Sexual immorality with an unbeliever joins Christ to one in rebellion to Him, desecrates the very dwelling place of God, and binds us to the other person in contradiction to God’s purpose for us in Christ and to the detriment of other relationships we might want to preserve.
Western society argues that the human body is insignificant. We are told that our bodies are of no value in determining identity and that sex is purely a physical need—of no significance to our personhood. Not only does Scripture argue that our bodies are significant by God’s design, but we also find the Bible teaches that the body is important because of its connection with the heart and the resulting effects in relationships. Paul’s argument against sexual immorality is rooted in this connection between what we do with our bodies and how it impacts our soul, and therefore our relationships. Understanding this connection is crucial to helping people who struggle with sexual sin.
Sexual Immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 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, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:12-20).
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul addresses a specific instance of sexual immorality in the Corinthian church. After prescribing a solution, in Chapter 6:12-20, Paul extends his discussion to explain why sexual immorality is so significant (using the context of a believer engaging in sex with a prostitute). He begins in verse 13, saying food is beneficial for the stomach, and the stomach is beneficial for food. Paul acknowledges that there is an intended mutual benefit in God’s design of the various members of the body (in this case, the stomach) and corresponding elements within the created order (i.e., food).
For the Christian, there is a greater purpose for the body so that the purpose of the body cannot be confined to its earthly function alone but also has eternal significance. This is why, in verse 14, Paul adds that while food will perish and be abolished, the Lord will raise our bodies. Our bodies have enduring significance beyond merely their function.
This helps us understand Paul’s argument in verses 15 and following—our bodies have heightened significance, so our sexual conduct has heightened implications beyond the mere physical act. Three times in this passage, Paul asks, “do you not know?” (vv. 15, 16, 19), and with each question, he provides an argument supporting the significance of what we do with our bodies. He anticipates that his readers are familiar with the proposition behind each argument and so follows it with an implication. By examining the arguments and the implications in verses 15-20, we can more fully understand the significance of sexual immorality.