1 Corinthians 6:12-20 “IS IT SAFE SEX?” By Pastor Dan Erickson, July 9th, 2000. Visit Pastor Dan’s Sermon Index at the Chisholm 1st Baptist Church website
Yes, some of the things you have heard about this city are probably true. In fact, they say the main reason people come to this place is because of sex. Sexual immorality is more prevalent than you could ever imagine. By God’s grace, I have remained chaste, but it seems I am being bombarded with temptation. There is one place here where there are 1000 prostitutes, and men flock there daily. There are lots of male prostitutes as well, since homosexuality is viewed as a virtue by many. It seems a lot of people I’ve met almost worship sex. I agree with your statement that it must be hard to live as a Christian in this type of situation. I assure you, though, there are indeed Christians here who are remaining pure and faithful to the Lord despite this sex-crazed environment, and I promise that by God’s grace I will seek to do the same.
Love, Your Son
Where do you think that letter was written from: New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Bangkok? No, actually it was written from Chisholm. I made it up, but it could have been a letter written by a Christian living in the Greek city of Corinth during the first century. This was a place famous for its sexual immorality. In fact, the Greeks coined a new verb, “to Corinthianize” to describe participation in illicit sex. Knowing this keeps us from making the mistake of thinking that sexual immorality is something that has just become prevalent in the past 30 years.
This, however, does not make the fact that we live in a culture preoccupied with sex any less disturbing. It would be difficult to choose between first century Corinth and 21st century America as to which society is more sexually immoral. Forbes magazine recently did a story on the $56 billion a year porn industry. In 1998 there were 9,000 new hard-core x-rated videos released on the market, generating revenue of $5 billion alone. The videos are becoming yesterday’s news because of the direct access people now have to pornography through the internet and cable tv. You no longer have to go downtown to pick up the stuff anymore. They pipe it right into your house. Equally disturbing is the widespread acceptance of soft-core porn that shows up on network TV in prime time sitcoms. Though prostitution is illegal in every part of the country except Nevada, a U.S. delegation at the United Nations recently opposed a resolution condemning “voluntary prostitution.” There are indeed similarities between ancient Corinth and modern America.
But is this obsession with sex, whether 2000 years ago or today, really healthy? I think of something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
“Suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a pork chop or a piece of bacon. Would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with their appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something strange about the fact that people pay money to watch a woman take off her clothes?”
Lewis says some might claim that the preoccupation with a pork chop might be understood if the people in that country were starving because of a lack of food. It is difficult, he says, to imagine that anyone could argue that it is starvation, a lack of sex, that is the reason our culture seems so preoccupied with the subject. Instead, he says, it is far more likely that it is some twisting, some perversion of our nature, what the Bible calls our sinfulness, which causes us to deal with sexuality in the way we often do.
Friends, our journey through the book of 1 Corinthians brings us to chapter 6:12-20 which the NIV titles “Sexual Immorality.” Though a very proper modesty may make us feel a little uncomfortable with this topic, this is a text that speaks very directly to some issues we face at the beginning of the 21st century. So, let’s pause and pray that God would help us to listen and hear as He speaks to us through His Word today.
I want to begin by looking at what Paul says about sexual immorality to the Corinthians, which also happens to be God’s words for us. He is basically responding to three claims made by folks trying to justify their immoral behavior. The first asks, “Is everything really permissible?” 1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me–but I will not be mastered by anything.”Some folks were claiming “everything is okay for me.” In our day, people often say the same thing. A common claim is that if two consenting adults want to have a sexual relationship, it is nobody else’s business. Any type of sexual immorality, as long as it does not involve force, ought to be permitted. But, Paul notes that besides being immoral there are still two other questions which have to be asked: Is it beneficial? And does it lead to an enslaving addiction? The answer to the first question is, “No, it is not beneficial.” Though sexual immorality brings temporary pleasure, there is often a very high price tag. Sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, deep emotional scars and divorce are often found in the trail left by immorality. Even if they were okay morally, for practical reasons, neither one-night stands or long-term affairs would still not be good choices. The answer to the second question is, yes, sexual immorality is often enslaving. A failure to execute self-control in sexual conduct makes it that much easier to fall into sexual sin the next time. Though I do not think Paul would agree with a lot of psychology behind the term “sexual addiction,” he would agree that it often happens to those involved in immorality.
Paul then turns to another argument made by those who were excusing the immoral activity which was going on and asks, “Is the body really for sex?” 1 Corinthians 6:13a “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food–but God will destroy them both.” Now that makes sense. Our appetite for food is very natural, and there is nothing wrong with fulfilling that appetite. People in Paul’s day, and our own, argue the same is true of sex. “Sex is for the body and the body is for sex.” Many folks today will argue that the sexual appetite is totally natural, and people should be free to fulfill it whenever they wish. In fact, some evolutionists claim that even rape is natural, which is a horrible idea, but probably one which would make sense if we are nothing but animals. Now, Paul would agree that our sexual desires are very normal. He addresses that in Chapter 7 as he writes about marriage. There are, however, some obvious differences between our appetite for food and our sexual desires. People cannot abstain from food very long or they die. On the other hand, people can be sexually chaste for years, even for an entire lifetime and will be just fine, physically and emotionally. It is silly to pretend we need sex to live, or even to be happy.
But, Paul attacks another fallacy in their thinking, that phrase “but God will destroy them both.” The question is that because our bodies are temporary, does it matter what we do with them when it comes to either food or sex. Apparently, these people were claiming that it was the inner person, the soul and/or spirit which mattered, and what someone does with his or her body is irrelevant. So in Corinth, and in other times and places, there were people who came to church every Sunday who thought of themselves as very spiritually minded and mature, but who were frequently involved in sexual immorality. They did not see any connection between moral purity and being a Christian. Paul, however, rejects this idea that what we do with our bodies has no moral significance. 1 Corinthians 6:13b “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” He rejects the idea that our bodies are temporary. 1 Corinthians 6:14 “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” In Chapter 15, Paul will go into much more detail about the resurrection, but he clearly maintains there is a connection, a continuity, between the bodies we currently have and the glorified, new resurrection bodies Christians will one day be given. For that reason, he says, using our bodies for sexual immorality is serious sin. 1 Corinthians 6:15, 16, 17 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”
In the next chapter, which we will explore next week, Paul teaches that sexual intimacy, becoming one flesh, with one’s spouse is a good thing, a wonderful gift from God. But sexual intimacy, becoming one flesh with someone outside the context of marriage, is never a good thing. This covers adultery, having sex with someone who is married to someone else. It covers what is often called pre-marital sex, where two single individuals who have not made a marriage commitment to each other engage in sexual intimacy. It covers any type of homosexual relationship and explicitly forbids any type of sexual relationship with a prostitute. Paul sums up his view in verse 6:18a “Flee from sexual immorality.” Stay away from it! 6:18b “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” It is difficult to know exactly what Paul means here, but he is clearly pointing to the seriousness of sexual sin. Becoming involved in sexual immorality is to use our body in a way that dishonors God. Listen to his closing plea in 6:19-20. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Well, friends, that is what Paul has to say. He certainly is very clear. Let me say again that if your modesty makes you a little uncomfortable with this topic, that’s okay. That’s good. There is an important book that was written by a gal named Wendy Shalit a couple of years ago entitled A Return to Modesty. In it, she notes that the freedom and ease of which we in our culture talk about sex is not healthy. Shalit is not a Christian. She is Jewish, but she recognizes that sex has been trivialized by all the attention it has received in our day and has lost much of the mystery that makes it beautiful and special. So if you have retained your modesty in this culture, congratulations. You have kept your head while most others have been losing theirs.
It is important, however, that all of us understand the implications of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6 for our lives. As a church, it is important that we are willing to address sexual issues honestly, just as the Bible does. So I want to note some implications for us as we seek to apply God’s Word today.
1) We have to decide who or what is our moral authority. The biblical teaching on sexuality, including our text today, goes very much against the grain in our culture. Each of us has to make a decision. Are my views on sex going to be shaped by what the Bible teaches, or are they going to come from what I hear on talk shows and sit-coms or read in some supermarket tabloid? Now, to be honest, I think this is a tough choice for many Christians today. There is a lot of social pressure to ignore the sexual boundaries the Bible sets up. This spring, I had the opportunity to talk about sexuality with some of the ninth grade students at Hibbing High School. The consensus among the students was that for them (14 year olds) it was not considered “cool” to be sexually active, and they believed only a small minority of their classmates were. They also said, however, that by the time they are seniors (18 years old) most of them will have had sex, and someone who hasn’t will probably be considered “not cool.” The pressure will be there. In our culture, a single adult of almost any age, who is not sexually active is often considered a social misfit. Society says sex between two consenting adults is always okay. The Bible says sex between two people who are married is good, right and beautiful. We have to decide which is right.
2) The church needs to take sexual sin seriously. It seems that far too often the church is choosing to let our culture, rather than God’s Word set our standards. In an effort not to offend people, many churches have almost erased “thou shall not commit adultery” from the Ten Commandments. Premarital sex is considered acceptable in some Christian circles, and now some major denominations are debating whether homosexual unions should be recognized. This week the paper had a story about a priest in Wisconsin, now dead, who reportedly had affairs with a number of women in his parish. The feeling of at least some of the folks in that church apparently is, “well, he was a good guy, and after all, he was only human,” implying, I guess, that chastity is some type of super human virtue. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe we should always treat sinners of all types with grace and compassion. We also should not be surprised when people who are not believers in Christ do not follow the guidelines on sexual morality found in the Bible. But, as a church, we need to make it clear that we choose to accept what the Bible teaches about sex as our authority. That means sexual purity is expected of all Christians and demanded of leaders. A few years ago, a pastor of a large Baptist church in Tennessee fell into sexual sin, having an affair with a woman in the congregation. His sin was discovered and he went before the church the next Sunday to announce his resignation. To his surprise, the congregation was willing to completely overlook his sin and asked him to remain as their senior pastor. Wisely, he insisted on stepping aside. Friends, don’t get confused. That congregation was not demonstrating biblical compassion and forgiveness. Rather, they were failing to recognize the serious nature of sexual sin. We need to take this sin seriously.
3) As we decide whether or not we are going to follow what the Bible teaches, it would be good for us to recognize how destructive sexual immorality is. We mentioned before that though sexual immorality brings temporary pleasure, there is often a very high price tag. Did you realize that over 40 million Americans suffer from genital herpes, and that is just one of over 50 sexually transmitted diseases that afflict people in our country. Unwanted pregnancy, divorce and deep emotional scars are also often found in the trail left by immorality. The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, was one of the leading atheists of the 20th century. He ridiculed the idea of marriage and had numerous affairs. Yet, in his autobiography he talked about the grief and jealousy he endured throughout his adult life because he could not cope with the unfaithfulness of his sexual partners. In our text, Paul added another item to the price tag of immorality: the spiritual cost. Sexual immorality harms people physically, emotionally and spiritually. It destroys people’s lives. As our church sign says this week, the key to safe sex is marriage. When we engage in sexual activity outside of this God-given boundary, we pay the price.
4) We need to receive the forgiveness God offers those who have been involved in sexual immorality. Sexual sin is serious stuff, but it is hardly unforgivable. Whether we have entertained lustful thoughts, watched an x-rated video or had an extra-marital affair, we need to realize that God offers free and full forgiveness to all who will turn to Him through Jesus Christ. I remember talking to a woman who had been very promiscuous when she was in college. Though she went to a Christian school, she ended up sleeping with a lot of different guys. Fifteen years later, though she was now happily married, very active in church and a deeply committed Christian, she still had a hard time believing that God could forgive her for her sexual sin. She felt that the filth of that sin still clung to her soul. She seriously underestimated the power and reach of God’s grace. It was my privilege to remind her just how amazing God’s grace is. God forgave King David who committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband murdered in an effort to cover up their sin. God has forgiven many others who have been involved in prostitution, homosexuality and in producing porn. God forgives all those involved in every type of sexual immorality if they will simply turn to Jesus Christ. Friend, if today you have been feeling guilty for your sexual sin, I implore you to receive the forgiveness God offers. If you are not a believer in Christ, what you need to do is stop trusting in yourself, stop thinking you are good enough the way you are, turn to Jesus, and in simple faith receive Him as Lord and Savior. If you are not sure what I mean by that, I encourage you to come talk to me after the service, so that you can find forgiveness for sexual immorality, and every other type of sin, that God offers. If you do believe in Christ, but are still feeling guilty about some of the things you have done, remember the promise of 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This promise belongs to those involved in sexual sin, just like it does to everyone else.
5)We need to realize that true joy is not found in sex. How can we as Christians avoid sexual sin? Well, Paul says we need to flee from it. We need to stay away from things that bring sexual temptation to our lives. We need to think about the consequences of immoral behavior. We can spend a lifetime paying for a few minutes of pleasure. But, there is something even more important we can do. We need to be in fellowship with the Lord in a way that fills our life with a solid joy. Friends, those of us who walk closely with Jesus Christ seldom have an easy life. Fun is often not the word we use to describe our experience, but God provides a marvelous joy to those who trust, love and obey Jesus. It is that joy which can protect us from sexual immorality. I happen to like McDonald’s cheeseburgers. But, when there is a medium-well done sirloin steak sitting on a plate in front of me, I am not tempted to eat a cheeseburger at all. And friends, when we realize that true joy is found not in sex, but in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are going to be better at resisting sexual temptation. When we are seeking to fill our hunger with God, we will find it easier to control our sexual appetite. Sexual fulfillment is a very shallow goal to have in life. Instead, we need to seek spiritual fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Friends, may the Lord give us the desire and strength to avoid sexual immorality and to honor God with our bodies, minds and souls. Copyright 1998- 2000 First Baptist Church Chisholm, MN.
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|Pastor Dan Erickson’s Weekly Message1 Corinthians 6:12-20 “IS IT SAFE SEX?” July 9th, 2000|