christ needs to contemplate that he indeed is a holy one, a saint. He is holy initially because he has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and he is to be holy also in all his behavior (I Peter 1:15). "You are not your own," said Paul. "For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body" (I Corinthians 6:20). The price that was paid to purchase the saint was the precious, precious, precious blood of Jesus ó shed on earth, sprinkled in glory. Why would the saint, valued at such a high price, allow himself to be sold at such a loss for the price of a harlot? The child of God needs to remember the statement: you are not your own, you do not get to do with your life what you (in a fleshly sense) want with it.
The body of the Christian is the temple of the Lord. That body then must be brought under subjection to the will of God so that it shines spiritually for anyone who has eyes to see. Therefore glorify God in your body!