Teaching series from 1 Corinthians

God's Wisdom and Human Sexuality

1 Corinthians 6:13-20

Teaching t22258


Review setting and Corinthian Christians’ serious behavioral problems. Paul is seeking to effect behavioral change, but he didn’t pursue it moralistically (CHART). He knew that their behavioral problems were symptoms of the root problem (CHART)—they were operating by the wisdom of the world (human speculation & self-serving) instead of by God’s wisdom (God-revealed & self-giving [Cross as essence]). So Paul calls on them to change their operational wisdom, because as they do this, the Holy Spirit will transform their behavior (Rom.12:2).

In 6:13-20, Paul addresses another behavioral problem—sexual immorality (read passage). The specific problem was some of the men having sex with prostitutes (6:15,16 - pagan temple prostitutes?). But in 6:13,18, he speaks more generally of porneia, which refers to all sexual relations outside of hetero-sexual marriage. Paul is seeking sexual behavioral change by reminding them (“Do you not know...?”) of God’s wisdom in this area and calling them to embrace it.

Before I go any farther, I want to make a couple of things clear to our non-Christian guests. I am not trying to judge you or impose God’s wisdom in this area on you—I want to explain it and ask you to consider it.

My primary burden is for my brothers and sisters in Christ—for us to be a positive difference from our culture in this area. No one is “all one or the other” on this—many of us have some of WOG about sex, while many of us are largely governed by WOW. We Christians want to move in the WOG direction.

In this passage, Paul reminds the Corinthians of God’s wisdom in four areas concerning human sexuality (NAME 4 AREAS). I want contrast each of them with the WOW.

#1: The purpose of human sexuality

What is the purpose of human sexuality? This is the key question, and this is the most important contrast between WOW and WOG, because all the other contrasts flow from this one.

The WOW says that sex is a (primarily) physical desire for self-gratification. Read 6:13a. This was evidently a popular Corinthian slogan that was used to justify sexual immorality. “If you’re hungry, eat.” “What kind of food may I eat?” “Whatever kind you like.” “If you’re horny, have sex.” “What kind of sex may I have?” “Whatever kind you like.”

Nothing has changed here. In a thousand different ways, our culture tells us that sex is mainly about physical self-gratification (GROCERY STORE PAPERS; TV SHOWS; SEX “TOOLS;” ETC.). Even when sex is about a man’s ability to make someone else (the hotter, the better) want him, this is still about (psychological) self-gratification. When sex is about a woman getting security from the person she has sex with, this is psychological self-gratification. Either way, this is a low view of sex because it is essentially self-centered and non-relational.

The WOG says that human sexuality is something much higher. Sex is a relational desire for covenantal love. “Covenantal” means a union of exclusive and permanent commitment. Actually, human sexuality is about desire for covenantal love with two persons—one horizontal and one vertical.

On the horizontal level, sex is the celebration of the covenantal union between one man and one woman. 6:16b (read) alludes to Gen.2. Even in a perfect environment, Adam was lonely (not horny). He longed to be relationally united with another human who corresponded to him. Then God presented Eve to him, and he composed the first love song as they committed themselves to marriage before God. In this context, God says Gen.2:24,25a (read). God ordained sex to be expressed within marriage—a permanent committed relationship (“cleave”) that replaces (“leave”) the committed relationship of the parents with their child. This is why Paul abhors these men having sex with a prostitute, and why he says 7:2b,3 (read).

But the covenantal union of human marriage, celebrated by sexual intercourse, is actually intended to be a reflection of an even more intimate vertical union—between us and God. This is what Paul says in this passage. Your body was made for personal union with the Lord (6:13). You were made to join (lit.: “glue together”) yourself to God at the deepest personal level (6:17; same word used in 6:16 for physical sex). You were created to be united with God in your innermost being so that you can experience the joy of God’s committed love for you, and so that you experience the joy of giving yourself in love to God.

This is why God uses marital and sexual language to describe His relationship with Israel (Ezek.12,16) and with those who put their faith in Jesus (Rom.7:2-4).

This is why Peter Kreeft says: “Sex... gives us subjectively a foretaste of heaven, of the self-forgetting, self-transcending, self-giving that is what our deepest hearts are designed for, long for and will not be satisfied until they have, because we are made in God’s own image and this (kind of) self-giving constitutes the inner life of the Trinity.”

This is what it means to become a Christian. Not to assent to a doctrinal creed, or to embrace a moral code, or commit to religious observances. But to be covenantally united in a love relationship with Jesus Christ. He offers Himself to you as your Bridegroom; you must give yourself to Him as His Bride by personally asking Him to dwell in your heart.

This is why God’s will for marriage has always been three persons: a man, a woman, and God.

#2: The relationship between sexual behavior & spirituality

The WOW, because it views sex as primarily a physical act, says that our sexual behavior has no connection with our spirituality. The WOW always compartmentalizes spirituality from sex, by saying either that what we do with our bodies can’t affect our spirits (Gnostic), or that spirituality is restricted to sacred places or times (sacred-profane).

This is why the Corinthian Christian men thought they could have sex with prostitutes without it affecting their spiritual lives. Like the pagans in their city, they viewed their bodies as entirely separate from their spirits. They may also have viewed Jesus as someone they prayed to on Sunday at their meetings—but as someone who was separate from their “normal, everyday” lives.

Does this sound familiar? This is exactly what our culture does. Spirituality is what you do when you pray or meditate, etc.—but it has no authority over your whole life. This is often why people prefer an impersonal god—you can use this force when and as you wish. And this mentality dominates many true Christians, like these Corinthian men (OVERHEARD: “What I do with my body on Saturday night has nothing to do with what I do with my spirit on Sunday morning.”).

But the WOG says that it is impossible to separate our sexual behavior from our spirituality. There is no sacred-secular dichotomy. Spirituality is personal union with Christ. And since we are united with Christ, since His Spirit dwells in us, we involve Him personally in every aspect of our lives—wherever we go and whatever we do—including our sexual lives.

That why Paul says 6:15 (read). The men may have said to themselves: “We didn’t involve Jesus with buying and using a prostitute”—but they did. You may say to yourself: “I don’t involve Jesus with my porn, or with my one-night stands, or with my unmarried partner”—but you do.

This is why true Christians feel a deep-seated spiritual pain when they engage in any kind of sexual immorality. Jesus’ Spirit is being grieved by being forced to engage in this wrongful union, and He makes this known by grieving our consciences/souls. This is why living a sexually immoral life will shut down your prayer life, kill your ability to enjoy and understand Scripture, make you want to avoid close fellowship with other Christians, etc.

#3: The role of sexual taboos

The WOW, because it is rooted in self-gratification, defines freedom as the right to do whatever you want and says that most sexual taboos restrict freedom and are harmful.

This was the impact of the Kinsey Report of the 1950’s. It evaluated the sexual behavior of Americans and reported this to the public. The report’s observation was that Americans privately engaged in all kinds of sexual activity (PORN; ADULTERY; PROMISCUITY; ETC.) that was very different from the public sexual morality of the time. Our culture’s WOW interpretation was that what people do sexually is what is normal and healthy, and that a morality that restricts sexual activity is problematic and unhealthy. This unleashed the “sexual revolution”—the “emancipation” of Americans from uptight sexual restrictions, the “normalization” and “moralization” of sexual immorality (e.g., ADULTERY; COHABITATION; HOMOSEXUALITY; STUDENTS HOOKING UP AS NORMAL & CHASTITY AS PATHOLOGICAL).

But the WOG defines freedom in a different way—not as the right to do whatever you want, but as the power to live the way you were designed by God to live. Is a fish free when it leaves the water, or when it lives in the water? And since God designed our sexuality to be expressed in marriage, total sexual “freedom” is harmful—and God’s (not arbitrary human) sexual restrictions are healthful (read 6:18).

This is why we should not be surprised at the research that documents the tidal wave of personal and relational devastation that has been wrought by the Sexual Revolution (e.g., The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce ; COHABITATION STATS ; PORN ADDICTS’ LOW LIBIDO ). This devastation is well-documented, but few people want to know about it—probably because it argues for restrictions of sexual freedom.

We all know that sexual desire is very powerful! So if WOG is correct about its purpose, it is healthy to flee sexual immorality—by curtailing illicit sexual relationships, by avoiding immoral sexual acts (DON’T BE LEGALISTIC!), and by turning away from sexual fantasies, unrighteous flirting, tempting situations, etc. (Prov.5,6). This is why PORN BLOCKERS, FRIENDSHIP ACCOUNTABILITY, “SEXUAL INTEGRITY” CLASSES, etc. are good. This is why fleeing must be connected to pursuing real love relationships to be effective (2Tim.2:22 – “flee... pursue... with”).

#4: The possibility of healing & change

The WOW, because it refuses to acknowledge such a thing as sexual immorality, insists that people don’t need forgiveness from sexual guilt and/or need to heal/change. You own your own body, you decide how you will handle your sexuality—and no one else has any right to tell you what to do in this area. You don’t need to feel guilty about your sexual sins and you can accept yourself as you are. There is no guilt, there is no damage, and there is no need for healing and change—because there is no wrong in the only eyes that matter—your own eyes.

So the WOW feels relieving on the front end—but it can result in a lot of psychological pain on the back end. Some sexual guilt is false because it results from unhealthy conditioning (EXAMPLE). But much sexual guilt is true guilt—we feel guilty because we are guilty. And simply saying to yourself “It wasn’t really wrong” won’t take away the guilt or the pain.

The WOG declares that God is willing to forgive our sexual sin and empower us to heal and change. This feels painful on the front end—but it leads to a lot of relief and healing on the back end. Read 6:19,20. It’s painful to admit that you don’t own your body—but that God does. It’s painful to lay down the authority to decide your own sexual lifestyle—and let God decide it for you. It’s painful to admit that you have sinned against God and others by using sex for self-gratification—and that you need to be forgiven and changed and healed.

But this is the hurt that leads to healing. When you come to God as God in this way, and to His Son Jesus, He responds with forgiveness. He bought you with the price of Jesus’ death, and that payment is enough to forgive all of your sexual sins and (all of your many other sins as well). You can learn to appropriate this forgiveness, and it has the power to cleanse your conscience. He indwells you with His Spirit—who constantly supplies both motivation and power to transform your life in every area, including your sexual life (Phil.2:13). You can to appropriate this motivation and power, and over time you can experience substantial healing and wholeness. And you can be light of God’s hope for others in this broken culture.

I wonder if some here could share how they have experienced God’s forgiving and healing power...

Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis (InterVarsity Press, 2002), p.95.

The findings highlight the unexpected gulf between growing up in intact versus divorced families, and the difficulties children of divorce encounter in achieving love, sexual intimacy, and commitment to marriage and parenthood.

Researchers from the Rutgers University Marriage Project found that those who cohabit before marriage have much higher divorce rates. Other research indicates that those who cohabit to “try the relationship out” have much higher divorce rates than those who do not cohabit or those who cohabit as a commitment. Researchers from the Rutgers University Marriage Project found that cohabitors report lower levels of sexual exclusivity and satisfaction than married couples.

http://yourbrainonporn.com/ ; see also Garner, Porn Free.