The Fifth Sunday After Epiphany February 8, 2009
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
2, 371, 377(1-2, 5-7, 9-10), 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
In Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, who paid the price to buy us back and set us free, dear fellow-redeemed:
You’re going to start a big project at home. You have some of the tools you will need, but not all of them. A neighbor has those missing tools and you arrange to borrow them to complete the project. While you’re in the middle of the project, a tool breaks. Will you be less at ease if it’s one of your tools or one that you borrowed? Chances are that we would all feel a little ill at ease breaking a borrowed tool.
You’ve borrowed someone else’s car and you are in a crash. This is a serious matter either way, but how much worse would it be if someone else owned it. Or, you are supervising someone else’s children and one of theme falls and breaks a bone. It wasn’t your fault, but there would be an added feeling of remorse and disappointment because this happened on your watch.
Each of these examples demonstrates that we, generally, have a heightened sense of care and protection when we are watching over what belongs to someone else.
We are watching over what belongs to someone else with everything that we have. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from our heavenly Father (cf. James 1:17). Everything we have, everything we are, everything that we own are God’s. We are the stewards—the caretakers—of what He gives us. Because we are caretakers of what is His, God desires that we have the same approach as we would have when we borrow something from a friend. We are to guard and keep what He has given to us.
This morning Paul applies the truth of stewardship particularly to our bodies, but also our whole life and being. YOU ARE BOUGHT AT A PRICE I. The cost was tremendous II. The payment brings freedom and III. The Purchaser (God) guards His investment.
Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price.” [v.20] We were bought, not as slaves, but to be set free. Ever since sin came into the world all human beings are born slaves of sin. We are born captive to sinful flesh and captive to the judgment which sin deserves. We have been bought by Christ—bought back from sin, bought back from the power and influence of the Devil, bought back from death. The purchase price to buy us back was unbelievably high—a tremendous sacrifice! It was the life and death of the Son of God!
Part of what makes the purchase price so monumental is that it is one-of-a-kind. If I were to break a power saw or wreck a car the repair or replacement may be very costly, but it would only be monetary and the amount would be finite. But with our redemption we are talking about the price that was necessary to buy us back from sin and death and the influence of the Devil! This price is not measured in money. It is not measured in anything of this life. It is not measured in anything you or I could pay or give. The psalmist said, “None can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him” (Psalm 39:7). No matter how much I would want to, no matter how hard I would try, I simply could not buy you back from sin and death. How could I when I am in the same sinful state and predicament? Only God could rescue us through His intervention.
Salvation required the unique Son of God to also become man. This was necessary so that He could be under the Law as our substitute and then die in our place. The sacrifice of this unique life was the only price that could buy us back from sin and death. The apostle Peter writes in his first letter, “…[know] that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). That was the tremendous price!
Recall Jesus agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed: “Father, if it is possible let this cup [of suffering] pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus asked that if it were possible for all sinners to be saved in any other way that the Father take the suffering away from Him. There was no other way. This was the one and only way that our sin’s debt could be paid, and it was paid at a tremendous cost.
With that tremendous price paid, we are indeed bought back and set free. Paul writes in the beginning of the text: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. [vv.12-13] Having been redeemed by Christ we are set free from the Old Testament Ceremonial Law that specified what foods could and could not be eaten and also governed worship requirements. Jesus fulfilled that Law for us and it is complete, we are no longer bound by it.
We are likewise set free from the Law’s condemnation. The Law can no longer point to us and say, “You are a sinner, you are condemned to die.” Jesus has bought us back and God has declared “The punishment for your sins is paid, you are bought back, you will not die!”
We are similarly set free from the power of the Devil because now we live for Christ. Jesus has exercised His power and continues to do so in our lives so we are able cut off sin, to turn away from what is displeasing to God and follow Him. We are free!
Paul added, “…all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” We are set free from the curse of the Law and its condemnations, but that does not give us license to sin. It does not give us license to be careless. We are set free—not to sin—but for Christ. Paul wrote to the Romans: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4).
We have been set free by that tremendous purchase price and are now able to freely serve God, to pursue what is pleasing to Him, and not pursue our sin. Why would we who have been bought back at such a tremendous cost, run right back into it? It doesn’t even make sense, even though that is what our sinful flesh desires.
In the midst of freedom, Paul also cautions, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). We have been set free to not look out only for our selfish interests. That is what we would do in our bondage. When held captive by sin in our lives we are very much one-way focused and that one way is toward ourselves. But we are set free from such egotistical, selfish approaches. We are set free to actually start looking out for one another, looking for opportunities to help them. We are set free to actually care about someone other than ourselves. We are set free to exercise the love to one another that Jesus showed us when He paid the tremendous purchase price for our sins.
The freedom which Jesus gives applies very directly to our own lives and how we conduct ourselves. Paul provided a specific example: “Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. [vv.13b-18]
Paul took the concept of freedom and applied it to sexual immorality. Paul pointed out that through faith in Jesus we are joined to Him. Each believer is part of His body. You are a member of Christ’s. Would you then take that freedom, walk away from the One who paid the tremendous purchase price, and join yourself to a prostitute in sexual immorality? Nor does Paul limit his words to adultery with an actual prostitute, but includes any sexual immorality in our lives. It just doesn’t fit! How could someone who is joined to Christ and is part of His body then be joined together with someone else in sexual immorality? The freedom we have is not to pursue sin. It is not freedom to take our bodies and do with them as we please. It is not freedom to take everything God has given us and exploit it for our own selfish desires. It is freedom to serve our Lord.
Paul draws special attention to the character of sexual sins—other sin is outside of the body, but sexual immorality involves our bodies and our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. This leads to the truth that the Purchaser guards his investment. Paul wrote: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. [vv.18-20]
Think of your body as a shell which holds your soul—Paul calls it a “tent” in his second letter to the Corinthians (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1ff). Your soul, your life, your being lives in this “tent.” We live in this shell for a time and then God takes the spirit back to Himself and the tent decays back to the dust from which it was taken (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7). On the Last Day God will raise up and glorify the body. Then a perfected tent and soul will be rejoined forever.
We can better understand this when we remember how God made Adam. God made the tent in the form of clay, but then God breathed into that tent the breath of life and man became a living, breathing soul (cf. Genesis 2:7). We witness this in reverse when someone dies—at a funeral we see the empty shell of a body because God has taken the life out of the tent.
God has placed our soul and life into our bodies and by His grace the Holy Spirit lives in us as well. How awful, how sinful, how inconsistent to take this tent in which the Holy Spirit lives and use it for sexual immorality! It is in God’s best interest to preserve His investment and that means not joining the home of the Holy Spirit with sin. Our Savior who spent his blood, his life and death to buy us back wants to preserve and protect His investment. We are not our own, we have been purchased by Christ!
There is an interesting application of this to abortion. We can talk about abortion purely from the standpoint of the unborn child—he is a human being and to end his life is murder. However, we can also consider abortion from the standpoint of the mother. One of the most common defenses of abortion is, “It is my (the woman’s) body. I can do with it whatever I wish.” To which we can rightly respond: “No, it is most decidedly not your own body.” Our bodies are not our own. When Jesus died for our sins He rescued body and soul from death. We are redeemed by Christ so everything we have belongs to Christ. Our bodies are not our own to do with as we please.
We can apply this in other ways. How well do we take care of our bodies? What do we bring into our body and how wise is our stewardship in terms of eating, not over-indulging, in doing what is helpful and healthful for our bodies, and generally taking care of what God has purchased for us and entrusted to us? Paul says, “you are bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body.”
If I borrow a tool from a neighbor and I don’t take good care of that, he’s going to think that I don’t care. If God has given me my body and my spirit and my life in Christ and I don’t take care of it, if I don’t keep it away from sin, if I don’t do what’s best for it, what does that tell God? What kind of message am I sending to the world around me? Am I glorifying God with how I live? Am I glorifying God with the stewardship of my body and my spirit and everything else? Or would it appear evident to the people around me that I am very much living for myself? We have each been bought at a tremendous price, we are not our own, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit.
So much of what the world revels in is sinful. Much of it involves an abuse of the body—drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual immorality—which is sinfully corrupting the temple of the Holy Spirit. We have an opportunity to glorify God for His praise, to serve Him as His children, but also to glorify Him in the eyes of the world around us by how we take care of our bodies, our lives, and everything God has given us.
God desires to protect His investment. That should be our desire too. God’s desire to protect His investment is so great that He equips us to protect it. In God’s Word we learn that our sins and failures are washed away. We receive the reassurance again and again that the price was paid for each of us. Through the Word of God the Holy Spirit who lives within us will give us the strength to truly be good stewards of our bodies and our lives and our spirits and everything!
You have been bought at a price—a tremendous price! You have been bought at a tremendous price to give you freedom! You are set free! Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.