What ever became of Christian purity? It seems somebody made it optional. We can talk about it, although that is not often popular. But to insist on it, to call people to it, to suggest that God demands it, why that is considered passť, old fashioned, and out of sync with our times.
We often excuse ourselves from being pure by insisting that it is so hard today. All sorts of excuses are given -- "all the pornography on the Internet," "the influence of MTV," "All the sex and violence on TV and in the movies," "everybody is doing it." Bottom line, purity is not easy because Satan knows how to co-opt some of our most basic and human desires and we prefer to give in and have them distorted than to be disciplined and have them blessed.
Before we give ourselves a cheap excuse, we need to be reminded of a place and time when purity was extremely difficult, too! That place and time is first century Corinth. To live sinfully and scandalously was to "corinthianize." The lifestyle of Corinth became synonymous with a debauched lifestyle. Like most well known port cities, sexual sin was rampant in Corinth. The church was devastated by this immorality. To make matters worse, many of the Christians there simply did not see purity as any big deal. Into this difficult situation, God's truth was plainly declared by the apostle Paul.
18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
19Do 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;
20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Notice the powerful messages in this passage. If you listen closely, they seem to have been written just for us!
The foundation of the teaching in this passage is found in verse 19: our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. In Paul's day, a temple was not so much a place of worship as it was the place where God dwelled. We are a place where God lives! We are special and unique and important, because God lives inside of us. He has placed his Spirit in us a gift! We are special and sacred because God lives in us through his Spirit.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, and how we do it all reflects on God. He lives in us and we are his. Suddenly the dividing wall we use to so neatly divide our lives into sacred and secular are gone. Just like us, the Corinthains tried to segment their lives into church/spiritual stuff and regular/fun stuff. Paul says, if we're Christians, it's all God's stuff! We can't do anything in our bodies and not take along our worship and reverence of God.
Any teaching on sexual purity must begin here! All of life, public and private, spiritual and sexual are part of our offering of worship. That's why Paul talked about offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12). This our spiritual worship he says. Problem is, the Corinthians were a lot like us. The sorry ol' sacrifice keeps wanting to crawl off the altar.
On this key foundation of worship, Paul makes four key points about sexual purity.
First, we are to flee sexual immorality (v. 18). This directive is not hard to understand. It means to get away from it as fast as we can. Avoid the very appearance of evil is the principle, but once we can't avoid it, run from it becomes the next step. This is the Joseph solution (Genesis 39) -- when confronted with an opportunity to sin with his master's wife he chose not to do it. Instead, he fled from the temptation, he ran from the sin.
Notice two things from this event. Joseph did not immediately benefit from doing what was right in the eyes of God. In fact, he paid dearly, since the spurned woman lied and had him thrown into prison. But his faithfulness was the vehicle through which God brought him into Pharaoh's service and ultimately enabled him to be the redeemer for his people (Genesis 40-45).
What if Joseph had simply caved in and sinned? Would anyone have ever known about his sin? Would his life have been easier? We don't know the answer to those questions, but we do know the answer to a more important one: If Joseph had sinned, he would have forfeited his opportunity to save his people and they may have never survived the famine that destroyed their land!
The sin of sexual immorality often tempts us to sin privately with the promise that it won't hurt anyone and no one will ever find out. The problem is, we know! God knows. And the person we sin with knows. We are affected. We are changed. And until it's dealt with properly, our integrity is forfeited and the opportunities God has designed for us to glorify him and bless his people are lost.
This leads to Paul's second key point. Despite all the sermons preached and articles written, not all sin is the same. Yes, all sin separates us from God. But some sin leaves vapor trails in our minds just like a jet leaves it streaks when it speeds across the sky. Problem is, sin's vapor trails stay longer than the contrails in the sky. We sin against our own body when we sin sexually. In addition, we involve someone else in this sin (look back to vs. 16-17). We set in motion all sorts of possible consequences over which we have little or no control and we rob our marital partner of a special gift to be given just to them (see chap. 7:3-4).
This is significant because of Paul's third point. We, our body and our spirit, are not our own. We were bought, we were ransomed at a great price. Jesus died to buy us back from sin and death. Unlike the slaves in Paul's day who had to save up their money, go to a temple and pay a handler's fee and redeem themselves with their own money from their master, God redeemed us at the cost of his son! We are his. As Malachi 2 emphasizes, when we are joined with someone in a marriage covenant, we are his both body and spirit (vs. 15). We don't live this life for ourselves but for God. Incredibly, what he asks us to do to please him ends up protecting and blessing us. This is equally true in regard to sexual purity.
Finally, Paul turns around the warnings into a positive challenge: Glorify God with your body. I know a young Olympic athlete who went to a foreign country. The first thing she did was find a group of God's people and begin to look for ways to serve them. She realized her athletic abilities and opportunities were given by God to her so she could glorify him. The same is true of a doctor, lawyer, school teacher or anyone else who is using their talents, abilities and opportunities to glorify God in what they do. Incredibly, as wrong as it is to offer ourselves sexually to the wrong person, it is a blessing to us and a glory to God to offer it to the right person. Yes, sexual intimacy with our marital partner, when we offer to bless them and please God, is actually part of our worship to God! (See 1 Corinthians 7:3-7; Proverbs 5)
We live in a sexually permissive society. This has not helped us love each other more. This has not made marriages more stable. This has not protected children from bad parents and homes splitting apart. Instead, as our culture has grown more permissive, all the detrimental things we fear most for our families and children had occurred. It is not by accident. God's plan was designed to bless, protect, and fulfill us as well as bring him glory. So don't be fooled by all the talk, sexual purity matters -- to ourselves and to God!