[You say]“I have the right to do anything” . . . [I say]—but not everything is beneficial. [You say] “I have the right to do anything”—[I say] but, I will not be mastered by anything. 13You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” [I say] The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
1 Corinthians 6:12–14
The big idea: The resurrection should form the basis of how we think about and treat the body—and not just our own either.
I love words, wordplay, jokes, puns, jingles, catchphrases, and slogans. I am intrigued by the process behind the creation of a good one-liner. I am fascinated by sticky slogans: “You’re in good hands.”; “Just Do It!”; “I’m lovin’ it!”; “Don’t Leave Home Without It!” Slogans surround us. In Paul’s day, ads and figures of speech were common too. In 1 Corinthians 6:12–14 we see three mottos used by a contingent of Corinthian believers. Paul offered a rebuttal to each.
When some said they had the freedom to do anything, Paul said not everything is beneficial. The vices listed in 6:9–11 are likely in view: sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, receiving same-sex acts, giving same-sex acts, stealing, being drunk, being greedy, slandering, and swindling. Anyone is free to do such things, but they are not beneficial. Sin is never beneficial because it is treason against God. It violates others and self. It creates alienation in relationships. Paul, however, says he will not be mastered by anything.
Taking freedom to the extreme enslaves one to it. Drug use is a good example. Years ago, someone close to me was introduced to heroin. One use hooked them. It destroyed their life in so many ways. They lost their children and spent time in both jail and rehab. The freedom to use heroin led to a state of being taken captive by it. All sin functions this way.
The third slogan Paul refuted leads to his main point. Some of the Corinthians were heralding a food-related statement. They were suggesting that, eventually, the body would be destroyed, therefore, what we eat or do to it now, does not matter. For the apostle, however, the body absolutely mattered. The resurrection should form the basis of how we think about and treat the body—and not just our own either. That God raised Jesus’s body proves that. The logic is: (1) God raised Jesus’s body from the dead; therefore, our bodies matter to God; (2) if our bodies matter to God, they should also matter to us; (3) if my body matters to me (because it matters to God), and if God cares about others’ bodies, then I should also care about others’ bodies; (4) this means that I should live in a way that cares for and respects my own body as well as others’ bodies; and (5) how I treat my body in this life is a means of preparing it for the next one. The same principle holds for how I treat others’ bodies (as well as the whole of creation).
This Christian ethic, rooted in the resurrection, sets the standard for how to treat others and ourselves. Sins against the body (ours or others’) are grave sins (see 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 11:27). Thus, killing, slavery, sexual sins, murder, suicide, mistreating the body, obesity, abusing others, exploiting others, etc., are all very serious sins. These sins are, at their core, anti-resurrection because they war against the body.
For Paul, the resurrection functions as the central theological tenet that can unite those in Corinth. All their thinking, feeling, and speaking should flow from belief about the resurrection. If they get this right, they will find unity in the Spirit. Once those in Corinth see everything through the lens of the resurrection, they will see how it relates to their everyday lives. Once they’re at that point, they’ll be able to say of the body, “I’m lovin’ it!”
- Why is treating our bodies and others’ bodies in holy ways so important?
- How might a negative or careless view of the body affect how one lives?
This is an entry from Michael Halcomb’s Bible study, The First Letter to the Corinthians.
If First Corinthians was a show, it might be slotted into the daytime melodrama genre. This letter has it all: fighting, sex, jealousy, divorce, money, and death. Like many of the apostle’s works, First Corinthians reminds us how dysfunctional the early church was. Two thousand years on, the church’s warts show no sign of fading. In some ways, that’s good news. If Paul held out hope for this stunted community, God’s people today are in no less position to receive his transforming and sanctifying grace.
The difference is that we have the opportunity to learn from their moral failures, not to mention their gross misunderstanding of the gospel. But it’s also a cautionary tale—many of the behaviors celebrated within the church today are patterns the founders of our faith ardently opposed. Thus, we’re left to wonder: Can this epistle offer some guidance on such things? Amid the turmoil present in this letter and paralleled in our present world, there is hope. This study will walk us through a vision of what a life of faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, can look like.
- Sunday school classes
- Weeknight small groups
- Individual Bible study
In these pages you’ll:
- Gain an in-depth understanding of the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
- See parallels between the ancient church’s struggles and our modern context
- Appreciate how the saving grace of God in Christ transforms us into his holy people
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