The Expository Files


A Problem Then – A Problem Now

1 Corinthians 6:12-20


  “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” — and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.     And God raised 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 prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written,“The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  1 Cor. 6:12-20 

There are three key statements and two common slogans quoted in this text. Identifying these up front can be helpful in navigating the passage and making correct applications. Everything else in the paragraph pivots off these three key statements and two common slogans quoted. 

The three key statements are: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” The next is: “Flee sexual immorality,” and then: “Glorify God in your body.” These statements tell us what the paragraph is about. And our analysis of it becomes clearer once we identify these. 

There is no doubt, Paul is concerned about the sexually saturated culture in Corinth. Christians must live apart from that, and Paul writes this teaching for the Christians there to read, to study and to apply to keep them pure. 

Next, there are two commonly quoted slogans or sound bites from Corinthian culture. “All things are lawful for me,” and “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.”  

This reminds me of something. In the 1960’s in this country, a variety of slogans were used to celebrate and permit various kinds of immorality. “If it feels good, do it. Turn on, Tune In & Drop Out.” 

Well, in ancient Corinth – in that pagan society – they had their slogans which were designed and repeated to encourage a permissive lifestyle:  “All things are lawful for me.” “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” 

In a rather flippant, casual way – these sayings or slogans were oft repeated to encourage people to relax their moral standards, and  adopt a permissive, lascivious approach to life. Paul quotes these slogans – and he responds.  

“All things are lawful for me” 

In most translations, this statement is surrounded by quotation makes. Paul is certainly not saying that “everything is lawful, so go ahead and indulge.” NO. He is quoting a common Corinthian slogan, and is answering that argument. 

Paul teaches: Even if all things were lawful, (1) not all things help you, and (2) we must guard against being enslaved or addicted. This kind of apologetic works like this. You state the wrong argument.  You respond by saying – Even if that argument was sound, there are other valid considerations! The absurdity of the argument is seen by assuming it is true and attaching the connected assumptions.  

So – Even if everything was lawful, there would still be at least two other considerations: Is it helpful and will you become enslaved! 

Suppose it is argued (and it certainly is in our time) – that all sexual activity, of whatever kind, is lawful; is all right. Even should that be so – there are at least two other considerations to bring into view: Is unlimited sexual activity helpful? Doesn’t this raise the strong possibility of addiction or being enslaved? 

Do you see that in Corinth, people had these common sayings or slogans they used, to encourage a permissive lifestyle. Paul quotes them and brings up some (not all) of the fallacies.


“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” 

There was this common argument or saying that whatever bodily appetite you have, you can fulfill without restraint. The proponents of permissiveness would say à If you have an appetite for it, go ahead . . what is the stomach and food for anyway? This was not a studied approach to discover what was righteous. No. This was a slogan, that sounded clever, but it didn’t prove anything. Paul is charged by God to expose this. 

Paul handles this argument by saying – what you forget is, both the stomach and the contents are not eternal! And, the physical bodies God gave us were never meant to be used in sexual immorality.  “But, for the Lord.” What we need to concentrate on here is, Paul is responding to the lascivious ideas being circulated through these common slogans. He doesn’t want the Christians in Corinth to be deceived.  

This carnal view of the body fails to account for The Resurrection Truth: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power.” When we are raised, there will be no stomach or food as we know it. What will matter will be, have we kept ourselves righteous. 

The argument then and sometimes today is, that God is not concerned about our bodily appetites, or the body at all. Paul says God is concerned. Paul will say, at the end of this passage: Glorify God in your body. 

The argument, that God doesn’t care about our bodies, common among Hedonistics and Gnostics back then – is firmly answered by Paul here, with two bold questions, followed by a exclamation. “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 prostitute?” Paul says, “Never.” 

What Paul does here is to call upon Christians to awaken their sense of shame. The argument goes something like this: In creation, God gave you a body. In conversion, you personally acknowledged God’s ownership of your body – as a part of the body of Christ. Now – will you take a member of the body of Christ and join that member to a prostitute? 

If your heart is right – just that question is repulsive. The reality of being a part of the body of Christ should carry us far away from sexual immorality. Given the sexual promiscuity of a large segment of pagan Corinthian society, Paul wanted to be clear and emphasize that  more takes place during sexual sin than the mere fulfillment of animal urges and impulse. There is a temporary oneness that occurs that has profound implications for the believer’s relationship with the Lord! 

Verse 16: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh’.” Verse 17: “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” 

Here is powerful reality that can keep us pure and right with God - - To fully understand, that we are owned by the Lord – by creation and redemption – God owns body and soul - - and that reality should govern us in these matters. Christians are genuinely bound to the Lord, and we cannot take what is bound to the Lord and act on worldly, carnal impulse. Our attachment to Christ must be far more important to us than the common, lascivious slogans of the day.


 “Flee from sexual immorality” 

It is no accident that the imperative form of the verb “flee” is used here and again in 1 Cor. 10:14, with reference to idolatry. The pagan Corinthian community was crowded with idolatry and permissive, easy-to-access sexuality. Christians had to be careful, watch and perhaps literally run from these offenses. 

You couldn’t just blend in;

You couldn’t ignore the temptation;

You couldn’t get close to it without being tempted. 

There had to be strong determination of heart; a firm understanding of your attachment to Christ that would cause you to run the other way: Flee Sexual Immorality. 

And Paul says, more than any other sin, this is a sin against the body. Remember – in creation, God gave us bodies for good use. Remember – in conversion, we take our bodies back from the devil and give them to God. So to take our God-given bodies, and loan them to prostitutes is a perversion that has many dimensions. Once again, the Christian must be clear about who made his body and who now owns his body, and who dwells in that body. Let me explain – in ancient times and to some extent today, though not in the same form – There is a philosophy or doctrine – that separates the soul from the body. That idea alleges that  the soul remains cleansed, while the body may be engaged in carnal pursuits. This paragraph denies that in the clearest terms. 

SO: “You are not your own.” Christians – soul and body – are an owned people, purchased by the blood of Christ – and so, GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY! 

[Keep reading. George Slover’s article take us to another passage on this relevant subject.]


By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 20.6; June 2013