January 19, 2003

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

This sermon is going to be backwards. I am going to start at the end of the text with the wonderful message that says our bodies, which belong to the Lord, have been purified. Let’s look at the two parts of that message.

Our Bodies Belong to the Lord
“You are not your own,” Paul writes. Our bodies belong to the Lord and for two reasons. First, we are the work of His hands in creation. When God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, He set into motion a biological process for procreation. However, He is still involved. The Bible says that God’s hands knit us together and formed us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13, Psalm 119:73). Our bodies belong to God. They are the work of His hands. 

This speaks volumes on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Belonging to God as the work of His hands is not something that happens after we are born. We belong to Him from the moment of conception. Consider the implications of this. It is not for lack of compassion for women in crisis pregnancies that our church opposes abortion. It is because life is a gift and belongs to God from the moment of conception. That is why in these difficult situations we do not choose to love one or the other. We choose to love them both.

Our bodies also belong to God because He bought them. “You were bought with a price,” Paul says. The word “bought” is the everyday word used in the market place. It implies ownership. You buy it; it’s yours. Now it seems strange that God would have to buy something that already belongs to him. Sin is the reason for that. Sin separates us from the one who made us. But God still loved what He made and paid the penalty for that sin. It cost Him dearly. “He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me … not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death.” 

Paul reminds us of something very important here. It was not just our souls that Jesus died for. It was our bodies as well. Our bodies belong to Him because He made them and He bought them with a price. Something else happened in this purchase as well, which leads us to the second half of our statement, “Our bodies, which belong to the Lord, have been purified.”

Our Bodies Have Been Purified
Paul does not say this directly. What he does say is, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” If our bodies are going to be temples where God lives, however, they have to be purified. Our holy God can only live in a holy place. It was in the “Holy of Holies” of the Temple of the Old Testament in which God was present. When the Temple was defiled by pagan sacrifices in 167 B. C., it had to be purified. We are by nature defiled with sin. We need to be purified if God is going to live in us.

That’s what the cross of Jesus is about. John writes, “The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus took the impurity of our sins upon Himself. He suffered the punishment we deserved. Therefore, John goes on to say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (vs. 9). Through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross, God declares that we are purified! We are holy enough to be God’s temple.

This should also speak volumes to us on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. It addresses the concerns of women who have had abortions. For most women, abortion is not what they want. It is what they choose when pressured into believing they have no other choice. The reality of that choice is devastating and creates a spiritual burden. They feel anything but pure. They feel that this sin is too big to be forgiven. 

The Good News at the end of our text is that there is no sin too big to be forgiven. When we confess our sin, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin, yes, the sin of abortion too! Paul is reminding all sinners that they are pure enough to be temples of God Himself.

It is good to be reminded about the God-given purity of our bodies. It enables us to honor God with our bodies by making decisions to live in purity. That is what Paul is arguing for in the first part of our text. Let’s go backwards and hear what he has to say.

Living in Purity in a World Where “Everything is Permissible”
In this section of 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing sexual immorality. The Corinthian Christians had slogans that perverted the idea of Christian freedom. “Everything is permissible for me” (vs. 12). “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (vs. 13). The prevailing thought behind such slogans was that since the body was sinful, it really didn’t matter what you did with it. What you did with your body had no more affect on your spiritual life than eating food! 

Modern day Christians sometimes use slogans to justify sexual immorality. “I can act on these urges. They are natural.” ”But we are so much in love.” “How can something that feels so right be so wrong?” “My spouse isn’t meeting my needs.” We engage in sexual immorality with our body as if it has no affect on our relationship with God.

But Paul is clear. Not everything is beneficial (vs. 12a). Not everything that seems right is right. Paul says, “I will not be mastered by anything” (vs. 12b). Our sexual desires are not to control our body. It is the other way around. You cannot separate what you do with your body from God. The “body is for the Lord” (vs. 13). Our bodies are going to be resurrected and live forever with the Lord (vs. 14). Our “bodies are members of Christ Himself” (vs. 15). Paul says that makes sexual immorality spiritual adultery. We who are united with Christ should not be uniting ourselves in sexual immorality. It is constantly remembering that we are not our own and that we have been bought with a price that enables us to live in purity in a world where “everything is permissible.”

Living in Purity by Making Good Decisions
Living in purity also means making good decisions. Paul says, “Flee sexual immorality” (vs. 18). Since God’s Holy Spirit lives within us, we can make good decisions. If I were one of you young people out there, I would be insulted the way many adults treat you. Often you are treated as if you are incapable of making good decisions, as if you are nothing more than a bunch of raging hormones with zits! You are much more! You are purified temples of God, and He lives in you. You can honor God with your bodies. You can make God-pleasing decisions.

I commend you because many of you are making good decisions. Teen sexual activity has decreased. Teen pregnancies have gone down. Purity and chastity are no longer “old fashioned,” but are seen as wise and healthy choices. Good for you! You can make good decisions based on more than fear of pregnancy or getting some disease. Your bodies belong to the Lord. He has purified you to be His temple.

Therefore, I would like to issue some challenges. I would like to challenge you to love your future spouse-whoever that may be-right now by saving your gift of sexuality for that person in marriage. That will not be easy. Satan will place temptations in your path, and even though our bodies have been purified through Jesus, the sinful flesh still clings. It will tempt you as well. But you can say with Paul, “I will not be mastered by them.” What if you have already made mistakes? Confess that sin and leave it at the foot of the cross here today. Jesus will forgive you, and you can start over purified by His blood. I challenge you married couples to renew your vows today to love and honor each other as temples of God and to remain faithful to each other until death parts you. Again, if mistakes have been made, leave them here and start over purified by Christ.

We were a little backwards today starting at the end of the text. However, before we can avoid the kind of behavior some of the Corinthians had and live in purity, we need to hear loud and clear that our bodies belong to God and have been purified by the blood of Jesus to be His temple. Only then will we be able to honor God with our bodies by making good decisions about living in purity. The value and dignity that God gives our bodies enables us to make good decisions. We have been purified for purity.