Before you read this, I would encourage you to watch the testimony of Michael and Heidi O’Brien. Michael O’Brien, by the way, is an amazing vocalist. I own much of his music, when he was with the band NewSong, and from his solo venture since.
1 Corinthians 4 through 1 Corinthians 6, deals heavily with sexual behaviors, and sexual attitudes.
The community of believers in Corinth suffered from their divisions. And every deviant behavior in 1 Corinthians stemmed from this division, so much so that their division prohibited them from holding each other accountable. Here is the deviance Paul specifically addressed in this passage: A man (unnamed), who was a believer in the Corinthian church, had an ongoing sexual relationship with his stepmother.
In order to understand this, it’s important to understand two things. The first is how sex was viewed in the Roman world. The second is how God viewed a community of believers.
In the Roman world, sexual behaviors, and attitudes, were much different than what was prescribed for both the Jewish community and the Christian community. If men could have sex with someone, anyone, and do so without public shame, then there was no taboo for sex. It was a man’s public duty, in the Roman culture, to vie for public accolades — so whatever he did for sexual pleasure didn’t really matter, unless it allowed him to achieve such accolades. Sex was just a social means to a social end.
So sexual behaviors, outside of marriage, were of little concern in Corinth, and thus, of little concern for these [new] Corinthian believers.
But … a community of believers is to be different, and to have a different culture. That was how Paul began this letter!
True, Paul had stern words about the man’s sexual behavior. But Paul also had some stern things to say about the entire community of believers. He was shocked at their complacency over this man’s behavior.
I wonder if we suffer from complacency, too.
A community of believers is designed, by God, to be a manifestation of his Presence (We find this out later, more specifically, in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Thus, if God’s Presence is manifested among the group, such behavior would be held in account. This, to me, is Paul’s biggest critique. Of course the man should have known better. But if the faith community had been filled with the manifestation of God, then they would have known better. Instead, they didn’t have a clue, and thus it was obvious that God had not manifested himself there.
In a Spirit-filled community, grace and forgiveness and mercy and even spiritual discipline is prevalent, because it is supplied by God.
So we see this being prescribed by Paul. He counseled the Corinthian believers to no longer have fellowship with this man, to release him and then to allow him to live without the blessing of the community of believers until he missed it and wanted to return.
We must realize, though, that the repentance Paul desired was as much about the community of believers as it was about the man. If God’s Presence isn’t in the community, then the man would never have any place, or any group, to return to.
So now, let’s talk about sex.
At the end of 1 Corinthians 6, Paul wrote this, concerning sexual sin:
Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
So, a person is already one with God — filled with God.
Sex, then, is that spiritual relationship manifested physically.
So, being married, and then being sexually active outside of marriage, is disastrous. Attempting to become “one” with two different people is divisive and wrong. We can only “become one,” with one person at a time.
Which means that if we are engaging in adultery, we’ve forsaken the spiritual unity of our spouse.
But, let’s be clear that cleansing and righteousness and forgiveness can happen. Paul wrote as much when he said that those in Corinth were once involved in homosexual activity and adultery, but were changed.
If you are engaged in these behaviors, God can heal you! God can forgive you!
So, believers, allow God to manifest himself among you. Become the Spirt-fueled, Spirit-filled community God desires. Until that happens, you will never have the spiritual discernment necessary to rescue those who are lost.
This is my forty-ninth post of 90 blogs I’m writing in 90 days, while reading through the New Testament. Thanks for joining me today.