Monday, September 3, 2012

Skin and Soul (1 Corinthians 6)

In an attempt to incorporate historical, literary, cultural and biblical context into Paul's writing in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, I offer the following paraphrase for the modern Corinthian church of America. I have found that writing like this enables me to better grasp how Paul's readers would have heard the message of the Kingdom of Heaven conveyed to them. To accomplish this, I have drawn from numerous translations, commentaries, and articles. I hope and pray that I have discerned wisely and written well.
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       "When I was with you, I talked about my freedom in Christ, which meant that the power of sin no longer controls me, the penalty of sin has been paid by Christ, and I am not in bondage to my inability to keep the Old Testament law.  Apparently, you though I was saying the same thing the Corinthians do:  “I have the right to do anything I want.” 
 That's not what I meant at all.  
I am free from the curse of sin and the law so I am free to live in the grace and peace of God.  There are plenty of things that I can do (free from the law) that I don’t do.  Sometimes these things just aren’t beneficial – they are a waste of my time, or a distraction, or they confuse other people about my commitments (more on this later).  There are other things that will control me  at some point if I’m not careful, and I don’t want to be consumed by or addicted to anything.

 I don’t do those things, even though I “can.”  Because my sinful urges no longer control me, I am free to live well. That’s very different from free to do what I want. 

Do you remember what I said about that Corinthian proverb: “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”?   I said that God will destroy them both. I was trying to point out that it was just a meaningless phrase about a really shallow and temporary part of life.  It’s not a good life philosophy.
 I like food as much as the next guy, but it’s not quite as simple as just eating whenever I feel like it.   
Food is not “just for the stomach.”  That’s where it goes, but that’s not what it’s for.  It’s for sustenance, energy, and life.  If I think it’s all about pleasure, and I just eat whenever I get the urge because, “Hey, they match up so good!” I will become controlled by food.  I don’t want my appetite to control me. 
 I also don’t want my appetites to control me, and neither should you.  I’m told that you have decided that sex is the same as food. "Sex for the body, and the body for sex.”  You say this as if eating a meal when your stomach growls is the same as visiting a prostitute when you get the urge.  That’s just not true.  Even though eating is a neutral activity, it matters that you understand what both food and your stomach are for.  Sex is not a neutral activity. Ever.  There’s a spiritual aspect to sexual activity. It matters even more that you know what sex is for. 
 “Can” you have sex?  Of course.  But this is not just a question of matching body parts with urges.  Once again, that may be where it goes, but that’s not what it’s for.  Sex has boundaries and purposes that you ignore at your peril.  You are not meant to use your body in such a way that you break God’s design and purpose.  Your so-called “freedom” is neither freeing your from sin or freeing you to flourish in the Kingdom of God. In fact, your “freedom” is destroying your relationship with God and with others, and it’s killing your spiritually.  Your “freedom” is robbing you of life. 
That’s not a good definition of freedom. 
Why do you think you have a body anyway?  Just for your own pleasure?  Just so you can indulge every urge you have?   Just so you can find out what works where and then do whatever you want to?  Listen, if I said, “A face is for punching and punching is for a face,” you wouldn’t start punching people. You’d say, “Um, that’s not what faces are for.”  But if I said, “Fists are for grabbing money and money is made to fill ‘em,” you’d probably buy the robe. 
What’s the difference?  The first one involved pain, the second one pleasure.  Both of them distort the purpose of the things involved. You just didn’t like the first one.  You have to know God’s purpose for things.  When you live without purpose, pleasure will master you or pain will break you.

You have dedicated your life to Christ – your body has a purpose. Everything you do with it – including sex - is meant to follow God’s plan.  Here’s a better phrase for you:  “God is for the body, and the body is for God.”  I know the Greeks all think that our skin, our flesh, is just a tool that the soulish part of us can use however we want.  Some even call our bodies a prison.  They think our skin is just a pin-up suit, our bodies just chemicals in motion. They don’t think what we do with the body matters.  “It’s who I am deep inside that really counts.” 
But God thinks the physical body is important. Here’s your best proof: God raised Jesus from the dead – physically, not just spiritually.  Body and soul. God will raise us also – body and soul.  Your body is not just meat; your body matters. 
I’ve already told you that you are God’s physical presence on earth now that Jesus is gone. You represent Him; you embody Him.  You are a small part of God’s church, His body.  And as part of the body, you are one of the limbs of God.

So would you rip off a part of yourself and give it to a prostitute? No?  Well, that’s what your doing when you take your body - a member of the “body” of Christ -  and give yourself to a prostitute.   Don’t you realize that when you do this you have ripped yourself off of God – and away from your fellowship in the church - and given yourself to her?    
Sex is not like food. It's not as trivial as consuming a donut. You and the donut don’t become one.  But when you have sex with someone, you are joined to them now not just physically, but spiritually and relationally. Genesis says, “The two will become one flesh.”  You are united now. 
Maybe you don’t think of yourself as united with God because you can’t see him, but your union with Him is different. You are one with him in spirit.  You are unified with God through your soul, and since your body and soul are connected, you are God’s – body and soul. 
  So…..you think you ’re spirit is God’s while your body belongs to a prostitute? It doesn’t work that way. The skin and the soul are connected.That’s why you have to flee from sexual immorality.  It’s one battle that is won by retreat. This is victory by flight (remember Joseph?).  
I know you like another Corinthian proverb: “All the sins a person commits bounce off the surface the body.”   But that’s not true. What you do with your body effects your soul, and what you do with your soul influences how you behave with your body.  When you sin sexually, it doesn’t just bounce off of you.  Your body and your soul are connected – you have committed a sin with your body that seeps into your soul. 
You’re body’s not a prison for your soul; it’s a temple for the Holy Spirit.  Your body and your soul are the building in which God’s gift of His Spirit dwells.   You apparently think that even after you commit to Christ you can do what you want and let anything share this temple space, but that’s not your decision. You are not your own any more. 
 Your life has been ransomed from the law of sin and death at a great price. Through his death, Jesus Christ paid the overwhelming debt for our sin:  Through his resurrection, we know he has the power to raise us from spiritual and physical death and give us new life.  Through the ongoing presence of his Holy Spirit, we see him continually at work in us, making all things new. 
God deserves all your loyalty and honor.  
Honor God with not just your souls, but with your bodies too."

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