INDIFFERENCE TO SEXUAL PURITY IS A PAGAN ATTITUDE
Like the other Gentiles, the Corinthians regarded sexual immorality as a “thing indifferent,” neither right nor wrong in itself. But in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul rejects this point of view. Anticipating and forestalling that their excuse would be, “All indifferent things are lawful for us now that we are Christians!” Paul makes several counter-points.
Firstly, in verse 12, he qualifies their major assumption, “All indifferent things are lawful!” by limiting it to “lawful as far as they are beneficial,” i.e., helpful, and, “lawful as long as our sinful desires do not win the mastery over us,” for by the intemperate use of our liberty we can sin even in the use of indifferent things.
Then in verse 13 he also challenges their secondary assumption, that fornication is something indifferent. He says in effect, “Granting that food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, there is a big difference between food and fornication!” It is lawful to eat any kind of food, because God has ordained food to be a natural good. Yet we have to reckon with the fact that God will destroy both food and the stomach, at least as far as its current functions are concerned. So for the sake of our stomach we must not endanger our eternal salvation, or the salvation of others, by eating in a way that causes others to stumble. However, the big difference is that sexual immorality is never lawful. It is simply a sin, and to be avoided.
The body is simply not made for immorality – it is not in any way comparable to how food is ordained for the stomach and vice versa. The body is ordained to be a member of Christ our Lord, who is ordained to be the head, to govern the whole body, so that it would be kept holy. In fact, in the resurrection our bodies will be raised as glorious bodies, just as the body of Christ was raised. Therefore they ought not to be defiled with fornication.
Paul goes on to refer to what should have been an obvious, known fact about marriage: the two become one flesh. The members of Christ are not to be made by fornication the members of a prostitute (verses 15-16). For “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (verse 17). Believers are members of Christ, because they are united to Him by faith, and are one mystical body with Christ – one spiritual body, or one spirit with Christ.
Paul then provides an exhortation. “Flee fornication!” (verse 18). Returning to his argument, he draws a comparison with other sins. Other sins misuse something or other that is external to the body, but sexual immorality abuses its own body, and for that matter dishonours the body more than any other sin (verse 18).
Especially considering that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, they ought not to be polluted with sexual immorality. Additionally, believers are not their own – they have been purchased with the blood of Christ. They must therefore take heed that they do not defile themselves with immorality, but rather by a holy way of life both in body and soul they should endeavour to glorify God their Redeemer, whose they are.