Father, help me run fast and far from temptation. I don’t want to use my body for sin because I know my body doesn’t belong to me. You bought it with the precious blood of Jesus, and now it’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. So please help me be controlled by Your Holy Spirit and not my own appetites. As I make decisions, help me not just consider what’s “allowed,” but what’s helpful, so I will glorify You in all I do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 1 Corinthians 5-7
1 Corinthians 5 Paul was grieved by the blatant sexual immorality within the Corinthian church. Instead of mourning this sin, the church as a whole was arrogant and boastful, perhaps even interpreting sexual sin as “freedom” in Christ. Paul doesn’t mince words: Sexual immorality is sin, and believers living in such open, unrepentant sin must not be allowed to remain a church member. He gives two reasons:
- It’s for the good of those sinning. If the church ignores or accepts sin, believers living in sin have no incentive to repent. Breaking fellowship with them may eventually lead to their repentance.
- It’s for the good of the church: Unaddressed sin tends to spread within the body.
Paul also addressed a command he had previously given the Corinthians. When he told them not to associate with sexually immoral people, he was referring to those who claimed the name of Christ but lived sexually immoral lives. He was not telling them to avoid unbelievers living in sin (an impossible task). Christians are called to hold each other, not unbelievers, to the Bible’s standards of holiness.
1 Corinthians 6 Paul moved to another matter concerning church unity. Corinthian Christians were suing fellow believers in civil court. Not only were they squabbling with each other over “trivial disputes,” but they made it worse by subjecting each other to the world’s warped judgment. Paul says disputing believers should either seek godly mediation within the church, or they should drop the matter completely—putting the good of the church above perfect financial fairness.
The deeper issue here involves a Christian’s freedom in Christ. Paul taught that Christian freedom doesn’t give believers license to do whatever they want. Instead, believers must rely on the Holy Spirit and use godly wisdom. This goes beyond asking, “Is this allowed?” to questions like, “Is this helpful?” and “Does this control me?”
Paul mentions two appetites that threaten to control believers: food and sex. He says an uncontrolled sexual appetite is particularly damaging to the believer. Why? A believer is united with Christ in spirit, and his body is the Holy Spirit’s residence. By its very nature, a sexual relationship unites the two participants uniquely in body and spirit. Therefore, when a believer takes part in sexual sin, he is basically launching an attack against his own body, against Christ, and against the church. Paul reminds us our bodies belong to the Lord, and we should use them to bring Him glory.
1 Corinthians 7 All things considered, some Corinthian believers wondered if it was better to just avoid sex completely. Paul responded by affirming celibacy and instructing those who are unmarried to remain celibate. However, he said married believers should maintain a selfless sexual relationship with their spouse. Paul honestly wished all Christians were single like himself. However, he acknowledged that God has not called everyone to a single lifestyle. Paul encouraged believers to be content with their life circumstances. Specifically:
- Those already married should remain married unless the unbelieving spouse leaves. Those who are unmarried or widowed shouldn’t frantically seek a spouse or assume God wants them to marry.
- A circumcised Jew shouldn’t be ashamed. An uncircumcised Gentile will not be more holy by submitting to circumcision.
- A slave or an indentured servant shouldn’t frantically seek freedom, assuming freedom will make him or her more useful to God. However, if the opportunity for freedom arises, the slave should take it with a thankful heart.
Finally, Paul cleared up some common misconceptions about marriage. Marriage is not life’s pinnacle. It’s not a necessity. It’s not even a right. Single believers are able to be more single-minded than married believers, especially when it comes to their focus, affections, and time. What’s more, marriage involves anxieties that singleness does not. However, Paul taught that marriage is not a sin and that it’s far better to marry than to give into sexual temptation outside of marriage. If a single or widowed believer was contemplating marriage, Paul instructed them to count the cost of marriage beforehand, marry someone who is “in Christ,” and be willing to give their primary allegiance to Christ, not their spouse.
In summary, Paul wanted the Corinthians to take God’s commands seriously because sin is never just a “personal” matter. Individual sin affects the spiritual health of the entire church. In fact, even the “personal” decisions believers make about sex, marriage, and finances can deeply affect the body of Christ. Believers are not called to simply avoid sin; they’re called to live in a way that values God’s glory and the church’s good ahead of their own personal gain.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 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,20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
- Which appetites threaten to control you? Sex? Food? Money? Acceptance? Success? Entertainment? How does this appetite keep you from being fully controlled by the Holy Spirit? Pray now, surrendering this area to the Lord, and ask the Holy Spirit to control you instead.
- Take one practical step this week to help loosen the hold of this appetite on your life.
- Read A Christian View of Sex for a big-picture understanding of what the Bible teaches about sex, celibacy, marriage, and singleness.
- Write out a prayer of confession and repentance, and lead your weekly group or family in praying it with you. See Prepared Prayers below [Spiritual Disciplines, Teaching Simply]
GENERALLY SPEAKING, TAKING TIME TO WRITE DOWN, OUTLINE, OR OTHERWISE PREPARE FOR PUBLIC PRAYERS IS A GOOD IDEA FOR THESE REASONS:
- Spontaneity does not guarantee sincerity just as preparation does not mean hypocrisy or a lack of genuine desire or godly motivation.
- Free (or spontaneous) prayers aren’t necessarily better. Instead, they often end up being a kind of “form prayer” that sounds the same every time. Perhaps time to prepare would prevent the repetition of such spontaneous form prayers.
- When we take time to prepare in advance, we can give careful, concentrated, prayerful, reverent, worshipful, and hopeful attention to who God is in His character and His goodness to us. We can consider our sins and also our real needs, not just those that are immediately urgent. We can jot down items for thanksgiving, and we can consider gospel work in other places. We can include Scripture as we find the disciples doing when they pray in Acts.
- We always want our prayers to remain tethered to God’s Word, especially when leading others in public prayer.
- When we prepare our prayers, we should prepare them prayerfully, so that we aim to communicate with God for others. That communication should be meaningful, heartfelt, sincere, clear, and full of faith.
- Preparing our prayers beforehand shouldn’t mean then reading those prayers to others. Reading isn’t the same as praying.
- When we lead in prayer, we’re speaking to God on behalf of others, so it seems wise to give extra attention to those prayers.
- When we lead others in prayer, we want them all to say “Amen” at the end of our prayers. This is their way to say, “May God make it happen!” We honor others by preparing thoughtful prayers.
- Leading in prayer functions as an informal lesson that teaches others how to pray. People listen and they learn how to pray from our example.
- Corporate singing is also a kind of prayer, as many hymns and songs are addressed to God. These songs are all prepared songs and hymns—and yet we sing them with joy, reverence, enthusiasm, and even sincerity. If singing prayers (songs) in corporate worship can be sincere and meaningful, it’s hard to see why prepared prayers cannot also be sincere.
- Preparing and even writing down our prayers ahead of time doesn’t have to be insincere. On the contrary, it may make them more edifying to us and others and thus more honoring to God.