Among the writings of Paul, 1 Corinthians is the letter which teaches the church what it means to be a Christian community.
The opening verses (ch1 vv1-9) have the effect of defining where the church comes from and what it’s based on, and I will want to show how the rest
of the teaching follows on from that.
I was drawing out a definition of the church in the attached thread;
Defining the church
Part of the definition was that the church has been “sanctified”, set apart for God.
So the next concern is how this affects the way they conduct themselves (ch6 vv9-20)
vv9-11 Paul describes the kinds of lifestyle which are incompatible with belonging to God.
They include idolatry and adultery, theft and habitual drunkenness.
But first on the list are the PORNOI.
Translators vary in their euphemisms, from “the fornicators” to “the immoral”.
However, the word comes from the word for “harlot”, and Paul thinks of PORNEIA in terms of dealing with harlots.
Paul’s appeal is based on the fact that they’ve already
been removed from those things.
That was the old life, this is the new life.
They have been “washed”- the old defilements have been removed.
They have been “sanctified”- they have been taken away from the old life, and set apart for God.
They have been “justified”- they have been set in the right relationship with God.
And all these things have been happening “in the name of “ the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit.
v12 But some of the Corinthians must have been criticising the inclusion of PORNEIA.
It isn’t difficult to imagine their arguments, because we’ve heard them all before;
“It’s natural…doesn’t hurt anybody…there’s no law against it…”, and so on, and so on.
He deals first with “There’s no law against it”.
The slogan that “everything is lawful” (which equals “nothing is forbidden”) might have been a misunderstanding of his own critique on the Law
They might have heard “We do not serve under the old written code” and ignored the second part of the same teaching- “We serve(instead) in the
new life of the Spirit” (Romans ch7 v6).
So his first answer is that even things which are “not forbidden” might injure other people or be self-injurious.
“I’m not going to use this power, if it means that I get over-powered”.
When self-indulgence becomes addiction, the freedom turns into a kind of slavery.
vv13-14 They also seem to have used the argument “That’s what the body is made for, like the stomach is made for food”.
Paul’s answer is that the body, the SOMA, needs to be distinguished from the stomach.
The stomach is merely flesh, and will be destroyed, in the long term, along with other fleshly things.
But their bodies, properly understood, have a different destiny.
The body was not “made for” PORNEIA in the same sense that the stomach was made for food.
On the contrary, the body was “made for” the Lord, in whose name they were sanctified.
So the body will be “raised” by God’s power in the same way that he raised the Lord himself.
All this assumes that the SOMA is something more than
the visible flesh, and they should be treating it accordingly.
vv15-17 Then he builds on the point of their relation with Jesus Christ, another aspect of the first chapter’s “definition”.
On the one hand, they are in union with Christ.
Their bodies are “limbs” of the body of Christ.
On the other hand, a relation with a harlot sets up a different kind of union.
They become “one flesh” (on the basis of the statement made about Adam and Eve, Genesis ch2 v24).
Whereas the Lord and the believer are united as “one Spirit”.
What happens when these two unions clash?
Paul is understood to mean that the union with Christ is broken up;
“Shall I take away
the members of Christ and make them [instead] members of a harlot?”
But this doesn’t account for the difference between PORNEIA and marriage, which involves a man in physical union without necessarily taking him away
So I can’t help thinking there’s an additional thought in Paul’s mind- the horrifying possibility of a combination
between the two
In the same way that a man cannot drag his hand through the mud without getting his arm dirty, so a man united with Christ, who attaches himself to a
harlot, is involving even Christ in the same unclean relation.
vv18-20 Next he brings in their relation with the Spirit, a further aspect of the same “definition”.
The claim that the fornicator is offending, uniquely, against
his own body is closely linked with the following verse.
If a man has received the Spirit, then his body is a place where the Spirit dwells.
It is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (which implies, as I’ve observed before, that the Holy Spirit is God).
So fornication is an offence against the Holy Spirit, a desecration of the Temple.
That imperils the man’s relations with God, and therefore imperils the resurrection of his body.
He has said that the Holy Spirit was received from God.
That brings him to his final argument.
They are the property of God by virtue of the “price” which God paid for them.
And consequently they cannot claim to belong to themselves.
Which neatly disposes of the other standard protest;
“It’s my life, and I can do what I like with it”.
The opening verses of this book were demonstrating three different relationships.
The church had been “called” by the Father.
The church had been called into fellowship with Christ.
And there was a more indirect reference to the reception of the Holy Spirit.
We found in v11 that all three relations were participating in the “sanctification” of the church, which was carried out “in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God”.
Consequently Paul’s argument for the preservation of holiness draws upon all three relations.
It draws upon the fact that the believer is “in Christ”.
It draws upon the fact that the Spirit resides in the believer.
And it draws upon the believer’s obligation to glorify God.
Since their calling has called them away from the world, the separation needs to be maintained.