Bad Theology Leads to Bad Living:
Gnosticism fueled the misconception in the church of Corinth in that the gnostic perspective gave the idea that there was a dichotomy between spirit and flesh. The spirit was holy, sacred, and divine while the flesh was corrupt, troubled, and evil. Therefore, gnostics came to the conclusion that “what is done with the body is spiritually irrelevant, and hence engaged in licentious behavior.” This type of thinking authorized, in the mind of the church, the freedom to engage with pagan prostitutes and, henceforth, encompassed an unhealthy view in the reviling and dishonoring of their own bodies.
The Apostle Paul counters the church’s perspective by arguing that the “body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13 ESV). The basis of his ideology was cemented around the notion of design and purpose. The body was not created to be thrown away, but rather was built as an unique instrument used to showcase the glory, majesty, and wonders of God. The body has purpose and has a specific design — even within sex. When sin entered into the scene and broke the shalom of creation; design, function, and appropriateness became distorted. The coarseness of the created order has brought forth perversion within “God’s plan and purpose for the bodies of His people. A Christian’s body is for the Lord; it is a member of Christ; and it is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
The Apostle Paul continues his argument with the concept that the body is not merely a “throw away piece” in the redemptive plan of Christ, but is essential in the restoration process of salvation. Yes, the body has a specific design in regards to sex, but the body also has eternal value. Paul’s stance is directed toward the heretical precepts birthed from gnosticism in that the body has no value. Paul confirms his ideology by stating: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14 ESV). Modern evangelicalism has a false notion on how the after life will transpire. Many believers give false witness to the fact that the saints will become angels or rather spiritual beings. Yet the bible gives us clear answers to the fact that our future state is one of physical perfection. For the sinner saved by grace “death is not the ultimate end of the believer’s body; resurrection is the ultimate end for the believer.”
The Corinthian church’s perspective of the Gospel was small and incomplete. Their understanding (like ours) of the saving work of Christ was narrow in scope and swallow in depth. They did not see that the work of the cross and the power of the resurrection was not merely to obliterate the world at death, but was to bring forth restoration to the created order of God’s design. Frankly, the saints are “not waiting for God to destroy [our] body. He is waiting for God to resurrect it. To misunderstand the ultimate destiny of the body is not merely an ethical aberration but an undermining of the hope of the Gospel itself.” The resurrection is the restoration of the body in fullness to commune with God forever.
The restoration of creation in the second coming of Christ communicates the perfection of the created order. Eternity will not be a spiritual existence consisting of harps and angel wings, but rather a fullness of the physical nature designed and constructed by the Creator God. The new beginning of the created order will have the “new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). Eternity will not be an existence in the spiritual realm but rather a fullness of humanity within a perfected created state. The flesh will be restored to its intended purpose.
The Apostle Paul continues with this idea in stating: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49 ESV). This ideology is reiterated in that the saints “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23 ESV). Our bodies? Yes, our bodies! Our restoration will be that of our Savior Jesus Christ who, when resurrected, returned in the flesh defeating the power of death. The second coming of Christ will bring forth renewal in that “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2 ESV).
Union With Christ:
The Apostle Paul continues to argue the fact that sexual engagement with idol prostitutes — let alone sexual immorality — is not only a sin in itself, but it is a sin “against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV, italics added). This idea is meant to press against the ideas of gnosticism in that sinfulness of the flesh is wicked in the eyes of God. As it relates to God there is no dichotomy between spirit and flesh because God is Lord and Creator over both.
The Apostle argues the fact that the believer’s entire being has been bought through the blood of Christ and, therefore, is infused into His nature and being. In Christ we have been invited into communion with the trinitarian God. For whomever is “joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV). The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ has provided an avenue for the saints to engage in the eternal love relationship between God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus states: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20 ESV, italics added).
Since sexual union in the confines of a covenantal marriage is meant to mirror the union of Christ and His church, sexual immorality is the misinterpretation of that union as well as a dishonoring of our union with Christ. The institution of marriage within the creation account clarifies this image by stating that the “man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV). Since the saints have been united with God through the bloodshed of Christ shall “I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” (1 Corinthians 6:15 ESV). No!
1 Corinthians 6:14 ESV, “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.”
The Temple of the Holy Spirit — The Body:
In our particular context many believers (especially our Hmong) put a great emphasis on the building of the church. Many have named it the “house of God” or “God’s dwelling place.” Our misinformed theology can lead to a misguided zeal in believing God can only hears us if we pray in the church building. These ideologies are honorable, to say the least, yet biblically unwarranted. The New Testament era destroys that notion and reconstructs the reality that the temple of God is in the hearts of the people of God. The account found in John 2 illustrates that Jesus has decentralized the use of the temple and has made Himself the focal point of the Christian life. Paul stands by Jesus’s theological platform in acknowledging that the “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV). The Apostle reaffirms this idea in saying: “In Him you also , when you heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13 – 14 ESV).
If the body is the temple to which God has chosen to allow His presence to dwell, then our righteousness is not merely one of a spiritual sense, but one of physical holiness. The body become the vehicle to which God uses is to showcase His power, majesty, and grandeur to a world that is broken and decrypted. The saint as well as the body of Christ becomes the image of Christ onto the world for the sake of redemption and the glory of God. Therefore, God’s commission is that the church (the people) “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16 ESV).
The body is a pivotal piece to which God uses for His glory and majesty. Can not be stressed enough that in God’s infinite wisdom He has created and purposed all things for function within the boundaries of His created design. Much of what the church understands as sin is rooted in the misuse and misinterpretation of what the created order was designed to do. Our neglect of proper function is not a denial of rules and regulations but rather the denial of the One who establishes them for the good of humanity and the glory of His Name.
Sex is a beautiful created form that has been established by God as a mirror into His relational being. Due to the sin nature birthed in the fall of mankind we have distorted that image and ultimately have put the created world in harms way by perverted creation’s purpose. The work and person of Christ has come to restore and renew the brokenness of shalom and to showcase the true destiny of humanity in the person of Christ — communion with God. All things God has created is good and is for the good of humanity. May we embrace, for the joy of our hearts, His design on how creation is to function.
1 Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 1998), 1203.
2 John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1 – 8 (Moody Publisher: Chicago, 1991), 149.
3 Denny Burk. What is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway: Wheaton, 2013), 52.