Christian Liberty: No Excuse for Immorality - Part Three
Paul Dean Dr. Paul J. Dean's Weblog
- 2005 Aug 04
Theodore Dalrymple noted that a group of philosophical utopians provided the underpinning to the popular sexual revolution that has wreaked havoc in this country for the last forty years. "They were all utopians, lacking understanding of the realities of human nature; they all thought that sexual relations could be brought to the pitch of perfection either by divorcing them of moral judgment that traditionally attached to them; all believed that human unhappiness was solely the product of laws, customs, and taboos."
R. Albert Mohler comments, "Dalrymple's central point is clear--the prophets of the sexual revolution promised a utopia of unrepressed sexuality that would produce true human happiness. Where are they now? What they produced was not a utopia, but a dystopia of sexual anarchy."
Paul too combats this utopian vision as he continues and expands his argument against sexual license in 1 Cor. 6:13. "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body." At first glance, it seems that Paul is shifting subjects. Is he now talking about food? The answer is "no." He is still talking about sexual immorality as the grammar and context will make clear. Paul here quotes from the Corinthians again: "food is for the stomach, and the stomach if for food." This particular phrase is true in light of Paul’s teaching regarding food sacrificed to idols (8:1f; 10:19f) regardless of the origin of this statement (Paul, Greek philosophers, the Corinthians themselves). Food is food and has no spiritual significance whether it has been sacrificed to idols or not. Thus the slogan is appropriate. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. We may freely eat whatever we desire. It is merely food. It goes into the stomach and is eliminated.
Now, Paul's point in quoting the Corinthians here is obvious. They were taking this true statement and applying it to their sexual appetites. Their logic was, "food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, thus, sex is for the body and the body for sex." They were making an erroneous logical leap. Paul responds in a three-fold way.
First, he agrees with the statement regarding food, but adds, "but God will do away with both of them." In other words, food and the stomach have no lasting significance. One day, we will have need of neither.
Second, in contrast, the body is significant. It is such by virtue of the fact that actions done in the body cannot be separated from who we are as spiritual beings. Paul combats the dualistic notion that the flesh is evil and the spirit is good. This thought led some to assert that it did not matter what was done in the body because the spirit was saved and the body would simply die and return to the earth. This dualism is behind docetism, gnosticism, and other Greek philosophical constructs. Paul says to these Greeks turned Christian, "the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body." He means that the deeds done in the body are significant because one cannot separate body and spirit in this life and whatever is done in the body is done in the spirit and affects one’s relationship with the Lord. One should not press Paul's analogy too far. He is simply saying that we serve the Lord with our bodies. The Lord is for the body in the sense that He has redeemed us and lives within us by the Holy Spirit.
Paul offers a third response to their slogan in v. 14. In so doing, he destroys the dualistic notion the Corinthians entertained. He says, "Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power." His point is that while our bodies will return to the grave, one day, they will be raised up. The concept of redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23), that is, resurrection and transformation of the body, is clearly taught in the New Testament. Not only is that which we presently do in the body significant, but the body will be raised up one day. It will not be done away with in the sense that food and the stomach will. Food is marked for destruction while are bodies are marked for resurrection. Thus, one cannot say "sex is for the body and body is for sex" in the same way one can say "food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food." God has raised up Christ who lives in us and He will raise us up by that very same power. We will serve Christ with our bodies both here and in eternity.
Paul's point is made clear in vv. 15-20. He is rebuking those Corinthians who were using the concept of grace to justify their sinful activity of joining themselves with prostitutes. He was rebuking their erroneous logical leap from one category to another, that is, from food to sex.
One issue should be addressed here. Some have taught that Paul is here rebuking the Corinthians for their eating habits. Paul has nothing of the sort in mind for at least three reasons. First, the chiastic structure of v. 13 places the emphasis upon how the Corinthians were using their bodies for immorality. Second, the context places the emphasis upon the form that immorality took, i.e., the use of prostitutes (15-20). Third, Paul does not rebuke them for their eating habits. He simply quotes their slogan and rebukes their erroneous leap in logic from food/stomach to sex/body.
Contrary to contemporary, unredeemed notions of personal freedom, we must flee immorality because freedom is too important. Immorality destroys our freedom to glorify God. Immorality destroys our freedom for real joy. Immorality destroys our freedom from sin’s power. The point is that we must glorify God with our bodies. We must flee immorality. We must not use our liberty as a cloak for sin. We must not give up our freedom in Christ to become enslaved once again to sin.
[Scroll Down for Parts One and Two]