We need constant reminders of our new status before God—sainthood—and exhortations to live in light of this gospel reality. We are not called to try harder, to be something we are not. We don’t become saints by our actions. Rather, we are called to become more and more who we already are in Christ because of God’s gracious actions toward us!
Growing up in a churchgoing family, Kate had been taught that maintaining her sexual purity for marriage was of “utmost importance.” She had been taught many rules and regulations, but without being given any reasons for them. Having sex outside of marriage was a sin, but she didn’t really know why, and she got little help from her mom and dad either by teaching or example.
Entering puberty and the middle school years, Kate’s interest in sex was growing through what she saw on television, discussions with her friends, and her own natural curiosity. “Often,” Kate said later, “I felt ashamed and unsure what to do with these thoughts except to push them aside and move on. I was so sure they were sinful.”
As she entered high school, those normal thoughts and desires turned into temptations. “At times, I was ashamed to even like a boy or think he was attractive, because my legalistic background told me that this was sinful,” Kate recalled. Eventually, however, she yielded “almost daily” to both fornication and an addiction to pornography. Such habitual sins made her doubt her salvation and left her feeling isolated from her sisters, who seemingly didn’t struggle with such things. Throughout her teenage years and into her early twenties, she vacillated between living a life of godliness and falling back into sin. She pressured herself, made vows, and prayed, repeatedly asking God to make her obedient and rid her of sexual sin. All to no avail. Human effort in a moral cause was not enough.
It is often said, “It’s not what you know that can hurt you; it’s what you don’t.” Kate didn’t know the key to sexual freedom and as a result lived in sexual bondage for many years. She is far from the first Christian to do so. Enter the Corinthians, who were a theological and moral mess. In 1 Corinthians 6:9–20, Paul reveals that their problem is that they didn’t really know the gospel and its implications for their sexual behavior. Paul asks “Do you not know?” ten times in this letter, four of which appear in 1 Corinthians 6.
His questions in 1 Corinthians 6:9–20 are intended to draw the Corinthians’ attention to the gospel and its implications for living a morally pure life that should have been self-evident and unavoidable.