Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 6

Rebuke for going to law with one another, and reminder of the sanctity of marriage.

1 CORINTHIANS 6

SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER

Having dealt with the pressing matter of immorality in the assembly, and having reminded the Corinthians how to deal with it, namely by acting as a united company, the apostle now turns to the way the Corinthians were wrongly dealing with things. It seems that the Corinthians, instead of carrying out the instruction of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17, and settling personal grievances face to face, had resorted to taking one another before the judgement bar of men. This was a serious matter, and showed their lack of wisdom. It is in the kingdom gospel of Matthew that we find instruction on these matters, for Christ’s kingdom is marked pre-eminently by righteousness, and the assembly is the supreme place now where righteousness should be administered. It is no use expecting unjust and worldly judges to assess assembly disputes righteously.

In the second half of the chapter the apostle gives instruction regarding immorality. The immoral person of chapter 5 was misusing his body, and so the apostle takes the opportunity in verses 12-20 to deal with immoral practices in general, and then in chapter 7 deals with the behaviour that is expected of believers in the moral sphere.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER

Section (a) Verses 1-8 The wrong of believers taking fellow-believers to court.
Section (b) Verses 9-11 The marked difference between unbelievers and believers.
Section (c) Verses 12-20 The duty of believers to be pure in body and spirit.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 6, VERSES 1 TO 8

6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

6:2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

6:5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

6:6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

6:7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

6:8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Section (a) Verses 1- 8 The wrong of believers taking fellow-believers to court.

6:1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?

Dare any of you- because the action goes against the command of the Lord Jesus, it is a daring thing to try to settle minor matters between brethren before the courts of men. This brings the assembly into public disrepute. Of course, if a professed believer is guilty of illegal activity of any sort, he should be handed over to the authorities, and the assembly should make it very public that they have no sympathy with his alleged actions. God has put the “powers that be” in place for the punishment of evil-doers, and to resist them by not co-operating with them is said in Romans 13:2 to be resisting the ordinance of God, “and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation”.

Having a matter against another- the word “matter” is a legal term, involving a law-suit. It is quite clear from later verses that the matter which was dividing two brethren could easily have been resolved, if only the Christ-given means for doing this had been used. Too often, petty grievances are magnified beyond recognition, and other things are brought in, perhaps dwelt on for years, until the situation gets out of hand, and one party feels they have no option but to go to law. All the time, the remedy lay in their own control, as the apostle goes on to show.

Go to law before the unjust- how can unjust persons administer righteous judgements, if they are at fault themselves? They may be versed in the so-called justice of men, but believers have to do with the righteousness of God, and the two do not very often coincide. Roman law allowed private tribunals to settle minor matters, which is perhaps why the Corinthians found it so easy to resort to the law. They might even have reasoned that this was God’s provision for their situation. But this was to ignore Christ’s provision.

And not before the saints? The proper place for the resolution of matters that cause brethren to be at variance is the assembly, see Matthew 18:15-17. If discussion on a one-to-one basis does not work, and then discussion one-to-one with others present to witness does not work, then the matter must be told to the church. If the offending party does not listen to the verdict of the church, then he has raised a doubt about the genuineness of his conversion, and must be treated as an unbeliever until he shows signs, by repentance, of being truly saved

Notice that it is before the saints, (those who are separate from the world) that the matter is to be settled. Their holiness is the main consideration; if they are holy they will act righteously, being governed by the doctrine of God not the precepts of men. By acting righteously believers show they are separated from the faulty reasonings of men, and as those separated in this way, they show themselves to be saints.

6:2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? As those who would come with Christ when He manifests Himself as Judge, they will clearly be in sympathy with His just judgement. It is not that they will be responsible for personally judging the sins of men, but they will be conformed to the image of the one who will. No doubt the saints will have some part in seeing that Christ’s verdict is administered.

And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? If the world in all its complexity will be judged by Christ, and believers will concur with His every verdict, then they should surely be able to decide simple and small matters now. For every believer has been made the righteousness of God in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and therefore has the capacity to discern righteously. The more we develop in practical righteousness, the more we shall be able to judge righteously. The Corinthians seem not to have progressed very far in this, to their shame.

6:3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

Know ye not that we shall judge angels? The coming of Christ in glory will result in the evil angelic forces being dealt with. The demons in Christ’s day asked if He had “come hither to torment us before the time”, Matthew 8:29. Satan and his hosts will be consigned to the abyss when Christ comes, for as Isaiah said, “The Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth”, Isaiah 24;21. And as Paul wrote, “God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly”, Romans 16:20. His argument in that passage is the same as here: if saints will do that then in the larger sense, then they should be able to do it now in the lesser sense.

How much more things that pertain to this life? If matters concerning spirit-beings will be handled by us in a day to come, surely we should be able to deal with the everyday things of life on the earth now.

6:4 If then ye have judgements of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

If then ye have judgements of things pertaining to this life- the mundane things he has mentioned in the previous verse that they needed to come to a judgement about, but which the Corinthians seemed to have been going to law with one another about.

Set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church- the literal order of the words is as follows: “who are least esteemed in the church, these set ye up”. In other words there is a description of the current situation: they were setting up as judges those least esteemed in the church. This is a reference to them going to law with unbelievers before unsaved men, who as far as ability to decide spiritual matters was concerned, were of no account, and not esteemed as competent men in this area by believers in the assembly. This situation the apostle condemns in the next verse. That he does not mean to command them to set up the least esteemed brethren to judge is shown by the fact that he contrasts what they were doing with what they should have done, namely, allow those within the assembly to decide, if necessary.

6:5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

I speak to your shame- it is a shameful state of affairs if believers are not able to judge righteously in the small matters of this life. It shows a very low level of competence in practical righteousness. Are the only wise and competent men in the world?

Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? By going to the courts of men, presided over by unjust men, they were cutting themselves off from the Divine wisdom that Christ imparts to His own, for He is made unto us wisdom, 1:30. Learning of Him and His ways will result in advances in wisdom and prudence. By going to the world for wisdom, they condemned themselves as unwise.

No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?The assembly at Corinth was large, yet there seemed to be a grievous lack of spiritual discernment amongst them. There is no mention of elders in the epistle, so possibly none had matured enough to be recognised as such, even though the assembly had been in existence for five years. By contrast, the assembly at Thessalonica had been established in AD 57, yet in AD 58 the apostle can exhort them to “know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake”, 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13.

6:6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

But brother goeth to law with brother- the emphasis here is on the fact that they are brothers in the family of God, and as such should not be at variance, sharing a common life as they did. We remember the words of Abraham to Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren”, Genesis 13:8. And as Joseph said to his brethren, (knowing their character all too well), “See that ye fall not out by the way”, Genesis 45:24.

And that before the unbelievers- there is nothing in this passage, or anywhere else in the Scriptures, which suggests that believers should interfere with the course of the public law. If an unbeliever has done wrong, he must be dealt with by the courts. If a believer is involved in an car accident, he has a duty to allow the insurers to recoup their costs in the courts, if necessary. He signed up to that when he took out the insurance.

What is in view in the situation at Corinth is that petty disputes were escalating to such an extent that the law courts were becoming involved in matters on which they had no competence to deal. This was bad enough in itself, but it also brought the name of Christ into the matter, and above all things we must preserve the honour of His name.

6:7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another- there was no redeeming feature about this situation; there was no excuse for their action, and the apostle condemns it outright. The word fault has to do with moral defect. Their consciences were not responsive to the implications of what they were doing.

Why do ye not rather take wrong? The far better and spiritual course would have been to allow onself to be wronged in this matter, knowing that at the judgement seat of Christ all such matters will be dealt with righteously.

Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Why not do what Abraham did, and allow Lot to have first choice of the pasturelands. God saw to it that he did not miss out by doing this, for Lot chose a limited portion, whereas God immediately gave Abraham the whole of the land for his possession, Genesis 13;14,15. Far better to be defrauded now, and recompensed in heaven, than to gain compensation now, but loss of reward in heaven.

6:8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren- this may be applied in two ways. First, those who wrong their brethren, and defraud them of their just rights, are to be censured. But second, they also defraud the brethren who are not directly involved in the dispute, for the name of Christ and the integrity of the assembly are both put in jeopardy.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 6, VERSES 9 TO 11

6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Section (b) Verses 9-11 The marked difference between unbelievers and believers.

6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? The apostle now puts into sharp contrast the character of those who are likely to be the judges if the believers take their cases before them, and the character of those who should be entrusted with the task of dealing with the matter. It is a question of what the character is of those who are in the kingdom of God, and what the character is of those outside of the kingdom of God. The general description of them must be that they are unrighteous. The apostle has already referred to this fact in verse 1.

Be not deceived- impressive and respectable as the law-court judge may appear, there is every likelihood that beneath the gown and the wig there is the sort of person described here. Are they fit persons to judge on spiritual matters? We must not be deceived into thinking that they are.

Neither fornicators- this is the beginning of a list of ten sorts of person. Is it suitable for a fornicator to judge matters between brethren that may touch upon moral matters? Obviously not. Fornication covers every sort of sexual sin and perversion in the moral realm.

Nor idolaters- how can idolaters, (who in chapter 10:20 are said to offer worship to devils), be expected to adjudicate righteously the affairs of the kingdom of God which will one day destroy them utterly?

Nor adulterers- apart from anything else, this shows that adultery and fornication are not synonymous terms, as some would teach. How can those who are unfaithful to their spouses be expected to be unbiased in their dealings with Christians, for they will know very well that Christianity condemns their immorality, and their opinions will be coloured accordingly.

Nor effeminate- a person who cannot decide whether he is male or female, and dresses and acts accordingly. How can such a morally deficient person be of any use in spiritual matters? He cannot even govern himself in ordinary matters of decency and morality.

Nor abusers of themselves with mankind- those who sink this low are obviously in no position to judge spiritual matters. God has made His mind very clear on the matter of homosexuality. He rained fire and brimstone from heaven on Sodom to show that the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”, Romans 1:18, and see also verses 24,25. Notwithstanding this, because this is the age of His grace, and because the sin-offering work of Christ at Calvary has taken place, and “grace reigns through righteousness”, Romans 5:21, there is hope for these also, if they will repent and believe the gospel. It is a very sad commentary on the standards of today, that what for centuries has been thought of as perverted and distasteful, is being legislated for and condoned. God has not changed, however, and one day He will deal in judgement with such people. And, of course, with all who refuse to repent of their sin, even if they in fact detest sodomy.

6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Nor thieves- those who sit as judges are not always free from the act of stealing. They may do it in sophisticated ways, but it is thieving nonetheless. Such morally deficient persons cannot be expected to judge aright in spiritual things.

Nor covetous- those who are strongly biased towards themselves will also be strongly biased against those who seek to live unselfish lives, as they imitate the One who “pleased not Himself”, Romans 15:3.

Nor drunkards- these are they who are very limited in their ability to control themselves. Despite the many consequences of such addiction, both physical, relational and financial, such people are not able to cope with life. How can they be expected to give unclouded judgements?

Nor revilers- those who are unreasonable in their speaking will very likely be extra-opposed to Christian things, and will therefore not be unbiased.

Nor extortioners- this is a violent act on the part of those who are determined to gain an advantage, especially over the vulnerable. They will think of believers as being this, and so to place one’s-self before such a person in order to get a sympathetic hearing is a pointless exercise.

Shall inherit the kingdom of God- only sons inherit, and these show by their behaviour that, far from being sons of God by faith, they are the children of the Devil.

6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

And such were some of you- not all the Corinthians were of this sort before they were saved, but the fact that some were, and were now different, is testimony to the changing power of the gospel. They had been base persons and nobodies, as chapter 1:27-29 describes, but now they were noble, and somebodies, but only because they were in Christ. Only the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can change men in this way. There are plenty of doctrines that men believe and their lives are changed thereby, (Marxism, for instance), but it is not a change that is according to God. The fact that effeminate and homosexual people had been changed like this shows that these perversions are not conditions that cannot be remedied. There may be some truth in the idea that by genetic coding some men are more at home in the company of men, whereas some men are more at home in the company of women, but that is very far from conceding that homosexuality is gene-based and therefore is in-built. This scripture assures us, then, that Sodomites, (and, by extension, lesbians), are not beyond thee reach of salvation, and the gospel will radically change these when they repent and believe, for “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new”, 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But ye are washed- the apostle has brought before us ten sorts of persons who because of their moral evil, are excluded from God’s kingdom, just as there were ten lepers who came to the Lord Jesus who, by their disease, were excluded from the society of Israel, Luke 17:11-19. Yet they were cleansed, and were commanded to go and offer the gifts that the law required in Leviticus 14. They would thus set in motion a process whereby they would have sacrifices offered for them, and then they would bathe all over, and be sprinkled with blood and oil. We have the spiritual counterpart of that here. Those who were, in the past, moral lepers, but who were now changed, had come into the good of the sacrifice of Christ for them. As far as their responsibility was concerned, (for “were washed” is in the Middle Voice, telling us they did it for themselves, as opposed to “sanctified” and “justified” which are things done by God for them), they had washed themselves. This they did when they got themselves baptised. It was said to Saul of Tarsus, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord”, Acts 22:16. His sins had been very public, and he very publicly washed them away in the waters of baptism. This does not mean that sins are washed away judicially by water, for that would deny the gospel, but it does mean that baptism, being a public and visible act, is a public and visible representation of what God has already done.It graphically depicts outwardly what has taken place inwardly, and which the one being baptised wishes to make known without a shadow of doubt. This had happened to the Corinthians, and they had renounced their former life-style in graphic and unmistakable fashion. So just as the leper washed himself all over, not only in a ceremonial way, but also to remove any trace of defilement from his body before he entered into the life of Israel within the camp, so these had done the same in the moral sphere.

But ye are sanctified- not only were the Corinthians defiled before they were saved, they were also unholy. Far from separating themselves from the moral corruption all around, they indulged in it and enjoyed doing so. But now, just as oil was put upon the ear, thumb and toe of the leper externally, so the Spirit of God has taken up residence in the believer internally, and by so doing has separated him from former things, and given him power to live a new and holy sort of life.

But ye are justified- the Corinthians were unrighteous in nature, too, which is why they were filthy, as Psalm 14:3 declares, for disobedience to God’s laws always means that a person distances himself from that which is clean and wholesome, and gravitates towards the opposite things. The apostle highlights being sanctified because of what he will say in verses 12-20; he highlights being justified because of what he has already said in verses 1-10.

In the name of the Lord Jesus- all that has happened by way of change in these people’s lives is due to the value to God of the name of Jesus, who has been made Lord.

And by the Spirit of our God- the power by which the change is wrought is spiritual power, that of the Spirit of God. Only Divine power can bring about the radical transformation that these Corinthians had experienced.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 6, VERSES 12 TO 20

6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Section (c) Verses 12-20 The duty of believers to be pure in body and spirit.

6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

All things are lawful unto me- the apostle speaks of the believer’s attitude to eating meat so as to lead-in to the subject of immorality. The connection being that some were suggesting that immorality was simply the satisfying of one sort of appetite, and eating meat was the satisfying of another sort of appetite. As far as meat-eating is concerned, the apostle was free, (even though brought up as a Jew in accordance with the Old Testament food laws), to now eat any sort of meat.

But all things are not expedient- some foods upset some people’s constitution; some foods are not advisable due to the environment in which the creature lives, for the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 were not an arbitrary way of making a distinction between Israel and the rest of the world. They had medical sense behind them, and we would do well to take heed of that fact. Our Creator knows best. All things are not expedient because those who had a conscience about eating meat might be hindered in their Christian lives if they saw the apostle eating such foods. As such, the foods would not be helpful to the other believer in his desire to walk with God.

All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any- grace sets a believer free from legal restrictions, and allows him to move in line with the guidance of the Spirit of God. If Paul was bound by the dietary laws as a religious ordinance, (as opposed to good advice about what and what not to eat), he would be in bondage to that meat and what it represented. He refuses to be thus brought into bondage, for “ye have been called unto liberty”, Galatians 5:13. Peter and James had been brought under the power of meats when they started to refuse to eat with Gentiles, fearing they would have to eat meat. Paul had to rebuke Peter for this change of behaviour, for the truth of the gospel was in danger, see Galatians 2:11-21.

6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Immorality is not a non-moral act like eating. The body is for the Lord, but immorality denies this.

The Lord does not sustain the body for immorality.

Meats for the belly- God allows man to eat meat now, as Genesis 9:3 explains. This is why the apostle could say in 1 Timothy 4:3-5 that food is sanctified by the word of God, meaning the word He gave about the subject in Genesis after the flood.

And the belly for meats- He has not only made the meat, but has also so constructed the stomach so that it can digest it for the benefit of the rest of the body. So meats for the body because that is why God made them; the belly for meats for that is how God made it.

But God shall destroy both it and them- exercising His rights as Creator, and after the purpose for which He made the present universe is done, God will bring to nothing all things material, in the sense that He will make all things new, and the need for meat and physical bodies will be gone. The believer anticipates that day, indeed looks for it and hastens unto it, 2 Peter 3:12, and therefore has a right appreciation of the relative importance of the spiritual things of eternity, and the relative unimportance of the natural things of time and sense. The believer is brought into the moral good of this by association with Christ in His resurrection, for in that sphere the spiritual is paramount.

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord- we now have the application of the principles to do with meat-eating transferred to the moral sphere. Not just the belly, but the whole body, in every part, is for the Lord. He has purchased it for His use. He has certainly not done that so it can be abused by engaging in immoral practices.

The Lord is for the body- He preserves it so it can be used in service for Him, (hence He is given the title “Lord”).

6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection.

Things done in the body will be accounted for in resurrection.

And God hath both raised up the Lord- as Romans 14:9 says, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” By His resurrection Christ has acquired rights as Lord over our entire person, body included.

And will also raise up us by His own power- since our bodies will be raised through Him, account will be taken of what we have done. God has the personal power to do this; He does not need another to assist Him. So things done in the body will be accounted for in resurrection; there is no escape from the recompense they deserve, whether good or ill. Some said, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die”, 1 Corinthians 15:32. They speak like this because they think that the things done now will not be taken account of after death. Those who think and speak like this are deceived.

6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

The believer’s vital link with Christ forbids immorality.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? It might be thought that our spiritual link with Christ as believers has nothing to do with the physical body. This scripture assures us it is not so. This raises an interesting question, which is this. Our body is still indwelt by the sin-principle, and is therefore capable of sinning. It is a soulish body and not a spiritual body as it will be at the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:44,45. It is composed of atoms that are part of the creation that was cursed by God and made subject to vanity. Our body is in the bondage of corruption, so how can it be linked to Christ? The answer is found in the fact that dwelling within us is the Spirit of God, and one of His titles is “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead”, Romans 8:11. His presence is the pledge that we shall share in the resurrection of the just, but it also means that God takes account of that in His dealings with us now. So we are linked to Christ even as to the body. Meanwhile the indwelling Spirit safeguards the honour of Christ, for He is the pledge that a spiritual body will certainly be ours, and God takes account of that, and not the fact that we have a physical body with its accompanying sin-principle.

Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid- this situation has serious consequences for us. If the members even of our body are united to Christ, then we must be very careful what other things or people we unite them to. Being a physical entity, our body can be united in sin with a prostitute. Is that acceptable behaviour for a believer? The apostle answers that question with a thunderous “God forbid!”, or “Let it not be!”.

6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh.

What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? The apostle is outraged to think that they are not aware of the intimate physical relationship that is formed when a person is joined in an illicit relationship with a street-girl. As far as the physical act is concerned, they are joined as if they were formally married. This is as far as it goes, however, for they are simply joined in body. They are not joined in any other way. A man, even a believer, who consorts thus with a prostitute, has not entered into a life-long relationship until it is dissolved by death. It is an act no different to that which animals engage in, who have no moral sense.

For two, saith He, shall be one flesh- it might seem at first sight as if the apostle, by quoting this statement which has to do with marriage, is suggesting that to be joined to a harlot is to be in a marriage relationship. This cannot be the case, or else harlotry would not be condemned in Scripture. It is important to notice exactly what the apostle writes in this verse. The word “for” is not part of his quotation about marriage. No reference to marriage either in Genesis 2, Matthew 19, Mark 10, or Ephesians 5, uses the word “for”, so this is the apostle’s word, and indicates the answer to an unspoken query by his readers. They might say to the apostle, “Why is it so sinful to be joined to a harlot?” The apostle answers by saying, in effect, “for (because) God has ordained that marriage should be a one-flesh arrangement, not a one-body one”.

The next word is “two”, which is the first word of the quotation. Then comes “saith He”, so some person is being referred to here. Then comes the remainder of the quotation, “shall be one flesh”. So the quotation is “two shall be one flesh”. The “for” is the apostle’s word. But who is the person? Since the apostle is referring to a Divine institution, we could assume the reference is to God as He speaks in Genesis 2. But the words there are, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”. Two things are noticeable here. First, that the exact expression “two shall be one flesh” is not in Genesis 2. And second, that the words about two being one flesh are not spoken by God, but are a comment by Moses on the situation when God brought the woman to Adam to be his wife. Adam made a comment in verse 23, and Moses made a comment in verse 24. This is not to say that the words are not God’s mind, for they are. But how do we know? We need to look for the answer in Matthew 19:5,6, and the parallel passage in Mark 10:8. where the Lord Jesus is speaking.

His words in Mark were, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then, they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined, let not man put asunder”. Now in Mark the Lord Jesus is speaking in conversation, and using these words. So it is He that the apostle refers to in the statement, “Two, saith He,shall be one flesh”.

Matthew, however, indicates that the Lord is quoting the book of Genesis. The words are, “And He answered and said unto them, ‘Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” Matthew 19:4-6. Notice that the Lord Jesus reckons that Moses’ comment in Genesis 2:24, is God’s word, sanctioned by the inspiration of the Spirit. Notice too that the Lord quotes Genesis 2 using the expression “they twain shall be one flesh”,which give the substance of Genesis 2:24 but are not exactly the same as found there. The Lord is explaining the “they” as meaning the “twain” in question. These twain, (the word simply means “two”), are, on the one hand, the man who has left father and mother, and on the other hand the woman he is now going to cleave to in marriage.

It is only these, who leave and cleave, that are one flesh. A man who consorts with a harlot does not leave and cleave in this way. He does not formally leave the family unit he was brought up in and establish another. Nor does he become one flesh; he only becomes joined in body. It is significant that when the idea of being one flesh is presented, whether in the Old Testament Hebrew or New Testament Greek, the preposition is used which speaks of progress towards a goal. The idea is that “they two shall be set on a course towards being one flesh”. To be one flesh is much more than being one body, for flesh is used of the whole person, as in John 17:2, where “all flesh” means all men. Marriage is a sharing of everything, whether they be goals, ambitions, desires, hopes, experiences, joys, or grief. It is an ongoing process of two persons’ lives merging ever more closely. It is a relationship that is on a vastly higher plane, (even in the case of unbelievers), than an immoral and passing affair. So the moment that this process begins is when the man and woman are pronounced man and wife at the marriage ceremony. They are as truly married then as they will ever be, but they are not as closelymarried then as they will be at the end of their life together, for marriage is a process.

6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

Our links to Christ are spiritual, even though they include the body.

But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit- so there are four sorts of joining, and on four levels. The lowest level is the joining of a man with a harlot. This is purely on a physical and perhaps emotional level. The next level is the joining of a man and a woman in marriage. This is on a physical, emotional and, (in the case of believers), a spiritual level. Then there is the joining of the believer to Christ, which is on a spiritual level, but does not discount the body. And the highest level is the joining of the church to Christ as the bride of Christ, to which the apostle alludes in Ephesians 5:31, and is modelled on the institution of marriage. This will be on a spiritual level, and will include the fact that we shall have changed and spiritual bodies. (It is interesting that the apostle quotes the words about marriage as the Lord quotes them, and not as found in Genesis 2:24).

The way in which the current joining takes place is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He it is who links us to Christ. This link is so strong that we can be said to be one spirit, such is the unity that has been made between the believer’s spirit and the Holy Spirit. So we are bonded to Christ in the same way as the persons of the Godhead are bonded together. Just as when the Spirit of God comes to indwell a new believer it is the Father and the Son coming, John 14:23, so the Spirit of God and the believer’s spirit are united together also. In this way the Spirit of God and the believer are one on a spiritual level.

6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

Immorality disobeys the command of God.

Immorality is detrimental to the body.

Flee fornication- this is a command, which we disobey at our spiritual and physical peril. There is a stark contrast between the behaviour of Judah and Joseph in the Book of Genesis. In chapter 38 Judah is found consorting with a harlot, so he thinks, although in fact it was his own daughter in law. In the next chapters Joseph is found in Potiphar’s house, and his wife makes advances to him. The scripture pertinently and succinctly says, “He got him out”, 39:12. By fleeing fornication Joseph preserved his honour, and that of the God he worshipped. Subsequently, Judah was not given the full blessing that he might have had upon the default of Reuben, but was only given the right to rule. Joseph, however, was given the firstborn’s place because he was morally superior to Judah. So it was that Joseph’s action was vindicated.

Every sin that a man doeth is without the body- each and every sin, including fornication, is committed against others, whether God or men, and therefore has an external element to it. Even if a person, sadly, should commit suicide entirely at his own hand by fatally harming his own body, it is still a sin towards God, (who holds man’s breath in His hand, Daniel 5:23), and also against those who are left behind. Even a sin like jealousy, which seems to be only an inner feeling, will, sooner or later, express itself against others, and is certainly a sin against God. 

But he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body- not only is the sin of fornication very personal, it is also harmful. This is not only because of the danger of the particular diseases that accompany such activity, but also because it is a gross abuse of the abilities of the body. Paul has already written in verse 13 that the body is not for fornication. God did not create it to be used in that way, but that it might be used in His service. So fornication violates God’s purpose for the body, and must expect His judgement.

6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

Immorality grieves the Spirit of God and profanes His temple.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you- the apostle expresses great surprise that the Corinthians are not aware of the character of the indwelling of the Spirit. He is essentially holy, and any place He dwells in becomes sanctified to God, a veritable temple where God makes His presence felt. If the sin of fornication, therefore, is not outside the body but against it, then it must be against the indwelling Spirit. The heathen temples of Corinth were occupied by temple priestesses who were in many cases little more than temple prostitutes. The Christian’s body has sunk to this level if fornication is committed.

Which ye have of God- the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Shall we treat that precious gift with contempt in this way?

And ye are not your own? The presence of the Holy Spirit is a sure sign that the person involved is purchased; He is the guarantee of that. To commit fornication is to sin like an unbeliever who is in bondage to the sin-principle within. The believer is freed from obligation to sin, and that because he has been purchased, as the next verse says.

6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Immorality dishonours God.

For ye are bought with a price- the apostle now justifies his statement about us not being our own. The price of Christ’s blood has been paid for us; all of us, not just our spirits. Notice that although the ransom price has been paid, we are not yet redeemed as to the body, for that will not take place until the Lord comes, Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30.

Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s- the exhortation in view of the fact that we have been bought, and also in view of the teaching of the whole chapter, is that we should glorify God. To commit fornication is to shame Him; to serve Him faithfully in spirit and body is to glorify Him. It ought not to be difficult for believer to decide between these two options.