What kind of church? A Pure Church (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

In the 1990’s sitcom  “Goodnight sweetheart”,  Nicholas Lyndhurst stars as a Gary Sparrow who has found a time portal to the 1940s and ends up living a double life between his wife Yvonne in the late 20th century  and Phoebe a barmaid in the blitz.

We can so easily live compartmentalised lives separating out church, private faith, family time, work and personal leisure. One of the things we have been seeing in 1 Corinthians is that we cannot and should not compartmentalise life. The Gospel doesn’t just change our relationship with God but with each other and the world around us.In 1 Cor 6:12-20 we see a specific application of this.  The Christians in Corinth are told to flee sexual immorality -specifically prostitutes.

This leads to the wider application.  The Gospel affects all of life including where and how we seek fulfilment and pleasure.  Faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel is at stake. We cannot separate out our private lives from the church

The Basis for this application

  1. A Right understanding of Christian Freedom (v 12-14)

Paul introduces some slogans. It’s possible that he is quoting back at the church specific things that they have been saying or that were generally known as soundbites in wider society. It is also possible that these are things Paul himself has said but are now being taken out of context by the church and used as an excuse for sin

“All things are permissible”

“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”

These slogans link to good Gospel principles.

–          We have freedom in Christ (grace not legalism)

–          This life is temporary and fleeting in nature (the context of eternity).

However, it looks like these slogans and principles were being excused for sin. If what mattered was their eternal spiritual future, then what they did physically on their own time didn’t really matter and didn’t have consequences. They were saved by grace and their souls would go to be with the Lord when their physical bodies died.

So, Paul makes it clear that although Christians have freedom it is for a purpose and not to be abused. Our freedom is a freedom to do good and seek what is beneficial or useful for others and to God’s glory. It is not a freedom to do what we want selfishly.  Secondly, Paul insists that he will  not be mastered/controlled/dominated by anything.[1]

Then, Paul clarifies that whilst some things including passions and appetites are temporary, ur physical life now is not disconnected from eternity our bodies belong to and are for the service of Christ.  We will be raised

You will note once again the sense of Future Grace affecting the present.

 

  1. A Deeper understanding of our relationship to Christ

Paul asks the Corinthians “Don’t you know…?” three things.

–          You are members of Christ (your body –  a reference to the whole person) (v 15)

–          If you go with a prostitute you unite (one body with her) (v 16)

–          Your body is the temple of the holy Spirit (v 19)

This is about who (and how) you are united with. It’s about partnership, intimacy, submission. What are our life priorities? We belong to Christ and so we are meant to be one with him, sharing his values and priorities. This means submitting to his authority, looking to him for purpose, satisfaction and fulfilment. When someone goes with a prostitute, it means that they look to someone else for those thing. They submit to the prostitute and put themselves under their authority.

Not only that but by using a prostitute for sexual intimacy, they make a parody or substitute for the marriage relationship described in the Bible as becoming “one flesh.”

Paul reminds the Corinthians that we have been redeemed. We belong to God and so we should glorify him. Our bodies and our lives are not our own anymore. We cannot do with them as we please. Our freedom is in Christ.

  1. Applying this to us

A very specific warning about the deadly dangers of sexual sin

The impact of sexual unfaithfulness – physically, emotionally, spiritually –  is huge. That’s why it’s important to guard your hearts and minds. Be accountable to other believers. Find deep joy in Christ alone

Wider -the dangers of compartmentalisation

We are called to worship God, serve Christ and be fully committed to the church. What we often hear by this is.

“How much time, money, energy can you give to church work”

But then what I do with the rest of my time is my own.  A true understanding of salvation means that all of my life belongs to Christ so I will want to glorify Christ

  1. In the day to day choices I make
  2. In my attitude to big political decisions[2]
  3. In my work life
  4. In my family life
  5. Even in my leisure time as I seek pleasure and delight in the things that bring him glory

I will seek to be accountable to God’s people in all those things. This isn’t about authoritarian church leaders making prescriptive decisions for me. It is about praying with others, seeking advice, thinking about how what I do will have an impact on the whole church.

Conclusion

Our title for this section is “A pure church.” Purity is about the absence of pollution or corruption – it’s about what makes something or someone precious, valuable, beautiful

True Christian purity comes not through following a list of legalistic rules but through finding in Christ our sole source of joy, satisfaction, fulfilment, delight.

[1] There’s a word play here on the Greek root for authority “Everything is permitted (authorised) but I will not be mastered (subjected to the authority of).”

[2] When I preached on Sunday 26th June, it was in the light of the EU referendum result and so I took time to enlarge on this specific application. I will try and write up those points as a separate article in the next few days.

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