Articles, Current Series

Sex: The Body – Part 1

Created For God:
Scripture clearly indicates that creation, and ultimately humanity, is designed for the glory of God.  The Apostle Paul does not hesitate in stating: “all things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16 ESV, italics added).  This ideology is reframed by Paul in his letter directed to the Romans in saying: “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20 ESV).  General revelation “is not obscure or selective, observable only by a few perceptive souls who are specially gifted.  His revelation of Himself through creation can be clearly seen by everyone, being understood through what has been made.”1 Paul is arguing that all of creation contains the fingerprints of God and, henceforth, is meant to display His glory, majesty, and greatness.
Therefore, God’s decrees for mankind, especially in the realm of sex, is never meant to hinder them.  The commands of God “are an outgrowth, an expression of, or an application of the thing for which we were made — relationship with Him.”2 As the Westminister Catechism states: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
The Corinthian Misconception:
The Corinthian church was saved in the midst of paganism, immorality, and drunken debauchery.  Paul, during his second missionary journey, began to fervently preach the Good News of Jesus and “many Corinthians, including Jews, began to believe in Christ.”3 Though salvation was granted to the Corinthians through the blood of Christ, they brought into their faith many pagan ideologies that ran contrary to Scriptural truth.  The different philosophies of understanding God crippled the Corinthian’s pursuit toward holy living.  Much of the content found in 1 Corinthians is Paul’s response toward different “beliefs and practices of astonishing variety and vulgarism [flourishing] in the Corinthian church.  It is to solve those problems that Paul writes this letter.”4
Corinth was a city blistering with human traffic.  The city “was located on a narrow isthmus between the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea.  The voyage around the southern tip of Greece was dangerous.  Many ships were therefore carried or dragged on rollers across the isthmus and put to sea again. . . Temples, shrines, and altars dotted the city.  Prostitution flourished.”5 Engaging in “sexual relations with a prostitute was so common in Corinth that the practice came to be called ‘Corinthianizing.’”6  Because their view of sex was misinformed and mislead, their practice within the Christian context ran contrary to their Savior.  Paul sought to refute their understanding.
1 Corinthians 6:13b ESV, “13 The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
The Body’s Design:
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13 ESV) is a pagan slogan Paul references in his letter to the church of Corinth.  The hypothesis could be concluded that the “popular proverb meant to celebrate the idea that ‘Sex is no different from eating: the stomach was made for food, and the body was made for sex.’”7  This pagan ideology “dismisses the physical body as worthless illusion.”8  This belief is rooted in the teachings of Plato which is called gnosticism. Gnosticism, in its simplest form, “equated matter with evil, [and] spirit with good.”  Therefore, the Corinth church believed that they could engage with temple prostitutes, physically; while, spiritually, remain pure through the blood shed of Christ.
Paul refutes that notion by cementing the truth that “the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13b ESV).  The Apostle Paul “does not question that the body is made for sex (a subordinate end), but he does say that the body exists for the Lord (ultimate end).”9 Paul is, in some sense, in agreement that the body is designed for sexual relations, but that the ultimate end of sex is not sex itself, but rather the glory of God.  The Corinth church had failed to see that sex was an instrument to express worship toward the trinitarian God.  The engagement of sex “is only ever safe when everything we think, desire, say, and do in our sexual lives is directed and protected by the clear purpose of God as revealed in His Word.”10
Sex becomes immoral when we ignore the design of the covenant union between a male and female.  Sex outside of the martial boundaries does not honor, exalt, or glorify Him.  Sex is not meant “to be enjoyed for its own sake but for God’s sake.  Enjoying sex for God’s sake means shunning every sexual union outside of the covenanted union of one man and one woman.”11  All of this must be understood in the category of design.  Because God is creator and author humanity’s denial of these boundaries is a direct denial of Him.  It must be understood that humanity derives “our meaning and character from our created identity, which is our distinct, holy, significant and created place.  The roles God give us are personal roles, because we are in a relationship with a personal God.  Our deviation from the ‘norm’ that God created for us is not a failure to meet some impersonal set of rules.  It is a personal offense against our Creator and incurs His righteous anger against our unholiness.”12
Therefore, followers of Christ “do not serve and honor God in some angelic spirit two inches above the ground, but in their flesh-and-blood bodies.  Living a ‘holy life’ involves not just thinking pious thoughts or doing loving actions but using your body in God’s prescribed way.  Part of sin is misusing the body.”13 Freedom in Christ is not freedom to aimlessly engage in whatever I desire, but rather having the freedom to align myself to the design of how God has made me.  The Savior “gives you His grace not to free you to live as though you’re king but to live in the freedom of honoring Him as your King.”14
Conclusion:
Living in a biblically illiterate time many of God’s decrees and commandments are seen as life sucking or restrictive.  Yet the reality of God’s redemptive plan in Christ Jesus is to set us free from the bondages of sin in order to embrace the creative order of God’s infinite plan.  It is for this reason that “Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV) — especially slavery to sexual immorality. “Sex that recognizes God’s existence becomes the beautiful, intimate, relational act of worship that it was intended to be.”15 This gives us confidence to know that “God is not against sex.  He created and blessed it.  When used exclusively within marriage, as the Lord intends, sex is beautiful, satisfying, and stabilizing.”16
Footnotes
1 John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1 – 8 (Moody Publisher: Chicago, 1991), 79.
2 Paul David Tripp. Sex and Money: Pleasures that Leave You Empty and Grace that Satisfies (Crossway: Wheaton, 2013), 32.
3 John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Moody Publisher: Chicago, 1984), viii.
4 Robert H. Gundry. A Survey of the New Testament (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2003), 374.
5 Ibid., 376.
6 MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians, 146.
7 Ibid., 150.
8 Peter Jones. The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality (Main Entry Editions: Escondido, 2006), 191.
9 Denny Burk. What is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway: Wheaton, 2013), 51.
10 Tripp, 77.
11 Burk, 51.
12 Peter Jones. One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference (Main Entry Editions: Escondido, 2010), 189 – 190.
13 Jones. The God of Sex, 191.
14 Tripp, 89.
15 Ibid., 75.
16 MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians, 147.

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